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. 

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