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.

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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).

Valentine

Roses are red . . .

While I know three individuals with Valentine’s Day birthdays, my family tree doesn’t really have a lot of traffic on February 14th. Between births, deaths, and marriages for 5500+ people (granted, not everyone has dates for all 3, and some have none!), you would think there would be, but there’s only:

  • one birth–a married-in from Mike’s side
  • two deaths on my Meintzer side–a 2nd cousin, Arline Ehrhardt Jenkins Axtell, and Hans Adam Ensminger, a 1st cousin 8x removed (nephew of my 7th great-grandmother) and
  • 1 marriage–a 2nd cousin on my dad’s side, Allan Heerey and his wife Mary

I don’t really have particularly good stories for any of them, and don’t know of any romantic proposals taking place on Valentine’s Day. So I started thinking about aggregate data again, and wondered how many couples in my tree were married for 50 years or more.

Being married for a long period of time is more than simply not getting divorced. Granted, that helps immeasurably, but you also have to keep BOTH people alive. That’s a little harder, and less in our control than the other.

Unfortunately, my Family Tree Maker software failed to help me. While it can generate a Marriage Report, I cannot make changes or additions to the information it provides. I get the bride and groom, a marriage date, and the current status of their marriage. Number of years isn’t an option. The Custom Report is no help, either, While “age at death” is a calculated value available for everyone, “number of years married” is not. It’s a little more complicated, since you have to look at the marriage date, see if someone has died, and if both, see who died first. Then you can do the math. Looks like I’m going to have to go about this old-school, relying on my memory. So cousins, if I’ve missed someone, please let me know! This is based on how I happen to remember, so not ordered by length of the marriage.

First up on the list are Robert & Ardyth Meintzer Haws (Dad & Mom), clocking in with 63 years. Mom’s brother, Gail, and his sweetheart, Neva, celebrated their 70th last year, and are still going strong. Dad’s oldest brother, Henry, and his bride, Mary, were going strong for 62 years. His other brother, George (who happened to get married the exact same day as Gail & Neva!), celebrated a 50th anniversary with his “better half”, Marge, before his too-early death at age 77.

My grandparents (Invite to Dinner), though, do not make the list. Victoria died in 1955, just before her 46th anniversary, and Minnie died in 1958, shortly before her 45th anniversary. Nor do great-grandparents Christian and Sophia Gaertner Meintzer (My Favorite Photo & In the Census), who were married only 47 years when she died in 1913. But since she was a 2nd wife, maybe they get bonus points?

Their oldest daughter, Sophie (married to Edward Kranz) was married for 54 years, and her daughter, Anna, was married to Walter Schultz just shy of 65 years. Anna was a huge help to me with family information and stories, and one of the times I visited her, she gave me a ceramic ornament given as a favor at their 60th Anniversary party. I think of her every Christmas, hanging it on the tree. Anna’s son, Walter, and his wife, Connie, were married at least 66 years when Connie died in 2014. That’s 3 generations! Many of Sophie & Ed’s other children also had long marriages:

  • son Emil and Evelyn: 51 years
  • daughter Lillie and Richard Jahn: 38 years
  • daughter Coila and Harry Frohn: 47+ years
  • daughter Mary Ella and Martin Reeg: almost 59 years
  • son Julius and Elsie: 57 years
  • daughter Louisa and Walter Ehrhardt: 60 years
  • daughter Minnie and Ed Ladendorf: 54 years
  • daughter Emma and Joe Poc: 41 years
  • daughter Martha and Louis Kanitsch: 39 years

Yes, some of them don’t quite make the 50 year cut-off, but it’s still a pretty impressive run for one family!

From my dad’s side, [Grand] Uncle Sylvester Schweiger and Aunt Stacia were married for 55 years, their daughter Marita married to Harry Nash for almost 60. And my dad’s cousin, Fred Schweiger and wife, Nancy just celebrated number 60.

Edward and Clara Duckart Goessl (Longevity) had another 2 years beyond the newspaper clipping in that post–with Clara spending another 25 years more, as a widow!

On the not-related-to-me side, Mike’s grandparents, Francis Charles Kukler and Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan, got married in 1919. They had 52 years together before Frank passed away. Not bad, given that they were 28 years old when they married!

scan0003
Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan and Francis Charles Kukler, 11 June 1919, the day after her 28th birthday. She had 7 children and lived to age 95!

And Mike’s Uncle Bob and Aunt Gloria are still going strong with 58 years under their belts.

So, is there a “long marriage gene”? Probably not, though looking at Aunt Sophie’s line, it almost makes you wonder! A lot of it is luck. Having good genes and a long life is a huge help. So is the ability to resist strangling your spouse–not always an easy urge to control! But it’s reassuring to know that sometimes we beat the odds on both of those.

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Longevity

“Old” is a relative term. What seemed old when I was younger isn’t quite as old, now. And my Grandpa Meintzer was noted for saying that no one should live past the age of 60. Of course, that was probably during the depression, when he was still a long way from 60! Work was scarce and less competition for jobs would have been appealing. As he approached 60, apparently he stopped making that comment–not really surprising! And he lived until age 78–a respectable age for someone from that era.

But this week’s prompt got me wondering about the age at death for all the other people in my tree. Luckily, software makes it fairly easy to distill the data. I have birth and death dates for almost 28% of my 5,552 people. Seventy-five died under the age of 2, including our oldest granddaughter, Grace. The other age brackets break down as such:

2-12:  52                                            50-59:  183

13-19:  32                                          60-69:  275

20-29:  58                                          70-79:  321

30-39:  54                                          80-89:  292

40-49:  111                                       90-99:  64–my mom’s still hanging in there, going on 96, along with her brother, 4 years younger, and 2 “married in” aunts

Three people died over the age of 100 (though one was supposedly born in 1530, and I haven’t confirmed the research on her!).

Naturally, some of these people belong to Mike–I can’t claim them all. Some are “married ins” and have no genetic connection to either of us. And there are LOTS of people for whom I simply haven’t had the time to track down their death date. It’s interesting, though, to look at the data collectively–something I rarely do. Scanning down the spreadsheet, I wasn’t too surprised by the people age 90+ born in the late 1800s. Medical advances explain much of that. But the ones born in the mid-1800s–or more surprisingly, mid 1700s!–were very unexpected. There were similar results among those who died in their 80s. It seems the adage that the older you are, the longer you’ll live, holds true.

Of course, I’m sure you’re anxiously waiting to learn who won the longevity pool! That would be Clara Irene Duckart, who married my dad’s 2nd cousin Edward (Eddie, as Dad always called him) Goessl. Clara and Eddie were both born in 1898, and while Eddie died in 1980 (age 82), Clara lived to 107. Yes, you read that right; she lived in 3 different centuries! It’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around that. Clara and Eddie were both born in Wisconsin, and died there, got married in Minnesota, and their oldest daughter was born in Illinois. So they moved around a bit, presumably for work. My dad had memories of them both, because they were living near him when their oldest daughter was born, 8 years after my dad. Since they were hours away from immediate family, presumably my dad’s family filled that void. When my parents took a road trip to Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, in the fall of 1999, they stopped by Clara’s house in nearby Denmark (Brown County) to visit. Clara was still living in her house, at age 101.

So far, I’ve been unsuccessful in tracking down very many additional details about her life–the meaty little bits to fill in the “dash” (18982005) with personal information. It’s the unfortunate case of too many relatives, too little time, so the collateral families suffer. At least Clara got her “few minutes of fame” (however long it took for you to read this) for having outlived everyone else in my tree!

1977 11 13 GOESSL Ed & Clara 50th anniversay
Undetermined newspaper article printed after 13 November 1977, most likely from the Denmark, Brown  County, Wisconsin area

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