Anton & Maggie Swartz


The original of this picture is curved outward making it impossible to scan or copy. So, this is a photograph of the picture and the quality of the reproduction is, therefore, less than ideal.

In examining old census records, I have determined that my great grandfather came from Germany and his first name was Antone, though he was often called Tony or Anton. I do not know what part of Germany he was from or what motivated him to come to the United States.

So far, I found his name mentioned in the censuses of 1880 and 1900. The 1880 records are from the LDS web site and are not primary records; in other words, the online records I have seen so far are not a copy of the actual document, but is digital data entered by hand by a person looking at a copy of the original. Those records show his name as being Antone Sworts. The records I have from the 1900 census are from microfilm copies of the original documents. Those records clearly (in my opinion) show his name as Anton Swartz. The name Sworts appears to be a Soundex spelling. Soundex, if you do not know, is a way of identifying persons based upon similar sounds within their names. Thus, a person can still be found even it the name is phonetically spelled or slightly misspelled. I will eventually cover that subject.

The 1900 census shows Anton living with his wife, Maggie, daughter, Estella and sons, Victor and Glen. Thus, this record is unquestionably that of my great grandfather. I believe that there was a fourth and older son, George, who I believe moved out of his home when he was a teenager and before this census. In 1900, the census says that Anton was 43 years old and his birth date was August, 1856. It shows that he and his parents were born in Germany and that he came to the United States in 1870, thirty years prior. It does not show that he was naturalized. His occupation is listed as that of a cigar maker.

Of course, the 1890 census data is not available due to the fire at the Commerce Department. The 1880 census data mentioned above shows Anton to be a farmer living with his wife, Maggie Sworts, and one month old son, Garfield. In talking to my aunt before her death, she had no recollection of a child named Garfield, but the 1900 census does show that Maggie had 7 children, but only 4 were living. Therefore, I presume Garfield and 2 other children died at a young age which was not uncommon in those times.

I have not been able to find Anton, Maggie, George or Estella anywhere in the 1910 or 1920 censuses. The information that I have is that Maggie died in 1908, though Anton lived on to 1944. I believe that Estella went to Colorado and George went to Oklahoma, but I cannot find George in Oklahoma or anywhere in 1910 or 1920, so I do not know where he went. As for Victor, by 1910 he was gone from Mason City and was living in Kansas City, Missouri. Only Glen is found in Mason City in the 1910 census, apparently living as a boarder.

The census provides no clue as to Anton's last name at the time he came to the United States. I understand that his last name was actually something like Schweinfest but he had it changed to Swartz after he arrived here. I do have a few pictures of him which refer to him as Gandpa Swinfest. I have heard two stories about the change of name and have learned that his family in Germany was very upset that he changed his name. My aunt says that she has a letter about that which I will share with you if I can obtain a copy.

The first story, and the one I have always heard, is that the original name sounded like "swine fest" in English and could be easily twisted to "pig feast". Or, perhaps, that is what it actually meant in German. Thus, he wanted to change it from a name for which he could be ridiculed.

The second story, I heard only recently from my aunt. Apparently, when Anton came to the United States, he initially lived with his uncle who was a violin teacher. He did not like his uncle and ran away from him. In order to keep his uncle from finding him, he decided to change his name.

No matter which story is true, and perhaps both are, the story concludes that Anton took the name of the judge that allowed him to change his name. I had always assumed that the name change occurred somewhere in the east, but my aunt has told me that it occurred in Iowa, presumably in Mason City which is in Cerro Gordo County. A search of Iowa census records for 1860 and 1870 discloses a number of Swartz' living in Cerro Gordo County who were born in New York, so I presume it is one of those persons from whom he took his new name.

Apparently, at age 18, Anton went to Iowa via one of the Orphan Trains that took children from the east to farms in the west. Generally, they were younger children, but the Mason City Globe-Gazette on January 20, 1942 reported that Anton said that a welfare society was looking for riders to go west on a train and he volunteered. He was given a job on a farm between Mason City and Clear Lake. In fact, the 1880 census says that Anton's occupation was that of a farmer. I had always heard that he was a cigar maker, so when I found his 1900 census data that affirmed that he was a cigar maker I knew that I had the right man (and was rather ecstatic that I had located this affirming data).

When my aunt was still living, I learned that not only was he a cigar maker, but that he actually had a small cigar factory and proof of that can be found in the local city directories of that time.

I have written a little about the children of Anton and Maggie Swartz. If interested, click here to link to stories about their children.

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