Scandal!

Almost a year after I last utilized this blog, I finally have something interesting to post. It would seem I have a scandal on my hands. Either a scandal or an extremely bizarre clerical error.

About a year ago, I asked my mom to see if my grandma had copies of her birth certificate, as well as my grandpa’s. She did, and my mom made copies of them and saved them for my next visit home. Upon my return visit, I eagerly examined the birth certificates. I wasn’t expecting anything out of sorts, I just happen to collect all these little bits of genealogical documentation. So I look at my grandma’s birth certificate… and it’s neat because it’s a delayed certificate, and has all these odd little bits of evidence that were used to determine the date of her birth.

But it’s my grandpa’s birth certificate that really throws me for a loop. I look at it, and right away I notice something odd. I hand it to my mom and say “Do you see anything strange about this birth certificate?” She looks around, but never quite comes up with what I’ve found. So I burst out “Look at the number of children!” My grandpa’s birth certificate, in both the spaces for “Number of children born to this mother, including present birth” and “Number of children, of this mother, now living, including present birth,” says 2! And his is NOT a delayed birth certificate. Only the name was added at a later date.

Now, prior to acquiring this birth certificate, I would have told you that my grandfather, Robert Elwood Rosentreter, was the oldest of two children. He was born in the spring of 1918, and his brother, Frederick Carl Rosentreter, was born in the summer of 1920. Both were born in Astoria, Oregon, while their parents were living in Altoona, Washington. Grandpa looked like their mother, Della (Kemp) Rosentreter. Fred looked like their father, Rudolph Rosentreter. When Rudy died in 1922, Della couldn’t take care of both of her boys, and Fred was sent to live with his grandfather and step-grandmother/great-aunt, Albert and Edith (Heberling) Kemp, while Robert moved with his mother to Washougal, Washington.

But the birth certificate seems to invalidate what I’d thought for years was the case. So either my great-grandmother had given birth to a child who didn’t live much beyond my grandpa’s birth… or she gave birth to a child who was raised by someone other than its biological parents. Or, there was a really bizarre clerical error here. I’m not sure how the number of children would have wound up incorrect on the birth certificate.

And of course… by the time I noticed this oddity… there is no one alive to ask about it. My great-grandmother has been dead for nearly 37 years. Fred passed away in 1983. And my grandpa has been dead for 10 years now. Not that any of them would have likely been of any help. When I had to do genealogy projects in school, Grandpa couldn’t even get the names of his grandparents right. And since the mystery child on the birth certificate was not living with them by the time of the 1920 census, my grandpa wouldn’t have had any memory of him/her anyhow.

So that, along with a family rumor that Rudy’s family didn’t want him to marry Della, is all I have. That and a slowly growing collection of vital records. In Oregon, you can’t order a birth certificate until 100 years after the event, unless you’re immediate family. Which means that I have to wait for time to tick along until I can order the records of some of the involved people. I’d love to have a copy of Fred’s birth certificate, to see if it says his mother is the mother of 3 children, or 2, or some other number entirely. But I can’t order that for another 11+ years. If it even mentions that at all. As it stands, I have Grandpa’s birth certificate, Rudy and Della’s death certificates, along with death certificates for their parents and Della’s older sister.

I have some suspicions about who the child might have been, if he/she existed at all, but for fear of igniting a (distant) family feud, I’m not going to mention it until I’ve had the opportunity to prove or disprove it through birth records.

Until then, if you happen to be a distant relative with light to shine on the situation, please drop me a line. I’ll be waiting with bated breath.

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