A quick glance around my family doesn’t reveal many multiple births, identical or otherwise. The statistical odds of having twins is 1 in 250 natural pregnancies. In my tree of 6358 people, I have 4183 children. A quick calculation suggests I should have 16.7 sets of twins. Let’s round it up to 17. Unfortunately, my software doesn’t provide a way to tease that information out of the file, so I don’t know if that’s right, or not.
I do know twins are definitely sprinkled throughout it, though. Often they disappear into the woodwork, due to one (or both) dying as infants or young children. Uncle Iggy’s (Ignatz Joseph Schweiger) twin sister, Clemence Mary, lived 5½ months. Anna Sophia Meintzer, the twin sister of my 2nd great-grandfather, Christian, survived only 2 months. My mom’s cousin, Florence Moeller Eberlein, lost both her twins. Those were just off the top of my head! I still run across unexpected twins as I track down details for families where I have names-only for the kids.
Yet sometimes twins achieved beyond expectations. They reached adulthood. They married other twins.
They all got divorced.
If that sounds like a bad made-for-TV movie, guess again. It happened on the Ohio Meintzer branch.
You met Henry George Meintzer (the head of this branch) in Poor Man. When he and his sweetheart couldn’t get permission to marry in Alsace, he emigrated to the Chicago area in an attempt to earn enough money for Sophie and the daughter he’d left her with, to come join him. Henry arrived1 in Baltimore in 1871, with mother and daughter coming some time after that. Henry & Sophia married in Northfield, Illinois, 1 October 1872.
They soon moved east, to Fremont, Ohio, along Lake Erie. Henry worked in a sawmill for a couple years, and then spent 9 years in a steel mill. His goal, it seemed, was to purchase farm land in Fulton County, Ohio. In the meantime, their family was growing, adding six more children (a 7th had lived only a short time). The last two additions were the twins: Harold and Arnold. My software sorts them alphabetically, but I don’t actually know which twin was born first, on 27 September 1886. I have not found birth records for them, but Harold was constently listed first in census records. While there are exceptions, mothers tend to list their children in birth order, so a case could be made for Harold being the elder twin.
There’s a bit of a variation on their birth year across various records, but 1886 seems the best bet. “September 1886” was recorded on the 1900 census2, the record closest to their births, and both3 boys4 used 27 September 1886 on their WWI draft registrations. Their ages were off by a year on their marriage licenses, as was Harold’s death certificate. Ironically, that information was provided by Arnold! During stressful times, our math skills sometimes fail.
This branch of the family put together a nicely done web page, with a good number of old photos. This link will take you there. Just scroll down a bit to see a family portrait when the twins were young (age 5 or 6?). The one immediately below was taken some time before Harold’s death in 1920.
MEANWHILE, the Conklin family moved in nearby. In 1900, 4 census pages after the Meintzer family, Edward Conklin5 was also farming. His wife, Fietta (“Etta”) was the schoolteacher. Their twins, Elda and Elna, were nine years old, the 2nd and 3rd of their five children. Again, I have not seen their birth records, but Elda was listed first in the 1900 census. Make of that what you will.
The two sets of twins applied for their marriage licenses together, and participated in a double-wedding on 20 October 1909. The newspaper article seemed to have mixed the couples up, saying Harold married Elda and Arnold married Elna, but their marriage records presumably had it right (see those links).
Four months later, when the 1910 census enumerator came through the area, the married twins were listed in the household of Henry & Sophia Meintzer—the parents/in-laws. I can only imagine how cozy that was! The enumerator listed both sons, first, followed by the daughters-in-law, but drew helpful lines connecting each husband to his proper wife! He got it right.
So, what happened to the love birds? Well, it would seem, not much that was good.
On 18 March 1916, the brothers filed divorce papers on their respective wives. The initial notice was pretty terse:
Two months later, their divorces were granted, with additional details that the wives had left them three years earlier:
The local paper kept the details pretty basic, but the story stretched far beyond rural Ohio—even as far as the west coast! This California paper told us when the wives first left:
Obviously, someone wasn’t happy.
Once the news wire got wind of the story, someone decided to get creative:
A Symphony in Twins
Arnold and Harold Meintzer of Wauseon, O., twins, who married twins and no doubt slept in twin beds, are now suing for twin divorces on the grounds of twin desertions.12 June 1916, 2:30 Edition, Chronicling America: America’s Historic Newspapers : accessed 2 March 2021, record number: [number]; citing original p. 1, col. 7, para. last, entry for Arnold and Harold MEINTZER, Star-Bulletin, Honolulu, Hawaii, online archive (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov).
That version of the story was published everywhere. Honolulu, when Hawaii was only a territory. Norwich, Connecticut. Topeka, Kansas. Those were just the papers on the Chronicling America site!
So what became of the twins after the divorces?
The brothers lived at home. When registering for the WWI draft, they listed themselves as single, though the 1920 census showed them as divorced. That was the only instance I saw, though. Harold died from influenza a month after the family was enumerated on the 1920 census.
Arnold enlisted in the army 27 August 1918, and was honorably discharged 21 December 1918. As far as I can tell, he never remarried. He lived to the age of 89, dying due to injuries sustained when he and his bike were run off the road. He was on his way to visit his sister, Regina, who was over 100 at the time.
And the girls? In 1916, Elna was using her married surname and had moved to Toledo, working as a machine operator in the Urschel-Bates Valve Bag Company. The divorce hadn’t occurred, yet. By the 1920 census, both girls had returned to their maiden names, and were living in Monroe County, Michigan. They had moved in with their mother and her 2nd husband and were working as machinists in a sack factory. Monroe County, Michigan is just across the state line from Toledo, so it’s possible they were still working in the same factory Elna had worked in, before. The sisters listed themselves as single, not divorced.
Elna died in 1925, from a heart valve problem. Elda remarried on 2 June 1920, to an Andrew P. Stokey, near Toledo, Ohio. It appears she had two daughters, and lived to the age of 84.
Even if the couples hadn’t divorced, neither marriage would have been particularly long-lived, with the two early deaths.
So, how were Arnold and Harold related to me? They were 2nd cousins, twice removed, or full 2nd cousins to my grandfather—sharing the same great-grandparents.
Now that my interest has been piqued, I may just start a running list of twins in the family. I can add to it as I run across additional pairs. Who knows when I’ll need to know who they were!
1“Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Records of The US Customs Service; Record Group 36; NAI # 2655153; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; RG85; specifically Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, Maryland, 1820-1891, NARA Microfilm Publication M255, RG36. 50 rolls; Roll #19. National Archives, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Entry for . Heinr. MAINTZER, accessed 2 March 2021. SS Baltimore, p. 3, line 118.
21900 U.S. census, population schedule, Ohio, Fulton, Swan Creek Township, e.d. 13; Pages 12A. 12B; dwelling number 267; family number 271; line 49; Henry MEINTZER household; accessed 2 March 2021. Henry Meintzer, age 52; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1270; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
3“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Arnold MEINTZER, serial no. 997, order no. 16, Fulton County, Ohio; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 5,256,062; accessed 2 March 2021. Registered 5 June 1917.
4“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Harold MEINTZER, serial no. 996, order no. 15, Fulton County, Ohio; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 5,256,062; accessed 2 March 2021. Registered 5 June 1917.
51900 U.S. census, population schedule, Ohio, Fulton, Swan Creek Township, e.d. 13; Pages 14A. 12B; dwelling number 307; family number 312; line 10; Edward CONKLIN household; accessed 2 March 2021. Edward CONKLIN, age 33; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1270; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).