“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce

In genealogy/family history, we discover a lot of details about a lot of people—more for some than for others. Some lines have all the census records found, we know where they lived, we have photos, letters, stories passed down, church records, civil records; and we know where the bodies are buried. Their i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Life is good.

Then there are the families where the facts are sketchy, at best. We have bare-bones information based on Aunt Millie’s memories of who was who, when they were born, where they lived, and so on. There’s a great deal of uncertainty associated with that data, but it provides a starting point for our research. We search for census records; birth, marriage, and death records; directories; whatever we can find to corroborate or refute our information. We are bloodhounds, hot on the scent of our prey.

So what happens when new information pops up on one of the established, documented lines? When a gap suddenly appears in the foundation of the family?

And NO, this has nothing to do with DNA. Not all genealogy surprises come from spitting in a tube!

Plot marker, Saint Anne Cemetery, Francis Creek, Wisconsin. Photos by author.
“FATHER: Frank Haws, 1958-1933” “MOTHER: Anna Haws 1865-1952”

Anyway, my foundations were shaken in mid-March. I had gone to the Find A Grave memorial for my great grandpa, Frank Haws. I must have been working on the Popular blog, focusing on his wife, Anna Bruder Haws. I have my own photos of Frank’s and Anna’s tombstones, so I don’t know if I’d ever looked for them on Find A Grave—possibly not. Imagine my surprise to find an unknown son and another spouse connected to Frank!

I nearly fell out of my chair.

My immediate reaction was, “Well, that’s just wrong!” Frank and Anna had 6 children, I knew who they all were, with two of them (John and Teresa) connected to Frank’s Find A Grave memorial. It couldn’t possibly be right. Finally, my brain kicked in and I looked more closely at my “new” grand uncle, “Joe.”

SPOILER ALERT! Bottom line, “Joe” was not a child of my Frank, and Joe’s mother, “Susie” was not Frank’s wife, partner, or anything else. It took some work to reach that conclusion. Since these people are not related to me, I’m not using their real names. The “Frank” who was Joe’s father will be “Frank2” to distinguish him from my great grandfather. Using names will make the explanation easier to follow, though. The only actual names are the two Franks.

Back to my dilemma. I was staring at my screen, mouth open, shaking my head, and sputtering under my breath. I looked at Joe’s memorial. I looked at Susie’s. She had remarried later, having more children with that husband. Who were these people, and did they belong in my tree? I was still bewildered.

Joe was born in 1882 in Minnesota, three years before Frank and Anna got married. We still have not found Frank in the 1880 census. Could he have gone to Minnesota, sown some wild oats, and fathered a child there? Then come back to Wisconsin and start up a new family? It wasn’t a particularly attractive scenario, but I couldn’t dismiss the possibility.

Birth and death years for both Franks were slightly off:

  • Frank, 1858 to 1933
  • Frank2, 1860 to 1929

I was confident about my great grandfather’s dates, but without sources for Frank2, I had no idea if those were accurate or not. The date discrepancy didn’t provide conclusive evidence, for me, that the two men were different.

Proving that Frank wasn’t the father of Joe might not be possible. The 15-year gap in his timeline was problematic. The surname spelling variations proved nothing—I’ve found at least five versions of Frank’s surname on different documents. But could I prove Frank2 was elsewhere while Frank was farming in Wisconsin and raising his kids? Maybe.

I contacted my cousin, Barb, to see if she had seen or knew anything about this. She is the only other person researching this family line, and is my go-to person for weird finds. She was equally puzzled.

Lacking time right then to sort out everything, I left open all the tabs of what I’d found, to come back to. It took nearly a month—April 15th—before I forced myself to deal with it. I’d gotten tired of looking at the tabs, and realized the quandry wouldn’t go away by itself.

I started with Joe, trying to nail down his details. I found an Ancestry tree with Joe, Susie, Susie’s 2nd husband, and Joe’s father, Frank Haas (Frank2). Some facts there seemed to line up with what I saw on Find A Grave; others gave me the willies. In addition to the memorial for Joe in a California cemetery (near where he died), the tree also attached a memorial using his stepfather’s surname, in Indiana. It’s difficult (though not impossible!) to be in two cemeteries at once, but with two different names? I’m pretty sure the Indiana memorial was a different man.

Nevertheless, the profile for Frank2 listed facts similar to, but not quite matched to Frank’s details:

  • parentsJohn and Elizabethbut not the Nachtwey surname of my 2nd great grandmother
  • birthplaceWisconsin. Frank2 was born in Sheboygan, nearby, but certainly not Manitowoc.
  • 1860 census listed his age at 6 months. Census records have notoriously inaccurate ages, but no enumerator would confuse a 2-year-old and a 6-month old! This census listed also him as “Joseph”his middle name in the birth record (next list).
  • By 1880, Frank2’s father had died, and several children had moved out of the house, but Frank2 was in the county where his marriage occurred and Joe was born
  • The 1883 marriage certificate image for Frank2 and Susie, in Clay County, 17 months after Joe’s birth. That marriage was short-lived, and no divorce record found yet. Susie’s second marriage took place around 1885, but that record is still missing.

The marriage record image for Frank2 and Susie included in that tree was extremely important. It was a record not available at Ancestry, so must have been acquired from the county or state. While it proved Susie married a Frank Haas, it didn’t disprove my Frank. Parents’ names weren’t provided, neither were age or birth year. I set about looking for missing records to fill the gaps for Frank2 and found:

  • Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928 documented his 15 January 1860 birth (with parents, including mother’s maiden name, listed), name: Francis Josephus Haass (providing the “Joseph” recorded in the census).
  • 1870 census placed the family (surname misspelled) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with Frank2’s 3 older brothers and 4 younger siblings
  • 1875 Minnesota census seemed to have the family in Clay County (their location in 1880), despite some variations in first names. The kids’ ages lined upquite a feat with 9 kids!so the couple red herrings among the names could be explained by middle and nicknames common in German families.
  • 192o census placed Frank2 where he should be, in Minnesota.
  • 1929, the county death register was viewable at FamilySearch. Same location as 1920 census.

While there were still some gaps in Frank2’s timeline, I felt I had amassed enough information to plead my case that Frank should not be attached as Joe’s father. I created an account at Find A Grave (one is needed to send messages), suggested the disconnect of Joe and Frank, and typed my explanation. It was a text box contained on the website, and you know how those sometimes have a character limit. I didn’t know if that was the case, so I was trying to write a Cliff Notes version of the explanation, hoping not to run out of room.

It all fit, and I sent it off. A reply came back fairly quickly from the manager of Joe’s memorial. She had forwarded my message to someone else in the family, and copied that reply. It was clear the other person misunderstood some of my explanation, though they DID confirm the 1920 census and death register were the correct ones for Frank2. Bottom line, they thought I was all wet.

I still thought I was right, but realized the first message was a bit muddled. I’d give it one more try. My reply was very polite, but this time I put more emphasis on the idea that if Frank2 was in Minnesota at the same time Frank was farming in Wisconsin, they had to be two different people. If Frank2 was Joe’s father, then Frank couldn’t be. The memorial was not under my controlI could suggest edits, but control of it ultimately was theirs. My concern was inaccurate information that would send their (or my) family members down the wrong research path, if it was left uncorrected. But it was their call.

I received a reply conceding Frank and Frank2 were different, so she would remove Joe’s connection to Frank, and do further research into where Frank2 was buried.


My great grandfather’s memorial has been corrected; no extra grand uncle is lurking about. So why did I bother with this situation? I don’t manage any of the memorials for family members, nor do I have oodles of time to suggest edits to all of them. Frank and Anna still have only two of their six children connected to their memorial, so it’s certainly not “perfect.”

Find A Grave is secondary information, at best. Its accuracy is dependent on the research done by each manager. It can be a goldmine, with obituaries, photos, or death certificates included; or it can be bare-bones. Like online trees, it’s a source of hints, helping us find actual records to support the “facts” listed in the memorial.

Joe’s connection was simply wrong. If someone came to Frank’s memorial and saw Joe, and didn’t do any checking, they might add incorrect people to their tree, creating a mess. In my mind, wrong information on a site people use for research is far more dangerous than missing information. I felt it was worth the effort to try to clean up a mistake I was aware of. Keep in mind, when I started, I went in search of MY Frankto see if he could have possibly been the father. It wasn’t until I’d found enough records for Frank2, that I knew Frank was in the clear.

What about the two Ancestry trees I viewed? Both had some incorrect information, or at least wrongly attached sources. One had Frank2 buried in Dayton, Ohio! Maybe he was buried in a family plot back east? I researched the man from that Find A Grave memorial, too, and discovered his wife, children, and census records. He had never been in Minnesota; certainly didn’t die there. The tree owner had grabbed a same-name, similar death date memorial, and assumed it was correct. Oops.

But I am not the genealogy police. I can’t go around checking everyone’s tree. I occasionally make a change on the FamilySearch tree, but it’s a shared tree, not personal. Common knowledge and common sense tell us not to blindly accept everything we see on any tree. We read that in blogs and articles, and hear it in webinars. So I make use of the sources that are correct, and ignore the others. And I choose my battles carefully.

After all that research, I still have a gap for Frank between 1870 and 1885, but at least some of the uncertainty has been removed!


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!



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.

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.


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.


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.