“Will the real Ancestor, please stand up?”

Recently, I began looking into a family on my maternal side, relating to my great-grandmother, Edna (Keim) Earp.  Edna’s parents were John K. Keim and Mary E. Hummer.  Back in 2012, I did an exhaustive research project on the Keim family, which proved very fruitful.  Last year, I began to look into the family of Mary E. Hummer, and I felt like I was on the game show “To Tell the Truth”, asking the contestants, who were Mary’s parents, and all of them were giving me different answers, and then I had to choose which one of the contestants was my real ancestor.

Here is what I ran into and how I systematically proved or disproved the information I had found.

According to the death certificate of Mary E. Hummer, her father was Jacob Hummer and her mother was indicated by “No record”:

Mary E. Keim Death Cert

Image from Ancestry©

I then went through Mary Hummer’s family (siblings and mother), looking for death certificates to see who matched who.  The next one I found was for Mary’s brother, Samuel.  Father was Jacob Hummer…there’s a match…Mother was Annie Harclerode:

Samuel H. Hummer Death Cert

Image from Ancestry©

So far, so good…

I then found Mary’s sister, Emma C. (Hummer) Flowers on Find-a-Grave:

EmmaHummerFAG

Image from Find-A-Grave©

Then, Emma’s death certificate, which carries some really strange information:

Emma C. Flowers Death Cert

Image from Ancestry©

If we look closely at the father and mother, they are not even slightly close to the others.

Father was a Samuel Balmer and mother was Annie Ardandt:

Samuel Hummers Parents

Image from Ancestry©

The informant was Samuel Flowers, son of George W. Flowers and Emma C. Hummer.  Samuel may have been confused about the question since his wife’s maiden name was Balmer.

Mary Hummer had one other brother named John, but John C. Hummer was killed in Steelton, PA in 1893 in an elevator accident, and so, no information is available through his death, as this was prior to the issuance of death certificates.

Lastly, we have Lucy Ann Hummer, the mother of the above children, Mary, Emma, Samuel and John.  Her death certificate is another baffler:

Lucy Ann Hummer DC

Image from Ancestry©

The father’s name given is Jacob Cox and mother’s name given is Mary Mutch.  The informant is Emma Flowers, Mary’s sister.

I did find a marriage record for a Jacob Cox and a Maria Mutsch, dated 17 June, 1834:

1834MarriageRecord

Image from Ancestry©

However, this does not prove that Lucy Ann Hummer was their daughter.

My next step was to locate Lucy Ann in the 1850 Census, since she was born in 1835, it was more than likely she would have been at home with her parents at the age of 15, but that is not always a foregone conclusion.

Alas, I found no record for a Lucy Ann Cox living with a Jacob and Mary Cox in 1850 in Lancaster County, PA or anywhere else for that matter.

I wasn’t deterred yet…I had one more name to search on…Herclerode from Samuel Hummer’s death certificate.

Having done numerous searches in the past on odd sounding and oddly spelled names, I knew this was going to be a challenge, so before I set off on searching the typical places of Ancestry and FamilySearch, I decided to find out how many variations of Herclerode I was dealing with.

Here is a list:

Herclerode, Herchelrode, Herchelroth, Harcleroth, Hergelrode, Hergleroth; etc., etc., …you get the picture.  I believe the correct pronunciation is:

Herk-el-roth

So, I began my search on Ancestry, using just Lucy’s given name as shown in her death certificate, and tried the various spellings of the last name.  To make it easier, I used the asterisk (*) in the last name like this, H*rode and H*roth.

And with that, I hit pay dirt!  Finding the name Luciann Hergelroth, age 14, with a Michael and Mary Hergelroth, both age 34 in 1850 in Londonderry Twp., Lebanon County, PA:

1850 CensusJPG

Image from Ancestry©

Moving forward in time to 1860, Lucy Ann is married to Jacob Hummer.  Staying with them is a Mary Harchelrode, age 43.  There is no question in my mind that this is Lucy Ann’s mother:

1860 Census

Image from Ancestry©

In the 1840 Census of Londonderry Twp., Lebanon County, PA, there is a Michael Herchelrode with a female that fits the age of the Mary in the two censuses above and a female child that fits Lucy Ann’s age:

1840 Census

Image from Ancestry©

Now, the question is, can this be irrefutable proof that Lucy Ann was indeed from the Herchelroth family?  I still had the nagging question in the back of my mind as to why, one of Lucy Ann’s children, Emma Flowers, would specify in Lucy Ann’s death certificate that Lucy Ann’s parents were a Jacob Cox and Mary Mutch, and one of her grandchildren, Andrew Hummer, would specify in his father’s death certificate, Samuel Hummer, that Samuel’s mother was a Herchelroth (Herchelrode).

Then, it hit me…they’re both right!

It’s actually very simple.  Here is what I have surmised:

  • Jacob Cox and Mary Mutsch were married in 1834
  • Lucy Ann was born in 1835 to Jacob and Mary
  • Sometime between 1835 and 1840, Jacob Cox died
  • Jacob’s wife, Mary, remarried Michael Hercelroth
  • Lucy Ann took on the name of Hercelroth, although she was born Cox, and with that, at least one of her children knew her maiden name was Cox

In the end, I am glad that I was able to get this far in my research.  I at least have a working theory that I can continue to build on in the future.

Here is what you can take away from this…

  • Never assume that all the information you are finding for mystery ancestors is completely black and white. There is always room for grey areas
  • Be sure to look for the records of all the siblings or children of your mystery ancestors. You may be surprised at what you do find
  • Keep in mind that some of our ancestors died young, and their marital partners remarried and took on different surnames, which may have included any children

I would like to thank my cousin and professional genealogist, Karen Biebel-Sutera, for her help and support in this research.

Brian S. Miller

2 thoughts on ““Will the real Ancestor, please stand up?”

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