NOTE: See the comments at the end of this post, as Peter Bush appears to have uncovered the connection to Bridgeport, CT that was not adequately explained in the Sudeikis episode. Unfortunately, the two listings in the 1930 census are still somewhat problematic and still may indicate two distinct individuals with the same name.
Although I have a reasonable doubt regarding my original premise, I will allow the post to stand. It and John Lisle's and Peter Bush's additional information in the comment section will serve as a reminder that genealogical research often requires a deeper analysis to reach conclusions. It is more difficult than taking one or two records that appear to point to a conclusion at face value. While the necessary "due diligence" probably occurred, it was not portrayed as such in the show's final edit. This show appeared to be based on conjecture rather than strong research - which is why I had my doubts.
A good genealogist will question the evidence, search for additional resources, and weigh everything in an effort to find the truth. While this may have occurred in the research phase of this episode, it was not fully articulated - hence why several of us questioned the results and the methods utilized. Thanks to Peter Bush and John Lisle for their tireless efforts in pursuing additional resources, we now can see a connection that seemed improbable; however, that still does not resolve the larger issues discussed below. Additional research may need to be conducted for a complete resolution of all remaining doubts in this particular episode.
Jim Owston, May 21, 2012
The original post follows . . .
Stanley Sudeikis, Sr. was not a bigamist. Well, that’s pretty direct statement, but who is Stanley Sudeikis and why should we even care? If you tuned into NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” this past Friday night, you were treated with a fascinating story of Jason Sudeikis’ paternal history.
His questions regarding his grandfather were answered. He found out that his grandparents were legally separated and that his grandfather had refused to work and died by fracturing his skull on the steps of a church at the corner of 50th and Honore in Chicago. It is supposed that he was intoxicated at the time. He also found out that his grandfather had never even seen his dad – not even once.
The show suggested that Stanley Sudeikis might have been a bigamist having abandoned his first family and having started another in 1918. Much of this theory was built upon Stanley being missing in the 1920 census for Chicago, but a Stanley Sedakis was listed with another family in Bridgeport. To the show’s credit, the premise of bigamy was presented but was never conclusively stated as the case; however, this hypothesis becomes part of the episode’s overall theme.
Next, Jason traced Stanley to a ship’s manifest from August 1900 that points to Stanley being a son of Joseph Sudeikis – a coal miner in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. Joseph Sudeikis tragically died in a mine explosion in November 1900. Thus, Jason’s family began a trend of children without fathers. Starting with the death of Joseph, it continued with the abandonment of Stanley, Sr.’s family in Chicago and Stanley, Jr.’s lack of responsibility towards his wife and children. Or did it?
Had the genealogists involved conducted a little extra research, their hypothesis that Stanley Sudeikis, Sr. was not responsible for his family and was possibly a bigamist would have been rejected. Although a great story, two genealogical errors occurred during the research for this episode.
Error One: If the name is the same, then it is the same person. This occurred with the assumption that Stanley in Chicago was one and the same as Stanley in Bridgeport.
You find this error occurring frequently among genealogies involving low frequency surnames. The rarer the surname – we might be more likely to apply the “name is the same – same person” conclusion. The temptation is greater to conclude that Stanley Sudeikis #1 and Stanley Sudeikis #2 were one the same than it would be to deduce that John Smith #1 is the same as John Smith #2. This is a fairly common genealogical error that has created misinformation in published genealogies and hundreds of family trees posted on Ancestry.com.
Recently while studying several SAR and DAR applications for my family, I found the military service of one man being ascribed to a different man of the same name (cousins) from the same geographic area. This occurred in six DAR applications; however, the lone SAR application had the service correct. In applications for another patriot, I found two DAR applications and two SAR applications that appended the service of one patriot to that of another with the same name. In the case of the DAR applications, the national organization caught the mistake.
Error Two: Using a minimal number of sources to prove a theory without triangulating the data with other available sources. In an era where records were infrequently kept and only one source is available, this can be an acceptable tactic to form a hypothesis; however, where other sources can prove or disprove a theory are not employed, it is sloppy research.
Both of these errors create a slippery slope in a family tree that will deviate from a true lineage. These errors are usually committed by neophytes. I cannot understand why the genealogists involved in this episode did not probe deeper. Maybe they did and the truth was not as a compelling story as that was presented on the show.
If this were the case, the producers decided to go with the story rather than the facts. Hmmm, it does sound a great deal like current Hollywood practices when dealing with historical events. Just last night I saw a TV show with a Civil War officer. His rank was that of a colonel, but he was wearing the frock coat of a general officer and the shoulder boards of a second lieutenant. I know, this sounds a bit anal retentive, but I can’t help it – a lack of accuracy bugs me.
Stanley in Chicago ≠ Stanley in Bridgeport
Midway through the episode, Jason Sudeikis meets with Chicago area genealogist Hilary Mac Austin at the Newberry Library. Together they discovered while searching the 1920 census that Stanley is absent from the household with his wife and Stanley, Jr.
They returned to the 1920 census to determine his whereabouts, and in the process, they found a Stanley Sedakis with another family living in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The discourse was as follows:
Sudeikis: “Well then, so he had two families?”
Austin: “It looks like he might have. I mean It’s not as though there are that many Stanley Sudeikises listed . . . and [pointing to his birth place] it’s Lithuania.”
Having ancestors that frequently relocated, I can appreciate families moving great distances. For example, my own great-grandfather lived in six states and one Canadian province during his 74 years. Even with that in my own background, the unprecedented jump from Chicago to Bridgeport was quite a stretch – not impossible, but that is where my doubts began to surface. Let’s look at the records and see where they deviate from each other.
According to the ship’s manifest and the 1910 census, Stanley, Sr. emigrated from Lithuania in 1900. Some records will have Russia – don’t let that throw you, as the current country name is used in the census and as borders change sometimes the designation in the census will change as well. For the greatest portion of Lithuania during the last several centuries, it was under Russian or Soviet control.
The show used information from his marriage record and the 1920 and 1930 Connecticut census records to construct a picture of the Bridgeport Stanley. So far so good; however, there are three things to remember when dealing with census records.
- The data is as only good as the person supplying the information. That individual may have been misinformed, mistaken, or simply guessing. The informant may have known the correct data at one time, but had forgotten the details.
- The census taker may have made mistakes while transcribing the information.
- The person in question may be lying.
Because of the above, census records may deviate on details from record to record. So the exact answer may be convoluted because of conflicting data. In my cursory search of this family line, I discovered that some details varied from census to census. The ages varied and the year of immigration also varied.
In addition, a person missing from the household, as with the Chicago Sudeikis family, does not mean that individual was gone on a permanent basis or that he had abandoned his family. It meant that subject was not living in the household on April 1. The missing individual could have been temporarily working in another town, been incarcerated, or had been a resident of an infirmary on April 1.
That individual may have been back in the home when the census was actually taken; however, the information is based on whether that individual was there on April 1. Stanley, Sr.’s absence is not conclusive that he was one and the same as the Bridgeport Stanley – which is where this identity crisis began.
While they used the 1930 census to build information regarding the Bridgeport Stanley, they failed to check the Chicago census for the same year. Upon examination, Stanley, Emma, and Stanley, Jr. are all present within the same household in 1930.
|Click image for the full census page.|
Looking at other data from Ancestry, a picture develops of Stanley, Sr. of Chicago that may explain why he was missing. While not conclusive of being the same person, a World War I draft registration card for a Stanley Sudikis from 1917 has his residence as being Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kenosha is 62 miles to the north of Chicago. The card lists this Stanley as having a wife and a child – the same family arrangement as the Chicago Stanley. His date of birth is listed as July 10, 1890.
In addition, a daughter was born to the Chicago Stanley in 1921. Michalina Sudeikis was born on 20 January 1921 to Stanley Sudeikis and Michalina Bielska. Stanley is aged 28 on the record placing his year of birth at 1893. It appears that this daughter did not survive childhood as she is missing from the 1930 census. If Stanley is the father (as stated on the document) and the birth happened at term, then conception would have occurred in late April 1920.
|Click document for a larger version.|
I’ve also found three additional men named Stanley Sudeikis – one born in Chicago in 1913 and who settled in Kalamazoo, Michigan; a 35 year old Stanislaw Sudeikis who immigrated to Chicago in 1907; and one who was born in 1907 and immigrated the same year – he was a resident of Chester, Delaware in 1930 – his mother’s name was Mary as well.
In the 20 August 1914 marriage records of Holy Cross Church in Chicago for Joseph and Michalinam Bielskis, it lists Stanley’s parents as Joseph and Mariamnae Gecaite. In addition, no divorce record was found for Stanley and Emma Sudeikis. Emma’s 1947 death record lists her husband as Stanley; however, this is not conclusive whether he was still living or still living with her.
In his trip to Bridgeport, Jason found the 28 August 1918 marriage record of Stanley and Amelia Trakaitis. Stanley’s parents were listed as Joseph and Mary Gash. Genealogist Dr. Bob Rafford suggested that Gash may be an anglicized name for Gecaite. Hmmm. I guess that is possible, but the other names on the document are not Anglicized – so why should this one name be different?
While the parental names are similar, I think the evidence of the Stanley in Chicago fathering a child in 1921 and being present in the 1930 census in Chicago is enough to suspend the idea that the Bridgeport and Chicago Stanleys were one and the same. Since both men have a 1930 census record, it is not very probable that the two men were the same individual. In other words, how can a person be in two places at the same time? While I have seen some individuals listed twice in the same census (my second great grandmother for one), this is an exception to the rule (and the ones I have encountered were in the same geographic region).
In addition, Stanley and Emma are missing from the extant Chicago city directories on Fold3; however, Stanley and Amelia/Millie (as she is recorded both ways) are found in the 1927 to 1931 Bridgeport directories on Ancestry.com. Amelia is listed as Stanley’s widow in the 1935 directory; however, the 1932-1934 directories were not available.
As I said at the outset, it is a stretch for an unskilled laborer working in Chicago to seek work in Connecticut. Chicago ranked as the second largest populated US metropolitan area in 1920; Bridgeport, in comparison, ranked 44th. While Bridgeport is a large city, employment opportunities in Chicago and the surrounding region would have been much better.
The Chicago Stanley had no known connection to Bridgeport. According to the census records, neither Stanley served in the military. If they had, Bridgeport’s Naval Base could be a connection to the city; however, this is not the case. It appears that Ameilia Trakaitis arrived in New York from Lithuania on 12 October 1913. Since Stanley, Sr. left Lithuania at approximately the age of eight, it does not appear that he would have had prior knowledge of Amelia.
In 1920, three rail lines offered service from New York to Chicago. The New York Central ran a northerly route to Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, and on to Chicago. The most southerly route was via the Pennsylvania Rail Road to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne, and then to Chicago. The Erie Rail Road had the most direct route. The Erie Limited line traveled to Binghampton, NY; Marion, Ohio; and then Chicago.
Considering that both Stanleys in the 1920s era were laborers and the great distance involved in pre-air travel, it would be difficult and cost prohibitive for a man to continue the ruse of having two separate families at a distance of 850 miles. Even though the Bridgeport Stanley was financially stable in 1930, it is still quite a stretch. Had the second family been in Kenosha, Wisconsin; Joliet, Illinois; or Gary, Indiana; then the probability would have been much greater that the two men were one and the same.
My ruling – the men were two different individuals and Stanley Sudeikis, Sr. of Chicago was not a bigamist. Just to be safe, perhaps, I should rephrase that to “the evidence does not indicate that Stanley Sudeikis was a bigamist.” I will say that all information was accessed via Ancestry.com and its Fold3 subsidiary; no researchers were harmed in the gathering of this data.
The complete episode can be found below.
I also take issue with the coal miner angle, which may or may not be correct. Information in the 1900 and 1910 census for Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania creates a bit of doubt in my mind. Their case was much stronger regarding this relationship, so I will refrain from discussing it, as further evidence (not currently residing on Ancestry.com) is necessary to conclusively decide one way or the other.
Addendum: added on 5/14/2012
One of the readers of this post felt the strength of the confirmation that the two Stanleys were one and the same is based on similar signatures. The signatures were addressed for a period of only 23 seconds, and it was a very minor portion of the show. The discourse was as follows:
Sudeikis: “The ‘T’ into ‘A’ to ‘N’ – very, very similar.”
Rafford: “I think there is enough similarity between these two signatures to think that these are one and the same men [sic].”
To my knowledge, Sudeikis and Rafford are not handwriting experts, and neither am I. This is why I didn’t deal with it in my original post. From a evidential aspect, it is the weakest link suggested in the show. I am providing both signatures below. There are enough differences between the two signatures to indicate that different men signed these documents.
Since signatures will vary over time, I decided to find a comparison with the signatures from the same person. Since I had already scanned a number of my father’s documents, I used him as the control signature with three iterations. The first came from 1936 and was from his car registration; the second, his selective service card from 1945; and the third was his lodge membership card from 1957.
Signed with a fountain pen, the earliest signature had more variations from the other two which utilized a ball point pen. It is pretty obvious these three signatures over a 21 year period were made by the same person. The continuation of the end of the “N” that crossed the “T” is a dead giveaway; however, the direction is backwards in the 1936 version. The two Stanley Sudeikis signatures only four years distant do not share as many similarities as the signatures of my father.
You be the judge.
Addendum: added on 5/22/2012Peter Bush, who has been commenting on this post, made reference to his wife discovering that Stanley Sudeikis, Sr. was living at the same address in the 1910 census as he did for his marriage in 1914. Peter also listed below (in the comment section) the addresses his wife found for Stanley, Sr.'s niece - Ann(a) Pukel(is).
I did the same for Stanley, Sr.'s family. From 1910 to 1930 the family lived within an area of 24 city blocks. Stanley, Jr. also died within this section of town. Using Google Maps, I constructed the following map of the area.
A. 1910-1914; 4515 South Wood Street.
B. 1915; 4608 South Wood Street.
C. 1920; 1733 W. 51st Street, Rear.
D. 1921; 4730 South Hermitage.
E. 1930; 1920 W. 47th Street, Apartment 3.
F. 1947; W. 50th Street & South Honore Street (where Stanley, Jr. died).
I checked twenty-one 1940 census enumeration districts surrounding this area, but was unable to find the Sudeikis family. It is possible that I missed their entry in this exercise. Once the 1940 index for Illinois is complete, we may be able to find this particular family.