What indexes and transcripts don’t tell you 

                        

Indexes and transcripts of documents provide clues about our ancestors’ lives.  However, they typically do not show all  information found on the original document.  Sometimes, I am so excited to find any information about an ancestor that I forget about a basic principle–  indexes and transcripts are just the beginning.  The original document tells more of the story. In this post, I tell about a marriage record, a death record, and implications for my future research.

For the past several months, I have been writing a manuscript about my mother’s German ancestors who immigrated to America. I already have copies of some original documents. As I wrote, I identified and requested copies of other documents. New York City Archives staff usually respond to my requests within a few weeks. Documents from New York state continue to trickle in. One marriage record, the subject of this post, especially confounds me.

A short family history. Valentine Maurer, my mother’s great grandfather, immigrated to the United States about 1855. His death certificate[1], received in 2015, listed his parents as Leonhard Maurer and Marie Maurer, both born in Baden, Germany. Additional research revealed that her maiden name was Metzger (details for another post). So far, so good. I searched for more information about Leonhard and Marie, eventually finding them in New York City in 1865. [2]

Next item found, by chance, was a Manhattan, New York marriage index entry for 70-year-old Leonhard Maurer and Crescentia Ley/ Leu. [3] Leonhard’s age corresponded to other records. In August 2021, I found a similar marriage record index entry on a different online database.[4]  This one had a certificate number so I requested a copy of the marriage record and received it on 29 August 2021. [5] 

Family Search index  (Accessed Feb 2021)Ancestry index (accessed August 2021)
Name: Leonhard Maurer
Event Type: Marriage
Event Date: 15 Aug 1870
Event Place: Manhattan, New York, New York, United States
Event Place (Original): Manhattan, New York
Sex: Male
Age: 70
Marital Status: Unknown
Race: White
Birth Year (Estimated): 1800
Birthplace: Baden, Germany
Father’s Name: J… Maurer
Mother’s Name: Theresa Metzgas
Spouse’s Name: Crescendia Leu
Spouse’s Sex: Female
Spouse’s Age: 51
Spouse’s Marital Status: Single
Spouse’s Race: White
Spouse’s Birth Year (Estimated): 1819
Spouse’s Birthplace: Baden, Germany
Spouse’s Father’s Name: Peder Leu
Spouse’s Mother’s Name: Sabina Heusler
Name: Crescentia Ley
Gender: Female
Marriage Date: 15 Aug 1870
Marriage Place: Manhattan, New York, USA
Spouse: Leonhard Maurer
Certificate Number: 4936

The Family Search entry seems fairly complete. What more could be on the original document? Well, there were several items of interest. Specifically, the certificate included Leonhard’s occupation (saloon keeper), “number of husband’s marriage: No. 3” and “no. of wife’s marriage: no. 1.” Leonhard had been married two other times! I know of only one- Maria Metzger, Valentine’s mother.

Based on the 1865 census and 1870 marriage, Maria probably died between 1865 and 1870. At about the same time as finding the 2nd marriage index entry, I found a death index entry for Maria Anna Mearer, age 63, who died in 1867.[6]  Close enough to spend $15.00 for original certificate!  I received a copy of that certificate on 2 September 2021.[7] Names of her parents are not recorded. How do I know that she is MY Maria Maurer? Her age of 63 is somewhat consistent with Maria Maurer, age 62 per June 1865 census. Address of Schols street, 16th ward is roughly consistent with the family’s location in 1865. “Resident of this city: 10 years” is consistent with 1857 immigration record for Leonhard, Maria, and three of their daughters.[8] In addition, a November 1823 marriage record for Leonhard Maurer & Maria Anna Metzger indicates that Maria was born in 1804.[9] I can now say that she is probably the same Maria Maurer living with Leonhard in 1865.

Per June 1865 census, Maria reported 14 children.[10] I found records for 13 children born 1825 to 1852.  My first list included two children, born January 1821 and October 1822.  I initially dismissed them as being born outside of marriage.  Now, I must consider that these two may have been born to Leonhard and his 1st wife, possibly also named Maria.  And, there is one more child to be found for Leonhard and his presumed 2nd wife, Maria Metzger.

In summary, based on currently available information, assertions are:

  • Leonhard Maurer & 1st wife:  2 children, born 1821 & 1822;
  • Leonhard Maurer & 2nd wife, Maria Anna Metzger (1804-1867),  married 1823; 14 children born 1825 to 1852; 13 children identified so far; and
  • Leonhard Maurer & 3rd wife, Crescentia Leu, married 1870, no children.

REFELECTION

Don’t underestimate the importance of research logs. Include even questionable information and why you question it. Track everything, even indexes/ transcriptions. Record the date you order and receive certificates. Original certificates will likely have information that is not on index. Transcriptions also may not include all information that is on the original document.  

What I learned (again!):  New information, beyond what is indexed or transcribed, is usually on an original document. A complete research log takes some time now but will save time later. Search more than one database. If information is not found, check back in a few months. Be sensitive to alternate spelling of names.

What helped:  Fairly complete citations from previous work.       

What didn’t help: I didn’t have digital/ paper copies of all indexes/ transcriptions.

To-do:  Review German records again. Ask my German friend if he is willing to translate. Continue systematic ordering of original BMD certificates.


SOURCES:

[1] Valentine Maurer, death certificate no. 16339 (1898), New York City Archives, New York City, New York City, New York; PDF copy received via email 2015.

[2] 1865 New York State Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, , p. 34, dwelling 86, family 282, Leonard Maurer age 64; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed & downloaded 26 May 2018); citing New York State Archives, Albany, New York..

[3]  “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24MN-H9H   : viewed & printed 5 February 2021), entry for Leonhard Maurer, age 70; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.

[4] “New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed 23 August 2021), entry for Crescentia Ley and Leonhard Maurer; citing New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives.; certificate no. 4936.

[5]  New York, marriage certificate no. no. 4936 (15 August 1870), Leonhard Maurer & Crescentia Leu; Bureau of Vital Statistics, New York City Board of Health, New York City.

[6]  “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949”, , FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W7C-WKR   : viewed & printed 24 August 2021), entry for Maria Anna Mearer, died 1867, age 63, certificate no. 4931.

[7] Kings county, New York, certificate of death no. 4931 (1 August 1867), Maria Anna Maurer; New York City Municipal Archives, New York City, New York; PDF copy received via email 2 September 2021.

[8]  “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 29 January 2021), entry for Leonhard Moerer [Maurer]; citing Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M237.

[9]  “Niederhausen, Rheinhausen EM: Katholischr Gemeinde:, Heiratsbuch, 1810-1839 (Catholic congregation: marriage book 1810-1869,” church marriage records; digital images, , Landesarchiv Baden-Würtemberg, Staatsarchive Freiburg (http://www.landesarchiv-bw.de  : viewed & downloaded 23 August 2021), L10, bd 2322, fig. 35, entry no. 4.

[10] 1865 New York State Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, p. 34, dwelling 86, family 282, Leonard Maurer age 64; Maria Maurer, 62.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2021

3 thoughts on “What indexes and transcripts don’t tell you 

  1. Pingback: Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  2. Pingback: Best of the Genea-Blogs - Week of 3 to 9 October 2021 - Search My Tribe News

  3. Have to agree with you–it’s much better to try to see the actual document (or an image of it) than to rely on any index or transcription. Not only will info often be missing from index or transcript, there may be mistakes (such as incorrect spelling or incorrect dates). Good reminder!

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