Age is relative. The older I get, the less old some people seem. I already wrote about my oldest relative, Clara Duckart Goessl (Longevity). Mike’s grandmother (Strong Woman) missed 96 by just over a month, and my mom just passed that milestone. I ran a report prepping for this blog that surprised me. It showed me some people who I thought were older . . . actually weren’t. It isn’t that they seemed older—just that they knew so many things that I assumed they had been around longer than I realized.
The two coming to mind are
- Anna Kranz Schultz (born 12 September 1905 and died 4 June 1998), at age 92 and
- Elsie Rakow Kranz (born 27 August 1905, and died 8 March 2003), at age 97.
Anna was the 9th child (of 11) of Sophie Meintzer and Edward M. Kranz. You’ve read her name before, as the source for many of the Meintzer stories. Elsie was her sister-in-law, married to Anna’s older brother, Julius. Born just seventeen days apart, I have a feeling Anna and Elsie were like two peas in a pod. We didn’t get together with more distant relatives when I was young, but seeing those two at the family reunions in the 1980s and 1990s—that’s the impression I got. They hung out together, and between the two of them, seemed to know everyone and everything!
As a “married in,” Elsie was not my first choice to approach with genealogy questions. I don’t know as much about Mike’s family as I do my own, so I wouldn’t expect her to know her husband’s, either. Of course, paired up with Anna, they could prompt each other and fill in details the other left out.
My first exposure to Anna was as “Aunt Anna.” Yep, that’s what Mom called her. I immediately asked which of my grandparents she was a sibling of. Mom said that Anna was her cousin, but she called her “aunt” because she was so much older. I’m sorry, it was only 16 years difference!
My cousin, Mike, should not hold his breath expecting to hear an “Uncle Mike” from me any time soon!
Anyway, I quickly set Mom straight on the “cousins are NOT aunts or uncles” issue. After 40 years I think I’ve finally broken her of that horrible habit! Anna was a 2nd cousin to me, and grandaunt to both Pat Jenkins Weisel and Donna Gabl Bell (as well as a ton of others!). Donna and Pat share this
obsession hobby of genealogy with me, and we find ourselves collaborating with research.
**Quick sidebar! I tend to use the term “grandaunt/uncle.” I grew up with “great aunt/uncle,” just as you probably did. Those are acceptable and recognized terms. About ten years ago, I read a book or article suggesting a better choice was grandaunt/uncle, because they are siblings to your grandparent. Similarly great-grandaunts/uncles are siblings to great-grandparents. The argument seemed logical to me, and I switched over to using “grand.” So I’m not just being snooty and pretentious. I’m just trying to be logical and consistent. If you still use “great,” that’s fine—we can still talk. I just figure if you understand the reason behind my word use, it will make more sense to you and be less distracting. End of sidebar!**
Anna was a huge help to my other cousins and me when we had questions about the family. She remembered the stories her mother told of life in Alsace. Without the distractions of radio, TV, or smartphones when she was growing up, listening to those stories was the entertainment available!
Pat grew up across the country, so perhaps mostly had contact with Anna via mail. Donna and I had proximity on our side, so had the benefit of visits in person. I don’t recall seeing the box of clippings and photos Donna mentions in her book,¹ but perhaps I did and just don’t remember. In the 1970s and early 1980s, there were no scanners, cell phones, or digital cameras to make capturing those images easy.
I was also more focused on information going backwards, not necessarily bringing all the Kranz lines forward. We were still in a paper-based world of charts and forms, so adding that many additional people and family lines was much more tedious than it is with computer software! Donna, on the other hand, would find the Kranz information much more pertinent, since those were close relatives of hers.
Regardless of who asked, Anna was warm, friendly, and as helpful as possible. I’m not sure any of us would be as far along as we are with our family history, if it hadn’t been for her information and encouragement. And, of course, her fantastic memory! Even 20 years after her death, she’s still helping me. I spent part of Saturday looking for a note I’d written at her house. Either I remembered incorrectly, didn’t look in the right spot, or missed it because it stuck to the back of something else. It never turned up. But the hunt unearthed a different piece of paper I’d forgotten about. You’ll read about that next week, though!
Anna gave me the ceramic ornament to the right, on a visit shortly after their 60th anniversary party. I guess she had some extras. Every Christmas I think of her when I put up and take down my tree!
She may not have been the oldest relative, but she was certainly the keeper—and sharer—of some of the oldest memories!
¹ Donna Marie Bell. My Family Keepbook (Blurb, 2016), 143.