Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014: Year of the Crumbling Family Mysteries? + My Brick Walls (v. long post ahead)

It's been a while since I've written but I'm just now getting some time to write about my recent discoveries. I have had some luck lately when it comes to some of the mysteries that exist in my family.

Georg Brandmueller
The first was that of Georg Brandmueller. Born in Steudach, Bavaria, Georg emigrated to Baltimore in 1847 and a year later married Johanna Hoeninger. They raised a family in Baltimore, amid some issues due to apparent mental instability of Johanna. She died in 1865 and in 1870, Georg shows up in Springfield, Dane Co., Wisconsin living near his half sister, Anna Margaretha Brandmueller Weller. Living with him is his son John, but it is uncertain where his daughter Margaretha is at this time.

After 1870 I had been unable to find Georg in any records. Shortly after this, the Wellers moved to Waseca, MN, and he is not living with his daughter Margaretha in 1880. He is also not living with his son John Martin. The church in Springfield had no record of Georg dying or otherwise being present. I had thought that perhaps Georg moved to Milwaukee, where his son ended up, but could find no evidence of this.

This past December, I discovered the bounty that is Probate records. I had never had the chance to delve into Dane County probate records before, but on this trip I looked in the index and found a few interesting names. On a whim, I decided to look at the index to see if there was a listing for Georg, even though I had found no evidence that he died in Dane County... to my amazement, there he was. The Archives room was silent and I had to try pretty hard to contain my excitement. I ordered the file and waited patiently.. Inside I found some interesting documents.

The very first page included a handwritten notice, stating that Georg Brandmueller had died 26 June 1874 (AHA!), leaving no will. It further states that he died "without leaving a widow or children of legal age to administer his Estate." (This is curious because his daughter Margaret was 24 at this time, so I'm not sure what the legal age was back then) A man named John Schurz was submitting this document to appeal for role of administrator of the estate, as he was already Georg Brandmueller's creditor.

John Schurz was approved as the administrator, and interestingly, the men who helped him appraise the estate included George Weller, Georg's brother-in-law. Georg left very few possessions, most of them relating to his business of shoemaking and repair.

My next step was- well, where was he buried? I still haven't answered that. I thought that perhaps there might be an obituary in a local paper, although I wasn't sure because obits were not very common in the 1870s. I checked the German language paper for Madison (the Wisconsin Botschafter- which is indexed under Monroe, WI, instead of Madison for some reason). I did find a very short notice, and what it said in the 2-3 sentences was very shocking. It mentioned that a shoemaker by the name Brandmueller had killed himself by cutting his wrists, and that there had been similar previous issues with his wife. It also stated that he left behind two children.

In that time period, the Catholic church very strongly frowned upon those who killed themselves, so much so that they were not permitted to be buried on consecrated ground. No wonder there was no record of his burial at the church, because there was no way he would have been buried there. Because of how little money he had, I doubt that where ever he was buried, was marked. So it seems that I may never find his final resting place. There are many small cemeteries in the area of Springfield/Corners and Martinsville, and  I tried looking through most of them at one point several years ago, not having any success. This may just be the final mystery of Georg, figuring out where he was buried, and unfortunately no one living may have the answer to that.

Everett Elisha Reynolds
The next mystery was that of my ancestor Everett Elisha Reynolds, another shoemaker, who appears to have been quite a colorful character. Everett was born in 1847 in North Bridgewater, MA, and moved with his family at a young age to Caribou, Aroostook Co., ME. He married in 1869, had several children. His wife died 7 years later, and most of the children died young (only one lived to adulthood). A few years after the death of his wife, Everett appears in Wisconsin, marries Catherine McConnell, and has three children (including my ancestor Alex Reynolds).

Around the time of the birth of the third child, Everett disappears from Wisconsin, leaving behind his family. There is an article written about 25 years later stating that he traveled to California, Scotland and several other places, and then appears in Massachusetts where he finds an old plow and tows it all the way home to his folks' place in Caribou, ME. The article mentions that much of the information they have is from a diary which belonged to Everett. Everett next appears in census records in Hartford and Canton, Maine, but is not present on the 1930 census.

After this time I was unable to determine where or when Everett lived and died. He had a gravestone next to his first wife in Green Ridge Cemetery, but there was no death date on the stone, indicating he may not be buried there. The gravestone did have an I.O.O.F symbol on it, so I decided to contact the Maine organization to see if they had any records of former members. I had tried this several years ago and gotten no response, but this year I received a response almost immediately, that they would look into it and let me know. They determined that there was an Everett Reynolds who died in Canton around that time, but the information from their records didn't list an exact death date.

I contacted the Town of Canton office to see if they could help. A couple of weeks later, I received a certified copy in the mail: They found that Everett had actually died 7 April 1937 (in Canton), making him almost 90 years old! The death record did list his parents so I could make sure it was actually him, and lucky for me it listed his burial location. I couldn't be more happy to have solved yet another mystery!

Remaining Mystery
Despite having finally determined where and when Everett Elisha Reynolds died, there are still a lot of questions- why did he leave Wisconsin? Why didn't he come back to his family? Or did he? I haven't found him in the 1900 census yet. The biggest question I have, and which I think could answer a lot more questions, is where on earth is that diary of his? Does it still exist, and does it include information on why he left his Wisconsin family behind?

I have sent many queries over the years to various historical societies, hoping to locate the diary (or at least, if it doesn't exist anymore, to gain that knowledge). The new death information caused me to revisit everything I knew about Everett. As such an elusive and colorful ancestor, I have spent a lot of time tracking as much information down about him as I can. I had found a newspaper article from 1926 which was written by O.B. Griffin, which details Everett's biography and the story of bringing the plow back to Caribou. It [in]conveniently mentions nothing about his connections to Wisconsin.

The plow had been donated to the Caribou Historical Society eventually. I had contacted them and they had sent me photocopies of various articles and other things which related to the plow or the Reynolds family, and one of them was a typescript copy from the 1980s which was written by a Stacy Griffin and mentioned that he was transcribing directly from the diary. So, it seems that the diary was still around in the mid-1980s... but what about now? I kept looking at this photocopies and then tried to determine what the relationship is between O.B. Griffin, author of the original story, and Stacy Griffin, author of a later typescript. It turns out they were father and son.

All of a sudden wheels started turning-- if O.B. was writing a detailed account of information from this diary in 1926 and 60 years later, his son was transcribing information from the same diary... could it be possible that the Griffin family has this diary, or knows where it may be? I rushed to contact my acquaintance, Jim, who lives in the Caribou area, as it is a lowly populated area and I figured he might know of Stacy Griffin or other Griffin relatives. He did know of a nephew of Stacy, who I called about two weeks ago. He did not personally know anything about the diary, but he stated that he knew of two people who may have some idea of it. I am waiting now to hear back from him, but am very excited to perhaps being close to solving yet another mystery. Even if it turns out that the diary was destroyed and no longer exists, at least I will have that peace of mind. I do hope that the diary, or perhaps a full transcription, may reside within the Griffin family, and am looking forward to trying to find out for sure.

My Other Brick Walls & Mysteries
(In alphabetical order)

Johann Diebold:
Where was Johann/John Diebold born, and who were his parents? His death record states that the names of his parents were Joseph and Margaret Diebold, with no maiden name listed for his mother. There is no town of birth listed. Various census records indicate he was born in the Alsace region of France/Germany. His death notice written by his wife Adelheid, states only that he was born in "Elsass-Zabern," or Alsace-Saverne, on the 18th of July, 1828. A recently discovered 1860 census for him in New York states that he was born in "Strasburg" or Strasbourg as it is written today.

The nice thing about this region of the cities of Strasbourg and Saverne is that the records appear to all be online ( The bad thing is, Johann does not appear to have been born in either of those cities directly, but perhaps in a local village or neighboring town. I have spent a long time looking through towns from the Bas-Rhin region on that site, finding various scatterings of Diebolds in the records- but no Johann so far. What to do? Look through records for every village, town and city in the Bas-Rhin region and hope I find him??

Wilhelmine Hammel:
According to her death record, Wilhelmine Hammel Liebenow was born 30 January 1830 in Germany. There was no place name listed. Her parents were listed as Gottfried and Louisa Hammel. What seems apparent is that she and Christian Liebenow were married in Germany, as their son Ferdinand Liebenow was born in Blumberg, Brandenburg, Germany. Christian was born in Passow, which is relatively close to Blumberg, and my guess would therefore be that Wilhelmine was born in Blumberg and that they were married in Blumberg as well. This is based on the tradition of the man marrying the woman at her home church, and then staying in her home town to raise their children. Because this is just speculation, I will need to prove this. I have not been sure where to begin looking and will need to research specific Archives in the area which may hold the answer I'm looking for.

Louis Hess:
Louis Hess was born October 8th, 1851- but where? And who are his parents? All records indicate that he was born in Alsace-Lorraine. His death record lists a father, Killian Hess, born in France. Other than that, neither his naturalization record nor immigration record list a town of birth, making it pretty near impossible to determine where to look for a birth record and further search on his ancestry. Unless I look through every town in the Alsace region ( for a birth record for Louis. That would take a very long time to do.

James Hurst:
Where was he born? And, really, when? His death record states he was born 1 Sept 1832 in County Mayo, Ireland, but no town name is given. Every single census record has a different approximate birth year, including- 1833, 1834, 1836, and 1840. The 1900 census even states he was born in May of 1837- so which is it? I haven't begun to look in Ireland for records, as I haven't determined where to even start. The nice thing is, his death record lists his parents as Michael Hurst and Catherine O'Neill, if we can trust that in the light of all of the mixed up potential years and dates of birth.

John Mayville:
We have DNA evidence which links me and my Mayville line to the immigrant ancestor, Pierre Miville, who was born in Switzerland in the early 17th century. Based on various DNA evidence, we have been linked to Pierre's son Jacques and his wife, Marie Catharine De Baillon (a Filles du Roi). The problem is we have never found definitive evidence of who the parents of John Mayville (b. ca. 1790-1792 according to census records) are. My fellow Miville descendant, Carroll, has spent a long time researching the French Canadians and concluded that based his information, our John Mayville is likely the son of Jean Minville and Marie-Veronique Richard.

Since that original DNA test several years ago, DNA testing has gotten more advanced. Through Ancestry DNA, my grandfather Mayville has taken the test and his DNA has matched closely with others who appear to be descended from Marie-Veronique's parents and grandparents, as well as several who are descended from Jean Minville's mother (Marie-Jeanne Fache)'s parents. Is this definitive proof? Not for me. Anyone can have anything in their family tree, and with how much intermarrying occurred in French Canada, it is sure possible that regardless of my actual lineage, we would match closely with some of these same individuals based on that fact alone. The DNA testing has given me good hope that our belief in John Mayville's parentage is correct, however, I still need hard evidence.

The issue here is I still have not been able to determine when or where John Mayville died. It is believed he died in the DePere or Wrightstown area where he had a farm, but I've found no death record, no death date, and nothing to go off of. The last record I have of him is on 23 Dec 1867 when he and his wife Susan deed land to their daughter Rebecca and her husband George Bowers. John Mayville does not appear on the 1870 census, as far as I have been able to find, making it likely that he died shortly after ridding himself of the land in December of 1867.

Going back further, we have not yet found records (church or otherwise) for the marriage of John Mayville and Susan Reynolds, nor for the births of their children, in Vermont. John was certainly born in Canada, and he first appears on tax rolls in Swanton, Vermont, from 1819 to 1823. Susan's father, Silas, also appears in tax rolls around the same time period, making it likely that they were married in Swanton. However, I still need to find record of that. In 1836 John is given land in Highgate, Vermont. Both of these towns are relatively close to the border with Canada, and the family appears to have moved back and forth between the two towns rather fluidly.

So, I still need to find record of both John Mayville's marriage and death, and I would like to find birth records for their children, if possible.

Alex McConnell:
According to his death record, Alexander McConnell, a prominent businessman in the Jefferson (WI) area, was born on June 8th in 1824, in Perry County, Pennsylvania. There are no parents' names listed. The problem is I cannot find a birth record, and the only Historical Society in the area of Perry County requires $50 for a short search of their records. So far I haven't determined that to be an amount of money I can afford for what would be a search with possibly no results. I would like to track down local churches in the area and see if there is more information there, but have so far been unsuccessful as I do not know where to look for that information.

In Jefferson, it seems that Alex was a member of the Evangelical church, and I would like to look for records there which might hold more clues to Alex's ancestry, but I don't know if this church still exists, and where any possible records may be from this time period.

Mary Ann McGee:
According to her death record from Fond du Lac county, Wisconsin, Mary Ann McGee was born February 27, 1827 in Pompton Township, Passaic County, New Jersey. Her parents' names are not listed, but census records state that both her mother and father were born in New York. As has been so often the case on this list, I have not been able to find a birth record for Mary Ann in New Jersey, as I have not known what church to target to look for, and I am unfamiliar with research in New Jersey.

Ernestine Schassow? Or Ulrith?:
This seems to be the woman of a thousand names. The death record of her daughter, Augusta Koch Liebenow, states her name as Ernestine Schassow. On census records in Pennsylvania, however, her name appears to actually be Christina, and this is confirmed by her death record in Carrick, Allegheny Co., PA. This death record states she was born 25 August 1832.

A man who is related to me through her husband's family (the Koch family) was able to look at the records in Germany for the Koch family, and also sent me information on their marriage, which took place in Bagemuehl, a small town pretty close to Penkun, which is where her husband, Ernest Koch was born. This marriage record indicated that she was born in Bagemuehl.

From other information, I knew that the family belonged to Smithfield E.E. Lutheran church in the Pittsburgh area, and a man there sent me his transcription of her death record, which stated that in fact her maiden name was actually Ulrith, and that she was born in "Strsethof," Pomerania as he wrote it, although he noted that it was quite difficult to read. There is a town in West Pomerania that today is in Poland and is Strzesz√≥w (Stresow in German), but this place is relatively far from Bagemuehl where she was supposedly married to Ernest Koch. Because I couldn't see the record with my own eyes, I have to doubt this church record, or at least hold it to a different light, than the other evidence available.

The next step is to try to locate a birth/baptismal record for her in Germany (or Poland, as the case may be), but it is complicated by the fact that there are two possible maiden names for her (or perhaps one of them was another married name?). I have sent for the death records of her two sons to see if they may shed light on what her name really was.

Peter Tice:
Peter Tice has also been elusive. I have yet to prove who his parents were, as well as when and where he and his wife Elizabeth Romaine died. There is no definitive proof of his parentage. The only true record I have of him is of his marriage to Elizabeth Romaine on 28 Jan 1819. This marriage record does not list his parents. I have also not been able to determine when he died. There are several dates speculated, including that he died in Michigan in 1855, but the obituary for that person does not clearly match what is known about our Peter Tice. That, and he seems to be in Pompton, Passaic Co., NJ, still on the 1860 census. I have not found evidence that he followed his son Ralph to Wisconsin, so it seems likely that he may have died in New Jersey.

Another source has speculated that he died in 1863, however this will does not mention either of his first three known children, John, Letitia and Ralph Tice, only those who appear on later census records. This in itself raises suspicion of whether we have the right Peter Tice on those later census records, but again, it has been difficult to find records which support either an earlier or later death date.

An interesting factor is the recent DNA testing my grandmother underwent (her mother was Blanche Tice). She matched closely (supposedly in the range of 4th cousins), with a woman who descends from Anna Tice b. ca. 1763 and married a Ferris Doty. In the Tice Families in America book, the authors speculated, but could not prove, that Anna's parents were Hendrick Tysse and Fytje Vreeland. Also speculated was that she had a brother named Peter Tice, by the same parents. There is a record of a Peter Tice being born on 30 Jul 1796. There is no record of Anna Tice being born to Hendrick and Fytje, in fact, if she was born in 1763, that would be a whole 12 years before record of their first known child being born, in 1775. However, in that same church, there is a record for an Antje (Anna) Tysse being born 31 Jul 1766 to a Johannes and Maria Tysse. In speculation, this Johannes Tysse may have been a brother to Hendrick Tysse, making Anna b. 1766 the first cousin of Peter b. 1796- and if this indeed was able to be proven as my Peter Tice, then it would indeed fit with how closely my grandmother and this other woman have matched on the DNA site (4th cousin with 96% confidence).

Is there a record somewhere of Peter's death (and Elizabeth Romaine Tice's, too, for that matter)? Can that lead us to the names of his parents? At this point I'm running out of places to look, but also am unfamiliar with most resources in the New Jersey area.

John & Bridget Walsh:
I know virtually nothing about these two. They are the parents of my ancestor, Mary Ann Walsh Hurst. She was supposedly born in Galway, Ireland, but it is unclear if this was County Galway or the city of Galway. Making it more difficult is how ridiculously common her name is, coupled with the ridiculously commonplace names of her parents. The obvious starting point is locating her birth record in Ireland, but I do not know where or how to begin, so there isn't much to go from as far as determining more about John and Bridget Walsh. I have obtained death records for both of their other daughters who lived to adulthood, Anna Walsh Ryan and Bridget Walsh Busby, and they list their parents as unknown or as how I have written them- nobody seems to have known mother Bridget's maiden name.

Amazingly, there is a picture of Bridget from the early 1890s shortly before she died. But we know almost nothing about her. She died 12 April 1895 in Waunakee, and the death record indicates she was born in February of 1809 in Ireland, but no further information about where she was born nor who her parents were.

John is even less well known. The only information on him comes from his gravestone in St. Mary of the Lake cemetery, which stated that he was born in 1811 and died in 1878 (not lucky enough that the stone listed exact dates). I have tried contacting the church for information, as they should certainly have at least a burial date for him if not a more complete record, but so far they have been unwilling or unable to provide information on him. So, John Walsh, one of thousands with that same name, remains a complete mystery.

Simon Walter / Walther:
Where was Simon Walter born, and who were his parents? For a long time I knew virtually nothing about Simon other than his name (which seems to vary sometimes as Simeon (death record @ his German Ev. Lutheran church), Seaman (1860 census), and Samuel (1880 census)). I accidentally came across a findagrave record for him, stating he was buried in St. John's Lutheran Church's cemetery in Oak Creek, and soon contacted the church inquiring about records. I'm sure I've written about this in the past, but they allowed me to come in person to take a look at the church registers, and view Simon's death/burial record. This record provided a birth date of April 10, 1810, and stated that he was born in "Neubeuren bf. Wiesenfeld."

So what's the problem? Well... from every single person I've ever asked, German native or not, there doesn't seem to be a place called Neubeuren that exists near a place called Wiesenfeld. Scattered throughout Germany are a variety of towns called either Neubeuren, Wiesenfeld, or some variation of either name, but never are they near one another.

Further complicating this: I don't know what German state to even start looking in. Each census listed a different birth location for Simon. The 1860 census stated he was from Hanover, the 1870 census stated he was from Prussia, and the 1880 census stated he was from Bayern (Bavaria). I tried looking at old maps to see if any point any of these places really overlapped and I could find nothing (although I am certainly not an expert on mid-19th century Germany localities.

I could start asking Archives located near ever possible town named Neubeuren or Wiesenfeld, but most of them charge a fortune (thanks, dollar, for being worth so much less than the euro), so it isn't financially plausible to do that and hope I hit the right place. So if anyone has any suggestions on where this place could be, that would be very helpful.