Sunday, July 31, 2016

Genealogy Blog Party - Pool Party and Ancestor Dunking!

Undated photo of Charles Wagner

The last time I attended the Genealogy Blog Party, I talked about my great-grandmother Edna's trials and struggles, and how she endured them. This time, we're having a little more lighthearted party - a pool party! And what pool party would be complete without someone getting unceremoniously pushed into the pool? The Genealogy Blog Party theme this month is to pick an ancestor who has caused you all kinds of genealogical grief (name changes, lots of moves, disappearing from the records, etc.) and push them into the pool! My party's lucky stiff is none other than my great-great-grandfather, Charles Wagner. 

The biggest question I have about him is simple - where was he born? Going through the records I have of him and his children, there was either a lot of confusion, a lot of deception, or lots of both. I don't know how else to explain this. Here's what I mean, from the documents in chronological order of creation: 

1. The 1880 census says he was born in Mecklenberg, as was his older brother Henry and his parents Charles and Friedericka "Rika" Wagner. Pretty straightforward, right? 
2. The 1900 census says he was born in New York. The birth certificates of his daughter Gertrude, son Charles, and the 1905 Minnesota state census all likewise say New York. 
3. Birth certificates for his sons Donald Roscoe "Bill" Wagner and Ralph Wagner both say Charles was born in Ohio. 
4. The 1910 census says Charles was born in Kansas. 
5. I have no idea where he was when the 1920 census was compiled, so I don't know what state or country he would have said then.
6. In the 1930 census, his then ex-wife Eldora (head of the household and presumed informant for the family) said her children's father was born in Ohio (which matches the birth certificates of Bill and Ralph, who were living with their mom at the time). At the same time, his son Charles, then on his own, said his dad was born in Minnesota, while his other son Howard said Germany! 
7. To top it off, his son Howard was the informant on Charles' death certificate and said his dad was born in - Illinois. *facepalm* Though the Illinois connection was interesting, as that's where Charles was living in 1880...

I haven't gone through the 1940 censuses yet, though those were all created after Charles' death in 1934. If this kind of confusion reigned while he was alive, it stands to reason that it would only increase and multiply as time passed and generations handed down what information they had. 

Happy swimming Charles! 


Linda Stufflebean said...

Do you have a fairly definite idea of his birth date - did his age match closely from census to census? I have found that generally the younger the person was in the census, the more accurate the age and information. Is there any indication that anyone in the family was naturalized? What have you been able to find about his parents and where they were living during their adult lives? I would focus on them for a while, as that might produce some type of proof - like a baptismal record - of where he was really born.

Marian B. Wood said...

I sure would have just pushed these folks into the pool and run screaming from the scene after seeing all the contradictions. What on earth was going on? Thanks for sharing about your aggravating ancestors.

Nancy Gale said...

Oh, my! I don't think I've seen anyone else ever with an ancestor born in so many places! He most certainly should be dunked in the pool. I felt your frustration when you facepalmed. I've been there for lesser family history aggravations. Thanks for sharing your story.