Surprise

Genealogy provides a never-ending stream of surprises!

Give a vigorous shake to any family tree, and in addition to a few nuts, other surprises invariably fall out! Mine is no exception, and you’ve already read about a variety of “surprises” I’ve found through the years. But if you are hoping for a juicy, scandal-laced, DNA-based reveal in this blog post, your time is better spent elsewhere. This one is pretty mundane.

It’s September, 1946, and my mom’s cousin, Jeanne, is getting married. She is second youngest daughter of George Edward (Edward George) Meintzer (Next to Last), my grandfather’s older brother. The two girls (both still living!) are two years apart in age (Mom is older).

Though they lived in the same town, Mom says she and Jeanne didn’t really see too much of each other, growing up. Their fathers had a good relationship, so there wasn’t a family rift. The families lived only a few blocks apart, and Mom remembers Jeanne’s older sister, Helen, babysitting for her a couple times. But Jeanne’s mom was Catholic, with the children raised Catholic, so the families attended different churches, possibly different schools. And you know how it is with kids — they don’t really want to hang out with younger kids — even cousins!

But, by 1946, everyone is grown up, with my mom married for almost two years! She and Dad arrive at Jeanne’s wedding, most likely with her parents. Also in tow is my sister, Carole, seven months old, cute as a button, undoubtedly enjoying her brief stint as “only child.”

Imagine my mom’s surprise to see Aunt Rose (The Maiden Aunt) and Uncle Joe Rau also attending! They are from my dad’s side: Aunt Rose is the sister of my other grandmother, Victoria. Why are they here at my mom’s cousin’s wedding? What was going on?

It turned out that the bridegroom was Uncle Joe’s nephew! Uncle Joe’s sister, Mary, was the mother of the groom. Who would ever anticipate that? Of course, it didn’t change anything — my dad wasn’t related to Jeanne’s new husband. The two of them were just related — one by DNA, one by marriage — to the same person (Uncle Joe). It was simply one of those random occurrences that pop up in families.

As so often happens, quirky little things like that are easily forgotten. When I began my research in my teens, Mom and I paid a visit to her cousin, seeing what she might know about the Meintzers. Jeanne brought out a thick binder with the genealogy of her husband to show me. Someone in his family had researched and put it together, and he obtained a copy. It was interesting, but it really had nothing pertinent for us. Of course, it showed Uncle Joe’s connection to Jeanne’s husband, which Mom had forgotten about. It also made my fledgling genealogy look puny by comparison . . .

Fast forward 35+ years . . . The “Great Photo Identification Project” was still underway. Mom and I were on a road trip to the Chicago area and stopped by to see Jeanne. It was just a “sit and catch up” visit, but the conversation turned to photographs and the difficulty in identifying some of them.

Carole Ann Haws, Rose Schweiger Rau, and Mary Rau White (previously unidentified) on 14 September 1946.

This photo of Aunt Rose holding my sister was one of the problem photos we owned. Aunt Rose was easily identifiable, as was Carole. The woman on the right proved to be a puzzle, though. From the corsages, we knew is was some “event” — we just couldn’t place it. So while they chatted, Mom mentioned it. Conveniently, I had an image on my laptop, and pulled it up to show Jeanne. She took one look and said, “That’s my mother-in-law!”

SURPRISE!

Say what?? How did Mom not remember it being from Jeanne’s wedding? I guess she was busy taking care of a baby, and didn’t pay attention to Jeanne’s new in-laws. At least the mystery was finally solved! And yes, the photo has been properly labeled.

What’s the take-away from this? First, it’s a good idea to be careful with what you say about whom. You never know who might be distantly connected to you — or to someone you know. And when DNA testing enters the mix, all bets are off!

Second, label the pictures! Now. ALL of them. Not just one copy, Every. Single. Print. If you label only one (that you have multiples of) and give it away, where does that leave you? Unlabeled again, that’s what! Just do it.

Lastly, write the stories down. It is too easy to forget about them, or forget to repeat them to others, so they know about them. We’ve all played “telephone” enough to know how that game turns out, and we know the effect it can have on our family stories (Colorful and Close Up)! Having the stories committed to paper at least locks them into a particular version. It may still be wrong (or not completely right — not quite the same thing as wrong), but at least there’s a more fixed starting point, and something concrete to either prove or disprove.

Most importantly, enjoy the surprises (good or bad) when they show up. They make our family history more interesting! That’s what keeps most genealogists coming back for more.

#52Ancestors

The Importance of Being Ernest–I mean, Aloysius

“Nostalgia has a way of blocking the reality of the past.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Nine days ago, I wrote a post about the name Alois/Aloysius (Unusual Name), and its appearance in our family. At the end I related a story about my oldest brother choosing it for his Confirmation name. Almost immediately I received an email from my sister-in-law (wife of middle brother) saying that he had Aloysius as a Confirmation name.

Had I mis-remembered the story? Entirely possible. It was not written down, just tucked away in memory. Could they have both chosen the same name? Maybe. Unfortunately, oldest brother, Bob, died in 2008, so he isn’t around to ask. How could I resolve this conflicting information?

When it got to a more decent hour, I called our mother (age 96!) on the off chance that she remembered. Now, she’s 96, wasn’t Catholic until she turned 70, and we’re talking about something that happened sixty years ago. I didn’t hold out much hope.

I was not mistaken. She did not remember who had which Confirmation name, though she remembered one of them had chosen Aloysius. She also confirmed that she didn’t care for the name, but didn’t remember telling anyone that. So perhaps I’ve mis-remembered that aspect of the story, and she was simply perturbed that the name was selected.

But that still didn’t resolve the issue. I messaged youngest brother, Bill, to see if he remembered anything. He thought he had chosen Paul, and that Bob had Aloysius, but reminded me it was a long time ago! If he’d read the blog entry, that also might have influenced his answer, so I took it with a grain of salt.

I decided I needed to follow my mother’s advice and call the parish. Hopefully they had a record of the names. The woman I spoke with two days later was very nice, and I gave her as much information as I could: our names, my Confirmation date, and all our graduation dates. I figured she might need to search through registers, so waited patiently for an email reply. It arrived today!

The email¹ from the parish secretary included all our Confirmation names, as well as the dates. Bob (Aloysius) and Carole (Lucy) were confirmed on the same day (our parish held Confirmation every other year, doing two grades at a time). Middle brother (Warren) was Thomas! Bill had correctly remembered Paul, and I already knew Elizabeth for me.

While I feel slightly vindicated (sorry, Warren!), truthfully I wouldn’t have cared if the answer had been different. I could have just as easily been wrong. This isn’t a fact I track in the genealogy, much less being a “vital” data point. But since the question had been raised, I needed to follow up on it, verifying it one way or another.

But now that this mystery has been solved, I can move on to others!


¹Lara Krupicka, Hinsdale, Illinois [(e-address for private use),] to Christine Bauman, e-mail, 29 January 2019, “Confirmation Names”; privately held by Bauman [(e-address & street address for private use),] Greenwood, Indiana.

Unusual Name

Some names are in a class by themselves.

I’ve already used up my most unusual name: Venemi/Vensom/Vaclav (Same Name). But if I have to choose another one, I’m going with Alois. It’s a name we don’t see much of nowadays, and shows up in just one of my ancestral branches. It is related to the names Aloysius (AL-oh-ISH-əs), Louis, and Ludwig (as well as others) and means “famous warrior.” St. Aloysius is the patron saint of Catholic youth.

Alois Schweiger was my great-great-grandfather (father of Ignatz (Closest to Your Birthday), who emigrated from Bavaria in 1882). Alois was born in Niederhoëfen, Bavaria, 5 October 1821. He died there 13 February 1871, just shy of fifty years old. To the best of my knowledge, there were no others before him named Alois — though I don’t know names for his cousins, uncles, granduncles, etc. Some others could be lurking there.

Alois or Aloysius in the Schweiger line. Other siblings removed for simplicity.

Alois and his wife Marianne Hartmann had seven children. Their youngest son was Alois, Jr. Older brother, Ignatz, named one of his sons (Uncle Al) “Aloysius,” in honor of his father and brother, I suppose. Uncle Al in turn named his youngest son after himself and his grandfather. However, that son (Buddy) used a nickname for most of his relatively short (1917-1947) life, so I guess he wasn’t overly fond of Aloysius!

Uncle Al standing next to his brother, Leo (Black Sheep) before October, 1932.

When I started doing genealogy, and began looking for this name in records, I realized that MANY people were not familiar with either variation, so they became very creative with spelling. Sometimes the problem was with the more recent transcriber having trouble reading the handwriting and not knowing what the name was. Other times the issue was with the person writing it down in the first place. I’ve seen it written or indexed as:

  • Alice (for a man!)
  • Alvis
  • Aulis
  • Allwishes (SO wrong, yet works phonetically!)

I soon learned to look at names and think how they would sound and not worry about how they were spelled!

As I gathered information for this post (meaning of the name, patron saint, etc.), I decided to run a search at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch just to see what other Alois Schweigers popped up. There were way more than I anticipated! Most of them didn’t belong to me, of course, but it was interesting to see they mostly came from Bavaria (where mine came from), or very nearby — Baden, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland. Northern Germany did not show up very often as I scrolled through. Of course, the name is used with many other surnames, but checking with “Schmidt,” the results seemed similar.

So I wonder how much geography plays a role in naming patterns? Is it a coincidence that Beethoven (a Ludwig) was born in Bonn, considerably farther north? It would be an interesting topic to study. Or is it merely a function of what name is popular at a particular time? That’s how we acquired a generation of children named Brittany, Justin, and Jessica! While I have 24 Louis and 10 Ludwig people in my file, there are only 7 Alois or Aloysius entered (some of them distantly connected). Both are clearly outnumbered by more the traditional Louis and Ludwig!

Of course, the best story about the name comes from my mom. When my oldest brother was getting ready for his confirmation, Mom told him he could choose whatever saint name he wanted, but she really didn’t care for Aloysius. So what name did Bob pick? Aloysius, of course! Unfortunately, that detail doesn’t get stored in my database, so he doesn’t figure into the above stats. But that may well be our family’s most recent — and last? — use of this unusual name!

#52Ancestors

Conflict

Internal conflict isn’t always as easy to see—or deal with—as external conflict.

As genealogists, we are accustomed to hearing about the Loyalist (rather than Patriot) in someone’s Revolutionary War ancestry. There are countless examples of brother-versus-brother during the Civil War. Many researchers have discovered great grandfathers from different lines actually fought on opposite sides of various battles. None of those scenarios applies to me, as my ancestors were all way too recent. My conflict hit a little closer to home.

Growing up, I knew my dad and his brothers (and brothers-in-law) had fought in WWII. I was well aware of my predominantly German heritage, so even at a relatively young age I realized my dad and uncles had fought against the country their grandfathers had come from. Way back in my brain was the possibility that there could have been family still living in Germany. What did they do during the war?

When I started genealogy in earnest (Start), my parents arranged a visit to Uncle Syl and Aunt Stacia. He was my grandmother’s (Victoria) younger brother. It turned out he had dabbled a little with the family tree and had a treasure trove of information, mostly coming from Fr. Sylvester Hartman[n], an extended relation. The letter below accompanied several pages of Schweiger tree, reaching back to the 1630.

father hartmann letter_0001
Letter dated 4 April 1936 from Fr. Sylvester Hartmann to Stacia [and Sylvester] Schweiger. Copy obtained from them ca. 1975.
The letter was an eye opener!

It describes Uncle Syl’s 1st cousin, Anna (a 1st cousin twice removed to me), widowed, with two sons (first 3 lines of the letter). Then the kicker: “She obtained employment as a typist and stenographer in the German Labor Front, the official union of all the workmen of Germany, under Hitler.”

Oookayyy. Deep breaths. What was once only a possibility has quickly moved to a reality. Of course, Anna was merely office help—certainly not making decisions, formulating policy, or carrying out the resulting actions. She was simply a single mom, doing the best she could to put food on the table and a roof over the head of her family in a still-depressed German economy.

Still . . . she probably had brothers, and definitely a son who would soon be military age. Surely none of them escaped military service.

According to the Family History Center’s Wiki article on German compiled genealogies (Ancestor Certificates sub-heading), Ancestor Certificates didn’t seem to be a requirement until 1937. I’m not sure why Anna started doing genealogy before then. Maybe she was just interested, or maybe working within a pseudo-governmental position (even as office staff) she was asked to fill it out before the general population needed to? I don’t know. Our certificate was kept, however, and is still in the family.

The Schweigers were only one ancestral line. My maternal grandfather’s line (Meintzers) were in Alsace. They spent the war being German-occupied, probably trying to stay under the radar. That leaves two other lines—Harré (Harry) and Haase (Haws)—located in different parts of Germany. Were there still family members in those areas? How did they act during the war?

The questions spin around in my head endlessly:

  • Did they participate?
  • To what extent?
  • Were they willing or reluctant?
  • Did they leave or stay?
  • Were they victims, themselves? Or potentially so, causing them to try to be as unnoticeable as possible?
  • Did they realize what was happening in the work camps and concentration camps? Did that do anything to counteract? Or did they feel frustrated and helpless?

All of the questions leave me conflicted. It’s an uneasiness I can’t shrug off. It’s been years, and I still get a creepy feeling thinking about it.

They are questions I will never get answers to. The people involved are long since gone. Their reasons and rationals were buried with them.

Nor would I ask their descendants, if I located some. To what end? To make them feel bad about something they had no hand in, and may already feel bad about? To criticize and accuse the people they loved of doing something bad—or not doing enough to stop it? It hardly seems fair, or productive.

It’s very easy to look with the 20/20 vision of hindsight and say, “They should have done . . .” Or even better—to get on my self-righteous high horse, saying what I would have done in that situation.

You know what? I have no clue what I would have done. I’d like to think I’d have been that brave soul, smuggling Jews or downed Allied pilots to safety, or thwarting Nazi plans. Or maybe I would have simply tried to survive.

So I will live with this internal conflict. If one day I discover some distant relative was part of the atrocities—I’ll cope with that, then. In the meantime, I will hope for the best.

#52Ancestors

Closest to Your Birthday

What? 100 years isn’t close?

You are probably expecting to read about someone who shares my birthday, or has a birthday close in date to mine. With 5000+ people in my tree, finding a shared or near birthday shouldn’t be difficult. There are only 365 days (366, counting leap year), so you have to start doubling up fairly quickly. If that’s what you are looking for, though, you will be disappointed!

When I began my genealogy life (Start), I soon learned that three of my eight great grandparents—all on my dad’s side—were born 100 (or 99–a little fudge factor, there) years before me:

  • Frank Haas/Haws: born 3 March 1858,  Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. He was the first or second child in his family born in the USA. I can’t quite nail down where his sister, Dorothy was born, but I’m sure for Frank. He stayed on the family farm (The Old Homestead) until he retired. None of his sons continued on as farmers.

    frank haws_0001
    Frank Haase/Haas/Haws 1858-1933. Photo came from one of the Haws grandaunts 40+ years ago. Taken before 4 May 1933 (Frank’s death date).
  • Dorothea Harry : born 26 March 1858, Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She was the second youngest child of Peter Haré/Hary/Harry and Elisabetha Bullea/Boullie. You met Dorothea’s mother in Travel, as she carried one child and kicked the other as they walked to the farm. Dorothea moved to the Chicago North Shore to work as live-in help for one of the families. That was not uncommon for the time, and one of the few ways a girl could find a way out of rural Wisconsin. That allowed her to meet Ignatz!

    HARRY Dorothea portrait
    Photo credit: I thought I got it from Barb. She thought she got it from me. I probably got it from Fred. THANKS, FRED! 

    Dorothea Schweiger_0001

  • Ignatz Schweiger:   born 13 May 1859, Niederhoefen, Bavaria, Germany. He was the 2nd youngest child of a cheese maker. He came to America about 1882, as a butcher. How he learned that trade, I’m not really sure, but the family’s life revolved around that, and later, the restaurant. Everyone in the family worked there at some point (Black Sheep), and it was how my grandparents met each other (Invite to Dinner). How he and Dorothea met, I don’t know, though I suspect it was at church. I doubt that either one had much free time.

    Ignatz Schweiger barb
    Photo credit–ditto. I know Ignatz is a year off, but it’s pretty darn close!

    Ignatz Schweiger_0001

    As a teenager, the fact that I born 100 years after these direct ancestors caught my eye, and connected me to those great grandparents a little differently than the other five. I obviously never met them, and my dad knew only two of them, but somehow they just seemed closer.

The generational gaps from them to me were a little wider than typical. In genealogy, if we’re trying to decide when a parent’s birth might have occurred, we start looking 20-25 years before the birth of their oldest child. But this descendancy follows:

  • middle and younger children to
  • middle children (Ed & Victoria) to
  • youngest (Dad) to
  • youngest,

so we have 29 to 37 year gaps. Getting those to come out evenly to 100 is a little tricky—like when the cash register rings up with an even dollar amount, instead of stray cents. It’s not impossible, but seems to happen rarely—certainly less often than one in 100 transactions!

So is there any great significance to the last two digits of their birth years matching mine? Not really. It’s one of those serendipitous things that pops up in family trees—coincidences that have us wondering if they are accidental. None of my immediate cousins can make this same claim–not even with the other great grandparents. One of my children, though, was born 100 years after a great grandfather on my mom’s side, while another was born between two great grandmothers—so 99 and 101 years later. That’s something I never even thought about until just now.

Should I cue the Twilight Zone or X-Files music, yet? No, but I will probably continue to try and notice when these quirky coincidences happen. Maybe life isn’t as random as it sometimes seems.

#52Ancestors

Back to School

Why didn’t all the kids receive the same education?

I had a plan worked out for this week . . . and then I went walking Thursday morning. A different topic popped into my head, so it was back to the drawing board. Or blackboard? Since I didn’t actually have anything written, it’s not like I wasted any time, but it was a mental re-boot, nevertheless.

I love the 1940 census because it’s the only one (available now, at least) that recorded the amount of schooling a person had. It’s an interesting detail, especially for the older relatives. I knew my paternal grandmother, Victoria Schweiger (Invite to Dinner), graduated from 8th grade. I’ve seen her class’s graduation photo in the 25th Anniversary book for Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Winnetka, Illinois. I discovered her younger brothers had more schooling, though. Was that a gender bias, or just a change in values and opportunities? I decided to try to find out.

Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry had eleven children:

  • Elizabeth Mary (Aunt Lizzy), b. 8 November 1886,    8th¹
  • Aloysious Francis (Uncle Al), b. 11 April 1888,    H-4²
  • Clemence Mary, b. 15 October 1889, d. 25 March 1890
  • Ignatz Joseph (Uncle Iggy), b. 15 October 1889 (yes, a twin!),    H-2³
  • Anthony George (Cemetery), b. 17 January 1891, d 28 September 1914
  • Anna Maria, b. 27 September 1892, d. 27 October 1893
  • Victoria Barbara, b. 2 December 1894,    8th4
  • Leo Mattheau (Uncle Leo Black Sheep), b. 24 December 1896,    H-45
  • Rose Dorothea (Aunt Rose The Maiden Aunt), b. 21 February 1900,    H-26
  • Sylvester Joseph (Uncle Syl), b. 25 September 1901,    H-47
  • Frederick Hugh (Uncle Freddie), b. 17 July 1905,    H-48

I located the 1940 census records for the eight children alive in 1940, and recorded their education levels above, at the end of their lines. Uncle Al gave me fits, because the Ancestry indexing mangled both his first and last names, as well as his wife’s. I finally tracked them down, and have submitted corrections!

Unfortunately, Anthony died before 1940. The rest of the boys (except for Uncle Iggy) graduated from high school. The oldest daughter, Lizzy, and my grandmother, Victoria, graduated from 8th grade, but Rose received two more years.

A bit of gender bias seems evident. Was that the way my great-grandparents thought, or was it simply the “norm” for that time and place? This is one of those frequent times when I’d love to be able to ask my great grandparents some questions. Or even my grandmother—I’m sure she could have provided a decent explanation. What kind of questions do I have?

  • Why only 8th grade for Lizzy & Victoria? As far as I know, they were pretty smart women. Were they needed to work in the butcher shop/restaurant?  Did Lizzy and Victoria simply mis-remember how many years? They’d been out of school for 30+ years, and maybe it wasn’t that big a deal for them, anyway. Or had opinions changed enough by the time Rose reached high school, so girls were educated longer?
  • Why only 2 years for Iggy? That seems a little odd. Was something going on with the family that he dropped out early? Did they need help in the butcher shop/restaurant, so he stepped in? Maybe school just wasn’t his thing. I’m having trouble finding him in the 1910 and 1920 census (not with the family), and WWI draft, so I’m not sure where he was or what he was doing. He was a lodger in the 1940 census, and I noticed that the 15 year old young lady from the line above also had 2 years of high school. Remember, the pages microfilmed (and digitized) are copies of the “field sheets” written by the enumerator. Was he simply “on a roll” and filled in H-2, when it should have been H-4? Maybe.

Is there any way I can answer those questions? I don’t know. I might be able to contact the high school and request their records. But which school? New Trier High School is the current public school—but is that the one they would have attended? Or was there a Catholic high school they would have gone to? They attended the Catholic grade school—would they have been able to afford a Catholic high school?

Maybe Lizzy and Victoria DID attend additional years, but thought the question asked about graduating from high school, and answered it incorrectly? My dad had mentioned that both his parents only an 8th grade education, so I really don’t think that’s likely—but maybe.

Unfortunately, Ignatz and Dorothea died before 1940, so I don’t know their education levels. It seems that they tried, as much as possible, to see their children well-educated, though. I think that legacy has mostly continued through the succeeding generations. Thanks, guys!

#52Ancestors


¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 16-339; sheet 22A; household number 468; line 27; Elizabeth LEVERNIER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Elizabeth LEVERNIER, age 53; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 782; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1940 U.S. census, population schedule, New Jersey, Bergen, Westwood Borough, e.d. 2-376; sheet 1A; household number 2; line 4; Aloysius F. SCHWEIGER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Aloysius F. SCHWEIGER, age 51; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 2316; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, e.d. 72-313; sheet 2A; household number 27; line 40; Louis BRZEZINSKI household; accessed 30 August 2018. Igantz SCHWEIGER, age 51, lodger; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 4554; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

41940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Deerfield, e.d. 49-107; sheet 14B; household number 301; line 49; Edward HAWS household; accessed 30 August 2018. Victoria HAWS, age 45; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 828; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

51940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Wilmette, e.d. 16-297; sheet 6A; household number 95; line 16; Joseph RAU household; accessed 25 June 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 43; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 782; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

61940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Wilmette, e.d. 16-297; sheet 6A; household number 95; line 15; Joseph RAU household; accessed 25 June 2018. Rose RAU, age 40; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 782; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

71940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Chicago, e.d. 103-1214; sheet 8A; household number 160; line 19; Sylvester SCHWEIGER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Sylvester SCHWEIGER, age 38; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 958; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

81940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Highland Park, e.d. 49-19 sheet 61A; household number 398; line 14; Fred SCHWEIGER household; accessed 31 August 2018. Fred SCHWEIGER, age 34; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 828; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Black Sheep

Or maybe just a lost lamb?

When the prompt list came out at the beginning of the month, I was REALLY glad this was scheduled at the end of it! I had absolutely no idea what I could write about. Here we are, weeks later, and I’m still clueless.

You already heard about my witches (Misfortune), so that’s old news. To my knowledge, there are no horse thieves, bank robbers, con men, suffragettes, or “working girls” lurking in the tree, either. Was/is everyone perfect? Certainly not! But several factors conspire against me:

  • Neither side of the family tended to air “dirty laundry”–and especially not around the kids! Apparently, at 60 I’m still a kid . . .
  • Some situations probably qualify . . . but they still have people attached to them. Maybe not the direct person, but close, nevertheless. These aren’t necessarily my stories to tell, particularly if someone might be hurt by it. Off limits.

So what to do? Who to write about? My brain kept looping back to my Granduncle Leo (middle, above). He was a younger brother to my grandmother, Victoria. I don’t like the label of “black sheep” for him. Maybe a little gray. But mostly, he was a guy who, for whatever reason(s) seemed to have a tough time of it. I’m choosing him, but hope you remember it’s not the best fit, and he wasn’t a bad guy.

Dorothea & kidsThis photo is the clearest, and you can see he was fairly good looking . . . and had a much better hair deal going on than most of his brothers! Unfortunately, I don’t really know much about Uncle Leo. I never met him. I never heard his name until I started doing the family tree (Start). Even then, it was with a shake of the head and a, “We don’t really know what happened to him,” said with regret, not shame or disappointment in him. Most relatives who knew him personally aren’t alive to talk about him anymore. Dad and his brothers are gone. My mom doesn’t recall ever meeting him. My dad’s cousin Fred, almost 86, and smarter than two of me put together, probably knows the most. Much of what I know about Leo, I learned from Fred in the first place. I’ll try to link what I’ve heard with the little bit of paper trail I could find. Paper trail, first.

He was born Leo Matheau Schweiger on Christmas Eve, 1896, the eighth child out of eleven, with two of his older sisters dying before he was born. He was baptized either at the new Sacred Heart Parish in Winnetka, or at the family’s former parish, St. Joseph in Wilmette. Older and younger sisters were baptized at each place, but I don’t know about him. He grew up above the family butcher shop, later a restaurant, on Park Avenue in Glencoe. Presumably he attended Sacred Heart Catholic Grade School, like his older siblings, but he continued on to complete four years of high school¹ like his younger brothers. He would later develop Type II diabetes, like his mother and sisters, Victoria & Rose (not sure about the other siblings).

Schweiger boys on fence
Leo at far right, hard to see with the exposure. It looks to me like he’s having a good time, though! Circa 1908

My timeline for Leo includes:

  • 1900 census, age 3; in Glencoe with parents²
  • 1910 census, age 13; in Glencoe with parents³
  • 1918 WWI draft registration, age 21; in Glencoe with parents, working for a livery company (probably a driver, like below)4
  • 1920 census, age 23; in Glencoe with parents; chauffeur, garage5
  • 1930
  • 1935–on 1 April, living with his sister, Rose Rau (according to 1940 census) ¹
  • 1936–in December he applied for a Social Security number 6
  • 1940 census, age 43; in Wilmette with his sister, Rose; clerk, drug store.¹
  • 1942 WWII draft registration, age 45; living in Glencoe; clerk, drug store. Contact person is his sister, Elizabeth (not Rose!)7

Schweiger siblings
All the siblings, a different day. Not the best image. Once again Leo is in the center. It’s interesting the boys are in the same order as before, but the girls change it up a bit. Possibly their mother’s funeral (31 October 1932). Al lived in New York, so probably didn’t get in often.

On the whole, it’s not a bad timeline–except for the noticeable gap in 1930–technically 1920-1935. I cannot find him anywhere in the 1930 census. He’s not living with his mom and the other unmarried siblings or his married siblings. A very fuzzy search (first name, first 3 or 4 letters and a wildcard for “Schweiger,” and a range for his birth year) in the 1930 census turns up nothing. I swapped in his middle name. Still zip. His Social Security Number yielded nothing, either.

So, what about that gap? I don’t have a solid answer for that. Uncle Leo would drop contact with the family for a stretches of time–maybe that was one of them. When I emailed Fred with questions about the blog for Aunt Rose (The Maiden Aunt) he related this story:

“Leo deliberately separated himself from the family in about 1940 was found on “skid row” with a bad diabetic wound, she was contacted by the welfare agency.  She and Joe took Leo in, nursed him back to health, and found him a job. Unfortunately, a year later he disappeared once more and never was found again. “

The 1940 census has Leo in Rose & Joe’s house in 1935 and 1940, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was continuous. He applied for a Social Security Card in 1936, so he was working. Maybe something happened after that point. The rest of Fred’s story fits, with Leo getting back to Rose & Joe before the census. Why he’s moved out by 1942, I don’t know. Was there a falling-out with Rose? Other stories I heard implied Leo had problems with alcohol. Was he not following some “house rules” regarding behavior and self-care? If he moved out simply to be independent, why wouldn’t he have used Rose for his contact person? Maybe I’m reading too much into it?

I doubt we will ever know what happened to Uncle Leo, and that’s a shame. From everything I heard, he sounded like a really nice guy–when he was taking care of himself and making better choices. I don’t know what demons distanced him from a family that kept trying to be there for him. I hope he’s remembered–and knows he’s remembered–for his good points–not his shortcomings.

#52Ancestors


¹1940 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Wilmette, e.d. 16-297; sheet 6A; household number 95; line 16; Joseph RAU household; accessed 25 June 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 43; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 782; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 1172; sheet 11B; dwelling number 188; family number 193; line 97; Ignatz SCHWEIGER household; accessed 2 April 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 3, December 1896; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 293; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 57; sheet 9A; dwelling number 168; family number 169; line 27; Ignaty[z] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 29 April 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 13; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 239; digital image, Ancestry.com) (https://www.ancestry.com).

4“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Leo Matthew SCHWEIGER, serial no. 107, registration no. 9, Draft Board #3, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1504112; accessed 20 November 2017. Registered 5 June 1918.

51920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 119; sheet 27B; dwelling number 543; family number 561; line76; Ianatz [Ignatz] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 26 June 2018. Leo SCHWEIGER, age 23; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 361; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

6“U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 29 June 2018, citing Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, (index only); dated December 1936. Entry for Leo Mathew SCHWEIGER, SS no. xxx-xx-xxxx.

7“U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942”, database, (https://www.ancestry.com), Leo Matthew SCHWEIGER, serial no. 1183, order no. not given, Draft Board 3, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Illinois. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication M2097, 326 rolls. NAI: 623284. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A.; accessed 9 June 2018. Registered 27 April 1942.

Photos and labels from Fred Schweiger.