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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