A year into my little family history research project, I have made some progress in piecing together the story of my maternal great-grandparents Jacob and Tillie Agin. But there is still so much I don’t know.
I know that Jacob and Tillie married in the early 1890s and raised eight children, including my grandfather Harry Agin. Jacob came from an old American family dating back to the pre-Revolutionary War period. Tillie was born in Germany and came to America as a young girl with her widowed mother, Mary Miller (who later married two American men, George Hendricks and William Vannote, and apparently had one scandalous divorce).
According to census records, Tillie and her mother made the trip some time between 1880 and 1888. I haven’t been able to find the actual immigration records. I also can’t say for sure what town the Millers came from. The only clue comes from Mary Miller Vannote’s death certificate, dated July 1924. My grandfather, then only 23 years old, told the coroner that his grandmother came from “Collenz, Germany.” Did he mean Koblenz (which used to be spelled Coblenz)? That’s a pretty nice place.
I know from census records that Jacob and Tillie lived for a while in the small town of Kingston, New Jersey. Jacob got a job in a stone quarry, which must have been dangerous work. I found a newspaper article describing an injury due to gunpowder.
The last time Jacob and Tillie appear in the records is the 1920 census. By then, the family had moved to downtown New Brunswick, living at 20 Morris Street with seven of their eight children plus their son-in-law James Cronen and a boarder. (My grandfather, twenty years old at the time, was living in South Brunswick with his recently widowed grandmother Mary Miller Vannote.)
After that, the trail runs cold. I scoured the 1930 census on the off-chance that the family’s name was misspelled. Some other family was living at 20 Morris Street and I couldn’t find any trace of Jacob and Tillie – or their minor children.
So what became of Jacob and Tillie Agin? When did they die? I have searched for their grave to no avail. I thought they might be buried at the Van Liew Cemetery in New Brunswick, where my grandparents were laid to rest, but there is no record of them there.
I was stuck until the other day, when I came across a searchable database of back issues of the Trenton Evening Times. While there was nothing about Jacob and Tillie, I was able to find obituaries for three of Jacob’s siblings. (I previously established Jacob’s youngest sister Hattie died as a young girl.) These lead me to conclude that Jacob died before 1930.
Charles Augustus Agin died in October 1930. He was 58 years old. His obituary indicates that he was survived by three sisters: Charity, Daisy and Julia. There is no mention of Jacob.
In June 1945, Charity died at the age of 70. Her obituary lists two surviving sisters: Daisy and Julia. Again, no mention of Jacob.
Finally, in November 1959 Daisy passed away at the age of 77. Her obituary does not list any surviving siblings. Once again, no mention of Jacob – and the strong inference that Julia died some time between 1945 and 1959.
It’s possible, of course, that Jacob was estranged from his family and not mentioned for that reason. But I have a hunch that’s not the case. I’d like to go back to the New Jersey archives to see if I can find a death certificate for Jacob in the period 1920-1930.
I’m still stuck wondering about Tillie, but I have to believe that finding Jacob’s death certificate would yield some valuable clues. Stay tuned.