Behind The Scenes: Overcoming Roadblocks With The Jackson Haines Book

Researching Jackson Haines' story for my upcoming book has been a fascinating process but not one without its unique obstacles to overcome.

Jackson travelled extensively in Europe from 1864 until his death in 1875, so the very first thing I did was to create a spreadsheet with a timeline of his travels. I tracked his journey month by month, year by year through books, articles and advertisements in nineteenth century newspapers. He was in numerous countries so combing through articles for clues about where he planned to travel next was something that proved really helpful. Sifting through primary source material in different languages can often have its challenges but paying attention to geography can often be the key to find those missing puzzle pieces.

Photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein

Geography played a huge role in mapping out Jackson's time in America before he left for Europe. Once I found the addresses in New York City where he and his family lived, I popped them into a really neat GIS mapping tool called NYC & Then & Now. Not being from New York, this resource (coupled with walking times from Google Maps) really helped me get a sense of the neighbourhood he lived in and the distance between his homes and the places in the city he would have visited regularly. Another thing I found super helpful was searching newspaper archives for street addresses instead of business names.

Finding a manifest of passengers for the ship Jackson left America on was a roadblock I encountered quite early in my research. Records of immigration into the United States in the 1860's are actually quite robust but when you go that far back, finding passenger lists of emigration out of the country can get quite difficult, especially when the passengers didn't return. Through my research I found the name of the ship, the date and port he left from, but I couldn't find a passenger manifest anywhere. I finally found what I was looking digging in newspaper archives: one list of passengers leaving the United States on the correct ship and date and a matching record of passengers arriving in Europe. 

Researching Jackson's genealogy has perhaps been the most important aspect of the research for the book. It has also arguably been the most challenging. If you think about your own family's genealogy, you would probably start with your parents and work backwards. In Jackson's case, you can't really do that. He died in 1875 and none of his children had children of their own. Through my own research and conversations with two descendants from his mother's line, I was able to put together a pretty extensive family tree but two records proved absolutely elusive. 

The first was Jackson's sister Hannah Maria. Based on the 1870 United States Census, her marriage notice and a record of her husband's second marriage, I was able to narrow down my research to a seven-year time frame where she either likely died or remarried but I couldn't find anything at all on Ancestry, Familysearch or in newspaper archives. The mystery was finally solved when I reached out to a genealogist in New York who was able to track down a short death notice through Genealogy Bank with a date of death. This led me back to the newspaper archives in the community where she died. I searched for her married and maiden name around her death date and nothing came up. When I went through the index and scanned copies around her death date, I found what I was looking for: a more detailed death notice. Both her maiden and married name were mentioned, but they had been misspelled. It was a definite match though.

Misspelling proved to be the exact same roadblock when it came to tracking down the death certificate for Jackson's wife. I searched her first name and married name with a year someone had put in a family tree on Ancestry and got nowhere. I finally tracked down a record with the same death date and her maiden name listed as the middle name. The first name was completely wrong and her married name was badly misspelled. With a hunch I'd found the correct record, I ordered a copy from the New York City Municipal Archives. Lo and behold, the record I received was in fact the elusive record I was looking for. Whoever had transcribed it had just misread the handwriting. This record provided key clues which led me to even more information about Jackson's wife which will only make the book more interesting.

The will of Jackson's grandfather and namesake

If you found this interesting, stay tuned to the blog over the coming months. I will be sharing more stories about the process behind the research for this book, which I honestly can't wait for you all to read! 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":