I managed to locate a copy of the birth certificates for two of the children of John and Johanna Lee of Chicago, Illinois. One is for a son; one is for a daughter. One is dated in 1879; one was issued nearly ten years later.
Given that, upon the event of the 1900 census, Johanna Lee declared that she was mother of ten children—seven still surviving—one would think I could achieve a better score than that. But what can be said for online resources which have had to retract digitized public documents that they once were able to offer? Despite vast resources of information, notables such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org still put much reliance on published indexes of such material. And we still have to go to the source to retrieve the information we seek.
If indexes can be relied upon, here is what I’ve found for our family’s Flanagan descendant, Johanna, and her husband, John T. Lee:
· An unnamed son, born June 21, 1877
· An unnamed son, born October 24, 1879
· David Lee, born November 17, 1884, son of “Johannah”
· An unnamed daughter, born January 29, 1886, again to “Johannah”
Oh, dear. That is nowhere near seven children, let alone ten.
At least, there were other hints which, pieced together, gave me the identities of the unnamed children. The son arriving in 1877 was most likely George A. Lee. His brother, arriving in 1879, turns out to be John J. Lee. The unnamed daughter should be Deborah V. Lee.
What is interesting is that, on the birth certificate for the child born to John and Johanna in 1879, there is an entry declaring this to be the “5th child” of the couple. The only descendant of this couple I’ve found with birth information preceding John and George is William, born in 1875—for whom I have no documentation other than references in the 1880 and 1900 censuses. What happened to the other two children?
The other birth certificate for which I’ve obtained a copy belonged to Mary Elizabeth Lee, who certainly belongs to the right John and Johanna, seeing her father’s occupation as cooper matches prior records, and the family’s address on Lowe Avenue corresponds with other records. However, in the line on her record for the prompt, “Number of child of this mother,” the answer provided was “seven.”
There is a problem with the math here.
You see, assuming her brother David and sister Deborah fit in between Mary Elizabeth and John J. Lee, that would make her at least the eighth child, if John were indeed the fifth child.
Not to mention, I also have record of a daughter Lillie, born in 1881, to squeeze into the midst of this birth order. And a son, Edward, who arrived in 1883.
Perhaps this is what modern educators call “The New Math.” I know this wasn’t the kind of counting I learned in grade school.
Yet, if John as child number five gets added to five younger siblings, wouldn’t that make ten children total, just as was reported on the 1900 census? Or was a civil servant sleeping on the job when John J. Lee’s birth certificate was filed in 1879? If only I can count on finding names and dates for two more Lee babies born before 1875, it will all add up.