Friday, July 03, 2009

Grabbing the Tail of Curiosity

If you are any fan of this site and have been reading all along, you know two things. First, the Fan recently read Leigh Montville's, "The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth." Secondly, you know that the Fan has an over active curiosity gland. So when Montville talks about the fog he uses as a metaphor for Ruth's early life and the fog that surrounds Ruth's parents, the Fan couldn't resist. The problem is that this post comes after just a few hours of research on-line and not intensive on-the-ground research that you need. But oh well. You may or may not be interested in what little the Fan did find out about Ruth's family on his father's side.

Montville begins the process with Ruth's father taking the young George Herman Ruth to St Mary's. Montville uses the fog and a metaphorical trolly ride to the boy's reform school very effectively to teach us how little about Ruth's early life we know. But it was the following text amidst that story that piqued this writer's curiosity:

George Ruth Sr.'s parents were both born in Maryland. There is dispute about
where his grandparents were born, either in Germany or Buck's County,
Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Dutch country. Pick one. If Buck's County is the
choice, the great-great-great grandparents were from Germany. (pg 11)

After spending a night on, the Fan can understand the confusion. There is no confusion about Babe Ruth's parents. He was the son of George Herman and Katie (Schaumberger) Ruth. George Herman Ruth Sr. was the son of John S. and Mary Ruth and was born in Baltimore. Katie was the daughter of German immigrants, Pius and Anna Schaumberger. There is even no confusion on John S. Ruth who was born in Baltimore in 1844. You can follow his life in from the 1850 census records of Baltimore on up to the 1900 census. It is John's wife and his parents that are confusing.

Let's start with John's wife. Though Maryland marriage records are available on line, John's marriage to Mary is not recorded so nothing is known about her. She appears with John in the 1880 census and in the 1880 census it seems that the census takers tried to be more accurate concerning the origins of the residents. John is listed as having been born in Maryland but Mary is listed as being born in "Hanover." There is no Hanover in Maryland. There is one in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Ohio, but not in Maryland. And, John lists his parents as being born in Prussia. But that is not what earlier records state. We'll get to that in a bit. So who was this Mary, Babe's paternal grandmother?

She was born (according to the 1880 census) in 1845, so searching the 1850 census for "Mary" in any Hanover born in 1845 gives us 77 possibilities. One clue could be the "Herman." There were no Hermans on John Ruth's side. He had no brothers or uncles by that name. So maybe that was a maternal touch. Well, none of those 77 Marys had a father or brother named Herman, so that's a dead end.

The other mystery concerning Babe Ruth's paternal grandparents is if they were divorced. In 1900, John S. Ruth was listed in the Baltimore census records as living with his brother, Frank, and his mother Mary. He is listed as "single" and not "divorced" or "widowed." John S. Ruth Jr. is listed as a lightning rod manufacturer (he had earlier been a railroad clerk). He was not a poor man. So why then, is George Herman Ruth Sr. living on the poor side of town? In 1880, George was working for John in the lightning rod business as a clerk. Was there a falling out? Were they estranged? George Herman Ruth Sr. was later to purchase a bar. That money had to come from somewhere.

John S. Ruth Sr. was born around 1815. Census records from 1850 list him as being born in Maryland. He married Mary Moffitt in 1842 in Baltimore. She was either the daughter of either Thomas or Neal Moffitt, the only gentlemen of that name in the 1820 census in Maryland. But that hardly seems like a Prussian name.

The Fan can pretty much discount the Buck's County, Pennsylvania angle. The confusion there is easy to see as there was a John S. Ruth born in Buck's County in 1817 who did marry a Mary there. But he lived and died in Buck's County. And though his life parallels Babe's ancestor, they are not the same men. Babe's great grandfather, John S. Ruth Sr. was a bricklayer who died in middle age.

So that's as far as the Fan has gotten in one night of fiddling around. There is no idea if this is of any interest to you. It is to the Fan, but then he loves genealogy.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

This genealogy stuff reminds me of a line from the movie Wonder Boys. Have you seen it? If not, I think you'd like it.