A Case of Family Tree Pruning

Backing off of an Otherwise Fruitful Branch

At my first job as a newspaper reporter, in Sandusky, Ohio, I used to keep a list of “Things I’ve Been Called Lately” tacked to my desk.

There’s just something about the name “Colt Foutz” that doesn’t always translate well, on first hearing. And thus, on press releases, in phone messages, and even face to face, my list of potential aliases grew longer: Coat Folds, Scott Faust, Paul Foltz, Cort Fronds, etc. and etc.

In the pages of history, my ancestors have fared no better, whether at the hands of record-takers in the moment or record hounds decades or even centuries distant who squint at ancient script and make their best guess as to how they should preserve it in transcribed indexes.

Thus, a Foutz becomes a Fautz or a Phoutz or a Hautz — all of which have appeared on family birth and death certificates.

I’ve seen a deceased “Lea” infant attributed to a “Ley” mother. And a whole family of Zeiglers masquerading as “Giglers”.

Which brings me to this post’s story.

St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Dover.

St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Dover.

They Call Them Puzzles for a Reason

I’ve said it before in these posts: when I started digging into genealogy two summers ago, the back story of the Foutz clan, in particular, was pretty sketchy. Whatever fragments we did have had been passed down through a series of mostly younger siblings, who often never met their much-older ancestors. And apparently didn’t say much about them later on.

My dad, being the youngest son of a third-youngest son of a youngest son, at least spent some time with his grandpa, Vance Cleveland Foutz. My great-grandfather lived just down the block my dad’s whole life. Before he passed away, in 1968, when Dad was 16, Vance was often the de facto babysitter for little Fred. During my uncles’ football games, Dad remembered nights sentenced to Lawrence Welk on TV, or being carted off to one of Vance’s running poker games around town, usually in the company of Vance’s buddy Jake Lentz, who lived with him after the death of my great-grandmother, Laura.

It was easy enough, two summers ago, to find the pieces of Vance’s family history and fit them into place. Birth, death and census records pretty definitively traced him back to three generations of Foutzes who farmed in nearby Harrison County. Family papers later confirmed my research. But uncovering the genealogy of my great-grandmother proved more difficult, and led to some missteps. Fruitful ones, as it turned out. But the fruit belonged to a branch distinct from my own family’s tree.

I remember filling out my first family tree assignment in elementary school. It was probably second or third grade. I called both sets of grandparents and got the details. The tree we filled out went back three generations. My great-grandma on the Foutz side had the hands-down best name. I had to squeeze the print into the box on the worksheet as Grandma Erma Foutz read it out: “Christina Laurina Katherina Zeigler“.

Fast-forward 25 years and that sheet probably could have come in handy. I could have copied the spelling. Because when I renewed my genealogy work, I began searching under “Ziegler”.

What can go wrong with a transposed i and e? This is more a story of what can go right. Any well-executed family sleuthing mission relies on multiple records — and multiple confirmations. One document could miss a date here, mar a name there. But if you can find a half dozen, a dozen or more that synch up — and better yet, corroborate with your own family, or their archives — then you can be pretty certain what you’ve gathered is correct.

In Vance’s case I was able to find census records that showed him in the household of Jonathan and Rebecca Foutz in 1900. I found birth records that showed he was born to them, and when. I found a death certificate for Rebecca that listed Vance as the informant, with his address in Dover as her last residence. Finally, I found a U.S. Social Security death index record for Vance that put the final bookend on his life. There would be more records, later, that fleshed out the details even more. But this was the initial series of checkmarks, forward and back.

With Great-Grandma Laura, unfortunately, history mostly ran backward. I couldn’t find a death record that would definitively list her parents’ names. All I knew was that she must have died after 1953, the cutoff for scanned records in the Ohio database. For example, her son Roy’s death certificate was available in all its detail, recording his death in 1953 following a car accident, with mother and father listed, and his address on Walnut Street in Dover. For great uncle Roy I could nail down a birth certificate, his place in the household of Vance and Laura in the 1910, ’20 and ’30 censuses, and his death. I couldn’t uncover the final chapter for his mother – but I had plenty of pieces that seemed to tell the beginning of her story.

To Err is Divine; Buried Catholic, a (Fool’s) Goldmine

Zeigler, or Ziegler? Or Gigler, for that matter, in the case of an early Dover census. With human error being what it is — significant — you learn to be creative in your research, or else sigh at your two hands continually coming up empty.

I couldn’t find a death record for Laura Foutz — or Christina Laurina Catherina Zeigler, for that matter. But I could find a Laura Ziegler living in Dover before and after 1900 of the same generation as Great-Grandpa Vance.

She is listed in the 1900 census for a Mary Alvina and Joseph Ziegler, right down Race Street in Dover from where Vance and Laura would eventually live from 1910 through the early 1930s. She was born in January 1892, five years after Vance’s 1887 — probably a little young to be giving birth to Roy Foutz in 1908, but hey, stranger things have happened. And the census taker could still be wrong.

Even more exciting was that I could trace this Laura Ziegler’s family back pretty definitively, in much the same way I had my great-grandfather Vance Foutz’s. Mary Alvina was the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Krantz. Elizabeth Krantz was originally a Weckmann, daughter of German immigrants Heinrich and Catherine Weckmann. Joseph Ziegler, moreover, was the son of Peter and Geneveve Ziegler, and probably the grandson of Alfred Ziegler, also German immigrants who settled in Dover in the mid-1800s. Hey, they’re all buried in the same cemetery, St. Joseph’s, affiliated with the Catholic church in our small town.

The Krantzes and Zieglers were buried side by side in Dover. And why not? They were family....

If my research had connected Peter and Geneveve Ziegler to Laura Foutz, they would be my great-great-great grandparents.

In later censuses — 1910 through 1930 — I only had to look on the same page as Vance and Laura to spot these same Zieglers (often spelled as Zigler, or Zegler) living out their lives right up the block: Vance and Laura at the corner of Race and Sixth, Mary and family at the intersection of Race and Fifth.

It all fit. Or, well, seemed to. For starters, why was Laura so young? Did she really have Roy at 16? (Which would mean she was pregnant even earlier….) No one in my family had ever talked about having Catholic ancestors before. But hey, these folks were European immigrants. And the Lutheran Church — to which Vance and Laura and their children and grandchildren belonged — is very close. A logical step. And what about the Krantz connection? Theirs was a prominent family name in Dover, and heirs to an agricultural empire besides. If this was true, why hadn’t anyone ever said something about it before?

Because it wasn’t true.

When I returned home to Dover in March 2010 for a writing trip, I was inspired to dust off my genealogy research. Aided by online cemetery tools, I was able to locate the graves of my alleged Ziegler/Krantz/Weckmann ancestors. I visited St. Joseph Cemetery, which I had not so much as ever noticed, growing up in Dover, and dutifully photographed their final resting places. Laura and Vance were buried across town, in Dover Burial Park, but aside from her troublesome birth date, everything still seemed to fit.

Until I started talking to my dad about it, and we both puzzled over the Krantz connection. Dad then took a logical step — he picked through the box of my grandmother’s old photos and papers, and pulled out an obituary for Laura Foutz.

Now, this wasn’t the heaven-stopping find it might have been. The obit was still light on details. Her parents weren’t listed, only that she was “born in Ruslin Hills” — which sounded exotic, but which I quickly traced to the Zoar area, just outside Dover. Her maiden name wasn’t listed, just that a surviving brother was named Edward Zeigler. ZEIGLER. EI. Not that every newspaper article can be counted on as 100% accurate… but the accumulated details from this record made the shadow of doubt grow longer.

Other papers in my grandmother’s possession recorded Great-Grandma Foutz’s parents as Elizabeth Duerr and Jacob Zeigler. I retraced my steps, searching “Zeigler” instead. And… voila. I located a Christina Zeigler in the household of Elizabeth in Dover in 1900. Elizabeth Zeigler’s 1928 death certificate recorded her father as Samuel Duerr (mother unknown), and as living in the house of Vance and Laura in her old age. My grandma’s papers further specified that Jacob had been shot when Laura was a little girl — which explained her widowed mother as head of household in 1900 — and that the family spoke nothing but German at home, which also confirmed, along with additional research, the German ancestry of both the Zeiglers and the Duerrs.

So I had found Laura’s real parents and origins. And quickly set about sawing off the errant Krantz and Ziegler branches. But not without a hint of regret for uncovering interesting details about ancestors I couldn’t count as my own.

Still, the way it all played out is indicative of the way genealogy sometimes goes. You follow a hunch, confirm it — and reconfirm and reconfirm and reconfirm. But then eventually reconsider the steps you took as new information becomes available. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about this branch of my family tree. But I feel with all the work I’ve put in — whether resulting from missteps or fruitful guesses — I’m in a better position to answer them, whatever new batch of details I uncover.

My grandfather, Don Foutz, and his mother, Laura (Zeigler) Foutz, at her Dover home in 1941.

Categories: Foutz, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “A Case of Family Tree Pruning

  1. Pingback: What are the ‘holy grails’ of Genealogy? | Whispering Across the Campfire

  2. Pingback: Treasurer Ley Combats Tax Scofflaws | Whispering Across the Campfire

  3. William zeigler

    Enjoyed. It very much. I had lunch with you an George at hog heaven. Wm. Zeigler .ihave put some new markers on the graves in the ruslin hills cematary.

  4. Pingback: John Jacob Zeigler | Homestead in the Ruslin Hills « Whispering Across the Campfire

  5. Sounds good, George. I’ll sign up on Facebook. Glad to connect with you on both sites.

  6. George Zeigler

    I though that you found us on this new facebook page that we created . However I found out that my sister Laurie fould your site by acident last night. So I though I would send you this information. If you want to have the user name and password to access the site without becoming a friend I will sent it to you if you sent be your E-mail afddress. I do not want to pass that information to this open forum.

    During the last few days with the help of many other people we have created a Zeigler Flaim Family Face Book page. We did this to help promote the annual family reunion and also to have a method for all relatives to post pictures and share family information for all.

    We have decided to make the actual master Zeigler Family Face Book available to all without having to establish an individual Face Book page. This way, if a person did not want to have their own Face Book page but still wanted to post pictures and share information they could do it this way.

    If a person does not have a Face Book page and wanted to create a page they could become friends of the master Zeigler Family Face Book page.

    If a person does have a Face Book page please ask to be a friend of the Zeigler Family Face Book page or send us an E-mail and we send out a request for you to join the Zeigler Family Face Book page. For all of you who have already joined, thank you.

    I am sending this to all members of the Zeigler Reunion E-mail addresses that I have.

    We have created the reunion under the events tab. We expect in the near future to keep posting reunion information under that tab as well as sending monthly E-mails for undated information.

    We are asking for any comments pro or con to the Face Book page. We want this to keep all relatives up to date as much as possible. Hopefully this will also increase attendance to the reunion on June 18, 2011.

    George Zeigler

  7. George Zeigler

    I spoke with by Uncle Bill who is a grandson of JJ Zeigler. He said that he was not killed by a home envasion. He said that JJ’s btrother and brothers wife was both shot but not killed. I did not ask him the son’s name but I should have. My father’s version and Uncle Bill’s version of uncle Dale’s death is that it happened in a tavern. Charlie was to shoot first and then uncle Dale was to shoot next. We are related to the Pfieffer’s in at least one case and the story that I was told was they were really good friends maybe even second cousins. On Ancestry they do not show living people so which so how are you related to Vance Foutz?

    • I remember seeing that info about JJ’s brother and sister-in-law. Found the actual newspaper article on it.

      And i did a follow-up on Charlie and Dale. Did you see it?

      Thanks for the info, George!

      I am Vance Foutz’s great-grandson. Grandson of Don Foutz, son of Fred Foutz. Born (in Columbus, actually, but we moved back home when I was 2) and raised in Dover. Just did a series on the entire family – Vance’s siblings, parents and descendants — last week. Just keep reading backwards through the blog, or search on the names you want to read about.



  8. Ah yes. I have outlined your father’s life on Ancestry.com, but hadn’t done further research into his wife and you and your siblings. Honored to meet you!

    I’ll see about swinging home for the reunion. I don’t know how many treks back home for genealogy research the wife will tolerate… maybe I’ll bring her along!

    Thank you for taking a look through pics. My dad didn’t know much about the Zeiglers. I’m enjoying finding out about that side of the family.

  9. George Zeigler

    Christina Laurina Katherina Zeigler is my Great Aunt. Johann Jacob Ziegler is my Great Gtrandfather. His tombstone has the name spelled ZIE but his wifes tomestome nest to him is spelled ZEI and that is how the name has been spelled ever since.I have Familt Tree Maker with a lot of names and dates gathered from grandparents and grand aunts and lots of other people. I don’t have the stories of everyone but I do have some. My records for the Foutz’s stops in the lat 1930’s. We should be able to share some family history. We do have a Zeigler Flaim reunion every year in New Philadelphia, OH. This year it is June 18th. We would love to have you come if possible. I am in charge of the reunion and have E-mails and other information abount the people who come. I send out information one E-mail address at a time because some people do not want their E-mail address shared. We started the Facebook bage about two weeks ago and hoped to get in contact with lost relatives I guess we are doing ok. Thake care and welcome back into the family.

    • George! Great to connect with you. Who were you parents, then? I’ve done enough work on the Zeiglers now that I know you descend from Jacob Phillip Zeigler and Helen Margaret Flaim. I’ve done quite a few posts on the Zeiglers since this one, so be sure to search for them on the blog. And I’ve updated a lot of the info on my Ancestry.com family tree — look for me on there. I, too, have Family Tree Maker, and have slowly been updating my FTM tree with info in both my Geni.com and Ancestry.com trees. Want to make sure everything in the FTM file is thoroughly researched and confirmed. Ancestry and Geni I use to share the files and photos I have, and to engage in speculation/research. My tree is solid all the way back through my direct line for as many as a dozen or more generations, for some branches. But I’ll admit, I don’t know much before J.J. Zeigler. (I do, however, have pics of both his and Elizabeth’s gravestones. What does the inscription on J.J.’s say? What was the story behind his murder?)

      Would love to see pics of Laura as a girl and of my great-great grandparents Zeigler if you have them. That helps history come alive!

      • George Zeigler

        My Father is George Washington Zeigler.

        His brothers and sister are:

        Frank Zeigler, Lester H. Zeigler, Nelson C. Zeigler, Gladys E. Zeigler, Alice Zeigler, George Washington Zeigler, Stella M. Zeigler, Dale Earl Zeigler, Mary Zeigler, William (Billy) Zeigler The only one still living is William (Billy) Zeigler born 1935.

        Will have to go through old pictures to see what I have.

  10. Bob Foutz

    Your posts are family treasures — thanks for the efforts.
    My childhood friend Joe Hagloch told me long ago of the Hagloch-Zeigler fued. Friends on neighboring farms in the Russland Hills, “Hagloch” and “Zeigler” were drinking hooch in the barn. They decided to play “William Tell”. Zeigler put the apple on his head and Hagloch used a rifle — shot Zeigler in the head. Zeigler died and Hagloch went to prison. The fued ensured — Haglochs claimed that Zeigler jumped just to make Haglochs look bad! Zeigler must have been my great grandfather Jacob Zeigler that you mention in this post as having been shot!

    -Uncle Bob

    • Uncle Bob — I love that story. Thanks for posting it here.

      I’ll definitely have more on the Zeiglers — and Duerrs — in future blogs, as I continue burrowing. I remember you and I discussing the bad Krantz connection back in 2008, and you were right! But that’s the type of focus I’ve tried to bring to my research — coming at it from a (mostly) fresh perspective, digging until I get documented confirmation, and following the old journalists’ adage: “If your mother says she loves you… check it out!”

      What I can tell you about Johann Jacob Zeigler so far is that he likely died in June 1897, about 70 years old at the time. He was a good 18 years older than your great-grandmother, Elizabeth Duerr. He was part of the farming Zeiglers, living out near Zoar, in the Ruslin Hills, and both he and Elizabeth are buried in Ruslin Hills Cemetery (wherever that is…). A letter from your aunt Louise Foutz to Grandpa and Grandma (Don & Erma) talks about J.J. Zeigler being shot and killed when your grandma was still a little girl (what I said in the post, I think). Elizabeth raised the (big) family, and nothing but German was spoken in the house.

      I’ve been digging into old issues of the Canal Dover (weekly) Argus and New Phila Democrat newspapers from the late 1890s, and though I haven’t found anything from around the time J.J. Zeigler died, in a strange coincidence, during the winter before, in 1895-1896, there were a series of armed home break-ins out near Zoar, and a “Mr. and Mrs. Zeigler” are mentioned by name in two articles as “being shot the week before”. In the later article, in July 1896, one of the suspects is identified as a “brother of Mrs. Zeigler” — but his name appears to be Jacob Mohart, and he was released. The man charged in the Dec. 1895 incident, Jacob Senger, is booked into prison on charges of “shooting with intent to kill”. Haglochs have not shown up in these stories, or on the census page that records the J.J. and Elizabeth Zeigler family as of 1880, but… give it time.

    • Joe Hagloch

      Your uncle Bob is one of my greatest friends, but he has a few details slightly off.

      Charlie Pfeiffer, my paternal great uncle, shot your ancestor in the head while playing William Tell in a barn. I think, too, that that ‘feud’ might be too strong of a word. Actually they were all boozed up and it seemed like a good idea at the time. We’ve all been there, though, luckily, without firearms!

      My family joked that he jumped just to make Uncle Charlie look bad. Apocryphal? Probably.

      Uncle Charlie was kind of a ‘Mountain Man” born out of time.

      At one time, he lived near Bolivar and a family nearby was near starvation. He rustled and butchered a neighbor’s steer and gave the meat away. He was wild, but not always evil.

      Sometime when you visit Dover, I’l drive you around the Ruslin Hills.

      Best, Joe Hagloch, Dover, OH

      • Joe Hagloch!

        Great timing. In fact, as we used to say in the newspaper biz (and I’m sure they still do; I, for one, got out): you scooped me!

        I actually dug up some info on this in early January, but have been too swamped to post it. Look for that post today, including newspaper articles, etc. It doesn’t clear up who shot my great-great grandfather (Uncle Bob’s great-grandfather), but it does separate legend from legitimate fact.

        Thanks for tuning in! And commenting….

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