I can look through my file and find all sorts of “middle children” to write about. Famlies with an even number of kids makes it a little awkward, but it’s still doable.
I’d gotten into my head that I wanted to write about my Bruder line—in particular, Mathias Bruder, younger brother of my great-grandmother, Anna Bruder Haws, making him my great-granduncle. He had an unusual story, and I wanted to look into it further.
It turned out he fell into the “middle 4” of 8 children of John M. Bruder and Elizabeth Jost. I considered that as “middle enough” and decided to plunge forward.
First, I needed to look at what I already had on him. The original information I’d received in 1975 from my dad’s cousin, Lorraine (my grandaunt, Teresa’s, daughter), consisted of:
- Lorraine’s list of 7 Bruder children, with Mathias as 2nd oldest, but no birth or death dates for him. She wrote a note: “He just disappeared and no one ever heard from him. At one time he was in St. Louis, Mo.”
- photocopied newspaper clippings of obituaries:
- John M. Bruder, Mathias’s father, 1915, “Matthias of St. Louis“
- Nicholas Bruder, Mathias’s brother, 1934, no mention of Mathias
It wasn’t much. Somehow, St. Louis seemed to be the city our family “disappeared to” (Uncle Leo Schweiger was reported to have gone there, too!). I’m not sure why, nor am I sure it was accurate, but that was generally how the stories went.
As I cranked through census microfilm in 1975, I found the Bruder family in 1880¹, with Mathias, age 9. That bumped him farther down the child list, younger than Anna and Katy (Katherine), and placed his birth year around 1871. When I found the family in 1870, I didn’t expect to see Mathias, though there was a 3-month-old “Martin”—a name I didn’t recognize.
That was as much of a trail that I could find. His presence in the 1915 obituary (and absence in the 1934) didn’t really provide any solid evidence that Mathias was still alive (and in St. Louis) in 1915. He could have already died, without anyone knowing. The family may have simply been optimistic. Nor can we assume he had died by 1934. The family may have given upon him by then, so left him off the list of survivors.
So I left Mathias alone for 4+ decades, while I searched other family lines. But I feel bad ignoring people on my tree, and this seemed like a good time to revisit his information, to see if I could find anything new.
An Ancestry search found the 1880 census, but then suggested the Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928.³ Twice, actually, from two different Family History Library microfilm reels. Two records for him must have been microfilmed from different sources.
Those indexed records had a couple issues. The birth date was 25 August 1869—two years earlier than the birth year calculated from the 1880 census. While the parents’ names were correctly “John” and “Elizabeth,” the surname for all three of them was “Breider.” Sigh.
Unfortunately, because these were simply indexes, I had no images. I checked at FamilySearch, in case they had the images on their site, but no luck. I’ve seen enough poor handwriting and poor transcription/indexing examples to realize that the “ei” in Breider, could easily be a sloppy “u.” Could I find anything else to bolster that hypothesis?
I looked back at the 1870 census—the one with 3-month-old Martin. For children born in the previous census year, there was a column for the specific month of birth. It was September. August 25th isn’t that far from September, so I’m willing to wager either the birth month, or the baby’s age, was mis-remembered, and everything else based on that information.
Another consideration is that the enumerators copied the original census sheets, submitting the copies to Washington. That’s usually what was microfilmed. If he did not record their names wrong on the original, it’s still possible he made an error in the copy. Either he didn’t notice he had flipped the names, or he did, but didn’t want to spoil his sheets with a cross out and correction. He may not have thought it critical that the correct names went with the correct ages, as long as each person was counted. To me, it seems likely the “Martin” in the census record is the same as the “Mathias” in the birth index, and later (with an incorrect age) in the 1880 census.
Can I prove that theory? Well, no, not the census inaccuracies part. If I could locate and view the original birth record, that might clarifiy whether the handwriting was misread.
Are there other possible explanations? Sure. The birth record could still be the one for Martin, but maybe Martin was a middle name that didn’t get on the birth record—even though that’s the name his parents used. And then Mathias was born in 1871 (as suggested by the 1880 census), but Martin died some time before 1880. Whew! That’s a lot going on. The misspellings, etc. suggested earlier are more likely (in my opinion) than the 2nd, more complicated scenario.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the two enumerations where women were asked how many children they gave birth to, and how many were still living. That has often helped me find “missing” kids, but wasn’t available this time.
The information I received from Lorraine came from people who knew John & Elizabeth’s kids as their aunts & uncles. In 1975, they were all pretty sharp, despite their age. Other children who died young were remembered and included in what Lorraine sent. Even if their names weren’t always remembered, their existance was. Lorraine’s list did not have a Martin, or a child who died young.
To eliminate other possible explanations, I looked for the Breider surname in the 1870 census. Was there another family with a baby born in August? There were a couple families, but no John & Elizabeth, no new babies. I checked for more Breider children in the birth index, again, with very few, and none of the right parents. I also searched the index for:
- first names only (Mathias, John, Elizabeth) in Manitowoc County for 1871–no other likely surname variations came up.
- repeated, changing for each of John & Elizabeth’s other children’s first name and birth year. None of them showed up in the index.
It doesn’t seem there was another similar, but different, family in the county that could have been confused with mine.
I searched for Mathias in 1900 and later census records. No luck. I unsuccessfully tried an Americanized “Matthew” variation. Without more details about where he might have been, when, I’m searching for a needle in a haystack! He could be anywhere during those years: Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, or even closer to home, like Green Bay or Sheboygan. Where would I even start?
Ancestry member trees (16 of them!) included him, but no one had information I didn’t already know. Some had information they took from my tree. (You’re welcome!). Everyone had the 1880 census, but no photos of him, or additional details. At least I felt a little less inept . . .
It’s been a frustrating weekend. At first glance, I didn’t seem to accomplish much. Other than the birth index information, I didn’t find anything new. On the other hand, I DID look more closely at the 1870 census, and its issues, developing a potential explanation resolving those issues. I also took time to clean up my citations for the 1870 and 1880 census, attaching them to the appropriate facts for each person. I also merged Martin with Mathias in my file. Even though some question marks remain, I think the two census records and the birth index all refer to the same child. I’ll make a note to remind myself, in case later information appears, proving that not to be correct.
Reviewing my old correspondence didn’t turn up anything unexpected, but it could have. My brain doesn’t always fully process information that doesn’t fit with prior knowledge. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle piece floating in an empty space—I can’t attach it anywhere, because I have no idea which way it should be oriented. With more information acquired over time (more puzzle pieces), it suddenly fits somewhere—but only if I remember it! It’s hard to make time to review old documents with fresh eyes, but it can pay off, sometimes. Just not this time . . .
I may never learn anything more about Mathias Bruder, but I moved him a little closer to the middle, and feel better for having looked for new information about him.
¹1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth, e.d. 66; Page 12; dwelling number 104; family number 108; line 8; Mathias BRUDER household; accessed 3 February 2019. Mathias BRUDER, age 9; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
²1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Town of Two Rivers; Page 19; dwelling number 134; family number 139; line 16; John RINDER [BRUDER] household; accessed 2 February 2019. Martin BRUDER, age 9/12, born in September; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
³”Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 28 June 2020, citing “Wisconsin Births and Christenings.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake CIty, Utah, USA, 2009, 2010. FHL microfilm 1,305,081. Mathias BREIDER [BRUDER], Mischicott, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin; parents John BREIDER [BRUDER], Elisabeth BREIDER [BRUDER].