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Genealogy is for those who love twists and turns. A day of research can take you to many places. I spent yesterday thinking deeply about my paternal ancestry, mainly the Fleischhauer family and have sought out to untwine the details of their legacy. Even a few records can evoke a story of high drama and hardship; such is the case of my 2nd great aunt Mildred Fleischhauer. While I know little of her personally, my research has begun to reveal a story of someone who desired a stable married life, but rarely got what she so desired.

 

Mildred was born 7 Sep 1897 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York to Franz and Meta (Ranken) Fleischhauer, my 2nd great-grandparents.[1] The transcription of her birth record suggests she was born as Matilda, but she seldom used that forename if ever, because all the records have her named as Mildred, even from an early age.

 

She first married a man named Lector Griffin. Lector had roots in the American South, he was born in Martin County, North Carolina on 25 Aug 1893.[2] His exact origins are unknown, but as a young boy, he lived with his widowed mother Maggie Griffin and six siblings in the town of Hamilton, Martin County, North Carolina according to the 1900 US Federal Census.[3] In his adult life, he worked as a salesman and married Mildred Fleischhauer on 31 May 1916 in Brooklyn, Kings Co., New York.[4] The couple soon after moved to Hagerstown, Washington County, Maryland where they had two children, Frances Clark and Arthur Winton Griffin.[5] These two boys were raised without their biological father. The Griffin boys stayed in New York with the Fleischhauers until adulthood. In the 1920 Census, they lived with their grandparents, Franz and Meta Fleischhauer, in Queens, New York, along with their mother Mildred Griffin, who said she was married.[6] However, where was husband Lector? A search of the 1920 Census led me to Lector boarding in the YMCA dormitory in Newark, New Jersey.[7] The exact circumstances remain unknown, but in those days, the YMCA was an institution where people went who suffered from poverty or intemperance. Maybe Lector felt the need to leave because he wanted to alleviate his family from any burden of his own doing.

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The 1920 US Census shows Lector Griffin living in the YMCA dormitories in Newark, New Jersey. Image Source: FamilySearch.org

 

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The household of my 2nd great-grandparents, Frank and Meta Fleischhauer in the 1920 US Federal Census. Image Source: Family Search.org

1920 US Federal Census for Frank E. Fleischhauer

Address: Husson & Prospect Ave. (now 89-36 187th Place, Queens, New York)

Surname First Name Gender Age Place of Birth Occupation Relationship to Head of Household
Fleischhauer Frank E M 46 Germany thermometer manufacturer Head
Fleischhauer Meta L F 44 Germany Head
Fleischhauer Frances M 24 NY thermometer manufacturer Son
Griffin Mildred F 22 NY Daughter
Fleischhauer Arthur E M 19 NY thermometer manufacturer Son
Fleischhauer Ethel F F 17 NY Daughter
Griffin Franics C M 2 and 7 months Maryland Grandson
Griffin Arthur Winton M 4 months Maryland Grandson

 

 

Lector Griffin moved on from Mildred and their two children, heading back into the deep south. In 1942, his WWII Draft Registration Card shows him residing in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas and he passed away 9 Nov 1976 in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. His records show he remained his life as a salesman and was divorced at the time of his death.[8]

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Death Certificate for Lector Griffin. Image Source: FamilySearch.org

By 1930, Mildred had found another chance with a man named Charles Milton Seacombe. Charles had married once before to an English woman named Laila Annie Jones. In the 1910 Census, his occupation is listed as a railroad conductor, but soon after, he worked for himself as an auto mechanic.[9] Mildred and Charles were married sometimes in the 1920s, but an exact marriage remains unknown at this point. The 1930 Census has Charles Seacombe and Mildred living together at 259 Jericho Turnpike in Mineola, New York, with one of Mildred’s sons from her former marriage, Frances Griffin.[10] Arthur Winton stayed with his grandparents in Queens.[11] I can only imagine how difficult it was for Frances and Arthur (who went by Winton) to have been split apart as brothers. Even if the distance between Mineola and Queens wasn’t great, the fact that they were split apart suggests to me some kind of hardship.

1930 US Federal Census for Mildred (Fleischhauer) Seacombe

Address: 259 Jericho Turnpike, Mineola, New York

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Seacombe Family in 1930 US Federal Census. Image Source: FamilySearch.org

Surname First Name Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Relationship to head of household
Seacombe Charles M 45 New York automotive mechanic head
Seacombe Mildred D F 30 New York none wife
Griffin Frances M 12 Maryland none stepson

 

Whatever semblance of peace and stability that existed from Mildred’s second marriage was short lived. In 1940, Mildred is not only back with her parents, but under a new married name, this time Gelbach. Where was the husband this time? According to family sources, he was identified as Benjamin Lee Gehlbach, but my own research indicates that he went by just the name Lee. Lee Gehlbach was born 1902 in Illinois to Henry Gehlbach and Alice May Bruce. He died in 1975 and is buried at the New Union Cemetery in Lincoln, Logan County, Illinois.[12] The surname Gehlbach isn’t exactly an easy one to search, therefore a genealogist should employ some flexibility. Less is more in many cases and Using the 1940 Census database on family search, when I did a non-exact search of Gehlbach, born 1901 – 1905. Dropping the place of birth turned out to be the key, because there was Lee Gelbach, a married man born 1902 in New York, listed in Sing-Sing Prison![13] Poor Mildred struck out again!

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1940 US Census lists Lee Gelbach in Sing-Sing Prison. Image Source: FamilySearch.org

Sing_Sing_(prison)_with_warden

Warden standing in hallways of Sing – Sing Prison. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

I imagine she got tired of the New York life and at some point decided to relocate to the pastured landscapes and country life of New England with her fourth and final husband, Victor J. Brewer. They lived in a colonial home in Castleton, Vermont, built in the 1700s, but which they had renovated sometime in the 1970s. I guess Mildred found happiness after all. Victor worked as an engineer for the Holmes Electric Company and passed away 5 June 1984 at the Rutland Community Hospital.[14]

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The Brewer Home in Castleton, Vermont.

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Death Certificate for Victor J. Brewer. Image Source: FamilySearch.org

The story of my 2nd great-aunt Mildred Fleischhauer presents many more questions. I’m sure that if I were to find divorce proceedings that the nature of these relationships could be fully understood. The names of the husbands were identified on a cousin’s family tree, but how did she get that information? While the marriages are unverified by the vital records, other genealogical sources, in particular the federal census, provide circumstantial evidence that piece together the narrative and prove all the previously known facts to be correct.

 

When looking into the lives of Mildred’s children, Frances and Arthur (both named after members of the Fleischhauer family), I found a photograph of one of them and encountered a new type of source at the same! Frances or Frank Clark Griffin, traveled to Rio de Janero, Brazil in 1942 on a temporary work visa. His occupation is listed as aircraft mechanic so perhaps his nature for travel was work related or in some type of contribution to the war effort. [15]

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Immigration Card for Frank Calvin Griffin. Image Source: FamilySearch.org

Tracing the life history of the Fleischhauers has proven to be very exciting, reminding me of what brought me to genealogy in the first place. Whether the facts are hard to swallow or envelop oneself with a deep sense of pride, what matters for me is understanding the details of my family history and it’s legacy. It’s important because in the process, I better understand my own identity and can learn or reflect on their experiences.

 

As one final note, all the research in this post was completed through free records, proving that you can climb your family tree and discover your past for little to no cost!

[1] “New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W7K-FRD : accessed 9 May 2016), Mathilda Fleischhauer, 07 Sep 1897; citing Birth, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,324,435.

[2] “Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K3FN-ZRF : accessed 9 May 2016), Lector Griffin, 09 Nov 1976; citing certificate number 81054, State Registrar Office, Austin; FHL microfilm 2,243,982.

[3] Hamilton Township (part), Martin County, North Carolina, 19001 US Federal Census, FHL film 1241204, ED 68, page 3B, household of Maggie Griffin.

[4] “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24Q6-218 : accessed 9 May 2016), Lector Griffin and Mildred D. Fleischhauer, 31 May 1916; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,614,504.

[5] “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZ8F-4CX : accessed 9 May 2016), Lector Griffin, 1917-1918; citing Washington County no 1, Maryland, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,684,871.

[6] Assembly Dist. 4, Queens County, New York, 1920 US Federal Census, roll 1234, ED 322, p. 21B, household of Frank E. Fleischauer.

[7] Young Men Christian Association, Ward No.2, Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, 1920 US Federal Census, roll 1031, Ed 103, sheet 10A, line 18.

[8] “United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XPRQ-X6Y : accessed 9 May 2016), Lector Griffin, 1942; citing NARA microfilm publication M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); “Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K3FN-ZRF : accessed 9 May 2016), Lector Griffin, 09 Nov 1976; citing certificate number 81054, State Registrar Office, Austin; FHL microfilm 2,243,982.

[9] Ward No. 4, Queens, Queens County, New York, 1910 US Federal Census, roll 1065, ED 1263, page 24B, household of Charles Seacombe.

[10] Mineola, Nassau County, New York, 1930 US Federal Census, roll no. 1626, ED 147, page 22A, household of Charles Seacombe.

[11] Hollis, Queens County, New York, 1930 US Federal Census, roll 1601, ED 401, p. 9A, household of Frank Fleischhauer.

[12] Data Entry and Photo for Lee Gehlbach, New Union Cemetery, Lincoln, Logan County, Illinois, Findagrave.com, memorial no. 23506233.

[13] Sing-Sing Prison, Ossining Village, Westchester, New York, 1940 US Federal Census, Roll 2811, ED 60-256, page 28B, line 48.

[14] “Vermont Vital Records, 1760-2008,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KF5R-KFF : accessed 9 May 2016), Victor J Brewer, Death, 05 Jun 1984, Rutland, Rutland, Vermont, State File No. 84-001928.

[15] “Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:27FK-429 : accessed 10 May 2016), Frank Calvin Griffin, Immigration; citing 1942, Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro (National Archives, Rio de Janeiro).


 

Copyright (c) 2016 Jake Fletcher.

Jake Fletcher. “Many Twists and Turns: The Life of Mildred Fleischhauer.” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 10 May 2016. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/many-twists-and-turns-the-life-of-mildred-fleischhauer

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