Monday, November 3, 2014

A Puzzle:  Could Ernst Be Henry?

I'm pulling out a puzzle that's been at rest for a few years.  It came to mind after reading posts on The German-American Genealogist Blog and writing a list of my German-American ancestors

My great-grandfather Henry Carl Meinzen's history seems shrouded, elusive.  I jokingly say he doesn't want people to know about his past before he came to America.  When he arrived here at the age of 28, it's possible that he was a widow.  He could have served an apprenticeship.  Maybe he had served in the army.  And there are any number of other possibilities.  I know nothing about his life before he arrived in Ohio.

When the passenger information below surfaced, I began to wonder if Henry chose to be called by a different name when he arrived in the U.S.  As far as I know, proof of identity was not required in 1866.  And there is the challenge of German multiple given names.

Various U.S. records and documents tell me that Henry Carl Meinzen
  • was born in Hanover/Prussia on July 25, 1837.
  • came to America in 1866. 
  • was a carpenter, among other things.
  • lived in Ohio from October, 1867, until his death in 1925.

I have been unable to find immigration documents or transcriptions of documents for Henry Carl Meinzen.  But I found this for Ernst Meinzen:

Could Henry and Ernst be the same person?
  • Henry would have been 28 in 1866.  Ernst was 28.
  • Henry immigrated in 1866.  Ernst arrived in 1866.
  • Henry was from Germany.  Ernst was from Germany.
  • Henry was a carpenter.  Ernst was a carpenter.
  • Henry lived in Ohio.  Ernst's destination was Ohio.

This is obviously a transcription and it could be wrong.  If it's correct, it seems too coincidental that everything but the first name matches.  (I think I've seen a scan of the ship's manifest but was too new to family history to make a copy or to record the names of other passengers.)  Of course I won’t assume they are the same person.  But still, I wonder about it even as I continue to search for more information about Henry Carl Meinzen.

Do any of you readers have any thoughts about how to solve this puzzle?  If so, please share.  Do you have experiences with first name changes like these?  Have you made a connection between a known ancestor and an uncertain name?  If so, how did you find the connection?

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.  I appreciate it.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. If only the name had been Heinrich, you could feel more sure. I will hope for your sake that Henry Carl had a third name.

    1. Hi, Wendy. I don't have any document that gives his name as Heinrich but he named his first son Heinrich Carl, which leads me to believe that the older Henry Americanized his name to Henry from the German Heinrich. I have yet to find any record with a third name but I that's not to say there isn't some record somewhere.

    2. Well, Wendy, it looks like I do have a document with his name as Heinrich. Anonymous, below, found his naturalization papers, which I have but had not look at recently. So yes, he's definitely Heinrich.

  2. So have you looked at the original record? I guess my question is who was Ernst traveling with? Were there others on that ship that have names you are familiar with? Ancestry has the Passenger list from the National Archives with Ernst Meinzen on it and it says specifically his place of origin is Hannover. (in the New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957) He is on the 1820-1897 roll. The date of arrival is the same as the index you have above (8 June 1866), HOWEVER, looking at the handwritten image his age really doesn't look like the way the man recording the information made his 7's. His age looks more like 22 than 27. Ancestry transcribed Ernst's date of birth as "about 1845." There are others on the ship from "Hannover", among other places as well, but I wonder if any of those are relatives.

    Another question I have is have you found an Ernst Meinzen in the 1870 census in Ohio? Ohio doesn't narrow it down much, but if I could find an Ernst with the right data, I would be less likely to think they are two people.

    1. Michelle, I just pulled out a paper copy of the passenger list from my files. I found the list online when I was just beginning research and did not make a digital copy (but I recorded that it came from the National Archives, roll #, etc.) and didn't find it online at Ancestry last night after a really quick search. But I found it today. I do not recognize any other names but I did notice that there were several other passengers headed to Ohio and two to Cleveland. I think I will transcribe the whole list and see if there's any help in that. I'll also pay particular attention to those who came from Hannover.

      Castle Garden transcribed Ernst's age 28, which is definitely incorrect (and proves again why it's important to look at the original document). I agree that it could be 22 but it looks to me like someone tried to rewrite over it and that it could be a 27. Or maybe the second digit started as a 7 and became a 2. So there's some uncertainty about that.

      I searched for Ernst Meinzen in the 1870 and subsequent census records but did not find him, though there is an Ernst Meinzen who was born in 1886 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

      I really don't know what to think about Ernst and Henry. In a way I'd like them to be the same person but even if they were, this passenger list doesn't give me much helpful information to lead me to Henry's family of birth. It's just strange that Ernst doesn't surface anywhere in Ohio, or anywhere else, for that matter, after 1866.

      Thank you for your suggestions about how to proceed, search ideas, and other things to look for in the document. When I have a little more time I'm going to pull out all of Henry's information again and review it. I was so new to family history when I began. I'm sure there is plenty that I missed.

      Thanks again.

  3. Interesting. It might be him.

    Ernst's passenger list is on in New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. It definitely says "Ernst".

    I found Henry's First Papers in Belmont County, Ohio (maybe you already have these). On Oct. 1871, he states he arrived in the U.S. in June 1866. His signature says Heinrich Meinzen. There is no mention of which city he came into or on which ship. From Family Search > Ohio, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977 > Belmont > Declarations of intention 1861-1876 vol 1 > Image 69 of 297 (both sides of the page)

    Sounds like some more digging is called for. Happy hunting!

    1. Oops!

      In the previous post, it should say that Henry filed First Papers in Oct. 1867.

    2. I had a paper copy of the passenger list squirreled away and pulled it out after I read your comment. And then, of course, I looked at the passenger list on Ancestry. Yes, definitely Ernst, but there's some question about the age....

      I have copies of Henry's naturalization papers and pulled those out, too. I had forgotten that he'd signed his name Heinrich. Thanks for reminding me.

      Yes, I do have more digging. Henry's been resting for a few years. I keep thinking that as more information comes online I might be able to find him. One of these days!

      Thanks, Anonymous, for taking the time to read, comment, and then research my Henry. I appreciate it.

  4. Most of my German ancestors had three names like my great grandfather Heinrich Theodor Frederick Schridde, he went by Frederick. Ernst could have been one of them.

    1. Hi, Claudia. That's what I keep thinking, too: Heinrich Carl Ernst; Ernst Heinrich Carl; or some other combination. I hope to solve this puzzle one of these days / months / years.

  5. I believe every one of my German ancestors did this. For some of them, my maternal grandma knew the names, for most of the rest, I'm still looking.

    1. Hi, Michael. It's a challenge when we get part of the information and the rest has been forgotten or ignored. How I wish my grandfather or one of his sisters had recorded more information. I'll keep looking.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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