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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.[1] 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.[2] 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.

Grandpa Bob WWII pic 1

Fig 1. Robert during the War period enjoying a pipe. Notice the endless convoy of ships in the distance.[3]

Grandpa Bob School Report Cards

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.[4]

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.  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. Xenophobia of Germanic culture and the circumstances of keeping the business afloat somehow motivated him to forever change his identity to Robert Fletcher. The name change would have had to occur 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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 1.52.56 PM

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.[5]

I could 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 and was the result of a family naming pattern in that generation. 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. 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).[6] 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),[7] 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.

Grandpa Bob North Africa

Fig 4. A photo of Robert taken during his service in North Africa Campaign.[8]

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. Evidence of this is based on Robert’s photograph (fig 4.) One can see in the distance arid foothills. While clearly wearing Navy regalia, the photo is taken on land. He perhaps assisted in a land operation. Another possibility is that the ship had docked and Robert had taken leave to rest his sea legs. 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.[9] 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 documents in Connecticut probate courts for the name change.

Useful Resources:

NARA – How to obtain U.S. Military Service Records after 1916 and Link to Standard Form 180

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

[1] Held in author’s research files.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] 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.

[7] 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

[8] Held in author’s research files.

[9] Jake Fletcher, “ A Day at Kings Point,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 5 Dec 2009.


Jake Fletcher, “The Reason My Names is Fletcher,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 13 Jun 2015. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/the-reason-my-name-is-fletcher/

Copyright (c) 2015 by Jake Fletcher. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.