Infidelity or Second Marriage?

I heard a story recently which occurred on my father’s side of the family which happened in the late 1800s with my 2nd great grandfather and grandmother: Selestine & Isabelle (Fischer) Horney.  It is a story of infidelity… or is it?

The story, as I heard it from my Aunt Helen, goes something like this…

My grandfather had an uncle that no one seemed to know where his grave was located. But my grandfather knew, and he showed my Aunt Helen.  It was totally separate from the rest of the family.  He seemed to be the black sheep of the family.

It seems that Selestine came to the United States before his wife; and when she later arrived, brought with her an infant son born in Germany. The child was younger than the time span when Selestine and Isabelle were last together. It turns out that this grand uncle, named Marcel, although the son of Isabelle Fischer was NOT the son of Selestine.

Selestine remained married to Isabelle and gave the boy his last name. He promised, however, that Marcel would receive no other inheritance.

So… there you have it!  But… does it fit the documentation?

So let’s look at when Selestine came to America…

It turns out that he was born in February 1855/1856 in Alsace, France and he came to New Orleans on the ship John Merrick with his father, Nicolas, in January 1860.  From there his family moved to Goliad, TX where they lived for 30 years. Sometime in the early 1900s the family moved to Emory, TX where he died in June 1929.

Now for a quick summary of Isabella’s journey to America…

Isabella was born in 1867 in Alsace, France and was still living in France in 1872. Now I haven’t yet found a passenger list with Isabella nor her family when they immigrated to America. However, depending on which U.S. Federal Census you believe, she immigrated between 1887 and 1890.  The 1887 date is too early as you’ll see when we talk about her son’s birth in Europe. The earliest census  of 1910 (to me would be more accurate since it documents the information closer in time to the actual event) has her immigrating in 1889. The next year she married Selestine. She moved with her husband to Emory, TX and died in March 1948.

Both are buries in Dunbar Cemetery in Emory, Rains, Texas, USA.

The Child in Question… Marcel

The bulk of the documentation found (Federal Census, WWII Draft Registration, Death Certificate) has Marcel being born in Jan 1888 in Germany. However, his WWI Draft Registration has him born in Jan 1889 in France. During the 1910 Federal Census, Marcel indicated he immigrated to the U.S. in 1890…  (you have to love the inconsistencies of peoples’ memories).  Regardless, I expect he, as an infant, came over with his mother.

Marcel and his wife’s tombstone just a few feet away from his parents.

An analysis of the dates…

Let’s look at the timeline:

  • 1856              Selestine was born
  • 1860              Selestine comes to America (about age 4).
  • 1867              Isabelle was born
  • 1888-1889    Marcel was born
  • 1889-1890    Isabelle and Marcel come to America (about age 21 and 1 respectively)
  • 1890              Selestine & Isabelle marry (about age 34 and 21 respectively)

I see no opportunity for infidelity in this situation since they were not yet married when Marcel was born.  A history of the early Fischer family by Norma Lee Lauderdale simply states that Selestine and Isabelle had six children (Marcel is one of the six) and then goes on to say “Marcel born in Germany (before she married Selestine).”

So it is obvious that Marcel is NOT the biological son of Selestine since he and Isabelle hadn’t even met yet.  What isn’t clear is the circumstances of Marcel’s birth.  Was it casual sex or, heaven forbid, rape? Was she previously married? We don’t know and likely never will.

Back to the initial story

Did Isabelle cheat on Selestine?  No.

Did Marcel get Selestine’s last name?  Yes.

Did he get nothing else?  I don’t know as I haven’t yet looked into the probate records.

Was he ostracized or kept from the rest of the family?  I don’t think so since his grave is right there with all the other Horneys.

Moral of the Story

I love the stories I hear from my relatives concerning ancestors…  there’s usually some truth in everything they say.  Sometimes it even matches up with the documentation.

But you can’t just rely on people’s memories when doing genealogical research!