27 March 2007

A Signature Says it All

I finally had a chance to pull out a file to work on and I learned something the other night.

I have been working on the family of Charles and Margaret Speisman of Titusville, PA. Here has been my progress so far. The lady I am doing this for had some information that she got from her uncle and what she remember that her mother told her. Charles and Margaret would have been her mother's grandparents.

First I easily found the family in the 1880, 1900 census, and then 1910 and 1920 with out Margaret and a couple of the children.

1880 I find the family living in Titusville, Crawford County, PA at 301 Meadows St. This is one of those census records that make you want to cry for joy. Charles is 33 (birth about 1847), a Butcher, born in Baden (Germany). His wife Margaret is 35 from Prussia. They have three girls, Lizzie - 5, Mary - 3, and Rosa -2. This is where is gets fun. Living with them is Elizabeth Heahen, 58 from Prussia, mother-in-law (Margaret's mother!). Later I did much more research on this side of the family, and well that file is huge too, but I won't go into that right now. Also living with them were Margaret's sister, brother-in-law and their children.

1900 gets very interesting. I had to do a lot more digging to find everyone. Then I discovered that this family must have some interesting stories that we may never know. First I find Margaret still living in Titusville at 13 Superior. This time I have a birth month and year given, though not sure if accurate, of Nov 1845 in Germany. This time the older girls are no longer with her, but four others are Emma 18, Francis 16, Chas Jr 13, George 9. She also states that she has had nine children, seven living, so that would add up to the three girls being grown and on their own. Which I did find Rosa living not far from her mother boarding with a family, age 20 a Waitress.

But here is where it gets really interesting. Where is Charles during all of this? My thought was maybe he is dead, but Margaret is listed as married, not widowed. So I keep searching for a Charles Speisman born about 1847. I find him. He is at the State Hospital for the Insane in Conewango, Warren County, PA. This time I have a month for his birth of November and 1847 for the year. Born in Germany, Immigrated 1869. Also he has been married to Margaret for 26 years. So that would put them married about 1874.

1910 I now find Charles living at 113 Barber with one daughter Emma O'Niel and her husband John. This time I see that Charles is 63 and widowed. So I know Margaret has passed away some time between 1900-1910.

1920 Nothing has changed, really. Except that the three of them are now living at 609 S. Franklin. This time though I get a little information on Charles' immigration/naturalization. This time he states he immigrated in 1866 and was naturalized in 1879. Then this time it is also added that he was born in Oberhausen, Germany.

1930 I no longer find Charles.

So at this point I have found that Charles was:

  1. Born about Nov. 1847
  2. Born in Baden or Oberhausen, Germany
  3. Immigrated 1866 or 1869
  4. Married Margaret about 1874
  5. Naturalized about 1879
  6. Spent around 1900 in an Institution
  7. Had seven living children: Lizzie, Mary, Rosa, Emma, Carl, George, Francis
  8. Possibly died between 1920-1930

Now I know that census records are not fact, merely clues. So where next. I was extremely interested in finding out what the deal was with him in the State Hospital. So I looked up the State Hospital, researched and contact them only to find out that only the next of kin can request the information. So my hands are tied there. Charles is the great grandfather of the woman I am doing this for. The closest living relative is one grandson.

Now what? Marriage, researched that only to find out that marriage records weren't kept for that time period, but I'm not giving up. I may now know the church they were a member of at least late in life. I will check with that church later to see what they have on the family.

Naturalization. That should give me a great deal of information, right. So I send an email to Pennsylvania archives. A wonderful lady agrees to help me out, later to find out she wasn't suppose to, but she was new. Any way she found two things for me in her search. First a naturalization record for a Charley Speisman of Germany. It was filed on 14 Sept 1897 in Titusville, PA. I had a feeling this was him, but there were too many discrepancy with what I already knew. The man's birth date was 22 Dec 1851, not Nov 1847. He was born in Baden, that matched with one of the census. He was naturalized in 1897, not 1879. Now remember what I knew was from census records, not reliable. But I was still holding onto the idea that with that many records stating the same thing it had to be fact. So I had her send me a copy anyway. But I really wasn't ready to except it was him even after I saw it.

But I also go in Margaret's will at the same time. Now there were some questions answered there. We know from the census that Margaret must have died before 1910 when Charles is living with his daughter and states he is a widower.

From the will of Margaret I see this:

  • "I commit my body.........Christian Burial.......in the cemetery of St Walbura....Catholic." So she should be buried in St Walburga, and she was Catholic.
  • Children: Lizzie Speisman, Rose Speisman Schwimmer, Emma Speisman, Carl Speisman, George Speisman. So where is Mary and Francis?
  • "I hereby nominate my cousin John W. Haehn Executor." Another family member! This would be a cousin on her father's side. I later did a great deal more research and found many of her Haehn relative living in very close proximity to her. But this is about Charles.
  • Registered 20 Oct 1905. So she had to of died around this time.
  • Witnessed by Ida Buser and Mary Oxner. Who are these two ladies, friends, family?

So now I know a close time frame of when Margaret died, that possibly two of her daughter Mary and Francis may also be dead or estranged from the family and that Margaret's maiden name is almost definitely Haehn. So that really helped me to learn more about Margaret's family, but still not much about Charles, other than the fact that he is not listed in her will, and I know he was still alive. So did they divorce? Few answers and more questions.

So now that I have a more definite date on Margaret's death and her burial I call on the help of the wonderful volunteers of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. A wonderful woman, Diana answer my call for help. She begins doing some digging for me in the courthouse, library, and Historical Society.

She first contacts me to let me know what she found at the Historical Society. The first thing only gives me more questions. In 1879-1880 Charles is listed as living on Short St and is a clerk at Speisman House. Speisman House? Did he really come over alone, or with family? Did they have some kind of boarding house or hotel?

Next she found their graves! Charles 1847-1920, Margaret 1845-1905, Mary L 1878-1901, Frances 1884-1901 and Carl P. 1887-1948. They are all together in a family plot. So that answers the one question. The girls did die before Margaret. Now I have death dates for all of them. And look Charles birth date on the grave says 1847, like everything else other than that naturalization paper. So the naturalization can't be him, right?

So she does more digging, with the information that we now have. I was so busy with the remodel that I almost forgot about it until a packet shows up in the mail. In it is a will for Charles Speisman, death records by the undertaker for Francis and Margaret, and a copy of an Obituary for Margaret. Wow!

Here is what each of those tell me:

Undertakers Returns of Deaths in the City of Titusville

  1. 1901, Speisman, Frances, White, Female, Single, None (occupation), 14 Feb, (cause of death) Tonsillitis and Weak Heart, ......
  2. 1905, Speisman, Margaret, White, Female, Widowed, Retired, Oct 20, Brights Disease....

One question; why is Margaret listed as widowed when I know Charles is still alive. I believe it was to avoid the stigma of divorce. But by now I believe they are at least separated.

The Crawford Journal, Oct 26, 1905 pg 8 col 5

Died. Spiesman - At Titusville, Oct. 20 Mrs Margaret Spiesman, wife of Charles Spiesman

Okay so there she is the wife of Charles????

The Will of Charles Spiesman. There are five pages in this file, so I'll just list what I discovered from this.

  • Charles Spiesman of Titusville, PA died at the house of his daughter Emma O'Niel about 12 o'clock on the 11th January 1920. So there is a death date.
  • Executors, Joseph Geser and Felix O'Niel (probably relative of John, Emma's husband)
  • Descendants: Lizzie Vinopal, daughter, (residence) Youngstown, OH, George Spiesman, Son, Youngstown, OH, Rosa Schwimmer, daughter, Paxton, IL, Carl P Spiesman, son, Titusville, PA, Emma O'Niel, daughter, Titusville, PA
  • Witnesses: Peter B Tarr (research revealed he was a neighbor and police officer) and Ellis Rubin.

While pulling names from the documents to research as to their relationship to Charles as a way to discover more about the man the moment of magic happened. I had the papers spread out and sitting beside each other was the page that Charles had signed of his will and the page that was signed by a Charel Spiesman in the Naturalization paperwork. I looked and looked again because I couldn't believe my eyes. Both of those were most definitely signed by the same man. The will was signed by an elderly man near the end of his life, but there was no mistaking that it was the same signature!

Sometimes we are so busy looking for all the facts, names, dates, places, etc., that we miss the little subtle details, like a signature.

I do believe according to the naturalization records that Charles was born 22 Dec 1851. According to the census he may have come into this country sometime around 1866 as a very young man. I really suspect that if he came into this country at about the age of 14 then he may have claimed to be older than he was, and just continued to claim to be that age. But when he filed for naturalization he had to give his real birth date. I also beleive that the 1920 census taker transposed his numbers. Instead of Naturalization in 1897 he put 1879. Then I look at his wife who was born in 1845. In reality she was about six years older than he was. Maybe he felt compelled to continue the charade of claiming he was four years older than he was to close that gap. According to the family it probably would have been easy for him to claim to be older than he was, because the men were very large in the family, most over six foot.

As far as the relationship between Charles and Margaret we may never know what happened. But there are so many more details that I want to look at before I head for the German records to find his birth and parents.

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