Poor Man

“All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.”–John Lennon

When first venturing into genealogy, I of course knew my Meintzer family, and quickly learned about the other, “Meintzers without an ‘i’ ” family also living in Northbrook. In the 1980s I discovered we had another branch of the family still living in Alsace. Awesome!

Then I had kids, and genealogy came to a screeching halt. That actually worked out well, because in the meantime, the internet grew up, and databases grew. When I resumed searching in 1996, I found Meintzers living in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that I couldn’t connect to mine. There were also several large trees centered around Karlsruhe, Germany. It’s not very far from Alsace, but I could never make a connection between them and my ancestors in Alsace. I left all those guys alone.

Time marched on, and some time after the millennium, my searches for “Meintzer genealogy” brought up a link to a personal web page hosted at Rootsweb.com, for some Ohio Meintzers.

Ohio? Really? Surely they must be from the Pennsylvania or West Virginia people. Nevertheless, I looked at the page. Imagine my surprise to discover they descended from my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer, and his wife, Maria Marguerite Meder!

Adam and Marguerite lived in Volksberg, and had 8 children. Marguerite died 26 November 1817, with Adam dying the following year. Of the children, 2 died prior to their father; 3 are complete mysteries right now. The remaining 3 children were sent to live with other families in different towns (though I haven’t actually located them in the Alsatian census records, to confirm!):

  • Johann Philippe Adam (almost 15)–don’t know where he ended up, but he emigrated to Northfield, Illinois, in 1842, married, and started the “Meintzer without an ‘i’ ” family. He went by “Philip” in the U.S.
  • Christian (almost 12)–moved to Dehlingen, to start my direct ancestors.
  • Johann Georg (3 ½) was sent to Berg. He is the ancestor of the Ohio Meintzers.

I don’t have many details on Johann Georg, but he married Christine Männling 25 April 1839, and they had 3 children:

  • Marguerite (21 June 1840-1925)–she married back into the Ensminger family.
  • Georges (25 September 1843-?)–he married and had at least one child in Berg (1868), but I haven’t researched more than that.
  • Henri George (13 January 1849-5 January 1944)–he’s my “poor man.”

Henri (Henry) fell in love with Sophia Holtzscherer, also from Berg. Marriage law in Alsace at the time required parental permission up until age 25 or 27. He was only 19 or so; permission was not granted. Of course, that didn’t cause Henry and Sophia to suddenly fall out of love!

Here’s where the story muddles, a bit. One version I heard was their Plan B was for Sophie to get pregnant. Presumably they would be given permission, then. So that’s what they did, except it didn’t work as expected. Still no permission granted.

The second version, from Henry’s descendants’ web page (same as above), gave a slight variation:

Henry fell in love with a young girl, Sophie Holtzscherer, also living in Berg, and became pregnant. Yet Henry’s parents did not agree with a marriage because her family was too poor. So Henry decided to go to the USA, make a living there and then come get her and bring her to America.

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ohfulton/MeintzerFamilyReunion.html

Slightly different, but essentially the same. With Sophia pregnant and marriage not possible, Henry emigrated to Northfield, Illinois, where his uncle, Philip, had settled. Henry would be starting from scratch. If his parents didn’t approve of a marriage to Sophia, they certainly would not have financed him traveling to America so he could marry her! He probably still “owed” his father work while he was in Alsace, so would have had to pick up odd jobs to earn his passage money.

In the meantime, while Henry was in Illinois, Sophia gave birth¹ to their daughter, Sophie, 22 May 1869, in Berg. No father is listed in the birth register. The date is consistent with Henry knowing she was pregnant before he left. The Ohio Meintzers’ website continues:

Henry came to America and settled in Cook Co. Illinois. He farmed there for 2½ years and then moved to Fremont, OH where he worked 2 yrs in a sawmill and 9 years in an iron mill before locating in Fulton County.

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ohfulton/MeintzerFamilyReunion.html

Henry settling near his uncle and cousins made sense. Even if they weren’t able to hire him for work, they would know others nearby needing paid help. They could vouch for him and provide him a place to stay until he was situated.

Unfortunately, I have not located Henry or his uncle and cousins in the 1870 census. Their last name must be extremely mangled in the index, and I didn’t have time to search page-by-page for them. It is on my to-do list! I know they were there, but I’d like to confirm Henry.

Some details from the Ohio Meintzer website conflict with each other, or with records located. I’m trying to sort it out and resolve the issues. There is uncertainty about:

  1. Whether Henry made one or two trips to the U.S.
    • Both 1868 and 1871/72 immigration dates show up in records, consistent with the 2-trip story. I haven’t found passenger lists for either trip to the U.S. (or a trip back to Alsace), but many of them are unavailable. Lacking a specific date (even having the month doesn’t narrow it down much!), it would be hard to find them, not being sure of the port of entry.
    • I’m not sure Henry would have simply sent money back to Sophia. Would he have trusted either set of parents to actually give it to her? I’m not sure I would have, in his shoes! So him returning for her makes sense to me.
  2. What year(s)?
    • See above. July 1871 showed up as the arrival date in Henry’s Certificate of Declaration, Sandusky County, Probate Court, 8 October 1877. It’s possible he misremembered the year (see #3, below).
    • Or maybe it was intentional, needing it to be earlier than July 1872? You had to be a resident for a minimum number of years.
    • Maybe he did make only one trip, and sent for Sophia to come over with their daughter on her own? That 1870 Illinois census is looking more important all the time!
  3. If Henry and Sophia married in Alsace, before leaving
    • It was suggested they married in 1869, and then left.
    • If they didn’t have permission before she was pregnant, it’s unlikely they’d get it afterwards.
    • They were still too young to marry without permission in 1869.
    • Henry and Sophia had a marriage record² dated 1 October 1872, in Cook County, Illinois. If they married in Alsace, they had no reason to redo it. Their names are unusual enough that it’s unlikely that record is for some other couple!
    • The Tables Décenniales 1863-1872 for Berg³ had only 1 male Meintzer marriage in that window–Henry’s brother, Georg. Being underage, I doubt Henry and Sophia could have married in the nearby towns.
    • It seems unlikely they would have waited a year (until 1872) to marry, if Sophia emigrated in 1871.

Returning to Cook County to marry made sense, though, because that was the only family they had. It seems their move to Ohio might not have been too long after that.

The 1880 census placed Henry (with a poorly recorded surname, but all the right kids and ages) in Fremont, Ohio, occupation: engineer. That part of the story matches, as does the remainder, establishing the family in Fulton County:

He bought 106 acres of land in Swancreek Twp Fulton Co. with only about 20 acres cleared and the remainder in brush.  He added farm buildings to the property and cleared much of the land. Also acquired an additional 40 acres of adjacent land and soon had about 100 acres under cultivation.  He was a general farmer and specialized in livestock and dairying.

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ohfulton/MeintzerFamilyReunion.html

Despite several fuzzy details in Henry’s story, one thing is clear to me: he and Sophia loved each each other deeply. They both had to endure difficulties for 4 years or so, before they could be together as a family.

It wouldn’t have been easy for Sophia in Berg. She undoubtedly experienced repercussions from neighbors and family for being an unwed mother. Her parents may have pressured her to marry someone else. She kept the faith, though, trusting Henry to come through in the end.

Henry, it seems, worked his tail off to bring his child and would-be wife to America. Why did he move to Ohio, from Cook County? I don’t know. Maybe land was simply too expensive in Illinois. When they married, it was the year after the Chicago Fire. Maybe prices were still inflated, and the cost of living was too high. He figured out an alternate plan, temporarily leaving agriculture for presumably more lucrative pay in the sawmill and iron mill. He saved enough to allow him to return to the land.

Henry may have started out a poor man, but he didn’t stay one.

#52Anestors


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Berg, Registre de naissances [birth registers], 1869, p. 4, no. 6, Sophie Hertzscherer, 22 May 1869; accessed 16 November 2019.

²”Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Search Record Search (https://familysearch.org), film number 1030079, Digital GS number 4270000, image number 795, Heinrich MEINTZER and Sophie HULTZSCHER.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Berg, Tábles décennales, Mariages [ten-year tables, marriage index] 1863-1872, p. 6, right side, entry #3, Georg MEINTZER and Margaretha FREY, 19 March 1868; accessed 16 November 2019.

Rich Man

“I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.” – Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, “Identity Crisis,” M*A*S*H

I’ve frequently mentioned that I come from a long line of peasants. Nothing has changed regarding that. No tycoons are hiding in the branches of my family tree!

Further thought brought to mind two situations where the person might have seemed rich–or generous?–at least by comparison.

My maternal great grandmother, Elfrieda Jonas, was born 7 December 1867, to an unwed mother, somewhere in Germany. Nope, I don’t even know her mom’s name! Elfrieda emigrated in 1884. Or maybe 1885? As far as I know, no siblings or family members traveled with her.

She married Carl Moeller in Chicago, 25 September 1887. Supposedly Elfrieda worked for the Krieger family in Glenview, prior to marriage.

Family lore suggests Carl and Elfrieda knew each other in the old country, but that location hasn’t been confirmed for either. They may have traveled on the same ship, though that’s a mystery, too, as I have multiple emigration years for each! Their backstory is a bit of a hot mess.

Regardless, the newlyweds moved to Shermerville, living first above the cheese factory, later buying a house on Church Street (below). It’s clearly a 2-story house in these photos, and my grandparents, Chris and Minnie, lived upstairs until at least the 1920 census. Mom says the house was lowered, later on.

Now, granted, it’s a good sized house, but not particularly ostentatious. Great grandpa Carl worked in the brickyard, 1900-1930, and later worked as a flag man for the railroad–basically raising and lowering the crossing gates. He owned his house in 1930, but they certainly were not a wealthy family!

Yet Elfrieda was known to have sent money to someone in Germany, presumably that unknown (to us) mother. Elfrieda’s mother likely would have been born around 1852, or earlier; I don’t know when she died. Presumably Elfrieda started sending the money soon after she first arrived, and continued through the years they had young children, and more expenses than spare cash.

Surely Elfrieda might have seemed rich to her mother, since she was able to send money back home! I wonder if Elfrieda felt the same way?

The second situation involved my grandaunt, Sophie Meintzer Kranz. When Sophie emigrated in 1881, she was 13. She was old enough to remember Dehlingen, her friends, and the family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) left behind.

When she married Edward Kranz, and embarked on the daunting task of raising their many children (11!), she did not forget her early roots. Their house on Sycamore, in Des Plaines, was a large farmhouse, as they would have needed. Of course, large doesn’t mean fancy or expensive!

I imagine hand-me-downs were as common in that family as they were in my own; a necessity for financial survival. When Sophie ran out of children or grandchildren to pass clothes to, they were shipped back to Dehlingen. How do we know that?

When the Meintzer descendants on both sides of the Atlantic reconnected in the 1980s, after decades of silence (initiated by WWII occupation of Alsace), several trips were made back to our ancestral town.

One of Sophie’s great granddaughters, Pat, made the initial contact, and visited with her mom, Arline, and her aunt, LaVera (sisters), at different times. When the photo albums came out, the sisters each recognized winter dress coats they had worn as young girls!

They probably never knew what happened to the coats once they’d outgrown them, but obviously their grandmother included them in one of her shipments. Yes, plural. When I was confirming that story with Pat, she elaborated further:

Yes that is true!! I was told by the older ladies like Albertine and Lina S***** that it was always a wonderful day when a box came from Aunt Sophie. They said this more than one time. They said the clothes were used but still had wear in them. On one of the visits to Dehlingen we were in Lina S*****’s house having coffee and Kuchen (it may have been when LaVera visited with me) and Lina brought out a black dress from the 1930’s that she said was sent to her by Aunt Sophie. I thought she was handing it to me to give to me, but she just wanted to show it to me. It meant so much to her after all those years, that she still wanted to keep it.

Email from Pat Weisel, 6 November 2019

Clothes boxes clearly happened more than once or twice, and were greatly appreciated! Sophie could have just as easily donated the clothes locally, saving herself the expense of shipping. She took the extra time and effort to put them in the hands of people she knew, and who would make good use of them.

I don’t think Sophie sent the clothes to show off, or make anyone feel bad. She remembered that Dehlingen was a small village, with fewer shopping options. Travel to a larger town would be necessary for any kind of selection. Even Des Plaines of the 1920s and 1930s (far less built-up than now) would have had more shopping choices that were easier to get to.

There’s also the satisfaction of knowing the clothes we’ve loved are being worn by someone we know, rather than a stranger. Most of us have passed around maternity and baby clothes to newly-pregnant friends for similar reasons.

Elfrieda and Sophie weren’t rich in terms of dollars and cents, but they recognized opportunities to help others, when they could. They knew that despite the miles, family was still family and could always use support. These are traits I see continuing 4 and 5 generations after them.

However, if you are (or know of) a rich uncle of which I’m unaware, feel free to let me know!

#52Ancestors


1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 14; family number 16; line 8; Charles [Carl] MOELLER household; accessed 11 August 2018; NARA microfilm publication T623; roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

“Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920”, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Record Search (https://familysearch.org), accessed 11 August 2018, citing Cook County, Illinois, reference 592131, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1030520. Carl MOELLER(27) and Elfrieda JONAS (19).

Transportation

“Sometime you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”–Dr. Seuss

Two stories popped into my head—different cars, different drivers, but both needing to be remembered.

It seems our driveway was not such a safe place to drive or park cars . . .

Growing up in Northbrook, transportation for my mom consisted of 2 choices: feet or bicycle. She did not learn to drive as a teenager. Even when Mom was working in The Loop (Chicago downtown) after high school, she walked to the train station and commuted in on the train.

In 1947 (she was 25 by then) my parents rented the house on South Adams, in Hinsdale, relocating to my Dad’s rug cleaning business (At Work), but Mom still hadn’t learned to drive. Milk, maybe eggs, and butter, were delivered as needed, and she’d walk the 1 mile to the Jewel store once or twice a week, at nap time. Mrs. Soubry (the upstairs neighbor—not positive of the spelling) would bring a book downstairs and keep an eye on my older siblings while they napped. Mom would walk home with the meat (and anything else needing refrigeration), leaving the rest in a cart at the front of the store with her name on it. Dad would swing by on the way home for lunch or from his last job, and pick up the non-perishables.

It wasn’t until they bought the house on York Road, in 1952, that Mom learned to drive. It was only 3/10 mile further from the store, but it was uphill both ways, she had more kids, and she no longer had an upstairs neighbor to stay with the kids so she could shop. In addition, she now had children going to school 1.3 (instead of .4) miles away from home. Even though my sister rode the bus, we all know there are times when you need to pick up kids from school, so it was finally time for Mom to get a license.

After her driver’s ed class ($10 for three 1 hour lessons) from a high school PE teacher, and obtaining her license at age 30, she was good to go. She had a fairly decent driving record, as far as I know, though apparently there was one incident, early on in her career. As my Aunt Mary related it:

Ardyth, do you remember the most original event of your entire career as a wife and mother? How you managed this, to this very day, no one can or will state. Bob and Hank came home from work that day and to their extreme astonishment they noticed – and did they EVER notice – that the little 1950 Crosely car you drove was perched on the very top of a pile of gravel by the garage! It was like a picture from Robert Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not.” You will always be fondly remembered for this accomplishment!!

Mary Paulson Haws, Green Valley, Arizona to Ardyth & Bob Haws, typed letter, fall 1994, memories for 50th wedding anniversary book, Bauman Correspondence Files; privately held by Christine Haws Bauman, Greenwood, Indiana.
Drawing by Mary Paulson Haws, 1994, for Bob & Ardyth’s 50th wedding anniversary book. Used with permission from her daughter, Barb.

The Crosley car was way before my time, and I have no photos. Apparently¹ it was an early compact car produced in Cincinnati. Fortunately, it was also fairly lightweight, because my dad and his brother needed to lift it off the rock pile! Dad didn’t take time to photograph it, before moving the car. Thank goodness Aunt Mary provided us with a visual (even though not eye-witness) image of the event!

My aunt’s description needs a slight correction. It was actually a pile of flagstone (not gravel) that Mom landed on. It was waiting for my dad to build the flower bed on the east side of the garage, and make a stable edge to the driveway extension. I’m not sure which rock type would be harder to scale, or retrieve the car from, safely.

How did Mom manage that feat? Most likely she had intended to shift to reverse, but landed in drive by mistake. It’s an easy mistake, especially for a new driver. When the car didn’t start backing up, she probably gunned it, hurling the car up the rocks.

The other story involves my middle brother, Warren. In the fall of 1966, our dad purchased a new 1967 Ford Galaxie 500 sedan. The 1960 Ford Country Sedan station wagon (yes, it sounds like an oxymoron, but that’s the actual model!) was getting older, he had more drivers, but also children soon to be leaving the nest. A second car, seating fewer people, would come in handy.

The Galaxie was custom-ordered, paid for with cash. Because he needed it to eventually pull the trailer (partly visible along the right edge of the photo), Dad had the towing package added on, with heavier shock absorbers, a more powerful transmission, maybe a “better” radiator/cooling system to handle the stress of towing. It was still “wet behind the hubcaps” when it was involved in an accident with Warren. Or so I thought.

The 1967 Ford Galaxie 500, in the driveway, with a bored teenager—NOT the one who hit it . . .

I was only 8 ½ at the time and didn’t pay much attention. I was reminded of the incident when I was taking driver’s ed as a sophomore. The story I heard was that Warren had “backed the new car into the house.” Now, the house was pretty large (a 2-story Queen Anne), so it seemed a little unlikely. It required either tremendous skill or horrible luck. It also surprised me that one of us kids was driving a brand new car! I didn’t question the story, though, and made sure I did not follow in his footsteps (wheel tracks?).

I of course called Warren to confirm facts. The story, with more details “from the horse’s mouth,” was different and even more interesting than the version I’d heard as a student driver, with some distinct differences

  • He did have an accident in the driveway—but he was driving the station wagon, not the new sedan!
  • Both cars were insured, but our dad didn’t want to raise the rates by running the accident through the insurance policy
  • He didn’t hit the house, he hit a vehicle parked on the driveway next to the house.
  • He was in a hurry to pick up his date (“It’s always a girl’s fault!”) and didn’t notice the other car was in the driveway.
  • He didn’t use his rear view mirror (obviously!) or check behind him.

Some parts of his story matched what I heard, but others were out in left field. As I tried to digest the new information, my brother asked if I wanted to hear the rest of the story. What? There’s more?? Bring it on!

Since this accident was all “in the family,” Dad had my brother pay for the repairs. That was reasonable. Dad also wanted everything repaired a quickly as possible. Apparently the insurance agents would cruise through town, checking out cars in driveways to see if they had unreported damage!

The ripple effect was that Warren didn’t have money to rent a tux for an upcoming Senior Girls’ formal dance—a turnabout dance. He was almost the only guy there not wearing a tux, but he had a black suit, so he wasn’t too out of place. Getting to the dance had its own back story, though.

He ended up with two (yes, 2!) dates to the dance. Sort of. One girl (Sue Dahlman) simply assumed they were going, but hadn’t bothered to ask. A classmate from grade school, Carolyn Bayer, actually asked him. Since he thought he was dateless, he told her, “yes.”

The two girls were in line together to buy tickets, Sue in front. When Sue was asked who her date was, Carolyn was shocked to hear her reply with—her own date’s name! Oops. They must have had quite a conversation . . .

Ever the gentleman, Warren went to the dance with the one who asked him. He never dated the other girl again.

Warren and I had a good laugh over the phone as he filled in the back story to and consequences of the accident. I’m sure he wasn’t laughing while trying to scrape together enough to pay our parents back! Fortunately, time has a way changing our perspective, allowing us to see the humor in what wasn’t funny at the time. And my own son’s (we’ll protect the guilty!) “2-dates for Prom” experience doesn’t shock me nearly as much, now. It must be a genetic thing . . .

The timeline bothered me, however. Warren graduated in June, 1966, but new cars typically are released in late summer, the year before the model year. The 1967 Galaxie 500 wouldn’t have come out until after he graduated. Even after 50+ years, he recalled vivid details about the dance—the names of both girls, that 4-5 couples went as a group and had dinner at the home of one of the girls (a bonus, since he had no money to take her out!), not being able to afford the tux.

But he didn’t remember it being the ’67, and thought it must have been another car. Except I don’t remember us having a 2nd passenger vehicle until the ’67. I did the only thing I could do—research! On Classmates.com I found his yearbooks, locating both girls in senior year, but only one in the junior year photos. That narrowed it to senior year, but still left the issue of what car did he hit? The ’65-’66 dance was too early to be impacted by an accident.

It was time for some phone calls. At 97, Mom’s recollections can be hit or miss, but she LOVED that car, so I hoped for the best. Unfortunately, she didn’t really have a memory of that accident, or the circumstances around it. No help there.

Next call was to my brother Bill (lounging on the car in the photo). His memory was clearer than mine, since he was closer to driving age at the time. He remembered being the ’67, and that our dad was REALLY mad—unusual for him. Bill was also told the car moved backwards 20 feet, fortunately, not into the street. That may have been exaggerated a bit to drive home the point. Warren said he wasn’t going very fast; that it was only a fender bender. Fender benders don’t move parked cars that far!

Perhaps the biggest thing I learned is that it’s important to check out the story, if I can, even if I’m sure of it, myself. If that turns up conflicting information, okay. I can deal with that. I can’t clarify or resolve (or at least acknowledge) information I don’t know about, though.

So where does that leave the story? Unresolved. Cars were hit. Bumpers were repaired. Younger children’s driving habits were influenced. It’s still a good story (better than I started out with!), even if the timeline can’t be fully resolved. I’ve got my own variation of Rashomon² going on.

#52Ancestors


¹”Crosley”, En.Wikipedia.Org, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crosley.

²An event where the story told by different eyewitnesses is considerably different. Click the link for a more in-depth explanation.

Context

“What’s that mean?”–Far Field Productions end credit (“Bones”)

Halloween is creeping up, again. While I like skeletons as much as the next person, I don’t like the people in my family tree to be skeletons. They can have skeletons to their heart’s content, but I prefer to put some meat on their bones, when I can. I put on my “Joe Friday” hat (“All we want are the facts, ma’am.“), tracking down name, birth and death dates, possible marriage date(s) and spouse(s). If I stop at the basic facts, though, I’m shortchanging them. As I discover more details, I round out their lives, personalities, and relationships within the families. I learn the context surrounding the events in that person’s life. It starts to make more sense.

CONTEXT: noun: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

“Definition Of Context | Lexico.Com”. www.lexico.com, 2019, https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/context. Accessed 10 Oct 2019.

So do I really need to find

  • each census?
  • each city directory?
  • their work history?
  • all their kids (even the ones I don’t descend from)?
  • all their siblings?
  • what land they owned? Or didn’t own?

Not necessarily, but the more I know, the better I can assess new records I may come across. Does that record really belong to my person, or is it just a similar name? The more details I can match to existing information, makes being the right record/person more likely. I can also better understand their life. Did they move around a lot? Why? Was it due to job changes? Changes in fortune? Did they move in with children as they aged? Without that context, ancestors remain 2-dimensional, rather than moving toward 3-dimensional.

How does that play out in real life?

Finding the lawyer’s bill in Patrick Nolan’s probate documents at the courthouse in the early 2000s (Naughty) left me with more questions (Did he and Alice actually divorce? Who filed?) than answers, until I was able to locate them in the divorce register.¹ Their entry had been lined out, but the newspaper article detailing his death provided better context (Alice moved back home, it wasn’t due to Patrick’s death). An earlier article³ (at the time she filed for divorce) provided additional context to the situation and their relationship.

For me, newspapers seem more helpful than many other resources. Most of the time, my ancestors and relatives don’t make the front pages (thankfully!). The local news columns (AKA gossip columns!) gave insight to the minutia of their lives. Who visited them? Who did they visit? What clubs did they join? Were they an officer? These “inconsequential” details move them from the “caricature” end of the spectrum more towards the “portrait” end.

Lots of mundane events prove more interesting with the passage of time. My mom, at age 97, doesn’t recall her 2nd birthday party, but I learned she invited her cousins over:

Little Ardyth Meintzer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, celebrate and [sic] delicious hot chicken dinner with Florence and Howard Moeller, Edlyn Mueller as guests. A big birthday cake was enjoyed and the little hostess was congratulated.

“Northbrook Section,” 11 April 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 20, col. 5, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

An earlier paragraph that same paper mentioned her cousin, Howard, started school. April seems an odd time to start, maybe he was out sick and finally able to return to school? I might need to look up an earlier issue to shed further light on that. Mom also never told me that just before her 2nd birthday

While playing and running, little Ardath [sic], daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, bumped into the kitchen cabinet, and cut her head quite badly.

“Northbrook Section,” 4 April 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 4, col. 1, DuPage County Register, Bensenville, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Thankfully, the party still went on without a hitch!

Mom had also talked about vacationing with Florence & Howard and their parents (Uncle Frank had a car!) when she was a kid. She didn’t remember the details, but thanks to The Daily Herald 29 March 1929 (p. 8, column 3), I learned that, “The Meintzer and Frank Moeller families are on their way home from Virginia and Washington, after several days motor trip.” While I didn’t think Mom was making up that story, it’s nice to be able to pin it down better. And I’ll be able to assign more a more accurate date to some photos I think are from that trip.

Health (or lack thereof) featured predominently in the columns. When Mom’s cousins experienced complications from a vaccine (not sure which one!), the whole town (as well as neighboring towns) knew . . .

Helen Meintzer and her sister, Bernice, have missed several days from school on account of being vaccinated. Little Jeanne was also vaccinated. We are glad to report that they are improving daily and will be back to school real soon.

“Northbrook Section,” 1 April 1927, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, col. 5, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Their brothers weren’t mentioned. Were they not vaccinated? Or did they simply not miss school?

Of course, we already knew my grandfather (Christoph Meintzer) liked fishing, but putting it in newsprint made it official!

Mr. Christ Meinzer and Jack Mayer of Deerfield had a pleasant time catching fish at Lake Elizabeth, Wisc., and brought 60 fish home with them.

“Northbrook Section,” 13 Augutst 1926, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 17, col. 5, Palatine Enterprise, Palatine, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Will I ever find everything? No. But it pays to slow down from hurried harvesting, and look for the juicier strawberries hiding under the leaves, instead of just picking the ones easiest to find.

#52Ancestors


¹”Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 5 March 2018, citing Michigan, Divorce Records. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan. St. Clair, state file # 348-9. Patrick Nolan and Alice Nolan.

²”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

³”Mean Man,” 24 August 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Cousins

Kissing cousins . . . really! Or maybe not . . .

If I run a relationship report on everyone in my data file, I end up with 141 pages, containing (partially):

  • 12 first cousins
  • 92 first cousins, once removed
  • 11 half first cousins, once removed
  • 120 first cousins, twice removed
  • 191 second cousins
  • 27 half second cousins, continuing on to . . .
  • a 1st cousin 10 times removed
  • an 11th cousin, once removed
  • and plenty of others in between!

Do I know them all? Heavens, no! Many of them have passed away (particularly the “removed” ones born before I was). But I know how they fit on the tree, and they are remembered. Obviously I have lots of potential subjects to write about! I’m bypassing all of them, however, and choosing my great grandfather, Christian Meintzer (Colorful), and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidman (Cause of Death).

It turns out that Christian & Elisabetha were fourth cousins. At least, that’s the conclusion to be drawn from the lineages provided in Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass,¹ by Doris Wesner. The connection is shown most simply with the chart below:

Relationship chart showing Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Maria Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins. Both are shown as 3rd great-grandchildren of Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

It seems pretty straight forward, but truth be told, I have not actually confirmed all these connections by looking at the records [online digital images], personally. With so many other loose ends to track down and tie up on the various tree branches, I haven’t forced myself to follow through on that. Ms. Wesner utilized the local parish & civil records in her compilation of the Dehlingen “town genealogy,” and I trust her work. That’s a poor excuse, though, for laziness complacency. I need to check if these connections really pan out. I’ll start with Christian (bottom, left). As always, I’ve linked to the images at the Bas-Rhin Archives, just accepter the terms to view, if you are so inclined.

  • Christian was born in Dehlingen Bas-Rhin, Alsace, on 3 April 1930 [1830, p. 4, #10]² to Christian (Chrétien) Mein[t]zer (age 23) and Christine Isel (age 20).
  • A quick search through the Tables décennales, located their marriage date [1823-1832, p. 7, line 22]³ so I could find the actual record [1829, p. 6, #10] on 24 December 1829).
  • Christian & Christine’s birth dates matched my file records, and Christine’s father was listed as Nicolas. So, far, so good!
  • Back to the birth records, this time for Christine Isel (since I need to follow her line back) [1809, p. 3, #8]. Her parents were listed as Nichel and Katharine, but no ages are given. At this point, I need to follow the same routine:
    • locate the parents’ marriage record to confirm births,
    • locate birth record for the parent I need to follow back,
    • confirm those are the right parents
    • repeat

I won’t include as much explanation as I did above, to make it move faster. But the references will be there. So, continuing with Nicolas Isel:

He (age 28) and Catherine Bauer (age 21) married 24 September 1805 [Tables décennales, An XI-1812, p. 6, entry 2], with his parents listed [2 vendémiaire An. XIV] as Georg Isel and Julianna Margaretha Walther. Nicolas’s 19 October 1777 birth record [1777, p. 6, #36]4 confirms them. I was able to locate Julianna Margaretha Walther’s 12 July 1738 baptism record [1738, p. 50, #383)4. Unfortunately, it didn’t mention her mother’s name—just her father, Franz, and the godparents and other witnesses. The book is supposed to contain marriage records, but all I seem to find are baptisms. That means I’m not quite able to connect Julianna Margaretha to Eva Elisabetha, and at that point the records stop—at least, online. Perhaps I simply missed the 1726 marriage record for Eva Elisabetha, and that would connect her parents, Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

Meanwhile, Christian’s wife, Elisabetha Weidmann, was easily found in the 1834 birth register [1834, p. 3, #7]². That pointed her back to her father, Andreas, and more importantly, her mother, Catherine Frenger (age 25). Elisabetha’s parents married 13 October 1832 [1823-1832, p. 7, line 23]³. That record [1832, p. 3, #4] listed Catherine’s mother as Marie Elisabetha Hemmert (age 53). Catherine’s 1809 birth record confirmed their names, but didn’t include ages.

The Parish Registers came through with Maria Elizabeth’s 8 June 1777 birth [1777, p. 5, #27]4 and showed her father to be Georg Hemmert. Unfortunately, no age was given for him. I ran into the problem finding marriages in that register, again. Looking for Georg’s birth, I found a 25 May 1746 record for a Johann Georg, with a father Johann Georg Hemmert, but no mother’s name was listed [1746, p. 64, #475]4. Was that he? It’s hard to say for sure. Again, I reached the end of the online records.

So it looks like I can’t definitively link Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins—at least, not from the online records. Are there other records available locally? Or records that were damaged/lost after 1997? Either one is quite possible. For now, I’ll need to note in my file that I’ve been unable to corroborate the linkage between Christian & his 3rd great grandparents—ditto for Elisabetha. And I’ll keep looking for records that will clarify those relationships.

#52Ancestors


¹Doris Wesner, Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass: (Drulingen: Scheuer, October 1997), pages 64, 85, 86, 105, 106, 163, 243, 250, 251.

²”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de Naissances (Birth Registers) various years, pages, record numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Tables décennales, naissances and mariages [ten-year tables, birth and marriage indexes] various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

4“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registres Paroissiaux 1776-An VII (Parish Registers) various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

Mistake

Mistakes were made?

I spent last week paging through the parish registers for the Alsatian town of Volksberg, in search of records to confirm my 4th great grandfather, Johann Jacob Meintzer, was a teacher. That was a failure. I found no online records that would tell me that. Since I needed to go through page-by-page, I took advantage of the situation and looked (and downloaded images) for records documenting other births, deaths, and marriages I had for that town. The effort wasn’t a total loss.

One item I was particularly looking for, was the marriage record for my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer, and Magdalena Mauer. She was the mother of a daughter, Carolina Sophia, born 21 December 1798. Hopefully the couple had married before 1798, and Magdalena died before the record when Johann Philippe married my 3rd great grandmother, Maria Marguerite Meder, 9 October 1800.

They were all missing. I did not find a birth record for Carolina Sophie, a marriage record for Magdalena, or a death record for her. Was that information a mistake?

On image 11 in the Volksberg parish registers, 1772-1803, births section, the last entry is: dbr [December] 21 [baptized] 25, Catr. Sophie, Ad. Munsch [Meinsch?] et Magd? Mani. The child has a small cross below her name, probably indicating she died at or shortly after birth. That’s appeared on other birth records. There’s no record in the section for deaths, but with an infant dying so early, they typically didn’t record it both places. It is very definitely the abbreviation for Catrina or Catharine, and not Carolina.

While Johann Philippe often went by “Adam,” the last name in the record doesn’t resemble Meintzer—the ending is clearly “sch.” The mother’s name is an abbreviation for Magdalena, but the maiden name is Mani, not Mauer. This birth is also recorded in the civil record book, using the French Republican calendar date of 4 nivôse year VII. The records are consistent with each other, as far as the date and child’s name. The parents’ surnames are still a mismatch to the information I was given.

The tentative timeline for Johann Philippe Adam is:

  • was born in Volksberg (1775 record found)
  • married Magdalena Mauer (no proof of that)
  • married her in Volksberg (again, no proof)
  • had a daughter (who may have died very young) in 1798 (only a potential record, but the parents are wrong)
  • IF he married Magdalena, she died before October 1800 (no death record)
  • married Marguerite Meder in 1800 in Volksberg (record found)
  • had numerous children in Volksberg, including my 2nd great grandfather (records found)

The middle points (2-5) are pretty mushy. The choices are:

  • those events didn’t happen
  • the events occurred elsewhere
  • the events occurred, but didn’t get recorded

The third choice seems very unlikely to me. One event might be missed, but four? In a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it doesn’t make sense. I can’t simply assume the first choice, though. So I need to investigate the middle option, and search for a Meintzer child born in 1798, and possibly a marriage and death, in the neighboring towns. Off to Google Maps to see what is nearby. My list prioritized towns where Meintzers and other related ancestral names already occupied:

  • Ratzwiller (4.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Butten (5.9 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Dehlingen (10.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Waldhambach (5.5 miles) no birth, marriage, death—I did find other Munsch records here, but not the names I was looking for
  • Diemeringen (8.7 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Lorentzen (8.8 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Tieffenbach (5 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Puberg (3.7 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Rosteig (3.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Berg (9.8 miles) no birth, marriage, death

You can move the map around, zoom in, or even double click to open it in its own window!

The mileage calculation between Volksberg and each town is based on driving modern roads. Current roads probably retrace older ones, and are sometimes less direct. This is “hilly Alsace,” though, so traveling cross country would involve a lot of going up and down. I’m not sure that’s how anyone would have traveled in the late 1700s. These distances are probably generous. I checked the Tables des naissances, Tables des mariages, and Tables des décès (1792-year X), for each town and recorded the results above, to keep it simple.¹

Other than the Munsch records found in Waldhambach, I didn’t find that name anywhere else. I didn’t find any Meintzer records—a marriage for Philippe Adam and Magdalena, a birth for Carolina Sophia, or a death before October, 1800 for Magdalena—in those towns in the appropriate years. Did I search every possible town in the area? No. BUT, I think the ones I looked at were the most likely.

I did find an Adam Munsch, who died in Volksberg later on, 7 October 1823, age 69 years, 8 months, 24 days. His birth would have been in 1754, so he would have been 44 in 1798, if he was the father of Catharina Sophia. That’s entirely doable, though I didn’t notice an age in her birth record (I didn’t transcribe and translate it fully). Is he the same man as in the birth record? Maybe.

At this point, I haven’t been able to prove that Philippe Adam had a wife prior to my 3rd great grandmother. The evidence still suggests there is a mistake in his history. What’s my next step? I need to email my Alsatian cousins, Isabelle and Elisabeth, (3rd cousins, once removed), to find out more details about where they obtained the information about his first marriage and the child from that. They may have access to a local (not online) source that will clear up the question.

Is this really important? Does it matter? It’s not critical, since the answer doesn’t affect my ancestry. It would change Philippe Adam’s history, though, so it is important. It also matters because it reflects on my tree’s accuracy, and my other research. Is my tree perfect? Certainly not. I’m sure there is at least another error in there somewhere, probably more than one!

But to notice an inconsistency and shrug it off with an, “It doesn’t matter,” or “Oh, well!” casts suspicion on all the rest of my data. If I look at someone’s tree and see a glaring error, I will think very carefully before accepting any of their other information. I may use it for hints, only, and make sure I nail down reliable sources for the information I pull from it.

So, yes, it is worth following up on. We’ll see what the cousins have to say!

#52Ancestors


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Volksberg and the other towns, Tables décennales, naissances, mariages, décès [ten-year tables, birth, marriage, death indexes] 1793-An X, various entries; accessed 12-15 September 2019.

School Days

You’re never too old to learn!

Anyone who has talked to me about genealogy has heard me say, “I come from a long line of peasants.” Unlike the celebrities on the TV shows, there’s no trace of Charlemagne or Edward Longshanks on my tree, despite an unexplained 25% “England, Wales, & Northwestern Europe” showing up in my DNA. Nor is there any lineage society in my future!

The records confirm that assertion. My great-grandfathers were identified in the US census records as “farmers.” Their ancestors in Germany or Alsace showed up as “Bauer,” “Ackermann,” “Taglöhner,” or “cultivateur,” in various records (German: farmer, farmer, day-laborer; French: farmer). An occasional linen weaver or cheese maker was thrown into the mix. Their occupations and status in town was fairly consistent, until I came upon my 4th great grandfather, [Johann] Jacob Meintzer, “teacher and farmer in Volksberg,”¹ in Alsatian Connections.

Teacher and farmer? That seemed like an odd combination. I took it at face value, though, because the compiler had no real incentive to overstate Johann Jacob’s position in the town. What do I know about him, though?

He was the father of my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam (Reunion), and his siblings, Jacob (Ten) and Catherine. For years, Johann Jacob was the earliest ancestor on my Meintzer line. Our Alsatian cousins recently linked him to Meintzers from Karlsruhe, Germany (less than 75 miles from Volksberg). I need to investigate that possible connection, at some point, to make sure everything lines up.

Alsatian Connections only provided

  • Johann Jacob’s occupations (above)
  • that he died before July 1787
  • he married Anna Elisabetha Philippi on 10 May 1768, in Volksberg
  • she was born in Volksberg, 30 May 1742
  • she died in Volksberg, Frimaire 23rd, year 14 (French Republic calendar— translates to 14 December 1805)

That’s a pretty basic sketch. Ms. Wesner used several sources for her compilation:

  • church record books and civil records
  • The Alsace Emigration Book, by C. Schrader-Muggenthaler
  • Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America, by A. Kunselman Burgert

I decided I should try to verify the occupations, so I looked to the trusty Bas-Rhin Archives to hopefully find actual records from Volksberg. It was a good plan, unfortunately, the Protestant parish registers (births, marriages, & deaths) didn’t begin until 1772, with the civil registers even later—1792! Jacob’s & Elisabeth’s marriage in 1768 won’t be there.

Even worse (can it be worse?), the one register was bare-bones. Births have the date, child’s name, parents’ names; no ages, occupations, or birth places of parents. Marriages aren’t much better—date, groom, bride. Deaths have the date, name, age. Parents of young children are the only other people mentioned. Sigh. It makes it difficult to determine if it’s the right person/record. I can’t confirm whether Jacob was born in Karlsruhe or Volksberg from anything in those records. The other register had the paragraph format, but difficult handwriting and poor (or absent) margin notes for who the record was for. Wading through those 35 images would be its own project!

After 3 days of banging my head on the keyboard, what had I actually found? Not what I had hoped!

  • his 1785 April 16 death record, Jo. Jacob Mein[t]zer, 59 years, 6 months (buried the 20th)
  • Philippe Adam’s 1775 birth record
  • marriages for Johann Jacob’s sons (but not Catherine)—but without parents’ names or occupations!
  • numerous births, and several deaths, for his grandchildren. I was able to fill in Catherine’s family quite nicely! It didn’t help with confirming Johann Jacob’s teacher occupation, though.

All in all, it was a frustrating several days. I was grateful for the information I found, but none of it actually clarified the issue of where his “teacher” claim came from. I can only assume other records exist (or existed) locally, that aren’t online, yet. I may need a road trip, but am not sure whether it needs to be to the town(s), or to Strasbourg, where the Archives is located.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to take Johann Jacob’s “teacher” occupation on faith. Last year I finally found time to read my copy of Our Daily Bread: German Village life, 1500-1850, by Teva J. Sheer. I’d picked it up years ago, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I brought it along on a cruise. She created a fictitious town and main character to paint an image of everyday life, based on the research she’d done. The end notes are 23 pages long, and bibliography is 16 pages! She wrote about German towns, but it seems reasonable that Germanic-influenced Alsace might operate in a similar fashion.

I was surprised to discover that the teacher (Lehrer) was considered an official position in the town² (p. 75). Later on, she explained the teacher “enjoyed little status and less income.”² (p. 132) My mistake was thinking about the job in a present-day context. The picture she painted was considerably different:

A large part of his income derived from his collateral duties. He usually served as the church sacristan; as such, his responsibilities included church building maintenance, acting as assistant to the pastor, and serving as the village scribe at court and other village meetings. In addition, he frequently served as choirmaster and organist . . . musical skills . . . were often value more highly than their academic knowledge or teaching experience . . . provided . . . a dwelling with a small garden, but the dwelling also served as the village school . . . received a small monthly payment from the parents of each child . . . Prior to the 19th century . . . schoolmaster was typically a community member with little education himself.

Teva J. Scheer, Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850 (Adventis Press, 2010), p. 132.

That description kind of took me down off my high horse about having a “teacher” in my ancestry! It reminded me, though, not to drag my 20th- and 21st-century mentality and assumptions into earlier centuries. I also need to pull myself out of FamilySearch and Ancestry.com every once in a while for some non-lineage research. That will help me process the evidence I find in the right context and better understand what I’ve found.

Looks like my 18th-century school teacher had one more lesson to teach!

#52Ancestors


¹Doris Wesner, Alsatian Connections, Volume 1: Family Genealogies of Alsatian Emigrants to America (Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, 1995), p. 213.

²Teva J. Scheer, Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850 (Adventis Press, 2010).