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Archive for the ‘Dad and his family’ Category

My Uncle Frank is coming to visit for two weeks, so I am going to be unblogging, or is it nonblogging? ūüėČ

My dad has been gone for four years come May, and this is my dad’s fraternal twin. He just turned 90. He’s flying in today from Arkansas.

The “twins” grew up in Elmhurst, Illinois, and later, Chicago. I think this photo, taken with their older sister Marge, is in Elmhurst.


I’ll be back when Uncle Frank’s visit is over. In the meantime, I hope your 2019 is off to a good start!

Comments are closed, but if you want to reach me, email me through the contact info on the blog or comment on a different post, please. Well, I wanted to close them, but the button is gone. I might not respond if you do comment. I’m sorry!

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Here is a great pic of my dad and his twin brother Frank that Val at Colouring the Past colorized for me. Dad is the one with lighter hair.

And Val colored it with blue coats and hats, too, because I wasn’t sure whether they would have been brown or blue, although felt sure they would have been one of those two colors. Which version do you prefer?

A Story of Chicago and My Uncle

I recently spent time with my uncle, and he told me a story about something that happened to him. Or rather, it didn’t happen to him.

In the sixties, Uncle Frank worked in Chicago at Fohrman Motors as a car salesman. Today, the dealership is gone and only the vacant lot is left. It’s in¬†Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood and is nearly 2/3 of the 2700 block of West Madison Street. This post takes a personal look at an event that changed the world for some Chicagoans.

On 7 January 1966, when he was 37 years old, my uncle was working at the dealership and had to use the restroom. He went there, only to find the facilities in use by a man making a racket with something or other. Uncle Frank couldn’t wait so he ran across the street to the body shop, but that bathroom was closed for maintenance. Used to being able to drive a car from the lot, my uncle grabbed the keys of a nearby vehicle and told one of his bosses that he had to run down the street to use the washroom.

Uncle Frank had several bosses, in a way, because Fohrman Motors was owned by Benjamin Fohrman and his four sons. An Illinois blogger, John Ruberry, says this about the company:

Forhman Motors was founded by Benjamin Fohrman, who was viewed as an innovative and pioneering car dealer. . . . . Older relatives of mine tell me that Forhman’s folksy television ads were common fare on local television.

The history of Benjamin Fohrman’s auto business is well-described in his obituary:

Mr. Fohrman, a native of Austria, founded Fohrman Motors near Michigan Avenue and 22d Street in 1912. He sold such cars as the Stoddard-Dayton, manufactured between 1905 and 1913, and the Rickenbacker, made in the early 1920s.

His strong influence on merchandising methods was felt in Chicago and elsewhere in the country. Before World War I, he was among the first to¬†“import“ cars over dirt and often muddy roads from locations then considered far-off such as Lafayette, Ind.; Davenport, Ia.; and Kenosha.

He offered new cars on payment plans as early as 1914, and he was among the first to see that a secondhand car dealership could be successful. He bought used cars in small towns in the Midwest and sold them in Chicago.

At various times, he owned new-car dealerships that sold Chryslers and later Packards, and for many years Mr. Fohrman was a television advertiser.

Beginning in 1963, his agency at 2700 W. Madison St. sold used cars exclusively. Among its 80 employees were his four sons, Sidney, Edward, Sherwood and Cary.

My uncle worked for this family business, and he was pretty happy there. The neighborhood the dealership was in was primarily African-American. Uncle Frank tells me that that at least one of the Fohrmans went to bat in court often times for customers who lived in the area.

In other words, the family wouldn’t have minded that my uncle took off in a company-owned vehicle to use a bathroom down the street. And they seemed to have a decent relationship with the community.

When he got to his destination, a call came in for Uncle Frank. It was a woman employee at the dealership. All she said over and over was, “They’re all dead. They’re all dead.”

Imagine the shock he felt at her words. And then to discover that the man in the first bathroom had been making that noise by loading his gun! If my uncle hadn’t had to go so badly he would have waited for the bathroom instead of running across the street and then taking off in the car. He would have been the first person shot and killed. That day, Robert Jackson killed brothers Sid and Ed Fohrman and salesman Albert Sizer.

The Fohrmans were important in their community. In a 21 January 1966 article about their deaths in The National Jewish Post and Opinion, Sidney had been president of Niles Township Congregation, and Edward was vice president of the Park Synagogue.

I was ten-years-old when this occurred, but I don’t remember hearing about it. Quite probably my parents didn’t let me know. This is what happened as I can piece it together from accounts found online–and it all dovetails with my uncle’s account. What is different is how differently people perceived what had happened.

This is the account from the Chicago Crime Commission:

In this account there is no mention of possible motivation, and the murders serve as prelude for the Richard Speck case. He killed eight student nurses just a few months after the Fohrman massacre.

On the other hand, the article from¬†Jet magazine blames the victims and builds sympathy for the murderer by calling him a “dying cancer patient.”

 

The difference between those two accounts points out for me the intensifying race relations.

Caught between these two views are the Jewish owners of Fohrman Motors, both Sid and Ed who had been killed and their father and other brothers (co-owners). The idea of businesses (sometimes Jewish-owned) preying upon the poor people of the inner city was starting to be noticed. The way people talked after this crime and the resulting focus on high interest brought out a lot of anti-Semitism.

Ebony took a more nuanced approach to the murders than Jet did. I am posting their photo of the dealership so you can see what it looked like, but please use it as a link to the¬†Ebony article. In this piece by Alex Poinsett, credit is seen as a hidden “pitfall” to consumers.

The Fohrmans had the last word on this subject by addressing their truth about the issue of Jackson’s car in Benjamin’s obituary. This shows me how hurt they were by the blaming of the victims.

Rumors spread throughout Chicago that the man had been cheated on the car and had been paying an exorbitant 51 percent interest rate. Documents showed, however, that the interest rate was 15 1/2 percent, the price he paid was average and the problems with the car resulted from a major accident.

Even then, the car was insured through the agency, and the firm had agreed to pay most of the damages. Chicago`s American columnist Jack Mabley, noted for exposing shady auto dealers, wrote: “I`ve worked on most of the schlocky auto dealers in Chicago and never heard a whisper about Fohrman Motors.“

What a tragic story. I am so glad that my uncle really had to go to the bathroom. He’s almost 90 now, and we’re lucky to still have him. The Fohrman and Sizer families were not so lucky.

###

BENJAMIN FOHRMAN OBITUARY:

 

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I wrote about the death certificates of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Now it’s time for the men. This is part of my project of cross-cutting through my genealogy research to look at things from a different angle to find out what I am missing. Once again, I discovered I had very few death certificates and had to order some!

The grandfather I knew and loved was my mother’s father. He owned a gas station most of his working life. He was passionate about his vegetable garden and loved math and accounting. Most importantly, I learned most of my family stories from him, was given most of the antique family photos from him, and inherited his great long-term memory. He’s the grandparent (whose branch) I physically resemble the most, as well. The trait that I share with him that is very unusual is that we have/had amazing early childhood memories. He remembered so much about his eye injury and the afterwards, although it happened when he was three. I have two memories that go back to before age two, as well as a vivid slightly longish memory that happened when I was 2 3/4. Those are for sure, but there are others that I believe were very very early. My memories from before I was four (say 3 1/2 and 3 3/4) are quite complex.

I’ve actually written a lot about Grandpa on this blog, including sharing a series of posts based on an interview of my grandfather by a social worker (including the above link about my grandfather’s eye injury). He was born in Kalamazoo 31 October 1908. He died 13 April 2000, also in Kalamazoo.

Notice that his death certificate states the cause of death as cirrhosis. But, whoa. He never drank alcohol, so why does it say this? He had a rare hereditary disease, it turned out, that causes a form of cirrhosis. I believe it is called¬†Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (family: correct me if I’m wrong, please). Luckily, although he didn’t know about the disease, he lived a very healthy lifestyle and lived to be 91.5 years old!

I never knew my other grandfather, but I do have his death certificate. He lived to be 90 (we’re on a roll here!) and died of arteriosclerotic heart disease. I am not posting his death certificate, although I do have it.

Then, of my four great-grandfathers, I have the death certificates of three. The one I don’t have is my paternal grandfather’s father because I don’t even know if he immigrated from Alsace to the United States or not–and have not found a death record of any kind as of yet. (I have confidence that eventually I will find it).

Adrian’s father, also called Adrian, died at age 58 in Kalamazoo on 19 December 1929 of “uremia, Chr. Inst. Nephritis.” Chronic Interstitial, I would guess. He was born in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands on 3 January 1871. My grandparents used to tell me he died of kidney disease (yes), and that they believed it was exacerbated by the way he ate. He used to starve himself during the day (while at his store working) and then come home and eat a dinner plate-sized steak. Who knows if that is what really caused his kidney disease.

Next up is Charles Mulder. This is the man I knew and loved as my Great-Grandpa. He died at age 82 of a “Cerebral Vascular Accident” or Stroke on 27 April 1967. He was born 6 March 1885 in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands.

Then I can thank¬†Ann Donnelly from Found Cousins Genealogy Service¬† for noticing my frustration in a Facebook group and helping me out with my great-grandfather Frank Klein’s death certificate. I was having the hardest time because his record was on Family Search, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to the actual document that way. I even visited the local Family History Center, and the assistant director told me I would have to order it by mail (and a fee). But Ann found it online using her amazing talents and sent it to me.

Frank is another one who died of Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease. With those two and a stroke, that’s 3 out of 5 died of heart disease, I guess. Frank passed away on 30 August 1944 in the nursing home where he was living. He was born Franz Klein in Budesheim,¬†Landkreis Mainz-Bingen,¬†Germany on 31 July 1861. The death certificate reads Bingen because Budesheim was a village so close to Bingen that the family used to just say “Bingen.”

I am working on the 2x and 3x greats, but I think the Budesheim ancestors are going to be tough, just as they are with the women. The records do not seem to be available online at this point.

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While Cathy¬†Meder-Dempsey (Opening Doors in Brick Walls) gave me a tutorial in obtaining death records from Alsace, we incidentally found a marriage record from my ancestors. Cathy’s generosity in teaching me, as well as her translations of records, was so above and beyond. Cathy, thank you so much!

This marriage record is for my 2nd great-grandparents, Anne Riehr and Antoine Schirmer on 10 January 1842 in Steinbrunn-le-Bas, Haut Rhin, France. 

What follows is Cathy’s translation of this record.

Here is the translation of the French marriage record. You will notice at the very end that the witnesses and likely the couple and their parents may have spoken German.

 

In the year 1842, the¬†10 January at 9 o’clock¬†in

the morning, before us Antoine Schweichler, mayor and civil officer

of the commune of Steinbrunn le Bas, canton of Landser, arrondissement

of Altkirch, department of Haut Rhin

 

appeared Schirmer Antoine, famer, age 28 years,

born and resident in this commune, of age legitimate son of Laurent

Schirmer, farmer, age 70 years and Anne Marie

Legibel, without a profession, age 71 years, married couple residing

in this commune, present and consulting in the projected marriage – of one part

 

and the damsel Riehr Anne, without a profession, age 24 years, born and

resident of Luemschwiller, legitimate of age daughter of Jean Thiebaud

Riehr, farmer, age 55 years et of Françoise Sutter,

without a profession, age 58 years, married couple and residents of the said

Luemschwiller, here present and consenting to the marriage – of the other part

 

who required of us to procede in the celebration of marriage

projected between them and of which the publication was made before the

door of our town hall and before the door of the town hall

of the commune of Luemschwiller, the first time on 26 December

1841 and the second time on 2 January 1842

at noon and there being no opposition to the said marriage

having been signified we granted their requisition after having

 

read 1. the extracts of the birth records, 2. the

two publications, 3. a certificate delivered by the mayor of Luemschwiller

on the date of 9 January of the current month constituting that

no opposition to the projected marriage was made, 4. chapter 6 of the

civil code concerning marriage, we asked the future husband

and the future wife if they wanted to take each other for husband and wife

each of them responded separately and affirmatively, and we declared

by law that Antoine Schirmer and Anne Riehr are united in marriage.

 

of all that we have draw up this record in the presence of Joseph Kauffmann,
farmer, age 46 years, Jean Kauffmann, farmer, age
38 years, the two brothers-in-law of the bride, Morand Richard

 

farmer, age 32 years, and Leger Zarsinger(?), farmer, age

38 years, the two residents of Luemschwiller, all

four witnesses, who after we read and

gave an interpretation in German, all signed with us and

the parties of the contractants.

signatures….

***

OK, German. We know that Alsace was pulled between Germany and France, but I’d love to know what the day-to-day lives of these people was like. How did they negotiate the language situation? Did they stubbornly cling to German even when they lived in France? I do believe that my grandfather who immigrated from Alsace was a German speaker. Did he know French? Do you know any novels that might show me a glimpse of what it was like to live in Alsace in the 1800s or the 1700s?

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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‚Äď1674 Louis XIII¬†annexes portions of Alsace during the¬†Thirty Years’ War Holy Roman Empire German; Alamannic and Franconian dialects (Alsatian)
1674‚Äď1871 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‚Äď1918 Franco-Prussian War¬†causes French cession of Alsace to¬†German Empire German Empire German; Alsatian, French
1919‚Äď1940 Treaty of Versailles¬†causes German cession of Alsace to France France French; Alsatian, French, German
1940‚Äď1944 Nazi Germany¬†conquers Alsace, establishing¬†Gau Baden-Elsa√ü Nazi Germany German; Alsatian, French, German
1945‚Äďpresent 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 (√©tat 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¬†Fran√ßoise 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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