As we go backwards in time, adding names to the family tree becomes more challenging. Sometimes, we don't have any way to access documentation to directly support our hypotheses. Then what?
For instance, right now I'm puzzling over whoever made up the family of my husband's third great-grandfather, Michael Metzger. Michael was an immigrant who lived his last days in a small county in Ohio. Where he came from is still one of my research questions. More to the point for this week's quandary is who else in his family he left behind at his 1843 death in Perry County.
So far, I haven't been able to locate a will. Perhaps Michael died intestate; that refers me to a different set of records to examine. In the meantime, I do know of four of Michael's children—but census records prior to his death show me by head count that there may have been up to nine children in his family. Right now, I'm in pursuit of the other five possible descendants.
Yesterday, we examined the 1850 census entry for a man by the name of Gregory Metzger who was enumerated right next door to a known child of Michael: his namesake son Michael. In Gregory's household were five people. Besides Gregory "Metzgar," the other adults were Jeannie (or possibly Joannie), Mary A., Elizabeth, and Henry.
While the age range leads me to believe that this was not a family of husband, wife, plus three children, I do wonder whether Gregory was the son who took in the remainder of his siblings after his parents' passing in the 1840s.
Our first task is to examine whether any of those listed in 1850 could have been identical to the records I have for the known children of the elder Michael Metzger. The two I believe fulfill this case would be Elizabeth and Henry. Elizabeth, daughter of Michael, was born in Ohio in 1828 and eventually became wife of immigrant Bernard Clouse in 1852, according to Perry County marriage records. While the Elizabeth in Gregory's 1850 household would have been born approximately in 1829, we notice that she did not appear in that household for the subsequent census, which would make sense if these were one and the same person.
As for the younger person in Gregory Metzgar's household, Henry, we need to tread carefully in following him through subsequent enumerations. In Gregory's 1850 household, Henry was listed as being sixteen years of age and born in Ohio. That would give us an approximate year of birth in 1834. That would roughly match the date of the Henry Metzger, son of the elder Michael, as noted in later census records and on his own headstone.
And yet, if we take a peek at the next decade's census record for Gregory's family—in 1860—we note that there was not one but two people by the name of Henry Metzger. A second one joined the household, aged fifteen. Whoever this second Henry was, he was not in the previous record for Gregory's household, nor was there any five year old listed in 1850. Whether this was another Metzger relative, I can't yet tell, but this warns me to proceed carefully as I research others in the Metzger family—and to keep the two Henrys straight.
What about the other two people in Gregory Metzgar's household? Who were they? We still need to determine the identity of Mary A. Metzgar and the woman with the unfortunate blot on her name—either Jeannie or Joannie Metzgar. While it seems reasonable that these two woman could be sisters of Gregory—and thus, also, of the younger Michael—we'll need first to explore Perry County records for any sign of these as-yet unknown Metzger descendants.