Surprise

Genealogy provides a never-ending stream of surprises!

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Give a vigorous shake to any family tree, and in addition to a few nuts, other surprises invariably fall out! Mine is no exception, and you’ve already read about a variety of “surprises” I’ve found through the years. But if you are hoping for a juicy, scandal-laced, DNA-based reveal in this blog post, your time is better spent elsewhere. This one is pretty mundane.

It’s September, 1946, and my mom’s cousin, Jeanne, is getting married. She is second youngest daughter of George Edward (Edward George) Meintzer (Next to Last), my grandfather’s older brother. The two girls (both still living!) are two years apart in age (Mom is older).

Though they lived in the same town, Mom says she and Jeanne didn’t really see too much of each other, growing up. Their fathers had a good relationship, so there wasn’t a family rift. The families lived only a few blocks apart, and Mom remembers Jeanne’s older sister, Helen, babysitting for her a couple times. But Jeanne’s mom was Catholic, with the children raised Catholic, so the families attended different churches, possibly different schools. And you know how it is with kids — they don’t really want to hang out with younger kids — even cousins!

But, by 1946, everyone is grown up, with my mom married for almost two years! She and Dad arrive at Jeanne’s wedding, most likely with her parents. Also in tow is my sister, Carole, seven months old, cute as a button, undoubtedly enjoying her brief stint as “only child.”

Imagine my mom’s surprise to see Aunt Rose (The Maiden Aunt) and Uncle Joe Rau also attending! They are from my dad’s side: Aunt Rose is the sister of my other grandmother, Victoria. Why are they here at my mom’s cousin’s wedding? What was going on?

It turned out that the bridegroom was Uncle Joe’s nephew! Uncle Joe’s sister, Mary, was the mother of the groom. Who would ever anticipate that? Of course, it didn’t change anything — my dad wasn’t related to Jeanne’s new husband. The two of them were just related — one by DNA, one by marriage — to the same person (Uncle Joe). It was simply one of those random occurrences that pop up in families.

As so often happens, quirky little things like that are easily forgotten. When I began my research in my teens, Mom and I paid a visit to her cousin, seeing what she might know about the Meintzers. Jeanne brought out a thick binder with the genealogy of her husband to show me. Someone in his family had researched and put it together, and he obtained a copy. It was interesting, but it really had nothing pertinent for us. Of course, it showed Uncle Joe’s connection to Jeanne’s husband, which Mom had forgotten about. It also made my fledgling genealogy look puny by comparison . . .

Fast forward 35+ years . . . The “Great Photo Identification Project” was still underway. Mom and I were on a road trip to the Chicago area and stopped by to see Jeanne. It was just a “sit and catch up” visit, but the conversation turned to photographs and the difficulty in identifying some of them.

Carole Ann Haws, Rose Schweiger Rau, and Mary Rau White (previously unidentified) on 14 September 1946.

This photo of Aunt Rose holding my sister was one of the problem photos we owned. Aunt Rose was easily identifiable, as was Carole. The woman on the right proved to be a puzzle, though. From the corsages, we knew is was some “event” — we just couldn’t place it. So while they chatted, Mom mentioned it. Conveniently, I had an image on my laptop, and pulled it up to show Jeanne. She took one look and said, “That’s my mother-in-law!”

SURPRISE!

Say what?? How did Mom not remember it being from Jeanne’s wedding? I guess she was busy taking care of a baby, and didn’t pay attention to Jeanne’s new in-laws. At least the mystery was finally solved! And yes, the photo has been properly labeled.

What’s the take-away from this? First, it’s a good idea to be careful with what you say about whom. You never know who might be distantly connected to you — or to someone you know. And when DNA testing enters the mix, all bets are off!

Second, label the pictures! Now. ALL of them. Not just one copy, Every. Single. Print. If you label only one (that you have multiples of) and give it away, where does that leave you? Unlabeled again, that’s what! Just do it.

Lastly, write the stories down. It is too easy to forget about them, or forget to repeat them to others, so they know about them. We’ve all played “telephone” enough to know how that game turns out, and we know the effect it can have on our family stories (Colorful and Close Up)! Having the stories committed to paper at least locks them into a particular version. It may still be wrong (or not completely right — not quite the same thing as wrong), but at least there’s a more fixed starting point, and something concrete to either prove or disprove.

Most importantly, enjoy the surprises (good or bad) when they show up. They make our family history more interesting! That’s what keeps most genealogists coming back for more.

#52Ancestors

Next to Last

Ed & Emma Meintzer
George Edward Meintzer, and his sister, Emma. Date unknown, but probably before either married. George married in 1909, Emma around 1915.

My great grandfather, Christian Meintzer, had 12 children, 9 surviving to adulthood. My grandfather, Christoph, was the youngest. The next to last child—and one of Grandpa’s two brothers—was George Edward, born in 11 July 1886. While I was seven years old when Uncle Ed (more about that later!) died, I don’t think I ever met him. From his grandchildren, though, I learned that the two brothers were very close. When Uncle Ed was ill with cancer, they remember my grandfather coming over to visit him and keep him company.

But let’s go back to the beginning. George Edward Meintzer was born 11 July 1886. His World War I¹ and World War II² registrations (filled out by him) confirm that, as well as his death certificate. For some unknown reason, the Social Security Death Index has 4 July, instead. I’m not sure whether incorrect information was submitted to them, or if someone misread/mistyped it as it was entered.

The other detail you may have noticed, is that the first draft registration lists his name as “George Edward,” but the second one has it “Edward George.” Up above I also referred to him as “Uncle Ed.” That’s the only name I ever heard, so was initially surprised to see “George” in front. His name sorts out this way:

George Edward (or just George):

  • 1917—WWI draft registration
  • 1919—daughter’s & son’s birth (twins)
  • 1920 census
  • 1930 census

Edward George (or just Edward):

  • 1900 census

    gemeintzer
    Edward Meintzer, wife Annie, and probably their oldest child, Delore. He was born in 1910, so this is 1911, perhaps? Not the best digital image.
  • 1909—marriage record
  • 1910—son’s birth
  • 1914—son’s birth
  • 1924—daughter’s birth, twin son’s death
  • 1928—daughter’s birth
  • 1940 census
  • 1942—WWII draft registration
  • 1958—daughter’s death
  • 1965—Social Security Death Index, death certificate, Find-a-Grave, and tombstone

We see him was using Edward as a primary name at least as early as age 14, but he still returned to George at times! I’ve never heard an explanation as to why he flipped his names. I do know that the other Mentzer family in the area (the ones without an “i”—we were the ones with an “i”) also had a George—a 2nd cousin to him—who was 15 years older. That’s a bit of a large gap for the two of them getting “confused” for each other. The family had been in the USA for five years, so reverting to the German tradition of using the middle name instead of the first name seems unlikely. Plus, this family didn’t really go by middle names, with the exception of their oldest daughter. Maybe he just didn’t like the name George . . .

Uncle Ed worked at the brickyard with my grandfather for a number of years, switching over to janitorial work as he aged. Or maybe the brickyard closed down (maybe I should check that!), prompting the career change?

Occupations:

  • 1910-1930—worked at brickyard
  • 1940-1942—janitor at school
  • 1965—brick maker (death certificate)

It’s interesting, though, that on the death certificate his son listed his dad’s occupation as brick maker! I doubt Ed had worked at that occupation for the last quarter century, yet that is how his son thought of him. I don’t have any records telling me when he retired, or if he had additional occupations later on.

His wife, Annie, had died suddenly in 1936, leaving him with at least the three youngest (all girls) at home to finish raising—the youngest one just 8 years old. He remained in the area until he passed away, almost thirty years later.

img2813
Siblings: Christoph Meintzer (Grandpa), Sophie Meintzer Kranz, and Edward Meintzer. Aunt Sophie died in 1963, so it’s before then. I’m not sure what party in whose home, though. Only one other sibling was still alive at this point.

#52Ancestors


¹”United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918″, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.familysearch.org), George Edward MEINTZER, serial no. 1168, order no. 95, Draft Board 1, Cook County, lllinois, citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1504100, accessed 2 December 2018. Registered 5 June 1917.

²”U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942″, database, (https://www.ancestry.com), Edward George MEINTZER, serial no. 409, order no. not given, Draft Board 3, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Illinois. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623284. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 2 December 2018.

Youngest

Everything old is new again . . .

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

Carl Moeller death cert_0001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#52Ancestors


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


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

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

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

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

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

So Far Away

“Doesn’t anybody stay in one place, anymore?”—Carole King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#52Ancestors


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

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

Cemetery

So many to choose from!

The remains of my family are scattered throughout the Midwest. Big cemeteries (Ridgewood in Des Plaines, IL, or Ascension in Libertyville, IL), little cemeteries (Columbus, in St. Clair County, MI), and everything in between. One of my favorites, though is Sacred Heart Cemetery, in Northbrook, IL. It’s not the smallest one, but still very quiet and quaint. It’s on Lee Road, just north of Dundee. The I-94 Edens Spur turned Lee Road into a dead-end road (irony!), keeping it quiet. A single drive takes you inside, with a keyhole loop at the end, so you can turn around.

While Catholic Cemeteries manages all the Cook County, IL, cemeteries currently, originally each church kept up its own. This cemetery was attached Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka. Sacred Heart was a spin-off from St. Joseph’s Church in Wilmette. St. Joseph’s parish had grown, requiring another church to take care of the parishioners further north. St. Joseph’s Cemetery was also filling up, so it made sense for the new parish to start its own cemetery. At that time, Northbrook (which was really Shermerville) was out in the boondocks, so presumably land was cheap and available. It made sense to put the cemetery out there.

My great-grandparents, Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry (Invite to Dinner, Valentine, The Maiden Aunt) purchased Lot 2, Block 6, Section 2 in the cemetery. They were among the original families to start up the new parish, so I don’t know if they simply got in on the ground floor, or purchased it after they had a need. My earliest memory of it was when my grandpa, Edward, was buried. I was only seven, and don’t recall much, but I think it was a drizzly–or at least overcast–day. Fitting for a funeral.

Sacred Heart cemetery_0003
In Loving Memory of Iganatz Schweiger, born May 13, 1859; died Aug. 15, 1921. Dorothea Schweiger, born Mar. 26, 1858; died Oct. 29, 1932.

Sacred Heart cemetery_0002
In Loving Memory of Anthony G. Schweiger, born Jan. 17, 1891; died Sept. 28, 1914. Paul J. Haws, born Nov. 24, 1914; died March 3. 1915.

Towards the center of the plot, Ignatz & Dorothea installed a tall monument. The family name is arched at the bottom of the front side, with Igantz and Dorothea inscribed above. On an adjacent side are listed Anthony G. Schweiger (my grandmother’s brother) and Paul J. Haws (my father’s oldest brother). Prior to starting on the family tree, I hadn’t heard of either person.

Fortunately, my dad was with me on that trip to Sacred Heart, and could fill me in. Anthony died age 23, after being kicked in the head by a horse. He graduated from Sacred Heart’s grade school, and when we find him in the 1910 census¹, he’s a driver for a grocery. Sometimes we find him as “Anton” in records. Other than these small snippets of his life, we don’t know much, so it’s nice he has such a solid remembrance.

Paul J. Haws is the oldest brother of my dad. He was born 24 November 1914, and died 3 1/2 months later, on 3 March 1915. Victoria laid him in the crib the night before, and when she went to get him up the next morning, he was cold. There was no hint of illness prior. Some time before she died in 1955, as SIDS was first being recognized, she mentioned to my mom that what happened with Paul seemed to be the same thing.

The other sides of the monument are not carved–flush to the ground headstones were placed for the others. Buried there are my dad (and Mom–at some point), his brother, Henry (along with his wife, Mary), and sister Marie. Their other brother, George, is in Wheeling Cemetery (despite the notation below. He decided he didn’t want to use those graves. Marie’s daughter, Pattie, is there, instead. My grandparents, Victoria and Edward are there, as well as Victoria’s unmarried brother, Iggy (Ignatz).

Sacred Heart cemetery_0004
Plot card from some time after 1988, when Uncle George still was thinking about using 2 of the plots. He later changed his mind and is in Wheeling Cemetery. Uncle Henry and Aunt Mary’s cremains share the plot next to my dad. My cousin Pattie is in one of the others–I think next to her mom.

Besides baby Paul, Aunt Marie’s first daughter, Marilyn Victoria, is buried here. According to the plot card above, she and Paul were both buried in the southeast corner, so I guess they are in the same plot with Henry and his wife, Mary. With cremation urns, it’s not a big deal, I guess, and it’s nice they have company. I may see if the card can be updated, though, to include her name, as there is no marker. I’ve told my children, and some nieces and nephews, but they may not remember, and I don’t want her forgotten.

The family’s Sacred Heart plot is almost full of people, and certainly full of memories. The plot card reminds us that not everyone has a marker, so asking for the plot card information can be important. It sometimes has information not available from the cemetery websites.

#52Ancestors


¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 57; sheet 9A; dwelling number 168; family number 169; line 25; Ignaty[z] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 29 April 2018. Anton SCHWEIGER, age 19; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 239; digital image, Ancestry.com) (https://www.ancestry.com).

Storms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#52Ancestors


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