The Old Homestead

Be it ever so humble . . .

I have lots of old homesteads in my life:

  • 2 houses in Glencoe, IL, built by Edward M. Haws (Grandpa)
  • 1 house in Deerfield, IL, also built by him
  • the house in Manitowoc, WI, where my dad was born
  • numerous houses in Northbrook, IL, lived in by my mom and her extended family members
  • the Nolan farmhouse in Smiths Creek, MI, from Mike’s family
  • assorted houses in Port Huron, MI, belonging to the other side of his family
  • 2 houses Mike grew up in, in Detroit, MI, as well as his grandmother’s
  • my parents’ 2 houses
  • my own 2 houses

I have recent photos of them all, but today’s winner is the farmhouse in Kossuth, WI–between Manitowoc and Francis Creek. My great-grandfather, Frank Haws, and his wife, Anna Bruder, lived there until 1932, or so, when they sold it and moved to a “house in town” in Francis Creek. It had been in the family since 1850, though.

Haws farmhouse new

Former Haws farmhouse, 6604 County Road Q (New Q), Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It’s north of Shoto Road, and just south of the intersection where the north end of Old Q connects with New Q, on the west side of the road. This photo was taken by my parents in 1999. My dad’s cousin (who grew up in the area) drove with them to find it. Google Maps street view shows the house still there in 2013.

The property was first owned by Nicholas Jost, who purchased it from the government in 1850:

1850 08 10 JOOST Nicholas land description

description of the land parcel purchased by Nicholas Joost [Jost], 10 August 1850: “the South East Quarter of the North East Quarter of Section twenty five, in Township twenty, North of Range twenty three, East, in the District of Lands subject to sale at Green Bay, Wisconsin, containing forty acres,”      https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=WI1410__.187&docClass=STA&sid=l42wzwfj.cni#patentDetailsTabIndex=1

The 1872, 1878, and 1893 plat maps of the area (see snips below) show the property transferring from Nicholas Jost, to John M. Bruder, to Frank Haws.

scan0017

Haws farmhouse in the 1920s, maybe? Frank Haws is probably the man in the hat (by right corner of the window), and Anna Bruder Haws is probably the woman sitting nearest the door. The two young women (standing) are probably grand aunts, but I’m not sure which ones.

1872 kossuth plat map

1872 plat map. The red box is around the N. Jost (hard to read) property described above. The green arrow points to the dot/square showing where the house is located on the property. The double line winding to the right is “Old County Q”–a road that is still there. http://www.2manitowoc.com/1872pl14.html

1878 kossuth plat map

1878 plat map showing the house still there and the property now owned by John M. Bruder. Old County Q is visible. http://www.2manitowoc.com/1878plt14.pdf

1893 Kossuth plat map snip

1893 plat map. The house is still there (green arrow), as is Old Q. Frank Haws now owns the property. http://www.2manitowoc.com/1893plt13.html

Nicholas Jost is found on the 1850 census.¹ I can’t tell if he’s living in this house when the census was recorded, since the land purchase was later than the census date. In 1860, he’s hard to find because his last name was written “Jose” and indexed as “Jase.” The 1870 census² lists his son, Mathias, as the head of household, with Nicholas living there as well. Nicholas still owns the property according to the 1872 plat map, but by the 1880 census, John Bruder is the head of household, with Nicholas (his father-in-law) still living there.

Of course, the 1890 census (mostly destroyed in a fire) provides no help, but Frank is in the house by 1893. I probably need a road trip to Manitowoc to help me nail down the exact transfer dates, but each one is well before the death of the previous owner.

What I find most curious, though, is that the property does not transfer down through the sons, as one would expect. Both transfers are to the spouse of a daughter. Nicholas’s daughter, Elizabeth Jost, was married to John M. Bruder, the next owner. It wasn’t

part of her dowry (if they even did that), because John & Elizabeth married in 1860–long before they acquired the property.

Why didn’t it pass along to her brother, Mathias? While he did work the farm at the time of the 1870 census, he moved his family to Marathon County after that. Why he didn’t stay around and wait to inherit, I don’t know.

Anna Bruder, one of John & Elizabeth’s daughters, married Frank Haws in 1885. That’s twenty years before her father’s death, so the property wasn’t an inheritance. The 1885 Wisconsin census³ still lists John Bruder in that neighborhood, so it wasn’t a dowry/wedding present for her, either. She had four brothers, all living to adulthood. Why were they passed over, for a son-in-law? I have no idea.

While several of the western states (Wyoming, Montana, Utah, among others) granted extensive rights to women long before the rest of the country, Wisconsin was not on the forefront for that. So I find it interesting that this family seemed to depart from the norm, and wish I had a better explanation for it. I’ll keep an eye out for anything that might give me some insight, but won’t hold my breath. Even so, it’s nice to see the old farmhouse still in use, even if it has left my family’s possession.

#52Ancestors


¹1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Manitowoc Rapids; Page 44 (written); dwelling number 207; family number 213; line 18; Nicholas YOST [JOST] household; accessed 21 March 2018. Nicholas YOST [JOST], age 54; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 1002; digital image, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org).

²1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth; Page 13; dwelling number 92; family number 85; line 2; Mathias JOIST [JOST] household; accessed 21 March 2018. Cathrine JOIST [JOST], age 35; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org).

³Wisconsin State Census, 1885, Manitowoc, Kossuth; page 4 (center top), line 6; J. BRUDER entry; accessed 21 March 2018. digital image, FamilySearch Record Search(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6DH7-CS9?i=49&cc=1443713 free); citing State Historical Society, Madison.

Misfortune

“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.”—Washington Irving

Every extended family has misfortune of one sort or another, somewhere along the line:

  • failed crops/losing the farm or house
  • illnesses/accidents
  • women dying from complications of childbirth
  • infant/child deaths
  • marital discord
  • loved ones not returning from military service

The family lines I research are no different. As a researcher, it’s my responsibility to record and document what I find. Sometimes, though, the information is of a “sensitive” nature. I’ve learned to put on my “Sargent Joe Friday” hat to record “the facts” and keep my opinions and biases out of it–not get caught up in the drama, and hopefully not create any! It’s certainly not my job to judge. Hopefully I succeed.

But I am not merely a researcher–I usually am part of that family in some way. As such, I must be mindful of the people involved or affected by the event or situation, and not sacrifice feelings or privacy in my zeal for “the truth.” The need to temper how information is handled might be because

  • the event is very recent, and people haven’t healed
  • it might be embarrassing–and the people involved (or very close) are still alive and would feel hurt
  • it really isn’t my story to tell

On occasion I will put notes in a private area, so I don’t lose track of the information, but keep it out of general circulation. More often, I simply record it, but not draw attention to it. If it’s noticed by someone, I can discuss it with them, perhaps providing more explanation and context. Time and distance provide perspective, and as time goes by, the sensitive topic generally becomes less touchy.

While I can find at least one example of each of the misfortunes above, I’m going to drop back 300+ years to Alsace (NE corner of present-day France). That should give us LOTS of perspective! The year is 1673, and Alsace is still comprised of kingdoms, duchies, and whatnot. While my ancestors lived in Dehlingen, Lorentzen, Waldhambach, Berg, and other small villages in Bas-Rhin; Diemeringen was the location of the local lord. As such, it is where trials would have been held, and punishments meted out.

Genealogist Robert Weinland (an 8th cousin, once removed, I believe) put together a web page for his genealogy in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, my original link broke, though the information can still be accessed via the “wayback machine” at Internet Archive: (copy and paste this 2007 link)

https://web.archive.org/web/20070827184109/http://www.robert-weinland.org:80/sorc.php?lang=en

Though further searching turned up his current web page at this address (you may need to run Google Translate on it):

https://www.robert-weinland.org/sorcellerie/

In the section listing the people “beheaded and burned near the gallows” on 16 October 1673, three of the six listed are direct ancestors of mine:

  • Ottilia [Bach], widow of Carl Ensminger,
  • Margaretha, wife of Anstett Hemmert,

and (my favorite, but don’t tell the others . . . ),

  • Walburga/Walpurga [Eberhard], wife of Johannes Koeppel

Two 9th great-grandmothers, and one 10th great-grandmother. Why is Walburga my favorite? She was the first one I learned of. Just like a first kiss or a first love, the first witch is something special. I love Otillia & Margaretha, too, but they are just extra icing on the cake.

Their death record in Diemeringen (transcribed and translated at the bottom of Robert’s web page) simply records the deaths, giving no information regarding the charges against any of them. I don’t know if any court-type records survive in Diemeringen that could shed light on the events leading up to these people being accused and found guilty. All three were older (thankfully, or they would’t be direct ancestors!), and surprisingly had adult children, and husbands (except for Ottilia) alive at the time of their execution. Generally, those accused of witchcraft were more likely to be alone in life and not have close relatives who could protect them. It seems a little odd mine were singled out, despite having family. Interestingly, one of Walburga’s sons was the maire (mayor) of Dehlingen later on, so clearly it didn’t impact his reputation negatively.

The consensus now is the Salem, Massachusetts, witch accusations were baseless–caused by anger, fear, or jealousy, and “confirmed” by atypical behavior by the accused. Some of the behaviors could have simply been eccentricities (hey, some people like dancing naked in the woods during a full moon!), or physical (epilepsy?) or mental (schizophrenia?) illnesses that were unknown, not understood, or treatable at the time. It’s unlikely accusations in the “old world” were much different. I seriously doubt they were casting any spells on people or things.

Am I upset or embarrassed by my witches? Heavens, no! While I am not “proud” of them, I’m certainly not bothered by them, either. They had the misfortune of being out of step in some way with the rest of the local society, and suffered for it. So I love my witches–all of them. Hopefully at some future date, no 9th-great-grandchild of mine will be embarrassed by my eccentricities or (figurative) warts . . .

#52Ancestors

Lucky

Luck. Is it random? Or do we make our own?

I don’t consider myself particularly lucky. I don’t gamble in casinos, play the lottery (though I DO pick up discarded lottery scratch-offs, occasionally scoring an unclaimed winner!), or have any relatives winning the Lotto–and offering to share. I don’t know any relatives who missed the “Titanic” or “Lusitania”, either. What to write about?

My two hour walk this morning provided ample time to ponder the question. As usual, while I wandered, so did my mind. It occurred to me how much luck is actually involved with our existence. More than once, while researching and recording information for one of my nth-great-grandmothers, I’ve thought how perhaps her most important accomplishment was simply raising my ancestor to adulthood. Some of these great-grandmothers buried half of their children, so it was harder than we may want to think about.

Not that she would have really thought much about it. Her life was a daily routine, busy with taking care of the house, cooking, cleaning, growing vegetables, sewing clothes, etc. Kids were simply part of the equation. But with cholera, typhus, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, and plain old bacterial infections (no antibiotics or immunizations then!), raising children to adulthood was not a given.

Yet, if she hadn’t kept that particular child alive, history would be changed. “Little H” history, not History. That child would not have been around to marry his/her spouse, and NONE of the people down that line would be here–most notably, me! So you would be sitting there, reading a cat blog, instead of this one–unless you happen to share that ancestor with me. Then you wouldn’t be here, either. Don’t forget to multiply that bit of luck for each generation between, because a broken link anywhere along that line changes everything that follows.

Then my mind wandered over to my genealogy research. Losing all my grandparents at a young age certainly wasn’t lucky, but fortunately I started while I still had grandaunts and granduncles on all four branches, who patiently answered my questions (see Start). They gave me a solid base of information. Naturally, all my charts were on paper–there was no “online” back then. My dad drove me to the Newberry Library one Saturday, and we cranked through I don’t know how many reels of microfilmed census records. Otherwise, everything else was done by snail mail, and without original documents.

I got married. Mike really had no interest in genealogy, so my the paperwork lived in one box. One. Okay, I’ll wait till you finish laughing. With only five vacation days per year, he wasn’t interested in visiting courthouses (I could sneak in a cemetery once in a while), nor did he want to spend half of his weekend at the Indiana State Library looking through microfilm–or sit at home, alone, while I did. Kids came along, leaving so much time for genealogy! All I did for twelve years was to slide into the top of the box any information I received from relatives. I didn’t “do” anything with it, but I knew where it was, and it was safe.

Then my daughter decided to do the 4-H genealogy project, figuring it would be pretty easy, since I had lots of information. Out came the box, and shortly afterwards I acquired my first software: Family Tree Maker 3.0. Transferring from paper to software was a slow process, but reacquainted me with the people I’d neglected for so long. Now there was email, so contacting relatives was easier than before. Rootsweb mailing lists were in their heyday, so I learned about repositories in the areas I researched (Wisconsin, Illinois, Alsace, Germany), without the expense of travel.

In 1999 I saw a message from a Katherine Rueby, Roschester, NY, with a surname in the signature: Nachtway.  One of my great-great grandmothers is Elizabeth Nachtway, who emigrated from “somewhere” in Germany. I contacted Katherine and learned she is a descendant of Elizabeth’s younger brother, Anton. Not only did she know all about Elizabeth and her husband, John Haase, but she knew they came from Kreuzeber (now Kreuzebra), Germany AND could tell me the specific LDS microfilm numbers the church records were on!

It was midnight, everyone in the house was asleep, and I was bouncing up and down in my chair, alternating between silently cheering and screaming. It was magical. You’d have thought I’d won the lottery. Twice. I really didn’t keep in touch with her afterwards, but I am so grateful for the huge chunk she took out of that brick wall! Nor was Katherine the only distant relative I’ve come across unexpectedly. It’s a little rare on mailing lists, but I’ve got a boatload of DNA matches to process through–when I can find the time!

I’ve clearly benefited from the best of both worlds. By starting early, I learned what I could from my grandparents’ generation while they were alive. Surprisingly, the unintentional break in research wasn’t actually a negative. With the difficulty in finding records, and lack of discretionary funds, it’s not likely I would have made much progress during that time, anyway. When I resumed, the digital age was starting up, and hasn’t slowed down. The access to original document images from home (or the library) is invaluable. As my dad would say, “Timing is everything.”

I’ve also realized I have good instincts when researching; sort of a “Gibb’s gut” for genealogy! I’m careful not to leap to conclusions, but sometimes something just “seems” right–or wrong–and further research usually confirms it.

Hmm. Maybe I’m luckier than I thought? And yes, there’s more than one box, now.

#52Ancestors

Strong Woman

Small, but mighty!

You already met Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan briefly in Valentine. She was born 10 June, 1891, in Smiths Creek, Michigan (west of Port Huron). She was one of 10 children born to Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham–sandwiched right in the middle. I met her at age 88, and knew her only 8 short years. She was the only “grandma” I could lay claim to, since mine died before or just after I was born.

Elizabeth was an itty-bitty thing, Irish through and through, and from what I could tell from the little bit of time I spent with her, pretty feisty. At that time she was living alone in the house at 809 Pingree, in Detroit (it’s still there–Google Map it!), until the dementia that developed in the last few years of her life required her moving to a nursing home, where she could reside safely.

Elizabeth finished the 10th grade. Her father died in 1904, and her mother in 1907. That may have been the event to end her education and propel her to Detroit, working as a governess from 1907-1919. The 1910 census shows her oldest sister, Mary, as the head of household¹ back at the farm, with five of the younger siblings residing with her. I don’t know if Elizabeth sent money back to help with farm expenses, but it’s possible. Living in Detroit no doubt provided the opportunity for her to meet her husband-to-be, Frank, but I don’t know how or where.

He was NOT Irish–rather, Bohemian (a nice catch-all that could include Hungary, Czechoslovakia, that whole region) and some iteration of Germanic (his mother’s maiden name was Schmitt–definitely not Irish!). According to Mike’s mom and aunts, Frank’s parents (Frank and Magdalena) were not particularly happy he was marrying an Irish girl. Consequently their kids did not see much of that side of the family. But when his parents celebrated their 50th anniversary with a big party, the family attended, and Elizabeth made sure the kids all had new outfits (a rarity) for the event. Sue the youngest) had a pink, lacy dress. The occurrence was unusual enough to still be a vivid memory for the girls 60 years later!

Elizabeth had seven children in eleven years; 5 girls and 2 boys. Feeding and clothing that many, especially through the Depression, can’t have been easy. Nevertheless, she managed the children and household, doing the best she could. All the stories I’ve heard of her painted a portrait of a very resourceful woman.

While 1967 may have been “the summer of love” in San Francisco, it wasn’t quite like that in Detroit. Riots were taking place about a mile from the house on Pingree. Elizabeth’s concerned adult children encouraged their parents to pack a couple of bags and come out to one of their houses until the situation settled down. They refused, making for very unhappy children! But they, and their house, survived the unrest.

For all the hard work in her life, she nevertheless knew how to have a good time. Her living room and basement were the site of numerous family gatherings, as evidenced below. I don’t know what holiday this was, in the 1940s or 1950s, but she was certainly living it up! That didn’t really diminish as she aged. The colorful blur in the lower photo (not taken by me!) is her at age 88, dancing the night away with two of her grandsons-in-law–barely keeping up with her.

1950 KUKLER Elizabeth party

Undetermined party–maybe on a New Year’s Eve?1979 08 Denise wedding

August 1979, Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan Kukler (age 88),  dancing at a granddaughter’s wedding with grandsons-in-law!Living 6 1/2 hours away, my opportunities to get to know her very well were limited. But never was there any question in my mind of her strength–not necessarily physical (especially in her late 80s and 90s)–but certainly of spirit. Hopefully some of that has passed down to my daughter and granddaughter (her great- and great-great-granddaughters)!

#52Ancestors


¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township, e.d. 125; sheet 10B; dwelling number 226; family number 229; line 74; Mary NOLAN household; accessed 5 March 2018. Mary NOLAN, age 25; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 673; digital image, Ancestry.com.

Reflection

Time to take stock . . .

BONUS POST! Brought to you at no extra charge . . .

Well, here we are, two months and ten posts into this adventure! It seems like a good time to pause for a moment and reflect. Amazingly, I’ve managed to keep up with the topics so far. I’m not sure how well that will work when we are traveling, so that worries me a bit.

Overall, I find myself enjoying this process–perhaps more than I expected. It’s interesting to see how some of the posts evolve–almost taking on a life of their own. Sometimes I see the prompt (which is always the title–in case you haven’t deduced that already) and my mind jumps immediately to an idea. I may stick with that, but often my mind migrates to another ancestor with a different story . . . and then another . . . and another. Eventually I land on one and stay there, but it can be a convoluted thought process.

Other prompts leave me scratching my head and wondering what in the world I will write about! Fortunately, long walks through the neighborhood provide an opportunity to work that out; a much better method than sitting in front of a computer screen, banging my head on the keyboard.

Regardless of how I end up at my topic, by the end of the piece I generally have a sense that it was the right ancestor and story. Luckily I’ve never gotten to the end and said, “Scratch this! I need to do someone else . . .” Whew! That would be extremely frustrating.

I frequently realize I need to reexamine my facts or look up something, because I have a gap that needs filling. Then, of course, there was Aunt Kate (Favorite Name). I realized there were many questions regarding her first husband needing resolution. When I couldn’t find what I needed, I sent a query to my extended cousins (as well as a quick call to Mom and an email to her brother), hoping someone heard/knew more than I did. While they did not have the answers I needed, most replied back to me, even if it was just, “Sorry!” Several contacted their parents or aunts–the older generation, who might have been more likely to remember her. Thanks, guys! One even made a request to IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository) for a record she thought might help. Thanks, Ellen! Even though it came after my deadline, it did answer one of many questions, so I appreciate the effort. (George Warren was an iron worker in 1892.)

One of the biggest challenges has been to figure out how to tell each story in a non-confusing way. When you know the people and story so well, it’s easy to assume everyone else does, too. That’s not really the case, and some stories can get a little complicated. So I try to make sure pronouns aren’t ambiguous–antecedents are our friends! I also try to let the post sit for a while (over night?) before I go back to edit and proofread. It’s a habit I developed in high school, and I find the time away from my writing gives me fresher eyes. It’s easier for me to realize something isn’t clear and either simplify it, or provide more information. Sometimes, both!

The post that gave me the most trouble was Heirloom. As I was wrapping it up, I realized it was longer than I wanted. WordPress provides me with a word count, so it’s easy to see. I didn’t want to start over from scratch, but wasn’t quite sure how I could cut it down. I decided to duplicate it (again, easy to do) and make changes to the copy. If I didn’t like them, I could always revert back to the original. That plan worked well, and I lobbed off 200 words or so, even after adding others to finish it up.

By far, the best reward has been the positive response I’ve received from family! No one has yet said, “Shut up, Chris!” so that’s a relief. Thank you, everyone, for sticking with the blog and reading it! And thank you, Amy Johnson Crow, for providing the nudge to do this. It took me 4 years to take the plunge, but better late than never, right?

The photo above was taken 7 May 2009, in the Caribbean on board the Holiday–a now-retired Carnival ship. Even though I added a caption to it, I guess it won’t display that when it’s up as the “featured image.” Go figure.

Where There’s a Will

I really haven’t done much with wills. Well, I’ve written two (though the “sound mind” clause always makes me a little nervous!), but as part of my genealogy research, not so much. That’s due to a combination of reasons:

  • I didn’t have a specific research question that a will would have helped answer
  • I come from a long line of peasants–no money to speak of, so mostly no wills
  • Not living near the places where I would need to look up a will
  • Not having other family members particularly interested in genealogy and wanting to make a research trip with me
  • Having a limited budget (i.e.: fairly non-existent) for either the trip or hiring someone local to the will to look it up

In fact, I’ve come in contact with only two wills in all this time, both on Mike’s side. One was for a maternal great-grandfather, Patrick Nolan. The paperwork from his probate packet was microfilmed, but unfortunately, the microfilm printer at the courthouse was broken, so all I could do was read and take notes. It was before digital cameras, so that wasn’t an option either. It was interesting reading, but no amazing revelations, either.

The other will is a photocopy of the actual will for his father’s adoptive mother, Anna Carmody Bauman. It provides the only documentation of the in-the-family adoption that took place. I never met my father-in-law. He died while Mike was in college. Mike and I knew each other, but hadn’t started dating, yet. After Jerry died, his 2nd wife packed up his paperwork & memorabilia and gave them to Mike, as the oldest child. The 1940 will was included in that.

Jerry was the youngest child of John Joseph Carmody and Mildred B. Fitzgerald. It was a 2nd marriage for both. John’s first wife had died, and their 8 children were mostly grown, when he and Mildred married. Mildred was 29 years younger than he, and had two young children. I haven’t determined if her first husband, Gordon Marshall, had died, or if they had divorced. Regardless, John and Mildred went on to have a “2nd family” of three boys: Michael, Joseph, and Jerry. Even though Mildred was only 37, she somehow developed a lung infection in the weeks after Jerry’s birth. She was hospitalized and never recovered.

That left John, age 66, with a 6-year old, a 3-year-old, and a newborn (plus two step-children)! I don’t think it was an era of a lot of hands-on parenting for men back then. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he hadn’t changed diapers or done 2 A.M. feedings–and probably didn’t want to start. In fact, by the 1930 census, John is living without any children, managing the Port Huron Lighthouse travel camp. I’m not sure where the others were living.

Jerry’s baby book was mostly empty, but had an entry in the “Baby’s First Outing” section:

“Baby went out for the first time on the 12th day of September 1928, with Mrs. Hart when Millie was taken sick and stayed there until after the Funeral of Millie the 16th of Sept. and then Nano took[e] him Home for always.”

I don’t know who Mrs. Hart was–my guess is a neighbor–and I assume “Nano” was a nickname for Anna. We have no adoption paperwork, but at least the entry corroborates what Mike had heard from his dad. The 1930 census also lists him as “adopted son” for Frank & Anna. I’m not sure how adoption by a family member would have been handled then in Michigan. My guess is that it would still be considered closed, with records unavailable.

1930 CARMODY John J Michael Jerry
John Joseph Carmody with sons Michael (left) and Jerry (right). Despite being raised by Anna & Frank, he apparently saw them on occasion. I estimate this to be in 1930 or 1931, based on Jerry (age 2 or 3?). This is the only photo we have of his dad.

Anna’s husband, Frank, died in 1936 from colon cancer. Anna died 4 years later, in 1940, with Jerry’s birth father, John Joseph Carmody, having died in January that same year. Fortunately, Anna’s will survived, giving confirmation that Jerry was born a Carmody:

” . . . I give, devise and bequeath all my estate, real, personal, or mixed wherever situated to my beloved son (adopted) Gerald Bauman (formerly Gerald Carmody) . . .”

I’m extremely grateful she made the effort to leave a clear trail to the Carmody surname. I’m not sure we would be able to find it out, otherwise.

#52Ancestors

Heirloom

One person’s junk is another’s heirloom? Or vice versa?

When does something cease being stuff, junk, or clutter, and graduate to “heirloom?” Is it age? Monetary value? Who owned it? How “cute” it is? Its genealogical value? While it’s a question I’ve dealt with these last 40+ years of doing genealogy, it’s really hit home since September, 2009, when my dad died and Mom moved out of her house and into independent living. Suddenly I became responsible for dealing with/disposing of the salt cellars, soup cups, teacups, candlesticks, Mottoware, Hummels, and other antiques she’d acquired over the years. She had boxes in the basement that hadn’t been opened since 1977. It all wouldn’t fit in her 3 room apartment.

As I catalogued and photographed the items, I’d ask Mom if anything was special: anything that belonged to her mother or grandmother? Items that were wedding presents? I needed information so people could prioritize which items to select.

She seemed a little peeved that I “didn’t want all her pretty things.” Yes, they were pretty, but at 51, I was downsizing my OWN things–ditto for my older siblings! We could not absorb it all. Plus, for her each item meant more. They held memories of antique shows with her friends, or trips to Galena, IL, with its abundance of antique shops and tea rooms. Cute or not, we don’t share those memories.

Then she’d remind me that, “People collect this.” Inquiries at nearby antique shops met with no interest. No shops were buying, because no customers were buying. The stock market kerfuffle the year before pushed discretionary spending way down. Antiques are not necessities! The boxes came to my family room (no basement), but the market in Indy was no better, and I really had no time to make the rounds, anyway. I sent the spreadsheet and photos to my siblings, asking them to claim whatever they wanted. The volume reduced a little, so I repacked the boxes and moved them into Mom’s storage space. I figured when she died, I’d take them to the funeral, let people take what they wanted, and dispose of the rest. I figured wrong.

She’s still here, turning 96 in April. In the fall of 2016, she moved to assisted living. Three rooms down to one, and no storage space. The boxes came back to my family room (photo below). Photos and spreadsheet were shared via Google Drive to siblings (again) and also to her grandchildren. More items claimed! Leftovers were shared with cousins. Some more distributed, but I still have a “wall” of boxes behind the living room couch to deal with. I’ve listed select items on eBay, but I don’t want the hassle and risk of shipping china and glassware, so am (unsuccessfully) looking for local options that don’t include Goodwill. Most “heirloom” items have found homes. I also sold some teacups and glass salad plates to the Sassafrass Tea Room, where they will be used and enjoyed.

IMG_20170313_071926.jpg
“Antiques” collection from 1 year ago. This is REDUCED from the original volume in 2009! And it doesn’t count the books . . . or photos . . .

One result of this whole process is the renewed vigor Mike has for reducing our possessions. He looks at our Christmas tree and asks, “Can we get rid of any of these?” Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” I really don’t buy ornaments, except one for each new cruise ship, so most of ours have a history. The kids’ ornaments have already been kicked off the tree, so there’s been reduction from that, but most of the ornaments have a story behind them.

IMG_20180217_0001
Our tree in 1998. Still all the kids’ ornaments on it!

My mom started buying me one ornament a year after my sister got married. Young newlyweds, and in graduate school, after buying the tree, tree stand, and lights, they really couldn’t afford ornaments! Mom decided one a year would be a good start for me. I made “glass icicles” when I was in high school mimicking the ones hung on our tree and made by my grandmother, Victoria Schweiger Haws. I DO have her originals boxed in the attic, but they are very fragile, and since the tree is full enough, I figure they will survive better, handled less. Later, we acquired the ornaments from Mike’s grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. And some actually ARE his: two ornaments from the ones he & his roommate bought to decorate a tree at college, as well as Jeannie and her bottle, and his Raiders helmet. As Mom has downsized–and finally eliminated–her tree, I’ve taken in a few favorite ornaments from my childhood. Plus there are handmade ornaments from my niece, Julie: crocheted and starched snowflakes, or crocheted ice skates with paper clips for blades. She manages to find cute and clever designs.

Does our tree look like a magazine photo? No way! It’s very eclectic. There’s no theme. People who see it for the first time are surprised? awed? I’m not quite sure of the right word, but it usually involves a lot of looking, pointing, and realizing that there are ornaments way inside the tree, not just at the ends of the branches. Our tree has short needles. If not, there’d be no room for ornaments! I don’t know how people with long-needled trees do it.

(Mike just started an Amazon search for “artificial tree long needles . . .”)

You might say some ornaments could be gotten rid of. They are probably past their prime, but they are also among the very few items we own from those people. The color has faded, and they’ve acquired a bit of tarnish and corrosion; none of us are as bright and shiny as we used to be! I carefully tuck them inside the tree–not out of sight, but placed where they reflect the lights, illuminating the interior, while minimizing their flaws. You hardly notice the scratch on the finish or that the glass actually has a hole in it (it’s little, on the bottom!), or the splotch of the spray-on “snow” that was so popular in the 1960s.

I can tell you about every ornament on the tree. My kids know some, but not all, and have undoubtedly forgotten many. Realizing this, in 2017, while dismantling the tree, I photographed each ornament. The plan is to create a spreadsheet where I can list them, link the photo, and document the provenance for each. (Yes, I watch Antiques Roadshow!) At least they will have enough information to decide what they want to do with them, when the time comes. If they decide to drop them off at Goodwill, at least they made an informed decision–I will come back to haunt them, though . . .

So, back to the original question: what what makes an heirloom? I think it’s mostly the meaning we attach to it. So we have 2 challenges. One is to “thin the herd,” so the volume isn’t overwhelming (no, you’re not touching my ornaments!). The other is to make sure those who have to deal with our goodies, know why something was important to us. That just might make it important to them, too. Otherwise, it’s just “stuff.”

#52Ancestors