A lesson from the records

It’s a birth record from more than a century ago.

A male child born 6 February 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland.

It records a singular moment of American history — sports history, to be exact.

And it offers a perfect example of what we might be able to find if we thoroughly examine even these early vital records.

The document records the birth of one George Herman Ruth. Those who, like The Legal Genealogist, are baseball fans know him better as “Babe.” A legendary player who was the first ever to hit 60 home runs in one season. And, yes, since I am a New York Yankees fan, I will note for the record that those 60 homes runs were for the Yankees.1

Babe Ruth

Now I could go on and on about Ruth’s baseball career for the Yankees — how his record for home runs in a season wasn’t broken until 1961 when another Yankee, Roger Maris, hit 61, how his overall record as a hitter has never been equalled2 and (pure snark here) how he hit more home runs during 10 of the 12 seasons after being sold to the Yankees by the Red Sox than the entire Red Sox team3 — but that really doesn’t have anything to do with that birth record.4

So… back to the birth record.

There’s a wonderful website called the Babe Ruth Genealogy Project, put together by Stephen A. Conner,5 and you can find tons of records about the Babe and his family there. In particular, there’s an image of his birth certificate from Baltimore City that you can study.6

From that certificate you can discover 12 separate pieces of information:

• This was the first child born to this mother.7 (She went on to have eight children in all, but only the Babe and one sister survived infancy.8)

• The child was male.9

• The child’s race was recorded as white.10

• The date of birth was 6 February 1895.11

• The place was 216 Emory Street.12

• The mother was Katie Ruth.13

• Her maiden name was recorded as Shamberg.14

• Her birthplace was recorded as Baltimore.15

• The father was “Geo. H. Ruth.”16

• He worked as a lightning rod worker.17

• His birthplace was recorded as Baltimore.18

Any competent genealogist would have noted all of these facts in a family history. But there’s one more thing on that certificate that could be critical and that so many of us don’t bother to note when we record births in our databases:

• The medical attendant for this birth was Mrs. Minnie Graf.19

Why is that so important?

Because this woman — undoubtedly a midwife — could be the clue to finding out more about this family, this neighborhood, or both.

Typically a midwife served the community where she lived. In a city like Baltimore, that could be either a geographic community — the streets nearby — or a religious or ethnic community (the local German families, or the local Jewish families, or the local African-American families) — or both.

Minnie Graf was a German-born widow with a whole host of married and single children and grandchildren living with her in Baltimore as of the 1900 census.20 She’d already been widowed by 1885, when she was listed in the City Directory as the widow of Valentine Graf,21 and first appeared as a midwife in 1890 living at 1029 West Saratoga.22 In 1895, when Babe Ruth was born, she was listed in the Baltimore City Directory as a midwife living at 206 North Schroeder.23

All of those facts could be important in putting the Ruth family into the context of its time and place. Just as one example, plotting the locations of the midwife and the Ruth residence may tell you, for example, whether she was from the local community or, perhaps, brought in because of her religion or language or national origin.

I’d want to know how many people in the same neighborhood shared the same religion or language or national origin as the midwife.

And I’d want to see if she delivered more of the Ruth children, and if she left midwife records that can be accessed somewhere, and…

There’s always something more to be learned from every record.

Thanks, Babe, for that lesson.

Oh, and for everything you did for my team.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Oh, that Babe,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 6 Feb 2019 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed (date)).

SOURCES

Image: “Babe Ruth,” 1921, National Photo Company collection, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

  1. See Bill Francis, “Ball hit for Ruth’s 60th homer part of baseball lore in Cooperstown,” National Baseball Hall of Fame (https://baseballhall.org/ : accessed 6 Feb 2019).
  2. See Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.com), “List of career achievements by Babe Ruth,” rev. 13 Dec 2018.
  3. Francis, “Ball hit for Ruth’s 60th homer part of baseball lore in Cooperstown.”
  4. Even though it’s a lot of fun for a Yankees fan…
  5. Stephen A. Conner, Babe Ruth Genealogy Project, Conner Genealogy (http://connergenealogy.com/ : accessed 6 Feb 2019).
  6. Ibid., Ruth birth certificate.
  7. Ibid., top line, unnumbered.
  8. Biography,” BabeRuth.com (http://www.baberuth.com/ : accessed 6 Feb 2019).
  9. Ruth birth certificate, line 1.
  10. Ibid., line 2.
  11. Ibid., line 3.
  12. Ibid., line 4.
  13. Ibid., line 5.
  14. Ibid., line 6.
  15. Ibid., line 7.
  16. Ibid., line 8.
  17. Ibid., line 9.
  18. Ibid., line 10.
  19. Ibid., bottom section, unnumbered line.
  20. 1900 U.S. census, Baltimore City, Maryland, 21st ward, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 276, pp. 273(A)-(B) (stamped), dwelling 118, family 139, Minnie Graf; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2019 2019); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 608.
  21. Sheriff & Taylor, Baltimore City Directory for 1885 (Harrisburg, Pa. : Patriot Publ. Co., printer, 1885), 524; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2019).
  22. R.L. Polk & Co., Baltimore City Directory for 1890 (Baltimore : Nicholls, Killian & Moffitt, printers, 1890), 486; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2019).
  23. R.L. Polk & Co., Baltimore City Directory for 1895 (Baltimore : Evening News Publ. Co., printer, 1895), 548; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2019).
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