“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” –Three Dog Night

When I saw the prompt this week, I immediately thought of my mom’s highschool friend, Eleanor Wold. She became a professional opera singer in New York, and undoubtedly had solos in her career.

But Mike says she isn’t family, so doesn’t count. Maybe some other prompt.

So I switched gears and zeroed in on Sylvester Hartmann. I introduced him I Conflict. He emigrated by himself in 1895. Being a priest kept him solo (no wife or kids) in life. Still, he deserves to be remembered.

I first knew of him as a cousin of the Schweigers, who provided us with the family tree going back to the early 1600s. His exact relationship was (and still is) a mystery. My 2nd great grandmother was Marianne Hartmann, born in 1823. Sylvester Hartmann’s birth in 1877 eliminated him being Marianne’s younger brother, though nephew might be possible. That would make him a 1st cousin, 3 times removed to me (only twice removed to my dad, or once removed to my granduncle, Sylvester Schweiger, with whom Fr. Hartmann visited & corresponded).

If he descended from an older brother of Marianne, then there’s probably another generation in between, making him a second cousin, twice removed to me, once removed to my dad, and a full second cousin to Uncle Syl. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any documentation for Sylvester listing his parents’ names, and I have no siblings for Marianne. Family Search has microfilmed the church records from his birth town (Altdorf, in Bavaria), but haven’t digitized the records for 1877. For now, I’m stymied.

Shortly before I started college, I realized Fr. Hartmann had taught at the college I was about to enter. When I arrived on campus, I asked each of the priests I met (who were all old enough to have had Fr. Hartmann for class) what, if anything, they remembered. Every one of them remembered him, having had him for Logic, Greek, or Latin.

I had the good fortune to have Fr. Dominic Gerlach teach my German I class. As the college historian, he had access to all sorts of school records. He typed up a page and a half of notes from school information, and photocopied two more pages, plus Fr. Hartmann’s obituary from the religious order’s monthly publication.

I learned Fr. Hartmann was born 31 December 1877 in Altdorf, Bavaria. He entered the Missionaries of the Precious Blood on 12 November 1895, in Burkettsville, Ohio. He may have spent some time at the Society’s motherhouse (yes, even though it’s priests and brothers, it’s a “motherhouse”!)—maybe to learn English? From 1896-1902, he attended classes at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. According to Fr. Gerlach, Sylvester:

  • sang 2nd bass in the college choir.
  • played alto in band.
  • performed in several productions from the Columbian Literary Society (CLS), including Dorner, a knight, in “William Tell”.
  • worked as librarian in the CLS. With no central library, CLS membership provided the only access to the school’s main collection of books.
22 February 1900. “William Tell,” a tragedy in 5 acts by Very Rev. J. H. Oechtering. According to Fr. Gerlach, Sylvester played Dorner, a knight. Fr. Gerlach also mentioned, “Photo is in Bookstore window, very likely he is the third figure from the right.” This image is from Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselear, Indiana: A Centennial Pictorial History From Its Beginnings to 1990, p. 47.¹ This is likely to be the same photo mentioned in the notes to me.

Sylvester received a BA degree at the end of the 1902 school year. Fr. Gerlach commented that it was only the equivalent of Junior College (2 years), but that the curriculum was more rigorous than the then-current (1970s) course of study. Sylvester professed (intent to join the priesthood) 5 June 1903, and was ordained 4 years later, 11 June 1907.

He spent the remainder of that year in three different parishes in Ohio and Illinois, returning to Saint Joe in January 1908. He taught there through the summer of 1916. He spent the next year at Catholic University, in Washington, DC, pursuing a Master’s Degree. The Catholic University Bulletin² confirmed the completion of his degree (with its dissertation title!). He spent the summer in a parish in New York before returning to campus.

With the exception of a medical leave from December 1923 to July 1924 (reason unknown), and another summer in a parish, Sylvester returned to Saint Joe, mostly for good. Part of that time he served as vice president to the college. In 1935 he became Spiritual Director for the students. He also wrote two textbooks on Logic:

  • A Textbook of Logic: A Normative Analysis of Thought. New York; American Book Co., 1936.
  • Fundamentals of Logic. St. Louis, MO; B. Herder Book Co., 1949.

I’ve acquired the first book (A Textbook of Logic). Now I just need to find time to read it! And look for the other one.

His life was not all work; he visited his Schweiger cousins in the Chicago area. He traveled a bit (more about that, later). When the 1949 school started, he retired to being a Professor Emeritus, relocating to Brunnerdale Seminary (Canton, Ohio) in January 1950. He moved to the motherhouse in Carthagena, Ohio, February 1953, and died 23 July. He was buried four days later, presumably in St. Charles Cemetery, though he has no Find A Grave photos or memorial.

The information I received from Fr. Gerlach listed a nephew, brother, and sister, all living in Bavaria. A Joseph M. Hartmann had an address in Chicago, and Sylvester’s obituary mentioned him having another brother and sister in Germany, and a niece in Washington, DC. Of course, addresses over 60 years old aren’t likely to be too helpful . . .

Fr. Gerlach had actually given me quite a bit of information! It included details I probably wouldn’t have had access to, but it was all secondary evidence. Could I find anything to document the dates, places, and activities?

I found Fr. Hartmann in Indiana during each census, 1900-1930. He seemed to be missing from 1940, but there was a Sylvester “Eastman” born in Germany, right age, who seemed possible. I didn’t recall seeing an Eastman on campus in any previous census. Or maybe Sylvester Eastman was someone different, and they simply missed Fr. Hartmann? The 1930 census did confirm the vice president story.

His 31 December 1877 birthdate was well-documented by his:

  • Passport Application (1922)
  • census records (1900 with month and year)
  • WWII draft registration (1942)

His Passport Application provided the date, ship, and departure port for his original trip to the USA: 7 November 1895, on the SS Kensington, from Antwerp, Belgium. It was a great help in finding the right ship. It had him traveling to Carthagena, Ohio, so I’m confident it’s him.

The Passport Application claimed he was going to England and France to study and travel, then to Germany to visit relatives, with more travel in Holland, Switzerland, and Belgium. He had a busy summer planned!

An incoming UK ships’ list showed him getting off the SS Celtic 11 June 1922 in Queenstown, Ireland (planning to stay in Dublin). On 29 August 1922 he boarded the SS Nieuw Amsterdam, returning from Rotterdam to New York.

1934 faculty photo. Fr. Sylvester Hartmann is in the front row, 3rd from the right. This image is from Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselear, Indiana: A Centennial Pictorial History From Its Beginnings to 1990, p. 56.¹

He sailed back to the USA again, 1 September 1932 (with a different passport number, since it needed renewing) from Bremen, Germany. Presumably he visited relatives that time, too. Fr. Gerlach’s notes said Sylvester was abroad again during the summer of 1949 (just as he was retiring), but I haven’t found that ship’s list, yet.

The death date is corroborated by the obituaries I’ve located, but I’ve still found nothing telling me his parents’ names. Ancestry didn’t have his death certificate, although Family Search did. Unfortunately, both parents had the same names—unknown! Since their names didn’t show up on the school’s records, I didn’t figure I’d luck out on the death certificate.

But really, he was a 17 ½ year old, coming to a foreign country by himself in 1895. They didn’t get parents’ names? What if he’d gotten sick and died? Surely they would have notified them? Or maybe they had the names at one time, but they died in the meantime, being replaced with the siblings’ names? I don’t know. It’s frustrating.

In April, 1999, I emailed the motherhouse at Carthagena, inquiring about any personal effects from Sylvester Hartman. I was hoping perhaps his genealogy papers might have been kept. Presumably he had more information on the Hartmann family that he hadn’t passed along to the Schweigers. It was a Hail Mary pass.

My email was forwarded to Fr. Ballor, archivist at the time. He was a student in 1953, and remembered Fr. Hartman, but relayed the sad news that any personal effects were disposed of after his death. That was the policy at the time—one he changed upon becoming archivist. He tries to retain items that provide insight about the individual, but he had nothing more for me than the information Fr. Gerlach had already provided.

At this point, I can try to track down some of the relatives (more likely, their descendants!) listed in the school records. Maybe I’ll get lucky? I can also pray the Altdorf records get digitized quickly, to try and find his birth record (and maybe parents’ names?). Or I get to plan a road trip to Salt Lake City, where I can crank through the microfilm reels, looking for that record. That might be a better plan, because who knows when the records I need will be digitized.

In his 40+ years of teaching, he influenced a lot of young men. I’m glad I was able to track down a little more about Fr. Hartman’s life.


¹Dominic B. Gerlach, Centennial Celebration Committee, Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, Indiana: A Centennial Pictorial History From Its Beginnings to 1990 (Rensselaer, Indiana: The College, 1990), p. 47, 56.  

²Catholic University of America, “Commenceent Exercises: School of Letters”. The Catholic University Bulletin. vol. 23, no, 6 (June 1917); online archives, Google Books (, p. 87; Master of Arts; Rev. Sylvester Joseph Hartman, C.PP.S., Collegeville, Ind. Dissertation: “Greek Types of Character in Plautus”.


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.