Unexpected Discoveries: The Side Effect of a Genealogy Addiction

I was spending some time on FamilySearch yesterday looking for some record of my great grandparents’ marriage.  I figured I would probably be able to find a copy of their marriage application fairly easily since Paessler (my great grandmother’s maiden name) wasn’t a super common surname in Wyandot county in the late 1800s.  What I found was…well…to put it mildly, a major surprise!

Marriage record for Frank Hill and
Clara Paessler

My initial instinct was correct, I found the marriage license for Frank J. Hill and Clara A. Paessler with ease.  All of the information on the certificate seemed to match what I have on file for them, so I downloaded the image and began to do an in-depth examination of it to see what details I could glean and to verify that it was what I was the document I was looking for and the
people I was looking for.  Record 389 in the upper right corner was exactly what I was after.  It was even a spot on match for the marriage date that I had from family records… 18 Apr 1901.

As I read over the record, all of the information just seemed to flow right along with what I knew until…  Wait a minute….there where it says “that he was _______ previously married”…ummm…does that say “once” in that blank?!?!  I quickly scanned the other records on the page to see how that blank was filled in.  Perhaps I was just misreading the handwriting.  No, all of the other records Everything that I have to this point, including information from my mother and her sister, indicated that Frank Hill was only ever married to Clara Paessler.
clearly read “nah” in that blank.  Ok, this doesn’t make any sense. 

Marriage Record for Frank Hill and Anna Clark

So, with my curiosity in high gear, I went back to searching.  This time, I searched for marriage records for Frank Hill and narrowed it down based on his birth information.  The list was still pretty long, as Frank Hill seemed to be a relatively commonplace name.  After looking for a while, I found a record for a marriage between Frank J. Hill and Anna Clark on 8 Dec 1896.  Could this possibly be??  Could I have just discovered something about my great grandfather that my mother and her brother and sister didn’t even know?  I pulled up the record and began to examine it.  The information for the groom seemed a pretty close match to my great grandfather.  With no other information to go on, I was stumped as to whether or not these were or were not the same person.

I had only one thing that I could possibly go on…the signatures on each record for Frank J. Hill.  I blew up both documents and put them side by side on my monitors. And started to examine them.  I am by no means a handwriting expert, and the signatures are microfilmed copies of records that are over 100 years old with the signatures being about 5 years apart, but…. They look close enough to me to have been made by the same person.  The way the “r” and “k” are written in “Frank” and the connection between the “H” and “i” in “Hill” are near identical.
Signature from 1896
Signature from 1901

 So, it would appear that my simple search for a marriage record may well have turned up the very, very unexpected result of finding a “skeleton” in my great grandfather’s closet!  I’m not taking this as true proof of anything yet.  I plan to keep digging and searching for more known signatures to see what other evidence I can find, but I have definitely re-learned one of the lessons of genealogy – expect to find the unexpected!