Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Constitutes Proof?

Lizzie Dunzinger as a young lady.
An updated article has been posted here.

As anyone who has been aware of my genealogy research knows, my big mystery is my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dunzinger. I've put a lot of time and effort into finding her, as you'll see in the evidence collected below.
I am going to list all the documentation we have on Lizzie (as she was known most of her life). I'm interested in your opinion. Does all this together consistute proof that we've found her parents? If not, where do we go from here to prove it? Please comment below or email me your thoughts. Thank you!

The family story passed down through the years says that Lizzie was born in New York in either 1854 or 1856. Her grandparents brought her to Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa to live with relatives after her parents died when she was about three years old.

In this list, I will talk about only facts about the documentation and facts about what we know, not my beliefs on what is true.

Her headstone, which she shares with her husband, Alois Panther and his first wife, Monica Hanle. In St. Mary's Cemetery, Franklin Township, Des Moines county, Iowa. It lists her birth date as April 12, 1856 and her death date as December 24, 1930. We know this is not the original headstone and her death date on the headstone is definitely incorrect.

Death Certificate  
Her death certificate lists her parents as "Not known". It lists her birth date as April 12, 1854 in New York City.

Her obituary was in the Burlington Hawk Eye on December 26, 1929. It states her death date was December 23, 1929. It also lists her birth date as April 12, 1854 in New York City. It does not list her parents. Information about her children contains errors. (Horace instead of Maurice and Bernard instead of Benedict as examples.)

Des Moines County, Iowa Marriage Book #10 Index

Lists their marriage on October 22, 1877. Lists her as 23 years old and lists her name as Lizzie Donzinger.

Certificate of Marriage 

Lists her name as Elizabetha Juliana Dunzinger. It states the marriage occurred on October 22, 1877 at the Catholic Church of Kingston, Des Moines County, Iowa and was officiated by an Assistant Pastor of St. John's Church in Burlington.

There is not currently a Catholic Church in Kingston. I found a record of a St. Mary's Church, Kingston, Des Moines County, Iowa (N 40.9767 and W -91.05459). At these coordinates is an open area next to St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, where you might expect a church to be located. At this point in time, I have not figured out where the old St. Mary's Church records might be stored.
Affidavit for the Application for Marriage License
 An affidavit signed by P. G. Guenther (see newspaper article, below), attesting to his acquaintence with Alois Panther and "Lizzie Donzinger" and that he sees no problem with their marriage. P.G. Guenther was the young Peter George Guenther, who was married to Margaret Victoria Ziegelmueller.

St. John's Church, Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa marriage book entry
Lists the witnesses of her marriage as Theodore Panther (nephew of Alois) and Carolina Ziegelmueller. This proves Lizzie was close to at least one member of the Ziegelmueller family.

A newspaper article titled "Ziegelmueller (and family)", which appears almost like a letter to the editor written by "Virginia Zaiser Williams" at "Rt 1 Briarcliff".
I do not know when this was published or in what newspaper but I would think it appeared in the Burlington Hawk Eye. There is a handwritten note in the bottom margin of the article, which we believe was probably written by Mary Ann Panther Vorwerk or her daughter that says "These people were relatives of Grandma Panther". This note refers to Lizzie Dunzinger. It states that the Ziegelmuellers and Wagners came from a town called Wemding in Bavaria. The article also mentions the Guenthers including a young Peter G. Guenther.

1870 Federal Census
Shows Lizzie Dunzinger, 17 years old, working as a servent and living in the Charles Wagner household.

Burlington City Directory
Lists Charles Wagner as proprieter of the Valley Street Boarding House at 413 and 415 Valley Street.

Church baptismal records of the children of Leonard Ziegelmueller and his wife, Juliana Wagner.

Many of them show Charles Wagner and his wife Walburga as the sponsors. I don't have an image of the church record but a researcher in Wemding has confirmed they were married September 11, 1843 in Wemding, Bavaria.

1855 New York State Census
Listing the couple Andrew and Fanny Dunzenger, both born in Germany living in New York City, New York County, New York in Ward 20, Enumeration District 2. Also listed are their two daughters, Mary A. Dunzenger, 4 years old, and Elizabeth Dunzenger, 1 year old. Andrew's occupation is listed as a "paper stainer". This shows the age of Elizabeth matching up with the age of our Lizzie.

Andrew Dunzenger - M - 32 - born in Germany
Fanny Dunzenger - F - wife - 27 - born in Germany
Mary A. Dunzenger - F - child - 4 - born in New York
Elizabeth Dunzenger - F - child - 1 - born in New York
Victoria Seidlenar - F - 68 - mother - born in Germany
Adam Pacoke/Jacobe(?) - M - 16 - brother - born in Germany

1853 New York City Directory
Has a listing for: Dunzinger, Andrew, paperstainer, h. 329 Seventh av.
Andrew Dunzinger is not found in the 1857 or 1858 New York City Directory. Names surrounding his in the 1853 directory are found in these other directories but not his. This tells me the deaths likely occurred in either 1855 or 1856.

Birth Record Search - A search request submitted to the New York City Municipal Archives for a birth record for Elizabeth Dunzinger in New York City, New York County, New York in 1854 resulted in no record found.

Google Book "Jahrbuch der Stadt Wemding 1835-1836" page 28

Lists an Andreas Dunzinger listed as an Oberlieutenant in the local militia. It shows his occupation as Faerbmeister. This translates along the lines of master dyer. He would be too old to be the same Andrew Dunzinger found in the 1855 New York census but he does have a son named Andreas that would be approximately the correct age. The church records of Wemding list his occupation as a tinctor, which is a dyer.

What don't we have?

1. Any record that is confirmed to be our Lizzie Dunzinger Panther showing her parents' names.
2. Any record of the death of Andrew and Fanny Dunzinger or any other Dunzinger during the 1855-1860 timeframe that could match up with the family stories. I looked at microfilm from the Family History Center for deaths in the years 1855-1860 and found no Dunzingers or similar names.
3. Any record of our (confirmed) Lizzie Dunzinger in any census prior to 1870.
4. The birth record of an Elizabeth Dunzinger in New York during the 1850s timeframe, or any timeframe for that matter.

So, what we have is a lot of circumstantial evidence that my great-grandmother was born April 12, 1854 in New York City, New York County, New York, to Andrew and Fanny Dunzinger and that she had a sister named Mary A. Dunzinger and a grandmother named Victoria Seidlinar (or something similar) and that her father was born in Wemding, Bavaria to a master dyer named Andreas Dunzinger and his wife, Maria Francisca Leinfelder, along with their family history there, which is waiting for us to delve into.  

Is this mass of circumstantial evidence enough to constitute proof that we've found my great-grandmother's family? Does it fall short of that but still make it likely we have the correct family link? Where do I go from here? No matter what, I'll still hope to find more concrete evidence proving this connection. The question is, do I turn my focus to the family history in Wemding or would that be a waste since this connection isn't yet proven? The research in Wemding will not be easy. The records are not digitized and if they are microfilmed, they are only available in Eichstatt, which is near Wemding in Bavaria. A trip there will cost a lot of money. Paying a researcher to look for me will also cost a lot of money and I also wouldn't have the satisfaction of doing the research myself.

Please let me know your thoughts. I'd really appreciate it!



  1. I always heard from my family that grandpa (Frank's) step-mother came from New York to Burlington and later married Aloys Panther and had eleven children, counting Grandpa's siblings from his mother, Monica. I'm ready to go with that! I think some mistakes were made along the way in the recording. Judith O'Connor-Decker

  2. Judith, you are correct in the story from your grandpa about his step-mother, at least that it matches the story we've all heard, that she came from New York. I'm hoping we've found her in New York but can't be sure.

  3. Someone from the Des Moines County Genealogical Society recommended I contact the Diocese offices in Davenport. They said, "Unfortunately, the Diocesan archives sacramental records include the years 1889-1902 and SS. Mary & Patrick in West Burlington has sacramental records after 1902. I wish I could be more of assistance in your search."

  4. Found my way here from the GGuys podcast. From all I see you have the right person. Keep in mind: Who are you accounting to? You only need to convince one else. You have amassed a ton of documentation on Lizzie. If it were me, I'd be moving on along the line you indicate.

  5. While it is true that I'm really only proving it to myself, I also want to provide enough proof that my many cousins will have confidence that we have the correct family and also so that future generations can rely on it. I also tend to believe we have the correct family but I am one that wants hard and fast proof. What I'm doing going forward is assuming I have the correct family but always keeping an eye out for more proof. I don't know when I'll be able to do thorough research of the Wemding/Eichstatt records, I look forward to gathering an extensive family history there. In the meantime, if anyone has any other ideas of where else I can look for proof of this connection, I appreciate any and all ideas. Keep them coming! Thank you!

  6. One other note regarding the relationship between Lizzie and the Ziegelmuellers. I don't know how the family is related. I'd love to hear ideas of how I can figure out this relationship. So far, I see that Leonard Ziegelmueller's wife, Juliana Wagner, was the sister of Charles Wagner, whom Lizzie lived with in Burlington. I'm left to just guess that Lizzie's mother, Fanny, was somehow related to the Wagner family but have no information regarding what her maiden name is. The small amount of research done in Wemding so far shows no relationship between the families.

  7. I commend your dedication to proving the facts rather than just taking family stories. They generally have a kernel of truth among a lot of "story". On the general subject of proof, do you have a copy of Thomas W. Jones "Mastering Genealogical Proof"? It's available now on Kindle. Two things I don't see in your summary that would be worth checking if you have not. First, have you accounted for what happened to the other people in the 1855 census, especially to Mary. If she also ended up in Iowa, it greatly strengthens your case. Same goes for Grandmother Victoria. It's hard to imagine she would have carried a young child out to Iowa if there were close relatives in NY and if there was not family in NY, chances are she would have stayed near the Iowa relatives. Also, since you have an address for Andrew in NY, have you looked for Catholic churches in that area where Elizabeth might have been baptized? Particularly a German language church. And speaking of German language, have you checked the German-language newspapers for information about the family? Obits were rare back then, except for really prominent people, but a young couple dying leaving two orphaned daughters might have made it as a human interest story. If it were me, at this point I would invest in a trip or a researcher in NY rather than Germany, to make sure you have learned everything possible about the family there. The one thing really useful about Wemding research at this point would be what you have already tried, which is connecting the Dunziger and Ziegelmueller families.

    1. Those are great points, Sharon. I appreciate it! I have looked in Iowa for her grandmother's name but haven't found her so far. I also have found no other information regarding Mary A. Dunzinger. She appears to have just disappeared. I can only speculate but I'm wondering if there might have been an accident of some sort, such as a fire, that killed Andrew, Fanny and Mary. Their surname is pretty unique but I'm finding very few people of this name, although I've come across a few others with this surname in New York in the late 1800s. They couldn't be descended from the same parents as Lizzie if her parents died unless they had a son some time between the 1855 census and their death. I'll take a closer look at the rest of your ideas when I have time. Thank you!

  8. NAME: Elisab. Juliana Dunzinger
    GENDER: Female
    MARRIAGE DATE: 22 Oct 1877
    MARRIAGE PLACE: St. John The Baptist, Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa
    SPOUSE: Aloysius Panther
    FHL FILM NUMBER: 956367
    REFERENCE ID: p 74

  9. If Adam Pacoke was a brother, how was he related? The older girl Mary vanishes also? I am on findagrave and on lots of the LDS materials are incorrect as they were entered by family that in our family ... just made up information and wrote it down... so the facts are really hard to find. Did you already figure all of this out in a later blog?

    1. What if the Pacoke was actually Adam Peacock. Who was listed as parents at the Aloysius Panther wedding? I'll try to read the tiny print.

    2. Unfortunately, there are no parents listed in their marriage record. Adam Peacock could indeed be another spelling for his name and one I'll make note of as I hadn't though of that one yet. I have no idea how he is related other than the census listing him as a brother. A brother to whom? If you take it as written, it would be a brother to Andrew but I'm not taking that as a given. I am not relying on what anyone else says about Lizzie. What you see in this post are facts that are known. The reason I believe this is her in the 1855 census is because the dates line up and the father listed matches with someone we know existed in the town the family is stated as originating from in the newspaper article listed above. This blog post is a culmination of all prior research I've done on Lizzie. Things I've speculated about such as the rest of the family being killed in a fire is all just speculation. I do not know what happened to them. They all just disappear from history and Lizzie next shows up in the 1870 census in Burlington, Iowa. The facts I've found here line up with the family stories. I don't just believe the family stories. I want to prove them right or wrong. I just want to find the facts about my great-grandmother's life.

      Just to update regarding Sharon's comment above, I have found a German language church literally a few blocks from the Dunzingers' address in New York City. Unfortunately, they had a fire in the early 1860s which destroyed their records prior to that time. I'm afraid that we'll likely hit a brick wall when it comes to any further research on this family, but I'm keeping my hopes up!