Wednesday, July 8, 2020

52 Ancestors - MULTIPLE: Written in Stone

Adam Kohne family
Adam Kohne family
Back row: Joseph, Sarah, William
Front: Charles, Floyd, Adam and Caroline, Hattie, Birdie
(judging by the assumed ages of Hattie and Birdie,
the picture was taken likely 1901 before the last child was born)
I recently hosted a bridal tea for my nephew’s fiancĂ©. Among the many conversations at the party was the subject of BABIES. It was NOT a baby shower, but babies were on everyone’s mind, partly due to my OTHER nephew’s wife who has recently announced they are expecting. The lively chatter revealed that the bride’s mother is a twin. One of the bridesmaids is a twin. While not news to me, others were surprised to learn my husband is a twin.

The big question of the day was, “Is it true twins skip a generation?” Oh, if only that were true, my grandchildren would be twins. But alas NO. We didn’t have twins. My girls did not have twins. My husband’s twin sister did not have twins, nor did her children. If twins skip a generation, the rule was broken in our immediate family.

I recall my mother-in-law saying that twins and even triplets run in the family. THE family. Did she mean the Mathias family or her side of the family, the Kohnes? I went looking, starting with the Kohnes. Sure enough, in no time I found a set of triplets.

Leonard, Billie, and Jack were born 19 Feb 1923 to Floyd Kohne and wife Mary Emswiler.  Floyd was an older brother to Hattie Kohne, my mother-in-law’s mother, thus making Floyd my mother-in-law’s uncle and the triplets her cousins.

These little boys never made it into a census. However, they have a marker and memorial on Find a Grave. The stone appears to memorialize a set of twins and older brother, yet death certificates show otherwise. 

Kohne Triplets tombstone memorial
Kohne Triplets
Woodmere Memorial Park, Huntington, WV

Leonard died the day he was born, 19 Feb 1923. The other two died weeks later in March. The cause of death was simply recorded as “premature.” 
Leonard Kohne 19 Feb 1923- 19 Feb 1923
Jack Kohne 19 Feb 1923- 21 Mar 1923
Billie Kohne 19 Feb 1923 - 21 Mar 1923
I was all set to conclude that the stone and inscription must have been provided many years later by a big-hearted and well-meaning descendant of the family who did not have access to accurate records until I had the bright idea that a birth of triplets surely would have been newsworthy. I was right.

from Harrisonburg Daily News Record 5 Jan 1923
Lo and behold, now even the accuracy of the death certificates is in question. If the boys were born on February 19, how did a news article about their birth appear in January? The article which was posted on Friday the 5th of January claims the triplets were born “last Wednesday.” Wednesday that week was January 3. Could “LAST Wednesday” refer to 27 December 1922? If so, then the tombstone would be correct since Leonard died the day he was born, ostensibly in 1922, and Jack and Billy lived longer, dying probably March 21, 1923 as recorded on the death certificates.

This seems like a logical explanation. What does not make sense, though, is how Floyd did not remember the date of birth for the triplets. And what was the delay in recording Leonard’s death?

Even when something is "written in stone," it isn’t necessarily “written in stone.”

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Fascinating. Makes you wonder about the dates. How sad they didn't make it; this day and age they probably would have after months in the hospital. I knew a family when we lived in Oregon that had triplets the "natural way" i.e. no help with conception. All healthy, all girls. Had a brother a few years later. One of the girls when pregnant had twins. So who knows if multiple births skip generations or not???


  2. Excellent story! My Grandfather has 5 possible birth years and we may never know the truth in this. You at least have the newspaper article to make an educated guess with. When I was pregnant with my oldest son my mother had me scared to death about "twins" skipping a generation. My Dad had older twin sisters, and she was convinced I would have twins. It wasn't like today where everyone gets an ultrasound of the baby! I had to wait till the birth to be relieved!

  3. Great story, Wendy, and I love the photo of the family.

  4. It was smart thinking about the fact that triplets would be big news.These kinds of stories just make me question everything I find and that probably is a good thing because so many things are recorded incorrectly and deserve further research. My sister-in-law told me she had the wrong birth date put on her mother's headstone. She said there was so much going on and she was emotional and she just wasn't thinking at the time.

  5. This kind of underscores the value of questioning everything. My sister-in-law told me that she had the wrong date put on her mother's headstone. She said she was emotional and there was a lot going on she she just gave the wrong date. That made me wonder how often that happens. Ugh!

    1. Michelle, talk about mistakes made in emotional times! My friend's family has a family plot. She buried her dad in the wrong spot. That caused quite a to-do. She ended up paying to dig him up and reburying him just to make everyone happy. But I think she has the dates right.

  6. I worked for 3 very busy OB/GYNs in the 1970's. One of them had been in practice for about 6-8 years before I arrived on the scene. This was long before ultrasounds and the modern technology we enjoy today but he said the first time he delivered triplets, it was free! In my 7 years of working with him he still hadn't made good on his offer. I wonder if he ever did.