Grandma’s middle name

What makes genealogists smile?  Many things. Finding an elusive record online or in a dusty archive is one.  Discovering who has the old family Bible is another. Determining first and middle names often yields surprises.  Jack’s given name is James John and Jack is a nickname.  Betsy’s birth name of Elizabeth is found in an unexpected place.  We constantly search for records to prove or disprove facts.  In this post, I describe the search and discovery of my paternal grandmother’s middle name.

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MIDDLE INITIAL “A”. AMELIA? ASH? SOMETHING ELSE?

Jennie A. Richards is Dad’s mother. According to Dad, her middle name was Amelia. I vaguely recall him saying once that her middle name was Ash. Jennie was the youngest child of Ostrander Richards and Amelia Magdelenne LaCoe.  Jennie’s maternal grandmother was Sybil Rone Ash.  Either name makes sense. I don’t remember why I gravitated towards Amelia. Did Dad recite that name most often?

My husband and I attended the annual LaCoe family reunion in August 2017 at Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania.  While there, a cousin asked about Jennie’s middle name. I related what Dad told me.  Older relatives thought that Jennie’s middle name was “Ash”.  Aunt Mary confirmed that her mother’s middle name could be “Ash.” I was sure that I had a record with Jennie’s middle name!

Back home, I went through my files and notes.  Nothing specific. Only “Jennie A. Richards” and “Jennie A. Posten.”  I emailed my cousin with those results. I added this item to my BSO (bright shiny object) list to be explored another day.

Two years go by and I complete multiple projects for other relatives.  I periodically check websites for information about the Posten family. I do not always search for anything specific. I prioritized another revision of the Posten family history (2012) [1] as a genealogy goal for 2020.  Five relatives have a copy of either the original or one of the three revisions.  I acquire more documents during the intervening years.  Through the Genealogy Do-Over process, my analytic skills improve.

I check hints, a.k.a. ‘shaky leaves’, on Ancestry. I start again with the most recent generation–Dad and his siblings.  A copy of  Uncle Lester’s birth certificate pops up. [2] Lester Joseph Posten was John and Jennie’s first child.  Not a transcript but a photocopy of the original document!  Imagine my surprise and delight when I see the following information on that document:

  • Full name of Child: Lester Joseph Posten
  • Date of birth: June 1, 1911
  • Father, full name: John Ray Posten
  • Mother, full name: Jennie Ash Richards
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Lester’s full name and date of birth are not in dispute. I now have primary, first-hand evidence of middle names for both John and Jennie. John and Jennie provided the information for their son’s birth certificate.  Mission accomplished! Remove item from BSO list.  Add birth certificate information and scan copy to RootsMagic program. Send information to cousin who is revising LaCoe family history.

Charlotte Tucker- my maternal grandmother. I briefly reported discovery of my maternal grandmother’s middle name in a 2017 post.  I remembered hearing that Charlotte’s (a.k.a Lottie, ak.a. Gram) middle name was either Anna or Amelia.  Gram’s mother was Anna Klee.  When I received a copy of Gram’s birth certificate, I discovered that her birth name was Amalie Charlotte Maurer.[3]  Gram’s grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the late 1850s. German children were often called by their middle name, not their first name. My database entry now shows Amalie Charlotte [Maurer] Tucker instead of Charlotte A. [Maurer] Tucker.  Census and other records show her as Charlotte or Lottie.

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REFLECTION:

For some reason, I never doubted Grandpa Posten’s middle name. Dad told me that his father’s middle name was “Ray”.  I accepted Dad’s account without question. No one else asked about it. My cousin’s question at the reunion prompted a careful review of information.  Since then, I have been on the lookout for a document to confirm Jennie’s middle name. Searches have been sporadic. Similarly, I accepted mom’s explanation of her mother’s name.  I wonder if I just didn’t listen close enough!

What I learned: Keep looking! Return to online databases regularly for documents and information added since your last search. Don’t assume that a person’s name on census records is actually their first name. Collect BMD records for siblings of your direct ancestors.

What helped: Availability of documents online. Updating of databases by online sources. Family tree already posted to Ancestry by me.

What didn’t help:  Copying Jennie’s obituary again—I already have a copy in both digital and paper files.

To-do:  Consult files before copying documents. Enter new information and scanned documents to Roots Magic – DONE.  Send information to Posten cousin – DONE.

SOURCES: 

[1] Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, The Posten Family of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1st edition, (Yukon, Oklahoma: Published by author, 2012). Tentative title of future editions:  Descendants of Thomas Postens, New Jersey to Pennsylvania.

[2] “Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1911,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com     : accessed & printed 24 January 2020), entry for Lester Joseph Posten; citing Pennsylvania (State). Birth certificates, 1906-1911. Series 11.89. Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

[3] 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. Photocopy of original certificate obtained in 2017 by Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, Charlotte’s granddaughter.