Thursday, July 14, 2016

What was John Sterling's middle name?

John Thorn, MLB's Official Historian, shared his fine blog space with SABR member Richard Malatzky today.  Richard was looking into identifying the player identified only as "Sterling" who played for the Philadelphia Athletics in a game against the Syracuse Stars on October 12, 1890.

Philadelphia Inquirer - October 13, 1890

Baseball-Reference has him listed only as Sterling.

Richard suggests that this Sterling was John A. Sterling, citing the 1870 and 1880 US Census.

"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 22 May 2014), Pennsylvania > Philadelphia > Philadelphia, ward 02 > image 252 of 1554; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 24 December 2015), Pennsylvania > Philadelphia > Philadelphia > ED 78 > image 3 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

So, there's John, aged 5 and then 14.  What's so bad about dropping a year when you're a baseball player?

In the 1870 Census we see that John has a middle initial, A.

In the 1880 Census we see that John has a middle name, Albert.

Now that we know who his folks are, Jesse and Henrietta Sterling, let's try to find any mention of his birth.  FamilySearch shows that there was a John Pierce Sterling.  This is just an index.  I was not able to access the image.

"Pennsylvania Births and Christenings, 1709-1950," database, FamilySearch ( : 9 December 2014), Jessee D. E. Sterling in entry for John Pierce Sterling, 06 Sep 1865; Birth, citing Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; FHL microfilm 1,289,310.

The 1890 Census is not generally available for the majority of Americans, due to a fire that destroyed many of the records.  For a more complete explanation of that disaster see the National Archives' Prologue magazine from the Spring of 1996.

Richard states that John Sterling married a Maggie and they had children.

I found John and Maggie in the 1900 Census.

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 August 2014), New Jersey > Camden > ED 97 Gloucester city Ward 2 > image 57 of 82; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

No middle name or initial.  But we can see that John and Maggie had been married for 13 years.  That would put their wedding date at about 1887.

The 1905 New Jersey State Census transcription doesn't list a middle initial.

"New Jersey State Census, 1905," database, FamilySearch ( : 8 November 2014), John Sterling, , Camden, New Jersey, United States; citing p. 13, line 95, Department of State, Trenton; FHL microfilm 1,688,593.

The more records the better.  When doing genealogical research it is sometimes difficult to see what the records contain.  The following is the death certificate for John and Maggie's young daughter, Frances C. E. Sterling.

"Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 May 2014), 004010409 > image 880 of 1102; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

She died when only 13 months old.  It must have been heart breaking for newlyweds to have to bury their child.

But we see the middle initial of A again.

John isn't in the 1910 Census as he passed away on November 10, 1908.

Philadelphia Inquirer - November 12, 1908

We have the A again.

Here's the obituary that Peter Morris found in The Billboard magazine.

The Billboard - November 28, 1908
from Google Books

The next week John's mother, Henrietta, passes away.

Philadelphia Inquirer - November 17, 1908
Four years before that his father, Jesse, passes away.

Philadelphia Inquirer - November 2, 1904

All three of them are buried at Union Cemetery.  Only Jesse has a FindAGrave memorial.

John's wife, Maggie, now going by Margaret, can be found in various state and federal census records going up to 1940.  I have no record of her death or burial.

So, where does that middle name of Pierce come from?  I don't know.  The bulk of the records show A and the 1880 Census shows Albert.  I think that either of those is fine.

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