Friday, September 25, 2015

Who's That Paepke Boy's Papa? Part 1: Franz Anton Doering/Frank Anthony Paepke

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?                                                                                                              

At least three of the four families at 673 Wrightwood Avenue were interrelated. Our primary interest is with the family of Christoff and Cecilia Paepke. Also living at this address were Cecilia's sister, Francisca, who was married to Gustav Ewald; and Gustav's brother, Paul Ewald, who was married to Sophia. 

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
Frank may not have known this was not correct, but he was not born in the U.S. A christening record for him has been located in church records in Neustadt, Westpreussen. There were many Neustadts in Germany/Prussia of the 1880s. This one is located in what is now northwest Poland -- not too far from the city of Danzig/Gdansk. From 1815-1919 this was part of the Kingdom of Prussia.

Christening record for Franz Anton (Frank)
His date of birth listed in his christening record is consistent with the date of birth used later in life in Chicago. However, the place of birth was on the opposite side of the Atlantic. "Cecilie Dering" is listed as the mother but the father is unknown.

Index card for immigration of Franz/Frank
The following year Franz got to the western shore of that ocean along with his 24 year old mother "Cacilie". Franz was actually about 16 months old by then but still a little young to already be a farmer as listed on his index card. The two of them made it to their listed destination of Illinois. Was that because Cecilia already had family there? Her sister immigrated the previous year with the stated intention of going to Michigan. Perhaps Francisca was already in Chicago where she was married on May 4, 1885. Perhaps there was some other draw. No evidence has emerged to support the thesis that Cecilia was going there to meet the father of Franz Anton. 

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. 

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