Fresh Start

“The beginning is always today.”–Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

At the end of 2014, Thomas MacEntee began a new journey with genealogy— the Genealogy Do-Over. He planned to “hit the reset button” on his research, restarting from scratch with an empty tree. The premise was that now, as a smarter, more experienced genealogist, he would produce a more correct, better documented tree.

It was a bold and scary decision, and he invited the rest of us to journey with him.

I was not that bold! I didn’t have enough time to devote myself to rebuilding my tree, and the thought of living with a marginally functional tree was unacceptable.

Fortunately, Thomas recognized people like me existed, so he offered a “lite” version—a GO-Over. Instead of starting with an empty tree, I would apply the method to my current tree.

So I registered for the monthly email, found the Facebook group, and acquired the book.¹ It was a semi-fresh start, if you will.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years! What, if anything, have I accomplished in that time? Let’s be honest, my tree is still a work in progress, but improvement has been made.

In December, 2014, Evidence Explained² was my reading material on a 15-day cruise to Hawaii. Yes, all 800+ pages of the (then) 2nd edition! I bought the book earlier, but never had time to sit down and read it. I figured 10 sea days would be a good opportunity. While Ms. Mills recommended reading the first chapter or two, and then using it more as a reference, I did read it cover-to-cover. Twice, actually, because I bought the 3rd edition in 2015, shortly after it was released.

It was worth all the funny looks from other passengers as I lugged the 3-inch thick tome around the ship. The book provided an amazing education in research, in addition to source citations. I discovered sources I had no familiarity with, and learned more about ones I was familiar with. I thought about research and sources more in that 2 weeks than I had in my entire life!

So proper sourcing of my research was the initial focus for my go-over. I had become more diligent in adding source citations when Family Tree Maker improved that area of their software. I realized they did not, however, meet the standards put forth in Evidence Explained. Family Tree Maker now had templates based on Evidence Explained, so I began the the process of converting the sources, one at a time.

The learning curve rivaled Mt. Everest! Despite the templates, a lot of trial and error was involved to get my citation looking like the sample in the book. Finally, success! That was one. It had taken maybe an hour, with the back and forth between the software, the book, and the record image. This was going to take forever . . .

Another one of my goals was achieving consistency with my sources. How could I accomplish that, particularly across files? I can have 2 files open simultaneously, so I could reference one while crafting the other, but there is a risk I mix them up and change the wrong one. Placing each file display on its own screen might minimize the risk, but that’s a luxury I don’t have. Side-by-side windows, which I use compulsively, doesn’t accomplish the same thing.

So, back to the internet, to see what ideas others had. Thomas seemed to use a spreadsheet. I use lots of spreadsheets, but that didn’t seem like the solution for me. Then I saw someone using Evernote, and that made sense. I already had an under-utilized Evernote account, and being synced in the cloud meant I wasn’t locked into being on my computer when I needed to build a citation.

I created a “sources” notebook, giving each source its own note. The title lists the exact database name, so it’s easy to find. If it’s coming from a maga-site, I attach that to the front:

  • Ancestry – U.S. Census 1880-1940 (by Census Year and Location) or
  • FamilySearch – United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Below the title, I type the section in Evidence Explained talking about that particular source type, including the specific page number. If I have questions later on, I don’t want to have to thumb through 800 pages for the right section!

Most importantly, I list the exact template I finally decided on from Family Tree Maker, followed by the SOURCE fields I use (it’s never all of them!). Those might have a specific value (the database name) or just a note about what goes in there (film number or year), so I know what to look for.

The citation detail section follows, describing the information needed to locate the record, again. It, too, is a combination of specific text and placeholders, reminding me to retrieve information from the record:

[civil division], e.d. _______; Page ___; dwelling number ___; family number ___; line ___; [person of interest] household; accessed __________    note:  just household number in 1940

Citation text finishes up any other information needed to cite the record. I have one place to go to for my citation layout. Currently I have 205 notes. The early ones took a little time to piece together, but the up-front cost has paid off. I can create a citation for an existing database pretty quickly. Even new databases can be added more quickly, because I’ll look for a similar record type, copy the entire note, and modify it to be appropriate for the new database.

With citations easier to write, I’m more likely to attach them right away, rather than leaving the fact(s) undocumented. Do I ALWAYS cite EVERYTHING new going in my file? No, not always. BUT that happens less and less, which is progress! I’m making steady headway through the old, non-standard citations, updating them to proper format. I love seeing the little star in the source’s icon.

Tied in with that project, is cleaning up my digital records. When a proper citation is created, I attach a digital image to it, giving me easy access to the actual document if I have it. I also settled on a naming convention for files. Unfortunately, I have files still NOT named according to the plan. I have duplicates of images scattered throughout my computer folders. When files weren’t named consistently, it wasn’t easy to check if I already had it. I was safer to download a new image, rather than risking NOT having it. So I need to gather all the genealogy record images together, delete the duplicates, and rename the “keepers.”

An significant component of my go-over has been the 52 Ancestor challenge. In the course of writing blog posts, I frequently find myself going through the old research for the people involved. “Since I’m there” I try to make the time to check their information, look for missing information, and put their sources in order. Tackling the task in smaller bits makes it more manageable.

The other area I’ve been cleaning up has been my locatons. Consistency is important here, too. Sometimes the county was left out, sometimes there was a typo I missed. Going through the locations and eliminating duplicates (or near-duplicates) tidies up the file. If I’m doing local research, it means I don’t miss looking for a record because that event didn’t show up in the list I generated.

Am I satisified with the progress made? Sure. Is my file perfect? Certainly not! Do I wish I was finished with the do-over? Yes, just so it was done. But I’m smart enough to realize that if I had waited until “I had enough time to do it,” my file and computer records would be in far worse shape. I don’t have the kind of life allowing me uninterrupted genealogy time. Waiting for the perfect time would mean it never happens. So I’m content with chipping away at it. Doing something is better than nothing!

#52Ancestors


¹Thomas MacEntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook (Lexington, KY, 2016).

²Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. 3rd ed. (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015).

You

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”–Oscar Wilde

It’s hard to believe I’m at the end of the second year of blogging! Time flies when you’re having fun? Or do I just not know when to give up?

One “rule” I adopted fairly early was to focus mostly on people no longer living. I could sound all noble and say it was to respect the privacy of my living family members, but mostly is was pure self-preservation. The dead can’t get in your face or call you on the phone to chew you out if you say something they don’t like. Nor can they send you a scathing email.

There are many stories I know and could share, but don’t, for various reasons. Sometimes the event is too recent, making the memories too intense and emotions too raw. Or they aren’t necessarily my stories to tell, and I don’t feel comfortable hijacking them from the individuals they belong to. Perhaps the time will be right in 10 years. Or twenty.

Make no mistake, I do mention living people on occasion, usually in passing. I need to give them photo credit, or give their book a plug (as I’m lifting a story from it—always giving them credit, of course!). Or they are necessary players in the memory I’m writing about that week. I try to keep descriptions about them vague enough that tracking down more information about them would take some effort—effort I’m hoping nefarious people won’t put forth.

This week I’m supposed to write about me. So much for the “not living” rule. Dead women don’t blog! I have no clue where this post is headed, though.

Six months old, propped in the white leather armchair. My pre-writing days. It’s hard to imagine that innocent face being such a trouble-maker, later on . . .

If you read my About page, you found a brief description. The first two blog posts (Oh Boy! and Start) filled in additional gaps about me. I could continue by typing paragraphs listing favorite foods, books, movies, vacations—you name it. Everything would be true, but most of it would be somewhat superficial. And it would be real easy to skew the information in the way most beneficial to me.

The trouble is, I had high school English teachers who drummed into our skulls about substantiating the points we were making (thank you, Mr. Linden!), and to “show not tell” in our writing. Even 45 years later, it’s still second nature; a habit I can’t shake. As a result, an observant reader of my blog will have learned more about me than I would ever volunteer. What sort of things, you might wonder?

  • The music I listen to, movies I watch, and types of books I read.
  • The convoluted logic my brain engages in. Logic that results in the Craft prompt being about a boat!
  • I have lots going on. You’ve experienced blog posts being late due to “life happening,” early due to lack of internet, and posts short on “genealogy” because we were making “family history” at the vacation house.
  • I possess an odd combination of persisitence and flexibility, which somehow keeps the blog published on a fairly consistent schedule, despite the above complications.
  • My research process is a lot like sausage-making—sometimes downright messy and ugly, though the results are frequently good.
  • I used to listen to Paul Harvey. Often I am trying to determine “the rest of the story” for someone, instead of settling for more mundane information about them.
  • I’m a lot like a dog with a bone. The more the answer to a research question eludes me, the more likely I am to hunker down with it, and keep searching.
  • I often gravitate to the “underdogs” on the tree—those who died young, never married, or never had kids. With fewer or no descendants, they are frequently overlooked and shortchanged.
  • I don’t have a problem being wrong. Make no mistake, I don’t like it, and try to avoid it in the first place. When an error pops up, I make sure to document what was wrong, and how it happened, so the correction is obvious, and I hopefully don’t make the same mistake, again.

Of course, there are aspects of the writing process you are oblivious to, because all you see is the final product. I edit myself—a lot. You are blissfully unaware of the times I agonize over “a/an” vs. “the.” Seriously! Sometimes I change it back and forth several times—and then decide that sentence really needs a demonstrative adjective (this/that/these/those) instead. Yes, I’m kind of picky.

Does it matter? Not always, but occasionally it does affect the meaning of the sentence or paragraph. I also scrutinize the pronouns in paragraphs to confirm the meaning is clear. Blame those English teachers, again! We were told to assume our reader knew nothing about our topic, and make our writing crystal clear. If I am confused by what I’ve written, you guys will be completely lost. So I go back and rework it until I feel comfortable a stranger off the street can figure it out. They may not care, but they can hopefully understand it!

So if you started this blog post expecting to learn a ton of new things about me, I’m sorry to disappoint you. You already knew far more than you ever realized! But for those who need something concrete: Chocolate. Red.

Speaking of errors, I managed to have the wrong time scheduled, so this posted before I thought it would—and it wasn’t done! So I deleted the first publication and have republished this one. I can’t even blame this on eggnog!

#52Ancestors

Future

“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”–Doc Brown, “Back to the Future, Part III”

When I was a young child, my older siblings would try to confuse me with the saying, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” Quick research revealed it to be a Dale Carnegie quote. When rattled off quickly to a six- or seven-year-old, it initially sounds like gibberish. Once I got somewhere quiet, and could think about the words, I realized it made perfect sense.

Genealogists spend a lot of time reading, researching, and thinking about the past. Yesterdays are very important to us, and we expend a lot of effort trying to tease the truth out of records about our past. Our ancesters frequently thwart us, by hiding from the census enumerator, running off to marry in the state next door, living in counties whose courthouses keep burning down, or dying without a will.

We are so focused on looking backwards, sometimes we forget that we are the future of our ancestors. I doubt they thought much about us, but here we are, continuing on their bloodlines, and living lives directly influenced by their decisions.

My DNA is a collection of my ancestors. Every gene inside me started with someone centuries ago. Each generation, some new genes found their way into my DNA strand, as others dropped off, to make room for those new ones. Go back enough generations, and some of those ancestors have no genetic connection to me at all. It doesn’t mean I don’t descend from them—I just don’t have that person’s DNA.

Just like my DNA is a summary of the ancestors before me, my life itself is a result of all those ancestors’ decisions—big and small—and probably the decisions of some people who ended up NOT becoming my ancestors! Were they thinking about the future, at that time? Probably not. They were just living their lives, and making decisions that seemed to be the best for themselves, right then. Each of their seemingly inconsequential decisions shaped their future, and that of their children, grandchilden, and so on.

“Wait, you don’t understand. If you don’t play, there’s no music. If there’s no music, they don’t dance. If they don’t dance, they don’t kiss and fall in love and I’m history.”

Marty McFly, “Back to the Future

Marty wasn’t a genealogist, and even he understood this! His very existence depended on an unimportant sequence of events.

It’s an idea I’ve toyed with in other posts, not necessarily spelling it out. Some examples?

  • My mom might not have asked out a boy she didn’t really know, if she hadn’t liked dancing—or apparently had a couple of “dud” dates (Going to the Chapel).
  • Great grandmother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger might have stayed in Wisconsin, and married someone there, if she hadn’t gone to work for a Chicago North Shore family (Trick or Treat)
  • I could have ended up a “California girl” if Chicago’s fall weather had been more blustery when my dad was discharged from the Navy. After 18 months in the South Pacific, and another 18 months in California’s Imperial Valley, Dad would have moved back to San Diego if the weather hadn’t been so nice!
  • I would have a different collection of children—if I’d gone to Brigham Young University, instead.

Of course, Mike’s biggest concern about the future, is what to do with all the genealogy if I make the mistake of dying first . . .

The Future. We worry about it all the time, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that we hold it in our hands and create it with every decision we make. It would behoove us to take Doc Brown’s advice!

#52Ancestors

Tradition

“Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!”—Fiddler on the Roof

Tradition is a funny thing. Sometimes it takes only one occurrance for something to be declared a tradition. For us, this often happens with food:

Other traditions build up over time, gradually ensnaring us, without our consciously thinking about it.

My parents got married 20 December 1944, and celebrated an anniversary around that same time every year. Amazing how that works! Imagine my poor Dad—not only did he have to come up with a Christmas present each year, but he needed an anniversary gift 4 days earlier!

Before the creation of shopping malls, most towns had a local “gift shop.” In Hinsdale, that place was Stolte’s. It was located in the Grant Square Shopping Center, a stone’s throw away from Hinsdale’s official downtown stores. Grant Square was an L-shaped (as opposed to strip) mall, anchored on the north leg by the Hinsdale Federal Savings and Loan (now, Evergreen Bank Group), and on the west leg by Kramer’s IGA (still there!). Stolte’s was right next to Kramer’s, but went out of business somewhere along the way. The Walgreens that had been at the corner of the shops is now located in the larger space previously occupied by Stolte’s.

During the 1950’s-1970s, Stolte’s was the go-to place for gift and knick-knacky items. My dad took my older siblings there to pick out small Hummel figurines that cost only $2-5. Carole, Bob, & Warren could pool their allowances and choose a cute one for Mom for Christmas. My Josef angels were usually acquired from there. Its location next to Kramer’s made it convenient to pop in to see what they had, if you needed a gift.

In December, 1960, my dad wandered into Stolte’s looking for something for their anniversary. He saw a crèche (manger scene) sitting on the shelf, and decided to buy that. The figurines were made in Italy. I don’t know exactly what they are made of. They are lightweight—definitely not ceramic—but certainly not plastic, either. Some Etsy web pages showing similar figurines identify them as resin, and some as “chalkware plaster.” The latter is referred to as be heavier, so I’ll go with resin.

The figures were nicely painted, and pretty, but what really drew my dad to the set was the stable that came with it for the setting. Many stables for nativity sets are very polished-looking. No livestock ever lived in there! But not this one. It was very rough and rustic, with straw on the roof, and reminded him of the ones he built as a kid.

When he was growing up, one of the priests at Holy Cross Church, in Deerfield, held a “contest” in December for the kids to build a manger to house a Christmas scene. They used whatever scrap wood and nails they could put their hands on, and they certainly looked kid-made. This stable fit the bill and spoke to my dad. He bought the set and brought it home.

Mom really liked it, and found a spot for it on the low bookcase that backed up to the stairway. That was its spot until we moved from that house in 1977. I don’t recall its location in the new house. It didn’t actually live in that house very long. When I got married, before Christmas that year, Mom & Dad brought two boxes to our apartment. One was their artificial Christmas tree (the apartment complex forbade live trees), and the other was the manger. Mom had recently acquired a Goebel (NOT Hummel!) manger set, and was giving the old one to me. She said it was mostly mine, anyway.

When she received the set in 1960, I was 2½, and absolutely fascinated by it. On the low bookcase, I could just barely reach the figurines. Mom would arrange them, and I would rearrange them. Even at that young age, I understood they weren’t toys or dolls, and didn’t “play” with them. I didn’t “walk” them around, or have them “talk” to each other, or remove them from the manger area. But I definitely had opinions about where the sheep, wise men, shepherds, and camel should be placed!

Nothing changed as I grew older. Mom would arrange—and I would rearrange—the figures many times each Christmas season. She saw that I was careful with them, though, and realized it was a losing battle to try and keep my hands off them. Twenty years later, she officially gave the set to me. It still goes up every Christmas, and I arrange—and rearrange—the figurines throughout the season.

At some point, my dad purchased a set of miniature white lights he would string around the outside and inside of the stable. That light string eventually died, and never made it to me. Several years ago, though, I found an LED light set that works equally well. So that tradition resumed.

The poor cow is having a rough go of it. I’m not sure why he’s showing so much wear. He and the donkey end up in the back corners, so it’s darker there, and not too noticable.

At almost 60 years old, the figurines are beginning to show a little wear; a little bit of chipping is appearing along the bottom edge on some, and the wire loop in the angel’s back (so she can hang on the nail at the peak of the roof) is a little more wobbly than it used to be. They are holding up fairly well, though, and nothing has broken (knock on wood!).

You may be thinking it’s nice there are several traditions being maintained:

  • the rough-hewn stable reminiscent of my dad’s childhood
  • setting it up each year and rearranging the figurines
  • Miniature lights around it

But there are other traditions surrounding the manger, having nothing to do with what sits out on display.

The original box the manger set came home in and has been stored in for the last 39 years. NO part of the set is made of glass!

We’ll start with the box. There is no “manger box from Italy.” The store packed the set into a “West Virginia Glass” box they had from other merchandise. It still has an address label, identifying the store. Inside the bottom is a divided insert with soft, “mossy” cushion material that I’m sure belongs to the figurines—the dividers are irregularly spaced, corresponding to the figurines’ dimensions. It was certainly not for glassware! The stable sets in on top of the figurines, and reaches just to the top of the box.

The box fits the manger set perfectly. Unfortunately, the cardboard is almost 60 years old, too, and deteriorating. I’ve been taping the top flaps for years, and have begun to tape the verticle corners. “Get a new box,” you say. What are the odds I will find a box with those exact dimensions? I’d say slim and none, so I keep the tape handy, and treat the box gently.

Then there’s the additional packing material inside. When my mom set it up the first time, she noticed the bottom of the stable was rough. The bookcase it was going on wasn’t particularly expensive, but she still didn’t want the top to be scratched if the stable was bumped or slid around on the top. So she took a section of the 20 December 1960 (the day she received the set) Chicago Tribune and folded it to the exact dimensions of the stable’s base. One barely notices there’s newspaper under it.

The layering newspaper sections. Usually it was the front section, but once the sports section was used. You can see the breakdown of the newsprint along the edges.

Similarly, Mom decided she wanted a layer between the stable and the figurines in the tray below—something in addition to what was protecting the bookcase. She was worried about the stable shifting around in the box and rubbing against the paint on the figurines as the box moved to and from the attic. So there’s another, considerably thicker, section of the Tribune from that day on top of the figurines. Along the way, addional sections of the Tribune were added from 3 January 1969, 31 December 1974, and 22 December 1978. Why? I have no idea.

Have you handled 60-year-old newsprint recently? It’s tricky! The paper is brittle and fragile, with bits crumbling off the edges. More than once in 38 years I’ve thought about replacing them with “fresh” sections, but I just can’t. Why?

Tradition.

For the last half century, I’ve been reading the headlines, articles, and captions on those papers. Depending on the year, and how rushed I am with decorating, I may read less or more, but I always (re)read some of it. Actually, only the front and back page of each section. The paper is too dried out now to risk opening them up to read the inside pages. Not only do they document the date my mom received the manger, they document what life was like at the time. I recall what the news was, what the fashions were, and how much they cost. It’s my own mini time capsule.

Remember Pat Harrington, Jr., playing Schneider on One Day at a Time? The show began my senior year of high school, and some of my friends had the hots for him. Seriously? He was 46 at the time! Imagine my surprise that next Christmas, seeing the 1960 photo and article about 31-year-old Harrington headlining at one of the local playhouses! The name and photo that meant nothing to me for years, suddenly had meaning. It boggled my mind, then. I couldn’t find it, tonight, so it must have been inside a section (when they could still be opened up, safely!). But I DID see that “Bob” (Robert) Conrad was starring in an upcoming Hawaiian Eye episode. He was from Chicago, so locals wanted to keep up on what he was doing.

Tradition. It can lock us into stagnation, or anchor us to important people, places, and events. Ideally, we jettison (or at least modify) the former, and cherish the latter.

#52Ancestors

Craft

Row, row, row your boat . . .

While everyone else is thinking artistically this week, I am outside the box once again, writing about watercraft. We didn’t live near the ocean, or have a summer cottage on one of the many Wisconsin lakes within an easy drive of the Chicago suburbs. Dad didn’t own a bass boat, sail boat, speed boat, or a spiffy yacht docked at one of the marinas on Lake Michigan.

He had a rowboat. Well, actually, it also had an outboard motor, so I guess it was a step up from a rowboat.

I was pretty young (under age 5, I believe) when we used it, so my memories are a bit fuzzy. I don’t recall if it was wood or aluminum, or how many seats it had (I think there were 3). What I mostly remember is that it was named the Carole Ann, after my sister. I always felt a little put out that she had a boat named after her, and I didn’t, but that was just me being an unreasonable child. For the 50 weeks of the year we weren’t on vacation, the boat leaned up against the shed (former chicken coop) at the very back of our yard.

I emailed my brothers, Warren & Bill, to see what they remembered. Warren (10 years older) confirmed it was aluminum, and said we didn’t have it until we had the trailer (1958). He also said Dad still owned the motor (and presumably, the boat) in 1970, though both brothers agreed it never traveled to the Door County, Wisconsin, vacations prior to that—just to Minnesota. They also agreed that Dad must have sold it, eventually, since it was still usable.

Taking it on vacation meant hoisting it onto the roof rack of the car and tying it down so it it didn’t shift while driving, stopping, or turning. Warren described it this way:

I remember that we leaned the boat against the longitudinal bar (on the top of the car) from the side of the car. This bar may have been a roller bar. The boat was then slid/rolled to the top of the car and then rotated 90 degrees so the bow of the boat was over the hood of the car. The bow was tied to the bumper of the car. The back may have been tied to the back bumper and the sides may have been tied to the car top carrier. I do not remember those details. 

Warren Haws, to Christine Bauman, e-mail, 7 December 2019, Dad’s Rowboat. Bauman Email Files; privately held by Christine Haws Bauman, Greenwood, Indiana.
Undated photo of the 1960 Country Sedan station wagon hooked up to the trailer, with our boat strapped to the top of the car. The front license plate isn’t clear enough to provide a year. This would have been the night before we were leaving on vacation in early July of whatever year it was. Hooking up the trailer could take a little time, lining vehicles up and checking the lights. It always took longer, when you were in a hurry! So if we needed an early start, Dad would do that the night before. In the morning, we just had to pile into the car and pull out. You can see the trailer step still down and the door open, for the last of the food and clothes to be loaded inside.

You can see the rope in front, anchoring the boat to the bumper (back when bumpers were made of metal, not plastic!). The others ropes aren’t visible, but I’m sure they were there.

Our trips to Scenic State Park, near Bigfork, Minnesota, involved a fair amount of fishing. The boat couldn’t hold all of us, so we rotated. I doubt Mom was ever in it. She didn’t swim, so going in a rowboat would not have been high on her vacation to-do list! As the youngest, I spent the least time in it, because:

  • I wasn’t much of a fisherman at 3 or 4
  • I wouldn’t have the patience to sit still for very long
  • I’m positive I wouldn’t have kept quiet enough!

I do remember going out on the lake, though, especially the time when I caught my first fish. I was so excited! It was a small sunfish or bluegill, and Dad probably filleted and cooked it up specifically for me for dinner that night.

Except, it was a fake. Well, the fish was real; catching it wasn’t.

Apparently I’d been frustrated and upset about not catching any fish on that and prior outings. So while my line was in the water, whichever sibling was also in the boat distracted me. That gave Dad enough time to carefully hook a fish already caught onto my hook, so I could “catch” it.

It’s kind of like the time(s) you let a little kid win the board game by playing poorly, or outright cheating against yourself. I was clueless, of course, until many years later when a sibing spilled the beans. By then, I had caught plenty of fish on my own, so it was only a slight ego blow.

Possibly the last vacation for the Carole Ann was when I was 5 or 6. My dad took his father and father-in-law on a 1- or 2-week fishing trip. The rest of us stayed home, because my older siblings all had summer jobs they needed, earning money for college. Mom stayed home with all of us, and Dad drove the 3 of them up, with the trailer and boat, probably to Minnesota. Both my grandfathers were in their 70s, so Dad ended up doing all the cooking, dish washing, and fish-cleaning. It wasn’t much of a “vacation” for him!

Photo from July, 1963 or 1964. Ed Haws, Christoph Meintzer, Robert Haws, with the day’s catch (and dinner for that night!).

No, the boat isn’t in this photo, but it undoubtedly figured into that impressive stringer of fish . . .

Our rowboat (with its outboard motor) wasn’t the most impressive watercraft, and wasn’t in our lives very long, but it provided a lot of fun and memories to three generations of fishermen.

#52Ancestors

Thief

“Go on, take the money and run”–Steve Miller Band

I was in a slight panic when I saw this prompt. I couldn’t think of a single thief on my tree. Despite growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I’m unaware of any connection to gangsters or organized crime. Well, maybe one, but he moved west. Capone eating at the restaurant where my grandmother was the cook didn’t count. Even he had to eat, right? No cowboys settled out west, so no horse thieves, cattle rustlers, or claim jumpers lurked in the tree. We apparently were a fairly law-abiding family. Dang!

Ignatz Schweiger, age unknown, photo date unknown. Obviously before his death in 1921! This was probably taken in the yard of one of his children, but I’m not sure which one.

Fortunately, early in November I was searching Newspapers.com for my great grandmother, Dorothea Schweiger, and stumbled upon an article mentioning her husband, Ignatz:

John Thomas Is Arrested

John Thomas of Cleveland, O., is locked up in the village jail at Glencoe on a charge of robbing the cash drawer of the Hotel Hony, where he had worked for his dinner. Ignatz Schweiger, the butcher, was in the room, and says he saw the robbery committed. He ran to tell Mr. Hony, but when the latter arrived Thomas was going down the street toward the railroad. He was joined by three other men. Hony gave the alarm to Marshal Upfield, who overhauled the man. No resistance was made. The prisoner said he worked on the steamer Philip Minch and left the boat in Chicago to go into Wisconsin in search of work.

“John Thomas Is Arrested,” 5 December 1897, Newspapers.com: accessed 29 November 2019, record number: not given; citing original p. 3, column 4, news article 4, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Ignatz wasn’t a thief, but he helped catch one. He was 38 years old at the time—not exactly a young man, but certainly not old. I’m sure it was an exciting event for him.

Ignatz was referred to as “the butcher” (not “restaurant owner”), but more about that, later. Presumably the information in the Tribune was obtained from a police report. I searched Newspapers.com to see if there were any articles following up on the case. Unfortunately “John Thomas” is a horrible search string. I narrowed the date to December 1897 thru early 1898, but found nothing. It’s also possible the man pled guilty, so there was no further “news” to report. A local paper might have reported the sentencing, but I didn’t find one online.

I also searched using the name of the hotel/hotel owner. Again, I didn’t find further mention of this event. Curiously, I found 2 classified ads from 1904 about “Hony’s Hotel” in Galena, Illinois, being up for sale. The owner was ready to retire. For those of you not from Illinois, Galena is on the opposite side of the state from Glencoe. It’s a delightful little town, just shy of the Mississippi River, the home of Ulysses S. Grant (post Civil War, pre-presidency), chocked full of quaint tea rooms and antique shops.

It’s also 166 miles from Glencoe, and a 2 hour 45 minute drive today. In the early 1900s, it probably took 3-5 days with a horse-drawn wagon/carriage—the estimates I found on the internet varied. The point is, the Mr. Hony who was robbed wouldn’t have been running 2 hotels so far apart. It’s an odd coincidence, because the name isn’t that common. There are 7 years between the robbery and the Galena hotel sale, so Mr. Hony could have sold the Glencoe hotel and moved west to run another hotel, finally retiring in 1904 or later. I just don’t know.

Why do I suddenly care about this stranger? I never knew about him until I found that newspaper article. I don’t know if or how Mr. Hony connects to Ignatz. My great grandfather started out with the butcher shop at 375 Park. It morphed into a restaurant along the way. The family sold 375 to the Eklund family (whose daughter, Sally, later donated it to the Glencoe Historical Society) and moved a couple doors down to 367 Park.

The trouble is, documentation I have (which isn’t at my fingertips) placed the move to 367 in 1891—six years before this robbery. Was Ignatz still running a butcher shop out of the new address? Or are the other dates I have, inaccurate? I need to comb through my documents, dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” to nail down the specifics to clear this up.

Other questions pop into my head:

  • Is the police report still available? There may be more information than what was reported in the paper.
  • Where was Hotel Hony located?
  • Why was Ignatz at the hotel’s restaurant in the middle of the afternoon?
    • Were he and Mr. Hony friends or in a club or committee, together?
    • Was he scoping out the competition?

It’s amazing how such an inconsequential news article can raise so many questions about what I thought I already knew!

#52Ancestors

Soldier

“Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards, every one.”–Pete Seeger

In trying to choose which soldier (or military person) to write about, I decided to go for a Meintzer Trifecta, and pick one of the Kranz cousins. Unfortunately, travel limited my sources of information, and I wasn’t *quite* sure if Glenn Dale Kranz (a Rondout Kranz cousin), had died in the service, or just died in 1945, unrelated to WWII.

So I switched gears and looked at the family of my half grandaunt, Catherine (Kate) Meintzer Warren. Kate’s daughter, Mabel (1895-1973), married Frank E. Krenek (born 3 October 1889, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio). They married in Cuyahoga County 5 July 1911, and had 2 sons, Walter Roy (b. 1912), and Robert.

Frank became a soldier in WWI, leaving Mabel at home in South Haven, Michigan (on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan) with at least one, maybe 2 young boys.

He’s listed on a Europe-bound transport at Fold3, showing him leaving Hoboken, New Jersey on the Kroonland, 15 June 1918, service number 822037 . He returned from Europe after 19 April 1919, sailing from Pauillac, France, on the Canonicus, heading back to Mabel, now living in Chicago, at 6927 Solinin Street. It took almost 2 weeks before they arrived in Brooklyn, New York.

Much of Frank’s time in Europe is a mystery. He was a member of the Park Battery A , Army Artillery Park, 1st Army. My mom remembered hearing from her parents that he had been gassed during the war, and was never quite right, afterwards.

Mustard gas, of course, was the high tech weapon of that era. Its primary consequences were physical, with soldiers exposed to it experienced symptoms of:

  • eye irritation/burning
  • itchy skin that then developed yellow blisters
  • runny nose, hoarse throat, shortness of breath, coughing
  • abdominal pin, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting

Which symptoms, and their severity, probably depended on the individual, and how long (or concentrated) the exposure was. The other major injury was “shell shock.” That was the term used before it converted to PTSD.

Some time after the war, when Walter was an adult, Frank apparently took off. No one knew where he was or how to find him, but one day Mabel received a phone call from police out west, I believe. Frank had been picked up, not in trouble, particularly, but disoriented and confused. He was able to give them Mabel’s phone number, though.

Walter went to retrieve his father (Car? Train?), because the officers didn’t want to release him, fearing he wouldn’t get back home.

I don’t know how that trip went, or exactly when it was, but in the 1940 census, Frank resided in the Veterans’ Hospital in Shields Township. My guess is that was a result of his “road trip.” Why did the gas exposure story get passed down and the shell shock (assuming that’s accurate) not? Who knows? Maybe being “gassed” was a more concrete idea for people than “shell shock.”

The 1930 census placed Frank, Mabel, and Walter in a rental house in Cicero (southside). By 1935, a city directory moved Frank and Mabel to 721 Jenkinson Court, in Waukegan (a northern Chicago suburb). That agreed with the 1940 census which claimed he lived in Chicago in 1935. That probably narrows down the roadtrip to between 1935 and 1940.

I do not have information from family members about his death. The U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006 database at Ancestry has an entry for Frank E. Krenek, which matched his information on his service unit. It shows Frank died 10 March 1963, and was buried in the Wood National Cemetery, in Milwaukee.

#52Ancestors


Briggs, Josh. 2008. “How Mustard Gas Works”. Howstuffworks. https://science.howstuffworks.com/mustard-gas3.htm. Accessed 24 November 2019.