Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chasing Charlie: the criminal adventures of the brothers Ricklefs part II

My search for Jack led me to discover more about Charlie which has now led me back to Jack, so just to keep things moving in this circular fashion, we're going back to Charlie. At first, it was kind of exciting and scandalous when I found out about these two. But the more I learn the sadder I become for them and what they did, or failed to do, with their lives.

So, Charles Ricklefs was born to German immigrants John Ricklefs and Meta Tiedemann Ricklefs on January 5, 1897 in Brooklyn. He had a brother 10 years older than him, John, and four sisters. Charlie was the baby of the family.

His father bought the house on Glenmore Avenue in East New York in 1904 - Charles was only 7 but by then his older brother had already started his brushes with the law. In my head, I imagine that John Sr. was trying to get the family into a better neighborhood and I picture little Charlie, young and impressionable, with a bit of hero worship of his older brother. It was just the two of them in a house full of sisters. I have brothers. The little ones follow the older ones around - they want to be with them and be like them. Nice and heart-warming in theory - not so much when you consider the choice of role model.

Ok, so in the 1910 census, Charles is 13 and in school. His brother John is not living at home because he's in the middle of serving a 10-year sentence for burglary, grand larceny, and receiving stolen goods. I can only imagine how that affected Charlie's adolescence - oh wait, no, I have evidence. In 1912, at the age of 15, he was charged with burglary in children's court - the sentence was suspended. In 1914, at the age of 17, he was convicted of third degree assault - sentence suspended. I have no details on these cases as I only found out about them through Charles' Sing Sing Prison receiving blotter, but I have a feeling that in order to really get details about these charges and cases, I'm going to have to go to the actual court records, whatever I can find and wherever I can find them. This brings us to 1916, the year John and Charles' criminal lives finally intersect, where you can actually feel Charlie's totally misplaced love for and loyalty to his older brother, the moment when Charles' criminal activities went from childhood mischief to the real deal. This was a story that was in multiple newspapers not just in Brooklyn but across all of New York State, which years later another newspaper account described as an act that made Charles Ricklefs many little brothers would take the fall for a crime their older brother committed, especially if it meant doing time in a maximum security prison?


  1. You're actually putting a cliffhanger in a genealogy blog?

  2. Um...yes, I guess I am. It's a valid storytelling technique! :)