Monday, June 24, 2024

That One Certain Thing


Benjamin Franklin's pithy remark that "in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes" has come to mind lately. Sometimes, we make a family history search such a struggle that perhaps we omit the one certain thing that could provide the answer we seek. After all, despite my quandary about the identity of one Clinton Metzger—one and the same as Cornelius, or a different sibling?—there was one sure thing I could do to determine Clinton's connection to my mother-in-law's Metzger family. Son of Joseph Metzger or not, I could check for his death certificate.

Of course, going solely by the information provided on the Metzger family from census records, the name Clinton never appeared as a son of Joseph and Rachel Walker Metzger. It was only working from the other direction—from DNA matches backwards in time to their parents, then grandparents and beyond—that I encountered the assertion that there was a son named Clinton Metzger.

Clinton, whoever he might have been, was said to have died in 1933. I may have my doubts about the dual entities claiming that 1860 approximate date of birth, but I know where to find instant gratification on my desire to locate his death record: his entry on

Sure enough, just like his Find A Grave entry indicated, Clinton Metzger had died on September 15, 1933, in Delaware County, Ohio. It was so easy to find, I wondered why it didn't occur to me to reach for it sooner. The clincher: his parents were listed as Joseph Metzger and Rachel Walker, just as those DNA cousins had already predicted. Never mind that the closest of those Clinton-descended DNA matches only share twenty one centiMorgans or less with my husband, the document settles that question. He's from the same Metzger family as my mother-in-law.

I may never be able to determine what became of Cornelius Metzger. It could be that this was merely a case of a careless census enumerator—though yes, I know, Cornelius would have been a more fitting name than Clinton for the child of a devout Catholic. And don't forget that, even in the early 1900s, his mother named him in her will—and was strangely silent about any child named Clinton—so not only was there such a person as Cornelius, but he was not one of those unfortunate children who die young and leave barely a trace. Despite whatever may have happened to the disappearing Cornelius, I can still proceed with more confidence in adding Clinton to the family tree—and thus, all his descendants so I can link those three more DNA matches to my mother-in-law's tree.

For now, we'll set aside that question about Cornelius for another year. There are more Metzger siblings to explore before this month's research project is completed.

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