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Archive for the ‘Dad and his family’ Category

In two previous posts I have published the death certificates of my 2 grandmothers, 4 great-grandmothers, and 4 of my 8 great-great-grandmothers. The 4 I did not have included two from Budesheim, Germany, and two from Alsace, which are now French records.

Thanks to Cathy Meder-Dempsey who writes the blog Opening Doors in Brick Walls I now have the death certificates of the two Alsatian great-greats.

When you enter the French archives you apparently have to agree not to publish the results online. I only know that because Cathy pointed it out to me. So I will post links and translations instead.

Madeline Groll was born 24 May 1816 in Muespach, Haut-Rhin, Alsace. But was that France or Germany in 1816?

If you don’t know this, Alsace has been a pawn between France and Germany for a long time. According to Wikipedia here is a more “recent” timeline of who controlled Alsace when. The languages spoken are in the far right column.

1618–1674 Louis XIII annexes portions of Alsace during the Thirty Years’ War Holy Roman Empire German; Alamannic and Franconian dialects (Alsatian)
1674–1871 Louis XIV annexes the rest of Alsace during the Franco-Dutch War, establishing full French sovereignty over the region Kingdom of France French
(Alsatian and German tolerated)[citation needed]
1871–1918 Franco-Prussian War causes French cession of Alsace to German Empire German Empire German; Alsatian, French
1919–1940 Treaty of Versailles causes German cession of Alsace to France France French; Alsatian, French, German
1940–1944 Nazi Germany conquers Alsace, establishing Gau Baden-Elsaß Nazi Germany German; Alsatian, French, German
1945–present French control France French; French and Alsatian German (declining minority language)

According to this table, 1816 found Alsace part of France, but Wikipedia gives more specific information for that time period:

In response to the “hundred day” restoration of Napoleon I of France in 1815, Alsace along with other frontier provinces of France was occupied by foreign forces from 1815 to 1818, including over 280,000 soldiers and 90,000 horses in Bas-Rhin alone. This had grave effects on trade and the economy of the region since former overland trade routes were switched to newly opened Mediterranean and Atlantic seaports.

Madeline passed away on 31 July 1847 in the same town at the age of 31. Although I have not done much research at this point on her life, she had at least one child before she died–my great-grandfather.

This appears to be a gorgeous old primary school in Muespach.

Here is the link to her death record:

MADELINE GROLL DEATH RECORD

According to Cathy, the death record “starts out with the date and mayor, followed by the names of the two persons who are the informants. Lists her parents, father deceased and mother still living, and her husband. Place of death. Followed by fact that the first informant was her husband and the second her brother. It is in French.”

Madeline’s father was Ignac Groll, deceased. Her mother was Margarithe Simon, and she was still alive. What is odd is that the date I show for Ignac’s death (possibly given to me by a genealogist years ago) is 29 July 1815, which is more than nine months before Madeline’s birth in May 1816! Maybe an error on Ignac’s death date. She was married to Antoine Scholler. I show his death date was 1839, so if he was an informant about her death in 1847, again, the male’s death date is wrong. I can see what I am going to be researching when the women are done!

My other 2x great-grandmother from Alsace was Anne Riehr (sometimes Reihr), born about 1816 in Luemschwiller, Haut-Rhin, Alsace. Although born in Luemschwiller, she married a man from Steinbrunn-le-Bas, Haut Rhin, Alsace, and had her children there.  The above photo is from Wikipedia of the town hall at Steinbrunn-le-bas. MAIRIE means TOWN HALL in French. I wish I knew when the building was constructed.

Here is the link to Anne’s death record (it actually begins at the bottom of the page before this):

ANNE RIEHR DEATH RECORD

And here is the translation from Cathy of that record:

Here is the 1866 death record and translation. The record begins on the bottom of the previous page. In the margin of the record is No. 3 Riehr Anne died the 19 January.

In the year 1866, the 19 January at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, in front of us Grienenberger Nicolas, mayor, officer of the (état civil) civil records of the commune (Niedersteinbrunn) Steinbrunn le Bas canton of Landser, arrondissement of Mulhouse in the department of Haut Rhin appeared Schirmer Antoine, farmer, age 53 years, husband of the deceased, and Betterlin Antoine, farmer, age 46 years, neighbor of the deceased, the two are residents in this commune, have declared that today at 10 o’clock in the morning, has died in this commune, Anne Riehr, without a profession, aged 50 years, native of Luemschwiller resident in the present commune, wife of the first registrant and daughter of Jean Thiebaut Riehr, farmer, age 84 years, resident of Luemschwiller et his wife Françoise Sutter, deceased in Luemschwiller. After being transported to the deceased to assure us of her death, we drew up the present record that the registrants signed with us after the reading and interpretation.

Anne was 50 years old when she passed away.

Now that Cathy has given me a tutorial on working with French records I will work my way through the other records in the lives of these women, their husbands, parents, and children. But don’t hold your breath. I find the handwriting coupled with the French very daunting.

What I do love about European records like the French and Dutch is that they are very thorough, and the records are very accessible online. Also, the fact that the women are recorded under their maiden names feels like a miracle in comparison with searching for American women through their married names.

Now for the German 2x greats. Yikes. They might have to be searched through the on site (as opposed to online) church records. Heaven help me. I don’t foresee a trip to Budesheim, Germany, in my near future. Any ideas?

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Those of you who have been reading The Family Kalamazoo for a time know that I published a chapbook this past year based on my research findings, my imagination, and some historical knowledge. Kin Types is a collection of lyric poems, prose poems, and flash nonfiction.

On Monday I woke up to discover that Kin Types was a finalist for the prestigious Eric Hoffer Award. It’s in stellar company.. This recognition validates the work I did on the book and on this blog. Best of all, the book gets a gold foil sticker for the cover ;).

It will kind of look like this when the sticker is put on the book (only not such a large sticker).

If you click through the link to the Amazon page, the book can be ordered for a real deal right now; check it out. To order through Barnes & Noble, try this link.

 

 

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Last week, for Women’s History Month, I shared the death certificates of my 2 grandmothers and 4 great-grandmothers. I then searched for death certificates for my eight 2x great grandmothers. All eight were born in other countries: Netherlands, Germany, and Alsace (now France).

MATERNAL SIDE

This one is for Alice Paak DeKorn, who died 5 May 1908 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The cause of death is heart disease. Since she was only 55, that seems somewhat unusual. She is the woman who survived a terrible fire. Could that have caused permanent damage to her heart?

Next up is Jennie Bomhoff Zuidweg who passed away 13 December 1924 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 86 of senility.


That cause of death as senility is a bit mystifying to me. Grandma remembered his grandmother. After all, he was born in 1908, so when she died he would have been 16 years old. He never said anything about her having dementia at all when he talked about her, and I have to believe he would have mentioned it. She looks pretty old in this photo, and she looks like she knows her own mind, so to speak.

But can I quibble with a death certificate when I wasn’t there at the time?

Alwine Noffke Waldeck died 9 June 1912 in Caledonia, Kent County, Michigan. She was 65 years old.

The cause of death is “interstitial nephritis” and dropsy. Dropsy means edema, a subject close to my thoughts because I have lymphedema. Hmm, here is another kidney disease death, like the two in last week’s post. Only this one is on my mother’s side and not my father’s.

Alwine is the mother seated in the middle.

My fourth maternal 2x great grandmother was Nellie Gorsse Mulder who died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on 12 October 1932. Cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis, which she had had for 15 years. She also had had diabetes for 5 years.

This is Nellie who died at age 63.

PATERNAL SIDE

I’ll be darned, but I don’t have a single death certificate or death record for these four women. Note that my maternal 2x greats all passed away in the United States, but the paternals did not (to my knowledge).

Elisabetha Adelseck Wendel and Elisabetha Wink Klein were both born in Budesheim, Germany. Presumably they both died there. I wrote for records, but have not received a response. I am not sure how to obtain these records on my own if I can’t get responses to my emails.

Same problem with the other two.

Anne Reihr Schirmer from Leumschwiller, France, and Madeline Groll Scholler from Muespach, France. Again, I think they both died there. But nobody has responded to my requests.

Until I can get those records, it’s hard to feel that they are “real.”  I have no photos of these women either, but feel very lucky to have the four above.

As to the 3x great grandmothers and beyond, I do have some records of many of the Dutch ones because the Dutch records are so easily available online. They makes things so much easier for me! Of course, none of these have causes of death listed.

Any ideas on how to move forward on finding death records for the women from Germany and France?

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Because of Women’s History Month, I thought I would pull together information on how the women who came before me passed away. I wanted to put all my grandmothers together in one post and thought by sharing their deaths it would shed some light on their lives, at least at the end. I also have a ghoulish fascination with looking them over for the variety of ways I might die myself. After all, their deaths could be a form of inheritance.

But what I discovered made me pretty mad at myself. I have so neglected death certificates. I think it’s because a death certificate in Michigan tends to be a document that I have to pay for that I have relied on social security death info, as well as burial info and death registry dates. I haven’t been assertive about going after the certificates themselves. This is why I don’t call myself a genealogist, but a family historian. I’m more of a storyteller than a rock solid researcher.

Here are my grandmothers and great-grandmothers and how they died.

My maternal grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder Zuidweg, passed away on 21 September 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 88. After the death of my grandfather three months earlier, she was ill and living at a nursing home for round the clock care. The real round the clock care came from my aunt who slept in a chair in Grandma’s room. She was with her most of the time. What my aunt did is wonderful because Grandma hated being in an institutional place. She was like me about that, and it must have been horrible for her there. Thank goodness, she had her daughter with her.

Grandma on our left

I didn’t have her death certificate, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County. It arrived without a hitch. I see that the cause of death was congestive heart failure. The documentation gives no evidence of all she went through with the cancers that she had. The congestive heart failure might be explained by science in one way, but my explanation is that she died of a broken heart after losing my grandfather.

My paternal grandmother, Marie Klein (Kline) Wakefield, passed away on 25 April, 1974, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She had been living in the Upjohn Nursing Home, which at the time was the premier nursing home in Kalamazoo. Her ex-neighbor and friend, Shirley Kulp, was the head nurse so there was always someone to watch over Grandma. Grandma was 82.

The above photo is my grandmother, Marie. In case you’re wondering about the difference in styles between the one of my grandmother, Edna, Marie was fully 20 years older than Edna.

I didn’t have Marie’s death certificate either, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County.

Are you noticing the pattern here? [Knocking head against wall]

Luckily, it came in the mail with my other grandmother’s certificate.

Grandma passed away from uremia. I did remember that cause of death, although I had heard of it as a diagnosis while she was still alive, but dying in the hospital. This grandmother is who I inherited my congenital primary lymphedema from.

Then there are my four great-grandmothers.

Margarethe Wendel Klein died 24 May 1932 in Elmhurst, Illinois. I have her death certificate (woohoo!). I also have a corrected certificate. The only thing corrected is her birth date, and guess what? Both documents are wrong! According to the Catholic church books in Budesheim, Margarethe was born on June 25, 1869, NOT May 30, 1869 as it says on the death certificate and NOT June 24, 1870 as it says on the corrected copy.

She died of a diabetic coma and also had nephritis and myocarditis. Her health had obviously been poor, although she was only 62–the age I am now. She had also already lost two of her five children, so she had been through a lot. When Margarethe died, her body lay in a casket in their house in Elmhurst. My father told me that there was a thunderstorm during the time it was there, and that the grandchildren were terrified at the combination of events and hid under the huge picnic table style dining room table. She was buried on May 27, but it looks like (from historical rainfall records) the storm most likely occurred the day after her death, on May 25.

Francoise Schirmer (Schermer) Scholler died 22 October 1914 in Duluth, Minnesota.


Cause of death at age 71: chronic nephritis and arterioschlerosis.

Cora DeKorn Zuidweg died at age 57 on 16 September 1932 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have posted about this one in the past.

Cause of death: Exhaustion – debility from gen – metastatic sarcoma spindle cell – primary in left thigh, followed injury was removed 9-16-29 – had existed there 5 years.

Clara Waldeck Mulder died on 6 September 1953 in Kent County, Michigan, at age 69. I did not have her death certificate and ordered it from Kent County.  I knew that she died of cancer, but I had eagerly awaited the actual cause of death on the certificate. When I received the document, I saw that cause of death was carcinoma of the uterus. That is what I had been told.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t unnerve you a little when you see that your ancestors died too young, even if they were older people. Since my grandmothers were 82 and 88, I figured that was a normal lifetime. But when I add in the great-grandmothers’ ages at death the average goes way down. The average of the age at death of all six ladies is 71.5. The average age for the 4 greats is 64.75. I feel blessed that they were all old enough when they died to see their children grow up. Every woman doesn’t have that opportunity, obviously. And look at the pattern. All four greats died much younger than my grandmothers, so things are improving, probably from better healthcare.

Of six grandmothers, I had three death certificates and was able to order the other three. Can I take it back another generation to the 2x greats? There will be eight women. How many certificates will I produce? A future post, peeps!

 

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I’d never seen this photo until about two years ago when I received it from my uncle. This is my paternal grandmother and her siblings (all except for Helen who was not yet born).

The four children are:

Elisabetha Anna Maria Klein, born 1891 in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Maria Anna Elisabetha Klein, born 1892 (often documented as 93) in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Anna Elisabetha Maria Klein, born 1893 in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Frank Anthony Klein, born 1896 in Chicago, Illnois, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

I know that Elizabeth is the girl standing in back, the oldest and tallest. I know that Frank is in front. I had assumed that Grandma was next in height since she is child #2, and that that would mean that Anna is on our right.

But now I think I could be wrong.

Here’s a pic of adult Marie (my grandmother) with her three children (including my father on our right).

Now here’s a photo from the same general time period of Aunt Anna, her husband Martin, and their daughter Annamar.

I think that the face shapes and eye spacing would indicate that Anna is on our left and Marie on our right. That Anna is taller, in that case, than Marie is not inconsistent with their adult heights.

Therefore, I think it’s possible that my earlier identification of the sisters in this photo is a case of an assumption that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

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My father knew I loved family heirlooms, so he used to give me items as he came across them.

These are some of his mother’s costume jewelry with the jewelry box they were in. My grandmother always loved jewelry, but I only remember her wearing pearls (both cultured and costume) and diamonds and rhinestones. She may have worn jet, but I am not sure.

The items on the bottom row are button studs. They work like buttons in a buttonhole, but are removable. These are usually used for men’s tuxedo shirts.

On the second from bottom shelf are two hatpins. I remember those nasty little things from my childhood. You wouldn’t want to sit down on one by mistake!

I suspect most of my grandmother’s jewelry came from Marshall Field & Company at State and Washington in Chicago. That’s where my grandmother worked as Head Fitter for many years.

When I got married, it was only a year after my grandmother passed away. Her only daughter (who had three boys) sent me the wedding pearls Grandma had given her when she was married in 1955. They came in a Japanese black lacquer box. Aunt Marge did not wear them for her wedding portrait or on the day of her wedding.

Aunt Marge

I am quite certain that my grandmother would have made her dress.

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Yeah, a lot of work. I have so many branches shaking their leaves for attention right now–and, no, I don’t mean on Ancestry.

On top of that, my husband’s relatives are calling from their graves, too. My husband has shown increasing interest in his own family history, and I keep trying to encourage him into it as a personal hobby, even if it means he ties up the computer.

But, no. He doesn’t want to do it alone. He wants to do it with me. Sigh. And his relatives are a lot of work. His Ukrainian ancestors don’t have a WieWasWie website that is translatable to English and with all the Dutch Ukrainian documents available online! No, instead I am being passed on from one person to another in an attempt to find someone who is an expert on Tiraspol, the city my husband’s grandfather and his family came from. Tiraspol is the 2nd largest city in Moldova, which is a country that is in political turmoil today. But in the late 1800s, Tiraspol was sort of a satellite of Odessa, which is in Ukraine, not Moldova. Pretty confusing! The two cities are 65 miles apart. And hubby’s grandmother might have been from Odessa. Or maybe she was really from Tiraspol, too!

Oddly, we found a listing of possible birth records for the grandfather, Isidore Scheshko, and his siblings in Odessa, not Tiraspol. Maybe it has something to do with the way the government functioned in those days. Eastern European Jewish records are hard to find. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out when I have discovered enough to create a story of sorts.

I’ve also been trying to find the Prussian town or towns the Waldecks and Noffkes and Kuschs came from. I’ve found two estates/castles where Gottfried Waldeck worked before immigrating to the U.S. The last one, Finckenstein Palace, was quite well known.

That’s what it looked like when Gottfried worked there, probably as a farm laborer. This is what it looked like after WWII.

Kind of heart-breaking to see, although maybe it was no picnic to work there . . . .

Prussian towns and records are super hard to find. Many of them were destroyed after WWII. The areas of what are now Poland that were once the homes of ethnic Germans are now completely emptied of Germans. And nobody can agree on what Prussia even was. The boundaries were constantly changing. There was East Prussia and West Prussia, and they are used so oddly and sometimes even interchangeably that every article I read confuses me even more (sometimes places in West Prussia are farther east than East Prussia!). Although my Prussian branch was my maternal grandmother’s mother’s family, I saw the other day that my paternal grandmother had a Prussian ancestor. That area of Prussia was very close to the German area around Bingen (on the Rhine) where her other branches lived. So when my grandmother told me as a little girl hearing “the Prussians are coming” was very scary, I don’t have a clue what she was talking about!

Now I hope you’re as confused as I am!

Gottfried and Alwine (Noffke) Waldeck

and family

 

 

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