Thursday, December 15, 2022

Looking for the Rest of the Family


When you are stumped with a family history question, collateral lines certainly can come in handy—if you can find them. Right now, I'm on the hunt for the siblings of Charles Eggert, one of New York City's watch and chronometer manufacturers, beginning in 1848. Thanks to various snippets found online, we've learned that Charles took over his father's business at that point, a handy detail which infers that his father was actually Dominic Eggert.

We can't say we conclusively know that, at this point. We still need to find appropriate documentation. And we are hung up by that nasty enumeration divide of 1850, before which date census records only provided the name of the head of household, with a mere age-bracketed head count for all the others living in the same residence. Those nameless listings would tell us nothing about Dominic Eggert's children, even if they were all living at home earlier than 1850. Thus, my whole quest in delving into this Eggert family tree—to see how my uncle DeMilt's grandfather John Eggert might have been related to Dominic—has, so far, been defeated.

When I began looking for Charles, in hopes that his records might reveal any siblings' names, I did find him recorded in the 1860 census, right below the household of another Eggert, listed only as D. Eggert. Dominic? If so, the household included residents of all ages, with at least four different surnames listed. Besides an older woman who was most likely Dominic's wife, there were two other Eggerts named Sylvester and Jane.

If those turn out to be Charles' siblings, we have a start on our collateral line list—but not any indication of a connection to our John Eggert. Pushing a decade earlier, the 1850 enumeration for Dominic once again included the names of Sylvester and Jane. This time, the name of the older woman—Mary Anne—also revealed a notation by the enumerator, "his W." Looking up and down the page of this census, it appears that, for each oldest woman in a household, the enumerator had also added either that same note, or a more complete, "his wife," as explanation. Even if we still don't know for certain the relationship of Sylvester or Jane (but we can guess!), we have the enumerator's take on the relationship between Dominic and Mary Anne.

Those two points alone are not enough satisfactory information to resolve my research question. Looking further for Charles, I discovered an obituary. Granted, many obituaries of our own era seem to "tell all," but prior centuries' newspaper notices of someone's passing sometimes left much omitted.

Sure enough, such was the case for Charles B. Eggert's obituary in the October 13, 1883, edition of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The article was quite complimentary of the man, heaping accolades upon his character, and providing details of his work history—not only concerning his family's business but also his association with Tiffany & Co. Yet, as to his family, only: "a widow, two sons and two daughters." 

With a line like that, though I hoped for some siblings' names, I was already prepared to discover no mention of other survivors in the family.

There was, however, one helpful detail. The article had mentioned that Charles Eggert's death had been "quite unexpected." In explaining why, the writer noted, 

Three weeks ago to-day, [Charles] attended the funeral of his youngest brother and was apparently in the best of health.

Youngest brother? Of course, once again there was no name given. But we have a calendar, and can certainly calculate the three weeks prior to when Charles' obituary was published. Next step in this genealogical goose chase: determine which Eggert died just before September 22, 1883. 

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