Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jacob E Schwerin, Who's Your Daddy (and Mommy)?

My sister-in-law's third great grandfather, Jacob Schwerin (b. 1855), seems to have appeared out of thin air.  He and his wife Amelia Kaufman had two children, Nettie (b. 1885) and Monie (b. 1886) in Baltimore.  The 1900 US Census (the last before he died) stated that he and both of his parents were born in South Carolina.  His marriage license (found at the Jewish Museum of Maryland) was more specific:
Marriage License; Jacob E Schwerin & Amelia Kaufman; November 1884

Jacob E. Schwerin, age 29, is said to be from Sumter, South Carolina.  Amelia, age 27, is from Baltimore.  Their marriage was also reported in a local Sumter newspaper, saying that J.E. Schwerin was "formerly of Sumter."
"The Watchman and Southron," December 9, 1884
There was, indeed, one Schwerin family in Sumter during that time, headed by Julius and Caroline (nee Suares) Schwerin.

There are numerous online family trees for Julius and Caroline Schwerin.  While a son named Jacob Henry is mentioned, that Jacob lived only from 1845-1849.  There are no mentions (that I have been able to find) of a son named Jacob born around 1855.

Who were Jacob's parents?  Checking both his grave and his death certificate gave no information.
Jacob Schwerin's Grave--with no parents' names
Jacob Schwerin Death Certificate--with no parents' names
Jacob's death certificate confirms his birth in Sumter, South Carolina, but unfortunately his parents' names are "unknown."  It also says that both of his parents were born in Germany--in direct contradiction to the 1900 census.

Jacob, born in 1855, should appear in the 1860 and 1870 censuses, living with his parents.
1860 United States Census; Sumter, SC; Schwerin Family (lines 29-37)
In 1860, Julius (born in Prussia) and Caroline (born in South Carolina) Schwerin were living in Sumter along with seven children.  Julius was a merchant; the value of his personal estate was $3000 and his wife's was $1500.  There is no mention of Jacob, although there is a child Elia Polak Schwerin who is about the right age.
1870 United States Census; Sumter, SC; Schwerin Family (lines 20-27)
By 1870, some of Julius and Caroline's children (all children and the parents are said to have been born in South Carolina) have moved out of the house, and only 5 remain at home.  Elia Polak Schwerin who had been in the 1860 census has disappeared--replaced by a male about the same age named Keper.  Could Keper be some kind of nickname for Jacob?  Or are these two entirely different people?

Who was Elia Polak Schwerin?
Camden (SC) Journal, October 21, 1851
Elias Polock was in business with J.E. Suares (a brother of Caroline Suares Schwerin), and Elias was also married to Sarah Suares Polock--a sister of Caroline and J.E.  So this is definitely a name in the family, but Elias' young namesake seems to disappear after the 1860 census.  Could the middle initial in "Jacob E Schwerin" be Elias?  Could Elia Polak Schwerin be the same person as Keper Schwerin be the same person as Jacob E Schwerin?  Or are they 2 (or 3) different people?

There are no mentions of any Jacob Schwerins of the right age in South Carolina into the 1870s.  So did Jacob Schwerin apparate fully grown?  Was he a child of Julius and Caroline--or were his parents other people entirely?

Continued here.


  1. I've had more than one happening in the same time period when family members changed names, going from first to middle name use. I think it was in style at the time. A third version of a name is less common, but a nickname is certainly possible.

    1. Jacob E. Schwerin is my 4th or 5th great grand father. I have found some news stories indicating he had a run in with the law in the 1880’s in Sumter that led to his mother to sue him over property i believe? This was a while ago when I found this so I will have to find it again, but I am certain of there being a news article including Jacob E and his mother Caroline in Sumter. After the run in with the law, I found another news article saying he avoided arrest by moving to Baltimore. Furthermore, you mentioned the brother named Jacob who died. In hebrew, “Keper” comes from the root “Kipur” which means “to remember”. This was a religious family. And, Jacob’s middle name is E, which could stand for Elias. My guess is that they gave him the name Elias originally, and then giving him the nickname “Keper” in memory of his dead brother. And then later in life he took on his brother’s name to avoid arrest or prosecution after moving to Baltimore. Just a theory, but again, I did find a source illustrating a legal battle involving this Caroline and her son this Jacob E Schwerin.

    2. Oh, cool! I'd love to see the Jacob E/Caroline article. And the arrest one.