Handed Down

Many things get handed down in families. It would be easy enough to pick one and write about that, but I’m taking a different tack, reflecting my life’s current state of affairs. An early blog dealt with heirlooms, but compared to now, that was bush league.

I’m currently working my way through everything that came out of my mom’s room in assisted living, after she died in November. It was a studio apartment—think “dorm room” without a roommate. How much could it hold?

You’d be surprised!

We’d found a home for most of the furniture (donated the rest), but furniture had to be emptied in order to be moved. Everything inside landed at my house. The result looked (partially) like this:

The financial records had already relocated to my house, so didn’t even figure into this. My sister-in-law helped me process all the clothes that Monday night—a huge help! A few we kept, some were donated, most were just worn out, and not appropriate to donate. Hint: when the waistband elastic crackles, do not donate!

That left two days to quickly triage the remaining chaos. Bankers boxes from Mom’s 4-drawer file cabinet and desk? Stacked, untouched, in a spare bedroom. Office and desk supplies? Consolidated into fewer boxes and stacked. Items I didn’t need/want and neither would my kids? Boxed for donating, and out of the house Wednesday afternoon. Things my kids might be able to use? Stacked in a corner for them to look through on Thanksgiving. The leftovers? Piled into the spare bedroom with everything else, and the door closed! The house was relatively toddler-safe.

After the holidays, it was time to start in on the “elephant.” This spring I worked my way through boxes, one at at time, mucking out the spare room. Already in there were odds and ends Mom handed down to me over the last few years, now needing a final decision.

Many folders were easy to deal with, quickly recycled or put in the shredding pile. Others might have genealogical information I didn’t have, so were moved to my genealogy stash, to look through later. Office supplies were donated to school. Lots of boxes emptied out, and I started to see the floor.

A new dilemma surfaced—what to do with some of the items not (yet) disposed of. As a family historian, I rotated between,

  • “Isn’t this cool!”
  • “Where/How am I going to store this?” and,
  • “Who’s going to want this/Where’s it going to go when I die?”

It created lots of internal conflict, not easy to resolve. What items caused this internal debate?

  • Mom’s Piano Certificate—a scroll tied with a ribbon, with ribbons inserted and an embossed gold foil seal pasted on top.
  • Mom’s American Legion medalion, pin, and certificate. When did she win it? No date on it. What for? No idea. She probably could have told me, but I’d never seen it until now, so didn’t know to ask. Too late for answers. Would the school have a record of recipients? Maybe. It’s probably worth an email or phone call.
  • Her father’s U.B.C.W. (United Brick and Clay Workers, post-1923), and I. B. T. & T. C. W. A. (International Brick, Tile & Terre Cotta Workers Alliance, pre-1923) ribbon badges. They’re 5-6″ long, 2-3″ wide, fringed, pretty impressive.  The ribbon slips off a pin to reverse to a black, “mourning” side. Were these “regular” union pins, or something worn to a convention?
  • Mom’s extremely fragile grass skirt, in the same dry cleaning bag it’s been in since I was a kid.
  • Her mom’s funeral book, with signatures of friends & family. Many of the names I recognize, but will my kids? Or my cousins’ kids? And do they care?
  • The lists of wedding and wedding shower gifts Mom received. There’s a box of wedding and shower cards, too. For some of these women, it’s the only evidence of their handwriting or signature. The cards are cute and quaint, but does that make them worth keeping?
  • The statement from the savings and loan showing the total they’d saved for a downpayment on their first house, as well as the loan papers, and the loan book, showing their payments, with “Cancelled” punched through all the pages when it was paid off. Growing up, we kids heard stories about saving for the house and paying it off. My kids probably remember what the inside of a bank looks like, but passbooks were a thing of the past by then. How does one even explain it, without one to see? Keep it? Or not?
  • Cumulative earnings statements from Social Security. How did they ever raise five kids on that income??

None of those items have any particular genealogical value, but they provide glimpses into each person’s life. They season the soup, if you will. Of course, the granddaddy of all these goodies is the oval convex portrait of my mom taken at about 9 months old. The frame measures 23.5″ x 16.5″. The convex glass was gone long before my time. This picture lived on the top shelf of the upstairs hall closet, along with the boxes of old photos and the grass skirt. The photo itself has a dent in it, having no glass to protect it.

It lived on that top shelf at least 10 years, more likely 15-25. When Mom & Dad moved to the “new” house, its status upgraded to being hung on the wall . . . in the basement. Better than a closet shelf, I guess. It lived there for 32 years, when it moved to Indiana (back in the closet), and eventually to my house. For the last five years or so, I’ve debated what to do with it.

This framing style was popular for a time, and the nostalgic look appeals to me. Bubble glass replacements are available, but it needs more than new glass. The photo needs to be popped out, which, from what I’ve read, is tricky and should be done by a professional. The photo surface has at least 60 years of accumulated dust, dirt, and grime (plus a water spot or two). New glass on a dirty photo seems pointless.

The backing is thin plywood, so dealing with that is a little trickier, and the wood frame (with painted flower garlands) could use a good cleaning, too. This really is a restoration project—one requiring more expertise than I have. I’m not saying it isn’t worth it, but is it worth it to me? I’m not sure. Several years ago I asked my kids if any of them would want this picture down the road. They deftly dodged the question by turning it around and saying I should definitely repair it, if I wanted to do it. It seemed like a polite way of saying, “No, we really don’t want it, but don’t let that stop you.” It didn’t really help.

I still can’t muster a compelling reason to restore the picture, or even to feel guilty about not doing it. My mom had plenty of time to have something done about her baby picture—maybe not while she had five kids at home, with three in college—but she had an empty nest for 3+ decades! If it wasn’t important enough for her to take care of, I’m not sure why it falls to me. So maybe I don’t need to stress about guilt.

As far as the rest, I could keep everything, and let someone else worry about it after I die. It would be an easy decision; not necessarily the best one. So I need to curate these items and decide what to do with them. The long-term goal with my genealogy is to digitize as much as possible, making it more portable. As I age and need to downsize, a smaller physical footprint for my genealogy is necessary. One option I’m considering is to digitize the items, and write a narrative to accompany the image. Without the story, the bank statement for the house downpayment means nothing. It’s just a number. But these scraps can fill in details for the stories I wouldn’t have, otherwise.

Throughout this process, I realized I’m the only child looking at these documents and artifacts. I doubt my brothers particularly want them, but geography prevents them from being here while I’m sorting. Would they (or grandkids?) want to see some of these things before I possibly get rid of them?  Maybe. So I’ve boxed up interesting items to travel to my mom’s burial next month. Not everyone will be there, but it will be more people than at my house. Perhaps people’s reactions will provide clarity about what to do with this ephemera.

While I don’t have a total solution for all the goodies handed down to me, I’m at least attempting a plan, instead of just stuffing it all in closets or the attic, and foisting it on my kids. Hopefully I’ll hang onto (and hand down) the right things.

#52Ancestors

Wedding

My maternal grandfather, Christoph Jacob Meintzer, was born in Illinois, in 1888, the youngest child of Christian Meintzer and Sophia Gartner. When Christian and Sophia emigrated from Alsace in 1881, they arrived with five daughters, aged 9 to 17:

  • Elizabeth (Lizzy)—17
  • Catharine (Kate)—16
  • Sophie—13
  • Louisa—11
  • Caroline (Carrie)—9

You’ve met most of them in other blog posts. One thing that surprised me, was the very low-keyed weddings these girls had. The three oldest girls married in Chicago—not in Lake County, or the far reaches of Cook County, near their father’s farm in the Riverwoods. Carrie followed her married sister (and her sister’s new brother-in-law!) to Iowa, and got married there. Louisa’s marriage remained a mystery until a new database appeared in 2018, at Ancestry.

Unfortunately, this family emigrated at the absolutely worst time for finding information. They missed the 1880 census. Illinois stopped their state census after the 1865 enumeration. As women, the girls didn’t show up on voters’ lists. City directories were spotty in that time frame, and I’ve had little success finding listings for them. I believe Lizzy and Kate worked in Chicago, since their husbands grew up in the city, but can’t corroborate that.

As difficult as the other girls were to track, Louisa posed even bigger roadblocks. For some reason, she seemed to disconnect from the rest of the family at some point after her marriage. My mom didn’t recall ever meeting her, and Louisa did not attend the 1930 reunion—at least, she wasn’t in the photo. Mom DID recall her mother (a non-Meintzer) commenting at one family gathering, “Well, I see Louisa didn’t make it again.” Louisa not being there was the rule, not the exception.

We had no photos of Louisa until a more recent (1990s) reunion, when we’d caught up with a great-grandson. His wife sent prints of the two photos, below.

“To Sophia Kranz from her Sister Louisa Meintzer.” Chicago, 14 August [18]90. Photo received from a great-grandson. Louisa would have been 4 months shy of her 21st birthday, possibly living and working in Chicago . . . but where?

Back to Louisa’s wedding. She didn’t show up in Cook County or Illinois marriage indexes/databases. Granted, her surname could have been misspelled any number of ways (her sisters’ were!), but no amount of creative searching unearthed a date. I knew she married; I knew her husband’s name (Peter Frank Reynolds), and that she had three children.

Census records teased me with hints:

  • 1900 said she’d been married 8 years (1892?)
  • 1910 said she’d been married 18 years (ditto?)
  • 1930 required math. She was listed as age 60, and was married at age 21. So, 60 minus 21 is 39 years, then subtract that from 1930. 1891? Plus or minus, depending on whether her birthday fell before or after the unknown wedding day.

My mom’s search for Louisa’s descendants for the modern reunions produced a letter from a grandson’s wife. The undated letter said:

“I have Louisa’s wedding band. The name Louisa is engraved on the top of the ring and the date July 4, 1892 engraved on the inside.”

undated letter to Ardyth Meintzer Haws from a granddaughter-in-law, written between 1983 and November 1986

Obtaining a date was wonderful . . . except I still couldn’t find the marriage! Eventually the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marriages, 1838-1911 database came online, with Peter and Louisa’s marriage included.¹ Better, still, the database included images, which provided more details (though no ages) for them, confirming it was the right couple.

Once again, a Meintzer girl ran off to get married out of town! I don’t know if Peter had a car and they drove, or if they rode the train. Train travel between Chicago and Milwaukee was fairly common. It doesn’t really matter, the puzzle of where they married has been solved, corroborating the when we learned from the letter.

Why did she not stay in contact with her siblings? I have idea. Her husband died in 1935, so if it was because he didn’t like the family, she had sixteen unencumbered years after his death, before her death in 1951. I’ll probably never be able to answer that question.

For now, I’ll take the small win of the wedding details!

Louisa Meintzer Reynolds, 14 December 1941. Photo received from a great-grandson. She had been widowd for 6 years at that time.

#52Ancestors


¹”Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marriages, 1838-1911″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 6 June 2020, citing Milwaukee Vital Records, Call Number: 929.3, certificate number 1598. Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Peter REYNOLDS (n.g.) and Louisa MEINTZER (n.g).—

Travel

What a time for this prompt to pop up . . .

The first Meintzer Reunion occurred in 1930. To the best of my knowledge, the next one was in 1983. Fifty years is a big gap! Another one was held the following year, but it became obvious, with family spread out across the county, that yearly reunions would probably dilute attendance. The scheduling shifted to an every two years (sometimes 3) model. The last one occured in 2003.

Aside from the obvious benefits of everyone getting together, from a genealogist’s standpoint, reunions were a goldmine. Not only could I pick the brains of anyone attending, many times those not attending mailed updates back with their negative RSVP. Those updates usually found their way to my hands.

As mentioned other times, one disadvantage of information acquired that way, is that it tends to be piece-meal, and it relies solely on the remembrances of the person providing it. It comes with no documentation. It’s easy to take it at face value, though, and not spend time confiming what you think you know.

That was certainly the case with the branch starting from my grandfather’s oldest half-sister, Elizabeth Meintzer Ahrens. She and her husband lived in Chicago, and had two children older than her youngest brother (my grandfather). Most of Lizzie’s descendants stuck around the Chicago area, but her 3rd youngest (of 8, total), John Robert George Ahrens, uprooted his family mid-life, to travel to Michigan and restart there. A little lake between them and the rest of the family kept them somewhat distant, though his descendants caught up with us due to the reunions. I decided now was the time to confirm the information I had, and flesh out this line better.

John Robert George Ahrens was born 27 September 1896, in Chicago, Illinois.¹ He showed up with his family in the 1900 and 1910² census records. He enlisted in the U. S. Army 5 December 1914 and served until 11 July 1919. Despite having served for 4+ years, he still needed to register³ for the “Old Man’s Draft” during WWII. He was younger than others who needed to register, but war has a way of requiring “all hands on deck,” or at least waiting in the wings, in case they were needed.

After the war, John Robert Ahrens lived at home with his mother in 1920; on his own, with older sister, Laura, and her children sharing his house in 1930; and married, with 3 kids in 1940. Despite having been told a 15 September 1934 marriage date for John and Jean in Chicago, I haven’t located a marriage record for them.

In the years after his military service, John:

  • was a machinist (1920)
  • owned a grocery store (1930)
  • owned a tavern (1940)
  • was employed by Finkl & Company (whoever they happened to be!) (1942)
  • started work with the Chicago and North Western Railroad (September, 1943)

Some time between September 1943 and 2 March 1946 (birth of youngest son, Thomas William (1946-1961)), John packed up and moved his family to Jackson, Michigan. Why? I don’t know. I don’t have records providing that information. We don’t have a lot of contact with that branch, so haven’t heard those stories. John lived until 1983, and Jean until 1996, both buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, in Napoleon, Michigan, sharing a headstone with their son, Thomas.

I have no photos of this family. That’s one of the unfortunate consequences when a branch travels to a different part of the country. And if efforts aren’t made by both sides (the ones who traveled, and the ones who stayed put) to travel to the others, it’s easy to lose the connections we have.

John and Jean’s two older children are still living, so I can’t say much about them. They showed up in school yearbooks on Ancestry, and they (and their descendants) continued to live in Michigan. I’m not sure if any of them have tested DNA, but since we’d be looking at a HALF 2nd cousin or more distant, the amount of DNA gets smaller and smaller, and it’s quite possible we might not share any.

In a bit of genealogy serendipity, as I was researching this family, one of my 2nd cousins sent an email inquiring whether we had family in Michigan. It seems her grandmother had traveled to visit these cousins, so she was trying to verify the information was at least feasible. I was able to confirm the possibility for her, though not the specific trip. It seemed so curious that she would happen to ask about that at a time I was researching that line.

The considerable amount of time needed to find this branch (and John’s siblings, who I didn’t write about) was worth it. Tracking down the census, birth & marriage records wasn’t always easy, but I’ve confirmed information and filled in many blanks. I’m glad I made that effort.

#52Ancestors


¹”Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 15 May 2020, entry for John Robert George AHRENS, 27 September 1896, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” certificate #133, FHL Film 1287998. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

²1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 827; Page 18A; dwelling number 309; family number 325; line 41; John AHRENS household; accessed 19 February 2019. John AHRENS, age 3, Septembr 1896; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 278; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Coo, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 1128; Page 8A; dwelling number 123; family number 150; line 24; John EHRENS [AHRENS] household; accessed 15 May 2020. John EHRENS [AHRENS], age 13; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 270; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³”U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942″, database, (https://www.ancestry.com), John R. AHRENS, serial no. 1780, order no. not given, Draft Board 131, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Illinois. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623284. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 17 May 2020.

Fire

“Burn, baby burn . . .”–Leroy Green & Ron Kersey; “Disco Inferno”

Christoph Jacob Meintzer and Wilhelmina (Minnie) Carolina Christina Moeller married on 27 July 1913.² They are my maternal grandparents. You’ve seen their wedding photo, and you’ve read their courtship postcards, and one sent after marriage. My mom once told me a story about her parents’ marriage certificate—the one they got from the church, not the “legal” one.

Shermerville** in the early 1900s—like many other small towns—didn’t really have trash pickup. At least, that’s what my mom remembered from her childhood. It had a town dump (there’s another story about that, for another day), and everyone had a container in the backyard to burn much of the rest of their trash. I’m not sure if that included things like chicken bones, vegetable scraps, etc., but my mom definitely remembered having a backyard burn pile.

Apparently one day, Minnie was outside with a stack of papers to burn. I don’t know exactly when this was, and I don’t know if my mom remembered seeing it, or just remembered hearing the story from her dad. So I can’t put any kind of date it—not even a ballpark date.

At any rate, Minnie was outside, feeding items into the fire. Christ (remember, short “i,” silent “t”) walks over to see what she’s burning. In the stack was their marriage certificate! Yes, seriously. He was not pleased. She wasn’t mad at him. It was not an indication of how their marriage was going—they ended up being married for almost 45 years when she died. It was just there with the old newspapers, letters, shopping lists, and who knows what else.

Full view of a color copy of the marriage certificate. “Trauschein das Christoph Meintzer aus Deerfield, und Frl. [fraulein] Minnie Moeller aus Shermerville, Ill. am 27 Sept. 191? in Shermerville in Gegenwart der Zeugen Karl Mau, Lillie Moeller; Ehelich verbunden; worden und wird hierdurch glaubwürdig bezeugt; Shermerville den 2te Juli 1915.” Translation: “Marriage Certificate; that Christoph Meintzer from Deerfield, Illinois and Miss Minnie Moeller from Shermerville, Ill; on 27 Sept. 191? In the presence of the witnesses Karl Mau, Lillie Moeller; Married and is hereby credibly attested, Shermerville, the 2nd July 1915; F. Schaer, Pastor.

When he asked her why she was going to burn it, Minnie’s explanation was along the lines of, “Everyone knows we are married—we don’t need to keep this.” Maybe she was doing a spring or fall cleaning, and it just seemed like clutter to her. She wanted it out of whatever drawer it was in.

Arguably, she was correct. Shermerville was a small town, and they had no need to “prove” they were married. That was beside the point. Alas, the marriage certificate has no burn or scorch marks on it. There was no dramatic “saving it from the flames with a stick,” to make the story more exciting. I think Christ told her to keep it anyway. She obviously did, and presumably it never came up as an issue, again.

If you zoom in a bit, you might notice the lines left by the fold marks—even through the foil seal at the bottom. I count at least 6 horizontally. I’m not quite sure how it was stored to end up creased like that. Maybe it had been rolled, but then had stuff on top of it to make looser creases, instead of firm folds? The original was elsewhere, and wasn’t at my disposal when I made these images. It certainly could have suffered a far worse fate, so I’ll settle for a few creases/fold lines!

Closeup of the section with their information. Transcription and translation are under image above. The full certificate measures 10 3/4″ x 15″ .

As I pulled out my photocopy (stored flat!) to take the photo, I noticed the bottom date was 2 July 1915. Say what?? Further inspection of the date above that (the marriage date) showed the last digit of the year clearly had issues! It looked like a “5” that had been doctored/corrected. Obviously Christ & Minnie did not receive this certificate at the time they married! All the other records we have for their marriage used the 27 September 1913 date:

  • St. Peter’s church registers¹ [which I viewed in person, but don’t have an image of]
  • Cook County marriage index²
  • Minnie’s wedding ring (below)
Minnie Moeller Meintzer’s 18K gold wedding ring. The full inscription reads, “C. J. M to M. C. M 9-27-13.”

So, what happened in 1915, triggering a delayed creation of this certificate? I have no idea. They must have needed a copy of it for some reason, but it’s a mystery. St. Peter’s Church was the German Evangelical church Minnie attended with her family, but the church was undergoing changes in the 1910s. According to Northbrook, Illinois: The Fabric of Our History,

“The congregation remained independent until 1912, when it joined the Evangelical Synod of North America, a denomination with a German background which attempted to bring together the Lutheran and Reformed traditions. Services were conducted in German until 1920.”

Gerry and Janet Souter, Northbrook, Illinois: The Fabric of our History (Northbrook, Illinois: The Northbrook Historical Society and the Northbrook Centennial 2001 Committee, 2000), p. 86.

My mom only remembered attending services at the Presbyterian church, not St. Peter’s. Did Christ and Minnie switch over to the Presbyterian church in July 1915, and need to bring their new pastor proof of their marriage? Did they need the document for some other reason? It must have been copied from the parish register 2 July 1915, and it seems the pastor (or clerk) mistakenly wrote the current year instead of the marriage year for the marriage date—and then tried to correct it. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me.

Of course, that got me curious about the pastor who signed it: F. Schaer. Was he leading that congregation when they got married (1913), or had he arrived later? I couldn’t locate him at all in 1910—not even with a page-by-page search of the township. His previous church was in Wisconsin, so he may have been there. He and his family were in Shermerville in 19205 (and obviously 1915!). He (Frederick) and his wife, Julia, are buried in Saint Peter Cemetery (Old), according to Find-a-Grave. His memorial is fairly basic, but hers³ included a transcription from a church memorium.

It said Rev. Schaer was pastor at St. Peter’s for twelve years, retiring to Oregon after that. The specific year range wasn’t included, nor was his retirement date. He and his wife both died in Oregon, but had their remains returned to Northbrook (formerly Shermerville) for burial.

Unable to nail down dates using other sources, I turned to Newspapers.com looking for mentions of Rev. Schaer. There were always local church news columns! I found blurbs annoucing their post-retirement visits back to the area. Two sons remained in Northbrook, so that made sense. When I focused on 1913-1915, I found him mentioned at the top of the 3 October 1913 “Shermerville” column, which also mentioned my grandparents’ marriage the previous Saturday (below):4

Minnie’s surname was misspelled: it should be MOELLER. There was a Mueller family in town—in fact, her sister was married to one! This doesn’t mention which church or pastor.

A week after he married them, Rev. Schaer headed off on a “land excursion to Arizona.” I also found newspaper articles referring to him in early 1912, so I feel confident he was serving that congregation when Christ & Minnie got married. To confirm he officiated, I’ll need to acquire their Cook County Marriage License, with the “return” section filled in, or see if I can view the St. Peter’s register and get a copy this time. The church recently merged with another nearby congregation, so tracking down that register (and getting access to it) may be difficult. But it seems likely Rev. Schaer was the one to marry them and finally provide a church certificate documenting that, two years later.

Why did I bother tracking Rev. Schaer? He played only a small role in my grandparents’ story.

  • a good portion of this blog had been created for a previous prompt, but then deferred until later (now!).
  • I had more time available than I sometimes do (Thank you, COVID-19!).
  • I had reinstated my Ancestry subscription, so had additional resources

I hoped rooting around Rev. Schaer’s time in Shermerville might shed a light on why my grandparents’ church marriage certficate was created late. It didn’t, unfortunately. It might have, though, and if I didn’t look, I’d never know. One side effect of this type of scavenger hunt (calling it a “rabbit hole” or “Bright Shiny Object” isn’t really accurate), is taking the time to recheck facts. Sometimes it turns up information I’d forgotten about, or that didn’t make sense at the time I first came across it.

Oftentimes information doesn’t have meaning because we don’t know enough to understand how it fits in. In this case, I spent time in the Northbrook Centennial book, confirming names, dates, and places. In doing so, I stumbled across a section of an 1875 plat map I’d never noticed. A surname caught my eye: Jonas. Minnie’s mother’s maiden name was Elfrieda Jonas. I don’t have information about other relatives Elfrieda may have had outside of Germany, but it seems too coincidental to find one in this area ten years before Elfrieda shows up. That’s a lead I should probably follow up on, to see if that landowner is related to Elfrieda. Maybe it’s nothing, but I won’t know until I check. And I think I need to actually sit down with that book and read it cover-to-cover. I think it has more information than I realized.

Sometimes while researching we turn up grubs and pill bugs, sometimes we unearth truffles. We never know which it’s going to be!

**Remember, the town was called Shermerville from 18 November 1901 until 1 February 1923, and Northbrook after that. I used the name appropriate to the time period being talked about, so you will see both names, throughout. Please don’t be confused!

#52Ancestors


¹St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church records (1879-1920), St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Willow Road, Northbrook, Cook, Illinois, p. 38.

²”Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org), accessed 29 March 2019, citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, reference 642445, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,030,556. Christoph MEINTZER (25) and Minnie MOELLER (20).

³Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 11 April 2020, memorial 25480803, Julia SCHAER, (1858-1944), Saint Peter Cemetery (Old), Northbrook, Cook, Illinois, photo credit L Winslow.

4“Shermerville,” 3 October 1913, Newspapers.com: accessed 11 April 2020, record number: n.g.; citing original p. 1 col. 5 para. 15, entry for Mr. Christ MEINTZER, Miss Minnie MUELLER [MOELLER], The Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 137; Page 15A; dwelling number 296; family number 296; line 11; Fred SCHAER household; accessed 11 April 2020. Fred SCHAER, age 68; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Strong Woman

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”-– Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m not sure my mom’s cousin, Jeanne Emily Meintzer, necessarily got into much hot water, but I feel she had a quiet strength supporting her through the more difficult times in her life. At the time of her death, 7 August 2019, she (along with my mom and uncle) was one of the last three grandchildren of Christian Meintzer. Now only one remains.

Jeanne was the 6th child (of eventually 7) of my grandfather’s older brother, George Edward Meintzer. You met Jeanne briefly in 2018, when her wedding became the backdrop for a story, and her father, my Uncle Ed (he used his middle name), in Next to Last. Two months after her 18 January 1924 birth, Jeanne already made the front page news:

Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Meintzer and family spent Sunday with the Henry Therrien family, after dinner the baby was babtized [sic] at the St. Norbert’s church—”Jeanne Emily.” A very pleasant day was spent which was enjoyed by both families.

“Northbrook,” 21 March 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 5 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, column 2, paragraph 4, Cook County Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

For the record, Jeanne spelled and pronounced her name the French way, one syllable. I didn’t actually know her preference until recently, but I’d always heard my mom call her “Jeannie,” with 2 syllables (like I Dream of). Was Mom was pronoucing it correctly, or just using a nickname form? So while emailing one of Jeanne’s daughters this week, I asked how how her mom pronounced it. It was an easy question, with a definitive answer. Mystery solved! It made perfect sense, because Jeanne’s maternal grandparents had Canadian connections and French-sounding surnames.

Jeanne’s family lived in Northbrook, down the street (1419 Shermer) from my mom’s house (1709 Shermer) when the kids were young. The families attended different churches, so may have had somewhat different circles of friends. Nevertheless, Northbrook was a small town, and everyone knew one another. The girls continuted to keep in contact into their 90s.

Despite her stint on the front page as a newborn, Jeanne’s birth occurred during a difficult time for the family. The family came down with diptheria, requiring an extended quarantine:

The Ed Meintzer family are out of quarantine. The children have returned to school. They sure were anxious to go, after missing almost two months. The little baby, who had been staying with the Holstrom family several days, is now staying with Mrs. Geo. Melzer, Mrs. Meintzer’s sister.

“Northbrook,” 29 February 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, column 1, paragraph 4, Cook County Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Three paragraphs later was an additional note, “Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Meintzer wish to express their most sincere thanks and appreciation to neighbors and friends for kindness and flowers during their recent sickness and bereavement.”

Yes, a death occurred while they were quarantined. Plotting it on a timeline:

  • They started getting sick in early January (they were quarantined for almost 2 months) with diptheria.
  • Annie DesLauries Meintzer gave birth to Jeanne the 18th of January, so, not long after the quarantine started. Did she remain at home? Or had she relocated to a sister’s or neighbor’s house, to prevent exposure for herself and the baby? We don’t exactly know, though we were told the baby stayed with Holstroms for several days and then moved to the Melzer house (her aunt).
  • 9 February, Bernard Harry Meintzer died, due to membramous Laryngitis diptheritic. He was 4 years, almost 3 months old. His twin sister, Bernice Harriet, survived.
  • Bernard was buried 2 days later. Were his parents and siblings even allowed to attend the funeral? I would think not.
  • By 29 February, the kids have returned to school, but Jeanne still was not home. Why was that? Did the house need disinfecting?

Obviously Jeanne would not remember Bernard. He barely had a chance to know about her, and with the quarantine, I’m not sure he ever saw her in person! Jeanne’s daughter mentioned, though, that he would say her name with 2 syllables, so he knew he had a baby sister. Are there more details to this story? Possibly. I found these news blurbs with a search at Newspapers.com, but I’m inclined to go back and read each day’s paper page-by-page during the 6-8 weeks all this happened, looking for more information.

Did Jeanne’s birth coinciding with a very sad time in her family’s history affect her as an adult? A kid isn’t likely to connect the events together, but an adult is likely to notice, eventually. Did that dampen her birthday celebrations? Or did she make an effort to remember that older brother who died too young?

Time moved along and family life returned to normal, with weekend car trips, and vaccinations (below). Jeanne was only 3, so didn’t end up missing school, but what about her brothers? Delore was 17 at the time, and Harold was 13. Were they vaccinated earlier? What vaccine? It was way too early for polio, and not many other vaccines were available, yet.

Mr. and Mrs. Ed Meintzer and children motored to Elgin in company with Mr. Eck and his sisters. A pleasant trip is reported. . . . Helen Meintzer and her sister, Bernice, have missed several days from scho0l 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,” 1 April 1927, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

On 24 July 1936, 12-year-old Jeanne’s world changed forever. Her mother died of a sudden heart attack. An event like that would have accelerated the growing up process. Jeanne probably acquired more responsibilities for herself, and for her sister, Patsy, 8 years old. The 1940 census showed the three youngest—Bernice, Jeanne, and Patsy—as the only children still at home with Dad. Jeanne was 16, with three years of high school completed.

I thought I knew the rest of her story. She and Vincent J. White married 14 September 1946. They went on to have 6 children. It seemed to be a pretty typical post-WWII story. Then one day I discovered an email one of her nieces wrote to a distantly-related (3rd cousin, twice removed!) cousin, after he posted it on his family web page. According to her, Jeanne was engaged to an Army pilot, Wayne, who was shot down over Germany, and died.

Jeanne’s daughters confirmed that story, and even scrounged up his last name from old memories: Wayne Nelson. Research conducted this week didn’t turn up any more information about him. I did not find a likely candidate in the 1940 census, or in the WWII Army Enlistment database. I found a vague reference to a Wayne Nelson in a Jacksonville, Florida, news article, but without other identifiers, it could easily be a different Wayne.

What a blow that must have been to Jeanne! Certainly she wasn’t the only young woman to lose a boyfriend, fiance, or husband to the war, but that didn’t make it any easier. Another day, while searching for Meintzers at Fold3, I came across a record for her! It was from the Cadet Nurse Corps Files, and showed she entered the program at the Evanston Hospital of Nursing on 6 January 1944, and exited “without default” 8 January 1945. The local news column confirmed that enrollment:

Miss Jeanne Meintzer has entered the nurse training course at the Evanston hospital.

“Northbrook,” 14 January 1944, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 14, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Her daughter knew about the nursing school, and told me, “she went a second time to nursing school but then met my dad so she never finished.” Is this card from the first or second time? I’m inclined to think second, since she and Vincent got married about a year and a half later. Was the first time right after high school? Did she drop that training due to Wayne’s death? I don’t know—there was only one card for her in the database.

Lastly, Jeanne’s husband, Vincent White, died 20 December 1980, when she was only 56 years old. Jeanne lived to 95, and never remarried. She ended up spending more years as a widow than she had as a wife. That can’t have been particularly easy.

Jeanne lived a full life, but had her fair share of difficulties and challenges to get through. Yet I never saw her when she wasn’t positive—not even in her 90s, when physical limitations started to crop up. When Mom and I stopped by her house during a Chicago-area road trip, Jeanne was always glad to see us, and I don’t recall hearing her complain. That takes a special kind of strength.

#52Ancestors

Favorite Photo

“Keep the Home Fires Burning”–Lena Guilbert Ford

Growing up, the upstairs hall closet contained a hodgepodge of curious items. Dad’s Navy trunk was there. I have no idea what was in it; it surely wasn’t empty! A black, weighted silk, short cape (with a lot of ruffles) belonging to Mom’s Aunt Lizzie (Elizabeth Meintzer Ahrens) hung there, covered by a dry cleaning bag. It was later donated to the Northbrook Historical Society. Boxes of old photos (that never came down) were on the top shelf.

Also on the shelf was another dry cleaning bag. This one contained brown, dry grass, curved around in a fish hook shape. It was always the top item, so would come down occasionally, for easier access to items below. Mom told me it was the grass skirt Dad sent her when he was in the South Pacific.

It sure didn’t look like the grass skirts I saw on Hawaii Five-O each week! It was down-right threadbare. Or grass-bare? I once asked about using it for a Halloween costume, and was summarily denied. Of course, dressing in a grass skirt in October in Chicago, isn’t necessarily the best plan, anyway.

Eventually I saw photos of Mom posing in the grass skirt. They would have been squirrelled away in those untouched boxes. My first impression (after my initial shock!) was that they were all essentially the same. No so. More about that later.

Now, before we get the censors all up in my face, complaining, Mom is wearing a swimsuit bottom or short shorts, under the skirt, and a scarf or midriff top on top. No need to panic or cover the kids’ eyes . . .

When my dad enlisted in the Navy in August, 1942, he and Mom were a hot item. They’d been dating a while, and had exchanged lover’s knot “promise rings.” They weren’t actually engaged, but were darn close.

Mom was all for getting married before he finally shipped overseas (basic training was pretty close to home, at Great Lakes Naval Station), but Dad didn’t agree. Not knowing where he’d be shipped to, or what might happen to him, he didn’t want her left a widow, possibly with a child to raise.

Dad was probably right, because fertility didn’t end up being an issue for my mom. After they married, she gave birth to three children in 2 years and 5 months, my sister arriving 14 months after they wedding. Would she have gotten pregnant right away if they had married earlier? Maybe not, but who knows?

Nor did they advance to an official engagement before he left. Dad didn’t think it was fair for her to be tied down (Northbrook was a small town, where everyone knew everyone!), while he was off, who knows where, pretty much unaccountable to anyone. They still had their promise rings, so letters and photos flew back and forth between them.

Dad also sent trinkets back; cowrie shells, and of course, The Grass Skirt. I don’t remember hearing my Mom’s reaction to its arrival, but obviously she realized should send a photo back, wearing it. She certainly didn’t want Bob to forget about her, 8000 miles away!

This first photo was probably taken at home, in her backyard. Mom is wearing shoes, and has a flower in her hair. Even if the photo was taken by one of her friends, her parents would have been close by, not to mention neighbors peeking through windows. She looks a little embarrassed, to me, at least. Or maybe the sun was just in her eyes.

Ardyth Meintzer, in the grass skirt sent to her by her boyfriend, Robert W. Haws, when he was stationed on Vanuatu. There’s a flower in her hair, and everything!

On the other hand, the two photos below were taken at a different time and place. She was at the summer cottage of the parents of her friend, Eleanor Wold. Ardyth and Eleanor were childhood friends, Eleanor’s father being a local pastor. The family moved to Ohio about the time Eleanor was going to attend Ohio State University. At least one summer Ardyth spent her vacation visiting the cabin/cottage Eleanor’s parents owned or rented. There is an entire collection of photos of the two girls, with that fencing somewhere in it.

I imagine Eleanor is taking the photo, and Ardyth is certainly vamping it up—definitely up at least one notch from the earlier photo! I question whether Ardyth’s parents saw these photos get mailed. Would she have even developed them at home? Personally, I would have developed them in Ohio, where no one knew me!

These photos are among the few things we have from that time period. All their wartime correspondence is gone. My dad made Mom throw out all his letters when they got married. He didn’t want her holding over his head any promises he’d made in the throes of courting. I’m reasonably sure he made good on all of them, eventually; he just didn’t want her griping about the speed or timing!I also wonder a bit about those Haws boys. Not only did my dad send a grass skirt home to his girlfriend, but so did his older brother, Henry—to his WIFE! They had a one year old son. Heavens, WHAT was he thinking?? I don’t have access to those photos, however. How many other grass skirts were shipped to the US during WWII? How many still lurk in closets or attics? Who can say?

Mom’s grass skirt is still up in my closet, while I try to decide whether or not to keep it. Its storage environment is horrible. Seriously? Dry cleaning bag? That’s about as bad as it gets. To keep it, I really should conserve it in some way. Can I straighten it? How? Then what? Mount it in a shadow box, for display? It’s pretty scrawny-looking. Does anyone even want to see it? Or store it? Questions with unknown answers.

Until I can decide, it remains where it is. But I’m quickly approaching the fork in the road where I need to make a decision.

#52Ancestors

Craft

Row, row, row your boat . . .

While everyone else is thinking artistically this week, I am outside the box once again, writing about watercraft. We didn’t live near the ocean, or have a summer cottage on one of the many Wisconsin lakes within an easy drive of the Chicago suburbs. Dad didn’t own a bass boat, sail boat, speed boat, or a spiffy yacht docked at one of the marinas on Lake Michigan.

He had a rowboat. Well, actually, it also had an outboard motor, so I guess it was a step up from a rowboat.

I was pretty young (under age 5, I believe) when we used it, so my memories are a bit fuzzy. I don’t recall if it was wood or aluminum, or how many seats it had (I think there were 3). What I mostly remember is that it was named the Carole Ann, after my sister. I always felt a little put out that she had a boat named after her, and I didn’t, but that was just me being an unreasonable child. For the 50 weeks of the year we weren’t on vacation, the boat leaned up against the shed (former chicken coop) at the very back of our yard.

I emailed my brothers, Warren & Bill, to see what they remembered. Warren (10 years older) confirmed it was aluminum, and said we didn’t have it until we had the trailer (1958). He also said Dad still owned the motor (and presumably, the boat) in 1970, though both brothers agreed it never traveled to the Door County, Wisconsin, vacations prior to that—just to Minnesota. They also agreed that Dad must have sold it, eventually, since it was still usable.

Taking it on vacation meant hoisting it onto the roof rack of the car and tying it down so it it didn’t shift while driving, stopping, or turning. Warren described it this way:

I remember that we leaned the boat against the longitudinal bar (on the top of the car) from the side of the car. This bar may have been a roller bar. The boat was then slid/rolled to the top of the car and then rotated 90 degrees so the bow of the boat was over the hood of the car. The bow was tied to the bumper of the car. The back may have been tied to the back bumper and the sides may have been tied to the car top carrier. I do not remember those details. 

Warren Haws, to Christine Bauman, e-mail, 7 December 2019, Dad’s Rowboat. Bauman Email Files; privately held by Christine Haws Bauman, Greenwood, Indiana.
Undated photo of the 1960 Country Sedan station wagon hooked up to the trailer, with our boat strapped to the top of the car. The front license plate isn’t clear enough to provide a year. This would have been the night before we were leaving on vacation in early July of whatever year it was. Hooking up the trailer could take a little time, lining vehicles up and checking the lights. It always took longer, when you were in a hurry! So if we needed an early start, Dad would do that the night before. In the morning, we just had to pile into the car and pull out. You can see the trailer step still down and the door open, for the last of the food and clothes to be loaded inside.

You can see the rope in front, anchoring the boat to the bumper (back when bumpers were made of metal, not plastic!). The others ropes aren’t visible, but I’m sure they were there.

Our trips to Scenic State Park, near Bigfork, Minnesota, involved a fair amount of fishing. The boat couldn’t hold all of us, so we rotated. I doubt Mom was ever in it. She didn’t swim, so going in a rowboat would not have been high on her vacation to-do list! As the youngest, I spent the least time in it, because:

  • I wasn’t much of a fisherman at 3 or 4
  • I wouldn’t have the patience to sit still for very long
  • I’m positive I wouldn’t have kept quiet enough!

I do remember going out on the lake, though, especially the time when I caught my first fish. I was so excited! It was a small sunfish or bluegill, and Dad probably filleted and cooked it up specifically for me for dinner that night.

Except, it was a fake. Well, the fish was real; catching it wasn’t.

Apparently I’d been frustrated and upset about not catching any fish on that and prior outings. So while my line was in the water, whichever sibling was also in the boat distracted me. That gave Dad enough time to carefully hook a fish already caught onto my hook, so I could “catch” it.

It’s kind of like the time(s) you let a little kid win the board game by playing poorly, or outright cheating against yourself. I was clueless, of course, until many years later when a sibing spilled the beans. By then, I had caught plenty of fish on my own, so it was only a slight ego blow.

Possibly the last vacation for the Carole Ann was when I was 5 or 6. My dad took his father and father-in-law on a 1- or 2-week fishing trip. The rest of us stayed home, because my older siblings all had summer jobs they needed, earning money for college. Mom stayed home with all of us, and Dad drove the 3 of them up, with the trailer and boat, probably to Minnesota. Both my grandfathers were in their 70s, so Dad ended up doing all the cooking, dish washing, and fish-cleaning. It wasn’t much of a “vacation” for him!

Photo from July, 1963 or 1964. Ed Haws, Christoph Meintzer, Robert Haws, with the day’s catch (and dinner for that night!).

No, the boat isn’t in this photo, but it undoubtedly figured into that impressive stringer of fish . . .

Our rowboat (with its outboard motor) wasn’t the most impressive watercraft, and wasn’t in our lives very long, but it provided a lot of fun and memories to three generations of fishermen.

#52Ancestors

Soldier

“Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards, every one.”–Pete Seeger

In trying to choose which soldier (or military person) to write about, I decided to go for a Meintzer Trifecta, and pick one of the Kranz cousins. Unfortunately, travel limited my sources of information, and I wasn’t *quite* sure if Glenn Dale Kranz (a Rondout Kranz cousin), had died in the service, or just died in 1945, unrelated to WWII.

So I switched gears and looked at the family of my half grandaunt, Catherine (Kate) Meintzer Warren. Kate’s daughter, Mabel (1895-1973), married Frank E. Krenek (born 3 October 1889, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio). They married in Cuyahoga County 5 July 1911, and had 2 sons, Walter Roy (b. 1912), and Robert.

Frank became a soldier in WWI, leaving Mabel at home in South Haven, Michigan (on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan) with at least one, maybe 2 young boys.

He’s listed on a Europe-bound transport at Fold3, showing him leaving Hoboken, New Jersey on the Kroonland, 15 June 1918, service number 822037 . He returned from Europe after 19 April 1919, sailing from Pauillac, France, on the Canonicus, heading back to Mabel, now living in Chicago, at 6927 Solinin Street. It took almost 2 weeks before they arrived in Brooklyn, New York.

Much of Frank’s time in Europe is a mystery. He was a member of the Park Battery A , Army Artillery Park, 1st Army. My mom remembered hearing from her parents that he had been gassed during the war, and was never quite right, afterwards.

Mustard gas, of course, was the high tech weapon of that era. Its primary consequences were physical, with soldiers exposed to it experienced symptoms of:

  • eye irritation/burning
  • itchy skin that then developed yellow blisters
  • runny nose, hoarse throat, shortness of breath, coughing
  • abdominal pin, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting

Which symptoms, and their severity, probably depended on the individual, and how long (or concentrated) the exposure was. The other major injury was “shell shock.” That was the term used before it converted to PTSD.

Some time after the war, when Walter was an adult, Frank apparently took off. No one knew where he was or how to find him, but one day Mabel received a phone call from police out west, I believe. Frank had been picked up, not in trouble, particularly, but disoriented and confused. He was able to give them Mabel’s phone number, though.

Walter went to retrieve his father (Car? Train?), because the officers didn’t want to release him, fearing he wouldn’t get back home.

I don’t know how that trip went, or exactly when it was, but in the 1940 census, Frank resided in the Veterans’ Hospital in Shields Township. My guess is that was a result of his “road trip.” Why did the gas exposure story get passed down and the shell shock (assuming that’s accurate) not? Who knows? Maybe being “gassed” was a more concrete idea for people than “shell shock.”

The 1930 census placed Frank, Mabel, and Walter in a rental house in Cicero (southside). By 1935, a city directory moved Frank and Mabel to 721 Jenkinson Court, in Waukegan (a northern Chicago suburb). That agreed with the 1940 census which claimed he lived in Chicago in 1935. That probably narrows down the roadtrip to between 1935 and 1940.

I do not have information from family members about his death. The U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006 database at Ancestry has an entry for Frank E. Krenek, which matched his information on his service unit. It shows Frank died 10 March 1963, and was buried in the Wood National Cemetery, in Milwaukee.

#52Ancestors


Briggs, Josh. 2008. “How Mustard Gas Works”. Howstuffworks. https://science.howstuffworks.com/mustard-gas3.htm. Accessed 24 November 2019.

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).