Ghost Story

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”—Albert Einstein

It’s possible there could be a few skeletons rattling around in the family closets, but as far as I know we have no ghosts. But something happened to me that still feels spooky, 40+ years later.

After college, I was hired as a systems analyst at a district office of Burroughs Corporation, providing customer support for software on their mainframe computers. You know, the big, hulking machines with tape drives the size of a refrigerator, EIGHT INCH floppies, cassette tapes to load software and store data, teletype machines, fixed disk drives the size of a mini-fridge, and removable storage disks the size of a large pizza box, but round.

Yes, I’m a dinosaur.

My coworkers and I added custom modifications to off-the-shelf software, helped the sales team determine how well our stock software met the customer’s needs, offered training on the software, with classes on-site, or fielded questions from customers on the phone. The job was never boring.

It was, however, very stressful at times.

After a year, I realized I was having headaches more and more often. I won’t insult people I know who truly suffer from migraines to suggest they were migraines. They weren’t, but they were still a pain. Literally.

Tom, at the desk/cubicle next to me, lived in Muncie, and commuted an hour each way, daily. Muncie is home to Ball State University.

Tom mentioned a 5-week class in self hypnosis to be offered soon on campus. Maybe trying that for a relaxation technique would help? It seemed worth a shot for a fairly low cost.

Mike didn’t really want me driving back and forth at night by myself, so we both signed up for the five Monday nights. Other people in the class were using it to quit smoking or control their eating, among other reasons.

When we arrived for the last class, the instructor mentioned one of the participants had approached him with an idea. The man claimed to have some psychic abilities (I forget why he was taking the class) and offered to try to do readings for everyone. Since self hypnosis is based on the power of the mind, like psycho ability, the instructor saw parallels and agreed. Anyone who was interested could write 3 questions on a 3×5 index card and pass it forward.

Around this time, Mike had an aunt recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I didn’t really think my headaches were caused by a tumor, but we don’t always think rationally. So my first question was whether they were stressed-based headaches, or had a medical cause. I don’t remember my 2nd question, but my third was a throwaway “How many kids will I have?”

As the psychic worked through the cards, he spoke to whoever wrote the question, though he didn’t have our names.

When he came to mine, he said he sensed my headaches were stress-induced. Good call there, since I haven’t died from brain cancer so far. He answered the 2nd question, and ignored the kid question.

Then he switched gears.

Out of the blue, he asked if I had someone close to me with an ongoing illness or condition. I don’t recall exactly how he worded it, but I took it to mean someone diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, cancer—something chronic like that. My answer was no. While my dad was almost 60, and smoked, he was in good health overall, and wouldn’t be diagnosed with his later conditions for another 10 years or so.

The psychic dropped me like a hot potato, and moved on to someone else. It seemed odd.

Fast forward to that Friday evening, 6 November 1981. Mike and I drove to visit my parents for the weekend. It was a somewhat random visit, but we weren’t going to see them at Thanksgiving. With the time zones working in our favor (dropping back an hour crossing from Indiana to Illinois), Mom planned a dinner that would be ready when we arrived a little later than they usually ate.

We sat around the table, catching up, and I told them about the class we’d just finished. Mom was clearing the table for dessert when the phone rang. We soon learned it was my godmother, Lois Palmer Meintzer.

Lois called to tell Mom that her husband, Willard (Mom’s first cousin and my godfather), had just died. He walked in the front door after work, called out, “I’m home,” and collapsed on the floor. It was a heart attack, and EMTs were not able to revive him.

Of course, we didn’t hear all those details until Mom was off the phone. All I could see from the dining room table was that she was hearing distressing news.

As she relayed the news after the call, I suddenly remembered the class on Monday, and the psychic’s sudden shift. Unbeknownst to me, Willard did have a history of heart issues. And while they didn’t live particularly nearby, allowing for frequent or regular visits, I had always felt close and connected to my godparents.

Was there some sort of emotional, spiritual—call it what you will—connection between Willard and me that psychic picked up on? If I’d answered him with yes, what would he have said? To make a phone call to that person? Visit in person? I have no idea, but my guess is the no stopped him in his tracks. I presume he didn’t want to say more and have me worrying about who was going to have a health crisis or die.

The whole situation still gives me shivers, though.

Through nothing short of a miracle, Lois scheduled Willard’s wake for Sunday, with the funeral on Monday. Of course, we hadn’t brought any clothes appropriate for a wake, much less a funeral—blue jeans and t-shirts. We also both needed to be at work on Monday, so couldn’t really stay. We were able to stop in briefly at the very beginning of the wake, before heading home, dressed as we were. Lois didn’t mind our attire.

Willard’s headstone in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Highland Park, Illinois. Photo taken before Lois’s death 12 September 2004.

I am still dumbfounded that the pieces fell into place as they did, and that we happened to be where we needed to be at the right time.



“People always leave traces. No person is without a shadow.”—Henning Mankell, The Troubled Man

Many people have crossed my path in the last 64 years; some for a short time, some for longer. Most of them my children and grandchildren have no idea even existed. Whoever they were, and however one of us may have influenced the other (positively or negatively), interactions with those people have made me the person I am.

Our ancestors were no different. They, too, had people who were important to them, but were situated on the periphery of their lives, impacting them nevertheless. Unfortunately, those people were usually lost, because they did not appear in official records.

Occasionally, we come across something to shine a light, pulling some of them out of the shadows. That happened not long ago, when I reconnected with a second cousin (once removed), Paula. She is the granddaughter of my mom’s first cousin, Lovina Kranz Brumm.

While Paula wasn’t terribly interested in genealogy, she had inherited a number of old photos from her father, one of Lovina’s sons. Some of her photos were labeled, some not, but between the two of us most are now identified. In an effort to share other information she had inherited, she dove into other boxes from her dad.

It was there she found the two autograph—or forget-me-not—books. The one shared today belonged to Paula’s grandmother, Lovina:

cover of Lovina’s Forget-me-not book

The cover is adorable, having a green border with silver filagree; and a red center, with forget-me-nots sprinkled across. Fortunately, the inside inscription tells us exactly when Lovina received it: her fifteenth birthday [5 December], 1905.

The title page had her name written in a very fancy font. It almost has a German typeface look to it. Did Lovina do that herself? Or did her mom, born in Alsace, age nine when they left, pull out the stops and call on the script she may have learned in school there? I have no way to know.

Front page, with Lovina’s name and location: Rondout, Ill[inois]

Each entry typically had a date, the location, and a full name. Occasionally a street address was included, especially if the person lived out of town. “Forget-me-not” appeared as an addition to many pages, often at an angle. The pages were filled in haphazardly. Signers could choose any empty page, so later dates may fall in between earlier ones. Some of the writing is very light, so must have been written in pencil. A few pages were embellished with stickers.

Lovina’s mother was a somewhat later signer, eight months after Lovina received it:

18 August 1906, “Your Mamma” Mrs. A. Kranz

Remember well, and bear in mind, A good true, friend is hard to find. And when you find one kind and true, Change not the old one for the new. In future years, when this you see, I wonder what your name will be?

p. 8

Then there were the two “macaroni” girls:

Dear Lovina, May heaven protect and keep thee. From every sorrow free. And grant thee every blessing. Is my earnest wish for thee. Your true friend, Martha A. Krase  {Remember the Macaroni girl.}

p. 19

Dear Lovina —(kiddo)

There is a place for you in my album There is a place for you in my heart There is a place for us both in heaven where we shall never depart. From your kiddo, Vera Hudee[?] (Your Macaroni chum)

p. 45

When I read the first entry, I initially thought Martha just loved macaroni. But when I encountered the second one (your macaroni chum), that message implied Lovina shared the macaroni passion with her friends. I would love to know the story behind that!

I wondered about the three relatives who were included. Why not her other brother, Clarence? Or did she ask, and he declined? Why this particular aunt and uncle (from different branches)? Both sides of her family had lots of aunt, uncles, and cousins. Had Lovina chosen Emma and Albert specifically? Were they significant for other reasons?

Lovina’s aunt (Emma) and uncle (Albert) were only 8 and 10 years older than her, so maybe they were the “fun” aunt and uncle? Both of them actually married after Lovina . . .

Deerfield, Ills.  Dear Lovina—

May you always be happy, Lead a good life; Marry a good man, And be a good wife. Your loving Aunt, Emma Meintzer

p. 32

Dear Sister

Happy is Lovina  Happy is her life  Happy will that fellow be When he gets her for his wife. Your brother Raymond Kranz

p. 21

Wheeling, Ill.   Dearest Lovina

When days are long and friends are few remember me and I will you.  Your loving uncle, Albert Kranz

p. 35

I noticed a recurring theme of finding a husband. It showed up on her aunt’s page, her brother’s, one of her teachers’, as well as a couple friends. Even her mother had speculated about her future surname . . .

So I wondered if William Brumm, her future husband, signed the book. I almost missed it because he shortened his first name to just “Wm.” In June of 1906, might she have been graduating? Possibly. There were a lot of entries around that time.

June, 1906, William Brumm

Dear Friend, Drink your Coffee. Drink your Tea. Drink it hot and think of me. Wm. Brumm

p. 17

Lovina and William didn’t marry until 7 February 1910, but they obviously knew each other long before that. William was eight years older than Lovina, making him twenty-four when he signed her book; she was a mere sixteen. He needed to take it slowly.

Several pages had a more spiritual message. And some time between June, 1906 and March, 1908, Lovina and William became a thing, because J. S. S. named him specifically in the rhyme. Were they engaged by then? I don’t know, but they were certainly keeping company.

Libertyville, Ills. A Message from Jesus to Lovina.

God has sent his message true telling us what we ought to do. Better we had never heard. Than neglect his Loving word. Lily Poelle

p. 15

Rondout, Ill.  Dear Lovina

When you get married and William is cross  pick up the broom stick and show him who [sic] Boss. Your Tr?ley  J. S. S.

p. 37

While most pages were written by friends and classmates, at least three were older women. Only one clearly identified herself as a teacher, but I suspect the others may have been. It would take research to confirm or refute that. Census records should show whether these women had occupations, or if they lived close to Lovina’s house, and were simply neighbors or close family friends.

Rondout, Illinois  My dear pupil

To meet, to know, to love and then to part, is the common fate of a school-girl’s heart. Your teacher, Isabel G. Bradley  Merry Christmas + A Happy New Year

p. 31

Rondout, Ills.  Dear Lovina.

Long may you live, Happy may you be With a fellow by your side And another on your knee.  Mrs. D. Conway

p. 28

Waukegan, Ill.  My Dear Lovina  It is not in thoughts alone; But deeds we live   And may you never grow old by the calendar, But keep your Youth by Truth harmony + Love, is the best wish of your true friend  Mrs. Grace A. R. Davis

p. 43

Two entries were written by friends from Joliet, Illinois, 60+ miles southwest of Rondout. I know of no reason Lovina would have had friends in Joliet, other than having been friends who moved away. One clearly confirmed that. Both were written on the same day in 1911, so it’s possible they came back to visit one day?

Joliet, Ills. Dear friend Lovina

Sugar is sweet  And so are you  But allways [sic] remember  Your friend   Miss Augusta Steinhagen   702 Western[?] Ave.  Joliet, Ills.

p. 27

Joliet, Ills.  Dear Friend Lovina

Remember me as one of your old School mates. I remain as every [sic]  Your Friend  Malvina Hathaway 226 Jefferson St.  Joliet, Ills.

p. 25

One page almost looked like it had been torn from the book and was loose. Could Lovina have pulled a page out and mailed it to them, and they mailed it back after signing? It’s not out of the question, but other pages seem to be holding on by threads, and it’s unlikely both would have signed the same day.

To understand the entries better, I would need to research these people a bit. In most cases I have full names, and a location at a point in time. The census (1900 & 1910) would be the easiest start. The local historical society might have school records to confirm who was a classmate, versus teacher, or just a neighbor. It’s a project for a rainy day.

If I get really ambitious, posting the images on the local Facebook group would be good. I’m sure some of the descendants would be tickled to see what their ancestor wrote in someone else’s book, not to mention finding a signature for the person. A second rainy day project.

This Forget-me-not book doesn’t really add new factual information, but it gives us a wonderful peek into Lovina was, who her friends were, and what life was like in the early 1900s. I’m so thankful it was held on to, and more grateful it was shared with me.



I visited Uncle Syl (Sylvester James Schweiger, younger brother of my paternal grandmother, Victoria Barbara Schweiger), when I first started to build my family tree. He was a font of valuable family lore! He had received information from Fr. Hartmann, and he’d done a little bit to put together what he knew.

The tree provided by Fr. Hartmann was by far the most valuable piece of information I obtained from Uncle Syl, but it was closely followed by the 25th Anniversary Book published by Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka, Illinois.

Sacred Heart was located at 1077 Tower Road, less than two miles away from the home of my great-grandparents, Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry, living above their butcher shop at 375 Park Avenue, in Glencoe. It was  a straight shot down Green Bay Road.

Their previous parish had been St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, at 1748 Lake Avenue, in Wilmette, three miles further south. That parish had been growing rapidly, so it was determined a new parish was needed further north for the expanding number of parishioners. Sacred Heart parish started in 1897, with the building being completed in time for Christmas Mass that year.¹ Ignatz,  Dorothea, and their first eight children were among the original families of the newly formed parish.

As I thumbed through the anniversary book with Uncle Syl, I found my great-grandparents’ names each listed in several organizations. Unfortunately, I do not have all those groups listed in my genealogy database, though I’m quite sure I still have in my files the original notebook paper where I wrote the information down. That is one of the items I need to improve in my organization.

I did record, though, that from 14 April 1898, Dorothea was the Vice President, Married Ladies Sodality. What is a sodality? It’s simply a devotional or charitable association of Roman Catholic laity (normal people, not members of religious orders). Bottom line? It was the ladies’ club. But Dorothea was probably the first or 2nd Vice President.

It’s important to remember that at the turn of the 20th century, much of a person’s social life revolved around whatever church they attended. With a fledgling parish, recruiting people to start up, and populate, the new organizations was key to the parish’s success, and building a cohesive community. Ignatz and Dorothea got in at the ground floor for Sacred Heart, and clearly threw themselves into it.

Sacred Heart Church merged with St. Philip the Apostle in Northfield on 1 July 2018, as part of Cardinal Cupich’s Renew My Church process within the Chicago Archdiocese. Unlike many church mergers, both buildings remained open (and referred to by their original names), but adopted a new parish name, Divine Mercy Parish. The parish offices have consolidated at the Sacred Heart Church site.

Usually I’ve seen one of the parishes simply evaporate, incorporating into the other, or the two merge, with a new name, but only one church building and office. This merger was handled differently.

Backing up in time, Sacred Heart Parish opened a school in 1902, which still exists today.² My grandmother, Victoria, would have been almost eight when the doors opened; perhaps 3rd grade? The 25th anniversary book had a photo of her eighth grade graduation class, as well as one for her brother, Anton. He was three years older, so two or three grades ahead of her?

Like their parents with the parish organizations, Victoria and Anton would have been among the first classes to graduate from the new school. It’s possible the school didn’t have a seventh or eighth grade the first couple years, allowing those students to finish up at St. Joseph’s school, where they were already settled. Then new grades were added as the students advanced. That might have also reduced the number of teachers (nuns) needed initially. I’m not positive that’s what they did, though.

Uncle Syl had two copies of the anniversary book. When it was published in 1927 or so, he acquired one copy, then at some point his sister Rose gave him her copy. She had no children to pass it on to, but he had four. It didn’t end up with my grandmother. Maybe Rose offered it to her and she said no?

Regardless, Uncle Syl did not offer the extra book to me!

Nor did he offer to let me take it with me to copy. Keep in mind this was 1975. Photocopiers weren’t as good (crisp and clear) as now, and cost 50¢ per sheet. I don’t remember exactly how many pages it had, but there were a lot. It would have cost more than my budget allowed, even if I didn’t copy it all! But since he didn’t offer, it didn’t really matter. I didn’t know him well enough to ask.

During a later visit to the church itself, I asked if any extra copies were available. No luck with that!

Fast forward to the 1990s. My dad’s cousin, Fred, was putting together the Schweiger genealogy to create scrapbooks for his children. In our phone and email conversations, I mentioned the anniversary book. I was hoping his parents had a copy.


Uncle Syl had died in 1983, and Aunt Stacia (Anastasia) in 1989, so we figured the books had moved to their kids. We weren’t really in touch with them, though.

Fred was still living in a nearby suburb, and “knew a guy” with connections to Sacred Heart. Somehow he scored two copies of a newer, 75th anniversary book! This one had smaller pages, plus an additional 50 years of parish history to document.

Consequently, many pages from the first book were eliminated, including the graduation photo for Victoria, sadly. It did still have Anton’s, however, which may be more useful. He died young, so we don’t have many photos of him.

I’m still searching for a copy of the first anniversary book on eBay, with a saved search set up. No luck so far. I don’t necessarily need a physical copy of it. I’d be more than happy to acquire a digital copy of the book as a PDF file. I have contacted one or two DNA matches who ARE (or seem to be) descendants of Uncle Syl, but have had no reply.

I may try the church again. I don’t hold any hope of an extra copy, but maybe one was kept for the parish archives, and they would let me scan it?

A girl can dream . . .


¹Barbara Sholl, “Sacred Heart Church Restored,” Winnetka Historical Society, October 1994,

²“Sacred Heart School: About Us,” Sacred Heart School, accessed 28 October 2022,


“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.”—Galadriel (introduction to the Fellowship of the Ring movie)

And fortunately, found again!

One of my 2nd cousins (once removed), Pat, recently sent an email to a bunch of her Meintzer and Kranz cousins. It contained her translation of two letters written at the end of 1940/beginning of 1941 by Emma Caroline Mueller Meintzer, the wife of my 1st cousin, twice removed, Heinrich Meintzer (1867-1945). Heinrich was the nephew of my (and Pat’s plus everyone else’s) immigrant ancestor, Christian (1830-1922).

Christian emigrated from Dehlingen, in Alsace, in 1881, but his brother, Heinrich (1834-1909) remained there. Heinrich and his wife, Catherine Buri, had eight children; Heinrich (1867-1945) was one of the three who survived to adulthood. He was just a year older than his first cousin, Sophie Meintzer Kranz, my grandaunt and Pat’s great-grandmother.

The younger Heinrich and Emma had four children: a son, also Heinrich, who died very young; and three daughters, Emma, Lina, and Mathilde. A simplified tree linking just the people involved looks like this:

Limited tree showing Emma Mueller Meintzer (the letter writer) and Sophie Meintzer Kranz (the intended letter recipient). I didn’t include Emma’s daughters’ husbands.

Why all that background before getting to the letters? A lot of names appear in the letters, and it’ll be easier, I feel, to make sense of the contents with the tree as a road map. A picture is worth a thousand words, and all that.

So, Emma (in yellow) wrote one letter to Sophie (in blue) on New Year’s Eve, 1940, and the 2nd one a week later, 6 January 1941. A note at the bottom of the 2nd said they were sent 6 January 1941, yet they were both found in the family’s house in Dehlingen.

The letters are currently in the possession of Liesel, Emma’s granddaughter. They were written in old style German handwriting, which is challenging to read. Liesel translated (transcribed? Maybe a little of both?) them into more readable German, and then Pat translated them into English, with the help of another cousin, Camille. It was a collaborative effort, spanning 10 months or so. I have copied the letter content as Pat shared it. The only difference was to change the parenthesis ( ) she used for clarification comments to square editorial [ ] brackets, to be consistent with what I use on other posts.

I’ll let the letters speak for themselves:

Dehlingen December 31, 1940
Dear, dear Aunt Sophie and the whole dear family,
O Dear Aunt Sophie, how are you? I hope you’re still alive. How often, how often I think of our loved ones in America. How often do I write to you in my thoughts, but don’t take the time [to write]. It’s winter, the days are short, I cook and feed the people and the cattle all day long. In the evening I have to mend everything, everything is broken [needs repair or darning]. Oh God, thinking back to last summer, I can’t possibly relay to you all that 1940 was, a tough summer for the 2nd zone. The 1st zone had to evacuate right at the beginning of the war, including Oermingen. We always lived in fear and yet we hoped we wouldn’t need to evacuate, but it came without us having time to think about it. May 23 we were weeding the fields. At 5 o’clock in the evening we were called home and we had to evacuate. Oh this horror is unforgettable and at 9 o’clock we had to leave the village for Diemeringen and on the train further and further into France. Many stayed behind and went to the 3rd zone to family and so did we. In the morning we had taken a cow and Lina’s horse [her daughter Lina Meintzer Sommer], some clothes and a bit of food to Burbach. It was 1:30 am when we knocked on my cousin’s door, they were shocked. The next day, Lina and her father Heinrich drove to Wolfskirchen with her 2 boys, then there were 9 people there. Our daughter Emma had to leave immediately for Sarralben and 2 months later she came to us with her 2 boys. Her husband, as a railroad worker, didn’t need to leave immediately, so we had time to move her entire household to Cirey, because the French stole everything and drag it away. Then my daughters Emma and Mathilde went to Cirey with their children and I was alone in Burbach. Oh dear aunt, it would take a book to write everything. Now there was such a rapid collapse, the French had to flee and the Germans came. And then on June 18th I [left Burbach and] went to Dehlingen alone, 5-6 families were already there. Four days later [my husband] Heinrich and Lina came with the livestock and the wagon; the bridges were blown up everywhere; there was no train and no mail. Oh what a situation! Then the 25th of June there was armistice and on the 18th I left Burbach. My cousin from there gave me 2 pounds of butter, so I went through Rimsdorf, there my sister gave 1 dozen or 12 eggs, 3 pounds of bread and 2 liters of milk and a bit of coffee and sugar. Man how poor. [When I got home] I cleaned, washed and scraped dishes for 3 days. The French soldiers were in our house and 4 window panes blew up, the splinters lay all over the rooms. They were cooking in our kitchen, there was leftover and rotten food everywhere; the mosquitoes and flies had eaten their fill. Much was carried away, now everything is expensive. One pair of wooden clogs costs 40 francs. 1 pair of work shoes up to 400 francs, a pound of butter 30 francs. We can’t get coffee and soap yet, otherwise everything is on ration cards. If you have a toothache and want to have it pulled, it costs 100 francs or 5 marks. French money has little value anymore. Yes, dear aunt, the planting hadn’t been done yet, so we went there on Sunday morning and plowed it because the weeds had gotten the upper hand. I went down at noon, planted cabbage, cucumber seeds and beans and sowed yellow turnips and lettuce. I did everything alone. On July 7th, Mathilde came via bicycle from Cirey to Dehlingen, about 60 km. She knew that the hay had to be harvested and that there was work needed to be done everywhere. Emma stayed in Cirey with the children and waited almost 2 months for the trains to start again, during which time we did not receive any mail from her. Then Mathilde went off to buy pigs and found a young sow that was about 8 weeks pregnant, for 1300 francs, then another for 800 francs and then 2 more small ones for 400 francs. Then she looked for our team of cattle up in Upper Alsace, it was all difficult. She and Emile Sommer [Lina’s husband and also Mathilde’s brother-in-law] left Monday 7am and Tuesday morning 8am they were back with a cow, driving all night. Mathilde was dead tired and had worked all day. This fall we harvested potatoes on Sundays and Emile Sommer brought them [from the field] to our house. O dear Aunt Sophie, it’s so hard to write. This paper is of poor quality and on top of that, the electric light hasn’t been on for 4 nights; I have to go to bed straight away; have no kerosene and no candles. Now we’ve got a little bit from someone. Otherwise, again I wouldn’t have been able to write this evening. We really have such cold weather, so cold that one jumps to the warm stove. In the morning, you don’t want to get out of your warm bed, but the poor livestock need to be fed. My husband Heinrich turned 73 on December 18, he is an old man. He has been severely affected by this war. Oh God, if only the war would end and there would be peace. We are reassured because, our young men of fighting age are all at home except for 2 men who fled to Switzerland with the French and have not returned yet. No one from Dehlingen has died yet, and it didn’t cost many Alsatian lives so far. We didn’t know anything about our Mathilde’s husband Adolph [Nehlig], for a very long time. Many in the village believed he had died. Every week 2-3 men came home and there was no trace of Adolph, no letters, nothing at all. We didn’t lose hope and yet we lived in fear and sorrow. Finally, on October 20th, a card came from him saying that he was in German captivity near Königsberg and was awaiting release any day. Believe, dear aunt, that it took a load off our hearts to hear a sign of life from him. From then on we waited every day and on October 29th at 10 o’clock in the night he happily entered our kitchen. We hadn’t gone to bed yet and our little granddaughter Jeanne, now called Johanna, was renamed. [from the French “Jeanne” to a more German sounding “Johanna” for the duration of the war]

handwritten letter from Emma Mueller Meintzer to Sophie Meintzer Kranz, dated 31 December 1940. Original in possession of Emma’s descendants.

2nd letter
Dear Aunt Sophie,
How is it going for you? Hope you are still fresh and healthy. Are you alone in the house? Don’t stay alone, for God’s sake. I’m always so afraid for you, in case something would happen to you and you are alone. Move in with one of your children. Dear aunt, [when we evacuated] I took your last letter with me. It had pictures of your golden wedding anniversary and the piece of fabric from the dress you wore on the wedding day. Oh God, our girls are still putting on clothes that you sent back then, yes, they’re still proud. You made us very happy back then. We will always remember that. How are Emma and Martha doing? Say hello to them from us. Yes, if it weren’t for the big water [ocean]… People used to sail back and forth a lot more than they do now. Actually it would be impossible now. How is your sister Elisabeth? Is she still healthy? Does she still come to visit you? Please be so kind and send her this letter. I think of you so often, dear family. Warm greetings and kisses to all of you from all of us. And when you will receive this letter, please do let us know how you are doing. One more thing, we had 2 dollars lying in a jar in the closet, 1 dollar from you and 1 from Elisabeth. No one thought to take them when we had to evacuate. How I worried about this gift when I was in Burbach. Two days before she went to Cirey, Mathilde got a car to go to Dehlingen to get things that were still necessary. The first thing she did was go to the closet, but alas, God, they [the dollars] were gone. Then she asked several people who were in our house if they found 2 dollars in the closet. Yes, someone says he has them and gave them to Mathilde. This was an honest man. If I knew his name, I would thank the good man again for it. The 2 dollars are really of great value to us. Thank you again for them. Please send Aunt Elisabeth this letter. That would make me happy. Mathilde’s husband, is making [bushel] baskets for the potatoes. He is a good man. Little Johanna sings: [the Christmas carol] “O Come Little Children” so beautifully and so clearly. She is 3 1/2 years old, a sweet, smart girl. Now I wish you both sisters the best of health from the bottom of my heart and if you die one day, a happy death and a happy ascent to heaven, but only in 10 years. Stay healthy for now. The whole family of Heinrich Meintzer sends you many thousand greetings and kisses from the dear home of Dehlingen. I send my warmest greetings to you, Auntie. Emma Meintzer Emma wrote: “Sent January 6, 1941” [but they were never sent]

handwritten letter from Emma Mueller Meintzer to Sophie Meintzer Kranz, “sent” 6 January 1941. Original in the possession of Emma’s descendants.

The letters have a lot of information to digest. First, I plotted the locations Emma mentioned on a map (above). You should be able to zoom in, and/or move it around to other areas. The cluster at the left shows their home of Dehlingen, as well as the places they evacuated to. The pin in the middle of Germany is the Königsberg I think Adolph Nehlig was held at. There was also a Königsberg Concentration Camp, way over in Poland, but that seemed too far a distance for him to have traveled to return home. I also drew some of the likely routes from one town to another.

The events Emma wrote about beginning 23 May 1940 described the Battle of France or the Fall of France, and its impact on the family. It actually began on May 10th, when Hitler invaded the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands).

The French had built the Maginot Line after WWI, trying to prevent future invasion by Germany. It fortified the northeast corner of the French border. Unfortunately, Hitler simply ran an end run around the western end of the north arm by invading the Low Countries first.

Emma said Zone 1 had evacuated earlier in the war, and mentioned Oermingen, not too far north of Dehlingen, but closer to the French border. The population in Zone 1 was forced to move in September, 1939, to give the French military room to work, and to keep the civilians safe. A similar evacuation occurred on the German side of the border. Dehlingen was part of Zone 2, and the movement south and west of Emma and her family suggests Zone 3 was that direction. I’ve been unable to find maps showing clearer details of those zones, however.

I find it amazing they repeatedly moved livestock from one location to another during this time! What were the various distances involved?

  • Dehlingen to Diemeringen—3 miles by foot
  • Diemeringen to Burbach—6 miles—but no train
  • Burbach to Wolfskirchen—4 miles by car
  • Cirey-sur-Vezouze to Dehlingen—41 miles (66 km), Mathilde’s bike ride

I was struck by the resilience of these cousins—as well as their friends and neighbors who evacuated with them, and the families and friends on whose doorsteps they landed. Would any of us be prepared to open our door at 1:30 AM to refugee relatives? Or send them off, heading back home, with 2 pounds of butter, a dozen eggs, and several loaves of bread?

The daughters, all of them married, at least two with kids, relocated several times, occasionally distanced from the rest of the family. Their mother, Emma, often had no way to communicate with them to know how things were going. As a parent and grandparent, it must have been very stressful for her.

The Heinrich Meintzer family ca. 1925-1927. Emma and Heinrich are seated left and right, with Emma (b. 1907), Lina (b. 1908), and Mathilde (b. 1917). Mathilde is obviously the youngest girl, but I’m not positive which of the older girls is Emma or Lina.

One puzzle is why Emma called Sophie “aunt” when Sophie was clearly the 1st cousin of Emma’s husband, lolnot his aunt. Sophie was 13 years older than Emma, so maybe Emma called her “aunt” out of respect for her age? When I searched for tante and its translation, that explanation made sense:

noun: tante; plural noun: tantes

  1. (especially among those of French or German origin) a mature or elderly woman who is related or well known to the speaker (often used as a respectful form of address).
Definition from Oxford Languages in a Google Dictionary Box

Indeed, Emma’s use sounds almost like a term of endearment. Emma was born the year Sophie left Dehlingen, so the two never met—at least, not in Emma’s memory. The two corresponded for decades, though. They may have known each other as well as they knew the neighbor next door.

Emma poured out her heart to Sophie in these letters. We hear her lamenting the work cleaning up the house after it was used (and trashed) by the French soldiers, and the difficulty finding the items they need—or the high cost of them. I imagine the two women had exchanged similar complaints during the Depression years, and Emma knew she would find a sympathetic ear in Sophie.

We feel almost as much relief when Mathilde ‘s husband, Adolph, arrived safely home as Emma and the rest of the family!

The 2nd letter has a slightly different tone to it. It was almost more newsy or “normal.” Emma asked about Sophie’s two youngest daughters (Emma and Martha), who were the same age as Emma’s girls. She also asked about Sophie’s oldest half sister, Elizabeth. I’m not sure how Emma knew her, but it seemed very important to her that Elizabeth read the letters.

I did enjoy the story of the two US dollar bills hidden in the closet. When was the last time I was that excited about getting back $2 that has gone astray? In a time when the value of German and French money was unstable, those two dollars were probably more valuable than we can understand. The fact that Elisabeth and Sophie had sent them in the first place amazes me, too. Were they just a birthday gift? Or had they been sent to help them during the Depression?

These letters show us a family that deeply cares about each other, despite the 4300+ miles separating them. Sophie shipped outgrown kids’ clothes back to Dehlingen. Emma worried about Sophie being alone, after having been recently widowed in 1939. Sophie and Elizabeth tuck money into their letters, to give Emma’s family a little extra support.

While it seems like the letters hadn’t been mailed, I’m wondering if maybe they were mailed (as noted at the bottom of the 2nd letter), but that Emma had made a copy for herself, as a way to recall the traumatic events of 1940. After all, if I write to someone, I don’t add a note at the bottom telling when I sent it. I let the postmark take care of that.

If the letters Sophie received weren’t kept, it’s not surprising that they seem “new” to us. Even if they were kept, the letters were written in difficult German script, and while Sophie’s kids knew how to speak German/Alsatian (in order to talk to their grandparents), I’m not sure they would have been able to read it very well—if at all! Would anyone other than Sophie be able to read them?

On the other hand, family lore from the cousins in France said that they had burned all the letters that came from the United States (Sophie), because it would cast suspicion on them. We do know the families lost contact with each other because of that, not reestablishing contact until the late 1970s or early 1980s, when Pat finally found our town of origin.

Why were they afraid to write to the United States? The French didn’t necessarily trust the people in Alsace, because many of them had German-sounding surnames, spoke German or Alsatian, and had been ruled by Germany from 1871 through WWI. After France fell to Germany in 1940, the Germans didn’t trust them because, well, they’d been French since the end of WWI—and hadn’t really been that keen about being ruled by Germany in the years prior. Even though the United States hadn’t joined the war, yet, communication with people there would have been regarded with suspicion.

So maybe Emma intended to mail them that day, but changed her mind and hid them away somewhere. We’ll never really know. What we do know, is that she gave us a glimpse into what it was like in Alsace for seven or eight months in the middle of WWII. It’s a very up-close and personal view that we rarely get to see in the history books.


Passed Down

“Anyone may have diamonds: an heirloom is an ornament of quite a different kind.”—Elizabeth Aston

My family had plenty of items passed down. More than I wanted perhaps. Mike’s family? Well, not so many. One piece that came from his mom’s Kukler side was the sterling silver oval military hair brush below:

Military hair brush of Mike’s maternal grandfather, Francis Charles Kukler. His initials (not a monogram!) are engraved vertically in the the center (FCK).

It’s a guy’s hairbrush (no handle) and belonged to Mike’s mom’s father, Francis Charles Kukler (Frank). When it came to Mike in the early 1980s, the wood piece the bristles were set into was broken. Snapped in half, if I recall correctly. It wasn’t really usable as a brush because of that, so we threw out the wood base and bristles. Mike kept the sterling back, since that had been personalized for his grandfather, plus it had the silver value.

The dimensions of the brush back are 5 1/8″ lengthwise and 3″ wide. The “flat” surface actually has a slight curve to it. The depth at the edge is about 1/4,” and it feels like the bottom edge turns in a little—like it’s a ledge to fit into a groove around the base of the wood brush, to hold it on.

There’s a border design engraved around the top edge, with the same border outlining the initials area. The surface in between is hammered—and has acquired a few dings and dents over the years! The oval shape—even without the actual brush in it, feels very comfortable to hold.

When I pulled it out to take photos, I was surprised to see it wasn’t tarnished. Yes, it had been in a zipper-closing plastic bag, so its air exposure was minimal, but I hadn’t polished it in decades. Was I wrong about it being silver? It seems not, because the side of the piece is clearly stamped “sterling” along with “hand hammered.” I haven’t deciphered the manufacturer marks, but the only number associated with a sterling product is 925, referring to an item needing to have 92.5% silver to be marked as sterling. So the 6350 on the side must be a product number, or size of the brush, or something like that.

Side of brush back, stamped sterling, with some manufacturer’s marks, I believe, and then 6350. That’s not a number associated with silver content, so maybe a model or style number? Last part says hand hammered.

Flipping it over to the wrong side (hidden by the wood brush base), there are some markings and discolorations I can’t quite explain. I don’t know if an adhesive of some sort was used to help keep the silver back attached to the wooden brush. A little bit of the “lip” on the bottom edge to help it hold onto the wood is also visible along the right side.

Inside (wrong) side of the brush back. I don’t know if some of the discoloration was due to an adhesive that might have help hold on the brush. Along the right side, just above the middle, a bit of the “ledge” that might have gripped into the wood base is slightly visible.

So how did Mike’s grandfather acquire this sterling military brush? I really don’t know. I don’t remember hearing anything about that when it was given to Mike. But this surely wasn’t something Frank would have purchased for himself.

It wasn’t a high school graduation gift, because after Frank’s scholarship year at the University of Detroit High school, it seems (according to the 1940 census1) he had only one more year in school—it’s likely he did not receive a diploma. Even if he had, it also doesn’t seem like the kind of gift parents would buy. A watch would have been more traditional.

My opinion is that it was a wedding gift from his bride, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. It’s a somewhat personal item, and certainly was something he would keep and use every day. She wouldn’t have wanted to give him something that would wear out. This explanation makes the most sense. I suppose it could have been a gift while they were dating, but it seems too extravagant for a lesser level of commitment.

How did the wood get cracked? Well, wood dries out over time, causing it to contract, maybe become more brittle. If the piece is dropped, that shock could cause the wood to crack or split. From the dings and dents on the silver, it’s fair to say the brush was dropped more than once in its lifetime. One of those times it just landed wrong. Or maybe the break developed over the course of more than one incident.

I’ll assume it didn’t break because one of them flung it at the other!

However it happened, even broken, the brush was important enough to Frank to hang onto. And then for Elizabeth to keep, after Frank’s death in 1972.

Looking back with the wisdom of age and experience, throwing out the brush may have been a mistake. Even though it wasn’t usable, still having it would have left us with a model to try and find a replacement piece. As it is, if we wanted to “make it whole” (and usable) we’re flying blind.

Live and learn.


¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, e.d. 84-26; Page 13A; household number 4; line 7; Frank KUKLER household; accessed 21 September 2020. Frank KUKLER, age 46; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1839; digital image, (


“So much of our future lies in preserving our past.”—Peter Westbrook

When we think about preservation, the focus is often on holding on to something, and keeping it for all time. As genealogists and family historians, our work revolves around preserving all sorts of things: people, facts about their lives, photos, stories, and memorabilia.

However, sometimes it may be “better” to let go of things. I’ve been letting go of a lot of things recently, though the process started more than a decade ago.

When my dad died in 2009, my siblings and I found ourselves helping our mom downsize out of a 2-bedroom ranch (with basement) into a 3-room independent living apartment. It was astounding how much was squirreled away in the closets and drawers! I wrote about some of those struggles in one of my early blogs.

In dealing with the sheer volume of stuff, it was tricky knowing what to do with some items. While Mike’s mantra is usually, “When in doubt, throw it out,” that isn’t necessarily the right option for everything, especially when suddenly thrust into making quick decisions. Of course Mom’s motto was, “Keep it all.” She wouldn’t come out and say that, but that was what it boiled down to.

My approach was somewhere in the middle. Emptying a house is stressful, with a lot of decisions to be made. The sheer volume creates an overload. I also realized that once something was gone, it would be gone! It was sometimes wiser to postpone a decision on certain items (Mom’s antiques!), and deal with them at a later date.

Nevertheless, there were still many items that needed an immediate decision. One of those was a black silk cape from maybe the turn of the 20th century that had come from my mom’s half-aunt, Elizabeth Meintzer Ahrens. Aunt Lizzie was the oldest half sister of my mom’s father, Christoph Jacob Meintzer.

When I was a kid, the cape hung in the upstairs hall closet (home of the boxes of old photos, the bubble portrait, grass skirt, and other goodies) covered with a dry cleaning bag. When my parents moved from that house, it moved with them, into the built-in cedar closet in the basement.

It was NOT moving into independent living!

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it, but I remember it had rows of surface ruffles stitched down the middle, so each edge was loose. In high school I once asked Mom if I could wear it for a costume or something. She said no, that it was too fragile. She was right, of course, because it was weighted silk in very fragile condition, with the fabric splitting at the folds. It was not wearable as a costume or anything else.

What is weighted silk, and why did that cause a problem? It’s silk that’s been processed with various chemical baths to restore some of the weight lost by the silk fibers during their initial processing. You can read about it here. Why was that done? Wholesalers purchased silk by weight, not by the yard (like most fabric), so the seller received more money for weighted silk than silk that wasn’t weighted. Weighting also improved the drapeability of the fabric.

The result, though, is damage to the fabric, making it prone to premature wear. It becomes brittle, causing it to split at folds, stress points, etc. Issues preventing me (or anyone else) from wearing it. The wedding dress of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (George VI’s wife), for instance, began to rot after only 30 years.

The cape had belonged to my grandmother, Minnie Moeller Meintzer. I don’t know when she got it from her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Ahrens. I also don’t know if it was given as a gift, was a hand-me-down of sorts from Elizabeth, or if Minnie had asked her to make it. I always presumed it was handmade; I don’t recall seeing any labels in it.

Elizabeth DID have experience as a seamstress. On the family’s 1881 ship’s passenger list, when she was eighteen, she had seamstress listed as an occupation. While none of her records in the United States ever listed an occupation for her, it seems reasonable that she still would have sewn for herself and other family members. One way or another, she sewed the cape and it came to my grandmother.

But what to do with it? It wasn’t moving again with my mom. She didn’t have room for it.

I finally suggested we take it to the Northbrook Historical Society. She had a couple other items to donate to them, so we were already making a trip. I thought they might have a use for it, as a display piece, perhaps. If they did not want it, we would have needed a Plan B. Fortunately it didn’t come to that! I presume they wouldn’t have accepted it if they didn’t really want it. I feel better with it in their hands, preserving it and making use of it, rather than it hanging, unappreciated, in a closet!

Another item, from Elizabeth’s younger (full) sister, Catherine, was a beaded evening bag, possibly from the 1920s? It had an unusual clasp, a chain handle that could disappear inside if you wanted a clutch bag, and scalloped fringe at the bottom.

I believe Catherine (Kate) lived with Mom’s family for a while, after she was widowed. Mom mentioned that her widowed aunts moved in with them from time to time, and they shared her room. It’s likely the purse was either left accidentally, or Kate gave it to Minnie. When Minnie died, it landed with my mom.

The purse was in better condition that the cape, but I wasn’t going to use it. Neither was my mom. There was really no point in keeping it. I was able to sell it for my mom to an antique dealer for $15. Was that selling out? I don’t think so.

It has probably found its way into the hands of someone who appreciates it and has it displayed with similar items. Had we kept it, it would have bounced from drawer to shelf and back again, eventually ending up in a box going to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or a flea market. Who knows what would have happened to it? It’s been better preserved this way, I think.

As I consider my own preemptive downsizing, I need to deal with the assorted linens I acquired from my mom—dresser scarves and whatnot, hand embroidered, with hand crocheted lace edging. When I pulled them out recently, I realized several had severe staining (makeup? perfume?) or scorch marks that probably won’t come out. Do I really want to keep damaged ones? I’m not so sure.

Maybe they’d be better off finding their way into a resale market, where someone will buy them to re-purpose? With the staining or other damage, is anyone going to use them as they are? Or would they just sit in a drawer or on a shelf? Or be thrown out?

I’ve read articles critical about antique or vintage handwork pieces being taken apart and repurposed, but I’m beginning to wonder if that might not be a reasonable approach? If an item isn’t usable intact, wouldn’t better to use the parts that are still good? It seems to show more respect to the person who made the item to preserve those parts that are useful, than to dispose of it.

So now I find myself focusing on curating my items, keeping the ones that are more important. If the volume is manageable, it’s more likely the pieces will be preserved in the long run. Is Grandma Moeller’s tablecloth at risk, with its mismatched dye lots and safety pin holding one section together? Heck, no!

Aunt Lillie’s drooling bibs crocheted with a Knit-Cro-Sheen type of crochet thread. The three with blue edging, in the middle, were in my collection of bibs. I may have inherited some from my sister, who had kids well before me. The other four were in my mom’s boxes. Variegated yarns became popular in the 1960s and 70s (top). Notice the bottom two (one white, one cream) weren’t quite finished. Both needed the ribbon to be woven through. That allowed them to be used for either a boy (blue ribbon) or girl (pink ribbon) at the last minute.

But the crocheted baby bibs (suitable only for “drooling bib” use) Aunt Lillie (Minnie’s youngest sister) used to make? Probably those will move on. It was her trademark baby gift—and I’ve accumulated seven. By the looks of them, none of them were ever used! I may try to track down some of Aunt Lillie’s descendants, to see if they might like them. Since they were crocheted by their direct ancestor, they might be more inclined to preserve them than I am.

Sometimes to save something, we have to let it go. Preservation is complicated, and one size does not fit all. It’s a process we each have to work through to find the proper balance.


Road Trip

“It’s got to be the going, not the getting there, that’s good.”—”Greyhound,” Harry Chapin

In the past, I’ve written about the courtship of my parents, Robert William Haws and Ardyth Eileen Meintzer, their time apart when dad was in the Navy during WWII, and their eventual marriage. After 18 months in the South Pacific, Bob was shipped home for a leave before being reassigned to the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California. That assignment would allow him to bring a wife along with him, so he proposed by mail and Ardyth agreed.

His trip home to Deerfield, Illinois, was fraught with annoying delays, taking almost two months. His train finally arrived in Chicago 16 December 1944, where Ardyth met him. They quickly took their blood tests, got the results, and waited the 3 days to get married on 20 December.

They spent the holidays with their families. I presume my parents stayed at his parents’ house. He’d been gone a long time, so they would have been anxious to spend as much time with him as possible. His one-month leave must have started when he actually arrived in Chicago. He needed to report to California by mid-January, so my parents hopped on a Greyhound bus after New Year’s, though I’m not positive of the exact date.

Other than a vague “we took the bus from Chicago to San Diego” I didn’t know details about that trip until the summer of 2016. My project was to go through all of my mom’s photos with her, labeling everything! Name(s), location, and date were what I was looking for. Mom looked at each photo and told me what she could about it, while I recorded it on the back with a photo-safe marker.

As a result of going through each box and folder with photos, we unearthed a collection of three or four dozen pictures from their time in California, including their honeymoon trip! I was completely surprised. Those photos were already labeled in her handwriting with the date, town, and what we were looking at. To be that specific, she must have labeled them shortly after they were taken, rather than forty or fifty years later.

Based on the dates from the back, I could actually track their honeymoon route:

8 Jan 1945Dallas, Texas3 photosmight have spent 2 nights?
9 Jan 1945
10 Jan 1945Sweetwater, Texas
Pecos, Texas

11 Jan 1945Pecos, TexasMrs. McKelvey’s housestayed 2 nights in Pecos—not sure if it was 10/11 or 11/12
12 Jan 1945Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexicoside trip one day
13 Jan 1945El Paso, TexasCortez Hotel
14 Jan 1945Deming, New Mexico
15 Jan 1945Tucson, ArizonaNaomi Motel
16 Jan 1945Tucson, ArizonaMotel Thayer
Trip timeline based on information from backs of the photos.

Plotting it out on Google Maps, it looked like this:

Even though I don’t have cities listed before Dallas, the route must have taken them through St. Louis or Memphis, possibly both. Just for grins, I checked the current Greyhound route, and saw it was this:;

Current Greyhound route, Chicago to San Diego. Cost per person hovers around $200. The trip takes about 54 hours, with two transfers. Other routes are available, but would have been more likely to have delays due to weather (farther north, going through mountains). This route would have been the most reliable in January.

It looks like Memphis makes sense. The current schedule also shows a transfer at Memphis and Dallas. While we think about a ticket getting us from one place to another, non-stop, when my parents traveled, it was different. They were able to leave the bus at any stop, check into a motel, and resume the trip on a later bus.

Remember It Happened One Night, with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable? She got off, came back late, to find the bus gone. She had to wait for the next bus heading her direction. Fortunately Clark Gable had picked up her ticket and suitcase before the driver left. Anyway, it was just like that. As far as I know, my parents never traveled overnight on the bus.

They would have been traveling light; Bob with his Navy duffel and Ardyth with one suitcase, but there was obviously room for a camera! Why were there no photos before Dallas? I’m not sure. It was January, so maybe they didn’t spend much time outside the bus in that first leg. While Ardyth is wearing a coat in Dallas, it doesn’t look that heavy—more likely a raincoat. A winter coat certainly wouldn’t be needed where they were headed!

Once they reached Dallas, the photos started. They would have changed busses there. If they stayed overnight, I don’t know where. While they certainly did some sightseeing, notice that it was almost always a free activity, typically local buildings near the bus station or their motel. They wouldn’t have had much money, and needed it for motel rooms and food, in addition to the bus tickets themselves.

Bob would have saved up some money, but the day after they got married, he had Ardyth take out the $345 she had saved in the bank. She wouldn’t have had easy access to it from California, and they needed it for the trip. She wondered what the teller must have thought, her coming in with a sailor and closing out her account!

So in Dallas they saw the post office building, and some polar bears outside a store.

Then it was on to Sweetwater. That was less than four hours away so it may have been a lunch break. The building below wasn’t identified, but it looks to me like a school. Mom was wearing her sensible saddle shoes: a staple of hers until the late 1960s.

10 January 1945, Sweetwater, Texas

In Pecos, Texas, they stayed two nights. Carlsbad Caverns is northwest of there, so they might have used Pecos as a home base to visit the cave as a day trip. At Mrs. McKelvey’s house, they stayed in a room built onto the garage, and had to go into the house to use their bathroom. With two shots of the welcome center, maybe they caught a bus to Carlsbad Caverns from there?

Carlsbad Caverns is, of course, a big cave. Mom had always claimed to be a little claustrophobic, opting, for instance, to do laundry the morning we were visiting Wind Cave in the 1970s. I don’t know if she was claustrophobic at this point, or if it developed later on. Perhaps Carlsbad Caverns triggered it? Though as caves go, it’s about as spacious as you get! It was likely the most notable, perhaps only, cave she ever toured.

Next stop was El Paso. I assume they stayed at the Cortez Hotel, since they took several pictures of the pretty little park across the street—possibly San Jacinto Plaza. It’s probably prettier in the spring. Notice the coat is off now. I’m not finding a Union Station still in El Paso, but the USO being across the street from it certainly made sense. Fort Bliss was/is nearby, so there were probably a lot of troop trains going through.

Deming, Texas, is only 102 miles from El Paso, so I assume the photos below were taken during a lunch stop. They realized they should probably have photos of their week-long method of transportation.

They seemed to spend two days in Tucson, but weren’t able to stay at the same place both nights. The first night was at the Naomi Motel. Clicking on the left hand photo should show all of it, including Ray’s car in the carport.

I don’t know who that was. At first I thought it was someone they met on the bus; but why would they have been on the bus to begin with, if they had a car? Or maybe he was another military man coming home to Tucson on leave? I have no idea. But he must have had some role to play in this story, if he ended up mentioned on the back of a photo . . .

The next day was spent sightseeing. I’m sure my mom was excited to see palm trees for the first time, and orange trees, and equally sure she’d never seen a shuffleboard playground! There was plenty of signage to get them to the USO, canteen, Red Cross, and any other facility needed by military personnel in Tucson. That night was spent at Motel Thayer. I noticed both motels had a nearly identical design: two adjoining rooms, each with a carport next to it to keep the sun off the car. Smart thinking!

The next day should have taken them to San Diego. It’s about a six hour drive now, but would have taken longer on a bus, with stops and all. While Dad was not stationed at San Diego, he didn’t yet have lodging for his new bride where he was headed. He could always stay on base, but not her. The towns in that area (El Centro and Holtville) were much smaller, so might not have anything available. Leaving her in San Diego, with more choices, was a better plan.

He did find a place for them to rent, but that segment will have to wait for another prompt.

In the meantime, they had an interesting 10-day (or so) adventure.


New to You

“All things must change to something new to something strange.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My Ancestry subscription ended a little while ago, and I hadn’t found a sale I liked in order to renew it. Meanwhile, MyHeritage had “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse” several different times. Alright, I guess I refused it a couple times. With no current subscription, and concerned MyHeritage would eventually stop offering, I decided it was time to take them up on it.

Not that I’m a stranger to MyHeritage. I have 3 sets of DNA results uploaded, as well as a tree connected to them. I’ve made use of free access weekends when I could. Still, I’m a relative newbie to their 6,915 collections and 18,675,423,583 (that’s 18+ billion!) records—not to mention their user trees! Of course, as noted last blog, those trees need to be taken with a grain of salt, just like Ancestry trees, the FamilySearch tree, Geni, or WikiTree.

Nevertheless, MyHeritage regularly sends me emails with suggested records or tree matches. It was always frustrating, because I couldn’t see the actual record, document, or tree. Now I have nearly a year to resolve the 13,621 suggestions in my account! Where to start?

On the DiscoveriesTM tab, I can choose

  • Matches by People (think “shaky leaves”)
  • Matches by Source
  • Instant Discoveries (looks like matching my tree to other people’s)

I’m leaving the Instant Discoveries for now. There are only eight of those, anyway. I took a gander at Matches by Source. The databases are listed alphabetically, telling how many potential matches in each one. With limited available time, I looked only at the ones with one or two hints. If I could deal with those (accepting or rejecting), then the entire database would drop off.

Most of the handful I looked at were false matches: matching names, but wrong location, time period, family members, or some other reason it wasn’t my person. After checking, I could reject the hint and move on. It isn’t necessarily the most effective path through all the hints, but is useful if time is at a premium.

Looking at matches by people, I can sort those by:

  • Value (I’m not sure what that means!)
  • Number of matches
  • Most recent
  • First name
  • Last name
  • Relation (starts with closest, moving on to more distant relatives)

I could also search for a specific name, or go into my tree to see who has matches. When I searched for Mike’s Carmody line, I had 62 people pop up. Each entry told me how many potential matches for that person. Some were to trees, some to databases, some pointed to profiles on FamilySearch. What did I find?

Elizabeth Ann Alloway Carmody—first wife of Mike’s grandfather—had 6:

  • a couple census records, and a city directory, but in Chicago—all rejected because she was living in Port Huron, Michigan.
  • some census records I already had, but somehow weren’t with my tree at MyHeritage. I marked them as confirmed, and added some of the information to that tree.
  • a presence in the FamilySearch tree, which I also marked as confirmed.

Six matches done!

On my Ancestry tree, I never add records directly from Ancestry databases. I add the information into Family Tree Maker, then sync to Ancestry. It’s the system that works for me.

My tree at MyHeritage is a static tree, however, uploaded from a GEDCOM file. I needed a tree there for DNA matching purposes, but I don’t try to keep it up-to-date. Last year I uploaded a fresh copy (I’d added a lot of research since 2017), and discovered that *broke* the Theory of Family Relativity tool and a couple other features until MyHeritage re-ran those algorithms for me. I’ll think long and hard before I do that again!

I should be able to take advantage of this coming year to “update” that tree from the MyHerigage records/hints, which will be useful. I DO have to make sure anything that is truly new also gets entered into Family Tree Maker. But I’m training myself to check against that master file as I do this, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

So I worked my way through the Carmody list, sometimes choosing a person with a single match, sometimes tackling someone with multiple matches. What did I learn about this new resource?

  • I didn’t find too many rejects, despite the early ones with Elizabeth.
  • Some match information I already had in my master file, but somehow didn’t transfer with the GEDCOM. I updated the MyHeritage file with those.
  • I discovered for some of those matches, I didn’t have a document image attached to the source citation in my main file. Oops! I’m not sure how that happened, but I downloaded the image and attached it to my Family Tree Maker database. Problem solved.
  • I noticed the census images at MyHeritage did not seem as clear as the ones I had from Ancestry. I’ll be sure to download those images from Ancestry!
  • The FamilySearch matches were valid, but the information in the tree was often a problem. I marked them as confirmed, but didn’t pull much information in from that tree. When I found Anna Carmody Bauman (adoptive mother of Mike’s dad) with three separate profiles, I had to stop and merge those, as well as the two versions of her father, and get rid of her mother being connected to her alone—no father, no siblings. Bottom line, she was a mess! I *think* I have her correct, now, at FamilySearch. Hopefully she’ll stay that way.

My list of Carmodys is shorter by 15, so I made some progress. While it’s satisfying to have them “done,” I’m not sure attacking the match list by surname or person is the best choice, unless it’s part of a specific research project. It’ll probably be better to concentrate on the databases that are unique to MyHeritage—their city directory collection (that cross-references by address), or the newspapers they have, for instance. Resources that disappear when this subscription ends. I’ll need to look more closely at their holdings and prioritize the order I go in.

Even though I didn’t find any breakthrough answers, I did have an intersting find for little Buddie Carmody, Mike’s half first cousin. I first “met” Buddie over Memorial Day weekend, 1995, during our first trip to Port Huron to look at cemeteries. His headstone was in Mount Hope Cemetery with many other Carmodys, and had his birth and death dates: 1917-1919. He was just 2 years old.

The cemetery provided me with plot information. Buddie was in grave one of Lot 39N, Block J. “Buddie” was the only name the cemetery had for him. On the grave(s) next to him, there was no headstone, though there was an unengraved urn or similar statue. According to the cemetery, Sara (Sadie) and Hugh W. Carmody were buried there.

Mount Hope Cemetery, Port Huron, Michigan. Lot 39N, Block J. Buddie Carmody, 1917-1919. His Find a Grave memorial doesn’t have anything further—not even links to his parents’ memorials.

Later research in the St. Clair County death records index1 revealed they were Buddie’s parents, and that Buddie was named Hugh, after his father. The index listed his cause of death as accidental. I didn’t order a death certificate, and those weren’t online at that time.

One of the matching records at MyHeritage was a news article reporting Buddie’s (Hugh’s) death.2 He was run over by a milk wagon, in front of his home. That put a whole new light on accident! It was a short blurb from Ludington, Michigan, 250+ miles away. I’ll need to see if the local papers had a longer version. We all know how fast 2-year-olds can be; Buddie ran in front of the wagon. I can’t imagine what it was like for the parents, or the milkman.

2 September 1919, Ludington Daily News, p. 1, col. 7. “MILL [MILK] CART CRUSHES LIFE OUT OF PORT HURON BOY. PORT HURON, Mich., Sept. 2.—Hugh Carmody, two-year-old son of Hugh Carmody, a Pere Marquette employee of this city, was almost instantly killed about 10:30 o’clock Sunday morning when a milk wagon driven by William Bell, prominent dairyman, ran over the child’s body in front of the Carmody home on Park street. Mr. Carmody places no blame on the milkman.”

The headline sent me in search of Buddie’s death certificate. The Michiganology web site apparently fixed whatever was ailing it several weeks ago. His death certificate was easy to find, and provided a few more details: “Accidental. Run over by wagon. Chest crushed. Fractured skull.” It sounded even worse than the newspaper’s version.

Back to the MyHeritage hints. Why bother clearing out the bad matches at all? Simple, it shortens the list. There’s no reason to keep them around, distracting me. Hopefully rejecting them will help the matching algorithm become more accurate—either for me specifically, or for everyone in general. Or both.

And the good matches? Again, they educate the algorithm, and may pick up more detailed data or a corroborating source. I love it when details from distinct sources back up each other! I like being able change how I work through the hints. I don’t always have the same amount of time, or the same goal, so having different options is a good thing.

And in the meantime, little Buddie’s short life has a few more details.

So, all I need to do is knock out 40 suggestions per day. Piece of cake . . . Oh, wait! In the time it took me to write this blog (about a week?), the number has jumped to 15,114 matches. This could be a losing battle . . .


1St. Clair County Death Records, St. Clair County Clerk’s Office, 201 McMorran Blvd, Port Huron, Michigan, vol 5, page 225, record #27982. Hugh CARMODY.

2“Michigan Newspapers, 1817-2009”, database, MyHeritage, MyHeritage Search (, “Mill Cart Crushes Life Out of Port Huron Boy,” 2 September 1919, p. 1 col. 7: accessed 5 October 2022, Ludington Daily News, Ludington, Michigan, online archive (https: Entry for Hugh Carmody.

3“Michigan Death Records, 1897-1952”, database, Michigan History Center, Michiganology (, accessed 7 October 2022, entry for Hugh William CARMODY, 2, 31 August 1919, citing Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan, registered no. 292. [written], state file # 674.

High and Low

A tale of two immigrants . . .

Three of my four 2nd great-grandparent couples landed in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, independently of one another. For one couple (John M. Bruder and Elizabeth Jost), their parents were the ones to emigrate, and the kids just met up there. One 2nd great-grandfather could be linked with low, and one 3rd
great-grandfather has a connection with high.

We’ll start with low, and work our way up.

Peter Harre was born in Friedrichweiler, in the Saar region of Germany, in 1812. He was the grandfather of my paternal grandmother, Victoria Schweiger. I’ve written about his emigration, and about the improvement in the family’s circumstances. That post briefly touched on his working as a coal miner, but I didn’t really think about it much.

That detail—being a day laborer (Taglöhner) at a coal mine—was recorded in his marriage record to Elisabetha Boullie in 1844. I’d received that information second hand, from a 2nd cousin, once removed. It was merely a handwritten page, obtained, I believe, from a researcher she had hired. It may have been a German researcher, accessing the records locally, or one in the USA, researching the microfilms in Salt Lake City.

Either way, all the cousin received (or sent to me, at least!) was the extracted information, not a document image. I couldn’t verify that translation/interpretation for accuracy. Was there even a coal mining industry in that part of Europe? I was able to locate this map:

Overview map of coal mining areas in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Northern France. Label #5 is in the area of interest. It was identified as Bergwerk Saar, Saarlouis (closed June 2012). Image attribution: Hans Erren, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons (2011).

The brown section in the lower right corner, spanning the Lorraine-Saar border, was exactly the location for the Harry family—the Saar side of it. So Peter being a coal miner was at least feasible!

What didn’t necessarily make sense was why he was a coal miner. The very same marriage record identified his father as Johann Hary (yes, the spelling was different!), an Ackerer (farmer). Presumably Peter grew up on a farm, yet as an adult, that wasn’t his occupation. Why wasn’t he farming with his father? Or working as one of his farmhands?

Farming as an occupation in old German records can be more complicated than an Ackermann or Bauer label, words commonly used now. The German Genealogical Word List at the FamilySearch wiki, lists 125 (more, if I miscounted!) words for farming occupations. Many are variations of a base word, providing a more specific description of the type of farmer. I’m not about to tackle the nuances of those differences, only to acknowledge they exist. Taglöhner does not show up in that list!

One detail I don’t know about Peter, is how many siblings (specifically, brothers) did he have, and where did he fit in the birth order? If he was a younger son, that could explain why he found work in the coal mine. Farmland would have been inherited by older brothers.

But for now, Peter is the only child I have listed for his parents, Johann and Margretha Müller. If he were truly an only child (or son), he would have been working on the family farm, with his father. My new MyHeritage subscription showed me many trees with the correct Peter Harry in them. The trees mostly had his correct birth and death dates, his wives (sometimes only one of them) and parents.

Some trees did list siblings—a lot of them—and his children. Unfortunately, the children list included a number of children with a Westphal surname. His oldest daughter married into the Westphal family, so he had Westphal grandchildren, but shouldn’t have had any children with that name. Some of the trees also attached an 1860 Pennsylvania census record to him, as well as an 1880 Winnebago County, Wisconsin, census record.

The trouble is, he died before the 1860 census. In Wisconsin.

To say I’m skeptical of the accuracy of those trees is an understatement. When I have more time, I’ll go in search of siblings for Peter, using records, not trees.

Regardless, when Peter emigrated to the USA, he did not settle in the coal mining areas of West Virginia or Pennsylvania; or near the iron, copper, or silver mines in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. Instead, he decided he no longer wanted to work underground in a mine, and pursued a farming career above ground.

He was done with being low!

For high, I decided to look at Christian Bruder again. When I found his Declaration of Intent, at first I thought it didn’t tell me anything new. Then I realized the document provided the specific name of the ruler in the land he was leaving:

2 August 1846, Declaration of Intent, Christian Bruder. Section renouncing allegiance to “Joseph William, King of Bavaria.”

The lists I found for the Rulers of Bavaria contained:

  • Maximilian I (reigned 1806-1925; too early)
  • Ludwig I, his son (reigned 1825-1948)
  • Maximilian II, Ludwig’s son (reigned 1848-1864; too late)

None of them was a Joseph William (or Josef Wilhelm). Maximilian I was a Joseph, but no William in sight, and he died well before 1846. Ludwig reigned at the time Christian emigrated, but I did not see anything indicating he had a Joseph or William in his name. Ludwig’s son, Maximilian II, was a Joseph like his grandfather, but did not ascend to the throne until two years after Christian had gone.

As I mentioned in the other post, Bavaria consisted of two separate areas for a period of time. The map below (Bavaria in the German Reich) is dated 1871 (unification under Bismarck), but the smaller section to the west came under Bavarian rule in 1816, and remained part of Bavaria until the end of WWII. It is above the northern border of Lorraine, and has been referred to by various names:

  • Palatinate
  • Pfalz
  • Rheinpfalz
By Milenioscuro – Own work based on: File:Deutsches Reich (Karte) Bayern.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

So, why the history/geography lesson? Since I had no town of origin, the more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder if having a name for the King of Bavaria might help me narrow down which section of Bavaria Christian came from.

Perhaps Joseph William was a lesser ruler? Someone more local? Could I pin him to the Palatinate? Or a smaller area of the larger section? Anything to reduce the 27,000+ square miles to something more manageable . . .

I rooted around Bavarian history and found Luitpold Karl Joseph Wilhelm Ludwig, (a younger son of Ludwig I), who acted as Prince Regent of Bavaria from 1886-1912. He effectively ruled Bavaria because his nephews, Ludwig II and then Otto (sons of Maximilian II) were deemed incompetent. Of course, he ruled way too late for Christian, also.

Switching over to Palatinate history, it had been ruled by Maximilian I until 1806, when it was annexed to Bavaria, still under his rule. Another idea shot down.

Did the Brown County clerk have a list of current (1846) world leaders he pulled names from? If so, then it was wrong. Or did Christian provide it, naming a lower-level ruler, too unimportant to make it into history? Or at least the Wikipedia articles?

Maybe Christian didn’t keep up with current events, so didn’t realize Ludwig I was the king when he left? Could he have reversed the names and said “Joseph Maximilian,” but a heavy German accent made it sound like “Joseph William?” Yeah, it’s a stretch, but maybe not as big as it seems.

It seems the detail I thought might be an important clue fizzled big-time! It’s a puzzle I don’t have an answer to.

So did I waste my time with the research this week? Taking the time to better understand the records I’ve found is never wasted. Genealogy is more than just collecting names and dates. True, it didn’t help me pinpoint a location for Christian, but maybe it will help me understand the next record I find for him.

As for Peter, I slowed down a bit, and realized I’m missing information (siblings) that may be useful. I need to remember to look for the brothers who inherited the family farmland in Germany.



“Exploration is curiosity put into action.”—Don Walsh

In a perfect world, everything falls into place for a person:

  • We find a birth record for them.
  • Their census ages line up reasonably well.
  • We find a marriage record which confirms the birth, and names the parents.
  • A death record corroborates all or most of the above information.
  • Ditto for an obituary.

Everything gets tied up with a nice bow.

Yeah, right! Genealogy is rarely like that.

Most of the time we struggle, teasing records out of databases or musty courthouse registers. We build our ancestor’s life, reconciling inconsistencies, trying to fill gaps.

Once in a while, though, we uncover a document that seems to tie everything together. That happened with me last post, with an 1860 mortality schedule entry for my 3rd great-grandfather, Christian Bruder.

But did it really? Or did I talk myself into it? I feel confident about my assessment of it, and the conclusions I drew. Perhaps I need further exploration of the records, though, to assure myself I didn’t jump the gun. Or make assumptions I shouldn’t have.

Assumption #1: Christian Brother on the 1860 mortality schedule (schedule 3) was related to John Mathias Brother on the 1860 population schedule (schedule 1).

I am sure the John Mathias Brother in the 1860 census is my 2nd great-grandfather.1 His age was consistent with other documents known to belong to him, and the people in his household matched the other details known about him:

  • Elizabeth, age 21 [wife]—though 1860 census does not actually identify any relationships!
  • Nicholas, age 1/12 [son]
  • Mary, age 13 [John’s sister]
  • Marcus, age 10 [John’s brother]
  • Catharine, age 49 [John’s mother]

Of course, nothing in that entry indicated the family had anyone listed on schedule 3, and nothing on schedule 3 linked back to schedule 1. Did Christian really link back to John Mathias? I assumed the name order on the mortality schedule would correspond to the family order on the population schedule. According to the 1860 instruction manual, that should be correct:

After having entered on the schedules of living population all the requisite facts respecting those who were alive on the first day of June, you will in every case inquire whether any deaths have occurred in the family or to any member thereof, during the year previous to that time. This question being answered affirmatively, you will, upon schedule No.3, proceed to make entry in accordance
with the following directions. 1860.>History>1860 Census. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 8 September 2022]; p. 20 (image 22).

The general directions stated earlier (p. 11, image 13, instruction #3) to fill the schedules in order, completing one page before starting the next (emphasis mine). But did that enumerator follow instructions?

I first checked both schedules, and confirmed the enumerator’s name was the same. While I’m certainly not an expert, the handwriting on the two also seemed to match. I then created a spreadsheet, listing the deceased individuals with their ages.

Turning to page 1 of the population schedule for Kossuth, I looked for each surname in turn, trying to identify the family that had a death. I was looking for (and hoping not to find!) any discrepancies between the sequence of the deceased people and the general enumeration.

name of deceased person (schedule #3)age at deathpage on census (schedule #1)suspected familynotes
William H. Hardgraves9/12188 (1 of 45)James & Mary Ann HardgravesWilliam, age 6
John Woodfreid66 (widowed)189 (2 of 45)James & Fanny WOODFIELD (his son?)likely family, as 3rd death family is lower on the page)
Barbara Hasmer8/12, died Aug.189/90 (2/3 of 45)Michael & Fedus Hasmera 3 year old and 2 month old
Alphonzo  Poquon1/12193 (8 of 45)Lacon (Leon?) & Mary Poquon6 and 4 year olds—also an Anthony, Charles, and Louis on next page w/young kids, alternate possible fathers.
Catherine Reim55 (married), born Austria196 (11 of 45)Wenzel Reim, age 71no spouse, born Austria
George Chisler [twin?]1/12, died Jan.201 (16 of 45)Jacob & Mary CHISHLER— ORchildren 17, 11, 6, 3
Anton Chisler [twin?]1/12, died Jan.201 (16 of 45)Joseph & Mary CHISLER 2 pages laterchildren 18, 13, 11, 6, 3, 1 
Joseph E. Chlowpech10/12, died Aug.205 (20 of 45)Joseph & Mary CHLOPECKchildren 4 and 1/12
Mary Kwosack2207 (22 of 45)Francis & Philomene Kwosackdaughter 1 month old
Catharine Shinfeldt15, born Bohemia207 (22 of 45)Wenzel & Catharine Shinfeltsister Mary age 17, Wenzel age 7; everyone born in Bohemia
Elizabeth Wichert6/12, died Feb208 (23 of 45)John Peter & Catharine Wichertbrother Jacob, 1; ANOTHER family possible on 212 (image 27)
Gustavus Karnner3/12, died Nov.216 (31 of 45)Adolph and Antonie KOMMERchildren 8, 7, 3, and a Gustave age 1. Only family possible
Amelia Eatough5220 (35 of 45)William & Sarah Eatoughchildren from 3-20, gap between the 7- and 3-year olds
George Hothersall73 (married), born England224 (39 of 45)Ellen Hothersall, age 67also born England, living with likely daughter’s family
Christian Brother58 (married), born Bavaria226 (41 of 45)Catharine Brother, age 49also born Bavaria, living with son, John Mathias
Mary Emmet5/12, died Aug227 (42 of 45)William & Margaret Emmetsister Margaret, age 3/12
Margaret Ammerman2228 (43 of 45)Frederich & Hannah Ammermanchildren 7, 6, 4, and a daughter, Margaret, 10 months old—probably born just after her sister’s death, so they reused the name?
Table to link the 1860 Kossuth mortality schedule (2 columns at left) with the corresponding population schedule (3 columns on right).

Everyone was accounted for, in the correct order. While there were a couple instances of spelling issues (surnames in ALL CAPS to note those differences), as well as a few times there was more than one possible family, there certainly was no other Brother family, and no other potential widow for Christian.

That was an important confirmation for me.

Assumption #2: The Christian Bruder in the naturalization records was the same as the one in the mortality schedule.

While the surname was recorded correctly (Bruder) on those documents, and the birthplace (Bavaria) and year (1801) matched, and he resided in the right county, it didn’t mean that Christian was my Christian. Was there any other information in the documents tying him to the one who died in 1859?

The 1847 declaration of intent didn’t offer anything new, but the 1857 application (and the index) listed two witnesses: Jacob Lueps and Richard Klingholtz. Both signed the document (as did Christian), so they would have had to been at the Circuit Court in Manitowoc with him. And they were swearing that they were “well acquainted” with him, that he was of “good moral character,” and that he’d resided in the United States for 5 years, with at least the last year in Wisconsin. They couldn’t be recent acquaintances. What could I find out about them?

I found a Richard Klingholz, age 60, in the 1880 census. He was a merchant living in Manitowoc. Finding him in 1860 (age 40) was harder, but a Rich’d Klinghottz was in Manitowoc, somewhat newly married, and a liquor dealer. Sounds like a merchant to me. He also appeared in the Town of Newton in 1850, thirty years old, and a merchant, with his surname written Klinghotz, but indexed Klingotz.

He was certainly in the area for an extended time, with plenty of opportunity to know Christian. Since he lived in town (rather than out on a farm), it may have been a little easier for him to make a court appearance.

Jacob Lueps was more elusive. I had to track him down from his Find a Grave memorial (giving me a birth year). He had no obituary, but the memorial for his son, William, did. It confirmed his parents’ names, and talked about the family having a large dairy farm. From plat maps, I located the property, so I knew which township I should be looking in. I searched 1860 for Jacob born 1817, living in Manitowoc County. No Lueps showed up, but I tried the Jacob Laneps who appeared. It was the guy I was looking for, with his son, William, the right wife, and farming $50,000 of real estate. His name was written correctly, just misread and indexed wrong.

I did not see him in the 1850 census (same search parameters), but it’s possible he wasn’t in Wisconsin yet. His oldest child in 1860 was eight, and born in Wisconsin, so that could be a likely explanation. Even though Jacob Lueps farmed, he was just outside the city limits. A trip into the courthouse wouldn’t have used up his entire day.

So the short answer is, no, I don’t have anything to firmly link those two men to my Christian! On the other hand, nothing in the naturalization records threw up a red flag. I do feel better having found the witnesses. Clearly neither one of them was a nearby neighbor, but with a shared German heritage, Christian may have known them socially, or through business (or farming) connections. Presumably he didn’t just grab strangers off the street.

Assumption #3: Christian, Catharine, John M., and Mary should be on the 1850 census in Manitowoc.

Except I hadn’t found them! According to the naturalization papers, Christian, Catherine, and John M. arrived in July 1847, and he filed his declaration of intent in August. Mary’s birth was about 1847, in Wisconsin. John M.’s obituary said:

. . . and when 12 years old came to Manitowoc County with his parents, locating in the town of Kossuth, which was his home up to nineteen years ago when he removed to the city.

Unidentified Manitowoc County newspaper obituary photocopy for John M. Bruder, acquired from cousins living in Manitowoc.

With John M.’s 1834 birth, that put his emigration in 1846-47, consistent with his father’s naturalization documents. They should have been enumerated in 1850. Armed with a birth year for Christian, I returned to a page-by-page survey of that census. The good news was that fewer people lived in Manitowoc County in 1850, so it was a shorter search!

The 1850 census also had far fewer enumeration districts than 1860 and onwards. There were only seven, :

  • Centerville (5 pages)
  • Cooperstown (2 pages)
  • Manitowoc (18 pages)
  • Manitowoc Rapids (23 pages)
  • Meeme (5 pages)
  • Newton (14 pages)
  • Two Rivers (22 pages)

Compare that to the twenty-three enumeration districts in 1860! Note that Kossuth was not one of the 1850 choices. What were the boundaries for the enumeration districts? Were there maps? Descriptions? I didn’t really find either, but did find some information at the Genealogy Gems website:

For censuses before 1900, the government used voting districts as enumeration districts. Find voting district maps in the Library of Congress book, Ward Maps of the United States : A Selective Checklist of Pre-1900 Maps in the Library of Congress.  (The links here lead to WorldCat search results for these titles. WorldCat will tell you about libraries that have these books.)

Cooke, L., 2014. How to Find Enumeration District Maps. [online] Genealogy Gems. Available at: <; [Accessed 14 September 2022].

Unfortunately, the book mentioned above dealt with only larger cities (hence, the Selective!). I found a digitized copy at FamilySearch, and it was no help with this. I never found any map showing what the boundary lines for the districts above were. Presumably the farms and homes in what was later Kossuth were absorbed into one of the seven districts. Which one? I wasn’t sure, so I would have to page through them all!

My futile search for a map turned up unexpected finds. One was the 1900 plat map for Manitowoc County at the Library of Congress. It will come in handy at some point. The other was learning that Manitowoc County wasn’t formed until 1836, and had previously been part of Brown County! Brown County continued to handle judicial matters for Manitowoc County through 1848, explaining why Christian’s Declaration of Intent was filed in Green Bay, the Brown County seat.

After 47 years of doing genealogy, it still astounds me how much I don’t know . . .

Back to my page-by-page search. I scanned each page looking for Bruder, Brother, or anything similar. I also checked for a first name of Christian, to see what surnames popped up with that.

In the process I think I found Jacob Lueps in Manitowoc, written as Lulps, and indexed as Luss. No wonder I didn’t find him in with a search! He seemed newly arrived, because his occupation was listed as none.

But did I find Christian and family? I think so:

1850 census, Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, page 30.2 Christian Brothers, (50), Friederica (39), Martest (17), Mary (3).

I remember seeing this entry long ago, but dismissed it at the time because I didn’t know Christian’s birth year. It would have been too risky to accept it as correct at that point. The presumed wife also was Friederica instead of Catherine. But the children’s ages and birthplaces were correct. Given the German love of multiple names, and John Mathias’s own inclination to play fast and loose with his name in records (Johnan Mathias, John M., John, Matt, etc.), I’m inclined to give her a little leeway on the name.

Whether she originally was a Friederica Catherine, or Catherine Friederica, I can’t say, but she seemed to settle on Catherine in all the later records. This might also explain the difficulty in finding a ship’s passenger list for the family. It’s possible she sailed under Friederica, so I need to consider that when searching.

Yes, Matthias got butchered on line 29, but I actually have this same spelling used with another family in this area! It must have been something about pronouncing Mathias with a German accent that caused the problem, even in a heavily German-settled area.

Just for grins, I searched the 1850 census, using “lived in” Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, with three different name options. First, I searched only for a first name of Christian. The entry above was the only likely candidate of the 23 results. I then searched for a surname of Brother (no first name), again finding only the entry above. If I searched for Bruder, the only six people were part of a Brider family. It wasn’t even close to the family structure I needed.

The anecdotal history for John M., along with other records for Christian, and the lack of potential same-named men, increases my confidence this was my Christian Bruder family—despite the two name issues.

I’ve spent this week mostly dotting i’s and crossing t’s with Christian. I still need to find additional records to nail down his death and immigration dates to something more specific—and maybe find a town of origin. But it seemed important to double check more easily accessible records to make sure nothing else raised a red flag.

I feel better about exploring more thoroughly the documents found recently, including the 1850 census record. Christian isn’t exactly a brick wall—more like a blackberry bramble, a dense tangle impeding forward progress. Slowly but surely I’m snipping away at the mess, clearing a passageway.


11860 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth; Page 225; dwelling number 1775; family number 1759; line 39; John M. BROTHER [BRUDER] household; accessed 30 August 2020. John Mathias BROTHER [BRUDER], age 25; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1418; digital image, (

21850 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers; Page 30; dwelling number 93; family number 96; line 27; Christian BROTHERS [BRUDER] household; accessed 17 September 2022. Christian BROTHERS [BRUDER], age 50; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 1002; digital image, (