Category Archives: Research

Matrilineal Monday – St. Gallen to El Paso

My great-great-grandmother, Maria Elizabeth Rusch, was born on Christmas 1859 in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Her parents were J. A. and Maria (Scheuerman) Rusch. In her early years Maria worked in one of the lace embroidery factories in St. Gallen.

Then on 3 March 1885, George John Hunkler, who had been born in St. Gallen on 20 September 1862 and emigrated to America in 1883, paid $19.78 (the equivalent of approximately $500, according to one inflation calculator):

for the passage of Miss Maria Rusch in the Steerage of one of the Steamers of the “RED STAR LINE” from ANTWERP to NEW YORK/PHILADELPHIA and for the Railroad Fare from Bassel Schweiz. to ANTWERP and from NEW YORK/PHILADELPHIA to Washington [Illinois]

Maria Rusch Emigration Ticket

Maria’s ticket was good for one year, and on 14 December 1886 in Peoria, Illinois, Maria and George were married by Gottlieb Traub, a Lutheran pastor. By 1900 the Hunklers had George Hunkler Maria Rusch Marriage Licensefive children; the family was enumerated in Washington, Illinois in June of that year:

June 4 1900 Washington Twp Tazewell Illinois 
13 13 Hunkler George J Head W M Sept 1862 37 M 13 Switzerland Farmer 
—Mary Wife W F Dec 1859 40 M 13 5 5 Switzerland 
—Berely [Bertha] Daughter W F May 1887 13 S Switzerland 
—Matilda Daughter W F Oct 1888 11 S Switzerland 
—John G Son W M July 1891 8 S Switzerland  
—Lenie Daughter W F Dec 1892 7 S Switzerland 
—Huldy Daughter W F Feb 1896 4 S Switzerland 

“Lenie” was Lena, my great-grandmother. By 1910 only John and Hulda remained at home, and in 1920-1930 George and Maria are living alone in Elmwood, Illinois. George died in 1934, and in 1940 “Marie,” age 80, is enumerated living alone on Lilac Street in Elmwood. She would die 8 years later on 27 September 1948 in Dowell Nursing Home in El Paso, Illinois, of acute cardiac failure. She and George are buried in Glendale Cemetery in Washington, Illinois.

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Sentimental Sunday -Grandma Hoffmann

Grandma Velma Marie (Swing) Hoffmann died nine years ago today at the age of ninety. Even after nearly a decade, she continues to play a role in the lives of those of us who knew her, sometimes quite literally, as on one Thanksgiving when, reaching to pull rolls out of the oven in preparation for sitting down at the dining room table spread with her dishes, I could inexplicably detect her scent.

One of Grandma’s books I inherited was her copy of the 1928 pioneer novel A Lantern in Her Hand. I can’t count the number of times I read this book while growing up (and afterward) but I remember most clearly seeing Grandma’s old copy sitting on the end table in the living room. This book and the story of Abbie Deal became entwined through the years with my thoughts about Grandma, but it was actually Abbie’s husband Will Deal who, before his untimely death, had told his wife that if he were to be taken from her, he would “go on with her, remembering…”


Beloved mother and grandmother, Velma M. Hoffmann was born Feb. 19, 1917, at Francesville, Ind. She died July 3, 2007, at Boise.

Velma was the daughter of Albert Carl and Lena (Hunkler) Swing, the second of three children. At the age of 2, she and her family moved to Elmwood, Ill., to live on her grandparents’ farm, then later moved to a farm south of the town of Wing, Ill., and then to a house in Wing. In the mid-1930s, Velma and her family moved to Forrest, Ill., where Velma attended high school. She graduated from Forrest Township High School as valedictorian of her senior class in 1933, at the age of 16. It was about this time that Velma met her future husband, Joseph Hoffmann of Fairbury, Ill., at a family gathering.

In February, 1934, Velma began working at the Corn Hog Assn. in Peoria, Ill., and in 1935, took her first trip to Idaho, along with her brother, future husband and several friends, all in a Model A Ford.

She married Joseph Hoffmann on March 12, 1938, at Peoria. She continued working for the Corn Hog Assn., then later worked at the Rock Island Arsenal where she was employed until 1940 when she and Joe moved to Idaho. They first lived in an 18-foot trailer parked below Canyon Hill, then moved to Boise where she worked for the Selective Service. In May 1942, they moved to Portland, Ore., where Joe worked in the shipyards as a welder. Their first daughter, Linda, was born in Portland. They returned to Idaho in 1943, first to a farm in Kuna and then to a farm outside Caldwell. At this time, their son Jay was born. In 1947, they moved into a house on Canyon Hill in Caldwell and while living here, Velma’s third and fourth children, daughters, Paula and Carla were born.

Velma assisted her husband in his business, Hoffman Sheet Metal, until Joe’s death in 1983. She was active in PTA in the Caldwell School District while her children were attending school there. Velma’s primary occupation was mother and homemaker, which were to her the most important and valuable jobs any person could have. The most important thing in her life was her family and her happiest times were when all her family joined together for holidays and special occasions. She was always a lover of children and of animals and in particular cherished the companionship of her last loving pet, a Siamese cat named Sam.

She was a member of the Grace Lutheran Church in Caldwell and greatly valued her membership in the church choir there.

She is survived by three daughters and their husbands, Linda and Ted Montgomery of Caldwell, Paula and Jim Johnson of Boise and Carla and Bill Oestreich of Eagle; a daughter-in-law, Nancy Hoffmann of Caldwell; four grandchildren, Matt Montgomery and wife Cheryl of Palmyra, VA, Mike Hoffmann and wife Erika of Redondo Beach, CA, Megan Montgomery of Waynesboro, VA and Cindy (Hoffmann) Crabtree and husband Aaron of Eagle and three great-grandchildren, Will, Leo and Owen Crabtree of Eagle.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Joe, her son, Jay, a brother and a sister.
The family would like to express their appreciation to the staff at Alterra and Ashley Manor for their kindness and their care. They would like to thank the members of St. Luke’s Hospice for all their support. In addition, they appreciate beyond measure, the continuing visits and ministries of Pastor Philip Bohlken of Grace Lutheran Church. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, July 9, at Grace Lutheran Church, 2700 S. Kimball, Caldwell. Friends may call Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at Flahiff Funeral Chapel, Caldwell.

Perhaps the most fitting words to describe Velma and her life are those of the Roman philosopher, Marcus Aurelius: “To live happily is an inward power of the soul.”

Sympathy Saturday – Mrs. Samuel Slagel

My great-great-grandmother, Mary (Demler) Slagel, has appeared in a number of posts here, but I had not yet posted her obituary:

MRS. SAMUEL SLAGEL.

Mrs. Samuel Slagel passed away at her home in this city [Fairbury, Illinois] last Friday morning [3 February, 1928] at 11:30 o’clock at the age of 73 years and 16 days.

Mary Demler was born in Baden, Germany, January 17, 1855. When nine years of age she came to this country, locating at Washington [Illinois]. In 1868 the family moved from Washington to Fairbury, and here on November 24, 1875, she was united in marriage to Samuel Slagel, who together with two children, Daniel and Mrs. Paul Hoffman, of near Fairbury, survive. There also survives one brother, August Demler, who lives in the state of Kansas.

The deceased was an excellent wife and mother and will be missed not only in the home but by many friends.

The funeral services were held at the Christian Apostolic church in this city Monday and interment was in Graceland Cemetery.

Mary SlagelOther information about Mary’s death can be found on her death certificate. Signed by Dr. Henry C. Sauer, the certificate notes her cause of death as carcinoma of the stomach, from which she had suffered for two months. Myocarditis was a contributing factor as well.

Mary’s “home in this city,” according to her death certificate, was at 107 East Walnut Street. This 2075-square-foot home was built in 1895 and still stands.

Sympathy Saturday – Typhoid Fever

Albert Swing Sr Death

If one’s ancestors have to die, they may as well succumb to interesting diseases. Typhoid fever is one of those causes of death that has an antiquated ring to it. My only prior association with it was from reading the Catherine Marshall novel Christy. But apparently my great-great-grandfather, Albert Carl Swing, was one of its victims. Or was he really Albert Charles Swing, as indicated on his death certificate?  Hmm.

Albert died 10 days shy of his 63rd birthday in Francesville, Indiana. He had been born 24 October 1859 in Akron, Ohio, the son of Carl/Karl Schwing and Saloma Bollinger. The family appears in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses in Akron. In 1877 they moved to Livingston County, Illinois, where they appear in the 1880 census in Chatsworth. On 17 February 1884 in Fairbury, Illinois, Albert married Catherine Marie Hoffmann. Together they had 13 children, including my great-grandfather, Albert Carl Swing, Jr. In 1900 they appear in Ash Grove, Illinois, then in 1905 moved near Wolcott, Indiana. In the 1910 census they were enumerated in Salem, Indiana, then in 1920 in Hanging Grove, Indiana. Two years later Albert died. Albert was buried three days after his death, in the Francesville (Roseland) cemetery.

Albert and Catherine Swing

Typhoid or enteric fever is a specific infectious fever characterized mainly by its insidious onset, by a peculiar course of the temperature, by marked abdominal symptoms occurring in connection with a specific lesion of the bowels, by an eruption upon the skin, by its uncertain duration, and by a liability to relapses. This fever has received various names, such as gastric fever, abdominal typhus, infantile remittent fever, slow fever, nervous fever, pythogenic fever, etc. The name of ” typhoid ” was given by Louis in 1829, as a derivative from typhus. Until a comparatively recent period typhoid was not distinguished from typhus. For, although it had been noticed that the course of the disease and its morbid anatomy were different from those of ordinary cases of typhus, it was believed that they merely represented a variety of that malady. The distinction between the two diseases appears to have been first accurately made in 1836. [Britannica1911].

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Sunday’s Obituary – Grandpa Swing

Albert Carl Swing Obituary

Albert Swing’s obituary from the 3 February 1969 Harlingen, TexasValley Morning Star

Great-grandpa Albert Swing was born 11 April 1889 in Cissna Park, Illinois, the fourth of thirteen children born to Albert Carl and Catherine Marie (Hoffmann) Swing. He was musical, buying a violin with the first money he earned working in the fields; in later years he called square dances.  On 18 June 1913, in Peoria, Illinois, he married Lena Agnes Hunkler. As noted in his obituary, Albert and Lena had three children. The family spent a number of years in Francesville, Indiana, moving between there and various locations in Illinois. In 1951 the couple moved to Harlingen, Texas, for Lena’s health. She died there in 1964. All his life Albert longed for the flat farmland of his youth; he would say that he wished he could have been buried in the cemetery in Francesville among the Indiana wheat fields. However, Albert’s final resting place is with Lena at Restlawn Cemetery in La Feria, Texas.

Wednesday’s Child – Little Ada Cory

Ada Cory

Ada Cory, fourth cousin three times removed, was the daughter of James Manning and Elizabeth (Braly) Cory. Ada’s 3G-grandparenst were my 6G-grandparents, Joseph Cory and Mary Meeker. Ada was her parents’ first child, born 6 December 1864. Less than two years later Ada died, on 1 May 1866.  Following her death, James and Elizabeth had four more children:  George H., Frank, Mabel Hyde, and Henry M. The entire family is buried at Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose, California. If it weren’t for this burial, not much else would be known about Ada, as she lived and died in between two censuses. This makes her tombstone all the more poignant, from the “Little Ada” inscription, to the carved verse below, from Psalm 127:3 –

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord.”

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Tombstone Tuesday – Knox to King

Pearl Wilson Ramaker

Pearl Ethel Wilson, my 2nd great aunt, was born 18 June 1892 in Creighton, Knox County, Nebraska.  She was the fifth child of six born to Wellington David and Lucinda Blanche (Davis) Wilson. Lucinda died, aged 35, when Pearl was only two years old. Her younger brother, then ten months old, was raised by his maternal aunt, while Pearl is found living with her maternal grandparents in Iowa in 1900.

By 1910 Pearl was 18 and living in Centerville, South Dakota. She was a boarder in the Turner Hotel run by Edward Mudie and his wife Jennie.

Turner Hotel - Pearl Wilson Ramaker lived here 1910

By 1920 Pearl had moved to Hobson, Montana.  There, boarding with the family of Floyd McCowan, Pearl was employed as a schoolteacher. About 1921 Pearl married Ray Edward Ramaker. Ray and Pearl had three children, all born in Montana:  Mary Jo, Shirley E., and Nancy R. By 1930 the family had moved to Missoula, Montana, where Ray worked as a dentist. The home at 315 Daly Avenue where they lived in 1930 still stands; it was valued at $6500 in 1930 and $5500 in 1940. It was assessed at $165,877 last year. In 1940 Pearl and her daughters were still living in the Daly Avenue home, while Ray was living in Seattle.

By 1946 when their youngest daughter graduated from high school, it appears the entire family had moved to Seattle’s King County. Here, on 18 December 1969, Ray died, followed a decade later by Pearl, on 16 March 1979. Both are buried in Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle’s largest cemetery.

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