Saturday, February 8, 2014

Clues from John Metzner

Our Metzner ancestry can be traced in America to brothers John Metzner of Jay County, Indiana; William Metzner of Licking County, Ohio; and presumed brother George Metzner of Putnam County, Ohio.  John is the only one that has a published biography (Biographical and Historical Record of Jay and Blackford Counties, Indiana, 1887).  It identifies his parents as Jasper Metzner and Hannah Risanburg and eight children in the following order: Rachel, John, William, George, Hannah, Andrew, Nicholas, and Mary.

The children found in the Heldburg, Germany records (that I shared in the blog of 1/18/2014) for Johann Caspar Metzner and Johanne Susanna Weissenborn, are surprisingly close in name to those in John’s biography.

Rachel – not listed in the German records
John – listed as Johann Veit, b. 3 Oct 1807
William – listed as Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm, b. 18 Mar 1811
George – listed as Georg, b. 30 Mar 1813
Hannah – listed as Johanna Henrietta Maria, b. 8 Aug 1809
Andrew – listed as Georg Andreas, b. 7 Mar 1815
Nicholas – listed as Johann Nicol, b. 25 Feb 1818
Mary – listed as Anna Maria, b. 15 Dec 1824

There is one other boy listed in the German records who is not accounted for in John’s biography:

Johann Bernhard, b. 7 Jan 1821

William Metzner's marker
Unfortunately, there are some discrepancies between the biographical information and the German records.  Rachel is not found in the German records while Bernhard is, though he's not identified in John’s biography.  John’s birth date in U.S. records is 2 Oct 1805 – a difference of two years and a day from the German record.  William's birth date is also problematic.  His cemetery marker notes that he was 75y 2m 28d when he died, giving him a birth date of 11 Mar 1807 – four years and a week earlier than the German record. Still, that's not enough for me to discard this potential German family.

There is also a statement in John’s biography that I challenge.  It reads,

 “His father [i.e., Jasper] died in 1838 on the ocean while crossing to America.”  

If we are to believe that this German family is ours, then the above statement may be a misinterpretation of the facts by whomever recorded the biography.       I believe John meant that his father Jasper died while John was crossing to America.  I feel even more certain of it now that I’ve read John Metzner’s obituary from the Portland Commercial, 22 Dec 1887, thanks to cousin and fellow researcher Travis LeMaster who found the entry. The obituary states . . .

“John Metzner was born in Germany, October 21, 1805, came to America in 1837 …” 

So now we have an additional discrepancy in the year of John's arrival.  Is it 1838 or 1837? Finding John in U.S. Immigration & Passenger Records has been tricky.  He does not show up in 1838 (as purported in his biography) under the name John or Johann Metzner. In fact, there is no one that fits the bill arriving in 1838.  There is, however, someone in 1837.   V. Metzner arrived in Baltimore on 24 May 1837.  Could the V be for Veit (in Johann Veit Metzner)? Take a look at the record below.


What is exciting about this record is that V. Metzner is listed from “Hellburg” and is a “wheeler.”  I suspect a wheeler is someone who makes wheels for carriages and wagons.  We’ve seen the carriage and wagon-making trade in the Metzner family before, and we’ve certainly seen references to a town called Hellburg, Heldburg, or Hillburgh.

There are two small problems with this particular passenger -- V. Metzner’s age is 29, making his birth year about 1808. That doesn’t jive with our other dates (either 1805 or 1807).  Also, he is traveling with Margaretha Metzner.  While this is likely his wife, there is no family history of John being married before Catherine Young, and the German records do not confirm an earlier marriage.  Puzzle! 
But the whole story of Jasper dying at sea in 1838 is what I challenge and this particular passenger record helps me argue that point.  The German records show that Johann Caspar Metzner (John’s presumed father) died in Germany on 11 Mar 1837, exactly at the time that V. Metzner was traveling to America. If Caspar (Jasper) is our ancestor, he didn’t die at sea as noted in the biography – he died while John was “at sea.”  Caspar’s German death record further indicates that at the time of his death he had one son in America – I propose that that was V. Metzner a.k.a. our John Metzner of Jay County.

Death & Burial, 1837                                                                              
No 32.  Johann Caspar Metzner. Husband, citizen and cartwright here, died the11th March in the 4th hour of the morning, and buried the 14th March after midday, age: 59 years 7 months 23 days; died of emaciation [sometimes defined as tuberculosis].  Survived by 8 children [von k___]  [including] 1 son in America [born here] and 2 married daughters.

Are the discrepancies outlined here enough to throw this family out of contention as our ancestors?  I don't think so, but I’ll continue to look at others as they reveal themselves. Anyone doing Metzner research who would like to chime in on the validity of my theory, I welcome the discourse.