Friday, June 14, 2024

So Much More to This Story


Do you ever look for clues when you are stumped on a stubbornly-hidden ancestor in your family tree? Sometimes when I do that, I run into unexpected details that tell me there may be so much more to the ancestor's story than what I was expecting. When it comes to Clinton Metzger, the supposed son of Joseph Metzger, that is exactly what I'm beginning to think.

For one thing, census records for Joseph's household do not support the notion that Clinton was his son. Take the 1880 census entry for then-sixty year old Joseph and his family in Knox County, Ohio. Joseph, born in Pennsylvania to immigrant parents—as we already know, since Joseph's father was my mother-in-law's ancestor—was by then raising five children along with his wife, Rachel. Also in the household was his step-daughter, Mary Houck, whose very appearance in that census tells me that her mother's entry in the 1857 Knox County Metzger marriage record was incorrect in labeling her as "Miss" Rachel Houck. See? There's always more to the story than what appears in one single document.

Those entries in the 1880 census for the five Metzger children—Joseph, Cornelius, George, Joanna, and Albert—provide ages, therefore approximate years of birth to guide us. Thus, we can figure that the junior Joseph was born approximately in 1859, Cornelius in 1861, George in 1863, Joanna in 1866, and Albert in 1871.

Notice, however, that there was no mention of any son named Clinton. Could he have been a son born after the 1880 census? Possibly. Or a son born right after the Metzger marriage and out of the house by 1880? Perhaps. But at this point, there is no sign of any Clinton in this Metzger household.

Incidentally, flipping to the 1900 census where Clinton Metzger appears with his own family, the record shows that he was born about June of 1860, giving enough wiggle room to fit within the approximate birth years of the five in the 1880 Metzger household.

There are, however, other concerning signs popping up when we look on the Clinton side of the equation. Take, for instance, Clinton's own marriage license application in 1881. Scrawled across the header containing his name and that of his bride, Ida Bell, was the admonishment, "Don't publish for 3 weeks." Why? There's surely a story there, as well.

Yet, on the other hand, Clinton's 1900 census entry provides the promising sign: his dad was born in Pennsylvania and his mom in Ohio, just like our Joseph and Rachel.

One sure way to settle this puzzle might be to locate Joseph Metzger's will. Unless there had been a terrible falling out between father and son, surely Clinton's name would appear among the legatees, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, it appears that when Joseph died in 1885—perhaps unexpectedly at age sixty six—he left no will.

That, however, is not the end of the story, for his widow Rachel made sure to leave a will of her own before her passing in 1912. Her will, though simple and direct, was drawn up in 1893, several years before her death, and ultimately included a codicil providing more detail on the daughter from her first marriage. In that document, we can easily glean the names of all her surviving Metzger children: James, Joseph, Cornelius, George, Joanna, and Albert.

No Clinton.

Now what?

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