Friday, October 21, 2016

My Helfrich Connection

There has been a lot of talk amongst genealogists about researching people that are not in your direct line. Some feel it is not necessary. Well I will say if it wasn't for me branching out I wouldn't have made some of the connections I have made. This is just one example of my branching out.

As of right now, I've not been able to make any direct concrete connection between Maggie Molten and Jacob Helfrich. All I have is circumstantial evidence. This all came about because I traced the name of a witness on a marriage record. Here is the trail and documentation that I followed in order to make that connection.

1)Start with what I do know. I have a page out of a family date book (some was originally written in German, then translated) that states Maggie Dennis nee Molten married Jacob Helfrich Oct 19, 1890 in St Louis, Missouri. I have yet to find a marriage record proving this fact.

2) On Maggie's grandaughters marriage record from Detroit, Michigan, there is an Emil Helfrich listed as a witness.  This the person I traced to make the connection. Since has the same last name as Jacob, I figured it was worth a shot. I found the census record from that time period with Emil's name. That led me to his birthdate and birth place which in turn led me to a Missouri Birth Record and a WWI draft card. So he was from St. Louis, Missouri as well. That's a good lead. The birth record gave me the name of his parents and the WWI draft card gave me his address and info from Detroit. I was able, then, to look up the 1900 an 1910 census records. I also looked up St Louis City directories for Emil and his parents. I also have city directories for Emil in Detroit, Michigan. I made sure I found as many sources as I could about Emil to make sure I was tracing the right person.
Emil Helfrich listed as witness on Marriage Record
Emil Helfrich listed in 1930 Census

Emil Helfrich Birth Record

Emil Helfrich Draft Registration

3) Ok let's trace back now. Peter and Katherine Helfrich were listed as Emil's parents. I looked up city directories to see where they lived in accordance with Maggie after Jacob was gone. I found they lived on Peopping Street which was not far from Michigan Street, where Maggie lived.
1913 St Louis City Directory

1914 St Louis City Directory

1917 St Louis City Directory

4) Based on Census records and directories, I was able to find out what Peter did for a living. I traced Peter back in the directories and found him living with a Jacob Helfrich and a Nicholas Helfrich, along with a couple other Helfrichs. Finally a Jacob! A quick search of the census records and I was able to determine Nicholas was the father, and all the other Helfrichs were his children. Since I don't have a birthdate for Jacob, I still have no official proof this is the correct Jacob, but the trail leads to this Jacob. I feel pretty certain this is my Jacob.
1900 US Federal Census for Peter & Kate Helfrich
1880 US Federal Census for Peter & Jacob listed with father Nicholas

5) Jacob is listed in the St Louis City directories until 1899, when it starts listing Maggie Helfrich as the widow of Jacob. So I assumed he passed away at that time. Although I did not find any death record. I got in touch with Dan, a relative of the Helfrich family, to ask him some questions. He had information that Jacob had passed away in Indiana at a refining company. He had had an accident, which matches up with what my little record book stated about Jacob's death. It said he was killed, but I had no date. I contacted the Knox County Library in Indiana and they were able to send me a copy of the death record for Jacob Helfrich (based on the new date Dan gave me).

1899 St Louis City Directory listing Maggie as Widow of Jacob

Jacob Helfrich Death Record Page 1

Jacob Helfrich Death Record Page 2

6) On the death record, it says Jacob was divorced. I asked Dan about this and here is what he said, "Most likely she considered herself a "grass widow."  Basically if your husband is always gone, if you were divorced, or if you were abandoned, you could pretty much claim that status and it wouldn't be abnormal in those days.  My great great grandma is listed as Widowed on the 1930 census even though her husband outlived her by about 17 years, and I think it was a similar deal."
Maggie Helfrich Death Certificate

Based on these facts, I lean toward the belief that this is the correct Maggie and Jacob. I have researched Jacob's brothers and sisters with no success in proving that Maggie was apart of the family. The search is by no means complete, but for now this is what I have as far as proof.

If I wouldn't have chased that lead on the marriage record, I would never had me the connection.