Known also as Hawley Otto, Otto Crippen was the son of Hawley Harvey Crippen. Otto’s father had been convicted and executed for the apparent poisoning dismemberment murder of his second wife.¹ In fact, he may have been innocent of any crime, or at least of the crime as presented.
DNA is a powerful tool in overturning wrongful convictions. Investigator John Harris Trestrail III had tissue samples submitted for DNA analysis that were used in evidence at the 1910 trial. The tissue was thought to be that of Cora Crippen. Results, however, proved the tissues were those of a male! DNA characteristics are passed via the family tree. So genealogy might help to determine if those tissues were in any way connected to Crippen’s family tree.
Although details have been difficult to obtain for Otto’s family, some information was uncovered, presented here.
Otto’s First Wife
Otto took as his wife, Violet Helen Herwig, aged 21 on 28 June 1909 in California. She was the daughter of Jacob W. and Bertha Herwig. Jacob is listed as born in Maryland in both the 1900 Berks County, PA and the 1910 Los Angeles, CA census entries. Bertha was German. Any children born to the couple would possess DNA characteristics of both Otto and Violet. Did children result from the marriage?
The Family Search website indicates there were three Crippen children! One was William O. Crippen (probably William Otto Crippen). The dates of his brief life were 27 April 1910 – 29 April 1910. The other two Crippen children born to a California Herwig parent (obvious twins) were a brother and sister. The date was 15 December 1921. Typical of the difficulty finding information for this family, no given names were provided.
At first, I had hoped I had found the female twin in one Evelyn Crippen of the Bronx in New York. After all, Evelyn’s online Social Security information says she was born 15 December 1921, the day of the twins. Her card (number 096-14-7080) was issued in the Bronx, New York. She died 15 April 1993. If such had been the case, one could obtain for a modest sum, a photostat of the original application, obtainable from the Social Security Administration. Gems of information provided ordinarily include parentage, address, employer, a signature, and so forth. Someone might have inherited documents such as papers and documents related to Hawley Harvey Crippen.
However, there is death data available that shows the twins both died (or were born dead) on 15 December 1921, the day of their delivery. Otto had no children who survived more than a couple of days.
Otto Crippen Takes Another Wife
But what about children possibly born by his second wife? Yes, Otto married once more. He is listed in the 1940 California Census with Winifred, some 13 years older than he. Winifred is Winifred C. Hoffman, aka Winifred C. Herwig. Her full married name was, in fact, Winifred Christine Crippen.
She was the sister, or more accurately, the half-sister of Violet. She is listed in one census as the step-daughter of Jacob Herwig, Bertha, her mother, was married, first, to a Hoffman. Who that man was remains a mystery, but since Winifred is listed as born in Reading, Pennsylvania, likely he died in Pennsylvania, or one or more months previously to Winifred’s birth, overseas.
The wedding would have occurred between the times of the 1930 census and the 1940 census. Since Winifred would have married Otto after the death of Violet, she would have been at least 54 years of age at the time. Children are almost certainly ruled out, and in harmony with that thought, none have been found.
Additionally, and In Conclusion
The couple traveled to Hawaii in July of 1951 and returned in February of 1952. Was this exclusively as a vacation? Was there family living in Hawaii? It doesn’t matter. They would not have been children. Finally, Otto and Winifred are buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California.
It would seem that, beyond a reasonable doubt, there are no descendants for Hawley Otto Crippen to carry on his lineage. So there are no documents held by any direct descendant.
Acknowledgement: I wish to acknowledge the very helpful assistance of fellow genealogical researcher Jane Hamilton.