Frightening

Being frightened can be fun, but sometimes . . .

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Last week I told you about Elisabetha Weidmann’s death, but I held back a bit of the story, knowing this prompt came right after. I left out the part about her oldest son, Christian (1860-1865), dying shortly after her. You see him on the tree snippet in last week’s post.

Christian Meintzer, Jr.’s death record immediately follows (No. 19) his mother’s on the register page. He was 5 years, 2 months old, and died eight days after his mother (13 December). As with her record, no cause is provided. It would seem likely he would have died from the same thing as his mother.

The family story is far more interesting, though, and we hear it from both sides of the Atlantic. Sophie Meintzer Kranz mentions it in her narrative, as does her daughter, Anna Kranz Schultz, retelling her mother’s stories. We also hear it from the relatives still living in Dehlingen—descendants of Christian Sr.’s brother, Heinrich.

Supposedly, after Elisabetha died, five-year-old Christian was hanging around the cemetery, watching while townsmen dug his mother’s grave.

Now, before you get outraged at that thought, those if you who are baby boomer and older (and children of early baby boomers) need to remember how we grew up: we were scooted out the door after breakfast, expected to be seen for lunch and dinner, and that was it. Hanging around the house, you ran the risk of getting saddled with extra chores—housework, yard work, or both!

I’m sure Dehlingen in 1865 was not much different. At age five, Christian probably knew almost everyone in town. Even if he didn’t, everybody undoubtedly knew him and who he belonged to. I don’t have my Dehlingen map handy, but there’s only a couple streets, and the cemetery is close by, so yeah, I can see him out there, watching.

Supposedly the guys digging the grave had the brilliant idea to give him a scare. They picked him up and put him in the grave (not the coffin, just the empty hole), with some comment along the lines of “trying it out” or “seeing what it was like.”

Nice guys, huh? Those of you who read regularly know I make a point not to pass a lot of judgement on ancestors mostly because I don’t know the whole story. I’m breaking that rule this time. Those guys were jerks.

I raised four 5-year-olds and have known many more. I know how they can pepper you with endless questions until you are ready to scream. I certainly don’t know if Christian was doing that, but even if he was, that’s no excuse. The kid’s mother had just died—cut him some slack! It was neither the time not the place to play a joke.

Anyway according to the family story, he died, days later, of fright from that incident. Did he really? Who knows? While people can die of fright, we usually associate it with heart failure caused by the sudden shock. That seems unlikely with a 5-year-old—in my mind, at least.

On the other hand, the mind is very powerful; it can heal us, or make us ill. A 5-year-old can have a very vivid imagination, so who’s to say that event didn’t put a worry into his head that shouldn’t have been there? Since this story can’t be debunked as easily as Napoleon (Colorful), we’ll keep it documented.

And I’ll throw out the caution: “Don’t try this with your kids or grandkids, please!”

#52Ancestors

Cause of Death

Sometimes the death we mourn is part of a bigger picture.

Elisabetha Weidmann is my great grandfather’s first wife. She’s not really related to me, not genetically, at least. But she is the mother of my grandfather’s half siblings—my half aunts—so I keep track of her. A snippet of her tree is above.

Thinking about it, if she hadn’t died when she did, Christian Meintzer probably wouldn’t have married Sophie Gaertner, so I wouldn’t be here. I guess she’s more important than I thought!

Anyway, this prompt made me think of her. My brain couldn’t quite recall if she died of typhus or typhoid, so I figured I needed to nail that down.

Before getting to that, I looked up what they both were. I was operating under the assumption they were different names used for the same thing—like consumption and tuberculosis. Wrong!

While the two share some similar symptoms, they are actually quite different and spread in different ways. This website: What’s the Difference Between Typhoid and Typhus? (republished with permission of Passport Health) can explain it better than I.

So I looked in my database and discovered I don’t actually have a cause of death listed for her. Hmm. So I checked my two Doris Wesner books, Alsatian Connections and Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass, finding nothing there, either.

Back to the Archives du Bas-Rhin website for Elisabetha Meintzer’s death record on 5 December 1865. You’ve wandered through those records before with me. Lo and behold, cause of death isn’t found there, either! At least, not that was easily discernable.

Maybe it is hidden in the record, but I did not have the time to do a full-blown transcription and translation of it right then. I’ve looked at enough of these records, though, to be familiar with the pattern and to know where to look. I could have missed it, so if someone sees it, please let me know!

I even checked nearby records, none of which seemed to have a cause of death. That’s when it hit me: a lot of people died that November and December! Dehlingen is a small town. Even at its peak, it probably didn’t crack 1000 residents. The earlier months that year seldom had more than one death—if that!

Then November and December show up with 5 and 6 deaths, respectively (plus one in late October) . . . something was ripping through the town, that’s for sure! There were 22 deaths that year, total, so the other 10 were spread out over 9 months.

So where did I get the mistaken typhus/typhoid dilemma from? Possibly from a handwritten narrative from my grandaunt, Sophie Meintzer Kranz. She wrote that her older sister, Christina (b. 1867, d. 1876), died of typhoid fever. Christina Meintzer’s death record doesn’t list a cause of death, either, but Sophie was 8 at the time—old enough to remember. Even if she didn’t know the specific illness right then, there was ample time for her to ask her parents later what her older sister died of.

As I go through my documents, organizing them so my children don’t curse me after I’m gone, I may find something else confirming Elisabetha’s cause of death. Until then, I’ll assume she caught whatever ran rampant through the town in late 1865. My guess is typhoid fever, again, since it seems to me to be more easily transmitted.

But whatever the cause, the last two months of 1865 were tough for a lot of families in Dehlingen.

#52Ancestors

Ten

Or more?

When I saw this prompt, I just shook my head. I had no ideas. I finally thought about all the big farm families in my tree. Surely one with ten kids would be easy to find! It turns out, not so much. My Family Tree Maker software didn’t provide an easy way to determine how many children were in each family. The best I could do was display a descendant chart and count children boxes. I found lots of families with eight or nine. And lots with 11 or 12. Finally I located a “ten!”

Jacob Meintzer is a brother to my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer (born 9 April 1775). I don’t know if Jacob was older or younger than him, though. Their parents were Johann Jacob Meintzer (born November 1725) and Elisabeth Philippi (born 30 May 1742). The ancestors going from my great grandfather, Christian (My Favorite Photo) to Johann Jacob are spelled out in Doris Wesner’s books, Alsatian Connections, (documenting emigrants from 5 Alsatian towns) and Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass (a genealogy of the town of Dehlingen).

Jacob, however, does not show up in either book, nor does he appear in The Alsatian Emigration Book, by Cornelia Schrader-Muggenthaler. But my Alsatian cousins (yes, there’s still family in Alsace!) always list him, his wife, and their children on the charts. None of them show up in later years. How do eleven twelve people up and disappear?? Let’s see if I can get a better handle on this family.

Jacob and Elisabeth (no birth or death dates for either of them) had the following children (when I started this):

  • Johann Jacob (b. 26 May 1797) birth register
  • Philippe Adam (b. 21 January 1800) birth register
  • Catharina Elisabetha (b.  30 September 1801, d. 1803) birth record
  • Christina Barbara (b. 13 October 1803) birth record
  • Marguerite (d. 20 October 1804) death record could she possibly be Catharina Elisabetha, above? I don’t find her birth, and don’t find a separate death record for Catharina Elisabetha. 1803 was the death year I received for both from Alsatian cousins.
  • Christian (b. 29 October 1805; d. 21 November 1805) birth recorddeath record
  • Johann Anselme
  • Johann Peter (b. 12 January 1807) birth record
  • Chrétien (b. 22 April 1811) birth record
  • Sophie (b. 27 January 1816; d. 8 February 1816) birth recorddeath record
  • Nicholas (b. 11 May 1817) birth record

Who’s that in the dark blue? Well, I found him while searching, and he does belong to Jacob and Elisabeth. It’s a good thing I’m not the accountant in the family . . .

This family isn’t in Dehlingen with my 3rd great grandfather, so where are they? What is the source for these dates? While looking for the backstory for my great-grandmother, Sophia Gaertner (My Favorite Photo) I thought I noticed Meintzers in the Lorentzen census. It’s a starting point.

If you remember when I was looking for Sophia, I used the Archives Départmentales du Bas-Rhin. You can find it here and ask Google to translate it for you. If you want to learn how to search in it, contact me, but to keep it simple, I’ll just include direct links to the images for relevant pages. You will have to accept their Terms of Service, so click the “Accepter” box and it will let you in.

I started with the Lorentzen census records for 1836, 1851, 1856, and 1861. Nothing. Maybe I misremembered which town. I tried the Volksberg (a village known to Meintzer ancestors) census records. They weren’t there, either, but I have a theory. I moved on to the Protestant Parish records in Volksberg, and found Jacob and Elisabetha’s marriage record for 4 February 1796. I then went hunting for the children (their links are above, next to their birth dates). I had birth years for some, death years for others. I wanted to nail those down and be more specific. That’s when Philippe Adam materialized, bumping me to 11.

That name is a problem. Jacob’s brother is Johann Philippe Adam, and each brother named a son that (with duplication of other names, too!). Fortunately, the birth records clearly indicate who the parents are, so I can properly sort the children. I located birth records for all of them, with the exception of:

  • Marguerite/Margaretha–the death record clearly shows her as Jacob & Elisabeth’s child, but does not contain (or I can’t read/translate) an age for her to get me closer to a birth date. As mentioned in the bullet points for her and Catharina, are the two girls the same girl? It’s possible one death was reported and the other not, but that seems unlikely. If anyone can shed more light on this mystery, please let me know!
  • Johann Anselm–I have no years for starting points.  I’ve checked the Tables Décennales (10-year index by record type) and accounted for all the names listed there, as well as the Tables Annuelles (index at the back of each register). I’ve found omissions and errors in each index, so I didn’t rely solely on those and looked through all the birth and death registers/records for him. This family sometimes uses 3 names–should “Anselm” simply be added to one of the existing boys? Maybe. Did I miss his record(s)? Possibly. Again, if anyone runs across a birth and/or death record for him PLEASE let me know! I’m leaving him in the list so I don’t forget about him.

So, back to the question in paragraph 3: How did they disappear? To where? As far as I know, they did not emigrate to America. By the 1831 census, they are not living in Volksberg. Remember the theory I mentioned? I think they emigrated to the Odessa region of Russia, near the Black Sea.

Wow! You probably didn’t see that coming! In the late 1700s, Catherine the Great encouraged Germans to emigrate to areas of Russia. Beginning in 1803, Czar Alexander extended a similar offer to Alsatians.

The Germans From Russia website has a lot of information–some behind their subscription wall. Back in the late 1990s, I found a document there, listing Russians who had left Bessarabia to settle in the Dakotas. Among the names were Meintzers–with one listed as descending from a Meintzer from Alsace.

The Meintzer surname isn’t the most common name, neither is it extremely obscure. My experience with the name in Alsace, though, is that the Meintzers in Alsace are all related to our family one way or another. So while I don’t have a clear paper trail to link Jacob’s family with the Meintzers in Bessarabia, for me it’s a very compelling argument. Jacob’s family is the only one I really haven’t placed.

Before my grandfather, Christoph, died in 1967, he’d received a letter from a Gladys Meintzer living in either North or South Dakota, asking if he knew anything about his family tree (he didn’t). I assume she descended from one of those families that emigrated from Russia. Perhaps DNA testing will some day show us if there’s a connection between our families, though there may be too many generations in between to have success with that.

I’m glad I took the time to  look for these children, even though they are not on my direct line. It fleshed out that family a little more, and gives me a better idea of which people may have emigrated. I found some of the documents applying to my direct line, too, while I was looking. So while all my questions aren’t resolved, it’s a good start, and my tree is in better shape than it was.

#52Ancestors

Youngest

Everything old is new again . . .

Last week, while looking for the note I’d written myself about the picture/plaque hanging on Anna Schultz’s dining room wall, I unearthed this document:

Carl Moeller death cert_0001

It is an Illinois Death certificate¹ for my great grandfather, Carl (sometime Karl!) Moeller. I requested it in the 1990s, when the state offered non-certified copies for genealogical purposes, if you provided the certificate number from the online index. It’s not the “youngest” (most recent) document in my possession, but since it was “lost” to me until last weekend, I’m counting it.

Carl Moeller is my maternal grandmother’s father. It wasn’t an uncommon name in the Chicago area at that time. I know this is the correct document for him because;

  • birth and death years match his headstone
  • the address and wife’s name are both correct
  • the informant is my grandmother’s sister, Lena

When it arrived, I was knee-deep in children (4), with little time for genealogy or giving it more than a cursory glance before filing it away–incorrectly! Instead of being in my grandmother’s file, it was in her husband’s. Oops. It also seems I gave little heed to some important information it held.

Let’s back up a smidge. Carl Moeller was born in Germany in 1860. According to the 1900² and 1930³ censuses, he came over in 1885. He and Elfrieda Jonas married in 1887.4 He worked at the local brickyard, and was also the flagman for the Shermerville railroad crossing. He and Elfrieda lived literally around the corner from my mom when she was growing up. They were the only grandparents she knew, as the Meintzer ones died before she was born. She and her brother spent a fair amount of time at her grandparents’ house while their mother worked.

When Carl died 3 May 1935,¹ Mom was 13 years old, so she had clear memories of him. She remembered his handlebar mustache (you can kind of sense it in the photo–he’s standing in front, 2nd from the left). When I started doing genealogy, we went to their graves in Ridgewood.Mom thought that Carl and Elfrieda had known each other in the “old country,” but didn’t get married until they were here. Of course, she didn’t know where in the old country, because like the other great-grandparents, nobody talked about it. It’s the recurring nightmare of my genealogical life!

So when I rediscovered the death certificate last week, I was more than a little shocked to see parents’ names for him (Johan Moeller and Sophia Milahan), as well as a town for his birth place (Cannitetz?). How did I miss all that? Granted, Johan Moeller is about as useful as Johan Schmidt or Schneider, and Sophia’s maiden name garners no hits for me, either. My guess is it’s misspelled, and possibly implements the “in” ending (showing up here as “an”) frequently added to a surname for German women. And the town? No idea. I will have to play with that a lot. Obviously Aunt Lena knew something, but I didn’t pursue genealogy until well after her death in 1969. She wasn’t around when I started asking questions.

Sometimes we spend so much time looking for new databases, new websites, and new ancestors, we forget to make time to review information we already have. We probably aren’t the same people we were when it was first acquired. I certainly know more now than I did at fifteen (or fifty!), as far as:

  • general knowlege
  • genealogy research techniques
  • specific details about my family.

What seemed to be a random or inconsequential piece of information before, can take on new meaning when considered with evidence acquired since then. Suddenly, everything makes sense! Or maybe it doesn’t? Maybe we realize we had a house of cards going (remember Where There’s a Will?), and need to start over–or at least back up. Either way, we benefit from a second look at what we thought we knew–if only we take the time to reexamine it.

Once again, even twenty years after her death, Anna has helped me out with my genealogy!

#52Ancestors


Top photo: Theodore Bohs Saloon & General Store on Shermer Rd. in Shermerville, Ill. Circa 1905. On porch: Mr. & Mrs. Theo Bohs, Mr. & Mrs. Albert Wolff & John Bernhardt. Foreground: George Schick, Carl Moeller, Tom Devaney & Carl Rickwardt. Photo (and description) courtesy of Northbrook Historical Society (https://www.northbrookhistory.org/), who has the reprinted image for sale in their museum store. Used with permission. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only photo of Carl we have.


¹”Illinois Statewide Death Index, 1916-1950″, database, Illinois Secretary of State, Illinois State Archives (http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/idphdeathindex.html), accessed 11 August 2018, entry for Carl MOELLER, 3 May 1935; citing Cook County Deaths, death certificate 0018583.

²1900 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).

³1930 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 11 August 2018. Carl MOELLER, age 69; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 504; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

4“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).

5Find-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.

Oldest

Anna and Elsie 1995 07 15
15 July 1995, Meintzer Family Reunion. Anna  Kranz Schultz and Elsie Rakow Kranz, both almost 90, keeping cool in the shade on a 99° day! It had cooled down from the 106° two days earlier. We had Anna for another 3 years, and Elsie for 7.5 more. Photo credit: Lois Palmer Meintzer

Age is relative. The older I get, the less old some people seem. I already wrote about my oldest relative, Clara Duckart Goessl (Longevity). Mike’s grandmother (Strong Woman) missed 96 by just over a month, and my mom just passed that milestone. I ran a report prepping for this blog that surprised me. It showed me some people who I thought were older . . . actually weren’t. It isn’t that they seemed older—just that they knew so many things that I assumed they had been around longer than I realized.

The two coming to mind are

  • Anna Kranz Schultz (born 12 September 1905 and died 4 June 1998), at age 92 and
  • Elsie Rakow Kranz (born 27 August 1905, and died 8 March 2003), at age 97.

Anna was the 9th child (of 11) of Sophie Meintzer and Edward M. Kranz. You’ve read her name before, as the source for many of the Meintzer stories. Elsie was her sister-in-law, married to Anna’s older brother, Julius. Born just seventeen days apart, I have a feeling Anna and Elsie were like two peas in a pod. We didn’t get together with more distant relatives when I was young, but seeing those two at the family reunions in the 1980s and 1990s—that’s the impression I got. They hung out together, and between the two of them, seemed to know everyone and everything!

As a “married in,” Elsie was not my first choice to approach with genealogy questions. I don’t know as much about Mike’s family as I do my own, so I wouldn’t expect her to know her husband’s, either. Of course, paired up with Anna, they could prompt each other and fill in details the other left out.

My first exposure to Anna was as “Aunt Anna.” Yep, that’s what Mom called her. I immediately asked which of my grandparents she was a sibling of. Mom said that Anna was her cousin, but she called her “aunt” because she was so much older. I’m sorry, it was only 16 years difference!

My cousin, Mike, should not hold his breath expecting to hear an “Uncle Mike” from me any time soon!

Anyway, I quickly set Mom straight on the “cousins are NOT aunts or uncles” issue. After 40 years I think I’ve finally broken her of that horrible habit! Anna was a 2nd cousin to me, and grandaunt to both Pat Jenkins Weisel and Donna Gabl Bell (as well as a ton of others!). Donna and Pat share this obsession hobby of genealogy with me, and we find ourselves collaborating with research.

**Quick sidebar! I tend to use the term “grandaunt/uncle.” I grew up with “great aunt/uncle,” just as you probably did. Those are acceptable and recognized terms. About ten years ago, I read a book or article suggesting a better choice was grandaunt/uncle, because they are siblings to your grandparent. Similarly great-grandaunts/uncles are siblings to great-grandparents. The argument seemed logical to me, and I switched over to using “grand.” So I’m not just being snooty and pretentious. I’m just trying to be logical and consistent. If you still use “great,” that’s fine—we can still talk. I just figure if you understand the reason behind my word use, it will make more sense to you and be less distracting. End of sidebar!**

Anna was a huge help to my other cousins and me when we had questions about the family. She remembered the stories her mother told of life in Alsace. Without the distractions of radio, TV, or smartphones when she was growing up, listening to those stories was the entertainment available!

Pat grew up across the country, so perhaps mostly had contact with Anna via mail. Donna and I had proximity on our side, so had the benefit of visits in person. I don’t recall seeing the box of clippings and photos Donna mentions in her book,¹ but perhaps I did and just don’t remember. In the 1970s and early 1980s, there were no scanners, cell phones, or digital cameras to make capturing those images easy.

I was also more focused on information going backwards, not necessarily bringing all the Kranz lines forward. We were still in a paper-based world of charts and forms, so adding that many additional people and family lines was much more tedious than it is with computer software! Donna, on the other hand, would find the Kranz information much more pertinent, since those were close relatives of hers.

Regardless of who asked, Anna was warm, friendly, and as helpful as possible. I’m not sure any of us would be as far along as we are with our family history, if it hadn’t been for her information and encouragement. And, of course, her fantastic memory! Even 20 years after her death, she’s still helping me. I spent part of Saturday looking for a note I’d written at her house. Either I remembered incorrectly, didn’t look in the right spot, or missed it because it stuck to the back of something else. It never turned up. But the hunt unearthed a different piece of paper I’d forgotten about. You’ll read about that next week, though!

IMG_4911Anna gave me the ceramic ornament to the right, on a visit shortly after their 60th anniversary party. I guess she had some extras. Every Christmas I think of her when I put up and take down my tree!

She may not have been the oldest relative, but she was certainly the keeper—and sharer—of some of the oldest memories!

#52Ancestors


¹ Donna Marie Bell. My Family Keepbook (Blurb, 2016), 143.

Colorful

Looks can be deceiving . . .

My great-grandfather, Christian Meintzer, lived his life spanning two centuries and two continents. You met him (and this photo) early on (My Favorite Photo). Looking at him here, I wouldn’t peg him as a particularly “colorful” guy (despite my cousin Mark’s artful tint job to the original black and white!). He’s a farmer, just doing his thing. But his life had a little more color than that.

Meintzer200
Christian Meintzer and 2nd wife, Sophia Gaertner Meintzer, outside their farmhouse in the Riverwoods, Illinois, 1913 or earlier. Colorization by Mark Halvorsen.

He was born 3 April 1830 in Dehlingen, Bas Rhin, Alsace.¹ You all remember hearing about “Alsace-Lorraine” in school, but it’s not really a place. It’s like talking about “Illinois-Indiana” or “Michigan-Ohio.” But both regions got batted back and forth between France and Germany from 1871 until the end of World War II, and Germany lumped them together. Alsace is the “leg” part of the “sloppy 7” shape they make. His parents were Chrètién [Christian] Meintzer and Christine Isel (Jessel).

Nothing colorful happens until he gets older. France required its young men to serve a mandatory 2-year military stint. From 19 April 1854 to 31 December 1857, he served in the 6th Division, 8th Regiment, of the French Army. Luckily, we still have his discharge papers! He served as a Hussar–light cavalry (horsemen) and was apparently proud of his uniform and his fancy plumed hat. He was not married yet.

Family stories claim Christian fought a dual with Napoleon over improper care of a horse. That would be really exciting . . . except that Napoleon Bonaparte (the person I think of when hearing only “Napoleon”) was dead before Christian was born! Christian actually served when Napoleon III (Louis Napoleon–Bonaparte’s nephew) was emperor. Somehow I doubt Napoleon III was mingling with the troops. So what gives?

From all accounts I’ve heard, Christian was not large (light cavalry, remember?), but was strong for his size, and wiry. His horse, and the others, would have been hugely important to his–and his regiment’s–survival, so I can see him picking a fight with someone who didn’t seem to be taking proper care of his mount–probably not the Emperor, though!

His time in the army also enlarged his vocabulary. The everyday language in Dehlingen would have been Alsatian–a dialect based on German (I’m grossly oversimplifying it!). According to his children (my grandfather and his older siblings), when he was angry, Christian would swear in French! His children did not speak or understand French, so while they knew he was saying something bad, they didn’t know exactly what was said. I hope they knew better than to try and repeat any of it–at least not around their father!

Two years after his discharge from the army, he married his first wife, Elisabeth Weidmann. They had four children, but nine months after their youngest (Catherine–Favorite Name) was born, Elisabeth and their oldest son died. Six months later, he married his second wife, Sophia Gaertner. They had five more children, but lost two.

In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, Alsace was surrendered to the newly-formed Germany. Residents were given two choices:

  • remain French–and move elsewhere in France
  • remain where they were–and become German citizens

I’m sure it wasn’t an easy choice for anyone to make. According to Wikipedia, 10.4% of the residents chose French citizenship,² though only 1/3 of them actually emigrated. Christian decided to stay, at least for a while. One granddaughter, Anna Kranz Schultz, told me when his son, Jacob, was born in 1876, Christian decided he needed to emigrate to the United States. According to Anna, he didn’t want his son to serve in the German Army when he grew up. It took until May 1881 for them to sail on the Labrador, moving his wife, two daughters from his first marriage, and 4 children from his second marriage, to America.

Reaching the Riverwoods (north and west of Chicago), the family settled into farming again. Not very exciting or colorful! Christian was 51 years old, and still had three more children to add to the family. He remained on the farm until at least 1910–probably until 1913, when his wife, Sophia, died. At that point (age 83), he moved around to the households of various children. He still spoke only German (Alsatian?).

As he aged, Christian didn’t really slow down much. My 2nd cousin, Richard Jahn (now age 92), once told me his dad remembered Christian out in the fields with his sons and sons-in-law, helping bring in the harvest. It sounded like they all pitched in with whichever field was ready to harvest, knowing they’d later have help with their own. Despite his age, Christian kept up pretty well with the pace of the younger men. We also have this photo of him, out sawing wood. Clearly he held his own with chores!

Meintzer03
Christian Meintzer sawing wood. Date undetermined, but before 1922.

Anna also told a story about Christian rowing a boat out into the water and taking off all his clothes. He was living with her mom, Sophie, in Des Plaines at the time, very near the Des Plaines River. Did he go out to fish, and just got too hot? Was he going a bit senile? I don’t know. But at 83+, he was clearly still a colorful guy! He passed away 28 January 1922.

Most times we don’t know much about our ancestors’ lives. Social media didn’t exist. Photos are scarce–and sometimes tossed because they aren’t identified. Their stories, inconsequential as they may seem, disappear because no one takes the time to write them down. Making time to do that preserves these bits of color from their lives. It’s worth the effort.

#52Ancestors


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, naissance [birth] 1830, p. 4, no. 10, Chrètién Meintzer, 3 Avril [April] 1830.

²https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alsace-Lorraine. Section 2.2 “From annexation to World War I,” paragraph 9 (“The Treaty of Frankfurt . . .”), citing reference 6.

Music

Music links us to a time, place, and people, and can trigger memories, just as smell does. I still remember walking around town with girlfriends the summer before 8th grade, figuring out the words to “American Pie” –before album liners and the internet solved that problem.

I wouldn’t really say my family is musically inclined. We are not clones of the Von Trapps, and there’s no “Pa Ingalls” with a fiddle lurking up-tree from me to go on about. I remember watching with dismay when the used upright got carted out of our living room and sold before I was old enough for lessons. My older siblings got them, but the combination of the cost and the annoyance of having to nag them to practice got old for my parents. The money could be put to better use, and having fewer topics to nag your children about is always a good thing!

My sister enjoyed the piano, however, eventually obtaining one for her own household, which she did play. One brother went the guitar route during high school (didn’t everyone in the 1960s?) and is still fairly good–though I don’t know that he plays much anymore. I dabbled in clarinet at school, but realized I was no Benny Goodman, and dropped it after a while.

My parents enjoyed listening to music, so we had records in the house. Mom even taught me some songs (beyond nursery rhymes) when I was young. It was what we did in the car in the pre-Walkman/iPod/iPad days. Unfortunately, I learned the lame “if one of the bottles should happen to fall” version of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” I guess she figured it would help me with counting, and was more appropriate for a 4- or 5-year old! It wasn’t until junior high when I learned the more typical “take one down and pass it around” lyrics!

The other memorable song in my life was “Johnny Rebeck.” The spelling is approximate, but that’s how it sounded. If you Google it, there are lots of variations in name spelling and lyrics. Below is what I remember singing:

There was a little Dutch man, his name was Johnny Rebeck.
He was a dealer in sausages and sauerkraut and speck.
He made the finest sausages that ever have been seen,
And one day he invented a brand new sausage machine

chorus:

Oh, Mr. Johnny Rebeck, how could you be so mean?
I told you you’d be sorry for inventing that machine.
Now all the neighbors’ cats and dogs will never more be seen.
They’ll all be ground to sausages in Johnny Rebeck’s machine.

One day a little fat boy came walking in the store.
He bought a pound of sausages and dropped them on the floor.
He then began to whistle. He whistled up a tune,
And soon the little sausages were dancing around the room.

Chorus (above)

One day the thing got busted, the old thing wouldn’t go.
So Johnny, he climbed inside, to see what made it so.
His wife, she had a nightmare, and walking in her sleep,
She gave the crank a twist (sometimes “deuce”) of a yank, and Johnny Rebeck was meat!

Chorus (above)

Rather a macabre little ditty! Explains a lot about me, right? Mom knew the song as a girl (1920s) but doesn’t remember if she learned the song from her parents, grandparents, or friends. She grew up in a town with a high concentration of residents with German ancestry (including her own). I’m not sure if “Dutchman” is intended as is, or possibly “Deutchman” (“German man”) instead (like with Pennsylvania Dutch)? Or was it intended as a slam against the Dutch? I’m not sure many Dutch settled in Chicagoland, so they would miss their target. Sauerkraut and speck/spek are a part of both cultures, so neither is eliminated.

The only origins I find for the song dub it as a scout song. I learned it about the same time as “99 Bottle of Beer,” from Mom, NOT scouts.

What, you are wondering, does this have to do with genealogy? Well, nothing–and yet everything. It’s an illustration of how information–in this case a nonsense song–can get lost over time. A half century of disuse causes memories to get fuzzy. The same thing occurs in other areas of our family history–unless they are recorded somewhere. That’s why I write this blog. Sometimes I’m sorting out a genealogy puzzle (complete with footnotes!), and sometimes I’m documenting the bits and pieces of family lore I’ve picked up along the way. I try to make sense of them, put them in context, and just remember them, before I forget!

I didn’t teach my children this song, though possibly they heard it once or twice. The mindset when they were young wouldn’t have approved. Raffi and Fred Penner were more acceptable, so I caved. Of course, now that they are seeing it here, I may never be given access to my grandchildren, again (no, I haven’t taught it to them, either!). But at least it’s recorded and remembered.

Of course, a song is nothing without its tune! This one was very fun and catchy. I found this link: Johnny Rebeck melody so you can hear it for yourself. Other videos exist, but they were just *wrong*. I didn’t care about the words, just the tune. I’m certainly not sending you to the one sounding country-ish. Eww! Others were just plain scary . . . This one was the closest–coincidentally it’s coming from scouts!

Maybe for a Christmas prompt I’ll break out “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe” for you . . .

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