Context

“What’s that mean?”–Far Field Productions end credit (“Bones”)

Halloween is creeping up, again. While I like skeletons as much as the next person, I don’t like the people in my family tree to be skeletons. They can have skeletons to their heart’s content, but I prefer to put some meat on their bones, when I can. I put on my “Joe Friday” hat (“All we want are the facts, ma’am.“), tracking down name, birth and death dates, possible marriage date(s) and spouse(s). If I stop at the basic facts, though, I’m shortchanging them. As I discover more details, I round out their lives, personalities, and relationships within the families. I learn the context surrounding the events in that person’s life. It starts to make more sense.

CONTEXT: noun: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

“Definition Of Context | Lexico.Com”. www.lexico.com, 2019, https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/context. Accessed 10 Oct 2019.

So do I really need to find

  • each census?
  • each city directory?
  • their work history?
  • all their kids (even the ones I don’t descend from)?
  • all their siblings?
  • what land they owned? Or didn’t own?

Not necessarily, but the more I know, the better I can assess new records I may come across. Does that record really belong to my person, or is it just a similar name? The more details I can match to existing information, makes being the right record/person more likely. I can also better understand their life. Did they move around a lot? Why? Was it due to job changes? Changes in fortune? Did they move in with children as they aged? Without that context, ancestors remain 2-dimensional, rather than moving toward 3-dimensional.

How does that play out in real life?

Finding the lawyer’s bill in Patrick Nolan’s probate documents at the courthouse in the early 2000s (Naughty) left me with more questions (Did he and Alice actually divorce? Who filed?) than answers, until I was able to locate them in the divorce register.¹ Their entry had been lined out, but the newspaper article detailing his death provided better context (Alice moved back home, it wasn’t due to Patrick’s death). An earlier article³ (at the time she filed for divorce) provided additional context to the situation and their relationship.

For me, newspapers seem more helpful than many other resources. Most of the time, my ancestors and relatives don’t make the front pages (thankfully!). The local news columns (AKA gossip columns!) gave insight to the minutia of their lives. Who visited them? Who did they visit? What clubs did they join? Were they an officer? These “inconsequential” details move them from the “caricature” end of the spectrum more towards the “portrait” end.

Lots of mundane events prove more interesting with the passage of time. My mom, at age 97, doesn’t recall her 2nd birthday party, but I learned she invited her cousins over:

Little Ardyth Meintzer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, celebrate and [sic] delicious hot chicken dinner with Florence and Howard Moeller, Edlyn Mueller as guests. A big birthday cake was enjoyed and the little hostess was congratulated.

“Northbrook Section,” 11 April 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 20, col. 5, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

An earlier paragraph that same paper mentioned her cousin, Howard, started school. April seems an odd time to start, maybe he was out sick and finally able to return to school? I might need to look up an earlier issue to shed further light on that. Mom also never told me that just before her 2nd birthday

While playing and running, little Ardath [sic], daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, bumped into the kitchen cabinet, and cut her head quite badly.

“Northbrook Section,” 4 April 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 4, col. 1, DuPage County Register, Bensenville, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Thankfully, the party still went on without a hitch!

Mom had also talked about vacationing with Florence & Howard and their parents (Uncle Frank had a car!) when she was a kid. She didn’t remember the details, but thanks to The Daily Herald 29 March 1929 (p. 8, column 3), I learned that, “The Meintzer and Frank Moeller families are on their way home from Virginia and Washington, after several days motor trip.” While I didn’t think Mom was making up that story, it’s nice to be able to pin it down better. And I’ll be able to assign more a more accurate date to some photos I think are from that trip.

Health (or lack thereof) featured predominently in the columns. When Mom’s cousins experienced complications from a vaccine (not sure which one!), the whole town (as well as neighboring towns) knew . . .

Helen Meintzer and her sister, Bernice, have missed several days from school on account of being vaccinated. Little Jeanne was also vaccinated. We are glad to report that they are improving daily and will be back to school real soon.

“Northbrook Section,” 1 April 1927, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, col. 5, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Their brothers weren’t mentioned. Were they not vaccinated? Or did they simply not miss school?

Of course, we already knew my grandfather (Christoph Meintzer) liked fishing, but putting it in newsprint made it official!

Mr. Christ Meinzer and Jack Mayer of Deerfield had a pleasant time catching fish at Lake Elizabeth, Wisc., and brought 60 fish home with them.

“Northbrook Section,” 13 Augutst 1926, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 17, col. 5, Palatine Enterprise, Palatine, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Will I ever find everything? No. But it pays to slow down from hurried harvesting, and look for the juicier strawberries hiding under the leaves, instead of just picking the ones easiest to find.

#52Ancestors


¹”Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 5 March 2018, citing Michigan, Divorce Records. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan. St. Clair, state file # 348-9. Patrick Nolan and Alice Nolan.

²”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

³”Mean Man,” 24 August 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Comedy

“Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!”–Stephen Sondheim

You may have discovered the harder we try at humor and comedy, the less successful it is. The unplanned moments are often the funniest. Most people don’t find genealogy entertaining, let alone funny. So much of what we research falls into the category of sad, even tragic, events. How does one find humor in the deaths, illnesses, war injuries, tornadoes, and rattlesnake bites that befell our ancestors? You don’t, because it just isn’t there.

Sometimes, though, comedy sneaks through during the research process. We learn a quirky fact about someone, or the process of tracking down a piece of information is so convoluted, you can’t help but laugh at how you reached your conclusion(s).

My dad was the youngest of five. His oldest brother, Paul, died very young. You met Dad’s next oldest brother, Henry, in Namesake. He was six years older than Dad, so I’m not sure that as kids they would have hung out much with each other. Marie was in the middle of the boys, leaving George, eighteen months older than Dad, as his closest sibling, age-wise.

With three older brothers, and three sons of my own, I’ve observed brothers, particularly ones close in age, can have interesting relationships. Sometimes difficult ones! I don’t remember hearing many stories about Dad & Uncle George when they were young, but I imagine when they weren’t killing each other, they were causing mischief together.

Around April, 1941, in the backyard at 910 Rosemary Terrace, Deerfield, IL. Robert Haws is on the left, newly enlisted brother George is in the middle, and brother Henry is on the right.

During the 1990s, Mom’s Meintzer clan held four reunions: 1990, 1992, 1995, and 1997. We kids flocked back home to attend them, if we could. I remember sitting in the kitchen one of those times, packing coolers, cooking, whatever. Mom’s kitchen wasn’t very big, but in our family, the kitchen was [is] a regular hang-out spot, regardless of whose house and kitchen.

So a bunch of us were in there, and Dad started telling this story about when he was a kid. He and George found some rags in their basement. They didn’t know what they’d been used for. Somehow they got the brilliant idea to see if they would burn! This was probably the late 1920s, so they were eight to ten years old, maybe? Not necessarily the age to think through consequences of their actions real well.

Their dad smoked a pipe, so finding matches wouldn’t have been hard. Latex paint didn’t exist, so the house paint would have been oil-based. Where you have oil paint, you have turpentine.

You can see where this was headed, right?

Apparently Bob & George had the sense to put the rags in a coffee can. Of course, the coffee can had probably been used to clean paint brushes, so it’s likely there was turpentine residue inside it, also. Anyway, the fire started by the rags (and yes, they were still in the basement!) was a little more robust than they anticipated.

Fortunately, their mother (Victoria) had been upstairs, smelled the smoke coming up the stairs, and went to investigate. She extinguished (smothered, I imagine) the fire, and gave the boys “what for.” Lesson learned, right?

No, not really.

In the next day or so, they had a repeat performance. I’m not sure whether they thought they had a “better” plan, or what, but their mom was back downstairs, putting out the fire again. That time she was probably more emphatic about stopping the nonsense, threatening promising to tell their father (Edward) if it happened a third time. That was enough motivation for them to cease and desist!

Now, rags burning in the basement of a 2-story wood frame house is not a joking matter. It’s downright serious! Time has a way of mellowing the danger, though, especially when we know everyone came through safely. By the time Dad finished telling his story, it was seen only as a comedy of errors. We adult kids were in hysterics, and the grandkids old enough to appreciate the story were shocked and appalled their grandfather was such a scalawag when he was young.

Then there was my mom.

She’d been at the sink during the story, washing vegetables or something. Her reaction was not one of amusement! She railed into Dad, wanting to know why, in 45+ years of marriage, she had never heard that story. She continued on about how he should have told her about that incident when Bob & Warren (my older brothers) burned their bedroom floor.

Hold the phone! What??

She explained that the burn mark on the oak floor in the boys’ bedroom was caused by them starting a fire. Granted, it was small, but still a fire. At the time (the ages were never nailed down, but probably somewhere around the age of our dad’s adventure), she was worried there was something more seriously wrong with them. If she’d know Dad and George had done the same type of thing, she might not have worried as much!

Warren, Bob, and me at Scenic State Park, near Bigfork, Minnesota. Yes, that is a Mickey Mouse Club, short sleeved sweatshirt. And a really big fish, not caught by me! Warren says it’s probably a Northern Pike, rather than a Walleye Pike. He doesn’t recall who actually caught the fish. It could have been either one of them, or my dad, who was taking the photo. Estimated date, July 1961, ages 13, 3, almost 14. Why are there no photos of the Bluegill (my “first” fish) that was placed on my hook when I wasn’t looking?

At that point, if we’d gotten our laughter under control, we all lost it again.

I remember there being a blackened area on their floor, usually covered by a throw rug. By the time Dad was telling his story, we’d been gone from that house for over 15 years. The floor and burn mark had been replaced by a McDonald’s, and I’m unaware of any photos with that section of floor. Mom is now 97; I don’t expect her to remember the circumstances (it’s been 20+ years since the reunion where it came up!). So as a thorough researcher, my only option was to contact the perpetrators. Bob died in 2008, leaving Warren as my only hope.

He wasn’t much help. Of course, It’s been 49 years since he moved out of that house! Did I have pictures? No. He had no recollection of anything like that happening, and adopted a Mission: Impossible attitude, disavowing all knowledge of the alleged incident. Evidently whatever punishment they received didn’t leave a huge impression! He suggested IF such an event occurred, it was probably him and Bob trying to light paper with a magnifying glass.

Some of you may remember back in the pre-Nintendo/Atari/Sony, and pre-iPad days, childhood entertainment was pretty simple. It could include roller skating, playing cops & robbers, or making stick floor plans for the worms on the sidewalk after a rain (yes, I was a weird kid!). Compared to that, firing cap rolls by hitting them with rocks, or lighting paper or dry leaves with a magnifying glass were far more exciting activities! But starting a fire that way was harder than it sounds, because it took a really steady hand to keep the beam focused on the exact spot. Move a bit, and you were effectively starting over! It was a skill I learned under the tutelage of my older siblings.

The boys’ room had three west-facing windows, but it presented several logistical problems, reducing the plausibility of the magnifying glass scenario:

  • the burn was closer to the door than the windows, so the sun would have had to come in at a fairly low angle
  • there was an elm tree (later succumbing to Dutch Elm disease) that would have blocked sunlight from that angle
  • even without the tree, the light passed through a window and window screen, first. I could be wrong, but I think that would have dispersed the beam enough that it wouldn’t have worked. It was hard enough starting a fire outside, sun directly overhead! Adding obstacles wouldn’t have helped.

Clearly the details of my brothers’ mischief have been lost through the years. I don’t doubt its occurrence, though. Mom had no reason to make up a story like that, but my brothers had every reason in the world to have forgotten the incident! We just don’t confidently know the why or how of their fire.

Sometimes it’s not the event itself, but the memory of it, and the reactions generated from retelling, providing the comedy. Fortunately none of our four “pyromaniacs” continued down that path—that we know of, at least! It seems I instinctively knew to keep my matches on the top shelf of a cupboard, and never retrieved them in view of my children . . .

#52Ancestors


Challenging

Rising to a challenge isn’t for everyone . . .

Minnie (Wilhelmina Carolina Christina) Moeller Meintzer is my maternal grandmother. She died shortly after I was born, so all my knowledge of her is second hand: from siblings, my mom, or older cousins. Fortunately for me, my mom’s brother, Gail, decided to write a book in 2016: Detours: A Memoir of a Railroad Man

While Gail focused on himself, obviously other people wove in and out of his life and story, his mother being one of them. I have always been aware of her cooking at Bartelme’s Inn and Briargate Country Club (Invite to Dinner), but he provided stories I had never heard, showing she had no difficulty in challenging someone, if need be. He graciously gave me permission to share those stories here (in my own words, unless quoted).

Minnie Moeller Meintzer, date unknown. Love the hat! The pendant watch was a gift from Christoph, while they were dating.

Al Capone had a “Wisconsin getaway,” as did most of the Chicago mobsters. His was in Couderay, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.² Returning to his home base in Cicero, he’d have to drive near/through Northbrook.

This is the old Bartelme’s Inn in Northbrook. It originally stood at the corner of Shermer and Waukegan Roads, but was moved to 1776 Walters Avenue when it was acquired by the Northbrook Historical Society. The people in the parking lot are my dad (far right), my mom’s brother (middle), and her sister-in-law, Neva (far left Love). Photo taken by Ardyth.

One of those trips back, Capone and his men stopped at Bartelme’s to eat. The old German man working as waiter rushed into the kitchen, scared to death, asking Minnie for help. She couldn’t get any information before Capone walked in. Minnie asked what was going on.

Capone said, “I’m trying to tip our waiter for the good job he did, but he won’t take the money,” which was a $100 bill.

Meintzer, Gail F. 2016. Detours. Green Bay, Wisconsin: Written Dreams Publishing, p.23.

Apparently the waiter was worried that Capone would shoot him afterwards, if he accepted the tip. Minnie didn’t have time for this nonsense; she had a kitchen to run! She had Capone give her the money. When he did, she handed it to the waiter.

Then she looked at Capone and told him, “Now get the hell out of my kitchen.” And he did.

Ibid. p. 24.

The incident challenging Capone may not have been the first, but it definitely wasn’t the last time Minnie challenged someone!

Briargate Country Club, Deerfield. Christoph ran the concession between 1939 and 1941. That included him bartending at the 19th Hole, and Minnie cooking. Her pies were legendary. They lived in a house on the property.

Just like country clubs today, Briargate Country Club hosted golf outings, sometimes capped with dinner afterwards for the participants. One time the arrangements included steak dinners for 225 people after the event.¹ [p. 36-37] Minnie ordered 250 steaks from her supplier, just to be safe. Any extras would be used up later that week.

Unbeknownst to her, the chairman for the event sold more than the 225 tickets he had contracted for, without letting anyone (particularly Minnie!) know. As the dinner orders came in, steaks were served. And served. She ran through the 250 steaks she ordered, plus some that she had on hand. The chairman couldn’t be found to explain the problem, so finally she had to send out ground steak patties to get the customers a meal.

THAT got his attention, as those golfers who received not steak dinners complained to him. He stormed into the kitchen to chew her out, but she turned it back on him. She told him she’d already served more than he’d contracted for, and she was doing her best to get meals to everyone. She wanted to know why there were orders still coming in. He fessed up that he’d sold more tickets.

Minnie really let loose, then, informing him that IF he’d said something to her in the afternoon, she would have been able to increase her order. There would have been no problem at all! As it was, he was going to pay the agreed upon price, even for the dinners that weren’t steaks.

By all accounts, my grandmother was a loving and caring person, but she was more than capable of challenging someone, if the situation warranted it!

#52Ancestors


¹Meintzer, Gail F. 2016. Detours. Green Bay, Wisconsin: Written Dreams Publishing.

²Kirby, Doug. 2019. “Couderay, Wisconsin: The Hideout: Al Capone’s Northwoods Retreat Closed)”. Roadside America. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/7404.

Road Trip

Are we there, yet?

I’ve had more than my share of road trips, racking up 50 states, and 32 countries so far. When my dad was a kid, though, road trips were were much rarer. It’s likely that until he joined the Navy, he traveled only between Wisconsin and Illinois!

He was born in Wisconsin, not too far from his paternal grandparents, Frank Haws (The Old Homestead) and Anna Bruder Haws, but that would soon change.

His family returned to Illinois not long after my dad was born. They appear in the 1922 city directory, living in Glencoe¹ with Victoria’s recently widowed mother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger (Back to School). By 1925, they had moved to a rental house (25 East Webster) in Highwood,² while my grandfather, Edward Haws, built their house on Rosemary Terrace, in Deerfield. They now lived a long way from Dad’s paternal grandparents, so couldn’t see them often.

Once, though, on a trip to Manitowoc or Door County when I was a teenager, Dad reminisced about his trips up there when he was a kid. It was Ed, Victoria, and 4 kids piled into the family car. I’m not sure if it was a Model A or a Model T, but my money is on the Model T, being a more reasonably priced car. Dad said they always had at least one flat tire on the trip—maybe more!

If I’d thought about it at the time, I’d have pressed him for more details, and written down the answers. Ah, the foolishness of youth!

Frank Haws and Anna Bruder Haws outside their house at 508 Birchwood Drive, Francis Creek, Wisconsin, after he retired and sold the farm. They are with 6 of their grandchildren: my dad (little guy on right), his siblings (George & Henry next to Frank, and Marie next to Anna), and two of their cousins: Paul and Lorraine, I think. I’d estimate the year to be 1926 or 1927, based on my dad’s size. That’s a couple years earlier than the 1929 date I have for Frank and Anna moving from the farm, but that year is estimated from Frank’s obituary—not necessarily the most accurate source! Dad looks 5 or 6 in this photo.

This week’s prompt jogged my memory, so I started thinking about those trips up north. According to Google maps, it’s 164 miles from Deerfield to Manitowoc, and takes 3 hours 47 minutes on non-interstate roads. The roads in the late 1920s/early 1930s were not as good as roads today, and the cars slower.

The top speed for a Model A was 28 MPH; 40-45 MPH for the Model T. I’m sure neither car drove those speeds on the roads of that era, but let’s be generous! If the Model T went 30 miles per hour, that’s a 5 hours and 28 minutes trip, minimum.

Then there’s stopping for gas, bathroom breaks—4 kids, remember?— lunch at a “roadside park,” slowing down for towns, plus time to fix a flat tire. We’re looking at an all-day trip, each way. If they went up to visit, it probably wasn’t for a day, or even a weekend; a week is more likely, maybe two.

I suppose Ed could have driven Victoria and the kids up, and gone back home to work during the following week, then come back for them, but that’s a lot of driving for him. Besides, most of his siblings lived in the area, so it would have been one of his few chances to see them.

As frequently happens when checking the facts for a blog post, either I find something new, or I unearth a detail I’d forgotten about. This week was no different! I’ve always known they spent time in Highwood—my dad remembered (and talked about) living there before moving into the house in Deerfield. I just assumed that was the only other place they lived in. So I was surprised last fall to discover them at Dorothea’s house so soon after dad’s birth! I always thought Dad lived in Wisconsin for at least a couple years.

While he told stories about Grandma Schweiger’s house, I always thought they were from visits there. Indeed, he may have had no memory of ever living there. Regardless, when I found and documented the 1922 directory listing, I didn’t really think about it, or fit it into a timeline for the family. I was hurrying to harvest as many records as I could, and didn’t mentally process it properly.

Thank goodness I decided to enter it in my software, anyway, instead of blowing it off! I could have easily dismissed it as, “Oh, that’s Dorothea’s house, I don’t need to record that.” That would have been a mistake—I’d be missing dots I needed to connect.

So, what had started as an innocuous road trip story, ended up filling in more dates and places in my dad’s, grandparents’, and great grandparents’ timelines. That’s always a good thing!

#52Ancestors

__________________

¹”U.S City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing R. L. Polk & Co. Evanston City and North Shore Directory, 1922-1923. Entry for Edw. HAWS, p. 630, accessed 7 September 2018.

²”U.S City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Polk’s Waukegan City Directory, 1925. Entry for Edw. M. HAWS, p. 685, accessed 7 September 2018.

At Worship

“But my family ALWAYS went to ______________ church!”

There’s a tendency to stay locked onto which church our families attended. It probably ranks up there with our inflexibility with names: what they were, and how they were spelled, etc. Like it or not, though, religion was oftentimes more flexible than we realize—or maybe feel comfortable with!

As a young genealogist, I remember my mom telling the story about one of her grandfathers and an incident at a Sunday service. Unfortunately, she didn’t remember which grandfather it was—Carl Moeller (Youngest and Challenge) or Christian Meintzer (Colorful and My Favorite Photo)—or which church was involved.

Both families were affiliated with a Lutheran/German Evangelical church of some sort, though not necessarily the same one. The way the story goes, the grandfather (great grandfather to me) in question arrived at Sunday service after an absence of some length. The minister apparently commented on his presence—something along the lines of, “Glad to see you could make it this week.”

I don’t know if the comment was made in front of the entire congregation, or said to him more privately. Regardless, it didn’t sit well with that great grandfather, so he left and never returned.

So, which great grandpa was it, Carl or Christian? I really don’t know, but my money is on Christian, for several reasons.

Carl and Elfrieda had a long history with St. Peter’s Church, and the church had a long history in Shermerville/Northbrook. In Northbrook, Illinois: the Fabric of Our History,¹ we learn on page 86 that in 1863, the church was built on Shermer Road, south of Willow Road. Through the years it had several different buildings, and moved location slightly, but it was a solid fixture in the community.

Glass paperweight from St. Peter’s Church, in my mom’s possession. Date undetermined.

The Moeller children were christened in that church, and page 38 (same book)¹ informs us, “The church activities included a school where children were taught the German language.” My grandmother, Minnie, attended “German school” in addition to the public school, so it was likely there. Also, the youngest Moeller daughter, Annie, died at age 8 in 1908 and was buried in the church cemetery. The minister from St. Peter’s married Minnie and Christoph in 1913.

Carl was not a farmer—he worked in the local brick yard, and the family lived in town. The church was relatively close to them, reachable on probably fairly decent roads.

Christian, on the other hand, was a farmer, living in the “Riverwoods” area. That was west of Deerfield, in Vernon Township, considerably farther from any town. If they attended St. Peter’s, it was a longer trip, probably involving more dirt, fewer paved, roads. If they attended another church in a different town, the same questionable road conditions would still have had an impact.

What exactly might have kept Christian away from whatever church he attended?

  • Heavy Chicago snows could cause problems, even for a sleigh.

  • Spring thaws (or summer rains) on dirt roads would make modern day potholed roads look wonderful by comparison!

  • Did farm work keep him away? If it’s time to harvest and the choice is attend church or lose the crop, it might not be a difficult choice!

I don’t know which church they changed to, but I do know my mom grew up attending the Presbyterian church in Northbrook (within walking distance), and Minnie was buried from there. Was that the church Christoph’s father switched to? Or was it a convenient compromise for Chris and Minnie? I don’t really know.

So while I don’t know positively which great grandpa the story is about (I’m still betting on Christian—

he always seemed feistier), or which church was involved, I don’t doubt its truth. That may sound strange coming from Miss “Footnote-the-daylights-out-of-her-blog,” but the story seems plausible enough. I can’t fathom a reason anyone would have made up a story like that to tell my mom. It would serve no purpose. Nothing we know about her two grandfathers requires us to suspend disbelief, either. No extraordinary leaps of faith are needed. (unintended pun—sorry!)

One thing I do know is that, “We’ve always been _____________,” has plenty of exceptions!

#52Ancestors


¹Souter, Gerry, and Janet Souter. Northbrook, Illinois: the Fabric of Our History. Northbrook Historical Society, 2000.

Love

“Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” —Robert Browning

Valentine’s week (it upgraded from a “day” years ago!) just ended. For the last several weeks we’ve being told by advertisers we needed to ply our loved one with:

  • flowers (preferably long-stemmed roses, right?)
  • candy (chocolate, in a heart-shaped box!)
  • jewelry
  • dinner out
  • everything else under the sun (I’m pretty sure I saw car ads . . .)
  • All of the above (how can we put a price limit on our love??)

Add to that, the Hallmark Channel aired two weeks’ worth of movies guaranteed to put us into a diabetic coma. How can we mere mortals possibly live up to those romantic expectations? Odds are we never will. And it leaves us frustrated when we don’t seem to receive what we are “supposed” to.

If we are lucky, though, we have people in our lives who put everything in the proper perspective. For me, one of those couples is my Aunt Neva and Uncle Gail. Sadly, Aunt Neva passed away last month, just shy of 94 years. So she (they) have been on my mind a lot, recently. While this timing isn’t the best, I checked with my uncle and cousins first. I got their blessings, so will try to tread lightly.

Uncle Gail is my mom’s younger brother. Now in their mid-90s, they still talk daily, despite the four hundred miles separating them. Aunt Neva grew up in Elgin, Illinois. We find her with her parents in the 1940 census, in high school.¹ That may not seem far from my uncle in Deerfield, but it was still 30-35 miles—in pre-Tollway/Interstate days! Neva’s father worked as an engineer for the railroad, and after high school, she went to work for the Milwaukee Road, in Union Station. That was where she and Gail first met. They didn’t date then, due to the distance and gas rationing during WWII² (p. 46).

After being drafted and discharged, Gail went back to work with the Milwaukee Road, and ran into Neva, again. She remembered him after 2 years! They started dating² (pp. 71-73), eventually leading up to
a Valentine’s Day proposal and then the photo above, 21 June 1947. The two lovebirds are easy enough to pick out, but the remaining cast is:

  • a friend of my uncle’s (holding the marriage license??)
  • “Uncle” Charlie and “Aunt” Rose Ahrens Runge. Rose is actually my mom’s and uncle’s half first cousin, daughter of my grandfather’s oldest half-sister. But Rose was 3 years older than my grandfather (her uncle!), so my mom always called her “aunt.” It was very confusing for me starting in genealogy, and she was not the only “faux aunt” in the tree!
  • Aunt Lena (Caroline) Moeller Mueller — my grandmother’s (Minnie) older sister — is partly behind Neva.
  • Great-grandma Elfrieda Jonas Moeller (Challenge) next to Gail
  • Aunt Lillie Moeller Tronjo — my grandmother’s younger sister
  • my grandmother, Minnie, holding my sister, Carole (who really seems to be making the wedding circuit (Surprise) early in life!)
  • Who belongs to the eyes and hat peeking over my uncle’s shoulder? With a little bit of calf thrown in for good measure? None other than my mother. I showed her the photo and asked why she was hiding behind her brother—she had no idea! Either the photo was taken before she moved into place, or she was feeling self-conscious at being VERY pregnant (my brother, Bob, was born 5½ weeks later!).

Of course, getting to the wedding day is one thing—getting through the next 70 years is another story! As a kid, I never thought about their “relationship” or how they got along. With his railroad work, they often weren’t living nearby, so the opportunities to visit were few. When we did, I was busy enjoying having cousins at least close to my age to hang with—I wasn’t keeping tabs on the adults! While I’m sure life was not perfect, I never had the sense of strain or tenseness when they were around. I think I would have picked up on that.

I think I first looked at their relationship at their 65th anniversary party in 2012. It wasn’t a family reunion, so I wasn’t running around, making sure everything ran smoothly. I didn’t have children to keep an eye on and out of trouble. I got to just be a guest—a rare treat! It was an opportunity to simply observe.

Gail & Neva had weathered good times, bad times, and everything in between, yet it was obvious they still adored each other. No, they didn’t always agree, but they did always care for and respect each other. The love they had for their children, grand children, and great grand children—and enjoyment of them—was clear. Those sentiments were equally reciprocated by their descendants, with a huge dollop of respect on top. It was lovely to watch.

As health issues cropped up these last few years, we witnessed a continuation of that care and concern for each other — not out of duty, obligation, guilt, or anything other than genuine love and wanting to do whatever was possible for the other. It was an important life-lesson.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, New American Bible


So thank you, Uncle Gail & Aunt Neva, for showing us for the last 71+ years what love really looks like! It’s not always moonlight and roses, it’s being there, when it matters the most.

#52Ancestors


¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinios, Kane, Elgin, e.d. 45-92; Page 8A; household number 151; line 12; Chas. JEWELL household; accessed 16 February 2019. Neva JEWELL, age 15; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 821; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²Gail F. Meintzer, Detours: A Memoir of a Railroad Man (Green Bay, WI: Written Dreams Publishing, 2016).

 

Work

Sometimes our work and our loves coincide . . .

You met my grandfather, Edward Mathias Haws, in Invite to Dinner. He was born 12 February 1887 in Kossuth, Manitowoc, Wisconsin—in the house you met in The Old Homestead. His father, Frank, was a farmer, and I’m sure Ed did his share of farm work growing up. But I always knew of him as a carpenter.

He wasn’t a woodworker-type carpenter—tables, chairs, and whatnot. He was what I would call a house framer–building structures. I’m sure carpenters have a more appropriate term, but that’s the simplest term that comes to my mind. He did, however, make a couple of end tables that have stayed in the family. My cousin, Barb, has one she inherited from her dad, and my brother has another, inherited from our dad:

grandpa haws table barb
Barb’s table (photo used with permission)

Grandpa Haws table_cropped
My parents’ table (which apparently had a stain on top, hence the runner! (photo in my possession)

Grandpa Haws table Warren
Top of table on the right, refinished by my brother: “I sanded the top to remove the stain and finished to reveal the three woods that make the top, walnut, maple, and oak.” Photo credit, Warren Haws. Also the refinishing work!

Each table is fairly simple. They don’t match. I’m not sure if they were even made at the same time, or if Victoria said, “Hey, I need a table for next to this chair,” and he pieced together something with the wood he had handy at the time. Next time it was a different wood selection. Nevertheless, both are older than me, so probably have 3/4 of a century of use already.

So how did Edward Haws morph from farmer to carpenter? I don’t have a clear cut answer, but I have found information allowing me to create a timeline of his work life. In the 1900 census¹ he was still in school—probably not for much longer, as he had only an eighth grade education.² I’m sure his father had him working hard on the farm, too.  What has me puzzled, though, is when and how he made the switch from farming (what he grew up with) to carpentry?

The 1905 Wisconsin State Census³ has him off the family farm at age 18—working for Charles Kasten for 7 months as a “hired man”—”day laborer” in nearby Two Rivers. Kasten was a farmer, so the “day laborer” seems a little odd to me. There are other entries in that column for “farm laborer,” so there’s clearly a distinction. The enumerator would have been told the occupation, so someone (Ed? his employer?) saw Ed as something other than a farm worker. Is this when the shift started? Granted, on a farm you are going to end up doing a lot of building repair, and construction, so it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination. There were also two carpenters on the farm adjacent. Did they help him hone his skills? Who knows?

Family lore (AKA probably my dad or Uncle Henry) has Ed moving to Glencoe, Cook, Illinois, when he was 21—about 1908. Unfortunately, Ed is AWOL (so far!) in the 1910 census. Neither he nor his older brother, John, are on the family farm. I even checked out the Kasten family Ed was working for five years earlier—nada. Nor do I find him in Glencoe, near the Schweiger family, which he will marry into in four years.

Realizing the last name has lots of misspelling potential, I paged through 4 of the 8 enumeration districts in New Trier township, with no success. My eyes needed a break before tackling the rest of them! Barb did the same thing in Wisconsin. We found lots of other Haws relatives, but no sign of him. Several options exist:

  • The enumerators missed him entirely (he was young, single, and possibly moving around)
  • His name(s) got horribly mangled, so we can’t find him in the indexes
  • Whoever he was lodging with was careless with providing information—either missed or wrong
  • He was living and working some place we aren’t looking at
  • More than one of of the above!

He and Victoria marry in 1914, and they needed to date prior to that, but it’s possible he wasn’t living in Glencoe in 1910. Without knowing a specific location, that’s a LOT of microfilmed/digitized images to page through between Manitowoc and Chicago . . .

At some point in the 1910s, he built 2 houses on next to each other in Glencoe—one for his in-laws, and one for himself. His 3 older children were born in that house on Woodlawn, and that’s where he was living for the 1917 WWI draft.4 So in June, he was a gardener, day laborer. I do know he liked to do gardening. Maybe he had that as a sideline, so if he wasn’t working on a house construction job at the time, I can see him listing gardener as his occupation, and not carpenter.

Some time in the next 9 months, he moved the family back to Wisconsin, settling in Manitowoc (town), to work in the shipbuilding yards. Their last 2 children—George and my dad—were born there, and the 1920 census5 lists shipbuilding as his occupation. By 1925, the family is back in the Chicago area, renting in Highwood6 while Ed built the family’s new home in Deerfield.

The 19307 and 1940² censuses list his occupation as carpenter. What they don’t tell you, is that he was a member of the carpenter’s union, and wouldn’t work on a non-union construction job. As difficult as times were during the Depression, adding that limitation to where he would or wouldn’t work would have made them more so. Nor do those documents tell you that he helped with the construction of the rectory where my parents got married (Going to the Chapel), or other “side projects.”

For instance, when my parents bought their 1st house in 1952, it had no garage. Grandpa came out and helped my dad build a 2-car garage. And the two of them constructed custom storage in the upstairs hallway, using unfinished dressers for the base, and building a cupboard top above it, all the way to the ceiling. Whether he constructed anything similar in his other children’s houses, I don’t know, but it would seem likely.

He died in 1966, at the age of 79. but I don’t know when he retired from work. How and where my grandfather learned his carpentry trade, I don’t know, but it was a huge part of his life, and seemed to spill down to later generations, including (but not limited to):

  • my dad, who rebuilt the front half of the garage next door to us (which partly burned down)
  • 2 of my brothers, who developed considerable skill in woodworking
  • at least 2 of my children, who also “kick around” in wood a good bit. You know how kids are—we don’t always hear everything!

Is there a “woodworking gene”? I don’t know, but part of me wouldn’t be the least bit surprised!

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth Town, e.d. 69; Page 7A; dwelling number 122; family number 131; line 34; Frank HAWS household; accessed 6 September 2018. Edward HAWS, age 13; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1797; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Deerfield, e.d. 49-107; Page 14B; household number 301; line 48; Edward HAWS household; accessed 10 September 2018. Edward HAWS, age 53; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 828; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1905 Wisconsin state census, population schedule, Manitowoc, Two Rivers town, p. 928, family no. 188, line 98, entry for Edward HAAS [HAWS], age 18 in Charles KASTEN household; accessed 7 Septermber 2018, index and images; FamilySearch, FHL microfilm 1020454.

4“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.familysearch.org), Edward Matt HAWS, serial no. 933, order no. 60, Draft Board 3, 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. 1504112. accessed 6 September 2018. Registered 5 June 1917.

51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Manitowoc Ward 6, e.d. 106; Page 9A; dwelling number 1860; family number 169; line 36; Edward M. HOWE [HAWS] household; accessed 7 September 2018. Edward M. HOWE [HAWS], age 32; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1994; digital image, Ancestry.com. (https://www.ancestry.com).

6“U. S. City Directories, 1822-1995”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Polk’s Waukegan Directory, 1925. Entry for Edw. HAWS, p. 685, accessed 7 September 2018.

71930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Deerfield, e.d. 49-17; Page 2A; dwelling number 23; family number 23; line 21; Edward HAUSS household; accessed 10 September 2018; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 528; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).