I can look through my file and find all sorts of “middle children” to write about. Famlies with an even number of kids makes it a little awkward, but it’s still doable.

I’d gotten into my head that I wanted to write about my Bruder line—in particular, Mathias Bruder, younger brother of my great-grandmother, Anna Bruder Haws, making him my great-granduncle. He had an unusual story, and I wanted to look into it further.

It turned out he fell into the “middle 4” of 8 children of John M. Bruder and Elizabeth Jost. I considered that as “middle enough” and decided to plunge forward.

First, I needed to look at what I already had on him. The original information I’d received in 1975 from my dad’s cousin, Lorraine (my grandaunt, Teresa’s, daughter), consisted of:

  • Lorraine’s list of 7 Bruder children, with Mathias as 2nd oldest, but no birth or death dates for him. She wrote a note: “He just disappeared and no one ever heard from him. At one time he was in St. Louis, Mo.”
  • photocopied newspaper clippings of obituaries:
    • John M. Bruder, Mathias’s father, 1915, “Matthias of St. Louis
    • Nicholas Bruder, Mathias’s brother, 1934, no mention of Mathias

It wasn’t much. Somehow, St. Louis seemed to be the city our family “disappeared to” (Uncle Leo Schweiger was reported to have gone there, too!). I’m not sure why, nor am I sure it was accurate, but that was generally how the stories went.

As I cranked through census microfilm in 1975, I found the Bruder family in 1880¹, with Mathias, age 9. That bumped him farther down the child list, younger than Anna and Katy (Katherine), and placed his birth year around 1871. When I found the family in 1870, I didn’t expect to see Mathias, though there was a 3-month-old “Martin”—a name I didn’t recognize.

That was as much of a trail that I could find. His presence in the 1915 obituary (and absence in the 1934) didn’t really provide any solid evidence that Mathias was still alive (and in St. Louis) in 1915. He could have already died, without anyone knowing. The family may have simply been optimistic. Nor can we assume he had died by 1934. The family may have given upon him by then, so left him off the list of survivors.

So I left Mathias alone for 4+ decades, while I searched other family lines. But I feel bad ignoring people on my tree, and this seemed like a good time to revisit his information, to see if I could find anything new.

An Ancestry search found the 1880 census, but then suggested the Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928.³ Twice, actually, from two different Family History Library microfilm reels. Two records for him must have been microfilmed from different sources.

Those indexed records had a couple issues. The birth date was 25 August 1869—two years earlier than the birth year calculated from the 1880 census. While the parents’ names were correctly “John” and “Elizabeth,” the surname for all three of them was “Breider.” Sigh.

Unfortunately, because these were simply indexes, I had no images. I checked at FamilySearch, in case they had the images on their site, but no luck. I’ve seen enough poor handwriting and poor transcription/indexing examples to realize that the “ei” in Breider, could easily be a sloppy “u.” Could I find anything else to bolster that hypothesis?

The 1870 census for my 2nd-great grandparents, John & Elizabeth Bruder. The child order and ages (at least, relative to each other) were correct, but the enumerator had some problems. “Michael” (line 12) should be Nicholas—or some variation of that. Some records had him as “Nickel,” so “Michael” isn’t that far off. Mathias, age 19, at the bottom, was actually John’s younger brother, Marcus, who was crippled from birth, and always lived with his brother’s family. John and Elizabeth were both born in Germany, so probably still had their German accents. See more in the 2nd paragraph below.

I looked back at the 1870 census—the one with 3-month-old Martin. For children born in the previous census year, there was a column for the specific month of birth. It was September. August 25th isn’t that far from September, so I’m willing to wager either the birth month, or the baby’s age, was mis-remembered, and everything else based on that information.

Another consideration is that the enumerators copied the original census sheets, submitting the copies to Washington. That’s usually what was microfilmed. If he did not record their names wrong on the original, it’s still possible he made an error in the copy. Either he didn’t notice he had flipped the names, or he did, but didn’t want to spoil his sheets with a cross out and correction. He may not have thought it critical that the correct names went with the correct ages, as long as each person was counted. To me, it seems likely the “Martin” in the census record is the same as the “Mathias” in the birth index, and later (with an incorrect age) in the 1880 census.

1880 census for John & Elizabeth Bruder —this time the head of household, John, is listed by his middle name, Mathias! We see all the kids, except for Mary, who isn’t married, but must be working away from the farm. Teresia and John have been added to the family. Markus is still there, and Elizabeth’s father has moved in.

Can I prove that theory? Well, no, not the census inaccuracies part. If I could locate and view the original birth record, that might clarifiy whether the handwriting was misread.

Are there other possible explanations? Sure. The birth record could still be the one for Martin, but maybe Martin was a middle name that didn’t get on the birth record—even though that’s the name his parents used. And then Mathias was born in 1871 (as suggested by the 1880 census), but Martin died some time before 1880. Whew! That’s a lot going on. The misspellings, etc. suggested earlier are more likely (in my opinion) than the 2nd, more complicated scenario.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the two enumerations where women were asked how many children they gave birth to, and how many were still living. That has often helped me find “missing” kids, but wasn’t available this time.

The information I received from Lorraine came from people who knew John & Elizabeth’s kids as their aunts & uncles. In 1975, they were all pretty sharp, despite their age. Other children who died young were remembered and included in what Lorraine sent. Even if their names weren’t always remembered, their existance was. Lorraine’s list did not have a Martin, or a child who died young.

To eliminate other possible explanations, I looked for the Breider surname in the 1870 census. Was there another family with a baby born in August? There were a couple families, but no John & Elizabeth, no new babies. I checked for more Breider children in the birth index, again, with very few, and none of the right parents. I also searched the index for:

  • first names only (Mathias, John, Elizabeth) in Manitowoc County for 1871–no other likely surname variations came up.
  • repeated, changing for each of John & Elizabeth’s other children’s first name and birth year. None of them showed up in the index.

It doesn’t seem there was another similar, but different, family in the county that could have been confused with mine.

I searched for Mathias in 1900 and later census records. No luck. I unsuccessfully tried an Americanized “Matthew” variation. Without more details about where he might have been, when, I’m searching for a needle in a haystack! He could be anywhere during those years: Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, or even closer to home, like Green Bay or Sheboygan. Where would I even start?

Ancestry member trees (16 of them!) included him, but no one had information I didn’t already know. Some had information they took from my tree. (You’re welcome!). Everyone had the 1880 census, but no photos of him, or additional details. At least I felt a little less inept . . .

It’s been a frustrating weekend. At first glance, I didn’t seem to accomplish much. Other than the birth index information, I didn’t find anything new. On the other hand, I DID look more closely at the 1870 census, and its issues, developing a potential explanation resolving those issues. I also took time to clean up my citations for the 1870 and 1880 census, attaching them to the appropriate facts for each person. I also merged Martin with Mathias in my file. Even though some question marks remain, I think the two census records and the birth index all refer to the same child. I’ll make a note to remind myself, in case later information appears, proving that not to be correct.

Reviewing my old correspondence didn’t turn up anything unexpected, but it could have. My brain doesn’t always fully process information that doesn’t fit with prior knowledge. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle piece floating in an empty space—I can’t attach it anywhere, because I have no idea which way it should be oriented. With more information acquired over time (more puzzle pieces), it suddenly fits somewhere—but only if I remember it! It’s hard to make time to review old documents with fresh eyes, but it can pay off, sometimes. Just not this time . . .

I may never learn anything more about Mathias Bruder, but I moved him a little closer to the middle, and feel better for having looked for new information about him.


¹1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth, e.d. 66; Page 12; dwelling number 104; family number 108; line 8; Mathias BRUDER household; accessed 3 February 2019. Mathias BRUDER, age 9; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com). 

²1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Town of Two Rivers; Page 19; dwelling number 134; family number 139; line 16; John RINDER [BRUDER] household; accessed 2 February 2019. Martin BRUDER, age 9/12, born in September; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³”Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 28 June 2020, citing “Wisconsin Births and Christenings.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake CIty, Utah, USA, 2009, 2010. FHL microfilm 1,305,081. Mathias BREIDER [BRUDER], Mischicott, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin; parents John BREIDER [BRUDER], Elisabeth BREIDER [BRUDER].


“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce

In genealogy/family history, we discover a lot of details about a lot of people—more for some than for others. Some lines have all the census records found, we know where they lived, we have photos, letters, stories passed down, church records, civil records; and we know where the bodies are buried. Their i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Life is good.

Then there are the families where the facts are sketchy, at best. We have bare-bones information based on Aunt Millie’s memories of who was who, when they were born, where they lived, and so on. There’s a great deal of uncertainty associated with that data, but it provides a starting point for our research. We search for census records; birth, marriage, and death records; directories; whatever we can find to corroborate or refute our information. We are bloodhounds, hot on the scent of our prey.

So what happens when new information pops up on one of the established, documented lines? When a gap suddenly appears in the foundation of the family?

And NO, this has nothing to do with DNA. Not all genealogy surprises come from spitting in a tube!

Plot marker, Saint Anne Cemetery, Francis Creek, Wisconsin. Photos by author.
“FATHER: Frank Haws, 1958-1933” “MOTHER: Anna Haws 1865-1952”

Anyway, my foundations were shaken in mid-March. I had gone to the Find A Grave memorial for my great grandpa, Frank Haws. I must have been working on the Popular blog, focusing on his wife, Anna Bruder Haws. I have my own photos of Frank’s and Anna’s tombstones, so I don’t know if I’d ever looked for them on Find A Grave—possibly not. Imagine my surprise to find an unknown son and another spouse connected to Frank!

I nearly fell out of my chair.

My immediate reaction was, “Well, that’s just wrong!” Frank and Anna had 6 children, I knew who they all were, with two of them (John and Teresa) connected to Frank’s Find A Grave memorial. It couldn’t possibly be right. Finally, my brain kicked in and I looked more closely at my “new” grand uncle, “Joe.”

SPOILER ALERT! Bottom line, “Joe” was not a child of my Frank, and Joe’s mother, “Susie” was not Frank’s wife, partner, or anything else. It took some work to reach that conclusion. Since these people are not related to me, I’m not using their real names. The “Frank” who was Joe’s father will be “Frank2” to distinguish him from my great grandfather. Using names will make the explanation easier to follow, though. The only actual names are the two Franks.

Back to my dilemma. I was staring at my screen, mouth open, shaking my head, and sputtering under my breath. I looked at Joe’s memorial. I looked at Susie’s. She had remarried later, having more children with that husband. Who were these people, and did they belong in my tree? I was still bewildered.

Joe was born in 1882 in Minnesota, three years before Frank and Anna got married. We still have not found Frank in the 1880 census. Could he have gone to Minnesota, sown some wild oats, and fathered a child there? Then come back to Wisconsin and start up a new family? It wasn’t a particularly attractive scenario, but I couldn’t dismiss the possibility.

Birth and death years for both Franks were slightly off:

  • Frank, 1858 to 1933
  • Frank2, 1860 to 1929

I was confident about my great grandfather’s dates, but without sources for Frank2, I had no idea if those were accurate or not. The date discrepancy didn’t provide conclusive evidence, for me, that the two men were different.

Proving that Frank wasn’t the father of Joe might not be possible. The 15-year gap in his timeline was problematic. The surname spelling variations proved nothing—I’ve found at least five versions of Frank’s surname on different documents. But could I prove Frank2 was elsewhere while Frank was farming in Wisconsin and raising his kids? Maybe.

I contacted my cousin, Barb, to see if she had seen or knew anything about this. She is the only other person researching this family line, and is my go-to person for weird finds. She was equally puzzled.

Lacking time right then to sort out everything, I left open all the tabs of what I’d found, to come back to. It took nearly a month—April 15th—before I forced myself to deal with it. I’d gotten tired of looking at the tabs, and realized the quandry wouldn’t go away by itself.

I started with Joe, trying to nail down his details. I found an Ancestry tree with Joe, Susie, Susie’s 2nd husband, and Joe’s father, Frank Haas (Frank2). Some facts there seemed to line up with what I saw on Find A Grave; others gave me the willies. In addition to the memorial for Joe in a California cemetery (near where he died), the tree also attached a memorial using his stepfather’s surname, in Indiana. It’s difficult (though not impossible!) to be in two cemeteries at once, but with two different names? I’m pretty sure the Indiana memorial was a different man.

Nevertheless, the profile for Frank2 listed facts similar to, but not quite matched to Frank’s details:

  • parentsJohn and Elizabethbut not the Nachtwey surname of my 2nd great grandmother
  • birthplaceWisconsin. Frank2 was born in Sheboygan, nearby, but certainly not Manitowoc.
  • 1860 census listed his age at 6 months. Census records have notoriously inaccurate ages, but no enumerator would confuse a 2-year-old and a 6-month old! This census listed also him as “Joseph”his middle name in the birth record (next list).
  • By 1880, Frank2’s father had died, and several children had moved out of the house, but Frank2 was in the county where his marriage occurred and Joe was born
  • The 1883 marriage certificate image for Frank2 and Susie, in Clay County, 17 months after Joe’s birth. That marriage was short-lived, and no divorce record found yet. Susie’s second marriage took place around 1885, but that record is still missing.

The marriage record image for Frank2 and Susie included in that tree was extremely important. It was a record not available at Ancestry, so must have been acquired from the county or state. While it proved Susie married a Frank Haas, it didn’t disprove my Frank. Parents’ names weren’t provided, neither were age or birth year. I set about looking for missing records to fill the gaps for Frank2 and found:

  • Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928 documented his 15 January 1860 birth (with parents, including mother’s maiden name, listed), name: Francis Josephus Haass (providing the “Joseph” recorded in the census).
  • 1870 census placed the family (surname misspelled) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with Frank2’s 3 older brothers and 4 younger siblings
  • 1875 Minnesota census seemed to have the family in Clay County (their location in 1880), despite some variations in first names. The kids’ ages lined upquite a feat with 9 kids!so the couple red herrings among the names could be explained by middle and nicknames common in German families.
  • 192o census placed Frank2 where he should be, in Minnesota.
  • 1929, the county death register was viewable at FamilySearch. Same location as 1920 census.

While there were still some gaps in Frank2’s timeline, I felt I had amassed enough information to plead my case that Frank should not be attached as Joe’s father. I created an account at Find A Grave (one is needed to send messages), suggested the disconnect of Joe and Frank, and typed my explanation. It was a text box contained on the website, and you know how those sometimes have a character limit. I didn’t know if that was the case, so I was trying to write a Cliff Notes version of the explanation, hoping not to run out of room.

It all fit, and I sent it off. A reply came back fairly quickly from the manager of Joe’s memorial. She had forwarded my message to someone else in the family, and copied that reply. It was clear the other person misunderstood some of my explanation, though they DID confirm the 1920 census and death register were the correct ones for Frank2. Bottom line, they thought I was all wet.

I still thought I was right, but realized the first message was a bit muddled. I’d give it one more try. My reply was very polite, but this time I put more emphasis on the idea that if Frank2 was in Minnesota at the same time Frank was farming in Wisconsin, they had to be two different people. If Frank2 was Joe’s father, then Frank couldn’t be. The memorial was not under my controlI could suggest edits, but control of it ultimately was theirs. My concern was inaccurate information that would send their (or my) family members down the wrong research path, if it was left uncorrected. But it was their call.

I received a reply conceding Frank and Frank2 were different, so she would remove Joe’s connection to Frank, and do further research into where Frank2 was buried.


My great grandfather’s memorial has been corrected; no extra grand uncle is lurking about. So why did I bother with this situation? I don’t manage any of the memorials for family members, nor do I have oodles of time to suggest edits to all of them. Frank and Anna still have only two of their six children connected to their memorial, so it’s certainly not “perfect.”

Find A Grave is secondary information, at best. Its accuracy is dependent on the research done by each manager. It can be a goldmine, with obituaries, photos, or death certificates included; or it can be bare-bones. Like online trees, it’s a source of hints, helping us find actual records to support the “facts” listed in the memorial.

Joe’s connection was simply wrong. If someone came to Frank’s memorial and saw Joe, and didn’t do any checking, they might add incorrect people to their tree, creating a mess. In my mind, wrong information on a site people use for research is far more dangerous than missing information. I felt it was worth the effort to try to clean up a mistake I was aware of. Keep in mind, when I started, I went in search of MY Frankto see if he could have possibly been the father. It wasn’t until I’d found enough records for Frank2, that I knew Frank was in the clear.

What about the two Ancestry trees I viewed? Both had some incorrect information, or at least wrongly attached sources. One had Frank2 buried in Dayton, Ohio! Maybe he was buried in a family plot back east? I researched the man from that Find A Grave memorial, too, and discovered his wife, children, and census records. He had never been in Minnesota; certainly didn’t die there. The tree owner had grabbed a same-name, similar death date memorial, and assumed it was correct. Oops.

But I am not the genealogy police. I can’t go around checking everyone’s tree. I occasionally make a change on the FamilySearch tree, but it’s a shared tree, not personal. Common knowledge and common sense tell us not to blindly accept everything we see on any tree. We read that in blogs and articles, and hear it in webinars. So I make use of the sources that are correct, and ignore the others. And I choose my battles carefully.

After all that research, I still have a gap for Frank between 1870 and 1885, but at least some of the uncertainty has been removed!


Where There’s a Will

Sometimes having “the will” is not enough . . .

I have seen wills or probate records for only two ancestors, both mentioned in the 2018 Where There’s a Will post. Today I’m taking the “find someone named William” approach for this prompt. My data file has 152 people with “Wiliam” somewhere in their name—first, middle, or last. I decided to focus on William Harry, a great-granduncle. He was the oldest brother of my great-grandmother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger.

Why this particular William? He made a brief appearance recently in Prosperity, with his other siblings, but was left out of the story about the family’s emigration. Apparently he was old enough at age 7 to keep up with Mom as they walked from town, without being kicked. Or maybe older sister, Mary (age 9), prodded him along? The collateral relatives information I have for the Harry line was acquired in 1980—and has not been updated, really. I have quite a few DNA matches from the descendants of Dorothea’s siblings, based on the surnames I recognize. Sometimes Ancestry’s ThruLines™ suggests how we connect, but that is dependent on the match and me both having fairly complete trees.

I don’t actually have any suggested connections through William, but maybe some will materialize if I flesh out his tree better.

William Harry was born in Überherrn, Saarlouis, 28 January 1847, according to Mr. Leslie Larson, who provided information to me in 1980. I decided I should corroborate those assertions. Nothing showed up at Ancestry, so I checked the catalog at Family Search to see if the Saarland church records had been filmed and digitized. Lo and behold, they had been! While there were images for Überherrn, they weren’t indexed. I looked for William and the other siblings, since I had actual dates for them, but nothing panned out. I returned to the list of films and tried Differten, another town I remember for this family.

Murphy’s Law, those were indexed, and William (as well as his other siblings except for Peter) were listed,¹ but images weren’t available for me here at home. His birthday was off by a day, and obviously the location is different, so I corrected that information in my file. Another huge difference is that the family was listed as HENRY. I’ve seen other trees using the Henry surname, but finding it recorded in an older source is helpful. It’ll take some time for me to get used to that change.

An unexpected discovery while looking though the catalog, was discovering a book² with 1100+ pages about the residents of Überherrn and Bisten. It’s available only at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and the Yale University library. I’m not headed either direction any time soon, and I’m loathe to buy the book if my family isn’t in it, especially since I’m now not so positive about their Überherrn connection. I will keep it in the back of my mind, and try to find a way to check its contents for usefulness.

I still can’t find this family in ship’s passenger lists. His father’s Declaration of Intent provided only the month and year and New York–no ship name, no departure port.

If you remember from Prosperity, the family was enumerated in 1860 with the last name of BURGER. William claimed to be 15, and was the man of the house. We next find him in 1870, four months into his marriage to Sophie Aleff. He was working at the tannery, and they were living with the Klive family. His age was a little high, but the people they were living with probably gave the information, so could easily be off.

At this point, the blog post totally derailed.

My plan was to track William through time, adding in the children, then their children. The research to trace this family forward took far longer than anticipated, and it became a hopeless tangle. Even I was getting confused! Worse, still, I found myself harvesting information without documenting it properly in my file. It’s a poor practice, and I try to avoid it. This time, I was failing, big time!

My [self-imposed] posting deadline came and went without a completed blog. At 1 AM I threw in the towel and went to bed. I was nowhere close to finished, but I needed a break. I spent today returning to the documents I found last night, creating and attaching citations to the information I found yesterday. And I realized I needed a different approach.

William & Sophia had eleven children I know of. Everyone mentioned here is deceased, as far as I can tell.

  1. Mary: born March 1871. She married Henry C. Mollenhauer and had:
    • Clara: born March 1889. She married, had 2 children:
      1. Clarice: born December 1908
      2. Harry: born 16 November 1912, died 1933
    • Hazel K: born September 1897. I haven’t tracked her past the 1900 census.
    • William De Lyle: born 1 February 1903. He and Virginia are twenty-somethings in their parents’ house for the 1930 census. Ancestry is giving me a lot of hint for a ROBERT D. Mollenhauer, but that’s quite a leap from William. I’ll have to take more time looking those over, before deciding if/how they fit in.
    • Virginia: born 6 January 1906. She is also in the 1940 census as a thirty-something, with her widowed mother . . . and a Robert D. Mollenhauer. That plot is thickening, a bit! One of the Social Security databases suggests she may have married a Mahaffey, but I haven’t been able to find anything to confirm that.
  2. Anna: born 19 January 1874. She died before 1880.
  3. Nicholas: born 10 November 1875. He also died before 1880.
  4. Charly: born 1876. I’m not sure what happened to him after 1880. There’s a WWI draft registration for a guy in Hancock County, Illinois, but I’m not sure it’s my Charlie. I need to be careful.
  5. Margaret: born 12 April 1878. She died before 1880.
  6. William (Willie) born 14 March 1880. He married Emily Radtke and had one son:
    • Lester William: born 1 July 1903. Emily apparently died in childbirth or shortly after. William headed west to Montana and Idaho, eventually marrying again, but having no other children I can find. Lester was raised in his grandfather’s home, in Wisconsin. He married and had one child.
  7. Andrew: born December 1880, died 14 June 1887.
  8. Lena: born 20 June 1884, died 26 July 1887.
  9. Joseph W.: born 22 March 1887. He married Bertha E. Fink, and had one child. I’m having difficulty finding more about him.
    • June Harriett: born 28 June 1916
  10. Emily: born 12 August 1889, died 6 December 1975. She married Ervin Gloe and had 2 daughters. At the time of Emily’s 1975 death, she had 3 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.
    • Vivian
    • Evelyn
  11. Henry Andrew: born May 1891. He may have married Alma Agusta, but I can’t find confirmation of that. I have to be very careful researching him, because the name will be common

The plans I had to completely fill in this descending branch fell short of my goal. I underestimated the work of bringing the family towards the present day. It’s more difficult to be sure you’re getting the right person.

On the other hand, I’ve made headway with this project, and I’ve been able to document the information I received 40 years ago about this family on the Family Group Sheets. I feel much more confident in that information, now that I have birth registers, death certificates, etc., for many of those life events.


¹”Germany, Rhineland, Diocese of Trier, Catholic Church Records, 1704-1957″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org), accessed 3 May 2020, Guilelus [William] HENRY, 29 January 1847; citing Birth, Differten, Saarlouis, Rhein, Preussen, Deutschland, Bistumarchiv [Diocese Archive], Trier, Germany; certificate #4, FHL Microfilm 8,138,606.

²Walter Oehling, Die Einwohner von Überherrn und Bisten vor 1900 [Residents of Überherrn and Bisten before 1900] (Saarlouis, Germany: Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis [Association for local history in the district of Saarlouis], 2006).


“POPULAR! You’re gonna be popular!”–Glinda, in “Wicked” (sung by Kristen Chenoweth, written by Stephen Schwartz)

When I go to Ancestry.com and look at my tree, it tells me I have 24,766 record hints. Photos, stories, and member trees hints add another 4,000+. With 6,040 people in the tree, it averages to 4 record hints per person. Of course, many people do not have hints (only 3,530, or 58%), so the average becomes 7 record hints per person, 8 hints, if you count trees, photos, etc. Actual numbers are much higher for some, obviously. And not all hints are created equal; I know some don’t belong to my people.

It got me thinking, though, about who was my most popular person, with regard to hints. Was there an easy way to find that person? It wasn’t as easy as I thought.

No report exists in Family Tree Maker allowing me to list people by the number of hints they have. If I go to the corresponding online tree at Ancestry.com, I can look at all my hints. I can even sort them by surname, though paging through 1,239 pages of hints and counting them up didn’t seem like a good plan. I could pull up a name list, but that had only name, birth and death dates; not the number of matches. So I wandered around my Ancestry tree, clicking on leaves to see how many hints they had.

It was slow, tedious, and not efficient. I decided to focus more on direct ancestors, sometimes their siblings. I found plenty who had hints in the upper teens, with a couple at 20 or 21. The winner, with 23 hints, was my great-grandmother, Anna Bruder Haws. You’ve met Anna before, with her husband Frank Haas/Haws, in The Old Homestead. They were also the parents of the children in Close to Home and So Far Away.

Anna Bruder Haws in her bedroom at her daughter, Teresa’s house, some time between 1946 and 1952.

Looking at her list of 23 hints:

  • 10 were member trees (one is my cousin’s). With my subscription currently lapsed, and libraries closed, I cannot check those out. Ancestry only counts them all as one, however.
  • 6 were photographs. Four of those were from my cousin’s tree, that I had sent to her. Two (technically one, because the second one was a closeup of the first!) are from an unknown person, probably a Bruder cousin. Why do I think that? Sitting next to Anna & Frank is a person identified as Ben Bruder.
  • 3 were newspaper clippings added by a different unknown cousin, referring to Anna’s funeral after her 22 October 1952 death. One mentioned Aunt May returning home to New York, afterwards.
  • census records:
    • 1870 (Anna Rinder)—had this
    • 1880 (Anna Bruder)—had this
    • 1900 (Annie Haws)—had this
    • 1910 (Anna Harr)—had this, misspelling and all
    • 1930 (Anna Haws)—had this
    • 1940 (Anna Haws)—Didn’t have this—sheer laziness on my part . . . I don’t even need a subscription for 1940!
    • Wisconsin state census—possibly 1905 (no subscription, remember?). I’d found my grandfather, Edward, hired out in Two Rivers in this census, but hadn’t found Anna & Frank. The surname is indexed as HAERS, so that explains why I may not have found it.
  • Find A Grave—I have personal photos of her headstone, but haven’t harvested her Find A Grave memorial, yet
  • city directory—don’t have this, not sure of the year or location.
  • Chicago & North Western Railroad Employment records—don’t have this. Her oldest son, John, worked as a section foreman, so likely this is from his employment
  • Wisconsin, Births & Christenings—don’t have. It’s probably for one of her children, but I don’t know which one.
  • Social Security Applications & Claims—don’t have. From a child’s application, but don’t know which one.
  • New York, Passenger & Crew Lists. This is the only hint I think is bogus.

WHEW! That was quite a list! It was somewhat reassuring that only one hint (last one) seemed to be wrong. Anna was born in Wisconsin. While both her parents emigrated from Germany, they arrived as children, with their parents. Anna had no grandparents to travel back to visit. Might there have been other relatives still in Germany? Sure. But they wouldn’t have been anyone she knew personally, or had a close relationship with, so I seriously doubt this is her. There are a lot of Bruders and women/girls named Anna.

Will I ignore that hint? No. I will take a look at it, next time I have the chance. I’ve had long shots pay off, before. What about the other hints?

It was reassuring to know that I’d found most of her census records, but this exercise pointed out 1920 is definitely missing. I’m not sure why, but if Ancestry isn’t finding Anna & Frank, my guess is that the surname was seriously mangled. It begs for a page-by-page search for them.

The state census should place them on the farm, with some of the kids (like my grandfather, Edward) already moved out. It will make gaps in the timeline smaller—always a good thing. The city directory may not provide any new information, though it could help pinpoint more precisely where they were, when. Or not, depending on the year.

The railroad employment and Social Security records will provide corroboration that yes, she really is the mother of whichever child the record was for. It’s helpful to have a different type of record indicating a parent-child relationship. The birth or christening record accomplishes the same thing.

It was kind of fun seeing who is the most “popular” in my file. And it was actually useful to check out the record hints. It helped me locate a few new pieces of data—or will, once I have access to Ancestry. I wish there was an easier way to do it. It would be nice to create a list of names with the number of hints for them. I could print it, or save it to a spreadsheet, allowing me to keep track of who I have checked out. Currently, it’s too difficult, so I’m likely to miss someone, or check them out twice.

I also wish there was as better way to handle the hints, both with Ancestry and in Family Tree Maker. The choices available in Family Tree Maker are:

  • Merge—the software decides what facts should be generated from the record. I have a little control over how they are handled, but it doesn’t seem intuitive to me. The source citations created aren’t necessarily set up the way I would. I can change them, but it seems like it takes more time. I tried the merge with a couple record matches, but wasn’t really thrilled with the results. I prefer creating the facts I want, and the sources I want.
  • Ignore—the hint disappears from the list and is added to the “ignored hints” list. I can go back and recheck that list of ignored hints.

From my online Ancestry tree (which is synced with Family Tree Maker), my hint choices are:

  • Ignore—Like in the software, the hint moves to the ignored hint list, and can be reviewed again, at a later time.
  • Review—Reviewing the hint asks me if the person in the record matches the person in my tree. I can answer:
    • Yes—The fact(s) associated with that record will be added to my Ancestry tree.
    • No—The record is treated the same as “ignore”
    • Maybe—the record is added to an “undecided” list, for additional review, later.

I don’t like any of those choices. Like accepting a hint in Family Tree Maker, if I click “yes,” my Ancestry tree will have a number of new facts created, based on the information in the record. They may not be the facts I want. It also creates a situation where I have to update my Family Tree Maker file with changes from Ancestry. While syncing works in both directions, my personal method is to make changes only on the tree on my laptop, and sync to the online tree. One direction changes, only.

Last fall I was traveling, and needed to check my file from my phone. Being able to view my Ancestry tree was a huge convenience! Unfortunately, phone screens are small, and I thought I accidentally made a change to that tree—only I didn’t know exactly what got changed (small screen, remember?). When I got home, I deleted the online tree and uploaded a fresh copy from my laptop, just to be sure I didn’t corrupt the data on my laptop. I do not like syncing down from online!

What I would like is for Ancestry to offer another option for both the online trees and the Family Tree Maker trees: “accept the hint (or “yes, it’s the same person”), but I’ll enter my own facts, thank you very much!” Why? Ancestry’s algorithm looks at the data in my tree, and the data in the record, to calculate if they probably are the same person. I’m pretty sure if I answer “yes,” Ancestry will use that informaton to locate additional records for that person. If I answer “no,” it uses that information to eliminate other records as being a match. The algorithm gets smarter, based on my answers.

SO, I’d love to tell them all those census records are correct! It might help Ancestry figure out where Anna is in 1920. Hints also come only from the more common databases. If I process through existing hints, it may prompt the algorithm to look into additional databases that it isn’t checking now, because I have so many hints.

For now, though, I’d settle for a simple list of people with hints, so I would know who to look at, first!



“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” ~ Epictetus

Prosperity: (noun) a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune.

All my immigrant ancestors are relatively recent—mid- to late-1800s. For most of them, I don’t know their circumstances in the towns they came from. It’s safe to say most of them found their life in the United States to be more prosperous than their life in the old country was.

One of those famlies was that of Peter Harry/Hary/Harré and Elisabetha Boullie. They were the parents of my great grandmother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger, and you met them in Travel, when they emigrated from the Saar region, in Germany.

Peter arrived in Manitowoc County in 1854. In 1858, he purchased² 40 acres of land in Township 20N, Range 24E from the government. His property was in the SE¼ of the SE¼ of Section 12, as shown in the plat maps, below :

Leslie Larson and his wife, Lucille (a 2nd cousin, once removed—granddaughter of my great grandmother’s sister, Margaret) hired a researcher in the Saar region in the 1970s. They tracked me down in 1980, and shared the information they had.

Back then, online records weren’t dreamed of, and even the microfilm collection of the Latter-Day Saints would have been smaller. The records from the Saar region possibly weren’t even filmed, yet. The extract the Larsons received of Peter and Elisabeth’s 15 April 1844 marriage in Bisten listed Peter as a coal miner. On both social and financial scales, he was positioned pretty low.

When he purchased his forty acres in 1858, Peter probably felt like he’d hit the jackpot! Owning land back in Germany would never have been possible for him. Unfortunately, prosperity was short-lived for him. According to the information I received from Mr. Larson, Peter died 14 July 1860, from complications due to a tree falling on him, breaking his back. According to my notes, that information came from Peter’s youngest son, Fred (who was born after his father’s death), and his granddaughter (my grandmother), Victoria Schweiger Haws.

Nevertheless, Peter obtained a better life for his family, and they continued to farm that land after his death, according to the plat maps. Confirming that with census records has been challenging. I almost gave up locating Elisabeth and their children in the 1860 census. Searches failed. Going page-by-page through several enumeration districts:

  • Two Rivers (twice!)
  • Two Rivers (Village of, 1st Ward)
  • Two Rivers (Village of, 2nd Ward)
  • Mischicot
  • Cooperstown

turned up other names I recognized, but not this family. In desperation I tried my old standby of searching for one of the kids. Using FamilySearch, I picked Margaret, left off the surname, birth range 1854-1856, residence Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Only 46 matches were found, so I scrolled through, looking at the other names in the records. I found one with all the first names I expected, and all the right ages. But the surname was BURGER, not Harry!³

No wonder I couldn’t find them with search parameters . . .

How do I know this is my family? Well, they weren’t anywhere else, and I know from the plat maps they stayed in the area another 18 years. The oldest daughter, Mary, had married John Westphal a couple weeks before the enumerator came through. The newlyweds were on the lines above Elizabeth and the younger siblings. I’d noticed Mary and John the first time through, so how did I miss everyone else? The surname was nothing remotely like Harry, so I never looked at first names.

That was clearly an enumerator error, not one caused by the indexer. Nor was it the only error made by the enumerator! Peter should have been listed in the household, even though he had died by the 18 August visit date. Enumeration day for 1860 was 1 June. Since he didn’t die until July, he should not have been left off.

In January, 1861, Elizabeth (at some point she changed from the German spelling with an “s” to the American spelling with a “z”) gave birth to Fred, the child she was pregnant with at the time of Peter’s death. In the 1870 census, Elizabeth and her children proved to be even more elusive than in 1860. An afternoon of searching and paging through the 1870 census turned up nothing. Searching for the nearby neighbors from the 1872 plat map found the neighbors, but no Harrys. Looking for the children’s future spouses found them, but still no Harrys. Everyone reappears in later census and other records, just not 1870.

So what became of the children as they grew up and left home?

  • Mary (1845): and John Westphal continued to farm in Two Rivers and had 9 children. A daughter, Ida, moved near her Aunt Dorothea in Glencoe, Illinois, and married Joseph Schramm. At least one other child moved to Sheboygan, because Mary died there in 1933.
  • William (1847): married Sophia Aleff. They remained in Two Rivers, and had 11 children.
  • John (1849): married Barbara Aleff (yes, they were sisters!). Their 3 children were born in Wisconsin, but John also moved to the Glencoe area, near his sister, Dorothea.
  • Peter (1853): married Frances Young and had 12 children. This family relocated to Clark County, Wisconsin, between July 1877 and July 1879.
  • Margaret (1855): married Stephen Mais in 1872. They had 4 children that I could find. It appears they also moved to Clark County, Wisconsin. It was their granddaughter and her husband who contacted me in 1980.
  • Dorothea (1858): My great grandmother. By 1880, she had moved to Chicago, working in the Nussbaumer household.⁴ She married Ignatz in 1885.
  • Frederick (1861): married Sophie Land in 1882. By 1900, they had moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where Fred worked in the saw mill. It seems they never had children.

Elizabeth lived alone in the 1880 census. All the children were elsewhere. She died in Clark County in 1887, so it seems she moved in with either Peter, Jr. or Margaret between those years.

Peter’s 1854 search for prosperity clearly paid off. Despite his untimely death, his emigration propelled his family’s fortunes upward. Were they Rockefellers? Hardly! But his children and grandchildren had opportunities for land ownership and home ownership never possible in Germany.

For me, this week has been a great chance to catch up on this family. One downside to being given a lot of information (from the Larsons in 1980), is the tendency to focus research on less complete lines. It turns out I have a lot of DNA matches from this great grandparent pair! I recognize surnames, but don’t know how they connect. I need to fill in the gaps in my information (I’m sure there have been a bunch of births, deaths, and marraiges in the last 40 years!) to figure out how to those matches are related to me. This week provided a good start.

But once again, more answers only beget more questions . . .


¹Dictionary.com. [online] (https://www.dictionary.com : accessed 19 Feb. 2020, “prosperity.”    

²”Land Patent Search”, database, Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records (www.glorecords.blm.gov/search), accessed 21 February 2020, entry for Peter Hary (Manitowoc County, Wisconsin), cash sale doc. #19859.

³1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers; Page 284; dwelling number 2254; family number 2218; line 6; Elizabeth BURGER household; accessed 22 February 2020. Elizabeth BURGER [HARRY}, age 42; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1418; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

⁴1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, e.d. 189; Page 432D (printed), 28 (written) ; dwelling number 91; family number 155; line 12; Chs. NUSSBAUMER household; accessed 31 October 2019. Dora HARRY, age 24; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 199; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

So Far Away

“But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more . . . “–The Proclaimers

Last week I talked about four of my grandfather’s siblings, who married either a neighbor, or someone pretty close to their home. In that time period (the early 20th century), in rural Wisconsin, it probably wasn’t terribly surprising. The other two siblings deviated from that pattern.

My grandfather, Edward Mathias Haws, was one of them. He was born 12 February 1887, and first appeared in the 1900 census.¹ He was 13 years old and still in school. By 1905, at 18 years old, he is no longer living at home. The Wisconsin state census had him in nearby Two Rivers, living with the Kasten family² as a “hired man.”

Family lore said he worked in the shipyards in Manitowoc. I know he worked there between 1918 and 1922, but I don’t know if he also worked there before he left Wisconsin. I’m not sure where/how he learned his carpenter trade, but he moved 160 miles from home for better job opportunities. I’m sure the Chicago north shore paid better wages than Manitowoc!

Family lore also said he moved down to Glencoe, Illinois, when he was 21. If so, he should have been in that area before the 1910 census, but he is AWOL so far. Nor can I place him still in Wisconsin. He might have spent time in other cities on his way to Glencoe. Bruders lived in Sheboygan, or he could have looked for work in Milwaukee. His last name got mangled enough different ways, that without a solid location, searching for him is very tedious.

Nevertheless, he met Victoria Barbara Schweiger in Glencoe and they married at Sacred Heart Church in 1914. Had he not ventured to Chicago’s northern suburbs, well over 100 of their descendants wouldn’t exist. I think he made a wise choice . . .

Aunt May, my grandfather’s next youngest sibling, definitely upped the ante! She was born 18 July 1889 and appeared as a 10-year old³ in the 1900 census, also attending school. It wasn’t until I received her letter in 1975, replying to my request for family tree information, that I learned she had actually been named “Mary Elizabeth.” Suddenly the records I had found listing her as “Mary” or “Elizabeth” made sense! Later in life, she swapped the name order and became “Elizabeth Mary,” but in everyday life, she was just “May.”

Like her brother, Ed, May is not enumerated with her parents in 1910, but I found a 20-year-old “Mamie Haws” living on Huron Street, in Manitowoc, working in the Schneider home as a servant. Some time between then and April 1914, she moved to the Glencoe area and met John J. Carroll. The marriage register at Sacred Heart Church recorded both May (Latinized to “Maria”) and John as two of the four witnesses for Ed and Victoria’s marriage.

Now, having someone stand up as one of your witnesses indicates a bump up in status. It’s probably safe to say May and John were pretty serious at that point, or he wouldn’t have been asked to be a witness for her family. A little more than a year later (14 June 1915) the two of them also tied the knot in Chicago. The following March, their son, Gerard Paul was born. A little more than a year later, the WW I draft registration places John back in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born, taking May even further from her childhood home.

So how did this Wisconsin girl come across a Brooklyn boy in Chicago? Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hard facts. I have not had a chance to comb through Chicago city directories to see if she shows up. If found, those might indicate her occupation. Her brother was already in the area, so perhaps he let her know of a position with a family in the north suburbs? May’s great-granddaughter, Maria, also heard that May worked as a telephone operator. That was one of the few other job choices available to young women, and might have paid more than being household help. Perhaps she hired out to a private home and changed jobs later on?

That still leaves John, a long way from Brooklyn! I think I have a workable theory. His WW I draft registration listed him as a locomotive fireman, NY Central Railroad. Train firemen end up in places they don’t start out. His later records:

  • 1920 census—mechanical, E. Railway;
  • 1930—electrician;
  • 1940—shop repairman, electrical;
  • 1942 —NY City Transit system, repair shop.

The railroad and transit systems seemed to be a common thread through the years. Where was he and what was he doing in 1910, though? He was still at home with his father, who had remarried three years earlier. John was working as an office boy in a dry goods house. Most surprising was that the family was living in New Jersey! Now the entry on his draft registration stating he’d been in the New Jersey National Guard for three years suddenly made sense!

I was still a little baffled by his presence in Chicago. I was all set, 2 paragraphs ago, to jump on the railroad theory. The job at the dry goods store made that a little shakier. Something caused him to either relocate to the Chicago area for at least 2-3 years, or to be traveling there regularly enough to court a young woman, I just don’t have a handle on what it was. Yet.

But what of May, who found herself raising her family so far from her own siblings and parents? As you can see from the photo below, she came back with her children to visit. With the distances involved, I would guess they might have come for weeks at a time—perhaps by train?—so Paul and Virginia could spend time with their grandparents, play with cousins, and experience life not in the big city.

A picnic at the Frank Haws farmhouse. Frank and Anna are the couple in the center back. I have the file labeled “Haws-Bruder picnic,” so I believe the couple to the right are Anna’s younger brother, John (wife Emma), who lived nearby; or her older brother, Nicholas (wife Augusta Bruenning), who moved to Sheboygan. The youngsters are (Gerard) Paul and Virginia, May’s children. She is sitting to their right, hands around her knees. Teresa is behind her and to her left, with Clara behind and to the right. Someone is almost hidden behind May’s head. Their brother Lawrence? Or maybe he’s the young man sitting to Frank’s right? One of them may also be May’s husband, John J. Carroll. I don’t have a date for the photo, but is probably the mid-1920s. Virginia was born in 1918; she looks age 5 or 6? Paul is 2 years older, so 7 or 8? I don’t have a physical copy of this photo and the scan wasn’t done at a high enough resolution to zoom in well. And obviously I don’t have the back labeled . . .

I suspect the visit in this photo wasn’t unique, and that May would have made this trip home, regularly. Frank and Anna’s farm responsibilities woudn’t have allowed them the luxury to travel to New York, so this would have been the only opportunity for her children to build relationships with extended family. As Paul and Virginia grew up and out of the house, Aunt May clearly made an effort to come back for family marriages, funerals, and ordinations. She didn’t let being so far away become an excuse.


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth Town, e.d. 69; Page 7A; dwelling number 122; family number 131; line 34; Frank HAWS household; accessed 6 September 2018. Edward HAWS, age 13; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1797; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1905 Wisconsin state census, population schedule, Manitowoc, Two Rivers town, p. 928, family no. 188, line 98, entry for Edward HAAS [HAWS], age 18 in Charles KASTEN household; accessed 7 September 2018, index and images; FamilySearch, FHL microfilm 1020454.

³1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth Town, e.d. 69; Page 7A; dwelling number 122; family number 130; line 26; Frank HAWS household; accessed 6 September 2018. Mary HAWS, age 10; July1889; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1797; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, New Jersey, Bergen, Hasbrouck Heights, e.d. 25; Page 14A; dwelling number 285; family number 321; line 5; John J. CARROLL household; accessed 2 February 2020. John J. CARROLL, age 19; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 869; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Close to Home

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”–Judy Garland (Dorothy), The Wizard of Oz

Surely a spouse counts as a “heart’s desire,” right? Okay, we should go at least next door for that, but it’s still pretty close to home. That’s exactly what two of the Haws siblings did to find spouses, with two more going not much further.

Frank and Anna (Bruder) Haws married 15 January 1885 in Francis Creek, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. They had 6 children:

  • John J., 1885-1962, married Elizabeth Birringer
  • Edward Mathias, 1887-1966, married Victoria Barbara Schweiger
  • Mary Elizabeth, 1889-1986, married John J. Carroll
  • Teresa, 1894-1985, married William H. Klackner
  • Clara Bertha, 1897-1994, married Edward Mathias Koch
  • Lawrence Charles, 1900-1960, married Mary Margaret Heiser

Two siblings plucked their spouse from a neighboring farm, like their parents did. How would I ever figure that out? Birth and marriage records only indicate a city name or township name. They don’t tell you who lived next door. But it can be easier than you’d think.

The county plat maps show who owned land, where. It doesn’t take too much effort to understand why some couples became couples. Let’s start with Frank and Anna’s property, outlined in blue (F. Haws). I wrote about that house in The Old Homestead. This is the 1893 plat map. Frank’s younger brother, John lived northeast of him, also outlined in blue, farming the land their father, John, had farmed.

1893 Kossuth Township Plat Map, Township 20 North, Ranges 23-24.² Image cropped and annotated for clarity. http://images.library.wisc.edu/WI/EFacs/MTWCImages/manPlat1893/reference/wi.manplat1893.i0023.pdf

In 1893, Frank and Anna’s children were more than a decade away from getting married, but seeds were already being sown. The green box north of Frank’s property (and bordering on John’s) belonged to Nicholas Birringer. His oldest daughter, Elizabeth, would eventually (1910) marry Frank’s oldest son, John J.

Clara’s Edward Mathias Koch is a little trickier. The red box touching the NE corner of Frank’s property? That’s not Ed’s parents. Those are his grandparents. Edward was born in Mattoon, Shawano, Wisconsin. His parents, Peter and Bertha, moved around, farming in Shewano County in 1900 (Hutchins & Mattoon area—100 miles from Kossuth), and Marathon County (Harrison—30 miles) in 1910. Ed and his parents were AWOL (so far) in 1920, but his 1925 marriage announcement mentioned he was from Mosinee (130 miles).

None of that sounds very next door, does it? My theory is that Edward spent quite a bit of time at his grandparents’ farm and met (and courted) Clara that way. It seems unlikely either Clara or Edward would have traveled the distances necessary when he was living in other counties.

Teresa’s beau, William Klackner, grew in Manitowoc. The town lies on the western shore of Lake Michigan, rather than inland, like Kossuth Township does. Frank’s farmhouse was seven miles from town. By today’s standards, that’s not terribly far, but a young person in the early 20th Century would not have had a car at his or her disposal. So how did those two get together?

The 1910 census places each of them at home, with their parents. Teresa was 16 at that time. The couple married in 1915. Unfortunately, the snapshot from the federal census didn’t provide a hint for those next five years. Wisconsin’s last state census was in 1905, so no help from that, either.

My best guess is that Teresa may have hired out “in town” as household or child care help. Farm neighbors weren’t likely to be need a teenaged girl to help, but folks in town, might. It wasn’t unusual for rural girls to seek that type of employment down in Chicago (my great grandmother, Dorothea Harry, did just that!), so looking for a position closer to home wouldn’t be surprising, either. Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to prove that, unless one of Teresa’s and Bill’s descendants step up at some point with a family story to corroborate my speculation. It seems a likely scenario, though.

Lawrence, the youngest, married a girl from Gibson, the township north of Kossuth. Mary Margaret Heiser’s family lived towards the north side of Gibson Township. Again, it’s about seven miles from Frank & Anna’s house. Lawrence, however, married when he was older—38! He would have been more independent and mobile than his older siblings—particularly the girls, who may not have known how to drive before they were married. Times had also changed, so his not marrying someone from the more immediate neighborhood is not too surprising.

I doubt the experience of these siblings, in that time period, was unusual. Remoteness, travel methods, and the time involved with those methods, would have limited their potential spouse pool. Or as Stephen Stills would have said, “Love the one you’re with.”

What about the other two? They looked further afield, but you’ll have to come back next week for them . . .


¹1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Neshoto [Two Rivers], e.d. 078; Page 13; dwelling number 112; family number 112; line 25; Lisabeth HASSE household; accessed 26 January 2020. Lisabeth HASSE, 55, widowed; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²Foote, C. M., 1849-1899 (Charles M.); Henion, J. W.; ca. 1832-1904 (John W.), Plat book of Manitowoc and Calumet Counties, Wisconsin (Minneapolis, Minnesota: C.M. Foote & Co., 1893), p. 23, “Plat of Kossuth, Township 20 North, Ranges 23-24 East of the Fourth Principal Meridian of Mantitowoc Co., Wis.”; digital images, University of Wisconsin-Madison Digital Collection (http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.manPlat1893; accessed 26 January 2020).


“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?


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).


Who got here first?

When I started doing genealogy, I quickly realized we were “newbies” in this county. I am only the third or fourth generation in the United States, so no DAR or Mayflower Society for me! Unfortunately, with the exception of my Meintzer line, I don’t have much information about the immigrant ancestors. Oh, I know who they are, sometimes I know roughly where they came from, and I may have narrowed the arrival window. That may seem like a lot, but usually I can’t pinpoint an exact date, arrival port, departure port, and in most cases, an ancestral village. That makes research farther back, impossible.

Thus, I’m not really sure when my earliest ancestor arrived. The Jost (Yost) family might be the ones, so I’ll spend this week trying to nail down something more specific for them. I haven’t looked in a while, and new databases are always coming online. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find something.

What do I already know? Elizabeth Jost (2nd great grandmother) married Johann Mathias Bruder in Wisconsin in 1859. In letters from two of my grandfather’s sisters, the information was a little vague:

  • Clara Haws Koch said Elizabeth’s birth year was 1835
  • Mary (May) Haws Carroll said “My mother’s [Anna Bruder] father & mother [Johann Mathias Bruder & Elizabeth Jost] are buried in Francis Creek Cemetery, as also is my grandmother’s [Elizabeth Jost] father & mother, whose name is Johanna Mathias Jost & Elizabeth Jost.” [It should be Nicholas (not Johanna Mathias!) Jost]

Both women were in their 80s when writing that, and lived a decade longer. In the mid-1970s, their parents and grandparents had been dead a long time, and I doubt they were looking at any paperwork when they answered my letters. They gave me a starting point, though, so I’m not complaining. When I look into records, I find:


  • Nicholas Jost (St. Anne, died 23 September 1886, age 86; infer 1800 birth)
  • Elizabeth ______ Jost (St. Anne, died 30 January 1863, age 55; infer 1808 birth)
  • Elizabeth Jost Bruder (St. Anne, died 15 January 1894, age 55; infer 1839 birth) — death certificate infers 1838
  • I don’t have solid death dates, much less cemeteries, for any of Nicholas & Elizabeth’s sons (Mathias, John, & Peter).

1900 & 1890 census

1900 was the first census to specify the immigration year, number of years in the US, and the person’s naturalization status (alien, papers applied for, naturalized). Unfortunately, both parents (Nicholas & Elizabeth), as well as daughter, Elizabeth, died before then. I’m not sure whether Mathias was alive, but I don’t find him in that census. That information isn’t always correct, especially that far back, but it’s usually pretty close. The one possibility I DID find, arrived in 1864, with a wife. That doesn’t fit. The other Josts (see next section) aren’t found, either, so have probably died.

I did find a likely Mathias Jost in the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule.² Unfortunately, that doesn’t help with finding him in 1900, or answer the immigration question. Now let’s take a bigger jump back in the census records.

1850 census and Land Purchase

A Nicholas Yost, (54 — the German “J” is pronounced like a consonant “Y,” so this is a common variation), lived in Manitowoc Rapids with wife, Elizabeth (50), and three children. The 16-year-old son’s name started with “M” and ended with “ST” and is illegible/nonsensical in-between. Daughter Mary was 9, and son, John, was one. John was the only one born in Wisconsin; the others were all Prussia.

Several problems surface with this snapshot of the family. ALL the ages are “off” compared to other sources I consider more reliable:

  • Nicholas by 4 years
  • Elizabeth by 8 years
  • Mathias by 1 or more
  • Mary by 2 or 3
  • John may be pretty close — babies usually are!

Census ages can be notoriously inconsistent, so there’s wiggle room for them. But then there’s the whole name issue. “Mathias” isn’t what the census recorded. Nowhere do I ever see my 2nd great grandmother recorded as anything other than Elizabeth. Why would I think this is the right family?

German naming custom could easily be in play here. On my mom’s side, I’ve got a mother-daughter “Maria Elisabetha” pair, both of whom went by “Elizabeth.” That’s my theory here. “Mary” was actually “Mary Elizabeth” and was either being called Mary by the family as a child, or the enumerator was told “Mary Elizabeth” but only “Mary” was recorded.

Later census records didn’t suggest there was another, similar, family nearby. So, despite the issues with this census data, I feel confident these are my Josts. As mentioned in The Old Homestead, Nicholas purchased a parcel of Homestead land 10 August 1850, so he was obviously in Manitowoc County by then.

The dwelling enumerated before them has a Nicholas (26) and Pete (24) Jost with property of their own. Their relationship to my Jost ancestors is not established, though their ages and proximity suggests they are related. Due to Nicholas & Elizabeth having a son, Peter, in 1853, I believe these twenty-somethings are nephews who arrived in Wisconsin — with them, or separately.

1860 census4

The 1860 census had Nicholas (60) & wife Elizabeth (55— slow aging?) listed with a last name of “Jose.” It seems the “t” at the end wasn’t pronounced clearly enough to be heard by the enumerator! Daughter Elizabeth was out of the house, married to John Bruder. Mathias (24) was not yet married, John was 10 (short a year) and a new child, Peter (7), appeared. Even with the misspelled surname, this family is consistent with the Yost family in 1850.

What about the two Jost men who had lived next to them? I haven’t been able to positively identify either in the 1860 census, or later ones. Several additional Jost families appear in Manitowoc County between 1850 and 1860. Some are new immigrants, some may be these young men, now married. Unfortunately, the marriage indexes show a date and groom’s name, but the bride isn’t linked in that record. It’s difficult to connect her separate record to the right groom. It will take some extra effort, and perhaps a trip to Wisconsin to look at the register books and better track land ownership, to sort out the additional Jost families.

1870 census5

Nicholas, age 70, was living in the household of Mathias & Gertrude Joist [Jost]. Relationships weren’t stated in 1870, but this is likely to be his son, Mathias. Listed below Nicholas was Catherine, age 56. That’s a story for another day, but suffice it to say his wife, Elizabeth, died in 1863, and Nicholas remarried. Below her was 17-year-old Peter, born in Wisconsin. Again, no relationship, but the inference was that he was Nicholas’s son who we saw in 1860. Middle son, John, is out of the picture, but being 20+, this isn’t surprising. I have the same problem with him that I had with the younger Nicholas and older Peter — I can’t be sure if/who he married, so can’t pick him out from the various John Josts in the county. The blended family we see here is certainly consistent with the earlier ones.

1880 census6

In 1880, Nicholas was widowed again, and was now living with his daughter, Elizabeth and her husband, John Bruder. Mathias and family disappeared from Manitowoc County, but this time I tracked him down in Marathon, Wisconsin. His having a bunch of kids really helped me out! It seems my 1850 family is, in fact, the correct one. Throughout the week I discovered (or confirmed) a lot, but not enough.

What I DIDN’T find:

  • Naturalization papers — Those might have an arrival date or ship name, but no, none to be found.
  • Passenger list(s) — Nothing shows up on Ancestry. None of the Josts in the Castle Garden database fit the immigrants I know about. It’s also possible they came up from New Orleans — though I don’t have any documentation or family lore to support that scenario. Maybe they swam.
  • Obituaries — I had hoped the Find-A-Grave memorials might have had obituaries added. Those might have contained information about when they arrived or the town they came from, but no. Newspapers.com didn’t have the years I needed for the county newspapers, so none there, either.
  • Death certificates — All I can find are indexes, and the birthplace is always a generic “Germany.” I don’t know if the actual certificate might be more specific, but I don’t have those.

Why did I spend so much time tracking each census year, instead of trying to find more passenger lists or naturalization records? Those may not exist (at all, or not online), and I may not be able to identify my ancestors in them. I hoped to track everyone forward to a record that would narrow down the year or place. Since my earliest census had some consistency problems, I needed to be sure those family members moved forward in time in a way that connected them to later information (death dates and cemeteries), if I found it. If they couldn’t match up with the later records, then the 1850 family was probably the wrong one. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, none of the immigrants survived to a census with more detailed immigration information! Lousy luck. The six people I was tracking didn’t generate the records that might have helped.

So I didn’t exactly accomplish what I’d set out to. Before this week I had Josts narrowed down to about a 10-year immigration window (between Elizabeth’s (daughter) and John’s births. That really hasn’t changed (1838-1848), and I still don’t know the ship. But looking at this family in a semi-organized way has resolved a couple questions:

  • Nicholas & Pete (from 1850) are likely to be extended family
  • I know what happened to Mathias after 1870 (he moved to Marathon, WI)

It’s also pointed out that I REALLY need to spend more time sorting out the descendants from this line, to get a more complete picture. That’s for another day. Some unexpected pleasant surprises materialized, though:

  • I discovered several more Civil War veterans. They are relatives, not ancestors, but that’s okay.
  • I MAY have discovered Elizabeth’s (mother) maiden name AND the town they emigrated from. If so, that would be huge!

I was looking at my leaf hints (I know, always a risky proposition!) when I noticed Mathias had a hint in the “Saarland, Germany, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1776-1875” database. I can’t see the full information, or the image, from home, but the birth year is reasonable, and the parents are a Nicolas Jost and Elisabeth Goedert. The birth was recorded in Nenning, Saarland. When I clicked on his sister’s leaf, the same database pops up, with the same parents, same town, and a reasonable birth year for her. The two children in the registers are undoubtedly siblings (same parents). It seems unlikely the birth years would match up so well, if they weren’t my Mathias & Elizabeth. A trip to the library is needed to assess the records, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

If you ever wondered why I spend the time correlating information and filling in the gaps, now you know. Sometimes it pays off, big time!


¹Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 23 June 2019, memorial 155697934, Nick Jost, (unk-1886), Saint Anne Cemetery, Francis Creek, Manitowoc, Wisconsin; photographs by Bev Rockwell.

Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 23 June 2019, memorial 155697971, Elizabeth Jost, (unk-1863), Saint Anne Cemetery, Francis Creek, Manitowoc, Wisconsin; photograph by Bev Rockwell.

Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 23 June 2019, memorial 144417009, Elizabeth Jost Bruder, (1839-1894), Saint Anne Cemetery, Francis Creek, Manitowoc, Wisconsin; photograph by Bev Rockwell.

²1890 U.S. census, “Schedule Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War schedule”, Wisconsin, Marathon, Marathon, e.d. 115; Page n.g. (written); image 1 of 2, line 1, Mathias JOST; Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com) accessed 23 June 2019. Population schedule house number 167, family number 171; NARA publication; M123.

³1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Manitowoc Rapids; Page 44; dwelling number 207; family number 213; line 18; Nicholas YOST household; accessed 17 June 2019. Nicholas YOST, age 54; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 1002; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).              

Nicholas (age 26) and Pete (age 24) JOST the dwelling and family before them

41860 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth; Page 227; dwelling number 1789; family number 1773; line 27; Nicholas JOSE [JOST] household; accessed 23 June 2019. Nicholas JOSE [JOST], age 60; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1418; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

51870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth; Page13; dwelling number 92; family number 85; line 5; Mathias JOST household; accessed 13 June 2019. Nicholas JOIST, age 70; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

61880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth, e.d. 66; Page 12; dwelling number 104; family number 108; line 12; Mathias BRUDER household; accessed 3 February 2019. Nicklos JUST [JOST], age 75; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Marathon, Marathon, e.d. 88; Page 11; dwelling number 66; family number 67; line 19; Math. YOST household; accessed 13 June 2019. Math. YOST, age 47 [very faint]; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1433; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Road Trip

Are we there, yet?

I’ve had more than my share of road trips, racking up 50 states, and 32 countries so far. When my dad was a kid, though, road trips were were much rarer. It’s likely that until he joined the Navy, he traveled only between Wisconsin and Illinois!

He was born in Wisconsin, not too far from his paternal grandparents, Frank Haws (The Old Homestead) and Anna Bruder Haws, but that would soon change.

His family returned to Illinois not long after my dad was born. They appear in the 1922 city directory, living in Glencoe¹ with Victoria’s recently widowed mother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger (Back to School). By 1925, they had moved to a rental house (25 East Webster) in Highwood,² while my grandfather, Edward Haws, built their house on Rosemary Terrace, in Deerfield. They now lived a long way from Dad’s paternal grandparents, so couldn’t see them often.

Once, though, on a trip to Manitowoc or Door County when I was a teenager, Dad reminisced about his trips up there when he was a kid. It was Ed, Victoria, and 4 kids piled into the family car. I’m not sure if it was a Model A or a Model T, but my money is on the Model T, being a more reasonably priced car. Dad said they always had at least one flat tire on the trip—maybe more!

If I’d thought about it at the time, I’d have pressed him for more details, and written down the answers. Ah, the foolishness of youth!

Frank Haws and Anna Bruder Haws outside their house at 508 Birchwood Drive, Francis Creek, Wisconsin, after he retired and sold the farm. They are with 6 of their grandchildren: my dad (little guy on right), his siblings (George & Henry next to Frank, and Marie next to Anna), and two of their cousins: Paul and Lorraine, I think. I’d estimate the year to be 1926 or 1927, based on my dad’s size. That’s a couple years earlier than the 1929 date I have for Frank and Anna moving from the farm, but that year is estimated from Frank’s obituary—not necessarily the most accurate source! Dad looks 5 or 6 in this photo.

This week’s prompt jogged my memory, so I started thinking about those trips up north. According to Google maps, it’s 164 miles from Deerfield to Manitowoc, and takes 3 hours 47 minutes on non-interstate roads. The roads in the late 1920s/early 1930s were not as good as roads today, and the cars slower.

The top speed for a Model A was 28 MPH; 40-45 MPH for the Model T. I’m sure neither car drove those speeds on the roads of that era, but let’s be generous! If the Model T went 30 miles per hour, that’s a 5 hours and 28 minutes trip, minimum.

Then there’s stopping for gas, bathroom breaks—4 kids, remember?— lunch at a “roadside park,” slowing down for towns, plus time to fix a flat tire. We’re looking at an all-day trip, each way. If they went up to visit, it probably wasn’t for a day, or even a weekend; a week is more likely, maybe two.

I suppose Ed could have driven Victoria and the kids up, and gone back home to work during the following week, then come back for them, but that’s a lot of driving for him. Besides, most of his siblings lived in the area, so it would have been one of his few chances to see them.

As frequently happens when checking the facts for a blog post, either I find something new, or I unearth a detail I’d forgotten about. This week was no different! I’ve always known they spent time in Highwood—my dad remembered (and talked about) living there before moving into the house in Deerfield. I just assumed that was the only other place they lived in. So I was surprised last fall to discover them at Dorothea’s house so soon after dad’s birth! I always thought Dad lived in Wisconsin for at least a couple years.

While he told stories about Grandma Schweiger’s house, I always thought they were from visits there. Indeed, he may have had no memory of ever living there. Regardless, when I found and documented the 1922 directory listing, I didn’t really think about it, or fit it into a timeline for the family. I was hurrying to harvest as many records as I could, and didn’t mentally process it properly.

Thank goodness I decided to enter it in my software, anyway, instead of blowing it off! I could have easily dismissed it as, “Oh, that’s Dorothea’s house, I don’t need to record that.” That would have been a mistake—I’d be missing dots I needed to connect.

So, what had started as an innocuous road trip story, ended up filling in more dates and places in my dad’s, grandparents’, and great grandparents’ timelines. That’s always a good thing!



¹”U.S City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing R. L. Polk & Co. Evanston City and North Shore Directory, 1922-1923. Entry for Edw. HAWS, p. 630, accessed 7 September 2018.

²”U.S City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Polk’s Waukegan City Directory, 1925. Entry for Edw. M. HAWS, p. 685, accessed 7 September 2018.