Rich Man

“I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.” – Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, “Identity Crisis,” M*A*S*H

I’ve frequently mentioned that I come from a long line of peasants. Nothing has changed regarding that. No tycoons are hiding in the branches of my family tree!

Further thought brought to mind two situations where the person might have seemed rich—or generous?—at least by comparison.

My maternal great grandmother, Elfrieda Jonas, was born 7 December 1867, to an unwed mother, somewhere in Germany. Nope, I don’t even know her mom’s name! Elfrieda emigrated in 1884. Or maybe 1885? As far as I know, no siblings or family members traveled with her.

She married Carl Moeller in Chicago, 25 September 1887. Supposedly Elfrieda worked for the Krieger family in Glenview, prior to marriage.

Family lore suggests Carl and Elfrieda knew each other in the old country, but that location hasn’t been confirmed for either. They may have traveled on the same ship, though that’s a mystery, too, as I have multiple emigration years for each! Their backstory is a bit of a hot mess.

Regardless, the newlyweds moved to Shermerville, living first above the cheese factory, later buying a house on Church Street (below). It’s clearly a 2-story house in these photos, and my grandparents, Chris and Minnie, lived upstairs until at least the 1920 census. Mom says the house was lowered, later on.

Now, granted, it’s a good sized house, but not particularly ostentatious. Great grandpa Carl worked in the brickyard, 1900-1930, and later worked as a flag man for the railroad—basically raising and lowering the crossing gates. He owned his house in 1930, but they certainly were not a wealthy family!

Yet Elfrieda was known to have sent money to someone in Germany, presumably that unknown (to us) mother. Elfrieda’s mother likely would have been born around 1852, or earlier; I don’t know when she died. Presumably Elfrieda started sending the money soon after she first arrived, and continued through the years they had young children, and more expenses than spare cash.

Surely Elfrieda might have seemed rich to her mother, since she was able to send money back home! I wonder if Elfrieda felt the same way?

The second situation involved my grandaunt, Sophie Meintzer Kranz. When Sophie emigrated in 1881, she was 13. She was old enough to remember Dehlingen, her friends, and the family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) left behind.

When she married Edward Kranz, and embarked on the daunting task of raising their many children (11!), she did not forget her early roots. Their house on Sycamore, in Des Plaines, was a large farmhouse, as they would have needed. Of course, large doesn’t mean fancy or expensive!

I imagine hand-me-downs were as common in that family as they were in my own; a necessity for financial survival. When Sophie ran out of children or grandchildren to pass clothes to, they were shipped back to Dehlingen. How do we know that?

When the Meintzer descendants on both sides of the Atlantic reconnected in the 1980s, after decades of silence (initiated by WWII occupation of Alsace), several trips were made back to our ancestral town.

One of Sophie’s great granddaughters, Pat, made the initial contact, and visited with her mom, Arline, and her aunt, LaVera (sisters), at different times. When the photo albums came out, the sisters each recognized winter dress coats they had worn as young girls!

They probably never knew what happened to the coats once they’d outgrown them, but obviously their grandmother included them in one of her shipments. Yes, plural. When I was confirming that story with Pat, she elaborated further:

Yes that is true!! I was told by the older ladies like Albertine and Lina S***** that it was always a wonderful day when a box came from Aunt Sophie. They said this more than one time. They said the clothes were used but still had wear in them. On one of the visits to Dehlingen we were in Lina S*****’s house having coffee and Kuchen (it may have been when LaVera visited with me) and Lina brought out a black dress from the 1930’s that she said was sent to her by Aunt Sophie. I thought she was handing it to me to give to me, but she just wanted to show it to me. It meant so much to her after all those years, that she still wanted to keep it.

Email from Pat Weisel, 6 November 2019

Clothes boxes clearly happened more than once or twice, and were greatly appreciated! Sophie could have just as easily donated the clothes locally, saving herself the expense of shipping. She took the extra time and effort to put them in the hands of people she knew, and who would make good use of them.

I don’t think Sophie sent the clothes to show off, or make anyone feel bad. She remembered that Dehlingen was a small village, with fewer shopping options. Travel to a larger town would be necessary for any kind of selection. Even Des Plaines of the 1920s and 1930s (far less built-up than now) would have had more shopping choices that were easier to get to.

There’s also the satisfaction of knowing the clothes we’ve loved are being worn by someone we know, rather than a stranger. Most of us have passed around maternity and baby clothes to newly-pregnant friends for similar reasons.

Elfrieda and Sophie weren’t rich in terms of dollars and cents, but they recognized opportunities to help others, when they could. They knew that despite the miles, family was still family and could always use support. These are traits I see continuing 4 and 5 generations after them.

However, if you are (or know of) a rich uncle of which I’m unaware, feel free to let me know!

#52Ancestors


1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 14; family number 16; line 8; Charles [Carl] MOELLER household; accessed 11 August 2018; NARA microfilm publication T623; roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

“Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920”, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family 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 Elfrieda JONAS (19).

Context

“What’s that mean?”–Far Field Productions end credit (“Bones”)

Halloween is creeping up, again. While I like skeletons as much as the next person, I don’t like the people in my family tree to be skeletons. They can have skeletons to their heart’s content, but I prefer to put some meat on their bones, when I can. I put on my “Joe Friday” hat (“All we want are the facts, ma’am.“), tracking down name, birth and death dates, possible marriage date(s) and spouse(s). If I stop at the basic facts, though, I’m shortchanging them. As I discover more details, I round out their lives, personalities, and relationships within the families. I learn the context surrounding the events in that person’s life. It starts to make more sense.

CONTEXT: noun: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

“Definition Of Context | Lexico.Com”. www.lexico.com, 2019, https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/context. Accessed 10 Oct 2019.

So do I really need to find

  • each census?
  • each city directory?
  • their work history?
  • all their kids (even the ones I don’t descend from)?
  • all their siblings?
  • what land they owned? Or didn’t own?

Not necessarily, but the more I know, the better I can assess new records I may come across. Does that record really belong to my person, or is it just a similar name? The more details I can match to existing information, makes being the right record/person more likely. I can also better understand their life. Did they move around a lot? Why? Was it due to job changes? Changes in fortune? Did they move in with children as they aged? Without that context, ancestors remain 2-dimensional, rather than moving toward 3-dimensional.

How does that play out in real life?

Finding the lawyer’s bill in Patrick Nolan’s probate documents at the courthouse in the early 2000s (Naughty) left me with more questions (Did he and Alice actually divorce? Who filed?) than answers, until I was able to locate them in the divorce register.¹ Their entry had been lined out, but the newspaper article detailing his death provided better context (Alice moved back home, it wasn’t due to Patrick’s death). An earlier article³ (at the time she filed for divorce) provided additional context to the situation and their relationship.

For me, newspapers seem more helpful than many other resources. Most of the time, my ancestors and relatives don’t make the front pages (thankfully!). The local news columns (AKA gossip columns!) gave insight to the minutia of their lives. Who visited them? Who did they visit? What clubs did they join? Were they an officer? These “inconsequential” details move them from the “caricature” end of the spectrum more towards the “portrait” end.

Lots of mundane events prove more interesting with the passage of time. My mom, at age 97, doesn’t recall her 2nd birthday party, but I learned she invited her cousins over:

Little Ardyth Meintzer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, celebrate and [sic] delicious hot chicken dinner with Florence and Howard Moeller, Edlyn Mueller as guests. A big birthday cake was enjoyed and the little hostess was congratulated.

“Northbrook Section,” 11 April 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 20, col. 5, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

An earlier paragraph that same paper mentioned her cousin, Howard, started school. April seems an odd time to start, maybe he was out sick and finally able to return to school? I might need to look up an earlier issue to shed further light on that. Mom also never told me that just before her 2nd birthday

While playing and running, little Ardath [sic], daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, bumped into the kitchen cabinet, and cut her head quite badly.

“Northbrook Section,” 4 April 1924, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 4, col. 1, DuPage County Register, Bensenville, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Thankfully, the party still went on without a hitch!

Mom had also talked about vacationing with Florence & Howard and their parents (Uncle Frank had a car!) when she was a kid. She didn’t remember the details, but thanks to The Daily Herald 29 March 1929 (p. 8, column 3), I learned that, “The Meintzer and Frank Moeller families are on their way home from Virginia and Washington, after several days motor trip.” While I didn’t think Mom was making up that story, it’s nice to be able to pin it down better. And I’ll be able to assign more a more accurate date to some photos I think are from that trip.

Health (or lack thereof) featured predominently in the columns. When Mom’s cousins experienced complications from a vaccine (not sure which one!), the whole town (as well as neighboring towns) knew . . .

Helen Meintzer and her sister, Bernice, have missed several days from school on account of being vaccinated. Little Jeanne was also vaccinated. We are glad to report that they are improving daily and will be back to school real soon.

“Northbrook Section,” 1 April 1927, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, col. 5, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Their brothers weren’t mentioned. Were they not vaccinated? Or did they simply not miss school?

Of course, we already knew my grandfather (Christoph Meintzer) liked fishing, but putting it in newsprint made it official!

Mr. Christ Meinzer and Jack Mayer of Deerfield had a pleasant time catching fish at Lake Elizabeth, Wisc., and brought 60 fish home with them.

“Northbrook Section,” 13 Augutst 1926, Newspapers.com: accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 17, col. 5, Palatine Enterprise, Palatine, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Will I ever find everything? No. But it pays to slow down from hurried harvesting, and look for the juicier strawberries hiding under the leaves, instead of just picking the ones easiest to find.

#52Ancestors


¹”Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 5 March 2018, citing Michigan, Divorce Records. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan. St. Clair, state file # 348-9. Patrick Nolan and Alice Nolan.

²”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

³”Mean Man,” 24 August 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

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

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