Church Records: Finding Grandma’s Birth

Helen Desens

My paternal grandmother died before I was born so I never had the privilege of knowing her.  So many times, I wished I could talk to her.  Not just for genealogy purposes, I wanted to know her like I knew my other grandma.  As a kid, I would visualize her watching me from heaven.  All I know about my paternal grandmother is what my father told me. 

Helen Desens was born on 23 March 1900 at home in Forest Park, Illinois.[1]  According to my father she attended St. John Lutheran Church and school through 8th grade in Forest Park, Illinois, and was baptized and confirmed at this church.[2] Unable to find a birth certificate for her, I turned to church records.  This was many years ago before the Internet.  I called the church and asked if they had records and would it be possible search them.  They said, “Yes, come on in.”  When I got there, I had to ring a bell and someone met me at the door and escorted me to the church office.  I had to walk through the school and across the gymnasium to get to the church office.  The school and church were old, and I don’t think it had changed since my grandmother attended school there from approximately 1905 to 1914.  Walking through the halls of the school, I imagined my grandmother as a little girl going to this school and I felt a real connection to her.  If I was alone, I think I would have cried.  But on to the office and records.  I found her confirmation record, but not a baptism record.  The confirmation record stated she was confirmed on 5 April 1914 and her parents were Carl Desens and Augusta Gabbie.[3]  She was born 23 March 1900 Forest Park IL and her church was St. Paul in Forest Park, Illinois.[4]  Although, I could use the confirmation record as a secondary source for proof of her parentage and birth date, I was disappointed.  The baptism record would be a secondary source too, but closer to the event (birth). But at least it told me that she was most likely baptized at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Forest Park.  I didn’t know that Forest Park had two Lutheran Churches. While I was there, I looked for anyone who had the last name Desens, and I did find some of her brothers and sisters who were baptized at this church, plus some cousins.  I left that day with the intention of calling St. Paul Church and going there to look for her baptism.  But since I did have the proof I was looking for, I put it off for many years.  I put it off so long that now with the Internet many records are online, and I found her baptism at St. Paul on Ancestry.com.  My grandmother was baptized Helene Margarete Auguste Desens on 12 May 1901.[5] It states she was born 23 March 1901 (the year different from the confirmation record). It lists the parents as Carl Desens and Augusta Gabbei (slightly different spelling than confirmation record).[6]

According to my father she went to church regularly and brought him up a Lutheran.  I am not sure of my grandfather’s religious beliefs.  My father did not mention him going to church.  I assume he was probably brought up Catholic because his mother was a Catholic.  My grandparents went to the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton, Illinois on the 22 March 1919 to be married.[7]  I find it interesting that my grandmother was married the day before her 18th birthday. Actually, if she was born in 1901, she was still 17 when she got married.  Marriage record lists her as 19 on the day before her birthday.  So did they lie about her age to get married, but then why didn’t they wait one or two more days until she was 18.  Why didn’t they have a church wedding?  Was it because of age, different religious beliefs, or could it be for some other reason?  I’ll never know the answer to that one.

There seems to be a discrepancy in her birth year. 

  • Confirmation says 1900[8]
  • Baptism says 1901[9]
  • Marriage cert says she is 19 years old and that would make the birth year 1900[10] 
  • She is not listed on 1900 census with the rest of her family[11]
  • Her death certificate says 1901[12]
  • My father said 1900 [13]

I decided to go with the 1901 because the baptism is closed to the event and the fact, she is not listed on the 1900 census with the rest of her family.   If born in 1900, she would have been 3 months old when the census was taken on 30 June1900. 

Week 10 Worship 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Copyright © 2022 Gail Grunst


[1] Told to me by father George Manfroid, Jr. in 1979.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Confirmation Record for Helen Desens,” born 23 March 1900, confirmed 5 April 1914, St. St John Congregational book 1908 – 1926, Page 227. Book located at John Lutheran Church, 305 Circle Ave., Forest Park, Cook County, Illinois.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Baptism record for Helen Desens,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Congregational Records Source Information:  Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “George Manfroid marriage Record to Helen Desens,” Wheaton, DuPage, Illinois, 22 March 1919. Original located at DuPage County Government Offices, 505 N County Farm Road, Winfield, DuPage, Illinois.

[8] “Confirmation Record for Helen Desens,” born 23 March 1900, confirmed 5 April 1914, St. St John Congregational book 1908 – 1926, Page 227. Book located at John Lutheran Church, 305 Circle Ave., Forest Park, Cook County, Illinois.

[9] “Baptism record for Helen Desens,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Congregational Records Source Information:  Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

[10] “George Manfroid marriage Record to Helen Desens, Wheaton, DuPage, Illinois,” 22 March 1919. Original located at DuPage County Government Offices, 505 N County Farm Road, Winfield, DuPage, Illinois.

[11] Year: 1900; Census Place: Proviso, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T623 294; Page: 53A; Enumeration District: 1182.

[12] “Death record for Helen Manfroid,” Elmhurst, DuPage, Illinois, 4 September 1946. Original located at DuPage County Government Offices, 505 N County Farm Road, Winfield, DuPage, Illinois.

[13] Told to me by George Manfroid, Jr. in 1979.

Court Records: Probate

We find our ancestors in a variety of court records such as; wills, probate, criminal and civil cases, divorces, and naturalization records to name as few. Through the years, I have found several court records that have helped me establish a relationship, and some that have given me a glimpse into my ancestor’s life.

One such court record is the probate file for my 2nd great-grandfather, John Desens. I was looking for proof that he was my 2nd great-grandfather. I was pretty sure I had the right person, but needed positive proof and I did find it in the probate file.

Proves Carl Desens is his son

Above it states that Carl Desens who resides at 111 Washington Street, Forest Park, Illinois is the son of John Desens, the deceased. Carl Desens is my great-grandfather.1 This was the proof that I needed for my family tree.

Also, it states in the probate file that John Desens suffered a violent death.2 I already knew about the circumstances of his death by newspaper accounts and a court transcript of criminal case against his neighbor.3

States John Desens died a violent deateh

What I did not know was that his neighbor, Fred Zell tried suing John Desens’ estate for $5000 because he was permanently disabled from the fight he had with John Desens’. But John’s estate counter sued and below is the statement from the probate file that gives the reason they are suing Fred Zell.4

Description of John Desens violent death

Above is a description of what Fred Zell did to John Desens. Since it may be hard to read I am going to transcribe that part. “Fred Zell did at said time and place unlawfully, willfully, wrongfully, and feloniously assault, strike, beat, bruise, cut, stab, kick, choke, throw down to ground with great violence and while so down cut, kick choke, stab, beat and bruise the said John Desens and put him greatly in fear of his life. That therefore the said John Desens (now deceased) was made sick, sore, bruised and disabled from attending to his business and to care for himself in any manner what ever from the 26th day of June A.D. 1907 to the time of his death.” John’s estate tried to sue Fred for $5,900. It was settled with John’s estate paying Fred $1.00.5 In the criminal case against Fred Zell for killing John Desens it was found that there was not enough evidence to convict Fred.6

In this probate file was the legal description of his farm and a list of all his belongings. The legal description helped me find John’s Farm. The list of belongings gave me a glimpse into his life.7

I have other wills and probate files that help me understand my ancestors life and their surroundings as well as prove heirs.

Week 8 Courting 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks.

Copyright © 2022 Gail Grunst

___________________________________________

1Probate file for John Desens filed in the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 103 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701.

2Ibid.

3Criminal file for Fred Zell, Clerk of the Court, 517 Court Street, Room 405, Neillsville, Wisconsin 54456.  Sent by Elizabeth Frost, Deputy Clerk to Abigail Grunst

4Probate file for John Desens filed in the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 103 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701.

5Ibid.

6Criminal file for Fred Zell, Clerk of the Court, 517 Court Street, Room 405, Neillsville, Wisconsin 54456.  Sent by Elizabeth Frost, Deputy Clerk to Abigail Grunst

7Probate file for John Desens filed in the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 103 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701.

Curious and Branching Out

Branching out or researching collateral lines is a well-known technique used in the genealogy community when you hit a brick wall.  It was a brick wall and curiosity that caused me to branch out and research collateral lines.  In two ancestral lines, I was curious what brought them to the place they settled in.  What brought my 2nd great-grandfather, Charles Bowers, to Ottawa, Illinois in 1854?  Usually, people settle in a specific area because they know someone or have a job.  The job was out because he worked as a farm laborer and a school janitor.  He could have done these jobs anywhere.  He must have known someone, but who?  If I wanted to know why he settled in Ottawa, Illinois, it was necessary to research his collateral lines. 

William Linfor

Charles Obituary in 1897 said he had two brothers, Robert and William, living in Syracuse, New York.[1]  I did find a Robert living in Syracuse in 1900[2] and Richard Bowers[3] living in Syracuse, New York in 1892, but no William.  I often wondered if Richard was William.  Maybe William was his middle name.  I gave up looking for William and thought perhaps the newspaper or person giving the information had it wrong.

A few years ago, I ordered microfilm from the Family History Library in Utah to look for my 2nd great-grandfather Charles Bower’s baptism on 2 October 1828 in England.[4]  I knew it was there from the online index.  When I got the microfilm reels of the church records it covered the years 1772 – 1905.  I started looking for anyone and everyone with the last name Bowers.  I found my 3rd great-grandparents Bonnet Bowers and Eliza Linford marriage which stated that Eliza was a widow.[5]  I also found baptism records for a Richard,[6] Robert[7] and Eliza Bowers[8] born to Bonnet and Eliza Bowers.  I never found a William Bowers that was a son of Bonnet and Eliza.  Along the way, I found Eliza in the marriage banns to Robert Linford.[9]  I also found two children she had with her first husband, William baptized 28 August 1811,[10] and Elizabeth baptized November 30, 1814[11] and died on 5 December 1814.  I made copies of all the pages that listed these events.  I then came home and entered the Bowers information into my family tree.  I filed the documents in my file cabinet under their family name and moved on to another branch.

I decided to start scanning documents that I have collected over the years into my computer.  I started with the Bowers folder because it is the first one in my file cabinet.  As I was scanning them into the computer, I was looking over them again, when I came across the name William Linford born in 1811 to Eliza and her first husband.[12]  I guess it pays to take a second look at documents because at that moment it struck me that if William lived, he would be a step brother to my 2nd great grandfather Charles.  Could this be the brother William mentioned in Charles’ obituary?  The next thing I did was a search on William Linford, and the first thing that popped up was the 1850 census which had a William Linfor (spelled without the d) living in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois.[13]  This was most likely brother, William, and that is why Charles ended up in Ottawa, Illinois. 

I continued to search for William Linfor(d) and found out the following information. He married Dinah Essaby in 1833.[14]  They had four children John 1837, William 1840, Sarah 1844, Robert 1846.[15]  They came to the US 22 August 1849 and to Ottawa, Illinois on 1 October 1849.[16]  In 1851 William applied for citizenship and in 1854 he became a citizen of the United States.[17]  He worked as a Sexton at the West Ottawa Cemetery until the family moved to Section 20 in Allen Township, LaSalle County, Illinois in 1856.  William farmed the land until 1879 when Dinah died and he moved to Syracuse, New York.[18]

In 1911 William Linfor was living at 1516 Grape Street in Syracuse, New York.  At the age of 99 he was just beginning to carry a cane.  The previous winter he was seen climbing a ladder to clean snow off the roof.  He attributed his long life to never eating beyond what he knew he could digest.  He was still in possession of all his faculties except his hearing.[19] William Linfor died on 28 January 1912 of pleurisy at the ripe old age of 100.[20] 

Another 2nd Great Grandfather, Conrad Reinhardt, settled in Amana, Iowa after coming to the United States.[21] The Amana Colonies are religious communal way of life.[22]  All property was held in common and all decisions religious and secular were made by the same leadership.[23]  My grandmother always said that her grandfather’s sister started the Amana Colonies, however I could never find proof of this and in researching his siblings, they all would have been too young to be involved in the founding of the colonies.  I could find no evidence that any of his siblings ever lived there.  Who did Conrad know in Amana, Iowa?

While I was researching a great-uncle, John C. Reinhardt, I found an article in the Sabetha Herald about John’s recollection of his childhood in the Amana Colonies, Iowa.[24]  I found this interesting since he is my great grandmother’s brother and our common ancestor is his father, Conrad (my2nd great grandfather).  In the article John mentions that his great-aunt was a school teacher for more than half a century.  She weighed 225 pounds and was 6 feet 2 inches. The name of the great aunt was not mentioned in the article.  I figured this was my 2nd great-grandfather’s connection to Amana, and this is the reasons he chose to go there upon arriving in the US.

I had previously corresponded with the Amana Heritage Museum when needing information on my 2nd great-grandfather.  I wrote to them once again and they were able to provide me with information about the aunt.  The Aunt was Elizabetha Schuh born in Nussloch near Heidelberg, Baden, 26 May 1831.  Elisabetha is the sister to Conrad’s mother.  She came to Ebenezer Society in September 1847, then to Amana in October 1863.  The Internal records of Amana Society indicate that she came with the Bortz family. The Bortz Family and another outside source claims that her parents did not approve of her relationship with a certain boy so they shipped her to America.[25]  The Amana Heritage Museum history documents her as a woman of size and strength.  They also said that all of the teachers were men with the exception of teaching knitting.[26]  I was able to find her on the 1870 United States Federal Census[27] and the 1885 Iowa Census[28] and on both census records her occupation is listed as housekeeper not a teacher.  She died on 25 March 1908 and is buried in the Amana Cemetery.[29]

By branching out and researching collateral lines I was able to resolve my curiosity as to why both 2nd great-grandfathers settled where they did.

Note:  I combined last week’s 52 ancestors in 52 weeks prompt “curious’’ and this week’s prompt “branching out” for this week’s post

Copyright © 2022 Gail Grunst


[1] Obituary for Charles Bowers: Republican Times (Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois) February 18, 1897.

[2] New York, U.S., State Census, 1892 for Robert Bowers, Onondaga, Syracuse Ward 11, E.D. 02

[3] New York, U.S., State Census, 1892 for Richard Bowers, Onondaga, Syracuse Ward 07, E.D. 09

[4] Baptism for Charles Bowers baptized on 2 October 1828; Register of Baptisms in the Parish of Terrington St. Clements, Norfolk, England; 1813 – 1841 manuscript on microfilm #13640109 Item 3; Utah: filmed by the Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Cambridgeshire, England

[5] Marriage Record for Bonnet Bowers and Eliza Linford married 27 April 1822; Register of Marriages in the Parish of Terrington St. Clement, Norfolk, England; 1813 – 1838 manuscript on microfilm #13640109 item 2; Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Cambridgeshire, England

[6] Baptism Record for Richard Bowers baptized 20 April 1822; Register of Baptisms in the Parish of Terrington St. Clements, Norfolk, England; 1813 – 1841 manuscript on microfilm #13640109 Item 3; Utah: filmed by the Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Cambridgeshire, England.

[7] Baptism Record for Robert Bowers baptized 25 February 1825; Register of Baptisms in the Parish of Terrington St. Clements, Norfolk, England; 1813 – 1841 manuscript on microfilm #13640109 Item 3; Utah: filmed by the Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Cambridgeshire, England

[8] Baptism Record for Eliza Bowers baptized 10 June 1827; Register of Baptisms in the Parish of Terrington St. Clements, Norfolk, England; 1813 – 1841 manuscript on microfilm #13640109 Item 3; Utah: filmed by the Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Cambridgeshire, England

[9] England Marriages, 1538–1973 database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVJ5-JXV : 10 February 2018), William Linfor and Dinah Essaby, 14 “Oct 1833; citing Gedney, Lincoln, England, reference , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1542146 IT 1

[10] Baptism for William Linford 28 August 1811; Terrington St. Clement, Norfolk, England; Parish Register Baptism and Burials 1772 – 1812  Item 2; Microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Wisbech, Cambs., filmed 26 July 1988, Film Number 13640109, film unit # 2161 NCD 2 Roll # 5

[11] Baptism for Elizabeth Linford 30 November 1814; Terrington St. Clement, Norfolk, England; Parish Register Baptism and Burials 1772 – 1812  Item 2; Microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Wisbech, Cambs., filmed 26 July 1988, Film Number 13640109, film unit # 2161 NCD 2 Roll # 5

[12] Baptism for William Linford 28 August 1811; Terrington St. Clement, Norfolk, England; Parish Register Baptism and Burials 1772 – 1812  Item 2; Microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Salt Lake City, Utah at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Wisbech, Cambs., filmed 26 July 1988, Film Number 13640109, film unit # 2161 NCD 2 Roll # 5

[13] Year: 1850; Census Place: Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois; roll: M432_115; Page: 269B; Image: 191

[14] Biographical and Genealogy Record of LaSalleCountyIllinois(Google eBook) (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1900), p. 224 & 227.

[15] Year: 1850; Census Place: Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois; roll: M432_115; Page: 269B; Image: 191

[16] Biographical and Genealogy Record of LaSalleCountyIllinois(Google eBook) (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1900), p. 227.

[17] National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D. C.; Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization service District 9 1840 – 1950 (M1285); microfilm Serial: M1285; Microfilm Roll 112

[18] Biographical and Genealogy Record of LaSalleCountyIllinois(Google eBook) (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1900), p. 227.

[19] Henley B. J., The Art of Longevity (Google eBook) (Syracuse, N.Y, 1911), p. 223 & 224

[20] Health News. Monthly Bulletin (Google ebook) (New York State Division of Public Health Education, Albany, New York), New Series, Vol. VIII, No 1, Full Series Vol. XXIX No 1,  January 1913

[21] Amana Church Membership Records, in archive collection of the Amana Heritage Museum, Amana, Iowa.

[22] Bourret, Joan Liffring-Zub and John Zug, Amanas yesterday: a religious communal society: a story of seven villages in Iowa: historic photographs 1900 – 1932. IA City, IA: Penfield Press, 2003

[23] Ibid.

[24] Sabetha, Kansas, Sabetha Herald, Wednesday, December 9, 1936, Pg. 4.

[25] Email from the Amana Heritage Society to Gail Grunst dated Friday October 13, 2017.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Year: 1870; Census Place: Amana, Iowa, Iowa; Roll: M593_396; Page: 131B; Family History Library Film: 545895

[28] Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.

[29] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/106053138/elisabeth-schuh

Favorite Genealogy Find: Ancestor Killed in Wisconsin

John Desens Farm 2015

Of all my great genealogy finds, I think this one was my favorite. The family story was that some ancestor was killed by Indians in Wisconsin. That did not turn out to be true, but an ancestor was killed in Wisconsin by his neighbor. I first published this story in 2015 and here it is again today.

On a June day in 1907 John Desens was working on his farm in Clark County, Wisconsin near the town of Greenwood, when he noticed that something had eaten his grain.  He did not own any cattle and the only cattle nearby belonged to his neighbor Fred Zell.  John was walking his horses out to the pasture, when he saw his neighbor, Fred, on the road.  John called to Fred and said, “Your cattle have been eating my grain.”  Fred asked him, “How can you say my stock is eating your grain?”  John replied, “Come and see for yourself, you can see the grain is eaten off.”  Fred yelled to John, “You son of a bitch.  You come on the road and I will fix you!”  John said, “No, I don’t want to fight, I am an old man, and all I ask of you is to keep your stock out of my grain.”  John heard the gate open, and the next thing he knew Fred had him by the throat, choking him, and pushed him up against the fence post.  John took out his knife and tried to cut himself loose.  He cut where ever he could.  John fell and Fred fell on top of him. John didn’t want to get his eyes cut so he managed to roll over.  John woke up lying in the field and an officer was talking to him.  John said to the officer, “Leave me lie here a little longer and I will die.  I do not want to go to jail.”  The office told him that he wasn’t going to take him to jail, but to a doctor.  When the officer found John, he had been cut and bleeding.  John stated that his side hurt and asked for some water.  The officer got him some water and noticed that John was covered with dried blood and flies.  The officer also saw that there was blood oozing from John’s leg and at first thought that John had been shot.  He ripped the pant leg and saw that he had a gash on his leg.  The officer and some other men got a wagon, filled it with hay, got some blankets from John’s house, and took him into town to the doctor.  Later that day the officer got a call to take John to the local hotel.  He had taken Fred Zell there earlier that day.  There was only one room available so he put John in the same room as Fred.   This was in place of a hospital as there was no hospital in the town.  Two days later John went by the officer’s house and said he was going to walk home.  The next day Saturday the officer and district attorney went out to John’s house.  They showed him a knife they had gotten from Mrs. Zell and asked him if that was his knife.  John said that it was like his except that he had a piece of wood in it so that he could open it easier and this one had the tip of the blade broke off and a small piece of the blade was bent over. A week later on July 6, 1907 John succumbed to the stab wounds in his chest and died alone in his house.[1]

Fred Zell was seriously injured and it took him months to recover.  His hand was almost severed from his arm.  Fred did recover, but didn’t regain full use of his hand.  Fred died in 1932.  A newspaper account said that Fred Zell was resting his arm on the gate talking to John about the cattle when all of a sudden John started cutting Fred’s hand. [2]

When I first ran across this story, I had two newspaper accounts and a mention of it in a book.[3] [4] [5] I didn’t know if John Desens was my great-great grandfather or not.  His wife had the same name as my great-great grandmother (already deceased at this time) and his one son (also already deceased at this time) had the same name as a sibling of my great grandfather.[6]  I sent for John’s death certificate hoping that the informant would be some relative that I knew, but it did not list an informant.[7]  Then last summer I made a trip to Clark County Wisconsin.  I asked to see the probate file, but it was no longer kept there.  It was now in the state archives.  I then asked to see the criminal file for Fred Zell because the paper said most likely he would be charged with John Desens death.[8]  I had to pay $5.00 and they would search for it at a later date and send it to me.  Then I asked to see land records which I was able to see.  The Land records gave a legal description and I was able to locate the farm on a current day map, but it didn’t give me any clues to if this was my ancestor or not.  A few weeks later I received the criminal file.  There appears to be pages missing, but there are 21 pages of testimony from the officer who found John Desens lying in his yard that day in June.  So I only have John’s story through the officer. [9]

Fred Zell’s story is missing.  Although, the paper had Zell’s story about how John went after him first.[10]  In the end the court did not charge Fred Zell with John Desens death because lack of evidence as to who started the fight.[11]  I have some questions and they were not answered in the court documents to my satisfaction.  John was 74[12] years old and Fred was 46.[13]  It seems to me that Fred would have the advantage being younger and most likely be stronger than John.  If John cut first almost severing Fred’s hand, how could Fred have stabbed John?  Did Fred have a knife on him to stab John, or did he get John’s knife away from him and use it on John?  How did Fred get back to his farm or get help?  Why was John left to die? It sounds like he was left lying there in the field for a long time because of the dry blood and flies on him.  He was in and out of consciousness.   Paper also said Fred Zell was the worse of the two,[14] yet he lived for 25 more years.[15]  I think if the investigation was done today that they would be more thorough.

I sent to the state archives for John’s probate file and right on the first page is the evidence that John is my great-great grandfather.  It lists my great grandfather Carl Desens at 111 Washington Street, Forest Park, IL as his son.[16]  An interesting side note about the probate file.  Fred Zell was suing John’s estate for $5000.[17]  All of John’s 80 acres were only worth $1200.[18] He did not have much else and had some debts that needed to be paid out of the estate.[19]  Fred Zell received $1.00.[20]  I find this story very sad.  Although I never knew my 2nd great grandfather, I felt sad that he was left in the field to die.  I felt anger at the neighbor for his part in this and the fact that he was younger and probably stronger, and frustration at district attorney for not investigating it better.  There are so many unanswered questions.

I visited John’s grave when I was up there last summer, however at the time, I was not sure if he was my ancestor or not.  I also did not have all the details of the crime.  I would like to go back and visit his grave again and take some flowers.  I want him to know that someone cares.  That I care!

John Desens Tombstone

Week 2 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Favorite Find.

Copyright © 2015 Gail Grunst

_____________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Criminal file for Fred Zell, Clerk of the Court, 517 Court Street, Room 405, Neillsville, Wisconsin 54456.  Sent by Elizabeth Frost, Deputy Clerk to Abigail Grunst.

[2] Neillsville times(Neillsville, Clark County, Wis) July 11, 1907.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Marshfield Times ( Marshfield, Wood County, Wis) July 17,1907

[5] Hub of Clark County (1853 – 1934)

[6] United Church of Christ East Cemetery Index(formerly the German Immanuel Evangelical & Reformed Church) Warner Township, Clark County, WI, Compiled by Stan and Janet Schwarze.

[7] Death Record of John Desens, Pre -1907 Wisconsin Death Record County Clark, Volume # 01 Page # 438. Filed at the State Historical Archives of Wisconsin, Miroforms room, 816 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706

[8] Marshfield Times ( Marshfield, Wood County, Wis) July 17,1907

[9] Criminal file for Fred Zell, Clerk of the Court, 517 Court Street, Room 405, Neillsville, Wisconsin 54456.  Sent by Elizabeth Frost, Deputy Clerk to Abigail Grunst.

[10] Neillsville times(Neillsville, Clark County, Wis) July 11, 1907

[11] Criminal file for Fred Zell, Clerk of the Court, 517 Court Street, Room 405, Neillsville, Wisconsin 54456.  Sent by Elizabeth Frost, Deputy Clerk to Abigail Grunst

[12] Death Record of John Desens, Pre -1907 Wisconsin Death Record County Clark, Volume # 01 Page # 438. Filed at the State Historical Archives of Wisconsin, Miroforms room, 816 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706

[13] Obituary of Frederick W. Zell.  Greenwood Gleaner (Greenwood, Clark County Wisconsin) August 25, 1932.

[14] Marshfield Times ( Marshfield, Wood County, Wis) July 17,1907

[15] Obituary of Frederick W. Zell.  Greenwood Gleaner (Greenwood, Clark County Wisconsin) August 25, 1932.

[16] Probate file for John Desens filed in the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 103 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

Seven Brides for one Brother

Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

We have all heard of the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, well this is the story of seven brides for one brother.  This is the story of my paternal grandfather’s brother.  In researching my grandfather’s brother, Theodore Arthur Manfroid, I kept finding more and more marriages. One would think that maybe I had two different people with the same name, however MANFROID is a very uncommon name especially in the United States.  I met this uncle when I was a little girl along with his wife Mabel and their daughter also named Gail.  I knew he was married at least twice, but had no idea what I would uncover. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how he could change wives so rapidly.

Theodore Arthur Manfroid came into this world on 19 January 1904.[1]  He was the fifth son and the seventh child born to Isidor George Manfroid and Mary Fiderius.  He came near the end of Isidor and Mary’s marriage.  By 1910 Isidor and Mary were no longer together and Theodore is found living in St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum in Chicago.[2]  In 1910, St Vincent’s was a place for unwed mothers and for children who parents could no longer take care of them.[3]  Mary remarried in 1911[4] and I assume at this time she reclaimed Theodore.  In 1920 he is 16 and living with his mother, Mary, and his step-father, Adam Beischer.[5]  In 1926 he marries for the first time to Josephine Staschak in Oak Park, Illinois.[6]  I don’t know how long this marriage lasted, but in 1931 he marries his second wife, Mary M. Freehill.[7]  Later in 1931 Theodore and Mary have their first child, a daughter, Joy,[8] and in 1933 they have a second child, Shirley.[9]  Again, I don’t know how long the marriage lasted, but in 1938 he has another daughter, Gail.[10]  Gail’s mother is Mabel Curphey.[11]  I could not find a marriage record; however, Mabel is listed as his wife on the 1940 census[12] and again in 1942 on his WWII draft card.[13]  But I did find a marriage record for Theodore and Mabel later in 1950.[14]  Perhaps they were married before Gail was born, divorced after 1942 and remarried in 1950.  The reason I say this is because Theodore had another child, a boy, born in 1946[15] and the mother is Charlotte Alberta David.  In the 1948 City Directory for Evanston, Illinois,Theodore is listed with his spouse Alberta.[16]  Charlotte continued to use the last name Manfroid for several years after she was no longer with Theodore.[17]  So I assume they were legally married even though I can find no marriage record at this time.  As I mentioned above, he married Mabel in 1950 and then in 1952 he marries Dorothy Audene Luehrsen in Texas.[18]  I find him living in Oak Park, Illinois in 1959[19] and 1960.[20] In 1960 he marries Frances Ione Stallion in Nevada.[21] This must have been a short marriage because he marries again in 1961 to Lorraine Evans Pierce.[22]  That is the last marriage I find for Theodore. 

Theodore is described as 6’1” and 168 lbs. with brown hair, blue eyes, and light complexion.[23]  During his lifetime he served in the Marine Corp during WWII,[24] work as a lubricator,[25] and he hauled freight between Chicago and Cleveland for the Cleveland-Chicago Motor Express at 1030 Washington Blvd, Chicago, Illinois.[26]  He also worked as a painter for the Layne Texas Company in Dallas, Texas.[27]

Theodore died on 14 September 1978 in a VA Hospital in Houston, Texas.[28]  The cause of death was Sepsis due to a urinary tract infection, and he also had Carcinoma of the lung and post Carcinoma of the prostate.[29]  He is buried in South Park Cemetery in Pearland, Brazoria, Texas.[30]

There is a big gap in my research from 1961 to 1978 where I can’t find any more information on Theodore. Theodore (Ted) Manfroid lived an interesting life that is for sure!  I wonder if he ever found his one true love. 


[1] “Illinois, cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1945.” Database. FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903,B8L1 : 18 May 16 2016), Theodore Arthur Manfroid, 19 Jan 1904; Melrose Park, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 20165 Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago: FHL microfilm.

[2] Year: 1910; Census Place:  Chicago Ward 21, Cook, Illinois; Roll:T624_264; Page: 16B Enumeration District:0923, FHL microfilm 1273177.  Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:  Original data: Thirteenth Census of the untied States, 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T24, 1, 178 rolls).  Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29.  National Archives, Washington, D. C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following Nara web Page: NARA.

[3] From website: https://chicagoancestors.org/place/st-vincent-infant-asylum

[4] Adam Beischer Obituary, Oak Park, Cook, Illinois, Oak Park Leaves, 17 Ma7 1962, p.76,

[5] Year: 1920; Census Place: Forest Park, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T625_362; Page: 20B; Enumeration District: 185

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.  Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 are on roll 323 (Chicago City).

[6] “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871 – 1968,” database, Familysearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q21V-ZWM3 : 28 November 2018), Theodore Manfroid and Josephine Staschak, 11 September 1926; citing Marriage, Cook, Ililnois, United States, citing Cook County Clerk. Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 10271050

[7] Ancestry.com, Cook County, Illinois Marriage index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, Ut, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.  Original Data: Cook County Clerk, comp, Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008

[8] “Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKDC-Y38M : 18 May 2016), Joy June Manfroid, 02 Sep 1931; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 36457, Cook County Clerk, Cook County

Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm.

[9] “Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QL99-PNK3 : 27 March 2017), Shirley Rae Manfroid, 28 Aug 1933; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 30901, Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm .

[10] “Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVPC-4VHW : 18 May 2016), Gail Lee Manfroid, 11 Apr 1938; Melrose Park, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 88, Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 100,480,845.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Year: 1940; Census Place: Melrose Park, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00788; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 16-443.  Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.

[13] National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1117.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

[14] Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008.

[15] U.S. Public Records Index, 1950 – 1993, Volume 2 – Ancestry.com

[16] Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

[17] Ancestry.com. California, U.S., Marriage Index, 1949-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.Original data: California Department of Health and Welfare. California Vital Records—Vitalsearch (www.vitalsearch-worldwide.com). The Vitalsearch Company Worldwide, Inc., Pleasanton, Ca

[18] Harris County Clerk’s Office; Houston, Texas; Harris County, Texas, Marriage Records; Pages: 2.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. Texas, U.S., Select County Marriage Records, 1837-1965 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

[19] Oak Park Oak Leaves, Feb 5 1959, pg.4. NewspaperArchives.com

[20] Oak Park Oak Leaves, Nov 3, 1960. NewspaperArchives.com

[21] Ancestry.com. Nevada, U.S., Marriage Index, 1956-2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.

Original data:  Nevada State Health Division, Office of Vital Records. Nevada Marriage Index, 1966-2005. Carson City, Nevada: Nevada State Health Division, Office of Vital Records.  Clark County, Nevada Marriage Bureau. Clark County, Nevada Marriage Index, 1956-1966. Las Vegas, Nevada: Clark County, Nevada Marriage Bureau.

[22] Ancestry.com. California, U.S., Marriage Index, 1960-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.  Original data: State of California. California Marriage Index, 1960-1985. Microfiche. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.

[23] National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1117.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

[24] From Website: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/72930044/theodore-a-manfroid

[25] Year: 1940; Census Place: Melrose Park, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00788; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 16-443.  Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.

[26] National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1117.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

[27] Texas Department of State Health Services; Austin Texas, USA.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. Texas, U.S., Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.  Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. Austin, Texas, USA.

[28] Texas Department of State Health Services; Austin Texas, USA.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. Texas, U.S., Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.  Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. Austin, Texas, USA.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

Anna Marie Schwebler’s Life

In the small village of Bairertal, Baden, Germany, Anna Marie Schwebler was born on 20 January 1855 to Peter Schwebler and Friederike Liecht.[1]  Baiertal is a village in the district of Heidelburg in Baden (now Baden-Wurttemburg) in Southwest Germany.  Baden-Wurttemburg contains Germany’s largest continuous forest area, the Black Forest (Schwarzwald), which spreads westward to the banks of the Rhine River.[2]  This is where Anna was baptized Lutheran on 29 January 1855,[3] and where she grew up, married, and her first two children were born.  Anna was 22 years old when she married Johann Konrad Reinhardt on 26 April 1877 in Baiertal.[4]  Nine months later their first child, Eva Friederike Reinhardt, was born on 14 February 1878.[5]  A year and a half later their son, Johann Konrad Reinhardt, was born on 9 August 1879[6] (the birth record says Johann was born on 9 August 1879, but in all other documents he is listed as being born on the 10th.)  Shortly after Johann was born Anna and her husband left for America.  First, they traveled 284 miles through Germany to Antwerp, Belgium.[7]  Today it is a 5-hour trip,[8] but in 1879 it was much longer. It is unknown what form of transportation they used from Baiertal to Antwerp.  The Reinhardt’s probably left Antwerp somewhere between 19 November 1879 and 25 November 1879 on the ship Belgenland I (1878 Red Star Line).[9] The ship was 403’ x 40’ and went 14 knots,[10] and it was placed in Antwerp to New York service in 1879.[11]  The trip from Antwerp to New York was 3,827 nautical miles.[12]  If the ship went an average of 10 knots the trip would take about 16 days, and if it went top speed of 14 knots all the way it would take 10 days.[13]  The Reinhardt’s arrived in New York on December 5, 1879.[14]  At that time, they would have been processed through Castle Garden Immigration Center.[15]  Seventeen days later, on 22 December 1879 they arrived in Amana, Iowa.[16] Amana was the home of Johann’s aunt, Elizabeth Schuh.[17]

“The Amana Colonies are seven villages on 26,000 acres located in Iowa County in east-central Iowa.  The seven villages consist of Amana (or Main Amana), East AmanaHigh AmanaMiddle AmanaSouth AmanaWest Amana, and HomesteadIn 1714 in Southwestern Germany two men started a religious movement which later became known as the Community of True Inspiration.  A group of people from this movement came to the United States in 1842 settling in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York.  They built four villages known as Middle Ebenezer, Upper Ebenezer, Lower Ebenezer, and New Ebenezer in New York State.  They also built two villages in Canada.  The Buffalo area was becoming quickly urbanized so the group sought land to west, and in 1854 purchased the sight of the present-day Amana Colonies in Iowa.”[18]

“After arrival in this county, the group adopted a religious-communal way of life, with all property held in common and with all church and secular decisions being made by the same leadership.  The communal way of life lasted nearly a century until the people voted separation of church and state in 1932 adopting the free enterprise way of life that surrounded them.”[19]

“Mother and baby stayed home until the child was two and went to Kinderschule.  The child would be in school from 8AM to 11AM and then would be home for lunch with the mother, not the communal kitchen. After lunch Children went back to Kinderschule. The Children went to Kinderschule until age seven.” [20]

The Reinhardt’s settled in South Amana.[21]  Johann Americanized his name and went by Conrad.  Conrad worked as a shoemaker in Amana.[22]  Anna would have been at home and not working in the communal kitchen because she had two children under two.  On 10 February 1881, Anna gave birth to another daughter, Elizabeth, born in Amana.[23] Reinhardt’s decided that Amana was not for them and left there in April 1883.[24]  In 1885 they settle in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois and joined the Zion Evangelical Church in Ottawa.[25]

At this time, it is not known where they may have lived between 1883 and 1885.  In 1886 another daughter, Emma, is born in Ottawa Illinois,[26] followed by a son, Frederick, born in 1887,[27] Anna born in 1889,[28] and Agnes, 1891.[29]  Anna spent the rest of her life in Ottawa raising her children and keeping house.  My grandmother often visited her grandparent’s in Ottawa, but she didn’t tell us many stories about her grandparents.  Although, there were not many stories handed down about Anna and Conrad Reinhardt, there were traditions that were handed down.  I visited Amana, Iowa and ate at one of the many restaurants.  The food is served family style and when I took a bite, it was like being back in Grandma’s kitchen.  Apparently, Grandma learned to cook from her mother and grandmother.  In the museum, there were quilt’s just like the ones handed down to me that were made by my great-grandmother.  

Quilt made by my Great-Grandmother Eva Reinhardt

The family referred to their daughter Annie as being slow.  No one elaborated more than to say she was slow.  Anna Marie had a nervous breakdown sometime between 1900 and her death in 1910.  There is a gap in children between 1881 – 1886 so I wonder if she lost one or two in that time period.  It probably wasn’t easy in those days to have a mentally challenged child, and the possibility that she may have lost one or two children may have contributed to her nervous breakdown.  Plus, we will never know what else was going on in her life at that time that may have contributed to it.   

Anna Marie passed away on 11 June 1910[30] at age 55 years, 4 months, and 22 days.  She is buried in the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois.[31] A long way from Baiertal, Baden, Heidelburg, Germany. She shares her birthday January 20 with her 4th great granddaughter.

Other Ancestors born in January

George Manfroid – 1 January 1892

Arthur Manfroid – 5 January 1901

Charles Bowers – 7 January 1784

Johann Friedrich Reinhardt 10 January 1814

Mary Bowers – 13 January 1792

Sarah Bowers –13 January 1792

John Bowers – 22 January 1786

Hugo Kaiser – 26 January 1899

Augusta Gabbi – 28 January 1859

Copyright © 2021 Gail Grunst


Citations

[1] Ancestry.com. Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.  Original data:Mikrofilm Sammlung. Familysearch.org. Originale: Lutherische Kirchenbücher, 1502-1985.

[2] https://www.britannica.com/place/Heidelberg

[3] https://www.britannica.com/place/Heidelberg

[4]  Germany Marriages, 1558 – 1929,  LDS Library, Salt Lake Ciry, Utah, microfilm # 1272787.

[5] Ancestry.com.  Baden Germany Lutheran Baptism, 1502 – 1985[database on-line]. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.  Original data:  Mikrofilm Sammlung. Familysearch.org.

[6] Ancestry.com. Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.  Original data: Mikrofilm Sammlung. Familysearch.org. Originale: Lutherische Kirchenbücher, 1502-1985.

[7]Maps, Google. “Google Maps Heidelburg to Antwerp.” Google Maps, Google, 2021, http://www.google.com/maps/dir/Antwerp,+Belgium/Heidelberg,+Germany/@50.2921341,4.2755556,7z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c3f68ebfc3887d:0x3eaf448482a88ab8!2m2!1d4.4024643!2d51.2194475!1m5!1m1!1s0x4797c1050eccdccd:0xefe6ea0044243ad7!2m2!1d8.6724335!2d49.3987524.

[8] Ibid.

[9]  Germans to America(Vol. 34). (1993). Wilmington, DE, DE: Scholarly Resources.

[10] Smith, Eugene W. Passenger Ships of the World: Past and Present. George H. Dean, 1978.

[11] Smith, Eugene W. Passenger Ships of the World: Past and Present. George H. Dean, 1978.

[12] “Port of Antwerp, Belgium to Port of New York, United States Sea Route and Distance.” Ports.com, ports.com/sea-route/port-of-      antwerp,belgium/port-of-new-york,united-states/.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Germans to America (Vol. 34). (1993). Wilmington, DE, DE: Scholarly Resources.

[15] “Castle Garden”. Castlegarden.Org, 2021, http://www.castlegarden.org/.

[16] Amana Church Membership Records, in archive collection of the Amana Heritage Museum, Amana, Iowa.

[17] Amana, Iowa,  Amana Heritage Museum, Anderson Cards, the Koch Verzeichnis

[18] Bourret, Joan Liffring-Zub and John Zug, Amanas yesterday: a religious communal society: a story of seven villages in Iowa: historic photographs 1900 – 1932. IA City, IA: Penfield Press, 2003

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Year: 1880; Census Place: Amana, Iowa, Iowa; Roll: 345; Family History Film: 1254345; Page: 146D; Enumeration District: 201; Image: 0155.  1880 United States Federal Census.  Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ancestry.com. Iowa, U.S., Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data:  “Iowa Births and Christenings, 1830–1950.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.

[24] Amana Church Membership Records, in archive collection of the Amana Heritage Museum, Amana, Iowa.

[25] Daily Republican Times, Ottawa, Illinois,Vol XXXII no. 291, 13 June 1910, Pg 4.

[26] Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1871-1998,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVRN-D8VZ : 16 March 2018), Emma L Mataway, 18 Aug 1956; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, source reference , record number , Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm .

[27] “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6DL-3XZ : 12 December 2014), Fred Reinhardt, 1917-1918; citing La Salle County no 1, Illinois, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,614,034.

[28] Illinois Births and Christenings, 1824-1940,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2LZ-4LN : 12 December 2014), Anna Reinhardt, 28 Apr 1889; Birth, citing Ottawa, La Salle, Illinois; FHL microfilm 1,710,998.

[29] Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2014.  Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.

[30] Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSallle, Illinois cemetery records, Cemetery card CCY-TS, Burial Location BU, 47C (N ½) Record # 5856.

[31] Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSallle, Illinois cemetery records, Cemetery card CCY-TS, Burial Location BU, 47C (N ½) Record # 5856.

I love and miss you!

I haven’t posted in awhile.  My husband was sick for several years and in the last two years I became his full-time caretaker.  He succumbed to his illness on June 8, 2020.  Since his passing, I am having hard time getting back to my genealogy and this blog.  This last week I have worked on genealogy again.  Today I thought I would do a short post to let everyone know I am still here and hope to post more often now that I have more time and things (I hope) have settled down.  

We had a nice grave site ceremony for my husband with the Marines and a flag ceremony.  Afterwards, we had a picnic lunch at the state park near our home, one of my husband’s favorite places. 

He loved the outdoors and nature.  Before he got sick our favorite thing to do was to go camping in our trailer and before that in our pop-up trailer, and tent camping when we were young.  

He also loved cars and all things mechanical.  His first car was a 54 Buick that he inherited from his father.  When I met Bruce he owned a ’69 Plymouth Barracuda and ’69 450 Honda Motorcycle.  I have many fond memories of our motorcycle adventures.  He noticed me because of my ’69 Camaro Convertible. 

We traveled all over the United States and saw many of the National Parks. Our favorite is Glacier National Park in Montana.  We have been to most states.  Our plan was to drive to Alaska when I retired, but it was not to be.  By the time I retired there was no way that Bruce could have endured a trip like that.  But I have many good memories the trips we did take.

Bruce loved sports and played baseball, softball, tennis, and ran. He was an avid sports fan of the White Sox, Cubs, and Bears. He enjoyed working on his own cars and machines. He was very handy around the house building us a fireplace and cabinets. His last few years his physical activity was diminished until he was unable to walk. It was so sad to watch my once athletic husband unable to do things for himself that he once enjoyed.

We were together 49 years and hoping for 50.  If you count the year we dated, we were together 50.  

On Bruce’s last day I told him that we didn’t have an easy life, but we had a good life.  He told me he was happy and thank me for taking care of him.  There was no need to thank me, I would do it all over again. As he took his last breath, he held my hand and squeezed it. It was his last “I love you” to me.   I love him and miss him, but at least he suffers no more and is at peace. 

Man rescued from fiery trap

Last week’s challenge from 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was “fire”.  I am a little late in posting this time.  Today’s post is about my husband’s aunt, uncles, and cousin and the house originally owned by  his grandfather.

Early on Monday March 9, 1959 a fire started in the first-floor living room of 4916 W. 32nd Place, Cicero, Cook, Illinois and quickly spread to the rest of the house.  By the time the fireman arrived the fire was already eating away at the attic walls.  Fire equipment was called to the scene from Morton Park, Warren Park, Clyde and Hawthorne fire stations.   Bystanders alerted the firemen that a man was still in the building.  They rushed in and found Eugene Jelen, a tenant, unconscious on the second floor between the kitchen and a hallway door.  The Firemen carried him down a stairway to safety.  Eugene suffered from smoke inhalation and second and third degree burns on the left side of his body.  If the fireman had arrived a few seconds later Eugene would have died.  Leo Gorski, owner of the building, was also hurt with first and second degree burns on his hand.  It is not known if the others who lived there were home at time.  The firemen deduced that the fire started in the first floor living room by a cigarette. The damage to the 70 year old building was $8,000 and $4,000 for the contents.[1]  Leo had no insurance on the house so they were unable to rebuild.  What was left of the house was sold, torn down, and a new house built by new owners.  Leo and his brother Stanley rented an apartment across the alley.  Constance, John, and Eugene Jelen moved to another apartment in Cicero.[2]

My husband’s grandfather, Stanley Gorski, bought the house sometime during the 1920’s.[3]  Stanley emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1891 and settled in Cicero, Cook, Illinois where he and his wife Mary raised seven children.[4]  Stanley worked in a stone quarry and for a railroad during his life and somehow managed to save enough money to buy a house at 4916 W. 32nd Place in Cicero.[5] 

The building was a two flat with a ground floor basement.  In 1930 Stanley and his wife are living in one unit with four of their sons, Stanley Jr., Leo, Chester, and Felix.  Their daughter, Constance, is living in the other unit with her husband, John Jelen, and two children, Eugene and Geraldine.  Also living in the house is his married son, John, with his wife, Frances and their son, John Jr.[6]  My husband said that there were rooms in the basement so perhaps that is where John, Francis, and their son lived.  By 1951 the only ones left living in the house were Stanley Jr. and Leo living on the first floor, and Constance and her family living on the second floor.[7] 

In Cicero the houses are close together with a gangway between them, but on one side of this house is an empty space, room enough for another house.  But in 1930 – 1960 this space remained empty and was part of the property at 4916 W. 32nd Place.  The entire yard was fenced in and there was a garage in back.[8]   Mary passed away in 1933[9] and Stanley passed away in 1951[10] leaving the house to his son Leo.[11]  Too bad there was such a tragic end to this house that Stanley worked so hard to purchase back in the 1920’s.

Here is the original newspaper article:

img395 (2)

Copyright © 2020 Gail Grunst


[1] Berwyn Life , (Berwyn Illinois), 11 March 1959, Page 5.

[2] Person knowledge from their nephew, Bruce Grunst.

[3] Year: 1930; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 32A; Enumeration District: 2099; FHL microfilm: 2340233.  Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Year: 1900; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 22; Enumeration District: 1150; FHL microfilm: 1240292  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.

[6] Year: 1930; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 32A; Enumeration District: 2099; FHL microfilm: 2340233  Source Information:Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

[7] Personal knowledge from their nephew, Bruce  Grunst

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ancestry.com. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: “Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

[10] Chicago Tribune, (Chicago, Illinois), 18 December 1951, Page 45.

[11] Berwyn Life , (Berwyn Illinois), 11 March 1959, Page 5.

Water, Water Everywhere

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Bathing Beauties 1921

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this week is “water”.  I thought about this for awhile and all of my ancestors came over to the United States on boats so there is nothing new there.  Then I thought about my mother’s family always seemed to live near water or take vacations that involved water.  I decided on more of a pictorial history of my mother’s family and water. 

My maternal grandmother was born in Ottawa, Illinois and lived there for part of her youth. “Ottawa, Illinois is situated at the junction of the Fox and Illinois rivers, nearly the geographical center of LaSalle County.  The Fox enters the Illinois from the northeast and with its rapid currents feeds the Chicago and Illinois Canal, which follows the banks of the Illinois River.” [1]    Both her mother and father were brought up in Ottawa, Illinois.  Her paternal grandparents lived on Chapel Street in Ottawa and across the street from the river. While still a child her mother moved to Chicago and they lived not far from Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park Zoo.  As adult she and my grandfather moved to Villa Park, Illinois and there is no lake or river near by.  But they did take vacations to lakes.  The one place they went most was to Fox Lake, Illinois. 

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Grandma and her best friend at Fox Lake, Illinois 

They also liked Lake Como, Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Dells was another popular place with them.  In fact my grandparents went to the Wisconsin Dells for their honeymoon.  

Helen at Lake Como

Grandma at Lake Como, Wisconsin

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Grandparents, Mom and ? at Big Smoky Falls, Wolf River, Wisconsin 1929

Starved Rock was another favorite destination. Starved Rock was close to Ottawa, Illinois and on the bank of the Illinois River.  This was the family’s favorite picnic spot.  They still picnicked there when I was growing up.  If we didn’t picnic at Starved Rock we picnicked at Buffalo Rock across the river from Starved Rock.  My grandmother would say that there were at least 2 or 3 drownings a year in the Illinois River because of the undertow. 

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Great Grandparents at the top of Starved Rock

My grandfather liked to fish and some of their excursions involved fishing.

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Grandpa, dog Rudy and friend with 3 Pikes and a Bass at Sand Lake 1929

Copyright © 2020 Gail Grunst


 

  1. Ottawa Old and New: A Complete History of Ottawa Illinois 1823 – 1914 (Ottawa, Illinois: Republican – Times Ottawa, 1912 – 1914), p. 39.

 

Nearly forgotten Uncle Donnie

Uncle Donnie

Uncle Donnie

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this week is “nearly forgotten”.  The first person to come to mind was my Uncle Donnie.  I wrote his story in 2013 and am re-posting it today.  I loved this man, and I am sad about all the years that were lost with him. To find out about Donnie’s nearly forgotten life read on.

My father’s brother was mentally challenged.  Back when my father was growing up the term used was mentally retarded.  His brother, Donnie, was 14 years younger than him.  I don’t know if Donnie was born that way or if something happened after birth.  This was in the 1930’s, and they did not know as much as they do today on how to treat people with mental retardation.  He lived at home with my grandparents, and my grandmother did the best she knew how.  My grandmother died the year before I was born so I never knew her.  When she died, my grandfather had to make a tough decision of what to do with Donnie.  He had to go to work and could not leave him at home alone.  He could not afford to have someone come in and take care of him.  He decided to put Donnie in a state mental hospital.  My father and grandfather would go visit him regularly.   After my grandfather passed away in 1955, my mother and father would go see Donnie and send him clothes and things.  As a little girl, I would ask to go along.  My parents always refused to take me.  My father said “You never know what these people are going to do”, and he didn’t think it was safe to take me.  I asked why he couldn’t live with us.  My dad explained that Donnie couldn’t be left alone.  You never knew what he was going to do. He could set the house on fire, or hurt my brother or me.  He could not use the washroom on his own. There were more reasons, but now I can’t remember all of them now.  After many years went by,  my mom and dad quit going.  My father claimed that Donnie didn’t even know him anymore.  

In 1984 my dad passed away and my mother followed in 1987.  My brother and I had never met Donnie, and by this time it had been so long since my parents had visited that we didn’t even know where he was at.  We didn’t know how to go about finding him.  For ten years after my mother’s death, we didn’t try to find him.  Then one day my brother was going through some papers of my mothers, and he found some information that told what state hospital Donnie was in.  He contacted the hospital and Donnie was no longer there, but they were able to tell my brother that Donnie was still alive and where he was now residing.  My brother then called the hospital where Donnie resided, and he was told that Donnie was doing OK.  They invited us to come see him.  They seemed thrilled to find out that this man had a family.

In April of 1997 my brother and I made a day trip to see Donnie, and I met my uncle for the first time.  He looked at us with curiosity.  His nurse told him we were his family.  He shook our hands, and we sat on a porch.  He had a hard time communicating.  But you could see he was taking in everything.  I think he knew way more that he was able to communicate.  I asked him questions which he couldn’t answer, and told him that I was his Brother George’s daughter.  He repeated, “George”.  I told him George was in heaven with his mother and father.  He seemed to understand.  I asked him if he watched baseball and did he like the Cubs.  He said, “The Cubs suck.”  He would make hand motions when he wanted something.  He started pulling on his shirt and trying to unbutton it.  I asked him if he was uncomfortable and he said, “shirt sucks.”  He also said a few swear words that came out clear.  Other than that most of what he said, I could not understand.  But I felt we made a connection with him.  I asked him if he could give me a hug and he did.  When he was given commands he obeyed them.  He knew what was being said to him.  He was able to go to the bathroom by himself and keep himself clean.  They told us if we came back to bring pictures of my dad and grandparents.  He resembled my father and was a kind man.  He was not as bad off as my father had described.  Maybe it was because they knew more in recent years on how to help people with mental disabilities.  The administrator showed us his records going back to when he was admitted in 1946.  We did go back many times after that day, and brought my husband and children.  We went there for special events like Christmas parties, picnics, etc. We brought pictures of my dad and grandparents.  He ran his fingers over the picture of my dad and said, “George”.   I brought a picture of his mother and he said, “Ma”.  Another time he told me that his mother was with God.  He made me tear up many, many times.   Donnie would tear up when he saw us.  So I believe he knew we were his family.  My brother brought him a video of trains because we remembered my father saying he liked trains, and my father would take him to the train yards to look at the trains. I looked forward to each visit.  I had fallen in love with my Uncle Donnie.  Unfortunately, Donnie had a heart attack and died in 2002 at 68 years old.  The hospital had a memorial service for him.  I was unable to attend because I had Pneumonia at the time, but my brother went to it.  I am happy we had five wonderful years to get to know and love him.  Uncle Donnie is now free to fly without any physical or mental limitations.  May he rest in peace.

Coopyright © Gail Grunst 2013