Poor Man

“All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.”–John Lennon

When first venturing into genealogy, I of course knew my Meintzer family, and quickly learned about the other, “Meintzers without an ‘i’ ” family also living in Northbrook. In the 1980s I discovered we had another branch of the family still living in Alsace. Awesome!

Then I had kids, and genealogy came to a screeching halt. That actually worked out well, because in the meantime, the internet grew up, and databases grew. When I resumed searching in 1996, I found Meintzers living in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that I couldn’t connect to mine. There were also several large trees centered around Karlsruhe, Germany. It’s not very far from Alsace, but I could never make a connection between them and my ancestors in Alsace. I left all those guys alone.

Time marched on, and some time after the millennium, my searches for “Meintzer genealogy” brought up a link to a personal web page hosted at Rootsweb.com, for some Ohio Meintzers.

Ohio? Really? Surely they must be from the Pennsylvania or West Virginia people. Nevertheless, I looked at the page. Imagine my surprise to discover they descended from my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer, and his wife, Maria Marguerite Meder!

Adam and Marguerite lived in Volksberg, and had 8 children. Marguerite died 26 November 1817, with Adam dying the following year. Of the children, 2 died prior to their father; 3 are complete mysteries right now. The remaining 3 children were sent to live with other families in different towns (though I haven’t actually located them in the Alsatian census records, to confirm!):

  • Johann Philippe Adam (almost 15)–don’t know where he ended up, but he emigrated to Northfield, Illinois, in 1842, married, and started the “Meintzer without an ‘i’ ” family. He went by “Philip” in the U.S.
  • Christian (almost 12)–moved to Dehlingen, to start my direct ancestors.
  • Johann Georg (3 ½) was sent to Berg. He is the ancestor of the Ohio Meintzers.

I don’t have many details on Johann Georg, but he married Christine Männling 25 April 1839, and they had 3 children:

  • Marguerite (21 June 1840-1925)–she married back into the Ensminger family.
  • Georges (25 September 1843-?)–he married and had at least one child in Berg (1868), but I haven’t researched more than that.
  • Henri George (13 January 1849-5 January 1944)–he’s my “poor man.”

Henri (Henry) fell in love with Sophia Holtzscherer, also from Berg. Marriage law in Alsace at the time required parental permission up until age 25 or 27. He was only 19 or so; permission was not granted. Of course, that didn’t cause Henry and Sophia to suddenly fall out of love!

Here’s where the story muddles, a bit. One version I heard was their Plan B was for Sophie to get pregnant. Presumably they would be given permission, then. So that’s what they did, except it didn’t work as expected. Still no permission granted.

The second version, from Henry’s descendants’ web page (same as above), gave a slight variation:

Henry fell in love with a young girl, Sophie Holtzscherer, also living in Berg, and became pregnant. Yet Henry’s parents did not agree with a marriage because her family was too poor. So Henry decided to go to the USA, make a living there and then come get her and bring her to America.

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ohfulton/MeintzerFamilyReunion.html

Slightly different, but essentially the same. With Sophia pregnant and marriage not possible, Henry emigrated to Northfield, Illinois, where his uncle, Philip, had settled. Henry would be starting from scratch. If his parents didn’t approve of a marriage to Sophia, they certainly would not have financed him traveling to America so he could marry her! He probably still “owed” his father work while he was in Alsace, so would have had to pick up odd jobs to earn his passage money.

In the meantime, while Henry was in Illinois, Sophia gave birth¹ to their daughter, Sophie, 22 May 1869, in Berg. No father is listed in the birth register. The date is consistent with Henry knowing she was pregnant before he left. The Ohio Meintzers’ website continues:

Henry came to America and settled in Cook Co. Illinois. He farmed there for 2½ years and then moved to Fremont, OH where he worked 2 yrs in a sawmill and 9 years in an iron mill before locating in Fulton County.

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ohfulton/MeintzerFamilyReunion.html

Henry settling near his uncle and cousins made sense. Even if they weren’t able to hire him for work, they would know others nearby needing paid help. They could vouch for him and provide him a place to stay until he was situated.

Unfortunately, I have not located Henry or his uncle and cousins in the 1870 census. Their last name must be extremely mangled in the index, and I didn’t have time to search page-by-page for them. It is on my to-do list! I know they were there, but I’d like to confirm Henry.

Some details from the Ohio Meintzer website conflict with each other, or with records located. I’m trying to sort it out and resolve the issues. There is uncertainty about:

  1. Whether Henry made one or two trips to the U.S.
    • Both 1868 and 1871/72 immigration dates show up in records, consistent with the 2-trip story. I haven’t found passenger lists for either trip to the U.S. (or a trip back to Alsace), but many of them are unavailable. Lacking a specific date (even having the month doesn’t narrow it down much!), it would be hard to find them, not being sure of the port of entry.
    • I’m not sure Henry would have simply sent money back to Sophia. Would he have trusted either set of parents to actually give it to her? I’m not sure I would have, in his shoes! So him returning for her makes sense to me.
  2. What year(s)?
    • See above. July 1871 showed up as the arrival date in Henry’s Certificate of Declaration, Sandusky County, Probate Court, 8 October 1877. It’s possible he misremembered the year (see #3, below).
    • Or maybe it was intentional, needing it to be earlier than July 1872? You had to be a resident for a minimum number of years.
    • Maybe he did make only one trip, and sent for Sophia to come over with their daughter on her own? That 1870 Illinois census is looking more important all the time!
  3. If Henry and Sophia married in Alsace, before leaving
    • It was suggested they married in 1869, and then left.
    • If they didn’t have permission before she was pregnant, it’s unlikely they’d get it afterwards.
    • They were still too young to marry without permission in 1869.
    • Henry and Sophia had a marriage record² dated 1 October 1872, in Cook County, Illinois. If they married in Alsace, they had no reason to redo it. Their names are unusual enough that it’s unlikely that record is for some other couple!
    • The Tables Décenniales 1863-1872 for Berg³ had only 1 male Meintzer marriage in that window–Henry’s brother, Georg. Being underage, I doubt Henry and Sophia could have married in the nearby towns.
    • It seems unlikely they would have waited a year (until 1872) to marry, if Sophia emigrated in 1871.

Returning to Cook County to marry made sense, though, because that was the only family they had. It seems their move to Ohio might not have been too long after that.

The 1880 census placed Henry (with a poorly recorded surname, but all the right kids and ages) in Fremont, Ohio, occupation: engineer. That part of the story matches, as does the remainder, establishing the family in Fulton County:

He bought 106 acres of land in Swancreek Twp Fulton Co. with only about 20 acres cleared and the remainder in brush.  He added farm buildings to the property and cleared much of the land. Also acquired an additional 40 acres of adjacent land and soon had about 100 acres under cultivation.  He was a general farmer and specialized in livestock and dairying.

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ohfulton/MeintzerFamilyReunion.html

Despite several fuzzy details in Henry’s story, one thing is clear to me: he and Sophia loved each each other deeply. They both had to endure difficulties for 4 years or so, before they could be together as a family.

It wouldn’t have been easy for Sophia in Berg. She undoubtedly experienced repercussions from neighbors and family for being an unwed mother. Her parents may have pressured her to marry someone else. She kept the faith, though, trusting Henry to come through in the end.

Henry, it seems, worked his tail off to bring his child and would-be wife to America. Why did he move to Ohio, from Cook County? I don’t know. Maybe land was simply too expensive in Illinois. When they married, it was the year after the Chicago Fire. Maybe prices were still inflated, and the cost of living was too high. He figured out an alternate plan, temporarily leaving agriculture for presumably more lucrative pay in the sawmill and iron mill. He saved enough to allow him to return to the land.

Henry may have started out a poor man, but he didn’t stay one.

#52Anestors


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Berg, Registre de naissances [birth registers], 1869, p. 4, no. 6, Sophie Hertzscherer, 22 May 1869; accessed 16 November 2019.

²”Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Search Record Search (https://familysearch.org), film number 1030079, Digital GS number 4270000, image number 795, Heinrich MEINTZER and Sophie HULTZSCHER.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Berg, Tábles décennales, Mariages [ten-year tables, marriage index] 1863-1872, p. 6, right side, entry #3, Georg MEINTZER and Margaretha FREY, 19 March 1868; accessed 16 November 2019.

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).

Transportation

“Sometime you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”–Dr. Seuss

Two stories popped into my head—different cars, different drivers, but both needing to be remembered.

It seems our driveway was not such a safe place to drive or park cars . . .

Growing up in Northbrook, transportation for my mom consisted of 2 choices: feet or bicycle. She did not learn to drive as a teenager. Even when Mom was working in The Loop (Chicago downtown) after high school, she walked to the train station and commuted in on the train.

In 1947 (she was 25 by then) my parents rented the house on South Adams, in Hinsdale, relocating to my Dad’s rug cleaning business (At Work), but Mom still hadn’t learned to drive. Milk, maybe eggs, and butter, were delivered as needed, and she’d walk the 1 mile to the Jewel store once or twice a week, at nap time. Mrs. Soubry (the upstairs neighbor—not positive of the spelling) would bring a book downstairs and keep an eye on my older siblings while they napped. Mom would walk home with the meat (and anything else needing refrigeration), leaving the rest in a cart at the front of the store with her name on it. Dad would swing by on the way home for lunch or from his last job, and pick up the non-perishables.

It wasn’t until they bought the house on York Road, in 1952, that Mom learned to drive. It was only 3/10 mile further from the store, but it was uphill both ways, she had more kids, and she no longer had an upstairs neighbor to stay with the kids so she could shop. In addition, she now had children going to school 1.3 (instead of .4) miles away from home. Even though my sister rode the bus, we all know there are times when you need to pick up kids from school, so it was finally time for Mom to get a license.

After her driver’s ed class ($10 for three 1 hour lessons) from a high school PE teacher, and obtaining her license at age 30, she was good to go. She had a fairly decent driving record, as far as I know, though apparently there was one incident, early on in her career. As my Aunt Mary related it:

Ardyth, do you remember the most original event of your entire career as a wife and mother? How you managed this, to this very day, no one can or will state. Bob and Hank came home from work that day and to their extreme astonishment they noticed – and did they EVER notice – that the little 1950 Crosely car you drove was perched on the very top of a pile of gravel by the garage! It was like a picture from Robert Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not.” You will always be fondly remembered for this accomplishment!!

Mary Paulson Haws, Green Valley, Arizona to Ardyth & Bob Haws, typed letter, fall 1994, memories for 50th wedding anniversary book, Bauman Correspondence Files; privately held by Christine Haws Bauman, Greenwood, Indiana.
Drawing by Mary Paulson Haws, 1994, for Bob & Ardyth’s 50th wedding anniversary book. Used with permission from her daughter, Barb.

The Crosley car was way before my time, and I have no photos. Apparently¹ it was an early compact car produced in Cincinnati. Fortunately, it was also fairly lightweight, because my dad and his brother needed to lift it off the rock pile! Dad didn’t take time to photograph it, before moving the car. Thank goodness Aunt Mary provided us with a visual (even though not eye-witness) image of the event!

My aunt’s description needs a slight correction. It was actually a pile of flagstone (not gravel) that Mom landed on. It was waiting for my dad to build the flower bed on the east side of the garage, and make a stable edge to the driveway extension. I’m not sure which rock type would be harder to scale, or retrieve the car from, safely.

How did Mom manage that feat? Most likely she had intended to shift to reverse, but landed in drive by mistake. It’s an easy mistake, especially for a new driver. When the car didn’t start backing up, she probably gunned it, hurling the car up the rocks.

The other story involves my middle brother, Warren. In the fall of 1966, our dad purchased a new 1967 Ford Galaxie 500 sedan. The 1960 Ford Country Sedan station wagon (yes, it sounds like an oxymoron, but that’s the actual model!) was getting older, he had more drivers, but also children soon to be leaving the nest. A second car, seating fewer people, would come in handy.

The Galaxie was custom-ordered, paid for with cash. Because he needed it to eventually pull the trailer (partly visible along the right edge of the photo), Dad had the towing package added on, with heavier shock absorbers, a more powerful transmission, maybe a “better” radiator/cooling system to handle the stress of towing. It was still “wet behind the hubcaps” when it was involved in an accident with Warren. Or so I thought.

The 1967 Ford Galaxie 500, in the driveway, with a bored teenager—NOT the one who hit it . . .

I was only 8 ½ at the time and didn’t pay much attention. I was reminded of the incident when I was taking driver’s ed as a sophomore. The story I heard was that Warren had “backed the new car into the house.” Now, the house was pretty large (a 2-story Queen Anne), so it seemed a little unlikely. It required either tremendous skill or horrible luck. It also surprised me that one of us kids was driving a brand new car! I didn’t question the story, though, and made sure I did not follow in his footsteps (wheel tracks?).

I of course called Warren to confirm facts. The story, with more details “from the horse’s mouth,” was different and even more interesting than the version I’d heard as a student driver, with some distinct differences

  • He did have an accident in the driveway—but he was driving the station wagon, not the new sedan!
  • Both cars were insured, but our dad didn’t want to raise the rates by running the accident through the insurance policy
  • He didn’t hit the house, he hit a vehicle parked on the driveway next to the house.
  • He was in a hurry to pick up his date (“It’s always a girl’s fault!”) and didn’t notice the other car was in the driveway.
  • He didn’t use his rear view mirror (obviously!) or check behind him.

Some parts of his story matched what I heard, but others were out in left field. As I tried to digest the new information, my brother asked if I wanted to hear the rest of the story. What? There’s more?? Bring it on!

Since this accident was all “in the family,” Dad had my brother pay for the repairs. That was reasonable. Dad also wanted everything repaired a quickly as possible. Apparently the insurance agents would cruise through town, checking out cars in driveways to see if they had unreported damage!

The ripple effect was that Warren didn’t have money to rent a tux for an upcoming Senior Girls’ formal dance—a turnabout dance. He was almost the only guy there not wearing a tux, but he had a black suit, so he wasn’t too out of place. Getting to the dance had its own back story, though.

He ended up with two (yes, 2!) dates to the dance. Sort of. One girl (Sue Dahlman) simply assumed they were going, but hadn’t bothered to ask. A classmate from grade school, Carolyn Bayer, actually asked him. Since he thought he was dateless, he told her, “yes.”

The two girls were in line together to buy tickets, Sue in front. When Sue was asked who her date was, Carolyn was shocked to hear her reply with—her own date’s name! Oops. They must have had quite a conversation . . .

Ever the gentleman, Warren went to the dance with the one who asked him. He never dated the other girl again.

Warren and I had a good laugh over the phone as he filled in the back story to and consequences of the accident. I’m sure he wasn’t laughing while trying to scrape together enough to pay our parents back! Fortunately, time has a way changing our perspective, allowing us to see the humor in what wasn’t funny at the time. And my own son’s (we’ll protect the guilty!) “2-dates for Prom” experience doesn’t shock me nearly as much, now. It must be a genetic thing . . .

The timeline bothered me, however. Warren graduated in June, 1966, but new cars typically are released in late summer, the year before the model year. The 1967 Galaxie 500 wouldn’t have come out until after he graduated. Even after 50+ years, he recalled vivid details about the dance—the names of both girls, that 4-5 couples went as a group and had dinner at the home of one of the girls (a bonus, since he had no money to take her out!), not being able to afford the tux.

But he didn’t remember it being the ’67, and thought it must have been another car. Except I don’t remember us having a 2nd passenger vehicle until the ’67. I did the only thing I could do—research! On Classmates.com I found his yearbooks, locating both girls in senior year, but only one in the junior year photos. That narrowed it to senior year, but still left the issue of what car did he hit? The ’65-’66 dance was too early to be impacted by an accident.

It was time for some phone calls. At 97, Mom’s recollections can be hit or miss, but she LOVED that car, so I hoped for the best. Unfortunately, she didn’t really have a memory of that accident, or the circumstances around it. No help there.

Next call was to my brother Bill (lounging on the car in the photo). His memory was clearer than mine, since he was closer to driving age at the time. He remembered being the ’67, and that our dad was REALLY mad—unusual for him. Bill was also told the car moved backwards 20 feet, fortunately, not into the street. That may have been exaggerated a bit to drive home the point. Warren said he wasn’t going very fast; that it was only a fender bender. Fender benders don’t move parked cars that far!

Perhaps the biggest thing I learned is that it’s important to check out the story, if I can, even if I’m sure of it, myself. If that turns up conflicting information, okay. I can deal with that. I can’t clarify or resolve (or at least acknowledge) information I don’t know about, though.

So where does that leave the story? Unresolved. Cars were hit. Bumpers were repaired. Younger children’s driving habits were influenced. It’s still a good story (better than I started out with!), even if the timeline can’t be fully resolved. I’ve got my own variation of Rashomon² going on.

#52Ancestors


¹”Crosley”, En.Wikipedia.Org, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crosley.

²An event where the story told by different eyewitnesses is considerably different. Click the link for a more in-depth explanation.

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.

Reunion

“We are who we are because they were who they were.” -Unknown

Eighty-nine years ago, the Meintzer/Mentzer clan gathered together for the first family reunion. It was attended by at least 107 people. Yes, I counted heads! My mom is the 8-year-old girl with bobbed hair sitting cross-legged in the front row, 4th from the right. Her younger brother (age 4) was 4 to the left of her, in front of their parents, Christoph and Minnie Meintzer. Mom remembers attending this reunion as a kid.

Meintzer/Mentzer reunion in the summer of 1930. Exact date unknown but the infant cradled in the back row (held by the 5th adult from left) was born 2 June 1930. Seven of the nine children of Christian and Sophia Meintzer attended (middle of the 2nd row), as well as some extended family.

The photo resurfaced — that I know of, at least — in the early 1980s, when my mom and Lois, my godmother, decided we needed a family reunion. Unfortunately, my grandfather and his siblings had all died by then, so we needed to rely on the next generation to fill in the details of location and people.

Mom recognized some of the people, but not all. The nine siblings left a lot of kids between them, many of them still alive in the 1980s. With “crowdsourcing” (was that a thing, yet?) we managed to identify 93 people. That’s actually not too bad!

The reunion took place in the town of Riverview, just south of Des Plaines, Illinois. First settled in 1833, Riverview consisted of farms as well as industries accumulated over time.¹ [p. 1] By the mid 1880s, the town had a train station, post office, and a Town Hall (the building in the background of this photo). Over the next few years, additional industries were proposed, but either didn’t get off the ground or didn’t last long. The residents petitioned nearby Des Plaines to annex Riverview in 1925.

The Town Hall was on the northwest corner of Illinois & Everett, but was demolished in 1941.¹ [p. 5] I’ve been unsuccessful in locating other images of it. The building had an auditorium upstairs, but I’m unsure whether the reunion was held inside (coming outside for the photo), or if there were also picnic grounds around it.

In 2019, only a handful of people are still alive who attended this reunion, making it unlikely we will nail down the remaining faces. This week I spun off a “working file” from Family Tree Maker, containing only the people who were related and alive in 1930. I had it create a chart of everyone in the new file (whittled down to 159), then colored in the boxes for the identified people, and saved it. I’m hoping that seeing families with one or two members AWOL will help us put names to faces. I’m not going to list all the names in the blog. If you are family, and want the list, email me and I’ll gladly share it.

What I find notable about this photo (aside from all the men wearing ties!) is that extended family was also present. In Northbrook and the surrounding area, there were two families with names pronounced the same, but spelled differently. There were the Meintzers with an “i” (my people) and the Mentzers without an “i” (distant cousins). In the 1930s, the connection between the two was still well-known. My grandfather, Christoph Meintzer, knew that Christian Mentzer, four years older, was his 2nd cousin. Today, I don’t think many people realize there was/is a connection between the families, though I try to point it out whenever possible! It’s an important connection to keep.

Emigrating from Alsace in 1881, my great-grandfather, Christian, did not settle in the area north of Chicago accidentally. He moved his family to a place where he had 1st cousins he’d never met in person. In 1842, his uncle, Johann Philippe Meintzer, sailed on the Franconia from Le Havre.² Phillippe settled in Northfield and started working, eventually saving enough money to acquire land. He married Helena Weiman. They had at least four children (if there were more, I haven’t found them).

Descendant chart showing the 3 who immigrated to the Northbrook, Illinois, area. They are shaded yellow. Johann Philippe Meintzer Mentzer (far left) arrived first. The next arrival was Henri George Meintzer (far right), who arrived in 1871, then my great-grandfather, Christian (center), in 1881.

In 1871, Henri Georg Meintzer (another nephew of Philippe’s) arrived from Berg, staying for a couple years before moving back east to Ohio. That family remained in Ohio, and was “lost” to us until the last decade or so. Why Johann Philippe came to the Chicago area, I don’t know, but the other two most likely arrived there because of him. It’s helpful to know someone in a new area. Even though the cousins didn’t “know” each other, they were still family, so there’s still a connection. It’s possible the families had kept in contact by mail, though I’m unaware of any letters to document that.

I love that this reunion photo shows the two families together. The fact that they left Alsace separately, and reunited in the United States is cool! I need to make time to bring the Meintzers without and “i” line forward to current relatives, so my tree is more complete. Add that to the to-do list!

Please see an update to this post here.

#52Ancestors


¹Gale, Neil. 2019. “Village Of Riverview, Illinois (Now: Des Plaines, IL)”. Living History Of Illinois And Chicago. http://livinghistoryofillinois.com/pdf_files/Village%20of%20Riverview,%20Illinois.pdf; p. 1 and 5.

²National Archives and Records Administration, Castle Garden web site (castlegarden.org), http://www.castlegarden.org/quick_search_detail.php?p_id=8712262. Philipp MEINTZER–age 40.