The Strange Case of Jacob Elias Wagner

One record. Just one.

Discovered yesterday, naming Jacob Elias Wagner as the son of Jacob Wagner and his wife Margaretha (Hailer) Wagner.

That one mention is in the 1855 New York State Census. The document records that Jacob Elias Wagner was enumerated, on 15 June 1855, as the son of Jacob Wagner, a clergyman, aged 30, born in Germany and his wife Margaret, aged 24 and born in Canada West. The census document also lists their daughter Catherine as a four year-old who had been born in Erie County, New York.

On that June day in 1855, the Wagner family was living in North District of the 10th Ward in Rochester, Monroe County, New York.

Other records show that Jacob, the clergyman, began to experience some health problems attributed at the time to his work as a preacher. Jacob had met his wife Margaret in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, Canada while visiting the Hailer home in the course of his ministerial duties. They married in 1849. According to church records, Jacob had even served from 1852-1854 as the minister of the Zion Evangelical Church in Berlin, a church that he and his father-in-law Jacob Hailer had helped to establish.

Jacob had introduced his good friend from New York State Philip Ludwig ‘Louis’ Breithaupt to Margaret’s family. Louis married Margaret’s sister Catherine in 1853, during the time when Jacob was pastor of the Berlin church the Hailer family worshiped at.

And so it came to pass that Jacob entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law Louis to open and operate a tannery in Berlin (the original partnership agreement is archived in the University of Waterloo special collections).

Jacob gave up his role as clergyman and moved his family from upper state New York north to the town of Berlin in Canada West.

Multiple records give evidence to Margaret and Catherine moving with him as well as his son Louis Henry Wagner, born after the 1855 New York State Census was taken. The move took place likely sometime in late 1857. Jacob established the tannery in Berlin in early 1858 but died in April 1858 just two months after the business started. But it appears that there is nothing more to be found about little Jacob Elias Wagner.

The only possible clue an Ontario death registration for a Jacob Wagner, aged 16 years, 8 months and 19 days, born in Rochester, New York. This Jacob died on May 26, 1870 of as the result of accidental gun shot wound in Toronto. He was right age as Jacob Elias and but Jacob Elias was born according to the 1855 census record in Canada. Perhaps the death registration informant only knew that gun shot victim Jacob was from Rochester?

Well, another ancestor has been found, a great grand-uncle to my wife. And, another trip to the University of Waterloo Archives is in order to sift through the family papers again, now with a focus on mentions of Jacob Elias Wagner.

Collaboration in Genealogy – An Example Of Doing It Right

While I was travelling through Scotland and Ireland, I received an email from Ancestry.com notifying me that another Ancestry member with the user name kforsman72 had sent me a message.

I will often receive these types of emails that are typically from people asking for more information about someone in my online public Ancestry tree. This message was different.

The message I received stated “I just wanted to let you know that I came across the graves of the Kletzings in Section 5 of Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. The graves include Josiah, Kate, Arba, Clarence, Florence Amy, and Kathryn Gall. I’ve created memorials and uploaded photos of the graves to Find-A-Grave, in case you are interested in viewing them.”

Once I was home from my trip, I went to the Find-A-Grave site where I searched for and found the Kletzing memorials reference in the Ancestry message.

KLETZING Josiah gravestone from findagrave

Grave site of Josiah and Kate Kletzing, Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois (Photo by Kate Forsman, 2015. Used with permission)

The memorial pages provide the information found provide information from and a photo of the grave of my wife Ellen’s first cousin, three times removed Catherine ‘Kate’ (Nusbickel) Kletzing, her husband Josiah Kletzing and some of their children.

Kate Kletzing was the daughter of Frederick Nusbickel and Elizabeth Wagner, an older sister of my wife’s 2X great grandfather Rev. Jacob Wagner. Kate was born 1 March 1855 in Rose, Wayne County, New York and according to U.S. census records she married Josiah Kletzing around 1880. Josiah and Kate had five known children, three of whom are documented on the gravestone. Kathryn Gall, who is listed on the gravestone, was Josiah Kletzing’s second wife whom he married in 1915.

I now know kforsman72 to be Kate Forsman and from what I can determine Kate does not have the Kletzing family in her family tree. No, Kate took a photo of the Kletzing grave and set-up the Find-A-Grave memorial pages to help out other genealogists and researchers. That’s a good thing.

But Kate took it a step further, checking on Ancestry to see who might have this Kletzing family in their tree. She found me and through that initial message, she helped me add some valuable evidence to my research database.

Well done, Kate. I believe the genealogy community is made of great folks who love to help others and Kate has demonstrated why I hold that belief.

52 Ancestors: Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (1857-1945)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

A switch again this week to one of my wife Ellen’s direct ancestors. This week the story of her paternal great grandfather Rev. Louis Henry Wagner. 

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (photo taken about 1918)


I have always found Louis to be an interesting man. Born in New York State, he was raised and received his early education in Berlin, Waterloo County, Ontario, apprenticed at a young age as a tanner and leather belt maker, attained post-secondary education in the State of Illinois as a land surveyor only to return to work in Ontario as an accountant and salesman before settling into life as an itinerant preacher for the Evangelical Association.

Louis Henry Wagner was born in Grove, Alleghany, New York on April 11, 1857. His father was Rev. Jacob Wagner, an Evangelical Association preacher whose ‘territory’ included not just western New York state but also parts of southern Ontario. On his trips into Ontario, and the German community in Berlin, Jacob would stay with Jacob and Margaret Hailer. Jacob Hailer was said to have been the first German to settle in Berlin and he would offer up the space of his woodworking shop to serve as a church gathering place for the Evangelical Association. It was here that Jacob Wagner met his wife, the Hailer’s eldest daughter Margaret (or Margaretha), the mother of Louis and his older sister Catherine, or ‘Katie’ as the family called her.

Before he was a year old, Louis’ family was moving to Berlin to live close to his maternal grandparents because his father Jacob Wagner had decided to change careers, moving to the business world, establishing a tannery in partnership with his friend and by then brother-in-law Louis Breithaupt. Mere months after the family move was complete, and just one week after Louis’ first birthday, Jacob Wagner died.

Fortunately for Louis, his family rallied around and supported him, his mother and sister. It appears that Jacob Wagner had died intestate, that is, he did not leave a Will naming a guardian for his children and the laws at the time did not automatically cede guardianship to the mother. So on September 3, 1859, letters of Guardianship were granted by the court to Jacob Hailer for both Louis and his sister Catherine. With his Berlin pioneer grandfather as his guardian, Louis went to live with his uncle Louis Breithaupt, after whom he had been named. Interestingly, Louis took up maintaining a diary as a teenager in December 1872 and much can be learned about 19th century Berlin, Ontario life in the pages of Louis’ diary volumes. His first diary entry, dated Sunday, December 15, 1872 begins with “We were all in church as usual ….” 

Over the years, the maturation of Louis is evident as his writings evolve from descriptions of the numerous times he was off to church, to his arguments to be allowed to apprentice in his uncle’s leather business, to his frustrations with the apprenticeship progress and his desire to find excitement in life, eventually leading to the anguish he experienced when his wife Mary Staebler died of typhoid fever in 1887, leaving him a widow with a one year old son.

Louis was educated as a land surveyor at Northwestern College in Naperville, Illinois although he does not seem to have ever practised that profession. When he returned home to Berlin, he took up employment as an accountant and salesman – again with his uncle Louis Breithaupt’s Eagle Tannery. In 1882, he made his final career change. After having been so involved in his church, Louis applied to the Canada Conference of the Evangelical Association, who that year were meeting in nearby St. Jacobs, Ontario, and on April 20, 1882, he was granted his first preacher’s license as a “Preacher on trial.” His first appointment was as assistant pastor in Sebringville, Ontario. 

On May 20, 1884. Louis married Mary Staebler in Berlin, Ontario. Their only child, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner was born on May 10, 1886 in Hespeler, Ontario. On July 4, 1889, Louis married for a second time to Sarah Lodema Moyer with whom he had three additional children: Ida Louisa Wagner, Carl Henry Wagner, and Margaret Florence Wagner.

Louis spent the remainder of his long life continuing his work as a minister and officiating at many family events including the June 2, 1901 wedding of his cousin Albert L. Breithaupt to Lydia Anthes in which childhood friend and future longest serving Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King served as Best Man.

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner holding his great grandson Carl Edward ‘Ted’ Wagner


Even late in life, Louis continued to officiate at family events including baptizing his great grandson Carl Edward ‘Ted’ Wagner, Ellen’s brother. 

Louis Wagner died in his residence at 253 Weber Street in Kitchener, Ontario on January 8, 1945 at the age of 87. He rests in peace in Kitchener’s Mount Hope Cemetery with his wife Sarah.

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner and Sarah Lodema Moyer gravestone, Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario (photo by Ian Hadden)

52 Ancestors: Daniel Fitzgerald (abt. 1806-abt. 1885)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

Daniel Fitzgerald was my 3X great grandfather. He was the grandfather of Mary Jane Fitzgerald whom I profiled in this space last week. There are some things that I know about Daniel and many things that I still have not determined or proved.

I know that Daniel was born in Ireland. All records concerning Daniel are consistent is stating Ireland as his place of birth. Precisely when he was born however is still a bit of a mystery.

According to the 1840 U.S. Federal Census he was born between 1800 – 1810 as that census records Daniel as the male head of his household, aged between 30 and 40 years. The 1851 Census of Canada (taken in January of 1852) records his age as 45 thus placing his year of birth about 1806. In 1861, the census states he was 54 years old, so born about 1807. But in 1871, the census records his age as 68 years so born about 1803, and finally, the 1881 Census of Canada, the last census record in which Daniel appears, states he was 72 years old, so born about 1809. 

While a precise date of birth for Daniel eludes me, at least I know approximately when he was born and that he immigrated from Ireland to the United States. According to “The History of Toronto and County of York, Volume 2,” written by Graeme Mercer Adam and Charles Pelham Mulvany and published in 1885, Daniel, of whom the authors provided a biographical sketch, moved to Cape Vincent in New York State in 1825 where he settled into a farming life with his wife Rebecca Noble. Adam and Mulvany state that Rebecca was a native of New York State although there is some evidence, especially in census records that indicates Rebecca was also born in Ireland.

The  motivation is not known but Daniel and Rebecca moved moved their family from Cape Vincent to York Township, the area just outside the then eastern border of the city of Toronto. Adam and Mulvany state that this move took place in 1843 and that Daniel acquired 100 acres of land at Lot 5 on Concession 2. Early maps of Toronto and the surrounding area show Daniel Fitzgerald living just where Adam and Mulvany said he was, that is, on Lot 5, Concession 2.

Daniel farmed his land with his sons, most notably Lewis and Joseph. When Lewis ‘came of age,’ he purchased his own lot of land down the road on Concession 2 at Lot 8. Joseph however left York Township and spent a few years in Lambton County before returning home and purchasing the family homestead.

There should be a record of Daniel’s death as Daniel was alive in 1881, evidenced by his appearance in the census of that year, and this was well after compulsory civil registration of all births, marriages, and deaths commenced in the Province of Ontario in 1869. But no record can be found. 

The family clearly knew of the civil registration requirement for when Daniel’s wife, Rebecca, died in 1879, her death was registered (the cause of death being listed as “old age sudden”, precisely the way I want to go). Roman Catholic church records have offered no clues. The likely cemetery of his burial, St. Michael’s Cemetery in Toronto, has his name on no monument designating his final resting place although the family plots of his children and grandchildren are easily evident in the cemetery. 

The only clue as to Daniel’s death is offered by authors Adam and Mulvany whose 1885 work states that Daniel was already deceased. His story is told but not yet fully. I am certain there is more to discover.

52 Ancestors: Lewis Fitzgerald (1837-1910)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

This week I’m sticking with my maternal ancestral line and turning the focus on my great-great grandfather Lewis Fitzgerald (Lewis’ daughter Mary Jane was my great grandmother – Mary Jane’s daughter Gertrude Ellen Foley was my grandmother – and; Gertrude’s daughter Anne Margaret O’Neill was my mother).

Lewis was born on 9 July 1837, the son of Daniel Fitzgerald and Rebecca Noble. Lewis’ father, Daniel hailed from County Waterford in Ireland, a land he left in 1825 likely for the opportunities presented in the United States, settling in Cape Vincent, Jefferson County, New York just across a strait of the St. Lawrence River from Wolfe Island and Canada. The reasons are not known but around 1843, Daniel and Rebecca moved their family to a one hundred acre parcel of land that Daniel purchased in York Township, just east of the then border of the city of Toronto.

Lewis married Ellen Daley (also seen as Daily in some records) on 11 Sept 1856 in St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Basilica, located at Queen Street East and Power Street in Toronto. The church which was located about four miles from their home became a central point in their lives and the church’s records reveal not just their marriage but the baptisms of their nine children. According to the History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario, Vol. 2 by Adam and Mulvany (published in 1885), Lewis and Ellen raised their children on a fifteen acre, eventually twenty-five acre, garden and fruit farm located on Lot 8, Concession 2 in York Township. (For those familiar with the city of Toronto, these lands are located within a boundary of Danforth Ave to the south, Woodbine Avenue to the east, Cosburn Avenue to the north, and Coxwell Avenue to the west.)



Above is a snippet view from an 1880 map of the “South East Part of York”, showing the Lewis Fitzgerald farm towards the lower left, across from the Clergy Reserve, and ‘just down the street’ from his brother Joseph Fitzgerald’s land, originally owned by Daniel Fitzgerald homestead.


 Life seemed good for Lewis but in 1894, his wife Ellen was diagnosed with cancer and died at the young age of 53. Sometime following her death, Lewis gave up farming, moved into a house at 48 Brooklyn Avenue in Toronto’s east end and found employment as a Utilities Worker.

It was in this house that gas from an unlit lamp silently filled his living space, accidentally causing asphyxia and a premature death for Lewis Fitzgerald on 7 Jan 1910. Lewis was buried in the Fitzgerald family plot in St, Michael’s Cemetery, Toronto.

Sometimes My Genealogy Stars Are Aligned

As luck would have it, I stumbled into a gold mine of family records while I have continued to pursue my wife Ellen’s ancestors. As I have recorded through many blog posts, Ellen’s ancestry is rich and compelling, with roots that include United Empire Loyalists and American Revolutionaries  I can trace her ancestors back to the 1620’s in New England, their arrival occurring just a few years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Ellen appears to be one of the few people who can claim U.E.L. (United Empire Loyalist) and D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) status (although neither has been applied for to date).

With such a lengthy and deep ancestry in North America, spread over hundreds of years, family members in subsequent generations have been found in all corners of the United States and Canada.

In the past couple of weeks, I have devoted time to tracking down the family members directly connected to Ellen’s second great aunt, Elizabeth Nusbickel (nee Wagner). Elizabeth was the sister of Ellen’s second great grandfather Jacob Wagner. Both Jacob and Elizabeth had immigrated to the United States along with their parents Heinrich ‘Henry’ and Anna Marie ‘Mary’ (nee Eckhard) Wagner around 1833, settling in Wayne County, New York. Henry provided for his family by both farming his land and by plying his trade as a cooper. The photo, above right, was taken by Ellen’s uncle Gordon Wagner in 1976 and was provided to us by Gordon as part of his genealogy work charts and papers on the Wagner family. The photo, which I scanned, depicts Stewart Smart (a cousin) with a barrel made by Henry Wagner over one hundred years prior to the photo.

Elizabeth Wagner married Frederick Nusbickel around 1843. Elizabeth and Frederick had five known children, the youngest, Catherine or ‘Kate’ was born in 1855 in Rose, Wayne County, New York. Around 1880, Kate married a Lyons, Wayne County, New York school teacher named Josiah F. Kletzing. Subsequently, Josiah and Kate left New York state and moved to the Chicago, Cook County, Illinois area where they settled down and raised their family.

While I have used the Ancestry website to view and save many records connected to the families, when the Ancestry ‘well ran dry’, I turned to FamilySearch.org to explore the Cook County databases that are available. This is where I got lucky. Through FamilySearch, I was able to locate and save vital records for the births, marriages, and deaths for the five known children of Kate and Josiah. In the case of their daughter Kathryn Kletzing, I was able to go one generation further by finding an image of her 1912 marriage license to Ralph Clayton Moulding as well as the birth records for three of their four children.

Fortunately, I was possibly one of the last people to access the record images online. Yesterday, FamilySearch ‘announced’ through it’s wiki that these images would no longer be available directly through FamilySearch. The wiki now explains, under the “Image Visibility” section, that, “Due to the provisions and guidelines of a newly revised contract with Cook County, FamilySearch has removed all images for Illinois, Cook County vital records from its historical records collection online; free indexes to the collections will remain.”

This affects the following databases:

  • Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878 – 1922
  • Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers. 1871 – 1915
  • Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878 – 1922
  • Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871 – 1920


Although the images are no longer available online, they can still be acquired through microfilm viewed at a local Family History Centre, through the Cook County website for a fee, or through a Family History Library “photoduplication” request. I feel lucky that timing was on my side in the past few days as none of the now current acquisition methods is nearly as convenient as my experience.


Murder in The Church – The Death of Dr. James Wright Markoe

My wife’s North American roots are deep. I can trace her ancestors in what is the United States and Canada back to about 1628, just a few years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. My family, in contrast, immigrated to North America in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. It is likely for this reason that most of the MyHeritage record matches with Find-A-Grave memorial pages involved Ellen’s ancestors.


One of the several bits of information that I discovered about Ellen’s ancestors through their memorial pages involved a fifth cousin, twice removed: Dr. James Wright Markoe (right, as he was pictured in the New York Times in 1920). James and Ellen share great grandparents, John Faulkner and his wife, Sarah Abbott. John and Sarah are the 4th great grandparents to Dr. Markoe and the 6th great grandparents to Ellen.

On Dr. Markoe’s Find-A-Grave memorial page is a biographical note stating that he died after being shot at church. I couldn’t resist exploring that story and found that it was, in fact, true.

Dr. James Wright Markoe was the personal physician to J. P. Morgan, the very wealthy financier and industrialist. It was this friendly relationship that lead J. P. Morgan to financing New York City’s Lying In Hospital which Dr. Markoe founded and oversaw for a number of years.

The New York Times reported that on Sunday, April 18, 1920, Dr. Markoe was one of a number of ushers who were taking up the collection during Sunday services at St. George’s Episcopal Church, near Stuyvesant Square in New York City. As Dr. Markoe proceeded with the collection task “a lunatic, recently escaped from an asylum, arose from a seat towards the rear of the church, fired a revolver and mortally wounded” Dr. Markoe. Some reports have suggested that the murderer had misidentified Dr. Markoe with his real target, J. P. Morgan, Jr.

The ‘lunatic’, as the newspaper referred to him, was apprehended by men who were also attending the church service and turned over to the police. He was later identified as Thomas Simpkin of Duluth, Minnesota. Simpkin’s version of events is that he had no particular target but rather he was dismayed because the “preacher in his sermon at the church told them to be good to strangers but no one spoke to me, and I resented it.” Simpkin as it turns out had moved his family from England to Canada about seven years earlier. He told police that he had joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight in World War 1. According to Simpkin, just prior to departing Canada for the war, he learned that his wife was again pregnant and when his request to be stationed closer to his family was denied, he deserted and moved the family to the United States. The attestation papers for Thomas Simpkin indicate that he lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada when he was inducted into the military in 1916.

Dr. Markoe’s murder prompted a flurry of calls for changes in the way the U.S. courts dealt with those who at the time were considered to be ‘insane.’

As for Dr. Markoe, he was laid to rest in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery following a funeral service that took place in the chapel of the very church in which he had been killed. The New York Times described  the funeral as a “quiet, simple service except the dismal beating of the rain on the tin roof which at times almost muffled the droning of the prayers for the dead.” The funeral was held under police guard with admittance controlled by admission tickets. Among the mourners were Dr. Markoe’s widow, Annette, as well as family and friends including J. P. Morgan, Jr. as well as a police honour guard provided in recognition of the work Dr. Markoe had done for the police of New York City over the years.