Tombstone photos show up regularly in my posts. For some people, it’s the only image representing them!

Early on I blogged about the Schweiger family plot in Sacred Heart Cemetery, in Northbrook, Illinois. Sacred Heart Parish (and its associated cemetery, five miles away) was a daughter parish to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wilmette. Sacred Heart was created in 1897, three miles north of St. Joseph, as the Catholic population grew in that area, and St. Joseph had become more crowded.

Ignatz and Dorothea Schweiger were among the founding families of Sacred Heart, but would have originally been members of St. Joseph. My grandmother, Victoria, was baptized there in 1894. Nevertheless, I don’t associate their family with this parish, probably because the more important, and more recent, events didn’t occur there.

We visited my parents in late October, 1996, piled them and our kids into our van, and trekked to the northern suburbs, cemetery-stomping. Our first stop was St. Joseph Cemetery, at Ridge Road & Forest Avenue. It was a “new” cemetery for me, a half block from the church, adjacent to the school property. The parish started in 1845, so it’s an old cemetery. We fanned out, looking for names we recognized, not knowing exactly who we might find. We found Aunt Rose Rau (Victoria’s sister), and her husband, Joe:

I didn’t realize it at the time, but a recent search at Find-A-Grave confirmed my suspicion that Uncle Joe’s sister, Mary, was also interred there with her husband. We had found their parents, Henry (16 January 1845-21 August 1920) and Elizabeth Rau (20 March 1844-1 April 1918), while we were there in 1996, sharing a headstone. A Joseph Rau (2 October 1837-12 November 1914) with wife, Marie (15 February 1844-23 December 1923), were also nearby. Based on his birth year, I suspect that Joseph Rau was an older brother to Henry. In other words, he was my Uncle Joe’s uncle.

The tombstone that really caught my eye, though, was this one for Joseph Levernier. I didn’t know who he was, but Victoria’s oldest sister, Elizabeth (Lizzy), had married Urban Levernier. We figured Joseph was related in some way, but didn’t know how.

Joseph Levernier died Dec. 8, 1899; aged 40 years. Personal photo, taken 27 October 1996

A precious one from us has gone

A voice we loved is stilled

A place is vacant in our home

Which never can be filled

Joseph Levernier headstone; St. Joseph’s Cemetery; Wilmette, Illinois

It’s an impressive stone, and someone obviously missed him! Other Leverniers were nearby:

  • William A. Leverier 1877-1961 OSSW Katherine ? Levernier 1884-1973
  • Honore J. Levernier 1911-1961

My granduncle, Urban, was buried in Sacred Heart, so who were these guys? I looked for Honore, and found him in the 1920 census:¹

  • Wm. Levernier (42)
  • Katherine Levernier (35)
  • Katherine B. Levernier (10)
  • Florence A. Levernier (9)
  • Honorius J. Levernier (8)
  • Leo E. Levernier (6)
  • Mary E. Levernier (5)
  • Rose A. Levernier (2 4/12)
  • Genevieve A. Levernier (1 2/12)

This William and Katherine seemed to be the couple sharing the tombstone, above, and Honore on the other tombstone was probably their son, age 8 in 1920 (bolded). Urban was born in 1887, and his parents were Honorius and Barbara. William is most likely Urban’s older brother, though more research is needed to prove that. I still hadn’t found Joseph, though. I checked Find-A-Grave to examine the information there, and look at those photos and memorials.

I believe two memorials have been created for Joseph, each with a different death year. One (with a photo matching mine) says the death year is 1858. That would place his birth around 1818. The other (with no photo) says the death year is 1899, placing his birth at 1859. The stone had a great deal of weathering, and with only a death date, one can’t use the age to double check against the non-existant birth year. The memorial without a photo has a spouse, parents, siblings, and children attached, but with no photo I can’t be certain it’s the same tombstone, or that those connections are correct.

The notes I wrote when I took my photo have 1899, matching the no-photo memorial. I cannot find any other records for Joseph—not even an entry in the Illinois Death Indexes. In addition, this family’s surname was misspelled (or mis-indexed) all sorts of ways in census records:

  • Levenier (1900)
  • Lervernas (1880)
  • Lovener (1870)
  • and the topper: Gusta (1860)! Yes, it’s really the right family . . . just spelled entirely wrong,

No doubt other records have the same spelling issues, making it hard to confirm that difficult-to-read year. The trees I found him in online do not have documentation for that date, so they don’t help. Fortunately, when I visit the office of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Catholic Cemeteries in July, to finalize my mom’s burial, I should be able to ask to see Joseph’s burial card and confirm 1899 is correct. I need to write a note to myself to remember to do that!

Why have I bothered researching this family? My Granduncle Urban, is the only Levernier related to me. Was this a BSO distracting me from other research? A rabbit-hole I dove down? Not really. Leverniers were an extensive family living near my Schweiger ancestors. They show up on the same (or adjacent) census pages as my great-grandparents. They belonged to the same parish. Eventually, a marriage linked the two families. Understanding more about the Leverniers might help me understand more about the Schweigers.

Besides, it was was cool tombstone . . .


¹1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 118; sheet 1B; dwelling number 13; family number 13; line 66; Wm. LEVERNIER household; accessed 24 May 2020. Honorius J. LEVERNIER, age 8; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 361; digital image, (


“Burn, baby burn . . .”–Leroy Green & Ron Kersey; “Disco Inferno”

Christoph Jacob Meintzer and Wilhelmina (Minnie) Carolina Christina Moeller married on 27 July 1913.² They are my maternal grandparents. You’ve seen their wedding photo, and you’ve read their courtship postcards, and one sent after marriage. My mom once told me a story about her parents’ marriage certificate—the one they got from the church, not the “legal” one.

Shermerville** in the early 1900s—like many other small towns—didn’t really have trash pickup. At least, that’s what my mom remembered from her childhood. It had a town dump (there’s another story about that, for another day), and everyone had a container in the backyard to burn much of the rest of their trash. I’m not sure if that included things like chicken bones, vegetable scraps, etc., but my mom definitely remembered having a backyard burn pile.

Apparently one day, Minnie was outside with a stack of papers to burn. I don’t know exactly when this was, and I don’t know if my mom remembered seeing it, or just remembered hearing the story from her dad. So I can’t put any kind of date it—not even a ballpark date.

At any rate, Minnie was outside, feeding items into the fire. Christ (remember, short “i,” silent “t”) walks over to see what she’s burning. In the stack was their marriage certificate! Yes, seriously. He was not pleased. She wasn’t mad at him. It was not an indication of how their marriage was going—they ended up being married for almost 45 years when she died. It was just there with the old newspapers, letters, shopping lists, and who knows what else.

Full view of a color copy of the marriage certificate. “Trauschein das Christoph Meintzer aus Deerfield, und Frl. [fraulein] Minnie Moeller aus Shermerville, Ill. am 27 Sept. 191? in Shermerville in Gegenwart der Zeugen Karl Mau, Lillie Moeller; Ehelich verbunden; worden und wird hierdurch glaubwürdig bezeugt; Shermerville den 2te Juli 1915.” Translation: “Marriage Certificate; that Christoph Meintzer from Deerfield, Illinois and Miss Minnie Moeller from Shermerville, Ill; on 27 Sept. 191? In the presence of the witnesses Karl Mau, Lillie Moeller; Married and is hereby credibly attested, Shermerville, the 2nd July 1915; F. Schaer, Pastor.

When he asked her why she was going to burn it, Minnie’s explanation was along the lines of, “Everyone knows we are married—we don’t need to keep this.” Maybe she was doing a spring or fall cleaning, and it just seemed like clutter to her. She wanted it out of whatever drawer it was in.

Arguably, she was correct. Shermerville was a small town, and they had no need to “prove” they were married. That was beside the point. Alas, the marriage certificate has no burn or scorch marks on it. There was no dramatic “saving it from the flames with a stick,” to make the story more exciting. I think Christ told her to keep it anyway. She obviously did, and presumably it never came up as an issue, again.

If you zoom in a bit, you might notice the lines left by the fold marks—even through the foil seal at the bottom. I count at least 6 horizontally. I’m not quite sure how it was stored to end up creased like that. Maybe it had been rolled, but then had stuff on top of it to make looser creases, instead of firm folds? The original was elsewhere, and wasn’t at my disposal when I made these images. It certainly could have suffered a far worse fate, so I’ll settle for a few creases/fold lines!

Closeup of the section with their information. Transcription and translation are under image above. The full certificate measures 10 3/4″ x 15″ .

As I pulled out my photocopy (stored flat!) to take the photo, I noticed the bottom date was 2 July 1915. Say what?? Further inspection of the date above that (the marriage date) showed the last digit of the year clearly had issues! It looked like a “5” that had been doctored/corrected. Obviously Christ & Minnie did not receive this certificate at the time they married! All the other records we have for their marriage used the 27 September 1913 date:

  • St. Peter’s church registers¹ [which I viewed in person, but don’t have an image of]
  • Cook County marriage index²
  • Minnie’s wedding ring (below)
Minnie Moeller Meintzer’s 18K gold wedding ring. The full inscription reads, “C. J. M to M. C. M 9-27-13.”

So, what happened in 1915, triggering a delayed creation of this certificate? I have no idea. They must have needed a copy of it for some reason, but it’s a mystery. St. Peter’s Church was the German Evangelical church Minnie attended with her family, but the church was undergoing changes in the 1910s. According to Northbrook, Illinois: The Fabric of Our History,

“The congregation remained independent until 1912, when it joined the Evangelical Synod of North America, a denomination with a German background which attempted to bring together the Lutheran and Reformed traditions. Services were conducted in German until 1920.”

Gerry and Janet Souter, Northbrook, Illinois: The Fabric of our History (Northbrook, Illinois: The Northbrook Historical Society and the Northbrook Centennial 2001 Committee, 2000), p. 86.

My mom only remembered attending services at the Presbyterian church, not St. Peter’s. Did Christ and Minnie switch over to the Presbyterian church in July 1915, and need to bring their new pastor proof of their marriage? Did they need the document for some other reason? It must have been copied from the parish register 2 July 1915, and it seems the pastor (or clerk) mistakenly wrote the current year instead of the marriage year for the marriage date—and then tried to correct it. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me.

Of course, that got me curious about the pastor who signed it: F. Schaer. Was he leading that congregation when they got married (1913), or had he arrived later? I couldn’t locate him at all in 1910—not even with a page-by-page search of the township. His previous church was in Wisconsin, so he may have been there. He and his family were in Shermerville in 19205 (and obviously 1915!). He (Frederick) and his wife, Julia, are buried in Saint Peter Cemetery (Old), according to Find-a-Grave. His memorial is fairly basic, but hers³ included a transcription from a church memorium.

It said Rev. Schaer was pastor at St. Peter’s for twelve years, retiring to Oregon after that. The specific year range wasn’t included, nor was his retirement date. He and his wife both died in Oregon, but had their remains returned to Northbrook (formerly Shermerville) for burial.

Unable to nail down dates using other sources, I turned to looking for mentions of Rev. Schaer. There were always local church news columns! I found blurbs annoucing their post-retirement visits back to the area. Two sons remained in Northbrook, so that made sense. When I focused on 1913-1915, I found him mentioned at the top of the 3 October 1913 “Shermerville” column, which also mentioned my grandparents’ marriage the previous Saturday (below):4

Minnie’s surname was misspelled: it should be MOELLER. There was a Mueller family in town—in fact, her sister was married to one! This doesn’t mention which church or pastor.

A week after he married them, Rev. Schaer headed off on a “land excursion to Arizona.” I also found newspaper articles referring to him in early 1912, so I feel confident he was serving that congregation when Christ & Minnie got married. To confirm he officiated, I’ll need to acquire their Cook County Marriage License, with the “return” section filled in, or see if I can view the St. Peter’s register and get a copy this time. The church recently merged with another nearby congregation, so tracking down that register (and getting access to it) may be difficult. But it seems likely Rev. Schaer was the one to marry them and finally provide a church certificate documenting that, two years later.

Why did I bother tracking Rev. Schaer? He played only a small role in my grandparents’ story.

  • a good portion of this blog had been created for a previous prompt, but then deferred until later (now!).
  • I had more time available than I sometimes do (Thank you, COVID-19!).
  • I had reinstated my Ancestry subscription, so had additional resources

I hoped rooting around Rev. Schaer’s time in Shermerville might shed a light on why my grandparents’ church marriage certficate was created late. It didn’t, unfortunately. It might have, though, and if I didn’t look, I’d never know. One side effect of this type of scavenger hunt (calling it a “rabbit hole” or “Bright Shiny Object” isn’t really accurate), is taking the time to recheck facts. Sometimes it turns up information I’d forgotten about, or that didn’t make sense at the time I first came across it.

Oftentimes information doesn’t have meaning because we don’t know enough to understand how it fits in. In this case, I spent time in the Northbrook Centennial book, confirming names, dates, and places. In doing so, I stumbled across a section of an 1875 plat map I’d never noticed. A surname caught my eye: Jonas. Minnie’s mother’s maiden name was Elfrieda Jonas. I don’t have information about other relatives Elfrieda may have had outside of Germany, but it seems too coincidental to find one in this area ten years before Elfrieda shows up. That’s a lead I should probably follow up on, to see if that landowner is related to Elfrieda. Maybe it’s nothing, but I won’t know until I check. And I think I need to actually sit down with that book and read it cover-to-cover. I think it has more information than I realized.

Sometimes while researching we turn up grubs and pill bugs, sometimes we unearth truffles. We never know which it’s going to be!

**Remember, the town was called Shermerville from 18 November 1901 until 1 February 1923, and Northbrook after that. I used the name appropriate to the time period being talked about, so you will see both names, throughout. Please don’t be confused!


¹St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church records (1879-1920), St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Willow Road, Northbrook, Cook, Illinois, p. 38.

²”Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (, accessed 29 March 2019, citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, reference 642445, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,030,556. Christoph MEINTZER (25) and Minnie MOELLER (20).

³Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave ( accessed 11 April 2020, memorial 25480803, Julia SCHAER, (1858-1944), Saint Peter Cemetery (Old), Northbrook, Cook, Illinois, photo credit L Winslow.

4“Shermerville,” 3 October 1913, accessed 11 April 2020, record number: n.g.; citing original p. 1 col. 5 para. 15, entry for Mr. Christ MEINTZER, Miss Minnie MUELLER [MOELLER], The Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (

51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 137; Page 15A; dwelling number 296; family number 296; line 11; Fred SCHAER household; accessed 11 April 2020. Fred SCHAER, age 68; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, (

Strong Woman

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”-– Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m not sure my mom’s cousin, Jeanne Emily Meintzer, necessarily got into much hot water, but I feel she had a quiet strength supporting her through the more difficult times in her life. At the time of her death, 7 August 2019, she (along with my mom and uncle) was one of the last three grandchildren of Christian Meintzer. Now only one remains.

Jeanne was the 6th child (of eventually 7) of my grandfather’s older brother, George Edward Meintzer. You met Jeanne briefly in 2018, when her wedding became the backdrop for a story, and her father, my Uncle Ed (he used his middle name), in Next to Last. Two months after her 18 January 1924 birth, Jeanne already made the front page news:

Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Meintzer and family spent Sunday with the Henry Therrien family, after dinner the baby was babtized [sic] at the St. Norbert’s church—”Jeanne Emily.” A very pleasant day was spent which was enjoyed by both families.

“Northbrook,” 21 March 1924, accessed 5 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, column 2, paragraph 4, Cook County Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (

For the record, Jeanne spelled and pronounced her name the French way, one syllable. I didn’t actually know her preference until recently, but I’d always heard my mom call her “Jeannie,” with 2 syllables (like I Dream of). Was Mom was pronoucing it correctly, or just using a nickname form? So while emailing one of Jeanne’s daughters this week, I asked how how her mom pronounced it. It was an easy question, with a definitive answer. Mystery solved! It made perfect sense, because Jeanne’s maternal grandparents had Canadian connections and French-sounding surnames.

Jeanne’s family lived in Northbrook, down the street (1419 Shermer) from my mom’s house (1709 Shermer) when the kids were young. The families attended different churches, so may have had somewhat different circles of friends. Nevertheless, Northbrook was a small town, and everyone knew one another. The girls continuted to keep in contact into their 90s.

Despite her stint on the front page as a newborn, Jeanne’s birth occurred during a difficult time for the family. The family came down with diptheria, requiring an extended quarantine:

The Ed Meintzer family are out of quarantine. The children have returned to school. They sure were anxious to go, after missing almost two months. The little baby, who had been staying with the Holstrom family several days, is now staying with Mrs. Geo. Melzer, Mrs. Meintzer’s sister.

“Northbrook,” 29 February 1924, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, column 1, paragraph 4, Cook County Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (

Three paragraphs later was an additional note, “Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Meintzer wish to express their most sincere thanks and appreciation to neighbors and friends for kindness and flowers during their recent sickness and bereavement.”

Yes, a death occurred while they were quarantined. Plotting it on a timeline:

  • They started getting sick in early January (they were quarantined for almost 2 months) with diptheria.
  • Annie DesLauries Meintzer gave birth to Jeanne the 18th of January, so, not long after the quarantine started. Did she remain at home? Or had she relocated to a sister’s or neighbor’s house, to prevent exposure for herself and the baby? We don’t exactly know, though we were told the baby stayed with Holstroms for several days and then moved to the Melzer house (her aunt).
  • 9 February, Bernard Harry Meintzer died, due to membramous Laryngitis diptheritic. He was 4 years, almost 3 months old. His twin sister, Bernice Harriet, survived.
  • Bernard was buried 2 days later. Were his parents and siblings even allowed to attend the funeral? I would think not.
  • By 29 February, the kids have returned to school, but Jeanne still was not home. Why was that? Did the house need disinfecting?

Obviously Jeanne would not remember Bernard. He barely had a chance to know about her, and with the quarantine, I’m not sure he ever saw her in person! Jeanne’s daughter mentioned, though, that he would say her name with 2 syllables, so he knew he had a baby sister. Are there more details to this story? Possibly. I found these news blurbs with a search at, but I’m inclined to go back and read each day’s paper page-by-page during the 6-8 weeks all this happened, looking for more information.

Did Jeanne’s birth coinciding with a very sad time in her family’s history affect her as an adult? A kid isn’t likely to connect the events together, but an adult is likely to notice, eventually. Did that dampen her birthday celebrations? Or did she make an effort to remember that older brother who died too young?

Time moved along and family life returned to normal, with weekend car trips, and vaccinations (below). Jeanne was only 3, so didn’t end up missing school, but what about her brothers? Delore was 17 at the time, and Harold was 13. Were they vaccinated earlier? What vaccine? It was way too early for polio, and not many other vaccines were available, yet.

Mr. and Mrs. Ed Meintzer and children motored to Elgin in company with Mr. Eck and his sisters. A pleasant trip is reported. . . . Helen Meintzer and her sister, Bernice, have missed several days from scho0l 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,” 1 April 1927, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (

On 24 July 1936, 12-year-old Jeanne’s world changed forever. Her mother died of a sudden heart attack. An event like that would have accelerated the growing up process. Jeanne probably acquired more responsibilities for herself, and for her sister, Patsy, 8 years old. The 1940 census showed the three youngest—Bernice, Jeanne, and Patsy—as the only children still at home with Dad. Jeanne was 16, with three years of high school completed.

I thought I knew the rest of her story. She and Vincent J. White married 14 September 1946. They went on to have 6 children. It seemed to be a pretty typical post-WWII story. Then one day I discovered an email one of her nieces wrote to a distantly-related (3rd cousin, twice removed!) cousin, after he posted it on his family web page. According to her, Jeanne was engaged to an Army pilot, Wayne, who was shot down over Germany, and died.

Jeanne’s daughters confirmed that story, and even scrounged up his last name from old memories: Wayne Nelson. Research conducted this week didn’t turn up any more information about him. I did not find a likely candidate in the 1940 census, or in the WWII Army Enlistment database. I found a vague reference to a Wayne Nelson in a Jacksonville, Florida, news article, but without other identifiers, it could easily be a different Wayne.

What a blow that must have been to Jeanne! Certainly she wasn’t the only young woman to lose a boyfriend, fiance, or husband to the war, but that didn’t make it any easier. Another day, while searching for Meintzers at Fold3, I came across a record for her! It was from the Cadet Nurse Corps Files, and showed she entered the program at the Evanston Hospital of Nursing on 6 January 1944, and exited “without default” 8 January 1945. The local news column confirmed that enrollment:

Miss Jeanne Meintzer has entered the nurse training course at the Evanston hospital.

“Northbrook,” 14 January 1944, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 14, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (

Her daughter knew about the nursing school, and told me, “she went a second time to nursing school but then met my dad so she never finished.” Is this card from the first or second time? I’m inclined to think second, since she and Vincent got married about a year and a half later. Was the first time right after high school? Did she drop that training due to Wayne’s death? I don’t know—there was only one card for her in the database.

Lastly, Jeanne’s husband, Vincent White, died 20 December 1980, when she was only 56 years old. Jeanne lived to 95, and never remarried. She ended up spending more years as a widow than she had as a wife. That can’t have been particularly easy.

Jeanne lived a full life, but had her fair share of difficulties and challenges to get through. Yet I never saw her when she wasn’t positive—not even in her 90s, when physical limitations started to crop up. When Mom and I stopped by her house during a Chicago-area road trip, Jeanne was always glad to see us, and I don’t recall hearing her complain. That takes a special kind of strength.


Favorite Photo

“Keep the Home Fires Burning”–Lena Guilbert Ford

Growing up, the upstairs hall closet contained a hodgepodge of curious items. Dad’s Navy trunk was there. I have no idea what was in it; it surely wasn’t empty! A black, weighted silk, short cape (with a lot of ruffles) belonging to Mom’s Aunt Lizzie (Elizabeth Meintzer Ahrens) hung there, covered by a dry cleaning bag. It was later donated to the Northbrook Historical Society. Boxes of old photos (that never came down) were on the top shelf.

Also on the shelf was another dry cleaning bag. This one contained brown, dry grass, curved around in a fish hook shape. It was always the top item, so would come down occasionally, for easier access to items below. Mom told me it was the grass skirt Dad sent her when he was in the South Pacific.

It sure didn’t look like the grass skirts I saw on Hawaii Five-O each week! It was down-right threadbare. Or grass-bare? I once asked about using it for a Halloween costume, and was summarily denied. Of course, dressing in a grass skirt in October in Chicago, isn’t necessarily the best plan, anyway.

Eventually I saw photos of Mom posing in the grass skirt. They would have been squirrelled away in those untouched boxes. My first impression (after my initial shock!) was that they were all essentially the same. No so. More about that later.

Now, before we get the censors all up in my face, complaining, Mom is wearing a swimsuit bottom or short shorts, under the skirt, and a scarf or midriff top on top. No need to panic or cover the kids’ eyes . . .

When my dad enlisted in the Navy in August, 1942, he and Mom were a hot item. They’d been dating a while, and had exchanged lover’s knot “promise rings.” They weren’t actually engaged, but were darn close.

Mom was all for getting married before he finally shipped overseas (basic training was pretty close to home, at Great Lakes Naval Station), but Dad didn’t agree. Not knowing where he’d be shipped to, or what might happen to him, he didn’t want her left a widow, possibly with a child to raise.

Dad was probably right, because fertility didn’t end up being an issue for my mom. After they married, she gave birth to three children in 2 years and 5 months, my sister arriving 14 months after they wedding. Would she have gotten pregnant right away if they had married earlier? Maybe not, but who knows?

Nor did they advance to an official engagement before he left. Dad didn’t think it was fair for her to be tied down (Northbrook was a small town, where everyone knew everyone!), while he was off, who knows where, pretty much unaccountable to anyone. They still had their promise rings, so letters and photos flew back and forth between them.

Dad also sent trinkets back; cowrie shells, and of course, The Grass Skirt. I don’t remember hearing my Mom’s reaction to its arrival, but obviously she realized should send a photo back, wearing it. She certainly didn’t want Bob to forget about her, 8000 miles away!

This first photo was probably taken at home, in her backyard. Mom is wearing shoes, and has a flower in her hair. Even if the photo was taken by one of her friends, her parents would have been close by, not to mention neighbors peeking through windows. She looks a little embarrassed, to me, at least. Or maybe the sun was just in her eyes.

Ardyth Meintzer, in the grass skirt sent to her by her boyfriend, Robert W. Haws, when he was stationed on Vanuatu. There’s a flower in her hair, and everything!

On the other hand, the two photos below were taken at a different time and place. She was at the summer cottage of the parents of her friend, Eleanor Wold. Ardyth and Eleanor were childhood friends, Eleanor’s father being a local pastor. The family moved to Ohio about the time Eleanor was going to attend Ohio State University. At least one summer Ardyth spent her vacation visiting the cabin/cottage Eleanor’s parents owned or rented. There is an entire collection of photos of the two girls, with that fencing somewhere in it.

I imagine Eleanor is taking the photo, and Ardyth is certainly vamping it up—definitely up at least one notch from the earlier photo! I question whether Ardyth’s parents saw these photos get mailed. Would she have even developed them at home? Personally, I would have developed them in Ohio, where no one knew me!

These photos are among the few things we have from that time period. All their wartime correspondence is gone. My dad made Mom throw out all his letters when they got married. He didn’t want her holding over his head any promises he’d made in the throes of courting. I’m reasonably sure he made good on all of them, eventually; he just didn’t want her griping about the speed or timing!I also wonder a bit about those Haws boys. Not only did my dad send a grass skirt home to his girlfriend, but so did his older brother, Henry—to his WIFE! They had a one year old son. Heavens, WHAT was he thinking?? I don’t have access to those photos, however. How many other grass skirts were shipped to the US during WWII? How many still lurk in closets or attics? Who can say?

Mom’s grass skirt is still up in my closet, while I try to decide whether or not to keep it. Its storage environment is horrible. Seriously? Dry cleaning bag? That’s about as bad as it gets. To keep it, I really should conserve it in some way. Can I straighten it? How? Then what? Mount it in a shadow box, for display? It’s pretty scrawny-looking. Does anyone even want to see it? Or store it? Questions with unknown answers.

Until I can decide, it remains where it is. But I’m quickly approaching the fork in the road where I need to make a decision.


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, 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.

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.

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.

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.


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (, 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 (, film number 1030079, Digital GS number 4270000, image number 795, Heinrich MEINTZER and Sophie HULTZSCHER.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (, 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!


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, (

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


“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 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.


¹”Crosley”, En.Wikipedia.Org, 2019,

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


“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”., 2019, 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, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 20, col. 5, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (

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, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 4, col. 1, DuPage County Register, Bensenville, Illinois, online archive (

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, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, col. 5, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (

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, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 17, col. 5, Palatine Enterprise, Palatine, Illinois, online archive (

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.


¹”Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952″, database, (, 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, 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 (

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


“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, 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 . . .


1“Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922”, database, (, 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, (, 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, (

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, (


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!


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.