Genealogy today: a kidnapped youth has never been found | Get out
You can’t do genealogy without putting on your detective hat. Persistence, gathering clues, researching and thinking outside the box are similar steps in finding an answer.
I have often heard my father say, “One of Klein’s children was kidnapped in Cincinnati and was never found.” Even as an adult, I didn’t pay attention to what he was saying or ask questions. In 1984, I started to “do genealogy”. This means that I started a family tree, wrote letters to relatives and potential relatives, I went to the courthouses in the area, I gathered all the information I could, but nothing at all. it was not targeted. Like many new genealogists, I thought I had to put it all together.
I had two pages of my Klein paternal names, dates and places of birth, and dates of death handwritten by my great-grandmother. For years, I read “Kidnapped and Never Found” right after next to William E. Klein, my grandfather’s uncle.
About three years ago I thought about this notation. What did that mean, kidnapped? Expecting to find answers online, I checked Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Newspapers.comand Google. No William Klein of that age or news of a kidnapped kid in the Cincinnati area or across the Ohio River in Kentucky.
I looked again at the date of birth (October 5, 1853) and realized that there was also a date of death (September 29, 1856). Why would there be a death date if he was kidnapped? How had I overlooked this information? Did the family learn that he was dead? I then looked for obituaries in genealogical sources. Nothing.
Having no one to ask, I put on my detective hat. At first I thought, why would a 3 year old kidnap? The ransom comes first to mind during a kidnapping. The parents were German immigrants, settling in the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati in the mid-1840s. Father Johann was a cabinetmaker, so he had a good job but he was not, I’m sure, not rich.
Now that meant thinking outside the box – all possible reasons for the kidnapping. Did the father owe someone money for cabinet building materials and did the debt collector take the little boy? Did someone want a child and take him away? Did little William move away, was he found but could not communicate who his parents were? Did he drown in the nearby Miami and Erie Canal that separated the largely working-class German colony from the city? Did his older brother accidentally injure him and die? Did the parents sell it or give it to another family member or acquaintance? Is he dead and they buried him at home?
The next question: was this an error in the handwritten pages? Or is it a family tradition?
“Genealogy is more than names and dates. It is learning the culture of the days when your ancestors lived.