Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Mean Streets of Detroit

I've been working on the lineage of my great-great-grandmother Theresa Wolfschlaeger, the wife of Henry Joseph Hauer. She came from Helden, Kreis Olpe, Westfalen. In the interest of finding out a little more about that area, I came upon a website where I was able to learn quite a bit, not only about that place in Germany but also about this one in Michigan.

The southern part of Westfalen, I learned, is called the Sauerland. It's mountainous, woodsy, and filled with Roman Catholics. The Wolfschlaegers were Catholic, as were Theresa's maternal relatives, the Wiggers, several of whom were priests. But more on that subject some other day. Today you'll have plenty to read on the Sauerland website.

Among other things, you'll find a letter that the website owner has translated from German to English. The letter was sent from Detroit to Germany by a German woman. Here's a bit of what she had to say about Detroit:
"If you came on the street here and heard how kids, three to four years of age, curse and swear, you would be struck with amazement. They don't know respect for the elders here. The smallest booby dares to throw dirt and stones at the oldest people. In general, there is no education here; it's a rough country. Boys, 12 to 13 of age, already wear revolvers and knives in the pocket, which are drawn because of trifles; that´s why there are so many accidents. In a word, I could write a whole book on this."
I must admit, I'm "struck with amazement" every time I turn on the news here in the Detroit area. But I was also struck with amazement to read this description of Detroit in her letter, which was written over a hundred and thirty years ago. The times, apparently, are not changin' all that much!

The focus of Dierk Stoetzel's Sauerland website is Emigrants from Kreis Meschede and Kreis Olpe (Westfalen) to the United States of America. I found the site very informative and useful to my research and my understanding, well worth a visit. And I'm pretty sure there's a Peitz descendant in Dierk's family tree who married a Wolfshlaeger descendant in mine!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Wolfschlaeger-Wigger Marriage Record: Some Questions

You'll want to view the record below on a large screen. The handwriting is pretty hard to read. I have four questions about entry number 4, but I've left the record intact because it may help to see how other entries were made. You may have to scroll horizontally to see the fourth question. Below the image, I've explained what the record is and what my questions are. Read that first, before you go straining your eyes.

This is the German marriage record of Johann Peter Wolfschlaeger, age 25, and Maria Elisabeth Wigger, age 19, who were Catholic. With their parents' consent, they tied the knot on 24 May 1829. Pastor Fernholz officiated.

Question 1: After the groom's name, Joh. Peter Wolfschlaeger, I believe it says, gt. Merren Ackermann in Repe. I don't know what gt. is abbreviating... genannt? geburtsort? something else entirely? I don't know whether Merren is a place name or a surname, but as you'll see, it's coming up again in a minute. Also (and considerably less important to me) while we're on Question 1, I suppose it's possible that the henscratching I've read as Ackermann could be Arbeitmann. I say that only because there appears to be a dot hovering over the latter half of the word in both this column and the next. Someone who can actually read German handwriting without a letter chart might know for sure. I can only say I don't see anything that looks like a t so I think it's Ackermann (farmer) and the dots are random and meaningless.

Question 2: The groom's parents are Wilhelm Wolfschlaeger, gt. Merren Ackermann, then a short word I can't make out but I am guessing it either says or means und (i.e. and) Anna Gertrud Merren in Repe. I have no problem with Repe--it is a place name 2.2 km from Helden, where these records were kept. But again, Merren does not come up in a general Google search, nor in a Google Maps search, for such a place in Germany. Still, it may be too small a community or perhaps no longer in existence. But if I knew what "gt." meant, I'd probably have a better idea what to make of it.  You'll see gt. in other records also. For example, in record number 6, Franz Fischer gt. Rademacher. Google Maps also doesn't seem to recognize Rademacher as a place name... hence my confusion. (Coincidentally, there was a woman with the surname Rademacher who married into the Wolfschlaeger family. This is the stuff that makes my head spin.)

Question 3: The bride's father is Mathias Wigger, but I can't make out what it says between his surname and Ackermann. Maybe someone with German vocabulary and handwriting skills will know. The bride's mother is M. Catharine Ronnewinkel, followed by what appears to be in Stachelau Pfarrer Olpe. Stachelau and Olpe are place names; Pfarrer means pastor. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Question 4: The last column is for comments and it appears to say Zeugen something, probably Zeugen namen, which means it's naming the witnesses. The last two words, right above the big red 4, are in Helden but I'm open to suggestions for the names and other words between Zeugen namen and in Helden. The witnesses' names may come in handy later when I try to prove various family ties.

Merren, schmerren... what does it matter? Well, I'll tell you! For awhile, I thought Merren might be Anna Gertrud's last name, but I no longer think so. Elsewhere on the interwebs, there exists the idea that a Wilhelm Wolfschlager was married to an Anna Gertrud Klover (alas, the sources were not cited!). If these are the same two people named in my question number 2 above, they are the link that hooks up the two Wolfschlager (aka Wolfslayer) families of Detroit--my Johann Peter's family and that of Anthony F. This is a hook-up I've been trying to find for decades!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

St. Joseph and Sweetest Heart of Mary Churches

Let's hear it for drones! This is a lovely little video of two of Detroit's historic Catholic churches. The steeple at the beginning is that of St. Joseph's. Most of the first 45 seconds, in fact, are St. Joseph's, except 0:17-0:24. Sweetest Heart of Mary is the one with the red exterior. The interior shots are also Sweetest Heart of Mary. My only complaint: this video is too short!

My Hauer and Wolfschlager ancestors attended St. Joseph's.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Genealogical Trick or Treat

For all the big kids who are dressing up as family history buffs for Halloween, here are a few tasty morsels.

First, we have an interesting piece at Atlas Obscura about the Mormon Genealogical Archives.  I was interested to learn that I'm not the only one worried about water leaking into the basement! Atlas Obscura found this story in a Long Now blogpost by Alexander Rose titled The Mormon Vault. There are no public tours of the archives, but Rose and environmentalist Stewart Brand were given a private tour. (People of my g-g-generation will recognize the name Steward Brand; he was the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog.) Blue jean lint... who knew?

Second, in the course of transcribing some of my old journals, I ran across mention of a novel I'd read some years ago by British author Penelope Lively. I didn't remember anything about the book, so I looked it up online and found that Ms. Lively has authored quite a few books, both fiction and nonfiction. There are two that I think will be of interest to family historians. One is called Dancing Fish and Ammonites (first published in Great Britain in 2013 as Ammonites and Leaping Fish). Ms. Lively, at the age of 80, begins the Preface by saying, "This is not quite a memoir. Rather, it is the view from old age."  Chapter titles are Old Age, Life and Times, Memory, Reading and Writing, and Six Things. Ms. Lively weaves the past and present together masterfully. One of my first thoughts upon reading this book was that I had already planned to write about these things myself one o' these days, but she's done a much better job of it than I will (which is not to say that I won't do it now, but maybe I'll do it better than I would have without such a good role model).

The other is called A House Unlocked. It's about a home owned by her family for seventy years. In the Preface, she writes: "The house as I knew it exists now only in the mind. In my head, I can still move easily and vividly around it. The furnishings are precise and clear, the sounds and smells are as they ever were... I can move around my memory house and focus upon different objects. The house itself becomes a prompt--a system of reference, an assemblage of coded signs. Its contents conjure up a story..." For those of us who enjoy writing about our family history, both of these books are well worth reading. They're certain to broaden the way you think about the topic.

The third and final morsel in my trick-or-treat bowl is available only to a select few, my direct-line descendants who are old enough to read, of whom there are seven. Each one of these seven is eligible to claim a five-dollar bill, or possibly more, by following the directive steps below:

1) Leave a comment on this post telling me how you happened upon it.

2) There is a private Contact form below the Before My Time header. Use it to advise me of your current address so I can mail the fiver to you.

3) There is a total of $35 in the bowl. It will be divided among only those of my direct descendants who follow steps 1 & 2 above. Therefore, your treat will be larger or smaller, depending upon how many sticky fingers reach into the bowl. Your interest is best served, then, by keeping this offer to yourself.

4) Deadline: Midnight, October 31, 2014.

Trick or treat!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Book Notes: Alfred Street by Russell McLauchlin (and now, an index!)

Alfred Street (Burton Historical Collection)

The other day I was talking with a cousin about someone in our family tree who lived on Arndt Street in Detroit. I thought I'd read a book about life on Arndt Street, but when I tried to look it up, I couldn't find it. Thinking it might have been another street, I looked at a map and realized, yes, it was Alfred Street, not Arndt. I'd enjoyed the book, so yesterday I walked my dog to the library to check it out again.

The author, Russell McLauchlin, was a music and drama critic for The Detroit News, and many of the essays in the book originally appeared in the Town Talk column therein. His career spanned more than three decades in the first half of the twentieth century.

Born in Detroit in 1894, McLauchlin wrote these essays about the community where he spent his childhood in the very early 1900s. My grandma Evelyn Hauer was also born in Detroit in 1894, so for me, McLauchlin's stories provide a sense of what life would have been like when she was a kid. Also, Alfred Street is pleasantly inspirational for any reader who aspires to write up some of his own childhood memories.

Written in 1946, the Preface of Alfred Street begins with this disorienting description:
     Alfred Street still exists. It runs at right angles to Woodward Avenue, less than a mile from the center of Detroit, just as it always did. It is now in what city-planners call a blighted area. The elms were long ago torn down. No representative of the old neighbor-families remains. The houses, mostly standing as they stood a half-century ago, are dismal structures. Some have night-blooming grocery stores in their front yards. Some have boarded windows. All stand in bitter need of paint and repair.
     It is a desolate street; a scene of poverty and chop-fallen gloom; possibly of worse things.
Wait a sec... when was that written? Sixty-eight years ago? Seriously? Well, here's the current state of things on the McLauchlin boy's block of Alfred Street:

View Larger Map

Only four of the twelve houses remain standing. In the foreground is 63 Alfred (point A), home of Alanson & Cornelia Fox and Cornelia's sister Mary Stebbins. Next was 69 Alfred (Ransom Gillis), 77 (McLauchlin family and Mary Doyle), 81 (Thomas McGraw), 83 (McFarland), 85 (Prosser), 91 (Machen, Burn, and boarders--the boxy house still standing), 97 (Zengerle), 99 (Abrey), 105 (Lhommedien--still standing), 113 (Vail--still standing), and 115 (Ling). [Names taken from the 1900 census.] All houses on the even-numbered side of Alfred Street are gone now. 

Update: The image above is supposed to be a street-view of the McLauchlin family's block of Alfred Street, not a map. If it's showing up as a map for you, you'll have to click through for the street view. And in a bizarre coincidence, I've just gotten a link in my Facebook feed to this article about the filming of Batman v. Superman on Alfred Street--in fact, in the same house shown above! Speaking of which, this house is referred to as the Ransom Gillis house, not the Alanson Fox house. I believe that's because Ransom Gillis lived here first. The house at 63 Alfred was built in 1876-1878 according to the Deadline Detroit article, and Ransom Gillis was enumerated at that address in the 1880 census (at which time, it appears, the house at 69 Alfred had not been built yet).

Maurice Greenia, Jr. has written a perfectly good post about Alfred Street in Detroit and has included links to some other interesting related items, so I see no need to reinvent that wheel. But as far as I know, the book Alfred Street has not been name-indexed. So, to help Google-searchers find the references to Detroiters mentioned in McLauchlin's stories, here ya go:

Index of People Mentioned in Alfred Street by Russell McLauchlin

Allen, Sylvia and Julia - 95

Barclay, Miss (taught First Presbyterian Sunday school primary class) - 74-76
Blessed, John (grocer) - 59
Brenton, Dr. (veterinarian) - 82
Brudel, George - 29-30
Burke, Maggie - 33

Dixon, Percy - 62-63
Doyle, Mary (77 Alfred Street, with the McLauchlin family) - 45-47, 89

Foster, Frank (milkman) - 59
Fox, Alanson & Cornelia - 95 (not mentioned by name, sister & brother-in-law of Mary Stebbins, 63 Alfred Street)
Freer, Charles L. - 49-50

Goebbels, Dr. - 43

Hanley, Mr. - 82
Hastrup, Frank (38 Frank Street) - 23
Hawkins, Rebecca (nurse) - 85-86
Henning, Miss (possibly Marie, a teacher per 1900 census) - 44

Imrie, Dr. (Andrew W., per 1900 census) - 59, 84-85
Imrie, Walter - 85

Jennings, Dr. (pastor, First Presbyterian) - 36, 76

----, Minnie (possibly Kief, per 1900 census, 76 Alfred Street) - 68

Lyons, Mrs. (First Presbyterian organist) - 74-76

Marshall, Ethel - 61-63
McGraw, Tom and Minnie (Maria L. in census, 81 Alfred Street) - 33-35
McGregor, Mr. (superintendent of First Presbyterian Sunday school) - 74-76
McHenry, James Galbraith - 85
McLauchlin, Hannah (nee McDonald, 77 Alfred Street) - 36-38
McLauchlin, Isabella Flora (77 Alfred Street) - 95-97
Morris, Emily (66 Alfred Street) - 83
Morris, Frederick Lambert (66 Alfred Street) - Preface, 24, 30, 54, 95
Morris, Marion (female) (66 Alfred Street) - 66
Muir, (James & Isabel per 1900 census, 76 Alfred Street) - 67-68

Robinson, Cass (First Presbyterian Sunday school teacher) - 75-76

Schwartz, Miss (German teacher) - 61-63
Scott, Jim (he of the Belle Isle fountain) - 64-65
Skinner, Jack - 62
Slater, Dick - 53-54
Standish family (James, Jennie, Jane and James per 1900/1910 census, 74 Alfred Street) - 65
Stark, George W. - Foreword, Preface
Stebbins, Mary - 95

Taylor, Elisha - 31-33
Templeton, Miss (probably Kathrine, dry goods merchant per 1900 census, 777 Woodward) - 39-40

Van Horn, Miss (probably Hattie, dressmaker on High Street off Woodward per 1900 census) - 40-41

Walker, Mr., of Walker's Drug Store - 85-86
Watt, Mr. & Mrs. (possibly Henry & Martha, who owned a candy & cigar store at 731 Woodward,
          a few doors from Kathrine Templeton's dry goods store, per 1900 census) - 52-53
White (possibly Albert & Nellie at 61 Alfred Street--only their barn is mentioned) - 23
Wood, D. (David?) - 27

Crazy Mary, an ancient Negro laundress - 26
Pee-Wee Ben, an elderly imbecile, short, bearded, and lame - 27-28
Forsyth's grocery store - 43
Clark, Mrs. (there were several, all laundresses) - 87-89
Singer, Mrs. Fred (laundress) - 87-89

actors/performers mentioned on pp. 90-94:
William Gillette, Herbert Kelcey, Thomas E. Shea, Hanlon, Harry Kellar (magic), Mantell, David Higgins

McLauchlin, Russell Jachne. Alfred Street. Detroit: Conjure House, 1946. 


The McLauchlin family in the 1900 census

1897 Sanborn map of Alfred Street ~ In this block, 
only 63, 91, 105 and 113 were still standing when Google made their 2013 street view images.

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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