Cousins

Kissing cousins . . . really! Or maybe not . . .

If I run a relationship report on everyone in my data file, I end up with 141 pages, containing (partially):

  • 12 first cousins
  • 92 first cousins, once removed
  • 11 half first cousins, once removed
  • 120 first cousins, twice removed
  • 191 second cousins
  • 27 half second cousins, continuing on to . . .
  • a 1st cousin 10 times removed
  • an 11th cousin, once removed
  • and plenty of others in between!

Do I know them all? Heavens, no! Many of them have passed away (particularly the “removed” ones born before I was). But I know how they fit on the tree, and they are remembered. Obviously I have lots of potential subjects to write about! I’m bypassing all of them, however, and choosing my great grandfather, Christian Meintzer (Colorful), and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidman (Cause of Death).

It turns out that Christian & Elisabetha were fourth cousins. At least, that’s the conclusion to be drawn from the lineages provided in Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass,¹ by Doris Wesner. The connection is shown most simply with the chart below:

Relationship chart showing Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Maria Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins. Both are shown as 3rd great-grandchildren of Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

It seems pretty straight forward, but truth be told, I have not actually confirmed all these connections by looking at the records [online digital images], personally. With so many other loose ends to track down and tie up on the various tree branches, I haven’t forced myself to follow through on that. Ms. Wesner utilized the local parish & civil records in her compilation of the Dehlingen “town genealogy,” and I trust her work. That’s a poor excuse, though, for laziness complacency. I need to check if these connections really pan out. I’ll start with Christian (bottom, left). As always, I’ve linked to the images at the Bas-Rhin Archives, just accepter the terms to view, if you are so inclined.

  • Christian was born in Dehlingen Bas-Rhin, Alsace, on 3 April 1930 [1830, p. 4, #10]² to Christian (Chrétien) Mein[t]zer (age 23) and Christine Isel (age 20).
  • A quick search through the Tables décennales, located their marriage date [1823-1832, p. 7, line 22]³ so I could find the actual record [1829, p. 6, #10] on 24 December 1829).
  • Christian & Christine’s birth dates matched my file records, and Christine’s father was listed as Nicolas. So, far, so good!
  • Back to the birth records, this time for Christine Isel (since I need to follow her line back) [1809, p. 3, #8]. Her parents were listed as Nichel and Katharine, but no ages are given. At this point, I need to follow the same routine:
    • locate the parents’ marriage record to confirm births,
    • locate birth record for the parent I need to follow back,
    • confirm those are the right parents
    • repeat

I won’t include as much explanation as I did above, to make it move faster. But the references will be there. So, continuing with Nicolas Isel:

He (age 28) and Catherine Bauer (age 21) married 24 September 1805 [Tables décennales, An XI-1812, p. 6, entry 2], with his parents listed [2 vendémiaire An. XIV] as Georg Isel and Julianna Margaretha Walther. Nicolas’s 19 October 1777 birth record [1777, p. 6, #36]4 confirms them. I was able to locate Julianna Margaretha Walther’s 12 July 1738 baptism record [1738, p. 50, #383)4. Unfortunately, it didn’t mention her mother’s name—just her father, Franz, and the godparents and other witnesses. The book is supposed to contain marriage records, but all I seem to find are baptisms. That means I’m not quite able to connect Julianna Margaretha to Eva Elisabetha, and at that point the records stop—at least, online. Perhaps I simply missed the 1726 marriage record for Eva Elisabetha, and that would connect her parents, Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

Meanwhile, Christian’s wife, Elisabetha Weidmann, was easily found in the 1834 birth register [1834, p. 3, #7]². That pointed her back to her father, Andreas, and more importantly, her mother, Catherine Frenger (age 25). Elisabetha’s parents married 13 October 1832 [1823-1832, p. 7, line 23]³. That record [1832, p. 3, #4] listed Catherine’s mother as Marie Elisabetha Hemmert (age 53). Catherine’s 1809 birth record confirmed their names, but didn’t include ages.

The Parish Registers came through with Maria Elizabeth’s 8 June 1777 birth [1777, p. 5, #27]4 and showed her father to be Georg Hemmert. Unfortunately, no age was given for him. I ran into the problem finding marriages in that register, again. Looking for Georg’s birth, I found a 25 May 1746 record for a Johann Georg, with a father Johann Georg Hemmert, but no mother’s name was listed [1746, p. 64, #475]4. Was that he? It’s hard to say for sure. Again, I reached the end of the online records.

So it looks like I can’t definitively link Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins—at least, not from the online records. Are there other records available locally? Or records that were damaged/lost after 1997? Either one is quite possible. For now, I’ll need to note in my file that I’ve been unable to corroborate the linkage between Christian & his 3rd great grandparents—ditto for Elisabetha. And I’ll keep looking for records that will clarify those relationships.

#52Ancestors


¹Doris Wesner, Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass: (Drulingen: Scheuer, October 1997), pages 64, 85, 86, 105, 106, 163, 243, 250, 251.

²”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de Naissances (Birth Registers) various years, pages, record numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Tables décennales, naissances and mariages [ten-year tables, birth and marriage indexes] various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

4“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registres Paroissiaux 1776-An VII (Parish Registers) various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

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).

Frightening

Being frightened can be fun, but sometimes . . .

Last week I told you about Elisabetha Weidmann’s death, but I held back a bit of the story, knowing this prompt came right after. I left out the part about her oldest son, Christian (1860-1865), dying shortly after her. You see him on the tree snippet in last week’s post.

Christian Meintzer, Jr.’s death record immediately follows (No. 19) his mother’s on the register page. He was 5 years, 2 months old, and died eight days after his mother (13 December). As with her record, no cause is provided. It would seem likely he would have died from the same thing as his mother.

The family story is far more interesting, though, and we hear it from both sides of the Atlantic. Sophie Meintzer Kranz mentions it in her narrative, as does her daughter, Anna Kranz Schultz, retelling her mother’s stories. We also hear it from the relatives still living in Dehlingen—descendants of Christian Sr.’s brother, Heinrich.

Supposedly, after Elisabetha died, five-year-old Christian was hanging around the cemetery, watching while townsmen dug his mother’s grave.

Now, before you get outraged at that thought, those if you who are baby boomer and older (and children of early baby boomers) need to remember how we grew up: we were scooted out the door after breakfast, expected to be seen for lunch and dinner, and that was it. Hanging around the house, you ran the risk of getting saddled with extra chores—housework, yard work, or both!

I’m sure Dehlingen in 1865 was not much different. At age five, Christian probably knew almost everyone in town. Even if he didn’t, everybody undoubtedly knew him and who he belonged to. I don’t have my Dehlingen map handy, but there’s only a couple streets, and the cemetery is close by, so yeah, I can see him out there, watching.

Supposedly the guys digging the grave had the brilliant idea to give him a scare. They picked him up and put him in the grave (not the coffin, just the empty hole), with some comment along the lines of “trying it out” or “seeing what it was like.”

Nice guys, huh? Those of you who read regularly know I make a point not to pass a lot of judgement on ancestors mostly because I don’t know the whole story. I’m breaking that rule this time. Those guys were jerks.

I raised four 5-year-olds and have known many more. I know how they can pepper you with endless questions until you are ready to scream. I certainly don’t know if Christian was doing that, but even if he was, that’s no excuse. The kid’s mother had just died—cut him some slack! It was neither the time not the place to play a joke.

Anyway according to the family story, he died, days later, of fright from that incident. Did he really? Who knows? While people can die of fright, we usually associate it with heart failure caused by the sudden shock. That seems unlikely with a 5-year-old—in my mind, at least.

On the other hand, the mind is very powerful; it can heal us, or make us ill. A 5-year-old can have a very vivid imagination, so who’s to say that event didn’t put a worry into his head that shouldn’t have been there? Since this story can’t be debunked as easily as Napoleon (Colorful), we’ll keep it documented.

And I’ll throw out the caution: “Don’t try this with your kids or grandkids, please!”

#52Ancestors

Cause of Death

Sometimes the death we mourn is part of a bigger picture.

Elisabetha Weidmann is my great grandfather’s first wife. She’s not really related to me, not genetically, at least. But she is the mother of my grandfather’s half siblings—my half aunts—so I keep track of her. A snippet of her tree is above.

Thinking about it, if she hadn’t died when she did, Christian Meintzer probably wouldn’t have married Sophie Gaertner, so I wouldn’t be here. I guess she’s more important than I thought!

Anyway, this prompt made me think of her. My brain couldn’t quite recall if she died of typhus or typhoid, so I figured I needed to nail that down.

Before getting to that, I looked up what they both were. I was operating under the assumption they were different names used for the same thing—like consumption and tuberculosis. Wrong!

While the two share some similar symptoms, they are actually quite different and spread in different ways. This website: What’s the Difference Between Typhoid and Typhus? (republished with permission of Passport Health) can explain it better than I.

So I looked in my database and discovered I don’t actually have a cause of death listed for her. Hmm. So I checked my two Doris Wesner books, Alsatian Connections and Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass, finding nothing there, either.

Back to the Archives du Bas-Rhin website for Elisabetha Meintzer’s death record on 5 December 1865. You’ve wandered through those records before with me. Lo and behold, cause of death isn’t found there, either! At least, not that was easily discernable.

Maybe it is hidden in the record, but I did not have the time to do a full-blown transcription and translation of it right then. I’ve looked at enough of these records, though, to be familiar with the pattern and to know where to look. I could have missed it, so if someone sees it, please let me know!

I even checked nearby records, none of which seemed to have a cause of death. That’s when it hit me: a lot of people died that November and December! Dehlingen is a small town. Even at its peak, it probably didn’t crack 1000 residents. The earlier months that year seldom had more than one death—if that!

Then November and December show up with 5 and 6 deaths, respectively (plus one in late October) . . . something was ripping through the town, that’s for sure! There were 22 deaths that year, total, so the other 10 were spread out over 9 months.

So where did I get the mistaken typhus/typhoid dilemma from? Possibly from a handwritten narrative from my grandaunt, Sophie Meintzer Kranz. She wrote that her older sister, Christina (b. 1867, d. 1876), died of typhoid fever. Christina Meintzer’s death record doesn’t list a cause of death, either, but Sophie was 8 at the time—old enough to remember. Even if she didn’t know the specific illness right then, there was ample time for her to ask her parents later what her older sister died of.

As I go through my documents, organizing them so my children don’t curse me after I’m gone, I may find something else confirming Elisabetha’s cause of death. Until then, I’ll assume she caught whatever ran rampant through the town in late 1865. My guess is typhoid fever, again, since it seems to me to be more easily transmitted.

But whatever the cause, the last two months of 1865 were tough for a lot of families in Dehlingen.

#52Ancestors