To review (in summary): My great-grandfather Leo had an elder brother Hyman (sometimes Herman), one of whose children was born Kalman Wertheim on 29 Oct 1890:
Kalman changed his name to Coleman, and I have a continuous paper trail for him through his 1908 arrest for bicycle theft and his 1910 appearance in the household of his brother Leo in Fallsburg, NY. I call him Coleman I.
I have a paper trail for someone I call Coleman II. This paper trail stars off back in Brooklyn in the 1915 census, and is consistent through 1940. He registers for the WWI draft, gets married (to Eleanor Brauer), has two daughters (Dorothy and Carolyn), pops up in LA for the 1940 census (listing his employer as the same family in Brooklyn that appears throughout his paper trail), returns to Brooklyn to register for the WWII "Old Man's Draft." Then his trail goes cold, too. Coleman II's date of birth is given as 3 Nov, although the year varies between 1899 and 1893.
Finally, Coleman I's 1975 death is recorded in the Social Security Death Index, with the 29 Oct 1890 birth date.
The arguments in favor of them being the same person are:
* Their paper trails combine to form a complete set without duplication. I have not found a birth record for Coleman II, nor have I found him in any census before 1915, nor have I found a death record for him. Conversely, I have not found a WWI or WWII draft card for Coleman I, nor any census record for him after 1910.
* Both list their parents as Herman and Pearl.
The arguments against them being the same person are:
* Coleman II's marriage license lists his mother's maiden name as "Pearl Asher", not "Pearl Horn."
* The names given on Herman's death certificate for his (Herman's) parents are completely wrong. I had ascribed this information to Coleman II, but now I'm rethinking that.
Yesterday, I reviewed the relevant documents, and noticed a few new things.
First and foremost, four signatures:
His WWI registration card, 1917:
His marriage license, 1917:
His WWII registration card, 1942:
His father's death certificate, 1942:
The first three are clearly the same hand: left-leaning, with the foreshortened "l" in "Coleman", etc. The fourth is clearly different: right-leaning, heavier, etc. And now that I've done more research on Herman, I am certain that (even though the information about Herman's parents' names is completely wrong) this is death certificate of my great-grand-uncle. Here is his grave, at Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Queens, next to Pearl and others of their children and grandchildren:
Since I'm now certain that this death certificate is for the "correct" Herman Wertheim, the informant must be Coleman I. And the graphology would imply that Coleman I and Coleman II are different people.
Except that I'm not convinced that this is Coleman I's actual signature. The rest of the text block at that part of the form contains details of the funeral that I would expect the undertaker to have filled out, and they're in the same hand as the "signature." I'm wondering if that was really his signature.
Moving on, I then tried looking in Google books, and found a lawsuit in which a real estate broker was claiming his fee for a transaction to which "Colman" Wertheim had been a party.
William George Wertheim, the other Wertheim involved in this suit, was in fact Coleman's nephew -- the son of the brother with whom Coleman stayed in the 1910 census in Fallsburg. So now we have a touchpoint for Coleman I in 1946-1948.
Unfortunately, the images of the checks that were entered in evidence are not included in the transcript. They are included by stipulation only. Which means I don't have a handwriting sample, alas.
But I do have this tantalizing tidbit:
Coleman I was married to a woman named Charlotte Kent! And from the way I read this, they were not yet married at the time of the check in 1946, but they were married by the time of the trial in 1948.
Digging back, I find a possible birth record in the Steve Morse / IGG data for "Kent, Charlotte Glad" dated 13 Aug 1889. It's a supplemental certificate, and the FHL does not have it microfilmed.
And looking in the Social Security Death Index, I find "WERTHEIM, CHARLOTTE was born 17 April 1889, received Social Security number 109-18-1268 (indicating New York) and, Death Master File says, died May 1974."
So that's a possible, medium-certainty match. No luck finding a marriage record in the online resources, which is not a surprise if it was in the late 1940s.
But now I have TWO major conflicts between Coleman I and Coleman II. There was the handwriting, which I could handwave if I needed to, but what about the two wives?
Well, I went back to the Steve Morse / IGG website, looking at the death index, and I found this:
Wertheim, Eleanore; age 44 y; died 20 Feb 1941 in Kings
With an age of 44, she would have been born in 1896 (Odds are 5-to-1 that her birthday is after 20 Feb), which is a match for Eleanor Brauer.
So now the marriage to Charlotte Kent make it seem more likely that Coleman I and Coleman II were the same person. A 50-year-old widower remarrying 6 years after the passing of his wife is a much more compelling story than a 50-year-old bachelor deciding to settle down.
But I still don't have any real evidence to tie them together, so they'll remain separate in my database for now.