10 March 2013

A German Marriage Certificate Raises Questions

We've discussed the family of George and Wilhelmina Rothweiler on this blog before. These German natives were living in St. Louis, Missouri, as early as the late 1850s and remained in the area for the rest of their lives.

An 1870 era estate settlement in Hancock County, Illinois, indicates that this Wilhelmina Rothweiler is a member of my Trautvetter family--supposedly the daughter of an Ernestine Trautvetter Hess who was also the mother of William and Valentine Hess. Wilhelmina is referenced in one of the documents as having been Wilhelmina Hess befoer her marriage. The estate records seemed pretty straightforward in terms of stating the relationships, but they did leave out many key details about the family.

I recently discovered that George Rothweiler obtained a Civil War pension and that his widow Wilhelmina received pension benefits upon George's death.

Knowing that Wilhelmina would have needed to prove her marriage to George in order to qualify for the benefit and also reaonably certain that there may be other information on her in the application, I decided to obtain a copy of the pension. I was hoping that it may provide additional clues on either Wilhelmina's siblings or the family's early life in the United States (particularly the location of her marriage to George).

I have a researcher in the area who obtains materials from NARA for me. I indicated that I wanted the pension for Rothweiler and that, in an attempt to help her determine the right George had been located, I indicated that his wife was Wilhelmina and that Wilhelmina was a Hess before she was married.

The researcher emailed me back upon reviewing the file and said that there was a lovely marriage certificate in the application--in German. But, the name on the marriage certificate was not Wilhelmina  Hess, it was Wilhelmina Trautfetter.

I am confused. It is not uncommon on death certificates for maiden names to be incorrect. It is a little less common for a person to provide a wrong last name on their own marriage record.

Stay tuned...there may be more of a story here than I expected. I have a few theories, but it's probably best to wait until I've seen the actual images of George's pension.