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23 November 2013

Surname Saturday: Michael what was your last name?

Aleta Geiszler
In doing research on a great aunt Aleta Geiszler, her story was very confusing. She had two very different last names in addition to her husband's. Her father was a confusing story to sort out as well. If I could figure out her father's last name, perhaps I could figure out her last name and if there is a possible second husband no one knew about.

When research began on Aleta, her daughter-in-law insisted that Aleta's last name was Bowers. So a paper journey had to begin. The first step was to look at Aleta's marriage to William Joseph Geiszler. Their marriage took place on 5 March 1912.

Marriage record for William Geiszler and Aleta Kirchner
Family Search, "Ohio Marriages, 1800-1958" database, (http:/ :
Entry for William J Geiszler, 5 March 1912

On that record, Aleta referred to herself as Aleta Kirchner with her father as Michael Kirchner and mother Elizabeth Deltzie. I did not find a death record that lists Aleta's maiden name. So, essentially, she was Aleta Kirchner until at some point she told her daughter-in-law her last name was Bowers.

Marriage record for William Geiszler and Rosemary Schoppelrei
Family Search, "Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1974" database, (http:/ :
Entry for William Geiszler, 7 September 1942 (accessed 25 November 2012)

 Her daughter-in-law joined the family in 1942 but Aleta's last name was still listed as Kirchner (or a misspelling of it). I'm not sure when Rose Mary learned that Aleta used the last name of Bowers. So, based on the following pieces of evidence, I should be looking for Aleta Kirchner.

1912 Aleta Kirchner marries, lists father as Michael Kirchner
1942 Aleta Kersher listed as mother on William Joseph Geiszler's marriage to Rose M Schoppelrei

Using the Kirchner for the last name, I could only find Aleta in the 1880 US Census age the age of one. She is listed as Letta Kirchner and living in Seneca, Ohio. Her father Michael Kirchner and mother Elizabeth Kirchner are also listed, along with older siblings Emma and Flora.

1880 US Census... Aleta Kirchner is living with her parents Michael and Elizabeth Kirchner.

So the big question of the day, where was Aleta between 1880 and 1912?

Perhaps if I follow Michael, I might find Aleta.

Marriage record for Michael Kirchner and Elizabeth Delcite
Family Search, "Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1974" database, (http:/ :
Entry for Michael Kirchner and Elizabeth Delcite, 9 October 1872

Michael Kirchner married Elizabeth Delcite (a common variation of Delztie) 9 Oct 1872 in Seneca, Ohio. So, I should be looking for Michael and Elizabeth Kirchner in Seneca, Ohio.

Going back to the 1870 US Census, I find that Michael is living with Michael and Christina Kerchner in Tiffin, Seneca, Ohio. So, one would presume that Michael and Christina would be his parents. In a sense, they are, but don't presume anything in this census because relationships are not listed.

Now, I've lost the trail of Michael going backwards in the US Census. I did find that Michael married another woman, Clara Ries, 24 November 1885. There is no 1890 US Census, so I need to search for Michael Kirchner (or Bauer/Bower) and Clara in the area of Seneca, Ohio. Going forward.

In the 1900 US Census Michael and Clara are using the last name Bowers. They have a daughter born in 1888 listed before Leta who was six years old (age 18 at this time). Normally, children are listed oldest to youngest. Perhaps, Leta's younger sister was listed first because she was the daughter of Clara and Leta was listed second because she was Clara's step-daughter. One doesn't know, but that makes logical sense.

In 1910 Aleta Bowers appears in Columbus, Ohio as a lodger and works as a servant for a private family. Her name was added in the office after the census was recorded by a supervisor. The family name this entry matches with is Charles Koche. Two years later, Aleta marries William Geiszler.

Meanwhile, Michael and Clara Bowers appear, still in Seneca, Ohio with four children in their home. Clara indicates that she's born 6 children with 5 alive. One seems to be living elsewhere at this time.

Michael Bowers lives until 1926 and on his death record, his informant says that his father was Hary Bowers and mother unknown.

1870 Michale Kerchner living with Michael and Christina Kerchner (no relationship identified)
1872 Michael Kirchner marries Elizabeth Delcite
1880 Michael and Elizabeth Kirchner appear in Seneca, Ohio.
1885 Michael Kirchner married Clara Riese (no parent's listed)
1900 Michael and Clara Bowers appear in Seneca, Ohio with Leta Bowers as daughter
1910 Michael and Clara Bowers appear in Seneca, Ohio with 4 children
1910 Aleta Bowers is a servant in Columbus, Ohio
1920 Michael Bowers, widow, raising four children in Seneca, Ohio

As I said, I can't trace Micheal Bower/Kirchner back past 1870. Aleta uses the last name Bowers in the census years of 1880, 1900, and 1910. Then her marriage record has the last name of Kirchner. Her son's marriage record provides the last name of Kirchner as well.

Family information provided by a cousin shared this information:
Michael Bauer's parents died.  He was adopted by his maternal uncle.  Michael Bauer-Kirchner's wife died, and when he remarried, the three daughters by his late first wife were adopted by his adoptive father, his uncle, and the grandfather of his daughters, viz., Michael Kirchner.  All very complicated.
I have not been able to source this part of the story. I do not know what last name William Geiszler, son of William and Aleta Geiszler had recorded on his death certificate.

I share this case for several reasons. One, it shows that family memories might not always be false, or entirely true. Second, the record that Michael Bowers is also Michael Kirchner. He was adopted by his mother's brother after the death of his parents. Now, I'm not sure how formal the adoption might have been. I do not know why he raised his children with Elizabeth Deltzie with the last name of Kirchner, married Clara Ries as Kirchner and then started using the name Bowers from that point forward. 

However, I share this story for those who might come across Michael and be confused as to what his last name is. Even I'm confused as to what to use for his last name. I generally to him as Michael Bower-Kirchner (though I found a spelling of the name as Bauer at the time of his parent's death). 

Finally, I want to share that it's okay to do a little bit of collateral work. The point of figuring out this story was to determine what the name of a great aunt should be. I had to go back one generation to see if I could sort it out. This  is what I have documented so far. I leave the rest of the work to a more direct descendant of Aleta Bowers/Kirchner Geiszler.

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