Sister

“When traveling life’s journey it’s good to have a sister’s hand to hold on to.”–unknown

Christoph Jacob Meintzer, my grandfather, was the youngest child of his father, Christian Meinzer (Colorful). Christian had thirteen children all together: four with his first wife, Maria Elisabetha Weidmann (Cause of Death), then nine more with his second wife, Sophia Gaertner (My Favorite Photo). As the youngest of the nine who lived to adulthood, my grandpa had nieces and nephews older than he was!

Of the nine, only three were boys, so Christoph had six sisters! The two oldest (his half sisters) were Lizzie & Kate, and I’ll be focusing on them. They were well into their twenties when Grandpa was born. I always knew they were his half sisters, but he never focused on that distinction. Was he as close to them as to some of his other siblings? Probably not, but I think it was likely due more to the age gap than the “halfness.”

Both girls were born in Dehlingen, Bas-Rhin, Alsace. Lizzie’s (Marie Elisabeth’s) birth record1 (click on Accepter button, if you click through to see the image!) showed her mother to be a couturière—a seamstress or dressmaker. When she emigrated in 1881 (Elise, age 17), the passenger list2 showed her as also being a seamstress! I find it curious she developed the same skill as the mother who died when she was only two.

Elizabeth married John Ahrens 9 March 1885. Unfortunately, Illinois had no state census after 1865, so I can’t see if she was still working as a seamstress when she got married. By 1900 she had five children, so employment was not an option!

Elizabeth Meintzer Ahrens (1963-1945). This is an undated studio photograph. The prop in her hands (Abel’s Photographic Weekly) was published between 1913 and 1934, so presumably the photo was taken in that window. The image can’t be enlarged enough to read the date on the cover. The pleated top and skirt suggest the 1920s, placing her around age 60.

According to the census records, LIzzie and her husband rented in Chicago, in what might be considered the Irving Park neighborhood on the city’s northwest side. It wasn’t terribly far from her siblings, but far enough not to be able to visit easily or frequently. She was widowed in 1919, and around 1930 ran a grocery store—a small, neighborhood one, I imagine—assisted by her daughter, Josephine. It seemed one or the other of her adult children were usually living nearby.

By 1935, she’d purchased a home in Norwood Park, a little closer to her siblings, and lived there with her son, William, until her death. When Lizzie died 20 November 1945, the Illinois Bell Telephone operators had been on strike for a day, already. The strike ended by the 26th, but it complicated her funeral. Her siblings could not be reached by phone to be told of her death and what the funeral plans were. Her children mailed penny postcards with the information, but those weren’t delivered quickly enough to get the information in time. Her sister Sophie felt bad about missing her sister’s funeral on 23 November.

Younger sister, Catherine (Kate), was barely nine months old3 when their mother died. She was sixteen when she emigrated,2 and had no occupation listed at that point. In Favorite Name we got a glimpse of “Kitty” marrying George Warren in 1890. Unfortunately, we don’t really know what she was doing for the nine years in between. Did she live at home? Was she working somewhere? Or was she employed as live-in help in someone’s home? No answers to those questions.

In the 1900 census, Kate was running a boarding house in West Town (a west side Chicago neighborhood) with her two young children, along with five lodgers. She was listed as married, but George was nowhere to be seen. I don’t know what became of him. I couldn’t find him:

  • elsewhere in the 1900 census
  • in a death record (despite her listing as “married” for her entry)
  • in a divorce record (though it seems Illinois doesn’t have divorce records online)
  • on Find-a-Grave (obviously not all headstones are recorded there!)

Nevertheless, Kate married Morton N. Smith in St. Joseph, Michigan, 2 October 1904.4 The marriage register indicated Kate was living in Hammond, Indiana (right around the corner) and Morton was living in Blue Island, Illinois. St. Joseph was a common “marriage mill” for the greater Chicago area, because it avoided the Illinois 3-day wait rule. Morton was listed as never married, with Kate having one prior marriage. Presumably her marriage to George ended officially!

Kate, Morton, and her children go missing in 1910. While her son may have been old enough to be on his own, daughter Mabel was only 15, so a little too young for that. I didn’t find them in Illinois, Indiana, (prior residences) or Ohio (where Mabel got married in 1911). In 1920, their oldest grandson, Walter (age 7), is living with them in Chicago, but they are alone in 1930, shortly before Morton’s death.

Kate Meintzer Warren Smith at the 1930 Meintzer reunion. Not the best scan, but it’s hard to get a good one from a group photo like that. I don’t really have any other photos of her, that I know of.

Now widowed, she continued to live in the Chicago area. My mom remembered as a teenager, Aunt Kate visiting, and hearing Kate Smith (the singer) on the radio. They all thought it amusing that “Kate Smith was listening to Kate Smith on the radio!” I believe there was also a time when she had moved in with my mom and her parents. Later on, Kate moved up to stay with Carrie, a half sister, in Rondout, Illinois. She was living there at the time of her death in 1949.

This week has taught me that even though I was familiar with these two sisters, there were still a lot of unanswered questions with them. Some details got filled in, but many more questions remain. It was good to take the time to fill in some of those gaps. Maybe I need to schedule a road trip to research records not available online to fill in the rest?

#52Ancestors


1“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de naissances (Birth Registers) 1863, p. 7, no. 20, Marie Elisabeth MEINTZER, 20 December 1863; accessed 7 August 2019.

2“New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, NARA Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service; Record Group 36, Roll #437. National Archives, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Entry for. Elisa MAINTZER, entry number 496, line 9, list number 661; accessed 8 August 2019.

3“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de naissances (Birth Registers) 1865, p. 3, no. 5, Catherine MEINTZER, 11 March 1865; accessed 7 August 2019.

4“Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 11 August 2019, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics,1903 Wayne – 1904 Chippewa, film number 80, record # 935. Morton N. SMITH (38) and Catherine WARREN (37).

At the Cemetery

“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and
epitaphs.”―William Shakespeare, Richard II

Any genealogist worth his or her salt has accumulated an extensive collection of cemeteries. We spend an inordinate amount of time traipsing around them, searching for the names, birth and death dates, spouses and children of our elusive relatives. We come out with ticks; flea, chigger, and mosquito bites; twisted ankles; sunburn; poison ivy (if we are really unlucky); and dirty fingernails from pulling back the grass from the headstones so we can photograph them.

Despite all the energy expended, we don’t necessarily find the information we were hoping for! Sometimes the headstone is missing—or so worn it may as well be gone. Sometimes the people aren’t actually there. No, we don’t always know where the bodies are buried! Sometimes the headstone is there . . . and also in another cemetery . . . because the family couldn’t quite decide/agree about where the person should be buried.

Cemeteries come in all shapes and sizes, but they tend to have their own personalities, too. That’s mostly a function of how old it is, where in the country it is located, and the type of headstones or monuments placed in it. An above ground cemetery in New Orleans feels much different than a colonial cemetery in Massachusetts, or a prairie cemetery in Illinois. One isn’t necessarily better or worse—just different!

Then there are cemeteries with split personalities. You know, the ones parked right next to each other, pretending to be two cemeteries, but you know deep down it’s really just one cemetery with two different halves. It’s a lot like your college dorm room with the roommate you barely got along with. There may not have been masking tape down the middle of the floor, but there may as well have been. One half was “yours” and the other half wasn’t—and you really needed to stay off that side!

I have one of those cemeteries in my family; Mooney/St. Mary on  Ridge Road, Highland Park, Illinois, just north of Deerfield Road. In Chicagoland, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a “St. Mary Cemetery” somewhere. Unless you are very careful to distinguish one from the other, people will be confused about which one you mean. Even though Mooney/St. Mary is across the county line, in Lake County, it’s close enough that you still want to be careful. Consequently, one usually hears the combined name used.

St. Mary is obviously a Catholic cemetery; Mooney is not. I have people buried in both. Each has a road that loops into the cemetery and back to Ridge Road. The two loops aren’t connected, but there’s also no fence separating the two properties. I learned about them in the mid-late 1970s, and have been there several times, though my first photos weren’t taken until October, 1996. On the St. Mary side, I have:

  • Stephen Charles Meintzer, second cousin, a twin who died at birth on 5 January 1947. He’s on a headstone with his parents (my godparents)
  • Willard Charles Meintzer, Mom’s cousin, 12 September 1922-6 November 1981  and
  • Lois E. Palmer Meintzer, 20 July 1923-12 September 2004.
Willard Charles Meintzer, 12 September 1922-6 November 1981; his wife, Lois E. Palmer Meintzer, 20 July 1923-12 September 2004; one of their twins, Stephen Charles Meintzer, died at birth, 5 January 1947. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Heading over to the Mooney side, we find:

  • Jacob Meintzer, (Willard’s father) 12 February 1876-24 August 1949 (Bearded and Nature)
  • Caroline Frances Trute Meintzer, (Willard’s mother) January or March 1886-9 October 1929    and their 2nd youngest son
  • Lowell H. Meintzer, April 1914-8 February 1939, in California, from TB
Jacob Meintzer, 1876-1949; and wife, Caroline Trute Meintzer, 1886-1929. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.
Lowell H. Meintzer, 1914-1939; son of Jacob & Carrie. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Along with Jacob’s oldest sister, 

  • Sophie Meintzer Kranz (Valentine), 3 May 1868-12 December 1963, her husband
  • Edward M. Kranz, 1 February 1855-23 March 1939, and one of their sons
  • August Albert Kranz, 17 June 1899-16 June 1999 (yes, the day before his 100th birthday!)
Edward Kranz, 1855-1939; wife Sophie Meintzer Kranz, 1868-1963; son August, 1899-1999. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

And another sister,

  • Carolina Meintzer Kranz, 20 January 1872-20 February 1965, her husband (Edward’s brother)
  • Adam Henry Kranz (In the News), 1 April 1863-2 April 1955
Adam Henry Kranz, 1864-1955; and wife Carolina Meintzer, 1872-1965. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Lastly, we find the parents of the three of them

  • Christian Meintzer (Colorful), 3 April 1830-28 January 1922 and
  • Sophia Gaertner Meintzer (My Favorite Photo), 17 August 1842-7 September 1913
Christian Meinzter, 3 April 1830-28 January 1922, next to wife. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.
Sophia Gaertner Meintzer, 16 September 1842-7 September 1913. Photo taken 1996, Christine Bauman.

Even when we think we know where our people are buried, cemeteries like to surprise us! When Lois (my godmother) died in 2004, I was at a point in life where I could actually get up to a funeral with minimum disruption to our household. Mike ran point on parenting the children still at home, and I drove up to my parents’ house. My cousin Janice (who lived closer, but had younger kids) was at Lois’s Funeral Mass with her young daughter, and went to St. Mary Cemetery for the graveside service.

We chatted a bit after the service, and I casually mentioned that our great-grandparents, Christian & Sophia, were buried in the “other” cemetery. Janice had no idea, so we decided to walk over so she could see. There’s no fence separating the two cemeteries, remember? We found the headstones easily enough, and I was explaining that Aunt Sophie & Aunt Carrie were also nearby. As I did a sweeping motion and turn to indicate they were “somewhere over there,” my eyes landed on Catharine Smith—Aunt Kate (Favorite Name)—on the other side of the drive. Surprise!

“Oh, look! Here’s Aunt Kate. I didn’t know she was here, too!” Granted, “Catharine Smith”¹ isn’t the most unusual name in the world, but fortunately her second husband was named Morton—far less common! Even without having her birth and death dates handy, I knew it was her.

Catharine Meintzer Warren Smith, 11 March 1865-29 April 1949 and 2nd husband Morton N. Smith, 6 November 1865-15 June 1930. Photo credit L. Winslow on Find A Grave.¹

Just like people, cemeteries have histories, too. As I was writing this, I got to wondering about the two cemeteries; how they started and how they are related, since they are literally “joined at the hip.”

Mooney Cemetery started in 1899,² when the old St. Mary’s of the Woods church (near Green Bay and Lincoln), and the churchyard around it, were sold for development. The church was abandoned when the congregation relocated in 1872, and no one was really keeping up the cemetery. With the property sale, remains had to be removed and relocated. John Mooney retrieved the remains of his father (James, who died in the 1850s) and other family members, and reinterred them on a section of his land on Ridge Road. He allowed others to add their family members. Mooney Cemetery was born. The land was officially surveyed in 1907.

A similar plat map was created for St. Mary Cemetery in 1908, when John Mooney transferred land south of Mooney Cemetery to the Archdiocese of  Chicago, retaining Mooney as a private cemetery. It remained private until 1960, when Cecilia Zahnle Mooney deeded the property to Deerfield Township (now Moraine Township).

Apparently, the record-keeping for Mooney was a bit of a mess. It consisted of typed index cards (undated), with notes overwritten (undated), sometimes with a contradictory index card (ALSO undated!). The original plot sales were recorded at the county seat (Waukegan), but later transfers were not. Attempts in the past to confirm grave locations and ownership had questionable success, and lots sold more recently have sometimes had to be reassigned when it was discovered they were already occupied!

The grave markers don’t necessarily provide much help, either. Tombstones (if present) were haphazardly placed—sometimes at the head of the grave, sometimes at the foot, and not always exactly lined up with the grave. For new burials, they use a special rod to determine if a vault is already below the grave they intend to use. During the winter that process can take all day—undoubtedly due to frozen ground.

A Winter 2010 Township Newsletter asked residents to bring in original deeds, so the records could be updated with hopefully more accurate information. By the Summer Issue 2010,³ they were talking about bringing in an expert to examine the property (ground-penetrating radar?) to determine what was going on beneath the surface.

I couldn’t locate any later articles to see what the results were,  but they seem to be making an effort to straighten out the burial records. Both cemeteries seem nicely kept up, so I’m happy some family members are there. I’m also glad I took a little time to find out more about both cemeteries. It’s nice to know the backstory of people’s final resting place.

#52Ancestors

Note: St. Mary is managed by the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Cemeteries. On that website, it is listed as “St. Mary.” If you look at Find A Grave, they list it as “St. Marys” (no apostrophe). Other writers may add in an apostrophe. I chose to use the spelling of the Archdiocese, which is consistent with the name chiseled on the rock at the cemetery entrance (viewable in Google Maps street view)—which isn’t necessarily an old marker! Even if others weren’t consistent, I wanted to be.


¹Find-A-Grave, database, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com) accessed 1 June 2019, memorial 23770538, Catharine SMITH, (1865-1949), Mooney Cemetery, Highland Park, Lake, Illinois.

²”Mooney,” Talk of the Township, Winter Issue 2010, online posting of article at the Moraine Township, Illinois web site. (https://www.morainetownship.org/super/CemMooney_article.html)

³”Mooney,” Talk of the Township, Summer Issue 2010, online posting of article at the Moraine Township, Illinois web site. (https://www.morainetownship.org/super/CemMooney_article.html)