First stop in Detroit: Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery

My two-week trip to Michigan coincided with a massive heat wave and broken air conditioning at my cousin Madeleine’s apartment. After two nights of miserable, sweat-soaked “sleep,” my husband and I left my poor cousin (who is an amazing hostess) at the mercy of her apartment’s maintenance staff and drove to Chicago for my high school best friend’s wedding. Despite the record-breaking temperatures and intense humidity (which I’ve blissfully avoided since moving to Utah!), the outdoor ceremony was lovely. Thankfully the reception was indoors and our hotel’s air conditioning worked the whole time we were there.

My family history adventures started after my husband flew home on Monday. With luggage in my rental car and my cousin unavailable until after work, I drove to Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery in Southfield. My grandparents were buried there before I was born, but the only time I’d been to the cemetery was for my uncle Denis’ burial in April of 2001. In fact, that’s the only actual burial I’ve attended. Trips to see family in Detroit when I was a kid never involved visiting cemeteries, let alone funerals, so I was overwhelmed with that first experience at age 21.

Returning a decade later, I had no recollection of where exactly my grandparents and uncle were buried—just that all three were together. That was one of those details I meant to resolve before my trip but just didn’t have time. So I called the cemetery that afternoon to verify their office hours and stopped in at their lovely little building for some information. A man at the front desk was very helpful and printed a custom information sheet/map for me straight from their computer system. I was impressed!

grave locator printout from the Holy Sepulchre cemetery office

He circled a nearby plot to help me locate my family’s flat headstones… so I set out to find the large Benedetti tombstone. (Oh, but I visited the restroom first, and passed a little seating area with a fireplace. I noticed a large Bible on the mantle that was identical to the one my parents received at their wedding! I remember being fascinated by the puffy white cover as a child.)

The cemetery was much bigger than I expected. I enjoyed the peaceful drive through lush foliage and found Section 25 without a problem. However, finding the actual graves proved to be quite the challenge. There wasn’t a way to identify the lot numbers and no paths existed within the section like I’d inferred from the map. So I wandered in circles for a good 20 minutes—in the sweltering afternoon sun and icky sticky humidity—getting frustrated by the ineffective map and questioning my usually reliable spatial-temporal reasoning skills.

Eventually I spotted the Benedetti tombstone, and then my grandparents’ graves.

Dear Husband - Father, Antoine H. Beaudoin

My uncle Denis shares his mother’s grave. He never married.

Dear Wife & Mother, Marie E. Beaudoin. Beloved Son & Brother, Denis J. Beaudoin.

It was a strangely emotional moment for me. The heat and built-up frustration adding to the “aha!” feeling, perhaps. I was upset by the large patches of dead grass all around, wondering why the caretakers hadn’t taken care to ensure that my relatives’ graves were well-tended. Then I felt guilty (uh, raised Catholic, did I mention?) for not regularly tending to their graves myself. Prickly weeds, grass, and dirt threatened the edges; I did my best with bare hands to clear away what I could. I intended to return to do a better job and take photos with my good camera, but alas, I did not. I’m glad that I went ahead and took a few pictures with my phone.

Another advantage my camera phone provided was to document how to find these Beaudoin graves again in the future. I took photos from the burial site of nearby landmarks, and photos from landmarks of the burial site. I also made notes on the cemetery map (in red ink) with the names on the large tombstones scattered along the edge of the road. It’s all about having the right coordinates!

documenting location of graves by making notes on a photograph

I won’t have any trouble finding that elusive Benedetti tombstone next time. Also, I thought that the water pump was really cool with its many layers of paint in different colors.

annotated photographs of the grave site from multiple angles will make it easier to find next time

As I drove across the bridge on my way out, I noticed a white heron or crane perched in the riverbed. Most normal people would probably think to themselves, Oh, a bird, how lovely! and continue on their way. I am… slightly less than normal in that sort of circumstance. I stopped my car right there on the bridge and stared at the bird and the beautiful riverscape in the late afternoon sun. When another car started coming up behind me, I did what any amateur birder in my situation would do: yanked out my camera and pulled over to get a better look.

As I approached the bank through several yards of concealing foliage, I was surprised by the slow, graceful take-off of a bird I hadn’t noticed from the bridge—with its gorgeous blue-gray coloring and large wingspan, I think it was either a Little Blue Heron or a Great Blue Heron. (Amateur birder, remember. Without binoculars or a zoom lens.) I only saw it for a couple of seconds. I took a few steps closer, not sure exactly where the white bird was in relation to me, and then it took flight and passed through my line of sight before I was ready with the camera. Bummer. I’m pretty sure it was a Great Egret.

I took a photo of the river anyway. The ducks (probably boring old Mallards… but maybe American Black Ducks?) didn’t mind the attention. You can see the bridge, which I believe also serves as a dam, where it looks like there is a clearing.

Despite the heat and frustration in locating the graves, my visit to Holy Sepulchre was surprisingly restorative. I will share some introspective thoughts in another post.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Whirlwind family history information seeking trip

The best way to describe the last several weeks of my life is definitely “whirlwind.” A rush of work projects and out-of-town travel have been keeping me very busy and away from documenting what family history and genealogy research I’ve managed to do in between. Part of my travels took me to one of only two ancestral hotspots in the United States: Detroit, Michigan.

DETROIT clipped from 1937 phone book title

I’d originally planned to do a lot of genealogical research into my recent trip to the area but ended up doing far less than I’d hoped. Part of it was due to time constraints (how dare my still-living relatives want to spend time with me! and how dare my body demand sleep!) and part of it was due to insufficient planning. The initial prep work I did a couple months ago ended up being all that I had to rely on. Luckily, I was organized well enough during that time to garner some very worthwhile discoveries in Detroit. I was even able to enlist the assistance of some still-living relatives which made my adventures less solitary than I was expecting. Though reluctant at first, I think they enjoyed coming along!

In retrospect, my initial research goals were way too optimistic for that specific trip.  Blogging while traveling also takes time… precious time that I instead used to be with family and/or work remotely to maintain an income (darn those real life responsibilities). Of course now, before I can start blogging about my trip, I have to sort through my notes and photographs to straighten out what I’ve learned. And I definitely learned a ton.

The moral of this story is to plan a genealogy research trip WELL in advance. Create and maintain a long list of research goals and figure out what information can only be gained by visiting a specific location. That’s the only way to prioritize and not be overwhelmed. Keeping it up to date will help when travel dates sneak up on you. I sure hope I remember to take my own advice before I take my next trip!

Tagged ,
Leave a comment

New Ellis Island record for Caroline Richter

After I posted the Massachusetts death certificate for Caroline Richter last week, my friend Barbara emailed me an extraordinarily helpful suggestion: try searching for her on, the online home for Ellis Island immigration records. I was dismissive at first because I already had a copy of her immigration record that I’d found on However, I registered for a free account and searched anyway. Why not, right?

Searching for Caroline Richter on Ellis Island website

Just the facts!

GENEALOGY FACT: One should check every available source because you never know when you might get lucky!

Yes, I found the ship manifest for Caroline’s original immigration in 1892. But there was one other result that surprised me… a record of her returning to the U.S. from Germany in 1923! All of the facts match up, so I know that this is the same Caroline who is my ancestor. (She’s actually listed on line 18 but I edited the other passengers’ information out of the image.)

Immigration record for Caroline Richter's visit to Germany in 1922-23

Immigration record for Caroline Richter's visit to Germany in 1922-23

This gem of a discovery is far more than just a record of her having returned to Germany. Proper sleuthing time… let’s take a look at the facts!

  • Ship Information: The S.S. Reliance sailed from Hamburg, Germany on June 12, 1923 and arrived in New York on June 22, 1923.
  • Cabin class: Second.
  • The Basics: Caroline Richter, age 81, female, widowed. Widowed! That reduces the window of when her husband died by a few years. Now I know that Josef/ph died between 1910 and 1923. Also, she was 81 years old in June of 1923 but 88 years old when she died six years later in August 1929. Assuming those ages are both accurate, that would tighten the window of her birthday to the summer of 1841—somewhere from late June to early August.
  • Occupation: retired.
  • Able to read/write: Yes, in German.
  • Nationality: German
  • Race or People: German
  • Last permanent residence: Adams, Mass., U.S.A.
  • Name/address of nearest relative in in country whence alien came: son, Heinr. Richter, Adams, Mass.
  • Final destination: Adams, Mass.
  • By whom was passage paid: self
  • Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much: $50
  • Whether ever before in the United States, and if so, when and where: yes, 1892-1922, Adams, Mass.
  • Whether going to join a relative or friend, and if so, name and address: son, Heinr. Richter, Adams, Mass.
  • Height: 5′ 5″
  • Complexion: Fair
  • Hair color: grey
  • Eye color: blue
  • Place of birth: Koenigswalde, Germany

Closeup of Caroline's information on the ship manifest

Woohoo! I know where she was born now! Well, at least it’s a very good clue. Koenigswalde could refer to present-day Königswalde in Saxony, Germany, just outside of Annaberg-Bucholz, near the border with the Czech Republic. Or it could refer to the city that became Lubniewice, Poland after World War II. Then there’s some disambiguation with a second Königswalde in the Saxony region which I found on the German site Digitales Historisches Ortsverzeichnis von Sachsen. I’ll have to spend some time looking at microfilm at the Family History Library for more information. I still don’t know her maiden name, but maybe I can find a marriage record for her and Josef by starting in the year of her oldest son’s birth and going backwards.

That sounds like a lot of work. I’m open to suggestions for improving efficiency! (Barbara, I’m looking at you. :) )

It’s also interesting to know that my third great-grandmother Caroline looked was of average height with blue eyes and fair skin. Gray hair at age 81 isn’t that surprising!

Armed with this new knowledge, I naturally have more questions about the stories hidden within the facts. Under what circumstances did Caroline travel back to Germany? A note written on her line in the manifest indicates that she left July 1922. Because I still don’t know when exactly her husband died, I wonder if the catalyst for her journey was perhaps his death. She returned to the United States after eleven months, so she must have stayed with family during her trip. Her parents were probably already deceased, so who did she stay with? Siblings, cousins, nieces or nephews? Maybe someone from Josef’s family? But did Caroline travel to Germany alone? Did Josef make the trip only to die in his homeland?

I’m going to need several more clues before I can start piecing together this particular old family story!

Tagged , , , ,
Leave a comment

Tombstone Tuesday: Harry Weizenbaum, Machpelah Cemetery in Detroit

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily blogging prompt from Geneabloggers.

I don’t have many photos of my ancestors’ tombstones, but I’ll share those that I have over the next few weeks. Then, in July, I’m going to visit (living!) relatives in the Detroit area and will hopefully come back with some new tombstone photos and stories. Most of my buried-in-the-USA relatives are in Detroit Catholic cemeteries, but my maternal grandfather’s family was Jewish. His parents, older half-brother (Leo), and sister-in-law (Paula) were buried in Detroit’s Machpelah Cemetery.

This photo was taken by my grandfather in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Harry Weizenbaum tombstone

Machpelah Cemetery in Ferndale, Michigan

Harry Weizenbaum
Died April 7, 1954
Age 75 Years
[need to translate line 4 from Hebrew]
[need to translate line 5 from Hebrew]

I’m hoping one of my second cousins will help me translate the last two lines of the inscription since I don’t know Hebrew!

My great-grandfather was born Jechiel Weizenbaum on May 12, 1879 in Chrzanów, which was at that time part of the Austrian Kingdom of Galicia. It lay on the Western edge of the kingdom, bordering both Poland and the German province of Silesia. I know nothing about his early life except that Jews in Chrzanów enjoyed civil equality with the Poles until the 1910s (source: Chrzanów: The Life and Destruction of a Jewish Shetl). He had at least five siblings and lost several members of his family in the Holocaust.

Harry was a skilled furrier, reportedly following in his father’s footsteps. He had a son, Leo, with his first wife before she died in 1916. His 1920 marriage to my great-grandmother Henriette Ormann was arranged by her maternal uncle; Henriette was twenty-two years younger than Harry. They raised Leo and their two sons, Heinz and Josef, in Berlin, Germany. Despite Germany’s rising anti-semitism, Harry’s furrier business flourished and the family was comfortably wealthy.

In 1935, however, Harry was accused by the government of having an affair with a Gentile maid. The affair itself didn’t matter as much as the fact that Jewish-Gentile relations were strictly prohibited in the Nuremburg laws of 1935. Though he was not convicted, Harry decided to emigrate with his wife and sons to the United States. His sister Sarah was already living in Detroit, along with his adult son Leo, so that was where they went in January of 1936. Harry and Henriette remained in Detroit their whole lives.

Harry and Henriette Weizenbaum in the 1940s

Harry and Henriette Weizenbaum in the 1940s

Tagged , , ,
Leave a comment

Massachusetts Death Certificate for Caroline Richter

Well, I’m now 3 for 3 on successfully receiving copies of early 1900s death certificates that I’ve requested, with the most recent from Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this 1929 death certificate for Caroline Richter (view/download JPG) only has one piece of new information and just leads to more questions.

1929 Massachusetts death certificate Caroline Richter

I was hoping to document Caroline’s birth date, birth city, parents’ names, and cause of death. Here’s what I found, with important facts highlighted in the image above:

  • Birth date: not listed. Her age is noted simply as 88, so she was likely born in 1841 but possibly in 1840. I already knew that from her obituary.
  • Birthplace: Germany. So not helpful! Did her children not know in which city she was born, or did the registrar think that just listing the country was sufficient?
  • Name and birthplace of father: Name “cannot be learned” but he was born in Germany.
  • Name and birthplace of mother: Name “cannot be learned” but she was born in Germany.
  • Cause of death: “Carbon monoxide poisoning, acute. Illuminating gas. Accidental, Found dead on floor of room.” Fascinating new information! The obituary stated that she had died after a brief illness.
  • Place of death: 13 No. Summer Street, Adams, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Which is the home of her daughter (my great-great-grandmother) Clara Postler.
  • Length of residence in city or town where death occurred: 3 days. So she had just been visiting Clara for a few days.
  • Residence (usual place of abode): Holyoke, Mass.
  • Place of burial: Southview Cememtery in North Adams, Mass.
  • Date of burial: August 12, 1929.

Overall, I didn’t get much of the information I was hoping for. I still don’t know which area of Germany she was from, nor do I have her parents’ names or any additional geographic clues. I’m going to have to look for that information from other sources.

The new information I gleaned from this death certificate definitely lends itself to a fascinating old family story. Poor Caroline died from carbon monoxide poisoning! And worse, it was in the home of her daughter whom she had just come to visit.

Perhaps Caroline was not feeling well (the obituary stated that she had a brief illness) and retired early to her room for the night. Did the gas lamp have a leak? Or did Caroline extinguish the flame but not turn off the valve completely? However it happened, I can only imagine the horror that her daughter must have faced when she found her mother dead on the floor. And what sort of reaction would Clara’s sister Marie Gartner have had? After all, Caroline was living with Marie in Holyoke and was just visiting Clara in Adams. Because of the nature of the death, did Marie resent her sister for any perceived negligence? Was Clara overwhelmed with guilt?

I could be creating some drama here, but I think it’s important to remember that our ancestors were human just like us and not necessarily immune to those sorts of feelings. Then again, at age 88, Caroline was pretty old for the era, so maybe everyone was a lot more accepting of the situation than I’m postulating.

So where do I go from here in learning more about Caroline Richter? Well, luckily I know that she had four children who all lived in the same region so I can do some more digging in town and church records to learn about them and perhaps find some new leads. It’s amazing how much can be learned from small newspaper articles. The most practical next step is to locate Clara’s German birth record. I know her birth date and will use that as a starting point when I find records from the Kunzendorf/Konczyce region.

I’m also going to take those two instances of “Cannot be learned” as a challenge rather than a stopping point in learning about Caroline’s parents. Maybe it couldn’t be learned in 1929… but that was before the Internet!


Tagged , , , , , , ,
Leave a comment

1968 Detroit Science Fair Ribbons

Metropolitan Detroit Science Fair award ribbons from 1968

You should have seen the look on my face a few years ago when I found these two award ribbons tucked in among my grandmother’s old photos! I fell in love with them as artifacts before I knew anything about them.

Both ribbons feature a simplistically cool atom logo and one of my favorite styles of vintage Art Nouveau typeface (Gable Antique Condensed, for any typography nerds* out there). They are from the same event: the 1968 Metropolitan Detroit Science Fair. The smaller white one (6.5 inches long) was probably worn by the exhibitor during the science fair, though I’m not positive because it’s in absolutely perfect condition. The larger red ribbon (9.5 inches long) says “Honorable Mention” and shows wear on the bottom… but since the rest of it is also in perfect condition, I would guess that the frayed tips are simply a result of being stored in a box that was slightly too small.

The tags sewn on the backs of the ribbons were blank, so I didn’t know right away which of my grandmother’s nine daughters had earned them. But I discovered that Lachman & Company is still in business with headquarters in Detroit! Though their product catalog seems to have shifted to offer more high-end trophies than basic award ribbons these days.

blank tags on the back of the ribbons

The ribbons were stashed among photos and negatives from the 1960s but with no other clues. (This all happened in the summer of 2008 when I was just starting to go through some of the stuff I’d inherited.) Doing the math of who would have been in high school or junior high at the time, I narrowed down the potential past exhibitor list to five candidates—four aunts and my mom. I made a mental note to ask my mom about them, but promptly forgot since my first goal at the time was to scan old photos.

Then, a couple days later, I stumbled upon a pretty major clue in the form of a photograph.

My mom with her science fair display

Hey! That’s my mom standing behind a giant science fair display board!

I called her right away and she confirmed that she had indeed advanced to the regional level with her Electromagnetic Combination Lock project. I’m sure she told me about that at some point, perhaps around the time of my own ribbon-winning science fair days in middle school.  Maybe it would have stuck with me longer if I’d seen this photograph or her ribbons… but instead they were in hiding for forty years. I’m just glad that I know about all of this now.

The actual print of the above photo was somewhat washed out, but luckily it was one of the few for which I also have negatives. The scanned negative delivered an excellent tone (discounting the glare from the flash—I wonder which aunt is to blame for that?). Unfortunately, the negative is on 126 film (square, not rectangular) so the top and bottom were cut off by the 35mm film adapter that came with my scanner. Maybe someday I’ll have some of the 126 film professionally scanned so I can get the whole picture.

In the meantime, Happy Mother’s Day to my mom! I’m proud of you for the excellent work you did back in 1968. Your mom must have been proud of you, too, because she kept those ribbons in perfect shape. <3

Metropolitan Detroit Science Fair ribbon 1968 - honorable mention

* Thanks to my graphic designer friend Sydney for researching the name of the typeface for me! Gable Antique Condensed was designed by the Bauer Type Foundry in Germany around 1900. I wonder if my German ancestry somehow influenced my fondness for it?

Tagged , , ,
Leave a comment

Not prepared for such flattery

After my blog “came out” on Geneabloggers this past weekend, I received some really nice comments and was happy to subscribe to a few new blogs as a result. The Armchair Genealogist (Lynn Palermo) stopped by, too, which was really cool because her website has already helped me as a newbie genealogist. Cooler than cool, though, was that she included Old Family Stories in her Monday Morning Mentions… and seriously complimented my writing! I was not prepared for such flattery, which is why I hid behind the couch for two days.

This is what she said:

New Genealogy Blog – we will tip our hat to a newcomer who impresses us right out of the box

This week’s mention:

Yvette at Old Family Stories is off to a wonderful start. I was intrigued because of her French-Canadian heritage, after looking through her blog I love her organization and writing, nice family history blog. Yvette writes like she is a detective off to find her next clue, very compelling to read. Pay her a visit maybe you can help her uncover her family history mysteries.

Thanks again, Lynn. You made my day.

Tagged ,
Leave a comment

Now a proud member of Geneabloggers!

I’m happy to announce that I am now officially part of the GeneaBloggers community! Old Family Stories received its debut in their weekly roundup of new blogs.

GeneaBloggers logoGeneaBloggers is a community for genealogy and family history bloggers and their readers. I noticed the GeneaBloggers badge in the sidebar of a couple genealogy blogs I’d started to read in 2011, and I’m so glad I clicked to see what it was all about. The concept of converging genealogy and technology is what drew me to RootsTech 2012. Toss my love of writing/blogging in the mix and BAM! No question that family history blogging, and its associated community, is right up my alley.

With so many questions already bobbing about in my head, it’s good to know that there may be people who could (and would want to) help or at least commiserate with my frustration. I’ve already been inspired, located resources, and learned from others’ examples by reading some of the GeneaBloggers blogs. A few relatives are interested in what I’m doing, as well as a local friend (Hi Barbara!), but I’ve had some moments when I felt like I was doing my family history research in a vacuum. It’s definitely time to make some new internet friends! Hopefully I’ll be able to offer some helpful advice of my own someday.

So I’m proud to place the GeneaBloggers badge in the sidebar of this blog and am looking forward to interacting with the community. Big Internet Kudos and thanks to its creator and curator, Thomas MacEntee!


Michigan death certificate for Anna (Wensorski) Schulz

I received the 1937 death certificate for Anna Schulz (view/download PDF) one day after I received her husband August’s (1906). Again, another certified copy from Michigan’s vital records so that I could see and interpret every detail for myself. This time there were some typewritten elements, though most of the form was still handwritten.

1937-01 death certificate Anna Wensorski Schulz info highlighted

Click to enlarge

I was hoping to document Anna’s birth date, birth city, mother’s maiden name, and cause of death. Here’s what I found, with important facts highlighted in the image above:

  • Birth date: July 12, 1877 (score!)
  • Birthplace: Danzig, Germany. BIG score! I was hoping that she was from the same area where her first daughter was born. That significantly narrows the scope of my search for German records.
  • Name and birthplace of father: Antoni Wensorski, born in Germany (no city/state listed). This is further evidence that her maiden name was spelled with the extra S, so I’m changing it in my records. However… my other records indicate that Mr. Wensorski’s first name was Josef. Hmm.
  • Maiden name and birthplace of mother: Josephine Munski, born in Germany (no city/state listed). Houston, we have a problem. My other records show that Anna’s mother’s name was Franciska Stahl and that August’s mother’s name was Josephine Munski (though her maiden name is inconveniently NOT listed on August’s death certificate). I’m going to have to verify that Anna’s parental information listed on her death certificate is incorrect. Once I do that, however, I feel good about using this kerfuffle as evidence that August’s mother’s maiden name is Munski.
  • Cause of death: Hypertensive heart disease / Cerebral thrombosis (blod clot that likely resulted in a stroke).
  • Age at time of death: 59 years, 5 months, 18 days. She was under the care of the reporting physician for the 10 days leading up to her death on January 9, 1937 at 7:40am. I wonder if that means she had a stroke on December 31, 1936? What a way to ring in the new year.
  • Place of death: 6136 Horatio, Detroit. See map and more info below.
  • Length of residence in city or town where death occurred: 36 years. I’m not sure how this is possible since she immigrated in 1903, not 1901. At least I can be confident that she did move directly to Detroit after immigration and stayed there.
  • How long in U.S., if of foreign birth: 36 years. Again, I think this information is a little off.
  • Occupation: House-wife.
  • Marital status: married to Paul Schulz. I don’t have documentation yet, but my family has told me that he was August’s brother. That’s a story I’m very interested in learning more about!
  • Number of children: Not even on the form! I’m going to have to look for other sources of information to find out if she had a child who died in infancy between 1900 and 1906.

Aside from the problems created by some iffy information (her parents’ names and the length of residence in the U.S.), there are some positive facts here that will help me move forward with researching her family in the Danzig area.

Documenting her home address is a good step forward, too, especially because Horatio Street intersects with Wesson Avenue, the listed residence for August (and presumably Anna) in 1906. On top of that, my great-grandmother and her husband bought a house nearby on Perkins Street in the 1930s. I believe that Hedwig would have wanted to stay in the same neighborhood as her mother. It’s nice to have an address to pinpoint the probable setting of the many backyard photos I have from the 1920s and 1930s!

Detroit locations for Schulz family: Horation and Wesson, Holy Cross Cemetary

Click to enlarge

Further evidence that the Schulz family was firmly rooted in this western area of Detroit is that Anna and August were both buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, just Southwest of where they lived. I also marked it on this map.

I should mention that obtaining these two death certificates would have been difficult if my grandmother had not kept the burial cards that her mother had passed on to her. Having the date of burial was key, especially for August since I couldn’t find any other information to go on. More on burial cards in a future post!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Michigan death certificate for August Schulz

Last month I wrote about requesting death certificates for August and Anna Schulz. Michigan’s state records department found and sent them to me a lot faster than I was expecting, which was a double bonus considering that I wasn’t even sure they would have them on record! Though I didn’t get all the information I was hoping for, I definitely got some clues to help narrow what would have otherwise been a very blind search process.

I requested and received certified copies with official embossed seals. It’s kind of funny to have such official documents when I really just wanted to copy. It cost a little more than the cheaper option, wherein I would have received a typed transcript via email, but it was important for me to see every little detail with my own eyes so I’m certain that I have ALL the information. And now I have that for my files. Yay!

Let’s start with information culled from August’s death certificate (view/download PDF), since I received his first.

1906-10 death certificate August Schulz with sections highlighted

Click to enlarge

I was hoping to document his birth date, birth city, mother’s maiden name, and cause of death. Here’s what I found, with relevant sections highlighted in the image above:

  • Birth date: May 17, 1874 (score!)
  • Birthplace: “Ger” which is the lazy registrar’s way of writing Germany. Darn—city still unknown. The form doesn’t even call for it.
  • Name and birthplace of father: Anton Schulz, born in Germany. Again, no city.
  • Name and birthplace of mother: Josephine Schulz, born in Germany. Still not helpful!
  • Mother’s maiden name: Unconfirmed. I don’t doubt other family documents listing it as Munski, I was just hoping for something official to go by.
  • Cause of death: Typhoid fever. Ugh. It makes me squeamish to think about how August must have suffered before his untimely death.
  • Age at time of death: 32 years, 5 months. I’m calling this out because that was my exact age when I received his death certificate. That definitely made me pause to reflect on my own mortality.
  • Place of death: 692 Wessen, Detroit (Ward 16). No hospital information is provided, so that’s likely where the Schulz family was living at the time. According to Google Maps, there is a Wesson Avenue in Detroit near I-94 and Livernois. That might be the right area based on info from Anna’s death certificate, which I’ll explain in my next post.
  • Age at first marriage: 24. So that would be 1898 or 1899, indicating that his first child (my great-grandma Hedwig) was born in wedlock.
  • Number of children: “Parent of 3 children, of which 2 are living.” Very interesting. I know he had three daughters, one of whom was in utero when he died. Is it possible that there was another child who had predeceased him? Or does the record count his unborn daughter (Clara) as a non-living child?
  • Occupation: “Lbr.” As expected, he was a laborer.

So! A lot of information about August, both in terms of genealogical clues and in developing some insight into his life. As a German immigrant, he worked as a laborer for only 3 to 5 years before his life was cut short by disease. He wasn’t even in the United States long enough to be counted in a census. Could he read and write? Did he even speak English? I might never know.

But I have a birth date and his age at marriage. Knowing that his first daughter was born in Danzig within a year or two after he and Anna married means that I at least have a region and two-year timeframe to help me locate a marriage record. Plus, there’s some additional information about Anna that I’ll be sharing soon!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Leave a comment