At the Cemetery

“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and
epitaphs.”―William Shakespeare, Richard II

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Any genealogist worth his or her salt has accumulated an extensive collection of cemeteries. We spend an inordinate amount of time traipsing around them, searching for the names, birth and death dates, spouses and children of our elusive relatives. We come out with ticks; flea, chigger, and mosquito bites; twisted ankles; sunburn; poison ivy (if we are really unlucky); and dirty fingernails from pulling back the grass from the headstones so we can photograph them.

Despite all the energy expended, we don’t necessarily find the information we were hoping for! Sometimes the headstone is missing—or so worn it may as well be gone. Sometimes the people aren’t actually there. No, we don’t always know where the bodies are buried! Sometimes the headstone is there . . . and also in another cemetery . . . because the family couldn’t quite decide/agree about where the person should be buried.

Cemeteries come in all shapes and sizes, but they tend to have their own personalities, too. That’s mostly a function of how old it is, where in the country it is located, and the type of headstones or monuments placed in it. An above ground cemetery in New Orleans feels much different than a colonial cemetery in Massachusetts, or a prairie cemetery in Illinois. One isn’t necessarily better or worse—just different!

Then there are cemeteries with split personalities. You know, the ones parked right next to each other, pretending to be two cemeteries, but you know deep down it’s really just one cemetery with two different halves. It’s a lot like your college dorm room with the roommate you barely got along with. There may not have been masking tape down the middle of the floor, but there may as well have been. One half was “yours” and the other half wasn’t—and you really needed to stay off that side!

I have one of those cemeteries in my family; Mooney/St. Mary on  Ridge Road, Highland Park, Illinois, just north of Deerfield Road. In Chicagoland, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a “St. Mary Cemetery” somewhere. Unless you are very careful to distinguish one from the other, people will be confused about which one you mean. Even though Mooney/St. Mary is across the county line, in Lake County, it’s close enough that you still want to be careful. Consequently, one usually hears the combined name used.

St. Mary is obviously a Catholic cemetery; Mooney is not. I have people buried in both. Each has a road that loops into the cemetery and back to Ridge Road. The two loops aren’t connected, but there’s also no fence separating the two properties. I learned about them in the mid-late 1970s, and have been there several times, though my first photos weren’t taken until October, 1996. On the St. Mary side, I have:

  • Stephen Charles Meintzer, second cousin, a twin who died at birth on 5 January 1947. He’s on a headstone with his parents (my godparents)
  • Willard Charles Meintzer, Mom’s cousin, 12 September 1922-6 November 1981  and
  • Lois E. Palmer Meintzer, 20 July 1923-12 September 2004.
Willard Charles Meintzer, 12 September 1922-6 November 1981; his wife, Lois E. Palmer Meintzer, 20 July 1923-12 September 2004; one of their twins, Stephen Charles Meintzer, died at birth, 5 January 1947. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Heading over to the Mooney side, we find:

  • Jacob Meintzer, (Willard’s father) 12 February 1876-24 August 1949 (Bearded and Nature)
  • Caroline Frances Trute Meintzer, (Willard’s mother) January or March 1886-9 October 1929    and their 2nd youngest son
  • Lowell H. Meintzer, April 1914-8 February 1939, in California, from TB
Jacob Meintzer, 1876-1949; and wife, Caroline Trute Meintzer, 1886-1929. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.
Lowell H. Meintzer, 1914-1939; son of Jacob & Carrie. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Along with Jacob’s oldest sister, 

  • Sophie Meintzer Kranz (Valentine), 3 May 1868-12 December 1963, her husband
  • Edward M. Kranz, 1 February 1855-23 March 1939, and one of their sons
  • August Albert Kranz, 17 June 1899-16 June 1999 (yes, the day before his 100th birthday!)
Edward Kranz, 1855-1939; wife Sophie Meintzer Kranz, 1868-1963; son August, 1899-1999. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

And another sister,

  • Carolina Meintzer Kranz, 20 January 1872-20 February 1965, her husband (Edward’s brother)
  • Adam Henry Kranz (In the News), 1 April 1863-2 April 1955
Adam Henry Kranz, 1864-1955; and wife Carolina Meintzer, 1872-1965. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Lastly, we find the parents of the three of them

  • Christian Meintzer (Colorful), 3 April 1830-28 January 1922 and
  • Sophia Gaertner Meintzer (My Favorite Photo), 17 August 1842-7 September 1913
Christian Meinzter, 3 April 1830-28 January 1922, next to wife. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.
Sophia Gaertner Meintzer, 16 September 1842-7 September 1913. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Even when we think we know where our people are buried, cemeteries like to surprise us! When Lois (my godmother) died in 2004, I was at a point in life where I could actually get up to a funeral with minimum disruption to our household. Mike ran point on parenting the children still at home, and I drove up to my parents’ house. My cousin Janice (who lived closer, but had younger kids) was at Lois’s Funeral Mass with her young daughter, and went to St. Mary Cemetery for the graveside service.

We chatted a bit after the service, and I casually mentioned that our great-grandparents, Christian & Sophia, were buried in the “other” cemetery. Janice had no idea, so we decided to walk over so she could see. There’s no fence separating the two cemeteries, remember? We found the headstones easily enough, and I was explaining that Aunt Sophie & Aunt Carrie were also nearby. As I did a sweeping motion and turn to indicate they were “somewhere over there,” my eyes landed on Catharine Smith—Aunt Kate (Favorite Name)—on the other side of the drive. Surprise!

“Oh, look! Here’s Aunt Kate. I didn’t know she was here, too!” Granted, “Catharine Smith”¹ isn’t the most unusual name in the world, but fortunately her second husband was named Morton—far less common! Even without having her birth and death dates handy, I knew it was her.

Catharine Meintzer Warren Smith, 11 March 1865-29 April 1949 and 2nd husband Morton N. Smith, 6 November 1865-15 June 1930. Photo credit L. Winslow on Find A Grave.¹

Just like people, cemeteries have histories, too. As I was writing this, I got to wondering about the two cemeteries; how they started and how they are related, since they are literally “joined at the hip.”

Mooney Cemetery started in 1899,² when the old St. Mary’s of the Woods church (near Green Bay and Lincoln), and the churchyard around it, were sold for development. The church was abandoned when the congregation relocated in 1872, and no one was really keeping up the cemetery. With the property sale, remains had to be removed and relocated. John Mooney retrieved the remains of his father (James, who died in the 1850s) and other family members, and reinterred them on a section of his land on Ridge Road. He allowed others to add their family members. Mooney Cemetery was born. The land was officially surveyed in 1907.

A similar plat map was created for St. Mary Cemetery in 1908, when John Mooney transferred land south of Mooney Cemetery to the Archdiocese of  Chicago, retaining Mooney as a private cemetery. It remained private until 1960, when Cecilia Zahnle Mooney deeded the property to Deerfield Township (now Moraine Township).

Apparently, the record-keeping for Mooney was a bit of a mess. It consisted of typed index cards (undated), with notes overwritten (undated), sometimes with a contradictory index card (ALSO undated!). The original plot sales were recorded at the county seat (Waukegan), but later transfers were not. Attempts in the past to confirm grave locations and ownership had questionable success, and lots sold more recently have sometimes had to be reassigned when it was discovered they were already occupied!

The grave markers don’t necessarily provide much help, either. Tombstones (if present) were haphazardly placed—sometimes at the head of the grave, sometimes at the foot, and not always exactly lined up with the grave. For new burials, they use a special rod to determine if a vault is already below the grave they intend to use. During the winter that process can take all day—undoubtedly due to frozen ground.

A Winter 2010 Township Newsletter asked residents to bring in original deeds, so the records could be updated with hopefully more accurate information. By the Summer Issue 2010,³ they were talking about bringing in an expert to examine the property (ground-penetrating radar?) to determine what was going on beneath the surface.

I couldn’t locate any later articles to see what the results were,  but they seem to be making an effort to straighten out the burial records. Both cemeteries seem nicely kept up, so I’m happy some family members are there. I’m also glad I took a little time to find out more about both cemeteries. It’s nice to know the backstory of people’s final resting place.

#52Ancestors

Note: St. Mary is managed by the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Cemeteries. On that website, it is listed as “St. Mary.” If you look at Find A Grave, they list it as “St. Marys” (no apostrophe). Other writers may add in an apostrophe. I chose to use the spelling of the Archdiocese, which is consistent with the name chiseled on the rock at the cemetery entrance (viewable in Google Maps street view)—which isn’t necessarily an old marker! Even if others weren’t consistent, I wanted to be.


¹Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 1 June 2019, memorial 23770538, Catharine SMITH, (1865-1949), Mooney Cemetery, Highland Park, Lake, Illinois.

²”Mooney,” Talk of the Township, Winter Issue 2010, online posting of article at the Moraine Township, Illinois web site. (https://www.morainetownship.org/super/CemMooney_article.html)

³”Mooney,” Talk of the Township, Summer Issue 2010, online posting of article at the Moraine Township, Illinois web site. (https://www.morainetownship.org/super/CemMooney_article.html)

Nature

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”—Albert Einstein

When my grandfather, Christoph Meintzer (Storms), was born in the Riverwoods, in 1888, his parents’ Lake County, Illinois (Vernon Township), farm house was situated on a road (lane?) angling northwest just north of the intersection of Deerfield and Saunders Roads. The last census (1910) when the family lived there did not show a street name or address, as I’m sure all the nearby properties were farms. It is now named Riverwoods Road.

In the late 1970s or early 1980s, my mom drove me past Christoph’s childhood home—visible from the road. It was easy enough to find, despite Mom not knowing the road name or house address, because she remembered it being just down the road from the Orphans of the Storm animal shelter. That shelter opened in 1928, and she remembered it when her father would drive them to his old house.

I now regret not turning into the driveway or pulling over to snap a photograph, because it appears the house has since then been torn down and replaced by a newer home. I have only two photographs with the house faintly in the background. Extended cousins, if you have a better photo of Christian & Sophia’s house, I’d be delighted to have a copy!

When my grandfather was growing up, there were woods in front (south) of the house. Presumably he played there after chores were done, and honed his hunting skills when he was older, adding squirrels or other game to the family’s table. The Des Plaines River was two miles away, providing an excellent fishing spot. One way or another, most aspects of his life were tied to nature.

How do I “know” any of this, since he died when I was eight? Trust me, I recall no conversations with him about those topics! Yet he left a trail of seemingly random bread crumbs that help paint a picture of him, if we pay attention.

His love of fishing was legendary, and I have numerous photos of him holding a stringer of fish. According to Uncle Gail’s information when I was researching the postcard from Arkansas (So Far Away), his dad sometimes traveled to Arkansas to fish!

Christoph Meintzer (right), his son, Gail, and the catch of the day. My dad snapped this photo, taken between 1957 and 1964, somewhere near Green Bay. Minnie died in the summer of 1958, so if Gail is correct in remembering her coming along to visit that trip, then it must have been 1957. If he’s mistaken about her presence, then the wider range in the quote below is possible.

When I emailed my uncle about this photo, he replied,

. . . 1957 and it was during the time we lived in that place that your Mother & Dad came up with your family and my Dad [Christoph] & Mother [Minnie] and the three of us went fishing. My Dad didn’t want to fish in the small lake I took them to, so your Dad [Bob] got out of the car, made 1 cast and caught a 3 or 4 pound Bass, and my Dad almost broke his leg trying to get out of the car to start fishing. Most of the fish on the stringers were Bull Heads. We spent a couple of hours cleaning them when we got home and then ate them. I would recall the year was between 1957 and 1960.

Christoph also hunted in his younger days. That definitely gets you out in nature! At least one postcard to Minnie while they were courting mentioned his plans to go hunting the next Sunday. A later postcard from Minnie’s sister-in-law, Caroline, mentioned her husband, Jake (Christoph’s brother) was going hunting on Sunday, and did Christ (short “i”, remember?) want to go along? My mom never mentioned having fresh game meat while growing up, so perhaps as the north suburbs of Chicago became more populated, hunting was less successful? Or maybe Forest Preserves and incorporating towns effectively “outlawed” hunting.

I imagine by now you’re wondering why there’s a photo of mushrooms at the top. Well, it turns out Christoph liked hunting mushrooms, too! He took my mom and her brother with him when they were kids, back to the woods across the street from his parents’ former farmhouse. She remembered the animal shelter, so could always find her way back, even 50 years later. The siblings ran around and had an adventure, while their dad searched for mushrooms.  

Mom didn’t remember what kind of mushrooms he looked for, and the kids never got to taste them. He always told them it was because there were mushrooms that were safe to eat, and ones that weren’t, but he didn’t want to risk them accidentally getting sick. She said he cooked them with a silver dime that was somehow supposed to indicate whether or not they were safe.

It’s a totally bogus method, and does not work. I’m being intentionally vague about the supposed technique, so you are not tempted by it. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! My opinion is that he simply wanted the mushrooms for himself, and “possibly not being safe” was a convenient way to justify the kids not getting any!

If I would have asked my grandpa if Nature was important to him, or influenced his life, I’d wager he’d have given me a funny look. He’d have wondered what on earth I was talking about! Yet nature wove itself through his life, perhaps without his noticing. That same thread continued on through later generations, manifesting in one way or another: fishing, camping, golfing, marathoning, gardening. None of his descendants use their “outdoors gene” (is there such a thing?) the same way, but it regularly shows up in our lives.

#52Ancestors

At Worship

“But my family ALWAYS went to ______________ church!”

There’s a tendency to stay locked onto which church our families attended. It probably ranks up there with our inflexibility with names: what they were, and how they were spelled, etc. Like it or not, though, religion was oftentimes more flexible than we realize—or maybe feel comfortable with!

As a young genealogist, I remember my mom telling the story about one of her grandfathers and an incident at a Sunday service. Unfortunately, she didn’t remember which grandfather it was—Carl Moeller (Youngest and Challenge) or Christian Meintzer (Colorful and My Favorite Photo)—or which church was involved.

Both families were affiliated with a Lutheran/German Evangelical church of some sort, though not necessarily the same one. The way the story goes, the grandfather (great grandfather to me) in question arrived at Sunday service after an absence of some length. The minister apparently commented on his presence—something along the lines of, “Glad to see you could make it this week.”

I don’t know if the comment was made in front of the entire congregation, or said to him more privately. Regardless, it didn’t sit well with that great grandfather, so he left and never returned.

So, which great grandpa was it, Carl or Christian? I really don’t know, but my money is on Christian, for several reasons.

Carl and Elfrieda had a long history with St. Peter’s Church, and the church had a long history in Shermerville/Northbrook. In Northbrook, Illinois: the Fabric of Our History,¹ we learn on page 86 that in 1863, the church was built on Shermer Road, south of Willow Road. Through the years it had several different buildings, and moved location slightly, but it was a solid fixture in the community.

Glass paperweight from St. Peter’s Church, in my mom’s possession. Date undetermined.

The Moeller children were christened in that church, and page 38 (same book)¹ informs us, “The church activities included a school where children were taught the German language.” My grandmother, Minnie, attended “German school” in addition to the public school, so it was likely there. Also, the youngest Moeller daughter, Annie, died at age 8 in 1908 and was buried in the church cemetery. The minister from St. Peter’s married Minnie and Christoph in 1913.

Carl was not a farmer—he worked in the local brick yard, and the family lived in town. The church was relatively close to them, reachable on probably fairly decent roads.

Christian, on the other hand, was a farmer, living in the “Riverwoods” area. That was west of Deerfield, in Vernon Township, considerably farther from any town. If they attended St. Peter’s, it was a longer trip, probably involving more dirt, fewer paved, roads. If they attended another church in a different town, the same questionable road conditions would still have had an impact.

What exactly might have kept Christian away from whatever church he attended?

  • Heavy Chicago snows could cause problems, even for a sleigh.

  • Spring thaws (or summer rains) on dirt roads would make modern day potholed roads look wonderful by comparison!

  • Did farm work keep him away? If it’s time to harvest and the choice is attend church or lose the crop, it might not be a difficult choice!

I don’t know which church they changed to, but I do know my mom grew up attending the Presbyterian church in Northbrook (within walking distance), and Minnie was buried from there. Was that the church Christoph’s father switched to? Or was it a convenient compromise for Chris and Minnie? I don’t really know.

So while I don’t know positively which great grandpa the story is about (I’m still betting on Christian—

he always seemed feistier), or which church was involved, I don’t doubt its truth. That may sound strange coming from Miss “Footnote-the-daylights-out-of-her-blog,” but the story seems plausible enough. I can’t fathom a reason anyone would have made up a story like that to tell my mom. It would serve no purpose. Nothing we know about her two grandfathers requires us to suspend disbelief, either. No extraordinary leaps of faith are needed. (unintended pun—sorry!)

One thing I do know is that, “We’ve always been _____________,” has plenty of exceptions!

#52Ancestors


¹Souter, Gerry, and Janet Souter. Northbrook, Illinois: the Fabric of Our History. Northbrook Historical Society, 2000.

Out of Place

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#52Ancestors


In the News

Sometimes we’re in the news . . . sometimes the news happens around us.

I’ve written more than a couple blog posts with newspaper clippings at the heart of them — actual articles other than a perfunctory death notice or marriage announcement. Sometimes, though, the news isn’t about an ancestor, but is happening literally in their back (or front?) yard. This one falls into that category.

My grandfather, Christoph Meintzer, had eight older siblings. Two of his sisters (Sophie and Caroline (Carrie)) married two Kranz brothers (Edward Melchior and Adam Henry).

You’ve met Sophie, Ed, and at least some of their eleven children, in other posts. With that many children, there are a lot of stories! Carrie and Adam had a much smaller family — only three children. We’re going to focus more on them, this time.

With brothers sharing last names, it was common to refer to the Sophie/Ed family as “Des Plaines Kranz” and Carrie/Adam family as “Rondout Kranz” based on where they lived. In fairness, the Kranz families may have done something similar with the Meintzers — “Deerfield Meintzers,” “Shermerville/Northbrook Meintzers,” and so on.

Edward M. Kranz (left-age 75) and Adam Henry Kranz (right, age 66 ) at the 1930 Meintzer family reunion. Photo quality isn’t the best, because it’s coming from a large group photo. I don’t have any other photos of Uncle Adam, that I know of.

As young men, Ed & Adam had somewhat parallel lives for a while, despite their nine-year age difference. Ed and Sophie were married first (1885), in Chicago, but soon moved to Iowa to farm. Their first four children were born there.

In 1890, his brother, Adam, married Sophie’s sister, Carrie, in Iowa! Adam may have been there prior to that, but the marriage was definitely there, not in Cook County, Illinois. Ed signed the marriage affidavit and was the witness, and Adam and Carrie farmed nearby. Their first two children were also born there. Ed and his family moved back to the Chicago area some time between November 1892 and April 1893. Adam’s return window is wider, though it’s possible both families returned to the Chicago area around the same time.

This is where they diverge, with Ed settling in Des Plaines, and Adam going father north, to the Libertyville/Rondout area. Adam begins working for the railroad as a section foreman, and shows up with that occupation in the 1900 thru 1940 censuses. The older son, Raymond, is a clerk at the depot by 1910, and continues to work there, with a break for a year of military service, until 1940. The younger son, Clarence, follows in his father’s and brother’s footsteps. They are a railroad family.

The evening of 12 June 1924, put Rondout, Illinois, on the map forever. The Newton Boys staged what was the biggest train robbery to date — over $2 million — and it would hold that record until 1963! The train was carrying new Federal Reserve cash, as well as bonds and other securities, in its mail car. The train was forced to stop at Buckley road (just east of what’s now Exit 13 on the Tri-State Tollway).

13 June 1924 Woodstock, Illinois, Daily Sentinel, p. 1

It was a bold robbery, though they were all caught within a month or so. It had been an inside job, which explains why the haul was so good. Most of the money and securities were recovered, except for some that was buried. The outlaw was drunk at the time, and couldn’t recall afterwards where he’d buried it.

The story and subsequent trial made the news around the country. True Detective magazine ran a story in 1930 spanning two issues, detailing the heist, as well as the detective work to catch the outlaws. A PDF copy of both issues is available at the Internet Archive:

  • Part One starts on p. 32
  • Part Two starts on p. 60 You will have to “download” the PDF to read them, but you don’t have to actually save it.

Even decades after the fact, newspaper articles still popped up! The New York Times had one in 1982. The Chicago Tribune had at least two: one in 1991, and another in 1994.

So how did this news event impact Uncle Adam and his sons? I don’t really know. Fortunately, none of them provided the “insider information,” nor were they part of “the gang.” The robbery was north of town, so away from the station. If any of them had been on duty, that kept them safe from stray bullets (one of the robbers was mistakenly shot by one of his partners!). That time of day probably had fewer riders, so that would help keep injuries down — the only injury was to the one robber.

Did Uncle Adam or his sons come under suspicion, until they could get cleared? Did they have police or federal law enforcement interviews? Reports to file? Changes in procedures, afterwards? Who knows? Neither the station nor the track conditions (things for which they were responsible) were at issue, but you know how it is sometimes when things go wrong — everybody has to make changes!

Even though they were not directly involved, The Great Rondout Train Robbery probably impacted their lives, altering their sleepy little burg. I wonder if they ever talked about it, or just tried to forget about it?

#52Ancestors


Family Photo

Half-cousin? Still related, just as important as a full cousin!

Some photos have had a rough life. The picture above is the only one I have of my mom’s half first cousin, Rose Ahrens Runge, and her family. I’m not sure why/how the photo acquired so many cracks and creases–enough that her son on the right is “missing” an eye.

Fortunately, armed with a scanner, editing software, time, and an abundance of patience, huge improvements can be made with damaged photos. The original was only about the size of a note card–3.5″ x 5″ or so. I decided to scan it at 1200 DPI (Dots Per Inch) for ease of editing, as well as allowing it to be blown up to a larger reprint. I wanted as many data points as possible! I started repairing the easier sections, and moved on to more difficult/complicated areas later on. That allowed me to “warm up” a bit, and get used to the process of filling in those missing pixels. “Clone” and “blur” tools became my friends. The results are much better!

back row: Harry Runge, Rosalie Runge, Ruth Robrahn Runge, Charles E. Runge, Catherine Stolle Runge, Walter Runge.
middle: Charles August Runge, Rose Ahrens Runge, Ralph Runge (son of Charles E.)
front: Ruth Runge (daughter of Harry), Ray Runge (youngest son of Charles & Rose)
Photo possibly taken late 1934.

When I finished editing, I sent an 8″ x 10″ print to one of the children in the photo, who was in his 70s at the time. My mom sort of knew who was who, but I thought it would be better to have someone more closely related confirming identities. They are captioned above. I’m narrowing the date based on a couple facts:

  • Ralph (on lap) was born 30 August 1933. He looks to be about a year old, but not over the age of 2.
  • Rosalie died in September 1936 of tuberculosis–she doesn’t look sickly, here.
  • Harry and Ruth had another daughter, Jean, in February, 1935, but she’s not in the photo. She could be napping, or Ruth could be pregnant. We can’t tell, because Ruth is standing in the back.
  • I’m stymied about month and day. Christmas and Thanksgiving are traditional times to get everyone together, but three of the women are wearing short sleeves — less likely in Chicago in November or December! Bottom line: the date is a guess, at best.

This is only a snapshot of time, though. Who were these people? You briefly met Charlie and Rose last week (Love), over a decade later than this, at my aunt and uncle’s wedding. Rose and my mom had the same grandfather, but different grandmothers. Rose was born 13 October 1885¹, making her three years older than my mom’s father (Rose’s uncle!). She was the oldest of seven. Unlike most of the rest of the Meintzer clan, Rose’s grew up in Chicago, not “out in the country” (what’s now the north and northwest suburbs), and remained there as an adult. Getting together with her Meintzer relatives took more effort.

Her husband, Charles August Runge, was born in Chicago, 21 January 1883. He and Rose married 21 May 1906², running off to Hammond, Indiana. Illinois has its 3-day waiting period after acquiring a marriage license, so Indiana and Michigan were (and are!) popular “marriage mills.” No waiting. When I located their marriage register entry, I discovered Rose was actually “Rosalie” — like her daughter. I had only ever heard Rose, so that was an interesting tidbit.

Charles and Rose had five children — that I know about, at least:

  • Harry L.: 13 December 1906 — 9 August 1997. He married Ruth Robrahn in 1929, and had two girls: Ruth Harriet and Jean C.
  • Charles E.: 12 April 1908³ — 5 November 1990. He married Catherine Stolle, and had Ralph G. and two daughters. In my file I had his wife spelled “Kathryn,” but locating her on Find-A-Grave (memorial 100882747), she shows up as “Catherine.” I presume her marker was carved with the name she preferred!
  • Rosalie Catherine: 11 July 19134 — 8 September 1936. She died young, from tuberculosis, never married.
  • Walter Clarence: 28 June 19175 — 11 February 2001. He married Lucille Goodrode, and then Mildred Jean Haggerty after Lucille’s death.
  • Raymond William: 16 October 1926 — 16 August 2015. He married Margaret Sorenson (had 3 daughters), and later, Phyllis Clark.

I had always heard that Charles was a musician. In doing my “due diligence,” for this post, I came across occupations I didn’t expect:

  • 1910 census — bookkeeper for a brewery
  • WWI draft6 — bookkeeper, Indiana quarries
  • 1920 census — bookkeeper, ???? (the writing doesn’t make sense)
  • 1930 & 19407 census,WWII draft in 1942— bookkeeper (or financial serv.) for the Chicago Federation of Musicians.

Now I understand how he got linked with musicians! It doesn’t necessarily mean the story is wrong, though. Yes, it’s possible that someone misunderstood his “working for the Federation of Musicians” to mean that he was a musician. But maybe he had always been working as a musician on the side, and finally had an opportunity to work for them as a bookkeeper. It’s something I need to explore. His obituary8 mentions he was a “member of local No. 10, Chicago Federation of Musicians.” That sounds like he had joined the union. Would he need to do that if he were merely a bookkeeper? Or was that reserved only for actual musicians? More questions, more research.

I also knew Charles painted, because we had two of his oil paintings in the room with our TV. For some reason, they had been framed behind glass — something you shouldn’t do with oil! When my parents unframed them, to remove the glass, one was damaged (some paint peeled off). I’ve also acquired a water color of his. It must have been up on a shelf when I was growing up, as I don’t recall seeing it hung up. Quite likely, the two paintings you see in the background of the photo are works of his.

So, do half-cousins matter at all? Why do I need to keep track of them? Of course they matter! And yes, I do want to know who the current descendants are. Maybe they have photos or information I don’t have. Maybe I have information they need. If we are DNA matches, they are extremely helpful for pinpointing which ancestor we match from. This past week has shown me I need to do a little better by my half-relatives, and fill in the gaps of their trees. The fact that distance and time limitations have left us less in touch with each other is a poor excuse.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, Ward 27, e.d. 827; Page 18A; dwelling number 309; family number 325; line 37; John AHRENS household; accessed 19 February 2019. Rosa AHRENS, age 14, October 1885; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 278; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²”Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, citing Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001, Record number 12869. Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis. Charles RUNGE and Rosalie AHRENS.

³”Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Charles E. RUNGE, 12 April 1908, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1288154. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

4“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Rosalie RUNGE, 11 July 1913, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1288289. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

5“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1971-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 19 February 2019, entry for Walter RUNGE, 28 June 1917, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922″ or Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film1276320. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

6“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.familysearch.org), Charles August RUNGE, serial no. 780, order no. 1883, Draft Board 58, Cook County, Illinois, citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1613683. accessed 21 February 2019.

71940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago Ward 50, e.d. 103-3225; Page 10B; household number 203; line 62; Charles RUNGE household; accessed 24 February 2019. Charles RUNGE, age 57; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1022; digital image, Ancestry.com.

8Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 7 May 1956, record number 19560507dn089. Charles A. RUNGE–“Member of local No. 10, Chicago Federation of Musicians”.

Love

“Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” —Robert Browning

Valentine’s week (it upgraded from a “day” years ago!) just ended. For the last several weeks we’ve being told by advertisers we needed to ply our loved one with:

  • flowers (preferably long-stemmed roses, right?)
  • candy (chocolate, in a heart-shaped box!)
  • jewelry
  • dinner out
  • everything else under the sun (I’m pretty sure I saw car ads . . .)
  • All of the above (how can we put a price limit on our love??)

Add to that, the Hallmark Channel aired two weeks’ worth of movies guaranteed to put us into a diabetic coma. How can we mere mortals possibly live up to those romantic expectations? Odds are we never will. And it leaves us frustrated when we don’t seem to receive what we are “supposed” to.

If we are lucky, though, we have people in our lives who put everything in the proper perspective. For me, one of those couples is my Aunt Neva and Uncle Gail. Sadly, Aunt Neva passed away last month, just shy of 94 years. So she (they) have been on my mind a lot, recently. While this timing isn’t the best, I checked with my uncle and cousins first. I got their blessings, so will try to tread lightly.

Uncle Gail is my mom’s younger brother. Now in their mid-90s, they still talk daily, despite the four hundred miles separating them. Aunt Neva grew up in Elgin, Illinois. We find her with her parents in the 1940 census, in high school.¹ That may not seem far from my uncle in Deerfield, but it was still 30-35 miles—in pre-Tollway/Interstate days! Neva’s father worked as an engineer for the railroad, and after high school, she went to work for the Milwaukee Road, in Union Station. That was where she and Gail first met. They didn’t date then, due to the distance and gas rationing during WWII² (p. 46).

After being drafted and discharged, Gail went back to work with the Milwaukee Road, and ran into Neva, again. She remembered him after 2 years! They started dating² (pp. 71-73), eventually leading up to
a Valentine’s Day proposal and then the photo above, 21 June 1947. The two lovebirds are easy enough to pick out, but the remaining cast is:

  • a friend of my uncle’s (holding the marriage license??)
  • “Uncle” Charlie and “Aunt” Rose Ahrens Runge. Rose is actually my mom’s and uncle’s half first cousin, daughter of my grandfather’s oldest half-sister. But Rose was 3 years older than my grandfather (her uncle!), so my mom always called her “aunt.” It was very confusing for me starting in genealogy, and she was not the only “faux aunt” in the tree!
  • Aunt Lena (Caroline) Moeller Mueller — my grandmother’s (Minnie) older sister — is partly behind Neva.
  • Great-grandma Elfrieda Jonas Moeller (Challenge) next to Gail
  • Aunt Lillie Moeller Tronjo — my grandmother’s younger sister
  • my grandmother, Minnie, holding my sister, Carole (who really seems to be making the wedding circuit (Surprise) early in life!)
  • Who belongs to the eyes and hat peeking over my uncle’s shoulder? With a little bit of calf thrown in for good measure? None other than my mother. I showed her the photo and asked why she was hiding behind her brother—she had no idea! Either the photo was taken before she moved into place, or she was feeling self-conscious at being VERY pregnant (my brother, Bob, was born 5½ weeks later!).

Of course, getting to the wedding day is one thing—getting through the next 70 years is another story! As a kid, I never thought about their “relationship” or how they got along. With his railroad work, they often weren’t living nearby, so the opportunities to visit were few. When we did, I was busy enjoying having cousins at least close to my age to hang with—I wasn’t keeping tabs on the adults! While I’m sure life was not perfect, I never had the sense of strain or tenseness when they were around. I think I would have picked up on that.

I think I first looked at their relationship at their 65th anniversary party in 2012. It wasn’t a family reunion, so I wasn’t running around, making sure everything ran smoothly. I didn’t have children to keep an eye on and out of trouble. I got to just be a guest—a rare treat! It was an opportunity to simply observe.

Gail & Neva had weathered good times, bad times, and everything in between, yet it was obvious they still adored each other. No, they didn’t always agree, but they did always care for and respect each other. The love they had for their children, grand children, and great grand children—and enjoyment of them—was clear. Those sentiments were equally reciprocated by their descendants, with a huge dollop of respect on top. It was lovely to watch.

As health issues cropped up these last few years, we witnessed a continuation of that care and concern for each other — not out of duty, obligation, guilt, or anything other than genuine love and wanting to do whatever was possible for the other. It was an important life-lesson.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, New American Bible


So thank you, Uncle Gail & Aunt Neva, for showing us for the last 71+ years what love really looks like! It’s not always moonlight and roses, it’s being there, when it matters the most.

#52Ancestors


¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinios, Kane, Elgin, e.d. 45-92; Page 8A; household number 151; line 12; Chas. JEWELL household; accessed 16 February 2019. Neva JEWELL, age 15; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 821; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²Gail F. Meintzer, Detours: A Memoir of a Railroad Man (Green Bay, WI: Written Dreams Publishing, 2016).