Friday, December 12, 2014

A Page from the Book of Death

While perusing the death records on my most recent trip to the New Jersey State Archives, a found an entry for a murder-suicide.

In 1878, New Jersey started issuing individual death certificates.  Before then, deaths reported to the State were logged in ledger books.  No individual records were created.  Jersey City's deaths are separate from the rest of Hudson County.  Browsing the pages of death gives you a glimpse of the times.  This page from 1872-1873 records the death of eighteen children and six adults, mostly from infectious diseases that we rarely see today.  One set of siblings was wiped out from diptheria; another from scarlet fever.

What caught my eye was the entry for Mary Gehring, age 55, and Michael Gehring, age 45.  Both were born in Germany.  Their deaths were in September of 1872- no specific day.

I followed their lines to the cause of death.  Mary was murdered; Michael committed suicide.  This is not seen often.

The incident made the first page of the Jersey Journal for September 27, 1872.  According to the article, Mary and Michael Gehring immigrated about twenty years earlier.  They had a violent marriage with periods of not residing together.  On the night of September 26, 1872, Michael returned to the home after an absence.  Initially Michael and Mary were getting along, but soon began arguing.  In front of their 13 year old son, Michael fatally stabbed Mary at least three times and then slit his own throat.

Four children survived couple.  An 18 year old son, Frank, is mentioned; as was Christopher Diericks, a son-in-law.

If anyone has anything further on this family, please let us know.  Any descendants out there?


  1. Those are my 2nd great grandparents!

  2. That was quick! Chuck, did you know of this story? Is there anything you care to share with us?

  3. I have been working on my family tree for over 25 years and I never heard the story until a couple months ago. I got in touch with another descendant on and he told me about it.

    Michael & Mary were born and married in Baden, Germany. They immigrated to America about 1851 and Michael became a naturalized citizen in 1860. They purchased the house in which they died in 1861. their youngest son, John, witnessed the entire grisly event and testified in the inquiry held a day or so later. I have not found where they are buried.

    If you send me an email I can pass along the transcript of the inquiry. Here's my email address: Maybe you can include the entire article you posted from the Jersey Journal - the first column was cut off - I hadn't seen that one before. The event was published in the New York Times and another NY paper that I can't remember the name of.

    Thanks for posting what you do. I just happened to google "Michael Gehring 1872" today and your blog popped up. I was looking to see if I missed any other articles - GRIN