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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
Or a visit from his brother in New York . . .
Or a family picnic when my grandmother’s three sons (and son-in-law) were safely home from the service . . .
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.
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!
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!
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.
Half-cousin? Still related, just as important as a full cousin!
Some photos have had a rough life. The picture above is the only one I have of my mom’s half first cousin, Rose Ahrens Runge, and her family. I’m not sure why/how the photo acquired so many cracks and creases–enough that her son on the right is “missing” an eye.
Fortunately, armed with a scanner, editing software, time, and an abundance of patience, huge improvements can be made with damaged photos. The original was only about the size of a note card–3.5″ x 5″ or so. I decided to scan it at 1200 DPI (Dots Per Inch) for ease of editing, as well as allowing it to be blown up to a larger reprint. I wanted as many data points as possible! I started repairing the easier sections, and moved on to more difficult/complicated areas later on. That allowed me to “warm up” a bit, and get used to the process of filling in those missing pixels. “Clone” and “blur” tools became my friends. The results are much better!
When I finished editing, I sent an 8″ x 10″ print to one of the children in the photo, who was in his 70s at the time. My mom sort of knew who was who, but I thought it would be better to have someone more closely related confirming identities. They are captioned above. I’m narrowing the date based on a couple facts:
Ralph (on lap) was born 30 August 1933. He looks to be about a year old, but not over the age of 2.
Rosalie died in September 1936 of tuberculosis–she doesn’t look sickly, here.
Harry and Ruth had another daughter, Jean, in February, 1935, but she’s not in the photo. She could be napping, or Ruth could be pregnant. We can’t tell, because Ruth is standing in the back.
I’m stymied about month and day. Christmas and Thanksgiving are traditional times to get everyone together, but three of the women are wearing short sleeves — less likely in Chicago in November or December! Bottom line: the date is a guess, at best.
This is only a snapshot of time, though. Who were these people? You briefly met Charlie and Rose last week (Love), over a decade later than this, at my aunt and uncle’s wedding. Rose and my mom had the same grandfather, but different grandmothers. Rose was born 13 October 1885¹, making her three years older than my mom’s father (Rose’s uncle!). She was the oldest of seven. Unlike most of the rest of the Meintzer clan, Rose’s grew up in Chicago, not “out in the country” (what’s now the north and northwest suburbs), and remained there as an adult. Getting together with her Meintzer relatives took more effort.
Her husband, Charles August Runge, was born in Chicago, 21 January 1883. He and Rose married 21 May 1906², running off to Hammond, Indiana. Illinois has its 3-day waiting period after acquiring a marriage license, so Indiana and Michigan were (and are!) popular “marriage mills.” No waiting. When I located their marriage register entry, I discovered Rose was actually “Rosalie” — like her daughter. I had only ever heard Rose, so that was an interesting tidbit.
Charles and Rose had five children — that I know about, at least:
Harry L.: 13 December 1906 — 9 August 1997. He married Ruth Robrahn in 1929, and had two girls: Ruth Harriet and Jean C.
Charles E.: 12 April 1908³ — 5 November 1990. He married Catherine Stolle, and had Ralph G. and two daughters. In my file I had his wife spelled “Kathryn,” but locating her on Find-A-Grave (memorial 100882747), she shows up as “Catherine.” I presume her marker was carved with the name she preferred!
Rosalie Catherine: 11 July 19134 — 8 September 1936. She died young, from tuberculosis, never married.
Walter Clarence: 28 June 19175 — 11 February 2001. He married Lucille Goodrode, and then Mildred Jean Haggerty after Lucille’s death.
Raymond William: 16 October 1926 — 16 August 2015. He married Margaret Sorenson (had 3 daughters), and later, Phyllis Clark.
I had always heard that Charles was a musician. In doing my “due diligence,” for this post, I came across occupations I didn’t expect:
1910 census — bookkeeper for a brewery
WWI draft6 — bookkeeper, Indiana quarries
1920 census — bookkeeper, ???? (the writing doesn’t make sense)
1930 & 19407 census,WWII draft in 1942— bookkeeper (or financial serv.) for the Chicago Federation of Musicians.
Now I understand how he got linked with musicians! It doesn’t necessarily mean the story is wrong, though. Yes, it’s possible that someone misunderstood his “working for the Federation of Musicians” to mean that he was a musician. But maybe he had always been working as a musician on the side, and finally had an opportunity to work for them as a bookkeeper. It’s something I need to explore. His obituary8 mentions he was a “member of local No. 10, Chicago Federation of Musicians.” That sounds like he had joined the union. Would he need to do that if he were merely a bookkeeper? Or was that reserved only for actual musicians? More questions, more research.
I also knew Charles painted, because we had two of his oil paintings in the room with our TV. For some reason, they had been framed behind glass — something you shouldn’t do with oil! When my parents unframed them, to remove the glass, one was damaged (some paint peeled off). I’ve also acquired a water color of his. It must have been up on a shelf when I was growing up, as I don’t recall seeing it hung up. Quite likely, the two paintings you see in the background of the photo are works of his.
So, do half-cousins matter at all? Why do I need to keep track of them? Of course they matter! And yes, I do want to know who the current descendants are. Maybe they have photos or information I don’t have. Maybe I have information they need. If we are DNA matches, they are extremely helpful for pinpointing which ancestor we match from. This past week has shown me I need to do a little better by my half-relatives, and fill in the gaps of their trees. The fact that distance and time limitations have left us less in touch with each other is a poor excuse.
¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 827; Page 18A; dwelling number 309; family number 325; line 37; John AHRENS household; accessed 19 February 2019. Rosa AHRENS, age 14, October 1885; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 278; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
²”Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, citing Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001, Record number 12869. Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis. Charles RUNGE and Rosalie AHRENS.
³”Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Charles E. RUNGE, 12 April 1908, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1288154. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.
4“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Rosalie RUNGE, 11 July 1913, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1288289. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.
5“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Walter RUNGE, 28 June 1917, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1276320. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.
6“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.familysearch.org), Charles August RUNGE, serial no. 780, order no. 1883, Draft Board 58, 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. 1613683. accessed 21 February 2019.
71940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago Ward 50, e.d. 103-3225; Page 10B; household number 203; line 62; Charles RUNGE household; accessed 24 February 2019. Charles RUNGE, age 57; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1022; digital image, Ancestry.com.
8Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 7 May 1956, record number 19560507dn089. Charles A. RUNGE–“Member of local No. 10, Chicago Federation of Musicians”.
“Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” —Robert Browning
Valentine’s week (it upgraded from a “day” years ago!) just ended. For the last several weeks we’ve being told by advertisers we needed to ply our loved one with:
flowers (preferably long-stemmed roses, right?)
candy (chocolate, in a heart-shaped box!)
everything else under the sun (I’m pretty sure I saw car ads . . .)
All of the above (how can we put a price limit on our love??)
Add to that, the Hallmark Channel aired two weeks’ worth of movies guaranteed to put us into a diabetic coma. How can we mere mortals possibly live up to those romantic expectations? Odds are we never will. And it leaves us frustrated when we don’t seem to receive what we are “supposed” to.
If we are lucky, though, we have people in our lives who put everything in the proper perspective. For me, one of those couples is my Aunt Neva and Uncle Gail. Sadly, Aunt Neva passed away last month, just shy of 94 years. So she (they) have been on my mind a lot, recently. While this timing isn’t the best, I checked with my uncle and cousins first. I got their blessings, so will try to tread lightly.
Uncle Gail is my mom’s younger brother. Now in their mid-90s, they still talk daily, despite the four hundred miles separating them. Aunt Neva grew up in Elgin, Illinois. We find her with her parents in the 1940 census, in high school.¹ That may not seem far from my uncle in Deerfield, but it was still 30-35 miles—in pre-Tollway/Interstate days! Neva’s father worked as an engineer for the railroad, and after high school, she went to work for the Milwaukee Road, in Union Station. That was where she and Gail first met. They didn’t date then, due to the distance and gas rationing during WWII² (p. 46).
After being drafted and discharged, Gail went back to work with the Milwaukee Road, and ran into Neva, again. She remembered him after 2 years! They started dating² (pp. 71-73), eventually leading up to a Valentine’s Day proposal and then the photo above, 21 June 1947. The two lovebirds are easy enough to pick out, but the remaining cast is:
a friend of my uncle’s (holding the marriage license??)
“Uncle” Charlie and “Aunt” Rose Ahrens Runge. Rose is actually my mom’s and uncle’s half first cousin, daughter of my grandfather’s oldest half-sister. But Rose was 3 years older than my grandfather (her uncle!), so my mom always called her “aunt.” It was very confusing for me starting in genealogy, and she was not the only “faux aunt” in the tree!
Aunt Lena (Caroline) Moeller Mueller — my grandmother’s (Minnie) older sister — is partly behind Neva.
Great-grandma Elfrieda Jonas Moeller (Challenge) next to Gail
Aunt Lillie Moeller Tronjo — my grandmother’s younger sister
my grandmother, Minnie, holding my sister, Carole (who really seems to be making the wedding circuit (Surprise) early in life!)
Who belongs to the eyes and hat peeking over my uncle’s shoulder? With a little bit of calf thrown in for good measure? None other than my mother. I showed her the photo and asked why she was hiding behind her brother—she had no idea! Either the photo was taken before she moved into place, or she was feeling self-conscious at being VERY pregnant (my brother, Bob, was born 5½ weeks later!).
Of course, getting to the wedding day is one thing—getting through the next 70 years is another story! As a kid, I never thought about their “relationship” or how they got along. With his railroad work, they often weren’t living nearby, so the opportunities to visit were few. When we did, I was busy enjoying having cousins at least close to my age to hang with—I wasn’t keeping tabs on the adults! While I’m sure life was not perfect, I never had the sense of strain or tenseness when they were around. I think I would have picked up on that.
I think I first looked at their relationship at their 65th anniversary party in 2012. It wasn’t a family reunion, so I wasn’t running around, making sure everything ran smoothly. I didn’t have children to keep an eye on and out of trouble. I got to just be a guest—a rare treat! It was an opportunity to simply observe.
Gail & Neva had weathered good times, bad times, and everything in between, yet it was obvious they still adored each other. No, they didn’t always agree, but they did always care for and respect each other. The love they had for their children, grand children, and great grand children—and enjoyment of them—was clear. Those sentiments were equally reciprocated by their descendants, with a huge dollop of respect on top. It was lovely to watch.
As health issues cropped up these last few years, we witnessed a continuation of that care and concern for each other — not out of duty, obligation, guilt, or anything other than genuine love and wanting to do whatever was possible for the other. It was an important life-lesson.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, New American Bible
So thank you, Uncle Gail & Aunt Neva, for showing us for the last 71+ years what love really looks like! It’s not always moonlight and roses, it’s being there, when it matters the most.
¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinios, Kane, Elgin, e.d. 45-92; Page 8A; household number 151; line 12; Chas. JEWELL household; accessed 16 February 2019. Neva JEWELL, age 15; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 821; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
²Gail F. Meintzer, Detours: A Memoir of a Railroad Man (Green Bay, WI: Written Dreams Publishing, 2016).