When the prompt list came out at the beginning of the month, I was REALLY glad this was scheduled at the end of it! I had absolutely no idea what I could write about. Here we are, weeks later, and I’m still clueless.
You already heard about my witches (Misfortune), so that’s old news. To my knowledge, there are no horse thieves, bank robbers, con men, suffragettes, or “working girls” lurking in the tree, either. Was/is everyone perfect? Certainly not! But several factors conspire against me:
- Neither side of the family tended to air “dirty laundry”–and especially not around the kids! Apparently, at 60 I’m still a kid . . .
- Some situations probably qualify . . . but they still have people attached to them. Maybe not the direct person, but close, nevertheless. These aren’t necessarily my stories to tell, particularly if someone might be hurt by it. Off limits.
So what to do? Who to write about? My brain kept looping back to my Granduncle Leo (middle, above). He was a younger brother to my grandmother, Victoria. I don’t like the label of “black sheep” for him. Maybe a little gray. But mostly, he was a guy who, for whatever reason(s) seemed to have a tough time of it. I’m choosing him, but hope you remember it’s not the best fit, and he wasn’t a bad guy.
This photo is the clearest, and you can see he was fairly good looking . . . and had a much better hair deal going on than most of his brothers! Unfortunately, I don’t really know much about Uncle Leo. I never met him. I never heard his name until I started doing the family tree (Start). Even then, it was with a shake of the head and a, “We don’t really know what happened to him,” said with regret, not shame or disappointment in him. Most relatives who knew him personally aren’t alive to talk about him anymore. Dad and his brothers are gone. My mom doesn’t recall ever meeting him. My dad’s cousin Fred, almost 86, and smarter than two of me put together, probably knows the most. Much of what I know about Leo, I learned from Fred in the first place. I’ll try to link what I’ve heard with the little bit of paper trail I could find. Paper trail, first.
He was born Leo Matheau Schweiger on Christmas Eve, 1896, the eighth child out of eleven, with two of his older sisters dying before he was born. He was baptized either at the new Sacred Heart Parish in Winnetka, or at the family’s former parish, St. Joseph in Wilmette. Older and younger sisters were baptized at each place, but I don’t know about him. He grew up above the family butcher shop, later a restaurant, on Park Avenue in Glencoe. Presumably he attended Sacred Heart Catholic Grade School, like his older siblings, but he continued on to complete four years of high school¹ like his younger brothers. He would later develop Type II diabetes, like his mother and sisters, Victoria & Rose (not sure about the other siblings).
My timeline for Leo includes:
- 1900 census, age 3; in Glencoe with parents²
- 1910 census, age 13; in Glencoe with parents³
- 1918 WWI draft registration, age 21; in Glencoe with parents, working for a livery company (probably a driver, like below)4
- 1920 census, age 23; in Glencoe with parents; chauffeur, garage5
- 1935–on 1 April, living with his sister, Rose Rau (according to 1940 census) ¹
- 1936–in December he applied for a Social Security number 6
- 1940 census, age 43; in Wilmette with his sister, Rose; clerk, drug store.¹
- 1942 WWII draft registration, age 45; living in Glencoe; clerk, drug store. Contact person is his sister, Elizabeth (not Rose!)7
On the whole, it’s not a bad timeline–except for the noticeable gap in 1930–technically 1920-1935. I cannot find him anywhere in the 1930 census. He’s not living with his mom and the other unmarried siblings or his married siblings. A very fuzzy search (first name, first 3 or 4 letters and a wildcard for “Schweiger,” and a range for his birth year) in the 1930 census turns up nothing. I swapped in his middle name. Still zip. His Social Security Number yielded nothing, either.
So, what about that gap? I don’t have a solid answer for that. Uncle Leo would drop contact with the family for a stretches of time–maybe that was one of them. When I emailed Fred with questions about the blog for Aunt Rose (The Maiden Aunt) he related this story:
“Leo deliberately separated himself from the family in about 1940 was found on “skid row” with a bad diabetic wound, she was contacted by the welfare agency. She and Joe took Leo in, nursed him back to health, and found him a job. Unfortunately, a year later he disappeared once more and never was found again. “
The 1940 census has Leo in Rose & Joe’s house in 1935 and 1940, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was continuous. He applied for a Social Security Card in 1936, so he was working. Maybe something happened after that point. The rest of Fred’s story fits, with Leo getting back to Rose & Joe before the census. Why he’s moved out by 1942, I don’t know. Was there a falling-out with Rose? Other stories I heard implied Leo had problems with alcohol. Was he not following some “house rules” regarding behavior and self-care? If he moved out simply to be independent, why wouldn’t he have used Rose for his contact person? Maybe I’m reading too much into it?
I doubt we will ever know what happened to Uncle Leo, and that’s a shame. From everything I heard, he sounded like a really nice guy–when he was taking care of himself and making better choices. I don’t know what demons distanced him from a family that kept trying to be there for him. I hope he’s remembered–and knows he’s remembered–for his good points–not his shortcomings.
¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Wilmette, e.d. 16-297; sheet 6A; household number 95; line 16; Joseph RAU household; accessed 25 June 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 43; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 782; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
²1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 1172; sheet 11B; dwelling number 188; family number 193; line 97; Ignatz SCHWEIGER household; accessed 2 April 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 3, December 1896; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 293; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
³1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 57; sheet 9A; dwelling number 168; family number 169; line 27; Ignaty[z] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 29 April 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 13; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 239; digital image, Ancestry.com) (https://www.ancestry.com).
4“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Leo Matthew SCHWEIGER, serial no. 107, registration no. 9, Draft Board #3, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1504112; accessed 20 November 2017. Registered 5 June 1918.
51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 119; sheet 27B; dwelling number 543; family number 561; line76; Ianatz [Ignatz] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 26 June 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 23; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 361; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
6“U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 29 June 2018, citing Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, (index only); dated December 1936. Entry for Leo Mathew SCHWEIGER, SS no. xxx-xx-xxxx.
7“U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942”, database, (https://www.ancestry.com), Leo Matthew SCHWEIGER, serial no. 1183, order no. not given, Draft Board 3, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Illinois. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623284. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 9 June 2018. Registered 27 April 1942.
Photos and labels from Fred Schweiger.