If you’ve ever felt like “a reasonably exhaustive search” could take your entire life, you’re not alone. Diane Gould Hall (michiganfamilytrails.com) has done A LOT to find her ancestor John C. Gould’s parents. In today’s “How I Solved It” guest post Diane shares her methodology and asks for ideas from our readers.



If I could ask for just one thing regarding my genealogy research this year, it would be to find out who John C. Gould’s parents were.

Gould is my maiden name.  Only being able to take that name back to my 2nd great grandfather and no further is my biggest genealogical brick wall.  And, if I don’t uncover this mystery my youngest brother may never consider my research a success.  He listens to my great finds and revealing stories and then asks “but, have you found out who John’s parents were?”

Here is a brief bio:

JOHN C. GOULD – born Jan 1833 in Michigan, married Sarah M. HART on 7 Oct 1858 in Armada, Macomb, Michigan.  Had one son, William Val Gould (probably born as Vivaldo William Gould) in 1859. Had one daughter, Julene E. Gould who lived 2 years 1861-1863.  Wife Sarah died on 11 Nov 1911 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan.  John died after her, possibly in 1919.



Here’s what I’ve done during the past dozen or so years to find John’s parents:

  • Looked at census records for the years 1840-1920 that could possibly contain his name.  Including tracking the Gould heads of household for the census years 1830 and 1840 in Michigan.
  • Located him in the 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910 census records in Michigan.
  • Located his Civil War Draft Registration card
  • Located a purchase and sale of land in Macomb County, Michigan in 1863 and 1871.
  • Located him on Agriculture census records in 1850 and 1870.
  • Ordered and received his marriage record to Sarah M. Hart
  • Located him in Detroit City Directory listings beginning in 1878.  With the final City Directory listing I could locate in 1912.
  • Researched his wife, Sarah M. Hart’s entire family, including siblings and their spouses.
  • Located the death record and obituary for his wife Sarah in 1911.
  • Found out everything I could about his son, William V. Gould and his family.
  • I’ve hired two professional researchers back in Michigan to assist me.  They added a little bit of information, but found nothing about his parents.
  • I’ve gone back to Michigan and gone to the courthouse in Macomb County and researched probate records for a Gould family I have always strongly believed could be connected.  No mention of John in the records.
  • I’ve posted inquiries on RootsWeb beginning in 2006.
  • Sent emails to Macomb County genealogy group – no records found
  • Gone to the Mt. Clemens Library in Macomb County and looked for records, books etc. – Nothing found
  • Talked to people in the Armada Village office, asking about the naming of Gould Rd. in the town of Armada.  They could provide no information.
  • Checked all Goulds buried in Michigan on the FindAGrave site.  I have entered a memorial for him (burial unknown) and there is one that is a duplicate of mine, which I’ve asked to be removed.
  • Checked marriage records for the same time frame that he and Sarah were married, looking for possible siblings for John.
  • Sent numerous other emails to people I’ve found on mailing lists or websites.
  • Located a possible death certificate on seekingmichigan.org.  This John Gould died in Eloise State Hospital.  Much of the information on this certificate fits, but no parents are listed.  I have contacted people who may have information on Eloise Hospital records or burials and come up empty.
  • I’ve also read several books about brick walls, hoping for some spark that might lead me to John’s parents.
  • Had my brother, direct descendant of John C. Gould, provide DNA.  We have the results and are currently reviewing them and trying to figure out matches.


  1. What have I missed?
  2. Where should I look next?

Here is a descendant report that shows John & Sarah’s son, William and his children, which includes my grandfather, Harry Whipple Gould.

1-John C. GOULD [56]{FindAGrave #32438846 & #125849145}

born: Jan 1833, , , MI

died: After 1910

+Sarah M. HART [130]{FindAGrave #32439008}

born: Dec 1835, , , , Canada

marr: 7 Oct 1858, Armada, Macomb, MI

died: 11 Nov 1911, Detroit, Wayne, MI

parents: Henry HART [143]{FindAGrave #31946503} and Olive Glasier DOTEN [144]{FindAGrave #31946513}

2-William Val GOULD [7]{FindAGrave # 31868691}

born: 31 Aug 1859, Armada, Macomb, MI

died: 24 Feb 1924, Detroit, Wayne, MI

+Mary “Mae” Eve THORP [8]{FindAGrave # 24216381}

born: 4 Apr 1862, Oswego, Oswego, NY

marr: 1881

died: 3 Nov 1946, Detroit, Wayne, MI

parents: Horace Henry THORP [131]{FindAGrave #32025637} and Catherine C. DORSEY [132]{FindAGrave ~

3-Unknown GOULD [2485]



3-Ford Val GOULD [17]{FindAGrave #61960668}

born: 31 Aug 1884, Detroit, Wayne, MI

died: 17 Jun 1947, Detroit, Wayne, MI

3-Harry Whipple GOULD [5]{FindAGrave #14481532}

born: 10 Feb 1886, Detroit, Wayne, MI

died: 17 Feb 1960, Ft. Lauderdale, Broward, FL, United States

3-Roy V. GOULD [16]{FindAGrave #61961339}

born: 26 May 1888, , , MI

died: 18 Jul 1971, Yucaipa, San Bernardino, CA.

3-Gladys Lillian GOULD [19]{FindAGrave#88657246}

born: 11 Jul 1890, Detroit, Wayne, MI

died: 8 Oct 1966, Detroit, Wayne, MI

3-May Adele GOULD [18]{FindAGrave #91531460}

born: 25 Feb 1898, , , MI

died: 28 Sep 1984, , San Bernardino, CA

3-Helen C. GOULD [21]{FindAGrave #32439516}

born: 12 Mar 1901, Detroit, Wayne, MI

died: 17 Feb 1945, Detroit, Wayne, MI

2-Julene E. GOULD [221]{FindAGrave #132128928}

born: 1861, Armada, Macomb, MI

died: 27 Sep 1863, Armada, Macomb, MI

Documents associated with John C. Gould    (Click on any image to enlarge it)

Marriage record – John C. Gould & Sarah Hart 1858
Land Purchase in Macomb Co., Michigan 1863
Civil War Draft Registration for John C. Gould 1863
Sale of land in Macomb Co., Michigan 1871
Death certificate for Mrs. Sara Gould 1911
Death notice for Sarah Gould 1911
Possible death certificate for John Gould 1919

There you have him.  My biggest genealogical mystery & brick wall to date.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or strategies to knock down this wall, please contact me.




You can read Diane’s original post (with comments) at http://www.michiganfamilytrails.com/2015/03/mystery-mondaywhos-your-daddy-post-1.html.

If you have ideas or stories to share in our “How I Solved It” series, please let us know!


Diane Gould Hall
Diane has been researching her family history for over 13 years. She is a member of the DAR, the San Diego Genealogical Society, the North San Diego County Genealogical Society, the Aberdeen, Scotland Historical Society, and the New England Historical Genealogical Society. Her hobbies also include traveling, riding horses and reading. She's happily married and retired. Visit Diane's Website