Thursday, May 14, 2015

Funeral Card Friday - Frank Melzer

Frank Melzer funeral card
Frank Melzer is the son of Joseph and Katherine Melzer nee Wondra. He is listed as living at home with his parents in his father's obituary. That makes it sound like a kid that lives in his parents' basement, but it's more likely that Frank was the head of the household. This can be confirmed by looking in the 1920 US Federal Census with Frank listed as the head and his parents living with him in Wayne, Washington County, Wisconsin along with his wife (Mary), and two children (Herman and Sophia).

In the 1910 Census we can see all of the above players again, but Herman was "Joseph H." This isn't uncommon when parents gave their children a family (and usually very common) name. My mother's name is Mary, but she goes by her middle name, Alice, because her mother was also Mary. Joseph H may have been referred to as Herman when he was older for convenience so people knew which Joseph people were talking about around the household. Earlier references to him as Joseph instead of by his middle name could simply have been the family enumerating him by his legal name.*

Frank Melzer funeral card
(reverse side)
In fact Frank was the head of the household all the way back to the 1905 Wisconsin Census with his wife, Mary, and his parents living with him. Sophia wasn't born yet, but Joseph is there. Looking ahead to the 1930 census we see that Joseph would become the head of the household with his wife (Elizabeth) and parents (Frank and Mary) residing with him.

We can easily find Frank all the way back in the 1880 census as "Franz" living with Joseph and Katharina as well as his siblings: Margaretha, Barbara, and Katharina. In the 1900 Census he's still "Franz" living with his parents, but Margaretha and Barbara are gone. "Katie" is there as is a new sister, Julia. These five children of Joseph and Katherine match up with those listed in Joseph's obituary. Frank's mother lists in the 1900 Census that she had five children and five were still living so we can assume that there were no other siblings to Frank that may have died young. Frank taking over as head of the household five years after this census and his mother being in her late 50s in the 1900 Census lends further credibility to this assumption.

Frank is buried in the Saint Kilian Catholic Cemetery in Saint Kilian, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He has a memorial on FindAGrave created by John Uhlman. His wife, Mary, is buried with him.

*After setting this post to publish I came across a birth record that I had copied from the Wisconsin Historical Society regarding Frank and Mary's son Joseph...or Herman. While I can't post the entire birth certificate on here (WHS doesn't want that last I checked) I can share part of it.

Registration of Births, Washington County,
Wisconsin (WHS)
As you can see his name is listed on his birth certificate as Herman J. Melzer (although that last "e" does look like an "a" but if you look at the other "e" they all look that way). Just to show that this is the correct Melzer I made sure to crop it so you can see that this is the child of Franz Melzer and Mary (Maria here, but they are interchangeable most times) Schwiezer (missing the "t") born on August 23, 1902. Instead of editing the information above I chose to show the addition here, because the way people sometimes switch using their first and middle names is still good information for researchers to remember. In his obituary he it was switched to Joseph H. I'm fairly certain that no one bothered to go through the legal documents to actually change the name though. Don't get too hung up on names though. When you know it's the right person these variants don't matter too much. After all I'm legally "Cheryl" but I grew up thinking I was "Cherie" because my parents after naming me said I looked more like a Cherie than a Cheryl. They just never changed my birth certificate. It happens. Don't let it confuse you. Hopefully my descendants won't be too confused either!

(This funeral card was passed on to me by my mother-in-law with a large number of funeral cards that her family collected throughout their lives.)