Sister

“When traveling life’s journey it’s good to have a sister’s hand to hold on to.”–unknown

Christoph Jacob Meintzer, my grandfather, was the youngest child of his father, Christian Meinzer (Colorful). Christian had thirteen children all together: four with his first wife, Maria Elisabetha Weidmann (Cause of Death), then nine more with his second wife, Sophia Gaertner (My Favorite Photo). As the youngest of the nine who lived to adulthood, my grandpa had nieces and nephews older than he was!

Of the nine, only three were boys, so Christoph had six sisters! The two oldest (his half sisters) were Lizzie & Kate, and I’ll be focusing on them. They were well into their twenties when Grandpa was born. I always knew they were his half sisters, but he never focused on that distinction. Was he as close to them as to some of his other siblings? Probably not, but I think it was likely due more to the age gap than the “halfness.”

Both girls were born in Dehlingen, Bas-Rhin, Alsace. Lizzie’s (Marie Elisabeth’s) birth record1 (click on Accepter button, if you click through to see the image!) showed her mother to be a couturière—a seamstress or dressmaker. When she emigrated in 1881 (Elise, age 17), the passenger list2 showed her as also being a seamstress! I find it curious she developed the same skill as the mother who died when she was only two.

Elizabeth married John Ahrens 9 March 1885. Unfortunately, Illinois had no state census after 1865, so I can’t see if she was still working as a seamstress when she got married. By 1900 she had five children, so employment was not an option!

Elizabeth Meintzer Ahrens (1963-1945). This is an undated studio photograph. The prop in her hands (Abel’s Photographic Weekly) was published between 1913 and 1934, so presumably the photo was taken in that window. The image can’t be enlarged enough to read the date on the cover. The pleated top and skirt suggest the 1920s, placing her around age 60.

According to the census records, LIzzie and her husband rented in Chicago, in what might be considered the Irving Park neighborhood on the city’s northwest side. It wasn’t terribly far from her siblings, but far enough not to be able to visit easily or frequently. She was widowed in 1919, and around 1930 ran a grocery store—a small, neighborhood one, I imagine—assisted by her daughter, Josephine. It seemed one or the other of her adult children were usually living nearby.

By 1935, she’d purchased a home in Norwood Park, a little closer to her siblings, and lived there with her son, William, until her death. When Lizzie died 20 November 1945, the Illinois Bell Telephone operators had been on strike for a day, already. The strike ended by the 26th, but it complicated her funeral. Her siblings could not be reached by phone to be told of her death and what the funeral plans were. Her children mailed penny postcards with the information, but those weren’t delivered quickly enough to get the information in time. Her sister Sophie felt bad about missing her sister’s funeral on 23 November.

Younger sister, Catherine (Kate), was barely nine months old3 when their mother died. She was sixteen when she emigrated,2 and had no occupation listed at that point. In Favorite Name we got a glimpse of “Kitty” marrying George Warren in 1890. Unfortunately, we don’t really know what she was doing for the nine years in between. Did she live at home? Was she working somewhere? Or was she employed as live-in help in someone’s home? No answers to those questions.

In the 1900 census, Kate was running a boarding house in West Town (a west side Chicago neighborhood) with her two young children, along with five lodgers. She was listed as married, but George was nowhere to be seen. I don’t know what became of him. I couldn’t find him:

  • elsewhere in the 1900 census
  • in a death record (despite her listing as “married” for her entry)
  • in a divorce record (though it seems Illinois doesn’t have divorce records online)
  • on Find-a-Grave (obviously not all headstones are recorded there!)

Nevertheless, Kate married Morton N. Smith in St. Joseph, Michigan, 2 October 1904.4 The marriage register indicated Kate was living in Hammond, Indiana (right around the corner) and Morton was living in Blue Island, Illinois. St. Joseph was a common “marriage mill” for the greater Chicago area, because it avoided the Illinois 3-day wait rule. Morton was listed as never married, with Kate having one prior marriage. Presumably her marriage to George ended officially!

Kate, Morton, and her children go missing in 1910. While her son may have been old enough to be on his own, daughter Mabel was only 15, so a little too young for that. I didn’t find them in Illinois, Indiana, (prior residences) or Ohio (where Mabel got married in 1911). In 1920, their oldest grandson, Walter (age 7), is living with them in Chicago, but they are alone in 1930, shortly before Morton’s death.

Kate Meintzer Warren Smith at the 1930 Meintzer reunion. Not the best scan, but it’s hard to get a good one from a group photo like that. I don’t really have any other photos of her, that I know of.

Now widowed, she continued to live in the Chicago area. My mom remembered as a teenager, Aunt Kate visiting, and hearing Kate Smith (the singer) on the radio. They all thought it amusing that “Kate Smith was listening to Kate Smith on the radio!” I believe there was also a time when she had moved in with my mom and her parents. Later on, Kate moved up to stay with Carrie, a half sister, in Rondout, Illinois. She was living there at the time of her death in 1949.

This week has taught me that even though I was familiar with these two sisters, there were still a lot of unanswered questions with them. Some details got filled in, but many more questions remain. It was good to take the time to fill in some of those gaps. Maybe I need to schedule a road trip to research records not available online to fill in the rest?

#52Ancestors


1“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de naissances (Birth Registers) 1863, p. 7, no. 20, Marie Elisabeth MEINTZER, 20 December 1863; accessed 7 August 2019.

2“New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, NARA Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service; Record Group 36, Roll #437. National Archives, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Entry for. Elisa MAINTZER, entry number 496, line 9, list number 661; accessed 8 August 2019.

3“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de naissances (Birth Registers) 1865, p. 3, no. 5, Catherine MEINTZER, 11 March 1865; accessed 7 August 2019.

4“Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 11 August 2019, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics,1903 Wayne – 1904 Chippewa, film number 80, record # 935. Morton N. SMITH (38) and Catherine WARREN (37).

Family Photo

Half-cousin? Still related, just as important as a full cousin!

Some photos have had a rough life. The picture above is the only one I have of my mom’s half first cousin, Rose Ahrens Runge, and her family. I’m not sure why/how the photo acquired so many cracks and creases–enough that her son on the right is “missing” an eye.

Fortunately, armed with a scanner, editing software, time, and an abundance of patience, huge improvements can be made with damaged photos. The original was only about the size of a note card–3.5″ x 5″ or so. I decided to scan it at 1200 DPI (Dots Per Inch) for ease of editing, as well as allowing it to be blown up to a larger reprint. I wanted as many data points as possible! I started repairing the easier sections, and moved on to more difficult/complicated areas later on. That allowed me to “warm up” a bit, and get used to the process of filling in those missing pixels. “Clone” and “blur” tools became my friends. The results are much better!

back row: Harry Runge, Rosalie Runge, Ruth Robrahn Runge, Charles E. Runge, Catherine Stolle Runge, Walter Runge.
middle: Charles August Runge, Rose Ahrens Runge, Ralph Runge (son of Charles E.)
front: Ruth Runge (daughter of Harry), Ray Runge (youngest son of Charles & Rose)
Photo possibly taken late 1934.

When I finished editing, I sent an 8″ x 10″ print to one of the children in the photo, who was in his 70s at the time. My mom sort of knew who was who, but I thought it would be better to have someone more closely related confirming identities. They are captioned above. I’m narrowing the date based on a couple facts:

  • Ralph (on lap) was born 30 August 1933. He looks to be about a year old, but not over the age of 2.
  • Rosalie died in September 1936 of tuberculosis–she doesn’t look sickly, here.
  • Harry and Ruth had another daughter, Jean, in February, 1935, but she’s not in the photo. She could be napping, or Ruth could be pregnant. We can’t tell, because Ruth is standing in the back.
  • I’m stymied about month and day. Christmas and Thanksgiving are traditional times to get everyone together, but three of the women are wearing short sleeves — less likely in Chicago in November or December! Bottom line: the date is a guess, at best.

This is only a snapshot of time, though. Who were these people? You briefly met Charlie and Rose last week (Love), over a decade later than this, at my aunt and uncle’s wedding. Rose and my mom had the same grandfather, but different grandmothers. Rose was born 13 October 1885¹, making her three years older than my mom’s father (Rose’s uncle!). She was the oldest of seven. Unlike most of the rest of the Meintzer clan, Rose’s grew up in Chicago, not “out in the country” (what’s now the north and northwest suburbs), and remained there as an adult. Getting together with her Meintzer relatives took more effort.

Her husband, Charles August Runge, was born in Chicago, 21 January 1883. He and Rose married 21 May 1906², running off to Hammond, Indiana. Illinois has its 3-day waiting period after acquiring a marriage license, so Indiana and Michigan were (and are!) popular “marriage mills.” No waiting. When I located their marriage register entry, I discovered Rose was actually “Rosalie” — like her daughter. I had only ever heard Rose, so that was an interesting tidbit.

Charles and Rose had five children — that I know about, at least:

  • Harry L.: 13 December 1906 — 9 August 1997. He married Ruth Robrahn in 1929, and had two girls: Ruth Harriet and Jean C.
  • Charles E.: 12 April 1908³ — 5 November 1990. He married Catherine Stolle, and had Ralph G. and two daughters. In my file I had his wife spelled “Kathryn,” but locating her on Find-A-Grave (memorial 100882747), she shows up as “Catherine.” I presume her marker was carved with the name she preferred!
  • Rosalie Catherine: 11 July 19134 — 8 September 1936. She died young, from tuberculosis, never married.
  • Walter Clarence: 28 June 19175 — 11 February 2001. He married Lucille Goodrode, and then Mildred Jean Haggerty after Lucille’s death.
  • Raymond William: 16 October 1926 — 16 August 2015. He married Margaret Sorenson (had 3 daughters), and later, Phyllis Clark.

I had always heard that Charles was a musician. In doing my “due diligence,” for this post, I came across occupations I didn’t expect:

  • 1910 census — bookkeeper for a brewery
  • WWI draft6 — bookkeeper, Indiana quarries
  • 1920 census — bookkeeper, ???? (the writing doesn’t make sense)
  • 1930 & 19407 census,WWII draft in 1942— bookkeeper (or financial serv.) for the Chicago Federation of Musicians.

Now I understand how he got linked with musicians! It doesn’t necessarily mean the story is wrong, though. Yes, it’s possible that someone misunderstood his “working for the Federation of Musicians” to mean that he was a musician. But maybe he had always been working as a musician on the side, and finally had an opportunity to work for them as a bookkeeper. It’s something I need to explore. His obituary8 mentions he was a “member of local No. 10, Chicago Federation of Musicians.” That sounds like he had joined the union. Would he need to do that if he were merely a bookkeeper? Or was that reserved only for actual musicians? More questions, more research.

I also knew Charles painted, because we had two of his oil paintings in the room with our TV. For some reason, they had been framed behind glass — something you shouldn’t do with oil! When my parents unframed them, to remove the glass, one was damaged (some paint peeled off). I’ve also acquired a water color of his. It must have been up on a shelf when I was growing up, as I don’t recall seeing it hung up. Quite likely, the two paintings you see in the background of the photo are works of his.

So, do half-cousins matter at all? Why do I need to keep track of them? Of course they matter! And yes, I do want to know who the current descendants are. Maybe they have photos or information I don’t have. Maybe I have information they need. If we are DNA matches, they are extremely helpful for pinpointing which ancestor we match from. This past week has shown me I need to do a little better by my half-relatives, and fill in the gaps of their trees. The fact that distance and time limitations have left us less in touch with each other is a poor excuse.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 827; Page 18A; dwelling number 309; family number 325; line 37; John AHRENS household; accessed 19 February 2019. Rosa AHRENS, age 14, October 1885; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 278; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²”Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, citing Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001, Record number 12869. Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis. Charles RUNGE and Rosalie AHRENS.

³”Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Charles E. RUNGE, 12 April 1908, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1288154. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

4“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Rosalie RUNGE, 11 July 1913, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1288289. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

5“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Walter RUNGE, 28 June 1917, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1276320. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

6“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.familysearch.org), Charles August RUNGE, serial no. 780, order no. 1883, Draft Board 58, Cook County, Illinois, citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1613683. accessed 21 February 2019.

71940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago Ward 50, e.d. 103-3225; Page 10B; household number 203; line 62; Charles RUNGE household; accessed 24 February 2019. Charles RUNGE, age 57; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1022; digital image, Ancestry.com.

8Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 7 May 1956, record number 19560507dn089. Charles A. RUNGE–“Member of local No. 10, Chicago Federation of Musicians”.