Monday, June 20, 2016

We Didn’t Even Know He Had a Middle Name! --- Birth Certificate: Walter Johnnie Niehaus, 28 July 1918–28 Feb 1919

     It never fails.  Each time I find another family history record, there’s some morsel that adds color to the story.  Those discoveries provide confirmation of a specific event or a link between people or maybe a hint to a new location to look.   For instance, lately I’ve been uncovering a plethora of information due to the posting by of new Indiana birth, marriage and death certificate databases.  It’s going to take a while before I can squeeze all those juicy ingredients out.  But, here’s an example of one that came to the surface immediately. 
       A sad chapter in our family history took place during the 1918 flu pandemic.  My paternal grandmother, Louise (Albers) Niehaus, and her seven-month-old child, Walter,  were struck down.  I’ve written about Louise before (Here’s the story.).   The short duration of Walter’s life doesn’t leave us much to know about him. So when these birth certificate records were published for the years 1907 through 1940, he was one of the first family members that came to my mind.  I was anxious to gather anything I could learn about him. 
     Quickly I completed the search fields on ancestry with the information I had collected from the W.P.A. index: Walter Niehaus and his birth date of 28 July 1918.  Yay!  The record topping the results page looked very promising.  Glaring straight at me were Walter and his parents, John Niehaus and Louise Albers.  But there was another part of that listing that wasn’t familiar.  This person had a middle name, Johnie.  Is there another Walter Niehaus Niehaus, Walter, Birth Certificate, 1918born that day in Indianapolis?  Some kind of mistake?  None of our family’s researchers had ever recorded a middle name for Walter.    
     All it took was one more click to answer the questions.  Sure enough, when I opened the actual document I was able to confirm the match.  The information on this birth certificate agrees perfectly with the information I have about this uncle and his family.  Walter Johnie Niehaus’s father, John Niehaus, lived in Perry Township, Indianapolis, Indiana.  John was 29 years old and a “cloth cutter” (Actually, a garment cutter at C. B. Cones Clothing Manufacturer).  Walter’s mother was Louise Albers, 25 years old, a housewife in Perry Township, Indianapolis, Indiana. 
     But now I also know that Walter carried his father’s name as his middle name.  That might be significant, or at least somewhat expected, since none of the other five sons were named for him.  I learned that he was born at 8:00 a.m. and that the physician attending the birth was Frank P. Reid.  Since the line for the address of his place of birth was not completed I can’t know positively where that was. Not yet anyway.  Most likely, since it was 1918, Walter was born at John and Louise’s home at 1123 South Keystone Avenue.
     This youngster lived only seven months, succumbing to the deadly flu on 28 February 1919. 30 to 50 million people worldwide were infected in the pandemic of 1918-1919.   The secretary of the Indiana Board of Health issued an order prohibiting gatherings of more than five people when the virus began to spread.  Approximately 675,000 Americans died.  At the time, there were no effective drugs or vaccines to treat this killer flu strain or prevent its spread.  Walter was born  at a perilous time.
     I wish I could have known Uncle Walter.  But thanks to this genealogy find, I can be a tiny bit more acquainted with him.  It makes me think…Could there be other clues here on his birth certificate?  Where else can these tidbits of information take me?  Maybe I could find out where he was born. Could it have been in a hospital?  Are there medical records of any kind? I’ll be keeping this information in mind as more records come onto my research radar.  The quest never ends!
     If you have comments or more background on Walter Johnnie Niehaus or the records I’ve been discussing here, please leave me a message below.  I’m happy to hear from anyone with an interest in these family ties.
     Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties,

Document: Walter Niehaus Birth Certificate at Scribd 
Related Reading:
Louise Charlotte Albers Niehaus
John Niehaus: A Cutter For C. B. Cones
Indianapolis In the Influenza Encyclopedia
The Great Pandemic
1918 Influenza Pandemic Virus

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