Same Name

Just pick a name and stick with it, please!

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Most everyone this week will be writing about:

  • family names carried down from one generation to the next
  • families where all the brothers named their children the same, so it’s difficult to determine which of the cousins did what. I’ve got at least one of those . . .
  • people with the same name in the same town, roughly the same age, and how they sorted out who belonged where. I’ve got those, too!

In my typical, contrary way, I’m doing the direct opposite. You are going to meet my husband’s great-grand uncle, Wenzelaus Kukler. Or Venemi. Or Venson. Or something else entirely different, I don’t know!

I first met up with him in the 1870 census. I was trying to find my husband’s great-grandfather, Frank J. Kukler. Frank was born in Detroit, before the 1870 census (I didn’t have an exact date at that time), so the family should be enumerated in Detroit in 1870. I couldn’t find them. If you think “Kukler” has a simple spelling, guess again. It can have:

  • C or K at the beginning
  • U, O, or OO for the vowel–sometimes an E
  • K or C or CK for the next /k/ sound
  • LER or LA at the end (anyone remember Kukla, Fran, and Ollie? I’ve found the family with a KUKLA spelling!)

That left variations of Kukler, Cukler, Kookler, Cookler, Kuckler, Cuckler, Cucler, Koockler, Coockler, Coocler, Kucler, Kukla, Cukla, Kookla, Cookla, and probably some I’m forgetting. No matter how many ways I searched for the parents, Frank and Ann[a], nothing came up. Finally I gave up on them, and searched for the baby with first name and age only: Frank, born 1867-68, Wayne County, Michigan. While those may seem like ridiculous search parameters, I was banking on it being 1870. The smaller population might make it workable. I’ve found ages for baby/children tend to be more accurate in the census than for adults. There’s not much difference between a 31- and 33-year old, but a HUGE difference between a 1- and 3-year old! Usually the kids’ ages were right.

Scanning down generated the list I could quickly dismiss most of the surnames. Then it jumped out at me: GUCKLER! Say the names to yourself–with an accent–and you’ll see how one could be mistaken for the other. I clicked over to the image, and there were: Frank and Ann from Bohemia, right ages, along with little Frank, and two older siblings, Ann and Wenzelaus.¹ Both boys were born in Michigan.

Giddy with the thrill of victory, I looked for them in 1880, returning to the standard spelling. Frank and “Annie” were easy enough to find. Ann (daughter) is AWOL, so either deceased or married, and there are two more, younger, children. Somehow, though, Wenzelaus converted to Venson² (incorrectly indexed as “Venemi”–not helpful!), and now it says he was born in Bohemia! There’s also a lighter (pencil?) notation by his name–“Pulansky” From other records, I’d found Anna’s maiden name is “Plansky” or “Palinski,” so that is very close. Had he been born out of wedlock, so had his mother’s maiden name? Maybe. Does it matter whether he’s born in Michigan or Bohemia? Yes! It changes which years I need to look for them on a passenger list.

1880 is the last I see of him. It doesn’t help that the 1890 census was destroyed, leaving a 20-year gap to 1900. State census records are almost non-existent for Michigan. The one year that had pages for Wayne county . . . didn’t include the city of Detroit. So what happened to Wenzelaus? Take your pick:

  • He died after the 1880 census. Ok, that’s a given. How about–He died before the 1900 census?
  • He chose a more “American” first name (I’ve looked at name lists to see if there was one that Wenzelaus typically translated to–no luck).
  • He started using the Plansky/Palinsky/Pulansky surname.
  • He moved away–out of Detroit, or out of state.
  • All of the above, or any combination!

I started going through the Michigan databases at FamilySearch with really loose parameters: Pulanski (FamilySearch is pretty good about pulling in variant spellings), born 1860-1862. I found some records that fit people I already knew, but nothing for him. I noticed a couple guys with Walter and Vincent for first names. If you were going to Americanize Wenzelaus, those might be good choices–but those guys weren’t who I needed.

I looked through death record databases. Marriage databases. I redid the searches with the Kukler surname. Still nothing. I even tried doing a nationwide search, but with the uncertainty of his name(s), and a nondescript occupation from 1880 (“laborer” is as generic as it gets!), he could be anywhere, doing anything.

At this point I’m stymied. Every online tree I’ve seen with him has nothing other than the two references I’ve found. It’s like aliens abducted him. He’s a loose end, and if you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t really like those. I’ve found entries for the family of his younger brother, Frank J., in the Detroit city directories. That was decades later, though. Maybe a more thorough search for additional (earlier) directories would find Wenzelaus? Or whatever he was calling himself. It will require a vague, surname only search, for each of the spelling variations, and lots of browsing through pages.

Wish me luck!

#52Ancestors


¹1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, 2nd precinct, 6th Ward, Detroit; Page 33; dwelling number 288; family number 292; line 4; Frank GUCKLER household; accessed 4 September 2017. Wenzelaus GUCKLER [KUKLER], age 9; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 713; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, e.d. 305; Page 57; dwelling number 585; family number 618; line 27; Frank KUKLER household; accessed 4 September 2017. Venson KUKLER, age 20 (incorrectly indexed as Venemi); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 613; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Father’s Day

Dad life lessons? Priceless.

For the record, I’m no more comfortable with Father’s Day than I am with Mother’s Day. But I’ve said my piece, so no need to rehash it.

You learned about Dad’s wedding last week (Going to the Chapel). Fast forward to five kids later. When I was growing up, he was usually busy with something. “Free time” was in short supply, though I recall a game of Careers with him one Saturday morning. Of course, he dozed off (he was lying on the couch with the board on the floor), but he worked hard, and he was tired! I can’t begrudge him that.

He ran his rug cleaning business out of our home (Taxes), so even if he was working late, I could run down to say goodnight. I still get nostalgic at the scent of cleaning solvents . . . and I learned how to roll up area rugs like a pro before I started school. Yeah, he could manage them by himself, but an extra pair of hands never hurt. And maybe I got to stay up a bit later . . .

Weekends frequently involved taking care of yard work and home maintenance–after business matters! I quickly learned the best way to snag time with him was to tag along. So Saturday mornings there’d be a trip to the bank, and frequently a stop at Holland Hardware to pick up whatever was needed for that day’s project. Buying spray paint? It was my job to shake the can all the way home. I learned about tools–what they were called and how they were used. Sometimes I even scored a trip up to the roof of the house! When my parents bought the bungalow next door for a rental house, I learned about hanging wallpaper, transplanting bushes, and weeding.

fathers day
Robert Haws and daughter, Christine (about age 8?) on the roof of the house. Mom wasn’t thrilled (but DID take the photo!). Photo restored by Mark Halvorsen. 

Of course, Dad didn’t always work! He showed me how to make huts back in the pasture (open land behind our backyard) with the branches trimmed from the trees, and leaves piled on. We even made an A-frame hut with scrap lumber and the old storm windows from our front porch when Dad made new ones. What girl doesn’t need her own A-frame?

Then there were kite-flying lessons. No small balls of kite string in our house. Dad would let me use an almost empty spool of waxed carpet thread. He’d slide an 18-inch length of 1″x1″ pine through the center of the spool for handles. Man, those kites flew up! No matter how far we let them out, we never ran out of string, and the string rarely broke. One spring we had the brilliant idea to buy a box kite. Mistake! I don’t think we ever got that sucker up in the air, much as we tried. Whatever the trick is, we never discovered it.

Aside from life lessons learned from kite-flying (or failing!) and wallpaper-hanging, Dad made sure I could take care of myself. The spring I was in Driver’s Ed, he made me change the snow tires to regular tires on the 1967 Galaxie 500 AND the 1973 Pinto. This was before the days of front wheel drive and all-weather tires. I got to jack up each car, undo the lug nuts, remove each wheel (easy!), mount the new ones (harder!) and tighten them all up again. I had no excuse to be a “damsel in distress” if I got a flat. He also had me under the hood, learning how to check the oil, fill washer fluid, and know what the basic car parts were (long before engines were computerized–when the workings were simpler!). I am no mechanic, but can at least talk to one and not sound like a total idiot–or be completely clueless.

Dad was certainly no feminist, but long before women’s rights was a “thing,” he didn’t restrict my sister or me to typical gender roles. We weren’t trying to get on the boys’ football or basketball teams, but Math and Science were necessary classes for the two of us. Home-Economics-type things we could learn from Mom. Finances and investing? Mandatory! You already heard about my doing my own tax returns. I was a 22-year-old on my first job shaking my head over older co-workers who didn’t want to tie up $2000 each year in an IRA account.

Hair-brained, off-the-wall interests? Those were encouraged and supported, if it was feasible. I remember getting hooked on astronomy as a kid and wanting to build a device to measure altitude and azimuth of stars. The book I was reading showed one. Dad helped me cut out and paint a plywood base, figure out how to measure and mark the 360 degrees around that base, and build the post sticking up (paint stirring stick) with a movable protractor, straw, and sinker on a string for finding the altitude. Did it ever get used? Unfortunately, no, because after completion we realized:

  • we had no level place to set it during use, and more importantly
  • there were too many trees and buildings to be able to do much with it!

Oops! Regardless, we had fun, and I learned a lesson about building things–and maybe to think through the plan a little better, next time.

Did I learn everything in life from Dad? No. But caught or taught, I learned a lot of important things from him. Definitely time well spent. Thanks, Dad!

2003 11 06 roof
6 November 2003, Robert Haws on the roof of the porch, cleaning out the gutters, hooked up to his oxygen concentrator. Different house, 82 years old, but still can’t keep him on the ground!

#52Ancestors

Going to the Chapel

or not . . . ?

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20 December 1944, wedding photo of Ardyth Eileen Meintzer and Robert William Haws.

My parents, Robert William Haws and Ardyth Eileen Meintzer, got married 20 December 1944 in Deerfield, Illinois, by Fr. Murphy at Holy Cross Rectory. Wait, you say, rectory? Not church? Yep. Dad was Catholic, but Mom was Presbyterian. Dad received the dispensation necessary to marry a non-Catholic. Mom agreed to having children raised in the Catholic faith. Regardless, Church law at the time prohibited them from tying the knot with a ceremony inside the church. A priest could marry them, but it couldn’t be a “church wedding.”

So, how did they get to the . . . non-altar? Mom’s old boyfriend, Gene Lystlund, had broken up with her. Dad was a year ahead of Mom in school, and had graduated by the time she went to Highland Park (see comments) High School. Obviously they didn’t meet at church! But everyone hung out at Cox’s Sweet Shop, so they would have met there. She learned via the grapevine that he liked to dance–and was pretty good! A Job’s Daughters turnabout dance was coming up her Senior year, and Mom didn’t want to be stuck with a dud of a date who wouldn’t dance. So she asked my dad, who said yes, and I guess the rest is history.

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Cox Sweet Shop. High school hangout in 1930s-1940s, in Deerfield, IL.

They both attended comptometer (Taxes) school (not necessarily together) and worked in different offices in Chicago. But the romance progressed, and they eventually exchanged lover’s knot “promise rings.” Then Pearl Harbor changed the lives of many. My dad enlisted the following August (figuring he’d have more options by volunteering instead of waiting to be drafted) and was shipped out in Spring, 1943, to Espiritu Santa (now called Vanuatu). They did not get married before he left. Mom wanted to, but Dad didn’t want the possibility of her being left a widow, possibly with a child. Technically they were still NOT engaged.

For eighteen months they wrote letters and sent photos back and forth. Dad’s letters all got screened by the officer above him (Charlie Altier), to be sure no classified information or locations were being disclosed. Apparently Charlie would add notes onto Dad’s letters, letting Mom know that Dad was truthful about what he was telling her (i.e. not dating local girls behind her back, etc.). Did Charlie let other girlfriends know if their beau was a dog? I don’t know. My dad had no idea Charlie was commenting, but my mom remembers clearly.

We don’t have those letters. When they got married, my dad had my mom burn them all, saying he didn’t want promises made in the course of wooing her to be held over his head! Not that he didn’t make good on all of them eventually–I’m sure he did. He just didn’t want to be held to an arbitrary timetable.

At some point (fall, 1944?) he was informed he’d be going home over Christmas, with his next duty in Holtville, California. He wasn’t being sent back overseas, and would be able to bring a wife with him. So he proposed by mail, and Mom accepted. Waiting to propose in person simply wasn’t an option. He had only one month leave, so they needed to get married quickly, celebrate Christmas, and use the rest of the time for a honeymoon trip to California.

bob ardyth wedding_0001
20 December 1944. Bob Retzinger, Eugenia Tronjo, Robert Haws, Ardyth Meintzer

He wasn’t sure when he’d get home, either. He, Cliff, and Spike spent several days in San Francisco, waiting for a train to transport them to Chicago. Sailors on leave had low travel priority! He arrived in Chicago on 16 December. Illinois required a blood test (still does!), and had a 3-day waiting period, so the 20th was the first day they could get married. Dad’s brothers were both overseas, as were most of his close friends. Bob Retzinger happened to be home on leave also, so Dad asked him to be best man. Mom had it a little easier, and asked her cousin, Jean (Eugenia) to be maid of honor. Both sets of parents were there. Not a big or fancy wedding. It was war time, so you made do as well as you could. Mom DID splurge for a new dress–it’s still hanging in my closet. She says it was blue. It looks green to me. Let’s say “aqua” and call it even . . .

They spent Christmas with their families, then set off on their honeymoon by bus to California. But that’s a different  story . . .

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This is the caption for the top image. It is from an unidentified newspaper clipping, but probably the local Deerfield paper. This is the church they DIDN’T get married in! A new church was built in the 1950s, then stripped to support beams and redesigned in 1998. This original church was torn down in 1988. The rectory they were married in was built in 1938. You can see a photo of the rectory at Holy Cross’s website. (click and scroll down a bit)

 

#52Ancestors

So Far Away

“Doesn’t anybody stay in one place, anymore?”—Carole King

Well, apparently not my grandfather, Christoph Jacob Meintzer. At least temporarily. While sorting through the photo postcards for Storms I came across this one. It didn’t fit what I needed for that post, but I found it interesting, and saved it for today. Unfortunately, it raises more questions than it answers:

  • date? No postmark, but after 13 September 1913, since he refers to Minnie as “Wife.” Possibly before 1922, since he’s not asking about the baby/child. Or maybe later but there wasn’t enough space?
  • place? Arkansas. It’s a “staged” booth, but doesn’t really provide other clues
  • why? It seems he was there for work, since he mentions trying to get a cashier’s check to send money home to Minnie.
Arkansas_0001
Christoph Jacob Meintzer (top left) and two unknown men, after 27 September 1913

1913-14 postcard back_Arkansas 0001
“Dear Wife, Have not received an answer for my last letter, only got a postal from you but expect a letter tomorrow, we could not get a money order last night, the place quit selling them so we will have to find a new office so will send you as quick as possible. [upside down part] All the offices close at 6 o’clock now, so we will have to lay of[f] to get a money order if I don’t send you any this week will send you more next week. Love Christ XXXOOXX   Will write a letter as soon as I get yours” The stamp corner places the postcard production between 1910 and 1930, though the photo could have been printed on later than that.
 I showed the images to my 92-year old uncle and 96-year old mom, hoping they might remember hearing something about this. Christoph was easily identified on the left, but not the other two. Mom thought the man on the right “might” be Uncle Emil Mueller, but her brother wasn’t sure. Neither knew anything about their dad working out of state. My uncle did remember hearing as a kid about Siloam Springs, Arkansas, as well as “Shoals” and fishing trips in Arkansas. Maybe Christoph fished on the weekends?

Off to Google! There’s a Bull Shoals Lake near the Missouri state line, though the dam to create it didn’t start until 1947, completed in 1951. So while he may have fished there in the 1950s or 60s, I doubt he was there when he was still fairly newly married. Siloam Springs is father west, and was “around” in the early 1900s, but I have no idea what might have taken him there. I moved on to eBay, hoping to find similar photos with a location.

My search for “Arkansas postcards” netted 11,126 photos! I scrolled through pages of them (115 at 50 per page–stopping at that point), looking for a similar background. Nothing matched, though I saw many “old-timey” photos taken at an amusement park in Hot Springs called “Happy Hollow.” That got me thinking, Christoph didn’t have a car at that time. I assumed he shared the trip with the other men, with one of them driving. Then I remembered our tour of Hot Springs National Park, learning that trains came in regularly with patients for “the baths.” Train travel would have been much more reliable–and probably cheaper–then. Maybe my car assumption was wrong? If that’s the case, then they were certainly somewhere reachable by train.

I ditched eBay and went back to Google, now searching for images with phrases from the photo. Still no image matches, though I found a 1914 Irving Berlin song, “When It’s Night Time Down in Dixie Land.” Could that be the inspiration for one sign? Maybe so.

I didn’t feel any closer to an answer, though, after several days of searching. Where did that leave me?

  • date? I think I’ve narrowed it down to 1914-1917. Why? The song’s copyright date (after their marriage), and his WWI draft registration, when he was employed at the Illinois Brick Company.¹ In 1910,² he was the last child living at the farmhouse with his parents. His occupation was “day laborer, odd jobs,” but his father (age 80) still farmed. I presume Christoph was working with him, doing odd jobs on the side. Minnie and he got married twenty days after his mother died (did they intentionally wait?), and they lived with her parents, while his father eventually moved into his oldest daughter’s house. With no kids, I can see that 3-year window being a time when Christoph could have gone for work out of state.
  • place? Still not narrowed down, though I’m more seriously considering Hot Springs. Little Rock would also have train service from Chicago, but searches for similar types of photo ops there came up dry.
  • why? My guess is he didn’t find steady work immediately after he got married, so took advantage of a temporary opportunity. He was clearly in Arkansas for a while–at least enough time to send a letter (presumably with a cashier’s check), anticipate one in return, and was going to be gone long enough to “send more next week” if he couldn’t arrange sending the money that week. If he was leaving soon, the money would just come with him. That’s a month, minimum, by my reckoning. He worked at the Shermerville brickyard at least 1917-1920. Two years later, my mom was born. It seems unlikely he would have taken work out of state after that.

What next? I can hope a 2nd or 3rd cousin reads this and remembers hearing a story that might help nail down more details. More images could appear online at some point, assuming I find time to wade through them. I could contact the Northbrook Historical Society to see if they recognize either of the two gentlemen. Maybe they are aware of ads circulating the area between 1914 and 1917, offering employment in Arkansas. Or I could send a query to a Rootsweb mailing list in Arkansas, to see if there was a large project in that window that would have pulled in workers from out of state.

Does it matter if I ever figure this out? Maybe not. It’s just a small piece of my grandparents’ history that’s mostly undocumented. But it tells us a bit about their lives, and the choices they had to make. It would be nice to iron out the details to have a better understanding of it–and them.

#52Ancestors


¹”U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918″, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Christoph Jake MEINTZER, serial no. 1167, order no. 106, Draft Board 1, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1,504,100; accessed 3 June 2018. Registered 5 June 1917.

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Vernon Township, e.d. 108; sheet 5A; dwelling number 86; family number 87; line 15; Christ MENTZER household; accessed 3 June 2018. Christ MENTZER age 22 [name MEINTZER incorrectly enumerated]; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 301; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Military

“War is hell.”—William Tecumseh Sherman

The photo below is my 2nd great-grandfather, Johann Mathias Bruder, in his Civil War uniform. You met him in The Old Homestead, married to Elizabeth Jost, and the father of Anna. I obtained this print from relatives in Wisconsin while in my teens. As you can see from the printing on the right edge (inverted), it was printed in July 1977. Technology at that time required you to take a photo of the image to get a negative, then prints could be made from that. Unfortunately, this one looks a little blurry, plus the negative was inadvertently placed upside down during printing. But I figured I’d get grief from everyone if the belt buckle was backwards, so I flipped the image. It’s really hard for me to look at him with the gun in his left hand, though! Perhaps some day I’ll cross paths with the original and can get a clearer scan.

Bruder uniform
John M. Bruder, 1834-1915, Civil War service photo.

His records (including military) use a lot of variant names, which I won’t discuss, now. Some other blog post! I’ll simply refer to him as “John M.” to be consistent.

He and his parents emigrated from Bavaria before 1847 (sister’s birth in Wisconsin), and his father died some time between 1855 (Wisconsin State Census) and the 1860 Federal Census. John M. served two terms as a volunteer:

  • 5 February 1863 – 8 September 1863, Company I, 34th Wisconsin Infantry
  • 30 September 1864 – 6 June 1865, Iron Brigade, Company D, 6th Wisconsin¹

If you looked at the sources, I can hear you saying, “Hold on! different names; different guys!” Not so. Fortunately, despite the 1890 census being almost completely consumed by fire, the 1890 veteran’s census survived.² While it lists his 2nd service date in the top portion, the lower section documents the earlier stint, too. He also applied for a pension. That paperwork lists both enlistments. More on that, later.

Tracking military activity of a unit is not terribly difficult. Based on his service dates, in 1863 he primarily served in the “west.” The 34th moved to Fort Halleck, Columbus, Kentucky. His Company then moved to Cairo, Illinois, at the end of April. It appears he stayed there until he mustered out in September, returning home. None of the information I found gave me the impression that area of the country saw much action.

In 1864 he was drafted and sent further from home. He was involved with parts of the Petersburg seige (June 1864-April 1865). The 6th Wisconsin was at Hatcher’s Run (Boydton Road and Dabney’s Mills), then continued on with the Appomattox Campaign, 28 March – 9 April 1865. They fought near Gravelly Run, Five Forks, and then pursued Lee to Appomattox Court House. After Lee’s surrender, the unit took part in the Grand Review on May 23rd, then moved to Louisville, Kentucky, finally mustering out in July.

You’re wondering about the pension, aren’t you? I’d read articles about the wonderful “finds” in pension packets: birth/baptismal certificates, marriage certificates, family Bible pages, photos. In 2000, before the cost to request it increased, I sent away for his. I heard back a year later, and sent my $10.

It was a little disheartening when the envelope arrived. The photocopies contained none of those precious treasures. Even the application was uninspiring: “Are you married? Yes but dead.”³ No name, marriage date, nothing. Apparently he figured she wouldn’t be entitled to anything, so didn’t waste his time. Same thing with the section for children: “All over 16 years of age.” No names or birth dates. Nothing to confirm what I thought I knew.

But then I delved deeper. He began the pension process in 1887, and it continued until 1912. Initially he was rejected, but finally was granted a $12/month pension (just shy of $300, today) “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.”³ He received payments until he died, 8 March 1915. I don’t know if he received “back pay.”

The pages detailed his claim, in his words and those of neighbors and fellow soldiers, giving us a glimpse of their military experience. “While . . . in the line of duty at near Petersburg . . . while on a heavy marching . . . crossing and wading  through a River and swamps up to their breast, and thereafter marching all day in their wet clothes, and it being at the time cold and inclement weather, he contracted a cold, wich caused a Rheumatism, of wich he then and thereafter eversince is suffering and affecting and weakening his Eyes . . . that sometimes he cannot see any person or object if only 10 feet before him”³ No wonder he couldn’t see the obstruction!

Joseph Wetor’s affidavit describes “6th and 7th day of february 1865 before during the battle of Hatchers run . . . disagreable wether of wich we was exposed them times, without tents and blankets, wich we had to leave in camp lasted for some weeks after.”³ John Entringer’s relates a similar experience, adding, “in the mourning being sometimes being covered with Snow or wet allthrough from heavy rain.”³ General Sherman knew what he was talking about!

Filmmaker Ken Burns has spent the last forty years teaching us to observe history from a personal perspective. The pension packet may not have given me the “vital facts” I initially looked for, but I found something far more important.  I saw a partial picture of John M. Bruder’s war experience; one I wouldn’t have, otherwise. I also have his signature. Thank goodness he was initially denied, or the additional descriptions from his comrades in arms wouldn’t have been needed! As far as I know, he didn’t keep a diary, so this paperwork is all we have of that period of his life.

When we visited Appomattox Court House with our kids in December, 1999, I had no idea my 2nd great grandfather had been there before me. I realize he was a lowly private, and not in the parlor with Lee signing the surrender to Grant. But knowing that he was one of many participants to a pivotal day in history makes that day hit closer to home.

Best $10 I ever spent.

#52Ancestors

1884-1894 BRUDER John M JOST Elizabthe
John M. Bruder and his wife, Elizabeth Jost, possibly taken between 1884 and 1894. While it’s not obvious his left arm is missing, it easily could be.

¹Wisconsin. Adjutant General’s Office, Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume II, https://books.google.com, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, p. 544. 34th Regiment Infantry, Company I; name: Brüder, Mathias.  and   Wisconsin. Adjutant General’s Office, Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, https://books.google.com, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, p. 509. 6th Regiment Infantry, Company D; name: Bruder, John M.

²”United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War, 1890,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-R3SC-MZ?cc=1877095&wc=M628-XJQ%3A174322201%2C174474101%2C174320903 : 22 May 2014), Wisconsin > Manitowoc > All > image 15 of 58; citing NARA microfilm publication M123 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

³John 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.

Another Language

What? It’s not all in English?

I speak English. But I’ve spent 3/4 of my life learning–or at least dabbling in–other languages, including:

  • a feeble attempt when I was a kid to learn French from some phonograph records we had around the house
  • Latin, as a study hall elective in 7th and 8th grade (thank you, Mr. Rash, it DID help with learning Spanish!)
  • Spanish–four years in high school, then two level 3 classes in college. I still periodically think to myself in Spanish
  • German–three semesters in college, so I would know something of the language for genealogy. One semester, Spanish & German were back-to-back, so my Spanish prof heard “Ja!” and “Danke!” and the German prof heard “Sí” and “Gracías.”
  • Italian–I have a MOOC class series that I need to find time for, but mostly I muddle through from the similarities with Spanish
  • Gaelic–from a MOOC class. It’s beautiful, but even more annoying than French! Definitely still a work in progress

With German and Alsatian (which is its own language, and I do have a book for it) ancestors, German and French get more of a workout than the others. Sometimes Latin pops up in older Catholic records.

Unfortunately, the foreign language documents I find are not just in another language, they are in script in that language, so I have to struggle with the handwriting, as well as the translation. Remember the Kreuzebra, records? (Mother’s Day) There was a first name I could not decipher–until records a couple of years (pages) later, when the first letter was written differently. Then I realized it was my own first name I couldn’t read! That was embarrassing–and humbling.

Occasionally I play quick and dirty, merely picking out the name(s) and date(s). Since I already know what kind of record it is, extracting that basic information seems like an easy answer. It’s not always the best choice, because I risk missing important information. So I’ve learned (forced myself?) to go slower, just in case. I also make a point now of transcribing the original language, so I have that retyped, and the translation typed to correspond with it. With handwriting, it’s difficult enough to get through once. I’ve learned that the more I look at it, the easier it gets, but if I take a break and come back to it the following year, I am starting all over again. So the transcription saves me from redoing my work.

I like to save the entire page, rather than just the entry I’m looking at. Frequently there is a “formula” to how the information is recorded in the record. While the word in my record might be smudged, sloppy, or somehow unreadable, that same word in the entries before or after may be clearer, helping me transcribe (and then translate) mine. The same person usually wrote all of them, so it helps in getting used to their handwriting style.

If I had any doubts about whether it was worth all that work, those were put to rest with my 5th great grandfather, Georg (no “e” in the German name) Amberg (1723-1807). He was the great-grandfather of Catharine Gaertner (In the Census) and great-great-grandfather of my great-grandmother (Catharine’s daughter), Sophia (My Favorite Photo). It was 2015, and my 2nd cousin once removed, Donna Bell, and I were tag-teaming our way through Georg’s death record from 21 Dec 1807.¹

She found the record and started the task, smartly deciding to type it up so each line of translation ended when the handwritten line ended. It made keeping track of where we were MUCH easier! I think we inserted underscores where there was a word we didn’t know. She “picked the easy fruit” (same as I would have), and batted it over to me. I pulled out more words (colored type is a blessing) and sent it back. We ping-ponged the translation, layering more words on, and it started to make more sense.

It also became clear that I did NOT want to have to decipher the handwriting again, so I needed a transcription (a copy of the original) as well as a translation. I opened a blank Word document and started typing the actual text, continuing Donna’s idea of stopping at the end of each handwritten line. Below the German I typed the translation we’d arrived at, lining the words up with those above.

One concern was not seeing some form of the word “sterben”–German for “die”–or “toten” (“kill”). Those are the words I most often see in death records. Even with the difficult handwriting, those word shapes are pretty identifiable–and they were not there. There was an unrecognizable word, long, starting with a “v”. I tried guesses in Google Translate. I pored over my German dictionaries (yes, two!). I pulled out If I Can, You Can Decipher Germanic Records by Edna M. Bentz, to unravel what the letters were. I looked at the other records that year, in case one was more readable than mine. Still no luck.

Finally I tried reverse engineering. I looked up “die” to see my options. Google had a lot of choices–none of them close. Back to the paper dictionaries. BINGO! The mystery word was “Verscheiden ist”–passed away, or deceased. Persistence finally paid off.

Was it worth all the effort to translate the entire record? I think so. We now have a document showing what we believe the German to be, and how we think that translates to English. And I threw notes at the end to explain a bit of how we arrived at our conclusions. If someone has a question or concern, it’s a good starting point, and we don’t have to start from scratch. I’m pretty sure next time I will start with the transcription document, just to save myself time, later on.

Are there people who do translations for you? Yes. But I like the exercise of working through it myself. I learn so much more. I might send my final translation to a native-speaking person to see if I got it right, but if I’ve made it easier for them, they may be more likely to take the time to check my work.

Foreign language records? Bring them on!

#52Ancestors


¹http://archives.bas-rhin.fr/detail-document/ETAT-CIVIL-C273-P1-R179131#visio/page:ETAT-CIVIL-C273-P1-R179131-1277382 [you need to scroll down and hit “accepter” to accept the terms of service to see the record(s)]

Mother’s Day

Not always the warm fuzzy we’d like it to be.

I have an uneasy relationship with Mother’s Day, for a variety of reasons. It’s not that I don’t think mothers should be celebrated or honored. I had a great mother (still living, at age 96), four wonderful adult children, and five grandchildren, who I dearly love. But the holiday itself just makes me uncomfortable.

I first noticed it as a child, with the blessing at the end of Mass on Mother’s Day. All the mothers were supposed to stand up, but my mom didn’t. She wasn’t Catholic, and rarely went to Mass with us. To me, it seemed unfair that she didn’t get the blessing–she had certainly earned it, having to put up with me! As I got older, I decided God would take care of blessing her, even if she wasn’t there.

Then I grew up, got married, and had children. I came in contact with other women who

  • were having difficulty getting pregnant
  • had miscarried
  • had stillborn babies
  • had lost a child (Cemetery)
  • had lost custody of/contact with their child

So even as I stood in church, squirming child in my arms, sometimes not so thankful I was a mother (come on, we’ve all had days/weeks/months like that!), I would notice the women not standing. My heart would ache for them, not necessarily knowing the reason. Truthfully, every year it was harder for me to stand, not because I was ashamed of being a mother, but because it seemed like salt in the wound for the known and unknown women who were hurting–whether or not they were standing. I didn’t want my kids freaking out about, “Why isn’t Mom standing!?!?!” so I always stood. I seldom do, now, though.

With genealogy, I find these wounds regularly. Miscarriages won’t be recorded–because few of them are ever known beyond the mother and father. Stillborn children and those who died young I always include on the tree as I learn of them. Even if they are unnamed, they need to be remembered and mourned. One of my dad’s cousins had three daughters . . . and also three sons who died at or shortly after birth. The generations coming up need to know about those branches that got pruned too soon.

I remember looking through the Kreuzeber, Thuringen, Germany, microfilm church records for the mid-1800s at a Family History Library (Film 1193951 Item 1 DGS film #007768336). My great grandfather, John Haase, and his wife, Elisabeth Nachtwey, were born there, married, and had at least one child before emigrating to Wisconsin. I had located the specific events I needed for them, then started back at the beginning. I scrolled through Births, Marriages, and Deaths for each year, looking for other Haase and Nachtwey family.

I found the names of John’s parents, and at least one brother. But it was a small village, so I assumed anyone with those surnames were likely to be a relative. My plan was to print the pages with a Haase or Nachtwey record, then I could bring them home and sort out the people. Unfortunately, the “sorting out” phase is still waiting to be done . . .

As I scrolled through, I jotted notes to myself, so I knew which pages to print later. Capital “H” and “N” are fairly easy to pick out, even in funky German script, so I could cover a decent number of pages each time I went to the library. One afternoon I was tooling along when I let out a pretty audible, “OH!” Half a sigh, like air being let out of a balloon. I quickly glanced around to see if anyone was giving me the evil eye for being noisy. Fortunately, no one was.

I had just found the death record for a very young girl. It was the mid-1800s, so not a terribly unusual occurrence. But I had just seen the birth record for this girl. For whatever reason, that particular day, finding her death record left me feeling sad, and wondering about the mother.

How did she cope with her loss? Did she think about this little girl, or try not to? Is she happy that a complete stranger (me) is now acknowledging her child’s brief life, and mourning its loss, even after more than 150 years? Does it give her satisfaction knowing her child will always have a spot in at least one persons’s family tree? I don’t know, but I hope so. I hope that mother can rest easier knowing someone besides herself remembers and mourns her child.

Mother’s Day. It’s a little trickier than flowers and chocolate.

#52Ancestors