Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 30, 2016

Documenting a Source that Isn’t

Last week I mentioned a sourcing “opportunity” I had. It could complicate citing the marriage of my great-grandfather Alfred Jacob Mueller’s parents on the timeline I am preparing about his life.

Scan_20160821 (2)

While drafting this post and attempting to document the aforementioned marriage, I relived the steps I took long ago to secure that marriage certificate; went through all the papers in my Mueller files and folders; reviewed every digitized document in the Mueller files on my hard drive and in Dropbox; and reread all the notes I created for Alfred and his parents in Family Tree Maker.

The whole time I was searching I had a nagging feeling I was wasting my time. I had the marriage certificate in my hands, but how would I recreate the way I had obtained it? I was 98% certain I no longer had any proof of the steps I had taken.

Let me explain.

Alfred’s mother Elizabeth [also known as Eliza and Elise] was a divorcée when she married Jacob Mueller. Her first husband’s surname was Bidenharn [sometimes spelled Biedenharn or even Biedenham]. Learning about Elizabeth’s previous marriage was invaluable in my search for her; with that information I was able to locate Eliza and Jacob in an index.

What now seems like a million years ago, I filled out this form and sent it to the Family History Library asking for a paper copy of the certificate. (This service is no longer available btw.) After three failed tries I finally received a photocopy, but it was so dark I couldn’t make out the names on the form.

So I tried another very old-fashioned route. I mailed a letter to IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository):

2003 to IL RE Mueller-Biedenharn marriage cert

Notice how Jacob’s surname is spelled? The indexer must have seen the umlaut over the U and thought it was a line through one of the Ls. So instead of Müller, Jacob’s name was indexed as Mutler. My written request worked however. I received another more legible copy of the marriage certificate:

1874 11-28 MC Mueller, Jacob and Biedenharn, Eliza - Copy


Thirteen years after sending my requests to the Family History Library and to IRAD, one wouldn’t have to go to all that trouble to get a copy of this record. Today I looked at FamilySearch and found Jacob Muller and Eliza Bidenham in the index. And here they are on Ancestry:


1874 11-28 MC Mueller, Jacob and Biedenharn, Eliza index

Writing all this down was worthwhile. It helped me decide to use the Family History Library microfilm as my source, since that is where the record originated for me.

2016 09-01 Updated spreadsheet for AlfredIt was also helpful to see my updated timeline. It made me start thinking of other sources that could prove Jacob and Elise were Alfred’s parents. It seems only the 1900 census qualifies (the 1880 and 1910 don’t list relationships); Alfred’s parents are listed as unknown on his death certificate. Oh wait, there’s also Jacob’s will listing Alfred as his son and co-executor.

I’ll add those sources to Alfred’s spreadsheet before the next Timeline Tuesday.

Next up? Start pondering about what sources I might use to prove Alfred was born!

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 27, 2016

Only that She Existed

Surname Saturday - Richard

Are there women in your family tree about whom you know next-to-nothing?

My French-born 5th grandmother Barbe RICHARD is one of those women.

I know her name because it appears in the birth records of the ten children she had with her artist husband Joseph François GURY.

But of her? I really know only that she existed.

2016 08-27 BR Gury, Jean

The 14 Mar 1794 birth record above was the oldest one (chronologically speaking) that I located for a child who’s père et mère (father and mother) were Joseph François GURY and Barbe RICHARD.

I am working from the assumption that the couple was married about a year prior to the birth of this child, Jean GURY who, coincidentally, is my 4th great-grandfather.

And I’m hoping that combined information from the birth records of Jean and his nine siblings will give me more insight into the life of their mother.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 23, 2016

Applying Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques

It’s time to get serious about my family history research.

Particularly when it comes to breaking down a brick wall that is preventing me from getting across the pond.

51FHmpBfwoL._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_Toward that end, for the past few weeks I’ve been devouring reading George G. Morgan and Drew Smith’s book Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques. A book I highly recommend btw.

And now I’m ready to put some of their suggestions to the test.

First, please allow me to share the Reader’s Digest version of my dilemma:

My 2nd great-grandfather Jacob Koebe Mueller was born in Switzerland 11 Aug 1844. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1866, married my 2nd great-grandmother 28 Nov 1874, became a father 22 Sep 1879, had a second child 14 Sep 1882, and in 1891 he bought a newly constructed house in Chicago’s Englewood community.

Jacob’s wife Elise died 29 Dec 1901. He and daughter Alma remained in their family home until Jacob’s death 17 Oct 1910. He is buried in Section F-5, Lot 227 of Oak Woods Cemetery.

Alma was listed as the informant on Jacob’s death certificate. She and her brother Alfred [my great-grandfather] were named executors of Jacob’s will and as such sold the Englewood home shortly after Jacob’s death. Alma later married and moved to Elgin, roughly 50 miles northwest of her childhood home.

So I know a little about Jacob and his life, right?

Although I know quite a lot about Jacob after he was married to my second great-grandmother, I know almost nothing about his life before then. Did Jacob have siblings? Did they and/or his parents immigrate to the U.S. too? And from what town in Switzerland did Jacob hail? Until I learn the name of his birthplace, Jacob’s life in Switzerland will remain a mystery.

I could follow the research plan a member of the Swiss list on Rootsweb helped me develop:

2016 08-21 Research Plan for Jacob Mueller

But it would be a pretty challenging undertaking as not all the records I need to review are available online or through the Family History Library.

And while I was reading Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques [AGRT] it occurred to me that in my zeal to locate Jacob’s place of birth, I had done only rudimentary research on Jacob’s son Alfred. And Alfred you may recall, is my great-grandfather. Hmm, maybe it’s time to back up a little and get to know Alfred.

On pages 14 and 15 of AGRT, George and Drew suggest their readers “Gather All the Evidence You have Collected”, “Organize Everything Sequentially”, “Reread Everything” and “Compile a Timeline”.

I decided to sort of merge all these steps into one large project, culminating in a timeline for my great-grandfather’s life.

The example shown on pages 17-21 of AGRT begins before the beginning. Or rather, starts before the subject does, with the existence of the subject’s parents. So that’s where Alfred’s spreadsheet begins, with the marriage of his parents 28 Nov 1874, nearly five years before he was born.

Scan_20160821 (2)

Yay, already I have a sourcing “opportunity”! There is a story behind finding my second great-grandparents’ formerly elusive marriage certificate.

And I’ll share that story on the next Timeline Tuesday. See you then!

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 22, 2016

Happy Birthday Little Sister

Happy Birthday Liz

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 18, 2016

Not Buried Here

I come across something unique in nearly every cemetery I visit.

Cenotaphs (monuments erected in honor of a person buried elsewhere) exist in many graveyards.


The cenotaph above was particularly interesting to me because of the wonderful genealogical clues it offers.

A family historian may have stumbled upon this memorial, as I did, in Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, Illinois. And assumed as I might have at first glance, that Mr. McCredie was buried there.

The message on this headstone tells us not only William’s final resting place, but also (just by it’s location) that he is in some way connected to the Fox River Valley area of Illinois.

Isn’t is nice when our ancestors so thoughtfully provide us with helpful clues?


Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 15, 2016

Lily of the Flower Family

I’m a bit confused about Lily and her relationship to the Flower family.

flower, lily_8584

Lily is buried in the center of the Flower family plot in Jewish Graceland Cemetery on Chicago’s north side.

flower, family plot_8581

There is a record of her death on FamilySearch that seems to confirm her parents are the people named on the largest headstone in the same family plot.


But the birthdate on her headstone and the birthdate on the death record are different.

The 1880 census should help clarify which date is correct, but instead it adds to the confusion. There is no one in the family that fits the known facts about Lily who, in 1880, would be a six year old girl.


I wondered if birth records were available in Detroit in 1874 or 1875. FamilySearch came through here too, but again the plot thickened.


The possibilities for Lily’s date of birth have now risen to three.

If Lily was a leaf in your family tree, what would you do next?


Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 14, 2016

Daily Inter-Ocean Obituaries December 28, 1874

Inter-Ocean BuildingThe Chicago Inter-Ocean was a newspaper published in the Windy City from 1879 to 1902*. The following notices of death appeared on page 8 of the Monday morning edition, December 28, 1874:

“MOORHOUSE-Dec. 26, Laura Pearl, only daughter of Wm. H. and Fannie Moorhouse, aged 8 years. Funeral from residence 872 Michigan avenue, Tuesday the 29th, at 2 o’clock. Friends of the family are invited to attend.

ANDERSON-On Friday, the 25th inst. at 10:15 p.m., Mrs. Bridget Anderson, aged 54 years, relict of the late George Anderson. Funeral will leave family residence, No. 421 West Taylor street, on Monday, Dec. 28, at 10 o’clock a.m., for the Holy Family Church, where requiem high mass will be celebrated, thence by carriages to Calvary Cemetery.”

*Some web sites list earlier start dates and later end dates.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | August 7, 2016

Daily Inter-Ocean Obituaries December 24, 1874

The Chicago Inter-Ocean was a newspaper published in the Windy City from 1879 to 1902*. The following notices of death appeared on page 8 of the Thursday morning edition, December 24, 1874:

CaptureMcWADE-Tuesday. Dec. 23, 1874, Jeannette McWade aged 21 years 3 months and 23 days. Funeral from the residence of her parents, 490 Second street, Thursday, Dec. 24, to Graceland, at 12:30 o’clock p.m.

WILLIAMS-Dec. 23, at 3 a.m., the Rev. D. A. Williams in the 76th year of his age. The funeral will take place from his late residence, No. 233 South Sangamon street, on Friday the 25th. Services at the Welsh Presbyterian Church, corner of Monroe and Sangamon, at 1 p.m. Friends of the family are invited to attend. Milwaukee, Pittsburg[h], and Newark, Ohio papers please copy.

BRANDT-Dec. 23, David Franklin Brandt, at the residence of John Moore, 322 Maxwell street, of pneumonia, aged 21. Terre Haute and Zanesville papers please copy.”


*Some web sites list earlier start dates and later end dates.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 27, 2016

Wednesday’s Child – Ruth B Thomson

Ruth’s headstone is no longer attached to its base. It lies in the soft grass near her parents’ headstones.

DSCF9390 watermarked

Ruth is buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis and has a memorial on Find A Grave.

May she and her parents rest in peace.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 19, 2016

The Last to Die

As you may already know, I visit a lot of cemeteries and I read a lot of grave markers.

I try not to make assumptions about the deceased based on the information on their headstones.

For example, sometimes the memorial lists more than one person.

I never assume a relationship between the people listed unless the marker clearly states “husband” and “wife” or “father” and “son”.

But sometimes everyone listed was born so long ago I can’t help but assume they couldn’t possibly still be living.


Forest Hill Cemetery Madison Wisconsin

And when just one person is missing a date of death I can’t help but wonder, were they the last person in their family to die?

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