Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pursuing J. W. Hoffman :: Where's THE Book?

About six weeks ago, I had made the decision to do no more new research until I had reviewed all of the documents and information I had obtained in Salt Lake City. But then an email arrived from my distant cousin Bob Hoffman regarding the Hoffman Reunions of nearly a hundred years ago. And, well, that "no new research" resolution fell by the wayside rather quickly!

I am now officially obsessed with Hoffmans. I have gotten virtually nothing done since last Friday except for hunting for information on the descendants of John and Catherine (Coy) Hoffman, my 4th great-grandparents. It's amazing what a few clues can do to boost knowledge of a family line! And those two reunion articles were chock full of clues and even outright "good" information!

It's been fun a fun week, frustrating at times too, but mostly fun. One of the things that really piqued my interest in those reunion articles was the mention of a book on the Hoffman family that was in the works. I wanted to know if a book had actually been published, by whom and when. And, if it wasn't published, what happened to the research files?

On Wednesday of last week I went to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne and (among other things) re-checked the shelves for Hoffman family history books. There were 15 or so volumes but they dealt with Hoffman families in the Carolinas and in New York but there was nothing on my Hoffman family from Ohio or Pennsylvania.

So then I thought that if I could locate a living descendant...

The 1913 Reunion Article stated "J. R. Hoffman and others interested and entertained the audience. Some of these talks were for the benefit of the family historian who is preparing a book of some 800 pages and dates the family tree to Germany in the 17th century, when Adam Hoffman and his brothers Michael and Robert sailed for America, locating in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania."

Then, in the 1914 article it told us who that historian was: "The late Mrs. A. J. Callahan, the family historian, had collected a fund of reliable history, biography and geneology [sic] which has since passed into the hands of her half-brother and successor, J. W. Hoffman of 5408 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio, who will be pleased to communicate with any member of the family."

In a search of The Mahoning Dispatch at Chronicling America, I found this paragraph in the Washingtonville column published on October 16, 1908: "Mrs. A. J. Callahan of Salem was the guest Wednesday of her sister, Mrs. John Fitzsimmons, when here collecting the geneaology [sic] and scraps of history relating to the Hoffman family; this will be her portion of a book soon to be published. The family name is widely scattered over this country, from the Hoffman house and banking firms in New York, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and the far western states."

The obituary of Mary Callahan was published on December 13, 1912 in The Mahoning Dispatch gave us the name of her children and confirmed the names of her siblings: "Mrs. A. J. Callahan died of internal tumor at her home in Salem early Tuesday morning, aged 65 years. Her maiden name was Mary Hoffman, the eldest daughter of John and Catharine (Koons) Hoffman, both deceased and late of Washingtonville, Ohio. She is survived by her husband and son Lawrence Callahan and a daughter, Mrs. Charles King, all of Salem. Also a sister, Mrs. J. C. Fitzsimmons of Washingtonville and three half brothers as follows: Oscar Hoffman and William Hoffman of Cleveland, and Joseph Hoffman of Indianapolis, Ind. Another half brother, L. E. Hoffman, lost his life a few weeks ago when his automobile slid off a narrow mountain road in Virginia. Funeral services for Mrs. Callahan were conducted from her late home at No. 38 Maple street in Salem at 1:30 this (Thursday) afternoon."

I still haven't found a "J. R. Hoffman" among the descendants but after this past week of research, I know that Mary Hoffman was Mrs. A. J. Callahan "the family historian" and her sister, Nancy, was Mrs. John C. Fitzsimmons. They were the daughters of John Hoffman, Jr. and his first wife Catherine Koons. Their half-brother, J. W. Hoffman, is John William Hoffman (who went by J. W., John, and apparently also William), was the son of their father by his second wife Tabitha Crane.

As stated in the 1913 Reunion article, John Hoffman, Jr. (son of John and Catherine Coy Hoffman) was married three times and was the father of eight children. By his first wife, Nancy Koons (whose middle name may have been Catharine), he had two children: Mary (1847-1912), wife of A. J. Callahan (aka Abner, Absolam, and Abraham) and Nancy (1849-1930), wife of John C. Fitzsimmons.

John Jr. had four children by his second wife, Tabitha Crane Zimmerman: Oscar Charles (1853-1927), John William (1858-????), Lewis Edwin (1859-1912), and Joseph F. Hoffman (1869-aft1920). By his third wife, Elizabeth Hess, he had two children: Mattie (1874-1938), wife of Grant Greasel, and Curtis Charles Hoffman (1877-1959).

Now, the one child of John Jr. that I was most interested in was John William Hoffman, primarily because he "inherited" the family history from his half-sister Mary Callahan. And wouldn't you know it, he turned out to be a "problem" child. I was able to find the other seven children through marriage records. I found them in nearly every census, and I have record of their deaths. For all except Lewis Edwin and John William, I know who their children were, and most of their grandchildren and even several of their great-grandchildren. Lucky for me they almost all remained in Ohio where marriage and death records are available online for the time period in question.

But what about my "person of interest" John William Hoffman?

In 1860 and 1870 he was living with his parents in Mahoning County. His mother Tabitha died on November 20, 1871 when John W. was 13 years old. Within a year or two his father remarried. In 1880, John W., age 22, was living on St. Clair Street in Cleveland with two of his brothers, Louis, age 21, and Oscar, 27. John and Oscar were brakemen on the railroad, while Louis was a jewelery salesman. Oddly enough, the youngest of the three, Louis, was listed as head of household. His brothers were listed as boarders.

I have not yet found a good candidate for John William in Ohio in the 1900 or 1910 census records. In 1920 John W. Hoffman was a lodger living at 5607 Euclid Street in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County. The page he was listed on (20A) is a "Supplemental" page and did not include the head of the household. There were eight other persons at that address. John W. was listed as age 62, divorced, and worked as a tool maker in a factory. I'm not positive that this is the "right" John W. but he fits as being the right age and he is in Cleveland. I haven't found a good candidate for him in the 1930 census yet either.

If that is the "right" John W. Hoffman, then he was married some time after 1880 and divorced prior to 1920. What was the name of his wife? Did he have children? Where the heck was he in 1900, 1910 and 1930?

On FamilySearch, in the "Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953" I did find a record for a likely candidate. This John W. Hoffman was born January 11, 1858 in Washingtonville, Ohio. He died on May 4, 1931 in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio and was buried in Washingtonville. His street address was 1634 E. 70th in Cleveland. His occupation was machinist. John W. was widowed and his wife's name was Alice. However, his father was listed as John W. Hoffman and his mother's name appears to be Sarah Corg. Both were born in Washingtonville. The informant was Mrs. F.W. Curtis of Cuyahoga Falls, which is 30+ miles south of Cleveland and north of Akron in Summit County, Ohio. (Cropped portion of the death record of John W. Hoffman is on the right.)

This John W. Hoffman was of the right age, born in Washingtonville, died in Cleveland. His occupation of machinist "sort of fits" with John W. in the 1920 census who was a tool maker. But in 1920 John W. was divorced while this fellow is widowed. Then there is the matter of his mother's name, which should be Tabitha Crane. Who was Sarah Corg? And, who was Mrs. F. W. Curtis?

A search of the 1930 census in ancestry for anyone with a last name of Curtis in Cuyahoga Falls, Summit County, Ohio produced an entry for Fredrick W Curtis, age 51, with wife Ada, age 48, both born in Ohio. They were married about 1915 (when he was 36 and she was 33). Enumerated in the household was Fredrick's mother-in-law, Alice Hoffman. She was 66 years old, widowed, and born in Ohio.

Going back to 1920, I found the Curtis family residing in Cuyahoga Falls: Fredrick W. Curtiss was 40 years old, his wife Ada was 37 and living with them was his mother-in-law, Alice Hoffman. She was 56 years old, widowed, born in Ohio.

In the "Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records and Indexes, 1810-1973" on there is a record for Ada L. Hoffman, 33, and Frederick W. Curtiss, 36, who were married on August 31, 1915. That record gives her parents as Alice Snow and John W. Hoffman. No record has been found for their marriage in the databases at or FamilySearch.

Alice and Ada Hoffman were not found in the 1910 census but I did find them in 1900. They resided on Whitney Street in Ward 18 in Cleveland. Alice was born in Sept 1863. Her marriage status was "Dd" which I presume to mean divorced. She was the mother of two children with only one living. She worked as a Janitor. He daughter, Ada was born in July 1882, was single and worked as a Bicycle Clerk. (It should be noted that in 1900 Lewis Hoffman, brother of John William Hoffman, was living in Cleveland and "Bicycle Mfg" was his occupation. Also, in Lewis' obituary of November 22, 1912 it stated that "With his brother, J. W., he was the founder of the Hoffman bicycle business.")

This appears to be the former wife of John W. Hoffman who died in 1931, and his daughter Ada Curtis. The fact that Alice and John W. sometimes state that they are divorced and later widowed is a little confusing but really not all that unusual. I do believe, in spite of his mother's name being given as "Sarah Corg" that this is my "person of interest" and the son of John Hoffman Jr.

But it looks like I've reached a dead end (pun intended) regarding descendants of John William Hoffman. Ada Hoffman married Frederick Curtis when she was 33 years old. They do not appear to have had any children. Ada L Curtis was found in the index of Ohio Deaths on She died on January 18, 1964 in a long-term care facility in Clark County, Ohio. Her place of residence was Akron, Summit County, Ohio.

And now I'm back to my original questions: Was the Hoffman family history ever published? If it wasn't published, what happened to the research files?

I will, of course, continue to pursue further research on the children of John Hoffman, Jr. (particularly obituaries) hoping to find a living descendant with information regarding the family history research done by Mary (Hoffman) Callahan. Future posts will highlight what has been found on them to date. If anyone reading this is related or has further information on any of these people, please contact me at

And if you've made it this far, I congratulate you, and I thank you for reading...

Update June 25, 2012: See the post One "loose end" wrapped up! for the death notice of John W. Hoffman. Yes, he really is the son of John Hoffman, Jr!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Pursuing J. W. Hoffman :: Where's THE Book?," Kinexxions, posted June 24, 2012 ( : accessed [access date])


Carol said...

Whew, sounds like my episodes with Websters and this week, Remleys.

So many MIAs.

Can we say, FRUSTRATED??

I am!

Travis LeMaster said...

Wow! You've done a good job tracking down the possibilities. Hopefully the manuscript still exists maybe with a local library or society?

Barbara Poole said...

Becky, I agree with Travis, the book/manuscript is probably in a library or society. My gg grandfather Poole did a 200+ page genealogy (typed, legal size) and it's at the NEHGS library (imagine my surprise). Maybe if you contact a few libraries in that area. Good luck.