April 25, 2018
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Arrival of great-nephew prompts genealogist to review documents


Tall, medium build,blue eyes, dark brown hair, born May 9, 1878, in New Jersey. Worked as a “tile paster” for Old Bridge Enamel Brick & Tile Co. Submitted his World War I Draft Registration Card in Sayreville, N.J., on Sept. 12, 1918, shortly before the Great War came to an end.

Listed name was Emil Gustav Zimmerman, but he signed Emil Gustave Zimmerman.

This could have been a simple spelling error by a 40-year-old filling out his card in a hurry, but I don’t think so. A closer look at the “E” beginning his name at the top of the card, compared to the penmanship of the signature at the bottom, leads me to conclude that the person collecting the information for the draft registration wrote it onto the card, then had the applicant sign it.

Moreover, the signer very clearly wrote Gustave with an “e” at the end. So I learned something by making a second thorough review of a document I thought I’d gleaned everything from back in 2011, when Emil’s great-grandson, Andrew Zimmerman, married my niece, Stephanie Taylor.

Sometimes, it’s a third or fourth or 10th try at studying a piece of information that finally yields just a little bit more enlightenment.

I got to looking at Zimmerman material again this week when great-nephew Carter Scott Zimmerman turned up his nose at the thought of being a March baby and picked himself a February arrival date close enough to guarantee he’ll likely upstage Valentine’s Day in our family for the next couple of decades.

Most of us met him over social media — one eye open, one not quite — before we got to see him in person. We are charmed, especially grandparents Scott and Maureen (Moore) Taylor, and Ralph and Joyce (Higgins) Zimmerman.

Carter will learn someday that his Mayflower ancestry goes back some 14 generations to Francis Cooke and other Pilgrims, but great-great-great-grandfather William Zimmerman and great-great-great-grandmother Ottilee or Odelia are only five generations back in Germany.

Translated, Zimmerman means carpenter, and as Emil’s draft registration card shows, he worked in the building trade. Andy’s degree from the University of Maine is in construction engineering, I believe.

I know very little about New Jersey geography, but I’m learning.

The 1900 census for Matawan, which shows the Zimmerman family living on Main Street, lists Otelia, widowed, born September 1846 in Germany, as head of household. She told the census enumerator that she had had seven children, and that two were still living. In the same household were sons Emil, born May 1878 in New Jersey, and Otto, born January 1886 in New Jersey.

My guess is that William died between 1886, when Otto was born, and 1900, when his wife was listed as widowed. In 1880, he was head of household of the family in Matawan. William was 43, a laborer; Otilee, 36, keeping house. Their children were William, 5; and Emil, 2.

In the 1870 census, I find in “Manalapan” one Kea Zimmerman (or Ken?), 33, a confectioner; and Artelia Zimmerman, 24, keeping house, both born in Germany.

I figured Manalapan to be a misspelling of Matawan, but my Funk and Wagnall’s atlas shows that both are locations in Middlesex County.

There were many people named William Zimmerman in various states in the last quarter of the 1800s. Tracing back William’s origins in Germany may take some doing. I expect to put in a good bit of time on both Ancestry.com, a paid database which is available free at public libraries with computers; and on FamilySearch, the free website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at familysearch.org.

I will be especially interested to see if Carter’s Zimmermans lived in Germany near Wurttemberg, where his Steeves-Stief ancestors on my mother’s side of the family lived before coming to Pennsylvania in the mid-1750s.

I find it memorable that Carter Scott Zimmerman made his appearance in the middle of the Winter Olympics.

A verse from a Walt Whitman poem that is being played frequently on a TV ad would seem to apply to new babies as much as it does to Olympic athletes:

“That you are here — that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

We’ll be listening.


For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.


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