#3 Anna Barth — Who’s your daddy?!

For my third ancestor, I’m going to hop along my family tree once again and visit my maternal side of the family to focus on Anna Barth.  She was my mom’s grandmother and has a pretty interesting and mysterious story to tell.  Or rather not tell, actually, as she was always very hush hush about her past!  Here’s what we know!

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Anna Barth

Here’s my story about Anna and then I will go into the research I have done on her and her family and then finally share with you my speculations about her father.

Anna Barth was born on August 26, 1883 in New York City. Her mother was Mary Barth and her father is unknown. Her first communion was June 18, 1899 in Valparaiso Indiana at St. Paul’s Academy. It seems strange that she was 16 at the time, and that she was going to school there, as the only other records of her show her living in either Chicago or New York.

She received formal lessons to be a concert pianist from the man her mother was a house keeper for, who was named Francis Leon. However, she did not pursue this profession. Instead she raised five children named Maurice, Anna, Joseph (my maternal grandfather, born 1912, died 1972), Kenneth, and Catherine. She also had two other children named Loretta (who died August 16, 1925 at age 9) and Eileen (who died in June 15, 1925 at age 7). She also had at least a couple babies who died in infancy. She died on January 11, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois and is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois.

My Anna Barth research (and some fun photos/documents!):

Anna was born in New York, NY on 26 Aug 1883 according to her death certificate which I found on Family Search.com.   Her mother was named Mary Barth (I don not know a maiden name for her).  On Anna’s death certificate is listed a William Barth as her father, strangely no mother is listed.  I have uncovered nothing about him.

The mystery behind Anna Barth is really who her father was.  My mom remembers hearing stories that Anna never wanted to talk about who her father was (she died before my mom was born).  It was all kept secret.  This is what we have pieced together about her childhood.  My mom remembers that one of the family controversies was that Anna’s mom (Mary) worked as a housekeeper for a very famous female impersonator named Francis Leon.

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Mary Barth, Anna’s mom

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Francis Leon and his acting partner Kelly

Leon was very active in vaudeville and because of his attractive appearance, he played the women’s roles and was famous for his collection of beautiful and expensive dresses.  He also payed for piano lessons for Anna, which seems kind of out of the norm for an employer to do for his servant’s daughter, but maybe it wasn’t uncommon?

Now here is where it gets confusing, and if anyone reading this has tips I would LOVE to hear them!  I’m not 100% sure of the 1880 census record I have found, and it seems that Mary Barth may possibly be a common name.  This is what I have collected on Anna’s mom:

I have a 1880 NY, NY census that lists a Mary Barth (born 1850- which matches the death certificate I have found for Mary Barth as well as her other census records I have which I am sure about).  She is listed as living in an apartment in New York on Second Avenue and her profession is “Servant.”  She is from Germany (which matches family lore about her life).  The strange thing is that the marital status is listed as single.  So that would indicate, that if this is my Mary Barth, that Barth was her maiden name and that whoever the dad of Anna was, Mary didn’t take his last name.

Of course there is no 1890 census record, and a lot can happen in 20 years!

The next record I have is the 1900 census which shows Mary Barth as living with her daughter Anna in the residence of Francis Leon on Kedzie Ave, in New York City.  At this time Anna is 15 years old, and is listed as a servant in Francis Leon’s home but that she has a job as a sales girl working in dry goods, but that she has been unemployed for 4 months.  So I’m guessing that means she had once had a job outside the home and wound up helping out in Leon’s home after loosing her job?

Mary is now listed as “widowed” but still has the last name Barth.  She has only had the one child Anna, and the census states that Mary came to the US in 1876.  She is working as a Housekeeper for Francis Leon.

Next in 1910 Mary is still shown as being the housekeeper for Francis Leon, although he has moved their family to Chicago city, Illinois and his niece now lives with them.  Anna has since moved out and married Maurice Murphy.

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Maurice Murphy (I think he was such a handsome looking man!)

Anna married Maurice Murphy (Maurice is really pronounced Morris) on November 10, 1902 in Chicago, IL.   So Francis Leon must have moved Anna and her mom Mary to Chicago shortly after the 1900 census, as my best guess is that Anna met Maurice in Chicago, as he was born and raised in Bloomington, IL-his parents were both from Ireland.

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Maurice Murphy and Anna Barth’s marriage certificate

The above beautiful marriage record is owned by a cousin of my mom’s who was kind enough to send me a photo of it!

Anna and Maurice continued to live in the Chicago area, and in fact three generations of Murphys were born and raised in the Chicago area.  My grandfather Joe was born in Chicago as was my mom.  I was born in another state, and we’ll see how long the family stays put now!

I am able to find Anna and Maurice living together in the 1910, and the 1920 census, with Anna’s mom (now retired from house keeping) living with them in 1920, before she died  in 1923.

I have a death record for Anna, (which I found on family search) that states she died January 11, 1933 at the age of 49.  The death record lists Maurice Murphy as her husband, no mother is mentioned which is odd as she actually lived with them for some time, and the father is listed as William Barth from Boden, Germany.

So who was William Barth?  That I don’t know.  Was he really her dad, or could it be her mom’s father.  I’ve heard that sometimes if a father wasn’t known for a record, that people might give the mom’s father as a name.  Whether that’s true in this case, who knows!

But here is where I would like some advice…  Obviously there was something about Anna’s father that made Anna not want to talk about him when questioned by her family.  If the 1880 census record I mentioned above for Mary Barth is correct then she was never married.  I can totally see her lying about this to the census taker, to hide that she had a child out of wedlock.  Especially during this time in history.  I’ve found several instances of falsified information on the census records, in particular my maternal grandmother who was a few years older than her husband and made herself younger on the 1940 census record.  I had a good laugh over that one as she was always kind of vain.  This is a woman who had all her teeth pulled because they were crooked and she’d rather have false teeth just so they could be straight!

So if my 1880 census record for Mary is correct, then she was not married when she had Anna.  Was the dad someone she knew, was she raped?  Why is there no dad in the picture?  Obviously Francis Leon took care of their family, especially if he paid for piano lessons for Anna.  But here’s where the big controversial question comes into play.  Could Francis Leon be Anna’s father?  Well, sure he was a female impersonator, and there’s a good possibility that he was probably homosexual.  But there’s also a chance he might have been bi-sexual.  Could Anna have been embarrassed to tell her family who her father was because he was a female impersonator?

So, here’s my challenge to anyone who reads this.  I’ve compiled several photos below.  The first one is of Anna, the two center photos are drawings of Francis Leon, and the 4th photo is my grandfather Joe (Anna’s son).  I really don’t think it’s wishful thinking, but I see a lot of family resemblance in these photos.  I’m curious to see if anyone else reading this blog has any feelings on this.  I hope this is a family mystery that I can solve someday.  What I really need is Anna’s birth record, but I think that might require a trip to NY and some time digging around in archives.  With two young children right now, I don’t think this kind of in-depth research is in my near future, but I do hope to discover this mystery at some point in my life!

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Finally I will leave you with my Scrapbook pages that feature Anna Barth.

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7 thoughts on “#3 Anna Barth — Who’s your daddy?!

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors: Week 3 Recap | No Story Too Small

  2. So jealous of your pictures. There are so many and I have so few. Your post is lovely and fun!

    • mvillhauer

      Thank you! many of the photos I have found just doing searches on ancestry or even on google. The portrait photos in this post were handed down from relatives. But I have had a lot of success finding photos on line or even making connections in the forums on ancestry.com.

  3. Wow, that’s a great story. I see a mini series in your future. Good luck getting any vital records from New York, I have had nothing but pushback when inquiring for records from them.

  4. Enjoyed your story!

  5. I definitely see a strong family resemblance between Francis Leon and Joe. The eyes and ears especially. I think you may be on to something!

    • mvillhauer

      Thanks for the comment. I’m always wondering if it’s just wishful thinking, but I do see a strong resemblance too! Glad to hear you do as well 🙂

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