1869: Baby John brightens the Stoutner household

Sepia Saturday 558. Tenth in a series on my maternal German ancestors, the Stoutners, of Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner (1844-1924). Scan by Molly Charboneau

The marriage of my German immigrant great-great grandparents Andrew and Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner got off to a difficult start with the tragic October 1868 death of 7-month-old baby Rose — their first child together.

The couple was already co-parenting William, 6, and Mary Elizabeth, 4 — Andrew’s children with his second wife Elizabeth, who died in 1865. Now, the blended Stoutner family had to begin a new period of mourning for a lost child/sibling.

Fortunately, Rose’s passing came at a time when mourning rituals were changing in the wake of the U.S. Civil War. Mourning periods grew shorter and there was more focus on looking to the future – with cemeteries designed like parks to encourage family visits.

https://www.facebook.com/Pictorial-History-of-Gloversville-148220148548697
Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gloversville, N.Y. (1898) After the U.S. Civil War, cemeteries were designed like parks to encourage family visits. Prospect Hill Cemetery, where Rose is buried, was one of these garden cemeteries — with softly winding paths, trees and foliage that must must have been a healing balm to the Stoutners. Photo: Pictorial History of Gloversville

Prospect Hill Cemetery in Gloversville, N.Y., where Rose is buried, was one of these garden cemeteries, with softly winding paths, trees and foliage – which must have been a healing balm to the Stoutners.

Baby John is born

Yet perhaps the surest sign that my great-great grandparents were looking forward was the October 1969 birth of their first son together – John Stoutner, who would survive into adulthood.

How relieved the family must have been to have a new addition to brighten the household and distract them from past losses.

When the census taker called on 7 July 1870, baby John was nine months old — enumerated for the first time, along with his step siblings and parents, as excerpted below.

Andrew Stoutner Household in the 1870 U.S. census, Johnstown, Fulton County, N.Y. – Source: FamilySearch
Person No. Name Age Born Occupation/School
20 Stoutner, Andrew 38 Prussia Brick Maker; U.S. Citizen
21 Stoutner, Christina 26 Prussia Keeping House; cannot read/write
22 Stoutner, Wm. 8 N.Y. Attended School; Can’t write
23 Stoutner, Mary E. 6 N.Y. Attended School; Can’t read or write
24 Stoutner, John H. 9/12 N.Y. Month if born within one year: Oct.

A gem of a census

Sometimes family history research turns up a gem of a census return, packed with helpful details and clues — and the 1870 enumeration of the Andrew Stoutner household is one such example.

Andrew Stoutner (1832-1910). Scan by Molly Charboneau

Through this census, I learned that Andrew and Christina were from Prussia in northern Germany. And while Andrew, a brick maker, could read and write, Christina could not — at least not in English, although the census does not stipulate a specific language.

Birth, schooling, citizenship details

Because John was born during the previous year, the census return provides his birth month “Oct.” in column 13 — which is headed “If born within one year, state month (Jan, Feb, &c.).”

The 1870 census also reveals that Andrew was a U.S. citizen through a tick mark in column 19 — which is headed “Male Citizen of the U.S. 21 years of age and upwards.”

Even William and Mary’s enumerations offer telling details. William could read, but could not yet write — while his younger sister Mary, no doubt new to school, could not yet read or write.

In short, an informative 1870 snapshot of a family with shared experience of both sorrow and happiness moving into the future together.

Up next: Andrew Stoutner’s Brick Works. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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16 thoughts on “1869: Baby John brightens the Stoutner household”

  1. A couple summers back my mom and I visited the cemeteries in Maryland where my grandparents are buried. One is on the edge of Washington DC and is a very large and beautiful park. We had not been there for many years and I was struck how many new sections were arranged for immigrant families. There are now markers for Korean, Russian, Chinese, etc. which use a style very different from the traditional American gravestones. The other cemetery is in a small town outside Baltimore and though a simple smaller park, it too has a variety of new immigrant traditions. Many European markers had photo-like images of the deceased.

    Something similar must have happened in previous times as German Lutherans, Italian Catholics, etc. settled in America, changing established local habits and traditions of mourning to suit their own folk ways. Someone has probably written a history on the rites of death.

    I’ve also noticed that birthplaces recorded in censuses vary in accuracy. I think sometimes census takers either didn’t know geography or used a standard placename when they were unsure. Prussia was a big state and included many regions in western Germany and eastern places that now are in Poland. I suspect German spellings and pronunciations were a challenge to record. I know a lot of German names were changed as umlauts were discarded for American spellings.

    1. Yes, I have also seen those photo images on gravestones — particularly on Italian graves — left as a memento to a lost loved one, which also enables us to see how they looked in life. And while birthplaces on censuses can’t be totally relied upon, they nevertheless help genealogy researchers narrow down where to look for family records. This particular census is the only one that lists Prussia rather than Germany as the Stoutners area of origin, and that information may have come from an informant in the family who was aware of that detail.

  2. Cemeteries can be interesting…..Last year, for a project, here at home, I photographed an entire cemetery for a Facebook site called, Our Miramichi Heritage……it is a means of relatives who have long moved away to see their family or loved one’s tombstone or marker…..(I didn’t have to keep six metres apart and did not have to wear a mask)…LOL

    1. So great to hear about your cemetery volunteer project. Having cemetery details and photographs of stones online is very helpful for genealogy research — or simply to remember an ancestor or family member who has passed.

  3. I’ll raise my hand as one who hasn’t given any thought to cemetery design either.

    I used to miss so much when looking at a census record. Now I try to remember to keep looking and looking. Is there a street? A house number? Who lived a few doors away? I know I still miss information that is right there if I only look and understand what I am looking at.

    1. I have toured some fabulous garden cemeteries over decades of family history research, and even those that have become a bit run down are still oases of nature in an otherwise developed setting. And you are so right about scrutinizing every census detail. There is a story there if we take time to find it.

  4. The loss of little Rose was likely even more difficult to bear – if such is possible in the loss of a child – by the fact it was Andrew’s and Christina’s first child together. So lucky little John came along not too much later. He was surely a much-welcomed balm.

    1. The year 1868 must have been one of the hardest for the Stoutners, especially to such a severe loss so early in their marriage. Thank goodness John came along!

  5. I look forward to your posts every week. I do like when the Census asks a lot questions as you show here. They don’t ask many anymore. I’m thankful for the times when they asked about occupations and parental birthplaces.

    1. Yes, the current census questions don’t offer much for future generations to ponder over. We are fortunate that these older censuses asked such a variety of questions.

  6. A lot of information does come on census reports…including the actual date of the interviews, which often figures in how old an ancestor was if they’d already had their birthday that year. I love finding the occupations of many people…my eyebrows raise almost daily when I am looking a new folks. This week I’m discovering a lot of cousins from my great great grandmother’s sisters’ and brothers’ descendants. I’m glad you mentioned layouts of cemeteries, which is often overlooked completely!

  7. Now you have me thinking about cemetery design. It never occurred to me there was any thought given except to have enough space. Some cemeteries I have passed on the road do indeed seem more park-like than the wide open clearings where many of my family are buried.

    1. As the U.S. population increased, so did the need for burial grounds as church graveyards filled up — and this was particularly true during and after the U.S. Civil War. So new garden cemeteries, like Prospect Hill Cemetery shown here, were created in rural areas adjoining cities and towns. Eventually, many became part of the urban landscape as these cities and towns grew — and they often serve as park-like settings where trees and other flora have escaped development.

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