Casefile Clues

26 October 2013

A Conjecture Regarding Gertice

Documents should always be transcribed as they are written, but...

This is part of the 1880 US Federal Census Mortality Schedules for Hancock County, Illinois' Harmony Township. 

There is little doubt that the enumerator wrote "Gertice Gretke" on the top line shown below. That is exactly how I'd transcribe it because that is exactly what it looks like.


However, that's not what I think the name is and I would certainly add a comment as a part of my transcription of this name. The first four names shown on this document are all Prussian natives according to the enumeration. The names on lines three and four are relatives of mine. The Habbens were immigrants from the Wiesens area of Ostfriesland, Germanny. There was a heavy Ostfriesen settlement in the area and Harm Jurgen is likely a member of that settlement as is Gretke. Gretke is an Ostfriesen name. Gertice is not and it is likely a mishearing and incorrect spelling of "Gerdes." 

I'm not certain and I have no proof, so any comment made regarding the name actually having been Gerdes is conjecture. However, based upon the common nature of the Gerdes name within the Ostfriesen community, I'd be willing to bet that is what the last name actually is.

How familiar are you with the common last names from your ancestor's ethnic neighborhood? Becoming more familiar might give you an edge in interpreting and understanding records.

And it is always important to remember that conjecture is just that: conjecture.