Cemetery

So many to choose from!

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The remains of my family are scattered throughout the Midwest. Big cemeteries (Ridgewood in Des Plaines, IL, or Ascension in Libertyville, IL), little cemeteries (Columbus, in St. Clair County, MI), and everything in between. One of my favorites, though is Sacred Heart Cemetery, in Northbrook, IL. It’s not the smallest one, but still very quiet and quaint. It’s on Lee Road, just north of Dundee. The I-94 Edens Spur turned Lee Road into a dead-end road (irony!), keeping it quiet. A single drive takes you inside, with a keyhole loop at the end, so you can turn around.

While Catholic Cemeteries manages all the Cook County, IL, cemeteries currently, originally each church kept up its own. This cemetery was attached Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka. Sacred Heart was a spin-off from St. Joseph’s Church in Wilmette. St. Joseph’s parish had grown, requiring another church to take care of the parishioners further north. St. Joseph’s Cemetery was also filling up, so it made sense for the new parish to start its own cemetery. At that time, Northbrook (which was really Shermerville) was out in the boondocks, so presumably land was cheap and available. It made sense to put the cemetery out there.

My great-grandparents, Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry (Invite to Dinner, Valentine, The Maiden Aunt) purchased Lot 2, Block 6, Section 2 in the cemetery. They were among the original families to start up the new parish, so I don’t know if they simply got in on the ground floor, or purchased it after they had a need. My earliest memory of it was when my grandpa, Edward, was buried. I was only seven, and don’t recall much, but I think it was a drizzly–or at least overcast–day. Fitting for a funeral.

Sacred Heart cemetery_0003
In Loving Memory of Iganatz Schweiger, born May 13, 1859; died Aug. 15, 1921. Dorothea Schweiger, born Mar. 26, 1858; died Oct. 29, 1932.
Sacred Heart cemetery_0002
In Loving Memory of Anthony G. Schweiger, born Jan. 17, 1891; died Sept. 28, 1914. Paul J. Haws, born Nov. 24, 1914; died March 3. 1915.

Towards the center of the plot, Ignatz & Dorothea installed a tall monument. The family name is arched at the bottom of the front side, with Igantz and Dorothea inscribed above. On an adjacent side are listed Anthony G. Schweiger (my grandmother’s brother) and Paul J. Haws (my father’s oldest brother). Prior to starting on the family tree, I hadn’t heard of either person.

Fortunately, my dad was with me on that trip to Sacred Heart, and could fill me in. Anthony died age 23, after being kicked in the head by a horse. He graduated from Sacred Heart’s grade school, and when we find him in the 1910 census¹, he’s a driver for a grocery. Sometimes we find him as “Anton” in records. Other than these small snippets of his life, we don’t know much, so it’s nice he has such a solid remembrance.

Paul J. Haws is the oldest brother of my dad. He was born 24 November 1914, and died 3 1/2 months later, on 3 March 1915. Victoria laid him in the crib the night before, and when she went to get him up the next morning, he was cold. There was no hint of illness prior. Some time before she died in 1955, as SIDS was first being recognized, she mentioned to my mom that what happened with Paul seemed to be the same thing.

The other sides of the monument are not carved–flush to the ground headstones were placed for the others. Buried there are my dad (and Mom–at some point), his brother, Henry (along with his wife, Mary), and sister Marie. Their other brother, George, is in Wheeling Cemetery (despite the notation below. He decided he didn’t want to use those graves. Marie’s daughter, Pattie, is there, instead. My grandparents, Victoria and Edward are there, as well as Victoria’s unmarried brother, Iggy (Ignatz).

Sacred Heart cemetery_0004
Plot card from some time after 1988, when Uncle George still was thinking about using 2 of the plots. He later changed his mind and is in Wheeling Cemetery. Uncle Henry and Aunt Mary’s cremains share the plot next to my dad. My cousin Pattie is in one of the others–I think next to her mom.

Besides baby Paul, Aunt Marie’s first daughter, Marilyn Victoria, is buried here. According to the plot card above, she and Paul were both buried in the southeast corner, so I guess they are in the same plot with Henry and his wife, Mary. With cremation urns, it’s not a big deal, I guess, and it’s nice they have company. I may see if the card can be updated, though, to include her name, as there is no marker. I’ve told my children, and some nieces and nephews, but they may not remember, and I don’t want her forgotten.

The family’s Sacred Heart plot is almost full of people, and certainly full of memories. The plot card reminds us that not everyone has a marker, so asking for the plot card information can be important. It sometimes has information not available from the cemetery websites.

#52Ancestors


¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 57; sheet 9A; dwelling number 168; family number 169; line 25; Ignaty[z] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 29 April 2018. Anton SCHWEIGER, age 19; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 239; digital image, Ancestry.com) (https://www.ancestry.com).

Storms

Before The Weather Channel or Facebook, there was . . . the postcard . . .

Some people find storms to be romantic, but most don’t. I don’t know that my grandparents, Christoph J. Meintzer and Minnie Moeller, (Invite to Dinner) particularly thought they were, but storms and the weather certainly impacted their courtship. They lived about 5.5 miles apart: she in Shermerville (now Northbrook), he in the Riverwoods (west of Deerfield). I don’t know if either (or neither) of them had a telephone, but we DO have a collection of postcards sent by one or the other while they dated. The picture on the reverse was sometimes one or both of them, but often it was just a picture of something around town–train station, ice cream shop, etc.

We see that sometimes the weather put a potential monkey wrench into their plans;

1911 04 07 Christ cowboy back
[Friday] 7 April 1911 5PM “Dearest Hon, I’ll have to send you one off [of] these postals, Hon, if the weather is too bad Sat. night then I ain’t coming up. I shot two ducks today. am Going to shoot some Sun. morning so you know what that means.” Upside down, left corner: “With Love As B 4 Christ”
Sometimes it was simply the topic of discussion from the previous date . . . And what was Grandma doing up until 3:30AM? Did the storm keep her awake? I’m not sure.

1911 09 09 postcard back_0001
[Tuesday] 19 September 1911 7AM “Dear Hon – How did you get home in that storm Sun. night? I didn’t sleep until 3:30. It is pretty near time for me to hike for my train. Be sure and come up Wed. night. So long – Your Minnie XXXXXXXXXXX” Upside down, upper left “This is the old school house that I went to XXXX MM”
 Weather/storms was a topic for them more than once! Christ (short “i” mostly silent “t”) seemed to need reminders about when their next date was. And that is an awful lot of “Xs” (kisses) for the world to see on the way from Shermerville to Deerfield!

1911  09 16 Shermerville station back
?? September 1911 7PM “Dear Hon: – Rec’d your card last night. Wasn’t it fierce outside last night. Be sure & come up Sat. I must go to work now. It is 6:30 – So long. Yours Minnie XXXXXXXXXX

Sometimes the 5.5 miles were just muddy from the weather. Was he walking or riding between houses? I’m not sure. Other post cards mention him being in a “cutter” so riding is a possibility. There are those kisses, again! (I think I counted right)

1912 07 03 Minnie & Chris back
[Wednesday] 3 July 1912 5PM “Hello There, Got home fine Sun. night, but the roads were muddy. notice how this little girl looks: she looks awful mad at that fellow, don’t she? I wonder what’s the matter with her. it is just 6:15 and I’m going to bed now so Good bye. With Love Christ. Will be up Wed. night if can. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX” [photo of the two of them on reverse]
Several postcards mention him coming to visit on Wednesday, others mention Saturday, and a few seem to have been written Monday, implying a Sunday visit. The postcards don’t tell us what they did on those dates, though. Numerous postcards have photos of the two of them taken with a commercial backdrop–a suspended moon, in a “jalopy,” and assorted others. Were they spending the afternoon and/or evening at Riverview? Forest Park? Lincoln Park? Those amusement parks would have been the nearest, I think. Or were they going to the beer garden behind Bartelme’s restaurant, right there in Shermerville? Minnie didn’t really have a taste for beer until she had cancer (and she could ask for a glass of it in the hospital room), but Bartelme’s was still probably the place to hang out, locally.

Shermerville depot Oct 1911 side 2 for 4x6
?? October 1911 7PM “Dear Hon – Did you get home alright last night? Wasn’t it terrible windy? Be sure and come down Wed. night. I have something to show you, it will make you laugh. I done more laughing  to.day than I did for the last 2 weeks. I am almost ready to hike to bed. XXXXXXXX Yours forever, Minnie” Upside down, top left corner: “I love my mutz, but Oh! you Peck. Do you remember?”                 I have no clue what that might mean!

Several times Minnie mentions catching the train to work. My mom didn’t know what job that was (clearly not cooking at Bartelme’s!), so I looked in the 1910 census. Seventeen-year-old Minnie is working as a bill clerk at a furniture house.¹ It’s likely she was still working the same job over the next couple years, while they dated.

Christ & Minnie certainly talked about the weather during their courtship. With the lack of privacy on a post card, maybe it was a safe topic when everyone from the postmaster, to their parents and siblings, could read what they wrote? Without our modern communication options, the penny postcard was the least expensive way for them to stay connected between dates. Clearly it worked!

#52Ancestors


¹1910 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).

Taxes

“…but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” ― Benjamin Franklin,

Being married to a tax accountant, my life revolves around taxes, and has done so since before children. Mike started back to night school for an MBA (emphasis on tax) a month before our first child was born. Since 1987, I “single parented” 2, then 3, eventually 4 children through tax season (January 1 to April 15th) and mini-tax season (August to October 15th). You didn’t even know about that one, did you? Trust me, it’s real! All those returns you extended? They have to be filed, eventually! I’m reasonably sure our children said “tax season” before they said “mom” and distinctly remember hearing an older child reassuring a younger sibling that, “It’s Busy Season, but Dad will be home by bedtime.” He is a morning person and prefers to go in early, so was home by 8PM, with rare (and unhappy) exceptions.

However, long before I ever knew my husband, taxes were in my life. As a small business owner, my dad had plenty of taxes to pay, so it was a topic that regularly came up at dinner.

Dad had taken typing and bookkeeping classes in high school, and graduated at 17. The Depression was still going on, and no one hired you if you were under 18. College was not an option, but he enrolled in comptometer school. After completing the course, he went to work for the Grand Trunk Railway offices in Chicago. Pearl Harbor rocked everyone’s world, he enlisted in the Navy, and served until the end of WWII.

At that point, every other military man was also looking for a job. He had married and had a baby on the way. He found a job with a rug cleaner, learned the trade quickly, and even thought of buying a ServiceMaster franchise. His boss discouraged him from doing that, so Dad started his own company with his brother, George. Unfortunately, business was slow, and there wasn’t enough income for 2 families. Dad bought out Uncle George’s half and carried on, usually with just one other employee, but not a partner.

Dad did all his own bookkeeping and tax work, including the estimated payments, withholding, FICA, etc. He didn’t have spare money to pay for an accountant, and figured getting the information together for someone else was a huge chunk of the work. Why do all that and then pay someone else for the easier task? He also reasoned that he had more of a vested interest in his money than someone else. So each year, after work and on weekends, he tackled the tax return with its Schedule C and all the depreciation calculations.

Recognizing that Social Security benefits would NOT fully fund retirement, he educated himself about his retirement account options long before personal IRAs, Roth IRAs, or 401k plans. I grew up hearing about HR-10 Keogh plans and reading Kiplinger Magazine back when it was on non-glossy paper. I managed to avoid their Tax Letters, but I saw them lying on end tables around the house, too.

At 16, when I finally got a job that generated a W-2, my dad handed me the tax instruction book, the form, my W-2 and the 1099s for Capital Shares and Putnam Growth mutual funds (my college nest egg). He told me to read the instructions, fill out the form, and ask him if I had questions. And to double-check my math. I did that for the next 6 years! I’m sure he checked over the form before we mailed it in (and granted, they were much simpler than they are now!), but he wanted me to understand what was going on by making me do it myself.

When I was in high school, he commented once on how some rug cleaners he knew–oh, how to say this delicately?–under reported their income. Cash payments they received sometimes didn’t actually make it into their business checking account–or onto their tax returns. They had different names for it: “martini money” or “vacation fund” are a couple I remember. Dad never did that, and frankly he preferred checks, so he didn’t have cash laying around the house. Aside from security–and the fact that not reporting was wrong–he had several reasons:

  • it might save taxes now, but it would cost him in Social Security benefits later
  • he had to look himself in the face every morning while shaving
  • he didn’t want to worry about being caught

Did he like paying taxes? No. He wasn’t an idiot. But he knew the government needed funds to do what it needed to do, and he needed to pay his fair share. Did he feel generous and throw a couple hundred extra dollars in with his payment? Get real! While he wouldn’t cheat them, he worked hard for a living, and had no intention of being cheated himself.

He retired in 1984, simplifying his tax return considerably. So what did he do? He volunteered for the Tax-Aide program, going to retirement homes, or the library, helping seniors with their tax returns. I was married and no longer in his house, but he always had some amazing stories each year of the disarray some of the paperwork people brought in. It frustrated him greatly, but he *usually* was able to straighten them out, giving him a lot of satisfaction. I don’t recall how long he volunteered, but it was probably a decade or more. He really seemed to enjoy it.

You are probably thinking, “She’s married to a tax accountant . . . She hasn’t had to look at a return at least since 1987.” Excuse my laughter . . .  No such luck. Every year, a stack appears on the dining room, with the instruction to check them over. Ours. Our four children (until they left the house). Now my mom’s. No escape.

So, yeah, I guess old Ben was right . . .

#52Ancestors

The Maiden Aunt

Maiden aunts are in short supply in my family. There might be one on Mike’s Nolan side, but I’m not positive. I don’t really know much about her, anyway. I have LOTS of widowed aunts, but with kids and grandkids, they don’t really fit the bill. There are a handful of uncles who never married, but most of their stories end with, “the last we heard, he was headed for St. Louis . . .” St. Louis seemed to be the Mecca of unmarried uncles, and none were heard from again.

So I’m going to go with my Aunt Rose Schweiger. She was born 21 February 1900, in Glencoe, Cook, Illinois. She was the 9th child (of 11) of Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry (also Haré, Hary, Harré), five years younger than my grandmother, Victoria. Rose’s middle name was Dorothea, after her mother. She was only 3 months old on the 1900 census,¹ and two of her older siblings had already died. Like my grandmother, she grew up working in the family restaurant.² By 1930, she was working as a bookkeeper, as her father had died, and the restaurant apparently closed.

She and Joseph Rau married 30 April 1932 at St. Joseph’s Church, in Wilmette, Illinois. They married when she was 32 years old, and he was 48. According to my mom, they “kept company” for a good long while before getting hitched–8 years, or so–causing speculation about if they would ever tie the knot. Obviously they did.

Yes, I know technically she is NOT a maiden aunt.  However, not having children of their own gave her the opportunity to behave in more of a “maiden aunt” way. Rose and Joe were a doting aunt and uncle to their many nieces and nephews. My sister (below) had a doll bed made by Uncle Joe, and they would host other nieces & nephews, giving their parents a much-appreciated break. We’ve all needed that more than once!

aunt Rose and Carole
Aunt Rose Schweiger Rau holding my sister, Carole, 14 September 1946. This was at the wedding of my MOM’s cousin, Jeanne Meintzer. The woman at the right is Jeanne’s new mother-in-law–and Aunt Rose’s sister-in-law. Yes, Aunt Rose and Uncle Joe are aunt and uncle to my dad AND my mom’s cousin. Think about that one for a bit . . . .

The Schweiger family spread out a bit–Uncle Al to New York, Uncle Iggy to Milwaukee. Even for those staying in the Chicago area, they fanned out from Highland Park and Deerfield, through Wilmette and Glencoe, out to Hinsdale, and south to Oak Lawn. Not huge distances, but far enough that making the effort to get together–especially with kids in tow–was difficult. Rose spearheaded the effort to make sure the family got together at least a couple times a year, for holidays, picnics, and the Knockwurster Club (yes, they had their own “club”!) business meeting, usually held in her basement. Clearly, she was a woman who understood the value of family and a good time!

1929 07 04 Schweiger Haws picnic
4 July 1929 picnic. Back row: Henry Haws; Clara Goessl (Longevity); Marie Haws, with her brother, George, in front of her; a niece of Clara and Ed, partially hidden behind George–maybe Dorothy Posvic?; Bob Haws (Dad) with the tree trunk behind him; Uncle Iggy Schweiger; Victoria Schweiger Haws (holding Jeanette Goessl); and Ed Haws. Sitting: Ed Goessl; Joseph Rau; Rose Schweiger (still dating); and Dorothea Harry Schweiger (who taught my dad how to play Gin Rummy).

But life was not just a party. She was well-connected to the family, stepping in to help when needed. Her brother, Leo (4 years older), had some personal issues to deal with, and withdrew from the family. When she was informed by a welfare agency that he needed care, she took him in, nursed him back to health, and found him a job. That lasted for a while, and Uncle Leo did okay. At some point he moved to the house of  his older sister, Lizzy (1942 WWII draft registration lists her as the contact person), but unfortunately he disappeared again. Where he went, and what became of him, we don’t know. If he’d have turned up on Rose’s doorstep again, though, I’ve no doubt she would have welcomed him back. That’s just how she was.

When I first started working on my genealogy, some how-to authors advised that relatives who never married–or ones who married but had no children–didn’t need to be researched or followed. There were no offspring continuing the line, so there was no point. I never felt that way, though I couldn’t put my reasoning into words. Thankfully, genealogists no longer hold that position. We realize now that the unmarried aunts (and uncles) fill what would otherwise be a gap in our families.

They have the time and energy–and fewer distractions than their married-with-children siblings or cousins–to take on roles and projects the others can’t. They are sounding boards for our children (who will take advice from them they would never take from us!), care givers to aging parents, and sanity-providers when we need it the most. They are the whipped cream on a piece of pie. Yes, the pie tastes okay without it, but adding it makes it so much better. The family is better–and stronger–because of their presence.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 1172; sheet 11B; dwelling number 188; family number 193; line 98; Ignatz SCHWEIGER household; accessed 2 April 2018. Rosa SCHWEIGER, age 3/12, February 1900; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 293; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 119; sheet 27B; dwelling number 543; family number 561; line 79; Ianatz [Ignatz] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 2 April 2018. Rose SCHWEIGER, age 19, helper-restaurant; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 361; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

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