Mother’s Day

Not always the warm fuzzy we’d like it to be.

Advertisements

I have an uneasy relationship with Mother’s Day, for a variety of reasons. It’s not that I don’t think mothers should be celebrated or honored. I had a great mother (still living, at age 96), four wonderful adult children, and five grandchildren, who I dearly love. But the holiday itself just makes me uncomfortable.

I first noticed it as a child, with the blessing at the end of Mass on Mother’s Day. All the mothers were supposed to stand up, but my mom didn’t. She wasn’t Catholic, and rarely went to Mass with us. To me, it seemed unfair that she didn’t get the blessing–she had certainly earned it, having to put up with me! As I got older, I decided God would take care of blessing her, even if she wasn’t there.

Then I grew up, got married, and had children. I came in contact with other women who

  • were having difficulty getting pregnant
  • had miscarried
  • had stillborn babies
  • had lost a child (Cemetery)
  • had lost custody of/contact with their child

So even as I stood in church, squirming child in my arms, sometimes not so thankful I was a mother (come on, we’ve all had days/weeks/months like that!), I would notice the women not standing. My heart would ache for them, not necessarily knowing the reason. Truthfully, every year it was harder for me to stand, not because I was ashamed of being a mother, but because it seemed like salt in the wound for the known and unknown women who were hurting–whether or not they were standing. I didn’t want my kids freaking out about, “Why isn’t Mom standing!?!?!” so I always stood. I seldom do, now, though.

With genealogy, I find these wounds regularly. Miscarriages won’t be recorded–because few of them are ever known beyond the mother and father. Stillborn children and those who died young I always include on the tree as I learn of them. Even if they are unnamed, they need to be remembered and mourned. One of my dad’s cousins had three daughters . . . and also three sons who died at or shortly after birth. The generations coming up need to know about those branches that got pruned too soon.

I remember looking through the Kreuzeber, Thuringen, Germany, microfilm church records for the mid-1800s at a Family History Library (Film 1193951 Item 1 DGS film #007768336). My great grandfather, John Haase, and his wife, Elisazbeth Nachtwey, were born there, married, and had at least one child before emigrating to Wisconsin. I had located the specific events I needed for them, then started back at the beginning. I scrolled through Births, Marriages, and Deaths for each year, looking for other Haase and Nachtwey family.

I found the names of John’s parents, and at least one brother. But it was a small village, so I assumed anyone with those surnames were likely to be a relative. My plan was to print the pages with a Haase or Nachtwey record, then I could bring them home and sort out the people. Unfortunately, the “sorting out” phase is still waiting to be done . . .

As I scrolled through, I jotted notes to myself, so I knew which pages to print later. Capital “H” and “N” are fairly easy to pick out, even in funky German script, so I could cover a decent number of pages each time I went to the library. One afternoon I was tooling along when I let out a pretty audible, “OH!” Half a sigh, like air being let out of a balloon. I quickly glanced around to see if anyone was giving me the evil eye for being noisy. Fortunately, no one was.

I had just found the death record for a very young girl. It was the mid-1800s, so not a terribly unusual occurrence. But I had just seen the birth record for this girl. For whatever reason, that particular day, finding her death record left me feeling sad, and wondering about the mother.

How did she cope with her loss? Did she think about this little girl, or try not to? Is she happy that a complete stranger (me) is now acknowledging her child’s brief life, and mourning its loss, even after more than 150 years? Does it give her satisfaction knowing her child will always have a spot in at least one persons’s family tree? I don’t know, but I hope so. I hope that mother can rest easier knowing someone besides herself remembers and mourns her child.

Mother’s Day. It’s a little trickier than flowers and chocolate.

#52Ancestors

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.

scan0017
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.

#52Ancestors

Lucky

Luck. Is it random? Or do we make our own?

I don’t consider myself particularly lucky. I don’t gamble in casinos, play the lottery (though I DO pick up discarded lottery scratch-offs, occasionally scoring an unclaimed winner!), or have any relatives winning the Lotto–and offering to share. I don’t know any relatives who missed the “Titanic” or “Lusitania”, either. What to write about?

My two hour walk this morning provided ample time to ponder the question. As usual, while I wandered, so did my mind. It occurred to me how much luck is actually involved with our existence. More than once, while researching and recording information for one of my nth-great-grandmothers, I’ve thought how perhaps her most important accomplishment was simply raising my ancestor to adulthood. Some of these great-grandmothers buried half of their children, so it was harder than we may want to think about.

Not that she would have really thought much about it. Her life was a daily routine, busy with taking care of the house, cooking, cleaning, growing vegetables, sewing clothes, etc. Kids were simply part of the equation. But with cholera, typhus, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, and plain old bacterial infections (no antibiotics or immunizations then!), raising children to adulthood was not a given.

Yet, if she hadn’t kept that particular child alive, history would be changed. “Little H” history, not History. That child would not have been around to marry his/her spouse, and NONE of the people down that line would be here–most notably, me! So you would be sitting there, reading a cat blog, instead of this one–unless you happen to share that ancestor with me. Then you wouldn’t be here, either. Don’t forget to multiply that bit of luck for each generation between, because a broken link anywhere along that line changes everything that follows.

Then my mind wandered over to my genealogy research. Losing all my grandparents at a young age certainly wasn’t lucky, but fortunately I started while I still had grandaunts and granduncles on all four branches, who patiently answered my questions (see Start). They gave me a solid base of information. Naturally, all my charts were on paper–there was no “online” back then. My dad drove me to the Newberry Library one Saturday, and we cranked through I don’t know how many reels of microfilmed census records. Otherwise, everything else was done by snail mail, and without original documents.

I got married. Mike really had no interest in genealogy, so my the paperwork lived in one box. One. Okay, I’ll wait till you finish laughing. With only five vacation days per year, he wasn’t interested in visiting courthouses (I could sneak in a cemetery once in a while), nor did he want to spend half of his weekend at the Indiana State Library looking through microfilm–or sit at home, alone, while I did. Kids came along, leaving so much time for genealogy! All I did for twelve years was to slide into the top of the box any information I received from relatives. I didn’t “do” anything with it, but I knew where it was, and it was safe.

Then my daughter decided to do the 4-H genealogy project, figuring it would be pretty easy, since I had lots of information. Out came the box, and shortly afterwards I acquired my first software: Family Tree Maker 3.0. Transferring from paper to software was a slow process, but reacquainted me with the people I’d neglected for so long. Now there was email, so contacting relatives was easier than before. Rootsweb mailing lists were in their heyday, so I learned about repositories in the areas I researched (Wisconsin, Illinois, Alsace, Germany), without the expense of travel.

In 1999 I saw a message from a Katherine Rueby, Roschester, NY, with a surname in the signature: Nachtway.  One of my great-great grandmothers is Elizabeth Nachtway, who emigrated from “somewhere” in Germany. I contacted Katherine and learned she is a descendant of Elizabeth’s younger brother, Anton. Not only did she know all about Elizabeth and her husband, John Haase, but she knew they came from Kreuzeber (now Kreuzebra), Germany AND could tell me the specific LDS microfilm numbers the church records were on!

It was midnight, everyone in the house was asleep, and I was bouncing up and down in my chair, alternating between silently cheering and screaming. It was magical. You’d have thought I’d won the lottery. Twice. I really didn’t keep in touch with her afterwards, but I am so grateful for the huge chunk she took out of that brick wall! Nor was Katherine the only distant relative I’ve come across unexpectedly. It’s a little rare on mailing lists, but I’ve got a boatload of DNA matches to process through–when I can find the time!

I’ve clearly benefited from the best of both worlds. By starting early, I learned what I could from my grandparents’ generation while they were alive. Surprisingly, the unintentional break in research wasn’t actually a negative. With the difficulty in finding records, and lack of discretionary funds, it’s not likely I would have made much progress during that time, anyway. When I resumed, the digital age was starting up, and hasn’t slowed down. The access to original document images from home (or the library) is invaluable. As my dad would say, “Timing is everything.”

I’ve also realized I have good instincts when researching; sort of a “Gibb’s gut” for genealogy! I’m careful not to leap to conclusions, but sometimes something just “seems” right–or wrong–and further research usually confirms it.

Hmm. Maybe I’m luckier than I thought? And yes, there’s more than one box, now.

#52Ancestors