Thursday, February 14, 2013

Confirming Hunches

Don't you just love when you find a record that confirms a hunch you've had for a while? I had one of these moments last night when my mom messaged me to let me know that the death certificates we ordered from the Pennsylvania Department of Health back in July/August finally came in. Anyone who has ordered anything from the PA DOH knows how slow they are to fill requests but I can't really complain considering they're only $3 a piece. When I ordered an Alabama death certificate, it had cost something like $30 but it arrived within a week. So "you get what you pay for" is obviously at work here.

Death certificate for Caroline's son showing her maiden
name as something looking like "Wahr".
Offline genealogy isn't easy for me since I live in England but only have one branch that came from England. Getting records sent to England isn't cheap so I always have them sent to my mom in Pennsylvania. Last night, she sent me a message saying the records had come in and started rattling off some of the details on them. When she said "George's mother's maiden name Wake or Wahe" I got excited and asked "Wahr?!" She replied "could be!" and I knew I'd struck gold. Let me backtrack and explain why.

The Bauer branch of my tree hasn't been easy to research. My grandfather had effectively been abandoned by his father when he was a child and though they reconnected later in life, I don't think they ever got particularly close. So my grandfather didn't know a whole lot about his father's ancestry. On top of that, I've tackled obstacles like the family being missing from the 1910 census and my second great grandfather sharing the exact same name as someone else roughly of his age with two sisters who have the same names as his sisters (more on this later).

I'd found that my third great grandfather, August Bauer, had been from Germany, settled in Butler County, PA as a child and then in his 20's began moving south into Pittsburgh. In 1860, he was living unmarried in Allegheny City near the post office of Perrysville and by 1870, he was married to a woman named Caroline, had a few kids, and had moved deeper into the heart of Allegheny City, which has since been incorporated into Pittsburgh. Caroline then died before 1900, meaning I can't find her on the PA DOH Death Indices which start in 1906. So how was I going to find out more about Caroline? Ordering the death certificates of her children might tell me her maiden name but while I waited for the PA DOH to take it's time merry retrieving them, I did some browsing of census records.

I knew August was unmarried in 1860 while living near Perrysville which meant he probably didn't meet and marry his wife Caroline while still in Butler County. I knew when and where Caroline was born thanks to census records of both her and her children. The main thing I didn't know was her maiden name. What if I did some searching for any Caroline (before they were married) born in either France of Germany (she had been from Alsace-Lorraine, an area of France that bordered Germany and switched ownership several times, therefore her birth place is alternately recorded as either France or Germany) around 1842 and living in the specific areas August was probably living in during the years they must have been married? I thought it would make perfect sense if August had met Caroline and married her in Perrysville before moving further into Allegheny so I narrowed my search to post office Perrysville first. And to my great surprise and pleasure, there weren't many Caroline's that fit the bill. One by the name of "Wear" stood out (other records of the same family revealed it to be more likely spelled as Wahr) because some records said she was from France and some and Germany, just like the later records for my Caroline said. And after finding her parents in 1870, it showed she was no longer a part of the household, which meant she either died or had married and moved out. And the man she married could have been August.

It made sense but of course I couldn't confirm it. There was no way I was going to add this to my tree based on purely circumstantial links. I had a clue or a hunch but nothing more.

So when this death record of one of August and Caroline's sons came in with a maiden name that looks like "Wahr", I knew I had confirmed my hunch. While the last letter doesn't look much like an "r", according to censuses, there are no other Caroline's of the right age living in the right area(s) with a similar maiden name. So having already found the census records for Caroline Wahr before she was married, I now can confirm her parents names too and that they were born in Württemberg. I was literally doing a happy dance last night and this morning, I had email attachments of the scanned death records (thanks, Dad!) so I can now add them to my tree.

Additionally, I was thrilled to find out one of the other records that came in is the wrong record for my ancestor. Yes, that's right, I'm happy that it's the incorrect record. Why? Well, remember when I said that another individual (not in my tree) shared the exact name of my second great grandfather, Edward William Bauer, and was born roughly around the same time? Well, it appears there's been some confusion regarding them. I had a Freemason record of him saying he died in 1921 and so I also found him on the PA Death Index. But then I found him on the 1930 census! I knew it was him because he was living with one of his daughters, who was present on earlier census records that link them to my great grandfather too. So I knew it was the correct family which could only mean the 1921 death was for the other Edward William Bauer but I wanted to order the record to be sure. And that is why I was pleased to see Edward's parent's names listed as Charles and Rosina, not August and Caroline.

It does mean I now don't know when Edward died and that the Freemason record is not his. I had thought that it was because I knew his son (my great grandfather) was indeed a Freemason and so I thought it made sense that he might have been too. At the time, I had no idea there was another Edward William Bauer around the same age living in the same area! At least I've got it sorted out now and everything is more clear.

It just goes to show that sometimes you definitely need to go offline to confirm your hunches or find new information.

In light of all this, I haven't had time to do my daily Family History Writing Challenge but it will be back tomorrow.


  1. Oh my, July's requests JUST came? This does not make me hopeful about the requests I sent in November. :( Happy for you though! Those moments when you confirm your hunch are great!