Tragedy

“There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.”–Dwight D. Eisenhower

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TRAGEDY: noun: a lamentable, dreadful, or fatal event or affair 

“Definition Of Tragedy | Dictionary.Com”. Www.Dictionary.Com, 2019, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tragedy. Accessed 22 Aug 2019.

It seems tragedy is often overused today. The red stoplight in my way (even if I’m running late), the promotion or raise not received, or the Packers not winning hardly rise to the necessary level. When we classify everyday disappointments, annoyances and inconveniences as tragedy, it diminishes the real thing.

Florence was one of my mom’s older cousins on the Moeller side. She was born1 25 September 1912, the daughter of Minnie Moeller Meintzer’s brother, Frank Moeller, and his wife, Alma Holstrum. Ardyth and Florence were ten years apart in age, but my mom remembers the families taking vacations together, because Uncle Frank had a car.

4 July 1925, Madison, Wisconsin. Florence Moeller (almost 13), her brother, Howard (7), and Ardyth (Mom–3).

Florence married2 Reinhardt Wilhelm Eberlein 29 May 1940, shortly after the photo below was taken with her grandmother, Elfrieda. Maybe. The index on Ancestry has that date, but the index at FamilySearch had a 10 June 1940 date.

How can that be?

Unfortunately, neither database includes an image. The 10 June date, however, was consistent with an article in the Cook County Herald, 14 June 1940, which reported a 10 June wedding for them in the Northbrook section on page 2. Possibly the earlier date appearing in the Ancestry database was the date the marriage license was applied for, rather than the correct marriage date located farther down the form. The indexer at Ancestry simply grabbed the wrong date, the one at FamilySearch grabbed the correct one. I would have to order a copy of the record from Cook County to see how it is actually filled out, to confirm that, though.

Even more confusing, Florence was listed as married in the household of Reinhardt’s mother, Alma Eberlein, when the enumerator came by on 6 June3 (the date at the top of the page). She was not enumerated with her parents4 two days before, when he came to their house. The enumerator was supposed to be listing the people who lived at each house on 1 April 1940! Regardless of which marriage date is correct, there’s no scenario where Florence should have been at Reinhardt’s house in April, much less married! Perhaps obtaining the marriage certificate has bumped up in importance?

12 May 1940, Mother’s Day, Florence with her grandmother, Elfrieda Jonas Moeller. Elfrieda was enumerated with her daughter, Caroline Moeller Mueller 3 weeks later, so this may be Caroline’s house on Church Street.

Despite the apparent confusion of the record keepers, Florence and Reinhardt were in fact, married! Fast forward two years, and the young couple welcomed their first child. Six years later (1948), Florence was pregnant with twins. The pregnancy did not end well.

When I first started genealogy, Mom took me to Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Illinois. Her parents (Christoph and Minnie) were buried there, as well as her maternal grandparents, Carl & Elfrieda Moeller. That was when I first learned about Florence, and her death from complications of childbirth, as well as the death of her twins. I made the assumption the babies died right at birth, with Florence following shortly. Mom told me they “were buried together,” so I assumed the babies were placed in the casket with her.

Florence’s grave is in the plot next to my grandparents and great grandparents. When Ridgewood opened in 1920, Mom’s family bought two adjacent plots. Each plot had 6 full graves, plus two (smaller) “baby graves.” Frank (Minnie’s brother) and Alma hadn’t purchased one, however. Florence’s death caught everyone off guard. In addition to the tremendous grief, where were she and her children be buried? One plot was completely empty, so it was sold to Frank and Alma.

Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois. Florence [Moeller] Eberlein, 1912-1940. No markers for her two babies.

Now, I could end the story here, and few people would challenge that it was tragic. Frankly, I didn’t do research on Florence for years. I knew the basics and left it at that. In the summer of 2003, someone—possibly my mom— decided to drive up to the Lake County Clerk’s Office and acquire copies of the death certificates for her and her babies. While Florence & Reinhardt lived in Northbrook (Cook County), she and the babies died in the Highland Park Hospital—Lake County. The new details make what was already tragic, more so—as hard as that may be to believe.

If you look for them at Ancestry, their death records aren’t found. FamilySearch has them in their “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994” database, which is surprising, given they were Lake County records. All we can see are the fields that were indexed. The actual death certificates provide a wealth of additional details providing a much clearer idea of what happened. We’ll start with Florence.

All the usual information was there: name, birth date, age, husband’s and parents’ names, funeral home and cemetery information. Then there was the death information. We learn she died 20 November, 8:09 AM, and her immediate cause of death was “peritonitis acute” [infection] she’d had for 14 days. She also had “pulmonary atelectasis” [lung deflated, or fluid-filled] for 4 days. “Pregnancy 7 months” was also noted as a condition.

The certificate noted Florence had a Caesarian section 3 November. Presumably that was the source of the peritonitis. An autopsy was also performed to determine the cause of death, before she was buried on 22 November.

Let’s move on to the babies. I don’t have birth records for them (which might indicate which twin was born first), so we’ll go with a “ladies first” approach. The daughter’s death certificate had a name: Joyce Ann. It had all the expected information, including the birth date of 3 November, which we would expect based on Florence’s surgery. Joyce died 4 November at 4 PM, her age listed as 1 day 15 hours. Doing the math, she was born at 1:05 AM. Her cause of death was “persistent atelectasis” for 39 hours [the entire time she was alive] with a secondary factor being “prematurity 7 1/2 months.” An autopsy was also performed on her.

Her brother’s certificate listed him only as “Infant Boy Eberlein.” Obviously he had the same birth date but he died a day later, 5 November at 10:05 AM. His age at death was recorded as 2 days, 9 hours, 20 minutes. Doing the math for him, he was born at 12:45 AM, making him the elder twin. His primary cause of death was “anoxia,” a fancy medical word for absence of oxygen. He, too, suffered from “atelectasis.” Both conditions lasted 49 hours. Either his conditions didn’t manifest immediately, or someone could’t do the math—he lived 57 hours, total. Both babies were expected to be buried 6 November.

Those full death certificates filled in so much more information than the 17 fields indexed at FamilySearch! The narrative surrounding this mother and her children became much more complicated. It was no longer infants stillborn, or dying shortly after birth and mother dying in childbirth.

Twins frequently arrive before their due date, but Florence underwent a C-section in the middle of the night, a month and a half early—early even for twins. The babies’ lungs difficulties aren’t surprising, as the lungs mature late in pregnancy. So many questions are still unanswered:

  • Were twins a surprise?
  • Why did Joyce Ann get named? Had they been hoping for a girl and already had a name picked out? Or was it just the unused girl’s name from her previous pregnancy?
  • Why did the boy not get named? He was born first and lived longer. Had they not gotten around to choosing a possible boy’s name?

I cannot imagine what the seventeen days between the twins’ birth and Florence’s death must have been like for her and Reinhardt. They watched their children struggle and die, and then had to scramble to find them a burial place. Was she allowed to attend their funerals? I imagine not, since in the 1950s, after a normal delivery a new mother was kept in bed for a week. I can’t see them releasing a mom who had surgery, even for a funeral. Her infection started about the time of the funeral, and obviously did not respond to antibiotic treatment (which was still a fairly new treatment option).

And what of their 6-year-old? Was he staying with grandparents while Florence was hospitalized? Could he visit his mom? In the 1960s, children weren’t allowed in patient rooms, for fear of them bringing in germs. This was 20 years earlier—was he even able to see his mother before she died? Or was it unexpected, so there wasn’t time to “bend the rules?”

There are so many layers of sadness to this story, but somehow Reinhardt and his surviving son got through the grief.

So, the five people in front of me at the grocery store? Not such a big deal, after all . . .

#52Ancestors


1“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 22 August 2019, entry for MOELLER [female], 25 September 1912, citing “Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915” FHL Film 1288262. Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

2“Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 22 August 2019, citing Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records, file# 1637352, Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois. Reinhardt W. EBERLEIN and Florence C. MOELLER.

31940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, e.d. 16-341; Page 6B; household number 125; line 45; Alma EBERLEIN household; accessed 23 August 2019. Florence EBERLEIN, age 27; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 784; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

41940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, e.d. 16-341; Page 5A; household number 100; line 35; Frank MOELLER household; accessed 25 August 2019. Frank MOELLER, age 51; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 784; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Challenging

Rising to a challenge isn’t for everyone . . .

Minnie (Wilhelmina Carolina Christina) Moeller Meintzer is my maternal grandmother. She died shortly after I was born, so all my knowledge of her is second hand: from siblings, my mom, or older cousins. Fortunately for me, my mom’s brother, Gail, decided to write a book in 2016: Detours: A Memoir of a Railroad Man

While Gail focused on himself, obviously other people wove in and out of his life and story, his mother being one of them. I have always been aware of her cooking at Bartelme’s Inn and Briargate Country Club (Invite to Dinner), but he provided stories I had never heard, showing she had no difficulty in challenging someone, if need be. He graciously gave me permission to share those stories here (in my own words, unless quoted).

Minnie Moeller Meintzer, date unknown. Love the hat! The pendant watch was a gift from Christoph, while they were dating.

Al Capone had a “Wisconsin getaway,” as did most of the Chicago mobsters. His was in Couderay, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.² Returning to his home base in Cicero, he’d have to drive near/through Northbrook.

This is the old Bartelme’s Inn in Northbrook. It originally stood at the corner of Shermer and Waukegan Roads, but was moved to 1776 Walters Avenue when it was acquired by the Northbrook Historical Society. The people in the parking lot are my dad (far right), my mom’s brother (middle), and her sister-in-law, Neva (far left Love). Photo taken by Ardyth.

One of those trips back, Capone and his men stopped at Bartelme’s to eat. The old German man working as waiter rushed into the kitchen, scared to death, asking Minnie for help. She couldn’t get any information before Capone walked in. Minnie asked what was going on.

Capone said, “I’m trying to tip our waiter for the good job he did, but he won’t take the money,” which was a $100 bill.

Meintzer, Gail F. 2016. Detours. Green Bay, Wisconsin: Written Dreams Publishing, p.23.

Apparently the waiter was worried that Capone would shoot him afterwards, if he accepted the tip. Minnie didn’t have time for this nonsense; she had a kitchen to run! She had Capone give her the money. When he did, she handed it to the waiter.

Then she looked at Capone and told him, “Now get the hell out of my kitchen.” And he did.

Ibid. p. 24.

The incident challenging Capone may not have been the first, but it definitely wasn’t the last time Minnie challenged someone!

Briargate Country Club, Deerfield. Christoph ran the concession between 1939 and 1941. That included him bartending at the 19th Hole, and Minnie cooking. Her pies were legendary. They lived in a house on the property.

Just like country clubs today, Briargate Country Club hosted golf outings, sometimes capped with dinner afterwards for the participants. One time the arrangements included steak dinners for 225 people after the event.¹ [p. 36-37] Minnie ordered 250 steaks from her supplier, just to be safe. Any extras would be used up later that week.

Unbeknownst to her, the chairman for the event sold more than the 225 tickets he had contracted for, without letting anyone (particularly Minnie!) know. As the dinner orders came in, steaks were served. And served. She ran through the 250 steaks she ordered, plus some that she had on hand. The chairman couldn’t be found to explain the problem, so finally she had to send out ground steak patties to get the customers a meal.

THAT got his attention, as those golfers who received not steak dinners complained to him. He stormed into the kitchen to chew her out, but she turned it back on him. She told him she’d already served more than he’d contracted for, and she was doing her best to get meals to everyone. She wanted to know why there were orders still coming in. He fessed up that he’d sold more tickets.

Minnie really let loose, then, informing him that IF he’d said something to her in the afternoon, she would have been able to increase her order. There would have been no problem at all! As it was, he was going to pay the agreed upon price, even for the dinners that weren’t steaks.

By all accounts, my grandmother was a loving and caring person, but she was more than capable of challenging someone, if the situation warranted it!

#52Ancestors


¹Meintzer, Gail F. 2016. Detours. Green Bay, Wisconsin: Written Dreams Publishing.

²Kirby, Doug. 2019. “Couderay, Wisconsin: The Hideout: Al Capone’s Northwoods Retreat Closed)”. Roadside America. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/7404.

Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#52Ancestors

At Worship

“But my family ALWAYS went to ______________ church!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#52Ancestors


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

Out of Place

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#52Ancestors


Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, New American Bible


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

#52Ancestors


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

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

 

Challenge

One challenge isn’t enough?

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.

Elfrieda Jonas Moeller and daughter, Minnie. Date unknown. Cleaned up photo, below.

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.

#52Ancestors


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.

elfrieda moeller & minnie moeller meintzer copy
Elfrieda Jonas Moeller and Minnie Moeller Meintzer, cleaned up photo. Possibly taken after 27 September 1913, as Minnie seems to be wearing wedding ring.