I have seen wills or probate records for only two ancestors, both mentioned in the 2018 Where There’s a Will post. Today I’m taking the “find someone named William” approach for this prompt. My data file has 152 people with “Wiliam” somewhere in their name—first, middle, or last. I decided to focus on William Harry, a great-granduncle. He was the oldest brother of my great-grandmother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger.
Why this particular William? He made a brief appearance recently in Prosperity, with his other siblings, but was left out of the story about the family’s emigration. Apparently he was old enough at age 7 to keep up with Mom as they walked from town, without being kicked. Or maybe older sister, Mary (age 9), prodded him along? The collateral relatives information I have for the Harry line was acquired in 1980—and has not been updated, really. I have quite a few DNA matches from the descendants of Dorothea’s siblings, based on the surnames I recognize. Sometimes Ancestry’s ThruLines™ suggests how we connect, but that is dependent on the match and me both having fairly complete trees.
I don’t actually have any suggested connections through William, but maybe some will materialize if I flesh out his tree better.
William Harry was born in Überherrn, Saarlouis, 28 January 1847, according to Mr. Leslie Larson, who provided information to me in 1980. I decided I should corroborate those assertions. Nothing showed up at Ancestry, so I checked the catalog at Family Search to see if the Saarland church records had been filmed and digitized. Lo and behold, they had been! While there were images for Überherrn, they weren’t indexed. I looked for William and the other siblings, since I had actual dates for them, but nothing panned out. I returned to the list of films and tried Differten, another town I remember for this family.
Murphy’s Law, those were indexed, and William (as well as his other siblings except for Peter) were listed,¹ but images weren’t available for me here at home. His birthday was off by a day, and obviously the location is different, so I corrected that information in my file. Another huge difference is that the family was listed as HENRY. I’ve seen other trees using the Henry surname, but finding it recorded in an older source is helpful. It’ll take some time for me to get used to that change.
An unexpected discovery while looking though the catalog, was discovering a book² with 1100+ pages about the residents of Überherrn and Bisten. It’s available only at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and the Yale University library. I’m not headed either direction any time soon, and I’m loathe to buy the book if my family isn’t in it, especially since I’m now not so positive about their Überherrn connection. I will keep it in the back of my mind, and try to find a way to check its contents for usefulness.
I still can’t find this family in ship’s passenger lists. His father’s Declaration of Intent provided only the month and year and New York–no ship name, no departure port.
If you remember from Prosperity, the family was enumerated in 1860 with the last name of BURGER. William claimed to be 15, and was the man of the house. We next find him in 1870, four months into his marriage to Sophie Aleff. He was working at the tannery, and they were living with the Klive family. His age was a little high, but the people they were living with probably gave the information, so could easily be off.
At this point, the blog post totally derailed.
My plan was to track William through time, adding in the children, then their children. The research to trace this family forward took far longer than anticipated, and it became a hopeless tangle. Even I was getting confused! Worse, still, I found myself harvesting information without documenting it properly in my file. It’s a poor practice, and I try to avoid it. This time, I was failing, big time!
My [self-imposed] posting deadline came and went without a completed blog. At 1 AM I threw in the towel and went to bed. I was nowhere close to finished, but I needed a break. I spent today returning to the documents I found last night, creating and attaching citations to the information I found yesterday. And I realized I needed a different approach.
William & Sophia had eleven children I know of. Everyone mentioned here is deceased, as far as I can tell.
- Mary: born March 1871. She married Henry C. Mollenhauer and had:
- Clara: born March 1889. She married, had 2 children:
- Clarice: born December 1908
- Harry: born 16 November 1912, died 1933
- Hazel K: born September 1897. I haven’t tracked her past the 1900 census.
- William De Lyle: born 1 February 1903. He and Virginia are twenty-somethings in their parents’ house for the 1930 census. Ancestry is giving me a lot of hint for a ROBERT D. Mollenhauer, but that’s quite a leap from William. I’ll have to take more time looking those over, before deciding if/how they fit in.
- Virginia: born 6 January 1906. She is also in the 1940 census as a thirty-something, with her widowed mother . . . and a Robert D. Mollenhauer. That plot is thickening, a bit! One of the Social Security databases suggests she may have married a Mahaffey, but I haven’t been able to find anything to confirm that.
- Clara: born March 1889. She married, had 2 children:
- Anna: born 19 January 1874. She died before 1880.
- Nicholas: born 10 November 1875. He also died before 1880.
- Charly: born 1876. I’m not sure what happened to him after 1880. There’s a WWI draft registration for a guy in Hancock County, Illinois, but I’m not sure it’s my Charlie. I need to be careful.
- Margaret: born 12 April 1878. She died before 1880.
- William (Willie) born 14 March 1880. He married Emily Radtke and had one son:
- Lester William: born 1 July 1903. Emily apparently died in childbirth or shortly after. William headed west to Montana and Idaho, eventually marrying again, but having no other children I can find. Lester was raised in his grandfather’s home, in Wisconsin. He married and had one child.
- Andrew: born December 1880, died 14 June 1887.
- Lena: born 20 June 1884, died 26 July 1887.
- Joseph W.: born 22 March 1887. He married Bertha E. Fink, and had one child. I’m having difficulty finding more about him.
- June Harriett: born 28 June 1916
- Emily: born 12 August 1889, died 6 December 1975. She married Ervin Gloe and had 2 daughters. At the time of Emily’s 1975 death, she had 3 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.
- Henry Andrew: born May 1891. He may have married Alma Agusta, but I can’t find confirmation of that. I have to be very careful researching him, because the name will be common
The plans I had to completely fill in this descending branch fell short of my goal. I underestimated the work of bringing the family towards the present day. It’s more difficult to be sure you’re getting the right person.
On the other hand, I’ve made headway with this project, and I’ve been able to document the information I received 40 years ago about this family on the Family Group Sheets. I feel much more confident in that information, now that I have birth registers, death certificates, etc., for many of those life events.
¹”Germany, Rhineland, Diocese of Trier, Catholic Church Records, 1704-1957″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org), accessed 3 May 2020, Guilelus [William] HENRY, 29 January 1847; citing Birth, Differten, Saarlouis, Rhein, Preussen, Deutschland, Bistumarchiv [Diocese Archive], Trier, Germany; certificate #4, FHL Microfilm 8,138,606.
²Walter Oehling, Die Einwohner von Überherrn und Bisten vor 1900 [Residents of Überherrn and Bisten before 1900] (Saarlouis, Germany: Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis [Association for local history in the district of Saarlouis], 2006).