Same Name

Just pick a name and stick with it, please!

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Most everyone this week will be writing about:

  • family names carried down from one generation to the next
  • families where all the brothers named their children the same, so it’s difficult to determine which of the cousins did what. I’ve got at least one of those . . .
  • people with the same name in the same town, roughly the same age, and how they sorted out who belonged where. I’ve got those, too!

In my typical, contrary way, I’m doing the direct opposite. You are going to meet my husband’s great-grand uncle, Wenzelaus Kukler. Or Venemi. Or Venson. Or something else entirely different, I don’t know!

I first met up with him in the 1870 census. I was trying to find my husband’s great-grandfather, Frank J. Kukler. Frank was born in Detroit, before the 1870 census (I didn’t have an exact date at that time), so the family should be enumerated in Detroit in 1870. I couldn’t find them. If you think “Kukler” has a simple spelling, guess again. It can have:

  • C or K at the beginning
  • U, O, or OO for the vowel–sometimes an E
  • K or C or CK for the next /k/ sound
  • LER or LA at the end (anyone remember Kukla, Fran, and Ollie? I’ve found the family with a KUKLA spelling!)

That left variations of Kukler, Cukler, Kookler, Cookler, Kuckler, Cuckler, Cucler, Koockler, Coockler, Coocler, Kucler, Kukla, Cukla, Kookla, Cookla, and probably some I’m forgetting. No matter how many ways I searched for the parents, Frank and Ann[a], nothing came up. Finally I gave up on them, and searched for the baby with first name and age only: Frank, born 1867-68, Wayne County, Michigan. While those may seem like ridiculous search parameters, I was banking on it being 1870. The smaller population might make it workable. I’ve found ages for baby/children tend to be more accurate in the census than for adults. There’s not much difference between a 31- and 33-year old, but a HUGE difference between a 1- and 3-year old! Usually the kids’ ages were right.

Scanning down generated the list I could quickly dismiss most of the surnames. Then it jumped out at me: GUCKLER! Say the names to yourself–with an accent–and you’ll see how one could be mistaken for the other. I clicked over to the image, and there were: Frank and Ann from Bohemia, right ages, along with little Frank, and two older siblings, Ann and Wenzelaus.¹ Both boys were born in Michigan.

Giddy with the thrill of victory, I looked for them in 1880, returning to the standard spelling. Frank and “Annie” were easy enough to find. Ann (daughter) is AWOL, so either deceased or married, and there are two more, younger, children. Somehow, though, Wenzelaus converted to Venson² (incorrectly indexed as “Venemi”–not helpful!), and now it says he was born in Bohemia! There’s also a lighter (pencil?) notation by his name–“Pulansky” From other records, I’d found Anna’s maiden name is “Plansky” or “Palinski,” so that is very close. Had he been born out of wedlock, so had his mother’s maiden name? Maybe. Does it matter whether he’s born in Michigan or Bohemia? Yes! It changes which years I need to look for them on a passenger list.

1880 is the last I see of him. It doesn’t help that the 1890 census was destroyed, leaving a 20-year gap to 1900. State census records are almost non-existent for Michigan. The one year that had pages for Wayne county . . . didn’t include the city of Detroit. So what happened to Wenzelaus? Take your pick:

  • He died after the 1880 census. Ok, that’s a given. How about–He died before the 1900 census?
  • He chose a more “American” first name (I’ve looked at name lists to see if there was one that Wenzelaus typically translated to–no luck).
  • He started using the Plansky/Palinsky/Pulansky surname.
  • He moved away–out of Detroit, or out of state.
  • All of the above, or any combination!

I started going through the Michigan databases at FamilySearch with really loose parameters: Pulanski (FamilySearch is pretty good about pulling in variant spellings), born 1860-1862. I found some records that fit people I already knew, but nothing for him. I noticed a couple guys with Walter and Vincent for first names. If you were going to Americanize Wenzelaus, those might be good choices–but those guys weren’t who I needed.

I looked through death record databases. Marriage databases. I redid the searches with the Kukler surname. Still nothing. I even tried doing a nationwide search, but with the uncertainty of his name(s), and a nondescript occupation from 1880 (“laborer” is as generic as it gets!), he could be anywhere, doing anything.

At this point I’m stymied. Every online tree I’ve seen with him has nothing other than the two references I’ve found. It’s like aliens abducted him. He’s a loose end, and if you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t really like those. I’ve found entries for the family of his younger brother, Frank J., in the Detroit city directories. That was decades later, though. Maybe a more thorough search for additional (earlier) directories would find Wenzelaus? Or whatever he was calling himself. It will require a vague, surname only search, for each of the spelling variations, and lots of browsing through pages.

Wish me luck!

#52Ancestors


¹1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, 2nd precinct, 6th Ward, Detroit; Page 33; dwelling number 288; family number 292; line 4; Frank GUCKLER household; accessed 4 September 2017. Wenzelaus GUCKLER [KUKLER], age 9; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 713; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, e.d. 305; Page 57; dwelling number 585; family number 618; line 27; Frank KUKLER household; accessed 4 September 2017. Venson KUKLER, age 20 (incorrectly indexed as Venemi); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 613; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

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