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.


  1. I can't wait to read what you find out!

    1. Well, Miss Merry, who knows? It will be an experiment, just like all the other research challenges we encounter.


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