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.


  1. Mrs. Meyers, I would love to email you about John Learn (1730-1781), but can not find a email or a way to contact you other then via blog. Is there a way other than the blog.

    1. Thank you visiting Family Preserves. Yes, absolutely, you can contact me at themeyers4@cox.net; please be sure to put John Learn in the subject line so that IF email server "throws" your email into spam folder I will be sure not to delete it out of hand.

      I look forward to hearing from you.