My grandfather Walter Anthony Dreffs had an older brother named Vincent. At least, sometimes he was referred to as Vincent. His name changed more often than my mind did while shopping for my wedding dress. It’s like a never-ending treasure hunt for his family throughout the years. He keeps my research interesting.
This is the timeline of research for Vincent’s life, and my discovery of his many alternate names.
Vincent Joseph Dreffs was born January 15, 1892 in Gaylord, Otsego County, Michigan. His birth name is clearly listed in the Otsego County birth records in Michigan. His parents, like that of my grandfather Walter, were Joseph Dreffs (1866-1941) and Anna Kozminska (1867-1926).
The 1900 US Census lists him as Nicck Dreffs and his entry is indexed as “Wecck Dreffe.” Unfortunately for us researchers, I think this is just a really bad case of horrible handwriting on the part of the census taker. His job was really difficult. I know for certain I would never be able to write that much if my life depended on it. It took me a few years of research to discover that Nicck and Vincent were the same boy. For a long time, I had listed them both as children in the family.
The 1910 US Census index lists Vincent as “Vetsak Drafts.” I think this is another case of bad handwriting, or perhaps reflective of the family’s strong Polish accent. He is living with his parents Joseph and Annie along with his siblings Mary, Frank, Walter (my grandfather), Paul (slaughtered as “Rowel”), Andrew and Kasimer (whose nickname was Carl). This census was enumerated in Gaylord, Otsego County, Michigan on May 8-9, 1910.
The story gets really interesting when you realize that Vincent and his father Joseph are actually listed in two different 1910 US Censuses. There is the first one I already mentioned where he was living with his family. Two weeks prior, he and his father Joseph are listed in the 1910 US Census as boarders in Saginaw, Saginaw County, Michigan with the family of Felix Kausfllo. Vincent is listed on this census as “Vicenty Dress” with an alternate name of “Drefs.” This census was enumerated on April 19, 1910.
This makes perfect sense to me because the two of them were known to be moving around to find employment. The Saginaw census shows Joseph as being out of work for 20 weeks during the past year. I know the family was living in Gaylord for Joseph’s naturalization on September 19, 1906. I also know that Joseph and Anna had moved to Saginaw by 1915 because they are listed in Polk’s Saginaw City Directory. Vincent remained a resident of Gaylord for the rest of his life.
Then, the hunt gets really fun. Vincent is listed on his marriage record to Rose Tomaski as Walter Joseph Dreffs, married on April 18, 1911. This one really threw me for a loop, considering his brother’s (my grandfather’s) name is Walter. The birth date matches for Vincent, and one of the witnesses was his brother Martin, so I’m confident this record really is for Vincent. it is possible that the transcriber wrote the name wrong. I have not requested the original record for this marriage.
The next time we see a record for Vincent and Rose Dreffs is for their daughter Isabelle “Lizzie” Dreffs . She was born on June 9, 1914 and passed away on June 19, 1914 after just ten short days of life. I found this record by accident while searching on FamilySearch.org. They have so many new records that have been scanned and indexed; it is truly amazing what you can find when you’re not looking for it.
The World War I Draft Card for Vincent Dreffs is surprisingly correct. The birth date matches and the draft location of Gaylord is expected. The card shows he had a wife and two children, which makes sense. The draft card was submitted on June 5, 1917.
We get a little more relief in the 1920 US Census where Vincent Dreffs is listed and indexed correctly. He can be found living with his wife Rose and their children Stanley, Bennie and Agnes (Aggie).
The 1930 US Census throws us another wrench with the listing of William J. Dreffs along with his wife Rose and his children Stanley J, Bennie, Aggie, John, Edward and a boarder named Leo Pinkoski, age 60. The number of years of marriage match for Vincent and Rose. The children’s names match. The ages years match. William is listed as age 37, first married at age 18. His wife Rose is 39, first married at age 20. Nineteen years prior to this census was 1911, the correct year for the wedding of Walter Joseph Dreffs and Rose Tomaski. I’m fairly confident this is our Vincent.
I’ve tried hard, but have not been able to locate an obituary or death record for our friend Vincent Dreffs. In fact, I basically lost track of him after 1930 until I found his grave on Find A Grave. The submitter transferred management of the grave to me as I am the closest relative that has come knocking. I would love to fill out the rest of the details. Vincent is buried at Saint Mary Cemetery in Gaylord next to his wife, Rose. I think my next step is to call the cemetery office and see if they have any further information.
Good luck in all of your research! If you have any tips for me, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
You may also wish to check out my Ancestry Family Tree for Vincent Joseph Dreffs.