Youngest

Everything old is new again . . .

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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!


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.

 

#52Ancestors

Oldest

Anna and Elsie 1995 07 15
15 July 1995, Meintzer Family Reunion. Anna  Kranz Schultz and Elsie Rakow Kranz, both almost 90, keeping cool in the shade on a 99° day! It had cooled down from the 106° two days earlier. We had Anna for another 3 years, and Elsie for 7.5 more. Photo credit: Lois Palmer Meintzer

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!

IMG_4911Anna 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.

#52Ancestors