Bachelor Uncle

Maybe? Maybe not?

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Ignatz Joseph Schweiger was one of my grandmother’s older brothers.. Sometimes he shows up as “Ignatius” in records. He was born 15 October 1889, and had a twin sister (Clement Mary) who died 5½ months later. We find him in the 1900 census¹, an eleven-year-old schoolboy, and in 1910, 20 years old², with an occupation “Teamster, Street.” I don’t know precisely what that job entailed, but in 1910, it’s likely to be a horse and wagon, rather than a motorized vehicle.

Prior to 1913 (Al was married and in New York by then). Uncle Iggy is on the left. Photo credit: Fred Schweiger.

Even though Iggy and Al (Unusual Name) were working full time in 1910 (Sylvester and Fred were still in school), it would seem all were pressed into service at the family restaurant, probably on the weekends.

Uncle Iggy died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 9 June 1964; within my lifetime. He was brought back to Northbrook and buried in the Schweiger family plot (Cemetery), with his parents and some of his siblings. While I recall hearing about him (trust me, “Iggy” is a name a kid remembers!), I’m sure I never met him in person. But I’d always heard that he was my grandmother’s unmarried brother.

I’m not sure why he decided to move away from the family, to Milwaukee. It wasn’t that far away from everyone else–a couple hours, maybe? I’m sure he could have found similar work in the Chicago area, if he had wanted. From everything I’ve heard, he was a nice enough guy, and as you can see from the photos, he came back to visit the family. Whether it was for a 4th of July picnic . . .

4 July 1929. Uncle Iggy is to our right of the cute kid (my dad!) with the tree growing out of his head. Not sure of the source for the photo.

Or a visit from his brother in New York . . .

Iggy is 2nd from the right. Dorothea died 29 October 1932, so obviously this is before then. Photo credit: Fred Schweiger.

Or a family picnic when my grandmother’s three sons (and son-in-law) were safely home from the service . . .

23 June 1946. Iggy is in the back row, with the tie and suspenders!

In September, when I wrote about the education levels of Iggy and his siblings (Back to School), I tracked all of them down in the 1940 census. Highest education level was a question on that one. He was easy enough to find, living as a boarder with a family in Milwaukee. He was still a “team driver,” this time doing “city work.”

As I checked the other columns, a surprise jumped out at me. The marital status column had a “W.” Widower. Huh?? Had there had been a marriage I didn’t know about?

The census information was provided by the head of household, who, I learned from Iggy’s 1942 WWII draft registration4, was also his boss! Now, census records can have errors for a variety of reasons:

  • Sloppy handwriting (this page is very neat)
  • Careless copying (census pages are created from the “field notes” forms filled out. But only 2 other entries on the page had a “W,” so I doubt the enumerator “lost track” of where he was. Iggy was also on the last line.
  • The person providing the information not knowing. “Widower” is not the choice I would default to if I didn’t know someone’s status. I would think “single” would be the more likely assumption to make, if you saw no signs of wife or children. This was also his employer, so may have known him better than a random landlord might.
  • The person involved (in this case, Iggy) telling someone a status that involves the least amount of explanation. Again, “single” would generate fewer awkward questions to answer than “widower,” “divorced,” or even “married” when there’s no wife or children around.

So I decided to try and track down a confirmation one way or another for this supposed marriage. It’s entire possible he had a short-lived marriage (lots of women still died from childbirth complications) that either no one knew about, or they just didn’t talk about, because it was upsetting. If enough time goes by, it can just be forgotten about.

His 1917 draft registration (hard to find because his name was spelled wrong!) lists him single, and in Milwaukee. That’s usually a help in locating 1920 records. But no, I cannot find him in Milwaukee, or anywhere else:

  • He’s not in New York with his older brother.
  • He’s not with his parents.
  • He’s not with either married sister (in Illinois OR Wisconsin).
  • “Fuzzy” searches (first name OR last name, with a wider birth year range) netted nothing

After 3 days of beating my head on the wall (or keyboard), I decided to contact my cousin, Barb. I was hoping she had run across one or both census records. Many hands make light work, right? More like misery loves company. Talking (texting) it out, gave me other search ideas. For 1930, I looked up the family he was boarding with in 1940 — just in case he was still there. Nope. I located his 1917 and 1940 addresses, trying to determine the enumeration districts for 1930. I paged through two different districts, hoping to spot him. Again, no luck. None on Barb’s end, either.

Since I had this blog to write, further searching needed to be deferred. Why can’t we find him in 1920 and 1930?

  • We’re looking in the wrong place. He’s in Milwaukee in 1917, and 1935 (from the 1940 census), but he could be elsewhere in between.
  • He was missed by the enumerators. Twice? Somewhat less likely, but people DID get left off.
  • His name is mangled. I tried searches to bypass that, but may not have found the correct work around. And I searched page-by-page in 2 districts.
  • He was abducted by aliens for a decade and a half.

You may wonder why I’m obsessing about census records, when I’m trying to figure out a possible marriage. I did look for marriage records and found nothing. But not all of them are available online, so not finding a record doesn’t tell me why I’m not finding it. Not online, or never happened? On the other hand, the census always reports married state, and it’s a fairly complete record set. Finding him there might help me determine if the 1940 “widower” is accurate or not, and suggest if I should keep looking elsewhere, or give up. Yes, it could be wrong, but it at least gives me a clue.

I also searched Newspapers.com for records in Illinois and Wisconsin. I hoped for a marriage announcement, or maybe an obituary for the “mystery wife.” I found Iggy only as a survivor in his mother’s and his sister’s obituaries. I didn’t find one for him, nor do I have his death certificate. My experience is that death certificates are less likely to be accurate in the areas NOT directly recording the death. That information is provided by doctors or other people involved with the death event; the other data is provided by whomever. Especially in the case of a single person not living near other family, that will be a friend, neighbor, employer—whoever happens to be available—not necessarily someone who knows!

So I’m left, once again, with an incomplete story, and inconclusive answers. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to resolve it, as “proving a negative” is really tough to do. Unfortunately, none of the people best able to answer it (Iggy, his siblings), are alive. Even the next generation (my dad, his siblings, and cousins) has only a handful still alive, and they would have been babies at the time of the marriage, or not even born!

In the meantime, we’ll have to simply enjoy our memories and photos of Uncle Iggy, and save our questions of what the truth is for when we catch up with him. 

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 1172; sheet 11B; dwelling number 188; family number 193; line 94; Ignatz SCHWEIGER household; accessed 4 March 2019. Ignatz J. SCHWEIGER, age 10, Oct 1889; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 293; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 57; sheet 9A; dwelling number 168; family number 169; line 24; Ignaty[z] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 29 April 2018. Ignatz J. SCHWEIGER, age 20; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 239; digital image, Ancestry.com) (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, e.d. 72-313; sheet 2A; household number 27; line 40; Louis BRZEZINSKI household; accessed 30 August 2018. Igantz SCHWEIGER, age 51, lodger; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 4554; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

4“U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942”, database, (https://www.ancestry.com), Ignatz Edward SCHWEIGER, serial no. 1071, order no. not given, Draft Board 14, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Wisconsin. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623284. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 4 March 2019.