Although I didn't know it at the time, when I got hooked on genealogy and began the life-long journey of researching my ancestors, I was presented with a huge brick wall. Over the 40 years since then, I have been chipping away at that brick wall, and have had some success in discovering more pieces of the puzzle. However, the discovery I made this week made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and the theme from "Twilight Zone" playing in my head.
To set the scene: my great-grandmother, Rhoda Ruth Prosser, was born in Hillsdale, Michigan in 1860. Her younger brother Charles was born about 1863 or 1864, and shortly afterward their father died in the Civil War. Their mother, Rhoda Prosser, married another Civil War veteran, Henry R. Jones. On the 1870 census of Hillsdale they are all listed with the surname "Jones", and on the 1880 census Charles is enumerated under his middle name, Douglas:
1880 U.S. census, Hillsdale county, Michigan, population schedule, Hillsdale, enumeration district (ED) 086, p.143 (stamped), dwelling 102, family 105, Henry R. Jones; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 6 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 580.
Note the fact that "Douglas" Prosser is a printer. So was his brother-in-law, Ruth Prosser's first husband, Crawford Strunk. In fact, when Charles Douglas Prosser married Amanda Quay in Gaylord, Michigan in December 1884, Crawford Strunk was one of the witnesses.
Michigan Secretary of State, Marriage Registers, p.76, line 56, Prosser-Qua; digital image, "Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925," FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org: accessed 6 Jan 2013)
I knew, from a luggage tag in the stack of papers I inherited, that Charles and Amanda had a daughter named Lottie. In 1900 Lottie was living with her grandmother Mary Qua in Forester, Sanilac County, Michigan, and Charles and Amanda are nowhere to be found. In 1909 Amanda married again, to James White - but what happened to Charles?
It was about 4 years ago that I decided to make another attempt to find out what happened to Charles. I did a search in the 1900 census Ancestry for Charles Prosser, born about 1864 in Michigan. And there he was - living in Chicago, Illinois, with a wife Anna and four sons: Lewis, Ray, Bert, and Earl. What convinced me was his occupation: printer.
1900 U.S. census, Cook county, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago, enumeration district (ED) 274,, sheet 5B, dwelling 57, family 110, Charles Prosser; digital image; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 6 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 255.
Charles Prosser died in February 1910, and his obituary names his survivors as Anna Prosser and sons Raymond, Albert and Earl Prosser. On the 1910 census his widow Anna is listed with three of their four sons: Raymond, Charles A., and Earl. Over the years I have traced Raymond and Earl, who both married and moved to California. I'm Facebook friends with one of Raymond's grandsons. Since Lewis was not named in Charles' obituary, and does not appear on the 1910 census, I am assuming he died young.
Earlier this year I was doing an assignment for my ProGen study group, and needed to write a proof argument. I figured that given the evidence I'd collected, writing an argument to prove that Charles Prosser in 1900 Chicago, Illinois was the same man as my great-grandmother Ruth Prosser's brother, on the 1880 census of Hillsdale, Michigan would be a good exercise. One of the elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard is "resolution of conflicting evidence". In order to do a good job on my proof argument, I needed to find other Charles Prossers who were born around the same time, and prove that they weren't my relatives.
I found two Charles Prossers on the 1900 census of Michigan. One was living in Onondaga, Ingham County (near Lansing), was born in Canada in Oct. 1863, and worked as a blacksmith. This Charles Prosser (who I later discovered was actually named Solomon Charles Prosser) had a son named Earl.
1900 U.S. census, Ingham county, Michigan, population schedule, Onondaga, enumeration district (ED) 55, sheet 10B, dwelling 273, family 273, Charles Prosser; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 6 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 716.
The other Charles Prosser living in Michigan in 1900 was a Canadian, born in July 1865, and emigrated to Michigan in 1891. He had a son named Earl.
At this point, I started getting intrigued - what were the chances that three different men named Charles Prosser would each have a son named Earl? I began researching these two men in Michigan, who came from Canada, enough to discover that they were related - they had a common ancestor. This is something I need to explore further.
Earlier this week, I decided to make another attempt at finding Charles Douglas Prosser's son, Charles Albert Prosser, who was born in Illinois in January 1898. It wasn't long before I found his World War 1 Draft Registration card. He was living in Detroit, Michigan, and preparing to start work ("today") at the Fischer Body company in Detroit.
"World War 1 Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 4 Jan 2013), Charles Albert Prosser.
Further research found this Charles Prosser on the 1940 census, living with his wife and children:
1940 U.S. census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit, enumeration district (ED) 84-1287, sheet 11A, p.17088 (stamped), household 2900, Charles B. Prosser; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 5 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1878.
THEY HAVE A SON NAMED EARL!!!!!
In genealogy, there is no such thing as coincidence. I am convinced now that there is some common thread tying all these families together. It may take me another 40 years, but I am determined to find it - and in finding it, I hope to solve the original puzzle, which is the unknown Civil War soldier who was the father of Rhoda Ruth and Charles Douglas.