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Don't Believe Everything

We love family lore. We want to believe the rich history of our ancestors, and stories of days gone by. Stories told by ancestors, passed on by our ancestors, passed on by us. We tend to believe what we were told. This is a story about how wrong ssumptions and stories can go in the opposite direction, sometimes far from truth or mix of truth and lore.

The photograph is of my great-grandparents, Esther Uline and Charles Rehm, presumably on their wedding day, 20 November 1907.[1]

Charles William Rehm was born 26 March 1884 in the small farming village of Wynantskill, New York. He died 3 June 1953.[2] According to his obituary:[3]

“Born at West Sand Lake, he was the son of the late William

and Louise [Louisa] Myers Rehm.”

Shortly thereafter Charles’ birth, his father left Louisa. Eleanor, Charles’ daughter, said he never discussed his father. Charles’ mother, Louisa, took that information to her grave. Eleanor and family thought that his middle name “William” represented the name of his father. Therefore, all believed that William Rehm was the father.

Of course, Charles’ death certificate confirmed that William Rehm was named as the father.

Indeed, there was a William Ream [Rehm] living in the same town in 1870, son of Aleck [Alexander] and Margaret:[4]

By 1900, William Ream, a widow, was living in the next town nearby Poestenkill with his two sons, Roscoe and Freddie:[5]

Roscoe who was born December 1888 and young Freddie January 1894. At some point before Roscoe’s birth, William married Mary Linga.[6] Mary died in 1898, thus not appearing on the 1900 census.

At first, it seems a timeline could work like this:

William Ream and Louisa marry 1880-1884.

They have a son, Charles William Rehm, born 26 March 1884.

William leaves Louisa and marries Mary Linga between 1884-1888.

William and Mary have Roscoe Rehm in 1888.

Freddie was born 1894.

Mary Rehm dies in 1898.

With a new family, William was never involved in Charles’ life, even though he lived nearby.

That is what the family believed. That is the family story that was passed on.

However, Charles Rehm’ marriage certificate reveals an entirely different picture. He stated on his marriage certificate that his father was John Rehm, not William.[7]

Surprise! Surprise!

Weigh the evidence: the family descendants, 2-3 generations removed from the time of the event and informants on Charles’ death records assumed that William was the father. The reality is, they really had no idea and no proof of the identity of Charles’ father. But the story was logical and so that is the story they told their descendants.

Now, there is the conflict of evidence: the marriage certificate. Charles, the son, identified his own father as John Rehm. The marriage document was created for an official reason. It would appear that the evidence weighs heavily in favor that John Rehm is Charles’ father.