The type and number of records available for researching our ancestors is determined mainly by two factors—events they were a part of (e.g. wars, emigration) and the places they lived. Luckily for us, the Meehls settled in a state that conducted its own census separate from the federal census. In addition to simply increasing the number of records available for the Meehls, these New York State censuses contain information that wasn’t collected on the US federal censuses. Had the family initially settled in Pennsylvania, these NY State records wouldn’t exist, and this puzzle would have been even more difficult to piece together.
Before moving to North East, Erie County, Pennsylvania in 1865, Michael Meehl can be found on the following censuses (the urge to use censi grows swiftly) in New York State—the 1840 US Census in Hamburg, Erie County, New York; the 1855 NY State Census in Eden, Erie County, New York; the 1860 US Census in Concord, Erie County, New York; and the 1865 NY State Census in Eden, Erie County, New York.
The second North East Breeze article on the Meehl family claims that Michael had a brother living in Boston, Erie County, New York. (They started a fertilizer business together at one point in the 1840s.) As seen on the map below, Boston is next door to all of the places of residence for Michael mentioned above.
The first time a Meehl family can be found in Boston is on the 1840 US Census. Censuses prior to 1850 only list the head of the household by name. In this case, it was George Meel (another variation of the last name, likely invented by the census recorder). George is an interesting name. Michael’s second oldest son was named George. Shared names across family groups may indicate a connection.
(Keep an eye on the place of birth for the Meehls in the following records. A familiar pattern emerges—Germany, France, Germany, France.)
The next time these other Meehls can be found in the records is on the 1850 U.S. Census. They’re still in Boston, but, on this one, there are two family groups living next to each other. The first is George Meal Jr. and his wife, Mary. The second family consists of George Meal Sr., age 70, his wife, Anna, and two adult daughters, Eva and Mary. In the last column, Eva and Mary are identified as “Idiotic”. Typically, this was in reference to some sort of developmental disease such as Down syndrome (though we don’t know for certain what the actual condition was). There is also a Lan Stanfal, age 4, living with them. I have yet to determine his connection to the family.
The next record, also in Boston, is the 1855 NY State Census. Here, the two family groups from the previous census are now living together under one roof. George Jr. is the head. His wife is now Martha (though, based on later records, I think this is the same Mary that we saw on the 1850 census). His parents, George Sr., now 75, and Anna, 70, as well as Eva and Mary, his sisters, are living with him. Two laborers, John and Michael Shophlet, are also enumerated.
The 1860 US Census has the family spread across two pages. George Jr. is again the head of the household with Martha as his wife. George Sr. is nowhere to be found, which likely means he died sometime between 1855 and 1860. Anna is now 77. George Andrus, age 8, is also living with the family. (As I later discovered, this is a nephew of George Jr.) A 4 year old, whose identity is still uncertain, is living here. And, of extreme interest, is Michael Meehl, aged 22, listed as a farm laborer.
Michael Meehl’s eldest son, Michael Meehl Jr., would have been 22 in 1860. The age is a perfect match. Michael Jr. was no longer living with his parents, Michael Sr. and Sallie, and can be found nowhere else on the 1860 US Census. Also, there are no other Michael Meehls of the same general age to be found in this area. This 22 year old farm laborer is Michael Meehl Jr., Michael Meehl’s son, living with his uncle George and grandmother, Anna.
We also have proof that these Meehls interacted with Michael and Sallie Meehl. The exchange of land between individuals with the same surname is often a sign there is a family connection. A search of the Erie County, New York land records on familysearch.org yielded the following: In 1840, George Muehl Sr. and his wife, Ann, of Boston, New York, sold land to Michael Muehl. In 1843, Michael Meehl and his wife, Salomé, sold land to George Meehl Jr. And, in 1852, Michael and Sallie again sold land to George Jr.
The more records I found of the Meehls in New York, the more the evidence mounted that George Jr. was Michael’s brother, Eva and Mary, his sisters, and George Sr. and Anna, his parents. I wasn’t completely convinced yet, but I felt I had a solid case worth pursuing.
In the next post, we’ll look at more records of the family in New York State which will, among other things, reveal another sister. In addition, I’ll explain how I made the leap across the Atlantic to Geudertheim.