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.
or Wife’s Sister?
So 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!
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Good one, thanks for sharing. Examples like this help all of us – let s/he who has never entered a wrong name in a pedigree chart cast the first stone.
Thx, Randy. It seems obvious in retrospect, and yet….
My sympathies, Heather. I found a doozy from my trip to Kansas this spring because I had the wrong Albert Shank, both born in the same county in Kansas in the same year. But the gravestone didn’t lie and about 200 people came out of my tree as a result.
Congrats on catching and fixing your mistake! I had one that caused a terrific ripple effect of mistakes and took a long time to untangle. And that was before computers!