Tombstone

Tombstone photos show up regularly in my posts. For some people, it’s the only image representing them!

Early on I blogged about the Schweiger family plot in Sacred Heart Cemetery, in Northbrook, Illinois. Sacred Heart Parish (and its associated cemetery, five miles away) was a daughter parish to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wilmette. Sacred Heart was created in 1897, three miles north of St. Joseph, as the Catholic population grew in that area, and St. Joseph had become more crowded.

Ignatz and Dorothea Schweiger were among the founding families of Sacred Heart, but would have originally been members of St. Joseph. My grandmother, Victoria, was baptized there in 1894. Nevertheless, I don’t associate their family with this parish, probably because the more important, and more recent, events didn’t occur there.

We visited my parents in late October, 1996, piled them and our kids into our van, and trekked to the northern suburbs, cemetery-stomping. Our first stop was St. Joseph Cemetery, at Ridge Road & Forest Avenue. It was a “new” cemetery for me, a half block from the church, adjacent to the school property. The parish started in 1845, so it’s an old cemetery. We fanned out, looking for names we recognized, not knowing exactly who we might find. We found Aunt Rose Rau (Victoria’s sister), and her husband, Joe:

I didn’t realize it at the time, but a recent search at Find-A-Grave confirmed my suspicion that Uncle Joe’s sister, Mary, was also interred there with her husband. We had found their parents, Henry (16 January 1845-21 August 1920) and Elizabeth Rau (20 March 1844-1 April 1918), while we were there in 1996, sharing a headstone. A Joseph Rau (2 October 1837-12 November 1914) with wife, Marie (15 February 1844-23 December 1923), were also nearby. Based on his birth year, I suspect that Joseph Rau was an older brother to Henry. In other words, he was my Uncle Joe’s uncle.

The tombstone that really caught my eye, though, was this one for Joseph Levernier. I didn’t know who he was, but Victoria’s oldest sister, Elizabeth (Lizzy), had married Urban Levernier. We figured Joseph was related in some way, but didn’t know how.

Joseph Levernier died Dec. 8, 1899; aged 40 years. Personal photo, taken 27 October 1996

A precious one from us has gone

A voice we loved is stilled

A place is vacant in our home

Which never can be filled

Joseph Levernier headstone; St. Joseph’s Cemetery; Wilmette, Illinois

It’s an impressive stone, and someone obviously missed him! Other Leverniers were nearby:

  • William A. Leverier 1877-1961 OSSW Katherine ? Levernier 1884-1973
  • Honore J. Levernier 1911-1961

My granduncle, Urban, was buried in Sacred Heart, so who were these guys? I looked for Honore, and found him in the 1920 census:¹

  • Wm. Levernier (42)
  • Katherine Levernier (35)
  • Katherine B. Levernier (10)
  • Florence A. Levernier (9)
  • Honorius J. Levernier (8)
  • Leo E. Levernier (6)
  • Mary E. Levernier (5)
  • Rose A. Levernier (2 4/12)
  • Genevieve A. Levernier (1 2/12)

This William and Katherine seemed to be the couple sharing the tombstone, above, and Honore on the other tombstone was probably their son, age 8 in 1920 (bolded). Urban was born in 1887, and his parents were Honorius and Barbara. William is most likely Urban’s older brother, though more research is needed to prove that. I still hadn’t found Joseph, though. I checked Find-A-Grave to examine the information there, and look at those photos and memorials.

I believe two memorials have been created for Joseph, each with a different death year. One (with a photo matching mine) says the death year is 1858. That would place his birth around 1818. The other (with no photo) says the death year is 1899, placing his birth at 1859. The stone had a great deal of weathering, and with only a death date, one can’t use the age to double check against the non-existant birth year. The memorial without a photo has a spouse, parents, siblings, and children attached, but with no photo I can’t be certain it’s the same tombstone, or that those connections are correct.

The notes I wrote when I took my photo have 1899, matching the no-photo memorial. I cannot find any other records for Joseph—not even an entry in the Illinois Death Indexes. In addition, this family’s surname was misspelled (or mis-indexed) all sorts of ways in census records:

  • Levenier (1900)
  • Lervernas (1880)
  • Lovener (1870)
  • and the topper: Gusta (1860)! Yes, it’s really the right family . . . just spelled entirely wrong,

No doubt other records have the same spelling issues, making it hard to confirm that difficult-to-read year. The trees I found him in online do not have documentation for that date, so they don’t help. Fortunately, when I visit the office of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Catholic Cemeteries in July, to finalize my mom’s burial, I should be able to ask to see Joseph’s burial card and confirm 1899 is correct. I need to write a note to myself to remember to do that!

Why have I bothered researching this family? My Granduncle Urban, is the only Levernier related to me. Was this a BSO distracting me from other research? A rabbit-hole I dove down? Not really. Leverniers were an extensive family living near my Schweiger ancestors. They show up on the same (or adjacent) census pages as my great-grandparents. They belonged to the same parish. Eventually, a marriage linked the two families. Understanding more about the Leverniers might help me understand more about the Schweigers.

Besides, it was was cool tombstone . . .

#52Ancestors


¹1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 118; sheet 1B; dwelling number 13; family number 13; line 66; Wm. LEVERNIER household; accessed 24 May 2020. Honorius J. LEVERNIER, age 8; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 361; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Namesake

Once again, I’m thinking in reverse . . .

Rather than write about a person who was named after someone else, I’ve decided to focus on the inspiration for the name.

Growing up, I knew my dad’s oldest brother, Henry, better than any of my other uncles—or aunts, for that matter. He worked with my dad in the rug cleaning business, so I saw him five days a week, in the morning, the afternoon—or both! When I started on genealogy, I learned his middle initial was “U.” As a kid, I couldn’t imagine any name beginning with a “U,” but I soon learned it stood for Urban.

Robert Haws (left) and older brother, Henry Haws (right) over the holidays, some time between 2001 and 2008. After Aunt Mary died in 2001, Uncle Henry moved back to the Chicago suburbs, and the brothers became “partners in crime” once again. Dad provided Henry with transportation to appointments, and they’d enjoy lunch out.

Now, back when Uncle Henry was born, the Catholic Church was very particular about children being baptized with saints’ names. There are eight Pope Urbans, with Urban I being a saint, and II and V being “Blessed” (a step below sainthood—they need more miracles!). There are also a couple “local” St. Urbans, so I can’t really pinpoint which might have been the one he was named after.

During a visit to Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka, Illinois (near Glencoe, the Schweiger stomping ground), I found Henry’s baptism record in the church register. The names were all Latinized, but it was clear that Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Urban Levernier were his godparents. NOW his having Urban for a middle name made sense! Lizzie was the older sister of his mother (Victoria), so Urban was an uncle by marriage.

Urban Alexander Levernier was born 25 January 1887. He was at least eighth out of thirteen (perhaps more) children. The 1900¹ census showed the entire family; parents Honorius and Barbara [Happ], and all the kids, ages 7 months old to 25. His father farmed, with the help of the three older boys, but “Ervin” (yes, his name is often creatively spelled!) was still attending school.

By the 1910² census, his father and sister, Emma, had died (they were both buried in St. Mary cemetery, Highland Park). A brother and two sisters had moved from home (presumably married). Barbara was widowed, head of household, and listed as a farmer. She also said she had 13 children, 12 living. The additional four children included in the 1900 census count were ignored. Urban and his brothers (Matthias, George H., and John) were working on the farm.

Urban married my grandmother’s sister, Elizabeth Schweiger, 23 April 1912, at Sacred Heart Church, in Winnetka, Illinois. When Urban registered for the WWI draft³ in 1917, he was living in Shermerville, but farming for himself in Northfield. It may not have been his mom’s farm, because in 1920,4 he was on Seltzer Road, in Northfield, just down the road from his brother Matthias. Matthias and the two youngest siblings were living with their mother, Barbara—presumably still on the original family farm.

The 1930 census5 placed him on Pine Street, in the town of Glenview. He moved his family into the home in June, 1925:  

Mr. Urban Levernier is the purchaser of the M. Grenning, Jr., house on Pine St. He expects to take possession about June 1.

Glenview” 1 May 1925, Newspapers.com: accessed 9 June 2019, record number: 71504029; citing original p. 13, col. 4. The Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

In ten years, his occupation changed from farmer to “contractor, trucking.” From other documents and family stories, I know that he had a “black dirt business.” That’s probably what the census description is referring to.

Shortly before Christmas, 1934, Urban died under unusual circumstances:

Irvin Levernier, 48 years old, was found shot to death early yesterday in the yard of his home at 1153 Pine street, Glenview. A shotgun lay beside him. The police said they believed the death a suicide, but a coroner’s jury returned an open verdict.

“Shot to Death in Glenview ,” 23 December 1934, Newspapers.com: accessed 6 June 2019, record number: 354863040; citing original p. 2 col. 4. Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

An “open verdict” means the coroner’s jury confirms the death is suspicious, but is unable to reach any other verdicts open to them. That margin of doubt was sufficient to allow for Urban to be buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, not far from his sister’s grave. If his death had been ruled a suicide, that would not have been permitted in 1935.

Funeral card for Urban Alexander Levernier, 1887-1934. Burial was in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Northbrook.

Urban died before I was born, so I have no first-hand knowledge of him. One thing I know, is that he liked to fish! Ramones1234, at Ancestry.com, shared two photos of Urban, demonstrating that:

Urban A. Levernier, as a somewhat younger man. I don’t know the date, or who the children are, but he clearly made his catch that day! Photo credit Ramones1234.
Urban A. Levernier, 1934. This was earlier in the year in which he died. Only one fish this time, but he seems pleased with it, nevertheless. Photo credit Ramones1234.

My Uncle Henry wasn’t the only person named after Urban. As I was looking through my database, I found:

  • a living grandson of Urban, with Urban for a middle name (son of daughter, Lucy)
  • George “Urbie” Levernier (son of brother, George)
  • Richard Urban Levernier (son of brother, John)
  • Caroll Urban Beinlich (son of sister, Lucy)

It’s entirely possible other, more recent descendants have kept the name alive in the family. I’m not as caught up with that family as I should be. Even though Urban died relatively young (age 47), he left a naming legacy that reached forward several more generations.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 75; family number 78; line 21; Honory LEVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Ervin LEVERNIER, age 14, January 1886 (written over 1887 and 13); NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 63; Page 4A; dwelling number 40; family number 41; line 9; Barbara LAVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Irvin A. LAVERNIER, age 23; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³Urbin LEVERNIER, serial no. 1162, order no. 61, Draft Board 1, Cook County, Illinois, 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. 1504100. accessed 7 June 2019

41920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 137; Page 6A; dwelling number 99; family number 99; line 7; Urbin SAVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Urbin SAVERNIER, age 33; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

51930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glenview, e.d. 16-2236; Page 4A; dwelling number 73; family number 75; line 33; Urbin LEVERNEIR household; accessed 7 June 2019; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 528; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).