Today, the anatomy of a genealogy mistake I made in my tree when I began researching one of my German lines.

It’s human nature to blog about all the brilliant stuff we do to find our ancestors. But I often learn more from mistakes. So here is the anatomy of a genealogy mistake I made, with lasting implications.

Compiling the Schumann Family Group

When I was first trying to assemble the family group for my great-grandmother, Anna Schumann KIRSCHSTEIN KAHNS, I didn’t know much about the family. Some U.S. census work revealed that Anna had three siblings: Marie, Elise and Friedrich. They were all born in Germany and emigrated to Chicago. I had not yet done any German-language research and their place of origin was, at best, murky.

In 1886, my great-great-aunt Marie (Mary) was living in Chicago with her family. Somehow, she met Christian GROSS, a farmer from Minnesota. She married him in St. Paul and moved to his farm outside Murdock, in Swift County, Minnesota.

Making a Genealogy Mistake Adding a Sibling

When I found Christian and Marie GROSS in the 1920 census, they were right where they should be: Murdock, Swift, Minnesota, USA. But they had an additional household member, Coreliue [sic –  really, Ancestry indexing? Coreliue?] aka Caroline GROSS, sister-in-law to Christian, the head of the household.

Eager for more Schumann siblings, I made the leap and decided the census-taker just hadn’t gotten Caroline’s surname down correctly. I’d seen it happen multiple times when a census taker used one surname for a household with two or more.

Yay! Here was an older sister Caroline, born nine years before my great-grandmother in Germany. Into my tree she went. I shared the information with others and soon there were trees online listing Caroline SCHUMANN, b. 1851 in Germany. But I couldn’t find Caroline SCHUMANN anywhere else. Not in census, not in migration records, not in death records. And what about that nine-year gap between children? That didn’t seem likely either.

Brother’s Wife or Wife’s Sister?

But when I stopped and thought, I realized that Christian Gross’s sister-in-law could have been his brother’s wife instead of his wife’s sister.

Since my interest was in the main Schumann family, I continued to focus on them. I finally discovered the village where my great-grandmother and her family lived. It was not Berlin, as in family stories; it was not even Germany, but Pomerania in Prussia.

So I mined the relevant parish records. I went through every birth in Freienwalde, Pommern, Preussen, from 1824 to 1861. I found Anna’s parents married in there in 1860, about a year before Anna was born. That made my great-grandmother Anna in all likelihood the eldest child. And my searches rewarded me with two new verifiable Schumann siblings: Carl Paul Friedrich SCHUMANN and August Johann Carl SCHUMANN, both of whom died young. I found wonderful things – wonderful except there was no Caroline SCHUMANN, because she never existed except in my overeager imagination. Caroline was a genealogy mistake of my making.

Brother’s Wife or Wife’s Sister?

anatomy of a genealogy mistake gross rascher marriage recordSo Caroline GROSS in the 1920 census must be the wife of Christian Gross’s brother, Carl (Charles).

And when I went to look for her, there she was in living black-and-white: Caroline RASCHER, who married Carl GROSS in St. Paul on 22 Apr 1884.

So obvious! Even now, I can hear my German-American grandmother saying, “Dummkopf!”

Caroline RASCHER found her rightful place in my family tree. But of course ghostly Caroline SCHUMANN lives on in the trees of name-gatherers. But I’ve learned my lesson. No more leaps of imagination while reading the census!

anatomy of a genealogy mistake marriage news

Saint Paul Daily Globe, 27 Apr 1884.