The Mystery of Paul Metz, Part I

I cannot tell the story of Paul Metz without some introduction of my third cousin, once removed, Conrad Metz, Paul’s grandson. Without Conrad’s help, this story would never have come to light. We collaborated on the research, shared our thoughts about what we found, and ultimately reached the same conclusion about his elusive grandfather.

The story began on June 14, 2018, when I received a message on Ancestry from Conrad, asking me to share my tree because he’d been told I might be a cousin and that I had his grandfather Paul Metz on my Ancestry tree. He said he’d been searching for information about Paul Metz for many years, but all he had was the name on his father’s birth certificate.  I responded that I was delighted to hear from him and more than happy to share my tree and to work with him on searching for more information about his grandfather.

The last official record I had for Paul Metz before Conrad contacted me was the 1880 census when Paul was a teenager living with his parents Rosa and Bernhard in Philadelphia.1 As noted in my last post, Paul was not living with his parents and siblings on the 1900 census. Conrad knew that his grandmother’s name was Gertrude Amelia Cone, but we could not find a marriage record for Gertrude Cone and Paul Metz.

But Conrad had a marriage record for his grandmother Gertrude and a man named Joseph C. Raymond. According to their New Jersey marriage record, they had married on December 10, 1895, in Ramsey, New Jersey.  That record said that Joseph was the son of Albert F. Raymond, born in Michigan, and Rose Weldon, born in England, and that Joseph was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was 28 years old, giving him a birth date of 1867.  Gertrude was only seventeen, born in Brooklyn to Edward Cone, born in Maryland, and Jennie Pool, born in Schraalenberg, New Jersey, and Gertrude was then residing in Ramsey, New Jersey, where the wedding took place.

We could not find any records for Joseph Raymond’s parents, Albert Raymond and Rose Weldon. The only other record naming Joseph Raymond that we could find was the birth record for an unnamed son of Joseph Charles Raymond and Gertrude Amelia Cone born on February 19, 1898. According to this record, both Joseph and Gertrude were born in New Jersey, contrary to their marriage record.  Joseph was 29 so born in 1867; Gertrude was 18 so born in 1880, not 1878 as the marriage record suggested.

New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WWM-5R9 : 11 February 2018), Gertrude Amelia Cone in entry for Raymond, 19 Feb 1898; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 7239 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,953,125.

On the 1900 census we found a Gertrude Metz living in Ho-ho-kus, New Jersey with a two-year-old son named “Ellwood,” born in February 1898. That Gertrude was born in 1879 in New York whereas the Gertrude on the marriage and birth records was born in New York (or New Jersey) in 1878 (or 1880). That Gertrude’s father was born in Maryland and mother in Schraalenberg, New Jersey, whereas the Gertrude on the 1900 census had a father born in Virginia and a mother born in New Jersey.  Certainly a close but not an exact match. But there was enough—the name, the age and birth place, the son’s birth date—to make Conrad and I believe it possible that this was his grandmother Gertrude and that the child was the baby born to Gertrude Cone and Joseph Charles Raymond on February 19, 1898.

Gertrude Metz 1900 census, Census Place: Hohokus, Bergen, New Jersey; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0022; FHL microfilm: 1240955
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

But why was she using the surname Metz? The census report listed Gertrude as married, but there was no husband living with her, and we could not find Joseph Raymond  anywhere on the 1900 census. Had she married Paul Metz after Joseph Raymond and given Joseph Raymond’s son the surname of her second husband? If so, where was Paul Metz? We couldn’t find him anywhere on the 1900 census either.  We were confused.

So I did what I always do when I hit a dead end on official records; I searched the newspaper databases. And I found some stories that were disturbing: Paul Metz had been arrested and convicted in New Jersey in the fall of 1898 for theft; in fact, he had committed multiple thefts.

First, I found this article from the September 29, 1998, the Bridgewater (NJ) Courier-News, which reported that Paul Metz had been arrested for the theft of several articles from the home of William Stansbery after Metz had obtained entrance to the home by saying he was there to tune the piano.

“Alleged Piano Tuner Arrested,” (Bridgewater, NJ) Courier-News, September 29, 1898, p. 8

The following day, the same paper reported in more detail how the police had identified Metz as the thief and how they had captured him. The part of the article I found most interesting was this description of Metz: “a perfect gentleman in his manners and a smooth talker.” Also, this article revealed that Metz may have earlier that month used the same “piano tuner” con to steal a silver sugar sifter from a Mrs. Pendleton N. Rogers of Bridgewater.

“Piano Tuner Arrested for Sneak Thieving,” (Bridgewater, NJ) Courier News, September 30, 1898, p. 1

Then on October 4, 1898, the Bridgewater newspaper reported more alleged misconduct by Paul Metz.  According to the Plainfield Bicycle Company in Plainfield, New Jersey, Metz had rented a bicycle from them for one day, but had not returned the bike for six weeks. When they sought action against him, he sent the bicycle back by express delivery. The bike company claimed that they had to pay for the delivery charges as well as repairs on the bike, which came back damaged.

“Metz Was A Wheelman,” (Bridgeton, NJ) Courier News, October 4, 1898, p. 5

The paper also reported that day and the following day that Paul Metz’s wife had come to New Jersey with her baby in her arms to plead with William Stansbery not to press charges against her husband. But the case was already before the grand jury by that time, so it was too late, and Paul was convicted.2

“Mrs. Metz’ Plea for Her Husband,” (Bridgewater, NJ) Courier News, October 4, 1898, p. 5

Yet Paul Metz managed to escape with only a short sentence of six months after his trial. The Courier-News reported on November 4, 1898, that the reason for the light sentence was that Metz had “turned evidence against Wilson and other prisoners in their recent attempt to escape from jail.”

“Metz Gets An Easy Sentence,” (Bridgewater, NJ) Courier-News, November 2, 1898, p. 1

You might ask how I could be sure that this was the same Paul Metz, son of Rosa and Bernhard Metz. In this clipping from the Philadelphia Inquirer, it states that he gave his address as 209 East 61st Street in New York City, which, as I mentioned in my last post, is where Rosa and Bernhard and their three other children were living in 1900.3

Philadelphia Inquirer, September 30, 1898, p.6

Then I found another article, this time from the Port Chester (New York) Journal of September 1, 1898:

As described in this article, a man named Paul Metz was accused of stealing a woman’s purse after gaining entry to her home by claiming to be a piano tuner. This article is rather lengthy, so I will transcribe some of it and summarize the rest:

On Monday, a fellow called at the residence of Mrs. Henry Bailey…for the ostensible purpose of making inquiry for someone. Miss Daisy, daughter of Mrs. Bailey, who had just came [sic] in from the street had laid [sic] her pocket book on a chair. When the fellow walked in the house, the young lady asked him what he wanted. He said he was a piano tunder and was looking for a Mrs. Wilson. …When the fellow was told that no such person lived there he started to walk out. Of course, not suspecting that the fellow was a thief he was not watched. Mrs. Bailey…noticed that as he passed out of the door he picked up the pocket book and thrust it in his pocket.

[Then the article describes how the Deputy Sheriff located the man who had taken the pocket book from Mrs. Bailey’s house, but Mrs. Bailey did not want to press charges.]

The fellow when searched did not have the pocket book nor a cent in money, although it is positive that he stole both in the Bailey house….He carried a satchel, which on opening was found to contain a lot of miscellaneous things, among them a formidable dirk knife…. There were also six bottles of opium and a syringe used for injecting the drug.  From all indications the fellow seemed to be an opium fiend of the first water. ….[Could this have been “of the first order,” not “water”?]

It is known that the fellow has been around town for some days begging for money where he could not work in his piano tuning racket. ….The fellow told such contrary stories, that it is hard to trace him up closely. ….When he was arrested, the fellow who gave his name as Paul Metz said that he lived in New York City and was going there that day…. In his satchel were found a number of checks drawn to the order of bearer, on a Jersey bank, and the fellow later admitted having made out the checks on fictitious persons. …..

Ascertaining the man’s address in New York City, Deputy Sheriff Fitz Roy was sent in search of his pedigree. He found the father of the fellow who said that his son had been a general bad one of years, but within a few years he had married and had seemed to be leading a better life. The fellow’s wife and child arrived here on Tuesday morning, and was in Court when the case was called by the Prosecuting Attorney Walsh before Judge Burns….The case was, therefore, adjourned until this morning, when an effort will be made to hold the man. The belief is general that he must have had the money and managed to hide or throw it away to exculpate himself.

I found no follow-up to this story; Mrs. Bailey had been reluctant to get involved, and there was no money or pocket book found on Paul, so perhaps the matter was dropped. But obviously Paul did not learn his lesson and then committed the same type of fraud in Bridgewater, New Jersey, a few weeks later, as described in the articles above. And it appeared that he was not only a con man and a thief, but also a drug addict.

I was a bit reluctant to share these news clippings with Conrad for fear of upsetting him. But I knew he wanted to have some answers to what had happened to his grandfather, and so I did. Conrad was not the least bit upset, but, as I had hoped, was just glad to have some answers after all his years of searching.

We both reached the same conclusion: Paul Metz had married Gertrude Cone under the assumed name of Joseph Charles Raymond. The biggest clues were right on the marriage record of Joseph Raymond and Gertrude Cone.  “Joseph Raymond” had listed his occupation on the marriage license as a piano tuner, the same occupation that Paul Metz used to con his way into homes where he stole jewelry and other valuables. He had given his address as 209 East 16th Street, a reversal of the numerals of the street in his actual address, 209 East 61st Street. This had to be Paul Metz using a false identity:

In addition, there were no records for a Joseph Charles Raymond born in Philadelphia in about 1867 (the same place and time period when Paul Metz was born) nor for the parents he listed on the marriage certificate. The final clue was that the news stories made it obvious that Paul Metz was a con man—a charming but dishonest con man.

But why had he used an assumed name to marry Gertrude? You would think he would have used an assumed name when he was arrested, not when he married, but perhaps even then he was a man in some kind of trouble and was hiding his true identity.  Did Gertrude know this wasn’t his real name, or was she duped also? Obviously by 1898 she must have known his name was Metz since he was arrested under that name, and by 1900 she was using that surname both for herself and her son Elwood, as seen on the 1900 census.

Assuming that Paul Metz served his full six month sentence, he would have been released from prison in about May 1899. He must have then returned for at least some time to Gertrude because on July 6, 1900, Gertrude gave birth to Conrad’s father George Burt Metz, and Paul Metz was named as his father on the birth certificate with his occupation as piano tuner.

The certificate also stated that this was the second child born of this marriage. That meant that Elwood “Raymond,” the child born to “Joseph Raymond” and Gertrude Cone on February 19, 1898, and who was living with Gertrude on the 1900 census, was likely also the child of Paul Metz and thus George Metz’s full brother and Conrad’s uncle.

But where was Paul when Gertrude gave birth to this second son, George? And why isn’t he listed with Gertrude and Elwood on the 1900 census? More on that in my next post.


  1. Metz family, 1880 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1186; Page: 290C; Enumeration District: 589. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  2. “Metz Must Abide The Law’s Decree,” (Bridgewater, NJ) Courier News, October 5, 1898, p. 1. 
  3. Bernhard Metz family 1900 US census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 19; Enumeration District: 0661; FHL microfilm: 1241110. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. 

31 thoughts on “The Mystery of Paul Metz, Part I

  1. I can’t wait until I get to read the next post, Amy. Great detective work! I am amazed how through ancestry.com the grandson of Paul Metz was able to connect with you. I have been using the free MyHeritage.com and was pleased to receive some valuable information via a distant relative in Germany. Our modern digital era is indeed ideal for family research. Have a great day, Amy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Peter! And I agree—the internet makes doing this research so much easier. I cannot imagine doing what many used to do—traveling to court houses and archives all over the world, communicating by snail mail, and waiting weeks if not months or years to get any information. I am too impatient for that! Have a great weekend, Peter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow ~ what an amazing story and fantastic research and deductions. Great post! What really struck me this time is how ‘human’ our ancestors were. While Paul was described as a ‘charming dishonest con man’, he was also an opium addict wrestling with his own personal demons. Gertrude must have seen the good in him and loved him despite his addiction. It’s a sad story and I can only hope with some happiness for these people in the future ~

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can certainly see and understand why Gertrude would want to stay with “Paul” and why she would make the effort. As a single woman in those times, it would have been quite hard to make it on her own. Also, maybe in spite of his shady past, she may have truly loved him. It’s hard to guess what someone was thinking. Great post, Amy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You did right by sharing the findings with Conrad, Amy. It sounds like he was seeking answers and closure. Knowing the full story and the true story will give him that. This sounds like the start of a great detective novel. Paul sounds like a desperate sort. The addiction stripped away any ability to feel contrition for his crimes or a sense of conscience that would prevent him from all the misdeeds he did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No—it’s awful how much papers exploited the problems of regular people. But as a family researcher, I am very grateful in some ways that they did!

      Yes, Gertrude must have wondered what she’d gotten herself into, but she did have another child with Paul so perhaps her eyes were wide open, or should have been.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love it! These characters must make it all worthwhile don’t they, and the colour they add to our pasts is social history at its best! I cannot help but feel for Mr. Sniffen, and wonder if he ever got his $2 back, and for Paul himself. Addiction is never funny, and he clearly perpetrated all those misdemeanours to feed his ‘habit’. Thank you for this illuminating story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am always a bit torn when I find these things because part of me is intrigued by them as characters in a story, but then I have to remember these were real people—my relatives!—whose actions had consequences for their families and descendants and who must have suffered as well. So then I feel a bit guilty for being excited about having a story to tell.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Paul Metz Mystery, Part II | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  7. This is an amazing story that you’ve unearthed, Amy. Some of it sounded a little familiar. Did you post about him before or was another thief in the family ;)? The burglary thing . . . . Or am I losing it? Why is that one story in the Port Chester paper? Did it happen there? Now, if someone uses an assumed name for a marriage license, does it make the marriage non-existent?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nope—this is an entirely new story. I haven’t even written about the Metz family before! But have I had other less-than-upstanding citizens before? Of course! Yes, that one occurred in Port Chester before the ones in New Jersey. As for marrying under a false name—good question. One of the grounds for invalidating a marriage is fraud in most states, so perhaps if Paul was using the name to defraud Gertrude in some way, it might have been grounds for invalidation. But if she knew or there was basis for asserting fraud, I doubt it.

      Like

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