How to determine the correct records for a little known ancestor

+2 votes
My great grandfather is an elusive character. Other than a German "Passport" that a member of Wikitrees was kind enough to translate, this ancestor has been difficult to track here in the United States. He doesn't appear in any US Federal Census with my great grandmother. Records I do find that "might" be him are contradictory.

The German passport has him married before coming to the US to someone not my great-grandmother. A found a record for a marriage in Baden for my ancestor in 1863.  A possible ships manifest in 1866 has him coming to the US without his wife.

I cannot find a "definitive" marriage record for my great-grandparents. I found one in Dubuque, Iowa in 1878 but if this is truly their marriage record then it begs the question who is the father of my great-grandmother's first two children born between 1875 and1878,  In the 1880 Federal census record it lists my great-grandmother with three children born 1875, 1878 and 1880 in Iowa living with my great-grandmother's parents.  This census list the children's father born in Hanover rather than Baden but correctly puts their mother's place of birth as Baden.  In 1883 her youngest child dies and is believed to be buried in St. Louis, Mo. My grandfather is born a year later in Dec. 1884, In the 1885 Iowa State Census she is again listed with her parents but no husband. By the 1895 Iowa State Census she is lists herself as a widow. There are two death records for a man who might be my great-grandfather. One is for 1893 and the other is 1902. A distant relative insist that the second is correct because residence before this individual went to the "poor house" in St. Louis is the same address that she believed they lived. The 1902 death record has this person listed as a 'widower' and resided in the poor house for 19 years due to senility.

So how do I sort out which record is the correct records?
in Genealogy Help by L. Harrington G2G5 (5.6k points)

1 Answer

+2 votes
It is possible they did not marry until he was free , either through the death or divorce of his first wife. It is not unknown for a woman to list herself as widow on records to avoid embarrassment.
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

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