The family legends were that Uncle Joe moved out to the southwest portion of the United States in the 1890s and no one has heard from him since. That can be a typical tale and one that can be a long standing mystery to the family and for the genealogist. One of the areas that many individuals went to resettle in the last half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century was the New Mexico Territory. This region with a very long history was ceded to the United States by Mexico in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Many veterans of that war and later the American Civil War found the Territory of New Mexico to be a great open frontier where they could start a new life. It was a diverse land with mountains, deserts, forests, ranch land along with the Rio Grande Gorge.
Huge increases in population came to this area in 1860, again in 1880 to 1900 and in 1910 just before it achieved statehood in 1912. The Santa Fe Trail and the Santa Fe Railway System were major arteries of transportation. Lumbering and mining were two of the early jobs that attracted new settlers.
Using the New Mexico Death Index which covers 1899 to 1949 provided by the USGenWeb Archives Project is an easy method online to locate any ancestor who may have died in any of the counties of New Mexico while it was still a territory or after statehood was achieved. The index has a person’s full name, the month, date and year of death along with the county the individual died in as well as their age. Now the age is in a series of numbers such as ‘706’ or ‘428’. The first one means the person was age 70 years and six months old when they died and the second would be age 42 years and eight months old. When there is a series like ‘044’ it means age 4 years and 4 months old.
The site has the years 1899 to 1940 in the first set with the surnames in three letters such as ‘aal - aki’ then ‘ala -amb’, so you locate a surname based on the first three letters of the name. There is a variety of names ranging from Bergman (5 individuals), to Nagiller (4 individuals), to Minor (7 individuals) and Smiley (9 individuals)’ along with Smith and Jones having hundreds listed. The site has the second set with death years of 1941 to 1949 and arranged by the same beginning three surname letters as the first set.
Once you have a full name, date of death and the county, it will be easier to order a copy of the death certificate from the state and to see if there was an obituary in the local newspaper.
So any missing relatives that may have lived in the New Mexico area between 1899 and 1949 might be listed on this index if they died in the state.