“Mama, don’t take my chromosomes away . . . ” pre-med college students’ adulteration of Paul Simon lyric


I am relatively late to the DNA game. When it was first available, testing was pricey, limited to Y-DNA (for male line) and later mtDNA (mitochondrial for female line). I didn’t have questions that Y-DNA would answer, and wasn’t terribly curious about the “deep ancestry” mtDNA would provide.

Autosomal DNA testing hit the market in 2009. In spring of 2010, it cost $289 to get tested at Family Tree DNA. Seemed expensive. I wasn’t looking for unknown biological parents, so I kept my money in my wallet. By fall of 2013, Ancestry.com and 23andMe entered the fray, so competition drove the price down to $99 (sale prices, at least). Still, with relatively small databases, and no burning questions to answer, I kept my saliva where it belonged.

I began to educate myself, though, so when — if — I took the plunge, I would know what I was doing. RootsTech 2017 pushed me over the edge. Session after session on DNA reiterated the importance of testing. DNA wasn’t a magic wand to solve all my genealogical puzzles, but it was a valuable record — as important as birth or death records — and needed to be obtained while it was still available.

Mom was almost 95, and her spit wasn’t going to be around forever! I’d already missed out on my dad’s. So I ordered an Ancestry.com test for me and a FamilyTreeDNA test for her at the next sale. I spit, she swabbed, and we waited. With 4 million samples in Ancestry’s database at that point, surely I’d match someone? Fortunately, there were no unexpected surprises in our results! I am related to first cousins on both sides of the family, as well as my mother (after uploading my results to her company). Whew!

I discovered dozens of second cousins I recognized, as well as totally unknown names. In the meantime, Mike expressed surprise I hadn’t asked him to submit a test. DNA is kind of personal, and we’ve only known each other for 40+ years. I don’t have as much on his family, though, so DNA could be useful. We capitalized on Ancestry’s Father’s Day sale to order his kit.

With the exception of a first cousin, Mike’s other matches were all unknown. Most didn’t have trees, and the surnames meant nothing to me. I transferred his DNA data to other sites to expand the matches. At Family Tree DNA, he had an unknown Crockett match, without a tree. It was a solid match, with 79 cM in common, the largest segment being 59 cM. It was not a random coincidence.

I also recognized Crockett as an ancestor surname. Mike’s grandmother, Mildred B. Fitzgerald (Where There’s a Will), was a Crockett descendant. Indeed, her grandmother, Isabella Crockett, was living with Mildred in Michigan in the 1920 census.

Mildred’s mother was Eliza Jane English. She and her husband, Ashley Fitzgerald, bounced back and forth between the United States (Michigan and Ohio) and Ontario, Canada. Eliza had been born in Michigan,¹ but married Ashley in Ontario.¹ Their first and last children were born in Ontario, the middle ones (including Mildred) in Ohio.

Isabella Crockett English, Mike’s great, great grandmother. Photo taken before 1926 (her death). Photo from new-found cousins.

Eliza’s parents, John English and Isabella, did much the same thing. John was born in Ontario, Isabella in Ireland. They married in Ontario in 1860, but had their three oldest children (including Eliza Jane) between 1861 and 1869 in the USA, before heading back to Canada, where we find them in the next three censuses.²

Isabella Crockett’s parents, George Crockett and Margaret Jane Creighton, brought their four children to Ontario from Ireland sometime between 1845 (Jane born in Ireland) and 1848 (James born in Canada).³ I’ve found the Canadian records to have very complete census pages, as well as birth, marriage, and death registers. They’ve all been very helpful in filling in lots of information for Mike’s Canadian ancestors.

Modified pedigree chart for Mildred Belle Fitzgerald, focusing on her Crockett line.

“Wait! I thought this week was about DNA?” Yes, but DNA doesn’t work by itself; we have to help it. If I hadn’t researched this line prior to DNA testing, the Crockett surname wouldn’t have had any meaning for me. Anyway, after uploading Mike’s DNA data to the various databases, I finally hit paydirt at GEDmatch. The “Joe” (not his real name!) Crockett match from Family Tree DNA was there, but with a tree, this time! It wasn’t a huge tree, but it had what I needed. At the very top were George Crockett and Margaret Jane Creighton.


I was excited, but it took a month or two before I had time to write to the contact email. I explained why I was writing, and that Mike’s 3rd great grandparents were shared with him. I got an email back from “Joe’s” sister, “Sue” (not her real name, either!). She’s the genealogist in that family, it seems. We exchanged some information and determined they were 3rd cousins, once removed to Mike. She graciously shared an awesome photo of Isabella!

We each knew parts of the other’s story, but we were able to fill in additional gaps and details for each other, and confirm the information found in records. I still need to take some time to fill in the other descendants on this line, bringing it more up-to-date. There could easily be more matches from this family (through the daughters) without a Crockett surname.

It occurred to me while I was looking at the match information Mike shared with “Joe,” that Mike didn’t match to the sister. She didn’t happen to inherit those particular segments of DNA. Fortunately, though, she had convinced “Joe” to test his own. If not, we might not have found each other! I’m extremely grateful to him for agreeing to swab for his sister.

Now, to make my way down all our match lists to figure out the rest of them! I wonder what other mysteries DNA will unravel? Or stir up?


Top image credit: PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay.com

¹”Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 27 December 2015, entry for Ashley C. FITZGERALD and Eliza ENGLISH, 10 April 1886, citing Ontario, Canada, Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1928. MS932, reel 53, certificate 002734, no. 52. Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

²1871 census of Canada, population schedule, London, Middlesex East, Ontario, e.d. 9; page 28 (written); line 9; Robert ENGLISH household; accessed 14 April 2019, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm [ ] through [ ]. John ENGLISH, age 32; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1851 census of Canada, population schedule, Dorchester North, Middlesex, Ontario, ed. no. 3, Township of [ ], Page 113 (stamped), page 112 (written); line 37; George CROCKETT household; accessed 13 February 2016, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm [ ] through [ ]. George CROCKETT, age 36; digital image, Ancestry.com, Canada (www.ancestry.ca).

Brick Wall

I have many brick walls, some of which you’ve seen. Unfortunately, most are miles away from being solved! With a potential trip to Ireland next year, it seems wise to take a look at one of the brick walls located there.

Mike’s Carmodys come from County Clare, Ireland. In Close Up, I revealed how the history I had for Mike’s grandfather, John J. Carmody, had been wrong, as a result of some incorrect information. Solving the problem of that unknown brick wall unfortunately created a new one!

To recap: I mistakenly had two brothers related as a father-son combo. When that was corrected, I had John J. correctly connected to Michael as a brother, with another potential brother, Patrick. Their father was Andrew Carmody, and mother was Mary Culleeny/Culliny/Culliney. Andrew was actually a fortunate first name, because outside of this family group, I don’t tend to see it (though all three sons named a son “Andrew”). It was much better than John or Patrick!

Unfortunately, besides his name, I don’t have much other information for Andrew Carmody. By the 1901 census, he and Mary seem to have already died. None of the early census records exist. The 1821-1851¹ were destroyed in the 1922 fire in the Public Record Office (a few stray pages survive). The 1861 and 1871¹ were destroyed shortly after they were taken, and the 1881 and 1891¹ were pulped during WWI (there was a paper shortage). So there are no helpful census snapshots of the family with Andrew in it.

Griffith’s valuation finally came online. What’s that? Well, it’s rather like a tax list. It calculated your contribution to support the poor and destitute within the local Poor Law Union. The rate was based on the property and how it was developed. The valuation took place between 1848 and 1864. That’s a perfect time period for Andrew.

When I search for him in County Clare, he appears in Griffith’s here. Snips from the page will make it a little easier to follow:

Griffith’s Valuation, page 169² (with the middle of the page clipped out). The red boxes point out the headings at the top, and Andrew Carmody’s entries: two as an Occupier (14 shillings owed for both), and one as the Lessor (landlord —8 shillings). I don’t know who pays the valuation — the Occupier or the Lessor. The green boxes point out other Carmody entries in the area: Margaret, Thomas, and Ellen. Parish of Drumcliff, The Borheen (heading missing in the snipped section).

It’s interesting to see three entries for him. How do I know all three are the same man? Well, the two as Occupier are, because in the 4th column for lot 29, it says, “see also No. 32.” If they were two distinct individuals, I doubt they would link the entries in that way. The property where Andrew Carmody is the Lessor is adjacent to No. 29. While it could be a different man, it seems unlikely that the only other Andrew Carmody in County Clare (a name search returned only these three results) happens to live next door to property owned by a different Andrew Carmody!

Section of a Griffith’s Valuation map² showing what I believe to be The Borheen area. It is north of the River Fergus. The almost vertical lane to their right is The Borheen (“country lane or rural road”), now called Marian Avenue. The blue arrows point toward the parcels I believe are associated with Andrew Carmody.

Could this NOT be Mike’s great grandfather? Possibly. But with no other Andrews in the county, and him being in the correct parish (Drumcliff) and place (Borheen), it makes a good case in his favor. Ideally, I would be able to find other documents tying him and his family to these properties.

I’m also curious why he is not occupying the property he owns. Perhaps his family had outgrown the house, so he needed to lease a larger one? It would be interesting to know more about Francis Gore (his landlord) — he was the Lessor for a lot of properties! It would also be nice to know who the other three Carmodys were. Quite likely they are related, but I have no clue how.

While it was great finding him (hopefully) in Griffith’s, it didn’t really solve the problem of whether there were other children or who his parents were. Fortunately, the Catholic parish registers have been put online from several sources. Find My Past has some of them available (with images), and some parishes have put the information online, themselves: sometimes indexes only, sometimes images.

Searching through parish records,³ I’ve pieced together a tentative list of the children of Andrew Carmody and Mary Culleeny:

  • Catharine, baptized 27 July 1845
  • Mary, baptized 30 December 1848
  • Ellen, baptized 22 November 1850
  • Anne, baptized 4 July 1853
  • Michael, baptized 18 August 1856
  • Patrick, baptized 14 March 1859
  • John, baptized 24 February 1862

Mike’s grandfather, John Joseph, appears to be the last child. Curiously, though, his birth date as recorded in US documents is mid-August, 1863. The parish baptism index does not include his middle name (or initial). There are no later children for this couple, though. It’s possible that this son, John, died, and they had another son that they named John Joseph, 15-16 August 1863. I don’t have access to death records to test that theory, but I need to look for possible evidence of that.

Similarly, there was a Mary Carmody, baptized 18 February 1843 to an Andrew and a Mary Collins. Granted, Collins seems a long way from Culleeny (or any of her spelling variations), but it’s actually closer than one would think. No other Carmody fathers are named Andrew in the index, and no other Carmody children born to a Mary Collins — married to an Andrew, or not.

So it’s possible this Mary is also one of their children — the first one, perhaps. Since there is clearly another Mary born in 1848, if that is the case, the first Mary must have died before then. Further research looking at the actual documents (rather than a transcription) is necessary to assess who the 1843 Mary belongs to.

Their marriage date is still up in the air. The parish marriage index³ shows only one Andrew Carmody. He has a marriage date of 27 July 1840. That date fits with the other information I have (children’s births — even the potential “extra Mary.” Unfortunately, the bride is listed as “Mary Carmody.” Sometimes same-named couples marry (related or not), but sometimes the person filling in the register/certificate — or the transcriber — makes a mistake. For some reason the bride’s maiden name isn’t recorded, so the married surname is used in its place. While this index entry is an encouraging lead, looking at the actual record might solve the dilemma.

Additionally, the index doesn’t tell us their ages or their parents’ names. Is that information included in the original? Maybe. That’s another reason to view the original! If I can’t locate images online, I may need to see if I can get access to them when we travel there. I don’t have death dates for Andrew or Mary. Those might point me to birth dates (and parents?) for them.

As I looked for “my” (well, Mike’s) Carmodys, I stumbled across all sorts of other ones nearby. Are they related? Maybe. I don’t know if Andrew had siblings — if so, their records might point me to parents. They could also be cousins. But how to keep track of them, with stray children, marriages, and so on? How do I figure out their connections (or lack of) to each other? I decided I needed to spin off a separate “working file” just for the Carmodys. I can enter Carmody data as I find it, without cluttering my own file. It lets me deal with them in a contained environment. When I get them sorted out, I can transfer the ones I need back to my regular file.

This brick wall is still pretty solid . . . Bummer. I need to keep chipping away at it, and checking for new record sets to come online to help break through it.


¹National Archives of Ireland, “Census of Ireland 1901/1911 and Census Fragments and Substitutes, 1821-51”, database, The National Archives of Ireland (http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/help/history.html), paragraph 3.

²”Griffith’s Valuation, 1847-1864″, database, AskAboutIreland.ie, Ask About Ireland (http://griffiths.askaboutireland.ie), General Valuation, p. 169, for Andrew CARMODY, occupier, The Borheen, Ennis (town), Lifford (townland), Drumcliff (parish), Ennis (union), Islands (barony), County Clare, accessed 7 April 2019.

³https://www.ennisparish.com/genealogy/     Search on “carmody” in the surname field, click submit. List of 

In the News

Sometimes we’re in the news . . . sometimes the news happens around us.

I’ve written more than a couple blog posts with newspaper clippings at the heart of them — actual articles other than a perfunctory death notice or marriage announcement. Sometimes, though, the news isn’t about an ancestor, but is happening literally in their back (or front?) yard. This one falls into that category.

My grandfather, Christoph Meintzer, had eight older siblings. Two of his sisters (Sophie and Caroline (Carrie)) married two Kranz brothers (Edward Melchior and Adam Henry).

You’ve met Sophie, Ed, and at least some of their eleven children, in other posts. With that many children, there are a lot of stories! Carrie and Adam had a much smaller family — only three children. We’re going to focus more on them, this time.

With brothers sharing last names, it was common to refer to the Sophie/Ed family as “Des Plaines Kranz” and Carrie/Adam family as “Rondout Kranz” based on where they lived. In fairness, the Kranz families may have done something similar with the Meintzers — “Deerfield Meintzers,” “Shermerville/Northbrook Meintzers,” and so on.

Edward M. Kranz (left-age 75) and Adam Henry Kranz (right, age 66 ) at the 1930 Meintzer family reunion. Photo quality isn’t the best, because it’s coming from a large group photo. I don’t have any other photos of Uncle Adam, that I know of.

As young men, Ed & Adam had somewhat parallel lives for a while, despite their nine-year age difference. Ed and Sophie were married first (1885), in Chicago, but soon moved to Iowa to farm. Their first four children were born there.

In 1890, his brother, Adam, married Sophie’s sister, Carrie, in Iowa! Adam may have been there prior to that, but the marriage was definitely there, not in Cook County, Illinois. Ed signed the marriage affidavit and was the witness, and Adam and Carrie farmed nearby. Their first two children were also born there. Ed and his family moved back to the Chicago area some time between November 1892 and April 1893. Adam’s return window is wider, though it’s possible both families returned to the Chicago area around the same time.

This is where they diverge, with Ed settling in Des Plaines, and Adam going father north, to the Libertyville/Rondout area. Adam begins working for the railroad as a section foreman, and shows up with that occupation in the 1900 thru 1940 censuses. The older son, Raymond, is a clerk at the depot by 1910, and continues to work there, with a break for a year of military service, until 1940. The younger son, Clarence, follows in his father’s and brother’s footsteps. They are a railroad family.

The evening of 12 June 1924, put Rondout, Illinois, on the map forever. The Newton Boys staged what was the biggest train robbery to date — over $2 million — and it would hold that record until 1963! The train was carrying new Federal Reserve cash, as well as bonds and other securities, in its mail car. The train was forced to stop at Buckley road (just east of what’s now Exit 13 on the Tri-State Tollway).

13 June 1924 Woodstock, Illinois, Daily Sentinel, p. 1

It was a bold robbery, though they were all caught within a month or so. It had been an inside job, which explains why the haul was so good. Most of the money and securities were recovered, except for some that was buried. The outlaw was drunk at the time, and couldn’t recall afterwards where he’d buried it.

The story and subsequent trial made the news around the country. True Detective magazine ran a story in 1930 spanning two issues, detailing the heist, as well as the detective work to catch the outlaws. A PDF copy of both issues is available at the Internet Archive:

  • Part One starts on p. 32
  • Part Two starts on p. 60 You will have to “download” the PDF to read them, but you don’t have to actually save it.

Even decades after the fact, newspaper articles still popped up! The New York Times had one in 1982. The Chicago Tribune had at least two: one in 1991, and another in 1994.

So how did this news event impact Uncle Adam and his sons? I don’t really know. Fortunately, none of them provided the “insider information,” nor were they part of “the gang.” The robbery was north of town, so away from the station. If any of them had been on duty, that kept them safe from stray bullets (one of the robbers was mistakenly shot by one of his partners!). That time of day probably had fewer riders, so that would help keep injuries down — the only injury was to the one robber.

Did Uncle Adam or his sons come under suspicion, until they could get cleared? Did they have police or federal law enforcement interviews? Reports to file? Changes in procedures, afterwards? Who knows? Neither the station nor the track conditions (things for which they were responsible) were at issue, but you know how it is sometimes when things go wrong — everybody has to make changes!

Even though they were not directly involved, The Great Rondout Train Robbery probably impacted their lives, altering their sleepy little burg. I wonder if they ever talked about it, or just tried to forget about it?



“Count your life by smiles, not tears. Count your age by friends, not years.” —John Lennon

As a child growing up in Illinois in the 1960s, I loved the month of February. Not only was it short, getting us to spring quicker, but until 1969, we had two days off from school. Well, at least some of the time . . .

We often had Washington’s birthday off on the 22nd, already having had Lincoln’s birthday off on the 12th. It had to be one of six calendar configurations where that worked. Sometimes one or the other fell on a weekend, but we were guaranteed at least one day off in February, two if we were lucky!

All that disappeared in 1969, due to the prior year’s passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.¹ Goodbye, Abe . . . The switch usually left the two “birthdays” too close together, and the Federal holiday trumped the State holiday.

Of course, in our house February 12th was always a reason to celebrate, Lincoln’s birthday notwithstanding. It was my sister’s birthday. She was tickled to share the day with Illinois’s favorite son. I always felt it was unfair that she had no school on her birthday! By the time the new law went into effect, she was graduating from college, so the negative impact to her was minimal.

Carole also shared her birthday with our grandfather, Edward Mathias Haws! She played that card a lot, too. You have figured out by now that she was the oldest, right?

You’ve met Ed several times, already. Invite to Dinner, Independence, and Work probably have the most stories about him, with additional mentions of him, elsewhere. He was born on Lincoln’s birthday in 1887, but in Wisconsin, so it may not have been a big deal. Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois regularly brag about their Lincoln connection, but Wisconsin really has no claim to him. I’m sure Lincoln is not a rock star in Wisconsin, like he is in the other three states.

Edward Mathias Haws, born 12 February 1887, died 26 March 1966. Date of photo unknown but possibly taken shortly before his marriage in 1914. I believe I got the photo from one of my grandaunts — one of his sisters. I see a lot of my dad in him. Or maybe the other way around?

By the time Ed moved to Illinois, he was an adult, so no one much cared when his birthday was — or who he shared it with! I was young (not quite eight years old) when he died, so never had a chance to talk with him about his tenuous link to Lincoln. I don’t know how he felt about that, or about Carole being born on his birthday, for that matter. Was it something the two of them ever talked about?

I’ll never know. Shared birthdays are just one of those quirky things that pop up in a tree. But every February 12th, I have three people to think about, while I try to determine if the bank will be open, or the mail delivered.



Large Family

Size is relative . . .

Growing up as the youngest of five, I didn’t consider our family to be particularly “large.” Granted, my dad’s siblings had two kids each, so by comparison, maybe we were. But Mom’s brother also had five, and compared to the families in my Catholic grade school with seven, eight, or more, my parents were definitely slackers.

Fast forward 20 years or so, and my gaggle of four children looked rather large — certainly larger than my siblings and I had looked earlier. Different eras beget different expectations and perceptions. I managed to have several friends with four or more children, though, so I guess when you run with a “bad crowd,” some of it rubs off . . . .

Within Mike’s and my ancestries, there are several substantially-sized families. Since they were primarily rural farmers, having many children (read that: free farm workers!) was beneficial. And of course, not all necessarily survived to adulthood — a sad reality. If I have to choose someone to be the “winner,” though, it needs to be my dad’s cousin, Paul.

Paul was two and a half years younger than my dad. While they both were born in the same Wisconsin town, Paul remained there all his life, while my dad’s parents moved the family back to the Chicago when my dad was about six. But he and Paul would have known each other when they were young, and undoubtedly would have seen each other when my dad’s family drove up to visit his paternal grandparents.

There was even a period of time when Paul came down to Illinois and worked for my dad, cleaning rugs with him. It was a long drive to our house, so I believe Paul stayed with my parents during the week, returning home for the weekends. It wasn’t a long term arrangement, but worked out conveniently for both of them for a while.

So, where are the kids? And how many? Well, Paul and his wife had sixteen children over twenty years. Yes, you read that right. Hopefully I have them all in my file! No twins or triplets included. They neglected having one the year I was born, but you were pretty much guaranteed to find someone close to you in age!

I had heard Dad talk about Paul and his wife, and knew they had a lot of kids, but distance and logistics meant we didn’t see them much. But one summer we stopped by their house on the way home from a vacation. It was a fun afternoon for me, with several kids close to my age to play with. Ever the gracious hosts, they invited us to stay for dinner. It wasn’t fancy: hamburgers grilled outside, with some side dishes. It was typical summer fare.

Of course, with such a large family, they had a deep freezer, so pulling out an extra package with a dozen hamburgers (to feed us) was no big deal! And I’m sure some of the older kids (okay, it was the 1960s . . . we know it was probably the girls . . .) were pressed into service, helping their mom prepare the sides. I was at that wonderful age of not being so young that I needed to be watched by my parents, and not being old enough to be actually helpful (besides, I was “company”), so I just got to play with my second cousins. Not that I knew they were second cousins back then . . . While I don’t remember all the details of the day, or the entire menu, I do remember seven extra mouths to feed being treated as “no big deal.”

Driving home after dinner, my mom and I discussed having a truly large family. Somehow their rule that no toys were allowed in the living room was mentioned. I was shocked! “Not even one?” I asked my mom. No, none. She reminded me that even with just ONE item from each child, that would be 16 things, making the living room pretty cluttered! Zero tolerance. I don’t remember where they could play inside (it was summer, so we were probably outside the whole time!), but the living room was not the place!

Transportation would have also been an issue. I don’t think 12-passenger vans were a thing back then, and the Partridge Family hadn’t shown us the idea of using an old school bus! Perhaps they lived close enough to church to walk there, or maybe they attended in shifts? I don’t know, but somehow, like everything else in their lives, they made it work, without a lot of fuss.

You may have read thus far and sensed this post is a little different than most. Where are all the details? The photos? The footnotes? Their absence is no accident. While Paul and his wife have passed away, the kids (some older than me, some younger) are still alive. Even in this era of more of our life is online than we really want to think about, people are still entitled to a little bit of privacy. I was intentionally vague.

If I give too many details, even if they aren’t “potential identity theft” data, people could figure out the family. They don’t need to be put on parade. Close family members will know who I am talking about; more casual readers won’t. But those readers don’t need to know exactly who everyone is. I wasn’t tackling some research problem, where one needed to follow along, knowing who all the people were, and how they were connected. This was just a simple story about a good family with more than the average number of kids.

There’s nothing “magical” about large families. Neither they, nor small families, are better than the other. Each has challenges and difficulties that the other probably can’t relate to, or begin to understand. We need to try to accept and celebrate each family as it comes along. The world loses so much from missing either.


Bachelor Uncle

Maybe? Maybe not?

Ignatz Joseph Schweiger was one of my grandmother’s older brothers.. Sometimes he shows up as “Ignatius” in records. He was born 15 October 1889, and had a twin sister (Clement Mary) who died 5½ months later. We find him in the 1900 census¹, an eleven-year-old schoolboy, and in 1910, 20 years old², with an occupation “Teamster, Street.” I don’t know precisely what that job entailed, but in 1910, it’s likely to be a horse and wagon, rather than a motorized vehicle.

Prior to 1913 (Al was married and in New York by then). Uncle Iggy is on the left. Photo credit: Fred Schweiger.

Even though Iggy and Al (Unusual Name) were working full time in 1910 (Sylvester and Fred were still in school), it would seem all were pressed into service at the family restaurant, probably on the weekends.

Uncle Iggy died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 9 June 1964; within my lifetime. He was brought back to Northbrook and buried in the Schweiger family plot (Cemetery), with his parents and some of his siblings. While I recall hearing about him (trust me, “Iggy” is a name a kid remembers!), I’m sure I never met him in person. But I’d always heard that he was my grandmother’s unmarried brother.

I’m not sure why he decided to move away from the family, to Milwaukee. It wasn’t that far away from everyone else–a couple hours, maybe? I’m sure he could have found similar work in the Chicago area, if he had wanted. From everything I’ve heard, he was a nice enough guy, and as you can see from the photos, he came back to visit the family. Whether it was for a 4th of July picnic . . .

4 July 1929. Uncle Iggy is to our right of the cute kid (my dad!) with the tree growing out of his head. Not sure of the source for the photo.

Or a visit from his brother in New York . . .

Iggy is 2nd from the right. Dorothea died 29 October 1932, so obviously this is before then. Photo credit: Fred Schweiger.

Or a family picnic when my grandmother’s three sons (and son-in-law) were safely home from the service . . .

23 June 1946. Iggy is in the back row, with the tie and suspenders!

In September, when I wrote about the education levels of Iggy and his siblings (Back to School), I tracked all of them down in the 1940 census. Highest education level was a question on that one. He was easy enough to find, living as a boarder with a family in Milwaukee. He was still a “team driver,” this time doing “city work.”

As I checked the other columns, a surprise jumped out at me. The marital status column had a “W.” Widower. Huh?? Had there had been a marriage I didn’t know about?

The census information was provided by the head of household, who, I learned from Iggy’s 1942 WWII draft registration4, was also his boss! Now, census records can have errors for a variety of reasons:

  • Sloppy handwriting (this page is very neat)
  • Careless copying (census pages are created from the “field notes” forms filled out. But only 2 other entries on the page had a “W,” so I doubt the enumerator “lost track” of where he was. Iggy was also on the last line.
  • The person providing the information not knowing. “Widower” is not the choice I would default to if I didn’t know someone’s status. I would think “single” would be the more likely assumption to make, if you saw no signs of wife or children. This was also his employer, so may have known him better than a random landlord might.
  • The person involved (in this case, Iggy) telling someone a status that involves the least amount of explanation. Again, “single” would generate fewer awkward questions to answer than “widower,” “divorced,” or even “married” when there’s no wife or children around.

So I decided to try and track down a confirmation one way or another for this supposed marriage. It’s entire possible he had a short-lived marriage (lots of women still died from childbirth complications) that either no one knew about, or they just didn’t talk about, because it was upsetting. If enough time goes by, it can just be forgotten about.

His 1917 draft registration (hard to find because his name was spelled wrong!) lists him single, and in Milwaukee. That’s usually a help in locating 1920 records. But no, I cannot find him in Milwaukee, or anywhere else:

  • He’s not in New York with his older brother.
  • He’s not with his parents.
  • He’s not with either married sister (in Illinois OR Wisconsin).
  • “Fuzzy” searches (first name OR last name, with a wider birth year range) netted nothing

After 3 days of beating my head on the wall (or keyboard), I decided to contact my cousin, Barb. I was hoping she had run across one or both census records. Many hands make light work, right? More like misery loves company. Talking (texting) it out, gave me other search ideas. For 1930, I looked up the family he was boarding with in 1940 — just in case he was still there. Nope. I located his 1917 and 1940 addresses, trying to determine the enumeration districts for 1930. I paged through two different districts, hoping to spot him. Again, no luck. None on Barb’s end, either.

Since I had this blog to write, further searching needed to be deferred. Why can’t we find him in 1920 and 1930?

  • We’re looking in the wrong place. He’s in Milwaukee in 1917, and 1935 (from the 1940 census), but he could be elsewhere in between.
  • He was missed by the enumerators. Twice? Somewhat less likely, but people DID get left off.
  • His name is mangled. I tried searches to bypass that, but may not have found the correct work around. And I searched page-by-page in 2 districts.
  • He was abducted by aliens for a decade and a half.

You may wonder why I’m obsessing about census records, when I’m trying to figure out a possible marriage. I did look for marriage records and found nothing. But not all of them are available online, so not finding a record doesn’t tell me why I’m not finding it. Not online, or never happened? On the other hand, the census always reports married state, and it’s a fairly complete record set. Finding him there might help me determine if the 1940 “widower” is accurate or not, and suggest if I should keep looking elsewhere, or give up. Yes, it could be wrong, but it at least gives me a clue.

I also searched Newspapers.com for records in Illinois and Wisconsin. I hoped for a marriage announcement, or maybe an obituary for the “mystery wife.” I found Iggy only as a survivor in his mother’s and his sister’s obituaries. I didn’t find one for him, nor do I have his death certificate. My experience is that death certificates are less likely to be accurate in the areas NOT directly recording the death. That information is provided by doctors or other people involved with the death event; the other data is provided by whomever. Especially in the case of a single person not living near other family, that will be a friend, neighbor, employer—whoever happens to be available—not necessarily someone who knows!

So I’m left, once again, with an incomplete story, and inconclusive answers. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to resolve it, as “proving a negative” is really tough to do. Unfortunately, none of the people best able to answer it (Iggy, his siblings), are alive. Even the next generation (my dad, his siblings, and cousins) has only a handful still alive, and they would have been babies at the time of the marriage, or not even born!

In the meantime, we’ll have to simply enjoy our memories and photos of Uncle Iggy, and save our questions of what the truth is for when we catch up with him. 


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 1172; sheet 11B; dwelling number 188; family number 193; line 94; Ignatz SCHWEIGER household; accessed 4 March 2019. Ignatz J. SCHWEIGER, age 10, Oct 1889; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 293; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 57; sheet 9A; dwelling number 168; family number 169; line 24; Ignaty[z] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 29 April 2018. Ignatz J. SCHWEIGER, age 20; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 239; 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).

4“U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942”, database, (https://www.ancestry.com), Ignatz Edward SCHWEIGER, serial no. 1071, order no. not given, Draft Board 14, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Wisconsin. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623284. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 4 March 2019.

At the Courthouse

Some stories are just sad . . .

Elizabeth Ann Schmitt is my 1st cousin, twice removed. She had a short, and sadly tragic, life, leaving us with more questions than answers.

Elizabeth was the first cousin of my grandfather, Edward Haws. She was born 26 October 1876, in Cooperstown, Wisconsin. Well, at least, that’s according to her grave marker (below). Ancestry.com has three different birth index entries for her, each with an 18 October 1876 date. The databases involved are:

  • Wisconsin, Birth Index, 1820-1907 (reel 116, record 002435)
  • Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928 (FHL Film number 1305082)
  • Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928 (FHL Film number 1305081)

Yes, I realize the last two are the same database, but note the different film numbers. The database description says it’s a compilation of birth, baptism, and christening details (1.4 million of them!) extracted by volunteers. I assume her birth appeared in two different sources, so it was indexed each time. The first index has a different data set. It contains over 1 million births recorded in the state before 1907, created by combining the index from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Vital Records Division, with one created by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Ideally I would view those actual microfilms to see the specific information included, and follow up with the original records. It’s on the to-do list.

An additional hiccup (aside from the date!) is that her name is listed all three times as Ann E. Schmitt. “Hold the phone!” you say. “Maybe she’s the wrong girl?” That was my initial reaction, too, but the bottom two index entries list parents’ names: Michael Schmitt and Dorothea Haas (how her name came over from Germany). It seems an unlikely coincidence to have two married couples in the same county with identical names having daughters eight days apart and naming them flip-flopped. What are the odds? I’m betting it’s her, even not having viewed the original records, yet.

While I have no explanation for the date discrepancy, we need to remember people back then weren’t as obsessed about birth dates as we are. It’s possible the index entries are wrong (dates difficult to read in the originals?), though the three different indexes were undoubtedly transcribed by different people. It would be odd for them all to misread the date the same wrong way. As for the name, perhaps her parents named her in a traditional German way (forename, “ruf” name), and later reversed it to traditional American usage. Just a guess!

St. James Cemetery, County Road R, Cooperstown, Wisconsin;
photo taken 29 July 2008, Christine Haws Bauman

We next find 3-year-old Elizabeth in the 1880 census¹, down the road from Cooperstown, in Gibson, Wisconsin. The AWOL 1890 census doesn’t help me at all, leaving a 20-year gap in her information. But she is with her parents in 1900², living in Ontonagon County, Michigan, just outside Bruce Crossing. Her father, Michael, is working as a “lumberman.” In 1880, he was working at a sawmill. I don’t know if he’s employed by the same lumber company—simply changing locations—or if it was a bigger job change than that. Regardless, the family had moved over 200 miles away, without much explanation. I did find a 31 May 1896 death record³ for a younger brother to Elizabeth (Henry) who lived only 3 days. The family was still in Gibson, so I guess that narrows the move window to four years.

Two months later, 21 August 19004, Elizabeth marries Dr. Wallace H. Vosburgh. He was practicing medicine in Cooperstown, so obviously came to Michigan for the wedding. Presumably they had done their courting prior to her move, when she was still nearby. While I’m not one to question “true love,” the match seems a little unusual—he’s an upcoming physician in the area (you can read his bio-sketch from the “History of Manitowoc County Wisconsin”5 —scroll down towards the end for him). While there’s nothing “wrong” with her family, it doesn’t seem they would have had the “social standing” one might expect the young doctor to be looking for. But who knows?

Little more than a year after the wedding, Elizabeth dies on 9 January 1902. Volunteers in Manitowoc have done an awesome job posting information on the county website: a cemetery (St. James) transcription, with links to a tombstone photo, as well as obituaries for Elizabeth:

BRIGHT YOUNG LIFE GOES OUT Wife of Dr. W.H. Vossburg [sic] at Cooperstown Died Suddenly A bright young life closed Thursday with the death of Mrs. W.H. Vossburg , wife of Dr. Vossburg of Cooperstown. The demise was sudden and brought deep sorrow to many friends. Mrs. Vossburg had never enjoyed the best of health, but her condition was in no way considered serious and her death was a painful shock. Decedent was 24 years of age and had been married a little more than a year. She was the daughter of W. Smith of Gibson and was well known here. Friends extend sympathy to the bereaved husband. The funeral will be held Monday.

Manitowoc Daily Herald, Saturday, January 11, 1902, Page 1

Death in Cooperstown on Thurs. of Mrs. W.H. Vossburg, the 24-yr. old wife of Dr. Vossburg there with whom she had been married for slightly over a year. Although the deceased had been ill for some time no one anticipated that her end was near, so her death was unanticipated and a severe blow for her husband. The funeral was held Monday.

From Der Nord Westen, 16 Jan. 1902 (translated from the original German)

The statue added to Elizabeth’s tombstone appears to testify to the doctor’s grief. He certainly spared no expense! Italian Carrara marble was what was used for Michelangelo’s David and Pietà (in St. Peter’s). This statue seems to have been carved in Italy, but the monument company certainly played up their small part in installing the piece!

Advertisement highlighting the statue acquired for the monument above. Green Bay Press Gazette, 6 June 1903, accessed 25 February 2019, from Newspapers.com

I know, you are wondering where the courthouse comes in. It’s coming!

If you happened to click the link to Elizabeth’s obituaries, you may have noticed the note at the end:
“(the following sent in by a family researcher/see contributors page) Elizabeth Anna (Schmitt) Vosburgh/b. 19 Oct. 1876/d. 9 Jan. 1902/wife of Dr. Wallace H. Vosburgh, M.D./dau. of Michael and Dorothy (Haws) Schmitt/cause of death: self inflicted drug overdose (morphine) but “not with suicidal intent”. She was addicted to drugs.” (emphasis mine.)

WHOA! We’re talking 1902, rural Wisconsin. What was going on? I’m not clueless, and I realize that patent medicines of that era contained alcohol, narcotics, and probably other ingredients we now know better than to use. What could have caused her to begin her use? Initially, I thought maybe she’d lost a baby, or had a miscarriage, or something else causing her to seek escape or relief. The obituaries were decidedly vague as to her health status, and didn’t suggest anything like addiction. I decided I needed to try and verify the facts closer to the source.

We had scheduled a trip to Manitowoc during the summer, more importantly, during the work week! I took one day to go to the courthouse (finally!) and look up records in the actual death registers. I found:

Elizabeth Vosburgh (born Elizabeth Schmidt), died 9 January 1902, Cooperstown, age 24 years, 2 months, 21 days. Born 19 October 1877. Father Michael Schmidt, born Wisconsin; Mother Dorothy Haws Schmidt, born Wisconsin. Cause of death: Narcosis from overdose of morphine taken by herself not with suicide intent. Addicted to drug for 5 years.

Manitowoc Deaths, Volume 7, page 35, record #33

So, there we have it: an official document (albeit one with her maiden name misspelled, her birth date wrong, and her father’s birthplace wrong!) Of course, Schmitt often got misspelled with a “d” replacing a “t,” and her husband might not have known her father was born in Germany. Death records are not reliable sources of birth dates, so we’ll give him a pass on that, too.

More unsettling than confirming the story, is the notation that she’s been addicted for 5 years. Her addiction started before her marriage. Presumably her husband had known about the situation before tying the knot. Had she been a patient of his? Had he initially prescribed the treatment? Was he attempting to wean her off morphine? Did he feel “responsible” for this tragic outcome? We’ll never know. Just as we’ll never know why or how she started down that path.

Death certificates frequently list other conditions the person may have had, but registers do not — their predefined columns don’t provide enough room. So we have no clue what other health issues were at play. All we know is that a young woman met with an unfortunate end, and that is sad.


¹1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Gibson, e.d. 065; Page 35; dwelling number 304; family number 307; line 32; Michael SCHMIDT [SCHMITT] household; accessed 25 February 2019. Elizabeth SCHMIDT [SCHMITT], age 3; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Ontonagon, McMillan Township, e.d. 157; Page 3B; dwelling number 74; family number 77; line 77; Michael SCHMITT household; accessed 2 March 2019. Elizabeth SCHMITT, age 23, October 1876; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 737; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³”Wisconsin Deaths and Burials, 1835-1968″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org), accessed 2 March 2019, entry for Henry SCHMIDT, 31 May 1896. Indexed entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records FHL Film Number 1306211, reference ID Pg.132 No.00764. citing St. James’ Cemetery, Gibson, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

4“Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 25 February 2019, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Ontonagon County, quarter ending 30 September 1900, record # 418. Wallace H. VOSBURGH (29) and Elizabeth A. SMITH (23).

5Dr. L. Falge, History of Manitowoc County Wisconsin, 2 vols. (Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1912), Wallace H. Vosburgh, M. D.; v. 2, p. 487-488. transcript accessed 3 March 2019 from. https://www.2manitowoc.com/biosV.html.