Ralph & Virginia Foutz | Deepening the Sherman Foutz Connection
Enough digital ink has been spilled in this blog on Sherman S. Foutz, oldest brother to my great-grandfather Vance Cleveland Foutz, that I’ll spare you the extended recap and cut to the news at hand.
The last breakthrough I blogged about was the discovery, through Pennsylvania church records on Ancestry.com, of baptismal logs listing Ralph Francis Foutz and Harry Sherman Foutz as sons to Oscar W. Foutz and Florence Hartman Foutz.
Those documents firmed up a lot of information, including:
- reaffirming Oscar and Florence as a couple and parents
- confirming their residency in Reading, Pa. in the first decade of the 20th century
- confirming their church affiliation, like most Foutzes, as Lutheran
- confirming birth dates for Ralph and Harry
- revealing the young couple had a second son, Harry, a problematic revelation, since neither he, nor parents Oscar and Florence, appear in any records I’ve uncovered since the time of patriarch Sherman Foutz’s death from tuberculosis in 1915
That was always the core mystery behind these Foutzes. Sherman was beloved as first-born, prominent, successful son of Jonathan and Rebecca Foutz, and certainly admired by his youngest sibling, my great-grandfather Vance, as evidenced by the clippings and photos that remained in his possession and were eventually passed down to my father, Fred. But his early death seemed to cut off the rest of that family from my own.
Oh, it seemed as if Sherman’s daughter, Grace, would show up from time to time, as evidenced by my great-aunt Doris (Foutz) Waddington’s memories, and Grace’s surprising signature in Vance’s 1968 funeral registry (Grace herself was just two years from death). But Grace (Foutz) Chaney died childless. Her 1970 obituary mentions a foster-sister, Catherine Rutt, of Lititz, Pa., and several nieces and nephews — what became of them? What became of her brother, Oscar, who isn’t mentioned in her 1970 obituary, and his own children and descendants?
Tracking Down Ralph Foutz
The pieces started to fill in, where Ralph Foutz is concerned, in connections I made through several Harrisburg, Pa. city directory entries of the 1930s and 1940s. Same name, same city as where he grew up in the care of grandma Lizzie Foutz (Sherman’s wife), according to the 1910 and 1920 censuses. Seems a likely connection.
Next, the 1987 Harrisburg Patriot-News obituary for Virginia Henson Foutz names Ralph F. Foutz as her husband, preceding her in death. The obit mentions Virginia as retired from the L. Wohl Children’s Dress Factory. In Lizzie Foutz’s 1930 census entry, foster daughter Catherine is listed as a dress-stitcher. Same employer? Again, a possible connection.
Through the website FindAGrave.com — ridiculously named, but deeper and deeper by day in its breadth: I cannot overstate how helpful this is as a primary source — I located entries for Ralph and Virginia Foutz in Woodlawn Memorial Gardens (named in Virginia’s obit) in Dauphin County. I submitted a photo request — another helpful feature of FindAGrave — and a man named Karl Fox was kind enough to photograph these relatives’ final resting places. From those photos, I could confirm birth and death years. Incalculably helpful.
So from the information in the obituary, backed up by the confirmation from documents listed above, I was able to start branching out in my search for what happened to Oscar and his descendants. This led me to connect with third cousins once removed Henry Foutz, Kathy Allen and Sandi (don’t know your last name yet, dear).
As often happens — it’s true of me, too, of course — Henry, Kathy and Sandi were curious about their family’s origins as well, and beginning to coax info from parents and aunts and uncles, Ralph’s and Virginia’s kids, Nick Sr., Charles, Catherine, Arthur, Grace, Agnes and Frances. I shared the info I had, on our connection through Sherman, Oscar and Ralph, as well as the Foutz/Pfouts family story all the way back to Michael and Wuerttemberg, Germany.
Kathy and Sandi kindly shared the photo of their grandparents that is featured in this blog. (BIG THANKS!)
As for their Foutzes, Henry was been instrumental in putting together a big Pennsylvania Foutz reunion the last few years. From the photos he’s shared on Facebook, looks like it was a lot of fun. Maybe we can see that expand to include Ohio and other far-flung Foutzes?
As for filling in the details on Ralph, Oscar and the rest, what we still don’t know:
- What happened to Lizzie Foutz (Sherman’s wife) after the 1930 census? We know she dies in 1945 and is buried with Sherman in Longview Cemetery near Bowerston, Ohio. What was she doing in 1940? She wasn’t living with Ralph or foster daughter Catherine? Where then?
- What happened to Catherine (Foutz) Rutt, husband John Roy Rutt and their descendants?
- What became of Ralph’s parents, Oscar and Florence, and his brother, Harry Sherman Foutz? Again, the last record I have of them is from a 1911 Reading Eagle article reporting Florence’s visit to Oscar at National Guard Camp Thomas Potter Jr. in Mt. Gretna.
I’m looking forward to working with newfound extend family to discover these stories together.