Will the real Anton Heerdink please stand up? — 20 Comments

  1. Jenny,

    I would feel safe in saying this is your Anton Heerdink. Yes the changing age would cause you to wonder, but aren’t all the ages still within a 10 year radiance? Many times we “mis-judge” someone’s age by 10 years or so.

    I have an ancestor that was sent to the North Texas Insane Asylum twice. Interesting case file for sure for his second commitment. (manic depression & recurring mania) In our case, the family was told he went crazy and died, and then 20 years later the family is contacted to pay for his burial. So for some reason, he didn’t want contact with the living family. Maybe your Anton was that way too. Embarrassed that he was “committed”. Ashamed to not be able to care for his children. And because your Anton disappeared and was depressed over losing his wife, even if he was the one stating his age, he might not have given it correctly. Shoot, I have to ask my kids sometimes how old I am and I off by 3 or 4 years. (Guess insanity runs in my family. LOL)

    It seems you have left no record un-searched. Good sleuthing.

    • Thanks Liz! I would still like to get the finer wrinkles ironed out, but it may not be possible. There is one more record set I’m waiting to get my hands on, which is the records from the orphanages. I’m hoping that will corroborate the reason the children ended up in the orphanages (and the timing of it all). Once that nugget of doubt is quashed, I will feel MUCH better about claiming this Anton as my own.

      All that being said – that’s one thing I love about being in the South. We put our crazy right there on the front porch so everyone can enjoy it 🙂

  2. Jenny,
    It looks like a strong circumstantial case to me, especially since one of the signers lived at the same address.

    Do you have any information on where Anton’s tailoring business was? If Muth and Bryant were in a business located near Anton’s, that would add more weight to the evidence (at least to me)

    You mentioned that Anton’s committment was noted in the Evansville Courier. What references are there to the three signers in the newspaper? Again, they may have had shops nearby, or been in the same club (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, etc)- or perhaps, may have been brothers-in-law, on Anton’s wife’s side of the family?

    I’d also dig a little into Sophia- I wonder if she may have been a housekeeper, or store clerk, or some such thing. It might be worth trying to dig up a marriage licence, solely to see what occupation was listed.

    • Thanks Mary! You’ve given me some things to investigate, for sure. I’m pretty sure they aren’t related to Anton’s wife’s side of the family, but it’s worth a second look. I will definitely see if I can find anything in the newspaper about any of these folks. I don’t know where Anton’s shop was – I never could find any mention of it in the city directories, so he likely worked for someone else, or just did his tailoring at home. Eventually, everything will fall into place 🙂

  3. I think you have filled in a huge gap. The age thing might be problematic but I think we have all run into a family or two that the ages don’t always track on the census, so I can somewhat overlook that with all the rest of the information. Also how much of this information was actually given by him – those ‘helpful’ friends may have provided a lot of it. Those witness statements might also be made by church members – they might have been providing emotional support or housekeeping or or after his wife died. This might explain why the addresses are ‘not next door’ Sounds like he just fell apart upon her death
    I hope you can find the orphanage records – might help you with those last doubts, but I think this is your guy. Get ready to put on your dancing shoes

    • Thanks Judy! I also have to address the issue of a pesky rumor that after he dumped the kids in the orphanages, he ran off with another woman. Hopefully the orphanage records (if they exist) will answer that question too.

      … and I am SO ready to put on my dancing shoes with this family. It’s been a long time coming.

  4. Jenny,

    Having listened to Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, a number of times, I would look into court records. As I read your blog post, it appeared to me that there should be a couple of court records created. I would start at about 1878 when his wife died and the children were placed.

    Just a thought.


    • I agree wholeheartedly, Russ! (as a paralegal, it was one of my first thoughts) 🙂

      I have a list of court records that I need to look up, and I’m planning to take a couple of days off work and drive up to Evansville to do it. I will probably start with Anton’s commitment hearing (where he was “adjudged insane”) and see if that yields any answers. Then I will expand my search from there.

      I have also put in a request to see if the Catholic Charities or the Diocese still has records from St. Vincent’s or St. Ann’s orphanages. I think those records will tell me why the children were placed, if nothing else.

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed 🙂

      • Concerning the commitment papers at the courthouse……here in Texas the “Insanity” records are closed and can only be looked at with a court order.

        That being said—the Minutes to the Probate Court are open to the public. The documents in those volumes sometimes were transcribed exactly and sometimes you just get the final determination. I have found in them not just normal probated wills, but guardianship of minors and one commitment.

        I would like to suggest that you check with the particular courthouse and see how you would go about getting any papers related to commitments and if any of their records are closed. Tuberculosis records are also closed here.

        Good luck.

        • Thanks Liz! I Wil definitely contact the courthouse to see if the records are accessible. I have other records to look at too while I’m there, so I won’t be disappointed in any case (criminal and civil – my family was in court a LOT) 🙂

          • Well your family being in court a lot sure beats mine. Seems so many of them were ‘allergic’ to paper of any kind. Very few wills/probate records – still going on today. As for any insanity, I think they must have just kept them at home and paraded them out on Sunday.
            Only one case of any kind of commitment and the step father seems to have provided most of the misinformation with a heavy accent and big ego.

            Now as to that rumor that he ran away with another woman – bet it was a cover story or an uninformed person’s mind at work as to why he ‘disappeared’, maybe they felt that was a more acceptable story than being called insane

            Good luck at the courthouse – if I ever get to southern Indiana I fear I will be digging into records for at least a month but that would be a good trade off for over 100 years of history – Virginia is probably good for 6 months if I can just find the end on that ball of string

  5. Jenny,

    This is fascinating! I have a relative, the wife of my 2nd great-granduncle, who also happened to have been his 1st cousin, who was placed in an asylum around 1874. It looks like she lived there until she died in 1911. I wish I could get her asylum records, but I’m not the closest living relative. They had one daughter and there still may be descendants still living. Perhaps I could check court records to see why she was admitted in the first place.

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      • I believe so! I’m just beginning to dabble in genealogy and began by trying to trace my grandfather, Walden P. Heerdink after coming across your blog. He is my mother’s father. I’ve just used Find A Grave thus far, but his father was, John H. Heerdink, and his father, also John H. Heerdink, was Anton’s brother (according to my limited research)!

        • Angie, we are definitely cousins! (woo hoo! happy dance!)

          I have your grandfather in my tree already — I think I have one record where he was referred to as Sylvester maybe? — send me an email at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll be happy to share any info I have on your branch of the family!

          You need to be careful with any records you find on your 2nd great grandfather … JOHN HENRY Heerdink is the brother of Anton Heerdink, but he’s also the brother of HENRY JOHN Heerdink. Clearly, someone gave up on originality early on in the family.

          I look forward to hearing from you!

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