After several years of working day and night on the family history, I'm pleased with the progress we've made in most cases. But there are some situations that are not much further along than they were when we started. These I referred to as the "lost families."
About three years ago, my father told me that he had a great-great-grandfather named Isaac Martin. He wasn't exactly sure where Isaac Martin had been born, but he knew that Isaac's wife was named Amanda or Mandy. He also knew of course that Isaac and Mandy lived along the Texas Gulf Coast. Their daughter, Maria, he believed to have been born in Indianola in Calhoun County Texas. Census records show that in 1870, Isaac Martin, age 44, lived in Refugio County, Texas. Refugio County in 1873 lost its southern territory along the coast to the newly formed Aransas County. The 1870 census shows the Martin family consisting of Isaac, wife Amanda, and children Amanda, Emma and Charlie. The younger Amanda I believe to be Maria, because her age appears to be that which I can confirm for Maria. Isaac's occupation is given as brickmaker. In 1880, the census takers found Isac Martin (and apparently misspelled his first name) in Aransas County with wife Amanda and children Charlie and Ida. Isaac's age is given as 35 and his place of birth as Texas. But I'm confident that this is the same Isaac Martin because of the concurrence of facts of location and family. (We wouldn't expect to find Maria with the family in 1880, because we know from Aransas County marriage records that in 1878 she married James Henry Payne and that in 1879, they had a son Isaac Payne. In 1882 Mariah married Guy Bryant, which is how she got on to my family tree.)
In 1900, Isaac, wife Amanda, and son Charlie were enumerated as still living in Rockport, Aransas County. Daughter Ida, who would be about 20 years old, had married a man named Nelson Steen in 1885. This time, Isaac's birth date is placed in 1839 and his place of birth is given as Texas. I'm not very concerned about this discrepancy; if the 1870 census was correct, Isaac would now be about 75 years old, and who knows what he was able to recall. By 1910, Isaac was found living alone in Rockport. His age was given as 82. Texas state records show that Isaac Martin died in Rockport on October 26, 1914.
I know that Isaac and Amanda Martin had many grandchildren through their two daughters Maria and Emma. Maria of course married into the Bryant family; Emma married a man named Moses Brooks. They had at least five children. In 1885 Charlie married a woman named Melinda Thompson; I know nothing about her or whether they had children. And Ida and Nelson Steen seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth after their marriage in 1885.
But the things I don't know include where Isaac Martin was actually born; who were his parents; where Amanda Martin was born and who her parents were. Some family lore suggests Amanda was a Cherokee from Alabama or Mississippi. I have no evidence on this issue at all. What happened to Charlie and his wife Melinda and Ida and her husband Nelson also remain shrouded in mystery. I've been unable to find any record of them or anyone who remembers them.