Fun and Games

“Life is more fun if you play games.”—Roald Dahl

Growing up, Mike knew a little bit about his mom’s childhood. She had grown up in Detroit, and his grandmother still lived in the house on Pingree, where the family moved some time between the 1940 census, and May, 1944.

Patricia Kukler (Pat) was in high school in the mid-1940s. Like her siblings, she had been sent to Catholic schools. Her older sisters attended Rosary School of Commerce, the parish school for Our Lady of the Rosary Church. Her brothers attended Central Catholic (all boys) for high school. By the time Pat reached high school, the family had moved a couple miles north, so she attended Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Academy. Blessed Sacrament was co-ed through 8th grade, girls-only for high school. It closed in 1971.

It wasn’t until Pat died, and Mike was cleaning out her apartment, that he found the ephemera she had saved from her youth. It was eye-opening! She kept the expected items:

  • portrait in cap and gown
  • a really crinkled tassle
  • high school diploma
  • class photo for the class of 1947 (35 students)
  • graduation announcement
  • graduation program
  • report cards

I’ll save those items for a school theme somewhere down the line.

Tucked in with them, though, were other, surprising tidbits we had never seen. It would have been nice to be able to ask her about them. So what did we find? First up was a dance photo:

Patricia Kukler at a dance. It was undated, but had names of 5 graduating classmates of Pat’s written on the back: Marjorie Elliott (with Bob), Joan Livernois “47” (with Art Rousseau), Carolyn Colone (with Joseph Piro), Betty Patrell (with Remo Carotelli), and Anna May Perrigo (with Jimmy Desser). Unfortunately, none of the names were associated with an image on the front, so we don’t know who was who. We identified Pat (red circle) but don’t know who her date was. I’m assuming this was a school dance, and that the very bored woman sitting on the stage was a chaperone.

I’m trying to figure out where/how the photographer was perched for this shot. Counting heads, the number is pretty close to her class size, leading me to speculate this was a school dance. “Bob” was the only boy’s name on the back without a surname. One of the clippings mentioned a Bob Elliott. Was that Marjorie’s brother? Had he taken his sister to the dance? Or was Bob Pat’s brother, 2 years older, and taking Marjorie to the dance? The guy dancing with Pat in the photo resembles her brother, so it’s possible he took her friend. It also explains why Pat looks somewhat disinterested! It also means we still don’t know who she went with . . .

There were also two pieces of card stock, folded, with cartoon drawings:

One of her sisters dated a Jimmy Rose, but with a 6-year age gap to the closest sister, it’s unlikely a boy Pat’s age tried to date both. Of course, the 47′ could be for the year it was drawn. But Jimmy Rose wouldn’t have needed to ask for Pat’s number—it would have been the same as her sister’s. We’ll give this guy points for persistence (and creativity!), though we don’t know if he ever got Pat out on a date.

We learned she acted in the Freshman play in the spring of 1944:

The mimeographed program for The Ghost in the Green Gown told us the play was written and directed by one of the students. Pat played Mrs. Reynold (on the right hand page, in the top half, very faint). The back cover contained signatures from the cast, and possibly crew members. I haven’t taken time to detail all the names—they are such a jumble!

Aside from fun, Pat also found time for games during high school, in one way or another.

She saved several undated, unidentified news clippings, but also kept one complete “newspaper.” It was the 16 March 1947 copy of The Hour. While it had information like one would find in a parish bulletin, there were full-fledged articles, similar to a diocesan newspaper. From the publication information on page 4, it was the “Official Publication of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish” with a readership of 7500 readers (from the masthead). It appears the loose clippings were from the same publication, different dates.

16 March 1947 cheerleader article (last paragraph).

So why did she save the paper? On page 2, the “Basketball Bits” column detailed the last game of the C.Y.O. (Catholic Youth Organization) season. Unfortunately, it was a loss to Holy Rosary, leaving Blessed Sacrament out of the playoffs. Towards the end of the column, the cheerleaders were acknowledged:

Even though nothing has been said this year about our cheerleaders, they are of major importance when it comes to giving credit. They have been present to cheer the crowd on at all but one game, and have given many hours of their time to practice. Pat Kukler, Mary Lou Sullivan, and Pat Brennan—the team wishes to express their heartiest congratulations and sincere thanks to you.

“Basketball Bits,” The Hour (Official Publication of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish), Detroit, Michigan, 16 March 1947, p. 2, col. 2, para. 5.

A cheerleader her senior year? Really?

One of the other clippings was another “Basketball Bits,” apparently from January, 1946. How did I arrive at that date? The column ended by encouraging people to attend the Holy Rosary game on Sunday, January 20th. A perpetual calendar did the heavy lifting at that point. What was in this clipping?

Estimated 1946 cheerleader clipping, 2nd to last paragraph.

The cheerleaders, Pat Kukler, Margo, Mary Lou Sullivan, and Katie Yacks did an excellent job turning cartwheels and leading the spectators in great cheers.

Norma Spiers, “Basketball Bits,” The Hour (Official Publication of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish), Detroit, Michigan, January 1947.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the cartwheels . . .

My mother-in-law was not, however, a one-trick pony. She appeared twice in the “Drips by Drizzle” column. “Drizzle” was the nom de plume of a person who wrote a somewhat random “social” column for The Hour. One clipping provided few clues to the year. Pat’s sister was 2 years younger, so if both were playing, it was probably 1946, when Sue would have been a Freshman. It also suggested late May or early June:

Estimated 1946 ping-pong clipping.

The Academy lassies flung the old ping-pong paddle with much abandon the last week of school and managed to bring their tournament to a very successful conclusion. A new champion has been enthroned, with Patricia Kukler now occupying that position after defeating last year’s champion, Lorraine Humphrey, in a thrilling series. Pat got into the finals by eliminating Margaret Babcock in the semi-finals; and Lorraine gained the chance to defend her title by nosing out Pat’s sister, Susan Kukler.

“Drips by Drizzle,” The Hour (Official Publication of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish), Detroit, Michigan, undated.

The last clipping, also a “Drips by Drizzle,” came from the middle of the column, but seemed to talk about softball season:

Estuimated 1945 softball clipping (end of right column)

The extra player at Short Center, whose job it is to cover up the errors made at Short and Second, was Patricia Kukler of the Ping-pong Kuklers.

“Drips by Drizzle,” The Hour (Official Publication of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish), Detroit, Michigan, undated.

Clearly the sisters had a reputation in ping-pong! The article on the back of the clipping mentioned “V-Day.” I suspect it was a reference to 8 May 1945, when the Allies accepted Germany’s surrender. Yes, I know we usually refer to it as V-E-Day, but there was no Queen Elizabeth I until Queen Elizabeth II came along, ditto for World War I; it was just “The War” until World War II popped up. Since the other article implied there had been only one victory, I’m presuming it was between 8 May and 15 August of 1945. It could be a wrong assumption on my part, but it’s the best I can do, without other clues.

The other problem with that date theory, is that younger sister, Sue, presumably wasn’t in high school, yet. But it’s possible their ping-pong prowress existed from grade school days. Or that I’m mistaken in thinking Sue was 2 grades behind Pat, even though their birthdays were somewhat close together.

It’s hard, sometimes, to imagine our parents, grandparents, or other relatives as anything other than what we are accustomed to seeing, or doing anything other than what we think they’d always done. We had no photos of Pat in a cheerleader or softball uniform, so had no clue until we found these clippings. I wonder what else we don’t know?

Oh, and for those keeping track, this is blog post #200, with six more needed for 200 actual 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks posts. I’m waiting for a big cake to appear accompanied by a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but so far, nothing . . . Sigh.

#52Ancestors

On the Farm

A Tale of Two Towns, Part 2

Last week ended with my great-grandfather, Christian Meintzer, enumerated in the 1880 Alsatian census, then heading to the United States in May, 1881. While our Dehlingen cousins said he’d sold of off his land to pay back a loan, Anna Kranz Schultz (a younger daughter of Sophia Meintzer Kranz, a 13-year-old on that trip) heard—and told—a different story.

Christian was fed up with German rule of Alsace, and finally had a son who would eventually have to serve time in the German Army. The only way to prevent that was to leave. According to Anna, Christian did not sell his land before he left, in case they didn’t like living in the United States. After living here a year, they decided they would stay, and he arranged to have it sold.

Which version was correct? I’m not sure we’ll ever nail that down—or that it really matters.

Either way, after docking in New York, a relatively quick 4-day train ride brought them to the farm of a first cousin he’d never met, Henry Mentzer. Yes, it’s a different spelling. Christian was 51 years old, with six children and a wife to feed, and he was starting over.

The farmhouse my grandfather, Christoph, was born and grew up in was located in the Riverwoods, in Vernon Township, Lake County, Illinois. I last remember driving past it in April, 1982, when I was tasked with keeping my mom out of her house due to a surprise 60th birthday party planned for her that evening at her house!

The family farmhouse was still where my my mom remembered—just down the road from the Orphans of the Storm animal shelter (still there, today!), on the north side. The road in front (Riverwoods Road) had only 2 lanes, with no shoulder to speak of. Pulling into a stranger’s driveway was unthinkable. I couldn’t pull over and stop. It was busy enough I really couldn’t even slow down. Bottom line? I couldn’t snap a modern photo of the farmhouse. Nor did I think to look at the actual address. All I have are a couple photos with the house in the background:

Aerial view1 of 2280 Riverwoods Road on 28 April 2011. The house seems too big, but there are outbuildings that disappear later. I’m not sure this is the right property.

Without the actual address, I can’t pinpoint its location on modern maps. It has since succumbed to the fate of being a “tear-down/rebuild.” All of the houses in that stretch of road currently visible in a Google Maps street or satellite view are definitely not a farmhouse! I’ve spent more time this week than I care to admit combing through property tax records and looking at historic images from Google Earth, trying to determine which property it might have been. The satellite images don’t go far enough back, but I found an April, 2011 aerial view that isn’t the current house, but it seems a bit large for a farmhouse. Maybe the house was replaced twice? Or maybe it was the property on either side of it.

My cousin, Donna, researched for her book and determined Christian had purchased the property in section 25 from Eli Frantz in July, 1883 and then built the farmhouse.2 Perhaps I could find a plat map showing either Eli Frantz owning the property before 1883, or Christian owning it afterwards? Again, maps and timing failed me. I found an 1873 land map at the Library of Congress with a barely populated section 25, but no Eli Frantz found there.

I found a 1907 plat map, but Christian wasn’t labeled where I expected him to be. I found a strip of farmland appearing to be his across the road, presumably the 2nd parcel Christian bought from Eli Frantz in 1885. Either the map is wrong, or illegible, or something else happened that I’m unaware of. Christian did not move until after his wife died, and the 1910 census listed him in Vernon Township as a farmer. His farmhouse property should be on this map.

Another question is where did Christian house eight people for two+ years between his arrival and his land purchase? I have no idea. No one ever talked about that period of time. The farmhouse and land was all I ever heard about.

Even information about that was scant. Anna told me Christian had planted English walnut and plum trees around the house. Both were common in Alsace, so perhaps they reminded him of home? Donna’s book included a recipe (p. 141) for Walnut Wine (Vin de Noix). I wonder if any of those trees have survived over a century of Chicagoland winters?

The 1900 and 1910 census each generated a farm schedule which would have listed Christian’s farm production—except those were never microfilmed and were destroyed3 after the data had been processed. Other than the walnuts and plums, I never heard much about what he actually planted.

My grandfather (Christoph) lived on the farm until he married. I’m sure he worked on it as he grew up, but he didn’t seem to consider himself a farmer. He would talk about going hunting, not working in the fields. The 1900 census listed his occupation as “at school,” but in 1910, when he was the only “child” left at home, (he was 22) his occupation was “day laborer, odd jobs”—not farm laborer or something similar. Yet I’m sure he helped his father, who was 80 years old and still farming. We have one photo of Christoph, driving a hay rake:

Undated photo, Christoph Meintzer, wearing a jaunty cap. He’s driving what Google tells me is a hay rake. Presumably this was on the family farm. He did always love the horse race track . . .

I don’t know how the farm was disposed of, or what became of the tools, animals, and implements. Were they purchased by the new owner? Distributed to other family members who still farmed? Or were they auctioned off? The only remnant that kicked around the family for a long time was a corn planter.

Mom got it from her father, who said it was his father’s. The corn planter hung out in my mom’s two garages, after presumably hanging out in Grandpa’s garage prior to that. Then it migrated to my garage, continuing to take up space while I pondered its fate. It wasn’t something that could be used to decorate the yard—like people do with wagon wheels, old plows, etc. It certainly didn’t belong inside the house, either! I wasn’t sure it was functional.

But . . . it was great-grandpa’s. It had been important to my grandpa. It deserved some consideration.

It wasn’t much to look at, and was essentially a glorified planting stick:

I’d attempted over the years to research this item, with little luck. I could find loads of corn planters, but most were a 2-handled style you squeeze together (think of how a bellows works) to release the seeds. I’ve seen a couple closer to this design, but a different manufacturer. The only Universal branded items I found have been modern farm equipment.

Maybe I could find a patent number to suggest a date? The bottom of the label said “Patent applied for,” so that failed, too. The earliest (simplest) corn planters appeared in the 1850s, but this one was more modern than that, presumably the 1880s, when Christian bought his farm. It may not have been the Cadillac of corn planters, but it was certainly no Ford Pinto.

I still didn’t really want it, but I saw no reasonable hope of selling it anywhere, and didn’t relish the thought of it landing on a Cracker Barrel restaurant wall. The easiest decision would be to hang onto it, letting my kids deal with it when I died, but I’d prefer they not hate me after I’m gone.

Ultimately, I decided to contact the Northbrook Historical Society, sending photos with my email inquiry. They have a history museum; perhaps they would like this farming tool. It was small, so might fit easily into their available space. Even though Christian’s farm was not in Northbrook, it was only 5 miles away. The Meintzer (and Mentzer) families had a long history in Northbrook, so it still seemed to be an appropriate home for it. I assumed if they did not have a use or space for it, they would just say no.

Amazingly, they said yes, so I transferred it to their possession in 2020. I am so happy it has found a use and a home other than a garage! And I am pleased that my great-grandfather’s farming life is acknowledged in a permanent way.

Apologies to my email followers; a technical difficulty (aka: clicking publish prematurely!) sent a half-baked blog post to your inbox last night. Please delete that one and accept this one in its place.

#52Ancestors


1ArcGIS World, “World Imagery Wayback,” Livingatlas.Arcgis.Com, 2021. Aerial view of 2280 Riverwoods Road captured 28 April 2011. https://livingatlas.arcgis.com/wayback/#active=5844&ext=-87.89377,42.16729,-87.88105,42.17328

2Donna Marie Bell, My Family Keepbook: (San Francisco, California: Blurb, 2016), p. 146. https://www.blurb.com/b/7088094-my-family-keepbook.

3Kimbery Powell, “Here’s What You Can Learn From Agricultural Census Schedules”, heading 1890-1910; Thoughtco, 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/agricultural-schedules-united-states-census-1422758.

Working

A Tale of Two Towns, Part 1

My great-grandfather, Christian Meintzer [1830-1922] is no stranger to this blog. As the immigrant ancestor on that branch of the family, he has appeared in many different stories.

Christian Meintzer. Undated photo, but can’t be earlier than 1882 (age 52), his first winter in Illinois. Amateur photography1 didn’t begin until 1888, with the Kodak #1 (100 exposures in a box you returned to Kodak for developing!), bumping his age to 58. Was this family on the cutting edge of technology? Probably not, so he was likely to be 60 or older.

After his arrival in 1881, he appeared in three census years2 I can access: 1900, 1910, and 1920. In the first two, he was listed as a farmer. In 1920, he was 89 years old, and living on his daughter’s farm. While his occupation was “none,” I’m reasonably sure he still contributed to the operation of the farm.

During one of the 1990s reunions, I heard a story related by the son of Richard Helmuth Jahn [1887-1962]. Richard had married Christian’s granddaughter, Lillie Kranz. Apparently the family pitched in at each others’ farms to help during busy times of the year, like harvest time. One day everyone would bring in one person’s harvest, the next day they’d work on someone else’s. It was a good system.

During those times, Christian (into his 80s—maybe not quite when he was 89) would work alongside his sons-in-law, or grandsons-in-law, putting in a full day of work. While the younger men undoubtedly did work harder—they were younger and stronger—Christian contributed a surprising amount of work for a man his age. He wasn’t just “going through the motions” or functioning in a support role—bringing water or food out to the others. Christian’s efforts were noticeable enough to be remembered and retold to Richard’s son decades after Christian died.

His occupation early in life was a little more complicated. Farm life in Alsace (and other parts of Europe) was vastly different than what we experience in the United States. In the mid-1800s, land was still held primarily by a small number of people, with the land actually farmed by others who leased the land.

Also different, was land distribution. While we are accustomed in the United States to a farmhouse surrounded by acres of land, in Europe people lived in the village, with the farmland surrounding it. A farmer’s land was not a contiguous parcel; he would have strips of land scattered around the village, usually of different quality. In that way, no one person had most of the “good” land, while someone else was saddled with the “so-so” farmland. Everyone had a little bit of each, putting all the farmers on a more level playing field.2

While the 1861 Alsace census referred to Christian as a cultivateur (farmer), apparently on his father-in-law’s farm, his occuption was frequently recorded as Tagelöhner; literally translated: a day laborer. The corresponding French word was journalier. It’s my understanding that a Tagelöhner was not a land owner or lease holder. I find this a little confusing, since both terms were used for him. Maybe side-hustles started much earlier than we remember.

In her book, My Family Keepbook, my 2nd cousin once removed, Donna, wrote (referring to Christian’s parents, Christian Meintzer [1806] and Christina Isel):

Christian and Christina . . . made their home in Dehlingen, where Christian worked as a day laborer and farmer.

Donna Marie Bell, My Family Keepbook: (San Francisco, California: Blurb, 2016), p. 127. https://www.blurb.com/b/7088094-my-family-keepbook.

My 2nd great-grandfather, Christian [1806], had moved from Volksberg to Dehlingen when he married Christina in 1829, so he did not inherit a lease from his father. I’m not exactly sure how Christian acquired the right to farm in Dehlingen, but we can track his occupation through the census in Alsace and note the change:4

Occupation written in 1880 Alsatian census for both Heinrich and Christian Meintzer. It’s the same word, different handwriting, but I don’t recognize it. German loves to build compound words by adding more parts, but this one stumps me. If anyone recognizes it, please leave a message in the comments!

If you click through to the images, you will need to click the accepter button on the screen that pops up first, agreeing to their terms of service for the Bas-Rhin Archives.

It seems both Christians (my great-grandfather [1830] and 2nd great-grandfather [1806] did eventually step up in status to leasing, possibly owning, farmland. Later in Donna’s book, however, we find things didn’t go as well as they might have:

According to relatives in Dehlingen, Christian [1830] had taken out a loan that he could not repay; he decided to sell his farm to pay back the loan, and used part of the profits to pay their ship fare.

Bell, op. cit., p. 144.

Not seeing the actual records—were there written records?—I don’t know if Christian [1830] sold actual land plots or simply farming rights to land plots. But it was 1881 and Germany had ruled Alsace for the last ten years, so it’s quite possible landlord-tenant system had broken down. That may have put land into the hands of more individuals than before. I’ll have to trust what the Alsatian 2nd cousins relayed to Donna was accurate. If Christian used only part of the profits to pay the ship fare, then he had some money to buy land in Illinois.

That will have to wait for part 2 . . .

#52Ancestors


1Fineman, Mia. “Kodak and the Rise of Amateur Photography.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kodk/hd_kodk.htm (October 2004)

21900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Vernon Township, e.d. 139; Page 9A; dwelling number 182; family number 188; line 30; Christian MEINTZER household; accessed 1 December 2018. Christian MEINTZER, age 70, April 1830; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 314; digital image, Ancestry.com.

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Vernon Township, e.d. 108; sheet 5A; dwelling number 86; family number 87; line 13; Christ MENTZER household; accessed 3 June 2018. Christ MENTZER age 80 [name MEINTZER incorrectly enumerated]; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 301; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Riverview, e.d. 115; Page 1A; dwelling number 3; family number 3; line 24; Edward M. KRANG [KRANZ] household; accessed 4 September 2021. Christian MEINTZER, age 89; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 360; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

3Scheer, Teva J. Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850. (North Saanich, BC: Adventis Press, 2010), p. 134-136.

4Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin, (archives.bas-rhin.fr). Census images for the town of Dehlingen, for 1836, 1851, 1856, 1861, 1866, and 1880; accessed 10 September 2021. Direct links to images.

School

Or, how a Catholic school girl acquired an antique rosary from her grandmother’s non-Catholic best friend.

While looking through my files for a different blog post, I ran across two photos I’d forgotten I had. Why they were in a file folder, and not with other vintage photos, I can’t explain. Neither photo of the young school girls had a date, but I think it’s safe to say they were probably taken at the same time:

Date unknown, location unknown, but probably in Shermerville [Northbrook], Illinois. Alma Meier (left) as a school girl. Minnie Moeller (right) as a school girl. Probably taken the same day. Maybe age 8 or 9? This is the youngest photo of my grandmother that I’m aware of.

The two cabinet cards seem to be a matched set. There was no photographer imprint on either one, and nothing written on the back, except their names, placed there by my mom. The girl on the right was my grandmother, Minnie (Wilhemina Carolina Christina) Moeller, and the one on the left was Alma Meier, Minnie’s best friend. “Aunt Alma” was the only faux aunt of my mother’s who wasn’t actually related in some way. She was a regular fixture in my mom’s life, and mine, though I recall meeting her only once in person. Mom sent Alma birthday and Christmas cards until her death in 1974—sixteen years after her own mother had died.

Minnie was born 12 December 1892 in Shermerville (now Northbrook). Alma was born1 27 January 1892. Throughout their lives, the girls were thick as thieves. As far as I can tell, both started as members of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minnie was baptized and married there, and Alma’s parents were buried in the parish cemetery.

By 1910, however, the Meier family had moved2 to Columbia, Virginia, where it seems Alma met her husband-to-be, Emerson Moore. He was the boy 2 houses (farms) away! Alma and Emerson got married in Shermerville3 in 1911. I’m not quite sure why that was, but they were definitely married in Cook County, Illinois, and were still there when Emerson registered for the WWI draft in June 1917. Emerson’s father died in November, that year. so that may have caused the move. By 1920 they were back in Virginia, and lived there until their deaths.

Long distance didn’t diminish Minnie’s & Alma’s friendship. Most of the few vactions my mom remembered as a child were to Virginia, to see “Aunt Alma.” Minnie & Christoph continued to plan vacations with Alma & Emerson, long after their kids were on their own. Alma still had many friends in Shermerville, and periodically retuned to visit, beyond getting married or burying her parents.

I’d always heard that Minnie attended German School in addition to public school. St. Peter conducted services in German for a long time, and the parents of both girls spoke German, so learning it was necessary. It’s likely Alma attended both schools, also.

At one of the schools, the students were taught about other religions. They were not getting religious instruction; it sounded like a comparative religions class, though I’m sure it wasn’t called that. Alma needed to purchase a rosary for the class. The teacher was planning to explain about the practice of saying the rosary, so the kids needed one as an example. Remember, Alma wasn’t Catholic. For whatever reason, she kept that rosary for 60+ years.

How do I know this? Some time after my First Communion (spring, 1966) Alma came back to Northbrook. She still knew people living in Northbrook who she wanted to see in person. It was a chance to visit her parents’ graves. There were a lot of reasons for her to come back.

While she was there, my mom arranged to drive up to visit her, taking me along, because I was too young to leave home alone. Of course, Mom had been writing to her through the years, so Alma knew I had recently made my First Communion. She brought along the rosary purchased all those decades ago, to give to me, and explained where it came from.

Why me? It’s possible it was tucked away somewhere and forgotten about when my siblings had their First Communions, and only turned up recently. Maybe she didn’t know anyone closer to home who was Catholic. I don’t know. I was only 8, so didn’t really ask questions. I didn’t know enough to know what questions to ask!

Truthfully, I already had 2 other rosaries: a pink one with plastic oblong beads I’d been given before my First Communion, and a white, pearl-looking one (we all know it was plastic beads with a white coating!) that had a plastic case with a snap. Did I really need a third one? Probably not.

Alma’s mother-of-pearl rosary from around 1900. Stretched out, it measures 16″ long.

Alma’s was like nothing I’d ever seen. The beads and crucifix were mother of pearl, but they were not regular, identical beads. Each one was its own unique nugget, with the Our Father beads slightly larger than the Hail Marys. The rough shapes gave the rosary a feeling like no other rosary.

Close up showing the rough-tumbled mother-of-pearl beads and the longer chain segments.

The cross was simple, with a silver figure of Jesus anchored in place through to the back of it. The longer segments of chain are like interlocking 3-sided links. There must be a name for that design, but I haven’t tracked one down, yet.

The crucifix and additional views of the longer chain segments.

I can’t imagine Alma (or her mother) spent a lot of money on the rosary, since they weren’t Catholic. Those of us who are parents have had notes come home, “Please make sure your child has a ______ to bring to school on Monday.” We sigh and try to find the needed item at the lowest possible cost, because we know something else will be needed later on. I doubt it was much different at the turn of the 20th century!

When I first received it, I remembered not being terribly impressed. Of course I said all the polite things I was supposed to say, but it wasn’t a showy or sparkly rosary. It was very understated. It wasn’t until I was older—by at least a decade—that I began to appreciate it. I needed time for it to grow on me, I guess. Or for me to grow up a bit. I still have my other two rosaries, but this one—a gift from my non-Catholic grandmother’s non-Catholic best friend—is the only one I reach for.

As I was thinking about this blog post, it suddenly occurred to me—after half a century—that my grandmother must have needed one for school, too. I have no idea what became of it. It did not go to an older sibling, because my mother wouldn’t have been surprised by the one Alma brought for me. She might have given it away to someone in town. Or it’s possible she gave it to one of her nieces or nephews. Her husband’s two brothers (Ed and Jake) married Catholic women and raised their kids that way. It would have made a nice gift for one of them. Minnie had no idea her daughter would marry a Catholic 20+ years later, so she had no reason to hang onto it. It’s a mystery that will never be answered, I imagine.

I wonder if that teacher ever thought one of the lesson props would still be around over a century later?

#52Ancestors


1“Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 29 August 2021, entry for Alma MEIER, 27 January 1892, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” certificate # n.g., FHL Film 1,287,792. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

21910 U.S. census, population schedule, Virginia, Fluvanna, Columbia, e.d. 84; sheet 2A; dwelling number 25; family number 26; line 35; J. B. MEYER household; accessed 28 August 2021. Alma MEYER, age 18; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1628; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

3“Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Marriages Index, 1871-1920”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 28 August 2021, citing “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010; FHL film 1,030,511. Illinois Department of Public Health records. “Marriage Records, 1871-present.” Division of Vital Records, Springfield, Illinois. Emerson MOORE (24) and Alma MEIER (19).

Character

“I think that playing dress up begins at age five and never truly ends.”—Kate Spade

When Mike’s mom, Pat, died, we uncovered an old photo album that belonged to her mother, Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan Kukler. It was the traditional “black pages with photo corners” style. Fortunately, the photos hadn’t been glued in permanently! One or two had dates written on the front, some others were identfied below, with a white ink. The rest had nothing, including the one below:

10 February 1940, Port Huron, Michigan. Elizabeth Nolan Kukler (short lady at right with large, dark purse), and her sister, Mary Nolan “Aunt Dee”. They were at the Port Huron train station for the premier of Young Tom Edison. Many of the locals dressed in period clothing, though it doesn’t look like Elizabeth or Mary did so. I believe Mary is the woman to the right of Elizabeth, with her face turned away.

The photo made no sense to us. Women with long dresses, but modern handbags? On our next trip to Detroit, we arranged to visit Mike’s aunts (Pat’s sisters) to see if they could identify the photos from that album. They said this photo was taken at the Port Huron train station “for filming Young Tom Edison, and that everyone dressed up.”

That was the 1940 movie starring Mickey Rooney. Thomas Alva Edison, the “wizard of Menlo Park,” grew up in Port Huron, Michigan, so the town played a prominent part in the movie. Either the aunts had it slightly wrong, or I misunderstood them at the time, and wrote the wrong information on the back. From what I have researched, none of the movie was filmed on location—it was all done in California on the back lots.

That makes sense, because they wouldn’t have needed that many extras, and there certainly wouldn’t be people (like Elizabeth) not in costume on the set. Nor would the extras be carrying around their purses!

When the film was released, though, the studio scheduled a special premiere to take place in Port Huron. It was kind of a big deal, including a parade that day. Mickey Rooney arrived by steam train, coming up from Detroit. A commemorative envelope documenting that was available for sale. The Detroit Edison Employees published a scrapbook of almost 70 photos from the premiere’s events. If you’re curious, it can be found on its own RootsWeb site. Unfortunately, the web page design doesn’t provide an easy way to page through the book. You must click on each page number link to open up the image, then back up to click on the next page number.

So this picture was probably taken on the day of the premiere. By whom? I don’t know. It seems the people to the left (not Mike’s grandmother) were posing for the photographer. Yet somehow she ended up with a print of the photo.

Elizabeth traveled at least an hour to Port Huron to see Mickey Rooney (who was pretty famous at the time) in person with her sister. I’m sure he was just a speck in the distance, and I doubt they attended the actual premier showing. The Desmond Theater held only 1,350 seats, undoubtedly reserved for important people. Two other theaters in town (they had 7!) showed the film that night, with Mickey putting in an appearance at each one. From the photos I’ve seen, even three theaters wouldn’t have held all the people in town that day.

But back to Elizabeth & Mary. I’ve written about Elizabeth several times, but Mary had only a brief mention when I wrote about the farm belonging to their parents. Mike’s aunts remembered spending part of their summers up at the farm in Wales Township. As I looked for records for Mary over the weekend, I became more puzzled, though.

I’d previously found the 1910 census1 (3 years after Mary & Elizabeth’s mother, Alice Needham Nolan, died), showing 25-year old Mary as the head of household of the farm, with 4 brothers (ages 10-21) still there, as well as her 14-year old sister, Alice. Elizabeth was in Detroit by then, working as a governess. One brother had died as a toddler, two others were out on their own.

I’d also found Mary’s 16 October 1950 death record,2 stating she died in Wales Township, St. Clair County, Michigan. It seemed logical that she was there the entire forty year span. Farmers don’t really move back and forth.

Ancestry thinks differently.

My recent searches to fill in the gap years resulted in hints that confused me. The 1920 census3 had a Mary Nolan, niece, living with Martin and Mary Bishop in Hamtramck (metropolitan Detroit). Now, “Mary Nolan” was not an uncommon name! However, this one was my Mary Nolan. Mary Bishop was a Needham, the youngest sister of Mary Nolan’s mother, Alice. Mary Nolan was 35 years old, single, and not working.

So who was minding the farm?

If Pat and her siblings spent summers on the farm with “Aunt Dee” in the late 1930s and early 1940s, it was still in the family through that time. Mary Nolan (or someone in the Nolan family) had to own and manage it. The project this week of filling in Mary’s details morphed from fairly simple to far more complicated!

With Mary not there, was another Nolan living on the farm? I didn’t find one in the 1920 census. Nor did I see (searching page-by-page) an entry likely to be someone paying rent for the house and land. Just to confirm someone wasn’t there, but got missed, I tracked down Mary’s siblings in the 1920 census. All were accounted for except William, who had died as a toddler. I found:

  • John (b. 1880)—married, 4 kids, living in Detroit, working at a foundry.
  • James Edward (b. 1882)—married, 6 kids, and farming nearby, probably his wife’s family’s land.
  • Richard Lawrence (b. 1889)—married, 3 kids, farming in Kenockee (a little further north, in the next township).
  • Elizabeth Gertrude (b. 1891)—married, no kids, living in Detroit, several borders living with them, including 2 siblings.
  • Raymond (b. 1893)—working as a druggist in Detroit, not married.
  • Alice V. (b. 1895)—living with her married sister, Elizabeth, in Detroit, working as an office clerk in one of the auto factories
  • Thomas William (b. 1897)—moving around. He worked at a steelworks in Colorado in 1919, but left “to help brother . . . Smiths Creek, Michigan.” I never figured out which one.
  • Edward Harold (b. 1900)—living with his married sister, Elizabeth, working in a store.

So, 2 of Mary’s brothers (James and Richard) were farming somewhat nearby. Much closer, as seen on the plat map below, were the farms of 2 more close relatives. John Needham (1st cousin of her mother, Alice) farmed the Thomas Needham property just east of the farmhouse, and Michael Nolan, brother of her father, Patrick, was in section 34. It seems likely one of them may have planted crops on Patrick Nolan’s old farmstead. I can’t see them letting the land sit idle.

1897 Wales Township plat map, sections 25-27 and 34-36. The arrow points to the house Pat and her siblings visited as kids. Although the map was 20+ years old in 1920, the 1922 St. Clair County Directory confirmed John living in section 25 (Thomas Needham’s 80 acres) and Michael in section 34. Mary was NOT listed in that directory, so I assume she was still in Detroit.

I was still trying to track down Mary, though. She had no hints for the 1930 census; just one for 1940, which left me with little confidence. That “Mary” was the right age, but was a lodger in a residence in Highland Park (near Hamtramck) with no other names I recognized. She worked as a clerk at an auto body factory. While nothing in her entry screamed “wrong person,” there was nothing to convince me this was the right one, either.

I paged through the 27 images for 1930 Wales Township, hoping to see something that made sense. I found John Needham’s entry. Nearby I saw surnames I recognized from the plat map, Gershaw and Hart, along with others I didn’t. Of course, property changed hands over the years, so that wasn’t surprising.

Three households away from John Needham, I found a John R. Nolan, age 37. This wasn’t Mary’s brother, who would have been 12 years older. It was probably her cousin, John Roy, son of her Uncle Michael. I believe his property might be the Patrick’s parcel to the west, in section 34. The 1922 directory said Michael Nolan (John Roy’s father) owned 120 acres, so I think Michael may have purchased the outlying 40 acres belonging to his brother.

A few pages later I found Mary’s brother, James, and another cousin, George (John Roy’s brother). No Mary, however. And in the rural area, there were no street names or house numbers, so it’s difficult knowing where everyone lived relative to each other. The enumerator would have walked/driven a route, but if no one answered the door, I presume he skipped that household and came back another day. So the sequence in which families appear might be misleading.

The 1940 census provided fewer Nolans in Wales Township. James still farmed there, as did John Roy, but George had moved to Detroit. John Needham was still alive, with his sister, Catherine, and her husband, Frank Fischer, living at his farm.

Still no Mary. Maybe that was her in Highland Park . . .

It felt like I spent the week chasing my tail. While I’ve discovered a lot about Mike’s Nolans, I still have as many questions as answers. I found the St. Clair County Property Search website, except it doesn’t reach far enough backwards to show the property transfers I need. The earliest records were from in the 1970s and 80s. My tree doesn’t come far enough forward to connect those transfers to people I know. To make sense of the land ownership and transfers, I’d need to camp out at the courthouse and go through the deed books.

As for the photo of Elizabeth and Mary (Aunt Dee), I’m beginning to think it wasn’t Elizabeth going to Port Huron to see her sister and participate in the premiere events. I now think they both traveled back, together, for the day or weekend.

This blog post did not take the path I expected it to. Or end up where I thought it would.

The lesson learned this week? Don’t assume. With documentation showing Mary lived in Wales Township in 1910 (census) and 1950 (death certificate), I assumed she stayed there the entire time. For 1920, I know that wasn’t correct. I don’t have complete answers for the other years. Maybe she returned to the farmhouse only in the summer? Someone had to be minding Elizabeth’s kids when they were there!

Only one of Pat’s siblings is still alive; perhaps she can shed some light from her childhood memories. I also have an audio taped interview with Elizabeth from the early 1980s, which may contain details I missed. I haven’t listened to it in years. I should digitize it before the cassette tape dies and type a transcript. Yes, another project!

#52Ancestors


11910 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township, e.d. 125; sheet 10B; dwelling number 226; family number 229; line 74; Mary NOLAN household; accessed 5 March 2018. Mary NOLAN, age 25; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 673; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

2“Michigan, U.S., Death Records, 1867-1952”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 23 August 2021, entry for Mary NOLAN, 66, 16 October 1950, citing death certificate number 7700 10071; Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, MI, USA.

31920 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Hamtramck, e.d. 751; Page 19B; dwelling number 188; family number 367; line 65; Martin BISHOP household; accessed 23 August 2021. Mary NOLAN, age 35; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 820; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Tragedy

“Come back. Even as a shadow, even as a dream.”— Euripides

I always find this type of prompt to be difficult to write. Many stories that would qualify, have already been used for other prompts. Others are too recent, with too many people involved or affected by the event still living. They need time to recover from whatever happened. They don’t need me to be ripping off their band aid prematurely.

There is more to a person than the worst thing that ever happened to them. Or the worst choice they ever made. Do I ignore them, because trying to write about those things is awkward? Do I pretend those things didn’t happen, despite the impact to their life? How do I balance remembering the person accurately, with remembering them compassionately? Which stories are okay to tell, and which should wait another 10, 20, 30 years?

It’s an inexact decision process, and one I don’t take lightly.

Delia Mentzer was a 2nd cousin of my grandfather, Christoph Jacob Meintzer. No, that wasn’t a typo I let slip by. Delia was from the “Meintzers without the i” branch of the family. Her grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer (Phillip) emigrated from Alsace in 1842. He quickly dropped the i from his name, though occasionally it shows up incorrectly in various records. The other Meintzers emigrating later settled in the Northfield/Northbrook area, because Phillip’s family was there. The new families (my great-grandfather and the Fulton County, Ohio, Meintzers) left the i in their surnames.

Delia was the youngest child of Phillip’s oldest child, Heinrich (Henry), so she never knew that grandfather, who had died 20 years before Delia’s birth. Despite being a more distant cousin, her name came up early in my genealogy research. The immigration narrative presumably written by my grandaunt, Sophie Meintzer Kranz, mentioned Delia by name:

“We arrived in New York on the French Steamer Labrador, on May 26th 1881, & in Chicago May 30th 1881, and same day May 30th 1881 by Uncle Henry Meintzer, (where Delia lives now). We were 8 of us, Father, Mother, and 6 Children.” Undated and unsigned, but I was told it was written by Sophie Meintzer Kranz, identified by the handwriting.

I love this kind of document, but it’s frustrating without a signature. I have to hope the people identifying it by the handwriting have it right. “Where Delia lives now” is rather useless without a date of when it was written. Did it mean her father’s farm in 1881 (on Sanders Road)? Or somewhere else? The farm was the most likely place, but without a date, there will always be a question.

Regardless, Delia has always been part of the family history. She was born 1 August 1893 in Northfield Township; the rural area north of the Chicago city limits. Now part of the urban sprawl, back then it was out in the boondocks. The eleventh (and last) child of Henry Mentzer and Salomea Koebelin, three older siblings had already died before Delia’s birth. Her full name was Ardelia Ernestine, and “Ardelia” showed up in many of her records—just not her birth record2. Like many babies, her birth record contained only a last name!

She appeared with her family in all the census records from 1900 to 19303. After her mother died in 1906, Delia took over the housekeeping duties of the family. The 1940 census4 recorded she had completed 7th grade, which would be consistent with that timeline.

By 1910, she and her brother, Louis, were the only children still living at home. After their father died in 1927, she and Louis remained on the farm, through at least the 1930 census. She and Louis both attended the 1930 reunion. She was the 6th person from the left in row 3. Unfortunately, her head is behind another woman (Evelyn Kranz), so Delia’s hat and arm are the only parts visible! Louis is the person on the left end of row 2.

1930 Mentzer/Meintzer reunion, at the Riverview Town Hall. See text to locate Delia, Louis, and Herman.

On 6 January 1932, Delia married Herman Johann Philipp Werhane.5 He was her first cousin, and 25 years older than she. Herman’s mother, Anna, was the younger sister of Delia’s father, Henry. Several other Mentzer-Werhane matches existed. It was a small community, so that wasn’t unusual. Herman also attended the 1930 reunion, and is easily found in the back row, to the right of the man in the dark suit.

Herman had been married before, with four children from that union—two of them younger than Delia. His first wife had died in 1921, and his three surviving children were all married. The 1930 census showed Herman living in Glenview with his youngest daughter’s family.

How or why Herman and Delia decided to marry, I can’t say. The 1940 census had them farming on Sanders Road, with Delia’s brother elsewhere. It seemed Herman was keeping the Mentzer farm active. Herman and Delia went on to have two children.

On 23 May 1949, Herman found Delia, dead, in a hayloft on their farm.

“By her side was an old revolver with which she apparently shot herself.”

Chicago Tribune, 24 May 1949

The prompt was tragedy, remember?

A local paper provided a few more details revealed at the inquest held the next day. She was found early Monday morning, and the gun was a rusty 32 calibre that had been in a bureau drawer for eight years. She shot herself through the temple.

“Her husband testified . . . that his wife was in apparently good spirits when she left the house. She asked her husband to put the cow to pasture while she cut some rhubarb.”

Cook County Herald, 27 May 1949, p. 1.

When Herman came back to the house and couldn’t find her there, he went looking for her.

The story is tragic. Her children were teenagers at the time—I’m not sure whether that made the situation better or worse. Herman was 81. He died in September, 1950, (a little more than a year later) leaving the children orphaned. I don’t know who took them in, but they remained in the area at least until adulthood. Half-siblings and other relatives from both sides lived nearby, so there should have been someone able to take care of them while they finished high school.

The soon-to-be-released 1950 census probably won’t answer the question of where the kids settled after their father died, because it would have been taken earlier in the year, before his death. It seems unlikely the kids would have been moved to another household after Delia’s death, unless Herman felt raising them by himself was too much at his age. I guess I’ll see.

When a tragedy occurs, it’s human nature to try to make sense of it. Most of the time we are unsuccessful, because there are no answers. Delia’s death was obviously tragic for her family, but it had to have rippled throughout the larger community. While the area had become more populated by the mid-1940s, many of the families were still very interconnected. They didn’t lose just anyone—they lost one of their own.

#52Ancestors


1“U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 16 August 2021, citing Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, (index only); dated June 1946. Entry for Delia Ernestine MENTZER.

2“Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 16 August 2021, entry for MENTZER, 1 August 1893, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” certificate # n.g., FHL Film 1,287,793. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

31900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 12A; dwelling number 156; family number 161; line 45; Henry MENTZER household; accessed 15 August 2021. Ardelia MENTZER, age 7, August 1892; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 63; Page 11A; dwelling number 87; family number 88; line 17; Heinrich MENTZER household; accessed 15 August 2021. Dillia (incorrectly indexed as Lillia) MENTZER, age 16; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 139; Page 16B; dwelling number 332; family number 332; line 86; Henry MINTZER [MENTZER] household; accessed 15 August 2021. Delia MINTZER [MENTZER], age 26; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, section 6, e.d. 16-2242; Page 1B; dwelling number 16; family number 19; line 81; Louis MENTZER household; accessed 14 August 2021. Ardelia MENTZER, age 36; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 504; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

41940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 16-346A; Page 3B; household number 65; line 72; Herman J. WERHANE household; accessed 15 August 2021. Delia WERHANE, age 46; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 784; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

5“Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 15 August 2021, citing Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records, file# 1333244 Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois. Herman WERHANE and Ardelia MENTZER.

In the City

. . . Directory . . .

For years I’ve read articles and watched webinars extolling the virtues of city directories. I have no reason to challenge those claims. City directories provide wonderful information.

They are, however, just tedious to use.

The first issue is finding the city and the year(s) you need. Ancestry has some. MyHeritage has others (and a nice tool that can link together multiple years for the same person or address). I’ve found them on Google Books, and at local library or historical society websites. Even the Internet Archive (home of the Wayback Machine) has a collection!

Finding the place and time needed is just the beginning. Depending on the source, the directories may be indexed . . . or not. Either situation comes with its own set of problems, aside from being a secondary source to begin with, prone to ommissions and misspellings.

An unindexed directory leaves us paging through digital images, just like a paper copy. Yes, people were placed in alphabetical order, but oftentimes each town had its own section. Pinpointing where a town started can be hard.

Indexing for city directories is frequently the product of OCR processing. Depending on the algorithm used, the quality (clarity) of the scans, and whether humans double-checked the index, those results can be hit or miss.

Any way you cut it, city directories demand substantial time commitment. They rarely provide a clear cut breakthrough to a genealogy question. When my research time was more limited, they were not a go-to source for me.

Still, I have found myself using them more as I’ve researched my 52Ancestors prompts. They have helped:

  • fill in gaps to an ancestor’s timeline
  • confirm an address found on a census, draft, or death record
  • make sense of street renaming and/or renumbering
  • find and sort out a surname in an area
  • turn up an occasional surprise!

City directories were one of my sources when trying to sort out Mike’s Kuklers and the other Kuklers in Detroit. Being a printed source, even if there were spelling variations, at least I didn’t have to deal with handwriting!

While researching my cousin, William Brumm, directories allowed me to corroborate the family story that he and his brother started out in business together, later splitting up and being in competition with each other. The ads I found in the directories narrowed down the time of the split to 1908-1913 (not all the years were available to narrow it further). None of the people involved at the time are alive to provide more details, but the ads tell at least part of the story.

Even when we “know” the story, the details from a directory can add color—or cause a major revision to it! I knew my dad’s 1921 birth was in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, including the address of the house he was born in (914 North 9th). What I didn’t know, is that the family lived a mile away1 from that house in 1920:

My grandparents’ house in Manitowoc before my dad was born. Clara, in the first entry, was Ed’s baby sister, not yet married, and working as household help. She was living/working a couple blocks from the house Dad was born in.

I also knew the famly rented a place2 to live in Highwood, Illinois, while my grandfather built their house on Rosemary Terrace, in Deerfield. I assumed they had moved back to Illinois when my dad was 4 or 5. He remembered living in Highwood, so wasn’t a baby at the time.

1925 Highwood, Illinois, city directory.2 Entry for Edward M. Haws, wife, Victoria, and their 4 children.

The 1925 Highwood Directory2 fit my story timeline, and provided an actual address—a wonderful new detail. I was shocked, though, when I found a 1922 directory3 with my grandparents (Edward & Victoria Haws) living in Glencoe, Illinois, with Victoria’s newly-widowed mother! My dad was born in December of 1921, so he was clearly an infant when they moved back. I’m sure there was more to that story, but no one is left who knew all of it. Without the directory, I wouldn’t even know there was more to know.

1922 Glencloe, Illinois, city directory.3 Edward & Victoria Haws. Her mother (Dorothea Schweiger) was in the S section, same address, with her unmarried children.

The biggest shock came with the 1914 Glencoe city directory.4 I found my great-grandparents, Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry Schweiger, where I expected them, at their restaurant at 367 Park Avenue. The family lived in the apartment above the restaurant, as they always had.

The three youngest children, Rose, Sylvester, and Frederick, were under 18 years of age, and not listed. Older children, Elizabeth and Aloysius (Al), were married and moved out of the household. Uncle Iggy was absent, so had probably moved to Milwaukee by then. Anthony (Anton), Victoria, and Leo were all old enough for their own entries. Anton lived at the same address as his parents, but Leo was living a half mile away, at 136 Park Avenue.

Say what??

1914 Glencoe, Illinois, city directory.4 Ignatz, Dorothea, and Anton were living above the family restaurant. Son, Leo, was a half mile away. Note the misspelling of Anton’s & Leo’s surnames, and their being out of alphabetical order.

Turning the page, I found my grandmother, Victoria, with another misspelling, living at the same address as Leo. She married Edward Haws in April, 1914, so the directory data was collected before then, since she’s listed with her maiden name.

1914 Glencoe, Illinois, city directory. Victoria Schweiger, misspelled as Schwieger lived at the same address as her brother, Leo. She was not listed with an occupation, but I was always told she worked at the restaurant before she was married.

I found this directory at MyHeritage, so I used their nifty tool to show other entries for that address. That dropped this bombshell:

1914 Glencoe, Illinois, city directory. Edward M. Haws,5 carpenter, living at the same address as Victoria, and using the same phone number as her parents! I guess they took messages for him?

My grandfather was living at the same address5 as his girlfriend/finacée? Another resident was also listed, a painter named Max (I didn’t record his surname). It’s likely he knew my grandfather from house construction.

What sort of building was at that address? Only those 4 names were listed, so it certainly wasn’t a larger apartment building. Using Google Street View, there’s a 2-story brick house at 140. Nothing is currently numbered 136.

Did Ignatz own another property, in addition to the restaurant, and have 2 of his older children living there? It would be odd for Leo and Victoria to pay rent to someone else, instead of living at home with their parents. There’s no family lore about Ignatz having a rental property, though. I may need to look for property records, to see if I can find something. That city directory entry shook up any assumptions I had!

The house at 140 has a brick carriage house/garage towards the back of the lot. Those often had living space above. Did those four live in rooms above that, with someone else renting the house? So many questions, so few answers! I didn’t think to look for neighbors when I first found this listing, and I no longer have access to this MyHeritage database to see who lived nearby.

I wondered if the current residence was a tear-down/rebuild so common in the Chicago suburbs, and was not the house that was there in 1914. According to Zillow, though, the house was built in 1911, so it’s the same building. I can’t find anything about renumbering in Glencoe, so I don’t know what happened to #136. The house next door is currently numbered 126, and looks more modern. Zillow indicates it was built in 1995. Perhaps the property was given a new number at that time? Again, land records are the only thing that will sort that out.

The 1920 census had the Safford family living at 140 Park, and no 136 listed. It’s possible the family wasn’t home when the enumerator walked by, so were listed out of sequence. I found Park Avenue addresses sprinkled throughout the 70 pages for District 119, but did not see 136. The 1910 census did not show any house numbering. I now doubt that 140 is the right location. The question is, was the carriage house given its own number? Or was 136 changed to a different house number, later on? Directories from prior and later years don’t list 136, either. Perhaps I need to send a query to the Glencoe Historical Society. They might be able to shed some light on the question about the house number.

My dad’s stories about his father always said Ed “took his meals” at the Schweiger restaurant, but “slept elsewhere.” So when my dad said his dad “boarded” there, I took a limited meaning of “board” from “room and board”—”room” was sleep, and “board” was eat. Ed ate breakfast and dinner there, and took the lunch pail that was ready for him when breakfast was over. If Ed wasn’t sleeping in the rooms above the restaurant, I guess he still “slept elsewhere,” even if it was a Schweiger property.

Notes in my data file, probably from my dad’s cousin, Fred (who did a lot of research on the Schweiger butcher shop and restaurant), said:

Ignatz owned and ran a butcher shop with a restaurant in Glencoe. Rooms for boarders were upstairs. The sons worked in the shop, and the daughters waited tables.

Fred Schweiger, Jr.

Fred’s dad was the youngest of Ignatz’s children, so possibly boarders above the restaurant were more common as the older children left home? That would have been something Fred’s father remembered, by my dad’s mom did not, because it didn’t happen while she lived at home.

It’s tempting to dismiss city directories as “census gap fillers,” as I basically did, but they sometimes surprise us with what we didn’t know we didn’t know. Tedious or not, I need to remember to check in them more consistently.

#52Ancestors


1“U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Wright’s Manitowoc City and County Directory, 1920. Entry for Edw. M. HAWS, p. 218, accessed 9 August 2021.

2“U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Polk’s Waukegan Directory, 1925. Entry for Edw. HAWS, p. 685, accessed 7 September 2018.

3“U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing R. L. Polk & Co. Evanston City and North Shore Directory, 1922-1923. Entry for Edw. HAWS, p. 630, accessed 7 September 2018.

4“U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Bumstead’s Evanston City and North Shore Directory, 1914-1915. Entry for Ignatz SCHWEIGER, p. 1327, accessed 29 June 2021.

5“U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Bumstead’s Evanston City and North Shore Directory, 1914-1915. Entry for Edward M. HAWS, p. 1309, accessed 29 June 2021.

Favorite Name

“She nodded, wondering why couldn’t she have been named Mary. Or Sue. But no, she had to be nine-letter Elizabeth.”—H. M. Ward

Family Tree Maker provides a tidy report listing surnames by popularity—but not first names. It’s not something one generally needs, so I can’t really fault them for that. Their time and effort is better spent elsewhere in the program.

I can use the Custom report to select a particular name. I found 101 people with “Elizabeth” somewhere in their name, and another 60 spelled with an “s” instead. An “a” at the end was optional. It did not include people with only an initial “E” in a name—those could be Emily, Eleanor, or any number of other choices. I found 161 spanning 403 years. The earliest Elisabeth was Elizabetha Schmidt, born about 1618.

How does that compare with other first names? No clue. I’d have to run a separate report for any name I wanted to check on. I have other things to do.

Long before that report, early in my genealogy career (pre-computer), I realized I had a LOT of Elizabeths in my tree. My tree was much smaller, so the number of Elizabeths was lower, though they may have been a higher percentage. Not getting them mixed up took some effort. Half of my 2nd great-grandmothers were Elizabeths:

  • Elisabeth Nachtwey (1827-1906)
  • Elizabeth Jost (1838-1894)
  • Elisabetha Boullie (1818-1887)
  • Catherine Elisabeth Gärtner (1815-?)

Two of the 3rd-greats qualified:

  • Elizabeth (1808-1863) (mother of Elizabeth Jost)
  • Elisabeth Allgaier (1777-1844) on the Schweiger line

Later research unearthed ten more direct-line Elizabeths. Then there were the assorted aunts & cousins, including:

  • Lizzie Haws O’Brien (1853-1938) (Haws great-grandaunt)
  • Lizzie Birringer Haws (1890-1972) (married-in Haws grandaunt)
  • Lizzie Haws (1895-1959) (1st cousin, 2x removed)
  • Elizabeth Weber Haws (1892-1972) (another 1c 2r)
  • Lizzie Schweiger Levernier (1886-1961) (Schweiger grandaunt)
  • Lizzie Meintzer Ahrens (1863-1945) (Meintzer half-grandaunt)

As Dad would say, I couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting an Elizabeth somewhere in the family tree. Marrying Mike added even more to the tree:

  • Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan Kukler (1891-1987) (his grandmother)
  • Eliza Jane English Fitzgerald (1866-1902) (his great-grandmother)
  • Elizabeth Alloway Carmody (1863-1921) (his grandfather’s 1st wife)

Elizabeths were everywhere . . . and always have been. Favorite name? I don’t know. Popular name? Certainly!

So why am I thinking about Elizabeths right now? I was recently contacted by a Nachtwey 3rd cousin via my blog. He was interested in the Kreuzeber (now Kreuzebra) records I wrote about previously. It was time to dive back into those records, and hopefully finish that project. Second great-grandmother, Elisabeth Nachtwey, stuck in my brain as a result. My grandfather’s sisters (Aunt May, Aunt Teresa, & Aunt Clara) told me about her when I started out in the 1970s, but the information was sketchy.

She started life with an “s,” but was buried with a “z,” so I will use “z” from this point, for consistency’s sake, unless it’s inside a source citation. In that case, I will use whatever spelling was used for that record.

Elizabeth was born in Germany, married there, and had at least one child (Elizabeth, 17 October 1853) before emigrating. My great-grandfather, Frank Haase/Haws was born in Wisconsin 3 March 1858. The daughter in between, Dorothy, was born somewhere in October, 1855; we just don’t know where. Some documents said Wisconsin, while other said Germany. I’ve yet to find an actual birth document for Dorothy either side of the Atlantic. Notes from my dad’s cousin, Lorraine, said the older daughter came to the USA when she was three, suggesting 1856 (and after Dorothy’s birth).

The emigration timeline is a mess, and needs to be its own research project. For now, Elizabeth’s emigration occurred in a 4+ year window: October 1853-March 1858.

Photo believed to be Elizabeth Nachtwey Haase (Haws), date unknown. I received it from one of the Manitowoc 2nd cousins (Bette or Joan). There were 2 photos in this style (head & shoulders portraits that fade off), taken probably about the same era, clearly 2 different women, both supposedly one of the great-grandmothers. The other resembled Elizabeth Jost Bruder, so was either her, or her mother. This one being Elizabeth Nachtwey makes sense, though I’d love to find another photo of her to confirm that. Or refute it!

Dad’s cousin, Lorraine, recorded Elizabeth Nachtwey was born on 11 January 1829, died 25 March 1906, and was buried in the Francis Creek Cemetery. I’ve taken photos in St. Anne’s (the Francis Creek cemetery), but did not know where to look for her. The church offices were closed at the time, so we couldn’t get the location from them. The 1978 cemetery reading¹ published on the Manitowoc County web pages had included an Elizabeth Haase, died in 1903, on a stone with a son, Heinrich, but I wasn’t sure it was her. There was at least one other Haas(e) family in the county, and I’m unaware of a connection between the two. I needed to be careful not grab the wrong person.

St. Anne Cemetery, Francis Creek, Wisconsin
Elizabeth Haase
Gest. [Gestorben–died] 25 Mar 1903,
alter [age] 77 Ja. [Jahr–years] 11 Mo. [Monat–month] 6 Ta. [Tag–days] Photo credit: one of my second cousins. This image shows the date better than the ones on Find a Grave.

Looking back at Lorraine’s notes, Elizabeth’s husband, John, was buried in the Mishicot Cemetery (aka Holy Cross Church Cemetery Old)² in 1876, but Elizabeth was buried “in Francis Creek.” Why wasn’t she buried near him? Twenty-five years later, the old cemetery was probably full. Their youngest son, Henry, had been killed in a boiler explosion in 1902, so when she bought a plot (and monument) for him, she bought one for herself, too.

One of the Mantitowoc cousins emailed me a photo of that monument. Tombstones can be difficult to photograph well. Even though shadows are playing tricks with the “9” in the death year, the “3” looks pretty clear to me. I’m not sure where Lorraine found 1906 for a death year, but this 25 March 1903 date is corroborated³ by the Wisconsin Death Index at Ancestry. I feel confident this is the right death and burial.

Curiously, the death index used the Haws spelling, while her headstone had Haase. Clearly this family was still sorting out how the surname would be spelled! I never know which way to look for it.

Using the age from the tombstone, her birthday should be around 19 April 1825. That’s somewhat consistent with her age as given in the church marriage record in Kreuzebra. Elizabeth & John happened to be the first marriage recorded in 1853, so their entry is conveniently just below the column headings:

Duplicate register, Kreuzeber, Thuringen, Germany. 1853 Marriages. 4 Entry #1, 17 January, left page. Johannes Haase & Elisabeth Nachtwei.
Duplicate register, Kreuzeber, Thuringen, Germany. 1853 Marriages . 4 Entry #1, 17 January, right page. Johannes Haase & Elisabeth Nachtwei. Alter der Braut [age of bride] 25 Jahr 9 Monat [27 years 9 months] for a calculated birth in April, 1827.

The death and marriage records both placed her birth in April (not January), but two years apart. The church microfilm I’d been using started in 1851, so her birth record wasn’t on that film. It appears FamilySearch has digitized the earlier films, but they are “locked,” so I can’t see the images from home. I’m not sure if I could access them from the local Family History Library, or if I’d have to go to Salt Lake City.

But Ancestry has an index: Thuringia, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1591-1875 which seems to confirm5 the 1827 year. The index comes from FamilySearch, but it did not identify a microfilm number. Furthermore, it says Lutheran Baptisms . . . The microfilm I’d ordered and have pages from was clearly identified as being the Catholic church records. This family was—I thought—solidly Catholic on both the Haase and Nachtwey side. I suppose Elizabeth might have been Lutheran and converted when she got married, so I will investigate that possibility as I follow up with her siblings.

Birth index for church records. Yes, her name was misspelled with an “M” instead of a “W”. Those letters are easily confused in old German script, but an image is not available to confirm that’s what happened. The parents’ first names are correct. For what it’s worth, the suggested records at the right do all belong to her!

After spending a good part of the afternoon searching for this source at FamilySearch, I’ve come up with nothing. It wasn’t in the database catalog, or the non-indexed, image-only, browsable collections. It wasn’t in the regular catalog, among the microfilms or printed indexes. I searched by location half a dozen different ways and by the title of the title of the original (FamilySearch) source name, as reported by Ancestry. I read through Ancestry’s long description of the collection (clicking the “Learn more . . .” link) to see if any of that information helped. Nope. It’s like it didn’t exist at FamilySearch.

I’m reasonably sure Ancestry did not make up the database, and that they actually got the data from FamilySearch. When I go to the local Family History Library for other records, I’ll remember to bring up this Ancestry database and ask if they can show me where it’s hiding on their website! Until then, I have no way to further document or assess the information, other than it does not conflict with other, reasonable, pieces of data.

Once settled in Wisconsin, I imagine Elizabeth’s life was fairly mundane. She appeared in all the appropriate census enumerations, her ages placing her birth year between 1825 and 1827. She seemed to be AWOL in 1900, though. No amount of creative searching found her, and she wasn’t living with either son (Frank or John). I need to check her three daughters (two living in Michigan), as well as conduct a page-by-page search of Manitowoc County. That will be a different day.

This has been a surprisingly productive week for me. I cleaned up Elizabeth Nachtwey’s timeline, changing birth and death dates! Some of her citations were updated, with added images for some. Of course, new items were added to the to-do list.

And what about the records that started this rabbit-hole? The Kreuzeber church records? When I dove back into that file earlier this week I realized:

  • The citations I’d used were really sub-par. I don’t know where my head was at!
  • I hadn’t scanned and attached the record images to the citations.
  • Inexplicably, I had not entered some people into the file I was building, that I should have. I left off numerous entries containing surnames I am tracking.

Was I temporarily insane, before? It doesn’t really matter. What is important, is that I went back to the first register page and

  • Beefed up the citations considerably.
  • Scanned and added images to citations.
  • I am being more careful to pick up the surnames I want, this time around. I do not have all the register pages for this parish, and I’m not adding all the entries on the pages I have (it varies between 6 & 9). If one of those surnames is the person the record is for, a parent, or a witness, I’m adding it to the file. Most likely they are related.

Now to get back to that project . . .

#52Ancestors


¹”Cemetery #38 St. Annes Catholic : Manitowoc County, Wisconsin Genealogy”, 2Manitowoc.Com, 2021, http://www.2manitowoc.com/38.html; entry for Elizabeth Haase/27 Mar. 1903.

²”Cemetery #62 Holy Cross I Mishicot : Manitowoc County, Wisconsin Genealogy”, 2Manitowoc.Com, 2021, http://www.2manitowoc.com/62.html; entry for Johann Haas/Geb 5 Feb. 1825.

³”Wisconsin, U.S., Death Index, 1820-1907″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 1 August 2021, citing Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Wisconsin Vital Record Index, pre-1907. Madison, Wisconsin, USA: Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Vital Records Division. Elizabeth HAWS, 25 March 1903, sequence number 149828, volume 4, page 198, reel 051, image 1168.

4St. Sergius and Bachus Catholic Church (Kreuzeber, Thuringen, Germany), Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1851-1866, marriages 1853, entry #1, Johannes HAASE & Elisabeth NACHTWEI, 17 January 1853; filmed as Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1815-1874; FHL microfilm 1,193,951 Item 1.

5“Thuringia, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1591-1875”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 2 August 2021, index entry for Elisabeth NACHTMEŸ, birth, 22 April 1827, from Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirchengemeinde Weimar, Thüringen, Deutschland; FamilySearch, citing parish Kreuzeber; page# ??;2.

Health

A shot in time saves . . . ?

In this past year, we’ve all thought more about health than we ever cared to! In looking for an approach to take this week, I waffled around and finally decided to pick on my oldest siblings. Bob died in 2008, and Carole in 2014, so they cannot complain to me. Well, I suppose they could, but that would be really creepy.

They both actually figure into two separate health stories, as children.

The first event occurred when Bob was born. In the summer of 1947, Carole had come down with (or been exposed to) whooping cough right around Bob’s birth. A pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine had been developed in the 1930s, and was in use in the 1940s, when Carole and Bob were born.

Of course, children’s vaccinations were not as prevalent then. Medical insurance covered only catastrophic events. I remember my parents having a Metropolitan Live Hospitalization policy, but I’m not sure they ever made a claim on it.

There was no insurance for routine health care; Mom paid the $5 to Dr. Bretz any time we went to his office (the basement of his house). Vaccines would have been extra. I don’t know whether Carole was vaccinated for whooping cough (I have no access to her baby book), or how confident doctors and parents were of its effectiveness, if she had been.

Vaccinated or not, 18-month-old Carole was sent to stay with my dad’s parents, Edward & Victoria Haws. At 18 months, she would likely recover from whooping cough, but

Infants younger than six months of age are particularly at risk for complications and death from pertussis.

“Pertussis ( Whooping Cough ) | History Of Vaccines”, http://Ftp.Historyofvaccines.Org, 2018, https://ftp.historyofvaccines.org/index.php/content/articles/pertussis-whooping-cough.

Pneumonia. Seizures. Dehydration. A newborn Bob would have been at high risk for some serious complications. Whooping cough usually incubates within 7-10 days, but it can take longer. If symptoms appeared, the disease could fizzle out in a few weeks . . . or linger. Carole stayed with our grandparents for 6 weeks, to make sure she was well clear of it.

When I first heard the story as young teen, I thought it strange that my parents left Carole so far away from them. After all, we lived 30 minutes from our grandparents via the Tri-State Tollway. In the 1940s, the trip took an hour, because the route was all side roads.

My parents lived with Mom’s parents (Christoph & Minnie) immediately after Dad was discharged from the Navy. Christoph’s & Minnie’s rented house at 941 Walnut Street was less than a mile from Dad’s parents on Rosemary Terrace. Mom & Dad had moved to the downstairs apartment at 422 South Adams Street in Hinsdale just a couple weeks before Bob was born. Mom’s doctor was still in Deerfield, though, so my guess is she continued to stay with her parents until Bob was born in Highland Park Hospital, and afterwards, so she had extra help with a new baby. Dad probably stayed in Hinsdale during the week, so he didn’t have to commute, and drove back to Deerfield each weekend.

September, 1947. Christoph Meintzer (holding Carole), Ardyth Meintzer Haws (holding Bob). This may have been taken the day of Bob’s baptism, and may have been the first time Carole saw her little brother.

So, technically Carole probably wasn’t far from Mom, but it’s unlikely they were able to see each other in person, because that would have potentially exposed Mom . . . and therefore, Bob. Presumably after Carole was in the clear, all four went home to Adams Street.

Their second health event occurred in fall, 1953. Carole was 7½, Bob was 6, and they both came down with mumps. The mumps vaccine wouldn’t be developed until 1967, so it was a common childhood illness at the time. I’m not sure who caught it first. Based on my own experience with children and chicken pox, I doubt they were sick at the same time. That would simplify things too much! No, instead of 2 weeks where you couldn’t go to the store due to contagious kids, it stretched out to 4 weeks.

Apparently the two younger ones did not catch the mumps. How do I know that? I don’t, really, but I didn’t find any photos of them sporting “chipmunk cheeks”—only Carole & Bob. I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong. I know mumps was the one childhood disease I missed.

The first time I saw these pictures, I asked my mom who the kids were. I was surprised to learn it was Carole & Bob! They did not look like other photos of them at those ages. The swollen jaw lines changed their appearance a lot. As far as I know, both recovered without complications.

So often in genealogy we focus on the cause of death, chronic illnesses, or epidemics (pandemics?) that impacted our ancestors and relatives. We seldom consider the everyday illnesses they dealt with, or how those have changed from one generation to another. I dodged the mumps bullet—my kids, with their MMRs, never had to worry about it. Ditto with whooping cough, polio, and others.

For grins, I looked up the current immunization schedule for children. It’s changed considerably since my kids were eligible. It had at least half a dozen vaccines I’d never heard of—or at least I didn’t have to give my kids (really? annual flu shot?). You’d need a dedicated calendar just to keep track of them now! I could rattle off the ones my kids needed from memory. I’d never attempt that, now.

Childhood illnesses are a bit of social history we don’t often think about, but it’s worth looking at, both for the earlier generations that experienced them, and the later generations not affected by them as much, due to development of vaccinations.

#52Ancestors

Fashion

“Fashion is a language. Some know it, some learn it, some never will—like instinct.”—Edith Head

In high school, I became fascinated with Edith Head. She had recently won her 8th Oscar for costuming The Sting. I seriously considered a career in fashion design, even requesting information from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Mom was not thrilled at the prospect of me going to New York City. Fortunately for her, my interests and energy diverted elsewhere.

Dressmaking and fashion surfaced somewhat unexpectedly among several of my female ancestors/relatives. I first encountered it on the SS Labrador passenger list¹ when my Meintzer great-grandparents arrived from Alsace. Christian Meintzer’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth (“Elise”), age 17, reported an occupation of “seamstress.”

Passenger list, SS Labrador,1 docking in New York, 26 May 1881. Elizabeth (Elise), age 17, occupation: seamstress.

Dehlingen was a small village, so I don’t know whether she was someone’s employee, or if friends and neighbors simply asked (and paid) her to sew for them. As I noted in Sister, Lizzie’s 1863 birth certificate² said her mother (Elisabeth Weidmann Meintzer) was a couturière (seamstress, dressmaker, or needlewoman). However, Lizzie did not learn to sew from her mother, because she died when Lizzie was only two. None of Lizzie’s later records listed her as a seamstress, though two daughters worked that trade.

When Lizzie’s daughter Lora (or Laura, depending on the record) got married in 1908, the marriage register³ recorded her occupation as seamstress:

1908 marriage application³ from St. Joseph, Michigan.

She was not employed in the 1910 census, but her younger sister4 (coincidentally, another 17-year-old Elizabeth!) was working as a seamstress:

1910 Chicago census.4 Elizabeth “Ehrens” (Ahrens), age 17, seamstress.

For those of you keeping track, that made three consecutive generations of dressmakers/seamstresses named Elizabeth . . .

The 1920 census5 showed two of Lizzie’s daughters sewing shirts. Laura had moved back with her mother after her divorce (despite being listed as “widowed”), and 2nd youngest daughter, Josephine,6 had joined the ranks:

1920 Chicago census. Snip above—Josephine,6 age 18, in her mother’s household, “seamstress, shirts.” Snip below—Laura5 (and her children) living with her mother and siblings. She’s listed as widowed, but was actually divorced. Her line says, “sewing, shirts.”

One question raised by this census entry, is why were the occupations for the sisters slightly different? Was Laura sewing piecework at home? Her children were old enough to be in school, so she didn’t have to be at home. It seems curious the enumerator had Josephine’s occupation as seamstress and Laura’s as sewing. It’s unlikely I’ll ever know why that was.

The three generations of seamstresses were not the only ones in this branch to sew. When I received the boat load of Rondout Kranz photos from my cousin, Paula, it included the wedding photo of her grandmother, Lovina Kranz Brumm:

7 February 1910 wedding portrait of William Charles Brumm and Lovina Sophia Kranz (both seated). The other two are probably their witnesses, but we don’t know their names. Lovina made her dress. Photo in Paula’s possession.


Paula told me Lovina sewed her wedding dress, as well as all her clothes. I imagine that included this outfit, highlighted before:

Lovina Kranz Brumm and her older son, Wilfred. He looks about 2, so maybe 1919? The skirt has simple lines, but fits her beautifully. The shirt is equally simple. Photo in my possession.

I’ve found no indication that her mom, Caroline (Carrie) Meintzer Kranz ever worked as a seamstress. For Lovina to have tackled that wedding dress, she must have sewn a lot, and learned from an experienced sewer. Most likely that would have been her mom, Carrie.

Of course, a blog post about fashion has to include my grandmother, Minnie Moeller Meintzer, and her hat. This is the only photo of that hat, but also the only photo of her with any kind of fashionable hat. She must have loved it!

Minnie Moeller Meintzer and her hat. Date unknown, but possibly pre-marriage (27 September 1913). Photo in my possession.

To give equal credit to the guys, Frederick Hugh Schweiger, the youngest brother of my paternal grandmother, Victoria Schweiger Haws, owned a haberdashery in 1930:7

What’s a haberdashery? A men’s clothing and accessory store. Fred’s store had a lasting impact beyond the clothes. He sold men’s suits, so he had sample books of the wool fabric choices. New sample books would arrive periodically. He also had baskets of wool fabric trimmed when the customer’s pants were hemmed to the length needed.

Fred gave the leftover fabric and outdated samples to his sister, Victoria, who made wool quilts with them. We’re not talking Amish quilts with fancy designs. These were rectangles sewn together, with a flannel backing. No fancy quilting, but they kept you warm.

Several made their way to our family. I took one to college, and never let go of it. My cousin, Barb, has one, too.

Mike had several dressmakers in his family, too. Augusta Maud Varcoe Flynn Fitzgerald (2nd great-grandmother) was listed as a furrier8 (hey, it was Canada!) in the 1871 census, and dressmaker9 in 1891.

Isabella Crockett English. Date unknown.

Another 2nd great-grandmother, Isabella Crockett English, was listed as a dressmaker10 in the 1881 census.

It turned out dressmaking was a thread that ran through both our trees, more than I expected.

#52Ancestors


¹”New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, NARA Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service; Record Group 36, Roll #437. National Archives, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Entry for. Elisa MAINTZER, entry number 496, line 9, list number 661; accessed 8 August 2019.

²”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de naissances (Birth Registers) 1863, p. 7, no. 20, Marie Elisabeth MEINTZER, 20 December 1863; accessed 7 August 2019.

³”Michigan, U.S., Marriage Records, 1867-1952″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 17 May 2020, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, 1907 Wayne-1908 Clare, film number 94, p 204 (left), record # 1032. Arthur UNDERHILL (26) and Laura AHRANS (19).

41910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 1128; Page 8A; dwelling number 123; family number 150; line 23; John EHRENS [AHRENS] household; accessed 15 May 2020. Elisabeth EHRENS [AHRENS], age 17; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 270; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 1664; Page 4B; dwelling number 74; family number 74; line 85; Elizabeth AHRENS household; accessed 15 May 2020. Laura UNDERHILL, age 30, widowed; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 340; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

61920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 1664; Page 4B; dwelling number 74; family number 74; line 83; Elizabeth AHRENS household; accessed 15 May 2020. Josephine Ahrens, age 18; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 340; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

71930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 2207; sheet 15B; dwelling number 267; family number 268; line 77; Dorothea SCHWEIGER household; accessed 19 July 2021. Fred SCHWEIGER, age 24; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 503; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

81871 census of Canada, population schedule, Ward 3, London, Ontario, e.d. 10; page 95 (written); line 19; Jane VARCOE household; accessed 28 June 2018, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-9906. Maud FLYNN, age 21, widowed; digital image, Ancestry.com, Canada (https://www.ancestry.com).

91891 census of Canada, population schedule, London East, East Middlesex, Ontario, Division 2; Page 54 (written); line 10; John FITZGERLD [FITZGERALD] household; accessed 7 March 2021, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm T-6352. Mand FITZGERLD [Maud FITZGERALD], age 41; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

101881 census of Canada, population schedule, London East, Middlesex East, Ontario, Ontario, Middlesex East, London East, page 67, line 2. Isabella ENGLISH, age 37; digital image, Ancestry.com, Canada (https://www.ancestry.com).