Finding Relatives’ Stories in Dry Data:Emily Kaser Sutherland

Great Aunt Emma M. Kaser Sutherland (1862-1944)–  an old maid until her next door neighbor became a widower. Sometimes you find some drama in those dry government records when you start finding relatives.

My friend Edie Jarolim, who also writes about food and family at her site, Freud’s Butcher, has been puzzled about why she and her mother didn’t socialize more with relatives, even when they were living relatively close (in New York). I know what she means. Not finding relatives makes you feel like you’re missing stories.  Of all my Kaser relatives, I only have a picture of one great-aunt, Emma Kaser Sutherland and stories I am piecing together with genealogical research.

Emma Kaser Sutherland, circa 1910

Emma Kaser Sutherland, Clark, Ohio, circa 1910

Although both my paternal grandparents died before I was born, I grew up knowing my aunt and uncle on my father’s side (Paul Kaser), and cousins from the uncle’s family (Aunt Irene did not have any children).  I also knew my mother’s (Harriette Anderson Kaser) two brothers and their children. All of my total of eight cousins were older than I was–in some cases more than ten years older. Only one was close to my age. But everyone gathered at my Grandmother Vera Anderson’s home for holiday family meals. And we visited often with my Uncle Keith Kaser and Aunt Irene Bucklew.

My mother and my grandmother frequently talked about their cousins and aunts and uncles, and we have lots of pictures. Some of those, unfortunately, are beautiful tintypes that are not identified.  But my father rarely mentioned anyone from either his mother’s or father’s family, and I wondered why, so I started tracking down my father’s aunts and uncles and cousins –1st, 2nd and even 3rd. As I mentioned in my last article, my paternal grandfather had six brothers and sisters and some of them had large families, so  my father had at least 20 cousins.

It seemed obvious immediately why Paul Kaser would not have been close to all the Kaser relatives–it’s a difference in ages. Clifford Kaser, my dad’s father, was next to youngest in his family.  And my Dad was the youngest living member of his family–considerably younger than his older brother Keith who was born 14 years before Paul Kaser. Paul Kaser’s age matched up with his uncles’ grandchildren more frequently than with their children.

Of course there is also the possibility that Cliff Kaser was persona non grata with his family after he became a Seventh Day Adventist.

But it still seems curious that my father didn’t ever mention–or visit–some of the aunts and uncles that were still living when he was a grown man. So my new task is finding relatives stories through official records. Here’s the birth and death dates and the number of children of each of my father’s aunts and uncles, as far as I’ve been able to dig up.

CHILDREN of Joseph and Catharine Kaser (my great-grandparents)

Susanna Kaser 1849 (no further information)

Cornelius Kaser 1852-(died before 1910)- 5 children 1878-1893.

David Kaser 1853-1923 – 7 children 1880-1900

Johnathan Kaser 1855-1932 – 3 children 1884-1891

Anna/Emma Kaser (Sutherland) 1862-1944 -4 step-children b. 1889-1899

Clifford Kaser (my grandfather) 1867-1930 – 4 children 1885-1912

Edward Kaser 1871- (death date not known) –  3 children between 1906 and 1912 (could have been more)

Paul Kaser, my father, born 1909, could not have known his uncle Cornelius Kaser, and except for Edward Kaser’s children, his cousins were ten to 30 years older than he was.

Additionally, he lived in a different place. While most of his uncles and Aunt Em lived in Clark, Ohio, Paul moved to different towns and away from the farm labor occupation of most of his uncles and cousins.

But he did know Aunt Em, at least well enough to have a picture in his files.  I don’t recall him talking about her, and don’t know if I met her when I was too young to remember, but an interesting story peeks out from the pages of census reports and other records.

In 19th century census records, when my great-grandfather Joseph Kaser’s name was being spelled Kaeser, Caser and Kazer–Emma was known as Anna. You get used to this lose use of spelling of names as you comb through records. Anna/Emma was born December 29, 1862 in Clark Ohio. Emma went through 8th grade.

By 1900, her father Joseph Kaser had died, and Emma (27) and her younger brother Edward (20) were still living with their mother, Catharine, near some other Kasers.

By 1906, Edward was married and starting a family, but in 1910, Emma (now 37, and a confirmed old maid by the standards of the day) was still living with her mother (now 81). As I work on finding relatives, I’m surprised by what I find on a census form, looking up and down the page from the name I’m researching.  Brothers Johnathan, and David lived nearby according to the 1910 census.

Another neighbor is of more interest for Emma’s story. George Sutherland, 47, lives nearby. He has no wife (died sometime in the past 4 years) and 4 children: ages 17, 13, 10 and 4. George works as an oil well driller and his 13-year-old son is already at work as a farm laborer. He has lived nearby the Kaser clan for many years, so they must have been well acquainted. He grew up in Clark, Ohio, just as Emma did. Obviously, George needs a wife. Emma is available. They marry in 1911–around the time that picture (above) of her was taken.

The scanty facts in official records leave me wondering. This could be a very romantic story–two young lovers separated by fate and back together in their late 40s. Or it could be a marriage of convenience. After all, Emma’s mother had recently died and Emma did not have a trade. She needed someone to provide for her. And George had his hands full with four children. They needed a mother.

At any rate, they were married 29 years, George living until 1940 and Emma until 1944.

Looking at Aunt Em’s picture, which version of the story do you guess is correct?

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