Brother

Oh brother!

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Mike’s grandfather, Francis Charles Kukler (Gubby), was born 8 September 1891, and died 2 January 1972, long before I came on the scene. You met him and his wife, Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan (1891-1987) in Valentine.

Francis Charles Kukler (Gubby) with oldest grandchild, Betty, ca. 1946.

Frank was the oldest of the eleven children of Frank J. Kukler and Mary Magdalena Schmitt. Two of his sisters and one brother died in infancy. Brother Clarence (1907-1916) died at age 8 of “valvular heart trouble”,1 and Edward/Edwin (1905-1924) died age 18 of mitral regurgitation2 (also a heart valve problem), leaving Frank with one sister (Margaret) and four brothers. We’ll focus on the brothers, this time.

Frank’s younger brother, Joseph, leaves me with many unanswered questions. Born 25 June 1894, he was required to register for both the WWI3 and the WWII4 drafts. That wasn’t a particularly unusual situation. The odd thing is that he registered with a middle name of Charles in WWI, and Martin in WWII! He appeared as Joseph M. in the 1910 census5, as well as the Michigan death index6.

Middle initials can be mistaken, but for both draft registrations, Joseph was there in person, stating his full name. It would seem he had two middle names, though I’ve yet to find any document containing both. Two different men, you are thinking? Possibly, but birth dates and employer (Sherwood Manufacturing Company, 1910-1942+) match consistently across the records, so I really don’t think it’s two different guys.

Charles J., born 17 June 1897, came next. After a brief stint working for the railroad as a baggage foreman (1920), he also ended up working for a brass factory — probably the same one as his brother, though it was not specifically named. None of the documents so far clarified what the middle initial “J” stood for.

The next batter in the lineup was John L. (1898-1986). Like his older brother, Joseph, he played fast and loose with middle initials/names, bouncing between “L,” and “C,” and “Charles:”

  • “John”
    • 1910 census (age off by a year)
    • 1920 Detroit city directory (street renumbered, but address matched)
    • Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 — 1926, to first wife, Clara (correct parents listed)
    • 1940 census (with 1st wife, Clara)
    • Social Security Death Index
    • BIRLS Death file (Veterans Affairs) — exact birth date match
  • “John L.”
    • 1900 census (confirmed Florida death index entry, because the enumerator included the date as well as the month!)
    • 1918 Detroit city directory (lived 6 numbers down from father & brothers)
  • “John C.”
    • 1916 Detroit city directory (“Jno C”) — same address as father & brothers
    • 1920 census (lived at home with parents)
    • 1930 census (lived with wife, Claire)
    • 1951 marriage to 2nd wife, Florence E. Pipper
  • “John Charles”
    • Florida Death Index, 1877-1998

Apparently neither he nor his parents could decide what to use for his middle name! John also seemed to spend most of his working career in the brass factory, like his brothers.

The fourth surviving brother was Lawrence Anthony (1904-1994). Thankfully, he didn’t seem to have the middle name issues John and Joseph had! Being the youngest, occupation was listed only in the 1930 and 1940 censuses. Both times, he was working in an automobile factory. The brass factory hadn’t closed, but perhaps they weren’t hiring. Or maybe the auto factories paid better. Times changed, so people’s livelihoods did, too.

July 1956. Kukler brothers: Charles, Jack, Frank, Lawrence, Joe in front. It appears to be celebrating a birthday, since there is a cake on the table. Charles and Joe both had June birthdays (which would be consistent with the July developing date). Charles’s was the 17th, and Joe’s was 25th. Since Joe was the one seated, my best guess is that they were celebrating his 62nd birthday. The photo had no information on the back, but Mike’s aunts (Frank’s daughters) identified them for me.

All the brothers married, a couple more than once. I haven’t been able to determine if the second marriages were due to deceased or divorced spouses, yet. It appears only the oldest (Frank) and youngest (Lawrence) had children, however. Their sister, Margaret, did also.

I find it curious that Clarence and Edward both died from what would seem to be congenital problems with their heart valves. Might something similar have contributed to the stillbirth and two infant deaths? I don’t know. The stillborn daughter simply listed that as the cause, and I haven’t been able to locate images of the death certificates for the other two, yet. They may be horribly misindexed, or simply not recorded.

Other than what I can find in the records, I don’t know much personally about Frank’s brothers. Mike doesn’t have many memories of these granduncles. While they all stayed in the Detroit area, by the time his grandparents (Frank & Elizabeth) gathered together their 7 children and 2o grandkids for a holiday or party, the house might have been too crowded to include Frank’s brothers! Or if they were there, the kids probably hung out together, leaving the adults alone.

I like the birthday photo, though! It makes me smile to think even as they aged, they still got together to celebrate birthdays. A brother connection is not easily broken . . .

#52Ancestors


1“Michigan Death Records, 1897-1920”, database, Michigan Historical Society, Seeking Michigan (seekingmichigan.org), accessed 10 July 2018, entry for Clarence KUKLER, 8, 5 January 1916, citing Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, registered no. 198.

2“Michigan Death Records, 1921-1947”, database, Michigan Historical Society, Seeking Michigan (seekingmichigan.org), accessed 3 August 2019, entry for Edwin KUKLER, 18, 8 January 1924, citing Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, registered no. 295 [written].

3“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.familysearch.org), Joseph Charles KUKLER, serial no. 255, order no.60, Draft Board Ward 17, precinct 12, Wayne County, Michigan, 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. 1,675,256, accessed 13 November 2016. Registered 5 June 1917.

4Joseph Martin KUKLER, serial no. U3609, order no. not given, Draft Board 11, Wayne County, Michigan; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Illinois. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623283. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 29 June 2019.

51910 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Ward 17, Detroit, e.d. 249; Page 8A; dwelling number 152; family number 153; line 43; Frank J. KUKLER household; accessed 29 April 2017. Joseph M. HUKLER [KUKLER], age 15; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 680; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

6“Michigan Death Index 1971-1996”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 23 June 2018, entry for Joseph M. KUKLER, 26 July 1971, citing Michigan Death Index, death certificate number 40086, Michigan Department of Vital and Health Records, Lansing.

Easy

“It’s so easy . . .”–Linda Ronstadt (1977)

No, I’m not writing about falling in love, and I’m not related to that Linda! This week’s prompt lodged the song into my head, and I just couldn’t shake it . . .

There are ancestors we think will be easy to research and track down: those with distinctive names, for instance. Unfortunately, an unusual name is no guarantee of being easy to find, because it’s so frequently misspelled. In addition to the “i-less” version of Meintzer (Mentzer), I’ve run across:

  • Mintzer
  • Menzer
  • Mentcer
  • Menzer
  • Menser
  • and so on!

Even less “complicated” names, like Mike’s Kuklers, have a dizzyingly wide variety of spellings, as vowel and consonant sounds swap at will:

  • Cukler
  • Kukla (minus Fran and Ollie!)
  • Cookler
  • Keckler
  • Geckler
  • that’s just the tip of the iceberg . . .

So if neither the unusual names nor the simpler names are easy, is anyone easy? The answer is no. Yes. It depends.

Clear as mud, right?

I’ve discovered searching becomes “easier” when I know more about a person or the family. That seems really obvious, but it’s trickier than it sounds! Just because I know lots of details, doesn’t mean I can use them all for searching. Sometimes I need to, sometimes I don’t. How to decide??

When too many search parameters are used, the person I’m looking for is often eliminated because one or more of the details is:

  • Missing
  • Unreadable/misread
  • Too specific
  • Not specific enough!
  • Way out in left field
  • Flat out wrong (yes those last 2 are technically different!)

in the record I am looking at. A search using fewer fields reduces the odds of someone not making the cut.

I finally found Mike’s 2nd great grandparents by searching for their 3-year-old son¹ with just his name, age, and county. It was a long shot that paid off. I had no idea where they lived in Detroit in 1870, so a page-by-page search would have taken forever.

Searching with less, I ended up with a relatively short list of kids, from whom it was easy to pick out the misspelled, sound-alike, surname. Reading with my ears is very important!

The two sets of 2nd great grandparents on my dad’s side, in Manitowoc², were found the old fashioned way, cranking reels of microfilm by hand (pre-internet). They lived in a rural area, with fewer families, but both their last names were recorded wrong! If I’d relied just on their names, I never would have found them!

Luckily, I knew their wives’³, as well as their children’s, names and birth years. Even when the surname didn’t look right, my eyes still picked up on the entire family unit. It slowed me down enough to take a closer look at the dads and realize they were the right ones. Without that information, those details, it would have been easy to miss, and difficult to make a case for those misspelled names.

Sometimes the small details keep me from chasing down a rabbit hole. Wrong occupation? Wrong location? It might be my person. Or not. People did change occupations and locations, but usually not as often as they changed their shirt. Does everything else fit? It may be fine, then.

Right wife, wrong kids? That always raises a huge red flag for me. While older kids move out, and younger ones are born, between one census and another, there is usually some carry over. A wholesale kid-swap is unlikely, but same-named, similarly-aged couples are more common than we think. I usually end up researching that family for quite a while to determine if they are mine. Most times it fizzles out.

Different wife, right kids? I start looking for the first wife’s death (or a divorce) and another marriage. I’ve found more than a couple later marriages that were a complete surprise! Fortunately, no bigamists. Yet.

So, easy? I don’t think it really exists in genealogy. Every once in a while there’s a situation when a new bit of information allows a number of other seemingly random pieces to suddenly fit together and make sense. I may delude myself into thinking it was easy, choosing to forget the blood, sweat, and tears; banging my head on the keyboard; and the wailing and gnashing of teeth (done quietly, so as not to wake Mike!); that transpired prior to that.

But then, its being easy wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying, would it?

#52Ancestors


¹1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, 2nd precinct, 6th Ward, Detroit; Page 33; dwelling number 288; family number 292; line 5; Frank GUCKLER [KUKLER] household; accessed 4 September 2017. Frank GUCKLER [KUKLER], age 9/12; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 713; digital image. Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers Town; Page 15; dwelling number 108; family number 113; line 10; John HORS [HOSS] [HAWS] household; accessed 2 February 2019. John HORS [HOSS] [HAWS], age 44–surname enumerated as HOSS, sometimes getting mis-indexed as HORS. Should be HAAS, HAASE, OR HAWS; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image. Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers Town; Page 19; dwelling number 134; family number 139; line 10; John RINDER [BRUDER] household; accessed 2 February 2019. John RINDER [BRUDER], age 33; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image. Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Out of Place

“Being lost is worth the being found.” -Neil Diamond

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Ancestors and family members end up “out of place” for a wide variety of reasons. It seems mine have have used a good many of them. Sometimes it makes them difficult to find; other times it makes them impossible to locate!

Sometimes we don’t know to look somewhere else until we find their children’s birthplaces. The Kranz brothers (grand uncles, Ed and Adam) hid out farming in Iowa for about six years (In the News). Without later census records showing the Iowa birthplaces for some of their children, I’d never have thought to look there, though. The rest of their lives had been spent in the Chicago area.

The census isn’t always a help, though. I still haven’t located Uncle Iggy Schweiger in the 1920 or 1930 census records (Bachelor Uncle). It just occurred to me that his brother, Leo (Black Sheep), is also AWOL in the 1930 census. Had the brothers thrown in together for a time? Maybe. There’s no family lore to support that, but it might be possible. Of course, Uncle Leo decided to mix it up a bit, by breaking off communication with the family some time after 1942. That is definitely a time-honored way of being “out of place.”

Residing in a different, but nearby, town also makes people hard to find. I knew Jacob Meintzer (my 3rd great grandfather’s brother in Ten) existed, and had a houseful of kids. He wasn’t living in the same town as his brother, though, so it wasn’t until I accidentally ran across him in a neighboring town in the Alsatian census that I could piece him together, better. Whether he emigrated with his family to the Odessa region of Russia is still up for grabs, as is the possibility of later generations emigrating to the Dakotas. His line is still a little bit lost.

A fairly complete database of Civil War soldiers and sailors exists (with that name), so you would think Mike’s Kukler ancestor (Family Legend) would be there. Nothing found under Kukler, nor any of the other surnames married into that line. The military records coughed up a different Kukler — Frank E. — serving during/after the Spanish American War. I have no clue who he is and if/how he connects. So I have someone not where I’m expecting him and another who shouldn’t be in the records. Brilliant!

Sometimes we find someone out of place, but we don’t know the “why” that goes with it. Case in point: Christoph (Grandpa) Meintzer in Arkansas in the 1910s (So Far Away). There’s more to that story, but I don’t know what it is. Without his postcard from Arkansas, I wouldn’t even know there’s a story I’m missing.

Sometimes the “why” shows up later. I was puzzled by the marriage of John Joseph Carmody & Mildred Fitzgerald (Mike’s grandparents) 100 miles away from Port Huron, in Bay City, Michigan. They weren’t teenagers sneaking away from parents. They weren’t traveling to a place with easier marriage requirements. As I learned more about John Joseph’s involvement with transporting harness racing horses (Unusual Source), it made more sense. Numerous newspaper articles and ads had him busy during race season, shuttling the horses around. Of course he wasn’t in Port Huron! Getting married “on the road” may have been their only option, other than waiting until racing season was over. Two days after their wedding, it was announced in the Port Huron Times.

. . . Mr. Carmody went to Bay City this week to attend the race meeting and from there with his bride will go to Alpena.

“Carmody-Marshall,” 15 July 1921, Newspapers.com: accessed 20 September 2018, image number: 209880537; citing original p. 2, col. n.g, para. n.g, entry for Mrs. Mildred B. Marshall and John J. Carmody. Marriage license application notice below it in the column

Then there are the times when I lose my ancestors though my own fault — temporarily, at least — as I did when I misfiled the death certificate of my great-grandfather, Carl Moeller (Youngest). I came across it accidentally while looking for something else, but it was a wake-up call to me, reminding me I need to clean up my physical files. If I don’t know what I have, I don’t know what I need to look for, plain and simple.

Carl and his wife, Elfrieda Jonas Moeller, also ended up “out of place” through the fault of someone else on the Family Search tree (Challenge). Another user had incorrectly picked up Carl & Elfrieda as their similarly-named relatives, dragging my grandmother and her siblings into the whole mess. It took hours, but after confirming that the people they had blended with them were not correct (Drat! Those people had parents’ names!), I moved people around until the connections were correct. I hope they stay that way!

How do I avoid “out of place” situations? I can’t, unfortunately. But I can try to resolve them by:

  • Keep looking. Seriously, persistence sometimes pays off!
  • Search smarter. Use different spellings. Look for the kids. Use age and only the first name. Breaking out of the routine is sometimes effective.
  • Go page-by-page. Sometimes old-school and brute-force is the only way that will work.
  • Go on-site. Some records are not available online, so going in person is what needs to happen.
  • Give it a rest. New databases come online regularly. Sometimes I just need to tackle a different problem and give them a chance to show up.
  • Try a new database. Coupled with the one above, I think I’ve finally managed to acquire death and potential birth dates for Mike’s great-grandfather, Andrew Carmody. I wasn’t finding him in the others I searched.
  • Document everything. If I don’t know what I have, I don’t know where my gaps are.
  • Read every word for the evidence I have. Sometimes there are clues there that are more hidden. Picking just the low-hanging fruit may leave me missing the best!
  • Blog about it. Focusing on one person or family forces me to really look at what I know, and what I don’t know. I notice the gaps I have, and go in search of facts to fill them. Sometimes I find the answers I need, but if not, I still have organized my knowledge, and left myself a summary of where everything stands with that individual or family.
  • Read and watch. Blogs/newsletters/books and webinars. There are a whole lot of smarter/better genealogists our there. I’d be foolish not to learn from them. Sometimes it’ll be an entirely different approach, and other times they are telling me something I already know — but totally forgot about, and needed to be reminded of.

There’s no magic wand for any of this, but my “out of place people” don’t always have to stay lost.

#52Ancestors


Nice

If you ask many writers or actors, frequently they say they prefer writing about or playing the part of a “bad guy.” Those characters tend to be more complicated and interesting, compared to “nice” ones. Think Scarlett O’Hara vs. Miss Melanie, or Rhett Butler vs. Ashley Wilkes.

Family history isn’t much different, in that respect. It is much easier for me to find someone who did something “naughty” somewhere in their life, than to declare someone “nice.” To begin with, I don’t know personally the earlier ancestors, to know what they were like. While I may find newspaper articles or court documents about the transgressions of an ancestor in the mid-1800s (documenting “naughty”), “nice” really doesn’t show up with proof.

Back in Strong Woman you met my husband’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. She was the sixth child (of ten) of Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham, who you’ve been reading about the last couple weeks. In that earlier post, I described Elizabeth as

  • strong
  • feisty
  • resourceful
  • ready to have a good time

Another major characteristic, though, was that she was nice. Even with the little amount of time I was able to spend with her, I could see that. It wasn’t a superficial, sugar-coated “nice.” She was just a good person, plain and simple. What evidence do I have of that?

  • she named her oldest son William–the same name as the older brother who had died at age two. She never met that brother, yet she did something to remember him.
  • if she saw a stray dog, she’d put out some scraps for it. She was not an animal hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, but she did what she could, when she could.
  • similarly, if a stranger was walking by the house, in need of a meal, she would find something for him. With seven children to feed, it probably wasn’t much, but she would help out a little.

I never got the impression she did any of this with a lot of fanfare or attention. That wasn’t her style. But, yes, she was nice, and I am honored to have known her.

#52Ancestors

Family Legend

To prove or not to prove . . . that is the question

Family legends are tricky things. They lack a certainty that gives you confidence in them. Like a jet trail in the sky, they start out impressive, but soon dissipate, spreading wider, developing gaps. Once the plane is out of sight, we can’t be sure if that’s what it really was, or if it’s just some cirrus clouds, faking us out.

I’ve touched on legends before–Christian Meintzer and his “dual with Napoleon” (Colorful), most recently. Today I’m switching over to Mike’s Kukler family. It’s a rather mundane claim. I am unable to confirm or deny it, though, so I have to park it in the “legend” category for now.

I first heard about this in 2004, at a reunion picnic up in Michigan. I was showing Mike’s uncle the charts and whatnot I’d put together for their family tree. He mentioned that he was told there was a Civil War veteran on the Kukler side. This was the first I’d heard of it in the 24 years I’d spent as a married-in to this family! Of course, in the middle of a city park, in 2004, I had no way to try and research anything. I scribbled notes and started looking when I got home.

First stop was the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors database. The results were short and sweet: only one Kukler, first name Frank, who fought with the 155th and 156th Indiana Infantry. Now, Mike’s family is from Detroit, so Indiana is a stretch. The states share a border, but in the 1860s, the distance is farther than it seems now. Nevertheless, people move around more than we sometime know, so I felt I should follow up.

I learned the Indiana State Archives stored the actual Civil War muster cards on the east side of Indianapolis. I dropped children off at school, and headed there, hoping to find something useful. I located the muster card (not really telling me too much) and three pages of  information about the regiments from Indiana. Frank Kukler mustered in on 22 March 1865, and mustered out on 4 August, 5 months later. I even spent $2 to print out the information, since it wasn’t available online!

Mike descends from a long line of Franks:

  • Francis Charles Kukler (grandfather) 1891-1972
  • Frank J. Kukler (great-grandfather) 1869-1942
  • Frank Kukler (2nd great-grandfather) 1845-1893

While his 2nd great-grandfather would be possible (he’d be 20 in 1865), we don’t know specifically when he arrived. We know he was in Bohemia in 1857 for daughter Ann’s birth, and in Detroit for son Frank J.’s 1869 birth. But the son in between (Wenzelaus/Venson–you met him in Same Name) has conflicting locations for his 1860/61 birth. There’s no evidence that the family settled in Indiana before Detroit. I also checked some of the aberrant spellings for their surname, and those all came up dry.

Could it have been a collateral Kukler, rather than a direct ancestor? Possibly, though Frank was the only Kukler to show up on the search. So could it have been a relative of one of the wives (different last name)? That’s a thought. Frank (b. 1845) was married to Anna Plansky/Palinsky (and I’m sure many other variations!). I’ve thrown a number of those through the Soldiers and Sailors search box with no success. So if she had brothers emigrate, apparently they didn’t serve, or I can’t find them.

Maybe it was a father to one of the female ancestors? Frank J. (born 1869) married Magdelena Schmitt. She was born in Michigan in 1870, as were four older siblings, beginning in 1857. Unfortunately, Joseph Peter Schmitt (her father) is a horrible name to search for! There are 678 Schmitts in the Union, and he sometimes got misspelled as Schmidt, as well as Smith! Narrowing to Michigan cuts the Schmitts to 4, but no Josephs. Schmidts number 3900+, with a mere 40 in Michigan. No Josephs there, either, though there is a Peter and a Peter R. The Smiths are just scary–50,000+ on the Union side, with 36 Josephs, and 17 Peters when you narrow it down to Michigan. Unless I can find additional information, that’s really more soldiers than I want to try and tackle!

I also looked in the 1890 Veterans Schedules. Of course, to show up there, you had to live that long! I found three Cucklers in Meigs County, Ohio (southeast), no Plansky variations. We won’t talk about the Schmitt/Schmidt numbers . . .

At this point, the best I can hope for is finding a DNA match for Mike, who knows more about this story than I do. He does actually have a “Polansky” match with  shared matches to known relatives! And there are other shared matches to both of them, with different surnames. I need to make time to contact Polansky and some of the others to see where they fit on the nether regions of Mike’s tree.

So for now, we file this story in the “legend” slot. NOT that I don’t trust Mike’s uncle–I just don’t have any solid proof one way or another. I will keep looking as databases are updated with new information. And I’ll flesh out the other Kukler lines I find in Michigan and nearby, just in case they connect back to ours. Maybe some luck from Mike’s Irish side will rub off on the Bohemian side? I can only hope!

#52Ancestors

Same Name

Just pick a name and stick with it, please!

Most everyone this week will be writing about:

  • family names carried down from one generation to the next
  • families where all the brothers named their children the same, so it’s difficult to determine which of the cousins did what. I’ve got at least one of those . . .
  • people with the same name in the same town, roughly the same age, and how they sorted out who belonged where. I’ve got those, too!

In my typical, contrary way, I’m doing the direct opposite. You are going to meet my husband’s great-grand uncle, Wenzelaus Kukler. Or Venemi. Or Venson. Or something else entirely different, I don’t know!

I first met up with him in the 1870 census. I was trying to find my husband’s great-grandfather, Frank J. Kukler. Frank was born in Detroit, before the 1870 census (I didn’t have an exact date at that time), so the family should be enumerated in Detroit in 1870. I couldn’t find them. If you think “Kukler” has a simple spelling, guess again. It can have:

  • C or K at the beginning
  • U, O, or OO for the vowel–sometimes an E
  • K or C or CK for the next /k/ sound
  • LER or LA at the end (anyone remember Kukla, Fran, and Ollie? I’ve found the family with a KUKLA spelling!)

That left variations of Kukler, Cukler, Kookler, Cookler, Kuckler, Cuckler, Cucler, Koockler, Coockler, Coocler, Kucler, Kukla, Cukla, Kookla, Cookla, and probably some I’m forgetting. No matter how many ways I searched for the parents, Frank and Ann[a], nothing came up. Finally I gave up on them, and searched for the baby with first name and age only: Frank, born 1867-68, Wayne County, Michigan. While those may seem like ridiculous search parameters, I was banking on it being 1870. The smaller population might make it workable. I’ve found ages for baby/children tend to be more accurate in the census than for adults. There’s not much difference between a 31- and 33-year old, but a HUGE difference between a 1- and 3-year old! Usually the kids’ ages were right.

Scanning down generated the list I could quickly dismiss most of the surnames. Then it jumped out at me: GUCKLER! Say the names to yourself–with an accent–and you’ll see how one could be mistaken for the other. I clicked over to the image, and there were: Frank and Ann from Bohemia, right ages, along with little Frank, and two older siblings, Ann and Wenzelaus.¹ Both boys were born in Michigan.

Giddy with the thrill of victory, I looked for them in 1880, returning to the standard spelling. Frank and “Annie” were easy enough to find. Ann (daughter) is AWOL, so either deceased or married, and there are two more, younger, children. Somehow, though, Wenzelaus converted to Venson² (incorrectly indexed as “Venemi”–not helpful!), and now it says he was born in Bohemia! There’s also a lighter (pencil?) notation by his name–“Pulansky” From other records, I’d found Anna’s maiden name is “Plansky” or “Palinski,” so that is very close. Had he been born out of wedlock, so had his mother’s maiden name? Maybe. Does it matter whether he’s born in Michigan or Bohemia? Yes! It changes which years I need to look for them on a passenger list.

1880 is the last I see of him. It doesn’t help that the 1890 census was destroyed, leaving a 20-year gap to 1900. State census records are almost non-existent for Michigan. The one year that had pages for Wayne county . . . didn’t include the city of Detroit. So what happened to Wenzelaus? Take your pick:

  • He died after the 1880 census. Ok, that’s a given. How about–He died before the 1900 census?
  • He chose a more “American” first name (I’ve looked at name lists to see if there was one that Wenzelaus typically translated to–no luck).
  • He started using the Plansky/Palinsky/Pulansky surname.
  • He moved away–out of Detroit, or out of state.
  • All of the above, or any combination!

I started going through the Michigan databases at FamilySearch with really loose parameters: Pulanski (FamilySearch is pretty good about pulling in variant spellings), born 1860-1862. I found some records that fit people I already knew, but nothing for him. I noticed a couple guys with Walter and Vincent for first names. If you were going to Americanize Wenzelaus, those might be good choices–but those guys weren’t who I needed.

I looked through death record databases. Marriage databases. I redid the searches with the Kukler surname. Still nothing. I even tried doing a nationwide search, but with the uncertainty of his name(s), and a nondescript occupation from 1880 (“laborer” is as generic as it gets!), he could be anywhere, doing anything.

At this point I’m stymied. Every online tree I’ve seen with him has nothing other than the two references I’ve found. It’s like aliens abducted him. He’s a loose end, and if you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t really like those. I’ve found entries for the family of his younger brother, Frank J., in the Detroit city directories. That was decades later, though. Maybe a more thorough search for additional (earlier) directories would find Wenzelaus? Or whatever he was calling himself. It will require a vague, surname only search, for each of the spelling variations, and lots of browsing through pages.

Wish me luck!

#52Ancestors


¹1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, 2nd precinct, 6th Ward, Detroit; Page 33; dwelling number 288; family number 292; line 4; Frank GUCKLER household; accessed 4 September 2017. Wenzelaus GUCKLER [KUKLER], age 9; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 713; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, e.d. 305; Page 57; dwelling number 585; family number 618; line 27; Frank KUKLER household; accessed 4 September 2017. Venson KUKLER, age 20 (incorrectly indexed as Venemi); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 613; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Strong Woman

Small, but mighty!

You already met Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan briefly in Valentine. She was born 10 June, 1891, in Smiths Creek, Michigan (west of Port Huron). She was one of 10 children born to Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham–sandwiched right in the middle. I met her at age 88, and knew her only 8 short years. She was the only “grandma” I could lay claim to, since mine died before or just after I was born.

Elizabeth was an itty-bitty thing, Irish through and through, and from what I could tell from the little bit of time I spent with her, pretty feisty. At that time she was living alone in the house at 809 Pingree, in Detroit (it’s still there–Google Map it!), until the dementia that developed in the last few years of her life required her moving to a nursing home, where she could reside safely.

Elizabeth finished the 10th grade. Her father died in 1904, and her mother in 1907. That may have been the event to end her education and propel her to Detroit, working as a governess from 1907-1919. The 1910 census shows her oldest sister, Mary, as the head of household¹ back at the farm, with five of the younger siblings residing with her. I don’t know if Elizabeth sent money back to help with farm expenses, but it’s possible. Living in Detroit no doubt provided the opportunity for her to meet her husband-to-be, Frank, but I don’t know how or where.

He was NOT Irish–rather, Bohemian (a nice catch-all that could include Hungary, Czechoslovakia, that whole region) and some iteration of Germanic (his mother’s maiden name was Schmitt–definitely not Irish!). According to Mike’s mom and aunts, Frank’s parents (Frank and Magdalena) were not particularly happy he was marrying an Irish girl. Consequently their kids did not see much of that side of the family. But when his parents celebrated their 50th anniversary with a big party, the family attended, and Elizabeth made sure the kids all had new outfits (a rarity) for the event. Sue the youngest) had a pink, lacy dress. The occurrence was unusual enough to still be a vivid memory for the girls 60 years later!

Elizabeth had seven children in eleven years; 5 girls and 2 boys. Feeding and clothing that many, especially through the Depression, can’t have been easy. Nevertheless, she managed the children and household, doing the best she could. All the stories I’ve heard of her painted a portrait of a very resourceful woman.

While 1967 may have been “the summer of love” in San Francisco, it wasn’t quite like that in Detroit. Riots were taking place about a mile from the house on Pingree. Elizabeth’s concerned adult children encouraged their parents to pack a couple of bags and come out to one of their houses until the situation settled down. They refused, making for very unhappy children! But they, and their house, survived the unrest.

For all the hard work in her life, she nevertheless knew how to have a good time. Her living room and basement were the site of numerous family gatherings, as evidenced below. I don’t know what holiday this was, in the 1940s or 1950s, but she was certainly living it up! That didn’t really diminish as she aged. The colorful blur in the lower photo (not taken by me!) is her at age 88, dancing the night away with two of her grandsons-in-law–barely keeping up with her.

1950 KUKLER Elizabeth party

Undetermined party–maybe on a New Year’s Eve?1979 08 Denise wedding

August 1979, Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan Kukler (age 88),  dancing at a granddaughter’s wedding with grandsons-in-law!Living 6 1/2 hours away, my opportunities to get to know her very well were limited. But never was there any question in my mind of her strength–not necessarily physical (especially in her late 80s and 90s)–but certainly of spirit. Hopefully some of that has passed down to my daughter and granddaughter (her great- and great-great-granddaughters)!

#52Ancestors


¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township, e.d. 125; sheet 10B; dwelling number 226; family number 229; line 74; Mary NOLAN household; accessed 5 March 2018. Mary NOLAN, age 25; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 673; digital image, Ancestry.com.