Here’s One Place You Don’t Want To Find Your Family

Here’s One Place You Don’t Want To Find Your Family

by Kerry Scott on 12 April 2010

Remember Fred Ackermann, whose wife Mae was listed as the head of his household in 1920?

And remember how I said the only thing I knew about him after that was that he was listed as divorced on his death certificate?

Yes.  Well.  There’s more.

Fred was married to Mae Pool at the time of the 1920 census.  I just found him in the 1930 census in Oakland, California (enumeration district 206, page 3).  He’s married to someone else—a woman named Dorothy.  They have a daughter, Mary, who is 12 (which means that either Fred had a daughter with Dorothy while he was married to Mae…or, more likely, Mary is actually his step-daughter).  They also have a son, Edward, who is 3.  That means he was born around 1927.  This one could be Fred’s own son with Dorothy (or with Mae…too soon to tell).

So one of the first things I do when I get a new name is to google it.  So I googled, “Edward L. Ackermann.”

And I found him.  Guess where?

In case you missed it because of the ugly font, that’s the Los Angeles County Coroner’s database of unclaimed persons.  This is officially the saddest place I’ve ever found an potential ancestor.

Then I saw the “View Photo” thing, and I thought, what?  WHAT???  Really?  I pictured those Law and Order episodes where they show the bartender a picture of the dead body and ask him if he was there last night.  Ummm, no thank you.  It turns out that the photos are from the Department of Motor Vehicles database—they’re driver’s license photos.  There isn’t one listed for Edward though.

Fortunately, it appears that Edward didn’t remain unclaimed for long.  I realized that a guy born in 1926 might have served in World War II, so I looked him up in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Nationwide Gravesite Locator, which lists (nearly) all of the people who are buried in national cemeteries (or other cemeteries with a veteran’s headstone).  He was buried 19 days after he died in Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.

Now, is this MY Edward L. Ackermann?  I’m not sure.  The date of birth certainly fits for the guy in the 1930 census, who was three years old on the census day in 1930.  He’s in Los Angeles, and I know that his presumed father Fred died in Los Angeles in 1962.  This could be my guy.  To find out, I’ve ordered the death certificate from Los Angeles County (which means I’ll hopefully have it in a month or so…ordering from the county is much faster than ordering from the state, especially in California).  Since Edward’s body was unclaimed for almost three weeks though, I’m not sure how likely it is that his death certificate will list his parents. which is what I need to find out if he’s the right person.  If there was someone around to give that information, that same person would have probably come forward to claim him sooner.  So I also ordered the SS-5, which is the original application Edward would have filed to get a social security number.  You can order them online now, and supposedly if you do, they take about three weeks.  I already searched the Los Angeles Times for information and/or an obituary for Edward, but I came up empty.  Unfortunately, in LA, you have to die pretty spectacularly or be pretty famous to make the papers.

So it looks like I’ll be watching the mailbox for a while, waiting to find out more about Edward.  I hope his life was happier than his death.

UPDATE: I found out more about Ed Ackermann.  You can read about it here.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth Stephens April 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

Oh, how very sad! I read your post and then went to the unclaimed persons site and just wandered around for a bit… found an 85-year-old lady who died 4 years ago and is still unclaimed… someone’s grandmother or great-grandmother… all alone. Heartbreaking!

.-= Ruth Stephens´s last blog ..Finally… a clue! (conclusion) =-.


Thomas MacEntee April 12, 2010 at 10:19 am

Very sad indeed but this happens way too often. If folks would like to practice their cybersleuth and genealogy skills, consider joining Unclaimed Persons ( You can help find next of kin for unclaimed bodies at morgues around the United States.

This not only gives closure to the families but also saves local governments money – it costs up to $2,000 per body to bury or cremate and store cremains for an unclaimed body.
.-= Thomas MacEntee´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.


Susan Tiner April 12, 2010 at 10:36 am

My goodness, you are introducing me to aspects of life (death) I knew nothing about. Very sad.


Deli Kate April 12, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I read this earlier today and it has haunted me every moment since. Thank goodness his country claimed him and took care of him in the end. Whomever Ed was related to, he deserves a flag and some flowers at his gravestone for his service.


Karen Packard Rhodes April 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

That is a very sad story, but also a very instructive one. Good for you for pursuing the matter, and coming up with the possibilities and the documents. Excellent.
.-= Karen Packard Rhodes´s last blog ..Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Six Degrees of Separation =-.


Joanne Schleier April 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

Kerry! You beat me to it and discovered that I awarded you the ANCESTOR APPROVED AWARD! Congratulations – I love your blog! Follow the guidelines in my post.
.-= Joanne Schleier´s last blog ..Ancestor Approved Award – April 4, 2010 =-.


Sarah B. April 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I’m so glad that I found your blog. Some of things I have found have been very sobering as well. You’ve introduced me to a source I never would have thought of on my own. Although this is a sad part of researching genealogy, I also think that this kind of situation gives even more purpose to a life spent researching ancestors. You got to give Edward a voice, and helped him be remembered when he otherwise would have been lost.


Sarah B. April 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Kerry –
I’ve nominated you for an Ancestor Approved Award. You can pick it up here.
.-= Sarah B.´s last blog ..Surname Saturday – The DiBernardo Family of Western Pennsylvania =-.


Kerry Scott April 20, 2010 at 7:03 am

Sarah—thank you!!


Skip Murray May 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Eagerly checking in to see if anything has showed up in your mailbox yet!


Kerry Scott May 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I have some of the documents, but am waiting for others. This story is turning to have some twists and turns, so it’s taking some time to put it all together.


Charlene Hughes May 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

My mom is currently working on digging up a photo of ‘Uncle Edward’. I’m very sad to hear that his body was unclaimed for 3 weeks! Needless to say, our family wasn’t aware of his death :(


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