So why post about the Weiss family yesterday? It’s because I found new information. A lot of new information about my genealogy. The following is what I knew about my great grandfather Joseph Weiss yesterday morning:
From the memory book Aunts Jane and Sue gave me, I knew that Joe Weiss married Frances Ryan and had six children: Marie, Joe Jr., Helen, Glenn, Arch, and Babe. Other than my grandfather Arch, I didn’t have any other information when I started. From Ancestry.com I was able to find them in the census records for 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930. That gave me more information, such as approximate birth dates.
Particularly, I didn’t know who Joseph’s parents were. There were three Joseph Weisses born in Wisconsin about the same time. And I knew Joe had a brother named Theodore. He didn’t show up on the census records for any of the three Joe Weisses I found. Ryan was also a pretty common name. I had an idea which was the correct Ryan family, but didn’t have enough to feel comfortable. So I was kind of stumped.
Ancestry.com also had a database record that showed Joseph Weiss marrying a Frankie Ryan in 1891. That had to be my great grandfather, but Ancestry had only the names, date and location. They did not have the original record, which could have given me more information and confirmed that it was actually my great grandfather.
A quick note about sources. From what I can tell, genealogists classify their sources into three basic strata: primary, secondary, and everything else. Primary is something that is recorded at or near the time of the event, or is related by someone who was there. Secondary is something that is based off a primary source, such as a history book. Then there’s the rest, which could be family legends, or family trees that other people put on the internet, etc. Generally primary sources are the most reliable. And what’s primary or secondary isn’t always clear. For instance, the information on my grandfather’s death certificate is a mix. The death information is primary, but the birth information is based on what I told the funeral director, which he submitted to the health department.
The database that had the marriage information is no better than secondary. Information could have been transcribed incorrectly. This is what Ancestry had to say about the provenance of the data:
Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp.. Wisconsin Marriages, 1835-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000. Original data: See Description for original data sources listed by county.
Original data: Grant County, Wisconsin Marriages, 1835-1890. County court records located at Lancaster, WI or FHL #1266662 and 1266982-1266988.
That doesn’t tell me a lot. I figured at some point I would stop by the county courthouse or state records division on a trip there and look up the microfilm myself.
Last month, I was perusing the web site for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. They have a genealogy database, which is based off the same microfilm records that Liahona Research used. In fact, they are more complete than what was sold to Ancestry.com. But not only that, you could easily order a copy of the original microfilm page for each record for only $15. They had the record listed for the Joseph Weiss/Frankie Ryan marriage. So I ordered it.
The record came yesterday.
This lists Joe Weiss’ father as Anton Weiss, which is the the family I’d considered the most likely before. Now I can list his parents as Anton and Clara and add a number of siblings from the 1880 census record to what I know. One mystery is where is Theodore in the 1880 census? Him not being there is why I didn’t add the Anton Weiss family to my known information. Boarding school is unlikely, but possible. Perhaps he moved out young to work on his own or for a local farmer. In addition to the census information, the marriage record lists his mother Clara’s maiden name as Voight. Taking on the husband’s name makes finding wives’ birth families through census records a pain in the ass. Since both Anton and Clara are from Germany (I cut off that part of the census record below), I will have names as starting points when I eventually dig into German genealogy information.
Frankie Ryan’s father is listed as William Ryan, and that was also the most likely of my choices for the Ryan family. What had kept me from concluding this was the case before was that in later censuses, Francis Weiss’ father is listed as having been born in Canada, but the W. D. Ryan listed in the 1880 census is listed as having been born in Wisconsin. The marriage record has Laura Ryan listed as a witness, and the William Dennis Ryan family in the 1880 census had a Laura as a child. Suspicions there are confirmed, and I can add additional information from the 1880 census record for this family as well.
Since the Ryan family is of Irish descent, I can add Irish to the list of nationalities that make up my mutt blood.
There’s some curious things about the William Ryan family in that census, but that will have to wait for another post.