Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 19, 2015

Geneva History Museum

While I pondered about a genealogical to-do list for my recent trip to Chicago, I submitted a question to the Rootsweb ILKane mailing list:

“Hello all,

My 3rd great-grandmother Helena (nee Åman) Tolf died 13 Jan 1901. According to her obituaries, she died in Batavia and is buried at West Batavia Cemetery. But neither Kane County nor the cemetery has any records of this.

One obituary states “The funeral will be held Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. from the house and 2:30 from the Swedish Methodist church on McKee street.”

If that was the case, would a funeral home be involved? I imagine someone in an official capacity would have had to move her body from the house to the church and then to the cemetery. My hope is that records of this exist.

Is anyone on the list familiar with funeral homes that may have existed in Batavia in 1901? And would you know if records exist today for these establishments? Perhaps someone can point me toward extant records from the McKee Street Church?

I sent a request to the Batavia Historical Society RE funeral homes last week but haven’t heard anything yet.

I’ll be in Illinois in April and hope to visit Helena’s final resting place; any help figuring out where that is would be greatly appreciated!”

I received the following response to my query:

2015 04-18 Geneva History Museum“Subject: Re: [ILKANE] Batavia funeral homes in 1901?

Hello Laura-

You may want to visit the Kane County Genealogical Society when you visit in April.  We have indexed the Skoglund Funeral Home records and it is possible that information about the person of interest is there.

Our office hours are 12-4 on Thursday afternoons.  However, if this is not convenient, we can schedule pre-arranged alternate times.  This schedule is dependent upon when the Geneva History Museum is open.  Generally, they are closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Our office is located on the lower floor of the History Center.  The address is 113 South Third Street Geneva.

If you would like more information please contact us directly at

Best regards, Susan Lye/Kane County Genealogical Society

Husband and I arrived at the Museum about 2pm Thursday. There is a reception desk just inside the door. After greeting us, the woman seated there asked if we had an appointment. I said we didn’t, but I had been encouraged to view an index held by the genealogical society. She directed us to the lower level.

A small group of people were gathered in the research room near the bottom of the stairs. Two people were viewing films at separate readers and a couple people were looking at an old record book. One woman looked up and asked if she could help us.

I explained that I had come to view the funeral home database. “Do you have an appointment?” she asked. I told her about my email exchange regarding the funeral home database and that I understood the records could only be viewed Thursday afternoons…

“Let’s take a look,” she said and led us to a small office nearby.

The funeral home database contains more than just the Skoglund records. The woman searched the database for Helena Tolf and variations thereof. No luck. She asked about a maiden name (Åman) and searched again. No luck. There were a group of Omans – the way Åman is pronounced – and the database directed us to the specific microfilm on which those records would appear.

Our genealogy guide found the film, loaded it on the reader and scrolled through pages and pages of church records. The result? Omans who were part of a church confirmation class. Drat!

Suggestions were offered for alternative methods of tracking down Helena’s elusive final resting place. I’d already tried all of them. Double drat!

I mentioned that my next stop was to be the Batavia Public Library. I thought a city directory might list funeral homes in existence at the time of Helena’s death. Maybe they would have a record of the funeral and information about her burial. This idea was met with affirmative nods all around.

Husband and I thanked everyone for their help and went on our way. But we made another stop on the way to the library…

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 17, 2015

Gail Borden Public Library

You may be surprised to learn how Elgin Illinois’ Gail Borden Public Library in got it’s name. I certainly was!

According to Wikipedia, “In 1892, Samuel and Alfred Church, stepsons of [Mr. Gail] Borden and residents of Elgin, Illinois, purchased and donated the Scofield Mansion at 50 N. Spring Street to house a new library for the residents of Elgin. Samuel and Alfred’s only request was that the library be forever and always known and called the Gail Borden Public Library.”

The Genealogy Resources page on the library’s web site is well organized and informative. I was particularly interested in the Elgin Newspaper and Vital Record’s Index. Don’t be fooled by the limited dates listed on the web site; the index is much larger than it appears.

My focus of late has been on Alma Mueller, the daughter of my 2nd great-grandparents Jacob and Elise (nee Schmitt) Mueller. Alma married John McBane and lived in Elgin for thirty years. A quick search on McBane in the index (from the comfort of my home) resulted in this:

2015 04-17 Snip 1 Gail Borden Public Library

This information made locating John’s obituary a snap in the library’s extensive microfilm collection. Unfortunately Alma did not appear in the online index. She died 10 Jun 1967.

The microfilm collection is on the second floor. Turn right at the top of the winding staircase. A woman seated at the desk in that area greeted us as soon as we arrived. She provided a quick tour of the area and guidance in the use of new-to-us equipment.

The microfilm reader is super slick and easy to use once you get the hang of it. The biggest challenge for me was finding the correct drive (“i” as it turns out) for saving my images. Of course that was after encountering my first challenge – a forgotten flash drive! No worries – the library has those available for purchase – whew!

Motion-sickness sufferers may want to look away while scrolling through the films; the images blur significantly as they whiz by. They are crystal clear when they stop and the microfilm reader offers lots of focusing, sizing and cropping options.

My to-do list included an obituary search for Alma and I was fortunate to find one in the Daily Courier. There was no cost to save images of the pages I scanned to my newly purchased flash drive.

Overall this library rated a 10 in my book – helpful staff, modern equipment, plenty of spacious work stations, tremendous resources.

Subsequent stops on this trip to Chicagoland provided new reasons to visit the Gail Borden Public Library, but it’ll have to wait.

Next stop? The Geneva History Museum!


Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 16, 2015

The Thousand Mile Journey

Chicago, Chicago, that toddling town.

Husband and I recently enjoyed four fun-filled days in the Windy City.

We visited with family and friends, played tourist, explored new-to-us genealogical repositories.

And we photographed headstones – lots and lots of headstones.

Packing for this trip was challenging. Pre-travel weather reports forecast rain and cold. We created Plans B, C and D just in case, and we prayed for nice weather. On the second day our prayers were answered, but I digress.

Day one was overcast and slightly drizzly. Perfect for driving a long distance.

Our first stop was the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin Illinois. Stay tuned for details about this amazing resource and the family history treasures I discovered there.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 11, 2015

Thirty-four Years Ago

Happy Anniversary Sis!

Happy Anniversary Sis!

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 10, 2015

Schmitt Siblings

This picture has appeared on my blog before, but it is so special it deserves another post.

A Schmitt family gathering

A Schmitt family gathering

Four Schmitt siblings are in this photo.

The gentleman in the center was born Jean Nicolas Schmitt on 16 May 1841 in Hellimer Moselle Lorraine France, the third son of Nicolas Schmitt and his wife Marie-Anne Gury. In America he was called John Nicholas. John’s wife Clara is standing to his furthest left.

John’s sister Anne-Marie (born 04 Sep 1844) is standing to his immediate left. She would be called Anna in America, although apparently she was also known as “Tante” Plum. According to Wiktionary, the word tante is German, taken from the same French word meaning “aunt”.   Another Wiktionary page suggests the word is used “informally, even jocularly”.

Alvina (Schmitt) Mueller, standing second from the left, and one of the young women seated in the photo may have referred to Anna in this manner. Alvina was the daughter of Anna’s brother Emile (not shown), and Alma Mueller (seated center) was the daughter of Anna’s sister Elisabeth.  Anna would have been Tante to both women. I wonder why she the only aunt referred to with the German word; perhaps because her husband was German?

Aunt Tillie, on John’s far right, is John’s youngest sister. Born Mary Mathilda Schmitt on 06 Mar 1858, she was the youngest of the Schmitt siblings and the only sister born in America – Cincinnati Ohio to be exact. Tillie married Joseph Droll and was Alvina and Alma’s aunt.

Pauline stands on John’s immediate right. She was born 24 Mar 1850 in the same town as her siblings John and Anna. She was four years old when the family immigrated to Cincinnati Ohio. Pauline married Joseph Breyer and lived in Cincinnati until her death in 1933.

Also shown in the photo are Clara Hasse (nee Plum) and her daughter Ruth.

Alma Mueller has my attention this weekend. I’m celebrating Sibling Day by exploring records created by this sibling of my great-grandfather Alfred.

What fun it is to have faces for the names in my family tree!

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 7, 2015

Harry Wilhelm Tolf

Tolf, Harry W and Judith TBorn 07 April 1884 in Batavia, Kane, Illinois

Died 06 Feb 1964 (Chicago, Cook, Illinois)

From the Chicago Tribune, Friday 07 February 1964:

“TOLF – Harry W. Tolf, husband of the late Judith; father of Earl, the late Donald, and Harriet Walton; three grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; brother of Katherine and Raymond Tolf. Resting at Edgar-Anderson Funeral Home, 4821 N. Damen avenue, until 10 p.m. Friday. Service Saturday at the Johnson Funeral Home, Batavia Ill. LO 1-2016.”

For the cousins wondering how Harry Wilhelm Tolf fits into our family tree:

2015 03-30 Tolf, Harry Pedigree Chart


Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

Easter 1961

Easter 1961

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 4, 2015

Houperts in Léning, Moselle, Lorraine, France

2015 03-28 Surname Saturday - HoupertFor the past few weeks I’ve been busy indexing records posted online by the Service Départemental d’Archives de la Moselle. I dearly love Microsoft Excel and as the self-appointed indexer of these records, I’m in spreadsheet heaven. But how, you may ask, will this help my genealogical research?

My project began as an attempt to more systematically search for my 5th great-grandmother and her family in Léning, Moselle, Lorraine, France. Marie Elizabeth Houpert was born 02 Nov 1753, the daughter of Nicolas Houpert and Ann Marie Hellering.

Most of the French records in my genealogical collection contain references to family members of the record’s subject; i.e. the mother of the bride lives in such-and-such town, the paternal uncle of the same village etc. It’s easy to find new branches. It’s equally easy to get lost among all the names and places.

So I started a penciled list on a legal pad. It didn’t take long to realize I would want to sort my rapidly growing list in multiple ways, so a spreadsheet was born:

2015 04-04 Surname Saturday - Houpert spreadsheet

To be considered for a line in my spreadsheet, the record need only contain a surname currently in my family tree. The name doesn’t have to belong to the subject, it could refer to a relative or even a witness.

Houpert is spelled multiple ways, so I’m also tracking what appears to be its evolution over time. More interesting however are the Houpert connections to my Gros, Gury, and Schmitt families. Patterns are forming, relationships are becoming more clear, and I’ve gained a better understanding of who belongs to which branch of this extended family.

Is it time-consuming? To a certain extent. But it’s also saving me oodles of time. I now have a ready-made list of records I may have needed to search for in the future.

For cousins wondering how Marie Elizabeth Houpert fits in our family tree:

Relationship_ Harold Clarke MUELLER to Marie Elizabeth HOUPERT

And for others researching in Léning, Moselle, Lorraine, France, I’d be happy to share my spreadsheet.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | April 2, 2015

Not on April Fool’s Day!

2015 04-02 Grandpa and Mom

Grandpa and Mom in 1933

My mother said her mother refused to have her baby on the first of April; there would be no April Fool’s baby for her!

Mom’s April second birth certificate does not prove or disprove this story, but it does provide a couple other interesting tidbits.

Like many other babies of her time, Mom was born at home: “4306 N. Newcastle Ave., Chicago, Ills.”. Unlike many other births of that time, there was a medical professional in attendance: “David S. Levy, M.D.”.

The birth certificate identifies her parents, giving my grandmother’s address as “4306 N. Newcastle Ave., Norwood Park, Ills.”

Whether Mom was born in Chicago or in Norwood Park (technicalities!), this Newcastle street address was connected to our family tree for many years before and after her birth.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | March 31, 2015

World Back Up Day

2015 03-31 World Backup Day

Ever lost an important computer file? Suffered a system failure?

Celebrate World Back Up Day by backing up your computer files, saving those precious photographs, and storing additional copies of important documents in multiple safe places.

Don’t live with regret – take a minute or two today to save something you’d really hate to lose.

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