Family Legend

To prove or not to prove . . . that is the question

Family legends are tricky things. They lack a certainty that gives you confidence in them. Like a jet trail in the sky, they start out impressive, but soon dissipate, spreading wider, developing gaps. Once the plane is out of sight, we can’t be sure if that’s what it really was, or if it’s just some cirrus clouds, faking us out.

I’ve touched on legends before–Christian Meintzer and his “dual with Napoleon” (Colorful), most recently. Today I’m switching over to Mike’s Kukler family. It’s a rather mundane claim. I am unable to confirm or deny it, though, so I have to park it in the “legend” category for now.

I first heard about this in 2004, at a reunion picnic up in Michigan. I was showing Mike’s uncle the charts and whatnot I’d put together for their family tree. He mentioned that he was told there was a Civil War veteran on the Kukler side. This was the first I’d heard of it in the 24 years I’d spent as a married-in to this family! Of course, in the middle of a city park, in 2004, I had no way to try and research anything. I scribbled notes and started looking when I got home.

First stop was the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors database. The results were short and sweet: only one Kukler, first name Frank, who fought with the 155th and 156th Indiana Infantry. Now, Mike’s family is from Detroit, so Indiana is a stretch. The states share a border, but in the 1860s, the distance is farther than it seems now. Nevertheless, people move around more than we sometime know, so I felt I should follow up.

I learned the Indiana State Archives stored the actual Civil War muster cards on the east side of Indianapolis. I dropped children off at school, and headed there, hoping to find something useful. I located the muster card (not really telling me too much) and three pages of  information about the regiments from Indiana. Frank Kukler mustered in on 22 March 1865, and mustered out on 4 August, 5 months later. I even spent $2 to print out the information, since it wasn’t available online!

Mike descends from a long line of Franks:

  • Francis Charles Kukler (grandfather) 1891-1972
  • Frank J. Kukler (great-grandfather) 1869-1942
  • Frank Kukler (2nd great-grandfather) 1845-1893

While his 2nd great-grandfather would be possible (he’d be 20 in 1865), we don’t know specifically when he arrived. We know he was in Bohemia in 1857 for daughter Ann’s birth, and in Detroit for son Frank J.’s 1869 birth. But the son in between (Wenzelaus/Venson–you met him in Same Name) has conflicting locations for his 1860/61 birth. There’s no evidence that the family settled in Indiana before Detroit. I also checked some of the aberrant spellings for their surname, and those all came up dry.

Could it have been a collateral Kukler, rather than a direct ancestor? Possibly, though Frank was the only Kukler to show up on the search. So could it have been a relative of one of the wives (different last name)? That’s a thought. Frank (b. 1845) was married to Anna Plansky/Palinsky (and I’m sure many other variations!). I’ve thrown a number of those through the Soldiers and Sailors search box with no success. So if she had brothers emigrate, apparently they didn’t serve, or I can’t find them.

Maybe it was a father to one of the female ancestors? Frank J. (born 1869) married Magdelena Schmitt. She was born in Michigan in 1870, as were four older siblings, beginning in 1857. Unfortunately, Joseph Peter Schmitt (her father) is a horrible name to search for! There are 678 Schmitts in the Union, and he sometimes got misspelled as Schmidt, as well as Smith! Narrowing to Michigan cuts the Schmitts to 4, but no Josephs. Schmidts number 3900+, with a mere 40 in Michigan. No Josephs there, either, though there is a Peter and a Peter R. The Smiths are just scary–50,000+ on the Union side, with 36 Josephs, and 17 Peters when you narrow it down to Michigan. Unless I can find additional information, that’s really more soldiers than I want to try and tackle!

I also looked in the 1890 Veterans Schedules. Of course, to show up there, you had to live that long! I found three Cucklers in Meigs County, Ohio (southeast), no Plansky variations. We won’t talk about the Schmitt/Schmidt numbers . . .

At this point, the best I can hope for is finding a DNA match for Mike, who knows more about this story than I do. He does actually have a “Polansky” match with  shared matches to known relatives! And there are other shared matches to both of them, with different surnames. I need to make time to contact Polansky and some of the others to see where they fit on the nether regions of Mike’s tree.

So for now, we file this story in the “legend” slot. NOT that I don’t trust Mike’s uncle–I just don’t have any solid proof one way or another. I will keep looking as databases are updated with new information. And I’ll flesh out the other Kukler lines I find in Michigan and nearby, just in case they connect back to ours. Maybe some luck from Mike’s Irish side will rub off on the Bohemian side? I can only hope!

#52Ancestors

2 thoughts on “Family Legend”

    1. I assume you intended “sleuth,” Michael! ;D You are too kind, but as someone who devoured Nancy Drew books in my younger days, I’ll take the compliment. I was finishing this post really close to the wire, so it was a little tense getting it out on time. Your typo gave me a much needed chuckle! Thanks for stopping by to read it.

      Like

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