#52 Ancestors: Frank F. Speck – My Brick Wall

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge. The prompt for this week is “Brick Wall.”

My great-grandfather Frank Speck died 79 years ago yesterday – 7 April 1940 – in Monessen, Pennsylvania. I know much about his life in Monessen, yet almost nothing about him before he appeared around 1915.

Frank and Elizabeth in 1915.

Frank was born around 1886-1888 in Germany, although there is some speculation about his place of birth. His death certificate and funeral card both report his birth date as 21 May 1887. Frank married my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Linnemann, in January of 1915. Their marriage license application records that he was a hotel clerk living in Monessen, and he was born in Germany. His parents were deceased but named them as Peter and Agnes (no maiden name). Frank and Elizabeth’s daughter Agnes was born just over nine months after they married. I am fairly certain that Frank was working as a hotel bartender in nearby Manor (Westmoreland County) in 1910.

Frank F Speck

I have yet to locate a passenger record for Frank’s arrival into the US. Three census records for Frank have three different immigration dates (1894, 1904, and unknown). I also wonder if he could have Americanized or changed his name after he arrived in the United States. He used the name Frank Friedrich Speck, but could it have been Friedrich and he went by Frank? Or was his last name Specht or Speckmeyer or something else? I have yet to locate a record that gives the name of a town, or county, or region of Germany. Plus, the borders of Germany had changed so much – could he be from Poland? The 1910 census recorded Frank as “Aust. Polish.”

My father remembers a time when he was young and his grandmother Elisabeth (Frank’s widow) had some papers out. He remembers seeing what would have been Frank’s birth certificate and said something to the effect of “He was born in Poland?” His grandmother put the papers away and never really answered him. I’ve gone through my parents’ pictures and records from my Dad’s family and haven’t been able to locate that birth certificate. My Dad said that his father tossed a bunch of old papers many years ago – ugh!

The Speck Family circa 1927.
The Speck Family circa 1927.

I am hoping that using DNA data and matches could help me narrow down some possibilities for Frank’s family. Unfortunately, my father is the only living descendant of Frank (his son never had any children), so it may take a while or be difficult to weed out other ancestors. Frank’s obituary said that he was survived by a sister in Germany (unnamed). I really need to learn chromosome mapping and DNA Painter (I’ll report on that when I do!).

Another place that I need to research further are Pennsylvania court records. I have found some newspaper articles about Frank and his company, which was involved in some lawsuits, plus a bankruptcy case. I wonder if any of those records may hold a clue or a more specific place of birth for Frank. Also, I need to take another look for local church records in Monessen.

Frank’s origin is still a mystery … a brick wall that I plan to take down a little bit at a time. I’ll keep you posted of my progress.

Which ancestor has you stumped??

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