What a time for this prompt to pop up . . .
The first Meintzer Reunion occurred in 1930. To the best of my knowledge, the next one was in 1983. Fifty years is a big gap! Another one was held the following year, but it became obvious, with family spread out across the county, that yearly reunions would probably dilute attendance. The scheduling shifted to an every two years (sometimes 3) model. The last one occured in 2003.
Aside from the obvious benefits of everyone getting together, from a genealogist’s standpoint, reunions were a goldmine. Not only could I pick the brains of anyone attending, many times those not attending mailed updates back with their negative RSVP. Those updates usually found their way to my hands.
As mentioned other times, one disadvantage of information acquired that way, is that it tends to be piece-meal, and it relies solely on the remembrances of the person providing it. It comes with no documentation. It’s easy to take it at face value, though, and not spend time confiming what you think you know.
That was certainly the case with the branch starting from my grandfather’s oldest half-sister, Elizabeth Meintzer Ahrens. She and her husband lived in Chicago, and had two children older than her youngest brother (my grandfather). Most of Lizzie’s descendants stuck around the Chicago area, but her 3rd youngest (of 8, total), John Robert George Ahrens, uprooted his family mid-life, to travel to Michigan and restart there. A little lake between them and the rest of the family kept them somewhat distant, though his descendants caught up with us due to the reunions. I decided now was the time to confirm the information I had, and flesh out this line better.
John Robert George Ahrens was born 27 September 1896, in Chicago, Illinois.¹ He showed up with his family in the 1900 and 1910² census records. He enlisted in the U. S. Army 5 December 1914 and served until 11 July 1919. Despite having served for 4+ years, he still needed to register³ for the “Old Man’s Draft” during WWII. He was younger than others who needed to register, but war has a way of requiring “all hands on deck,” or at least waiting in the wings, in case they were needed.
After the war, John Robert Ahrens lived at home with his mother in 1920; on his own, with older sister, Laura, and her children sharing his house in 1930; and married, with 3 kids in 1940. Despite having been told a 15 September 1934 marriage date for John and Jean in Chicago, I haven’t located a marriage record for them.
In the years after his military service, John:
- was a machinist (1920)
- owned a grocery store (1930)
- owned a tavern (1940)
- was employed by Finkl & Company (whoever they happened to be!) (1942)
- started work with the Chicago and North Western Railroad (September, 1943)
Some time between September 1943 and 2 March 1946 (birth of youngest son, Thomas William (1946-1961)), John packed up and moved his family to Jackson, Michigan. Why? I don’t know. I don’t have records providing that information. We don’t have a lot of contact with that branch, so haven’t heard those stories. John lived until 1983, and Jean until 1996, both buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, in Napoleon, Michigan, sharing a headstone with their son, Thomas.
I have no photos of this family. That’s one of the unfortunate consequences when a branch travels to a different part of the country. And if efforts aren’t made by both sides (the ones who traveled, and the ones who stayed put) to travel to the others, it’s easy to lose the connections we have.
John and Jean’s two older children are still living, so I can’t say much about them. They showed up in school yearbooks on Ancestry, and they (and their descendants) continued to live in Michigan. I’m not sure if any of them have tested DNA, but since we’d be looking at a HALF 2nd cousin or more distant, the amount of DNA gets smaller and smaller, and it’s quite possible we might not share any.
In a bit of genealogy serendipity, as I was researching this family, one of my 2nd cousins sent an email inquiring whether we had family in Michigan. It seems her grandmother had traveled to visit these cousins, so she was trying to verify the information was at least feasible. I was able to confirm the possibility for her, though not the specific trip. It seemed so curious that she would happen to ask about that at a time I was researching that line.
The considerable amount of time needed to find this branch (and John’s siblings, who I didn’t write about) was worth it. Tracking down the census, birth & marriage records wasn’t always easy, but I’ve confirmed information and filled in many blanks. I’m glad I made that effort.
¹”Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 15 May 2020, entry for John Robert George AHRENS, 27 September 1896, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” certificate #133, FHL Film 1287998. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.
²1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 827; Page 18A; dwelling number 309; family number 325; line 41; John AHRENS household; accessed 19 February 2019. John AHRENS, age 3, Septembr 1896; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 278; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Coo, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 1128; Page 8A; dwelling number 123; family number 150; line 24; John EHRENS [AHRENS] household; accessed 15 May 2020. John EHRENS [AHRENS], age 13; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 270; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
³”U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942″, database, (https://www.ancestry.com), John R. AHRENS, serial no. 1780, order no. not given, Draft Board 131, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Illinois. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623284. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 17 May 2020.