Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nancy Drew and the case of the possible re-marriage

I have many women in my family tree who, unfortunately, were widowed quite young. The one who has been most well-known to me is my great-great grandmother, Mary Ellen Horgan Gorry, whose husband James died when she was only about 24 years old, leaving her with my 1-year-old great-grandfather, Elmer Anthony Gorry, Sr. Now, she never remarried, and so because of that, somewhere in my head, I never assume to look for a second husband when I'm dealing with other widowed women in my family. That blind spot has made it very difficult at times to find some of these ladies in census records or to find death certificates or obituaries.

The first woman I had that breakthrough with was my 4th great-grandmother, Catherine Naeher, whose first husband (my 4th great-grandfather), John Meinberg, died somewhere in the mid- to late 1870s (I would LOVE to finally solve that mystery, but I can't find a death record for him anywhere!) when she was only in her 30s. I knew very little about Catherine until I inadvertently stumbled across her obituary at while looking for info on her daughter, Eva Meinberg Haase. That's how I discovered that after John's death, Catherine had remarried to Georg Hellmann and that Eva had several Meinberg siblings as well as a half-sister, Catherine Hellmann. Catherine's marriage certificate for her second marriage as well as her death certificate, which I could now find because I had a name and a date, gave me both of her parents names and opened up what had previously been a tightly locked door, revealing a wealth of information about her (and my) family roots in the towns of Hambach and Heppenheim in the Hesse region of Germany.

Now, this current mystery I kind of, again, stumbled onto, involves my great-great grandmother, Meta Johanna Ricklefs Haase. I actually know quite a lot about her life - she's the one who grew up in East New York, Brooklyn, whose two brothers, Charles and John, spent the better part of their lives in prison. She was married to Xavier Gustav Haase, better known as Gus, who died in Bellerose, New York, in 1928 at the age of 41. I don't have his death certificate yet, so I'm not sure why he died so young, but I have Meta in the 1930 census living with two of her three children, and I've just been waiting for the 1940 census to come out to see where she is 10 years later.

So, I was randomly plugging names in to the search engine at Fulton History because they recently added new newspaper pages and I came across a list of people who had recently applied for a marriage license from Jan. 10, 1931 and one of the couples was a George E. Roe, 42, of 14 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn, and Meta J. Haas, 40, of 40-44 Seventy-third Street in Jackson Heights in Queens County. My Meta would have been a "Meta J. Haas" in 1931, and while I have her as being born around August 1889, I don't have a birth certificate for her, so it's possible she was 40 in 1931 (it's also possible the listing got her age wrong). Could this be my Meta?

Here's the other reason this listing pinged my genealogy-radar. In the past, I've come across and dismissed an article from Dec. 30, 1931 in which deputy tax commissioner George Roe and his wife, Elizabeth, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. The Roes had four children, including a son, George R. Roe, and at their small anniversary party for "relatives and close friends," in addition to the immediate family present are Mr. and Mrs. Fred Stutzman (my great-grandparents, Fred Stutzman and Helen Haase, who is Meta's daughter), Edwin and Millicent Haase, who are Meta's two other children, and Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon Butt, who are Meta's sister and brother-in-law. I didn't know any Roes, I didn't have any on my tree, and so I always skipped over this story, but if only relatives and close friends were invited to this party, are my relatives there because the Roes' son, George, is the second husband of my great-great grandmother, Meta? I'm ignoring the difference in George's middle initial - newspapers always get those wrong. But these two articles together are making my gut believe that Meta did in fact remarry after her first husband Gus died. What I need to do is find George Roe and Meta Haas's marriage certificate, which would possibly say whether this was the first or second marriage for Meta and probably list her parents, which, since I know her parents are John Ricklefs and Meta Tiedemann, would help me either verify this possible second marriage or rule it out.

If this is in fact my Meta, will it open up any locked doors for me? Not really. But it will help me find her in the 1940 census, and it would give me a better picture of what the later part of her life was like. My curiosity is piqued!

EDITED TO ADD: is allowing free access to the 1930 U.S. census through Feb. 20. I just checked where Meta was living that year - 3737 88th Street in Queens County...which is smack dab in the middle of Jackson Heights, the area where the Meta J. Haas of said marriage license listing was living less than a year gut is telling me this is my gal, and when it comes to genealogy, my gut is never wrong! So exciting!


  1. What about city directories? George's wife's name would probably be listed after their marriage.

    An obituary for George or Meta might give you some clues too.

    Good luck -- Randy

    1. I don't know why, but I think I have another blind spot when it comes to city directories! Lol - thanks for the suggestion!