“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”–Robert Herrick

June 2017 harvest from my 2nd cousin, once removed, Maria. Used with permission. She graciously helped me out when I had no photos of my own!

With all the farmers in both Mike’s and my ancestry, one would think there’d be a good “harvest” story out there. But no, there’s no plague of grasshoppers marching through the fields, no crop wiped out by a hail storm or tornado, or even a harvest pulled into the barn just in the nick of time. I don’t have old photos of filled hay wagons, family working in the fields or other harvest time images. Heck, I even had to bum a photo off my 2nd cousin (once removed), Maria, because all my garden photos had been purged!

The best I can manage is this description of my 2nd great grandfather, John M. Bruder, losing part of his arm in a farm accident (Military):

“for loss of left arm above the Ellbow . . . said Arm he lost on August 23, 1884 while sitting on a Grain Reaper intending to cut his Wheat, and while he was unable to notice and see an obstruction in his way . . . was thrown from the Reaper and in the cutting part of said Reaper.”

John M. Bruder (Pvt., Co. D, 6th Wis. Inf., Civil War), pension no. S.C. 859,952, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications …, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Record Group 15:  Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

It was harvest time, and was somewhat dramatic, but that brief mention in his pension application file doesn’t paint much of a picture. The week was winding down, and I still didn’t have a plan. As I harvested the crabgrass in my yard, so I could sow some real grass seed, it occurred to me that I frequently find myself harvesting records for my ancestors.

Now, the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) strongly encourages us as genealogists (professional or otherwise) to follow the 5 components (below) of the GPS as we research:

  • reasonably exhaustive research;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.¹

Since 2000, the Board for Certification of Genealogists has compiled and refined detailed standards in each of those areas for us to use as guideposts as we research. Their goal (I assume) wasn’t to be rigid, demanding, elitist, or judgmental—it was to provide “a guide to sound genealogical reserch and a way to assess the research outcomes”² produced.

Many of my blog posts utilize those 5 components as I work through a question about particular person’s life. I expand my research, make sure what I have is correctly documented, analyze what I’ve found (or haven’t!), try to resolve conflicts or gaps, and write a (hopefully?) semi-coherent explanation of where everything stands, regarding that. Even without a full resolution or decisive conclusion, I usually feel pretty good about what has been accomplished.

The recommended research process is to create a well-defined question and stay focused on that. The 52 Ancestors challenge lends itself to that, since I am usually focused on one person or story. Sometimes, though, I fall off the wagon while researching and find myself harvesting information as quickly as I can, instead of following a more logical research plan. Why would I do that?

Sometimes the situation simply demands it. If a subscription site has a free access window, I need to get in there and be as efficient as possible, locating and retriving source records in that brief time. If it’s Find My Past, I’m looking for Mike’s Irish and British documents. Even if I’ve searched there before, new databases may have been added, so I need to search those.

Similarly, if I’ve made the 5½+ hour trip to the Manitowoc, Wisconsin, courthouse, I need to process through as many on-site records as possible in my limited time there. I need document images, source citations, and a quick assessment of whether there are additional records to look up, based on new information. Serious analysis is pushed to the back burner, after I’ve returned home.

Occasionally, I find myself researching a family I know very little about. In that situation, I need to sift through the various families to see who is connected, and how. Pulling all the matches for a particular name, from a particular database seems to work for that. I harvest everyone, but keep them unconnected until a solid connection appears.

Example: I was trying to piece together a cousin’s family—the side we don’t connect on. I knew very little about them, but there was another very large family with the same surname, not far away. Were the two families related? I had no idea, but the surname was unual enough to make it worth checking, I thought. I searched for the surname in Cook County, Illinois, documenting everyone in a brand new file. The databases?:

  • 1930 census (free access at the time) to create family groups and obtain addresses
  • WWI draft records—to get actual birth dates for a lot of the men. Also picked up some parents’ names
  • 1920 census, for more family groups
  • 1910 & 1900 census —at this point, some of the family members were younger and living with parents, instead of on their own
  • obituaries. Those linked together some of the families (which were mostly islands) when children were listed as survivors. Or parents were listed for them. Islands merged left and right. I also obtained maiden names for a number of wives, which helped when I started looking at . . .
  • marriage record databases. There were a lot of Marys and Louisas, so having a maiden name helped!
  • Social Security Death Index—having exact birth dates from WWI draft or obituaries helped confirm I had the right person’s record
  • birth indexes were made meaningful now that I had maiden names for mothers, and addresses from census records.
  • the 1880 and 1870 census records

As I finished harvesting each of the databases, the family tree shaped up better and better. But my ancestors wouldn’t harvest their crops and let them lie in the fields. They needed to haul the crops into the safety of a barn. Neither could I keep on harvesting, forever. I also needed to “do something” with all my new-found data. Where were the gaps? Who was missing? Where did I need to look, next? Was I making a mistaken assumption?

That project is a still a work in progress. I have islands I cannot connect, yet. I haven’t found a relationship between the two families, either. It may not exist! If it does, I believe it will be in Germany. The two emigrant ancestors could be siblings, cousins, an uncle/nephew combination—or no relation. Having sorted through the databases so thoroughly, I have dirctions I can go for later searches. I have established their FAN clubs, giving me other people whose records may contain the information I need.

I used a similar technique in Detroit, with Mike’s Kuklers. I was unaware of other family members possibly emigrating with his ancestor, so I hoped looking at all the Kuklers I could find might help me find answers. I’d settle for a town in Bohemia, but no luck, yet.

So even though wholesale harvesting may not the *best* genealogy research strategy, it has its place and uses. We need to recognize its limitations, and compensate for them with additional analysis and research.


¹ “Ethics And Standards”, Board For Certification Of Genealogists, 2019, https://bcgcertification.org/ethics-standards/; accessed 6 October 2019.

² Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, second edition (Nashville, TN: Ancestry, 2019), xxiv.

Map It Out

“I wisely started with a map.”–J. R. R. Tolkien

While I like maps, and reference them regularly as I research, I already used up my better examples in other posts:

So this week had me stymied. It didn’t help that I was dealing with a furnace and air conditioner replacement, a retaining wall rebuild, and a continuation of reseeding the yard. Blogging time was non-existant. As I pried out crabgrass Friday afternoon, I remembered the email I’d received mid-week, from someone wondering if she was related to me. Well, actually, to Mike.

She had done a Google search on the Kukler surname, and my blog popped into the results, with Brother (the most recent) leading the way. She provided enough information (great grandfather’s and 2nd great grandfather’s names) to tell me she is connected to another (not Mike’s) Kukler family I had in my file.

In searching for his Kuklers, I ran across records for other, unknown, Kuklers in the Detroit area. It seemed prudent to keep track of them as little “islands,” in case they ended up connecting to his, later on. In my reply to her, explaining that I don’t know whether or not she is related, I listed the strays I accumulated. I hoped that maybe she knew if/how some of them might fit together. I have not heard back, yet.

It occurred to me, though, that maybe a map plotting out the assorted Kuklers might be useful. It won’t create connections directly, but it could help me visualize where they lived in relation to one another. That might make a connection more—or less—likely. Not coming from Detroit, myself, the streets and neighborhoods are not familar to me. This could improve that situation.

So the 2-day project plan is to plot Mike’s Kuklers (in one color) from the addresses provided in various records (census, draft registrations, death certificates). I’ll then move on to the various “islands,” changing color for each one. I should end up with a map showing who was living where.

One unplanned complication arose: address renumbering. Like Chicago did in 1909, Detroit underwent renumbering in 1920 (effective in 1921). So all the older addresses had to be adjusted to their new number. This became a scavenger hunt, as well as a plotting exercise!

The 1870 census (Frank Kukler’s and Anna Plansky’s first one, I believe) has no address: just “2nd precinct, 6th ward.” I was able to find an 1870 map. I believe the bold numbers might indicate wards, placing the 6th ward as the NNE pie wedge. I couldn’t find precinct maps, though, so I’ll use the 1880 pin for 1870 and 1880.

Pins marking residence locations. “Truck” icons are Mike’s grandfather (Frank C.), “factory” icons are his great grandfather, Frank J., and some of his siblings. Those are all green. Lighter green is Anna Kukler, married to Peter Kaiser, who I suspect may be related. Yellow is for the new contact’s ancestors in Hamtramck, Michigan. The “one-offs” in different colors are the stray Kuklers I’ve run across.

After 2 days of battling house renumbering, street names changes, and map disruptions due to the expressways criss-crossing the city, I have the map you see, above. What, if anything, does it tell me? There seem to be several definite residence clusters, but none of them are really very far from each other. Some of the movement probably comes from job opportunities.

If I were to plot addresses past 1942, I’d probably notice a fanning out, or ripple effect that already started as development moved out from downtown.

Some of the outliers (red question mark) may be less likely to have a connection to our Kuklers, but it doesn’t entirely rule that out. Obviously more research is needed to try and determine a definite link or not.

So, was this a useful exercise? I think so.

  • I double checked some of the information I had.
  • I learned far more about Detroit than I ever wanted to . . .
  • I have a new list of resources! (below)
  • I now have a better handle on how Mike’s family moved around—or didn’t move around, but their address changed, anyway!

As new Kukler records with addresses pop up, I will add pins to the map to see how they play out with the earlier ones. It may not give me a direct answer, but it seems to add a little clarity to the situation.


This week has more of a Bibliography than Footnotes. These were sites I found to be useful in placing pins on my map. Some of the images I used are linked above, but I wanted something more “formal” in case I needed to look up something else, later. I’m getting older, and there’s too much crammed in my brain for me to remember it all . . . .

Granzo, T. (2019). Detroit Streets. [online] Historydetroit.com. Available at: http://historydetroit.com/places/streets.php [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019]. Another site I used to figure out the streets.

Hill, A. (2019). DETROITography. [online] Detroitography.files.wordpress.com. Available at: https://detroitography.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/det-city-services-1870.jpg [Accessed 28 Sep. 2019]. Historic map showing wards.

Mitchell, S. (2019). Detroit. – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. [online] Davidrumsey.com. Available at: https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~30510~1140037:Plan-of-Detroit—Entered—–1879- [Accessed 28 Sep. 2019]. Historic maps–showing old roads, particularly prior to expressways changing/eliminating roads.

Morse, S. (2019). One-Step Webpages. [online] Stevemorse.org. Available at: https://stevemorse.org/census/changes/DetroitChanges2.htm [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019]. Detroit street name changes and renumbering.


Kissing cousins . . . really! Or maybe not . . .

If I run a relationship report on everyone in my data file, I end up with 141 pages, containing (partially):

  • 12 first cousins
  • 92 first cousins, once removed
  • 11 half first cousins, once removed
  • 120 first cousins, twice removed
  • 191 second cousins
  • 27 half second cousins, continuing on to . . .
  • a 1st cousin 10 times removed
  • an 11th cousin, once removed
  • and plenty of others in between!

Do I know them all? Heavens, no! Many of them have passed away (particularly the “removed” ones born before I was). But I know how they fit on the tree, and they are remembered. Obviously I have lots of potential subjects to write about! I’m bypassing all of them, however, and choosing my great grandfather, Christian Meintzer (Colorful), and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidman (Cause of Death).

It turns out that Christian & Elisabetha were fourth cousins. At least, that’s the conclusion to be drawn from the lineages provided in Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass,¹ by Doris Wesner. The connection is shown most simply with the chart below:

Relationship chart showing Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Maria Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins. Both are shown as 3rd great-grandchildren of Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

It seems pretty straight forward, but truth be told, I have not actually confirmed all these connections by looking at the records [online digital images], personally. With so many other loose ends to track down and tie up on the various tree branches, I haven’t forced myself to follow through on that. Ms. Wesner utilized the local parish & civil records in her compilation of the Dehlingen “town genealogy,” and I trust her work. That’s a poor excuse, though, for laziness complacency. I need to check if these connections really pan out. I’ll start with Christian (bottom, left). As always, I’ve linked to the images at the Bas-Rhin Archives, just accepter the terms to view, if you are so inclined.

  • Christian was born in Dehlingen Bas-Rhin, Alsace, on 3 April 1930 [1830, p. 4, #10]² to Christian (Chrétien) Mein[t]zer (age 23) and Christine Isel (age 20).
  • A quick search through the Tables décennales, located their marriage date [1823-1832, p. 7, line 22]³ so I could find the actual record [1829, p. 6, #10] on 24 December 1829).
  • Christian & Christine’s birth dates matched my file records, and Christine’s father was listed as Nicolas. So, far, so good!
  • Back to the birth records, this time for Christine Isel (since I need to follow her line back) [1809, p. 3, #8]. Her parents were listed as Nichel and Katharine, but no ages are given. At this point, I need to follow the same routine:
    • locate the parents’ marriage record to confirm births,
    • locate birth record for the parent I need to follow back,
    • confirm those are the right parents
    • repeat

I won’t include as much explanation as I did above, to make it move faster. But the references will be there. So, continuing with Nicolas Isel:

He (age 28) and Catherine Bauer (age 21) married 24 September 1805 [Tables décennales, An XI-1812, p. 6, entry 2], with his parents listed [2 vendémiaire An. XIV] as Georg Isel and Julianna Margaretha Walther. Nicolas’s 19 October 1777 birth record [1777, p. 6, #36]4 confirms them. I was able to locate Julianna Margaretha Walther’s 12 July 1738 baptism record [1738, p. 50, #383)4. Unfortunately, it didn’t mention her mother’s name—just her father, Franz, and the godparents and other witnesses. The book is supposed to contain marriage records, but all I seem to find are baptisms. That means I’m not quite able to connect Julianna Margaretha to Eva Elisabetha, and at that point the records stop—at least, online. Perhaps I simply missed the 1726 marriage record for Eva Elisabetha, and that would connect her parents, Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

Meanwhile, Christian’s wife, Elisabetha Weidmann, was easily found in the 1834 birth register [1834, p. 3, #7]². That pointed her back to her father, Andreas, and more importantly, her mother, Catherine Frenger (age 25). Elisabetha’s parents married 13 October 1832 [1823-1832, p. 7, line 23]³. That record [1832, p. 3, #4] listed Catherine’s mother as Marie Elisabetha Hemmert (age 53). Catherine’s 1809 birth record confirmed their names, but didn’t include ages.

The Parish Registers came through with Maria Elizabeth’s 8 June 1777 birth [1777, p. 5, #27]4 and showed her father to be Georg Hemmert. Unfortunately, no age was given for him. I ran into the problem finding marriages in that register, again. Looking for Georg’s birth, I found a 25 May 1746 record for a Johann Georg, with a father Johann Georg Hemmert, but no mother’s name was listed [1746, p. 64, #475]4. Was that he? It’s hard to say for sure. Again, I reached the end of the online records.

So it looks like I can’t definitively link Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins—at least, not from the online records. Are there other records available locally? Or records that were damaged/lost after 1997? Either one is quite possible. For now, I’ll need to note in my file that I’ve been unable to corroborate the linkage between Christian & his 3rd great grandparents—ditto for Elisabetha. And I’ll keep looking for records that will clarify those relationships.


¹Doris Wesner, Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass: (Drulingen: Scheuer, October 1997), pages 64, 85, 86, 105, 106, 163, 243, 250, 251.

²”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de Naissances (Birth Registers) various years, pages, record numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Tables décennales, naissances and mariages [ten-year tables, birth and marriage indexes] various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

4“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registres Paroissiaux 1776-An VII (Parish Registers) various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.


Mistakes were made?

I spent last week paging through the parish registers for the Alsatian town of Volksberg, in search of records to confirm my 4th great grandfather, Johann Jacob Meintzer, was a teacher. That was a failure. I found no online records that would tell me that. Since I needed to go through page-by-page, I took advantage of the situation and looked (and downloaded images) for records documenting other births, deaths, and marriages I had for that town. The effort wasn’t a total loss.

One item I was particularly looking for, was the marriage record for my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer, and Magdalena Mauer. She was the mother of a daughter, Carolina Sophia, born 21 December 1798. Hopefully the couple had married before 1798, and Magdalena died before the record when Johann Philippe married my 3rd great grandmother, Maria Marguerite Meder, 9 October 1800.

They were all missing. I did not find a birth record for Carolina Sophie, a marriage record for Magdalena, or a death record for her. Was that information a mistake?

On image 11 in the Volksberg parish registers, 1772-1803, births section, the last entry is: dbr [December] 21 [baptized] 25, Catr. Sophie, Ad. Munsch [Meinsch?] et Magd? Mani. The child has a small cross below her name, probably indicating she died at or shortly after birth. That’s appeared on other birth records. There’s no record in the section for deaths, but with an infant dying so early, they typically didn’t record it both places. It is very definitely the abbreviation for Catrina or Catharine, and not Carolina.

While Johann Philippe often went by “Adam,” the last name in the record doesn’t resemble Meintzer—the ending is clearly “sch.” The mother’s name is an abbreviation for Magdalena, but the maiden name is Mani, not Mauer. This birth is also recorded in the civil record book, using the French Republican calendar date of 4 nivôse year VII. The records are consistent with each other, as far as the date and child’s name. The parents’ surnames are still a mismatch to the information I was given.

The tentative timeline for Johann Philippe Adam is:

  • was born in Volksberg (1775 record found)
  • married Magdalena Mauer (no proof of that)
  • married her in Volksberg (again, no proof)
  • had a daughter (who may have died very young) in 1798 (only a potential record, but the parents are wrong)
  • IF he married Magdalena, she died before October 1800 (no death record)
  • married Marguerite Meder in 1800 in Volksberg (record found)
  • had numerous children in Volksberg, including my 2nd great grandfather (records found)

The middle points (2-5) are pretty mushy. The choices are:

  • those events didn’t happen
  • the events occurred elsewhere
  • the events occurred, but didn’t get recorded

The third choice seems very unlikely to me. One event might be missed, but four? In a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it doesn’t make sense. I can’t simply assume the first choice, though. So I need to investigate the middle option, and search for a Meintzer child born in 1798, and possibly a marriage and death, in the neighboring towns. Off to Google Maps to see what is nearby. My list prioritized towns where Meintzers and other related ancestral names already occupied:

  • Ratzwiller (4.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Butten (5.9 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Dehlingen (10.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Waldhambach (5.5 miles) no birth, marriage, death—I did find other Munsch records here, but not the names I was looking for
  • Diemeringen (8.7 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Lorentzen (8.8 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Tieffenbach (5 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Puberg (3.7 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Rosteig (3.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Berg (9.8 miles) no birth, marriage, death

You can move the map around, zoom in, or even double click to open it in its own window!

The mileage calculation between Volksberg and each town is based on driving modern roads. Current roads probably retrace older ones, and are sometimes less direct. This is “hilly Alsace,” though, so traveling cross country would involve a lot of going up and down. I’m not sure that’s how anyone would have traveled in the late 1700s. These distances are probably generous. I checked the Tables des naissances, Tables des mariages, and Tables des décès (1792-year X), for each town and recorded the results above, to keep it simple.¹

Other than the Munsch records found in Waldhambach, I didn’t find that name anywhere else. I didn’t find any Meintzer records—a marriage for Philippe Adam and Magdalena, a birth for Carolina Sophia, or a death before October, 1800 for Magdalena—in those towns in the appropriate years. Did I search every possible town in the area? No. BUT, I think the ones I looked at were the most likely.

I did find an Adam Munsch, who died in Volksberg later on, 7 October 1823, age 69 years, 8 months, 24 days. His birth would have been in 1754, so he would have been 44 in 1798, if he was the father of Catharina Sophia. That’s entirely doable, though I didn’t notice an age in her birth record (I didn’t transcribe and translate it fully). Is he the same man as in the birth record? Maybe.

At this point, I haven’t been able to prove that Philippe Adam had a wife prior to my 3rd great grandmother. The evidence still suggests there is a mistake in his history. What’s my next step? I need to email my Alsatian cousins, Isabelle and Elisabeth, (3rd cousins, once removed), to find out more details about where they obtained the information about his first marriage and the child from that. They may have access to a local (not online) source that will clear up the question.

Is this really important? Does it matter? It’s not critical, since the answer doesn’t affect my ancestry. It would change Philippe Adam’s history, though, so it is important. It also matters because it reflects on my tree’s accuracy, and my other research. Is my tree perfect? Certainly not. I’m sure there is at least another error in there somewhere, probably more than one!

But to notice an inconsistency and shrug it off with an, “It doesn’t matter,” or “Oh, well!” casts suspicion on all the rest of my data. If I look at someone’s tree and see a glaring error, I will think very carefully before accepting any of their other information. I may use it for hints, only, and make sure I nail down reliable sources for the information I pull from it.

So, yes, it is worth following up on. We’ll see what the cousins have to say!


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Volksberg and the other towns, Tables décennales, naissances, mariages, décès [ten-year tables, birth, marriage, death indexes] 1793-An X, various entries; accessed 12-15 September 2019.

School Days

You’re never too old to learn!

Anyone who has talked to me about genealogy has heard me say, “I come from a long line of peasants.” Unlike the celebrities on the TV shows, there’s no trace of Charlemagne or Edward Longshanks on my tree, despite an unexplained 25% “England, Wales, & Northwestern Europe” showing up in my DNA. Nor is there any lineage society in my future!

The records confirm that assertion. My great-grandfathers were identified in the US census records as “farmers.” Their ancestors in Germany or Alsace showed up as “Bauer,” “Ackermann,” “Taglöhner,” or “cultivateur,” in various records (German: farmer, farmer, day-laborer; French: farmer). An occasional linen weaver or cheese maker was thrown into the mix. Their occupations and status in town was fairly consistent, until I came upon my 4th great grandfather, [Johann] Jacob Meintzer, “teacher and farmer in Volksberg,”¹ in Alsatian Connections.

Teacher and farmer? That seemed like an odd combination. I took it at face value, though, because the compiler had no real incentive to overstate Johann Jacob’s position in the town. What do I know about him, though?

He was the father of my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam (Reunion), and his siblings, Jacob (Ten) and Catherine. For years, Johann Jacob was the earliest ancestor on my Meintzer line. Our Alsatian cousins recently linked him to Meintzers from Karlsruhe, Germany (less than 75 miles from Volksberg). I need to investigate that possible connection, at some point, to make sure everything lines up.

Alsatian Connections only provided

  • Johann Jacob’s occupations (above)
  • that he died before July 1787
  • he married Anna Elisabetha Philippi on 10 May 1768, in Volksberg
  • she was born in Volksberg, 30 May 1742
  • she died in Volksberg, Frimaire 23rd, year 14 (French Republic calendar— translates to 14 December 1805)

That’s a pretty basic sketch. Ms. Wesner used several sources for her compilation:

  • church record books and civil records
  • The Alsace Emigration Book, by C. Schrader-Muggenthaler
  • Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America, by A. Kunselman Burgert

I decided I should try to verify the occupations, so I looked to the trusty Bas-Rhin Archives to hopefully find actual records from Volksberg. It was a good plan, unfortunately, the Protestant parish registers (births, marriages, & deaths) didn’t begin until 1772, with the civil registers even later—1792! Jacob’s & Elisabeth’s marriage in 1768 won’t be there.

Even worse (can it be worse?), the one register was bare-bones. Births have the date, child’s name, parents’ names; no ages, occupations, or birth places of parents. Marriages aren’t much better—date, groom, bride. Deaths have the date, name, age. Parents of young children are the only other people mentioned. Sigh. It makes it difficult to determine if it’s the right person/record. I can’t confirm whether Jacob was born in Karlsruhe or Volksberg from anything in those records. The other register had the paragraph format, but difficult handwriting and poor (or absent) margin notes for who the record was for. Wading through those 35 images would be its own project!

After 3 days of banging my head on the keyboard, what had I actually found? Not what I had hoped!

  • his 1785 April 16 death record, Jo. Jacob Mein[t]zer, 59 years, 6 months (buried the 20th)
  • Philippe Adam’s 1775 birth record
  • marriages for Johann Jacob’s sons (but not Catherine)—but without parents’ names or occupations!
  • numerous births, and several deaths, for his grandchildren. I was able to fill in Catherine’s family quite nicely! It didn’t help with confirming Johann Jacob’s teacher occupation, though.

All in all, it was a frustrating several days. I was grateful for the information I found, but none of it actually clarified the issue of where his “teacher” claim came from. I can only assume other records exist (or existed) locally, that aren’t online, yet. I may need a road trip, but am not sure whether it needs to be to the town(s), or to Strasbourg, where the Archives is located.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to take Johann Jacob’s “teacher” occupation on faith. Last year I finally found time to read my copy of Our Daily Bread: German Village life, 1500-1850, by Teva J. Sheer. I’d picked it up years ago, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I brought it along on a cruise. She created a fictitious town and main character to paint an image of everyday life, based on the research she’d done. The end notes are 23 pages long, and bibliography is 16 pages! She wrote about German towns, but it seems reasonable that Germanic-influenced Alsace might operate in a similar fashion.

I was surprised to discover that the teacher (Lehrer) was considered an official position in the town² (p. 75). Later on, she explained the teacher “enjoyed little status and less income.”² (p. 132) My mistake was thinking about the job in a present-day context. The picture she painted was considerably different:

A large part of his income derived from his collateral duties. He usually served as the church sacristan; as such, his responsibilities included church building maintenance, acting as assistant to the pastor, and serving as the village scribe at court and other village meetings. In addition, he frequently served as choirmaster and organist . . . musical skills . . . were often value more highly than their academic knowledge or teaching experience . . . provided . . . a dwelling with a small garden, but the dwelling also served as the village school . . . received a small monthly payment from the parents of each child . . . Prior to the 19th century . . . schoolmaster was typically a community member with little education himself.

Teva J. Scheer, Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850 (Adventis Press, 2010), p. 132.

That description kind of took me down off my high horse about having a “teacher” in my ancestry! It reminded me, though, not to drag my 20th- and 21st-century mentality and assumptions into earlier centuries. I also need to pull myself out of FamilySearch and Ancestry.com every once in a while for some non-lineage research. That will help me process the evidence I find in the right context and better understand what I’ve found.

Looks like my 18th-century school teacher had one more lesson to teach!


¹Doris Wesner, Alsatian Connections, Volume 1: Family Genealogies of Alsatian Emigrants to America (Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, 1995), p. 213.

²Teva J. Scheer, Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850 (Adventis Press, 2010).

At Work

” . . . So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”–John Greenleaf Whittier

Robert Haws (Dad) is no stranger to this blog. He pops up in various stories, and I’ve touched briefly on his work life. This week we’ll take a more complete look. The quote above is taken from a poem he learned in high school.

Dad’s Navy discharge papers included a box for “preference for additional training” he would be interested in. “Comptometer (refresher)” and “accounting” were typed in. Unfortunately, there were tens of thousands of other guys returning home at the same time, all vying for jobs; plus he had a pregnant wife. Time out for education was a luxury he couldn’t afford—he needed a job. So he went to work for Mr. Marshall (Taxes) while they lived with Mom’s parents. Housing was in short supply, too!

In 1946, Dad made the decision to start an independent rug cleaning business, initially partnering with his brother, George (Comedy). Their dad had been on some construction jobs in Hinsdale, and thought the area was affluent enough to support a rug cleaning business. They acted on that suggestion. It took some time to find a place to live, so Dad set up a business phone line in Hinsdale, and had someone take messages until they could move. In pre-Tri-State Tollway days, it was a one hour drive from Deerfield, on the days they had work. Rug cleaning equipment was loaded into the back of the station wagon to go to jobs.

24 May 1948, outside the house at 422 S. Adams, Hinsdale. There is no lettering, but I imagine this station wagon was the first “truck.” Mom didn’t drive, and they wouldn’t have been able to afford 2 vehicles.

In early 1947, Mom & Dad finally found a first floor of a house to rent (above). Toward the end of 1947, Dad had bought out George’s share of the business. By 1949, a new different truck (below) had been purchased, nicely lettered! The early trucks were all used, I believe, because new would have cost too much.

Spring, 1949, my sister, Carole. This may have been the first truck with lettering: a Chevrolet. The hood has “Wallmaster Service.” He always abbreviated “Brothers” on the trucks. Fewer letters, lower painting cost!
Spring, 1949. Same truck as above, but 9-month old Warren sitting on the fender. Yes, based on other photos, there WAS another adult in front of the car, just out of the photo framing, but within reach!

Rug cleaning initially did not keep his schedule full, so as shown on the hood above, “Wallmaster Service” (wall washing) was added to have enough work. As a kid, I remember seeing a large, wooden box (bigger than a trunk) in the basement workroom with that lettering, and asking Dad about it. The wall washing equipment was stored in it, but by then he had discontinued using it.

November, 1952. Dad in a different truck, at their recently-purchased house (not visible—those are neighbors’ houses). Most likely the truck was newly-acquired, probably the reason a photo was taken! Sewers will recognize “Binding & Serging.” We had a machine for each in our basement, with a vast assortment of carpet binding tape and carpet thread. It worked for carpets just like for clothes: binding tape encased a raw edge and was stitched in place, and serging used 4 or 5 spools of thread to put an overcast stitch on a raw edge.

A home with a family business run out of it is different in so many ways. Work wasn’t a place you went to—it was part of everyday life. I understood at a fairly young age there was no guaranteed paycheck every week. If Dad didn’t work, there was no paycheck! It was never a source of worry—there was always money set aside—but it was a reality.

We were the only family I knew of (until high school, at least) who had two phone lines—and six phones! Of course, one line was for the business, which we kids would NEVER touch, unless it was to answer a business call. Each floor of the house had a phone for each line. We needed to be properly instructed before we were cleared to answer the business phone. I would never say, “My dad isn’t home . . .” It was always, “Mr. Haws isn’t available right now . . .” While most people who called for appointments knew it was a family business run out of our home, we always needed to sound professional.

That also meant if a business phone rang, the noise level dropped to zero. The first floor business phone was in the dining room, so if it was dinner, five children were immediately silent. There was no silverware clattering on the plate and no, “Pass the mashed potatoes,” while Dad answered the phone and asked the customer to wait so he could get his appointment book. While he went to the office in the basement, one of us would listen for him to pick up the line down there and make sure he was talking. Then the button was held down (to disconnect) before replacing the hand set. No hanging up noisily! Dinner returned to normal.

1971. I think there was another van before this one, but I didn’t find any other photos. I’m trying to recall why the lettering seems off (the “Bros.” is missing). Something must have happened to the doors, and maybe the only replacements he could find had windows? The “Haws” is definitely curved, which begs for a matching arc opposite, but it’s been way too long ago for me to remember the details!

Dad was not the least expensive rug cleaner. He always said he could never afford to have a sale. Either he’d lose money on the job (expenses wouldn’t be covered), or his reputation would suffer because he’d have to cut corners. Neither option was acceptable to him.

When you are the owner, the day doesn’t end at 5. Sometimes after dinner Dad was in the basement, catching up on paperwork, or cleaning an area rug picked up that day. We kids knew where he was, and could always go down to ask him something or say goodnight. Sometimes we got roped into helping with something (Father’s Day). My sister recalled getting “shampooer rides” when she was pretty young, if a rug was particularly dirty. Dad would have her sit cross-legged on the shampoo machine to add extra weight so it would scrub deeper. I never got that lucky.

We kids also got “hired” to sort the paid invoices. Each month was simply sorted by date, so didn’t really pay much. At the end of the year, though, all twelve months were merged and sorted alphabetically. That paid $10, but was a lot more work, deciphering Dad’s handwriting. It was good preparation for reading census records, though, and I learned that Llewellyn did actually start with 2 Ls.

The summer after freshman year of college, Dad hired me occasionally. My work hours had been cut at the jewelry store, but he was usually able to schedule one job a week that could handle a 3rd worker (me). I didn’t use the machines, but helped with moving furniture, hand scrubbing the edges of the room, and any other job he gave me. It was an interesting experience, watching him at work not in our basement!

The last truck. This one was fitted out for the truck-mounted “steam” equipment he added in the mid-1970s. It had propane tanks for heating the water and built-ins inside (designed & built by Dad) to keep everything secure. This photo was likely taken when he sold the business & retired in 1984, after 38 years in business.

None of us kids followed Dad into the rug cleaning business. My dreams at age four of a “Haws Sisters” rug cleaning business fizzled when Carole decided to become a teacher. I don’t know if it bothered Dad that no one carried on in his footsteps. I’m sure he would have welcomed it, but he never laid on a guilt trip, that I recall.

Growing up in a family business, I learned firsthand things I would later hear in college business classes—and some things that were never mentioned:

  • Be honest, and treat people fairly.
  • Pay yourself first (AKA “save for a rainy day”).
  • If you make a mistake, fix it.
  • If the customer is unhappy, fix it (even if it wasn’t your fault).
  • Stand by your principles. The husband who sent a check for less than the written estimate? Dad mailed the check back and wrote that full payment was needed. The guy stiffed him, so Dad never worked for them again.
  • Respect others in the business. I once made the mistake of calling the other rug cleaner in town “the competition.” Dad corrected me, saying they were “colleagues.”
  • Help out the new guys. People helped him when he was starting out. They may know something you don’t, or have a new idea worth listening to.
  • Keep learning. I watched him take night classes to earn a real estate broker’s license when I was in junior high. That said more than any words would have. So when he bought a PC at age 70, it didn’t surprise me!
  • Do your best. Always. Your name and reputation is at stake.

The work ethic I “caught” at home work far surpassed anything “taught” to me elsewhere. Thanks, Dad!

July 1984. “Happy Retirement, Bob” “The World’s Finest Carpet Cleaner” That sums it up, perfectly.



“There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.”–Dwight D. Eisenhower

TRAGEDY: noun: a lamentable, dreadful, or fatal event or affair 

“Definition Of Tragedy | Dictionary.Com”. Www.Dictionary.Com, 2019, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tragedy. Accessed 22 Aug 2019.

It seems tragedy is often overused today. The red stoplight in my way (even if I’m running late), the promotion or raise not received, or the Packers not winning hardly rise to the necessary level. When we classify everyday disappointments, annoyances and inconveniences as tragedy, it diminishes the real thing.

Florence was one of my mom’s older cousins on the Moeller side. She was born1 25 September 1912, the daughter of Minnie Moeller Meintzer’s brother, Frank Moeller, and his wife, Alma Holstrum. Ardyth and Florence were ten years apart in age, but my mom remembers the families taking vacations together, because Uncle Frank had a car.

4 July 1925, Madison, Wisconsin. Florence Moeller (almost 13), her brother, Howard (7), and Ardyth (Mom–3).

Florence married2 Reinhardt Wilhelm Eberlein 29 May 1940, shortly after the photo below was taken with her grandmother, Elfrieda. Maybe. The index on Ancestry has that date, but the index at FamilySearch had a 10 June 1940 date.

How can that be?

Unfortunately, neither database includes an image. The 10 June date, however, was consistent with an article in the Cook County Herald, 14 June 1940, which reported a 10 June wedding for them in the Northbrook section on page 2. Possibly the earlier date appearing in the Ancestry database was the date the marriage license was applied for, rather than the correct marriage date located farther down the form. The indexer at Ancestry simply grabbed the wrong date, the one at FamilySearch grabbed the correct one. I would have to order a copy of the record from Cook County to see how it is actually filled out, to confirm that, though.

Even more confusing, Florence was listed as married in the household of Reinhardt’s mother, Alma Eberlein, when the enumerator came by on 6 June3 (the date at the top of the page). She was not enumerated with her parents4 two days before, when he came to their house. The enumerator was supposed to be listing the people who lived at each house on 1 April 1940! Regardless of which marriage date is correct, there’s no scenario where Florence should have been at Reinhardt’s house in April, much less married! Perhaps obtaining the marriage certificate has bumped up in importance?

12 May 1940, Mother’s Day, Florence with her grandmother, Elfrieda Jonas Moeller. Elfrieda was enumerated with her daughter, Caroline Moeller Mueller 3 weeks later, so this may be Caroline’s house on Church Street.

Despite the apparent confusion of the record keepers, Florence and Reinhardt were in fact, married! Fast forward two years, and the young couple welcomed their first child. Six years later (1948), Florence was pregnant with twins. The pregnancy did not end well.

When I first started genealogy, Mom took me to Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Illinois. Her parents (Christoph and Minnie) were buried there, as well as her maternal grandparents, Carl & Elfrieda Moeller. That was when I first learned about Florence, and her death from complications of childbirth, as well as the death of her twins. I made the assumption the babies died right at birth, with Florence following shortly. Mom told me they “were buried together,” so I assumed the babies were placed in the casket with her.

Florence’s grave is in the plot next to my grandparents and great grandparents. When Ridgewood opened in 1920, Mom’s family bought two adjacent plots. Each plot had 6 full graves, plus two (smaller) “baby graves.” Frank (Minnie’s brother) and Alma hadn’t purchased one, however. Florence’s death caught everyone off guard. In addition to the tremendous grief, where were she and her children be buried? One plot was completely empty, so it was sold to Frank and Alma.

Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois. Florence [Moeller] Eberlein, 1912-1940. No markers for her two babies.

Now, I could end the story here, and few people would challenge that it was tragic. Frankly, I didn’t do research on Florence for years. I knew the basics and left it at that. In the summer of 2003, someone—possibly my mom— decided to drive up to the Lake County Clerk’s Office and acquire copies of the death certificates for her and her babies. While Florence & Reinhardt lived in Northbrook (Cook County), she and the babies died in the Highland Park Hospital—Lake County. The new details make what was already tragic, more so—as hard as that may be to believe.

If you look for them at Ancestry, their death records aren’t found. FamilySearch has them in their “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994” database, which is surprising, given they were Lake County records. All we can see are the fields that were indexed. The actual death certificates provide a wealth of additional details providing a much clearer idea of what happened. We’ll start with Florence.

All the usual information was there: name, birth date, age, husband’s and parents’ names, funeral home and cemetery information. Then there was the death information. We learn she died 20 November, 8:09 AM, and her immediate cause of death was “peritonitis acute” [infection] she’d had for 14 days. She also had “pulmonary atelectasis” [lung deflated, or fluid-filled] for 4 days. “Pregnancy 7 months” was also noted as a condition.

The certificate noted Florence had a Caesarian section 3 November. Presumably that was the source of the peritonitis. An autopsy was also performed to determine the cause of death, before she was buried on 22 November.

Let’s move on to the babies. I don’t have birth records for them (which might indicate which twin was born first), so we’ll go with a “ladies first” approach. The daughter’s death certificate had a name: Joyce Ann. It had all the expected information, including the birth date of 3 November, which we would expect based on Florence’s surgery. Joyce died 4 November at 4 PM, her age listed as 1 day 15 hours. Doing the math, she was born at 1:05 AM. Her cause of death was “persistent atelectasis” for 39 hours [the entire time she was alive] with a secondary factor being “prematurity 7 1/2 months.” An autopsy was also performed on her.

Her brother’s certificate listed him only as “Infant Boy Eberlein.” Obviously he had the same birth date but he died a day later, 5 November at 10:05 AM. His age at death was recorded as 2 days, 9 hours, 20 minutes. Doing the math for him, he was born at 12:45 AM, making him the elder twin. His primary cause of death was “anoxia,” a fancy medical word for absence of oxygen. He, too, suffered from “atelectasis.” Both conditions lasted 49 hours. Either his conditions didn’t manifest immediately, or someone could’t do the math—he lived 57 hours, total. Both babies were expected to be buried 6 November.

Those full death certificates filled in so much more information than the 17 fields indexed at FamilySearch! The narrative surrounding this mother and her children became much more complicated. It was no longer infants stillborn, or dying shortly after birth and mother dying in childbirth.

Twins frequently arrive before their due date, but Florence underwent a C-section in the middle of the night, a month and a half early—early even for twins. The babies’ lungs difficulties aren’t surprising, as the lungs mature late in pregnancy. So many questions are still unanswered:

  • Were twins a surprise?
  • Why did Joyce Ann get named? Had they been hoping for a girl and already had a name picked out? Or was it just the unused girl’s name from her previous pregnancy?
  • Why did the boy not get named? He was born first and lived longer. Had they not gotten around to choosing a possible boy’s name?

I cannot imagine what the seventeen days between the twins’ birth and Florence’s death must have been like for her and Reinhardt. They watched their children struggle and die, and then had to scramble to find them a burial place. Was she allowed to attend their funerals? I imagine not, since in the 1950s, after a normal delivery a new mother was kept in bed for a week. I can’t see them releasing a mom who had surgery, even for a funeral. Her infection started about the time of the funeral, and obviously did not respond to antibiotic treatment (which was still a fairly new treatment option).

And what of their 6-year-old? Was he staying with grandparents while Florence was hospitalized? Could he visit his mom? In the 1960s, children weren’t allowed in patient rooms, for fear of them bringing in germs. This was 20 years earlier—was he even able to see his mother before she died? Or was it unexpected, so there wasn’t time to “bend the rules?”

There are so many layers of sadness to this story, but somehow Reinhardt and his surviving son got through the grief.

So, the five people in front of me at the grocery store? Not such a big deal, after all . . .


1“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 22 August 2019, entry for MOELLER [female], 25 September 1912, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film 1288262. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

2“Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 22 August 2019, citing Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records, file# 1637352, Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois. Reinhardt W. EBERLEIN and Florence C. MOELLER.

31940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, e.d. 16-341; Page 6B; household number 125; line 45; Alma EBERLEIN household; accessed 23 August 2019. Florence EBERLEIN, age 27; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 784; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

41940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, e.d. 16-341; Page 5A; household number 100; line 35; Frank MOELLER household; accessed 25 August 2019. Frank MOELLER, age 51; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 784; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).