Water

“Water is the driving force of all nature.”–Leonardo da Vinci

Mike’s family members are thoroughly Michigander. Apparently there is a musical artist by that name. Not talking about him. With a few rare exceptions of family who moved out-of-state in the 1940s or later, the family has lived along the east “coast” of Michigan since the mid to late 1800s. My late mother-in-law was fond of bragging that Michigan would never run out of water, since it bordered four of the five Great Lakes!

None of Mike’s family was involved in the substantial water commerce taking place in Michigan. I’m not aware of any boat captains or merchant marine sailors. Nevertheless, it seems his family was repeatedly drawn to water, as evidenced by the few photos we have. Today’s blog has vignettes spotlighting some of the people, stories, and photos.

In Winter, I already wrote about Patrick Nolan’s (Mike’s maternal great-grandfather) drowning in the Black River, which flows through Port Huron. Water certainly impacted his life. Death. You know what I mean.

Not too far away, on the other side of the family, John Joseph Carmody spent time as the manager of the Lighthouse Park Tourist Camp, near the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. He was the manager from at least 1928 (when his wife died), retiring in 1933.

1902 postcard of the Fort Gratiot lighthouse. The tourist camp would have been there after this photo was taken, on the far side of the lighthouse. In the public domain, original: Detroit Photographic Company. The original uploader to wikimedia.org was Cbl62 at English Wikipedia.

It continued to be a tourist camp until at least 1949, and sported a beach, still popular today. The beach is the likely location of the photos of Mike’s parents, below, taken when they were dating. Even though both lived in Detroit, they regularly headed north to Port Huron. Both had family connections there, and it was an opportunity to get out of the city. Often they “double dated” with Pat’s sister, Sue, and Sue’s boyfriend (later, husband) Gene.

Probably mid-1950s. Mike’s parents, Patricia Kukler and Jerry Bauman. Location not certain, but likely to be the beach at Lighthouse Park or Lakeside Park (a short way further north), Port Huron, Michigan. Both beaches are at the southernmost end of Lake Huron, just before the beginning of the St. Clair River. I don’t believe there are beach areas like this downriver, in Detroit.

Earlier generations found themselves recreating near the water, too. The photos below all came from an album belonging to Mike’s grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. We never saw it until after his mom’s death, and her mother had died 13 years earlier. The album was falling apart. It was too fragile to invert and scan, and I didn’t know (or think) to record how the photos were placed on the pages. My bad. I did have enough sense to write on the backs of photos whatever had been written below them on the pages, but many had nothing to identify them. While I was grateful for the names, dates and places would have really come in handy!

The photos below identified the people, but I didn’t know where it was. Initially I thought it might be Boblo—an amusement park I had heard of, on another island farther down the Detroit River. Mike said it didn’t look like that, and suggested Belle Isle, which I’d forgotten about. Searching online, I found postcards consistent with what I saw in these photos, including the bridge in the background of the first photo.

Frank C. Kukler was born and grew up in Detroit. A true city boy. He met his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Nolan, when she had moved from Port Huron for better job opportunities. Between 1907 and 1919, she worked as a telephone operator or in one or more private homes as a governess or domestic. Who was Tressa? My best guess is she was Theresa Krattenthaler, a 24-year old nursemaid in the Lawrence M. Goodman household upstairs at 67 Euclid Avenue West² in 1920. In the 1915 Detroit City Directory, however, I found both Theresa and Elizabeth, working as “domestics” at the same location in Grosse Point Park³—right across from Belle Isle. It’s not too surprising Tressa stored a canoe, and spent free time at Belle Isle!

Another popular water hole for Mike’s family was Houghton Lake, smack dab in the middle of the “mitten,” about 2/3 of the way up. Mike’s Uncle Gene (Sue’s main squeeze, remember?) inherited his parents’ summer cottage on the lake. I don’t know exactly how much time they spent up there, but Uncle Gene had a pontoon boat (much tamer than the speed boats he used to race as a young man!) on the lake, so I presume they made good use of it. Even Elizabeth (his mother-in-law) went out for a spin on the lake in 1984, when she was 93!

1984. Elizabeth Nolan Kukler, age 93, out for a ride on Houghton Lake.

When Mike’s family decided to hold a reunion, we commandeered most (if not all) of the rooms of a nearby strip motel, not far from Gene & Sue’s cottage. There were two buildings of motel rooms running perpendicular between the road and the lake, with a beach, grassy area, and dock between them. It was the perfect place for Elizabeth’s kids (below), grandkids, and great-grandkids to hang out together for a week.

19 August 1989. Five of the six Kukler siblings alive at the time: Pat, Sue, Marge, Bob, Mary. Three are still with us.

We swam, played in the sand, got boat rides, played putt-putt nearby. Everyone enjoyed the week enough, that we repeated it in 1993. Unfortunately, coordinating the schedules of 20+ families is complicated, so it’s been limited to those two times. Better two than none . . .

Water has been called the universal solvent. It breaks apart more things than anything else.

But sometimes it just pulls everything together.

#52Ancestors


¹Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/) “Belle Isle Park (Michigan),” rev. 31 March 2020, at 09:08 (UTC). 

²1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, Ward 2, e.d. 85; Page 2A; dwelling number 19; family number 23; line 12; Lawrence M. GOODMAN household; accessed 5 April 2020. Theresa KRATTENTHALAR, age 24; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 802; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³”U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing R. L. Polk’s Detroit City Directory, 1915. Entry for Elilzabeth NOLAN, p. 1814, and Theresa KRATLENTHER [misspelled], p. 1450, accessed 5 April 2020.

Nearly Forgotten

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”–George Eliot

A few weeks ago, in Favorite Discovery, I wrote about the 1850s church records from Kreuzeber (now Kreuzebra), Germany. I showed you the stack of pages fished out of the canvas tote bag stowed in the corner of the living room. The records weren’t exactly forgotten, because the bag silently nagged at me every time my eyes swept that corner of the room. But they had been ignored. That project had been on the back burner for at least a decade.

The pages I printed from FHL microfilm #1,193,951, Item 1. I printed only pages having one of my ancestral surnames on it. Sometimes it was the person who the record was for, or the parents, or a witness.

In 2018, for Mother’s Day, I wrote about finding a child in those records who died very young, and mused about her mother’s possible feelings. I didn’t remember exactly who the mother and daughter were, and didn’t have time try and locate them in the stack, so they remained anonymous. I always intended to identify them at some point, but it obviously hadn’t happened. Finding myself mostly home-bound (albeit, healthy!), and the weather alternating between too cold and too wet for yard work, now seemed like a good time to dust off the pages and start tackling this project.

First a little background on the town. Its name has changed slightly since the 1850s, as have its jurisdictions. Kreuzebra is located in the Eichsfeld district, in the German state of Thuringia. Its population at the end of 2017 was 716, somewhat less than in the past. In January 2019, it joined several other villages in merging into the town of Dingelstädt.¹ Back in the mid-19th century, Kreuzeber was in the province (or state) of Sachsen, in Prussia. Same place, different places to look for records.

Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Catholic church in Kreuzeber/Kreuzebra. ©2019 Erwin Meyer by CC-BY-SA-4.0

To get started, I created a brand new file, and began with the first page: Births and Baptisms 1851. For the time being, I’m ignoring the paper Family Group Sheets I’d previously created by hand. I will go through them at the end, to make sure I didn’t miss something this time that I had noticed last time, but trying to make sense of them now would be confusing and time consuming.

It was a slow start. Trying to craft the citation for the microfilm took way longer than expected. I wanted to get it right the first time, so I didn’t have to go back and correct a whole bunch of citations. It’s easier (for me, at least) to create it once, then for the next record to make a duplicate, change the person-specific information, and use that for that person’s citations. And repeat. A lot.

It also took a bit of time to get into the handwriting. German script is not the easiest, so there’s a learning curve for reading it. It’s like retraining your brain to recognize the many letter formation options. At least the register pages were pre-printed forms, so each of the three formats was consistent. I worked my way through births, marriages, and deaths, and I developed a routine.

Then I found her: Anna Maria Haase, 11 months, 20 days old when she died on 6 January 1853 from Nervenfieber (nervous fever/typhus).² Only her father was listed: Ackermann Johannes Haase. Any guess how many Johannes Haase I have in the file? Eight. The adult ones were either an Ackermann or a Kämmerer. And this is only beginning my 4th year of records!

1853 Deaths for Kreuzeber. “Anna Maria Haase, legitimate daughter of the farmer Johannes Haase. Child, 11 months 20 days old . Sixth of January, 7 PM, [repeated because it was in the wrong column], numeric day, Nervenfieber. I can’t make out who reported & certified the death—it’s different than the other entries, and hard to read. She was buried 9 January, in Kreuzeber (that got cut off).

Anna’s age was specific enough, though, that I could calculate her birthdate from her death date. That pointed me back to her 17 January 1852 birth record, confirming Johann Haase and Magdalena Kühn as her parents.³ They later go on to have another daughter, Katharina, born 29 May 1854. With twelve more years to process, additional children could pop up for them.

Instead of making a photocopy for this register page, I tried the “trace the writing from the microfilm reader” technique. The reader projected down to a slanted surface. I placed the paper on that (presumably yellow improves visibility!), the image projected on the paper, which I could then trace. “[entry] 4, Anna Maria Haase, 17 Jan. 3 AM, legitimate daughter of Johann Haase, Ackermann & Magdalena Kühn, baptized 19 January.” I neglected to include her godparent(s). Hmm.

Anna was by no means the only child on that page of deaths; three more children ranged from 1 month to 4 years, 9 months. The adults were 48, 49, 56, and 82 years old. Other death record pages had similar age distributions. On the pages with people dying in their 20s or 30s, it was generally women. Not a huge surprise, given the possible complications from childbirth.

It would be easy to forget about the children dying young. Clearly they weren’t anyone’s ancestors! I could be very practical and rationalize that I keep track of them to help me sort out the survivors. There are a lot of repeated names in the records. Remember the eight “Johannes”? The situation is equally bad for Maria, Katharina, Franz, etc. If I’m trying to figure out which Wilhelm died or got married, it’s helpful to know which ones are already out of the running. For instance, nine entries below Anna’s birth entry was one for Anna Maria Elisabeth Haase, born 26 May, to unmarried Theresia Haase. Knowing that Johann’s and Magdalena’s Anna died young might help me down the road, dealing with this other girl.

And, of course, unrecognized DNA matches trace back to those collateral relatives of my ancestors. I need my ancestors’ siblings and cousins properly placed in my tree to figure out how my matches connect. Guess work doesn’t really work.

The bottom line, though, is that those young kids simply deserve to be remembered. Period. Their short little lives mattered, and had an impact—regardless of how small—on the people around them. That impact rippled down to all of us who followed, whether we realize it or not.

So, how does Anna actually fit into my tree? I don’t know. Kreuzeber was (is) a small community. Odds are, all the Haase residents were related in some way. Who was this particular Johann, Anna’s father? He was not my 2nd great grandfather, [Charles] John Haase, who married Elisabeth Nachwey, with their daughter, Elisabeth, arriving later in 1853. Most likely Anna’s father was my 2nd great grandfather’s cousin, since they seem to be around the same age. Johann and Magdalena’s marriage record (which would list their parents’ names) was not in the register pages I viewed, so is in the previous record book. That will have to wait for a trip to the nearby Family History Center for their online access to the images.

I was curious about how the tree was shaping up, so I created a quick “Extended Family Chart” containing everyone. There are 176 people in 53 distinct family groupings, many of them consisting of just a mother, father, and one child. Some of those will flesh out with additional children as I continue to process pages, but to make any real headway, I will need the earlier marriage records, giving me the parents names. Then I will be able to link some of these people together as sibings with the same parents. Until then, I will keep slogging through the pages I have at home, making the connections I can.

Regardless, the nearly forgotten project and people are back in view.

#52Ancestors


¹Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/) “Kreuzebra,” rev. 12 February 2019, 10:49 (UTC).    

²Katholische Kirche Kreuzeber (Kr. Heiligenstadt) (Kreuzeber, Sachsen, Preussen, Germany), “Kirchenbuchduplikat [church book duplicate], 1815-1874”, Deaths, 1853, entry 1, Anna Maria HAASE, 6 January; filmed as Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1851-1866 (Kefferhausen) Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1851-1866 (Kreuzeber); FHL microfilm; 1,193,951, Item 1.

³Katholische Kirche Kreuzeber (Kr. Heiligenstadt) (Kreuzeber, Sachsen, Preussen, Germany), “Kirchenbuchduplikat [church book duplicate], 1815-1874”, Births, 1852, entry 4, Anna Maria HAASE, 17 January; filmed as Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1851-1866 (Kefferhausen) Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1851-1866 (Kreuzeber); FHL microfilm; 1,193,951, Item 1.

Popular

“POPULAR! You’re gonna be popular!”–Glinda, in “Wicked” (sung by Kristen Chenoweth, written by Stephen Schwartz)

When I go to Ancestry.com and look at my tree, it tells me I have 24,766 record hints. Photos, stories, and member trees hints add another 4,000+. With 6,040 people in the tree, it averages to 4 record hints per person. Of course, many people do not have hints (only 3,530, or 58%), so the average becomes 7 record hints per person, 8 hints, if you count trees, photos, etc. Actual numbers are much higher for some, obviously. And not all hints are created equal; I know some don’t belong to my people.

It got me thinking, though, about who was my most popular person, with regard to hints. Was there an easy way to find that person? It wasn’t as easy as I thought.

No report exists in Family Tree Maker allowing me to list people by the number of hints they have. If I go to the corresponding online tree at Ancestry.com, I can look at all my hints. I can even sort them by surname, though paging through 1,239 pages of hints and counting them up didn’t seem like a good plan. I could pull up a name list, but that had only name, birth and death dates; not the number of matches. So I wandered around my Ancestry tree, clicking on leaves to see how many hints they had.

It was slow, tedious, and not efficient. I decided to focus more on direct ancestors, sometimes their siblings. I found plenty who had hints in the upper teens, with a couple at 20 or 21. The winner, with 23 hints, was my great-grandmother, Anna Bruder Haws. You’ve met Anna before, with her husband Frank Haas/Haws, in The Old Homestead. They were also the parents of the children in Close to Home and So Far Away.

Anna Bruder Haws in her bedroom at her daughter, Teresa’s house, some time between 1946 and 1952.

Looking at her list of 23 hints:

  • 10 were member trees (one is my cousin’s). With my subscription currently lapsed, and libraries closed, I cannot check those out. Ancestry only counts them all as one, however.
  • 6 were photographs. Four of those were from my cousin’s tree, that I had sent to her. Two (technically one, because the second one was a closeup of the first!) are from an unknown person, probably a Bruder cousin. Why do I think that? Sitting next to Anna & Frank is a person identified as Ben Bruder.
  • 3 were newspaper clippings added by a different unknown cousin, referring to Anna’s funeral after her 22 October 1952 death. One mentioned Aunt May returning home to New York, afterwards.
  • census records:
    • 1870 (Anna Rinder)—had this
    • 1880 (Anna Bruder)—had this
    • 1900 (Annie Haws)—had this
    • 1910 (Anna Harr)—had this, misspelling and all
    • 1930 (Anna Haws)—had this
    • 1940 (Anna Haws)—Didn’t have this—sheer laziness on my part . . . I don’t even need a subscription for 1940!
    • Wisconsin state census—possibly 1905 (no subscription, remember?). I’d found my grandfather, Edward, hired out in Two Rivers in this census, but hadn’t found Anna & Frank. The surname is indexed as HAERS, so that explains why I may not have found it.
  • Find A Grave—I have personal photos of her headstone, but haven’t harvested her Find A Grave memorial, yet
  • city directory—don’t have this, not sure of the year or location.
  • Chicago & North Western Railroad Employment records—don’t have this. Her oldest son, John, worked as a section foreman, so likely this is from his employment
  • Wisconsin, Births & Christenings—don’t have. It’s probably for one of her children, but I don’t know which one.
  • Social Security Applications & Claims—don’t have. From a child’s application, but don’t know which one.
  • New York, Passenger & Crew Lists. This is the only hint I think is bogus.

WHEW! That was quite a list! It was somewhat reassuring that only one hint (last one) seemed to be wrong. Anna was born in Wisconsin. While both her parents emigrated from Germany, they arrived as children, with their parents. Anna had no grandparents to travel back to visit. Might there have been other relatives still in Germany? Sure. But they wouldn’t have been anyone she knew personally, or had a close relationship with, so I seriously doubt this is her. There are a lot of Bruders and women/girls named Anna.

Will I ignore that hint? No. I will take a look at it, next time I have the chance. I’ve had long shots pay off, before. What about the other hints?

It was reassuring to know that I’d found most of her census records, but this exercise pointed out 1920 is definitely missing. I’m not sure why, but if Ancestry isn’t finding Anna & Frank, my guess is that the surname was seriously mangled. It begs for a page-by-page search for them.

The state census should place them on the farm, with some of the kids (like my grandfather, Edward) already moved out. It will make gaps in the timeline smaller—always a good thing. The city directory may not provide any new information, though it could help pinpoint more precisely where they were, when. Or not, depending on the year.

The railroad employment and Social Security records will provide corroboration that yes, she really is the mother of whichever child the record was for. It’s helpful to have a different type of record indicating a parent-child relationship. The birth or christening record accomplishes the same thing.

It was kind of fun seeing who is the most “popular” in my file. And it was actually useful to check out the record hints. It helped me locate a few new pieces of data—or will, once I have access to Ancestry. I wish there was an easier way to do it. It would be nice to create a list of names with the number of hints for them. I could print it, or save it to a spreadsheet, allowing me to keep track of who I have checked out. Currently, it’s too difficult, so I’m likely to miss someone, or check them out twice.

I also wish there was as better way to handle the hints, both with Ancestry and in Family Tree Maker. The choices available in Family Tree Maker are:

  • Merge—the software decides what facts should be generated from the record. I have a little control over how they are handled, but it doesn’t seem intuitive to me. The source citations created aren’t necessarily set up the way I would. I can change them, but it seems like it takes more time. I tried the merge with a couple record matches, but wasn’t really thrilled with the results. I prefer creating the facts I want, and the sources I want.
  • Ignore—the hint disappears from the list and is added to the “ignored hints” list. I can go back and recheck that list of ignored hints.

From my online Ancestry tree (which is synced with Family Tree Maker), my hint choices are:

  • Ignore—Like in the software, the hint moves to the ignored hint list, and can be reviewed again, at a later time.
  • Review—Reviewing the hint asks me if the person in the record matches the person in my tree. I can answer:
    • Yes—The fact(s) associated with that record will be added to my Ancestry tree.
    • No—The record is treated the same as “ignore”
    • Maybe—the record is added to an “undecided” list, for additional review, later.

I don’t like any of those choices. Like accepting a hint in Family Tree Maker, if I click “yes,” my Ancestry tree will have a number of new facts created, based on the information in the record. They may not be the facts I want. It also creates a situation where I have to update my Family Tree Maker file with changes from Ancestry. While syncing works in both directions, my personal method is to make changes only on the tree on my laptop, and sync to the online tree. One direction changes, only.

Last fall I was traveling, and needed to check my file from my phone. Being able to view my Ancestry tree was a huge convenience! Unfortunately, phone screens are small, and I thought I accidentally made a change to that tree—only I didn’t know exactly what got changed (small screen, remember?). When I got home, I deleted the online tree and uploaded a fresh copy from my laptop, just to be sure I didn’t corrupt the data on my laptop. I do not like syncing down from online!

What I would like is for Ancestry to offer another option for both the online trees and the Family Tree Maker trees: “accept the hint (or “yes, it’s the same person”), but I’ll enter my own facts, thank you very much!” Why? Ancestry’s algorithm looks at the data in my tree, and the data in the record, to calculate if they probably are the same person. I’m pretty sure if I answer “yes,” Ancestry will use that informaton to locate additional records for that person. If I answer “no,” it uses that information to eliminate other records as being a match. The algorithm gets smarter, based on my answers.

SO, I’d love to tell them all those census records are correct! It might help Ancestry figure out where Anna is in 1920. Hints also come only from the more common databases. If I process through existing hints, it may prompt the algorithm to look into additional databases that it isn’t checking now, because I have so many hints.

For now, though, I’d settle for a simple list of people with hints, so I would know who to look at, first!

#52Ancestors

Luck

“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”–Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Alva Edison said, “Success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration!” That’s not far off from Jefferson’s comment about hard work. Fortunately, genealogy doesn’t usually require heavy sweating; though it involves plenty of work. We don’t always realize when or how that work will pay off.

In October, 1996, I found myself visiting my parents. It was an odd time of year to visit, but my 20th high school reunion must have been scheduled, so I was up for that. My parents and I made the rounds of the cemeteries that weekend. We hit the old standbys of Ridgewood and Sacred Heart (where my grandparents are buried), but had also decided to visit other cemeteries, with more distantly-connected relations. I knew my grandmother’s youngest brother, Frederick Hugh Schweiger, was buried in Ascension Catholic Cemetery, in Libertyville. It’s farther north than the others, and I’d never been there before.

Unfortunately, it was Sunday, so the cemetery’s office was closed. I had no idea where Uncle Fred was buried. The self-serve kiosk now at the cemetery wasn’t even a twinkle in a programmer’s eye in 1996. We’d gone out of our way to drive there, but had no clue where to start searching for the headstone we knew was there. The current stats at Find A Grave indicate there are 14,519 memorials at Ascension, with 52% of them photographed. Naturally, the Schweiger and Witten headstones are still in the 48% not documented! Even with fewer people buried there in 1996, Ascension was still a big place. Trying to “walk” that cemetery would have taken forever.

Map of Ascension Catholic Cemetery, 1920 Buckley Road, Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. We didn’t have this while we were there, and had no idea where the headstones we were looking for were located!

One of Dad’s favorite sayings was, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So we gambled and decided to just drive down the main road (between sections 1 and 2), hoping to get lucky. Dad drove slowly, while we kept our eyes peeled on either side for the names on headstones. Of course, any flush-to-the-ground headstones were invisible to us, as well as anything any distance from the road.

It was a true Hail Mary pass.

We hadn’t gone far when I told my dad to stop. Out the left-hand window, close to the road, was this headstone:

Ascension Catholic Cemetery, 1920 Buckley Road, Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. Headstone for inlaw relatives of the brother of my grandmother, Victoria Barbara Schweiger. Photo taken 27 October 1996. The names are Harvey William Witten, Frances Green Witten, Thomas Green, and Bridget Green.

You’re probably thinking, “That doesn’t look much like Schweiger,” right? Nope, but when I saw it, a vague memory popped into my head. I remembered Uncle Fred’s wife, Marion, had a maiden name of Witten. Could that headstone possibly be related to her? We had no other leads, so we got out. The names and dates engraved on the base didn’t mean anything to me then. Of course, I didn’t have my data file, or any internet access!

I had Aunt Marion’s parents recorded as William Walter Witten and Nellie Cummings. In the 1900 census (before Aunt Marion was born in 1903), I have since found William and Nellie with a son, Harvey, born in 1894, living two doors down from Thomas and Bridget Green, and their daughter, Frances. It looked like William kept his wife shopping close to home. Of course, I didn’t know any of this in 1996.

We didn’t see any Schweigers on the front, so I walked around to the back side, just to make sure. There I found:

Reverse side of the Witten/Green monument in Ascension Catholic Cemetery. Photo taken 27 October 1996. Marion and Frederick Hugh are on the right side of the base. Note the name engraved on the vertical face on the left side. That is Baby Stephen, a grandson, who lived only 1 day, in January, 1963.

Bingo!

If we hadn’t stopped and walked around to the back of the monument, we never would have found them. We never would have stopped if I hadn’t recognized the maiden name of my grandaunt—even though it ended up belonging to her brother and not her parents. If I hadn’t paid attention and squirreled away that small piece of fairly unimportant information, we’d have left that cemetery without finding Uncle Fred and Aunt Marion. Would it have been the end of the world? No. But I like knowing where people end up.

Sometimes we just need a little bit of luck. Usually we need to make it ourselves.

#52Ancestors

Strong Woman

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”-– Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m not sure my mom’s cousin, Jeanne Emily Meintzer, necessarily got into much hot water, but I feel she had a quiet strength supporting her through the more difficult times in her life. At the time of her death, 7 August 2019, she (along with my mom and uncle) was one of the last three grandchildren of Christian Meintzer. Now only one remains.

Jeanne was the 6th child (of eventually 7) of my grandfather’s older brother, George Edward Meintzer. You met Jeanne briefly in 2018, when her wedding became the backdrop for a story, and her father, my Uncle Ed (he used his middle name), in Next to Last. Two months after her 18 January 1924 birth, Jeanne already made the front page news:

Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Meintzer and family spent Sunday with the Henry Therrien family, after dinner the baby was babtized [sic] at the St. Norbert’s church—”Jeanne Emily.” A very pleasant day was spent which was enjoyed by both families.

“Northbrook,” 21 March 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 5 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, column 2, paragraph 4, Cook County Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

For the record, Jeanne spelled and pronounced her name the French way, one syllable. I didn’t actually know her preference until recently, but I’d always heard my mom call her “Jeannie,” with 2 syllables (like I Dream of). Was Mom was pronoucing it correctly, or just using a nickname form? So while emailing one of Jeanne’s daughters this week, I asked how how her mom pronounced it. It was an easy question, with a definitive answer. Mystery solved! It made perfect sense, because Jeanne’s maternal grandparents had Canadian connections and French-sounding surnames.

Jeanne’s family lived in Northbrook, down the street (1419 Shermer) from my mom’s house (1709 Shermer) when the kids were young. The families attended different churches, so may have had somewhat different circles of friends. Nevertheless, Northbrook was a small town, and everyone knew one another. The girls continuted to keep in contact into their 90s.

Despite her stint on the front page as a newborn, Jeanne’s birth occurred during a difficult time for the family. The family came down with diptheria, requiring an extended quarantine:

The Ed Meintzer family are out of quarantine. The children have returned to school. They sure were anxious to go, after missing almost two months. The little baby, who had been staying with the Holstrom family several days, is now staying with Mrs. Geo. Melzer, Mrs. Meintzer’s sister.

“Northbrook,” 29 February 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, column 1, paragraph 4, Cook County Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Three paragraphs later was an additional note, “Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Meintzer wish to express their most sincere thanks and appreciation to neighbors and friends for kindness and flowers during their recent sickness and bereavement.”

Yes, a death occurred while they were quarantined. Plotting it on a timeline:

  • They started getting sick in early January (they were quarantined for almost 2 months) with diptheria.
  • Annie DesLauries Meintzer gave birth to Jeanne the 18th of January, so, not long after the quarantine started. Did she remain at home? Or had she relocated to a sister’s or neighbor’s house, to prevent exposure for herself and the baby? We don’t exactly know, though we were told the baby stayed with Holstroms for several days and then moved to the Melzer house (her aunt).
  • 9 February, Bernard Harry Meintzer died, due to membramous Laryngitis diptheritic. He was 4 years, almost 3 months old. His twin sister, Bernice Harriet, survived.
  • Bernard was buried 2 days later. Were his parents and siblings even allowed to attend the funeral? I would think not.
  • By 29 February, the kids have returned to school, but Jeanne still was not home. Why was that? Did the house need disinfecting?

Obviously Jeanne would not remember Bernard. He barely had a chance to know about her, and with the quarantine, I’m not sure he ever saw her in person! Jeanne’s daughter mentioned, though, that he would say her name with 2 syllables, so he knew he had a baby sister. Are there more details to this story? Possibly. I found these news blurbs with a search at Newspapers.com, but I’m inclined to go back and read each day’s paper page-by-page during the 6-8 weeks all this happened, looking for more information.

Did Jeanne’s birth coinciding with a very sad time in her family’s history affect her as an adult? A kid isn’t likely to connect the events together, but an adult is likely to notice, eventually. Did that dampen her birthday celebrations? Or did she make an effort to remember that older brother who died too young?

Time moved along and family life returned to normal, with weekend car trips, and vaccinations (below). Jeanne was only 3, so didn’t end up missing school, but what about her brothers? Delore was 17 at the time, and Harold was 13. Were they vaccinated earlier? What vaccine? It was way too early for polio, and not many other vaccines were available, yet.

Mr. and Mrs. Ed Meintzer and children motored to Elgin in company with Mr. Eck and his sisters. A pleasant trip is reported. . . . Helen Meintzer and her sister, Bernice, have missed several days from scho0l on account of being vaccinated. Little Jeanne was also vaccinated. We are glad to report that they are improving daily and will be back to school real soon.

“Northbrook,” 1 April 1927, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

On 24 July 1936, 12-year-old Jeanne’s world changed forever. Her mother died of a sudden heart attack. An event like that would have accelerated the growing up process. Jeanne probably acquired more responsibilities for herself, and for her sister, Patsy, 8 years old. The 1940 census showed the three youngest—Bernice, Jeanne, and Patsy—as the only children still at home with Dad. Jeanne was 16, with three years of high school completed.

I thought I knew the rest of her story. She and Vincent J. White married 14 September 1946. They went on to have 6 children. It seemed to be a pretty typical post-WWII story. Then one day I discovered an email one of her nieces wrote to a distantly-related (3rd cousin, twice removed!) cousin, after he posted it on his family web page. According to her, Jeanne was engaged to an Army pilot, Wayne, who was shot down over Germany, and died.

Jeanne’s daughters confirmed that story, and even scrounged up his last name from old memories: Wayne Nelson. Research conducted this week didn’t turn up any more information about him. I did not find a likely candidate in the 1940 census, or in the WWII Army Enlistment database. I found a vague reference to a Wayne Nelson in a Jacksonville, Florida, news article, but without other identifiers, it could easily be a different Wayne.

What a blow that must have been to Jeanne! Certainly she wasn’t the only young woman to lose a boyfriend, fiance, or husband to the war, but that didn’t make it any easier. Another day, while searching for Meintzers at Fold3, I came across a record for her! It was from the Cadet Nurse Corps Files, and showed she entered the program at the Evanston Hospital of Nursing on 6 January 1944, and exited “without default” 8 January 1945. The local news column confirmed that enrollment:

Miss Jeanne Meintzer has entered the nurse training course at the Evanston hospital.

“Northbrook,” 14 January 1944, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 14, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Her daughter knew about the nursing school, and told me, “she went a second time to nursing school but then met my dad so she never finished.” Is this card from the first or second time? I’m inclined to think second, since she and Vincent got married about a year and a half later. Was the first time right after high school? Did she drop that training due to Wayne’s death? I don’t know—there was only one card for her in the database.

Lastly, Jeanne’s husband, Vincent White, died 20 December 1980, when she was only 56 years old. Jeanne lived to 95, and never remarried. She ended up spending more years as a widow than she had as a wife. That can’t have been particularly easy.

Jeanne lived a full life, but had her fair share of difficulties and challenges to get through. Yet I never saw her when she wasn’t positive—not even in her 90s, when physical limitations started to crop up. When Mom and I stopped by her house during a Chicago-area road trip, Jeanne was always glad to see us, and I don’t recall hearing her complain. That takes a special kind of strength.

#52Ancestors

Disaster

Have you ever wished the floor would just open up and swallow you? Think twice about that . . .

Live auctions are fun! For most of us, the worst outcome is coming home with something we really didn’t need, and possibly paid too much for. We get caught up in the moment and carried away by the bidding. Some people end up hauling an antique oak commode, a weather vane, quilt, and assorted items from Maine to Illinois in a Galaxie 500, already containing 2 adults, 2 teens, and a Labrador retriever. The wrought iron chandelier got installed in the cabin we were borrowing. Occasionally, an auction has more serious consequences.

On Wednesday, 15 January 1958, a large crowd of people gathered at the Carmody Hotel, 38 Abbey Street in Ennis, Ireland. The County Clare hotel had discontinued operation the previous August, so furniture and other hotel items would be auctioned over a 3-day period. The auction took place in a large upstairs dining room, 50′ by 30’—the Sarsfield room. The corner fireplace had a fire blazing to provide heat. The room below, the Commercial Room, was empty and locked.

People came from a wide area. In its heyday, the Carmody Hotel had been a gathering place for influential political figures, including Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), who used it as his local election headquarters. Supposedly the bed from the room he typically slept in expected to be a hot item. Some bidders were looking for antique furniture; many local residents simply wanted a memento of the 3-story hotel that had been a fixture since 1804.

The auction started at 11:15, and was going well. The auctioneer called for a lunch break at 1pm, resuming at 2:30. The room was crowded with bidders. Some reports claimed there were 50 people5; others, 80; and one even 200¹! No one knew the exact count, but the room was full. As a new lot of linen items came across the auction block, the floor in the center of the room began to sag, finally giving way.

Those standing in the center found themselves falling 14 feet, into the room below. Others found themselves sliding down the sloping floor. A couple furniture pieces were grabbed by people nearby, who prevented those items from falling into the hole. They managed to keep them in place until someone brought rope to secure them permanently.

Meanwhile, the room below filled with people, dust, and debris from above. That room being empty and locked was both a blessing (no one was in there for the floor and people to fall on) and a curse (the doors were locked, so no one could get out). The trapped dust allowed no visibility for those victims.

Townsfolk walking by the building realized there was a problem, and quickly broke out the windows and began to evacuate the trapped people. Across the street at the Queens Hotel, the Corbett family held a wedding reception from the double wedding of brothers William Joseph and James. The guests heard the noise and came out to help. Elizabeth Kelly, one of the brides, was also a nurse. She set to work, in her wedding dress, helping the injured, as other emergency personnel arrived.

Eight people died from the floor collapse, with another 25 injured. Fourteen of those sustained injuries serious enough to require treatment at the hospital, though they were released soon afterwards. Many of the dead died of asphyxiation, inhaling the airborn dust when they attempted to scream.³

Compared to other tragic events, this may not rank high for the number of casualties or monetary losses. This disaster was not only written up in local and Irish papers, it made it to the wire services and was reported in the New York Times, and even the Lodi (California) News-Sentinal. Granted, details got muddled and the numbers exaggerated a bit by the time it got to California, but Lodi felt it was worth publishing.

This disaster also had a huge impact on Ennis. In 1958, its population was 6000 or so. Everyone in town knew someone who died, someone who was there and didn’t die, or someone who was there, helping to rescue people. As evidenced by the articles cited and linked below, the town vividly remembers this disaster and continues to retell the story on the anniversaries in the paper, through video (below) and in books. I have articles for only the 45th, 50th, and 60th anniversaries linked below, but I suspect there are memorial articles from other years that never made it to the internet. Every article I came across always listed the eight victims by name. In 1998, a plaque with their names was installed on the second building owned by the Carmody hotel. It was across the street, and was undamaged by the collapse.

Video prepared for the 60th anniversary remembrance of the collapse. It contains audio interviews with survivors and witnesses of the event. It runs 1 hour 35 minutes.

Coincidentally, one of the victims was Josephine Carmody, a 39-year-old mother of five, married to . . . a Michael Carmody. None of the articles mentioned if her husband was descended from the Carmody line that had once owned the hotel.

So, what does this disaster have to do with my (Mike’s) Carmodys? I am not really sure. Mike’s grand uncle, Michael J. (b. 1856) had worked for the competition (Queen’s Hotel) across the street, but I can’t tie him to the Carmody Hotel. One benefit of a disaster is that newspaper articles tended to provide background information related to the incident. From those I learned:

  1. John Carmody was the original business owner (not building owner) from 1804 through 1824, at least
  2. Patrick Carmody, owned it at his death in June, 1833. His wife died a week after he did, leaving 10 children behind (6 of them “very young”).
  3. Michael Carmody was the owner in 1846 through at least 1875.
  4. Miss Agnes Carmody owned it in 1883.
  5. Delia & Amy Dillon owned it in 1893. Was it sold outside the family, or was this just a daughter name change?
  6. It passed to Monica McKenna by 1901, and was under her management until at least 1931.
  7. Angela F. Bailey was running it (owning it?) by 1943.
  8. Michael Carmody, who had been Town Clerk of Ennis from 1906 -1946+, died after having relocated to Dublin. He came back to Ennis for burial. He was “the only son of John Carmody and was grandson of Michael Carmody, founder of Carmody’s Hotel.”
  9. The Right Honorable Baron Richards was the landlord in 1856. George H. Richards (his son?) was the landlord in 1874.

So the original Carmodys owned and ran the business (which apparently started out as and Alehouse, before qualifying as a full-fledged hotel by 1827) until the 1890s. It seems like Michael in #3 had a son, John, who had the Michael in #8. I found another death notice for “veterinary surgeon, 44 yrs., eldest son of late Michael Carmody, proprietor of Carmody’s Hotel, 12 February 1894.” Could that be the same John Carmody mentioend in #8? Dying at age 44 would put his birth year at 1850, so it could fit.

While I’ve acquired a lot of information tidbits, and can create a tentative timeline, I have gaps unaccounted for. Some relationships can be pieced together, but others are still a mystery. How did Patrick (#2) connect to John (#1)? Were they father and son? Older and younger brother? Cousins? How did Michael (#3) connect to either of them?

Mike’s great grandfather, Andrew, started having children in 1845. Could he and Michael (#3) be brothers? Cousins? I still don’t know. I do know that my dedicated “Carmodys in County Clare” file in Family Tree Maker has :

  • 29 John Carmodys
  • 18 Michael Carmodys
  • 42 Patrick Carmodys
  • 11 Thomas Carmodys
  • 11 James Carmodys

I know some of them are duplicates: one may show up as son to his parents and separately as husband to his wife, but I can’t prove he is one individual. But I’m working my way through the 1901 and 1911 census records, the parish record books, and trying to make sense of Griffiths Valuation, hoping to find enough detail to clear up some of those duplicates, and maybe find the connection between the Carmody family on the west side of the Fergus River (Mike’s) and the east side of the river (hotel family).

My Carmody tree is its own mini-disaster . . .

#52Ancestors


¹”Eight Killed In Collapse Of Old Irish Hostelry,” Lodi News-Sentinel, 16 January 1958; (https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=UvMzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=B-8HAAAAIBAJ&pg=2355%2C1676452 : accessed 28 February 2020 from Google News Archive).

²Jessica Quinn, “Witness To An Ennis Tragedy,”  The Clare Champion, January 2018; (https://clarechampion.ie/witness-to-an-ennis-tragedy/ : accessed 28 February 2020).

³”Carmody’s, Going, Going, Down …,” Irish Identity, January 2003; (http://www.irishidentity.com/extras/people/stories/carmody.htm : accessed 28 February 2020) citing The Clare Champion, January 2003.

⁴”50th Anniversary Of Carmody’s Hotel Tragedy,” The Clare Herald, 15 January 2008: (https://theclareherald.blogspot.com/2008/01/50th-anniversary-of-carmodys-hotel.html : accessed 28 February 2020).

5Gerry Quinn, “The Day That Shook Ennis: Eight People Died In Hotel Disaster 60 Years Ago,” The Clare Echo News, 1 December 2018: (https://www.clareecho.ie/day-shook-ennis-eight-people-died-hotel-disaster-60-years-ago/ : accessed 28 February 2020).

Prosperity

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” ~ Epictetus

Prosperity: (noun) a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune.

All my immigrant ancestors are relatively recent—mid- to late-1800s. For most of them, I don’t know their circumstances in the towns they came from. It’s safe to say most of them found their life in the United States to be more prosperous than their life in the old country was.

One of those famlies was that of Peter Harry/Hary/Harré and Elisabetha Boullie. They were the parents of my great grandmother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger, and you met them in Travel, when they emigrated from the Saar region, in Germany.

Peter arrived in Manitowoc County in 1854. In 1858, he purchased² 40 acres of land in Township 20N, Range 24E from the government. His property was in the SE¼ of the SE¼ of Section 12, as shown in the plat maps, below :

Leslie Larson and his wife, Lucille (a 2nd cousin, once removed—granddaughter of my great grandmother’s sister, Margaret) hired a researcher in the Saar region in the 1970s. They tracked me down in 1980, and shared the information they had.

Back then, online records weren’t dreamed of, and even the microfilm collection of the Latter-Day Saints would have been smaller. The records from the Saar region possibly weren’t even filmed, yet. The extract the Larsons received of Peter and Elisabeth’s 15 April 1844 marriage in Bisten listed Peter as a coal miner. On both social and financial scales, he was positioned pretty low.

When he purchased his forty acres in 1858, Peter probably felt like he’d hit the jackpot! Owning land back in Germany would never have been possible for him. Unfortunately, prosperity was short-lived for him. According to the information I received from Mr. Larson, Peter died 14 July 1860, from complications due to a tree falling on him, breaking his back. According to my notes, that information came from Peter’s youngest son, Fred (who was born after his father’s death), and his granddaughter (my grandmother), Victoria Schweiger Haws.

Nevertheless, Peter obtained a better life for his family, and they continued to farm that land after his death, according to the plat maps. Confirming that with census records has been challenging. I almost gave up locating Elisabeth and their children in the 1860 census. Searches failed. Going page-by-page through several enumeration districts:

  • Two Rivers (twice!)
  • Two Rivers (Village of, 1st Ward)
  • Two Rivers (Village of, 2nd Ward)
  • Mischicot
  • Cooperstown

turned up other names I recognized, but not this family. In desperation I tried my old standby of searching for one of the kids. Using FamilySearch, I picked Margaret, left off the surname, birth range 1854-1856, residence Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Only 46 matches were found, so I scrolled through, looking at the other names in the records. I found one with all the first names I expected, and all the right ages. But the surname was BURGER, not Harry!³

No wonder I couldn’t find them with search parameters . . .

How do I know this is my family? Well, they weren’t anywhere else, and I know from the plat maps they stayed in the area another 18 years. The oldest daughter, Mary, had married John Westphal a couple weeks before the enumerator came through. The newlyweds were on the lines above Elizabeth and the younger siblings. I’d noticed Mary and John the first time through, so how did I miss everyone else? The surname was nothing remotely like Harry, so I never looked at first names.

That was clearly an enumerator error, not one caused by the indexer. Nor was it the only error made by the enumerator! Peter should have been listed in the household, even though he had died by the 18 August visit date. Enumeration day for 1860 was 1 June. Since he didn’t die until July, he should not have been left off.

In January, 1861, Elizabeth (at some point she changed from the German spelling with an “s” to the American spelling with a “z”) gave birth to Fred, the child she was pregnant with at the time of Peter’s death. In the 1870 census, Elizabeth and her children proved to be even more elusive than in 1860. An afternoon of searching and paging through the 1870 census turned up nothing. Searching for the nearby neighbors from the 1872 plat map found the neighbors, but no Harrys. Looking for the children’s future spouses found them, but still no Harrys. Everyone reappears in later census and other records, just not 1870.

So what became of the children as they grew up and left home?

  • Mary (1845): and John Westphal continued to farm in Two Rivers and had 9 children. A daughter, Ida, moved near her Aunt Dorothea in Glencoe, Illinois, and married Joseph Schramm. At least one other child moved to Sheboygan, because Mary died there in 1933.
  • William (1847): married Sophia Aleff. They remained in Two Rivers, and had 11 children.
  • John (1849): married Barbara Aleff (yes, they were sisters!). Their 3 children were born in Wisconsin, but John also moved to the Glencoe area, near his sister, Dorothea.
  • Peter (1853): married Frances Young and had 12 children. This family relocated to Clark County, Wisconsin, between July 1877 and July 1879.
  • Margaret (1855): married Stephen Mais in 1872. They had 4 children that I could find. It appears they also moved to Clark County, Wisconsin. It was their granddaughter and her husband who contacted me in 1980.
  • Dorothea (1858): My great grandmother. By 1880, she had moved to Chicago, working in the Nussbaumer household.⁴ She married Ignatz in 1885.
  • Frederick (1861): married Sophie Land in 1882. By 1900, they had moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where Fred worked in the saw mill. It seems they never had children.

Elizabeth lived alone in the 1880 census. All the children were elsewhere. She died in Clark County in 1887, so it seems she moved in with either Peter, Jr. or Margaret between those years.

Peter’s 1854 search for prosperity clearly paid off. Despite his untimely death, his emigration propelled his family’s fortunes upward. Were they Rockefellers? Hardly! But his children and grandchildren had opportunities for land ownership and home ownership never possible in Germany.

For me, this week has been a great chance to catch up on this family. One downside to being given a lot of information (from the Larsons in 1980), is the tendency to focus research on less complete lines. It turns out I have a lot of DNA matches from this great grandparent pair! I recognize surnames, but don’t know how they connect. I need to fill in the gaps in my information (I’m sure there have been a bunch of births, deaths, and marraiges in the last 40 years!) to figure out how to those matches are related to me. This week provided a good start.

But once again, more answers only beget more questions . . .

#52Ancestors


¹Dictionary.com. [online] (https://www.dictionary.com : accessed 19 Feb. 2020, “prosperity.”    

²”Land Patent Search”, database, Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records (www.glorecords.blm.gov/search), accessed 21 February 2020, entry for Peter Hary (Manitowoc County, Wisconsin), cash sale doc. #19859.

³1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers; Page 284; dwelling number 2254; family number 2218; line 6; Elizabeth BURGER household; accessed 22 February 2020. Elizabeth BURGER [HARRY}, age 42; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1418; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

⁴1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, e.d. 189; Page 432D (printed), 28 (written) ; dwelling number 91; family number 155; line 12; Chs. NUSSBAUMER household; accessed 31 October 2019. Dora HARRY, age 24; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 199; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).