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

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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