At the beginning of the 20th century, on June 4, 1900 to be more precise, the census taker who came calling along the 600 block of Wrightwood Avenue in the Lake View neighborhood on the near north side of Chicago was enumerating a lot of families where the parents claimed Germany as their place of birth and their children claimed Illinois. He found the residents of 673 Wrightwood to vary only slightly from this pattern. Only one of the parents of the four households at that address claimed to be native born. All twenty of the children claimed to be native born although one claimed Wisconsin as his place of birth. The others claimed Illinois. At least that is what the census taker appears to have been told, but are things always as they appear on the surface?
Our interest focused on this Paepke household because of the presence of my wife's maternal grandfather, Felix, who had then just turned 13 the previous week. This census record is the earliest civil record in which we have found him. He had previously appeared in a christening record at St Alphonsus Church in June, 1887, when he was two weeks old. But first lets explore his older brother Frank who was listed incorrectly as being 16 with a January, 1884 birthday--probably an honest mistake of exactly one year.
The veracity of more of the information given to the 1900 census taker has recently come into question. As much as family historians love written records, we must always carefully evaluate all the evidence and use common sense. As an emeritus history professor of mine told us more than a half century ago:
Paper is a very neutral medium. It will record any nonsense any fool writes down.The first question to arise concerns the birth location and biological father of Felix's older brother Frank. All records civil and church located in Illinois have consistently listed Frank as a native born American.
|Native Born U. S. Citizenship claimed|
|Christening record for Franz Anton (Frank)|
|Index card for immigration of Franz/Frank|
The man Cecilia subsequently married on January 15, 1887, Christoff Paepke, was still in Germany until late August, 1885, when he sailed from Hamburg to New York. Based on multiple reports Paepke was from Mecklenburg -- more than five hundred kilometers from Franz Anton's birthplace. Franz's biological father remains unknown.