Preface: While the evidence suggests a possible conclusion, more research is needed to confirm the family story and determine its validity. Another very good reason to write about this particular subject is because she left no descendants, and I feel the need to in some small way document the memory of those lives that might otherwise be lost over the course of time. Feel free to add your opinions on the case in a comment to the post.
Earlier this summer while visiting with my aunt, she asked whether I knew anything about a child that, according to a story she had heard, was left with my great great-grandparents and raised as their own. I had never heard anything about this and pretty much forgotten about it until today. I was updating the cover photo on my facebook page to a scan of the Dr. A. A. Staats family album page that recorded all of the children of this family.1 As I was playing with the photo in Photoshop to try and get the dimensions correct to display properly as the cover photo, I noticed something new about the entry for their daughter, Margaret Staats.
Margaret “Madge” Staats’ birth record shown below matches the date recorded in Noble County Probate Court. That county birth register lists the parents as A.A. Staats and Maggie Summers, although no name is given for the child despite the fact that A.A. Staats provided the information himself.2 Madge never married, and died in Columbus, Ohio on 1 Mar 1925 of heart failure at age 42. The informant on the death certificate was her uncle, E.L. Summers.3
First, when looking at the family record written in different hands, an effort is needed to try and determine who made which entry to better gauge when the original entry was likely written.
Looking at the entries, you can see there are a number of different hands at work here. Comparing other sections of the album confirm that all of the original entries in the “Family Record” page, despite the differences in the “M”s, are written by Maggie (Summer) Staats. A close up comparison of the crossed out family entry with a signed narrative entry in 18924 show that the original entry was made by Maggie:
- M: both start with a mid-line loop and have slightly smaller and narrower second humps
- g: in both examples, the shape and slant are the same, and the first g ends rather than connecting to the second g
- i and e: the shape, slant, and stoke of the letter combinations are identical
What about differences in those M‘s? Comparison of names from the family record with another marriage entry5 shows:
- The M in the marriage entry shows the same Ms in the first two entries of the family record
- Although the “Alexander” entry in the family record begins with a rounded A, the marriage entry As match the middle initial in the family entry.
- The “Summers”, “Staats”, and overall hand are clearly the same. Comparing the family entries, signed narrative, and marriage entries together, it is clear that all are written by Maggie (Summers) Staats, although they were likely written at different times.:
Is it possible that Alexander Staats had a similar hand and made some of the entries? Possible, but not very likely. Here is the title page which presumably features the hand of A.A. Staats, as he is gifting the book to Maggie. It also establishes the earliest date of the book as Christmas 1888.6
- The “Maggie” does look similar, although th humps in the M are roughly equal, the g‘s connect, and the stroke of the ie combination is different.
- The capital A and S and D are considerably different from those in the family register
- The crossing of the t‘s in Staats is entirely different, as is the final s, which crosses over the beginning stroke here, whereas it doesn’t touch in the family entries.
Looking back at the family record, the original entries were likely written by Maggie (Summers) Staats – probably near to the time the book was given to her, and likely before the signed 1892 entry used for the handwriting comparison. All of the other entries are written first name followed by the surname Staats. However, Maggie is listed as Maggie Mayood, with the Maggie later crossed out and Margaret written in a different hand, as well as what appears to be a third hand adding “[Staats” above the original entry.
As a doctor, A. A. Staats would have likely had a number of experiences delivering babies who needed a welcoming home. If in fact Maggie was one of those babies, and the family chose to raise her as one of their own, it would make sense that the county birth register reflect that decision. From that day forward, Maggie would be thought of as a true part of their family – one of their own children. Any information provided later by the family would also reflect that decision. But the family entry, written in the hand of the matriarch suggests, however subtly, the possibility that something was different about Maggie. Whether or not that’s true needs more investigation. Ultimately, it makes no real difference whether or not she was a blood child of the family, as she was clearly accepted and loved as one regardless.
Looks like yet another project has made its way into the queue.
- A.A. Staats and Margaret (Summers) Staats family album, ca. 1880-1930, “Family Record,” handwritten entries of birth and death dates, unpaginated; privately held by author, firstname.lastname@example.org, Euclid, Ohio, 2012. Entries after Margaret’s death in 1919 were likely written by her daughter, Violet (Staats) Reed, who had possession of the book. [↩]
- Noble County, Ohio, Record of Births, 2:57, unnamed Staats (1882); Noble County Probate Court, Caldwell. [↩]
- Ohio Department of Health, death certificate, no.14532 (1925), Margaret M. Staats; Ohio Dept. of Health, Columbus. [↩]
- Staats family album, Maggie (Summers) Staats, signed entry noting the death of daughter Mina in 1892. [↩]
- ibid., “Marriages,” first entry on page. [↩]
- ibid., title page, dated 25 Dec 1888. [↩]