52ancestorsGenealogist Amy Johnson Crow, who blogs at No Story Too Small, has set a challenge to write about one ancestor each week. I’ve decided to take up that challenge to wake up my (somewhat) languishing blog, but to honor my ancestors. I plan to post every week on Sunday, and I encourage others to join the challenge with me.

 invisible man

Do you have an invisible man or woman in your family tree? Someone who pops up out of nowhere and then quickly disappears? My week #3 ancestor is one of those. William Judge (1827 – 1871?), my Irish great-grandfather’s brother, made a sudden appearance after the records for New York City marriages came online in 2005. Up until then, I had always thought my great-grandfather, Brown Judge, was the only one in his family to end up in America when he came in 1880. But it seems that his brother William beat him to it by about 15 years. I didn’t even know he existed!

William’s 1866 marriage certificate was the document that revealed him to me. Thank you, New York State, for collecting the names of the groom’s and bride’s parents on marriage certificates! My innocent blanket search on Ancestry.com for anyone whose parents were James Judge and Margaret Brown revealed my “invisible” William Judge.

1866 Marriage of William Judge and Mary Jane Stutt

1866 Marriage of William Judge and Mary Jane Stutt

After discovering a previously unknown branch of the Judge family in the United States, I was eager to find more records about William. When did he come to the States? Did he and Mary Jane have children? Where did they live? What happened to them? All of these new possibilities were so tantalizing. But William was about to disappear again.

Was he in the 1860 U.S. census? Nope. Were he and his wife in the 1870 census? Nope. At least I couldn’t find him, or anyone who was a good match. All I found was another marriage. This time it was William’s wife, Mary Jane, who remarried in 1871. By then she was his widow, which means some time between 1866 and 1871, William apparently died.

I have not found his death certificate yet, and besides a city directory entry or two, I have no other proof of his existence. As a bonus, I found a birth record of William and Jane’s son, Charles A. Judge in 1867, who is proving to be as invisible as his father. I have not found him in any censuses and I have no idea what happened to him. It’s as if father and son have gone back into hiding. What new records that I haven’t found will make them visible again?