Luck

“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”–Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Alva Edison said, “Success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration!” That’s not far off from Jefferson’s comment about hard work. Fortunately, genealogy doesn’t usually require heavy sweating; though it involves plenty of work. We don’t always realize when or how that work will pay off.

In October, 1996, I found myself visiting my parents. It was an odd time of year to visit, but my 20th high school reunion must have been scheduled, so I was up for that. My parents and I made the rounds of the cemeteries that weekend. We hit the old standbys of Ridgewood and Sacred Heart (where my grandparents are buried), but had also decided to visit other cemeteries, with more distantly-connected relations. I knew my grandmother’s youngest brother, Frederick Hugh Schweiger, was buried in Ascension Catholic Cemetery, in Libertyville. It’s farther north than the others, and I’d never been there before.

Unfortunately, it was Sunday, so the cemetery’s office was closed. I had no idea where Uncle Fred was buried. The self-serve kiosk now at the cemetery wasn’t even a twinkle in a programmer’s eye in 1996. We’d gone out of our way to drive there, but had no clue where to start searching for the headstone we knew was there. The current stats at Find A Grave indicate there are 14,519 memorials at Ascension, with 52% of them photographed. Naturally, the Schweiger and Witten headstones are still in the 48% not documented! Even with fewer people buried there in 1996, Ascension was still a big place. Trying to “walk” that cemetery would have taken forever.

Map of Ascension Catholic Cemetery, 1920 Buckley Road, Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. We didn’t have this while we were there, and had no idea where the headstones we were looking for were located!

One of Dad’s favorite sayings was, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So we gambled and decided to just drive down the main road (between sections 1 and 2), hoping to get lucky. Dad drove slowly, while we kept our eyes peeled on either side for the names on headstones. Of course, any flush-to-the-ground headstones were invisible to us, as well as anything any distance from the road.

It was a true Hail Mary pass.

We hadn’t gone far when I told my dad to stop. Out the left-hand window, close to the road, was this headstone:

Ascension Catholic Cemetery, 1920 Buckley Road, Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. Headstone for inlaw relatives of the brother of my grandmother, Victoria Barbara Schweiger. Photo taken 27 October 1996. The names are Harvey William Witten, Frances Green Witten, Thomas Green, and Bridget Green.

You’re probably thinking, “That doesn’t look much like Schweiger,” right? Nope, but when I saw it, a vague memory popped into my head. I remembered Uncle Fred’s wife, Marion, had a maiden name of Witten. Could that headstone possibly be related to her? We had no other leads, so we got out. The names and dates engraved on the base didn’t mean anything to me then. Of course, I didn’t have my data file, or any internet access!

I had Aunt Marion’s parents recorded as William Walter Witten and Nellie Cummings. In the 1900 census (before Aunt Marion was born in 1903), I have since found William and Nellie with a son, Harvey, born in 1894, living two doors down from Thomas and Bridget Green, and their daughter, Frances. It looked like William kept his wife shopping close to home. Of course, I didn’t know any of this in 1996.

We didn’t see any Schweigers on the front, so I walked around to the back side, just to make sure. There I found:

Reverse side of the Witten/Green monument in Ascension Catholic Cemetery. Photo taken 27 October 1996. Marion and Frederick Hugh are on the right side of the base. Note the name engraved on the vertical face on the left side. That is Baby Stephen, a grandson, who lived only 1 day, in January, 1963.

Bingo!

If we hadn’t stopped and walked around to the back of the monument, we never would have found them. We never would have stopped if I hadn’t recognized the maiden name of my grandaunt—even though it ended up belonging to her brother and not her parents. If I hadn’t paid attention and squirreled away that small piece of fairly unimportant information, we’d have left that cemetery without finding Uncle Fred and Aunt Marion. Would it have been the end of the world? No. But I like knowing where people end up.

Sometimes we just need a little bit of luck. Usually we need to make it ourselves.

#52Ancestors

Prosperity

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” ~ Epictetus

Prosperity: (noun) a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune.

All my immigrant ancestors are relatively recent—mid- to late-1800s. For most of them, I don’t know their circumstances in the towns they came from. It’s safe to say most of them found their life in the United States to be more prosperous than their life in the old country was.

One of those famlies was that of Peter Harry/Hary/Harré and Elisabetha Boullie. They were the parents of my great grandmother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger, and you met them in Travel, when they emigrated from the Saar region, in Germany.

Peter arrived in Manitowoc County in 1854. In 1858, he purchased² 40 acres of land in Township 20N, Range 24E from the government. His property was in the SE¼ of the SE¼ of Section 12, as shown in the plat maps, below :

Leslie Larson and his wife, Lucille (a 2nd cousin, once removed—granddaughter of my great grandmother’s sister, Margaret) hired a researcher in the Saar region in the 1970s. They tracked me down in 1980, and shared the information they had.

Back then, online records weren’t dreamed of, and even the microfilm collection of the Latter-Day Saints would have been smaller. The records from the Saar region possibly weren’t even filmed, yet. The extract the Larsons received of Peter and Elisabeth’s 15 April 1844 marriage in Bisten listed Peter as a coal miner. On both social and financial scales, he was positioned pretty low.

When he purchased his forty acres in 1858, Peter probably felt like he’d hit the jackpot! Owning land back in Germany would never have been possible for him. Unfortunately, prosperity was short-lived for him. According to the information I received from Mr. Larson, Peter died 14 July 1860, from complications due to a tree falling on him, breaking his back. According to my notes, that information came from Peter’s youngest son, Fred (who was born after his father’s death), and his granddaughter (my grandmother), Victoria Schweiger Haws.

Nevertheless, Peter obtained a better life for his family, and they continued to farm that land after his death, according to the plat maps. Confirming that with census records has been challenging. I almost gave up locating Elisabeth and their children in the 1860 census. Searches failed. Going page-by-page through several enumeration districts:

  • Two Rivers (twice!)
  • Two Rivers (Village of, 1st Ward)
  • Two Rivers (Village of, 2nd Ward)
  • Mischicot
  • Cooperstown

turned up other names I recognized, but not this family. In desperation I tried my old standby of searching for one of the kids. Using FamilySearch, I picked Margaret, left off the surname, birth range 1854-1856, residence Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Only 46 matches were found, so I scrolled through, looking at the other names in the records. I found one with all the first names I expected, and all the right ages. But the surname was BURGER, not Harry!³

No wonder I couldn’t find them with search parameters . . .

How do I know this is my family? Well, they weren’t anywhere else, and I know from the plat maps they stayed in the area another 18 years. The oldest daughter, Mary, had married John Westphal a couple weeks before the enumerator came through. The newlyweds were on the lines above Elizabeth and the younger siblings. I’d noticed Mary and John the first time through, so how did I miss everyone else? The surname was nothing remotely like Harry, so I never looked at first names.

That was clearly an enumerator error, not one caused by the indexer. Nor was it the only error made by the enumerator! Peter should have been listed in the household, even though he had died by the 18 August visit date. Enumeration day for 1860 was 1 June. Since he didn’t die until July, he should not have been left off.

In January, 1861, Elizabeth (at some point she changed from the German spelling with an “s” to the American spelling with a “z”) gave birth to Fred, the child she was pregnant with at the time of Peter’s death. In the 1870 census, Elizabeth and her children proved to be even more elusive than in 1860. An afternoon of searching and paging through the 1870 census turned up nothing. Searching for the nearby neighbors from the 1872 plat map found the neighbors, but no Harrys. Looking for the children’s future spouses found them, but still no Harrys. Everyone reappears in later census and other records, just not 1870.

So what became of the children as they grew up and left home?

  • Mary (1845): and John Westphal continued to farm in Two Rivers and had 9 children. A daughter, Ida, moved near her Aunt Dorothea in Glencoe, Illinois, and married Joseph Schramm. At least one other child moved to Sheboygan, because Mary died there in 1933.
  • William (1847): married Sophia Aleff. They remained in Two Rivers, and had 11 children.
  • John (1849): married Barbara Aleff (yes, they were sisters!). Their 3 children were born in Wisconsin, but John also moved to the Glencoe area, near his sister, Dorothea.
  • Peter (1853): married Frances Young and had 12 children. This family relocated to Clark County, Wisconsin, between July 1877 and July 1879.
  • Margaret (1855): married Stephen Mais in 1872. They had 4 children that I could find. It appears they also moved to Clark County, Wisconsin. It was their granddaughter and her husband who contacted me in 1980.
  • Dorothea (1858): My great grandmother. By 1880, she had moved to Chicago, working in the Nussbaumer household.⁴ She married Ignatz in 1885.
  • Frederick (1861): married Sophie Land in 1882. By 1900, they had moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where Fred worked in the saw mill. It seems they never had children.

Elizabeth lived alone in the 1880 census. All the children were elsewhere. She died in Clark County in 1887, so it seems she moved in with either Peter, Jr. or Margaret between those years.

Peter’s 1854 search for prosperity clearly paid off. Despite his untimely death, his emigration propelled his family’s fortunes upward. Were they Rockefellers? Hardly! But his children and grandchildren had opportunities for land ownership and home ownership never possible in Germany.

For me, this week has been a great chance to catch up on this family. One downside to being given a lot of information (from the Larsons in 1980), is the tendency to focus research on less complete lines. It turns out I have a lot of DNA matches from this great grandparent pair! I recognize surnames, but don’t know how they connect. I need to fill in the gaps in my information (I’m sure there have been a bunch of births, deaths, and marraiges in the last 40 years!) to figure out how to those matches are related to me. This week provided a good start.

But once again, more answers only beget more questions . . .

#52Ancestors


¹Dictionary.com. [online] (https://www.dictionary.com : accessed 19 Feb. 2020, “prosperity.”    

²”Land Patent Search”, database, Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records (www.glorecords.blm.gov/search), accessed 21 February 2020, entry for Peter Hary (Manitowoc County, Wisconsin), cash sale doc. #19859.

³1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers; Page 284; dwelling number 2254; family number 2218; line 6; Elizabeth BURGER household; accessed 22 February 2020. Elizabeth BURGER [HARRY}, age 42; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1418; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

⁴1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, e.d. 189; Page 432D (printed), 28 (written) ; dwelling number 91; family number 155; line 12; Chs. NUSSBAUMER household; accessed 31 October 2019. Dora HARRY, age 24; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 199; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

So Far Away

“But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more . . . “–The Proclaimers

Last week I talked about four of my grandfather’s siblings, who married either a neighbor, or someone pretty close to their home. In that time period (the early 20th century), in rural Wisconsin, it probably wasn’t terribly surprising. The other two siblings deviated from that pattern.

My grandfather, Edward Mathias Haws, was one of them. He was born 12 February 1887, and first appeared in the 1900 census.¹ He was 13 years old and still in school. By 1905, at 18 years old, he is no longer living at home. The Wisconsin state census had him in nearby Two Rivers, living with the Kasten family² as a “hired man.”

Family lore said he worked in the shipyards in Manitowoc. I know he worked there between 1918 and 1922, but I don’t know if he also worked there before he left Wisconsin. I’m not sure where/how he learned his carpenter trade, but he moved 160 miles from home for better job opportunities. I’m sure the Chicago north shore paid better wages than Manitowoc!

Family lore also said he moved down to Glencoe, Illinois, when he was 21. If so, he should have been in that area before the 1910 census, but he is AWOL so far. Nor can I place him still in Wisconsin. He might have spent time in other cities on his way to Glencoe. Bruders lived in Sheboygan, or he could have looked for work in Milwaukee. His last name got mangled enough different ways, that without a solid location, searching for him is very tedious.

Nevertheless, he met Victoria Barbara Schweiger in Glencoe and they married at Sacred Heart Church in 1914. Had he not ventured to Chicago’s northern suburbs, well over 100 of their descendants wouldn’t exist. I think he made a wise choice . . .

Aunt May, my grandfather’s next youngest sibling, definitely upped the ante! She was born 18 July 1889 and appeared as a 10-year old³ in the 1900 census, also attending school. It wasn’t until I received her letter in 1975, replying to my request for family tree information, that I learned she had actually been named “Mary Elizabeth.” Suddenly the records I had found listing her as “Mary” or “Elizabeth” made sense! Later in life, she swapped the name order and became “Elizabeth Mary,” but in everyday life, she was just “May.”

Like her brother, Ed, May is not enumerated with her parents in 1910, but I found a 20-year-old “Mamie Haws” living on Huron Street, in Manitowoc, working in the Schneider home as a servant. Some time between then and April 1914, she moved to the Glencoe area and met John J. Carroll. The marriage register at Sacred Heart Church recorded both May (Latinized to “Maria”) and John as two of the four witnesses for Ed and Victoria’s marriage.

Now, having someone stand up as one of your witnesses indicates a bump up in status. It’s probably safe to say May and John were pretty serious at that point, or he wouldn’t have been asked to be a witness for her family. A little more than a year later (14 June 1915) the two of them also tied the knot in Chicago. The following March, their son, Gerard Paul was born. A little more than a year later, the WW I draft registration places John back in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born, taking May even further from her childhood home.

So how did this Wisconsin girl come across a Brooklyn boy in Chicago? Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hard facts. I have not had a chance to comb through Chicago city directories to see if she shows up. If found, those might indicate her occupation. Her brother was already in the area, so perhaps he let her know of a position with a family in the north suburbs? May’s great-granddaughter, Maria, also heard that May worked as a telephone operator. That was one of the few other job choices available to young women, and might have paid more than being household help. Perhaps she hired out to a private home and changed jobs later on?

That still leaves John, a long way from Brooklyn! I think I have a workable theory. His WW I draft registration listed him as a locomotive fireman, NY Central Railroad. Train firemen end up in places they don’t start out. His later records:

  • 1920 census—mechanical, E. Railway;
  • 1930—electrician;
  • 1940—shop repairman, electrical;
  • 1942 —NY City Transit system, repair shop.

The railroad and transit systems seemed to be a common thread through the years. Where was he and what was he doing in 1910, though? He was still at home with his father, who had remarried three years earlier. John was working as an office boy in a dry goods house. Most surprising was that the family was living in New Jersey! Now the entry on his draft registration stating he’d been in the New Jersey National Guard for three years suddenly made sense!

I was still a little baffled by his presence in Chicago. I was all set, 2 paragraphs ago, to jump on the railroad theory. The job at the dry goods store made that a little shakier. Something caused him to either relocate to the Chicago area for at least 2-3 years, or to be traveling there regularly enough to court a young woman, I just don’t have a handle on what it was. Yet.

But what of May, who found herself raising her family so far from her own siblings and parents? As you can see from the photo below, she came back with her children to visit. With the distances involved, I would guess they might have come for weeks at a time—perhaps by train?—so Paul and Virginia could spend time with their grandparents, play with cousins, and experience life not in the big city.

A picnic at the Frank Haws farmhouse. Frank and Anna are the couple in the center back. I have the file labeled “Haws-Bruder picnic,” so I believe the couple to the right are Anna’s younger brother, John (wife Emma), who lived nearby; or her older brother, Nicholas (wife Augusta Bruenning), who moved to Sheboygan. The youngsters are (Gerard) Paul and Virginia, May’s children. She is sitting to their right, hands around her knees. Teresa is behind her and to her left, with Clara behind and to the right. Someone is almost hidden behind May’s head. Their brother Lawrence? Or maybe he’s the young man sitting to Frank’s right? One of them may also be May’s husband, John J. Carroll. I don’t have a date for the photo, but is probably the mid-1920s. Virginia was born in 1918; she looks age 5 or 6? Paul is 2 years older, so 7 or 8? I don’t have a physical copy of this photo and the scan wasn’t done at a high enough resolution to zoom in well. And obviously I don’t have the back labeled . . .

I suspect the visit in this photo wasn’t unique, and that May would have made this trip home, regularly. Frank and Anna’s farm responsibilities woudn’t have allowed them the luxury to travel to New York, so this would have been the only opportunity for her children to build relationships with extended family. As Paul and Virginia grew up and out of the house, Aunt May clearly made an effort to come back for family marriages, funerals, and ordinations. She didn’t let being so far away become an excuse.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth Town, e.d. 69; Page 7A; dwelling number 122; family number 131; line 34; Frank HAWS household; accessed 6 September 2018. Edward HAWS, age 13; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1797; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1905 Wisconsin state census, population schedule, Manitowoc, Two Rivers town, p. 928, family no. 188, line 98, entry for Edward HAAS [HAWS], age 18 in Charles KASTEN household; accessed 7 September 2018, index and images; FamilySearch, FHL microfilm 1020454.

³1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Kossuth Town, e.d. 69; Page 7A; dwelling number 122; family number 130; line 26; Frank HAWS household; accessed 6 September 2018. Mary HAWS, age 10; July1889; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1797; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, New Jersey, Bergen, Hasbrouck Heights, e.d. 25; Page 14A; dwelling number 285; family number 321; line 5; John J. CARROLL household; accessed 2 February 2020. John J. CARROLL, age 19; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 869; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Close to Home

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”–Judy Garland (Dorothy), The Wizard of Oz

Surely a spouse counts as a “heart’s desire,” right? Okay, we should go at least next door for that, but it’s still pretty close to home. That’s exactly what two of the Haws siblings did to find spouses, with two more going not much further.

Frank and Anna (Bruder) Haws married 15 January 1885 in Francis Creek, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. They had 6 children:

  • John J., 1885-1962, married Elizabeth Birringer
  • Edward Mathias, 1887-1966, married Victoria Barbara Schweiger
  • Mary Elizabeth, 1889-1986, married John J. Carroll
  • Teresa, 1894-1985, married William H. Klackner
  • Clara Bertha, 1897-1994, married Edward Mathias Koch
  • Lawrence Charles, 1900-1960, married Mary Margaret Heiser

Two siblings plucked their spouse from a neighboring farm, like their parents did. How would I ever figure that out? Birth and marriage records only indicate a city name or township name. They don’t tell you who lived next door. But it can be easier than you’d think.

The county plat maps show who owned land, where. It doesn’t take too much effort to understand why some couples became couples. Let’s start with Frank and Anna’s property, outlined in blue (F. Haws). I wrote about that house in The Old Homestead. This is the 1893 plat map. Frank’s younger brother, John lived northeast of him, also outlined in blue, farming the land their father, John, had farmed.

1893 Kossuth Township Plat Map, Township 20 North, Ranges 23-24.² Image cropped and annotated for clarity. http://images.library.wisc.edu/WI/EFacs/MTWCImages/manPlat1893/reference/wi.manplat1893.i0023.pdf

In 1893, Frank and Anna’s children were more than a decade away from getting married, but seeds were already being sown. The green box north of Frank’s property (and bordering on John’s) belonged to Nicholas Birringer. His oldest daughter, Elizabeth, would eventually (1910) marry Frank’s oldest son, John J.

Clara’s Edward Mathias Koch is a little trickier. The red box touching the NE corner of Frank’s property? That’s not Ed’s parents. Those are his grandparents. Edward was born in Mattoon, Shawano, Wisconsin. His parents, Peter and Bertha, moved around, farming in Shewano County in 1900 (Hutchins & Mattoon area—100 miles from Kossuth), and Marathon County (Harrison—30 miles) in 1910. Ed and his parents were AWOL (so far) in 1920, but his 1925 marriage announcement mentioned he was from Mosinee (130 miles).

None of that sounds very next door, does it? My theory is that Edward spent quite a bit of time at his grandparents’ farm and met (and courted) Clara that way. It seems unlikely either Clara or Edward would have traveled the distances necessary when he was living in other counties.

Teresa’s beau, William Klackner, grew in Manitowoc. The town lies on the western shore of Lake Michigan, rather than inland, like Kossuth Township does. Frank’s farmhouse was seven miles from town. By today’s standards, that’s not terribly far, but a young person in the early 20th Century would not have had a car at his or her disposal. So how did those two get together?

The 1910 census places each of them at home, with their parents. Teresa was 16 at that time. The couple married in 1915. Unfortunately, the snapshot from the federal census didn’t provide a hint for those next five years. Wisconsin’s last state census was in 1905, so no help from that, either.

My best guess is that Teresa may have hired out “in town” as household or child care help. Farm neighbors weren’t likely to be need a teenaged girl to help, but folks in town, might. It wasn’t unusual for rural girls to seek that type of employment down in Chicago (my great grandmother, Dorothea Harry, did just that!), so looking for a position closer to home wouldn’t be surprising, either. Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to prove that, unless one of Teresa’s and Bill’s descendants step up at some point with a family story to corroborate my speculation. It seems a likely scenario, though.

Lawrence, the youngest, married a girl from Gibson, the township north of Kossuth. Mary Margaret Heiser’s family lived towards the north side of Gibson Township. Again, it’s about seven miles from Frank & Anna’s house. Lawrence, however, married when he was older—38! He would have been more independent and mobile than his older siblings—particularly the girls, who may not have known how to drive before they were married. Times had also changed, so his not marrying someone from the more immediate neighborhood is not too surprising.

I doubt the experience of these siblings, in that time period, was unusual. Remoteness, travel methods, and the time involved with those methods, would have limited their potential spouse pool. Or as Stephen Stills would have said, “Love the one you’re with.”

What about the other two? They looked further afield, but you’ll have to come back next week for them . . .

#52Ancestors


¹1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Neshoto [Two Rivers], e.d. 078; Page 13; dwelling number 112; family number 112; line 25; Lisabeth HASSE household; accessed 26 January 2020. Lisabeth HASSE, 55, widowed; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²Foote, C. M., 1849-1899 (Charles M.); Henion, J. W.; ca. 1832-1904 (John W.), Plat book of Manitowoc and Calumet Counties, Wisconsin (Minneapolis, Minnesota: C.M. Foote & Co., 1893), p. 23, “Plat of Kossuth, Township 20 North, Ranges 23-24 East of the Fourth Principal Meridian of Mantitowoc Co., Wis.”; digital images, University of Wisconsin-Madison Digital Collection (http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.manPlat1893; accessed 26 January 2020).

Long Line

When I first started my family tree, my grandparents were all dead, but some of their siblings were still living. Luckily, my grandmother’s (Victoria Barbara Schweiger Haws) younger brother, Sylvester Joseph Schweiger, was living nearby. Age 74, he was the last of the Schweiger siblings.

So Mom made a phone call to arrange a visit to their house in Oak Lawn one weekend day. Uncle Syl and Aunt Stacia were wonderful to talk to, and he gifted me with photocopies of the letter from Fr. Sylvester Hartman[n] (in later years, he drops the 2nd ‘n’), and the Schweiger family tree, typed up in German.

4 April 1936, letter from Sylevester Joseph Hartman[n] to Stacia Cooney Schweiger (Uncle Syl’s wife), referencing the tree, below.
Schweiger family tree (in German) obtained from Anna Schweiger Alf. She was the daughter of Sigmund Schweiger (at the top), oldest brother of my great-grandfather, Ignatz. The siblings are all listed (with Sigmund repeated) to the right of their father, Alois. “Confirmed by the parish office of Steingaden; Anton Börmann, chaplain” is the only sourcing for the entire page.

The tree showed my great grandfather, Ignatz, at the top right, listed with his siblings. Then it had their parents to the left, his father’s parents, grandfather’s parents, and so on. The earliest person was born in 1711. I was suitably impressed! It wasn’t particularly well-sourced, but it was from 1936—that wasn’t too surprising. It was my longest genealogy line until the Meintzer wall came down in the mid-1980s.

An English transcription got into my hands in 1980, clearly taken from the first document. I’m not sure who typed it—Fr. Hartman[n], Uncle Syl, or Leslie Larson (husband of my 2nd cousin, once removed, on the Harry line), who sent it to me.

English transcription of the previous page. Someone’s typwriter keys needed cleaning. Plus, it’s probably a copy of a copy, so a little degradation happens each time. I could retype it, but that runs the risk of introducing errors from making that copy. As I continue to go through my do-over, I probably will create a cleaner transcription in a digital format for better preservation, with VERY CAREFUL proof reading.

On all my other lines, I was lucky to have great grandparents’ names and birth dates (off their tombstones), and “Germany.” No village names, ships’ names, immigration dates. Nothing to help me search for them in the old country. In pre-internet days, I’d have been throwing darts at a map, trying to guess which LDS microfilm to order and crank through. At $3.25 each, the dollars and time spent would add up quickly, with possibly nothing to show for it.

But the Schweiger line? It was practically handed to me on a silver platter. The drawback was the tendency to be complacent about it. I might have been able to order microfilm records from their villages (if the church records had been filmed), but it would have cost me money for information I “already knew.” Since it was coming from German relatives in the family, I tended to believe the information, despite its lack of sourcing.

Then of course, I had kids, and genealogy screeched to a halt. When I resumed, I learned about the laws passed in April 1933, in Nazi Germany, requiring Germans to put together a family tree, demonstrating there was no Jewish blood in their ancestry. While I knew I still had Schweigers living in Germany then, who could have been impacted, I had no idea if that document still existed, or who might have it.

Imagine my surprise when Dad’s cousin Fred mailed me the document created because of those laws. It measured 10.5″ x 21.5″. It took 4 sheets of legal paper, taped together, but trimmed down to 14″ x 23.75″. Fred obtained it from a granddaughter of Anna Alf, the woman referred to in the 1936 letter.

Lower left corner: “Before the completion of the pedigree, to be considered” followed by instructions. I suggest opening this image in a new window, to do it justice. It’s dated 20 December 1939, so 3½ years after Fr. Hartman[n]’s letter. So while Anna had to research her ancestors earlier, she apparently didn’t have to file something formally, until 1939—or had to present it a second time, for some reason.

It appears to be the source of the information contained on the pages I obtained from Uncle Syl. His note penciled in the left margin explains this document’s provenance. Of course, it also includes additional information about the women’s lines, not included in the chart from Fr. Hartman[n]. The Schweiger ancestors are on the left half of the page. Anna had to provide information back to her great-great grandparents. Presumably her job as a stenographer for the German Labor Front (a civil service position) required her compliance.

The small circles, looking like chicken pox? It’s a rubber stamp, difficult to read (it could have used a cleaning, and more frequent re-inking), stamped on each block (person). In the center is “Geprüft!” (“checked!”). The circle part is much harder, with partial letters, or letters over other printing. At the bottom it has “Ahnen____,” which might actually be “Ahnennachweis.” It’s not one of the terms mentioned in the Wikipedia article above, but seems to be a merging of “Ahnenpass” and “Ariernachweis.” You know how they like to make up compound words in German by just adding words together. “Nachweis” means “evidence,” so that would fit. The next word might be “Augsburg” (which would also make sense). The very last section almost looks like “Haupt” (head), but I can’t make out what’s inbetween. My guess is that it’s a department name—so something like, “Augsburg [department] head/office.”

If anyone can interpret the stamp better, please let me know! I have a feeling the stamp and even the form itself varies from place to place. While the information required was probably the same, there may not have been a standard format. Did Anna have to produce actual documents for each person? Is that what constituted proof? I don’t know.

This document is one of those serendipitous things that sometimes drop into our laps. It’s something that could have easily been discarded, due to disinterest or its connotations. Fortunately, it wasn’t. It remains proof of a time it may be easier to forget than to remember.

So . . . do I actually have something to be thankful to Adolph Hitler for? That’s a really scary thought. Nevertheless, it may be true.

I’m grateful, though, to the distant family members who decided to keep it, rather than discarding it, because of the reasons the information was gathered. Since more records are now online, I definitely need go back to verify the dates and places stated there.

#52Ancestors

Future

“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”–Doc Brown, “Back to the Future, Part III”

When I was a young child, my older siblings would try to confuse me with the saying, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” Quick research revealed it to be a Dale Carnegie quote. When rattled off quickly to a six- or seven-year-old, it initially sounds like gibberish. Once I got somewhere quiet, and could think about the words, I realized it made perfect sense.

Genealogists spend a lot of time reading, researching, and thinking about the past. Yesterdays are very important to us, and we expend a lot of effort trying to tease the truth out of records about our past. Our ancesters frequently thwart us, by hiding from the census enumerator, running off to marry in the state next door, living in counties whose courthouses keep burning down, or dying without a will.

We are so focused on looking backwards, sometimes we forget that we are the future of our ancestors. I doubt they thought much about us, but here we are, continuing on their bloodlines, and living lives directly influenced by their decisions.

My DNA is a collection of my ancestors. Every gene inside me started with someone centuries ago. Each generation, some new genes found their way into my DNA strand, as others dropped off, to make room for those new ones. Go back enough generations, and some of those ancestors have no genetic connection to me at all. It doesn’t mean I don’t descend from them—I just don’t have that person’s DNA.

Just like my DNA is a summary of the ancestors before me, my life itself is a result of all those ancestors’ decisions—big and small—and probably the decisions of some people who ended up NOT becoming my ancestors! Were they thinking about the future, at that time? Probably not. They were just living their lives, and making decisions that seemed to be the best for themselves, right then. Each of their seemingly inconsequential decisions shaped their future, and that of their children, grandchilden, and so on.

“Wait, you don’t understand. If you don’t play, there’s no music. If there’s no music, they don’t dance. If they don’t dance, they don’t kiss and fall in love and I’m history.”

Marty McFly, “Back to the Future

Marty wasn’t a genealogist, and even he understood this! His very existence depended on an unimportant sequence of events.

It’s an idea I’ve toyed with in other posts, not necessarily spelling it out. Some examples?

  • My mom might not have asked out a boy she didn’t really know, if she hadn’t liked dancing—or apparently had a couple of “dud” dates (Going to the Chapel).
  • Great grandmother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger might have stayed in Wisconsin, and married someone there, if she hadn’t gone to work for a Chicago North Shore family (Trick or Treat)
  • I could have ended up a “California girl” if Chicago’s fall weather had been more blustery when my dad was discharged from the Navy. After 18 months in the South Pacific, and another 18 months in California’s Imperial Valley, Dad would have moved back to San Diego if the weather hadn’t been so nice!
  • I would have a different collection of children—if I’d gone to Brigham Young University, instead.

Of course, Mike’s biggest concern about the future, is what to do with all the genealogy if I make the mistake of dying first . . .

The Future. We worry about it all the time, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that we hold it in our hands and create it with every decision we make. It would behoove us to take Doc Brown’s advice!

#52Ancestors

Thief

“Go on, take the money and run”–Steve Miller Band

I was in a slight panic when I saw this prompt. I couldn’t think of a single thief on my tree. Despite growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I’m unaware of any connection to gangsters or organized crime. Well, maybe one, but he moved west. Capone eating at the restaurant where my grandmother was the cook didn’t count. Even he had to eat, right? No cowboys settled out west, so no horse thieves, cattle rustlers, or claim jumpers lurked in the tree. We apparently were a fairly law-abiding family. Dang!

Ignatz Schweiger, age unknown, photo date unknown. Obviously before his death in 1921! This was probably taken in the yard of one of his children, but I’m not sure which one.

Fortunately, early in November I was searching Newspapers.com for my great grandmother, Dorothea Schweiger, and stumbled upon an article mentioning her husband, Ignatz:

John Thomas Is Arrested

John Thomas of Cleveland, O., is locked up in the village jail at Glencoe on a charge of robbing the cash drawer of the Hotel Hony, where he had worked for his dinner. Ignatz Schweiger, the butcher, was in the room, and says he saw the robbery committed. He ran to tell Mr. Hony, but when the latter arrived Thomas was going down the street toward the railroad. He was joined by three other men. Hony gave the alarm to Marshal Upfield, who overhauled the man. No resistance was made. The prisoner said he worked on the steamer Philip Minch and left the boat in Chicago to go into Wisconsin in search of work.

“John Thomas Is Arrested,” 5 December 1897, Newspapers.com: accessed 29 November 2019, record number: not given; citing original p. 3, column 4, news article 4, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Ignatz wasn’t a thief, but he helped catch one. He was 38 years old at the time—not exactly a young man, but certainly not old. I’m sure it was an exciting event for him.

Ignatz was referred to as “the butcher” (not “restaurant owner”), but more about that, later. Presumably the information in the Tribune was obtained from a police report. I searched Newspapers.com to see if there were any articles following up on the case. Unfortunately “John Thomas” is a horrible search string. I narrowed the date to December 1897 thru early 1898, but found nothing. It’s also possible the man pled guilty, so there was no further “news” to report. A local paper might have reported the sentencing, but I didn’t find one online.

I also searched using the name of the hotel/hotel owner. Again, I didn’t find further mention of this event. Curiously, I found 2 classified ads from 1904 about “Hony’s Hotel” in Galena, Illinois, being up for sale. The owner was ready to retire. For those of you not from Illinois, Galena is on the opposite side of the state from Glencoe. It’s a delightful little town, just shy of the Mississippi River, the home of Ulysses S. Grant (post Civil War, pre-presidency), chocked full of quaint tea rooms and antique shops.

It’s also 166 miles from Glencoe, and a 2 hour 45 minute drive today. In the early 1900s, it probably took 3-5 days with a horse-drawn wagon/carriage—the estimates I found on the internet varied. The point is, the Mr. Hony who was robbed wouldn’t have been running 2 hotels so far apart. It’s an odd coincidence, because the name isn’t that common. There are 7 years between the robbery and the Galena hotel sale, so Mr. Hony could have sold the Glencoe hotel and moved west to run another hotel, finally retiring in 1904 or later. I just don’t know.

Why do I suddenly care about this stranger? I never knew about him until I found that newspaper article. I don’t know if or how Mr. Hony connects to Ignatz. My great grandfather started out with the butcher shop at 375 Park. It morphed into a restaurant along the way. The family sold 375 to the Eklund family (whose daughter, Sally, later donated it to the Glencoe Historical Society) and moved a couple doors down to 367 Park.

The trouble is, documentation I have (which isn’t at my fingertips) placed the move to 367 in 1891—six years before this robbery. Was Ignatz still running a butcher shop out of the new address? Or are the other dates I have, inaccurate? I need to comb through my documents, dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” to nail down the specifics to clear this up.

Other questions pop into my head:

  • Is the police report still available? There may be more information than what was reported in the paper.
  • Where was Hotel Hony located?
  • Why was Ignatz at the hotel’s restaurant in the middle of the afternoon?
    • Were he and Mr. Hony friends or in a club or committee, together?
    • Was he scoping out the competition?

It’s amazing how such an inconsequential news article can raise so many questions about what I thought I already knew!

#52Ancestors