Friday, May 1, 2015

Aunt Rose

It’s hard enough, trying to muddle through one’s genealogy when the surname sought is as common as McCann and the search is on in a city the size of New York. Fortunately, what I did have going for me was the fact that John T. McCann had to have left a death certificate behind, when he passed away in 1952.

According to that document—which I sent away for the old fashioned way, submitting money order and duly completed application form, along with stamped, self-addressed envelope—John’s parents were listed as John McCann and Anna Krause.

As I’ve already mentioned, the younger John was born in Brooklyn on August 7, 1876—although I’ve never found any other record to verify that—and he eventually grew up to be a machinist at a respected printing press.

What I didn’t mention yet was the one unfortunate detail about my paternal grandfather: according to my oldest cousin, who once grabbed the opportunity to ask him, John T. McCann had told him he was adopted.

So, out the window go most of the meager facts I’ve scratched and clawed to assemble. Was the senior John McCann his birth father? Or his adopted father? That revelation just paralyzed me—I had no idea where to proceed from that point.

Until, of course, that serendipitous discovery about a sister. That sister, thankfully, had a name: Rose. And, added bonus, she was married, thus providing me with a married name to trace her life’s arc to the end.

Or would it go to the end? When my own aunt reminisced about the family for my brother late in her life, she struggled with some memory issues. One of those glitches hit just as she was recounting Aunt Rose’s married names.

She did, thankfully, remember the one name: Kober. But was it the first married name? Or the second? What if there were more than two marriages? This could get difficult to trace.

But at least it was a toe-hold. And I was ready to hang on.

Although complicated, it was not impossible to find Rose recorded in the household of one George W. Kober. According to the 1920 census, George lived on 96th Street in a part of Queens borough known as Woodhaven. He was employed as a supervisor for the post office. The couple, at that point aged forty seven and forty four, had no children listed in the household, but they were cohabitant with George’s seventy two year old widowed mother-in-law, listed as Anna Krouse.

It was in this census record that I, once again, became the unintended beneficiary of an enumerator error: for Rose’s place of birth, in the original entry, lined out, was Schwartzwald, Germany.

United States census showing birth place entry lined out in error for Rose Kober in Queens New York

If you know anything about German, you may have realized the “t” in that name is superfluous, thus leaving us with “Schwarzwald”—which, translated, is “Black Forest.”

Thanks to that census record, we also learn that Rose came to this country—well, if her report can be believed any more than her brother’s—in 1883. Same date, incidentally, as her mother, who was listed in the census record as an alien. Rose, on the other hand, was listed as naturalized in 1915.

Immigration laws being what they were at the time, it is no surprise to learn that 1915 turns out to be the year Rose married George Kober—on November 17, to be exact. The only problem with this fact, though, is that, according to the New York City marriage index, George’s bride’s name was not Krouse. It wasn’t even any of the several spelling permutations that can be considered rough equivalents of Krouse.

It was Miller.

Above: Excerpt from the 1920 United States census record showing the Woodhaven, New York, household of George and Rose Kober. Image courtesy


  1. Oh goodness. What a "plot complication!" Miller?!

    1. Oh, believe me, Iggy, it just about killed me when I found that one. I was getting so close, and then...

  2. Oh my Miller...her first husband? :)


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