This is a bit late as we’re already on week 6! However, I had a tough time trying to figure out what to grab for this one.

For the most part, I don’t have anything really interesting in the census records – to others anyway. I am always delighted to find new family members or identify neighbors as future in-laws, etc. But I wanted a good story!

I did eventually find one that I feel tells an interesting, and sad, story. It’s the 1930 census of 2nd great-grandparents: John and Edna (LaValley) Stalmacher. I found the family just fine in the 1930 census of Saginaw, Michigan(1)1930 U.S. Census, Saginaw County, Michigan, population schedule, Carrollton, enumeration district (ED) 73-10, sheet 11A, dwelling 109, family 234,  John Stalmacher and family; image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1021:

All looks fine and dandy there. John, the head of the household rents the home and doesn’t live on a farm. He’s 39, married at 20, and can read and write. He’s from Poland as were his parents and speaks Polish. He immigrated in 1905, is a naturalized citizen by now, and speaks English. He works as a machinist for an oven factory, not a veteran, and hasn’t been out of work.

His wife, Edna, is 36, married at 17, born in Michigan as were her parents, and doesn’t work.

There are two children listed on this page: Gerald, a son of 18 years old (no work), and Ellen, a daughter, 15 years old and attending school. There’s a small notation off to the side to see the last page of the census, line 95. Apparently their youngest daughter, Priscilla, was left off at the time the family was filled out. So she’s listed here: 6 years old at the time. Sure, that’s unusual, but there are many on that list and we don’t know who gave the census information. It could have been a simple mistake.

But there’s more here, of course. I like to research siblings as well as my ancestor. Especially since finding John before he married has been difficult. Sometimes kids stay with aunts/uncles and I was hoping to look for other relatives that way.

Unexpectedly, I find another 1930 census for Gerald. Odd. He’s listed with a lot of people and right next to his name is a telling word: inmate. Going to the top of the census I see: Michigan Reformatory.

Gerald is listed here, as an inmate. He matches my Gerald: 18, born in Michigan as was mother, father born in Poland. He even works on machines at a shirt factory. (2)1930 U.S. Census, Ionia County, Michigan, population schedule, Easton Township, Michigan Reformatory, ED 34-13, sheet 18A, line 47,  Gerald Stalmacher; image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 992 But um… how could he be there AND at home? Of course, he did technically live at home as his permanent residence, even if he was incarcerated at the time. Or was this a new person altogether?

There wasn’t much else in records to share if this was the right guy or not, so I turned to my grandpa and his siblings. After all, this was their uncle. The response was a curious, “Oh, right. Well we just don’t talk about that.” kind of response. Which of course, intrigued me further.

This was the first real black sheep I had found in the family and I was a bit excited about it! Much to my mom’s confusion (and my aunt’s). The Library of Michigan actually holds records from that time for the Michigan Reformatory. So I emailed to get more information and they confirmed they have someone by that name! I drove there as soon as I could and hit what I consider to be a jackpot!

This was definitely my guy and not someone else with a different name. It also shows just an interesting history for him. He didn’t go just once at 18 – no, he went at 18 in 1930, then at 24 in 1936, then at 33 in 1945, then one last time at 58 in 1970.

In 1930, it was for breaking and entering and larceny. The record shows the term was for 3.5 -15 years (he only served 3.5 years). He was technically 17 at the time and it does give a description of him, but no picture: dark blonde hair, light blue eyes, high and full forehead, medium large nose, medium lips, round chin, medium build, fair complexion, dark beard, etc. It also noted scars that he had. (3)Gerald Stalmacher Prisoner Index Card, reg. no. 21503 (1930). Michigan Reformatory, Jackson, Michigan, copy supplied by Michigan Archives to Nichelle Barra, June 2013

In 1936, he was caught for breaking and entering once more and was discharged 13 years later.

1945 it was for uttering and publishing – which looks to be counterfeiting. He was discharged 8 years later.

Lastly was 1970 for unlawful driving away auto. This record hurts my heart a bit more. It mentions he is partially deaf, separated from his wife, and currently lived in the city’s rescue mission. Meaning he was homeless. (4)Gerald Stalmacher Prisoner Index Card, no. D-59442, Michigan Department of Corrections, Lansing, Michigan, copy supplied by Michigan Archives to Nichelle Barra, June 2013.

As is often the case, finding one thing leads to more questions. Genealogy isn’t just about records, it’s about telling a story. And this one feels half told. I would love to know why this happened. Why did one sibling go this way and the others another way? What was their home life like? Social life? Why, at 58, was he living in a homeless shelter? How did this affect the family? Why did he continue doing these things? What, in other words, happened here? There are so many variables and so many parts to this story that records can’t touch. Sadly, there’s no one left for me to ask about this. My grandfather and his siblings only knew he existed and used to be a cook for a time and that yes, he was often in trouble with the law. There’s so much left unsaid here!

So many questions…

 

 

 

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Sources   [ + ]

1. 1930 U.S. Census, Saginaw County, Michigan, population schedule, Carrollton, enumeration district (ED) 73-10, sheet 11A, dwelling 109, family 234,  John Stalmacher and family; image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1021
2. 1930 U.S. Census, Ionia County, Michigan, population schedule, Easton Township, Michigan Reformatory, ED 34-13, sheet 18A, line 47,  Gerald Stalmacher; image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 992
3. Gerald Stalmacher Prisoner Index Card, reg. no. 21503 (1930). Michigan Reformatory, Jackson, Michigan, copy supplied by Michigan Archives to Nichelle Barra, June 2013
4. Gerald Stalmacher Prisoner Index Card, no. D-59442, Michigan Department of Corrections, Lansing, Michigan, copy supplied by Michigan Archives to Nichelle Barra, June 2013.