Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Considering Johann


If Johann were to find a place in the family of my husband's third great-grandfather, it would be close to that slot designated for the baby of the family. As large families go, though, there were still a few who followed him—if, that is, we can even find records to demonstrate his connection to Michael and Apollonia Metzger of Perry County, Ohio.

I wouldn't have known about Johann if it weren't for DNA matches showing up on my husband's ThruLines readout. I certainly wouldn't have known about Johann through his proximity to his supposed parents' home—his Find A Grave memorial shows him buried in Dubois County, Indiana, over three hundred miles away from Michael Metzger's last residence.

What first gave me pause, besides the distance, was the foreign-sounding given name. True, Michael Metzger himself was an immigrant, as were the oldest of his children. Yet I had not seen anything but Americanized names for any of the others among his nine children. After five other children, why would Johann's parents decide to revert to Old World customs and insist on such a name? After all, Johann—and the two Metzger children before him—would have been born in the United States.

Yet, Johann it was, if we believe the headstone in the Saint Ferdinand Catholic Cemetery. Not only was his name decidedly German, but the dates of birth and death on his memorial were preceded not by the typical English "born" and "died" but "geb." and "gest."

Perhaps there was a reason for this. As it turns out—and you know I always dig through the history of a place when beginning research on a new area—the town where "Johann" was buried was founded by a Catholic priest and settled by mostly German-speaking people from central Europe.

That town—Ferdinand, in Dubois County, Indiana—may have hosted a German-speaking parish, but the other records were decidedly drawn up in English. As I looked elsewhere to locate records on "Johann" and the rest of the Metzger family there, I found document after document referring to the man as John Metzger.

Did I ever find any records to connect John to Michael? While I haven't yet found any such obvious connection—remember, I still haven't been able to locate Metzger family wills—there was one supporting discovery as I pushed back through John Metzger's life history. In a barely legible marriage record transcribed on Ancestry.com, John's August 24, 1852, marriage to Mary Ann "Weast" was noted to have occurred in Perry County, Ohio. Why Perry County? In fact, why any place in Ohio, if John had settled in Indiana?

Yet again, a helpful subscriber at Ancestry shared an item to fill in some of the blanks. While this obituary doesn't come out and overtly state any connection between John and Michael Metzger, it once again zeroes in on the fact that there was a connection to Perry County, Ohio—a connection at least long enough for John to get to know and propose to another resident of that county before whisking her away to an unknown wilderness.

Published in the Ferdinand News on January 26, 1917, the article about "one of our aged pioneers," Mrs. John Metzger, detailed her early life. The former Mary Anna Wiest came with her parents to America when she was six years of age. The Wiest family settled in Somerset, part of Perry County, Ohio, which is where John later met his intended before their 1852 wedding.

Where John Metzger was during the 1850 enumeration, I can't yet determine. Perhaps he was already in the process of securing his land and new home in Indiana. What I do have—fortunately—are seven DNA matches with descendants of four sons of John and Mary Ann, according to Ancestry's ThruLines calculations. I'm still in the process of examining documentation for each of those matches.

While I'm out of time for this month's research problem, we did make some progress. We were able to identify two of the women living in another Metzger household contiguous to our Michael's son's property as sisters—and then link one of them through a Pennsylvania baptismal record to yet another missing child of Michael and Apollonia. Though we've been introduced to two possible additional sons of Michael—Joseph in Knox County, Ohio, and this "Johann"—their places of death did not lead me any closer to the missing death records for those two Metzger sisters. Nor was I ever able to ascertain where the Metzger family originated in Europe.

These are all loose ends I'll need to tie together sometime in the future. As for tomorrow, we'll move on to explore yet another of my mother-in-law's brick wall ancestors.  

Monday, May 30, 2022

Pausing to Remember


Today, in the United States, is a day set aside to remember. Memorial Day: its express purpose is to honor those who gave their lives while serving our country, but even that calls to mind all the families of military people who have shared in that sacrifice. Also coming to mind are all those who set aside this day to honor these many others by taking the time to decorate the graves of those military personnel who paid that ultimate price—or to photograph the sight to share with the rest of us. I can think right now of some among readers here who are doing that very task today.

While today is unofficially considered the first day of summer vacation by many—and I wish you a happy and safe time today—I hope your day will also include a silent remembrance based on the reason this day was originally designated a federal holiday. As family history is in our very roots, there are many here who can reach back in time to share stories of relatives and ancestors in that very position, a way to keep their memory alive not only for one holiday, but as an ongoing memorial. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Welcoming a New Branch


It's always celebration-worthy to confirm a formerly missing branch of the family tree. Almost like finding an already-resolved brick wall we never knew we had, a newly-discovered family member calls for not only celebration, but lots of work. 

In this week's case, I found enough evidence to convince me to add another son to the Perry County, Ohio, family of Michael and Apollonia Metzger. Granted, others had already been saying that Joseph belonged in that Metzger family tree, but no one had offered any documentation to convince me that was the right move. Now that I'm convinced, it's time to add Joseph—and all his descendants.

Remember, my goal is to add all the branches I find, including their descendants, so that I can easily place DNA matches from my husband's family onto his tree (and likewise do the same to my tree). Every two weeks, I check this progress. And today's result of that biweekly check shows an increase of 289 individuals in that tree, which now totals 28,186 individuals.

Of course, not all those extra 289 people are on account of Joseph's addition to the tree—but close. After all, Joseph would be brother to my husband's second great-grandfather and, just like his Catholic sibling, Joseph's was a family of many sons. Tracing each of these sons—and their multiple children—down to the present generation has added quite a few to this tree. Besides pursuing the documentation to confirm these additions, I also have the benefit of guidance with DNA matches, of which there are several to examine.

Even though my research focus this month has been on my mother-in-law's Metzger lines, I've managed to add a few details to my own tree, using this same process. In the past two weeks, I've added fifty four names to my mother's side of the family, simply by answering a message I received on Ancestry.com. That brings my own tree up to 28,493 people without even having a research focus on that side of the family this month. Developing a habit of adding changes to the tree when they happen—or when we discover them—can grow a tree quickly, too.

Despite nearly running out of month for resolving my research challenge for May, I'll still have a few more days to tackle yet one more missing son in the Michael Metzger tree. Hopefully, by the end of this month, discovery of more supporting documentation will allow me to add in yet another branch for this tree as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

And Then, the Next Step


There is an ebb and flow to the pursuit of family history. Those brick walls put us off, then keep us at arm's distance while we swing vainly at our target with all our might. Then, suddenly—sometimes when we aren't yet aware of what is about to happen—something breaks loose from that impenetrable wall and just the right fact falls into place. Time to pause for the traditional genealogy happy dance—and then, prepare for the avalanche of work which falls into place.

That's pretty much what is happening right now. Discovery of evidence—at least, a copy of that original evidence—linking Joseph John Metzger and Michael Metzger as son to father reveals the reason why my husband has DNA matches reaching back to a man whom we hadn't even realized was part of the family. Now comes the slog to connect matches from among Joseph's descendants with Michael's third great-grandson, my husband.

There are quite a few matches to check, it turns out. Just this weekend, my husband's ThruLines connection to Michael Metzger increased by two matches to total sixty five. Of that number, six specifically claim Joseph as their direct line. Of course, with a most recent common ancestor for this group being at least as far removed as third great-grandfather, it is not surprising to see the centiMorgan count plummeting to the lower levels of not-quite-yet identical by state.

The closest of Joseph's DNA matching descendants squeaks by with twenty one centiMorgans, and the least of those matches clocks in at a fleeting ten centiMorgans. That entire range is considered a risky assumption, if basing relationship solely upon such a connection. However, I'll be confirming those tenuous matches with the traditional effort of piecing together a paper trail—and of course, those matches who have still managed to hold on to that patriline's surname Metzger have yet another promising token of relationship.

But it's all grunt work from here, at least on Joseph's line. Next week, we'll wrap up what can be found on the other tentative son of Michael Metzger and see whether we can find tidbits from the paper trail to support or reject yet another missing son hypothesis.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Considering Cambria


Following the genealogy of a hypothetical connection to one's family history can take on unexpected turns. The trail may have started with a tip, and each subsequent step of the way may be well documented to the other steps in that internal process, but the key is whether we can link up the whole mess with the original inquiry.

Right now, that link we're looking for is the connection between my husband's third great-grandparents Michael and Apollonia Metzger and a man by the name of Joseph John Metzger, possibly their son.

We explored some of the details of Joseph's life yesterday, when we followed him through records in Knox County, Ohio, leading up to his burial there in 1885. The detail shouting out to me the loudest was the fact that Joseph's place of birth was consistently reported to be Pennsylvania. Thanks to the potential DNA link between my husband and a Joseph Metzger descendant, I discovered that at least one other Ancestry subscriber noted—albeit without documentation—that the specific location of Joseph's birth was in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.

So, what about Cambria? When I know absolutely nothing about the research direction I'm about to take, I delve first into learning the background details. Along this journey, I learned some interesting but useless details, such as the fact that Cambria was the Latin name for the country of Wales.

It didn't take long, in familiarizing myself with the history and geography of Cambria County to get that deja vu feeling of having been down this research path before—like a long time ago, in the early days of Internet genealogy. I vaguely recalled that there was a treasured list of Catholic baptisms associated with the Cambria County borough of Loretto, a list shared on those ages-old genealogy forums of that decade.

Of course, now I didn't have the slightest notion of how to access such a list. That's where the hunt began afresh. I usually look first for material to cover the broad basics of the area, and the FamilySearch wiki usually provides ample resources, but not so much for this case in Cambria County. I knew I needed to see Catholic baptismal records if I was ever going to confirm Joseph's birth there, but the wiki on the county level didn't provide what I was looking for. I needed to zoom in to the specifics at the parish level, not the county level.

First step was to see what I could learn about Loretto. Sure enough, Loretto was a settlement founded by a Catholic priest—Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin—in 1799. But where were any microfilms of the church's baptismal records?

I noticed on the FamilySearch wiki that there was a mention of a book called Benedictine Fathers in Cambria County, Pennsylvania transcribed in the US GenWeb archives, so I took a look. While the history provided was informative, the time frame for any mention of Metzgers far post-dated our Michael's exodus for Ohio.

I moved on next to the FamilySearch catalog, where I found mention of a promising collection of baptisms and burials in a book compiled in 1986 by Barbara Brady O'Keefe. Once again, a tantalizing lead which led nowhere—unless I wanted to hop on a flight to Salt Lake City. I looked at the catalog entry closer to see the option to "view this catalog record in WorldCat." For me in my little outpost in California, the options were even farther than Salt Lake City. 

But I scrolled down that entry a bit farther, too, to the "Details" section, which noted that the 1986 book was excerpted from a different book published in 1899. Given the title, I was off to check whether Internet Archive might have a digitized version.

It did.

The Internet Archive noted, however, that the version acquired was copied helter-skelter, with text extending off pages, and some pages copied upside down. Nevertheless, I persevered. The search engine, normally a go-to tool for me at Internet Archive, let me down: no entries for Metzger. No entries for Metzgar, either. In fact, just checking, I ran the word "baptism" and the result came back, "no entries" for that, either.

Having come so far, I decided to give this check one more try. After all, the entry which got me started on this search was the claim that the book would include "baptisms and burials." I wanted to hold these annotators to their word.

Thus I began the grunt method of reading through the volume, page by page. I did discover a section which seemed to be a listing of marriages, and scrolled to a nearby section in hopes of finding baptisms. Reorienting myself as I read along, I realized every entry was jumbled together, but was sorted in alphabetical order. Quick: to the Ms!

I was elated to see, after scrolling past pages of sideways entries for "Mc" families, that among those continuing the section was a transcription which noted simply:

Metzger Michael and Apollonia—.
Joseph, Mary Ann. (1819-1821.)

Granted, this is not the original entry. It is only a transcription of the original baptismal record from Saint Michael's Catholic Church in Loretto, Pennsylvania, according to the 1899 publication, Souvenir of Loretto Centenary.

After the Centenary's publication, the Saint Michael's parish which was founded in 1799 by Prince Gallitzin was rebuilt with gifts both modest and magnificent—including major funding by none other than steel magnate Charles Schwab, who spent his younger years in Loretto, and Andrew Carnegie, who donated the pipe organ—and eventually was designated as a Basilica.

As for our Metzger family, by that point, they had long since moved on to Perry County, Ohio—and, in the case of their now-documented son Joseph, further on to Knox County, Ohio. Granted, what I really need is to acquire a record of the actual baptisms, in case the transcription was made in error. Additional confirmation of the family's presence in Cambria County would be helpful as well, in case there was another family by the same name.

For now, considering the DNA matches with descendants of Joseph Metzger as well as this transcription of the Loretto parish records, I think it is safe to say Joseph was part of our Michael's Metzger family. Added bonus: confirmation that Mary Ann was part of the family as well.

Image above: Baptismal transcription from digitized copy of 1899 publication, Souvenir of Loretto Centenary, as obtained online from Internet Archive.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

A Person of Interest


Let's just say that Joseph John Metzger of Knox County, Ohio, is simply a "suspect" in the lineup of possible missing children of Michael and Apollonia Metzger. I don't yet have any documentation to link Joseph as a son of Michael, but I do have one enticing discovery: Joseph's descendants' DNA matches up with my husband's DNA test results, and I know, at least, that my husband's line leads back to Michael as his third great-grandfather.

Now that Joseph has become a person of interest in my quest to discover all I can about the family of Michael Metzger, we need to tease out what documentation we can find on this "suspect." So, what can be found so far?

Starting with the 1850 census, we can see that Joseph was a family man, married and living on his farm in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Along with his wife Mary Ann, the census entry included five children, arrayed on the enumeration in stair step fashion: six year old John, five year old Henry, three year old Charles, two year old Mary, and baby Catherine, born just two months before the census worker came knocking at their door on July 24.

At that point, Joseph had declared his age as thirty, putting his birth at approximately 1820. He was off to a good start—but not for long. Before the family saw the next enumerator at their door, Joseph's wife Mary Ann had died, and he had quickly married a local widow, Rachel Walker Houck, and acquired a step-daughter, along with several more children with his second wife by 1871.

What is interesting in tracing the documents associated with this hypothetical son of Michael Metzger is to see the significant points in Joseph's own life trajectory. Of course, the hope is to move backward in time to where we can connect him on paper with his parents or known siblings. Yet, so far, the only hopeful sign I've been able to locate is the documentation for Joseph's first marriage to Mary Ann Bechtol. That 1842 document was drawn up in Muskingum County—a county neighboring Michael's home in Perry County, but yet another county removed from Joseph's home in Knox County. Could that proximity have been an indicator of Joseph's possible residence with Michael in Perry County before moving to Knox County?

More interesting than that discovery was considering Joseph's consistently-reported place of birth. Census records gave that location as the state of Pennsylvania. True, a broad category—try driving through that state, east to west, if you aren't sure what I mean here—so we'll need to narrow that report to something more specific. Once again, I'm going to play with the hypothetical on this instance. It so happens that another Ancestry subscriber gave Joseph's actual place of birth—though without any documentation—as Cambria County, Pennsylvania.

If that is indeed correct—and you know we'll need to ferret that out for ourselves—learning a bit more about that location may advance our quest successfully. Or at least rule out that report. It's worth a little exploration to see if we can pinpoint a correct place of birth for Joseph, which will then mean identifying the stopping place in the Metzger family's emigration from their original homeland in Europe to Michael Metzger's family settlement in Ohio. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Exploring Details on a Possible Son


It seems so counter-intuitive, when pommeled for years with the mantra, "document, document, document," to simply reach out and pluck a son from hypothetical thin air. After all, we're talking children of my husband's third great-grandfather Michael Metzger, which means stretching to the early 1800s with a paper trail. Still, though the connection bridges multiple generations, we now have a tool which the genealogists of previous eras couldn't yet access.

Paper trail or no, my husband's DNA matches suggest he has a connection to descendants of someone named Joseph John Metzger. Presumably—at least according to Ancestry's ThruLines—Joseph was one of the two additional children of Michael Metzger whom I haven't yet been able to identify. We'll take some time this week to explore what can be found about this Joseph.

Besides the DNA connection, one reason I wanted to inspect records regarding Joseph Metzger was that he lived in Knox County, Ohio. Keep in mind, all the other Metzger family members I've found so far have spent a significant portion of their lives in Perry County, Ohio. There are several records affirming that case.

There are also, as we discovered last week, Metzger family events which I presumed occurred in Perry County which may have happened elsewhere—like the deaths of potential children Gregory, Joanna, and Mary Ann. While the two Metzger sisters were buried in Perry County, there is no record there of the death of any of those three.

My guess was that they died while visiting a nearby relative. And Joseph provides the most likely explanation. Joseph, from the time of the 1850 census until his 1885 death, lived in Knox County. For those unfamiliar with their Ohio geography—I had to look it up myself—Knox County is basically a straight shot northward from Perry County, on the other side of Licking County. In today's travel vernacular, it would be a little over an hour's commute to drive from the one county to the other.

Though folks from that time period wouldn't have the benefit of paved highways and fast-moving cars, it is quite likely that a move from Perry County to Knox County wouldn't be quite as cataclysmic a rending of family ties as, say, the decision to move out west. But there's another reason why I want to learn more about this particular Metzger son: unlike for his older, foreign-born siblings, census records consistently gave his birthplace as Pennsylvania. And at least one Ancestry subscriber—though without the requisite available paper trail—has pinpointed that Pennsylvania location to a specific place availing us of Catholic birth records. You can be sure I'll follow up on that possibility.

Next step in this process: get to know a little bit more about what we can document of the life of Joseph John Metzger of Knox County, Ohio. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

No N G S Conference For me


Welcome to Tuesday, the start of the long-awaited, can't-wait-to-see-everybody-again, face-to-face annual conference of the National Genealogical Society. It's been a long three years since that event last convened, and a lot of hard work has gone into producing what organizers hope will be a best-ever lineup of speakers and events.

But then, there's Covid. I can't really say this is a post-pandemic conference, because technically, that disease will likely always be with us from this point onward. So precautions have been put into place—requirements far more stringent than the man-on-the-street in downtown Sacramento might be expected to follow. Including signing an agreement, upon registration, promising not to show up if exhibiting symptoms.

Guess who came down with symptoms?

Granted, I'm only an easy commute's drive away from Sacramento, so I'm not out airfare and hotel expenses. Nonetheless, I'm disappointed. My main focus was to attend the pre-conference "Focus on Societies" which previously was a feature of the now-merged Federation of Genealogical Societies. In addition, as appointed delegate for my local genealogical society, I wanted to attend the morning's Delegate Council Meeting.

Instead, it looks like I'll be dedicating another day to shoving my face flat into my pillow. (If you missed me yesterday, ditto for my calendar of events—and thanks to those who double-checked on me after my customary daily post didn't appear.)

If you are a genealogy enthusiast who happens to live within driving distance of Sacramento and have the rest of the week open, please consider joining in the activities. The NGS Conference is still open for registration at the door, even if you only are able to attend for one day. Just keep in mind you can't bring your Covid germs with you—but do bring a mask and your proof of vaccination and boosters. As much as we want to see each other again, this is a process which requires we tread slowly and carefully for the good of all.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Connecting to Communities


The news from Ancestry.com is that they are once again adding to their website more of what they dub "DNA Communities." In particular—and this is what caught my eye—the latest addition includes an increase from seventy one to over two hundred communities affiliated with the southern United States.

This is not the first time Ancestry has added to their collection of DNA Communities. About this time last year, they put out an announcement detailing fifty five new communities, mostly surrounding the Mediterranean, plus their first east African community. As they did last year, I suspect the new communities will appear gradually as they roll out the updates to subscribers.

The story behind how Ancestry puts together these communities is interesting in itself. Using a network analysis method known as community detection, Ancestry begins by assembling a network of the millions of subscribers in their database. From that point, they cull out the individuals who share a greater number of DNA matches with each other, and separate them from the rest of the network. They then fine-tune their results with information from subscribers' family trees.

Of course, they keep an eye on details like migration pathways. One particular clue is the observation of differences between birth locations of parents and their children. But there are also factors which determine strength or weakness of such community connections. For instance, the greater the number of generations separating the subscriber from a community, the less likely it will be for a connection to be identified.

In other words, I would not likely find myself part of my paternal grandfather's New York Polish community (if there was one) because of several details. First, the rest of my grandfather's community immigrated to Milwaukee, not New York, so he would be an outlier. In addition, any connection would be to my grandfather, not a closer generation—and, for that matter, those were both "long" generations (spanning nearly fifty years in one case). 

So, how did my mother's southern genes fare in this latest update? As soon as I saw the news about this update, you can be sure I checked. I'm hoping this case, too, will be a matter of rolling out the results gradually. My results, at this point, haven't budged from where they stood before the announcement: only two communities, including one sub-community. My DNA Communities: Georgia and Florida Settlers, with its sub-category of South-Central Georgia, Lower South Carolina, and Florida settlers; and secondly, early Georgia Coastal Plain and Northern Florida Settlers.

Of course, I'm hoping to see an update, but would not be surprised if the results remain the same. These are, after all, my ancestors who are portrayed by these results. And that was just exactly who they were: just as the DNA Communities portrayed them.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Not the Same There as Here


Last week I mentioned traveling to Florida and, while there, getting the brainy idea to shop for antique photos. After all, I've had a grand time rescuing the cabinet cards I've found in antique stores up in Gold Rush country near my home in California. A little change of venue wouldn't scramble results too horribly, would they?

Think again. It's not the same there as it is here. I guess every place is different. While it is true that a location like Florida would be a prime place to gather photographs from all over North America—after all, snow birds come from Canada, too—a key factor necessary in the mix for success is shopkeepers' ability to curate available resources. Apparently, while the various shopkeepers managed to assemble some interesting collectibles, the location I chose in central Florida was not home to anyone able to amass the type of photo I was seeking.

While I have rescued photos from later periods—recall my discovery of the Irish photo album from the late 1930s—the date is not the only detail on my shopping list. My Florida shopping foray led me to more recent specimens—think Polaroids and other snapshots from the fifties and sixties—but it also included several older samples. Yet, with every format from earlier eras came a disappointment: the photos lacked the key ingredients that assist me in returning rescued photos to family members. I need a name as well as a location at the minimum to begin my search for the identity of the photo's subject.

It broke my heart, during last week's exploration in Florida, to walk away from several otherwise fine family photos from Morristown, New Jersey, for example, but even though the pictures were exactly what I was looking for, they provided none of the clues which make rescuing and returning the photos possible. Yes, several stores may include photographs in their merchandise, but not all photographs lend themselves to this type of rescue operation. Either that, or someone else has beat me to all the best sale items.

No matter what reason caused me to walk away empty-handed, the search reminded me of what fun it was to start a photo-rescuing project in the first place. I have Connie from Forgotten Old Photos to thank for the inspiration—and advice as I got started—and several resources close at hand in my own state for finding eligible samples. Perhaps now that I'm home, this would be a perfect time to take up this challenge once again. After all, people traveled from all over the continent to Gold Rush country, too.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Examining the Hypothetical


If the two sisters in the household of Gregory Metzger didn't die in the county they called home, where did they die? More importantly, where did Gregory Metzger himself meet his end? And where was his will filed?

Still trying to piece together the complete family of my husband's third great-grandfather, Michael Metzger, I'm not quite sure yet whether Gregory even fits in the picture. True, his home was right next to that of Michael's namesake son in the Perry County, Ohio, Jackson Township. And two of the women living in Gregory's home—Joanna and Mary Ann—were listed as sisters in the 1880 census, presumably after Gregory's own passing. But why were there no records of their deaths in Perry County?

My first guess was that perhaps each of them had died while visiting an as-yet-unnamed family member living in a different county. Since I am still missing two names to round out the elder Michael's possible nine children—and that's even counting those hypothetical three, Michael, Joanna, and Mary Ann—I wondered whether discovering the identity of the other missing two might point us in the direction of the place of death for these hypothetical three.

Conveniently, there's DNA testing to help guide us in matching up some of these hypothetical siblings. While my husband's ThruLines results for the Metzger family don't include any matches descending from Gregory, Mary Ann, or Joanna, there are two other names for which he does have matches. One, listed on ThruLines as Joseph John Metzger, seems to line up neatly with the Find A Grave entry for a man by the same name, buried in nearby Knox County, Ohio. The other one linked by Find A Grave, for Johann Metzger's burial in Indiana, seems less likely but also happens to be included among my husband's ThruLines results.

While Ancestry's ThruLines is a matter of both DNA and subscribers' family trees, I can't simply toss the information because some trees on that site include errors. You know what that means: I'll need to double check by doing some grunt work of my own with research on each of these men to figure out what made them decide to leave the rest of the family behind in Perry County, Ohio.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Without a Trace


Here's a curiosity: when we trace the life trajectory of our ancestors, we expect that, at some point, each person will have reached the end of their years. At that point, family members—or at least someone—will have buried their departed loved one and, at least in previous centuries, have marked their final resting place as a memorial. How, then, for a family member who lived—and, presumably, died—in the same place for decades, can we not find a trace of their passing?

I'm closing in on the supposed nine children of my husband's third great-grandfather, Michael Metzger. In addition to the four I already knew about—Michael's namesake son plus daughter Elizabeth and other two sons Henry and Jacob—we've been considering the household next door to the younger Michael's home in Jackson Township in Perry County, Ohio. In that home, the oldest listed in the 1850 census—shortly after the elder Michael's death—was a man by the name of Gregory Metzger. 

We've since discovered that two of the Metzger women in Gregory's household were eventually noted to be sisters. That, we discovered in the 1880 census, after Gregory's supposed death.

Today, I was working on locating some death records on this Metzger household. While deaths in Ohio before the 1900s were generally not noted at the state level, I happened to know from multiple trips to the Perry County courthouse years ago that the county had kept an index of deaths in the last few decades of the 1800s. Though I kept photocopied pages listing family surnames from previous visits, I had recently discovered that the entire index is now digitized and available on FamilySearch.org.

Since the two Metzger sisters we discussed yesterday had been buried in Perry County—easily seen by their memorials at Find A Grave—I thought that would be a good start for pulling up their records on the Perry County death index. Since Mary Ann Metzger was the one of the two sisters to have died the most recently, I checked first for her name—and found no entry.

Puzzled, I took a look at the entire Metzger section for Perry County. Though there were many Metzger names listed, there was none for either Mary Ann or her sister Joanna. 

Well, what about that alternate spelling, Metzgar? Since it was listed right above the alphabetical entries for Metzger deaths, I scrolled up the page to take a look. 


Obviously, from the photographs included on their Find A Grave memorials, both Joanna and Mary Ann were buried in Perry County. Since it was not unusual in that era for a person to have died in a different location and then to be returned to their family's burial plot back home, I began wondering just where the two women might have died.

While considering that issue, I realized someone else was missing from the death index: the very person whose will I had been seeking—Gregory. His name was missing from the Perry County Death Index as well.

I confess, that's when I caved and recalled that Find A Grave volunteers had entered two additional names as children of the elder Michael Metzger. While I certainly appreciate all the work these volunteers have done for the website, I have learned to hesitate about outright acceptance of such suggestions as document-able reality. I've found errors in the past.

The thought, however, nagged at me. After all, I have DNA test results at Ancestry.com showing ThruLines connections to two other sons. What were their names? Were they the same as the two names listed at Find A Grave?

Sure enough, the names matched up. But I can't just take those assertions at face value. You know what that means: we'll have to examine the records for ourselves, check the documentation, and then trace those lines—including the DNA matches Ancestry has discovered for me—all the way back to the Metzger line from the early 1800s. It's time to build some additional hypothetical lines to the Metzger tree.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sisters, After All


Sometimes, it takes looking a long way through documents before we spot the detail which answers the genealogy question we've been pursuing. In the case of the next-door Metzgers, neighbors of my husband's second great-grandfather, Michael Metzger, it took examining four separate census enumerations before I could find enough detail to fill in the blanks on this week's family history guess.

We've been wondering about Gregory, the Metzger next door, and in particular about the women in his Perry County, Ohio, household in the 1850 census. We had already discussed Elizabeth, who married Bernard Clouse and left the Metzger household before the 1860 census. But what about the two other Metzger women?

The older of the two women, according to the 1850 census, would have been born in 1814—and yet, we don't exactly know her name. According to that particular census, where the enumerator wrote over his own entry, she was either named Jeannie or Joannie.

It's times like this when I can't just rely on the information listed in one document. I can't be satisfied with the one entry—not when the handwriting presents problems. For consistency's sake, I check all the subsequent census records, as well.

As it turned out, in Jeannie-Joannie's case, the 1860 census gave her name as Joanna. But don't think that was the final verdict. We need to jump forward yet another ten years, just to double check. There, the confusing entry lists her name as Jonana, inspiring me to jump ahead yet another ten years.

Before we make that hasty jump, however, let's see what else the 1870 census shows us. By that point, Jeannie-Joannie-Joanna was listed as being born in Switzerland, a change from earlier records reporting her birthplace as Germany—something I had been questioning from the start of this month's research quest. Even more than that, though, was the confirmation that the other woman in the household—listed in those earlier enumerations as "Mary A."—was actually named Mary Ann.

Best of all, we see that perseverance pays off when we leap forward yet another ten years to the 1880 census, which finally includes not only a listing of the names of all household members, but provides their relationship as well. The gift to us from that 1880 census worker: Mary Ann and Joanna were sisters.

If we don't know anything more about Gregory—the once head of household who, by 1880, was no longer listed at that residence—we at least can say that two of the people living in his home were siblings. I tend to think the rest were siblings as well, but we need to keep looking for documentation before I feel safe claiming that conclusion. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Process of Elimination


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.  

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Metzgers Next Door


In the United States census following Michael Metzger's 1843 death, two Metzger men were listed consecutively in the Jackson Township portion of Ohio's Perry County. One was my husband's second great-grandfather, also named Michael Metzger. The other was a man not previously on my research radar: a forty year old immigrant named Gregory Metzger.

Looking at the younger Michael's household in that 1850 enumeration, we can see it gives the appearance of a young married couple. The next line after Michael's entry gives the name of a twenty year old woman named Catherine. Following that is the entry for what appears to be their infant daughter, Elisabeth, born in Ohio only seven months prior to the June 1 enumeration. Though it seems self-evident that we are looking at a young family in this census entry, I didn't leave that assumption without following this household through the decades and documents to confirm what seemed obvious.

Next door to Michael, however, was a household which, while seeming just as self-evidently to be a family, needs a bit more digging before we can arrive at a confident assertion. The household's listing on the very next line after Michael's census entry seems persuasive enough, since the enumerator's duties included entering household names as they came up on his rounds—and we may later be able to verify that location through other documents such as property records. But what I'd like to zoom in on today is the composition of that next door neighbor's household in particular.

The home was headed by a man named Gregory Metzger. Keep in mind, for the 1850 census in Perry County, there were only two households bearing that surname in the entire county. The likelihood that the two men are related is quite high. But who, exactly, was Gregory?

Looking at the household listing, at first glance it gives that same appearance of husband, wife, and children—until we look more closely. Besides forty year old Gregory, there is a thirty six year old woman listed. She is either named Jeannie or Joannie—hard to determine due to the enumerator's over-writing attempt at correction. However, when we inspect the ages of the three additional members of the Metzger household—Mary, Elizabeth, and Henry—we realize we need to proceed with more caution.

While sixteen year old Henry could very well be son of the first two named members of this household, we don't know for sure because the 1850 census did not include relationships in the enumeration process. Elizabeth, at twenty one, would be a squeeze as daughter of both Gregory and "Jeannie." If a child at all, she might be daughter of Gregory and a first, but now deceased, first wife. But Mary? There is no way we can explain that this twenty eight year old was a child of either of those first two adults.

That detail leads me to my hypothesis: could Gregory have been heading up a household of his siblings? After all, the elder Michael Metzger had died in 1843, and his wife the following year. Besides, the elder Michael's entry in the previous census indicated the possibility of up to nine children. I only know of four of them. Who were the other five? Using this listing in Gregory's 1850 household, this week we'll explore the possibility that besides Gregory, his household members Mary, Elizabeth, Henry, and even "Jeannie" were all children of the elder Michael Metzger and his wife Apollonia Rheyman.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

D N A Matching :
It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint


I'm sometimes surprised to see how long it has been since I first talked family members into trying this new genealogy tool of testing relatives' DNA. It has been almost nine years since my brother first volunteered to take both an autosomal and Y-DNA test, a decision fueled mostly by the fact that he was his patriline's only remaining male descendant. He was quickly followed by my husband and his siblings.

Not long afterwards, I was flooded with DNA matches, along with this bewildering sense of being lost on a path leading nowhere. Genetic genealogy no longer seemed a promising sprint to the pedigree finish line. I kept wondering, "Who are all these people?!"   

When we're stuck with DNA matches which don't quite seem to fit into the right family slots, it's always encouraging to find a helpful new tool. For instance, I'm excited to see the recent announcement at DNA Painter about the addition of Cody Ely's "Library of Matches." Especially for such cases as unknown parentage, this tool promises to fill in some blanks and extend the useful reach of such now-familiar resources as Blaine Bettinger's Shared centiMorgan Project.

On the other hand, without even so much as a boost from a chromosome browser at Ancestry DNA, I've been able to line up quite a few matches on the kits I administer there. Why? I've spent the last several years diligently plugging away at all those collateral lines for each generation in my family trees. Instead of the sprint I envisioned when I first learned about that useful—and amazing—DNA tool, I've come to terms with the thought that genetic genealogy may be more of a marathon than a sprint: slow and steady in adding name after name, for we've still got a long way to go.

Yes, that sounds like grunt work. If you've been wondering why there are 27,897 people in my in-laws' tree or 28,439 in my own parents' tree, that's the main reason. Over the past two weeks, that meant adding 304 documented individuals to my in-laws' tree and another 143 to my own family's tree. Since I made the decision to start such a routine research project, it's been the same story, week after week. But that grunt work is finally paying off. It's now much more of a breeze running through ThruLines®  at Ancestry, for instance, with almost every generation in place.

Of course, there is always more work to be done. Looking on the positive side, though, developing the habit of adding a bit of work over the long haul eventually comes with a handsome payoff. I never thought, when I started out, staring at all those hundreds of fourth cousins (or beyond!), that I'd ever see the day when all the puzzle pieces fell into place—or that I'd have a tree of such a size. Perhaps it's a tortoise or hare story: slow and steady can make a difference, even when it seems so discouraging at the start.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Finding Faces


For a while on this blog, I took up a project to rescue abandoned photographs from antique stores and do the research to return them to descendants of the subject's family. It was fun to figure out just who the face was, staring out of the picture frame at me, and even more rewarding to find a way to reconnect the item with current family members.

Now that I'm spending some time in Florida—but not enough time to drive up north to visit my distant cousins in Wellborn—I thought I might find a pocket of time to slip into an antique store here in the central part of the state.

Don't think the process will be as simple as matching a location with a spare fifteen minutes, though. Finding the right photograph takes time. First requirement in the process is finding a store which actually includes old pictures. Not every antique store does. Some areas are good for discoveries such as that—like the stores in the old Gold Rush neighborhoods near me in Northern California, my usual resource. As much as I know about those locales in California, though, I don't know about picture-rich resources in central Florida. I will be finding those most promising shopping stops by letting my fingers do the walking—through my phone's search engine plus a few well-placed calls.

What do I look for next? If I manage to find a shopkeeper who includes photographs in the store's sales items, the next task is to go to the store and look through the holdings. Some stores include only a few specimens. Others may have stacks and stacks of photos from all eras, from tin types to CdVs to cabinet cards to postcards to Polaroid snapshots of the 1950s. Some keepsakes are in pristine condition; others not so much. My task is to find the well-preserved ones which are labeled with at least two details: name and location. Three details would be optimal.

Ever heard the term, "triangulation"? It's not just for DNA matches, you know. Any time you can fix a point by orienting yourself through two other points, you are triangulating. The same principle works for rescuing antique photographs. If I have a name, a specific location (something more than, say, "Canada"), and a timeframe, it is far easier to research the person featured in the portrait.

Of course, every time I've gone through that process for someone else's ancestor, I've always thought, "If only I could find a picture of my own relatives." Well, now I'm in Florida, home of lots of my ancestors. If ever I had a chance to find any, now would be the time. I say, let's go shopping!

Friday, May 13, 2022

On Census Day . . . 1840


What do we know about the efforts that went into producing the United States Census in 1840? On Census Day, June 1, how did the 2,167 enumerators go about their business counting heads in America?

Of course, I have a selfish reason for wanting to know more about Census Day in 1840: I'm wondering just who counts in the household roundup: families? Farmhands? Visiting relatives? Who was included among the eleven individuals counted in the Michael Metzger household in Perry County, Ohio?

According to the FamilySearch wiki, "Federal censuses are usually reliable, depending on the knowledge of the informant and the care of the census enumerator." That may sound reassuring, but it leaves a wide gap, at least in my personal credibility calibrations. The FamilySearch wiki also includes the fact that there was a wide range of people who could be considered qualified informants on a household's entry: not just the head of household, but any member of the residence—or even the neighbors. Not to mention, information provided by the reporting party could have been incorrect, or even deliberately falsified—take, for a much later census example, those women who miraculously aged only six or seven years since the previous decade's enumeration.

The enumeration was to include information on every person in the household on Census Day. If the enumerator, in his official rounds, wasn't able to make it to a particular address on June 1 and, say, fulfilled his duties there on June 3, the information needed to reflect the household's status on Census Day. In such a case, even if a baby was born in that home on June 2, the child should not have been included in the official record. That was the policy for enumerations.

The difficulty with using census readouts before 1850 is that the only name provided for the record was that of the head of household. All other household residents, nameless, were counted by gender and age grouping. For those aged twenty and above, the groupings spanned ten years apiece. Those under the age of twenty were clustered in five-year increments, making estimating identities of children a bit easier when moving from one decade's enumeration to another.

So, how did things appear in the household headed by Michael Metzger in 1840? There were eleven people counted in that Perry County household: seven males and four females. I'd presume Michael himself was the sole occupant of the category listed as "Free White Persons, Male, 50 - 59." Likewise, his wife Apollonia would have fulfilled the requirements to be placed in the corresponding category for females, 50 - 59.

As for the rest of the household, there were three young men between the ages of twenty and twenty nine, as well as one young teenaged boy and two aged five through nine. Among the young women, there was one in the bracket for those in their twenties, and one in each of the two teenager categories. But how can we interpret those younger adults? Were they all children of Michael and Apollonia? Or were any of the twenty-something men married to the late teenaged or twenty-something women? Could any of those young boys have been grandchildren instead of children of Michael and Apollonia?

Once I found that likely candidate for Michael Metzger in the previous record for 1830—under the spelling variation of Meschar—I decided to compare notes. Just as had happened in 1840, June 1 was Census Day in 1830. Life was somewhat different for that earlier enumeration. There were two less states to count in a country of five million less people. Still, the drill was about the same: same listing of head of household only, same gender and age categories to compare. And compare, I did.

To help picture the changes more visually, I created a table to compare the Metzger household's results for both the 1840 and 1830 census. You can easily do this on anything from a computer spreadsheet to a piece of paper; sitting in a coffee shop yesterday morning, I grabbed some scrap paper to sketch out my grid. After loading in all the possible age brackets—Michael and Apollonia had retreated to the 40 - 49 year category—I entered the tick marks in the appropriate categories. Then, to correlate the 1830 people with their possible brackets in the next decade's readout, I used a pen to draw diagonal lines from each individual's position in the table's earlier column to the corresponding column where they had advanced in the 1840 data.

From that exercise, I was able to approximate some guesses about the Metzger household. I now know I need to look for two children born after June 1, 1830, through 1835, and determine exactly who their parents might have been. I also know that, of the three young men listed in the 1830 census—one in each of the age brackets spanning from ten to late twenties—one of the three either left the household and was replaced by a slightly younger man, or the reporting party underestimated the age of the oldest of the three (who should have aged out of the upper category for the 1840 census).

As for my guess that one or more of the young women in the 1840 census could have been wife of one of the young men, unless there were deaths plus marriages replacing any of them, the three girls from the 1830 census appropriately aged into the corresponding brackets for the 1840 census.

All that to say: if these two enumerations represented only the children of Michael and Apollonia, I have quite a bit more work to do to find more than the four I currently have documented. Who were they? And where did they go after the 1840 census?

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Finding Family in the 1840s and Before


It's time to find family in the forties—the eighteen forties, that is. American documentation takes a shift in presentation when you step backwards in time from the 1850 census. The census prior to that, in 1840, was the last of the United States federal enumerations to provide an age-delineated head count, with only the head of household named in the record.

Since my current ancestor of focus, my husband's third great-grandfather Michael Metzger, died about 1843, we are left with no tell-all-names 1850 census to resort to, in figuring just what names he might have given his many children. Don't think his wife will come to the rescue; widow Apollonia Rheyman Metzger died a year after her husband. And we can't even rely on the assertions of when or where the couple was born, or even who the rest of their children were, since no claims I've found have yet included documentation.

So what do we do to chase down a farmer living in Perry County, Ohio, before the advent of the "modernized" 1850 census? Fortunately, Michael Metzger appeared in the 1840 census, so we at least have a count of household members, delineated by gender and age brackets. But what happens before then, when we want to discover how long Michael had been resident in Ohio? We look to the state's tax records, of course. 

Granted, not all farmers owned the land on which they were farming. But we won't know unless we look. Though Ancestry.com may not include tax records for a specific region in their holdings, FamilySearch.org is the go-to alternative for such searches. Just check the FamilySearch.org catalog by entering the geographic location you are seeking to determine whether such digitized microfilms are still available online.

In Michael's case, thankfully, the tax records for Perry County were indeed included in the holdings, and, scrolling all the way down the catalog entry, I was able to access the records online. Michael did show in Perry County records—to a degree. We obviously can count on his presence there in 1840, the year of the census, but how much earlier than that point was he included in the tax listings?

I could easily go back to the Perry County tax records for 1837 to confirm the tax receipts for one Michael Metzger of Jackson Township—the only Metzger listed in that township, by the way. At that point, he was listed as owning 160 acres.

But why stop there? Let's see how far back we can go. As I stepped backwards in time, I could find Michael in the tax records in that same township for 1836 under that alternate spelling Metzgar, and in an even more tortured spelling of Metseger for 1835. I proceeded, year by year, all the way back to 1830, where our man showed—and with considerably less property—as Metzer.

Despite the FamilySearch catalog entry for Perry County tax records showing as having a gap for the year 1829, I took a look anyhow, and was pleasantly surprised to find that year's records included in the microfilm—but unfortunately, no Michael Metzger, no matter how contorted the spelling.

But wait! If Michael was listed in the tax records for 1830, shouldn't I be able to find him in the 1830 census, as well? Taking a look, back at Ancestry.com, it took reducing the search to his first name plus only the first "M" of his last name, followed by a wildcard symbol, to find him. When I saw the resultant entry, I can understand why Michael didn't pop up in the search results before: his name was indexed as Meschar. Looking at the document itself, I suppose that was a reasonable guess for the faded ink's remains.

Now that we've found two census listings for Michael Metzger's family in Perry County reaching back to 1830, let's assess just how many children he and Apollonia might have claimed as proud parents in those early years of central Ohio's history. Tomorrow, we'll begin the search for the missing children.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Exploring More Collateral Lines


The beauty of applying DNA testing to genealogy puzzles is that it can help a family history researcher discover missing branches of one's family tree. After reading so many stories asserting the usefulness of such techniques, there are quite a number of us who have cast our lots in with the powers of genetic genealogy.

Here I am, stuck on the research trail of discovering my husband's third great-grandfather's origin, so I turn to the sixty four other subscribers at AncestryDNA who match that same Metzger line. In the process, I discover that ThruLines® thinks there are more children of Michael and Apollonia Metzger than the four I've confirmed. And I'm not surprised to learn that.

I've already solidly documented our line's second great-grandfather, a son whom Michael named after himself. Besides the younger Michael, I've thoroughly researched three other Metzger children: Elizabeth, Jacob, and Henry. The only problem is that ThruLines® thinks there are two other children I know nothing about, whom Ancestry reports were named Joseph and Johann. Neither of them have shown up in my own explorations through records of Perry County, Ohio, where our Metzger line settled.

In the meanwhile, though nothing of the sort shows up in the ThruLines® results, I have found a next door neighbor to the younger Michael, a man by the name of Gregory Metzger. Could this Metzger also have been a relative? It seems odd that he would have settled so close to Michael in Ohio, so far away from their native home in Germany, or Switzerland, or wherever they originally lived—especially since there is no mention of any descendants of Gregory in the ThruLines® results at Ancestry.

I realize the way Ancestry's ThruLines® works is through comparing the family trees posted by subscribers on Ancestry by our genetic matches. That, however, means if every one of those DNA matches who didn't have Elizabeth, Jacob, or Henry in their direct line—but did include the same other given name—then Ancestry would include them as a match descending from that other name.

But what if that name were incorrect? If enough people copied the tree of one person guessing that ancestral name, Ancestry would still pick that up in their comparisons. And we might be left with a ThruLines® entry for someone named Joseph, or Johann.

One task, of course, could be to double check the work of those DNA matches supposedly descending from Joseph or Johann. And that I did, for a few test runs. One thing I noticed: no confirmation given through documentation; just referrals back to other trees posted at Ancestry.

In the meantime, there is another approach we can take: build a tentative tree for the other Metzger man living next door in Perry County—and pursue any other records before that point for the senior Michael in Ohio before his 1844 death.

Here's one clue why this might be a productive approach. Michael junior was born about 1815, before the family arrived in North America. There is a significant gap of time between son Michael's birth and the next child, Elizabeth, born in 1828. The other two sons followed Elizabeth in stair step fashion, with Jacob born in 1831 and Henry in 1833. Who could have been part of that family between immigrant son Michael and his Ohio-born younger siblings? Would it have been Joseph and Johann? Anyone else?

We'll take the remainder of this week to track down the arrival date in Ohio for parents Michael and Apollonia Metzger. Then, we'll take a look at their suspected son Gregory, building a possible tree for him and examining his relationships in Perry County. And, of course, we'll keep an eye open for any sign of the two proposed other Metzger sons, Joseph and Johann. Perhaps one of these other, tentative, lines will lead us to some documentation revealing more information on these Metzgers in Perry County, Ohio.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Sliding Into 4 K


If it weren't for going AWOL a few days in the last eleven years, my four thousandth post might have come at just about the same time as my blogiversary last Sunday. Well, it is what it is: today marks post number four thousand. It hardly seems possible. But yes, there are that many stories out there, when it comes to exploring that never-ending family tree.

Right now, I'm taking a break in the home state of some of my own ancestors—the McClellans of Florida. While I won't get the chance to drive that far north to visit the old home on this trip, it will be a time to enjoy with family. And that is really what it's all about, isn't it?

Tomorrow, it will be back to chasing the trail of one of my mother-in-law's ancestors, Michael Metzger and his kin. But for now, it's time to absorb some delightful sunshine in the company of the more recent family arrivals in the Sunshine State.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Funny Thing About Pedigree Collapse


Silly me. Here I was, thinking I had a brilliant idea for tackling the brick wall of my husband's third great-grandfather, Michael Metzger. I would love to settle the dispute over his actual homeland. Which place was it that he left behind in 1804: Germany or Switzerland? After all, there were just as many documents, in retrospect, reporting either one for Michael and his wife Apollonia Rheyman.

My idea was to compare notes by turning to the sixty four DNA matches showing on my husband's ThruLines® readout at Ancestry.com. While sixty four matches can mean a stack of work, verifying that many connections to the most recent common ancestor—in this case, Michael Metzger—I was game to devote a weekend to wrapping up the work.

In the process, I discovered something funny about the Metzgers of Perry County, Ohio, my mother-in-law's stomping grounds: there was a lot of pedigree collapse happening over the past two hundred years. As it turns out, I had already done most of the work verifying these sixty four Metzger DNA matches because—surprise, surprise—a large percentage of them also happened to have Schneider roots as well. And the Schneider line—or Snider, as the name evolved, once that immigrant family arrived in Pennsylvania and then Ohio—was my research project for last month. 

All along the way, looking at the trees of the sixty four Ancestry.com subscribers who happen to be my husband's DNA match, thanks to those Metzger roots, I kept my eyes open for that one sure-fire document that would settle, for once and for all, the discrepancy over Michael Metzger's origin. Did looking through all those trees find any confirmation for me? Nope.

While this exercise did provide an excellent reminder that pedigree collapse—and intermarriage between several large families over multiple generations—can introduce unexpected results into genealogical pursuits, it really didn't do much more for my research question than confirm that all those matches did indeed share Michael Metzger (and some Sniders and even Gordons) in their ancestry.

What I need to do next is put on the brakes and take this research journey a bit slower. I've yet to determine just where Michael Metzger might have been before his arrival in Perry County—and who else might have come along on his journey. After all, I've only found four of his children, but there were obviously other Metzgers in early Perry County besides the four I had found.


Sunday, May 8, 2022

A Day to Appreciate —
and be Appreciated


For those of you who are not the last leaf on your family branch, happy Mother's Day. It is always rewarding to feel appreciated. For those who have spent the larger portion of their adult life serving as mother (or mother figure), today is your day.

Likewise, it is a day for all of us to turn our thoughts to the mother (or mother figure) who made things better in our own life. When we thought we just couldn't go on one more step, when no matter how much we tried, we just couldn't figure out the answer, when we felt awful, or too tired, or miserable in countless other ways, that's when the mother we're now celebrating seemed to know just what to do.

Of course, for many of us, that mother is long gone. All that's left is the memories. But we still appreciate what those memories stood for.

It was on a Mother's Day eleven years ago when I began a journey to capture those fleeting memories with my first post on this blog. Since then, for nearly four thousand days straight, this has been my spot to note the family history memories once preserved for me by my mother, who passed along the stories she remembered from her mother and grandmother, aunts and other family members. Remembering those stories—and diligently seeking the facts to fill in the blanks where memories failed them—is one way to appreciate those mothers. 

We have, however, several others who have represented mother figures for us along the twists and turns of life: teachers, mentors, guides, older sisters, wise friends. In my blogging adventure, I've had some mentors who have "mothered" my writing progress, for whom I'm still very grateful.

We may never fully realize the impact of gratefulness—the perfectly timed, well-chosen words—but if ever there was a day for showing appreciation, whether toward an actual mother, or in her stead, toward a supportive mother figure along our blossoming, growing path, today is the perfect day to reach out and appreciate someone for the value she's added, the power she's bestowed upon your hopes and dreams.  

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Fun With the Fifties


The fifties has been a decade inspiring nostalgia. Granted, the recent release of the 1950 U.S. Census has prompted part of the retro mania—with even a "nod" to the release at the National Genealogical Society's conference later this month. All in good fun, and quite predictable.

I'm having my own fun with the fifties, too. Still working away at indexing that mammoth census release, I tried my hand at the "name review" for one of the states in my family's heritage—Florida—and discovered some interesting entries. Take this one that only a bibliophile would appreciate: a household with the surname Goethe living next door to another home boasting the surname Faulkner. What are the chances?!

While I and countless others have been volunteering through FamilySearch.org to make the 1950 census fully searchable—you can too, by the way—judging by the map provided on their website, it looks like about one third of the nation is at least twenty five percent completed. Most of the states with greater portions completed seem to be in the western third of the continent, perhaps a no-brainer, when you realize that includes Utah, home state of FamilySearch. The volunteering enthusiasm radiates outward from there.

While I did, at the beginning, work on the first task presented for the census review—called the "name review"—by focusing on my ancestors' home states, I've since regrouped to work on the data for my current home state, California. Now, the name review process for California is 83% completed, an encouraging sign, considering the size of that state's population. From there, indexers are moving on to the next task, "review document header," where 13% is already completed. The final task in the sequence is the "review families" process to group names by households. We have a long way to go on that, since the percent complete hasn't yet budged from zero.

Granted, this indexing process is a partnership between the tech muscle at Ancestry.com and the volunteering volume at FamilySearch.org. While we're still in the midst of double-checking the AI handwriting recognition readouts, you may have noticed that Ancestry has already released a tentative version on their website—and even better news is the fact that they're offering access for free. I've run into several families on my tree who now have the 1950 census included in their listing of hints.

However, as genea-blogging's "first kid on the block"—Randy Seaver—has observed, this is dubbed an "early version" of the searchable census, the Ancestry AI version, which is different from the National Archives' version. While we get the sneak peek at the 1950 census, there is still more work to be done to complete the indexing job to make the entire record fully searchable.

I remember the impressive results ten years ago, when at the release of the 1940 census for indexing, a total of one hundred sixty three thousand volunteers joined together virtually to complete in four months a project that was expected to take upwards of a year to tackle. This time around, we have the heavy hitters from the tech world pulling the bulk of the weight, but we still need people to double check what the AI handwriting recognition technology might have missed. That tech assist speeds up the process greatly—and I'm in awe of the ability of computers to read chicken scratch!—so we should be able to make better time with this project than we saw with the last census release. 

But only if we have the volunteers to do it.

Let's see how fast we can turn this project around!

Friday, May 6, 2022

Who Said So?


One of the tenets of building a family tree is to confirm assertions of fact with documentation. However, it's not just any documentation we seek, but a record as close to the event and provided by eyewitnesses to the details to approach the greatest accuracy. 

But who said so? Checking just who the eyewitness was can be an important point in clarifying whether the information is reliable. Although we've all become aware of the pitfalls of reliance on eyewitnesses—I'm thinking here of the "invisible gorilla" problem—in proving our ancestral stories, we are left with no other resource than to rely on the verification of officials.

It's when those officials must, in turn, rely on the reports of other people that we see the strength of accuracy weaken. Take death certificates: is there any time in life when loved ones are more likely, due to the stress of the moment, to forget the very details they know by heart?

And here am I, removed by one hundred years or more from the point, trying to glean from the death certificates of immigrant Michael Metzger's children where he might have been born. Is there any doubt that such "eyewitness" reports might lead a researcher astray?

While my original research goal for this month was to determine the origin of my husband's third great-grandfather, Michael Metzger senior, the man had died long before the advent of modern death certificates. However, Michael's son—also named Michael—was born before his family immigrated to Perry County, Ohio. The younger Michael's entry in the Perry County records, though also not quite as informative as the more modern death certificate records we are accustomed to seeing, did, however, report that he came from Germany (see line sixteen here).

Since the junior Michael, also an immigrant, had several children in Perry County, my thinking was to trace the death certificates of those of his children who died after the newer certificate format was adopted. Perhaps one of those newer certificates would include birth information on the deceased's father (the younger Michael).

It was a thought. But it didn't come with a helpful result.

Starting with the younger Michael's longest-living child, I could see it would be a rocky road toward finding an answer. This child, an unmarried daughter named Cecelia, died in 1943. Perhaps the length of time from Michael's own death in 1887 to that of his daughter Cecelia in 1943 may have clouded memories. Then, too, seeing that the informant on Cecelia's record was a nephew, perhaps that might have introduced mistaken reports into the record. William Welker presumed his aunt's mother had been born in Ohio—she wasn't—and then simply gave up guessing about Cecelia's father's place of birth. Verdict: unknown.

Maybe checking the death record of another Metzger child passing closer in date to Michael's own lifetime might yield better results. The one dying immediately before Cecelia was Michael's son Jacob. However, his 1928 report provided even less helpful information on Jacob's parents. Jacob's son Willard—remember, this would be a grandson of Michael, himself—was the reporting party. In his defense, Willard was born seven years after his grandfather died, so perhaps it was understandable that Willard assumed his grandfather Michael was born in Pennsylvania and his grandmother in Perry County. 

Understandable, but still incorrect.

Okay, let's try a Metzger child dying before that point—although remember, we are running out of progeny who died after that 1910 certificate format revision. The next possibility to inspect was the certificate of Michael's son John Vincent, who died in 1924. His information was provided by his wife. According to the widow, her father-in-law was born in Pennsylvania—at least agreeing with the information on her brother-in-law's death certificate four years later. And her mother-in-law was presumed to have been born in Germany.

Now, we're getting closer. But not necessarily more correct.

My last resource—as if we are voting on the most likely place for Michael to have been born—was the death report issued in 1909 for Michael's son Albert. Just because Albert's passing was the closest in time to that of Michael, don't think it will be more accurate. Again in this case, the decedent's wife served as reporting party. Albert's wife Almira—who, incidentally, happened to be a Snider, of the family line I researched last month—apparently couldn't come up with a detailed answer. The entries provided for the questions of where Albert's parents were born, simply reported: "state."

While yes, death certificates were completed almost at the point of occurrence, they include details which cannot possibly be provided by eyewitnesses attendant at the time of the event in question. Most parents die long before their children meet their own end. Even older siblings—if they were of an age to remember the event of a sibling's birth—are usually long gone by the time that sibling dies. But in this particular section of the modern death certificate, the informant is asked to report the place of birth of the decedent's parents. If recent surveys report that a majority of people don't even know all the names of their four grandparents, how are we to rely on their report of the birthplace of these same people?

Out of the four death certificates reviewed in hopes of discovering where those grandparents were born, only one indicated a foreign birthplace. And yet, there are other records indicating that not only the senior Michael Metzger was born in another country, but that his son Michael was foreign born, as well. Besides this, there are several family researchers asserting—though without showing any verification—that the native country of both Michaels was Switzerland.

While this approach did not provide any guidance in answering this question, there may be other ways to determine the answer. We'll delve into some other resources next week.


Thursday, May 5, 2022



As you work your way through the generations on your family tree, do you double-check your work? Perhaps it might even be likely that you triple-check your work. Relying solely on one document to confirm a fact on an ancestor's timeline could lead us in a mistaken direction.

Take this quandary over the birthplace of my husband's third great-grandfather, Michael Metzger. Because he died in 1843, I can't simply expect to send away for a copy of his death certificate. Such was a document not issued in the standardized format we now expect in the United States until 1910. In some cases, though, I might be able to access the pertinent information through local death indices, if they were preserved and are now accessible online.

Another research approach can be—at least for those of Michael's children who might have died closer to that 1910 date—to check his children's death certificates for reports of where their father was born. This we tried yesterday, in comparing the records for two of his younger sons, Jacob and Henry. The other two children I have in my records had died before the new certificate style began being issued. Obviously, even double-checking records may not be enough in cases like that.

Though Michael and Apollonia Metzger likely had more than the four children I've been able to find, besides Jacob and Henry, I haven't been able to locate any other death records—with the exception of the oldest of the four, also named Michael. This son Michael happened to be foreign-born, as well, likely coming from the same place where his parents had lived before their immigration to Perry County, Ohio.

What could be found on the records for this son Michael? Because he also died before the advent of the modern death certificate, the only record available for his passing was the death index kept by the county. Handily, that record set had entries filed in alphabetical order, so not only could we peruse the birthplace entered on line fifty three for son Michael's 1887 passing, but check at a glance the same detail for all the Metzgers who died in Perry County in the 1800s—including several spelling variations.

In son Michael's case, his surname was entered as "Metzgar," not an uncommon variant. While there was no provision for birthplace of parents in this index, keep in mind that younger Michael was also foreign-born. According to the index, his place of birth was Germany.

So now, triple-checking on this Metzger family, we have one modern death certificate entry showing parents born in Switzerland, another one reporting Germany, and then son Michael, in an older reporting format, also shown as German-born. Since I'm tempted to search for yet another verification—shall we go for quadruple-checking?—I glanced over all the Metzger entries in the Perry County death index, looking for all foreign-born Metzgers. Out of the thirty seven Metzgers (and spelling variants) who died in Perry County in the 1800s, only three were listed as foreign born. And all had Germany listed as their place of birth.

Where did the "Switzerland" reports come from? After all, there have been several claims online insisting the correct place of birth was in Switzerland—such as the Find A Grave entry for son Michael. Again, as had happened for last month's goal seeking the origin of the Schneider family, those claims are out there without any substantiation.

Since the younger Michael was himself born abroad, my next thought is to see whether any of his children had died after the advent of the modern death certificate. What did their record say about the birthplace of their father? We'll take a closer look at that research avenue tomorrow.

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