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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finding an unknown first wife's name and death year in Minnesota or Iowa

Jan 18, 2009 Nona asked

My Uncle was given away when he was a baby . I found his father in the next census and it said he was a widower in 1900. My Uncle was born in 1899. His fathers name was Peter Rosenthal born in 1860 Germany. He remarried in 1901 or 02 and had children with him in 1910 by his 1St. and 2nd. wife. I think he gave my Uncle up because of his wife dying. I'm trying to find her death and name and my uncles real name . They lived in Mower, Minnesota.

OliveTree Answers: Hi Nona,

You've got a challenging genealogy puzzler! It seems you have 3 questions, so let's tackle one - Peter Rosenthal's wife's name. I'm glad you gave me a location to work with (Mower Minnesota) because if you hadn't I wouldn't have taken this query on.

As I usually do, I started with the census records on I started with 1910 so that I could understand better about his two wives and different children by each.

You've seen this census of course but so that anyone else reading this will understand, in brief we find Peter age 49 saying he immigrated in 1860. His wife is Milly M and she is 36. His two eldest children are ages 22 and 24 and born in Iowa, giving them estimated years of birth of 1886 and 1888. Milly would be too young to be their mother so I think we can agree she is wife #2.

Going backwards we find Peter in the 1900 census for Mower Minnesota listed as Peter V. Rosenthal, age 39, widower. Here he says he immigrated in 1861. It is not unusual to find different years of immigration given for the same person. Always search a year or two on either side of any year given in the census. Peter is with his parents Carl and Anna, which actually helped me to determine if I had the correct Peter Rosenthal in earlier census years.

1890 is missing so we turn to 1880. Now Peter is in Mitchell Iowa and he is a single man born Hanover [Germany] living with his parents and siblings. So we know Peter married his first wife between this census (1880) in Iowa, and circa 1886 when his first known child was born.

Thank Goodness for the State Census Records!

Iowa has an 1885 state census and a search there showed Peter age 24 in Worth County Iowa, still single and still with his parents and siblings. That was a terrific find because now we can narrow that marriage time line even further. We know that Peter married between 1885 and circa 1886, and chances are good he married in Iowa, and most likely Worth County has Iowa Marriages 1851-1900 (but no images or details) and there I found a marriage in Worth Co. Iowa for Peter Rosenthal and Minnie Stehn. There is no year given so your next step would be to order the marriage record through the Ancestry online service or consult FHL film #1445838

Since I'm the curious sort, I took a look at the Iowa GenWeb Archives for the marriage in Worth County. There it was. Peter and Minnie were married on 3 April 1885. Further checking of census records showed that Minnie Stehn was born ca 1865 in Hanover Germany and thus was the perfect age to be Peter Rosenthal's first wife.

I think I've answered one of your questions. If I were you I would now check the 1895 state census for Iowa and see if Minnie is still alive then. Remember though that the family may have moved on to Minnesota by that year so you should check to see what state census records are available there.

I would also look for Grace and Clarence Rosenthal's birth records in Iowa. They are the two eldest children of Peter and Minnie. That should confirm my findings of their mother's name. You might want to search Minnesota and Iowa birth records for your uncle's name. Now that you know his parents' names the search should be easier.

Good luck. Please let us know here on how you make out.

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