Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Doubling Up


Running into possible double identities when researching an ancestor can be frustrating, as I mentioned just this past weekend. Today, I'm doubly at it with the same problem, only this time, I'm focusing on another branch of the family: my paternal grandfather's sister Rose.

Aunt Rose had supposedly been married three times. I've located records identifying her first married name—the unhelpful surname Miller—and her second marriage in 1915 to George W. Kober. George's 1932 death left Rose a widow, but not for long. According to newspaper reports, the widowed Rose Kober married a man by the name of Julius Hassinger.

My only problem: every time I tried searching for a New York City resident by that man's name, I kept finding a married man whose wife was named Helen. That's a problem. Whatever became of the new Rose Hassinger?

Not being able to locate a death record or even a burial for anyone by Rose's most recent married name, I thought I'd try a different tack: research this other Julius Hassinger to see where the information led. After all, many subsequent marriages turned out not quite the way the parties had hoped, and divorce could have been the result. If that was followed by yet another marriage for Rose, she could be lost to any researcher not aware of any new married name.

Since the original newspaper announcement of the wedding of Julius and Rose mentioned two scant details about the groom—that he had been a confirmed bachelor up to the point of their 1933 nuptials, and that he worked for the Post Office—there wasn't much upon which to base a search. Worse, since the couple lived in the greater New York City region, the chances of there being more than one man by the name of Julius Hassinger were high. After all, New York City in 1930 had a population pushing toward seven million people, providing numbers almost certain to produce name doubles.

When I looked for Julius in the 1930 census, I found information on one man with that name. The details provided in that census seemed to support what little had been mentioned about him in the announcement of his 1933 wedding. Renting a room in the household of Andrew and Sophie Siebert at 141 Whitehall Boulevard in Garden City—just outside the New York City limits—Julius, like his landlord Andrew, was reported to be a clerk in the Post Office. His reported age of forty seven at the time would have made him somewhat younger than his future bride, but I'm not yet sure of Rose's own age, only going by what the newspaper report had divulged.

Julius had reported his place of birth as New York, and his parents' origin to be Germany. The most important detail—at least, for our purposes here—was that he claimed to be a single man.

Looking further for confirmation of this Julius Hassinger—whether he was our man or not—I searched for records predating that census. A World War I draft registration card produced a birth date for one New York City man named Julius: March 3, 1883. At the time he signed the form, Julius was living in downtown Manhattan, working as a postal clerk at "Penn Terminal Station"—or Penn Station, as it is called today.

At the time, Julius gave a contact person named Ernest Hassinger, whom he identified as his brother, and who was living at the same address as Julius. However, looking for a Hassinger household in the earlier 1910 census did not produce those two names paired together. Instead, I found Julius living alone with his widowed father John. Again, Julius was listed as a clerk in the Post Office. But this time, the entry showed that Julius' father had arrived in the United States in 1872, shortly before the then-twenty seven year old Julius would have been born.

If we turned the search in the opposite direction, time wise, there would be no sign of Julius' supposed wife, Rose. Despite their marriage in 1933, by the time of the 1940 census, Julius—with an estimated birth year of 1883, agreeing with the data from the earlier enumerations—was sporting a considerably younger wife by the name of Helen. 

Yet, looking more closely at that actual document, there are a few loose threads which invite us to tug at them and see if we can unravel this illusion of double identities. The first detail was the fact that the 1940 census asked where residents lived five years prior to that date. Unfortunately, the entry for Julius was overwritten, making it hard to decipher the true answer. Transcribers at took his answer to read, "New Haven." I think the answer might have been something different: Woodhaven.

You might recall that, when Rose had been married to her second husband, George Kober, her address had been a home in part of Queens borough called Woodhaven. When Rose remarried, could the Hassinger couple simply have retained the old Kober residence as their own? More telling was the five-year-prior answer for Julius' 1940s wife Helen: she stated her home, five years before that, was not in Woodhaven, but in Manhattan.

Bingo: Julius and Helen weren't married to each other, five years before 1940. In fact, that led me to locate information on when Julius and Helen might have wed: 1939.

So, this detail makes me feel more positive that we have the right Julius and not, as I had previously thought, his name twin. Something must have happened to Rose between their 1933 wedding and Julius' subsequent marriage to Helen. Whether it was a divorce or a death, there should be a record. But where was it?

Just to make sure, and to follow Julius' trail to the end, I located his Find a Grave memorial in Florida—a customary destination for many retired New York City residents. Julius died on February 3, 1964, according to his obituary, and was buried in Fort Lauderdale. His only survivor mentioned in the obituary was his wife Helen. No children—and no mention of any previous marriage to someone named Rose.

Since the 1940 census led me to believe that Rose and Julius had established their residence at the former Kober home in Woodhaven—part of Queens within New York City limits—it was puzzling that there was no documentation to help find what became of Rose. Clearly she was out of the picture between 1935 and 1939.

However, I remembered that Julius had previously lived and worked in Garden City, which lies outside the border for New York City. Thinking any records of Rose's demise might instead be listed in Nassau County records, I checked the broader digitized collections for New York State. There, in a 1937 New York State death index, was a mention of one Rose Hassinger, who died on November 14 in North Hempstead, the same town where we had found Julius living in the 1940 census.

I still haven't found an obituary for Rose—if there was any—nor have I located any indication of her burial, other than a volunteer's note on George Kober's Find a Grave memorial that he was "husband of Rose." This will require a call to the cemetery where George was buried to see whether I can find any details on Rose's final resting place. But it at least brings some closure to the pursuit of the mysterious Aunt Rose of the few family photographs passed along to me by older relatives.

True, that only answers the question of what became of Rose. Where she came from is an entirely different question. While I'll review what I already know about this issue tomorrow, there is far more I still need to learn about the part of the family which connects Rose and her brother—my tight-lipped grandfather—to their forebears.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...