Genealogy provides a never-ending stream of surprises!
Give a vigorous shake to any family tree, and in addition to a few nuts, other surprises invariably fall out! Mine is no exception, and you’ve already read about a variety of “surprises” I’ve found through the years. But if you are hoping for a juicy, scandal-laced, DNA-based reveal in this blog post, your time is better spent elsewhere. This one is pretty mundane.
It’s September, 1946, and my mom’s cousin, Jeanne, is getting married. She is second youngest daughter of George Edward (Edward George) Meintzer (Next to Last), my grandfather’s older brother. The two girls (both still living!) are two years apart in age (Mom is older).
Though they lived in the same town, Mom says she and Jeanne didn’t really see too much of each other, growing up. Their fathers had a good relationship, so there wasn’t a family rift. The families lived only a few blocks apart, and Mom remembers Jeanne’s older sister, Helen, babysitting for her a couple times. But Jeanne’s mom was Catholic, with the children raised Catholic, so the families attended different churches, possibly different schools. And you know how it is with kids — they don’t really want to hang out with younger kids — even cousins!
But, by 1946, everyone is grown up, with my mom married for almost two years! She and Dad arrive at Jeanne’s wedding, most likely with her parents. Also in tow is my sister, Carole, seven months old, cute as a button, undoubtedly enjoying her brief stint as “only child.”
Imagine my mom’s surprise to see Aunt Rose (The Maiden Aunt) and Uncle Joe Rau also attending! They are from my dad’s side: Aunt Rose is the sister of my other grandmother, Victoria. Why are they here at my mom’s cousin’s wedding? What was going on?
It turned out that the bridegroom was Uncle Joe’s nephew! Uncle Joe’s sister, Mary, was the mother of the groom. Who would ever anticipate that? Of course, it didn’t change anything — my dad wasn’t related to Jeanne’s new husband. The two of them were just related — one by DNA, one by marriage — to the same person (Uncle Joe). It was simply one of those random occurrences that pop up in families.
As so often happens, quirky little things like that are easily forgotten. When I began my research in my teens, Mom and I paid a visit to her cousin, seeing what she might know about the Meintzers. Jeanne brought out a thick binder with the genealogy of her husband to show me. Someone in his family had researched and put it together, and he obtained a copy. It was interesting, but it really had nothing pertinent for us. Of course, it showed Uncle Joe’s connection to Jeanne’s husband, which Mom had forgotten about. It also made my fledgling genealogy look puny by comparison . . .
Fast forward 35+ years . . . The “Great Photo Identification Project” was still underway. Mom and I were on a road trip to the Chicago area and stopped by to see Jeanne. It was just a “sit and catch up” visit, but the conversation turned to photographs and the difficulty in identifying some of them.
This photo of Aunt Rose holding my sister was one of the problem photos we owned. Aunt Rose was easily identifiable, as was Carole. The woman on the right proved to be a puzzle, though. From the corsages, we knew is was some “event” — we just couldn’t place it. So while they chatted, Mom mentioned it. Conveniently, I had an image on my laptop, and pulled it up to show Jeanne. She took one look and said, “That’s my mother-in-law!”
Say what?? How did Mom not remember it being from Jeanne’s wedding? I guess she was busy taking care of a baby, and didn’t pay attention to Jeanne’s new in-laws. At least the mystery was finally solved! And yes, the photo has been properly labeled.
What’s the take-away from this? First, it’s a good idea to be careful with what you say about whom. You never know who might be distantly connected to you — or to someone you know. And when DNA testing enters the mix, all bets are off!
Second, label the pictures! Now. ALL of them. Not just one copy, Every. Single. Print. If you label only one (that you have multiples of) and give it away, where does that leave you? Unlabeled again, that’s what! Just do it.
Lastly, write the stories down. It is too easy to forget about them, or forget to repeat them to others, so they know about them. We’ve all played “telephone” enough to know how that game turns out, and we know the effect it can have on our family stories (Colorful and Close Up)! Having the stories committed to paper at least locks them into a particular version. It may still be wrong (or not completely right — not quite the same thing as wrong), but at least there’s a more fixed starting point, and something concrete to either prove or disprove.
Most importantly, enjoy the surprises (good or bad) when they show up. They make our family history more interesting! That’s what keeps most genealogists coming back for more.
“When in doubt, go to the library.” —J. K. Rowling
Like any genealogist, I have put in time at many libraries. As a fledgling genealogist in the mid-1970s, my first guide book (Searching for Your Ancestors by Gilbert H. Doane, if I remember correctly) would have come from our local library. I think it was the lone geneology title on the shelf! Everything I knew about researching came from that book, until I received a paperback copy of Finding Your Roots by Jeane Eddy Westin for Christmas in 1978 or later. That book still sits on my shelf, non-acid-free pages yellowed with age.
Flipping the pages was a stroll back in time. I saw the parts I underlined (who used highlighters back then?) and paused at the section talking about Chicago’s Newberry Library. I knew the “LDS Salt Lake City Library” (as Ms. Westin referred to what we now know as the Family History Library) was not in my future. I did not live where my ancestors had, so “local records” were not nearby. Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was far enough away (3 hours) that a trip wasn’t really feasible. But the Newberry Library was only a half hour away, and would have more resources than a local library or historical society.
So somehow I managed to con persuade my dad to make a trip to the Newberry with me one Saturday. I knew my parents wouldn’t let me venture into the near north side of Chicago on my own! When we walked into the library, it was obvious that I was the youngest person in the building. My dad, in his early 50s, may have been the next youngest! I knew I had only a few hours there, so needed to make the most of it!
I do not have a research log from that visit. I was a teenager — I didn’t know any better. But I remember looking through the card catalog for anything about Manitowoc County. I’m pretty sure the stacks were closed, so I had to fill out a request slip and wait for them to retrieve the books for me.
While waiting, Dad and I went into the microfilm room to look for census records from Manitowoc County. With two of us there, we could cover twice the films, right? Of course, neither of us knew what we were doing! I found a couple reels for 1880 and we set to work looking for John Bruder¹ and family, and John Haase and family. You met some of them in The Old Homestead.
We knew they were in Manitowoc county, and knew some town names to start with, but it was still a page-by-page project. We learned the joys of cranking the microfilm handle, pausing to scan the page, then repeat. Luckily, neither of us experienced motion sickness, as some do!
I probably don’t still have the notes from that day, having transferred them to Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts. But the lessons learned that day have stuck with me. Things I had only read about, became glaringly obvious:
Spelling is flexible. For Haase, I found:
For Bruder, I found
“Brother” (yes, “Bruder” translated to English!)
“Rinder” in the 1870 Ancestry index (name misread by the indexer)
First names were not exempt!
Johann Mathias: Mathias, John, Johann, or John M.
Elizabeth: Elisabeth, Elisbeth, or Lisabeth,
Nicholas: Nicklas, Niclaus
Catherine can be “C” or “K”, with or without the “e” in the middle, and even “Katy”
Age is relative! As long as the gaps between children were consistent with what I expected, I learned to roll with it. And adults were given wide latitude with their ages, too.
I quickly realized I could not rely on reading last names, and needed to look at the entire family — parents and kids together! The kids’ names weren’t particularly unusual, but the odds were low that, even if the last name was wrong, there probably weren’t two families with Elizabeth, Dorothy, Frank, Bertha, John, and Henry (or whoever) in the right order, with the right age gaps. That probably was the beginning of my learning to “trust my gut” about whether the person or family is “right.” Sometimes the leeway or accommodations I allow are greater than others, and people whose names might seem very wrong, are very right, and people with the “right” name are so very, very wrong! It’s an art, not a science, and not infallible.
So after cranking through the 1880, 1870, and 1860 censuses, we returned to the reading room to see if the books I’d requested were waiting. That was when I learned my next lesson: Farmers are not written about in the county histories! To me, the mid-1800s seemed “early,” but when History of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin Volume I talked about the pioneers, it meant the early 1800s. I headed to the chapters for the towns the Haase, Bruder, Jost, and Nachtwey families lived in — no mention of any of them.
Another memory from that trip, was seeing my first plat maps. I’m not sure how I found them, but I remember seeing names I recognized. Those may have been in another book. One thing I did not come home with, was photocopies — of anything — not even the census pages. All that information was written down in old school notebooks! At the time, copies cost fifty cents a piece! College expenses were looming, and I did not have a “genealogy budget.”
As so often happens while writing a blog post, I learn something new. This time I discovered it can be harder to find census records online, than cranking through the physical microfilm! Looking for Bruders in 1870, I couldn’t find them. I knew they were there, and I could find the FamilySearch image, but not the Ancestry one. The two databases have different indexes, and Ancestry misread “Bruder” as “Rinder.”³ It took some creative searching to locate it, and then a helpful cousin with an Ancestry subscription (thanks, Barb!) to confirm it was the right page. Searching online databases is faster only when the names are indexed correctly!
As I verify information, I sometimes find gaps in it. I realized I’d never located the Haase family in 1880. I finally found great-great-grandma Elisabeth, misspelled Hasse, with the three youngest kids.² My great-grandfather, Frank (b. 1858) is not with them, however. I can’t find him anywhere. He doesn’t marry Anna Bruder until 1885. Presumably he’s nearby, working for someone else — though he could be in another county, too! It looks like I need to do a page-by-page search online for him.
So many dead people, so little time, and always more questions than answers . . .
¹1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth, e.d. 66; Page 12; dwelling number 104; family number 108; line 3; Mathias BRUDER household; accessed 3 February 2019. Mathias BRUDER, age 45; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
²1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers, e.d. 78; Page 13; dwelling number 112; family number 112; line 25; Lisabeth HASSE [HAWS} household; accessed 3 February 2019. Lisabeth HASSE [HAWS], age 55, widowed; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
³1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers Town; Page 19; dwelling number 134; family number 139; line 10; John RINDER [BRUDER] household; accessed 2 February 2019. John RINDER [BRUDER], age 33; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).4
4 1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers Town; Page 15; dwelling number 108; family number 113; line 6; John HORS [HOSS] household; accessed 2 February 2019; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
“Nostalgia has a way of blocking the reality of the past.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Nine days ago, I wrote a post about the name Alois/Aloysius (Unusual Name), and its appearance in our family. At the end I related a story about my oldest brother choosing it for his Confirmation name. Almost immediately I received an email from my sister-in-law (wife of middle brother) saying that he had Aloysius as a Confirmation name.
Had I mis-remembered the story? Entirely possible. It was not written down, just tucked away in memory. Could they have both chosen the same name? Maybe. Unfortunately, oldest brother, Bob, died in 2008, so he isn’t around to ask. How could I resolve this conflicting information?
When it got to a more decent hour, I called our mother (age 96!) on the off chance that she remembered. Now, she’s 96, wasn’t Catholic until she turned 70, and we’re talking about something that happened sixty years ago. I didn’t hold out much hope.
I was not mistaken. She did not remember who had which Confirmation name, though she remembered one of them had chosen Aloysius. She also confirmed that she didn’t care for the name, but didn’t remember telling anyone that. So perhaps I’ve mis-remembered that aspect of the story, and she was simply perturbed that the name was selected.
But that still didn’t resolve the issue. I messaged youngest brother, Bill, to see if he remembered anything. He thought he had chosen Paul, and that Bob had Aloysius, but reminded me it was a long time ago! If he’d read the blog entry, that also might have influenced his answer, so I took it with a grain of salt.
I decided I needed to follow my mother’s advice and call the parish. Hopefully they had a record of the names. The woman I spoke with two days later was very nice, and I gave her as much information as I could: our names, my Confirmation date, and all our graduation dates. I figured she might need to search through registers, so waited patiently for an email reply. It arrived today!
The email¹ from the parish secretary included all our Confirmation names, as well as the dates. Bob (Aloysius) and Carole (Lucy) were confirmed on the same day (our parish held Confirmation every other year, doing two grades at a time). Middle brother (Warren) was Thomas! Bill had correctly remembered Paul, and I already knew Elizabeth for me.
While I feel slightly vindicated (sorry, Warren!), truthfully I wouldn’t have cared if the answer had been different. I could have just as easily been wrong. This isn’t a fact I track in the genealogy, much less being a “vital” data point. But since the question had been raised, I needed to follow up on it, verifying it one way or another.
But now that this mystery has been solved, I can move on to others!
¹Lara Krupicka, Hinsdale, Illinois [(e-address for private use),] to Christine Bauman, e-mail, 29 January 2019, “Confirmation Names”; privately held by Bauman [(e-address & street address for private use),] Greenwood, Indiana.
Are you kidding? Everybody! I’ve got questions for them all. Well, that was a quick blog to write . . .
Okay, that really doesn’t cut it, so I’m choosing two: Hans Meyer der Ëinsminger (1575-1621) from Bockenheim (now Sarre-Union), and Hans Adam Gerber Einsminger (1577-1630) from Diemeringen. Despite the similar last names, the consensus is that the two men are not related — at least, not close enough for anyone to figure out how. Both lived in closely spaced villages in Alsace. But record keeping in the 1500s and 1600s allows for potential errors in connections. Meeting with them both (preferably together!) would provide an opportunity to clarify some information.
When I travel up my Meintzer line, as I hit the 1700s and 1600s, I start running into Ensmingers. Or Einsmingers. Or Ëinsmingers. You have to keep an open mind with the spelling, because they certainly did! My great grandfather (Christian–Colorful) is where both lines meet up. Every one of his descendants descends from both Hans Meyer and Hans Gerber.
The similarity of names, and nearness of towns (8-9 km apart, not that far, even by 1600s standards) created the confusion. For a long time, many thought the two men were one. Further research revealed the two separate family groups, resolving some of the issues. In the Bockenheim church books there was a Hans Einssminger, along with another Hans Ensminger found in the Diemeringen records. Some records simply had the Ensminger surname, while others included additional surnames in front—”Meyer der Einsminger” (literally “of” or “from” Insming) or “Gerber Einsminger.” It’s the type of name treatment given to someone moving in from another town. It would distinguish the “new guy” from the “Hans _______” already living in town. It suggests both men were originally from Insming, in Lorraine, though there’s not definitive proof.
Hans Gerber Einsminger was born in Diemeringen around 1577. While he was born there, it’s believed his father was Peter Gerber, of Insming. The “Einsminger” addition applied to his father apparently stayed with Hans, too. He married Christina Gut, and had at least 6 children. One of those was my 9th great-grandfather, Carl (b. 1605). His wife, Ottilia Bach would eventually be found guilty of witchcraft, and be executed in 1673 (Misfortune). Carl’s great-granddaughter, Anna Ottilia (b. 1696) marries out into the Koeppel family in Dehlingen, ending our Ensminger surname on that side. A couple generations of Bauer and then Isel, and we end up at great-grandpa Christian!
Hans Meyer der Einsminger was born about 1575, presumably in Insming. He had two wives (both Margareth or Margaretha — smart man!), and twelve children between the two of them. All his children were born in Bockenheim, beginning in 1601. While Hans Meyer died in Bockenheim (1621), his sons (or at least my 8th great-grandfather, Hans Georg) moved to nearby Hambach/Waldhambach. Georg’s daughter, Catharina, married Johann Matthias Schmidt, producing two of my 6th great-grandmothers — Anna Catharina and Anna Barbara. The latter married a Roth from Volksberg, leading down to the Philippi and Meintzer families. It finally ended up with my 2nd great-grandfather marrying an Isel from the other Ensminger line.
You can see why a face-to-face with these men would be useful. The scarcity and conditions of the records so far back make it difficult. Obviously they would not be able to supply information on later generations, but they SHOULD know who their parents were, their children, and possibly some — if not all — of their grandchildren. It would be a huge help!
Full disclaimer: I have not personally verified all the parent-child connections between my great-grandfather and either man. My primary source for many of those connections is Alsatian Connections, Volume I¹. In compiling the genealogies of the emigrants from the towns of Butten, Dehlingen, Diemeringen, Ratzwiller, and Waldhambach, Ms. Wesner used church and civil records, C. Schrader-Muggenthaler’s The Alsace Emigration Book, and A. Kunselman Burgert’s Eighteenth Century Emigrants from Northern Alsace to America. While information “coming from a book” doesn’t make it accurate, all those volumes are held in high regard.
Similarly, the connections beyond the red boxes above have been taken from various web pages or other reference books: in particular, Ensminger of Alsace and Pennnsylvania. Again, that’s a somewhat risky proposition, but the reality is the Ensminger descendants who wrote that book have continued to research, collaborate, and update the information. Its current iteration (2018) is a downloadable PDF file, available from numerous libraries, free of charge. The original author, Dr. Bell, has passed away, but while he was still alive, other researchers found the book, and contacted him with questions, additions, and corrections. Reading through the preface, it explains:
how Dr. Bell researched
how and when the collaborators joined with him
incorrect information in the original publication–and the corrections made in this new revision
other genealogical compilations for different Ensminger branches
mistaken connections in those books, as well as what parts are correct
So while no printed genealogy will ever be “perfect,” I will, for the time being, utilize the information from this book. As I get time, I will personally re-check the Alsatian church and civil records for my direct ancestors’ information to confirm those details. But yes, I’d like to meet Hans Adam Gerber Ensminger and Hans Meyer der Ensminger
²Raymond Martin Bell, Brendon R. Wehrung, John Kurt Entsminger, Dale Edward Ensminger, Ensminger of Alsace and Pennnsylvania, 2018 Edition (online) (Middle River, MD, 2018, originally published 1995), Part 2, p. 1. http://www.genealogycenter.info/search_ensminger.php. Alan County Public Library Genealogy Center.
I’ve already used up my most unusual name: Venemi/Vensom/Vaclav (Same Name). But if I have to choose another one, I’m going with Alois. It’s a name we don’t see much of nowadays, and shows up in just one of my ancestral branches. It is related to the names Aloysius (AL-oh-ISH-əs), Louis, and Ludwig (as well as others) and means “famous warrior.” St. Aloysius is the patron saint of Catholic youth.
Alois Schweiger was my great-great-grandfather (father of Ignatz (Closest to Your Birthday), who emigrated from Bavaria in 1882). Alois was born in Niederhoëfen, Bavaria, 5 October 1821. He died there 13 February 1871, just shy of fifty years old. To the best of my knowledge, there were no others before him named Alois — though I don’t know names for his cousins, uncles, granduncles, etc. Some others could be lurking there.
Alois and his wife Marianne Hartmann had seven children. Their youngest son was Alois, Jr. Older brother, Ignatz, named one of his sons (Uncle Al) “Aloysius,” in honor of his father and brother, I suppose. Uncle Al in turn named his youngest son after himself and his grandfather. However, that son (Buddy) used a nickname for most of his relatively short (1917-1947) life, so I guess he wasn’t overly fond of Aloysius!
When I started doing genealogy, and began looking for this name in records, I realized that MANY people were not familiar with either variation, so they became very creative with spelling. Sometimes the problem was with the more recent transcriber having trouble reading the handwriting and not knowing what the name was. Other times the issue was with the person writing it down in the first place. I’ve seen it written or indexed as:
Alice (for a man!)
Allwishes (SO wrong, yet works phonetically!)
I soon learned to look at names and think how they would sound and not worry about how they were spelled!
As I gathered information for this post (meaning of the name, patron saint, etc.), I decided to run a search at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch just to see what other Alois Schweigers popped up. There were way more than I anticipated! Most of them didn’t belong to me, of course, but it was interesting to see they mostly came from Bavaria (where mine came from), or very nearby — Baden, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland. Northern Germany did not show up very often as I scrolled through. Of course, the name is used with many other surnames, but checking with “Schmidt,” the results seemed similar.
So I wonder how much geography plays a role in naming patterns? Is it a coincidence that Beethoven (a Ludwig) was born in Bonn, considerably farther north? It would be an interesting topic to study. Or is it merely a function of what name is popular at a particular time? That’s how we acquired a generation of children named Brittany, Justin, and Jessica! While I have 24 Louis and 10 Ludwig people in my file, there are only 7 Alois or Aloysius entered (some of them distantly connected). Both are clearly outnumbered by more the traditional Louis and Ludwig!
Of course, the best story about the name comes from my mom. When my oldest brother was getting ready for his confirmation, Mom told him he could choose whatever saint name he wanted, but she really didn’t care for Aloysius. So what name did Bob pick? Aloysius, of course! Unfortunately, that detail doesn’t get stored in my database, so he doesn’t figure into the above stats. But that may well be our family’s most recent — and last? — use of this unusual name!
Genealogy is often challenging. This week is brought to you by my mom’s maternal grandparents. We know more about the paternal grandparents who died before Mom was born, than the set that lived around the corner from her! The level of challenge they present is unexpected.
Carl [Karl] Moeller (Bearded)was born 27 July 1860, and died 3 May 1935.¹ Mom was 13, and definitely remembers him. Elfrieda Jonas (more with her name, later) was born 7 December 1867 and died 25 April 1954.² Because her mom (Minnie) worked in a restaurant, my mom regularly went to her grandparents’ house after school — and presumably during the summer.
The memories that have trickled out
of Mom over the last 40+ years of genealogy include:
Carl and Elfrieda emigrated from Germany.
Mom thought they knew each other before coming over, but they got married here.
She believed Elfrieda worked as a maid/housekeeper after arriving, until she got married. This was possibly in the Krieger household, though the name Gerken pops up, too.
Carl and Elfrieda spoke German regularly — at least enough that they sent their children to “German School” on Saturdays. Minnie spoke German — she and Christoph would switch to that if they didn’t want the kids to understand!
We aren’t aware of any siblings for Carl or Elfrieda in this country.
Elfrieda used to send money back to Germany — to her mother?—and was born out of wedlock.
Tillie Gripke was someone important, because Elfrieda took the train to California twice to see her. We don’t know if she’s a relative, or just an old friend who happened to move west.
It seems Carl and Elfrieda are pretty well documented — at least in some areas:
We find Elfrieda in the 19407 census, living with her daughter and son-in-law (Caroline and Emil Mueller).
Carl and Elfrieda are in the
1900³ (Charles and Alfreda)
19104 (Karl and Alfriede)
19205 (Carl and Frieda) and
19306 (Carl and Alfrieda) censuses.
They were married 25 September 18878, in Cook County, Illinois.
While it looks like we know quite a lot about them, with closer scrutiny, you notice it’s rather superficial. None of that information helps me nail down an emigration date or specifically where they were from. The census records consistently tell us both were born in Germany, but it’s a big place. Emigration dates range from 1884-1887. Carl is naturalized by 1890, according to the 19306 census. I haven’t located his final papers, or any of the earlier ones.
Nor have I located a passenger list for either of them. They would have arrived at Castle Garden, but even with those records online, the details in the records are skimpy, making it difficult to distinguish between various Carl Moellers. His name is too common, and with Elfrieda, I get “Jones” results, instead of “Jonas.” If they had traveled in a large group, they might be easier to find.
Then there’s the confusion about Elfrieda’s maiden name: is it Jonas? Gerken? Krieger? Was one of those the name of the family she worked for? Because she emigrated, worked, and got married all in between census years, I don’t have those as checkpoints. The 1890 census fire is particularly not helpful. In the marriage database8 Elfrieda uses the last name, “Jonas.” I would think a 19 year old who’s getting married knows her last name. I can’t think of any reason for her to lie. Gerken and Jonas don’t sound remotely similar, so I don’t see it being recorded wrong because the clerk couldn’t understand her accent. Unfortunately, the marriage certificate doesn’t include parents’ names. A marriage application might, but those are frequently not available. Her mother (since Elfrieda is illegitimate) is still a mystery.
I still don’t know about Tillie Gripke. She was the daughter of Rose Buthmann. Could Rose have been a sister to Elfrieda, making Tillie her cousin? Maybe. I need to research Tillie’s tree to see where it takes me, and if there are any connections to Elfrieda.
On a tree at Ancestry.com, another researcher has gotten Elfrieda confused with a Friederike Gerken, born February 1865, in Illinois, to parents Henry (Heinrich) and his wife, Wilhelmine. This family lived in Northfield (just southeast of Northbrook) in 18709. Friederike had an older sister, Anna, and younger sisters, Rebecca, Henriette, Louise, Katharine, and Caroline. This family lived in Illinois until about 1878, when their youngest daughter was born. Then they moved to Cullman, Alabama, as they are there for the 188010 census. Henry has a land grant record in Alabama, dated 1888. Friederika married an Edward F. Wolff (also born in Illinois) in 1885, in Alabama11. None of her records refer to her as Elfrieda. Frederika Wolff died in Cullman, Alabama in 1908 and is buried there, with her parents, husband, and children.
Unfortunately, this other tree has none of that information, other than the birth and parents. Instead, Frederika is “married” to my great grandfather, Carl Moeller, with my grandmother and all her siblings attached to the two of them as children. My great-grandmother’s obituary, though, confirmed many of the details my mom knew:
Mrs. Moeller was born in Germany 86 years ago and had lived at her Church st., residence in Northbrook for over 62 years. She was known to the community as “Mutter” Moeller . . . her husband, Carl, preceded her in death 19 years ago.
“Obituaries,” 29 April 1954, Newspapers.com: accessed 14 January 2019, record number: ng; citing original p. 22 col. 6 para. 2-3, entry for Mrs. Elfrieda Moeller, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).
That does not sound like someone born in Illinois! It seems clear to me that Elfrieda and Frederika are two different people. I’m not sure which woman the other researcher wants to connect to, but the tree is garbled.
Things aren’t much better with Carl! A different tree at Ancestry.com has my grandmother and her siblings as the children of an Elfrieda Johanna Gerken (with my great-grandmother’s birth and death information, and born in Germany) and Carl Heinrich Jochim Moeller (born in the right year, but wrong date). His parents are Johann Jochen Moeller (b 1825) and Lene Sophia Dorthea Mall (1838-1911), with additional generations shown. That’s all well and good, except that his death certificate says his parents are Johann Moeller and Sophia Milahan. Granted, I haven’t been able to research those two names — as far as I know, they never left Germany, and I don’t know where in Germany that is! The information was provided by my grandaunt, Lena, so I trust that it’s close. If she didn’t know, “unknown” would have been a perfectly acceptable answer — I’ve seen it often enough on other certificates!
Then there are all those middle names. Where did they come from? None of the attached records showed a middle name, much less 2. It’s possible Carl did have one or more middle names, but I have never seen ANY middle names or initials in his records, so I’m a bit skeptical. The same string of names is in the tree at FamilySearch — again, with no documentation of the name. I suspect one tree spawned the other.
Obviously the immediate challenge is to find birth places, parents, and emigration details for Carl and Elfrieda! The bigger (perhaps more difficult and/or more important) challenge will be to contact the owners of the two trees (also the submitter at Find A Grave), to “discuss” the name issues and mis-attachments. It would be easy to let it go, but incorrect trees tend to keep spreading, as additional researchers find them and incorporate the incorrect information into their own tree. It’s also possible that I am wrong, and they have additional information to document their assertions. In that case, I want to know that, so I can correct my tree.
¹Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 11 August 2018, memorial 25468142, Carl MOELLER, (1860-1935), Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois.
²Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 13 January 2019, memorial 25468143, Elfrieda Johanna Gerken MOELLER, (1867-1954), Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois. [name is wrong]
³1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 14; family number 16; line 7; Charles [Carl] MOELLER household; accessed 11 August 2018. Charles [Carl} MOELLER, age 39, July 1860; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
41910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Shermerville, e.d. 64; sheet 4A; dwelling number 55; family number 57; line 44; Karl Moeller household; accessed 13 April 2018. Wilhellmine MOELLER, age 17; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Shermerville, e.d. 139; Page 3B; dwelling number 58; family number 64; line 54; Carl MOELLER household; accessed 8 January 2019. Carl MOELLER, age 59; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
61930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, block 18, e.d. 16-2237; Page 11A; dwelling number 119; family number 126; line 15; Carl MOELLER household; accessed 8 January 2019. Carl MOELLER, age 69; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 528; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
71940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, e.d. 16-341; Page 7A; household number 143; line 15; Emil A. MUELLER household; accessed 9 January 2019. Elfrieda Moeller, age 72; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 784; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
8“Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920”, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org), accessed 11 August 2018, citing Cook County, Illinois, reference 592131, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1030520. Carl MOELLER (27) and Elfrida JONAS (19).
91870 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Beat No. 1; Page 22B; dwelling number 131; family number 129; line 26; Henry GERKEN household; accessed 12 January 2019. Federica GERKEN, age ; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 213; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
101880 U.S. census, population schedule, Alabama, Cullman, Beat No. 1, e.d. 46; Page 22B; dwelling number 180; family number 181; line 5; Henry GERKEN household; accessed 12 January 2019. Friederike, age 15; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 10; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
11Ancestry.com. Alabama, Select Marriage Indexes, 1816-1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014, citing Alabama, Marriages, 1816-1957. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
I had pre-printed forms to fill in. They organized the information, but there wasn’t a lot of room on each page. I had enough sense to type, which was probably neater than hand writing. My parents’ Underwood portable typewriter — along with whiteout —were well used as I transferred my interview notes, letter responses, etc., to a consistent format. It was tedious, with ample opportunity to introduce errors (more about that later).
As you later read in Lucky, my daughter decided to tackle genealogy in the mid-1990s. Everything was unpacked after an eleven or twelve year break. I discovered the local library had Family Tree Maker 3.0 software to check out. I tried it out on my Compaq (Win 3.1) desktop, and decided it was worth converting my information to the computer.
Truthfully, I could have migrated to computer ten years earlier, with my Atari 1200XL. If you didn’t realize I am a geek, that cat’s out of the bag! Someone had developed genealogy software for Atari, but would require me to retype all my information, something not terribly feasible with a new baby. Data storage would have been a problem (remember how little 5 1/4″ floppies stored?), and I still would have needed to print everything out. Printer ribbons weren’t particularly cheap. So while we did use the Atari for Mike’s MBA research papers, finances, home inventory, and even a frogger-type game I found code for, I passed on genealogy.
So Family Tree Maker 3.0 became my FIRST genealogy software, and I started the process of retyping all my information. Had I used the Atari software, I still would have had to redo data entry because the file formats were different. It was a slow process, but it allowed me to reacquaint myself with everyone. I also realized the benefits of entering each piece of information only once.
Earlier I mentioned the risk of introducing errors. Maintaining the tree entirely on paper means a person’s information is typed between one and three different times:
on the pedigree chart (if they are a direct ancestor)
on the family group sheet as a parent (if they are one)
on another family group sheet as a child (if the parents are known)
If they married more than once, that’s another sheet to type. Plenty of opportunity to
misspell a name
mistype a date (birth, marriage, death)
mistype a location
If I later realized a piece of information was wrong, I needed to remember ALL the places (sheets) that information might be typed on, so I could correct it. Miss any, and I’d have conflicting information confusing things. Software allows me to type each piece of information only once. Each chart, form, report, or screen view is generated on the fly, using that single piece of data, so everything is consistent. Can I make a mistake? Certainly! But one correction will take care of it.
Paper didn’t provide much space to document where information came from. I could type a citation on the back, but that was a little awkward. My paper forms (yes, I still have them!) don’t have citations. I’ve been steadily working at improving documentation in my software (now Family Tree Maker 2017 — the equivalent of v. 23, I think?). As software changed, adding a source citation feature, I got more diligent about recording them. The newest versions have Evidence Explained templates, so I need to revisit all the citations to beef them up and make them consistent.
So why was that FIRST software so important? It changed the WAY I researched. No, not chasing “shaky leaves!” Even with many more people in my file (about 5500 right now), I can easily check out who I have information on. I don’t have to flip through multiple binders or hanging files, or the single binder I actually had, with everyone filed alphabetically. I can add in more details about their lives (occupation, military, residence), that paper family group sheets don’t have space for. I have plenty of room to incorporate notes about inconsistent data, or why I drew certain conclusions. When three different censuses tell me three different ages, I can record each, picking one as preferred. If later information causes me to change my opinion, it’s easy enough to change the preferred fact. No whiteout required!
Software makes citations simpler to apply, and I can easily attach digital images to them. Finding the actual document is much easier/quicker if I don’t have to scour Explorer looking for it, trying to remember how it’s named. Easier citations means I’m more likely to DO it, instead of putting it off. Having citations keeps me from searching the same place more than once. I should log better than I do, but citations help in the meantime. Baby steps!
Software has changed WHO I research. I try not to be a “name collector,” but if I were typing up physical sheets, I think I’d be less inclined to follow through researching collateral relatives. Sometimes they simply fill in tree details, but other times they answer an important question. Sometimes they let me help out extended relations.
When I found Edward M. Kranz (husband of my grand aunt, Sophie Meintzer) in the 1880 census, he was with his parents and his younger siblings. On paper, I would have picked up his information and his parents’ names. I wouldn’t have bothered with his siblings, or other details about his parents. In my database, I now enter all the information from the census, so I don’t have to go look it up again.
Now when 2nd cousins from that branch ask me questions, I have a little information for them, and some idea of what they are talking about. If I decide to help them with research, but I don’t want all their extra people (not related to me) in my file, I can easily spin off a new file with just the relatives I need for that research.
I also research BETTER. It is easier to decide if someone is part of our tree, or not. I have a number of people who I have determined (at least, as of now) are not relatives. They are different than the person in my tree (do not have the right parents, siblings, etc.). I leave them in, however, with all their information (and sources!), and an explanation about why I think they don’t belong to us. If a cousin (or I!) find a document of theirs later on, I have solid facts about why I think they are not connected. “They aren’t related to us, but I don’t remember why,” is a pretty poor answer. Researching them again to gather that proof is a waste of time. Hanging onto them and their information saves me time in the long run. And if a new document does connect them to us — I still have all the prior research handy.
Sharing information is also much easier! I can create whatever report I like (with citations, if needed!), and email the PDF to whoever I like. No pulling sheets from a binder, going to Mailboxes, Etc. to make copies, then the post office to mail them. Ditto for document images.
Twenty years ago, most of the above benefits never crossed my mind. Software was simply cool, and maybe it would save a little time. It was certainly quieter than the click-clack of the typewriter keys, so I didn’t keep the rest of the family awake! I’m glad I took leap into the fledgling realm of genealogy software 20+ years ago.