Sunday, February 23, 2014

52 Ancestors- Charles Szodry or Charles Dorn? Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

I have just downloaded the trial of Evidentia to try it out. So far I love it but it has only been two days. I decided to try it on my great-grandfather and see if re-evaluating the records would lead me to something I may have missed. I know I am talking about an entire family but trying to prove Charles’ parentage I need to know everything I can about the rest of his family as well.

My great-grandfather was born Charles Szodry, 31 October 1882, in Manhattan, New York. His parents were Charles Szodry and Bertha Offhaus. The problem is that that is the only record I have for him as Szodry. Everything other record for his life says his last name is Dorn. The main question is do I have enough to prove that birth record is him? That’s where Evidentia comes in. 

Charles’ father Carl/Charles Szodry/Szczodry immigrated to the United States in May of 1882 on the ship Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm, leaving his wife in Germany. On his passenger list he states he is 30 year old male farmer from Prussia. Charles’ wife Bertha came in August of 1882 on the ship Bolivia. The odd thing is she is listed as a 31 year old male carpenter. Could she have dressed as a man? Probably, if she wanted to but the fact she gave birth 2 months later means it may have been fairly difficult. 

Charles and Bertha moved to Brooklyn by 6 July 1884 when their second son, Albert Szodry, was born. His mother was written as Bretha Szodry, maiden name Offhaus, age 33, born in Germania. The father, Carl Szodry, a 32 year old German born cabinetmaker. Albert married Bertha Buccholz 5 August 1911 at his residence, 139 East 8th St.. They were married by the Reverend of the Second Reformed Church where his mother was listed as a member in her obituary. They moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1920 and 1930 and during that time Albert died possibly in an industrial accident.

Charles and Bertha’s third son was Otto August Szadry, born 13 January 1886 in Brooklyn. Again the mother was Bertha Szadry, born Offhaus, age 34, born in Germania. Carl Szadry, age 33, cabinetmaker from Germania was the father. Otto married a woman named Lulu and was alive as late as 1940.

Later in life the boys seem to have middle names that they either didn’t have or that didn’t match their birth records. Charles used the letter A. It didn’t stand for anything but he always thought it odd he didn’t have a middle name. Otto started using Albert August and Otto used Otto Frederick. 

Carl and Bertha had their fourth child, Wilhelm Gotthold, in June of 1887. The surname was spelled Szadry on the record. Carl was stated to be a 34 year old cabinetmaker born in Germania. Bertha was 36 years old, born in Germania, and her maiden name was written as Offhaus. Due to issues with the cemetery I have no idea when he died but I know it was before 1892. His name on the tombstone is Goddard.

Charles Szodry Sr. died 6 October 1887 at 321 Livingston St., Brooklyn of a coma due to chronic nephritis. His age at time of death was given as 35 years, 6 months and 14 days. That means he was born 23 March 1852 which is a fantastic start towards finding out more about him. If only I knew where he was born. Charles is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Brooklyn. I’m thankful that my grandfather was able to tell me exactly where the plot is located since the cemetery has lost all record of the plot. All I have as proof that the family is buried there is the tombstone. My great-grandfather had the tombstone made with no dates on it. Also buried there is Robert Dorn, Bertha’s second husband. Charles did not put his name on the stone so it was only due to him telling my grandfather that I even know that.

Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn, photo taken by Rachel Mackin-Evans, 2008

Bertha married a second time between 1889 and the 1892 census to another German immigrant, Robert Dorn. By the 1892 New York census all of the Szodry sons are listed with the surname Dorn. For some reason the census states that Bertha is 6 years old. I won’t even begin to try to figure that one out, maybe a language barrier? Living in the household with Robert and Bertha are Charles (9), Albert (8), and Otto (6). 

Robert and Bertha had their only child, Anna Paulen Emma Dorn 10 August 1892 in Brooklyn. Mother, Bertha Dorn, maiden name Offhaus, 39 year old born in Germany. Robert Dorn, the father, was a 33 year old German born blacksmith. Anna was the 5th child born to her mother. Anna was married to Richard Sadlier by the Reverend Louis Goebel of the Second Reformed Church, Flatbush.

The 1900 census has Robert and Bertha living in Brooklyn. Charles, Albert, and Otto are listed as sons and daughter Anna. All the information matches perfectly what I stated previously. The only new thing was that Bertha was born in November of 1853. The number of years married was 21 so it may be that she married her first husband 21 years ago. If that is the case I’m ecstatic because the cut-off for the civil registration records for the possible town in Germany only goes up to 1880.

Bertha died January 1910 in Brooklyn, Kings, N.Y. Due to a note written on the back of the record I know the informant was her youngest son Otto. Bertha was a 58 year old German born housewife. She is said to have been in the U.S. and NYC for 28 years which matches her immigration record. Her parents were Carl H. Offhaus and the mother’s name was blank. The note that Otto wrote was that he didn’t know the maiden name of his grandmother. In Bertha’s obituary it states she was a member of the Second Reformed Church in Flatbush and the funeral was held there. So I am planning a trip to see if there may be any records pertaining to the family there. Her will was as expected since she left everything to be divided between her children. She did have a fund that she left to her sons that would give them $1,000 to be divided between them. Maybe that had something to do with either their father or before her marriage to Robert Dorn and she didn’t feel right leaving it to Anna as well.

In 1910 Robert is widowed with his two stepsons, Charles and Albert, and his daughter Anna in the household. Also living there is Charles’ first wife Elsie and Elsie’s son Edward. According to my grandfather Edward was adopted by Charles. Elsie and Charles eventually divorced after having no children together between 1910 and he remarried in 1920. What is confusing me is that Charles and Elsie were married for 5 years and Edward was only 4 years old but Edward was Charles’ stepson. Maybe the 5 years was when she married her first husband? I have been unable to locate a marriage or divorce record for them but I have not given up yet.

Robert Dorn died 30 October 1913 in Brooklyn. His son-in-law, Richard Sadlier was the informant. He was said to be a 57 year old blacksmith from Germany who had been in the U.S. and NYC for 35 years. His father was Robert Dorn and his mother was unknown. His will was an insight as to his relationship with his step-sons. Stories my grandfather told me gave me clues that there was bad blood but the will confirmed it. He leaves everything to his daughter Anna Sadlier except for $1,000 that was to be divided equally among his children at the death of Charles Dorn and his wife was to have none of it. That may have had something to do with the divorce which tells me he was still more than likely legally married to Elsie at the time. The next part is where it gets interesting. He writes that he is leaving nothing to his sons, Charles, Albert and Otto since they have not “maintained themselves towards me in a dutiful manner nor treated me with the consideration that I deserved for the treatment and bringing up which I gave them.” Is this his way of saying he raised the boys as if they were his own and they didn’t appreciate it? 

Charles was exempt from service in World War I due to 3 fingers he fractured in his hand. He was a semi-pro baseball player in the Albany, N.Y. area and played the catcher's position. While doing that he broke several fingers and they didn't heal right. At the end of his baseball career he went back to being a machinist.

Charles married his second wife in May of 1920 , Elizabeth Eleanor Randel, my great grandmother. Charles died in 1954 after having 5 children with Elizabeth, 4 who survived.
Photo in possession of author.
From using Evidentia I can prove the boys relationship to their mother but not definitively to their father. Due to lack of records linking them to the Szodry name I'm hoping if I can come up with more proof of Bertha Offhaus and Carl Szodry that I can infer that her sons would have had to be the Szodry boys.