30 April 2017

In Plain Sight!

This post is the fourth in a series about my research in solving the two-part history mystery of . . . Who IS Eva; Eva Ramer? Or, Eva PFAFF?  And, who is George PFAFF? You can read the previous posts in the series by clicking any one of the following links: Grandma Isn't Playing Nice; The Grandparents Are Out of Control!; and Grandma, A Little Cooperation . . . PLEASE!!

Well, we “know” from my last post, Grandma, A Little Cooperation . . . PLEASE!, that Eva, is Eva PFAFF.  And, that conclusion was based on A LOT of research and the piecing together of original and derivative sources; records that recorded primary and secondary information based on direct or indirect knowledge.

I noted in my last post, that as I was writing it, I was again re-reviewing my information, documents and sources.  And, that I had made some “discoveries” that I hadn’t noticed in the . . . oh, I don’t know . . . the first 100 times I had read, reviewed, and transcribed; read, reviewed; and then, read and reviewed the documents and sources, yet again!!  Let me just say here, there is no such thing, as going through and over something too many times.  You WILL, always . . .  ALWAYS . . . find something that you’ve missed; misread; didn’t give importance to; gave too much importance to; misinterpreted; failed to appreciate the significance of, etc., etc.

Let me say it again . . .

there is no such thing, as going through and over something too many times.  You WILL, always . . . ALWAYS . . . find something that you’ve missed; misread; didn’t give importance to; gave too much importance to; misinterpreted; failed to appreciate the significance of, etc., etc.

This simply cannot be stressed enough!!!

So . . . as I was writing my last post, I was again reviewing my research, and even though I had browsed page-by-page each of the census records for each of the counties; Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, and Lehigh.  Going through each city / town / borough looking for ALL PFAFF families and noting any young males in those households that fit the approximate age of George – the gentleman named as the “father” of Eva on several documents, I decided yet again, that I would search the census records one more time.  What the heck, probably fruitless, right?!!  After all, I had thrown everything, “but the kitchen sink” into each of my previous searches!!  And, I had gone through all those census records, in all of those counties, in each and every town, borough and city, page-by-page and hadn’t found him!  But, hey, what the heck, I’ll throw in the “kitchen sink” this time!!! 

In the blog post dated, 19 September 2015, The Grandparents are Out of Control!, the marriage announcement, “SQUIRE SNYDER TIES A HYMENEAL KNOT,” which ran in the Allentown Democrat, Wednesday, 8 June 1892, announced the wedding of Eva’s mother, Louisa MILHEIM and a gentleman by the name of Oscar Ramer.  This wedding announcement is NOT announcing the marriage of Eva’s parents.  While Louisa is Eva’s biological mother; Oscar is most certainly not the biological father. We know this because, the wedding between Louisa and Oscar took place a full three years and four months after Eva’s birth.  Eva’s birth certificate records her parents as Louisa MILHEIM and George PFAFF.  The 1900 US Federal Census records Eva PFAFF, age 11, living in her grandparents’ - Charles and Mary MILLHIME - home, located in Hokendauqua Village, Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Eva’s marriage license records her maiden name as Eva PFAFF.  The Allentown Democrat announced, 20 May 1911, the marriage between Eva PFAFF and George E. W.STARR. And, Eva’s death certificate records her father’s name as George PFAFF; Eva’s daughter, Catherine, provided that information.

While I was confident in my conclusion that Eva was NOT Oscar Ramer’s daughter and that our mystery guy, George PFAFF, indeed was Eva’s father, I still didn’t have enough “proof.”  I wasn’t exhausted!  Nor, had I looked I at, or through, every record set or data collection.  I hadn’t gone through every archive; repository; church; cemetery; funeral home or library.  There was still a lot more, A LOT more that I needed to do.  I needed to aspire to that Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS) of a “reasonably exhaustive search.”  Did I think I’d find anything that would alter my conclusion?  No, not really.  However, I needed to be open-minded enough to be open to that possibility – the possibility that I could find something that definitively proved me wrong and take me in a different direction.  I was okay with that.  After all, my goal was, has been, and is, to research my family; my ancestors, and to document their life and lives.  I don’t want to chase after a person or family that isn’t mine. 

So, my next step was to hire a professional genealogist to do “on site” research in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.  While I would have loved to travel home to my home state and the stomping grounds of my youth, my schedule and some other things – life! – simply didn’t permit it.  So, contracting with a professional genealogist in the ancestral geographical area of interest, and requesting additional documents and local archive searches, was the best alternative.  And, I was able to learn and discover some interesting things that both furthered my research and ultimately, supported my conclusions. 

My specific research focus for the professional genealogist was to visit the Lehigh County courthouse and locate the courthouse file and docket reference the fornication and bastardy case for Oscar Ramer; Session: January 1892, page 592, No. 26.  My contract was for five hours of research, plus expenses.  However, he agreed, that if time permitted – that is, the focus of his (my) research was achieved – he’d search the courthouse records for a marriage license for George PFAFF and Louisa MILHIEM.  I believed, IF a marriage took place, it would have been between 1888 and 1889.

The following information was included in the genealogist’s research notes.

“Lehigh County Court of Quarter Sessions Docket Book “J” provided index and file No. 26.  This entry from January Session, 1892, dated 5 January, stated that Oscar Ramer had posted a $500.00 bond to guarantee his appearance at the next criminal court session which would have been in April 1892.  At that time he would have to answer the charges brought against him by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

The genealogist noted that there are two sources of records for these Quarter Court Sessions:

  1. The Session Docket Book which included the index of the names of the defendant along with a short entry providing a brief description of the proceedings.
  2. The associated paper file that might include actual full transcripts of what occurred in the courtroom

The genealogist noted that Docket book “J” included entries through January 1892.  And, the following Docket book “K” began with entries beginning in January 1895.  He could find no explanation for why this gap of three years existed in these Docket book entries.  In his speaking with the courthouse clerks, he learned this problem had never been previously discovered in these records.

Well, of course not; is anyone surprised that it was in the research of MY family that this “problem” was discovered?  Ugh, I know that I am not the only family genealogist that feels that way when researching their family.  If I am helping a friend or co-worker, all the pieces of the puzzle – err, records – just fall into place; but my family?  Nope, can’t have that!!  What fun would that be?!!

The genealogist did review the microfilm of the original court file papers for January Session 1892 through the January Session 1893.  He noted that the entry for Oscar Ramer, file #26 case should have appeared in April 1892.  Even if it had been continued to a later session, he believed it certainly would have been resolved prior to January 1893.  He found no entries for Ramer, file #26.

The genealogist noted possible reasons why no later appearance of the Ramer court case were found:

  1. The original paper file was lost
  2. The conflict between the mother and the accused father was resolved out-of-court prior to the scheduled court date in April 1892

Now, for a point of clarification.  I did not suspect that this 1892 court case, for charges of fornication and bastardy had anything to do with Eva and her parentage.  Remember, Eva, was already three years old by January 1892.  What was more likely, the charges were for a more recent event; Louisa MILHEIM’s pregnancy with daughter Mamie, who was born, 25 April 1892, while this court case was still being decided / settled. 

The genealogist suspects, in the absence of a court case, that Oscar Ramer and Louisa MILHEIM negotiated an agreement before the continuance date in April 1892. 

Louisa’s and Oscar’s daughter, Mamie, was born in April 1892 and they were married in June 1892; is there any doubt as to what agreement was reached during the negotiations?

The genealogist then turned his attention to Oscar and Louisa’s marriage license and he noted . . .

“The license application states both Oscar and Louisa were single.  If Louisa had been previously married and widowed or divorced, the application should have listed her as such, not single.”

I noted that the genealogist’s findings supported my conclusions.  Although I had shared with him what records and information I had, and where I had already looked, my conclusions based on my research were purposefully omitted so as not to bias his findings.

So . . . as I was writing my last post, I was again reviewing my research, and even though I had browsed page-by-page each of the census records for each of the counties; Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, and Lehigh.  Going through each city / town / borough looking for ALL PFAFF families and noting any young males in those households that fit the approximate age of George – the gentleman named as the “father” of Eva on several documents, I decided yet again, that I would search the census records one more time.  What the heck, probably fruitless, right?!!  After all, I had thrown “everything, but the kitchen sink” into each of my previous searches!!  And, I had gone through all those census records, in all of those counties, in each and every town, borough and city, page-by-page and hadn’t found him!  But, hey, what the heck, I’ll throw in the “kitchen sink” this time!!!

So, what do you think happened?

8 September 1870 - US Federal Census - George Pfaff

  • 1870 US Federal Census @ Ancestry.com
  • Note, David PFAFF, Head of Household is listed on the last line of the previous page and not shown here

Do you see the kitchen sink?!! 

Picture me doing the genealogy dance; accompanied by a hoot and a holler!!  There’s George (!) on the 1870 US Federal Census; recorded on 8 September 1870 living in Slatington, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with his family.  He’s one.  His parents are David PFAFF and Sally. 

Wait, what?  Hold that thought for a minute; I’ve seen this before.  I’ve seen David’s name before.  Where are my research notes?  My notes record that I found this same family in the 1880 US Federal Census, living in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.  The Head of Household was recorded as “Dana;” followed by Sally Ann, wife; “Gengrele, son;” and John, son. 

While the enumerator’s handwriting is extremely poor and the transcriber obviously had great difficulty making out the names, I believe, after careful study of the record that “Dana” is DAVID and that “Gengrele” is GEORGE M

9 June 1880 - US Federal Census - George Pfaff

  • 1880 US Federal Census @ Ancestry.com

I had noted in my research notes that George would have been 21 the year that Eva was born, 1889, making him a candidate for the mysterious “George PFAFF.” A candidate worth looking at further.  Searching the local newspapers of the area; the Allentown Leader published David PFAFF’s obituary in their 9 and 10 June 1908 issues.  And, the Allentown Democrat ran an article, 11 June 1908 honoring his Civil War service; prompting me to search for and subsequently purchase a copy of his Civil War pension file.  I hadn’t found “my George,” but David’s son, George in this 1880 census was a good candidate, not having anything further to go on, I needed this file in my pursuit of researching and reviewing every piece of evidence that could be found to either rule in, or to rule out, any possible George with the PFAFF / PAFF surname that was of the right age, in the right time, and place to be Eva’s father.

While I waited for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to process my request for David’s pension file, I put this research aside and documented Eva’s maternal side; the MILHEIMs.

When I received David’s pension file from NARA, I first read through it – all 69 pages – I then set it aside for just a bit.  When I next came back to it, in a day or so, I transcribed the file in its entirety; word for word.  And, I disappointedly noted at the time, that this wasn’t the PFAFF family I was looking for, there was no record or recording of George anywhere in the file.  So, I filed the record away.  I documented the information it contained and I noted my findings, or lack thereof, in my research notes. This was a case of what the professionals call “negative research;” that, is my research of, and review of the records to this point, yielded negative results.  This “George,” wasn’t “my George.”

When did I review the 1880 US Federal Census?  When did I order, read, review and transcribe the Civil War Pension file for David PFAFF?  I reviewed the 1880 US Federal Census and ordered the pension file in November 2015.  I received,  read, reviewed and transcribed the pension file, January 2016. 

It’s now spring of 2017 and there’s George!  But, this makes no sense.  I looked at this George; this family, a year ago and while on paper it would seem that they were very good candidates for the person and family I was looking for, my subsequent research seemed to indicate otherwise.  So, I don’t get it!  Time for a call to to a good friend in California; we frequently work through research conundrums, issues and strategies together.  I made the call and what she hears on her end is . . .

Holy heck, I found him!

By the way, that’s the “family friendly” version! 

I explained and then said, but, I don’t get it.  I looked at this George!  I looked at this family!  And, while right age, right place; right time fit, it couldn’t be him, because this George wasn’t mentioned in any other record after the 1880 US Federal Census, and David PFAFF, the Civil War soldier, the soldier whose pension file I ordered, didn’t mention George, at all.  So, I had concluded a year ago that this wasn’t THE PFAFFs that I was looking for.

And, my ever patient friend said, “do you still have the pension file?”  Why, yes, yes, I do.  And, we went through it . . . again.  Literally, I read it to her; word for word; line by line.  When I got to . . .

“Have you any children living? If so, please state their names and the dates of their birth.”

And, David listed his children. 

I kept reading.  But, my friend said STOP!  Go back and read that again.  Okay . . .

“Have you any children living? If so, please state their names and the dates of their birth.”

And, David listed his children. 

I kept reading.  Again, my friend says . . . STOP!  Read it again . . .

“Have you any children living? If so, please state their names and the dates of their birth.”

And, David listed his children. 

And, I again, continued reading.  And, my friend says . . . “No!, Tracy, take a minute and think about what that sentence says!  One, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand; four, . . . Holy . . . he’s DEAD!!! 

Can, you just picture my friend on the other end saying . . . “ding, ding, ding!  And, WE have a winner!!”

Son of a . . . err . . . gun!  That  means I’ve had the answer to who George PFAFF was; who Eva’s father was, for over a year!!  One . . . whole . . . entire year!! 

He WAS in PLAIN SIGHT!!  And, yet . . . I had missed him!! 

This is why we take copious and detailed research notes.  This is why we document both positive and negative research.  This is why we read, review, and transcribe ALL documents. This is why we “collect” all same name persons and families when we are looking to sort out who is who in a genealogy history mystery.  This is why we cite our sources, so that, in the advent we need to retrace our steps to determine why we did or didn’t do something; why we did or didn’t rule out someone, we can retrace our steps to the documents that we used to base our opinions and conclusions on.  Wash, rinse and repeat many, many times.  I cannot stress enough, and I am constantly reminded of this all the time; when researching, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, take the time to periodically go back through your research – your notes, documents, timelines, etc., etc.  from the beginning! – Do NOT SKIP THIS VITAL PROCESS!  Oft times, the “brick walls” we encounter are those of our own making.  Let me remind you . . .

One entire year!  Fifty-two weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 , minutes, and 31,536,000 seconds.  And, . . . I had him . . . all along!  He was in plain sight, and . . . I missed him!!

We, genealogists – as a community – could successfully apply for any brick mason’s job.  Experience?  Oh, we have experience!!!

We’re really good at building walls . . . walls that are impenetrable.  Walls that are indestructible; walls that will stand for years, decades and centuries!

Personally, though, as a genealogist, I’d much rather have the skill set of an “explosive technician;” a person that is skilled in construction demolition – you know, bringing down those brick walls. Nope, not one brick at a time; all at once – turning them into sand!!!

So, mystery solved?  Yes.  But, another one surfaces; what happed to George?  Why didn’t anyone beyond my grandmother, Eva’s daughter, know about her father?  They didn’t even know his name? I’ll fill you in; watch for a future post.

This questionnaire, a quarterly payment review,  in the pension file was completed by David PFAFF, 4 May 1898.  Eva was born in January 1889; George PFAFF was still living, at the very least, nine months prior to that!  By the time his father, David, completed this questionnaire in 1898, George was deceased.  Well, that’s a nine year window I now have to work with.

Now, misery loves company, so please tell me that I am not the only one who has missed the obvious.  Have any of your ancestors been hiding in plain sight?  I’d loved to hear your stories and how you ultimately discovered what was there the whole time.


Copyright © 2017 Family Preserves; Tracy L Meyers

20 December 2016

American Bandstand

Did you know my mom, Carolyn KRIEBEL? 
1958 Graduation Picture - Carolyn Kriebel
Were you a 1958 Graduate of Schwenksville High School? 
Schwenksville High School
Or, are you a child or family member of a 1958 graduate?  IF you answered YES to any of these questions . . . I’m interested in YOU!! 

If you are the graduate, I’m interested in your memories of my Mom, Carolyn KRIEBEL.  If you are a child or family member of a graduate, I’m interested in any stories that you might be able to share about your family member’s memories of their high school days and their classmates. 

I, sadly, know nothing about Mom’s school days beyond the bio included with her senior photo in the 1958 Schwenksville High School Lanconian yearbook.  The bio reads . . .

Class President 9; Yearbook Editor 12; A.A. 9, 10, 11, 12; Band 9, 10, 11; Glee Club 10, 11, 12; Combo 10, 11; Basketball, J.V. 10; Varsity 11, 12; Interclass Basketball 9; Interclass Volleyball 9, 10, 11; Tri-Hi-Y President 9; Dancing Club 10, 11; Future Nurses Club 10; Newspaper Club 10. 

The one story she did share, the story that prompted this post, was that during her last year of high school she, and a bus load of classmates went on a school trip to Philadelphia and were the guests of Dick Clark and the AMERICAN BANDSTAND!  And, of course, as the self-appointed family historian and genealogist, I’d love to KNOW MORE!! While Mom has been a “pack rat” of many things; memorabilia or ephemera were not among them.  So, there are no photos; no news clippings; no ticket stubs; no autograph from Dick Clark or from the American Bandstand featured artists . . . nothing!!  The only thing she has ever said, was that she and her classmates were on American Bandstand.

While I’ve  found, on Google and Pinterest, iconic American Bandstand images, such as those you see here; Dick ClarkI’ve not found any images of Mom on the show.  I’ve also looked at many YouTube clips of the American Bandstand, a dance show with a rock and roll theme; the dance floor teaming with youth dancing the Bop, the Twist, the Jitterbug, and the Stroll, while listening to a rock-and-roll soundtrack or other popular music of their day.  This doesn’t lend itself to finding a familiar face in the crowd; though I have, on a number of occasions, thought that I saw Mom in the gaggle of youth on the dance floor.  But, in the end, it really is impossible to tell.  Darn, darn, DARN!!!
While looking at these iconic images and YouTube videos I learned of the wall of pennant flags that seem to have been a feature of the show.  The pennants were from the high schools from both the  local Philadelphia and outlying areas; though I was unable to see if the Schwenksville High School pennant was among them.
ABSo, do you remember the day  you and your classmates were the guests of Dick Clark on American Bandstand?  What was the specific date or time of year? Do you have pictures of the day?  Was the Schwenksville High School Class of ‘58 introduced on the show?  Was there a group photo captured; perhaps with the host, Dick Clark? Did Schwenksville High School present a pennant to Dick Clark and the American Bandstand? Were the students introduced individually on the show? Did any of the Schwenksville youth participate in the “Rate a Record” portion of the show?

Mom didn’t keep, as I said, memorabilia or ephemera, so growing up, there there were no yearbooks for me to page through and encourage – err, pester – my Mom to share her stories and memories.  But, I was able to locate copies online of both the 1957 and 1958 Schwenksville High School yearbooks. I now have, never before seen by me, photos of my Mom.  Sadly, still too few.

Here for instance here is Mom’s 1957 Junior Class Photo.
1957 Junior Class Photo
Lillian GRISDALE; Harvey BOSSERT; Tony MILLER; Jack PRESTON; and Colin PARKE are all in the above Junior class photo.  However, they were not among the seniors listed in the 1958 yearbook.

The Class of 1958 Alumni, Schwenksville High School:
Gilbert H AXFORD; Marjorie Ann BARRON; Joan Faye BEAN; George R  BICKERT, Jr.; John Hicks BOGERT; Theodore Harold COLE; Joseph DELUTIS; Ruth Carolyn DUNNING; Donna Jean GEORGE; Elsie Jean GREASER; Christian John Ray HARTLINE; James Ernest HARTMAN; Alice Jane HEIMBACH; David Roger JONES; William KEHRER; Donald Edwin KIRKNER; James Allen KOVACS; John Walter KRATZ; Kay C KRATZ; Glen Brian LANDES; Robert G McCAHAN, Jr.; Carol Ann MENG; Mildred H MEYERS; Anna Jane MILLER; Phebe Mary MONTGOMERY; Stanley RADCLIFF; Janis E RIEGEL; John Albert ROSE; Edward A RUTTER; Dolores Joyce SHELLENBERGER; Rick D SHEPPARD; Carol Ann SMITH; Robert Lee SMITH; Winfield SWARR; Joan Marie SWARTLEY; Jane Faye WACK; Nancy Marie WALKER; Philip Andrew WATKINS; Patricia Ann WINK; Todd Albright YOUNG; William Robert ZIEGLER

A note to fellow family historians and genealogists, IF you are interested in finding yearbooks – Middle School; High School; College and Military – I’ve had good success with this E-Yearbook.com site.  Note, however, that it is a subscription site.

Copyright © 2016 Tracy L Meyers; Family Preserves

27 April 2016

Grandma, a Little Coorperation . . . PLEASE!!

Both Grandma Isn't Playing Nice! . . . On Either Side and The Grandparents are Out of Control!  And, Having Way Too Much Fun!! discuss how my research focus has been sidelined by Grandma (maternal side) wanting a little attention to be paid to a family history mystery.  Well, Grandma succeeded, my attention was diverted and I’ve been working on her mystery for . . . well, it’s been a year.

So, where are we at?  Have we found all the pieces of the puzzle and solved the mystery? 

In The Grandparents are out of Control!  And, Having Way Too Much Fun!!  I noted that it is my belief that Eva IS Eva PFAFF. 

I am a big proponent of the genealogical proof standards (GPS), first and foremost of which is the exhaustive search.  Simply put, leaving no rock unturned – err, no record set or data collection unreviewed, that is, gone through image-by-image; no biography; county, city, state, or country history unread; no archive, repository, church, cemetery, funeral home, or library unvisited and that list expands depending on the research required to find and document YOUR ancestor.  And, while I haven’t worked my way completely through all of that just yet, I maintain my belief that Eva IS Eva PFAFF and here’s why.

  • Eva E PFAFF herself recorded her father’s name as George PFAFF on her application for marriage license, dated 18 May 1911

The marriage license is an original, primary source document. The information for which was recorded at the time of creation with information provided by Eva E PFAFF who had firsthand knowledge.

  • The birth certificate for my Grandmother, Catherine Louise STARR, provides her mother’s maiden name as EVA E PFAFF

The birth certificate is an original, primary source document.  The information for which was recorded at the time or shortly after the birth of my Grandmother; the information would have been provided by Eva (nee PFAFF) STARR who had firsthand knowledge.

  • Eva E STARR’s death certificate, provides Eva’s parents as George PFAFF and Louisa MILHEIM

The death certificate is both a primary AND secondary source document.  The original information – Date, place and cause of death provided by the attending physician; everything else on the certificate is secondary information provided by the informant. 

The informant in this case was Eva’s daughter, my Grandmother, Catherine Louise (nee STARR) KRIEBEL.  The only way that my Grandmother could have known her mother’s father’s name was George PFAFF would have been because either Eva, or her mother, Louisa (nee MILHEIM) RAMER discussed it with her.

  • STARR – PFAFF Marriage Announcement clearly provides both the groom’s surname and the bride’s maiden name

The marriage announcement is an original,  primary source; published 20 May 1911, two days after the wedding, in the Allentown Democrat.  Firsthand knowledge of the bride’s and groom’s names would have been directly provided to the newspaper by either the bride, the groom, or their parents.

  • Eva’s age. . .

  1. The 1900 U.S. federal census records Eva PAFF, age 11,  living with her maternal Grandparents, Charles and Mary Ann MILLHIME on Second Street, Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
  2. The 1910 U.S. federal census records Eva RAMER, age 20, living with her mother, Louisa, and Oscar Ramer on Oak Street, Coplay, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

The U.S. federal census records are both a primary and secondary source.  Residence is primary information; the census taker recorded the address and location as he or she visited each family; with the remaining information recorded, being secondary or secondhand information.

All records – The 1900 and 1910 U.S. federal Census records; Application for marriage license; The Allentown Democrat marriage announcement; death certificate; and Eva’s daughter, Catherine’s, birth certificate all support both Eva’s age and calculated year of birth (1 year margin of error) of 1889/90 and with the exception of the 1910 U.S. federal census, consistently record her maiden name as PFAFF.

  • Louisa MILHEIM’s and Oscar REMER’s application for marriage license

The marriage license is an original, primary source document. The information for which was recorded at the time of creation with information provided by Louisa MILLHEIM and Oscar REHMER who had firsthand knowledge.  Oscar and Louisa both applied for, and, were married on 31 May 1892; three years and 4 months after Eva’s birth.

  • Court Proceedings

The Allentown Democrat, dated 13 April 1892, announced that “the regular April term of court began”  Monday, 11 April 1892 “. . . with seventy-two cases on the list.”  The case against Oscar RAMER, “charged with fornication and bastardy” was among them.

The newspaper announcement is a primary, original source created at the time, with firsthand information provided by a Lehigh County Courthouse informant.

MILLHEIM – REHMER marriage announcement

The marriage announcement is an original, primary source; published 8 June 1892 in the Allentown Democrat.  The announcement clearly states that the wedding took place “Tuesday evening of last week.”  Googling an 1892 calendar, it was easy to see that the “Tuesday evening of last week” would indeed mean that Tuesday, 31 May 1892 was the date that Oscar and Louisa tied the knot.

Firsthand knowledge of the bride’s and groom’s names and the date of the event could have been either provided by Oscar and Louisa OR the officiating Magistrate (Judge), Squire James B Snyder. 

My exhaustive search is nowhere near complete.  However, with the information I’ve gathered and examined to date, I believe that Eva IS Eva PFAFF. 

The basis for this is . . .

  1. Eva is three years and four months old at the time time that her mother, Louisa MILHEIM was wed to Oscar REHMER
  2. Eva was documented as living with her maternal grandparents, Charles and Mary Ann MILHEIM in 1900 and was enumerated by the census taker as Eva PAFF
  3. Eva, herself,  provides her father’s name – George PFAFF – on her application for marriage license
  4. Eva, herself, provides her maiden name as PFAFF on her daughter Catherine’s birth certificate
  5. Eva’s death certificate records her father’s name as being George PFAFF.  The informant?  My Grandmother, Eva’s daughter, Catherine.  Eva; her mother, Louisa; or, perhaps, even Oscar RAMER would have been the original source(s) from whom my Grandmother would have learned that information

(The records noted above can be seen here).

Okay, knowing that Eva IS Eva PFAFF only solves part of the mystery.  There is still a whole lot of mystery to be solved.

  1. Who is George PFAFF? Was George his given name? Middle Name? Or, was it – what is commonly referred to in military circles – his go-by name? (simply put, a name that he goes by / answers to)
  2. Where is George PFAFF?
  3. What happened to George PFAFF after Eva was born?  Did he move? Did he die?  Was he abducted by aliens?

As I noted in the previous two posts - Grandma isn't Playing Nice! . . . On Either Side and The Grandparents are Out of Control! And, Having Way Too Much Fun!! – I was unsuccessful in locating George PFAFF in the standard searches of Ancestry.com, familysearch.org, Google, Newspapers.com, Genealogybank.com, etc.  Did I miss him?  When the census records were indexed for these cities / town, was his name transcribed wrong?  When the enumerators went from house-to-house documenting residences and families, did they miss George and his family?  It was time to review what I knew and the documents that I already had and to expand the search.

In Review

As noted in the previous blogs I went through census records image-by-image (LOTS of images) and line-by-line for all of the following Pennsylvania counties: Lehigh, Carbon, Berks, and Montgomery.  And, collected names.  I wasn’t at this point searching for my ancestors.  I was searching for anyone / any family that had the MILHEIM, PFAFF or RAMER surnames in any of their variant spellings.  (You’ll note that throughout this blog I have used the variant spellings as they occurred in the documents).

I reviewed, yet again, the documents I already had.  Louisa and Oscar’s marriage license; Eva’s marriage license; the census records that I had found for each of them and their families back in 2003/4; the death certificates; and my Grand Uncle Bob’s obituary.

I contacted churches and cemeteries.  Reviewed newspapers searching, again, for any of these surnames during the 1880’s – 1900’s; keeping a watchful eye for any mention of Louisa MILHEIM, George PFAFF or Oscar RAMER and collected everything where the surnames or the specific individuals of interest were mentioned.

As I reviewed these documents literally letter-by-letter I took notes.  Census records – I noted any male in all PFAFF households that would fit the approximate age that I believed George to be; didn’t matter whether his name was George.  At this point, I just wanted to “collect” any male that fit the age and time frame that I believed we were looking at.  As I tracked Louisa’s family and Oscar’s family, I made note of their ages, physical address / locations and who their neighbors were.  I noted why a PFAFF household and in particular a PFAFF male could not be the “George” I was looking for.  I made note of any irregularity in what I was seeing in the records compared to what I knew. 

And, I reviewed all the other documents that I had on the RAMERs and MILHEIMs already and those that I was amassing as I worked to solve this family history mystery.

In addition to my notes, I plotted a timeline tracking births, marriages, residences, deaths, etc. This helped me see everyone and the families in context.  It also is a great tool for seeing where there are gaps, overlaps, impossibilities and improbabilities.  And, most importantly it helped focus my research on what I still needed and where I might need to research next.

And, lastly, as I research this line and other branches of my tree – maternal and paternal – I always keep my eyes open (or try to) for surnames of interest.  Why?  Well, a few weeks ago, I put aside this mystery and was working on my dear friend’s family and as I am searching through church records I see not one, but several mentions of . . . wait for it . . . PFAFFs.  Yes, PFAFFs, which stopped me in my tracks.  And, there was a notation next to the name, “of Bucks County.”  What?!!  Bucks County?

Now, I grew up in Montgomery county.  I’m familiar with Lehigh, Berks, Bucks, and surrounding counties; they all butt up against each other.  And, yet, it had not occurred to me to look at Bucks county.  Shaking my Head.  So, guess what I get to do?  Mmm hmmm, image-by-image, collecting names.  Thanks Grandma.

Let me just tell you, and I kid you not, I swear that every household in Bucks County during the 1880’s – 1900’s had a PFAFF living it.  EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!  And, were any of them George?  Not a one.  Not a one. 

Grandma a little cooperation . . . PLEASE!!

Have I solved this family history mystery?  Yes, in part.  But in writing this blog and reviewing what I know and how I know it, I’ve come up with some additional strategies of how to proceed; I’ve made some new discoveries, just in going back over my work to date and so, I’m off to see if I can solve the remaining mystery . . . Who and where is George PFAFF?

What are your family history mysteries?  Have you made any discoveries that are bringing you closer to finding them?  How do you document what you learn in the process?  What methods do you use to help you sort through and analyze your research?  Timeline?  Blog?  Mind map?  I'd love to hear your stories and what mysteries you’re trying to solve.


Copyright © 2016 Tracy L Meyers.