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:
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.5 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!
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.