Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Given names, middle names, and surnames, oh my!

In my quest to find out as much information as I can about my family history, I usually search by surnames. It is just an easier and much faster method to identify my ancestors. However, there are quite a number of times after hitting a few brickwalls, that I've just used the given name and a birth date and bingo! there they are! Of course it doesn't happen all that often, but enough for me to almost automatically search that way when I hit a brickwall. Middle names are often unknown, or your ancestor just used an initial. I have ancestors who named their children; Marie Isabelle Boudreau, Marie Mary Boudreau, Marie Elizabeth Boudreau-all in the same family, the same parents. It can create a few struggles (and headaches) searching and connecting ancestors.
After receiving all of the Sommer information from Oakwoods Cemetery, I started a little research into this new "branch" of my family tree. What I found out pretty quickly was that several of my ancestors used their middle names instead of their given names. Upon receiving the marriage certificates and death certificates of several of my Sommer ancestors and reviewing federal census records, I quickly discovered that Jacob Sommer was Frederick Jacob Sommer and that James Sommer was Philip James Sommer.
Some people just prefer to be called by their middle name or a nick name instead of their given name. Such is the case with a couple of my first cousins who are known by their middle names. If I was to mention my cousin "Arlene," very few people, if any, would know who I was referring to. She uses the name Terry, short for Therese. My cousin was named after my beloved mother Arlene, but prefers to use a nick name for her middle name. Are you following me here? Imagine trying to find her on a census record one hundred years from now!
My GG Grandfather Marion Albert Hanaway was known by "Bert," short for Albert. He is listed as Marion Hanaway on some census records, and as Bert Hanaway on other census records. You just have to keep plugging away in your research.
Lesson learned: when you can't connect a family member with their surname try their given name and when you can't find them by their given name, well then try their middle name or even a nick name. It can certainly get a little complicated trying to find our ancestors!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sommer family at Oakwoods Cemetery

Last Sunday my cousin Terry and I searched the final resting place of Katherine Ball, in Oakwoods Cemetery located here in Chicago. We searched and searched for Katherine's grave to no avail. I sent a letter to the cemetery asking for some help and Kim in the office at Oakwoods was kind enough to call me and give me a lot of information! So, this afternoon, three of my children and I stopped at Oakwoods Cemetery again believing we would be lucky and find our "missing ancestors".
Boy did we luck out too! My youngest son Jeremy, found a very large monument with the name Sommer on it. (Kids can move around cemeteries so much easier than adults!) Sommer is Katherine's maiden name. Katherine does not have a marker on her grave but, Kim told me that she is buried in the Sommer family plot. Not only is Katherine buried there but so are fourteen other relatives! Here is the breakdown...
Katherine Ball, Julia Sommer-----Katherine's sister, Phillip J. Sommer----Julia's husband, Frederick J. Sommer and his wife Elizabeth Sommer, Jacob F. Sommer and his wife Phillipina Sommer, William J. Buis and his wife Margaret Buis and Elizabeth J. Eberhart.
Elizabeth Sommer, Anna Sommer, Frederick Sommer, Arthur Sommer and Ernest Sommer.
Wow! I took pictures of each and every marker. Of course I researched some dates of marriages and dates of death for everyone I could find. Once again I contacted Cynthia at Chicago Genealogy to copy as many of those death certificates and marriage certificates that she can find!
Searching Ancestry from my local library I was able to find many of these relatives on the Federal Census records. For instance, on the 1900 federal census Julia and Philip have two children Elsa (10yrs) and Philip (8 yrs). Frederick and his wife Elizabeth are also living with them. I believe that Frederick and Elizabeth are Philip's parents only because they had been married forty years in 1900 and Philip was 37 years old at that time.
I now have some work to do, putting all these relatives on my family tree! There's lots more research to do now as well, what with all these additional Sommer relatives and their descendants. Plus, I am not absolutely sure of how some of them connect to the others.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Katherine Sommer Ball

I finally have in my possession a copy of my GG Grandmother Katherine Sommer Ball's death certificate. I would like to thank Molly who copied several death certificates for me including Katherine's from the Illinois State Library records. Again, a great resource for state vital record copies and lookups outside of Cook County. She responded to my request and I received the death certificates in less than five days! What terrific service!
As I look at Katherine's death certificate, I think of how long it actually took to get to this point. Ten years ago I did not even know her name. Five years ago, I had a little information, not much really, her name and that she was born somewhere in Germany. Today, I see that she died a widow in Kankakee. I now have her birth date, although I think the year may be off a little. Her death certificate indicates that her occupation was a graduate nurse. There was a family story that she was a doctor. However, what I really have now are even more questions. Why did she move around so much? Was it because of her occupation? More importantly, why did she move to Kankakee when she had lived in Chicago from 1885 to 1922? What was her relationship like with her only child, my G Grandmother Alma?
What I need to do is start a timeline on Katherine and try to fill in as many pieces of her life span as possible with the facts that I know.
See, another door is opened in my research. This is what happens, you get a vital record and the search goes on and on and on!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One piece at a time....

Today was absolutely a WONDERFUL day. One of my many brickwalls was toppled! Thanks to Cynthia at Chicago Genealogy I have a copy of the death notice of my GG Grandmother Katharine Ball which was published in the Chicago Tribune. She died in Kankakee County, Illinois on April 8, 1923. She was waked here in Chicago and is buried in Oakwoods Cemetery. So, of course you know where I will be visiting this weekend! Who knows maybe Charles is buried there as well. Cynthia was kind enough to help me along using the last known address for Charles and Katherine. I gave her the information, she used her resources (Chicago Death Index which is different from the Illinois State Death Index) and her mojo and down came my brickwall! I cannot thank her enough. Check out her website--Chicago Genealogy. I've used them quite a number of times now and have been very satisfied. Plus, they provide copies of marriage and death certificates for a far more reasonable fee than the Cook County Clerk's office and they are so much faster!
Katharine's death notice mentioned that she had a sister Julia. Another family connection! With a little time on my hands this evening I did a little searching and have requested Julia's marriage certificate (she married a man named James Sommer, how weird is that?) and both Julia and Jame's death certificates. Where did I request them from you wonder? Where else but Chicago Genealogy!
I know that I have mentioned several times about using the archives section of the Chicago Tribune. In fact I have access to the entire collection from about 1885 to the present time. Sometimes however, it can really be like searching for a needle in a haystack. I have a list of about 75 "Ball" death notices between 1907 and 1930. In the last two years I have only had time to search for about thirty four of those and of course, none I searched were the correct relative. Believe it or not, it is very time consuming to pull the film and look through it only to discover that the relative you are looking for is not the one published. Sounds like I'm whining, but once in a blue moon you hit the jack pot when searching through microfilm. Remember how lucky I was when I found the marriage announcement for Katherine and Charles? That was a great find!
So, I am clearly a happy amateur genealogist this evening.....I think I will have a bit of trouble going to sleep tonight, thinking of more paths to take with this new information....where will they lead????

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Charles Ball and Theophillus Denno

Well, after waiting for quite some time, I received a letter from the Cook County Clerk's Office, indicating that they searched the years 1899 through 1907 and were unable to locate a death certificate for my GG Grandfather Charles Ball. So my search will have to go elsewhere. I am not sure where to look now, but will keep on trying. Of course, I still have no idea when my GG Grandmother Katharine Ball died either. Just another brickwall.
Now, onto another GG Grandfather- Theophillus (Theopolis) Deneau (Denno, Deno). I did receive a copy of my GG Grandparents Belle and Theopolis' marriage certificate, dated January 18, 1881! They were married in Newton County, Indiana as I have mentioned before. It is such an awesome feeling to actually have a copy of the original document. There really is nothing like a vital record to keep an amateur genealogist happy!

The Family

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck

Genealogy Pox, author unknown


SYMPTOMS: Continual complaint as to need for names, dates and places. Patient has a blank expressions, sometimes deaf to spouse and children. Has no taste for work of any kind, except feverishly looking through records at libraries and courthouses.
Has a compulsion to write letters. Swears at mailman when he doesn't leave mail. Frequents strange places such as cemeteries, ruins, and remote desolate country areas. Makes secret night calls and hides phone bills from spouse. Mumbles to self. Has strange, faraway look in eyes.


TREATMENT: Medication is useless. This disease is not fatal, but gets progressively worse. Patient should attend genealogy workshops, subscribe to genealogical magazines and be given a quiet corner in the house where he/she can be alone.

REMARKS: The unusual nature of this disease is that the sicker the patient gets, the more he or she enjoys it!