updated January 2019
Let me cut to the chase, and then I’ll tell the story. There are TWO men named Edward T. Suschank/Suschanke who were born in 1892. Both lived most of their lives in Saint Louis, Missouri. Both have daughters named Dorothy.
This week I have been researching for a friend. When researching a name like Edward Theadore Suschank, I thought I’d either have an easy time of it because of the unique name, or I’d have a rough time because of misspellings. As it turned out, finding records for Edward was pretty easy. I ended up finding him on 4 censuses, with 2 wives, and 5 children. I also found draft records, enlistment records, a death certificate, City Directory listings, and a Find A Grave memorial.
As I was doing the tree on Ancestry.com, I was surprised by the birth years of the children born to two different women. May Tillman had children with Edward in 1919, 1921 and 1926. Anna M. Zach had children with Edward in 1916 and 1922. That is unusual, right?
My first thought was that somehow Anna and May were the same person. Maybe the M. stood for May, and she was born Zach and married a Tillman prior to marrying Edward. I had found when Anna died, and where she was buried, but I couldn’t find that information for May. Then my friend provided more information. After Edward and May divorced, May remarried someone with the last name of Lechner. I found that marriage record, and followed her life until her death, where she is buried next to her second husband. So, Anna and May were definitely not the same person.
My friend said her family didn’t have record of an Anna M. Zach, and I couldn’t find a marriage record. Yet, she was listed as married to Edward and living in Missouri on the 1920 and 1940 US Census. Also, the Social Security Index listed Edward as father and Anna Zach as mother of two children born in Saint Louis. My friend’s family did have record of May Tillman, as the mother of their direct line ancestor. But I didn’t find Edward and May together on a census, or in marriage records. The records that connect Edward to May Tillman are infant son Edward’s death certificate, and the Social Security Index for one daughter.
Then I noticed that Edward’s birth month was listed as January on his draft card. Other places, his birth month was May.
When I searched for him under that birthday, I found death records – for a death that took place 30 years AFTER the death documented on the Missouri Death Certificate. This man died at age 90 and is buried next to Anna. (Infant Edward Suschank, a 1 month old born to Edward and May, is buried in the same cemetery. Every time I started to feel the lives separate, something reconnected them!) The man with the earlier death date is buried in a military cemetery, and his son, my friend’s grandfather, was the informant. Yikes. I was seriously beginning to think the guy faked that first death.
I found two of Edward’s children, Marie and Dorothy, listed in the 1940 US Census living with another family as foster daughters. One was born to May Tillman, the other to Anna Zach.
I found Edward only once in the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1940 US Census. Not at all in 1930. I found a single draft registration card. The only duplicate records were related to his death. But there were birthdays 5 months apart, and various spellings of the last name. What was going on? I needed to solve this mystery!
I decided to make a timeline, listing every single source I’d found regarding Edward. I had already saved the files to my computer, but I edited them in Photoshop to clip just the information regarding Edward, so that I could actually see the Census entries and such as I looked through the timeline. I dropped each item into a Microsoft Word document, and typed up the information included in each item just to make sure I was paying attention to every detail. This is the first of 7 pages:
As I did this, I noticed that in 1940, the age of one of his daughters in foster care was 10 years off. Could there be another Dorothy Suschank? I had already followed Dorothy Cecelia Suschank, daughter of Edward and Anna, born in 1916, and I knew who she married and when she died. I searched for a Dorothy Suschank born in 1925 and found Dorothy Margaret Suschank. I was able to follow her life, too. (My friend told me that they knew Dorothy ended up in Washington, and this Dorothy DID end up in Washington. My friend also said that Dorothy was thought to be a half-sibling, but I think she was a full sibling.) Anyway, there were absolutely two women born 9 years apart in Saint Louis named Dorothy Suschank, and they both had fathers named Edward. The two girls living in foster care in 1940 did NOT have two different mothers – they were the daughters of Edward and May. Suddenly, it was possible to divide the life of Edward into two different lives, each with one wife, and children that matched to that wife.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the City Directory information. It’s fun to see the listings of your relatives from way back in the day, because you can follow them from address to address and see job changes along the way. But unless you know your relative was the only person living in that city at the time with that name, you can’t be absolutely sure it’s your relative. In this case, it would have been BIG clue right at the start. There are 2 Edwards listed in some years of the Saint Louis City Directory. Here’s the entry from 1909:
I printed off the timeline, and began to mark through the information for Edward born on January 1st, and married to Anna. I marked through the children born to Anna. What I have is a very incomplete picture of two men’s lives. I have one on the Census in 1900 and 1910, and the other in 1920 and 1940. I have a draft card for one and enlistment records for the other. But, I feel sure that I have each man documented correctly.
If you are researching Edward T. Suschank, here’s what I have:
Edward T. Suschanke was born January 1, 1892 in Indian Territory/Oklahoma. He was in Saint Louis by 1909. He married Anna M. Zach and they had 2 children: Dorothy Cecelia in 1916, and Virginia Ann in 1922. He worked as a mechanic, often in shoe factories. He is found living with wife Anna on the 1920 and 1940 US Census, first in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and then in Saint Louis. He died in May of 1982 in Arizona, but with a Saint Louis address. Edward is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Saint Louis with Anna. (Yes, the other Edward’s infant son Edward, who was born and died in 1919, is buried in the same cemetery. It is a very large cemetery.) This Edward consistently spelled his last name Suschanke. I don’t know that the middle initial T stands for, though he used it often.
My friend’s great grandfather Edward Theadore Suschank was born May 8, 1892, maybe in Ohio. His parents are John Suschank and Mary A. Dixon according to the Social Security Index. He was grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and listed Kentucky as his birthplace everywhere except on the 1900 US Census, when it says Ohio. He is found on the 1900 US Census living in Louisville Industrial School of Reform with brother William and sisters Lillie and Laura. He was in Saint Louis by 1909, living with his brother William. He is found on the 1910 US Census living in Saint Louis with brother Albert and father John. He enlisted in the Army on August 15, 1911 and was discharged less than a month later, on September 5, 1911. He did serve in World War I from September 5, 1917 to April 24, 1919. He married May Tillman, and they had 4 children: Edward in 1919 (6 months after he was discharged from service in World War I); Charles Edward in 1921; Dorothy Margaret in 1925; and Dolores Marie in 1926. Charles Edward is said to have been raised by Edward’s brother William, and the girls were in foster care at least in 1940. Edward worked as a peddler, a bottler, and laborer. He often spelled his last name Suschank, but it also appears as Suschanker, Schushank, Suschanke. He died on May 20, 1952 in Saint Louis and is buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Saint Louis. His Find A Grave memorial is here. His ex-wife May Tillman Suschank Lechner is buried in the same cemetery with her second husband. Her Find A Grave memorial is here.
I researched further and found the parents of the first Edward. The two Edwards are cousins.
John Suschanke and Anna Dowek were born in Bohemia, but I can’t find their arrival records. They were married in Saint Louis in April 21, 1850. Their children are:
John, born in 1854 married Mary Alice Dixon and had Edward Theadore who died in 1952. Edward, born in 1855 married Mary Ann Carter and had Edward T. who died in 1982. Another brother, Louis, was born in 1861. They may have had other children.