So Far Away

“Doesn’t anybody stay in one place, anymore?”—Carole King

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Well, apparently not my grandfather, Christoph Jacob Meintzer. At least temporarily. While sorting through the photo postcards for Storms I came across this one. It didn’t fit what I needed for that post, but I found it interesting, and saved it for today. Unfortunately, it raises more questions than it answers:

  • date? No postmark, but after 13 September 1913, since he refers to Minnie as “Wife.” Possibly before 1922, since he’s not asking about the baby/child. Or maybe later but there wasn’t enough space?
  • place? Arkansas. It’s a “staged” booth, but doesn’t really provide other clues
  • why? It seems he was there for work, since he mentions trying to get a cashier’s check to send money home to Minnie.
Arkansas_0001
Christoph Jacob Meintzer (top left) and two unknown men, after 27 September 1913

1913-14 postcard back_Arkansas 0001
“Dear Wife, Have not received an answer for my last letter, only got a postal from you but expect a letter tomorrow, we could not get a money order last night, the place quit selling them so we will have to find a new office so will send you as quick as possible. [upside down part] All the offices close at 6 o’clock now, so we will have to lay of[f] to get a money order if I don’t send you any this week will send you more next week. Love Christ XXXOOXX   Will write a letter as soon as I get yours” The stamp corner places the postcard production between 1910 and 1930, though the photo could have been printed on later than that.
 I showed the images to my 92-year old uncle and 96-year old mom, hoping they might remember hearing something about this. Christoph was easily identified on the left, but not the other two. Mom thought the man on the right “might” be Uncle Emil Mueller, but her brother wasn’t sure. Neither knew anything about their dad working out of state. My uncle did remember hearing as a kid about Siloam Springs, Arkansas, as well as “Shoals” and fishing trips in Arkansas. Maybe Christoph fished on the weekends?

Off to Google! There’s a Bull Shoals Lake near the Missouri state line, though the dam to create it didn’t start until 1947, completed in 1951. So while he may have fished there in the 1950s or 60s, I doubt he was there when he was still fairly newly married. Siloam Springs is father west, and was “around” in the early 1900s, but I have no idea what might have taken him there. I moved on to eBay, hoping to find similar photos with a location.

My search for “Arkansas postcards” netted 11,126 photos! I scrolled through pages of them (115 at 50 per page–stopping at that point), looking for a similar background. Nothing matched, though I saw many “old-timey” photos taken at an amusement park in Hot Springs called “Happy Hollow.” That got me thinking, Christoph didn’t have a car at that time. I assumed he shared the trip with the other men, with one of them driving. Then I remembered our tour of Hot Springs National Park, learning that trains came in regularly with patients for “the baths.” Train travel would have been much more reliable–and probably cheaper–then. Maybe my car assumption was wrong? If that’s the case, then they were certainly somewhere reachable by train.

I ditched eBay and went back to Google, now searching for images with phrases from the photo. Still no image matches, though I found a 1914 Irving Berlin song, “When It’s Night Time Down in Dixie Land.” Could that be the inspiration for one sign? Maybe so.

I didn’t feel any closer to an answer, though, after several days of searching. Where did that leave me?

  • date? I think I’ve narrowed it down to 1914-1917. Why? The song’s copyright date (after their marriage), and his WWI draft registration, when he was employed at the Illinois Brick Company.¹ In 1910,² he was the last child living at the farmhouse with his parents. His occupation was “day laborer, odd jobs,” but his father (age 80) still farmed. I presume Christoph was working with him, doing odd jobs on the side. Minnie and he got married twenty days after his mother died (did they intentionally wait?), and they lived with her parents, while his father eventually moved into his oldest daughter’s house. With no kids, I can see that 3-year window being a time when Christoph could have gone for work out of state.
  • place? Still not narrowed down, though I’m more seriously considering Hot Springs. Little Rock would also have train service from Chicago, but searches for similar types of photo ops there came up dry.
  • why? My guess is he didn’t find steady work immediately after he got married, so took advantage of a temporary opportunity. He was clearly in Arkansas for a while–at least enough time to send a letter (presumably with a cashier’s check), anticipate one in return, and was going to be gone long enough to “send more next week” if he couldn’t arrange sending the money that week. If he was leaving soon, the money would just come with him. That’s a month, minimum, by my reckoning. He worked at the Shermerville brickyard at least 1917-1920. Two years later, my mom was born. It seems unlikely he would have taken work out of state after that.

What next? I can hope a 2nd or 3rd cousin reads this and remembers hearing a story that might help nail down more details. More images could appear online at some point, assuming I find time to wade through them. I could contact the Northbrook Historical Society to see if they recognize either of the two gentlemen. Maybe they are aware of ads circulating the area between 1914 and 1917, offering employment in Arkansas. Or I could send a query to a Rootsweb mailing list in Arkansas, to see if there was a large project in that window that would have pulled in workers from out of state.

Does it matter if I ever figure this out? Maybe not. It’s just a small piece of my grandparents’ history that’s mostly undocumented. But it tells us a bit about their lives, and the choices they had to make. It would be nice to iron out the details to have a better understanding of it–and them.

#52Ancestors


¹”U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918″, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Christoph Jake MEINTZER, serial no. 1167, order no. 106, Draft Board 1, 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. 1,504,100; accessed 3 June 2018. Registered 5 June 1917.

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Vernon Township, e.d. 108; sheet 5A; dwelling number 86; family number 87; line 15; Christ MENTZER household; accessed 3 June 2018. Christ MENTZER age 22 [name MEINTZER incorrectly enumerated]; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 301; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Storms

Before The Weather Channel or Facebook, there was . . . the postcard . . .

Some people find storms to be romantic, but most don’t. I don’t know that my grandparents, Christoph J. Meintzer and Minnie Moeller, (Invite to Dinner) particularly thought they were, but storms and the weather certainly impacted their courtship. They lived about 5.5 miles apart: she in Shermerville (now Northbrook), he in the Riverwoods (west of Deerfield). I don’t know if either (or neither) of them had a telephone, but we DO have a collection of postcards sent by one or the other while they dated. The picture on the reverse was sometimes one or both of them, but often it was just a picture of something around town–train station, ice cream shop, etc.

We see that sometimes the weather put a potential monkey wrench into their plans;

1911 04 07 Christ cowboy back
[Friday] 7 April 1911 5PM “Dearest Hon, I’ll have to send you one off [of] these postals, Hon, if the weather is too bad Sat. night then I ain’t coming up. I shot two ducks today. am Going to shoot some Sun. morning so you know what that means.” Upside down, left corner: “With Love As B 4 Christ”
Sometimes it was simply the topic of discussion from the previous date . . . And what was Grandma doing up until 3:30AM? Did the storm keep her awake? I’m not sure.

1911 09 09 postcard back_0001
[Tuesday] 19 September 1911 7AM “Dear Hon – How did you get home in that storm Sun. night? I didn’t sleep until 3:30. It is pretty near time for me to hike for my train. Be sure and come up Wed. night. So long – Your Minnie XXXXXXXXXXX” Upside down, upper left “This is the old school house that I went to XXXX MM”
 Weather/storms was a topic for them more than once! Christ (short “i” mostly silent “t”) seemed to need reminders about when their next date was. And that is an awful lot of “Xs” (kisses) for the world to see on the way from Shermerville to Deerfield!

1911  09 16 Shermerville station back
?? September 1911 7PM “Dear Hon: – Rec’d your card last night. Wasn’t it fierce outside last night. Be sure & come up Sat. I must go to work now. It is 6:30 – So long. Yours Minnie XXXXXXXXXX

Sometimes the 5.5 miles were just muddy from the weather. Was he walking or riding between houses? I’m not sure. Other post cards mention him being in a “cutter” so riding is a possibility. There are those kisses, again! (I think I counted right)

1912 07 03 Minnie & Chris back
[Wednesday] 3 July 1912 5PM “Hello There, Got home fine Sun. night, but the roads were muddy. notice how this little girl looks: she looks awful mad at that fellow, don’t she? I wonder what’s the matter with her. it is just 6:15 and I’m going to bed now so Good bye. With Love Christ. Will be up Wed. night if can. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX” [photo of the two of them on reverse]
Several postcards mention him coming to visit on Wednesday, others mention Saturday, and a few seem to have been written Monday, implying a Sunday visit. The postcards don’t tell us what they did on those dates, though. Numerous postcards have photos of the two of them taken with a commercial backdrop–a suspended moon, in a “jalopy,” and assorted others. Were they spending the afternoon and/or evening at Riverview? Forest Park? Lincoln Park? Those amusement parks would have been the nearest, I think. Or were they going to the beer garden behind Bartelme’s restaurant, right there in Shermerville? Minnie didn’t really have a taste for beer until she had cancer (and she could ask for a glass of it in the hospital room), but Bartelme’s was still probably the place to hang out, locally.

Shermerville depot Oct 1911 side 2 for 4x6
?? October 1911 7PM “Dear Hon – Did you get home alright last night? Wasn’t it terrible windy? Be sure and come down Wed. night. I have something to show you, it will make you laugh. I done more laughing  to.day than I did for the last 2 weeks. I am almost ready to hike to bed. XXXXXXXX Yours forever, Minnie” Upside down, top left corner: “I love my mutz, but Oh! you Peck. Do you remember?”                 I have no clue what that might mean!

Several times Minnie mentions catching the train to work. My mom didn’t know what job that was (clearly not cooking at Bartelme’s!), so I looked in the 1910 census. Seventeen-year-old Minnie is working as a bill clerk at a furniture house.¹ It’s likely she was still working the same job over the next couple years, while they dated.

Christ & Minnie certainly talked about the weather during their courtship. With the lack of privacy on a post card, maybe it was a safe topic when everyone from the postmaster, to their parents and siblings, could read what they wrote? Without our modern communication options, the penny postcard was the least expensive way for them to stay connected between dates. Clearly it worked!

#52Ancestors


¹1910 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).

Misfortune

“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.”—Washington Irving

Every extended family has misfortune of one sort or another, somewhere along the line:

  • failed crops/losing the farm or house
  • illnesses/accidents
  • women dying from complications of childbirth
  • infant/child deaths
  • marital discord
  • loved ones not returning from military service

The family lines I research are no different. As a researcher, it’s my responsibility to record and document what I find. Sometimes, though, the information is of a “sensitive” nature. I’ve learned to put on my “Sargent Joe Friday” hat to record “the facts” and keep my opinions and biases out of it–not get caught up in the drama, and hopefully not create any! It’s certainly not my job to judge. Hopefully I succeed.

But I am not merely a researcher–I usually am part of that family in some way. As such, I must be mindful of the people involved or affected by the event or situation, and not sacrifice feelings or privacy in my zeal for “the truth.” The need to temper how information is handled might be because

  • the event is very recent, and people haven’t healed
  • it might be embarrassing–and the people involved (or very close) are still alive and would feel hurt
  • it really isn’t my story to tell

On occasion I will put notes in a private area, so I don’t lose track of the information, but keep it out of general circulation. More often, I simply record it, but not draw attention to it. If it’s noticed by someone, I can discuss it with them, perhaps providing more explanation and context. Time and distance provide perspective, and as time goes by, the sensitive topic generally becomes less touchy.

While I can find at least one example of each of the misfortunes above, I’m going to drop back 300+ years to Alsace (NE corner of present-day France). That should give us LOTS of perspective! The year is 1673, and Alsace is still comprised of kingdoms, duchies, and whatnot. While my ancestors lived in Dehlingen, Lorentzen, Waldhambach, Berg, and other small villages in Bas-Rhin; Diemeringen was the location of the local lord. As such, it is where trials would have been held, and punishments meted out.

Genealogist Robert Weinland (an 8th cousin, once removed, I believe) put together a web page for his genealogy in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, my original link broke, though the information can still be accessed via the “wayback machine” at Internet Archive: (copy and paste this 2007 link)

https://web.archive.org/web/20070827184109/http://www.robert-weinland.org:80/sorc.php?lang=en

Though further searching turned up his current web page at this address (you may need to run Google Translate on it):

https://www.robert-weinland.org/sorcellerie/

In the section listing the people “beheaded and burned near the gallows” on 16 October 1673, three of the six listed are direct ancestors of mine:

  • Ottilia [Bach], widow of Carl Ensminger,
  • Margaretha, wife of Anstett Hemmert,

and (my favorite, but don’t tell the others . . . ),

  • Walburga/Walpurga [Eberhard], wife of Johannes Koeppel

Two 9th great-grandmothers, and one 10th great-grandmother. Why is Walburga my favorite? She was the first one I learned of. Just like a first kiss or a first love, the first witch is something special. I love Otillia & Margaretha, too, but they are just extra icing on the cake.

Their death record in Diemeringen (transcribed and translated at the bottom of Robert’s web page) simply records the deaths, giving no information regarding the charges against any of them. I don’t know if any court-type records survive in Diemeringen that could shed light on the events leading up to these people being accused and found guilty. All three were older (thankfully, or they would’t be direct ancestors!), and surprisingly had adult children, and husbands (except for Ottilia) alive at the time of their execution. Generally, those accused of witchcraft were more likely to be alone in life and not have close relatives who could protect them. It seems a little odd mine were singled out, despite having family. Interestingly, one of Walburga’s sons was the maire (mayor) of Dehlingen later on, so clearly it didn’t impact his reputation negatively.

The consensus now is the Salem, Massachusetts, witch accusations were baseless–caused by anger, fear, or jealousy, and “confirmed” by atypical behavior by the accused. Some of the behaviors could have simply been eccentricities (hey, some people like dancing naked in the woods during a full moon!), or physical (epilepsy?) or mental (schizophrenia?) illnesses that were unknown, not understood, or treatable at the time. It’s unlikely accusations in the “old world” were much different. I seriously doubt they were casting any spells on people or things.

Am I upset or embarrassed by my witches? Heavens, no! While I am not “proud” of them, I’m certainly not bothered by them, either. They had the misfortune of being out of step in some way with the rest of the local society, and suffered for it. So I love my witches–all of them. Hopefully at some future date, no 9th-great-grandchild of mine will be embarrassed by my eccentricities or (figurative) warts . . .

#52Ancestors

Heirloom

One person’s junk is another’s heirloom? Or vice versa?

When does something cease being stuff, junk, or clutter, and graduate to “heirloom?” Is it age? Monetary value? Who owned it? How “cute” it is? Its genealogical value? While it’s a question I’ve dealt with these last 40+ years of doing genealogy, it’s really hit home since September, 2009, when my dad died and Mom moved out of her house and into independent living. Suddenly I became responsible for dealing with/disposing of the salt cellars, soup cups, teacups, candlesticks, Mottoware, Hummels, and other antiques she’d acquired over the years. She had boxes in the basement that hadn’t been opened since 1977. It all wouldn’t fit in her 3 room apartment.

As I catalogued and photographed the items, I’d ask Mom if anything was special: anything that belonged to her mother or grandmother? Items that were wedding presents? I needed information so people could prioritize which items to select.

She seemed a little peeved that I “didn’t want all her pretty things.” Yes, they were pretty, but at 51, I was downsizing my OWN things–ditto for my older siblings! We could not absorb it all. Plus, for her each item meant more. They held memories of antique shows with her friends, or trips to Galena, IL, with its abundance of antique shops and tea rooms. Cute or not, we don’t share those memories.

Then she’d remind me that, “People collect this.” Inquiries at nearby antique shops met with no interest. No shops were buying, because no customers were buying. The stock market kerfuffle the year before pushed discretionary spending way down. Antiques are not necessities! The boxes came to my family room (no basement), but the market in Indy was no better, and I really had no time to make the rounds, anyway. I sent the spreadsheet and photos to my siblings, asking them to claim whatever they wanted. The volume reduced a little, so I repacked the boxes and moved them into Mom’s storage space. I figured when she died, I’d take them to the funeral, let people take what they wanted, and dispose of the rest. I figured wrong.

She’s still here, turning 96 in April. In the fall of 2016, she moved to assisted living. Three rooms down to one, and no storage space. The boxes came back to my family room (photo below). Photos and spreadsheet were shared via Google Drive to siblings (again) and also to her grandchildren. More items claimed! Leftovers were shared with cousins. Some more distributed, but I still have a “wall” of boxes behind the living room couch to deal with. I’ve listed select items on eBay, but I don’t want the hassle and risk of shipping china and glassware, so am (unsuccessfully) looking for local options that don’t include Goodwill. Most “heirloom” items have found homes. I also sold some teacups and glass salad plates to the Sassafrass Tea Room, where they will be used and enjoyed.

IMG_20170313_071926.jpg
“Antiques” collection from 1 year ago. This is REDUCED from the original volume in 2009! And it doesn’t count the books . . . or photos . . .

One result of this whole process is the renewed vigor Mike has for reducing our possessions. He looks at our Christmas tree and asks, “Can we get rid of any of these?” Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” I really don’t buy ornaments, except one for each new cruise ship, so most of ours have a history. The kids’ ornaments have already been kicked off the tree, so there’s been reduction from that, but most of the ornaments have a story behind them.

IMG_20180217_0001
Our tree in 1998. Still all the kids’ ornaments on it!

My mom started buying me one ornament a year after my sister got married. Young newlyweds, and in graduate school, after buying the tree, tree stand, and lights, they really couldn’t afford ornaments! Mom decided one a year would be a good start for me. I made “glass icicles” when I was in high school mimicking the ones hung on our tree and made by my grandmother, Victoria Schweiger Haws. I DO have her originals boxed in the attic, but they are very fragile, and since the tree is full enough, I figure they will survive better, handled less. Later, we acquired the ornaments from Mike’s grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. And some actually ARE his: two ornaments from the ones he & his roommate bought to decorate a tree at college, as well as Jeannie and her bottle, and his Raiders helmet. As Mom has downsized–and finally eliminated–her tree, I’ve taken in a few favorite ornaments from my childhood. Plus there are handmade ornaments from my niece, Julie: crocheted and starched snowflakes, or crocheted ice skates with paper clips for blades. She manages to find cute and clever designs.

Does our tree look like a magazine photo? No way! It’s very eclectic. There’s no theme. People who see it for the first time are surprised? awed? I’m not quite sure of the right word, but it usually involves a lot of looking, pointing, and realizing that there are ornaments way inside the tree, not just at the ends of the branches. Our tree has short needles. If not, there’d be no room for ornaments! I don’t know how people with long-needled trees do it.

(Mike just started an Amazon search for “artificial tree long needles . . .”)

You might say some ornaments could be gotten rid of. They are probably past their prime, but they are also among the very few items we own from those people. The color has faded, and they’ve acquired a bit of tarnish and corrosion; none of us are as bright and shiny as we used to be! I carefully tuck them inside the tree–not out of sight, but placed where they reflect the lights, illuminating the interior, while minimizing their flaws. You hardly notice the scratch on the finish or that the glass actually has a hole in it (it’s little, on the bottom!), or the splotch of the spray-on “snow” that was so popular in the 1960s.

I can tell you about every ornament on the tree. My kids know some, but not all, and have undoubtedly forgotten many. Realizing this, in 2017, while dismantling the tree, I photographed each ornament. The plan is to create a spreadsheet where I can list them, link the photo, and document the provenance for each. (Yes, I watch Antiques Roadshow!) At least they will have enough information to decide what they want to do with them, when the time comes. If they decide to drop them off at Goodwill, at least they made an informed decision–I will come back to haunt them, though . . .

So, back to the original question: what what makes an heirloom? I think it’s mostly the meaning we attach to it. So we have 2 challenges. One is to “thin the herd,” so the volume isn’t overwhelming (no, you’re not touching my ornaments!). The other is to make sure those who have to deal with our goodies, know why something was important to us. That just might make it important to them, too. Otherwise, it’s just “stuff.”

#52Ancestors

Valentine

Roses are red . . .

While I know three individuals with Valentine’s Day birthdays, my family tree doesn’t really have a lot of traffic on February 14th. Between births, deaths, and marriages for 5500+ people (granted, not everyone has dates for all 3, and some have none!), you would think there would be, but there’s only:

  • one birth–a married-in from Mike’s side
  • two deaths on my Meintzer side–a 2nd cousin, Arline Ehrhardt Jenkins Axtell, and Hans Adam Ensminger, a 1st cousin 8x removed (nephew of my 7th great-grandmother) and
  • 1 marriage–a 2nd cousin on my dad’s side, Allan Heerey and his wife Mary

I don’t really have particularly good stories for any of them, and don’t know of any romantic proposals taking place on Valentine’s Day. So I started thinking about aggregate data again, and wondered how many couples in my tree were married for 50 years or more.

Being married for a long period of time is more than simply not getting divorced. Granted, that helps immeasurably, but you also have to keep BOTH people alive. That’s a little harder, and less in our control than the other.

Unfortunately, my Family Tree Maker software failed to help me. While it can generate a Marriage Report, I cannot make changes or additions to the information it provides. I get the bride and groom, a marriage date, and the current status of their marriage. Number of years isn’t an option. The Custom Report is no help, either, While “age at death” is a calculated value available for everyone, “number of years married” is not. It’s a little more complicated, since you have to look at the marriage date, see if someone has died, and if both, see who died first. Then you can do the math. Looks like I’m going to have to go about this old-school, relying on my memory. So cousins, if I’ve missed someone, please let me know! This is based on how I happen to remember, so not ordered by length of the marriage.

First up on the list are Robert & Ardyth Meintzer Haws (Dad & Mom), clocking in with 63 years. Mom’s brother, Gail, and his sweetheart, Neva, celebrated their 70th last year, and are still going strong. Dad’s oldest brother, Henry, and his bride, Mary, were going strong for 62 years. His other brother, George (who happened to get married the exact same day as Gail & Neva!), celebrated a 50th anniversary with his “better half”, Marge, before his too-early death at age 77.

My grandparents (Invite to Dinner), though, do not make the list. Victoria died in 1955, just before her 46th anniversary, and Minnie died in 1958, shortly before her 45th anniversary. Nor do great-grandparents Christian and Sophia Gaertner Meintzer (My Favorite Photo & In the Census), who were married only 47 years when she died in 1913. But since she was a 2nd wife, maybe they get bonus points?

Their oldest daughter, Sophie (married to Edward Kranz) was married for 54 years, and her daughter, Anna, was married to Walter Schultz just shy of 65 years. Anna was a huge help to me with family information and stories, and one of the times I visited her, she gave me a ceramic ornament given as a favor at their 60th Anniversary party. I think of her every Christmas, hanging it on the tree. Anna’s son, Walter, and his wife, Connie, were married at least 66 years when Connie died in 2014. That’s 3 generations! Many of Sophie & Ed’s other children also had long marriages:

  • son Emil and Evelyn: 51 years
  • daughter Lillie and Richard Jahn: 38 years
  • daughter Coila and Harry Frohn: 47+ years
  • daughter Mary Ella and Martin Reeg: almost 59 years
  • son Julius and Elsie: 57 years
  • daughter Louisa and Walter Ehrhardt: 60 years
  • daughter Minnie and Ed Ladendorf: 54 years
  • daughter Emma and Joe Poc: 41 years
  • daughter Martha and Louis Kanitsch: 39 years

Yes, some of them don’t quite make the 50 year cut-off, but it’s still a pretty impressive run for one family!

From my dad’s side, [Grand] Uncle Sylvester Schweiger and Aunt Stacia were married for 55 years, their daughter Marita married to Harry Nash for almost 60. And my dad’s cousin, Fred Schweiger and wife, Nancy just celebrated number 60.

Edward and Clara Duckart Goessl (Longevity) had another 2 years beyond the newspaper clipping in that post–with Clara spending another 25 years more, as a widow!

On the not-related-to-me side, Mike’s grandparents, Francis Charles Kukler and Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan, got married in 1919. They had 52 years together before Frank passed away. Not bad, given that they were 28 years old when they married!

scan0003
Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan and Francis Charles Kukler, 11 June 1919, the day after her 28th birthday. She had 7 children and lived to age 95!

And Mike’s Uncle Bob and Aunt Gloria are still going strong with 58 years under their belts.

So, is there a “long marriage gene”? Probably not, though looking at Aunt Sophie’s line, it almost makes you wonder! A lot of it is luck. Having good genes and a long life is a huge help. So is the ability to resist strangling your spouse–not always an easy urge to control! But it’s reassuring to know that sometimes we beat the odds on both of those.

#52Ancestors

Favorite Name

Sometimes a name surprises you . . .

You probably noticed from the favorite photo prompt that I have a problem picking a “favorite” of something. My brain doesn’t really think that way, and it drives Mike nuts. “What was your favorite part of the trip?” “I don’t know. I enjoyed everything.” Cake or pie? Well, it depends on what cake and what pie! Maybe neither. Well, that’s probably not going to happen, but you know what I mean.

Truth be told, my “favorite name” is probably any name that didn’t get misspelled in the records! But the name that always makes me smile belongs to my Grandpa Meintzer’s older half sister, Catherine.

Aunt Kate (yes, she’s a “C” for the Catherine and “K” for Kate!) was the youngest child of Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Maria Elisabeth Weidmann, and was born on 11 March 1865, in Dehlingen, Bas-Rhin, Alsace (France).¹ Her mother died 7 months later, and her father remarried about 7 months after that. He had young children at home, so frankly, he needed a wife to manage things.

In May, 1881, Catherine crossed the Atlantic with her family on the “Labrador.” She was 16 years old and was leaving behind the graves of her mother, 2 older brothers (Christian & Heinrich), and half-sister, Christina. The family settled in the Riverwoods area northwest of Chicago. Their farmhouse (in the background on the Favorite Photo post) is no longer there, but it was up the road from the Orphans of the Storm animal shelter, which still IS there.

Carrie Lizzie Sophie Kate 1930.jpg
From 1930 family reunion photo: Carrie (Meintzer) Kranz, Lizzie (Meintzer) Ahrens, Sophie (Meintzer) Kranz, Kate (Meintzer) Warren Smith. Carrie & Sophie are sisters who married brothers (Adam Henry and Edward, respectively). Lizzie & Kate are their half-sisters. This may be the only photo of Aunt Kate that I have. Her 2nd husband, Morton Smith had either just died, or would die shortly at the time of this photo.

In 1890, Catherine married George Warren. They had 2 children, Robert and Mabel. I haven’t quite determined what became of George–whether he died or they divorced. The 1900 census shows her as married, but the head of the household (no George present), with her 2 children, running a boarding house.² In 1904, she married her 2nd husband, Morton N. Smith in Berrien, Michigan. There were no children born in that marriage, and Morton died in 1930. Catherine spent 19 years as a widow before dying in 1949.

So, where does the “favorite name” come in? Every record for her I have ever found was either Catherine or Kate. Nothing to dislike, but not too exciting, either. But when I searched for her first marriage record at http://www.CyberdriveIllinois.com, I kept coming up dry. Her maiden name of MEINTZER could show up with a wide variety of misspellings:

  • drop the I
  • drop the E
  • drop the T
  • S or C instead of Z
  • combinations of the above!

That left a lot of potential permutations. I finally decided it might be more productive to search for the groom. His name was less prone to variant spellings. Limiting the search to Cook County, I had just 7 choices.³ There she was! Not the name I expected, but unmistakably her:

Menzer, Kittie

KITTIE!?!?! Seriously? It’s a good thing I decided to search for George, because never in a million years would I have put in anything other than Catherine or Kate to search for her. It’s a perfectly valid nickname for Catherine, though. I’m sure my jaw dropped at that sight, and I no doubt laughed. I still chuckle or smile every time I think of it, and it has been years. The novelty has certainly worn off, so it isn’t that. But the name conjures up an image of a young 25-year old girl excited to be getting married–not the image of the middle-aged woman in the photo above–so I always smile.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the photo above, it’s just that we tend to think of our older generation relatives as always being that age we saw them at (in person or in photos). We forget that they were once young, carefree, maybe spending the day (or evening!) at Riverview Park with friends or a sweetheart. Finding that unexpected “Kittie” in the records is a wonderful reminder to me of that, still.

#52Ancestors


¹http://archives.bas-rhin.fr/detail-document/ETAT-CIVIL-C88-P1-R18444#visio/page:ETAT-CIVIL-C88-P1-R18444-271043

²https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D1FS-W2W?i=19&wc=9BQR-VZG%3A1030552601%2C1031967101%2C1033794001%3Fcc%3D1325221&cc=1325221

³https://www.ilsos.gov/isavital/marriageSearch.do  Enter “warren, george” in the groom field, and select “cook” from the drop down list.

Invite to Dinner

Food–pulling family together

Who would I invite to dinner? That’s easy–everyone!! There’s a slew of people, dead and alive, I need to ask questions of: When is your birthday? When did you die? Where were you born? Who were your parents? Why can’t I find you in the census? And that’s just the short list.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s allowed. And it would end up being a really long blog. So I will pare (see what I did there?) it down to two. Yes, that’s still probably cheating (I seem to have a problem with that), but “my blog, my rules.”

I never knew either of my two grandmothers, so sitting down to eat a meal with them would be a wonderful treat for me. Maybe for them, too, as I was named for each of them. Grandma Meintzer was born Wilhelmina Carolina Christina Moeller in 1892, but everyone knew her as Minnie. That’s the name on every document I find for her, from

scan0005.jpg
Christoph Jacob Meintzer and Minnie Moeller wedding photo: 27 September 1913

the 1900 census, on. Even her Social Security card has her listed as Minnie–and her tombstone!

She spent much of her adult life cooking for a living. She worked at Bartelme’s Inn in Shermerville (now Northbrook), Illinois, I believe, until it closed. Then she was the cook in the dining room at Briargate Country Club, in Deerfield, while her husband was a grounds keeper and took care of the 19th Hole (bar, for you non-golfers). Even during the Depression, when Grandpa wasn’t always able to find work, she had employment. She was noted for her pies, and today it’s a perpetual hunt for “good” lard to make her crust with. And yes, we’ve smuggled it in from Illinois, when all I could find in Indiana came in a tub!

Minnie knew exactly how much apple to add in to her jelly or jam to have it gel properly (no Sure-Jell back then!). And within the family, her Ice Box Cake is legend. Most of you would call it Banana Pudding. NO! No bananas, and made in a spring form cake pan. No pudding mix, either–from-scratch egg custard (2 batches), which likes to be finicky and sometimes fail. It is the same custard she used for her banana cream pie. Those 2 recipes were (according to my dad) THE reason he married Mom. Perhaps there were other reasons, too, but those definitely sealed the deal. Ice Box Cake was the only kind of birthday cake my mom had growing up, and it was the only cake my dad ever had for his birthday after he got married.

Of course, the reason Ice Box Cake was the birthday cake in the family, was because Minnie couldn’t bake a cake to save her soul. Hard to imagine, right? I guess she could manage Angel Food, but a standard cake? No way. She was too much of  a “pinch of this, pinch of that” cook, and the chemistry needed for a pan or layer cake is not very tolerant of that.

Grandma Haws was born Victoria Barbara Schweiger. Unlike Minnie, she was NOT “Vicky” and would not answer to that name. She would correct you the first time you made that mistake, and that was it. She grew up in the restaurant business, and it was how she ended up meeting her husband, Edward M. Haws.

When Victoria’s father, Ignatz, arrived from Bavaria, he was leaving the family’s cheese-making business. In Glencoe, Illinois, he purchased the building at 375 Park Avenue (now a historic building) and opened a butcher shop. He sold that building after a couple years, and moved to the building on the corner–367 Park–and transformed it into a restaurant. As far as I know, most of the family worked there at one time or another, including my grandmother. When my grandfather moved down from Wisconsin to find carpentry work, he “boarded” with them. I’m not sure whether that meant he had a room there AND took his meals (in the 1900 census, they DID have lodgers living with with them), or if it simply meant he got his meals there–breakfast and dinner in the restaurant, and a lunch pail to go. Either way, love was in the air, and they married on 21 April 1914.

1914 04 21 HAWS Edward and SCHWEIGER Victoria sitting
Wedding photo of Victoria Barbara Schweiger and Edward Mathias Haws, 21 April 1914.

As far as I know, Victoria did not work after marriage, but she managed to feed her family through the Depression, stretching what little they had the best she could. She disguised the meager amount of meat available by mincing it small and mixing through a big bowl of mashed potatoes (my dad’s favorite dish). She left a recipe legacy of her own: Rich Oatmeal Cookies, Wesson Wonder Brownies, and Ice Box Rolls in a clover leaf shape.

Beyond recipes, though, both grandmas understood the importance food and family and passed that value onto their children and grandchildren. Holidays and special food dishes are important, but no more so than everyday dinners, weekend breakfasts, or even popcorn on movie night or s’mores around a campfire. It’s not about the food, whether fancy or plain, but about the time together, preparing, eating, telling stories, reminiscing,  planning for the future, and just hanging out. I’ve see this time and again:

  • Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners
  • times when I suddenly had extra teenagers I hadn’t given birth to, joining us for dinner
  • beach-house weeks with our kids and grandkids, where the cooking duties are shared (everyone taking one night) to split the work load
  • photos posted on Facebook by cousins cooking with THEIR grandkids, demonstrating these values are still being transmitted to later generations

So yes, I’d like to have dinner with these two ladies: to visit and laugh with them, thank them for the rich legacy and traditions they left (without realizing it?) their descendants, and to make sure I’m not missing any critical recipes!

#52Ancestors