Monday, May 2, 2022

A Messy Goal


Goals seem to go hand in hand with to-do lists. We want to accomplish our goals, and placing them in a list keeps those goal before our eyes and demands us to keep a progress report in mind. While the overarching purpose of setting goals might then seem to be crossing them off our to-do list, the real reason should be far deeper.

When it comes to the annual process of setting my family history research goals for the upcoming year—naming my Twelve Most Wanted ancestors—I have to remind myself to steer clear of easily-done and veer toward the messy, the challenging, and even the near-impossible.

This month's goal fits that first category: the messy. Just as I did last month with my mother-in-law's Schneider line, I want to document the route taken to Perry County, Ohio, by settlers Michael and Apollonia Metzger.

Michael, by the time of the 1840 census, was at least fifty years of age. As head of household, he claimed ten other people in his residence, presumably including his wife and up to nine children of their own. Included in those nine children are four whom I've already partially documented. One of them, their son Michael, is in my mother-in-law's direct line.

The difficulty is that I'm missing quite a bit of the Metzger picture. But that's not what makes it all so messy. Of the four documented children I have listed, two seemed to vie for use of the same name—hence, the messiness of it all. One, named Jacob, was likely born in Perry County in 1831. The other, named Henry Jacob but often going by the name Jacob as well, was born there in 1833.

Of course, since the parents of Jacob and Henry Jacob were born in the late 1700s and died before the kind of documentation existed which would have easily settled our question about their origin, I have to rely on inferences provided in their children's records. Hence, the second messy aspect about Jacob and Jacob.

Here, we have Jacob #1's death report, showing his parents' origin:

Name of father: Micheal Metzgar [sic]
Birthplace of father: Germany
Maiden Name of mother: Unknown
Birthplace of mother: Germany

Jacob #2 has conflicting information:

Name of father: Michael Metzger
Birthplace of father: Switzerland
Maiden Name of mother: Appolonia Rheyman
Birthplace of mother: Switzerland

Fortunately for us, the death certificate for Jacob #2 actually was listed under his first name, Henry. Unfortunately for us, his alternate, preferred name, Jacob Metzger, provided a different take on his parents' birthplace in a local history book published almost three full decades before his death. In that version, "Jacob" reported his parents' origin not as Switzerland, the location identified in his death certificate, but as Germany, just as the family of his brother, Jacob #1, had done. Which report was right?

Not to complicate matters, but I happened to notice that Jacob #1's death information was reported by Mary "Metzgar," presumably his wife. And yet, we see from the Perry County biographical sketch that Jacob #2 claimed his wife was Mary. Did something get switched in all those records? 

This is the kind of detail which makes me cry, "Messy!" Before moving forward to see whether we can trace the immigrant trail of Michael and Apollonia Metzger to their origin in the "old country," we'll need to untangle those details on their two sons, first, to see which Jacob is which.


Image above: Detail from 1910 Perry County, Ohio, death certificate of Henry Metzger, showing names and origin of his parents, Michael Metzger and Appolonia Rheyman, according to reporting party, Leta Metzger; image courtesy

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