“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” –Three Dog Night

When I saw the prompt this week, I immediately thought of my mom’s highschool friend, Eleanor Wold. She became a professional opera singer in New York, and undoubtedly had solos in her career.

But Mike says she isn’t family, so doesn’t count. Maybe some other prompt.

So I switched gears and zeroed in on Sylvester Hartmann. I introduced him I Conflict. He emigrated by himself in 1895. Being a priest kept him solo (no wife or kids) in life. Still, he deserves to be remembered.

I first knew of him as a cousin of the Schweigers, who provided us with the family tree going back to the early 1600s. His exact relationship was (and still is) a mystery. My 2nd great grandmother was Marianne Hartmann, born in 1823. Sylvester Hartmann’s birth in 1877 eliminated him being Marianne’s younger brother, though nephew might be possible. That would make him a 1st cousin, 3 times removed to me (only twice removed to my dad, or once removed to my granduncle, Sylvester Schweiger, with whom Fr. Hartmann visited & corresponded).

If he descended from an older brother of Marianne, then there’s probably another generation in between, making him a second cousin, twice removed to me, once removed to my dad, and a full second cousin to Uncle Syl. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any documentation for Sylvester listing his parents’ names, and I have no siblings for Marianne. Family Search has microfilmed the church records from his birth town (Altdorf, in Bavaria), but haven’t digitized the records for 1877. For now, I’m stymied.

Shortly before I started college, I realized Fr. Hartmann had taught at the college I was about to enter. When I arrived on campus, I asked each of the priests I met (who were all old enough to have had Fr. Hartmann for class) what, if anything, they remembered. Every one of them remembered him, having had him for Logic, Greek, or Latin.

I had the good fortune to have Fr. Dominic Gerlach teach my German I class. As the college historian, he had access to all sorts of school records. He typed up a page and a half of notes from school information, and photocopied two more pages, plus Fr. Hartmann’s obituary from the religious order’s monthly publication.

I learned Fr. Hartmann was born 31 December 1877 in Altdorf, Bavaria. He entered the Missionaries of the Precious Blood on 12 November 1895, in Burkettsville, Ohio. He may have spent some time at the Society’s motherhouse (yes, even though it’s priests and brothers, it’s a “motherhouse”!)—maybe to learn English? From 1896-1902, he attended classes at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. According to Fr. Gerlach, Sylvester:

  • sang 2nd bass in the college choir.
  • played alto in band.
  • performed in several productions from the Columbian Literary Society (CLS), including Dorner, a knight, in “William Tell”.
  • worked as librarian in the CLS. With no central library, CLS membership provided the only access to the school’s main collection of books.
22 February 1900. “William Tell,” a tragedy in 5 acts by Very Rev. J. H. Oechtering. According to Fr. Gerlach, Sylvester played Dorner, a knight. Fr. Gerlach also mentioned, “Photo is in Bookstore window, very likely he is the third figure from the right.” This image is from Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselear, Indiana: A Centennial Pictorial History From Its Beginnings to 1990, p. 47.¹ This is likely to be the same photo mentioned in the notes to me.

Sylvester received a BA degree at the end of the 1902 school year. Fr. Gerlach commented that it was only the equivalent of Junior College (2 years), but that the curriculum was more rigorous than the then-current (1970s) course of study. Sylvester professed (intent to join the priesthood) 5 June 1903, and was ordained 4 years later, 11 June 1907.

He spent the remainder of that year in three different parishes in Ohio and Illinois, returning to Saint Joe in January 1908. He taught there through the summer of 1916. He spent the next year at Catholic University, in Washington, DC, pursuing a Master’s Degree. The Catholic University Bulletin² confirmed the completion of his degree (with its dissertation title!). He spent the summer in a parish in New York before returning to campus.

With the exception of a medical leave from December 1923 to July 1924 (reason unknown), and another summer in a parish, Sylvester returned to Saint Joe, mostly for good. Part of that time he served as vice president to the college. In 1935 he became Spiritual Director for the students. He also wrote two textbooks on Logic:

  • A Textbook of Logic: A Normative Analysis of Thought. New York; American Book Co., 1936.
  • Fundamentals of Logic. St. Louis, MO; B. Herder Book Co., 1949.

I’ve acquired the first book (A Textbook of Logic). Now I just need to find time to read it! And look for the other one.

His life was not all work; he visited his Schweiger cousins in the Chicago area. He traveled a bit (more about that, later). When the 1949 school started, he retired to being a Professor Emeritus, relocating to Brunnerdale Seminary (Canton, Ohio) in January 1950. He moved to the motherhouse in Carthagena, Ohio, February 1953, and died 23 July. He was buried four days later, presumably in St. Charles Cemetery, though he has no Find A Grave photos or memorial.

The information I received from Fr. Gerlach listed a nephew, brother, and sister, all living in Bavaria. A Joseph M. Hartmann had an address in Chicago, and Sylvester’s obituary mentioned him having another brother and sister in Germany, and a niece in Washington, DC. Of course, addresses over 60 years old aren’t likely to be too helpful . . .

Fr. Gerlach had actually given me quite a bit of information! It included details I probably wouldn’t have had access to, but it was all secondary evidence. Could I find anything to document the dates, places, and activities?

I found Fr. Hartmann in Indiana during each census, 1900-1930. He seemed to be missing from 1940, but there was a Sylvester “Eastman” born in Germany, right age, who seemed possible. I didn’t recall seeing an Eastman on campus in any previous census. Or maybe Sylvester Eastman was someone different, and they simply missed Fr. Hartmann? The 1930 census did confirm the vice president story.

His 31 December 1877 birthdate was well-documented by his:

  • Passport Application (1922)
  • census records (1900 with month and year)
  • WWII draft registration (1942)

His Passport Application provided the date, ship, and departure port for his original trip to the USA: 7 November 1895, on the SS Kensington, from Antwerp, Belgium. It was a great help in finding the right ship. It had him traveling to Carthagena, Ohio, so I’m confident it’s him.

The Passport Application claimed he was going to England and France to study and travel, then to Germany to visit relatives, with more travel in Holland, Switzerland, and Belgium. He had a busy summer planned!

An incoming UK ships’ list showed him getting off the SS Celtic 11 June 1922 in Queenstown, Ireland (planning to stay in Dublin). On 29 August 1922 he boarded the SS Nieuw Amsterdam, returning from Rotterdam to New York.

1934 faculty photo. Fr. Sylvester Hartmann is in the front row, 3rd from the right. This image is from Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselear, Indiana: A Centennial Pictorial History From Its Beginnings to 1990, p. 56.¹

He sailed back to the USA again, 1 September 1932 (with a different passport number, since it needed renewing) from Bremen, Germany. Presumably he visited relatives that time, too. Fr. Gerlach’s notes said Sylvester was abroad again during the summer of 1949 (just as he was retiring), but I haven’t found that ship’s list, yet.

The death date is corroborated by the obituaries I’ve located, but I’ve still found nothing telling me his parents’ names. Ancestry didn’t have his death certificate, although Family Search did. Unfortunately, both parents had the same names—unknown! Since their names didn’t show up on the school’s records, I didn’t figure I’d luck out on the death certificate.

But really, he was a 17 ½ year old, coming to a foreign country by himself in 1895. They didn’t get parents’ names? What if he’d gotten sick and died? Surely they would have notified them? Or maybe they had the names at one time, but they died in the meantime, being replaced with the siblings’ names? I don’t know. It’s frustrating.

In April, 1999, I emailed the motherhouse at Carthagena, inquiring about any personal effects from Sylvester Hartman. I was hoping perhaps his genealogy papers might have been kept. Presumably he had more information on the Hartmann family that he hadn’t passed along to the Schweigers. It was a Hail Mary pass.

My email was forwarded to Fr. Ballor, archivist at the time. He was a student in 1953, and remembered Fr. Hartman, but relayed the sad news that any personal effects were disposed of after his death. That was the policy at the time—one he changed upon becoming archivist. He tries to retain items that provide insight about the individual, but he had nothing more for me than the information Fr. Gerlach had already provided.

At this point, I can try to track down some of the relatives (more likely, their descendants!) listed in the school records. Maybe I’ll get lucky? I can also pray the Altdorf records get digitized quickly, to try and find his birth record (and maybe parents’ names?). Or I get to plan a road trip to Salt Lake City, where I can crank through the microfilm reels, looking for that record. That might be a better plan, because who knows when the records I need will be digitized.

In his 40+ years of teaching, he influenced a lot of young men. I’m glad I was able to track down a little more about Fr. Hartman’s life.


¹Dominic B. Gerlach, Centennial Celebration Committee, Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, Indiana: A Centennial Pictorial History From Its Beginnings to 1990 (Rensselaer, Indiana: The College, 1990), p. 47, 56.  

²Catholic University of America, “Commenceent Exercises: School of Letters”. The Catholic University Bulletin. vol. 23, no, 6 (June 1917); online archives, Google Books (, p. 87; Master of Arts; Rev. Sylvester Joseph Hartman, C.PP.S., Collegeville, Ind. Dissertation: “Greek Types of Character in Plautus”.


Unusual Name

Some names are in a class by themselves.

I’ve already used up my most unusual name: Venemi/Vensom/Vaclav (Same Name). But if I have to choose another one, I’m going with Alois. It’s a name we don’t see much of nowadays, and shows up in just one of my ancestral branches. It is related to the names Aloysius (AL-oh-ISH-əs), Louis, and Ludwig (as well as others) and means “famous warrior.” St. Aloysius is the patron saint of Catholic youth.

Alois Schweiger was my great-great-grandfather (father of Ignatz (Closest to Your Birthday), who emigrated from Bavaria in 1882). Alois was born in Niederhoëfen, Bavaria, 5 October 1821. He died there 13 February 1871, just shy of fifty years old. To the best of my knowledge, there were no others before him named Alois — though I don’t know names for his cousins, uncles, granduncles, etc. Some others could be lurking there.

Alois or Aloysius in the Schweiger line. Other siblings removed for simplicity.

Alois and his wife Marianne Hartmann had seven children. Their youngest son was Alois, Jr. Older brother, Ignatz, named one of his sons (Uncle Al) “Aloysius,” in honor of his father and brother, I suppose. Uncle Al in turn named his youngest son after himself and his grandfather. However, that son (Buddy) used a nickname for most of his relatively short (1917-1947) life, so I guess he wasn’t overly fond of Aloysius!

Uncle Al standing next to his brother, Leo (Black Sheep) before October, 1932.

When I started doing genealogy, and began looking for this name in records, I realized that MANY people were not familiar with either variation, so they became very creative with spelling. Sometimes the problem was with the more recent transcriber having trouble reading the handwriting and not knowing what the name was. Other times the issue was with the person writing it down in the first place. I’ve seen it written or indexed as:

  • Alice (for a man!)
  • Alvis
  • Aulis
  • Allwishes (SO wrong, yet works phonetically!)

I soon learned to look at names and think how they would sound and not worry about how they were spelled!

As I gathered information for this post (meaning of the name, patron saint, etc.), I decided to run a search at and FamilySearch just to see what other Alois Schweigers popped up. There were way more than I anticipated! Most of them didn’t belong to me, of course, but it was interesting to see they mostly came from Bavaria (where mine came from), or very nearby — Baden, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland. Northern Germany did not show up very often as I scrolled through. Of course, the name is used with many other surnames, but checking with “Schmidt,” the results seemed similar.

So I wonder how much geography plays a role in naming patterns? Is it a coincidence that Beethoven (a Ludwig) was born in Bonn, considerably farther north? It would be an interesting topic to study. Or is it merely a function of what name is popular at a particular time? That’s how we acquired a generation of children named Brittany, Justin, and Jessica! While I have 24 Louis and 10 Ludwig people in my file, there are only 7 Alois or Aloysius entered (some of them distantly connected). Both are clearly outnumbered by more the traditional Louis and Ludwig!

Of course, the best story about the name comes from my mom. When my oldest brother was getting ready for his confirmation, Mom told him he could choose whatever saint name he wanted, but she really didn’t care for Aloysius. So what name did Bob pick? Aloysius, of course! Unfortunately, that detail doesn’t get stored in my database, so he doesn’t figure into the above stats. But that may well be our family’s most recent — and last? — use of this unusual name!



Internal conflict isn’t always as easy to see—or deal with—as external conflict.

As genealogists, we are accustomed to hearing about the Loyalist (rather than Patriot) in someone’s Revolutionary War ancestry. There are countless examples of brother-versus-brother during the Civil War. Many researchers have discovered great grandfathers from different lines actually fought on opposite sides of various battles. None of those scenarios applies to me, as my ancestors were all way too recent. My conflict hit a little closer to home.

Growing up, I knew my dad and his brothers (and brothers-in-law) had fought in WWII. I was well aware of my predominantly German heritage, so even at a relatively young age I realized my dad and uncles had fought against the country their grandfathers had come from. Way back in my brain was the possibility that there could have been family still living in Germany. What did they do during the war?

When I started genealogy in earnest (Start), my parents arranged a visit to Uncle Syl and Aunt Stacia. He was my grandmother’s (Victoria) younger brother. It turned out he had dabbled a little with the family tree and had a treasure trove of information, mostly coming from Fr. Sylvester Hartman[n], an extended relation. The letter below accompanied several pages of Schweiger tree, reaching back to the 1630.

father hartmann letter_0001
Letter dated 4 April 1936 from Fr. Sylvester Hartmann to Stacia [and Sylvester] Schweiger. Copy obtained from them ca. 1975.
The letter was an eye opener!

It describes Uncle Syl’s 1st cousin, Anna (a 1st cousin twice removed to me), widowed, with two sons (first 3 lines of the letter). Then the kicker: “She obtained employment as a typist and stenographer in the German Labor Front, the official union of all the workmen of Germany, under Hitler.”

Oookayyy. Deep breaths. What was once only a possibility has quickly moved to a reality. Of course, Anna was merely office help—certainly not making decisions, formulating policy, or carrying out the resulting actions. She was simply a single mom, doing the best she could to put food on the table and a roof over the head of her family in a still-depressed German economy.

Still . . . she probably had brothers, and definitely a son who would soon be military age. Surely none of them escaped military service.

According to the Family History Center’s Wiki article on German compiled genealogies (Ancestor Certificates sub-heading), Ancestor Certificates didn’t seem to be a requirement until 1937. I’m not sure why Anna started doing genealogy before then. Maybe she was just interested, or maybe working within a pseudo-governmental position (even as office staff) she was asked to fill it out before the general population needed to? I don’t know. Our certificate was kept, however, and is still in the family.

The Schweigers were only one ancestral line. My maternal grandfather’s line (Meintzers) were in Alsace. They spent the war being German-occupied, probably trying to stay under the radar. That leaves two other lines—Harré (Harry) and Haase (Haws)—located in different parts of Germany. Were there still family members in those areas? How did they act during the war?

The questions spin around in my head endlessly:

  • Did they participate?
  • To what extent?
  • Were they willing or reluctant?
  • Did they leave or stay?
  • Were they victims, themselves? Or potentially so, causing them to try to be as unnoticeable as possible?
  • Did they realize what was happening in the work camps and concentration camps? Did that do anything to counteract? Or did they feel frustrated and helpless?

All of the questions leave me conflicted. It’s an uneasiness I can’t shrug off. It’s been years, and I still get a creepy feeling thinking about it.

They are questions I will never get answers to. The people involved are long since gone. Their reasons and rationals were buried with them.

Nor would I ask their descendants, if I located some. To what end? To make them feel bad about something they had no hand in, and may already feel bad about? To criticize and accuse the people they loved of doing something bad—or not doing enough to stop it? It hardly seems fair, or productive.

It’s very easy to look with the 20/20 vision of hindsight and say, “They should have done . . .” Or even better—to get on my self-righteous high horse, saying what I would have done in that situation.

You know what? I have no clue what I would have done. I’d like to think I’d have been that brave soul, smuggling Jews or downed Allied pilots to safety, or thwarting Nazi plans. Or maybe I would have simply tried to survive.

So I will live with this internal conflict. If one day I discover some distant relative was part of the atrocities—I’ll cope with that, then. In the meantime, I will hope for the best.