Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Too Close for Comfort


What do you do when someone else's research suggests a family connection that hasn't shown up in your own records? That DNA match I've found whose tree claims an ancestor named Clinton Metzger has introduced a nagging problem. As it turns out, this may be a problem which is too close for comfort, at least if I'm assuming this is a case of mistaken identity.

First of all, I have no record of any Metzger by that name, Clinton, in my mother-in-law's tree, and yet someone—wait, make that three someones—matching my husband claims such an ancestral name. What's the explanation?

I thought the best approach to dealing with this would be to face the problem head on: look more closely at the details known about this Clinton Metzger. So today—and, who knows, maybe for the rest of the week—we'll take a look at what can be found online.

Having decided to launch into that question, I ran across some interesting details. Let's just say those details don't exactly help the situation; they may actually compound the problem. Keep in mind that in the background, I'm slowly chugging through generation after generation of Metzger descendants of my mother-in-law's founding immigrant Michael Metzger.

Right now, I'm nearly completed with the line of Michael's son Joseph. My current focus is the line of Joseph's son James. James' middle child, a daughter named Florence, married someone by the name of Delbert Ulrey, a farmer from Morrow County, Ohio. Florence's 1908 wedding took place in Delaware County, the next county over from Morrow County, the same county where she had been born. All this was easily gleaned from their marriage license application.

Though Ulrey may seem like a less-common surname, I hadn't counted on the number of times that name showed up in documents, incorrectly spelled as Ulery. Even in their own application, handwriting of the clerk who completed the form made the surname appear to be spelled that alternate way, though looking at Delbert's own signature, it was clear that the spelling should have been Ulrey, not Ulery.

Though the newly married couple, Delbert and Florence, spent the rest of their life in Morrow County, connections with Delaware County remained. I hadn't counted on just how much those connections did remain, however, until I started looking at records for Clinton Metzger, this DNA match's supposed connecting ancestor.

Just looking at Clinton Metzger's Find a Grave memorial pointed out that sticking point right away. Clinton Metzger—at least, according to Find a Grave volunteers—had a daughter named Ida May. Ida May, in turn, married someone in Delaware County by the name of Ulery.

Yes, Ulery. Check it out for yourself on the headstone for the couple. Ida May married someone named Ernest Gale Ulery.  Not Ulrey.

So now I have Florence Metzger marrying Delbert Ulrey, and Ida May Metzger marrying Ernest Ulery, all in Delaware County. Granted, the two brides were eleven years apart in age, but even in a place the size of Delaware County—twenty seven thousand people at the time—the place was small enough for some people to have noticed, and possibly confused, the two family names.

With that caution in mind, we'll proceed even more carefully as we begin to explore just who that Clinton Metzger might have been, and if—or how—that man connected with my mother-in-law's Metzger family.


  1. In my county we have Schaffers, Shaffers, Schafers, (I think there is one more spelling). Some are related and different family members spelled the name differently. Some are not related at all. And worst, since these names go back to the 1800's - Schaffers married Shaffers, married Schafers and on and on. My one blessing is that I do not have Schaffers in my tree. Good luck!

    1. Oh, what a mess to research! I can see why you are glad to have missed that research puzzle in your own tree, Miss Merry. Thanks for sharing that, though: a helpful example to keep in mind. That stuff happens!


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