The Mystery of Fanny Wiler, Part II: Answers and Questions


With limited internet access, I am hampered, but here is Part II.

In Part I,  I presented the mystery of my cousin Fanny Wiler.  Was she the Fanny Wyler who married Max Michaelis in 1774? Was that Max Michaelis the man who set the awful fire that killed not only him but his daughter Rose in 1884?

Despite hours and hours of searching,  I still did not know for certain that the 1874 wedding was that of my cousin Fanny Wiler.  But I was feeling pretty certain.  I thought my Fanny had married Max Michaels, the one who was laborer, who had died sometime before 1890 and who had lived at 2133 East Thompson Street.  I was even pretty sure that this was the Max Michaels who killed himself and little Rose in the fire.  But then where were Fanny and Max in 1880?  I felt I was getting close.  But not close enough.  After the mistakes I made in my assumptions about Milton Josephs, I knew I needed to be more certain before I could reach any conclusions.

I had to find Max on that 1880 census.  I felt that if I found him with a wife named Fanny and a daughter Isabella and one more child (since Rose would not have been born yet in 1882), I’d be at least one step closer.  I once again tried every trick I knew to try and find who was living at 2133 East Thompson Street on the 1880 census.  And then I got smart.  I turned to the genealogy village.  There is a Facebook group for Philadelphia genealogy.  Certainly someone there would know something about Philadelphia geography and perhaps be able to help me?

You see, East Thompson Street is a very, very long street that runs many miles through Philadelphia.  There were probably a hundred EDs that included some portion of East Thompson Street.  Steve Morse’s site had given me about ten that were supposed to include the address of 2133, and I’d spent hours reading through those and never saw one address close to 2133.  Maybe someone in the Facebook group could help?

Sure enough, within ten minutes of posting my question, Ann,  a member of that group had an answer.  And it wasn’t simply an answer to the geography question.  She had located the family living at 2133 East Thompson Street on the 1880 census.  And their names? Mex Mcles is how it was indexed on  Mex?? Mcles??  Sigh.  No wonder I hadn’t found it.

Max Michaels 1880 with Charles

Max, Fanny, Isabella and Charles Michaels 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1184; Family History Film: 1255184; Page: 52A; Enumeration District: 521; Image: 0106


Anyway, I was elated.  I had the family.  Max worked in a glue factory and was 36 years old, thus born in 1844, so a bit younger than the Max on the marriage record and the Max who set the fire in 1884, but given the address, this was the same Max from the directories. His wife was Fannie, aged 32, so born in 1848.  Close enough to my Fanny.  Isabella was five, so born in 1874-1875.  And there was the other child.  Charles was three years old, so born in 1876 or 1877.  This was the family of the man who set the fire.  I was pretty certain of that.  The only curveball? The census said both Max and Fannie were born in Germany.  My Fanny was born in Pennsylvania.  The Fanny on the marriage record was born in Switzerland, not Germany.

My elation was soon tempered with that feeling of uncertainty.  OK, this was the Max Michaels who lived on East Thompson, who married a woman named Fanny, who had a daughter named Isabella.  This was the same Fanny and Isabella who lived at 918 Hutchinson Street when Isabella died in 1890. But was this my Fanny? Was this the Max who died in the 1884 fire? Did I yet have enough proof?

No. But I had a new person to search.  Charles Michaels. The son.  The child who was three in 1880.  And that opened up some new doors.  But they did not give me the answers.  Or at least not the answers I wanted.

Searching for Charles Michaels led me to an entry on the 1900 census.  In New York City.  Not Philadelphia.  The Charles Michaels on that census was born in July, 1877, in Pennsylvania.  That certainly was a possible match. The listing has Charles living with his mother Fanny Michaels, born November 1846.  That certainly could be my Fanny.  But born in Switzerland. Hmmm.  Like the Fanny Wyler on the marriage record, but not like my Fanny. The Fanny on the 1900 census reported that she had had three children, but only one was alive.  That made sense.  Rosa had died in the fire, Isabella had died in 1890.  Only Charles was alive. I was pretty certain that this was the Fanny Michaels who had lived in Philadelphia and whose husband Max had killed himself and their daughter Rose in a fire.

Except for one problem.

Also listed living with Fanny and Charles in 1900 in New York City? Max Michaels.  Born in Germany in 1841. A laborer.  That sure sounds like the Max who married Fanny Wyler in 1874 and who lived at 2133 East Thompson Street.  But he was supposed to be dead! Fanny had listed herself as a widow on those directories in Philadelphia.  I had a death certificate for a Max Michaels who burned himself to death.  How could Max be alive?  Would the census taker have included Fanny’s long dead husband?  By 1900 he had been dead at least ten years, according to the Philadelphia directories, or 16 years if he was the Max who killed himself in the fire.  I was mystified.  Confused.

Max, Fanny and Charles Michaels on 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1085; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0098; FHL microfilm: 1241085

Max, Fanny and Charles Michaels on 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1085; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0098; FHL microfilm: 1241085

But I continued on.  And I found Fanny Michaels on the 1910 census in NYC.  A widow.  Living as a boarder with someone named Nettie Rutlinger, also a widow.  Both listed their place of birth as Switzerland.  Fanny’s age lined up with my Fanny, more or less.  It said she was 60, meaning born in 1850.  In between the age of my Fanny and the age of the Fanny Wyler on the marriage record.  And now Max was dead.  If he wasn’t already dead before.  I didn’t find a Max Michaels in the NYC death records between 1900 and 1910 or in the Pennsylvania death records for that period.  I think the 1900 census taker had just made an error.  Perhaps Fanny was asked for her husband’s information and provided it without saying he was dead. I don’t know, but I am 99% sure that the 1900 Fanny is the same Fanny whose husband and daughter died in the fire in 1884.

I could not find Fanny on the 1920 census, so I searched for a death record through the IGG site and found this:

298 Michaels Fanny 67 y Jan 5 1913 502 (1913) Kings 1845 – 1846 1324260

That sounded like it could be the right Fanny, the wife of Max, mother of Isabella, Charles, and maybe Rosa.  I decided to search for a death notice and found this one through the Fulton History website, a collection of old newspapers, mostly from NYC:

Fanny Michaels death notice Brooklyn Eagle 1913

Fanny Michaels death notice Brooklyn Standard Union January 6, 1913 p. 3


So this seemed pretty conclusive.  The Fanny who died in 1913 was born in Switzerland.  Nettie was her sister, also born in Switzerland.  This was NOT my Fanny.  It, however, does seem that this Fanny was the one who married Max Michaels in Philadelphia in 1874.  She had only come to America a year before.  She had been the mother of Isabella and Charles.  And maybe Rose.  I still don’t know. I still don’t know whether that Fanny was married to the Max Michaels who killed himself and his daughter Rose.  But I think so.  Except for the fact that he seemed to be alive in 1900.

But I need not look any further because I am now convinced that whoever she was, that Fanny Michaels was not my cousin.  She was Fanny Wyler, born in Switzerland, not in Pennsylvania.  She, not my Fanny, married Max Michaelis, who was perhaps the same Max Michaels who killed himself and his daughter Rose in a fire.

What do you think?

And meanwhile, where is MY Fanny Wiler? Was she the one working as a servant in 1880? Where was she in 1870 when the rest of her family was living together in Philadelphia?

I have no idea.

For all that work, I am back where I started.  I have no idea what happened to my cousin Fanny Wiler.  But at least it was an intriguing and challenging ride while it lasted.

But how can I find the real Fanny Wiler?  HELP!



7 thoughts on “The Mystery of Fanny Wiler, Part II: Answers and Questions

    • Thanks, Su. Unfortunately, I seem to have hit a dead end on the real Fanny Wiler. I cannot find one reference or record for her after the possible listing on the 1880 census as a servant. If you or anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know how frustrating that is. I have a few of these ancestors myself and no matter how often I go back to them, I cannot make headway. I wish I knew more about US records; I’ve just discovered a whole bunch of relatives who emigrated from Scotland in the 1900s and ended up in Detroit. A nice new challenge for me for 2015!


  1. Pingback: Those Wily Wilers: Where were They in 1900? « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  2. Pingback: The Mystery of Fanny Wiler, Part III:  A Brick Wall Tumbles « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  3. Pingback: The Mystery of Fanny Wiler: Final Chapter (I think) « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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