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.  

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