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Archive for the ‘History of Kent County’ Category

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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When I was a little girl, my grandmother gave me a ring that belonged to her mother, my great-grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder. She told me it was her Eastern Star ring and asked me to take good care of it.

For years I’ve felt that Clara was a bit of a mystery to me as I knew so little of her. Then a few weeks ago, I found a photo of her while I was scanning an album and posted it in Discovering My Great-Grandmother.

The stars must be aligned right because two weeks ago I was scanning another album and found Clara’s obituary! You can see how loved she was by what is written about her.

 

I think the obituary is readable online, but I want to draw your attention to one particular paragraph:

She was a . . . member of Caledonia O.E.S. No. 97, a Past Matron of Caledonia Chapter, a member of the Past Matrons Association, and has been secretary of the O.E.S. for many years. She was also a member of Golden Star Rebekah Lodge, a Past Noble Grand and a member of the Past Noble Grands Association. An active member of the Caledonia Methodist Church, she served ten years as president of the East Caledonia Ladies Aid Society.

O.E.S. is Order of the Eastern Star. I used to think that Eastern Star was the women’s branch of the Masons, but the Wikipedia article shows that I am wrong. Apparently it is for men and women, although it is affiliated with the Masons. But I must say that the names of the top titles (using the word “matron”) sounds like it was for women. My great-grandfather was a Mason, so it made sense to me that my great-grandmother would be Eastern Star. Also, she was a Past Matron, so I think she was the presiding officer of her chapter at one time.

I read this far and got out the ring that Grandma gave me. I have taken good care of it, but age has taken a toll on the ring. The stone is no longer affixed to the band, and I am not sure if it can be repaired or not. I don’t want to take it in because I don’t want to risk more harm coming to the ring.

Since I had the ring out, I thought my friend Google could show me if the design was a common one or not, but I couldn’t find hide nor hair of the ring in my search for Eastern Star rings.

Then I read a little farther: Golden Star Rebekah Lodge. I didn’t know what that was, but I looked it up. The Rebekahs are a fraternal and service organization affiliated with the Odd Fellows. You can read about it here. So for kicks I looked up images of Rebekah rings. Sure enough, that’s what it is. Grandma must have thought it was Eastern Star because her mom was so entrenched in O.E.S. culture, and the R does look a bit like an E. Maybe the R is a bit  worn off, in fact.

Although I am not a “joiner,” I am proud of my great-grandmother for her lifetime of service. It was women like Clara Mulder that made life better for others in the first half of the 20th century.

 

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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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Because my mother’s grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder, died less than two years before I was born, I always felt that I had missed out by not knowing her. It seemed as if our paths had almost crossed, but missed. By the time I knew what was what, Great-Grandpa was married to Margaret, a sweet lady who was a good great-grandmother. But I knew I had missed out on meeting the mother of my grandmother, the woman who once managed that scary and fascinating stove in the old farmhouse in Caledonia, Michigan. I knew Mom thought she was a good cook.

So it was really fun that as I was scanning the photo album my mother had made documenting her teen years I found a photo of Great-Grandma a year before she died.

How well I remember those aprons! When you cook, they are the smart thing to wear, although the tummy area always gets the worst of it because it’s convenient to wipe your hands there. They were a style of the past when I was young and newly married, but I still prefer an apron that really covers me up like that to one that ties at the waist.

Jeanne mentioned at the top of the photo is my mother’s cousin Jeanne who in a lineup of cousins is #2 to my mother, my mother being the oldest.

Their Grandma was photographed by Jeanne in the summer of 1952, and she would die 6 September 1953, at the age of 69 years old of uterine cancer. (Yes, her death certificate is posted here).

Great-Grandma Clara is pictured here as a young bride with her husband, Charles Mulder, my great-grandfather.

You know that lineup I was mentioning? Here is one!

That’s Mom there on our left with the big bow and Jeanne right next to her.

The littlest ones aren’t in the photo and probably not yet born, but this is a good start on all the cousins, the grandchildren of Clara Mulder!

 

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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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Today kicks off Women’s History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of March. Nobody can work on their family history and genealogy and not be confronted with the imbalance between the history of men and the history of women. The mere fact that women are so difficult to find because of the historic practice of taking on their husband’s surnames is enough, but there are other factors, as well. For instance, I only have to examine the history of my own ancestors to see that European and American women, until fairly recently, worked at outside jobs but their occupations rarely resulted in careers.  Sometimes they worked outside the home for decades, but often, once women married, they quit their jobs and began to have children.

When I wrote the poems and short stories in my chapbook Kin Types I consciously tried to bring the lives of these “invisible” women to life. Here is a 53 second video my daughter made of the book last summer.

 

As you probably realize, the research and the writing itself was a labor of love. The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Finishing Line Press. If you click through the next image, it leads to the Amazon site.

There are other wonderful poems about women and history. Here is a favorite poem by the late great Adrienne Rich. I am only posting the beginning and then you have to follow the link for the rest because WordPress does not allow for the specific formatting that some poems need.

This poem investigates the life of Caroline Herschel, the younger sister of astronomer William Herschel. Although she had to do a lot of her brother’s bidding during her life, she eventually learned to love astronomy and became an esteemed astronomer after discovering several comets.  There are an unknown number of women like this throughout history because most of them were not rewarded during their lifetimes as Caroline Herschel was. For instance, how much did Vivian Eliot help her husband T. S. Eliot with his writing? Einstein’s first wife Mileva Maric was also a physicist and might have co-authored the Theory of Relativity with Einstein, but she got no credit.

Planetarium

BY ADRIENNE RICH

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster

a monster in the shape of a woman

the skies are full of them

 

a woman      ‘in the snow

among the Clocks and instruments

or measuring the ground with poles’

 

in her 98 years to discover

8 comets

Continue here: Planetarium

This woman is taking a much-needed break next week. See you the week after!

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