Kate, Stephen, and Aunt Viola’s family history

My ongoing quest is to confirm information provided by maternal great-aunt Viola Maurer Tucker via a handwritten 8-page genealogy.[1]  Her manuscript created the foundation for research about my mother’s family. I can confirm much of what she wrote. Surname misspellings are common but not unexpected.  Viola was in her late 60s when she wrote this document.  I believe that she recorded what she remembered.  My job now is to confirm and add to this family history.  Using processes outlined in Genealogy Do-Over, I am about  halfway done with the Tucker-Maurer family.  When completed, I will post Viola’s original document with my additions.  Here is a report of my latest findings.

According to Viola’s history (page 3):

Katherine (Kate) married Steven Scheffle.  They had 5 children:   Steven, Gertrude, Agnes, Edward, & Charles.

Viola did not report any other information about Kate and Steven or their children. I began with census records which then led to birth, marriage, and death records. Eventually, I remembered to search for obituaries.  Kate’s obituary named four surviving children and answered an important question:  Did her daughters marry or not?  Viola almost got it right – Stephen and Kate had 6 children, not 5.

Katherine Anna Maurer, 3rd child and oldest daughter of German immigrants Valentin Maurer and Anna Katharina Korzelius, is sister of my maternal great-grandfather, Herman Maurer.  Valentine and Anna initially settled in New Jersey, the birthplace of Katherine’s older brothers, Valentin and Hermann[2] . By 1866 (the year of Katherine’s birth), the family had moved to Brooklyn, New York, the birthplace of Katherine, her younger brothers Joseph and Edward, and her sister, Rosina. The year 1880 finds 14-year-old Kattie working as a box maker. [3]  Earning pennies, her wages helped to make the family’s existence a little easier.

Katie’s future husband, Stephen L. Scheffel (note the surname spelling variation from Viola’s report)  and his German immigrant parents also lived in Brooklyn. The couple may have met at church. Katie and Stephen, both in their early 20s,  married about 1889.[4] They brought up their children in the Roman Catholic church.

Maurer_Katherine_Stephen_ScheffeL_wedding_from BRozier

Photograph labelled as Katherine Maurer & Stephen Scheffel wedding. Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE}, Yukon, Oklahoma, 208. Photographs originally held by Mercedes V. Tucker Bunce, Ms. Ellerbee’s aunt, and sent electronically to Ms. Ellerbee by Barbara Bunce Rosier, daughter of Mercedes. V. Tucker and Mahlon Bunce, May 2018.

The babies came frequently:  Stephen J in March 1890, Gertrude in April 1892, Agnes in June 1893, Edward in December 1894, Charles Henry in April 1896 and William Valentine in December 1898. June 1900 finds the family living in Brooklyn, Kings county, New York. [5] The census taker recorded that Kate was the mother of 6 children with 6 children living. An amazing feat considering infant and child mortality rates of the era.[6]  Katie not only survived the births of 6 children in 10 years but also kept all 6 of those children alive. This adds one more child, William, to Viola’s list. More challenges faced Katie.

Katie’s husband, Stephen L. Scheffel, died a year or two later. One witness to Stephen’s will, written in 1901, was Joseph Maurer, Katie’s brother.[7]  The probate case file, dated 1903, does not record the date of Stephen’s death.  I haven’t found a death record but suspect that Stephen probably died in 1902 or early 1903. Given that he wrote a will in 1901, he probably expected to die soon.  Thirty-six year old Katie now found herself a widow with six children under the age of 13. The better life promised to her immigrant parents must have seemed out of reach.

The children assisted as much as they could. By 1910, four of Katie’s children held jobs. [8] Stephen J, age 20, worked as a magazine agent. Gertrude and Agnes held positions as bookkeepers. Edward was an office boy in a business house. Stephen, the oldest, was also the first to marry. He married Marion H. Schick, daughter of German immigrants, in 1916.[9] The year 1920 held slightly more promise for the family.  Katie’s other 5 children still lived with their mother. [10]

During the next decade, Katie’s children gradually left home.   Agnes married James H. Callahan, a lawyer, in 1927. [11].  Edward married Margaret Gross in 1926 [12]and had a daughter, Alice Marie in 1928. [13] William married about 1929 to Madeline.

Katie was now grandmother to 5 grandchildren, four children born to Stephen & Marion and one daughter born to Edward. These may be her only grandchildren.

The 1930s brought financial ruin to many. Unemployment skyrocketed. How were Katie and her children affected? Their financial circumstances probably became even more difficult. Personal tragedies would also mark this decade. By 1930, Stephen and his wife, Marion had separated. Stephen and his 2 sons moved in with Katie. [14]  Marion and their 2 daughters moved to Orangetown, New York, where she worked as a live-in housekeeper. [15]  What caused this split? Money? Other issues?

In May 1931, Edward died, leaving his wife and daughter.[16] I found a September 1932 death record for Stephen J. Scheffel in San Diego, California.[17] Had he followed others in search of work? In 1936, Stephen’s wife, Marion, married Frank Kuhn, the man for whom she worked as housekeeper in 1930. [18] Where were Gertrude and Charles in 1930? That remains a mystery.

By 1940 and still living in Brooklyn, Katie’s son, Charles,  cared for his aging mother.[19] Katie experienced the difficulties of being an immigrant’s daughter in the 1870s and 1880s.  She saw the nation at war. At least two sons, Edward and Charles, fought in World War I.  She lived through the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression.  She buried her husband and two of her six children. Katie would not experience another war. Katherine Anna Maurer Scheffel, 75 years old, died 4 December 1941, [20] on the eve of World War II.  She was buried two days later in St. John’s Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Maurer_Katherine_mScheffel_obit_1941_crop

Obituary for Katherine A. Scheffel, printed in Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) on 4 December 1941, page 15, column 4, under ‘Deaths’. Accessed from Newspapers.com on 2 September 2018.

What of Katie’s surviving children- Charles, William, Gertrude and Agnes?

  • Charles: SSDI record for Charles H. Scheffel, born 22 April 1896; died 19 March 1957 in Florida. [21]  New York birth record for Charlie Scheffel , son of Stepfan Sheffel and Kathy Anna Maurer implies that this is the same person. [22]
  • William: born 26 December 1898. [23] Died 24 September 1946 in Brooklyn per obituary.[24]
  • Gertrude: born 3 April 1892. [25] Died in February 1973 in Brooklyn per SSDI.[26] Gertrude probably remained single throughout her life.
  • Agnes: SSDI record for Agnes Callahan, born 3 June 1893; died October 1985 in New York. [27].  Corresponds to New York birth record for Agnes Scheffel, daughter of Steffen Louis Scheffel and Katy Anna Maurer Scheffel. [28]

Katie’s life was not glamorous. She did not gain notoriety or extreme wealth. In an era of high maternal and infant mortality, she successfully negotiated the trials of childbirth six times. Similarly, all six of her children grew to adulthood. Did she ever become depressed? Or, am I projecting today’s values on her? Sad? Yes.  I believe that her children’s needs helped to overcome those feelings. Her Roman Catholic faith may also provided strength and solace.

In summary, I used multiple types of records to confirm and add to information reported by great-aunt Viola. Katie’s obituary was a large missing puzzle piece to tell the story of Katie and her children. I began this puzzle in 2016. Now, two years later, only a few small pieces remain to be found.

Attached is a family group sheet for Stephen Scheffel_Katharine Maurer  and their children. A detailed group sheet with sources is available upon request.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION:

I considered various ways to present this information. Katie’s obituary, found recently, gave me the lead I needed to discover Agnes’ marriage. Obituaries can be a rich source of information.  Perhaps a topic for another post?  I continue to find that Viola’s history is an excellent structure with only a few inconsistencies.  I am a perfectionist and want everything to be complete and solid.  I am beginning to accept that I can leave questions unanswered and holes left open.  I try to do the best work that I can with the tools that I have available. And, so, I leave work for future generations.

I used indexes extensively. I may not have financial resources to order all of the original records.  Digital copies of some records may be available at a local Family History Center of the LDS Church. If doing a formal report, the original records should be obtained. The blog turned out longer than I planned. The extensive source list seems almost too much!

What I learned/ relearned:   Look for obituaries earlier in the process.  Ancestry and FamilySearch will not lead me to all records about a person.  A slower data entry process forced me to look at documents more thoroughly.  I sometimes found information that I had previously overlooked.

What helped:  Viola’s history.  Online access to multiple records and indexes.  Creation of research logs for each child. I applied lessons from Genealogy Do-Over. Specifically, during each work session, I saved and labelled digital records, added information to RootsMagic on my computer, and filled in research logs. Although this temporarily slowed forward progress, I won’t have to re-do it later! Finding obituaries for Edward and Charles, even though it was 1 a.m.!

What didn’t help:  Continued temptation to ‘point-click-save’ without thoroughly reviewing information in the document.

To-do list: Continue search for Stephen Scheffel’s death certificate circa 1901-1903. Confirm death dates and locations for Stephen J. Scheffel and Gertrude Scheffel.  Locate Charles and Gertrude in 1930 census.

SOURCES: 

[1] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” 8 pages; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Carbon copy of original document created ca. 1975-1980 sent to Ms. Ellerbee by her great-aunt.

[2] 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Atlantic county, New Jersey, population schedule, Galloway, p. 291 (penned), dwelling 2238, family 2205, Valentin Maurer age 31 digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 31 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M653_682.

[3] 1880 census. 1880 U.S. Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) 182, p. 42B(penned), sheet325B, dwelling 161, family 465, Mauiner [Maurer] Kattie, age 14; digital images, Family Search (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6HS : accessed, printed, downloaded 13 August 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 0852.

[4] Marriage year based on birth of oldest child in 1890. “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, , Family Search (http://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:CFQ : 11 February 2018 : accessed & printed 30 August 2018), entry for Stephan Scheffel, born 8 March 1890; citing New York Municipal Archives, New York City, New York

[5] 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 21, enumeration district (ED) 0331, p. 5A (penned), 185 Hopkins St, dwelling 19, family 100, Kate Scheffel age 24; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 7 February 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623, roll 1058.

[6] In 1900, approximately 165 babies died for every  1000 babies born.  “Infant mortality and life expectancy.” Accessed from PBS (https://www.pbs.org/fmc/timeline/dmortality.htm   : accessed 9 September 2018).

[7]  Kings County, New York, Surrogate’s Court, Probate Case Files, Will and witness documents for Stephen L. Scheffel ca 1901-1903; “New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: viewed, printed, downloaded 20 May 2016); Wills, Vol 0305-0307, 1902-1903. Probate Place: Kings, NY.

[8]  1910 U.S. Federal Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 30, enumeration district (ED) 1064, p. 5A (penned), dwelling 69, family 112, Katherine A. Scheffel head; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 20 May 2016); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T624_985.

[9]  New York City Clerk’s Office, New York, New York, “New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, printed, downloaded 29 August 2018), entry for Stephen J Scheffel; citing 1916 BKLYN S Jan- Apr; License number 2026.

[10] 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, Assembly District 9, enumeration district (ED) 484, p. 13A (penned), house number 245, Catherine Scheffe [Katharine Scheffel] head; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 17 July 2016); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1157.

[11] “New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 September 2018), entry for Agnes M. Scheffel; citing New York City Municipal Archives, New York City Clerk’s Office, New York, New York; License Number: 9506.

[12] New York Department of Records/ Municipal Archives, “Extracted marriage Index, 1866-1937,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & printed 1 September 2018), entry for Edward Scheffel; citing Index to New York City Marriages, 1866-1937. Indices prepared by the Italian Genealogical Group and the German Genealogy Group..

[13]. 1930 U.S. Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) 0881, p. 1B (penned), Edward Scheffil age 35; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, printed, downloaded 17 July 2016); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626, roll 1538.

[14] 1930 U.S. Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) 1754, p. 13B (penned), dwelling 158, family 596, Kathrine Scheffel; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : downloaded & printed 9 February 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626, roll 1508.

[15] 1930 U.S. Census, Rockland county, New York, population schedule, Orangetown, enumeration district (ED) 44-27, p. 12 B (penned), dwelling, 236, famiy 249, Marian Scheffel housekeeper, age 34 in household of Frank Kuhn; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 29 August 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm T626.

[16] “SHEFFEL, EDWARD,” obituary, The Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York) Daily Eagle, 4 May 1931; online images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : viewed, downloaded, printed 1 September 2018), Deaths; citing The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. page 17, column 2.

[17] California Department of Health and Welfare “California, Death Index, 1905-1939,” index, online database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 17 July 2016), entry for Stephen J.Scheffel, birth year abt 1890.

[18] New York, New York State Department of Health, “New York State, Marriage Index, 1881-1967,” digital index, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed 29 August 2018), Marion H. Scheffel, Frank M. Kuhn, certificate no. 40937.

[19] 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) 24-1128, p. 4B (penned), household 78, Catherine Scheffel head; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 9 February 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T627_2575.

[20] New York, Bureau of Records, Department of Health, Borough of Brooklyn, Certificate of Death no. 23456 (4 December 1941), Katherine A. Scheffel; Muncipal Archives, New York City, New York.

[21] Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & printed 12 July 2016), Charles H. Scheffel, 0891444136.

[22] “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, Family Search (http://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1: TT2 11 Feb 2018), Charlie Scheffel, 22 Apr 1896; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 6142 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microflim 1,324,428.

[23] “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, Family Search (http://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1: SQD 11 Feb 2018), William Scheffel, 26 Dec 1898; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 357 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microflim 1,984,423.

[24]  “Deaths, Scheffel, William,” obituary, Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York) Daily Eagle, 25 September 1946; database with images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 2 September 2018); citing The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, page 15, column 2.

[25] “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1: X6l: 11 February 2018), Gertrud Scheffel, 03 Apr 1892; citing New York, United States, reference cn 3738 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1, 324,409.

[26] Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & printed 17 July 2016), Gertrude Scheffel, 147-18-1503, New Jersey (before 1951).

[27] Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed 5 September 2018), entry for Agnes Callahan, 067-01-6266, New York (before 1951).

[28]  “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, , Family Search (http://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:HH3: 11 February 2018 : accessed 13 August 2018), entry for Agnes Scheffel; citing New York Municipal Archives, New York, New York

©© Susan Posten Ellerbee, Posting Family Roots blog, 2018.

Name variations in census records: Maurer & Klee

census checklist Maurer KleeIn my previous post, Herman Maurer & Anna Klee:  Maternal great-grandparents, I stated:  “I am still searching for records related to Herman and Anna’s childhoods, specifically 1870 and 1880 census records.”   After posting the blog, I started a new search.  Results:  two records found — 1880 census for Herman’s parents and 1870 census for Anna’s parents.  Happy dance!  However, the search was frustrating and required more time than I expected. Multiple strategies include name variations and children’s names. Here’s my report.

First, Herman Maurer.

Search attempt record from research log for Valentine Maurer, Herman’s father:

10-13 Aug 2018 Family Search/ Ancestry Collections, BMD, census online, generic Valentin/ Valentine, Maurer, b. Germany, 1825-1830; names of each child After multiple tries (about 3 hours total),  Valentine Mauiner, age 52, Brooklyn, 1880!! Posted to Ancestry tree.

As expected, the family was finally found in Brooklyn, New York,  in 1880 [1].  However, the search involved many road blocks. Previous searches for the family using Ancestry database (at least 4 hours)  had produced no results. Next step involved looking at Brooklyn census page by page.  About 30 wards and townships with hundreds of pages in each ward quickly spoiled that effort! I really appreciate the pre-digital age researchers who spent hours reading those hundreds of pages on microfilm!  I tried using the names of Herman’s siblings (Valentin, Katherine/ Katie, Rosina/ Rosie, Joseph and Edward).  No luck! I tried using asterisk as placer for surname:  Maur*, Mau*, Ma* on Ancestry with similar lack of results.

Go to the next website- Family Search. Begin again and use same search strategies of children’s names and surname variations. Finally, a hit!

1880 U.S. Census_Brooklyn_Kings_NY_Valentine Maurer family_crop

The transcription reads:

Mauiner, Valentine, M W, 52, head, b. Germany.

Annie C, wife, F W 32, b Germany.

Valentine, son, M, 22, b. New Jersey.

Herman, son, M, 20, b. New Jersey.

Kattie, daughter, female, 14, b. New York.

Rosie, daughter, female, 12, b. New York.

Joseph, son, M, age 9, b. New York.

Edward, son, M, 5, b. New York.

Mauiner as surname!  Anna was actually 52 years of age, not 32. That explains why I didn’t find them before now. I tried similar search strategy for 1870 census without success.  The search continues for Valentin and Anna in 1870!

Also of interest is that 14-year-old Kattie Maurer is recorded as a box-maker. She made paper boxes, possibly match boxes, at home and was paid per piece. Her minimal wages supplemented the family’s income.

Onward, to Anna’s parents, Ludwig or Louis Klee and wife, Anna or Katharina. This search finally yielded even more surprising results. I used a similar strategy, beginning with Ancestry database then moving to Family Search database. I typed in Ludwig Klee, Louis Klee, Anna, and Katharina as parents. When no results found, I tried the names of their children – Fritz, Anna, Katherine/ Katharina for 1870 census and added Mollie and Louis for 1880 census. Again, no hits on Ancestry database. Next database searched was Family Search.  Again, I used the same format of surname, parents, and children. Finally, I used the asterisk approach of “Kle*”.  I had almost given up when an 1870 entry showed Anna Kleh, age 25, and Fritz Kleh, age 7.  Male, head of household was recorded as Louis Rleh, age 30.  These names and ages sound familiar!

1870 U.S. Census_Brooklyn_Kings_NY_Louis Klee family_crop

Here’s the transcription [2]:

Louis Rleh [Klee], 30, M W, machinist, value of personal estate $600, place of birth – Prussia, parentage: father of foreign birth- marked; mother of foreign birth – marked.

Anna Kleh [Klee], 25, F W, place of birth New York, father of foreign birth – marked, mother of foreign birth- marked.

 Presumed children:  Fritz, 7, M W, place of birth: New York.

Anna, 6, F W, place of birth: New York.

Katharine, 2, F W, place of birth: New York.

Louis, 1, M W, place of birth: New York.

As with the Maurer family, the transcriber wrote the surname as it looked. The search continues for Louis and Anna in 1880!

gg62755812To help you with similar problems, try these steps:

  • Begin in town from another census. Narrow down location (township, post office, ward, election district) as much as you can.
  • Review other census records. Place of birth recorded for each person may give you a clue.
  • Use name variants found in other records.
  • Use a few letters of name with asterisk to broaden search.
  • Change first names to anyone known to be in household, with name variants same as above.
  • Look in other census sources, online and print.
  • Review possible records page by page.

Expand your research toolbox to include other resources. Here is a partial listing of online resources:

Online family tree databases suggest records through a link to your family tree on their website or another family tree program.  Check your family tree software program for access.

Print resources (partial list):

  • State-specific census indexes. Available at many historical society libraries. Check with your local library and state or county historical societies.
  • Local and county histories. Biographies and other information, such as lists of school board members, will give clues about a person’s residence during the census years.

Happy hunting!

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:

This post was easy to write and tells of my progress in obtaining census records for Valentine Maurer and Louis Klee.  I wish that I could report 1870 and 1880 census records for both families. Oh, well, subject for another post!

What I learned:  Census databases are not created equal! Don’t limit myself to the most popular websites. Try using known address from one census to find enumeration district for another census.  For Brooklyn, try same ward from another census.

What helped:  Knowledge of search strategies. Being able to narrow residence to city and state. Tracking search attempts and strategies on research logs.

What didn’t help: Number of pages in Brooklyn census. I was too lazy to look through hundreds of pages.

TO-DO: Continue search for Valentine Maurer (1870 census) & Louis Klee (1880 census) families.  Use multiple sources, including print indexes available at Oklahoma History Center library.  Keep detailed record of search attempts, including key words, on research logs.

SOURCES:

[1] 1880 U.S. Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) 182, p. 42B(penned), sheet325B, dwelling 161, family 465, Mauiner [Maurer] Valentine, age 52; digital images, Family Search (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6HS : accessed, printed, downloaded 13 August 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 0852.

[2] 1870 U.S. Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, Ward 16, p. 78 (penned), dwelling 288, family 762, Louis Rleh [Kleh]; digital images, Family Search (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M8NB-M8X : accessed, printed, downloaded 14 August 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and “Posting Family Roots” blog, 2018. 

Herman Maurer & Anna Klee, maternal great-grandparents

Herman Maurer (1858-1927).  Anna Klee (1864-1918)

Maurer_Herman_wife Anna Klee_ca unknown

Herman Maurer and Anna Klee. privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Photographs originally held by Esbon Herman Tucker, grandson of Herman and Anna. Photographs given to Ms. Ellerbee by Mary Ann (Tucker) Rogers, daughter of Esbon Herman Tucker, April, 2018.

You probably saw at least one blog post about Herman, Anna or their children. Each post captured a single life event and discussed  genealogical research methods and/or findings.  I am still searching for records related to Herman and Anna’s childhoods, specifically 1870 and 1880 census records. However, I can share information about the life of Herman and Anna as a couple.

Take a trip down memory lane:

30 April 2017: Birth certificate of daughter, Amalie Charlotte Maurer

15 May 2017:  Charlotte Maurer Tucker in Reflections on Mother’s Day, 2017

21 December 2017: Anna’s autograph book

12 April 2018:  Viola Maurer, Herman and Anna’s youngest child

6 June 2018:  Herman and Anna’s ‘missing children’

1 August 2018:  Herman and Anna in 1920 census

Herman Maurer and Anna Klee were first-generation Americans.  Their parents immigrated to the United States in the 1850s. Herman’s father, Valentin Maurer, was from Baden, Germany.  [1]  His mother, Anna Katharina Korzelious (approximate spelling), was also from Germany. [2] Baden lies in the southwest part of Germany, close to an area called Alsace-Lorraine. Alsace-Lorraine alternated between German and French rule throughout its history.  (Note: Mom always said that her Maurer ancestors were from Alsace-Lorraine.)

Map of Germany showing Baden and Prussia from Encyclopedia Brittanica

Source:  https://www.britannica.com/place/Prussia.  Accessed 10 August 2018

Anna’s parents, Ludwig Klee and Anna Wolf, came from Germany, possibly Prussia [3] or Holland[4] .  I haven’t found consistent records to verify either claim.

Herman Maurer, the oldest child of Valentin Maurer and Katharina Korzelious, was born 16 October 1858 in Egg Harbor City, Atlantic county, New Jersey.[5]  Valentin apparently moved his family to Brooklyn, New York, by 1866, where Herman’s sister, Katharine, was born.[6]

Anna Klee was born 25 July 1864 in Brooklyn, Borough of Kings, New York to Ludwig (or Louis) Klee and Anna Wolf.[7]  According to aunt Viola’s history, Anna was one of five children. [8]

Herman, age 25, and Anna, age 19, married on December 31, 1883 in Brooklyn, New York. [9] I have no  family story about how they met.  They may have lived in the same neighborhood or attended the same church. Discovery of 1870 and 1880 census records for the two families may yield that information.

Maurer_Herman_Anna_Klee_MC_for blog

Herman and Anna lived at 169 Hopkins Street in Brooklyn according to various records.  This multi-family dwelling no longer exists.

Hopkins Street

Photo by Percy Sperry. ©Milstein Division, The New York Public Library.  Used with permission.  Photo accessed 26 July 2018 from New York Public Library Digital Collections:   https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-d3dc-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Children came quickly and often to the couple.  In 1910, Anna reported being the mother of 8 children with 5 still living.[10] Records support or confirm the births of 7 of those children:

  • Edward (born 1885; died 1892)[11]
  • Arthur, born 1887[12]
  • William Charles, born 30 June 1890[13]
  • Amalie Charlotte (born 26 May 1892; my grandmother)[14]
  • Herman Charles (born 22 Aug 1893)[15]
  • Emma Lizzie (born and died 1898)[16] (Note: Found after I posted “Missing Children”).
  • Viola Blanche (born 16 Mar 1907)[17]

I am waiting on a copy of birth certificate for Lillian, born about 1901, and died young.  Anna probably had all of these children at home.

Maurer children composite

Photos privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Photographs of girls originally held by Esbon Herman Tucker, grandson of Herman and Anna;  given to Ms. Ellerbee by Mary Ann (Tucker) Rogers, daughter of Esbon Herman Tucker, April, 2018. Photographs of Maurer boys originally held by Mercedes Viola Tucker Bunce, granddaughter of Herman and Anna; digital copies sent to Ms. Ellerbee by Barbara (Bunce) Rosier, daughter of Mercedes Viola Tucker Bunce, May 2018.

Herman worked as a mechanic.  About 1903, Herman and Anna moved to Huntington, Suffolk county, New York, on Long Island.  Charlotte and her husband, Esbon Tucker, lived with Herman after their marriage. [18]

Anna died in 1918 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn.  [19] Herman continued to live with Charlotte and her family until his death in 1927. [20]

Of Herman and Anna’s five surviving children, only two gave birth to grandchildren.  Charlotte and Esbon had four children. Herman Charles and his 2nd wife, Elizabeth,  had two children.  Mom talked often about having only two cousins on her mother’s side.  The death of her cousin, Herman, in World War II,[21] left her with only one Maurer first cousin.  As I remember, mom knew about her distant cousins but had lost contact with most of them.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:

I wish I knew more about Anna’s parents.  Their file holds little information and much of that is contradictory.  I haven’t found 1870 or 1880 census records for either set of parents.  I debated about posting because of this. The search continues.

What I learned:  What little I really know about the Klee family beyond names and a few dates.  I wish that I listened better when Mom was alive and telling the stories!

What helped:  Documents and records already in file. Thanks to cousins,  I now have pictures of Herman and Anna as well as pictures of their young children.

What didn’t help:  Lack of information about Anna’s parents.  As I reviewed documents in my files, I realized that much of the information was contradictory.   I spent several hours searching with minimal results. Today’s BSO is  tomorrow’s  focused search.  I created research logs for Ludwig and Anna but the logs are not complete.

TO-DO:  Renew search for Ludwig Klee and Anna Wolf. Start over with only Viola’s history. Critically analyze each document.  Record each step!!!  Request birth certificates for Arthur, William, Herman and Viola. Request death certificates for Edward, Emma Lizzie, Lillian and their mother, Anna Klee Maurer. This could be very expensive! Explore options to contact other Maurer cousins.

[1] Valentine Maurer, death certificate no. 16339 (1898), New York City Archives, New York City, New York City, New York.

[2] 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Atlantic county, New Jersey, population schedule, Galloway, p. 291 (penned), dwelling 2238, family 2205, Catherine Maurer, age 31, birthplace Germany; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 31 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M653_682.

[3] 1910 U.S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, pop. sch., Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 1367, p. 2B (penned), Family #26, Herman Maurer (head); digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 31 January 2017); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T624, roll 1083.

[4] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” page 1; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Carbon copy of original document created ca. 1975-1980 sent to Ms. Ellerbee by her great-aunt.

[5] Hermann Maurer, death certificate no. 10424 (1927), Department of Health of the City of New York, New York City, New York; copy of original privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Copy of original obtained from New York City Municipal Archives, June 2015

[6]New York, Bureau of Records, Department of Health, Borough of Brooklyn, Certificate of Death no. 23456 (4 December 1941), Katherine A. Scheffel; Muncipal Archives, New York City, New York; copy of original privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Copy of original obtained from New York City Municipal Archives, July 2016.

[7] Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” page  2.

[8] Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” pages 2 & 3.

[9] Brooklyn, New York, Certificate of Marriage Brooklyn, no. 3739, Hermann Maurer & Anna Klee, 31 December 1883; New York City Department of Records & Information Services, New York City; copy of original privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Copy of original obtained from New York City Municipal Archives, June 2014.

[10] 1910 U.S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, pop. sch., Huntington, ED 1367, p. 2B (penned), Family #26, Herman Maurer (head).

[11] Prepared by Italian Genealogical Group and German Genealogy Group, “New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed 17 July 2016), entry for Edward Maurer, b abt 1885, died June 1892; citing “New York City deaths, 1862-1948,” New York City Department of Records/ Municipal Archives; Certificate #10178.

[12] “World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded 4 February 2018), entry for Arthur Maurer; citing , United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, Roll: 1818992; Draft Board: 1.

[13] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed & downloaded 1 February 2018), memorial page for William Charles Maurer, Find A Grave Memorial # 2749358, citing Long Island National Cemetery (East Farmingdale, Suffolk, New York), memorial created by Chuck, photograph by Chuck.

[14] New York, New York City Department of Records and Information Services, birth certificate 5947 (28 May 1892), Amalie Charlotte Maurer; Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street, New York, N.Y. 10007. Copy of original privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Copy of original obtained from New York City Municipal Archives, March 2017.

[15]  “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W74-MXN: 20 March 2015) : accessed & printed 17 March 2017), entry for Herman Maurer; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference certificate no. 11175, New York Municipal Archives, New York.

[16] “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/2WFS-Q5K : 10 February 2018), Emma Lizzie Maurer, 04 Sep 1898; citing Death, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,324,009.

[17] “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:61903/1:1:2WCT-7YW: 20 March 2015), Anna Klee Maurer in entry for Blanche V. Maurer, 16 Mar 1907; citing Manhanttan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 10873 New York Municipal Achives, New York. Event place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York.

[18] 1920 U.S. Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 113, p. 7A (penned), dwelling 136, family 139, Herman Maurer, head, age 60, widower; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, downloaded, printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625, Roll 1269.

[19]  “New York State Death Index, 1880-1956,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com :  accessed & downloaded 23 July 2018); entry for Anna Maurer, 1918, 26 Jul, Huntington, pg. 1003; citing “NY State Death Index,” New York Department of Health, Albany, N.Y.’ Certificate number: 45345.

[20] New York City death certificate no 10424 (1927), Hermann Maurer.

[21] For more information about Herman Maurer (1923 – 1944), read my 2017 Memorial Day post. 

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and “Posting Family Roots” blog, 2018.

Perils of ‘Point and click’ genealogy

Are you my grandmother’s parents?

Hint found, online family tree database: George H. Maurer, age 61, born in New York and wife, Anna, age 55, born in New York living in Manhattan, New York, 1920.[1]  Must be my great-grandparents!  My momma told me that her grandparents were Herman and Anna Maurer and that they lived in New York City. Minor detail that husband recorded as “George H.”  His middle name could be Herman! Given name and name person is known within family aren’t always the same!  Another minor detail: George’s parents are recorded as born in New York. According to mom, Herman’s parents were German immigrants to the United States.

George_Anna_branch or tree

This is one example of my experience with genealogy point and click syndrome, a.k.a, ‘shaky leaf syndrome’.  A shaky leaf appears on the online family tree. I read the record in a cursory manner then, ‘point and click’ to attach the record to a person. Or, I saw the record on another person’s online tree. The record fits some information about the person or family, so it must be OK.

The problem?  This George H. and Anna Maurer are not my direct ancestors! How did I find out? Only after I carefully reviewed paper and digital records. The review, prompted by Genealogy Do-Over, presented several clues. Specifically, Herman’s parents were born in Germany. Second, Anna Klee Maurer, died in 1918! Where did I go wrong? How can I prevent this from happening? “It’s simple,” you say. “Question everything!”

Read more about Ancestry hints on Amy Johnson Crow’s  blog :  “The truth about Ancestry’s Hints”. Posted 4 January 2017. 

Not really so simple. Novice genealogists, in particular, can easily catch this syndrome. If not careful, even experienced genealogists occasionally follow a wrong lead based on one or two facts.  Names, dates, locations are close and look right. I am blessed that Great-Aunt Viola wrote a brief family genealogy.[2] I have often referred to that document in the past several months and continue to use it as a base.  What if I didn’t have that document?  How would I know that Herman and Anna, living in Manhattan in 1920, are not my ancestors? The single census record doesn’t divulge that information.

1920 Census_George_Anna_Maurer

!920 U.S. Census, New York City, New York. George H. Maurer and wife, Anna Maurer.

So, it’s back to the basics. My solution:  Search for a census record closest to the year and location of another known event that you can confirm.  The record may or may not include Herman or Anna. Analyze every piece of information on the record.  Repeat with other records, moving forward or backward in time. During the process, you may circle back to where you started.  But, you could also end at a different place. This seems almost too logical but I believe that we sometimes bypass this guideline in the quest for an older ancestor or event.

Here’s my case study. What if  I had few documents and only this basic information. For the moment, forget previous posts about this family.

  • Mother, Eunice Tucker, born 1919 in Huntington, Suffolk county, New York to Esbon J. Tucker and Charlotte Maurer.
  • Mom lived in Huntington until her marriage to Dad.
  • Grandmother (Mom’s mother), a.k.a. Gram, k.a. Lottie, was born in New York City, possibly Brooklyn, to Herman and Anna (Klee) Maurer.
  • Viola, a.k.a. Aunt Olie, Gram’s sister, lived with Esbon and Lottie.
  • Grandfather (Mom’s father), a.k.a. Pop, born in Greenville, New York to William F. Tucker and Bertha Traver. I remember Pop saying that he was from upstate New York.
  • We often visited Gram and Pop in Huntington.
UpstateFun fact:   What is the definition of ‘upstate New York’?    For some, upstate is all areas of New York except New York City and Long Island. Others consider west of the Hudson River as ‘upstate’ or name specific counties as being ‘downstate’.  Join the conversation on twitter:  https://twitter.com/hashtag/whereisupstate

The 1920 census for Huntington, Suffolk county, New York, seems like the logical choice. Search criteria:  Esbon Tucker, Lottie Tucker,  Eunice Tucker (mom).  An online database quickly displays the record  IF the handwriting is clear and  IF the names are transcribed accurately.  If not,  inspect the record images page by page until you find an entry that looks like it ‘could be’ the right person or family.  I missed my mother and her parents the first time that I looked.

1920 U.S. Census_Herman Maurer_Huntington

1920 U.S. Census, Huntington, Suffolk county, New York. Page 7A.

Transcription for dwelling # 130, family 139, 1st Ave, Huntington, New York, reads: [3]

  • Herman Merured, head, age 60, head, M, W, wd [widower], b. New Jersey, father b. Germany, mother b. Germany
  • Viola Merured , daughter, age 13, f, w,  single, b. NY, father b. New Jersey, mother b. New York
  • Esmond  Tucker, son-in-law, age 28, married, b. NY, mother b. New York, father b. New York.
  • Charlotte Tucker, daughter, age 28, daughter, married, b. New York
  • Esmond Tucker, grandson,age  2 6/12, single, b. New York
  • Eugenies  Tucker, age 8/12, single, b. New York

Next, evaluate each data point separately.  Start with a person whose information is clearer and/or closest to a known fact. For me, the names of Herman, Viola and Charlotte stood out.

  1. Herman Merured, head of household, age 60, ‘wd’ which means ‘widow’ or ‘widower’. “Merured” could be “Maurer”. His wife died before 1920.
  2. Viola Merured – daughter. Viola, Gram’s sister, lived with Gram and Pop.
  3. Charlotte Tucker, daughter. One name transcribed correctly!

Judge the other entries:

  1. Esmond Tucker – son-in-law. First name close to Pop’s given name of Esbon. Surname transcribed correctly! Inferred husband of Charlotte.
  2. Esmond Tucker – mom’s older brother, Esbon; spelling is close. Age of 2 6/12 suggests date of birth about July 1917. (Note: Esbon’s date of birth is 30 April 1918 on his birth certificate).
  3. Eugenies Tucker – close to Mom’s given name of Eunice Tucker. Age 8/12. Inconsistent with Mom’s birthdate of 31 August 1919 and only 5 months old in January 1920. Possible transcription error or census taker error?

Is this record close to known information? Yes, but only because I know about mom’s family. Another researcher, less familiar with our family, might say ‘no’ or ‘maybe’. This census record suggests that Herman’s wife, Anna, died before 1920.  Tying the pieces together, I  now state that Herman and Anna Maurer, living in Manhattan in 1920, are certainly not my ancestors. Next question: When did Anna die?

Be sure to document search attempts and findings on a research log.  State why information is consistent or inconsistent with other information. For questionable information,  I use a red pen and question marks on handwritten notes and highlights or colors on digital notes.  Any source may have multiple types of information.  You will save time and effort later.  This will save time and effort later.

TO-DO LIST:  Search for Herman and Anna in previous census, such as 1915 New York State Census. If Herman again listed as ‘wd’,  locate 1910 U.S. Federal Census. Continue searching earlier census records as needed to narrow range of possible death years for Anna.

Found:  1915 New York State Census record for Herman and Anna.

Fortunately, the census taker for this part of the 1915 New York State Census wrote more clearly. This facilitated ready identification and display of the transcription for this family:   [4]

1915_NY State Census_Herman_Anna_crop1.jpg

1915 New York State Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Herman Maurer, part of page 47.

1915 census Herman final

Herman, Anna and their children were in Huntington in June 1915. Since Herman was listed as ‘wd’ (widower) on 1920 census  Anna’s death date narrows to between June 1915 and January 1920.

Another search of my paper files yielded an almost forgotten item from an online message board, an obituary for Anna Maurer.[5]  I verified the message board entry by locating a transcription of the obituary from another source.[6]  The obituary reads:

“Brooklyn Standard Union, July 28, 1918. Anna Maurer. Funeral services for Anna Maurer, who died on Thursday at her home in Huntington, where she had been a resident for fifteen years, will be held tomorrow at 10 A.M. at the funeral chapel of Mrs. George Ehlenberger, 295 Wyckoff Avenue, near Linden Street. Mrs. Maurer was born in Brooklyn fifty-four years ago and is survived by her husband, Herman Jr, and two daughters, Viola and Mrs. Mattoe Pucker. Interment at Evergreen Cemetery.”

“Mrs Mattoe Pucker”? I don’t have a copy of the original printed obituary to see if this is a print or transcription error. Names of Herman and Viola are consistent with other records.

Finally, I discovered a death record for Anna Maurer in Klee_Anna_mMaurer_death index_1918_crop21918, Huntington:  [7]

The New York Department of Health reports an 8-9 month wait to obtain a death certificate for genealogical use.

FYI: Yes, I marked George H. and Anna Maurer census record as ‘negative evidence’ and ‘not my ancestors’.

Addendum: Anna Maurer from 1920 census found?

As I checked databases and sources for this post, I found two records for another Anna Maurer,  who could be the same Anna Maurer who lived in Manhattan in 1920.  Hopefully, someone reading this post will recognize her as their ancestor.

1940 Census[8]: Anna Maurer, age 76.  Estimated birth year 1864.  Female, White, birthplace New York. Inmate, Wards Island, Manhattan State Hospital, New York City, New York.

New York, Extracted Death Index[9]:  Anna Maurer, age 77, birth year abt 1864, death date: 1 March 1941; death place: Manhattan, New York, USA.

Are the two Maurer families related?  Maybe.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION:

I recognize my error now and am being more cautious. I document searches and results on more regular basis. I realize how easy it is to confuse persons with similar names, birth years, birth dates, and residences. I could have easily marked Anna Maurer, who died in 1941, as my great-grandmother.  My mother died in 2007 so I cannot ask her. Mom’s brothers and sister are also dead. A cousin knows some of the family history.  Get the information from your oldest relatives as soon as you can!

When I began collecting and analyzing records, I didn’t follow any logical process outlined here. I have become more systematic in my approach. I document more often and more thoroughly.

I sometimes get discouraged. I keep finding gaps and missed information. I remind myself about the purpose of the Genealogy Do-Over:  to improve genealogy research skills, including data management. As a result, I view items and information differently. I am more skeptical and keep better notes. I ‘point and click’ less often and take notes/ make comments more often.

What I learned:  Carefully check and re-check information. In the 1915 census, my grand-uncle, William Charles Maurer,  listed his occupation as registered nurse. I have been a registered nurse for 45 years. Even now, only about 10% of nurses are male. There is a story to be discovered and told!

What helped:  Documentation of previous searches and records found. Organization of paper and digital files begun last year.

What didn’t help: Incomplete transcription (by me) of data in records. I didn’t actively search for and find the death index record for Anna Maurer until this month.

TO- DO:  Order Anna Klee Maurer’s death certificate – one of 6 on my list!  Transcribe all data found in a record, even if the information isn’t relevant to the current question. Review Genealogy Do-Over Months 1 and 2.  Take a breath!

Sources:

[1] 1920 U.S. Census, New York, New York, population schedule, Manhattan Assembly District 13, enumeration district (E.D. 965), page 21B (penned), dwelling 2469, family 490, entry for George H. Maurer, 55; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, downloaded 26 Jan 2014); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625, Roll 1209.

[2] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” [Page]; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Carbon copy of original document created ca. 1975-1980 sent to Ms. Ellerbee by her great-aunt.

[3] 1920 U.S. Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 113, p. 7A (penned), dwelling 136, family 139, Eugenies [Eunice] Tucker; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, downloaded, printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625, Roll 1269. Census date:  22nd & 29th January 1920.

[4] 1915 New York State Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, , pg. 47, Hermon Maurer age 55; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 10 January 2017); citing New York State Archives, Albany, New York..

[5] Cyber Angel, “Anna b Bklyn d Huntington NY 1918 hus Herman,” Maurer Family Genealogy Forum, message board listing, posted 8 February 2002; (http://genforum.genealogy,com/cgi-bi/pageload.cgi?Herman, Maurer: :maurer:::836.html  : accessed 9 June 2007).   “Anna Maurer”, obituary, Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page, Newspapers, Brooklyn (Daily) Standard Union, 1918 Deaths. . l July 11th-30th (http://bklyn-genealogy-info.stevemorse.org/Newspaper/BSU/1918.2b.html  :  accessed 18 July 2018).

[6] “Anna Maurer”, obituary, Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page, Newspapers, Brooklyn (Daily) Standard Union, 1918 Deaths. .  July 11th-30th (http://bklyn-genealogy-info.stevemorse.org/Newspaper/BSU/1918.2b.html  :  accessed 18 July 2018).

[7] “New York State Death Index, 1880-1956,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com :  accessed & downloaded 23 July 2018); entry for Anna Maurer, 1918, 26 Jul, Huntington, pg. 1003; citing “NY State Death Index,” New York Department of Health, Albany, N.Y.’ Certificate number: 45345.

[8] 1940 U.S. Census, New York, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, enumeration district 1649, sheet 30B, Ward’s Island, Anna Maurer; imaged at Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 July 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T0627-02663.

[9] “New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 July 2018); entry for Anna Maurer, death 1 March 1941, certificate #5345; citing “Index to New York City Deaths 1862-1948,” Indices prepared by the Italian Genealogical Group and the German Genealogy Group, and used with permission of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and “Posting Family Roots” blog, 2018.  

“Missing Children”: The case of Lillian Maurer (abt 1901 – ‘died in infancy’)

Willie, age 3, appears on a census record. Ten years later, Willie’s name does not appear on the census record with his parents. What happened to Willie? You question relatives with no result. Using your best research practices, you search diligently for Willie in online databases – birth and death records, websites for newspapers and cemeteries, city and/or county genealogical society websites. You query the local historical society. Nothing turns up.  Viewing microfilmed newspapers at the local library also yields no information. You record everything on a research log, vowing to return another day.  You keep Willie in mind but, in essence, Willie remains “missing” in your family’s genealogy. Hopefully, you eventually find out what happened to Willie,  the “missing” child.

Two often overlooked sources are the 1900 and 1910 United States Census records. Column headings for 1900 census included “mother of how many children”  and “number of these children living”.[1]  Column headings for 1910 included  “number of children born” and “number of children now living”.[2]  For both censuses, instructions for enumerators stated: “Stillborn children are not to be counted.” [3], [4]  Compare the numbers recorded on the census with listed names and ages of children.  You may find that more children were born to this woman. These are among your “missing” children. Search your records obtained from other family sources. Again, compare that information with the census records.

Maurer_Lillian_b1901

Lillian Maurer photograph ca 1901, label taped to picture when received; privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Photographs originally held by Esbon Herman Tucker, grandson of William F. and Bertha. Photographs given to Ms. Ellerbee by Mary Ann (Tucker) Rogers, daughter of Esbon Herman Tucker, April, 2018.

I present the case of children, including Lillian,  born to Anna Klee Maurer, my maternal grandmother’s mother.  From Aunt Viola’s family history:  [5]  Herman Maurer and his wife, Anna Klee “had 8 children (all born in Brooklyn, NY)”:

  1. Edward (Eddy)    1887? – 1892. “Edward died at about 5 years of age.”
  2. Arthur                   6/ 17/ 1888? – 7/ 1954
  3. Charlotte               5/ 26/ 1892 –   4/ 9/ 1974
  4. William                  6/ 30/ 1890? – 11/15/ 1957
  5. Harry                      1894 ? – ? infancy
  6. Herman                  1893 – 6/ 1957
  7. Lillian                     1901 – ? infancy
  8. Viola                        1906 –

Given the reported birth and death years, the 1900 census should list 6 children born and 4 children living for Anna;  the 1910 census should list 8 children born and 5 living. Can Viola’s information be confirmed? After all, these are her siblings!

I began with the 1892 New York State Census, conducted in February, 1892: [6]

  • Page 2, column 2, lines 38-40: Herman Maurer, age 32; Annie Maurer, age 27; [illegible] Maurer, age [illegible]
  • Page 3, column 1, lines 1-2: Arthur Maurer, age 4; William Maurer, age 2.

Charlotte (my maternal grandmother) was born in May 1892. Her birth certificate[7] shows her as the 5th child of Anna, suggesting another child born between 1883 (Herman & Anna’s marriage year) and 1892.

Continue with the family as recorded on the 1900 census:[8]

  • Maurer, Herman, head, b. Oct 1859, New Jersey, married 16 yrs.
  • Maurer, Anna, wife, b. July 1864, New York, mother of 7 children, 4 living
  • Maurer, Arthur, son, b. June 1887, New York
  • Maurer, Willie, son, b. June 1887, New York
  • Maurer, Lotta [Charlotte], daughter b. May 1892, New York
  • Maurer, Herman, son, b. Aug 1893, New York

Analysis:  Compared information to 1892 census and family records. The 1892 census records 3 children; the 1900 census adds 2 more children (Lotta and Herman).  The number of children still living (4) suggests that one of the children reported in 1892 (illegible name and age) died before 1900. Family records show 6 children born by 1900 with 2 of those having died.  The 1900 census data support my hypothesis that another child was born and died. So, there is still one more child to be found!

What is revealed in the 1910 census? [9] Barely legible, the record lists Anna as the mother of 8 children with 5 still living.  The living children are Arthur, age 22; William, age 19; Charlotte, age 17; Herman, age 16, and Viola, age 3.

1910 Census_Herman Maurer family_3

Putting the census data together suggests:

  • 3 children born between 1883 (marriage year) and February 1892.
  • 4 children born between February 1892 and June 1900 (7 children born).
  • 1 child born between June 1900 and April 1910 (8 children born).
  • 3 children died between 1883 and 1910 (5 children living by 1910).

Family records (family history + Charlotte’s birth certificate) indicate:

  • 4 children born between 1883 (marriage year) and February 1892
  • 3 children born between February 1892 and June 1900 (7 children born).
  • 2 children born between June 1900 and April 1910 (9 children born).
  • 3 children died between 1883 and 1910 (5 children living by 1910).

Records agree that 5 of Anna’s children survived in 1910. Records disagree about the number of children born to Anna- 8 or 9. Was the “missing child” stillborn and reported by Anna in 1900 but not reported in 1910? If the child was stillborn, Viola may not have known about him or her.

Birth and death indexes support information given by Viola about three of the ‘lost’ children:

  1. Edward Maurer. Birth: 22 January 1885, New York City Municipal Archives, New York City Births [10].  Death: 30 June 1892, New York City Municipal Archives, New York City Extracted Death Index.  [11]  Recorded by Viola as “1887? – 1892. Edward died at about 5 years of age.”  Analysis: Database entries consistent with family history; confirmed.
  2. Charles Harry Maurer. [12] Birth: August 1893 (based on age 4/12 at death). Death: 10 January 1894. Recorded by Viola as “Harry , 1894 ? – ? infancy.” Analysis: Database entry consistent with family history. Estimated birth date of August 1893 suggests that Charles Harry was twin of Herman Charles.
  3. Lillian Maurer. Birth: 7 January 1901, New York City Municipal Archives, New York City Births [13].  Death:  Before 1910; Lillian is not listed on the 1910 census. Databases support handwritten family history.

Having a child every 2 to 3 years was common in the early 20th century.  The semi-final list of Herman and Anna’s children appear to fit this pattern:

  1. Edward Maurer      (22 January 1885-30 June 1892)
  2. Arthur Maurer        (19 June 1887 – 2 April 1953)
  3. Unknown child        (possibly abt 1888 – before February 1892)
  4. William Charles Maurer      (30 June 1890 – 15 November 1957)
  5. Amalie Charlotte Maurer    (26 May 1892 – 9 April 1974)
  6. Herman Charles Maurer     (22 August 1893 – June 1957)
  7. Charles Harry Maurer         (August 1893 – 10 January 1894) (twin of Herman Charles)
  8. Lillian Maurer                        (7 Jan 1901 ?  – before 1910)
  9. Blanche Viola Lucy Maurer  (16 March 1907 – November 1985)

Given the six and seven year gaps, Anna may have been pregnant more than nine times. I am still looking for information about the unknown ‘lost’ child. Lillian’s case is not yet solved but I am getting closer!

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION:

Aunt Viola’s handwritten history provided the names of Edward, Harry and Lillian.  Without those names and dates, I would have had a more difficult time discovering information about them. Census questions about births and living children did not include stillbirths. Gaps of 3-4 years (or more) between births suggest additional pregnancies which may have ended in stillbirths or miscarriages.  I have 2 children, both living, and experienced several miscarriages. So, if asked the census questions now, my record would show ‘Number of children born to this person =2;  number of living children= 2.”

Initially, I discounted the August 1893 birth dates implied and reported for Herman Charles Maurer and implied for Charles Harry Maurer. One of the dates had to be wrong! Alternate question:  Were ‘Herman Charles Maurer’ and ‘Charles Harry Maurer’ the same person? Answer: No. Hmm- a subject for another post!

My research is not complete.  I don’t have copies of  records that could give more clues. A genealogist’s work is never done!

What I learned:  Look for hidden treasures in census records. Question every bit of data. Keep looking! Even scant information from a family member provides clues. A research log and/or software program are valuable tools to record conflicting data and your analysis. Writing up  stories for my blog helps to identify gaps.

What helped:  Viola’s family history. Access to multiple databases online. Copy of Charlotte’s birth certificate. Conflicting information required additional research to prove or disprove the claim. I put my questions aside for a period of time.

What didn’t help: ignoring clues from the records. Not considering one obvious answer- twins!  I don’t have a copy of the birth record for Lillian Maurer, born 1901, per NYC Birth Record Index.

Next steps:   Continue looking for evidence of the missing child. Request copy of Aunt Viola’s birth certificate. Identify potential birth & death records for Lillian Maurer from NYC Records Database;  request copies of most likely records, beginning with copy of birth record for Lillian Maurer born 1901.  Order birth and death certificates for Edward and Harry Charles.  Add these to my ‘BMD certificates to order’ list.

SOURCES: 

[1] Department of the Interior, Census Office. Twelfth Census of the United States, June 1, 1900: Instructions for Enumerators (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900), 29, 30; accessed from U.S. Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1900instructions.pdf   : 6 June 2018).

[2] Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Census of the United States, April 15, 1910: Instructions for Enumerators (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1910), 29; accessed from U.S. Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1900instructions.pdf   : 6 June 2018).

[3] Department of the Interior, Census Office, Twelfth Census of the United States: instructions for Enumerators,30.

[4] Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States: Instructions for Enumerators, 29.

[5] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” pages 1 & 2; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Carbon copy of original document created ca. 1975-1980; sent to Ms. Ellerbee by her great-aunt.

[6] New York State Department of Health, “New York, State Census, 1892,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded 31 January 2018), entry for Herman Maurer, age 32, page 2, column 2, lines 38-40; citing New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education, Albany, New York; Street Address: 173 Hopkins Street.

[7] New York, New York City Department of Records and Information Services, birth certificate 5947 (28 May 1892), Amalie Charlotte Maurer; Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Stree, New York, N.Y. 10007.  Photocopy of original certificate held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma.

[8] 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 21, enumeration district (ED) 331, p. 3B (penned), dwelling 13, family 63, Herman Maurer head; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 8 October 2010); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T623_1058.

[9] 1910 U.S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, pop. sch., Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 1367, p. 2B, Family #26, Herman Maurer (head); digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 31 January 2017); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T624, roll 1083.

[10] New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:61903/1:1:2WQN-B2J: 20 March 2015), Anna Klee Maurer entry for Eduwart Maurer, 22 Jan 1885; citing New York City Municipal Archives, New York.

[11] “New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948”, database,  Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 June 2018); entry for Edward Maurer, born 1885, died 1892, citing Index to New York City Deaths 1862-1948. Indices prepared by the Italian Genealogical Group and the German Genealogy Group, and used with permission of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives. Certificate no. 10178.

[12]  “New York, New York, Death Index, 1892-1898, 1900-1902,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com:   accessed 5 June 2018); entry for Chas. H. Maurer, death date 10 Jan 1894, age 4 M; citing New York City Deaths, 1892-1902; Deaths Reported in January-February-March, 1894 and Deaths reported in the city of New York, 1888-1965, New York Department of Health, Albany, New York; certificate no. 1429.

[13] “New York City Births, 1891-1902; Births reported in 1901. Borough of Brooklyn,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 21 April 2018), entry for Lillian Maurer; citing New York Department of Health. Births reported in the City of New York, 1891-1902. New York, New York, USA: Department of Health; certificate #7178.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and “Posting Family Roots” blog, posted on WordPress.com, 2018.

Weddings past & present

May 19, 2018 –a memorable day for weddings.  Our son married his high school sweetheart here in Oklahoma.  Oh, yes, there was another wedding in London, England.

So, weddings are the topic of this blog post. Specifically, I share information about the marriage of my maternal great-grandparents, William Frederick Tucker and Bertha Traver. William is the son of Jeremiah Tucker and Margaret Irwin. Bertha is the daughter of Esbon Traver and Nancy Jones.  Both the bride and groom lived in Greene county, New York.  Among other items from my mother, I inherited a folded up gift box.

Tucker-Traver_marriage certificate_box

Marriage certificate for William F. Tucker and Bertha Traver, 11 September 1887, privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Certificate, in pieces, in folded-up gift box. Given to Ms. Ellerbee by her mother, Eunice Bertha Tucker Posten, granddaughter of William F. Tucker & Bertha Traver.

box label

 

The handwritten label on the box reads:

 

The box contains large and small fragments of paper.  My graphic artist husband scanned the pieces and created a digital copy of the certificate.

TuckerTraver Marriage Certificate

Digital copy of marriage certificate for William F. Tucker and Bertha Traver, 1887. Created by Jerry L. Ellerbee, 2010. Certificate, in pieces, in folded-up gift box, given to Ms. Ellerbee by her mother, Eunice Bertha Tucker Posten, granddaughter of William F. Tucker & Bertha Traver.

Although incomplete, the certificate confirms information about William and Bertha’s wedding, including date and place. “William F. Tucker of Freehold, Greene  County and Miss Bertha Traver of Norton HIll, Greene County, were united in holy matrimony according to the ordinances of God and the State of New York at ______________________ on the [11th] day of September in the year of  Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and eighty seven.”

Last month, I received a box of old pictures and other family memorabilia from a cousin.  I was ecstatic to find pictures of William and Bertha which may have been taken about the time of their wedding!

William F Tucker_Bertha Traver_crop

William F. and Bertha  (Traver) Tucker photographs ca 1887, names written on back of photographs; privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Photographs originally held by Esbon Herman Tucker, grandson of William F. and Bertha. Photographs given to Ms. Ellerbee by Mary Ann (Tucker) Rogers, daughter of Esbon Herman Tucker, April, 2018.

Piece by piece, my maternal great-grandparents’ story emerges.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:  

For privacy reasons, I choose to not provide pictures and other information about our son’s wedding. We are pleased to add my son’s bride to our family. Other marriages will be the subject of later blog posts. A marriage represents a significant transition in the lives of individuals and families. Records and information are available but may only come to you in pieces.

Two sides to every document

FACT: There are two sides to every document. An obvious statement, you say. I agree. So, why am I writing about this? Because I was surprised recently when I turned over a document and read what was written on the back of the page. Here’s the story.

In my last blog post, I mentioned a box of family pictures and documents sent to me by a cousin.[1] Among the documents is a yellowed, fragile piece of paper with a list of names and dates. An uneven edge and incomplete dates suggest that the paper was torn. The paper measures 10 inches long x 4 inches wide.  A scanned copy, received via email about two months ago, did not reveal the color or condition of the page. First guess? From a family Bible, although the page did not include the usual headings of “Births” and “Deaths”.

Jones_Jimmey_Patience_children_crop_for blog

Jimmey Jones and Patience, list of names & dates.  Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. 

The list appears to be a list of children born to Jimmey Jones and Patience Heamons/ Havens (or variation). These characteristics identify the document as a primary or original source. The origin of the information is unknown although possibly based on firsthand knowledge of the events. [2]  (For a review of  primary, secondary, and tertiary sources, read  “Evaluating sources & information”.

The person of interest is “Nancy born September the 22: 1823” (line 9). Nancy A. Jones, wife of Esbon Traver, is one of my maternal great- great grandmothers. Nancy’s maiden name is carved on their gravestone. [3] I admit that I presumed the information to be true and haven’t actively done the research to confirm Nancy’s maiden name.

This list of names introduced me for the first time to Nancy’s parents, Jimmey (James) Jones and Patience Heamons/ Havens. Confirming names and dates on the list is the subject of a future post. Today, I focus on the document itself.

I turned the page over, expecting to find it blank. Imagine my surprise, and delight, when I discovered additional information there. A printed form with hand written entries, a date, and tape marks. Get out the white gloves!

Reverse side of Jimmey Jones and Patience list:

Esbon_Traver_reverse side Jimmey Jones_Patience children.jpg

The list of names and dates wasn’t a page torn from a family Bible! It was written on the back of a form. Tape marks suggest that someone thought one side was more important than the other.  As a genealogist, both sides of the page are equally important. Where is the rest of the page? What information is on that paper?

Who is George Barker, named as substitute for 37 year-old Esbon Traver? Many men “avoided military service by simply taking advantage of that section of the Enrollment Act of 1863 allowing draftees to pay $300 to a substitute who served for them.” [4]  I am still looking for his service record and will report in a later post.

Compare the handwriting on both sides of the documents. I’m not a handwriting expert but the handwriting appears to be that of two different people. Ink appears consistent with time period of 1860s. I need a hero- an historical document expert!

Review of historical documents is one aspect of genealogy. Asking questions – who, what, when, where, why- reveal information about the document and its provenance.  The National Archives suggests these steps to analyze such documents: [5]

  1. Meet the document.
  2. Observe its parts.
  3. Try to make sense of it.
  4. Use it as historical evidence.

As you meet a document, inspect it carefully. Dates and signatures give clues about the document’s authenticity.[6] Is there a seal on the document?  Look for signs of tampering. Read the words carefully. Is there a hidden meaning? Consult books on historical and/or genealogical research for more information about document analysis.

Questions and preliminary answers:

  1. Who wrote the document? List of names could have been written by Esbon Traver, his wife, Nancy Jones, or one of their children. A different person probably wrote the entry on the other side.
  2. What information is contained in the document? One side: A list of names and dates beginning with Jimmey Jones and Patience Heamons/ Havens and their presumed children. Other side: Entry for a substitute for Esbon Traver, dated 1864.
  3. When was the document written? List of names: After 1866, since that is last date on the document. Substitute form:  Probably 1864.
  4. Where was the document written? Unknown, possibly Ulster or Greene county, New York.  Sources: census records for Esbon Traver and his wife, Nancy.
  5. Why was the document written? List of names: to preserve family history? Consider possibility that back of substitute document was an available piece of paper and, therefore, used for the purpose of recording family names and dates.
  6. How was the document produced? Printed form on one side.  Handwritten entries on the form. Handwritten name and date list on the other side of the form.

Next steps:  Consult with historical document expert and/or handwriting expert. Continue search for records about Jimmey, Patience, and their children. Identify Civil War service record for George Barker.

Online resources:  I found this Document Analysis Worksheet  on the National Archives Website.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION: 

I was really surprised to find the ‘substitute’ form and entries on the back side of the name list. I don’t know why I expected a blank page. Now, I have more information about Esbon Traver.  I plan to follow up on the substitute information. I remembered bits and pieces about evaluating historical documents from various research courses. The date on the form helps to date the paper itself and gives another clue about the date of the entries on both sides of the paper.  I don’t have the exact provenance of the paper – who gave it to my uncle? Since he and my maternal grandfather are both named Esbon, presumably after Esbon Traver, I wonder if the paper was given to my grandfather by one of his parents and then to my uncle. I need to buy a basic ‘genealogy how-to’ book for reference purposes. Maybe one about historical research methods?

What I learned:  Always look at both sides of a document! Expanded my knowledge base about the dating of documents.  Found a worksheet for document analysis.

What helped:  seeing and handling the original document. Having an archival quality plastic sleeve for the document.

What didn’t help:  knowing the document was old but no idea how old (paper from 1864). I would have gotten my white gloves out sooner!

Future plans: Consult historical document expert.

SOURCES:

[1] Family papers and photographs from estate of Esbon Herman Tucker (1917 – 2003). Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Items sent to Ms. Ellerbee by Mr. Tucker’s daughter, April 2018.  Mr. Tucker is brother of Ms. Ellerbee’s mother.

[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 24-25.

[3] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed 27 April 2018), memorial page for Nancy H. Jones Traver, Find A Grave Memorial # 92468922, citing Locust Cemetery (Greenville, Greene county, New York), memorial created by Lorna Puleo, photograph by Lorna Puleo.

[4] Michael T. Meier. “Civil War Draft Records: Exemptions and Enrollments”.  Prologue, Winter 1994, Vol. 26, No. 4, Genealogy Notes.  (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1994/winter/civil-war-draft-records.html  :  accessed 8 May 2018), paragraph 4.

[5]National Archives, “Teaching with Documents: Document Analysis,”  National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/education/lessonsaccessed 8 May 2018).  Includes worksheets and other materials related to the analysis of documents and other primary sources.

[6] History Detectives, “Document This,” PBS, History Detectives (http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/educators/technique-guide/document-this/  :  accessed 8 May 2018).

 

Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker (1907 -1985)

On this “Thankful Thursday” ,  I express my gratitude to Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, my maternal great-aunt, for writing down names and information about the Maurer and Tucker ancestors[1].  I have a carbon copy of the original.

Maurer Tucker History_ca1980_for blog_April 2018

Page 1 of “Maurer-Tucker Family History” written by Blanche Viola Maurer Tucker, ca 1980.  Carbon copy privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee. 

Do you remember carbon paper?  carbon paper imageBefore copy machines, there was carbon paper.  First, insert a piece of carbon paper between two pieces of paper.  Write or type on the top page.  An exact copy, more or less, of the top page appears on the subsequent pages. Generally, you can produce three or four clear copies this way. Each piece of carbon paper lasts for 4-5 copies.  Messy, but effective!

For more information about the history of copying, read this story:   ‘Photocopier’ 

Back to my story. Viola was my mother’s aunt, my maternal grandmother’s sister.  Called ‘Olie’ by us, she had always lived with my grandparents (at least, as far back as I can remember!).  I didn’t really think much about those living arrangements when I was a child or even as I became an adult.  I knew that both of Olie’s parents died when she was young and that’s why she lived with her sister.   As I carefully reviewed documents for Genealogy Do-Over  and recorded information on research logs,  Olie’s situation really hit me.

Blanche Viola Maurer was born on March 16, 1907, the youngest  of nine children born to  George Herman Maurer and Anna Klee.  Her brother, Herman Charles, born in 1893, was her closest living sibling.  Between 1893 and 1907, Herman and Anna buried two children – Charles Harry and Lillian.  Charles Harry, born in 1893 and died in 1894, was probably twin brother of Herman Charles.  Lillian, born January 7, 1901, [2]  ‘died in infancy’ according to Viola’s handwritten family history. [3]

Anna was 43 years old when Viola was born.  It is possible that Anna was beginning to go through menopause at the time.  When Viola was 11 years old, Anna died [4]  leaving Viola and her 60-year-old father alone.

Charlotte  (aka “Lottie”),  Viola’s only living sister, married Esbon J. Tucker in June 1917 [5].  Lottie and Esbon did not establish  their own home immediately.  In January, 1920[6], the census taker found Herman Maurer,  widower and head of household with 13-year-old  Viola, as well as Charlotte (Lottie), Esbon, and their two children, Esbon, age 2, and Eunice (my mother).

Herman , Viola’s father, died in May  1927[7] , leaving 20-year-old Viola an orphan.  She continued to live with Lottie and Esbon. [8] Viola had no children of her own but was like a second mother or a big sister to Lottie’s children.  Viola was an accomplished needlewoman.  She taught her niece, Eunice,  to knit and crochet.  Eunice, my mother, then taught me.  I still enjoy these crafts.

As mentioned in the introduction, I did not appreciate her situation until now.  Olie was a constant person in my grandparents’ home, as she had been when my mother was growing up.   I cannot imagine losing my mother at age 11 and my father by the time I was 20!  What was it like to constantly rely on a sibling for a home?  How did she respond emotionally to these events?

Consider the time period.  Women rarely worked outside of the home in the 1920s and 1930s.  Was Olie a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ during World War II, when so many women took on the jobs of men to support the war effort?  Mom never said anything about that and I never thought to ask.   According to the 1940 census, Viola worked as a salesclerk in a bakery. [9]  That explains all of the wonderful cakes at their house!

By 1970, Lottie suffered  several strokes and dementia.  Pop and Olie cared for her at home for as long as they could.  My mother said that she only found out about the problems when Pop decided to put Lottie into a nursing home, about 6 months before her death. This very difficult experience probably deepened the bond between Pop and Olie. After Lottie died in 1974,[10] Olie married my grandfather. Two old people, living together for decades, now joined in marriage.

Esbon Tucker_Viola Maurer_1975

How did Viola  feel about all of her losses?  I remember her as being cheerful and kind.   At first, she probably was overwhelmed then accepted her situation.  I do not know how I would have reacted .  Did the experience make her stronger?

Viola wrote the nine-page family history in the late 1970s or early 1980s. She mentions Lottie’s death (1974) and her own marriage to Esbon but not Esbon’s death in 1984.[11]  Using available resources, I have confirmed much of the information that she gave.  One surprising fact is that she reported her full name as Blanche Viola Lucy Maurer when she applied for a Social Security number.  [12]  This is my first encounter with that name!  I learned earlier that Germans traditionally used a middle name in everyday life rather than the person’s given first name.

Again, I express my gratitude to you, Blanche Viola Lucy Maurer Tucker, my third grandmother. Thank you for teaching my mother to knit and crochet, so she could teach me. Thank you for being part of my childhood.  Thank you for taking time to write down our family stories. Questions still to be answered:

  1. Is there another ancestor named Blanche in the family history?
  2. Is Viola’s middle name of Lucy on any other documents?

 

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:

I started writing this post about 2 months ago but wasn’t sure exactly what direction I would take.  As I searched for inspiration, I looked again at daily blog prompts  suggested by Thomas  MacAntee.  The idea of “Thankful Thursday” caught my eye. I am grateful to Viola for many things. We visited my New York grandparents only once a year but I vividly remember some things – a red and white enamel kitchen table with pull-out leaves (now a collector’s item!), two black and white cocker spaniels,  German stollen (a sweet yeast bread),  a sleeper chair (like a sleeper sofa but twin size), a musty basement.  As I delve more into the family history, I see German connections in each generation.  The written legacy of names and dates proves invaluable, even though, on the surface, the contents appear skeletal.  I build from the bare bones outward. Without Viola’s document, progress would be much slower.

What I learned:  carbon paper is hard to find in 21st century America. I developed a new appreciation for the difficulties that Viola must have faced from her early teens.  Or, am I projecting my own values on her?

What helped:  Amount of research already done on the Tucker-Maurer family.  Transcription of Viola’s history done in 2010. Copies of birth and death certificates from New York.

What didn’t help:  Nothing that I can think of.  Not ordering Viola’s birth and death certificates before writing blog.

Future:   Consider other daily topics for future blog posts. Order Viola’s birth and death certificates. Order death certificate for Anna Klee Maurer, Viola and Charlotte’s mother.

Sources: 

[1]  Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1975-1980);  carbon copy  privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010. Copy given to Ms. Ellerbee by her mother who received copy from Viola ca 1980.  Transcribed by Ms. Ellerbee in 2012. Ms. Ellerbee is great-niece of Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker.

[2] “New York, New York, Extracted Birth Index, 1878 – 1909”,  online database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  :  :   accessed 10 April 2018); entry for Lillian Maurer, born 1 Jan 1901, Kings, New York; citing  “Index to New York City births, 1878-1909”, New York City Department of Records/ Municipal Archives, New York City, New York.

[3] Maurer., “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” Section – Charlotte Amalie (Anna) Maurer, page 1.

[4] Cyber Angel, “Anna b Bklyn d Huntington NY 1918 hus Herman,” Surnames: Maurer Family Genealogy Forum, discussion list, 8 February 2002;  (http://genforum.genealogy.com   : accessed & printed 9 June 2007), transcription of obituary posted in Brooklyn Standard Union, 28 July 1918.

[5] Suffolk county, New York, Affidavit for License to Marry (3 pages), 14570 (stamped); 783 (penned), Esbon J. Tucker Charlotte A. Maurer, 1 June 1917; New York State Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Genealogy Unit, Albany, New York.

[6] 1920 U.S. Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 113, p. 7A (penned), dwelling 136, family 139, Viola Maurer, daughter, age 13; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com    : viewed, downloaded, printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625, Roll 1269.

[7] Hermann Maurer, death certificate no. 10424 (1927), Department of Health of the City of New York, New York City, New York.

[8]1930 U.S. Federal Census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 63, p. 2A (penned), p. 132 (stamped), dwelling 35, family 46, Viola Maurer, sister-in-law, age 23; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, downloaded & printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T626, Roll 1651.

[9] 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 52-97, p. 12 B (penned), household no. 463, Esbon Tucker (head); Viola Maurer, sister-in-law, age 32; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded, printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T627, Roll 2785.

[10] Charlotte Tucker, death certificate # 031537 (9 April 1974), New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Albany, New York.

[11] Esbon J. Tucker, death certificate no. 100055063 (barely legible) (18 July 1984), New York State Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Albany, New York.

[12] Blanche Viola Lucy Maurer, SS no. 077-09-2343, 30 Nov 1936, Application for Account Number (Form SS-5), Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland.

 

A maz(e)ing Genealogy (subtitle:  Proving family stories)

Subtitle: Proving family stories that provide minimal information

Watch the genealogy shows on television. The searches appear straightforward with records obtained in clear chronological order. Occasionally, the host says, “We had to really look for this information.”  Subjects type a name into an online database, usually Ancestry, and a particular record for their ancestor appears.  At a county clerk’s office, the marriage book opens to the exact page with the person’s marriage record. These presentations simplify the process of genealogy. Yes, genealogy can be simple and straightforward. More often, our genealogy path seems more like a labyrinth or maze with frequent dead-ends and no clear way out. The ‘brick wall’ may actually be a hurdle or temporary road block.

Read “The Brick Wall Checklist” for an opinion about brick walls.

person in maze

Source:  http://www.the-burgenland-bunch.org/Newsletter/Newsletter266.htm

“Which begs the question: what is the difference between a maze and a labyrinth? Although considered synonymous by some, it is generally accepted that a labyrinth contains only one path, often spiralling around and folding back on itself, in ever-decreasing loops, whereas a maze contains branching paths, presenting the explorer with choices and the potential for getting very, very lost.” (Source: https://theconversation.com/how-to-escape-a-maze-according-to-maths_71582:  accessed 10 Feb 2018)

Some characterize genealogy as a puzzle with missing  pieces. How do you put a genealogy puzzle together? Read this blog post for some ideas:  Finding all the pieces to the puzzle.  For me, the image varies with each family group/ person and the specific goal.

I have been doing genealogy for over 20 years. Last year (2017), I started a Genealogy Do-Over by carefully reorganizing and reviewing files. Each file contains multiple records and notes. This year, I focus on my mother’s family (Tucker-Maurer) with forays into my husband’s family lines (Ellerbee-Simmons and Johnson-Reed). The person of the week is Rosina Maurer, sister of my great grandfather, Herman Maurer, and the maze that I found myself in.

The first rule of genealogy is “Start with what you know.”  In this case, I started with a handwritten family history by my great-aunt, Viola Maurer Tucker, written in the early 1980s.  [1]

“Valentine & Katherine Maurer had 5 children:  Herman, Katherine, Joseph, Rose, Edward. . . . Rose married Jacob Smetz.  We lost track of them after Herman (our father) died.  They had 2 or 3 children and lived in New Jersey.”

With these minimal clues, the search began with the first record found for Rose –  1892 New York State Census, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York: [2] 

Page 3, column 1, lines 13-17: Valentine Maurer, 65, b. Germany; Annie Maurer, 64, b. Germany; Rosie Maurer, age 24, b. U.S., box maker; Joseph Maurer, age 23, b. US, brass worker; Edward Maurer, age 17, b US, mechanic.

New facts: Rose, a.k.a.  ‘Rosie’, born about 1868, single and living with her parents in 1892.  Disclaimer:  Still lost in the maze of 1870 and 1880 census records for this family. I haven’t yet done an exhaustive search in these records.

gg62755812Keep chronological journal, handwritten or computer-based, of when and where you find information even if information is conflicting or negative. This journal / research log will keep you from retracing your steps later. Transfer appropriate information to your family tree. On family tree, write notes about conflicting and negative information.

With this basic information, I am now ready to enter the maze to find Rose/ Rosie Maurer Smetz. First, I went to Ancestry’s online database and typed “Jacob Smetz” as Rosie’s spouse.  No records found for Jacob Smetz or any children.  A dead-end, return to entry point.

Next, I remembered a document already in my files -probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, Rose’s mother, who died in 1899: [3]

Anna Kathrina Maurer probate pg 2_crop

Probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, 1899.  Last paragraph on page 2.

 Did Viola have Jacob’s name wrong?  Try another direction.  Begin again with 1900 census. Changed Jacob’s surname to ‘Schnitz’.  – no results!!! Changed residence from New York to New Jersey. Again, no results! Back to entry point. Record each direction and results in journal.  This feels like a roadblock, so I end here to return later.

Start over.  Review available information again before entering the maze.  From the probate records, I saw, for the first time(?),  ‘Rosina’.  Try  ‘Rosina’ again with both ‘Smets’ and ‘Schnitz’.  Nothing found on Ancestry website. There have to be records for this family!

Try another strategy using Family Search online genealogy.  At last, a record found:  Marriage record for Rosina Maurer and Jacob Smets,  27 November 1895, Manhattan, New York. [4]

Jacob Smets, Marriage, 27 Nov 1895, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States; New York (City), New York, male, 34, single, white, birth year (estimated) 1861; birthplace: Elimpt, Germany. Father: John Henry Smets. Mother: Gertrude Corzilius. Spouse: Rosina Maurer, female, 28, single, white, birth year (estimated) 1867, birthplace Brooklyn, N.Y. Father: Valentine Maurer. Mother: Ann Catherine Corzilius.

This record opened the 1900 census for Jacob and Rosa Smets in Stonington, Connecticut [5]:

Jacob Smets, head, 26, b. June 1864, Germany. Rosa Smets, wife, 33, b. Nov 1867, New York, mother of 3, 3 living. Gertrude Smets, daughter, 4, b. Oct 1896, New York. Joseph Smets, son, 2, b. March 1898, New York. Arthur H. Smets, son, age 11/12, b. July 1899, Connecticut.

Jacob & Rosa apparently moved from New Jersey to Connecticut, about 140 miles,  between April 1899 (date of her mother’s probate) and June 5, 1900, date of 1900 census.  Arthur, their youngest son, recorded as born in Connecticut in August 1899, so the family moved during Rosa’s 5th or 6th month of pregnancy. I now have the names for 3 children and an interesting twist.  Why did they move to Connecticut? Jacob’s listed occupation as a weaver in a velvet mill probably answers that question.

The 1900 census led to the 1910 census for Jacob & Rosina Smets in Brooklyn, New York [6]:

Jacob Smets, head, 48, M1 [1st marriage], married 14 years. b. Germany; immigrated 1891, naturalized citizen. Rosina Smets, wife, 42, M1 [1st marriage, married 14 years, b. New York. mother of 4, 4 living. Gertrude Smets, daughter, age 13, b. NY. Joseph Smets, son, 12, b. NY. Arthur Smets, son, age 10, b. CT. Robert Smets, son, age 9, b. NY. Anna Dale, lodger, 70, b. Ireland. Henry Ryder, lodger, 65, n. NY. Murphy, lodger, 19, b. NY

Another child, Robert, born in 1901 in New York. Jacob & Rosina moved from Connecticut back to New York before Robert’s birth in 1901.

Circled back to Ancestry website, and found Jacob & Rosa in Brooklyn, New York, per 1905 census. [7]

Jacob Smets, 39, no. of yrs in U.S. = 15. Rose Smets, 36. Gertrude M. Smets, 8. Joseph Smets, 7. Arthur H. Smets, 5. Robert Smets, 4.

This again confirms their move from Connecticut back to New York.  It’s  late at night and I am stuck in the maze.  Time for bed!

032-Genetoons-AncestralFindings

Source:  Genetoons Genealogical Cartoons  (https://ancestralfindings.com/genetoons-cartoons-2/

Still in the maze but making progress. Continued to circle around the Ancestry database and discovered another opening:

1920 Census [8]—South Brunswick, New Jersey:  Jacob Smits [Smets], head, 58, immigrated 1892, NA YR: 1897. Rosina Smits, 52. Gertrude Smits, 23. Joseph Smits, 21. Anthon [Arthur] Smits, 20. Robert Smits, 18.

The family did live in New Jersey! Followed the tracks of Jacob and Rosa’s children with some success (to be reported in a later post).

Another opening: 1930 Census[9]—South Brunswick, New Jersey!  Jacob & Rose Smetts.  Changed surname spelling again:   Jacob Smetts, head, 64, b. Germany.  Rose Smetts, wife, 55, b. NY.  Herbert Dorer, Boarder, 32, b. Switzerland.

Changed direction to Find A Grave for Smets/ Smetts. Many possible detours (i.e. names) but no entries found for Jacob, Rose, or any of their children.

Changed direction again – to Newspapers. Com website. Nothing found for Jacob or Rosina Smets.  Then, three large openings in the maze after using ‘Smetts’:

24 July 1930 Central New Jersey Home News:  “ Letter of admin to Rose Smetts for estate of the late Joseph Smetts, who died. . . July 12.” [10]

17 Dec 1936 Central New Jersey Home News:  Obituary for William J. Smetts, “William Jacob Smetts, husband of Mrs. Rose Smetts.” [11] 

According to German naming traditions,  first names given at birth were rarely used and people were usually known by their 2nd name.  Could ‘Rosina’ be her middle name?  If so, what is her first name??

9 July 1949, “Henry Renk attended funeral services for Mrs. Rose Smetts. . . “  [12]

Possible clear path out of the maze, except for the mention of Henry Renk. What is his relationship to Rose?  Definitely a  BSO to be explored another day!

Retraced steps back to Ancestry website, searching now for  ‘Rose Smetts’.  Another opening:  1915 census – Frankling Twp, Somerset County, N.J.[13]:

Smets, Jacob, 46, b. June 1865, Germany. Rosina,  40, b. Nov 1874, New York.  Gertrude, 17, b. Oct 1896, New York. Joseph, 16, b. Mch [March] 1899, New Jersey. Arthur H., 15, b. July 1900, Conn. Robert, 14, b. June 1901, New York.

Retraced steps (again!) to  recheck for page numbers of newspaper entries (forgot to record these earlier).  Looked around the location one more time and discovered a previously overlooked item:

Death notice for William J. Smetts, 14 Dec 1936:  “son, Arthur H., died November 18 [1936). . . daughter, Gertrude Anderson.”. [14] 

At last, a clear path out of the maze!  Some areas (residence in 1870 , 1880, 1940) remain just out of reach.

Looked over the top of the maze walls, using a broad search term: “Rose Smetts died 1949”.  Found:  Obituary for Mrs. Rose Smetts[15]:

Maurer_Rose_mSmetts_death notice

Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 6 July 1949, p. 2, column 3

Exit point of the maze.  Now, the final test question:  Was information given at the entry point proven?

“Rose married Jacob Smetz.  We lost track of them after Herman (our father) died.  They had 2 or 3 children and lived in New Jersey.”

“Rose married Jacob Smetz” – Rose married William Jacob Smetts.  Proven with spelling variations of Jacob’s surname.

“They had 2 or 3 children” – Jacob and Rose had 4 children, 2 of whom died between 1930 and 1940.   Proven plus one.

“lived in New Jersey” – Jacob and Rose moved to New Jersey between 1910 and 1915.  Both of them died in New Jersey.  Proven.

If you are interested, view Rose’s life summary: Maurer_Rose_Timeline2

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:

What began as a routine task soon became an intriguing and frustrating study. I often run into name variations but there seemed to be more twists and turns than usual for Rose’s family. Maybe I just wasn’t picking up on clues. I originally viewed this as a zig-zag path with many choices of direction. Then, I realized that I was going in circles. The concept of a maze seemed more fitting as I reached dead-ends and had to retrace my steps. Before starting my Genealogy Do-Over, I rarely followed through for the siblings of my direct ancestors.  And, I stopped quickly when I could not access readily available information.

What helped:  handwritten family history provided by great-aunt Viola, even with its minimal information. Tools and techniques learned during the past year. Slowing down and documenting everything.  Searching for additional information before finishing this post.

What didn’t help:  early frustration when surname variations didn’t produce results.

What I learned:  Go back to original data, even when you think that you have learned everything you can from it. Thorough documentation takes more time but helps by forcing review of information more than once. It’s OK to put research aside for days, weeks, or months.

Footnotes/ Sources:

[1] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” p. 4 ; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017. Carbon copy of original document created ca. 1975-1980 sent to Ms. Ellerbee by her great-aunt.

[2] New York State Department of Health, “New York, State Census, 1892,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded 31 January 2018), entry for Rosie Maurer, age 24; citing New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education, Albany, New York; 173 Hopkins Street.

[3] Probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, p. 2.  Kings County, New York, Probate case files, Anna Katharina Maurer; “New York, Kings County, Probate Administration Records.,” digital records, Author: New York. Surrogate’s Court (Kings County)., Ancestry. com, New YOrk, Wills and PRobate Records, 1659-1999 (www.ancestry.com: accessed & printed 20 May 2016); names children, confirms date of death.

[4] “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24C2-M4S : 10 February 2018), Jacob Smets and Rosina Maurer, 27 Nov 1895; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,493,451.

[5] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M97F-TCG : accessed 10 February 2018), Rosa Smets in household of Jacob Smets, Stonington township (excl. Stonington borough), New London, Connecticut, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 488, sheet 7A, family 166, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,150.

[6] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M5S9-VNK : accessed 10 February 2018), Rosina Smets in household of Jacob Smets, Brooklyn Ward 30, Kings, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 1098, sheet 7B, family 151, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 985; FHL microfilm 1,374,998.

[7] 1905 New York State Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) Assembly district A.D. 07, E.D. 22, p. 18, lines 1-6, Jacob Smets; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 10 February 2018); citing New York State Archives, Albany, New York..

[8] 1920 U.S. Census, Middlesex County, New Jersey, population schedule, South Brunswick, enumeration district (ED) 71, p. 5A (penned), dwelling 59, family 60, Jacob Smits [Smets] 58; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 10 February 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T625_1057.

[9] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X4XG-DQN : accessed 11 February 2018), Rose Smetts in household of Jacob Smetts, North Brunswick, Middlesex, New Jersey, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 63, sheet 2B, line 100, family 50, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1367; FHL microfilm 2,341,102.

[10] Letter of admin for Joseph Smetts.

[11] “William J. Smetts,” Obituary, Central New Jersey Home News, 17 December 1936; online images, Newspapers.com (http:///newspapers.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 10 February 2018).

[12] “Henry Renk attended funeral services”, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey”, local newspaper (9 Jul 1949): p. 7; PDF images, (http://www.newspapers.com  :  accessed 10 Feb 2018), key word Mrs. Rose Smetts.

[13] 1915 New Jersey State Census, Somerset County, New Jersey, population schedule, Frankling Township, p. 1A (penned), Jacob Smets 46; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 16 February 2018); citing New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey, reference no. L-14, Film 58.

[14]“William J. Smetts”,” death notice, The Central New Jersey Home News, 14 December 1936, death date, death of son, funeral information; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 16 February 2018); citing The Central New Jersey Home News. p. 17, column 4.

[15] “Deaths: Smetts- Rose Maurer”, Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 6 July 1949, p. 2, column 3. accessed, downloaded & printed 23 Feb 2018 from Newspapers. Com.

Writing & publishing a family history: Part 3. Evaluating sources & information

In two previous blog posts, I described format changes for the next edition of Dad’s family history and examined citation of sources.   This blog post, third in the series, presents evaluation of  sources and  the information in them   Get a cup of your favorite beverage and a snack because this is a long post!  You may even want to read it in 2 sittings!

Entering the facts in a database or research log is only the beginning!  “Oh, no,” you say, “there’s more?”  Oh, yes, there’s more!  Review the document itself.  Identify the document  (or source)   as original/ primary, derivative/ secondary, or authored / tertiary.  Classify the information found in the source as primary, secondary, or unknown.   A statement about both the source and its contents can be included in your citation of the source.

“The Evidence Analysis Process Map”, designed by Elizabeth Shown Mills, puts these concepts in perspective:

QL17-Gallery (1)

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17:  The Evidence Analysis Process Map”.  Evidence Explained (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-17-evidence-analysis-process-map  :  accessed 18 December 2017.

To begin, use one of the sources cited in the previous blog:

1790 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, township not stated, p. 112 (penned), col. 1, Peter Pofte [Poste]; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, viewed, downloaded 17 October 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M637, roll 8.

1790 United States Federal Census

The document is a scanned or microfilmed copy of the original document, held at National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. (the repository).  An online database provided access to the document. Document is a primary source.

The writing is uniform, indicating that one person filled it out. Census takers received instructions about the report and what information to collect.  Recording the information at or near the time of the event, the census taker asked questions of a household member, possibly the head of household, Peter Poste, or a neighbor.  The number and ages of people in the family should be validated by other sources and serves as a base for future research.    Primary information.

Guidelines for Evaluating Sources & Documents

Sources

In genealogy, sources are classified as original, derivative or authored. [1] You may also see the terms primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. [2] , [3]  The concepts are essentially the same.  An original source is “material in its first oral or recorded form.”   [4]  Created at or near the time of the actual event, reports by someone who experienced or witnessed an event are  classified as original sources. [5]   This includes original materials from the time period, such as tax lists.

Examples include original birth & marriage certificates, physical objects (such as a cross-stitch sampler), autobiographies, personal diaries and audio recordings.  A map created at or near a specific date is an original source. [6]  Other examples are creative works, such as art, poetry and music and original articles or reports of research studies.  Are satellite images of the earth primary sources?  Yes, if the image has not been changed.  An exact photocopy , microfilm image, photograph or scanned image of a document [7]  are generally classified as primary sources.  However, the information may be either primary or secondary.

One of my prized items is an autograph book that belonged to my maternal great-grandmother, Anna Klee Maurer.   The small book contains notes from her friends and teachers.  The most significant entries (to me) are the notes written by Anna’s future husband, Hermann Maurer (dated October 21, 1883) and the notes written, in German, by her future in-laws,  Valentine and Katharina Maurer.

Anna Klee front pages_crop

Anna (Klee) Maurer .  “Autographs Album”  ( book,  Brooklyn, New York, ca 1883); privately held  by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Ms. Ellerbee is Anna’s great-granddaughter.  The book has multiple handwritten entries which appear to be from her friends and teachers as well as her future husband, Hermann Maurer, and his parents, Valentin & Katharina Maurer.  Entries by Valentin and Katharina are written in German.  Some entries are dated, varying  from April to October, 1883. Hermann and Anna married December, 1883. The book was found in the personal effects of Ms. Ellerbee’s mother, Eunice Bertha (Tucker) Posten and was probably given to her by her mother, Charlotte A. (Maurer) Tucker, daughter of Hermann and Anna.

The book itself is a primary source.  Translations of the German language entries are derivative sources.  A transcription of all entries in the book becomes a derivative source with secondary information.

In contrast, derivative or secondary sources are created after the event.  A copy of an original or original in which the content has been manipulated are examples.  Derivative sources interpret or evaluate evidence, especially when the original work was done by others.  Specific examples include delayed birth certificates, tombstones, county record books (which are transcriptions of original documents), databases, translations, transcriptions of personal diaries or audio recordings, and some family histories.

An image copy of an original birth, marriage, or death certificate is a primary source.  However, if the certificate is a transcription of the original certificate, then it is a secondary source. My maternal grandparents’ death certificates, obtained from the state of New York, are original sources with a blend or primary and secondary information.

My great-aunt Viola wrote a brief family history of the Tucker and Maurer families.  The handwritten document names five generations of my mother’s family with some birth, death, and marriage dates.  Two family stories tell of possible lost fortunes.  I have a carbon copy of the original document.   Here’s my citation with source and contents evaluation:

“Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1985), carbon copy privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010.  Transcribed by Ms. Ellerbee in 2012. Author considered  reliable.  No sources given.  Family stories told to Mrs. Tucker by her grandparents.  Most names & dates have been verified with other sources.  Secondary source with blend of primary and secondary information.

The third category of sources is authored works which are a “hybrid of both original and derivative sources” [8]  Labelled as tertiary in other disciplines, these sources obtain information from primary and derivative sources.   Examples include manuscripts with personal conclusions; family histories may fall into this category.   Other types are county histories with genealogical and biographical information, textbooks, directories, video documentaries and reference books such as encyclopedia, handbooks, and manuals.  The Posten family history that I am revising is this type of source.

Q & A

Are photocopies  original or derivative sources?  Mills (2015, p. 30) states  “. . . image copies as originals so long as (a) the images are legible; and (b) their information does not conflict with other information.”  If these criteria are not met, treat the image copy as derivative and  “seek access to the material from which the images were made.”   This concept provided my rationale for seeking the actual books at a local library instead of using online copies of the same books.

What about a scanned or digital image of a  marriage record found online?  Most consider this as a primary source, it meets the criteria above.  Some consider this as a derivative source.   If possible, obtain a copy of original by personally visiting or requesting the document from the repository.  Remember that the county clerk’s office or the church where the marriage was performed are the repositories, not the online database.  The church or county hold the original document as filed in their office.  A note of caution here.  Ask for an actual copy of the original or you may get a copy of a form with information typed in.  This type of document is a transcript of the original and, therefore, not a primary source.  (Disclaimer:  I read this on a blog and now can’t find the reference!).

Information

As the next step, evaluate the information in the document. Similar to the classification of sources, information is classified as primary, secondary, or unknown.  Any document may contain a blend of these categories.  Information in the document, a.k.a,  content , is classified according to its origin[9] :

Primary information is information provided by someone who experienced or witnessed an event .[10]  If created at or near the actual event, the document or information is marked as primary. [11] Examples include eyewitness accounts of an event, names of persons on census records, and first person accounts of an event  in their original form, such as handwritten entries in a personal diary.

What about death certificates?  Death certificates contain both primary and secondary information.  The person’s name and  death information – date, time, place and cause of death- are primary information.  The person’s date of birth, place of birth and parents’ names are secondary information.

Secondary information  is information provided by someone who has some knowledge of the event but did not actually witness the event.  An intrepretation or evaluation of someone else’s work is secondary.  Specific examples include marriage information copied into a courthouse or county marriage book, hearsay, tradition, and local lore.  The family stories documented by my great-aunt Viola are secondary information.  A newspaper report of a family reunion contains secondary information although the reporter may use information obtained directly from the participants.

Information is labelled as ‘unknown’  when you don’t know who provided the information.  Two examples are a newspaper obituary with no documentation of source and a photograph with no information about the persons in the photograph.  This information needs to be validated by other sources.  When you locate the newspaper where the obituary was published and the publication date, the information can then be classified as ‘secondary’.

Demarious Family Bible

Family Bible Records:  Original or derivative? 

To evaluate family Bible records,  follow guidelines from historical research methods for evaluating documents.  [12], [13]  Ask these questions:

  1. When was the Bible published? If the Bible was published prior to the events documented, then the record (and its scanned or photo copies) might be a primary source.   When photocopying or scanning Bible records, also copy the title and publication date pages.  “My cousin sent me a copy of the Bible pages but doesn’t  have the page with the publication date!”  Now what?  Look further.
  2. Who wrote the entries? You may not know exactly who entered the information.  I am fortunate to have a scanned copy of the presentation page for one family Bible so I know who the Bible belonged to and can date the entries from that point.  A transcription of that information equals a derivative source.
  3. Look for differences in handwriting. If the entries were made close to the time of each event, you should see differences in the style of handwriting as well as differences in the ink.

Ask similar questions about each document that you review.

  • Who created the document? Does the person have the authority to do so?  Ask if the creator is an expert on the topic.  A mother who writes her baby’s name and birth date in the family Bible is certainly an expert on the baby’s birth!
  • What does the document contain? Is the information relevant to your research?
  • When was the document created? If not an original document, when was it copied?  If a transcript of the original,  when was the transcription done?  How accurate is the transcription?  Think of census records.  How many times have you seen a name that was transcribed incorrectly?  Was the error because of poor or illegible handwriting?
  • Where was the document created?
  • Why was the document created?
  • Assess the quality and accuracy of the information in the document. Can you verify the information using other sources?

To summarize, careful review and analysis of every source and fact leads to a more accurate story about your family.  Seek primary sources whenever possible.  Do you include an evaluation of every source and every piece of information?  Ideally, yes.  Drop-down menus appear on most genealogy software programs for this task.  Document  the classification of sources and information on research logs.  Use software, such as Evidentia  (https://www.evidentiasoftware.com ), to assist in your analysis.

For a fun and more concise view of the topic:

RootsWeb’s Guide to Tracing Family Trees, Guide No. 12 (http://rwguide.rootsweb.ancestry.com/lesson12.htm   : accessed 18 December 2017.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION

As a nurse and teacher, I participated in 10-12 research studies during my career.  As either primary or co-investigator, I wrote and implemented protocols, then analyzed  the data and finally, wrote the final reports.  I applied lessons learned from these experiences to genealogy.   As I wrote this blog, I realized that I have not consistently evaluated sources and information.  In some cases, I saw what I wanted to see.  Months later, as I again reviewed the document and my notes, I thought, “How did I ever come to THAT conclusion?”  I am slowly becoming a better genealogist.  There is so much to learn!

What helped?  Reading about each topic from a variety of sources.  Fairly consistent information in the sources. There is some debate about whether photocopies of original certificates are primary or secondary sources.  Putting the information in a chart form for easy comparisons, although I didn’t include the chart here.

What didn’t help?   Finding other websites written in a more concise or reader-friendly format.  I had to consider that maybe I just needed to post a list of the websites and let readers go there.  But, I always learn something when I write my blogs, so here it is!

Next steps:   Take time to critically review at least one document or piece of information per research session.  I often just skim over this process.  Put a copy of the Evidence Analysis Process Map on my bulletin board.  Add items to my Research Toolbox (done).

References

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 24.

[2] The US GenWeb Project, Primary & Secondary sources (http://www.usgenweb.com/research/sources.html  : accessed 19 Dec 2017).

[3] “Comparative Literature:  Primary, secondary & tertiary sources.”  Yale University Library (https://guides.library.yale.edu   :    accessed 14 October 2017.

[4] Mills, Evidence Explained, 24

[5] George E. Morgan, How to do everything: Genealogy. 3rd edition.  (New York: McGraw-Hll, 2012), 32.

[6] Joni Seager,  “Mapping” Primary and Secondary Sources. (http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/25244   :  accessed 19 December 2017

[7] Morgan, Genealogy, 10.

[8]Mills, Evidence Explained, 24.

[9]Mills, Evidence Explained, 25

[10] Ibid.

[11] Morgan, Genealogy, 32.

[12] Randall Seaver, “Original or Derivative Source?  Bible Records,”  Weblog:  Geneamusings, 13 June 2012 (http://www.geneamusings.com/2012/06/original-or-derivative-source-bible.html  :  accessed 14 October 2017.

[13]   Gena Philibert Ortega, “Genealogy 101:  #4:  The Family Bible.”  Weblog:  Genealogy Bank, 8 November 2016 ( https://blog.genealogybank.com/genealogy-101-4-the-family-bible.html  :  accessed 18 December 2017.