John Wirth was born on March 29, 1854. Or was he? According to the records of Peace Lutheran Church in Friedenberg, there was another John Wirth born on July 24, 1857. Since they were both sons of Peter and Anna (Adler)(Newberry) Wirth, these two would have been brothers. Before I attempt to explain this, I want to show you old photographs of the parents of these two boys, Peter and Anna.
Since he was born on March 29th, it will be the oldest of these two brothers that will be the focus of this post. However, I think in order to understand the confusion associated with these two boys, one must understand what happened to the church records of Peace Lutheran Church in Friedenberg. In 1942, there was a fire at the parsonage of this congregation and the church records were lost. In subsequent years, efforts were made to reconstruct those records. What we have in our museum is the result of those efforts. The end result was a book that was published with the title, Friedenberg Remembrances.
The bottom line is that we do not have the actual images of baptism records from this congregation to confirm the dates that are listed in the book. Nor can we see the actual names given to these children. What appears to have happened here is that the one boy that was born in 1854 went by the name John, and the other one that was born in 1857 went by the name Heinrich or Henry, which was his middle name.
The first census in which we find these two boys was the one taken in 1860. It is shown below.
Let me explain this list of folks. Peter and Anna are the parents. Each of them was previously married. Thomas Newberry was Anna’s child by her first marriage. Margaret was the daughter of Peter and his first wife. The last 5 children were born to Peter and Anna. The 12-year-old girl is the butchered spelling for Kunigunde. Then there are 4 boys, Peter, Henry, John, and Conrad. One more son was born in 1861 after this census. The two individuals in conflict are Henry and John. It says here that Henry was 6 years old and John was 8 (and they are out of order, even though all the other entries are in birth order). These ages are not likely to be correct. According to the dates I have mentioned, John would have been 6 and Henry would have been 3 in 1860.
According to his death certificate and his gravestone, John was born in 1854. As far as Henry is concerned, he married Felicitas Thieret in 1881. Below is that marriage record from Perry County.
Henry died two years later in 1883, and there is the following death record for him.
What is unusual here is that there is no date of death, although Henry can be found between two entries which were for the year 1883. He is buried in the Friedenberg Cemetery, but his gravestone is impossible to read. The age at his death on this form says 27 years, which would put his year of birth at 1856 or 1857. My conclusion is that the ages of the two boys in the 1860 census are incorrect.
We have another mystery to solve when we look at the 1870 census.
Here we see Henry as a 14 year old, and this time, that age seems to be accurate. However, John is absent from this census. He would have been about 16 years old. I suppose he could have been working as a laborer in another household, but I was unable to find him in the Perry County census. I wonder where he was.
On November 28, 1878, John Wirth married Elizabeth Hornberger. Here is their marriage record from Perry County.
Elizabeth Hornberger was the daughter of Adam and Elizabeth (Baer) Hornberger. She was born on November 1, 1859. She was also baptized at the Friedenberg church. I do not have a photo of John Wirth, but I do have one of Elizabeth when she was rather advanced in age, and it shows her with two of her sisters. Elizabeth is the one on the left.
We find the Wirth couple in the 1880 census, where it says John was a farmer. They had a young baby in their household also.
The 1900 census shows John and his family in the Central Township of Perry County, and he was still a farmer. There were 5 children in the household.
All of the other census entries we have for John Wirth show him living in the city of Perryville, and he had a different occupation. He was now a carpenter. His home was located about two blocks away from the Perry County Courthouse.
John died in 1936 at the age of 82. We can take a look at his death certificate.
Elizabeth would not die until 1952 at the age of 92. We also have her death certificate.
John and Elizabeth are buried together in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Perryville.
I have discovered that when you are doing research into family histories, you so often run into questions that remain unanswered. This story is yet another one of those. I am always hoping that some of our readers may have the answers and would be willing to share them with us.