Back to School

Why didn’t all the kids receive the same education?

I had a plan worked out for this week . . . and then I went walking Thursday morning. A different topic popped into my head, so it was back to the drawing board. Or blackboard? Since I didn’t actually have anything written, it’s not like I wasted any time, but it was a mental re-boot, nevertheless.

I love the 1940 census because it’s the only one (available now, at least) that recorded the amount of schooling a person had. It’s an interesting detail, especially for the older relatives. I knew my paternal grandmother, Victoria Schweiger (Invite to Dinner), graduated from 8th grade. I’ve seen her class’s graduation photo in the 25th Anniversary book for Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Winnetka, Illinois. I discovered her younger brothers had more schooling, though. Was that a gender bias, or just a change in values and opportunities? I decided to try to find out.

Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry had eleven children:

  • Elizabeth Mary (Aunt Lizzy), b. 8 November 1886,    8th¹
  • Aloysious Francis (Uncle Al), b. 11 April 1888,    H-4²
  • Clemence Mary, b. 15 October 1889, d. 25 March 1890
  • Ignatz Joseph (Uncle Iggy), b. 15 October 1889 (yes, a twin!),    H-2³
  • Anthony George (Cemetery), b. 17 January 1891, d 28 September 1914
  • Anna Maria, b. 27 September 1892, d. 27 October 1893
  • Victoria Barbara, b. 2 December 1894,    8th4
  • Leo Mattheau (Uncle Leo Black Sheep), b. 24 December 1896,    H-45
  • Rose Dorothea (Aunt Rose The Maiden Aunt), b. 21 February 1900,    H-26
  • Sylvester Joseph (Uncle Syl), b. 25 September 1901,    H-47
  • Frederick Hugh (Uncle Freddie), b. 17 July 1905,    H-48

I located the 1940 census records for the eight children alive in 1940, and recorded their education levels above, at the end of their lines. Uncle Al gave me fits, because the Ancestry indexing mangled both his first and last names, as well as his wife’s. I finally tracked them down, and have submitted corrections!

Unfortunately, Anthony died before 1940. The rest of the boys (except for Uncle Iggy) graduated from high school. The oldest daughter, Lizzy, and my grandmother, Victoria, graduated from 8th grade, but Rose received two more years.

A bit of gender bias seems evident. Was that the way my great-grandparents thought, or was it simply the “norm” for that time and place? This is one of those frequent times when I’d love to be able to ask my great grandparents some questions. Or even my grandmother—I’m sure she could have provided a decent explanation. What kind of questions do I have?

  • Why only 8th grade for Lizzy & Victoria? As far as I know, they were pretty smart women. Were they needed to work in the butcher shop/restaurant?  Did Lizzy and Victoria simply mis-remember how many years? They’d been out of school for 30+ years, and maybe it wasn’t that big a deal for them, anyway. Or had opinions changed enough by the time Rose reached high school, so girls were educated longer?
  • Why only 2 years for Iggy? That seems a little odd. Was something going on with the family that he dropped out early? Did they need help in the butcher shop/restaurant, so he stepped in? Maybe school just wasn’t his thing. I’m having trouble finding him in the 1910 and 1920 census (not with the family), and WWI draft, so I’m not sure where he was or what he was doing. He was a lodger in the 1940 census, and I noticed that the 15 year old young lady from the line above also had 2 years of high school. Remember, the pages microfilmed (and digitized) are copies of the “field sheets” written by the enumerator. Was he simply “on a roll” and filled in H-2, when it should have been H-4? Maybe.

Is there any way I can answer those questions? I don’t know. I might be able to contact the high school and request their records. But which school? New Trier High School is the current public school—but is that the one they would have attended? Or was there a Catholic high school they would have gone to? They attended the Catholic grade school—would they have been able to afford a Catholic high school?

Maybe Lizzy and Victoria DID attend additional years, but thought the question asked about graduating from high school, and answered it incorrectly? My dad had mentioned that both his parents only an 8th grade education, so I really don’t think that’s likely—but maybe.

Unfortunately, Ignatz and Dorothea died before 1940, so I don’t know their education levels. It seems that they tried, as much as possible, to see their children well-educated, though. I think that legacy has mostly continued through the succeeding generations. Thanks, guys!

#52Ancestors


¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 16-339; sheet 22A; household number 468; line 27; Elizabeth LEVERNIER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Elizabeth LEVERNIER, age 53; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 782; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1940 U.S. census, population schedule, New Jersey, Bergen, Westwood Borough, e.d. 2-376; sheet 1A; household number 2; line 4; Aloysius F. SCHWEIGER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Aloysius F. SCHWEIGER, age 51; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 2316; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, e.d. 72-313; sheet 2A; household number 27; line 40; Louis BRZEZINSKI household; accessed 30 August 2018. Igantz SCHWEIGER, age 51, lodger; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 4554; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

41940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Deerfield, e.d. 49-107; sheet 14B; household number 301; line 49; Edward HAWS household; accessed 30 August 2018. Victoria HAWS, age 45; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 828; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

51940 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).

61940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Wilmette, e.d. 16-297; sheet 6A; household number 95; line 15; Joseph RAU household; accessed 25 June 2018. Rose RAU, age 40; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 782; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

71940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, e.d. 103-1214; sheet 8A; household number 160; line 19; Sylvester SCHWEIGER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Sylvester SCHWEIGER, age 38; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 958; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

81940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Highland Park, e.d. 49-19 sheet 61A; household number 398; line 14; Fred SCHWEIGER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Fred SCHWEIGER, age 34; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 828; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

4 thoughts on “Back to School”

  1. This is my fear – that some story I want to know the answer to will not be remembered by anyone still alive! Good for you using the census that way, I had forgotten that it gave that information. Thanks for the interesting story and the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! I hadn’t thought of looking at my “grands” as a group until this week. I also tend to use my blog posts as digital post-it notes for follow-up on items. Hopefully having those reminders in with the story will provide the prodding I need, with some of the background information handy!

      Liked by 1 person

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