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.
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).
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 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?
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!
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.
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”.
“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!)
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.
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).
Genealogy provides a never-ending stream of surprises!
Give a vigorous shake to any family tree, and in addition to a few nuts, other surprises invariably fall out! Mine is no exception, and you’ve already read about a variety of “surprises” I’ve found through the years. But if you are hoping for a juicy, scandal-laced, DNA-based reveal in this blog post, your time is better spent elsewhere. This one is pretty mundane.
It’s September, 1946, and my mom’s cousin, Jeanne, is getting married. She is second youngest daughter of George Edward (Edward George) Meintzer (Next to Last), my grandfather’s older brother. The two girls (both still living!) are two years apart in age (Mom is older).
Though they lived in the same town, Mom says she and Jeanne didn’t really see too much of each other, growing up. Their fathers had a good relationship, so there wasn’t a family rift. The families lived only a few blocks apart, and Mom remembers Jeanne’s older sister, Helen, babysitting for her a couple times. But Jeanne’s mom was Catholic, with the children raised Catholic, so the families attended different churches, possibly different schools. And you know how it is with kids — they don’t really want to hang out with younger kids — even cousins!
But, by 1946, everyone is grown up, with my mom married for almost two years! She and Dad arrive at Jeanne’s wedding, most likely with her parents. Also in tow is my sister, Carole, seven months old, cute as a button, undoubtedly enjoying her brief stint as “only child.”
Imagine my mom’s surprise to see Aunt Rose (The Maiden Aunt) and Uncle Joe Rau also attending! They are from my dad’s side: Aunt Rose is the sister of my other grandmother, Victoria. Why are they here at my mom’s cousin’s wedding? What was going on?
It turned out that the bridegroom was Uncle Joe’s nephew! Uncle Joe’s sister, Mary, was the mother of the groom. Who would ever anticipate that? Of course, it didn’t change anything — my dad wasn’t related to Jeanne’s new husband. The two of them were just related — one by DNA, one by marriage — to the same person (Uncle Joe). It was simply one of those random occurrences that pop up in families.
As so often happens, quirky little things like that are easily forgotten. When I began my research in my teens, Mom and I paid a visit to her cousin, seeing what she might know about the Meintzers. Jeanne brought out a thick binder with the genealogy of her husband to show me. Someone in his family had researched and put it together, and he obtained a copy. It was interesting, but it really had nothing pertinent for us. Of course, it showed Uncle Joe’s connection to Jeanne’s husband, which Mom had forgotten about. It also made my fledgling genealogy look puny by comparison . . .
Fast forward 35+ years . . . The “Great Photo Identification Project” was still underway. Mom and I were on a road trip to the Chicago area and stopped by to see Jeanne. It was just a “sit and catch up” visit, but the conversation turned to photographs and the difficulty in identifying some of them.
This photo of Aunt Rose holding my sister was one of the problem photos we owned. Aunt Rose was easily identifiable, as was Carole. The woman on the right proved to be a puzzle, though. From the corsages, we knew is was some “event” — we just couldn’t place it. So while they chatted, Mom mentioned it. Conveniently, I had an image on my laptop, and pulled it up to show Jeanne. She took one look and said, “That’s my mother-in-law!”
Say what?? How did Mom not remember it being from Jeanne’s wedding? I guess she was busy taking care of a baby, and didn’t pay attention to Jeanne’s new in-laws. At least the mystery was finally solved! And yes, the photo has been properly labeled.
What’s the take-away from this? First, it’s a good idea to be careful with what you say about whom. You never know who might be distantly connected to you — or to someone you know. And when DNA testing enters the mix, all bets are off!
Second, label the pictures! Now. ALL of them. Not just one copy, Every. Single. Print. If you label only one (that you have multiples of) and give it away, where does that leave you? Unlabeled again, that’s what! Just do it.
Lastly, write the stories down. It is too easy to forget about them, or forget to repeat them to others, so they know about them. We’ve all played “telephone” enough to know how that game turns out, and we know the effect it can have on our family stories (Colorful and Close Up)! Having the stories committed to paper at least locks them into a particular version. It may still be wrong (or not completely right — not quite the same thing as wrong), but at least there’s a more fixed starting point, and something concrete to either prove or disprove.
Most importantly, enjoy the surprises (good or bad) when they show up. They make our family history more interesting! That’s what keeps most genealogists coming back for more.
Are you kidding? Everybody! I’ve got questions for them all. Well, that was a quick blog to write . . .
Okay, that really doesn’t cut it, so I’m choosing two: Hans Meyer der Ëinsminger (1575-1621) from Bockenheim (now Sarre-Union), and Hans Adam Gerber Einsminger (1577-1630) from Diemeringen. Despite the similar last names, the consensus is that the two men are not related — at least, not close enough for anyone to figure out how. Both lived in closely spaced villages in Alsace. But record keeping in the 1500s and 1600s allows for potential errors in connections. Meeting with them both (preferably together!) would provide an opportunity to clarify some information.
When I travel up my Meintzer line, as I hit the 1700s and 1600s, I start running into Ensmingers. Or Einsmingers. Or Ëinsmingers. You have to keep an open mind with the spelling, because they certainly did! My great grandfather (Christian–Colorful) is where both lines meet up. Every one of his descendants descends from both Hans Meyer and Hans Gerber.
The similarity of names, and nearness of towns (8-9 km apart, not that far, even by 1600s standards) created the confusion. For a long time, many thought the two men were one. Further research revealed the two separate family groups, resolving some of the issues. In the Bockenheim church books there was a Hans Einssminger, along with another Hans Ensminger found in the Diemeringen records. Some records simply had the Ensminger surname, while others included additional surnames in front—”Meyer der Einsminger” (literally “of” or “from” Insming) or “Gerber Einsminger.” It’s the type of name treatment given to someone moving in from another town. It would distinguish the “new guy” from the “Hans _______” already living in town. It suggests both men were originally from Insming, in Lorraine, though there’s not definitive proof.
Hans Gerber Einsminger was born in Diemeringen around 1577. While he was born there, it’s believed his father was Peter Gerber, of Insming. The “Einsminger” addition applied to his father apparently stayed with Hans, too. He married Christina Gut, and had at least 6 children. One of those was my 9th great-grandfather, Carl (b. 1605). His wife, Ottilia Bach would eventually be found guilty of witchcraft, and be executed in 1673 (Misfortune). Carl’s great-granddaughter, Anna Ottilia (b. 1696) marries out into the Koeppel family in Dehlingen, ending our Ensminger surname on that side. A couple generations of Bauer and then Isel, and we end up at great-grandpa Christian!
Hans Meyer der Einsminger was born about 1575, presumably in Insming. He had two wives (both Margareth or Margaretha — smart man!), and twelve children between the two of them. All his children were born in Bockenheim, beginning in 1601. While Hans Meyer died in Bockenheim (1621), his sons (or at least my 8th great-grandfather, Hans Georg) moved to nearby Hambach/Waldhambach. Georg’s daughter, Catharina, married Johann Matthias Schmidt, producing two of my 6th great-grandmothers — Anna Catharina and Anna Barbara. The latter married a Roth from Volksberg, leading down to the Philippi and Meintzer families. It finally ended up with my 2nd great-grandfather marrying an Isel from the other Ensminger line.
You can see why a face-to-face with these men would be useful. The scarcity and conditions of the records so far back make it difficult. Obviously they would not be able to supply information on later generations, but they SHOULD know who their parents were, their children, and possibly some — if not all — of their grandchildren. It would be a huge help!
Full disclaimer: I have not personally verified all the parent-child connections between my great-grandfather and either man. My primary source for many of those connections is Alsatian Connections, Volume I¹. In compiling the genealogies of the emigrants from the towns of Butten, Dehlingen, Diemeringen, Ratzwiller, and Waldhambach, Ms. Wesner used church and civil records, C. Schrader-Muggenthaler’s The Alsace Emigration Book, and A. Kunselman Burgert’s Eighteenth Century Emigrants from Northern Alsace to America. While information “coming from a book” doesn’t make it accurate, all those volumes are held in high regard.
Similarly, the connections beyond the red boxes above have been taken from various web pages or other reference books: in particular, Ensminger of Alsace and Pennnsylvania. Again, that’s a somewhat risky proposition, but the reality is the Ensminger descendants who wrote that book have continued to research, collaborate, and update the information. Its current iteration (2018) is a downloadable PDF file, available from numerous libraries, free of charge. The original author, Dr. Bell, has passed away, but while he was still alive, other researchers found the book, and contacted him with questions, additions, and corrections. Reading through the preface, it explains:
how Dr. Bell researched
how and when the collaborators joined with him
incorrect information in the original publication–and the corrections made in this new revision
other genealogical compilations for different Ensminger branches
mistaken connections in those books, as well as what parts are correct
So while no printed genealogy will ever be “perfect,” I will, for the time being, utilize the information from this book. As I get time, I will personally re-check the Alsatian church and civil records for my direct ancestors’ information to confirm those details. But yes, I’d like to meet Hans Adam Gerber Ensminger and Hans Meyer der Ensminger
²Raymond Martin Bell, Brendon R. Wehrung, John Kurt Entsminger, Dale Edward Ensminger, Ensminger of Alsace and Pennnsylvania, 2018 Edition (online) (Middle River, MD, 2018, originally published 1995), Part 2, p. 1. http://www.genealogycenter.info/search_ensminger.php. Alan County Public Library Genealogy Center.
Genealogy is often challenging. This week is brought to you by my mom’s maternal grandparents. We know more about the paternal grandparents who died before Mom was born, than the set that lived around the corner from her! The level of challenge they present is unexpected.
Carl [Karl] Moeller (Bearded)was born 27 July 1860, and died 3 May 1935.¹ Mom was 13, and definitely remembers him. Elfrieda Jonas (more with her name, later) was born 7 December 1867 and died 25 April 1954.² Because her mom (Minnie) worked in a restaurant, my mom regularly went to her grandparents’ house after school — and presumably during the summer.
The memories that have trickled out
of Mom over the last 40+ years of genealogy include:
Carl and Elfrieda emigrated from Germany.
Mom thought they knew each other before coming over, but they got married here.
She believed Elfrieda worked as a maid/housekeeper after arriving, until she got married. This was possibly in the Krieger household, though the name Gerken pops up, too.
Carl and Elfrieda spoke German regularly — at least enough that they sent their children to “German School” on Saturdays. Minnie spoke German — she and Christoph would switch to that if they didn’t want the kids to understand!
We aren’t aware of any siblings for Carl or Elfrieda in this country.
Elfrieda used to send money back to Germany — to her mother?—and was born out of wedlock.
Tillie Gripke was someone important, because Elfrieda took the train to California twice to see her. We don’t know if she’s a relative, or just an old friend who happened to move west.
It seems Carl and Elfrieda are pretty well documented — at least in some areas:
We find Elfrieda in the 19407 census, living with her daughter and son-in-law (Caroline and Emil Mueller).
Carl and Elfrieda are in the
1900³ (Charles and Alfreda)
19104 (Karl and Alfriede)
19205 (Carl and Frieda) and
19306 (Carl and Alfrieda) censuses.
They were married 25 September 18878, in Cook County, Illinois.
While it looks like we know quite a lot about them, with closer scrutiny, you notice it’s rather superficial. None of that information helps me nail down an emigration date or specifically where they were from. The census records consistently tell us both were born in Germany, but it’s a big place. Emigration dates range from 1884-1887. Carl is naturalized by 1890, according to the 19306 census. I haven’t located his final papers, or any of the earlier ones.
Nor have I located a passenger list for either of them. They would have arrived at Castle Garden, but even with those records online, the details in the records are skimpy, making it difficult to distinguish between various Carl Moellers. His name is too common, and with Elfrieda, I get “Jones” results, instead of “Jonas.” If they had traveled in a large group, they might be easier to find.
Then there’s the confusion about Elfrieda’s maiden name: is it Jonas? Gerken? Krieger? Was one of those the name of the family she worked for? Because she emigrated, worked, and got married all in between census years, I don’t have those as checkpoints. The 1890 census fire is particularly not helpful. In the marriage database8 Elfrieda uses the last name, “Jonas.” I would think a 19 year old who’s getting married knows her last name. I can’t think of any reason for her to lie. Gerken and Jonas don’t sound remotely similar, so I don’t see it being recorded wrong because the clerk couldn’t understand her accent. Unfortunately, the marriage certificate doesn’t include parents’ names. A marriage application might, but those are frequently not available. Her mother (since Elfrieda is illegitimate) is still a mystery.
I still don’t know about Tillie Gripke. She was the daughter of Rose Buthmann. Could Rose have been a sister to Elfrieda, making Tillie her cousin? Maybe. I need to research Tillie’s tree to see where it takes me, and if there are any connections to Elfrieda.
On a tree at Ancestry.com, another researcher has gotten Elfrieda confused with a Friederike Gerken, born February 1865, in Illinois, to parents Henry (Heinrich) and his wife, Wilhelmine. This family lived in Northfield (just southeast of Northbrook) in 18709. Friederike had an older sister, Anna, and younger sisters, Rebecca, Henriette, Louise, Katharine, and Caroline. This family lived in Illinois until about 1878, when their youngest daughter was born. Then they moved to Cullman, Alabama, as they are there for the 188010 census. Henry has a land grant record in Alabama, dated 1888. Friederika married an Edward F. Wolff (also born in Illinois) in 1885, in Alabama11. None of her records refer to her as Elfrieda. Frederika Wolff died in Cullman, Alabama in 1908 and is buried there, with her parents, husband, and children.
Unfortunately, this other tree has none of that information, other than the birth and parents. Instead, Frederika is “married” to my great grandfather, Carl Moeller, with my grandmother and all her siblings attached to the two of them as children. My great-grandmother’s obituary, though, confirmed many of the details my mom knew:
Mrs. Moeller was born in Germany 86 years ago and had lived at her Church st., residence in Northbrook for over 62 years. She was known to the community as “Mutter” Moeller . . . her husband, Carl, preceded her in death 19 years ago.
“Obituaries,” 29 April 1954, Newspapers.com: accessed 14 January 2019, record number: ng; citing original p. 22 col. 6 para. 2-3, entry for Mrs. Elfrieda Moeller, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).
That does not sound like someone born in Illinois! It seems clear to me that Elfrieda and Frederika are two different people. I’m not sure which woman the other researcher wants to connect to, but the tree is garbled.
Things aren’t much better with Carl! A different tree at Ancestry.com has my grandmother and her siblings as the children of an Elfrieda Johanna Gerken (with my great-grandmother’s birth and death information, and born in Germany) and Carl Heinrich Jochim Moeller (born in the right year, but wrong date). His parents are Johann Jochen Moeller (b 1825) and Lene Sophia Dorthea Mall (1838-1911), with additional generations shown. That’s all well and good, except that his death certificate says his parents are Johann Moeller and Sophia Milahan. Granted, I haven’t been able to research those two names — as far as I know, they never left Germany, and I don’t know where in Germany that is! The information was provided by my grandaunt, Lena, so I trust that it’s close. If she didn’t know, “unknown” would have been a perfectly acceptable answer — I’ve seen it often enough on other certificates!
Then there are all those middle names. Where did they come from? None of the attached records showed a middle name, much less 2. It’s possible Carl did have one or more middle names, but I have never seen ANY middle names or initials in his records, so I’m a bit skeptical. The same string of names is in the tree at FamilySearch — again, with no documentation of the name. I suspect one tree spawned the other.
Obviously the immediate challenge is to find birth places, parents, and emigration details for Carl and Elfrieda! The bigger (perhaps more difficult and/or more important) challenge will be to contact the owners of the two trees (also the submitter at Find A Grave), to “discuss” the name issues and mis-attachments. It would be easy to let it go, but incorrect trees tend to keep spreading, as additional researchers find them and incorporate the incorrect information into their own tree. It’s also possible that I am wrong, and they have additional information to document their assertions. In that case, I want to know that, so I can correct my tree.
¹Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 11 August 2018, memorial 25468142, Carl MOELLER, (1860-1935), Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois.
²Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 13 January 2019, memorial 25468143, Elfrieda Johanna Gerken MOELLER, (1867-1954), Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois. [name is wrong]
³1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 14; family number 16; line 7; Charles [Carl] MOELLER household; accessed 11 August 2018. Charles [Carl} MOELLER, age 39, July 1860; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
41910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Shermerville, e.d. 64; sheet 4A; dwelling number 55; family number 57; line 44; Karl Moeller household; accessed 13 April 2018. Wilhellmine MOELLER, age 17; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Shermerville, e.d. 139; Page 3B; dwelling number 58; family number 64; line 54; Carl MOELLER household; accessed 8 January 2019. Carl MOELLER, age 59; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
61930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, block 18, e.d. 16-2237; Page 11A; dwelling number 119; family number 126; line 15; Carl MOELLER household; accessed 8 January 2019. Carl MOELLER, age 69; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 528; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
71940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, e.d. 16-341; Page 7A; household number 143; line 15; Emil A. MUELLER household; accessed 9 January 2019. Elfrieda Moeller, age 72; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 784; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
8“Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920”, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch 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 Elfrida JONAS (19).
91870 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Beat No. 1; Page 22B; dwelling number 131; family number 129; line 26; Henry GERKEN household; accessed 12 January 2019. Federica GERKEN, age ; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 213; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
101880 U.S. census, population schedule, Alabama, Cullman, Beat No. 1, e.d. 46; Page 22B; dwelling number 180; family number 181; line 5; Henry GERKEN household; accessed 12 January 2019. Friederike, age 15; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 10; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
11Ancestry.com. Alabama, Select Marriage Indexes, 1816-1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014, citing Alabama, Marriages, 1816-1957. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
I had pre-printed forms to fill in. They organized the information, but there wasn’t a lot of room on each page. I had enough sense to type, which was probably neater than hand writing. My parents’ Underwood portable typewriter — along with whiteout —were well used as I transferred my interview notes, letter responses, etc., to a consistent format. It was tedious, with ample opportunity to introduce errors (more about that later).
As you later read in Lucky, my daughter decided to tackle genealogy in the mid-1990s. Everything was unpacked after an eleven or twelve year break. I discovered the local library had Family Tree Maker 3.0 software to check out. I tried it out on my Compaq (Win 3.1) desktop, and decided it was worth converting my information to the computer.
Truthfully, I could have migrated to computer ten years earlier, with my Atari 1200XL. If you didn’t realize I am a geek, that cat’s out of the bag! Someone had developed genealogy software for Atari, but would require me to retype all my information, something not terribly feasible with a new baby. Data storage would have been a problem (remember how little 5 1/4″ floppies stored?), and I still would have needed to print everything out. Printer ribbons weren’t particularly cheap. So while we did use the Atari for Mike’s MBA research papers, finances, home inventory, and even a frogger-type game I found code for, I passed on genealogy.
So Family Tree Maker 3.0 became my FIRST genealogy software, and I started the process of retyping all my information. Had I used the Atari software, I still would have had to redo data entry because the file formats were different. It was a slow process, but it allowed me to reacquaint myself with everyone. I also realized the benefits of entering each piece of information only once.
Earlier I mentioned the risk of introducing errors. Maintaining the tree entirely on paper means a person’s information is typed between one and three different times:
on the pedigree chart (if they are a direct ancestor)
on the family group sheet as a parent (if they are one)
on another family group sheet as a child (if the parents are known)
If they married more than once, that’s another sheet to type. Plenty of opportunity to
misspell a name
mistype a date (birth, marriage, death)
mistype a location
If I later realized a piece of information was wrong, I needed to remember ALL the places (sheets) that information might be typed on, so I could correct it. Miss any, and I’d have conflicting information confusing things. Software allows me to type each piece of information only once. Each chart, form, report, or screen view is generated on the fly, using that single piece of data, so everything is consistent. Can I make a mistake? Certainly! But one correction will take care of it.
Paper didn’t provide much space to document where information came from. I could type a citation on the back, but that was a little awkward. My paper forms (yes, I still have them!) don’t have citations. I’ve been steadily working at improving documentation in my software (now Family Tree Maker 2017 — the equivalent of v. 23, I think?). As software changed, adding a source citation feature, I got more diligent about recording them. The newest versions have Evidence Explained templates, so I need to revisit all the citations to beef them up and make them consistent.
So why was that FIRST software so important? It changed the WAY I researched. No, not chasing “shaky leaves!” Even with many more people in my file (about 5500 right now), I can easily check out who I have information on. I don’t have to flip through multiple binders or hanging files, or the single binder I actually had, with everyone filed alphabetically. I can add in more details about their lives (occupation, military, residence), that paper family group sheets don’t have space for. I have plenty of room to incorporate notes about inconsistent data, or why I drew certain conclusions. When three different censuses tell me three different ages, I can record each, picking one as preferred. If later information causes me to change my opinion, it’s easy enough to change the preferred fact. No whiteout required!
Software makes citations simpler to apply, and I can easily attach digital images to them. Finding the actual document is much easier/quicker if I don’t have to scour Explorer looking for it, trying to remember how it’s named. Easier citations means I’m more likely to DO it, instead of putting it off. Having citations keeps me from searching the same place more than once. I should log better than I do, but citations help in the meantime. Baby steps!
Software has changed WHO I research. I try not to be a “name collector,” but if I were typing up physical sheets, I think I’d be less inclined to follow through researching collateral relatives. Sometimes they simply fill in tree details, but other times they answer an important question. Sometimes they let me help out extended relations.
When I found Edward M. Kranz (husband of my grand aunt, Sophie Meintzer) in the 1880 census, he was with his parents and his younger siblings. On paper, I would have picked up his information and his parents’ names. I wouldn’t have bothered with his siblings, or other details about his parents. In my database, I now enter all the information from the census, so I don’t have to go look it up again.
Now when 2nd cousins from that branch ask me questions, I have a little information for them, and some idea of what they are talking about. If I decide to help them with research, but I don’t want all their extra people (not related to me) in my file, I can easily spin off a new file with just the relatives I need for that research.
I also research BETTER. It is easier to decide if someone is part of our tree, or not. I have a number of people who I have determined (at least, as of now) are not relatives. They are different than the person in my tree (do not have the right parents, siblings, etc.). I leave them in, however, with all their information (and sources!), and an explanation about why I think they don’t belong to us. If a cousin (or I!) find a document of theirs later on, I have solid facts about why I think they are not connected. “They aren’t related to us, but I don’t remember why,” is a pretty poor answer. Researching them again to gather that proof is a waste of time. Hanging onto them and their information saves me time in the long run. And if a new document does connect them to us — I still have all the prior research handy.
Sharing information is also much easier! I can create whatever report I like (with citations, if needed!), and email the PDF to whoever I like. No pulling sheets from a binder, going to Mailboxes, Etc. to make copies, then the post office to mail them. Ditto for document images.
Twenty years ago, most of the above benefits never crossed my mind. Software was simply cool, and maybe it would save a little time. It was certainly quieter than the click-clack of the typewriter keys, so I didn’t keep the rest of the family awake! I’m glad I took leap into the fledgling realm of genealogy software 20+ years ago.