Negative evidence can play an important role in genealogical research. In his short story, “Silver Blaze,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, uses negative evidence to solve the case of a racehorse who went missing the same night that his trainer was killed. Holmes refers to “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” When the detective from Scotland Yard points out, “The dog did nothing in the night-time,” Holmes replies, “That was the curious incident.” In this case, it was the fact that the watch dog did not bark that led Holmes to the realization that it was someone familiar — the horse’s trainer himself — who had led the horse out of his stall during the night. Similarly, negative evidence can be used to support or reject various genealogical research hypotheses, and today I’d like to describe some negative evidence I’ve found in my Klaus research that might back up a family story.
Last week, I began to discuss some wonderful new discoveries that proceeded from my recent dicovery of the marriage record for my great-great-grandparents, Andrzej/Andrew Klaus and Marianna/Mary Łącka, in Buffalo, New York. Previously, I’d written about my erroneous assumption that they’d married in Texas, based on the family story (still unproven) that their oldest sons, Joseph and John, were born there. However, I was astonished to discover that Andrew and Mary actually married in Buffalo on 21 January 1891.1 Although this discovery offers indisputable evidence that Andrew and Mary did not immediately proceed to Texas after their respective arrivals in the U.S., it does not eliminate the possibility that they ever lived there. The lingering question remains, where and when were their oldest sons, Joseph and John, born?
Based on existing evidence, the timeline for the Klaus family history in the U.S. is as follows (Figure 1):
Figure 1: Timeline of Łącki-Klaus history in the U.S. from 1884-1895.
The first birth that has been documented for this family is that of their third child, Anna, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on 26 November 1892.2 If we assume that births are rarely spaced closer than 11 months apart, that suggests that John Klaus could not have been born any more recently than December 1891, and Joseph Klaus could not have been born any more recently than January 1891, assuming the practical minimum of 11 months between births. So there seem to be three possibilities that would fit the timeline:
- Joseph and John were twins, both born circa December 1891 after Andrew and Mary’s marriage in January of that year. (This scenario seems least likely, since the 1900 census suggests that Joseph was older.3)
- Mary was 9 months pregnant when she married Andrew Klaus and delivered Joseph almost immediately after their marriage.
- Joseph was born out of wedlock, circa 1890.
Regarding scenarios 2 and 3, hey, it happens. As the say in genealogy circles, “the first baby can come at any time, after that each pregnancy takes 9 months.”
Deep in the Heart of…. Buffalo?
Now that we’ve reviewed the data and back-calculated to get some idea of when Joseph and John were likely to have been born, we can examine again the issue of where those events might have taken place. This new discovery of Andrew and Mary’s marriage in Buffalo immediately suggested that perhaps the family story about Texas was nothing more than a tall tale. They each entered through the port of New York, and whether or not Andrew ever made it to Plymouth, Pennsylvania, which was the destination he reported on his passenger manifest in 1889,4 they were clearly both in Buffalo by January 1891. So it’s possible that both their oldest sons might also have been born in Buffalo, consistent with all of their documentation.
With this in mind, I decided to start checking baptismal records at ethnic Polish churches in Buffalo, looking for the baptismal records for Joseph and John, starting in December 1891. By 1891, there were only four ethnic Polish Roman Catholic churches in Buffalo:
- St. Stanislaus, founded in 1873, where Andrew and Mary married.
- St. Adalbert, founded in 1886.
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in 1888.
- St. Casimir, founded in 1890.
The only baptisms for children of Andrew and Mary Klaus at St. Stanislaus were the baptisms of the four children born between 1895 and 1900, when the Klaus family returned to Buffalo after their sojourn in St. Louis from 1892-1894.
However, I struck pay dirt almost immediately in the baptisms at St. Adalbert’s from December 1891 — exactly when I predicted I might find a Klaus baptism! However, it wasn’t a birth record I expected. Instead of finding John Klaus’s birth, or perhaps baptismal records for twins Joseph and John, I found…. Sophia?! (Figure 2):
Figure 2: Baptismal record from St. Adalbert’s parish in Buffalo, New York, for Zofia Klaus, born 3 December 1891.5
Sophia, or in Polish, Zofia. Holy cow. She was completely unknown to our family. She must have died in infancy or childhood since she did not appear in the 1900 census. Of course, this raises all kinds of new questions. When and where did she die? Where is she buried?
More importantly, the birth of an additional child really messes up my putative timeline. If Zofia was born in December 1891, that means that John must have been born January 1891, around the same time as his parents’ marriage, or earlier. That, in turn, implies that Joseph must have been born earlier still — circa February 1890. The new timeline looks like this (Figure 3).
Figure 3: New Timeline of Łącki-Klaus history in the U.S. from 1884-1895, based on birth of Sophia Klaus in December 1891.
The Plot Thickens
Having one child out of wedlock was no more unusual then than it is now, and I’m not here to judge my ancestors or anyone else. My job is to discover their stories, document their lives, and remember those who came before us. However, it’s probably safe to say that among Polish Roman Catholics of this era, it was less common for the same couple to have more than one child born out of wedlock, which raises possibilities I hadn’t previously considered. Could Mary Łącka have had Joseph with another man prior to her relationship with Andrew, so that Andrew was Joseph’s adoptive father, but not his biological father? Could Mary Łącka have been married previously, and could Joseph be Mary’s son from that marriage?
Unfortunately, no hints are found in Mary and Andrew’s marriage record. In some cases, the priest would use the term “deflorata virgo” in the marriage record of a bride who had had a child out of wedlock or was obviously pregnant when she married. However, this term is not found in the marriage records from St. Stanislaus. It is significantly more likely that the priest would have noted if Mary was a widow, as it was a fairly standard practice throughout the Catholic Church to note any prior marriages for the bride and groom on a marriage record. However, in all of the marriages indexed by Kasia Dane from St. Stan’s for the period from 1873-1913, there was only one, #112 in 1892, that noted that the bride, Rozalia Sierotowska, was a widow. Her previous marriage was mentioned only in the column for the names of her parents, which states, “wdowa której rodzice są nieznani” (widow whose parents are unknown), and the record does not make it clear whether Sierotowska was her married surname or her maiden name. Rather than suggesting that Rozalia was the only widow who remarried at St. Stan’s during all the time, I rather suspect that she was the only widow whose parents’ names were unknown. It seems more probable that other widows and widowers remarried at St. Stan’s between 1873 and 1913, but the priest probably noted previous marriages during the premarital exam, rather than on the actual marriage record itself. Whether records from the premarital exams were preserved, and whether the church might permit access to them, remains to be determined. However, they might be more informative than these marriage records regarding any prior marriages for Mary Łącka.
Always a Bridesmaid….
So are there any other clues that we can glean from the marriage records themselves that might shed light on Mary Łącka’s history from 1884-1891? You betcha. Kasia Dane’s index is really invaluable in this regard, since it’s simple to search each document for keywords. (For those among you who might be less computer-savvy, you can open a search box for a pdf document by hitting “ctrl-f”.) In the document with marriages from 1874-1888, a search for “Lacka” (no diacritics needed!) informs us that Maria Łącka was a witness to the marriage of Katarzyna Węgrzyn and Jan Lewczyk on 30 June 1886 (#64). Like Mary Łącka, the bride in this record was also from Kołaczyce, so we can be certain that the Mary Łącka mentioned here is indeed my great-great-grandmother, and not merely another person in the parish with the same name. There’s another record from 31 January 1887, the marriage of Stanisław Baran and Katarzyna Strusikowska (#21, at the bottom of the page), which is very faded, but the female witness is arguably Maria Łącka again. Two weeks later, on 14 February 1887, Maria Łącka was again named as a witness to the marriage of Stanisław Skarbek and Maria Michałek (#32). There is no further mention of Maria Łącka or Maria Klaus in any of the marriage records through 1913.
From this, we can conclude the following:
- Mary Łącka was in Buffalo as early as 30 June 1886, after her arrival in the U.S. with her father Jakub and brothers Józef and Jan in 1884.
- If Mary Łącka was married prior to her marriage with Andrew Klaus, it must have been after 14 February 1887, and that marriage did not take place at St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo.. The fact that her name was recorded as “Maria Łącka” when she witnessed three marriages between 1886 and 1887 argues strongly in favor of the fact that she was still single at that time, and there are no marriage records for Maria Łącka recorded at St. Stan’s other than the record of her marriage to Andrew Klaus. The likelihood that she was married after 14 February 1887, gave birth to her son Joseph circa 1890, was widowed before January 1891, and was recorded under her maiden name on her marriage record, seems pretty slim. So at this point, I’m leaning toward the “two pregnancies outside of marriage” hypothesis. However, a previous marriage between 1887 and 1890 would still fit the timeline and hasn’t yet been ruled out completely.
“The Dogs That Didn’t Bark” in Buffalo and St. Louis
Finding Zofia’s birth record at St. Adalbert’s was quite a surprise, but interestingly, that was the only Klaus baptismal record I found there. I searched all available baptismal records (back to 1889) and did not find birth records for Joseph and John Klaus. Similarly, I searched baptismal records at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish back to 1888 and did not find records for Joseph and John Klaus. The last Polish Catholic parish in Buffalo that they could possibly have been baptized in, St. Casimir, has no records available online. I wrote to them to request a search for these two births, but have not yet received a reply.
On a similar note, I searched death records from St. Adalbert’s for a record for Zofia Klaus, starting from December 1891, when she was born, through December 1892. Her sister Anna was born in St. Louis in November 1892, so the logical possibilities based on existing evidence are:
- Zofia died in infancy in another parish in Buffalo.
- Zofia died in St. Louis.
- Zofia died after her family returned to Buffalo circa 1895. At this point all I know is that she was already deceased by 1900.
To rule out the possibility that Zofia was buried from another parish in Buffalo in infancy, I searched the index to deaths from St. Stanislaus Church, Buffalo, NY (online at Family Search) for her death record. Book 2 contains deaths from 1886-1895, and in the index for this book, there were no listings for Klaus at all. Unfortunately, the collection of records available online for Assumption parish (founded in 1888) contains no death records, and similarly, I can’t check St. Casimir’s records, either. So for the moment, this is as thorough as I can be with the Buffalo records prior to 1892.
To rule out the possibility that Zofia died in St. Louis, I searched death records from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in St. Louis, Missouri, online at Family Search. I searched from December 1891 through the end of 1895, so if she’d died in St. Louis, I should have picked up her death. Nothing found.
To rule out Possibility #3, that Zofia died after her family returned to Buffalo in 1895, I checked the death index from St. Stan’s (Book 3, deaths from 1895-1927), as well as death records from St. Adalbert’s from 1895-1900 (inclusive), but her death was not found. And again, church records from Assumption parish in Buffalo do not include deaths, so those can’t be checked easily.
So, to recap:
- Joseph and John Klaus were both born no later than January 1891, when their parents married. Joseph was probably born circa February 1890.
- If they were born in Buffalo, they were not baptized in 3 of the 4 Polish Roman Catholic parishes that existed at that time.
- If Sophia Klaus died in Buffalo before 1892 (when her sister was born in St. Louis), her death was not recorded in 2 of the 4 Polish Roman Catholic parishes that existed at that time.
- Sophia Klaus’s death was not recorded in the Polish Catholic parish in St. Louis where her sisters were baptized, nor was she buried out of St. Stan’s or St. Adalbert’s between 1895 (when her family returned to Buffalo) and 1900 (when she fails to appear in the 1900 census).
Admittedly, my search is still incomplete since I can’t easily check any parish records for St. Casimir’s and the death records from Assumption parish. But it looks to me like the family story about Joseph and John being born in Texas is still entirely possible. I just need to figure out where the family would have lived, and I have a pretty good idea about how to do that. It’s just a matter of time…. so stay tuned!
1 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1873-1917, Marriages, 1891, #26, record for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka, accessed 16 August 2017.
2 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish (St. Louis, Missouri, USA), Church records, 1880-1993, Baptisms, 1880-1923, 1892, #127, record for Anna Klaus, FHL film #1872178, accessed 16 August 2017.
3 1900 U.S. Federal census (population schedule), Buffalo, Erie, New York, E.D. 84, sheet 28A, Andro Klano (sic) household, https://familysearch.org, accessed 16 August 2017.
4 Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008), http://www.ancestry.com, record for Andrzey Klaus, accessed on 16 August 2017.
5 Roman Catholic Church, St. Adalbert’s Basilica (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1887-1916, Baptisms, 1891, p. 69, record for Sophia Klaus, accessed 16 August 2017.
© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017
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