Along with Theodore and Mary, there are six other children in the household, so I begin to research these siblings of Mary Wilkens. Almost right away, I find Theodore's death certificate on FamilySearch.org and his obituary in The Minster Post newspaper archives, both of which list his parents as Henry Wilkens and Elizabeth Fortman. I use these websites to look up the same documents for a couple other of Mary's siblings. The parents' names agree with those of Theodore, AND Mary is actually listed as a sibling in a couple of the obits. Now, I know I have the right family in the 1880 census.
Theodore's 1916 obituary states that his father, Henry, died in 1908. One of my favorite pieces of information to search for with regard to a deceased person is his/her will, and luckily, FamilySearch,org has an extensive collection of probate records from Shelby County, Ohio during this time period. I almost-too-easily find the will of John Henry (J.H.!) Wilkens, and in it, he listed all of his children, including the married names of his daughters. Golden. AND based on the date of the will, I went back to the old issues of The Minster Post and found John Henry's (Johann Heinrich's) obituary, too:
Just a couple of days ago, I was looking through another of my favorite collections on FamilySearch: Ohio, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977. I was able to find the elder John Henry's Declaration of Intention to become a citizen from 1844. But what is interesting about this document, is that it is actually a replacement of the original document, and it recounts an important event in this family's life that I probably would have never known about otherwise (see my transcription below:)
So, the fire would have occurred around 1838, and they probably would have been living in Miami County, Ohio, which is one county south of Shelby County. By the 1840 Census, he is living in Shelby County. Would he ever have picked up and moved to Shelby County if not for the fire? I'll probably never know for sure, but it has really made me think about how a family's future (and not just the immediate future, I'm talking generations down the line, as well) can be changed by events such as these.
©2013, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder