Challenge

One challenge isn’t enough?

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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.

Bearded

To shave, or not to shave . . .

I was not terribly excited about this prompt, because I had zero ideas about what to write about. We don’t have any Amish in our trees, and offhand I couldn’t think of anyone with a beard. Mike’s 18-day beard when we went camping in the Pacific Northwest in 1998 (he decided to take a vacation from shaving) wasn’t particularly noteworthy. I don’t think we have a photo record of it, either.

His beard was kind of nice, and had grown out past the awkward and uncomfortable stage—itchy for him and rough/scratchy for me. But he shaved it off when we got home. As soon as we got home. That afternoon—not the next morning. No warning to me. No chance to say goodbye to it. I was in the yard picking up the mail from the neighbor and talking about the trip, when he walks out with a naked face! There aren’t even words.

So yeah, no story there. A couple weeks of working on other posts intervened. It finally occurred to me that Christian Meintzer did have a beard, but he’s already had quite a bit of press in the blog (My Favorite Photo and Colorful), and I don’t have any particular story about him and his beard. Cousins, feel free to help out!

So I’m going to cheat and back off to just a mustache. A number of them hang around our trees;

John Carmody portrait 1906
Photo ca. 1906 probably provided by him to The Port Huron Daily Herald for an article written about him 2 March 1906

some you’ve seen before. The first is John Joseph Carmody, Mike’s paternal grandfather. You meet him in Unusual Source. As I mentioned then, I don’t know that much about him, and certainly don’t know any stories about his mustache. But his photo from the paper is just to awesome to pass up!

Another mustache, attached to my great-grandfather, Carl Moeller, was from the same turn-of-the-century era. My mom remembers this grandfather’s handlebar mustache when she was growing up, and she said he had a mug with a bar across the bottom edge to keep his mustache dry when he was drinking coffee. When I see one of those in an antique stop, my mind immediately goes to him! He’s the 2nd from the left of the men in the foreground, below.

Carl Moeller Northbrook photo_0001

From the photos I have seen, my grandfather, Christoph Meintzer, never sported a mustache, but his older brother, Jacob, seemed to. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to put my hands on one of Uncle Jake’s photos.

I don’t recall my dad or any of my uncles having mustaches, but I vividly remember a time when all three of my brothers were mustachioed. It was the 1970s, so that explains a lot! Several cousins had them, also—some never giving them up.

1975 dad and sons
1974-1976? Warren, Bob, Dad and Bill in front of the house we kids grew up in. Three mustaches and one not. This is a fairly rare image of Warren with a mustache.

I must be getting old, because it seems one memory begets another. As I wrote this, I suddenly remembered my oldest brother, Bob, coming home for our oldest sister, Carole, getting married in May, 1969. I was at school when Mom picked him up at O’Hare . . . with hair down to his shoulders, and a full beard. She was not at all pleased. I don’t know what discussion went on, but by the time I got home from school, his hair was shorter and the beard trimmed up. Mom was visibly happier!

1969 May 31 Mom & Bob
31 May 1969 Mom and Bob, at Carole’s wedding.

Beards and mustaches aren’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things. We sometimes get so caught up in the stories of our people, that we ignore the littler stories behind the stories. Often those are as interesting—or more mysterious—than bigger issues in their lives. Were they

  • Following the fashion of the time?
  • Rebelling?
  • Taking on a dare?
  • Trying to be taken more seriously in their profession?

Most of the time we will never know, but it’s interesting to look for possible patterns. And we need to save those photos for blackmail, later!

#52Ancestors

Youngest

Everything old is new again . . .

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

Carl Moeller death cert_0001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

²1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 14; family number 16; line 7; Charles [Carl] MOELLER household; accessed 11 August 2018. Charles [Carl] MOELLER, age 39, July 1860; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northbrook, block 18, e.d. 16-2237; Page 11A; dwelling number 119; family number 126; line 15; Carl MOELLER household; accessed 11 August 2018. Carl MOELLER, age 69; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 504; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

4“Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920”, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org), accessed 11 August 2018, citing Cook County, Illinois, reference 592131, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1030520. Carl MOELLER (27) and Elfrida JONAS (19).

5Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 11 August 2018, memorial 25468142, Carl MOELLER, (1860-1935), Ridgewood Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois.

 

#52Ancestors

So Far Away

Doesn’t anybody stay in one place, anymore?–Carole King

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

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

Arkansas_0001
Christoph Jacob Meintzer (top left) and two unknown men, after 27 September 1913

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


¹”U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918″, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Christoph Jake MEINTZER, serial no. 1167, order no. 106, Draft Board 1, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1,504,100; accessed 3 June 2018. Registered 5 June 1917.

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

#52Ancestors

Storms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Shermerville, e.d. 64; sheet 4A; dwelling number 55; family number 57; line 44; Karl Moeller household; accessed 13 April 2018. Wilhellmine MOELLER, age 17; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

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Invite to Dinner

Food–pulling family together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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