Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Joseph Pfeiffer Story

I'm not so sure that this is so much The Pfeiffer story as it is the "Aunt Rose Story." You see, my mom's aunt Rose Zimmeth was probably the closest to a free spirit my family had in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Years ago - 1977 to be a little more exact - my uncle "interviewed" his father, my maternal grandfather, to elicit some family information. While  this told me more than I have ever suspected, my uncle failed to get information that he knew the answers to on tape. Which still left me in the dark somewhat. But we'll skip that subject today.

Before I first listened, and later transcribed that interview, I was pretty much in the dark about my mom's family. She had an unusual upbringing in that she rarely lived with her own parents. Her mother was afflicted with TB and the family was often split up among other family members. Thus, my mother was raised by her Aunt Rose, one of Grandpa's sisters.

At this point, a little background is necessary on Rose. She was born October 26, 1884 in East Tawas, Michigan. Her father, August Zimmeth was the only of his family born in the United States and her mother, Augusta Wilhelmina Clesotte (see previous posts about this name) was born in Germany. Somewhere. By 1906, Rose is living/working in Detroit, Michigan where in January 1906 she marries Emmon Soncrant. Grandpa's interview says that the marriage was dissolved because of underage. Well, it was true that Emmon was just shy of his 21st birthday. Rose was already 22. Maybe he did not have parental permission, but by all reports the marriage did not last long and eventually both remarried.

Rose then entered into a long-term relationship with Joseph "Jul" Kustus, a professional baseball player. Early in his career, he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I'm not sure when Joe and Rose hooked up but by 1916 they were living together and were business partners in a grocery. Joe died of TB in 1916 at "Eloise" the sanitarium in Wayne, Michigan. My grandfather avowed that Rose & Joe would have married had he not died. Which leads us into 1917 and my subject.

Joseph A. Pfeiffer and Rose Zimmeth were married October 17, 1917. Joe was a butcher and Rose was still in the grocery business on the 1920 census. Unfortunately, their marriage was a short one, because one day, while Joe was riding his bicycle, he was struck by a car and killed. This happened on August 31, 1920, less than three years after their marriage.

Originally, I had no idea when Joe and Rose were even married, but thanks to FamilySearch, I was able to find their marriage record. Then began the search for Joseph's death. I had a narrow window, 1920, because Rose married her last husband, John Ochsenfeld (also Ochenfeld or Ochensfeld) in January of 1921. Since Joseph appeared on the 1920 census, he was alive as of January 1st of 1920.

Fortunately for me, the state of Michigan put up their Seeking Michigan website and I was finally able to locate Joe's death certificate and, indeed, I confirmed that he was riding a bike when he was struck and killed. The second part of what Grandpa said, was that the driver of the car was the owner of a car company. This part I have never been able to confirm.

Joe's death certificate gave his burial place as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which I already suspected, since I knew Aunt Rose was buried with her family up in East Tawas, Michigan. Her last husband was buried with his late first wife in Detroit. So it was logical that Joe was buried with his family in Pittsburgh, somewhere. Searches on Find-a-Grave were unproductive. No one had entered any of his family that I could tell. Previous searching had elicited his parents as Christian Adam and Mathilde Pfeiffer. I even had names for his siblings. But nothing for Joseph. Until now.

Last week I saw a database on Ancestry that led me straight to his burial place. Almost. Because nothing on Ancestry is simple. Ever. What I found when I searched Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1777-1999 on ancestry was ABSOLUTELY nothing for Jos* Pfeiffer. However they did have a Jos R Pfeiffer, born 1893 and died August 31, 1920 buried in Greenwood cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yeah. No. When I look at the record here on the right, I see Pfeiffer, Jos. A (not R) and I see Highwood Cemetery not Greenwood. I still can't figure out why searching Jos* Pfeiffer did not bring up the index for him, but there he is. I had no idea Joe served as a Private in 1918. But now I have a burial place including the section, lot and grave. 

In my quest for more information on Joseph, I found on Ancestry World Tree The Extended Wood, Bupp, Tatem, Huether, Pfeiffer, etc tree, which proved the Highwood Cemetery rather than Greenwood Cemetery for a burial place. Finally. Now if SKS* at Find-a-Grave will honor the request, I may even end up with a headstone photo and then Joe's story will be complete.

*Some Kind soul.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

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