Everyday I live as Jake Fletcher, but three generations ago my grandfather (or my father’s father) made a motivated decision to forego his heritage and namesake. My grandfather was born Robert Frank Fleischhauer in the borough of Queens, New York. His research files and tales of military service invigorate my curiosity deeply. This is in part because I never even had a chance to meet him; he died in 1965. However, I have procured more photographs of him than probably any ancestor on file. Such interesting relics include war ration booklets, foreign coins he collected while at sea with the Navy, school report cards and letters he wrote as young as eight years old.
Fig 1. Robert during the War period enjoying a pipe. Notice the endless convoy of ships in the distance.
Fig 2. Report Cards, Board of Education, City of New York. Note the parent’s signatures, their names were Frank Julius Fleischhauer and Caroline Marie Pralle.
With all these sources to understand his legacy, what remains unclear and without genealogical truth is the reason he dropped Fleischhauer for the surname Fletcher, I needed to look at what sources I could to recollect the facts of his name change. The family tradition as presented my father suggests that a sequence of events led to the name change. First, it was Robert’s marriage to Margarette Freeman. This allied him with Margarette’s father, James Freeman who ran a flooring business in Hartford, Connecticut and thus they became business partners. The circumstances of post-war and the business somehow motivated him to forever change his identity to Robert Fletcher. The narrative as explained by my father provides concrete evidence that the name change occurred between the date of marriage and my father’s birth in 1947. Some boxes that were re-obtained during a recent spring cleaning provided some important clues to my investigation. Someone, mostly likely my grandmother, had created a photo album from the wedding.
Fig 3. An original copy of the wedding invitation for Margarette Elizabeth Freeman and Robert Frank Fleischauer, Ensign U.S. Navy. The wedding took place 12 Dec 1943 at Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford.
Having a copy of the wedding invitation saves me the time of placing a record order to Connecticut or does it? At least I find myself able to pull out many clues from this single source. The spelling of Fleischauer is significant, the use of one letter h is different from the original two h spelling. Robert did not become a Fletcher before the marriage and the name change may have occurred shortly after. Ordering the marriage record from Connecticut would give me definitive proof as to what surname he registered under the marriage license. Another important part of Robert’s legacy is his military career. After speaking to an archivist at NARA, I understand the process of obtaining his WWII service records. In the meantime, I have procured a few clues which explain to some degree the nature of his service. I utilized Fold3.com and their collection of Navy Muster Rolls to come across a Robert F. Fleischauer in a passenger manifest from the USS Shipley Bay (CVE-85). His rank is listed as corporal and his destination is noted as “USMCR Fray”. Previously, my father’s own interest in Robert’s service led to some research on the ships he sailed with including Ajax IV (AR-6) and Delta II (AK-29), therefore I had not come across a vessel named Shipley Bay. I also cannot prove this Robert F. Fleischauer is the same individual without consulting the service records held in St. Louis. Whatever the archivists can provide me with will certainly enlighten me to the full story of my grandfather’s service.
Fig 4. A photo of Robert taken during his service in North Africa Campaign.
One detail which always fascinates me resonates in another photograph from the war era. Robert had apparently taken part in the campaign against Germany in North Africa. You can see in the distance the sandy foothills of the desert. While clearly wearing Navy regalia, it seems that his role was partially land-based, perhaps to bring supplies for the ground troops. My father has ascertained that preceding his enlistment in the Navy, Robert had gone to the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point which is based on the quaint and suburban outskirts of Long Island. In 2009, we both drove to Kings Point to search their files and yearbooks, which ended in a negative search. As of now, the understanding of my grandfather’s legacy and the circumstances surrounding his name change remain somewhat unclear and fragmented by the pieces of circumstantial evidence. Having the service records is the next step, followed by seeking out court documents for the name change. However, I do not know if these documents are heavily restricted in the state of Connecticut. I am however certain that these documents lie in Connecticut.
NARA – How to obtain U.S. Military Service Records after 1916 and Link to Standard Form 180 Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
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 Held in author’s research files.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Passenger Manifest of Robert F. Fleischauer, 23 Sep 1944, Shipley Bay: Accessed on Fold3.com, U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, National Archives Record Group 24.  James L. Mooney, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, (Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, 1981,) p. 101-102, 258-259.  Held in author’s research files.  See Author’s Blog Post, “ A Day at Kings Point,” 5 Dec 2009.