Ties That Bind

Misc_0015The Stephenson County Genealogical Society meets this Thursday, May 4th at the Freeport Public Library (100 Douglas Street, Freeport, IL).

6:00pm to 6:30pm     Meeting
6:30pm to 8:00pm     Ties that Bind with Lenora Leucke.

Love. Health. Traditions. Memories. Genealogy.  Join SCGS this Thursday to learn how our past connects us and understand what our ancestors can tell us about our health and more.

Photo: Larson Collection. property of the Stephenson County Genealogical Society

Advertisements

Leta in my Home

I suppose most of the world wonders about us.  Why we do what we do with such passion that we’ll stay up all night, pepper family with questions for which no one could possibly know the answer (though, they would be surprised at what a single memory might provoke in terms of paths), stay bent over our computers for hours or similarly disposed in county offices surrounded by hundred-year-old stacks of books and documents.

It’s because of pearls like this: Leta Maude Best Mueller.

Who?

Turns out, Leta and her husband, Alfred Felix Mueller lived in my home from 1923 to 1939, perhaps longer.  Alfred, a grocery store shipping clerk at Guyer & Calkins Wholesale Groceries in Freeport, and Leta had two children, Max B (1916-2006) and Jean A (1920-2002) whom, one would expect, grew up in this house.

It’s odd.  Now that I know about this family, I can imagine these four people living here.  I don’t know a lot about them (yet) but I can imagine that the parents shared the room that is now my office—at the end of the hall, the biggest in size with a rather large sitting room.  I suspect Max, the oldest and the only male child, probably slept in the second largest room—also with its own large sitting room—and, the stairs to the full walk-through attic within which he likely played, perhaps hung out one of the dormer windows yelling to friends on the street or contemplating the stars.  And, he might well have seen the sky from the attic or his sitting room, as the giant weeping pine tree wouldn’t have been blocking his view (if it was even there at the time).

Jean was probably relegated to the smallest bedroom—9 by 13 wouldn’t have been all that small for a bedroom—with no  sitting room.  And, though I will likely find out by the time I get to the tax records portion of this house history search, next to the bathroom I’ve always wondered was original to the house or if it once might have served as her sitting room.

Okay, it’s not like I didn’t know people lived in my 100-plus year old house, so why am I seemingly so enthusiastic?

Leta Maude Best Mueller went to college.

In an era where few women attended college–and even fewer colleges were co-ed–it seems Leta attended Wesleyan in Bloomington, Illinois (majoring and serving as undergraduate assistant in English) for her first two years then transferred to Northwestern University where she studied English and “the science curriculum.”  I haven’t yet learned if she graduated but I hope to even though I suspect she did not.

I’ve begun to trace Leta and Albert’s family trees but it appears Leta’s grandfather was a physician, which might account for her interest in and ability to attend college.

What really made today’s search most special was finding this.  I present Leta Maude Best, junior at Northwestern University.

Leta

A Genealogist’s Spectacles

glasses

Yes, I use four different pairs of glasses.

I’ll start with the sunglasses because I rarely get to wear them.  Not much opportunity to do so when much of my life is spent indoors sitting before my computer, in libraries or dusty basements flipping through sooty books and legal documents.

Then there are my regular glasses, the purple ones without the old-lady neck strap, something like which I’ve worn since I was a child of seven.  I don’t really need them so much (cataract surgery took care of that a few years ago) but after a lifetime of wearing something on my face, it’s habit.  And, it’s helpful when I need to read on the run (i.e., no time to take off regular glasses for one of my other pairs).

The rather smart purple-with-neck-strap glasses are my reading glasses.  Books, documents (lots of documents), newspapers and more are considerably clearer with these accessories.  And, as a genealogist, often are in constant exchange with my BC glasses.

My BC glasses got its designation during my days in the US Army when we were issued similar pairs in Basic Training. The idea was that no man would be even remotely interested in one of us who wore them; hence, automatic birth control.  I received these BC glasses from the VA a few months ago and, while they are only mildly different than the dreaded BC glasses of our Basic Training days (once out of Basic, we were allowed to revert back to more fashionable ones), in the 21st century this same style is considered trendy!  Why is this pair important?  It seems that there are sunglasses, regular-seeing glasses, reading glasses (with or without neck cord) and computer glasses; who knew?

Utilizing all four pairs when necessary has saved considerable eye strain these past few years.

Why bring this up, now?

Because I spent the day reading city directories.  Ever read a city directory?  If you’re at all into genealogy and you haven’t, you should.  Thirty years (that’s just today’s work—there were 105 years’ worth, in all) and the names of owners/occupiers of ten homes.  And, tracking each and every one in Excel.  Reading glasses/computer glasses/reading/computer/reading/computer….

House FrontIt all started because I wanted to do a house history of my 105-year-old home as a sample for the CPGen website but the city of Freeport renumbered the houses on my one-block street and I can’t (yet) locate which of the early ones were mine.  So, since it’s a limited pool of ten houses on the street, I decided to do them all.  Good thing I love house histories.

So, I am officially done with the city directories.  Still haven’t identified which of the originally-numbered homes is mine but I have narrowed it down to three.  The problem is that each of the original homeowners left between the use of the old house numbers and the renumbering of the street.  At least, that’s the best available information given one missing city directory in our local library for the year the house numbers changed.  And, my county (Stephenson, Illinois) lists deeds by Grantor/Grantee and not by property address so the only way to track the original owner is to start with the last (that’d be me).  Finally, there are no plat maps available (that I’ve been able to yet locate) showing the placement of the original five properties on the street, of which my house is one.

Next stop?  County Recorder’s Office and deed books.  Lots and lots of deed books…..

A Family Narrative

Though this sample covers a single individual—my maternal grandfather, Philip E. Helferich—a family narrative traditionally covers an entire familial line from as far back as the client requests and for which documentation can be found.  As will be clear almost as soon as you start reading, Philip was an …unusual fellow, with three wives during his lifetime.  Philip’s life is reported in full (with information found to date), without a singular focus on the lives of any of his wives or children.  This narrative could have begun with Johannes “Henner” Helferich and covered all of his children in brief with the exception of Johann Fritz, who would have a narrative similar to this one on Philip E. and whose entire family would be listed in brief with the exception of Johan Georg and so on.

A family narrative that follows the entire Helferich line from Henner (because he’s the earliest ancestor with enough proven documentation to warrant inclusion) to me!  It would include a separate focus on:

Johannes “Henner” Helfferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Johannes Fritz Helfferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Johann Georg Helferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Görg Philipp, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

Johannes “John” Helferich, with brief documentation of his wives and children, including a focus on

Philip P [Philipp?] Helferich, with brief documentation of his wife and children, including a focus on

George Lennis Helferich, with brief documentation of his wives and children, including a focus on

Philip Ernest Helferich, with brief documentation of his wives and children, including a focus on

Nola Deene Helferich Feinberg, with brief documentation of her husbands and children, including a focus on

Me (and my siblings, if wanted).

Yes.  It can be a very long document but, as is clear from The Interesting Life & Times of Philip E. Helferich, it can also be a document rich with information that helps to bring our ancestors to life.  Definitely much more interesting than a numbered list of ancestors.  Think Who Do You Think You Are? in text; and then some.  It is also important to note that few of our ancestors will have stories as …extensive as Grandpa Phil’s.

There is one additional thing to remember about any genealogical report.  A good genealogist will provide the client with all of the documentation found and will be as sensitive as possible in reporting potentially difficult to accept information.  If the client chooses to keep some information out of the final report—the one that goes to their family—a good genealogist will have an exchange with the client about the importance of being inclusive but, in the end, will respect the wishes of the client.

So, please enjoy P.E.’s interesting life and times—and, they were even a bit more interesting than is written here; if only documentation to support the stories was available!

Note: Unless otherwise requested, reports contain footnotes, not endnotes as in this version of The Interesting Life & Times of Philip E. Helferich.  This narrative was originally created as the final assignment for the Professional Genealogist Study Group (ProGen).  What is included here as a sample of a single-individual family narrative is the same report recreated to gift to Helferich family members and was written with endnotes.

All reports presented to clients will not only include footnotes to document where each document or piece of information was—and could be—found, but will contain either the original, paper or electronic copies of all documents.

Click here for The Interesting Life & Times of Philip E. Helferich.

We’re Official!

It took a long time, but CPGen is now officially open for business!

CPGenLic

There are still a few steps to climb before the doors are thrown open to the public but it won’t be long now.  We’re working on a sample house history that has turned into an entire block history and there are a couple of other sample pieces that need to be prepped so that they can be placed on this site, but things are moving along.

We accept record-search requests for Stephenson and surrounding Illinois counties.  If you are interested in having CPGen conduct searches for you, please go to the CPGen Fees & Services page for more information.  CPGen does conduct some document searches in Stephenson County at no charge for the search (there may be document fees).

One more step accomplished!

 

Centuries of Progress Genealogy: How’d we get here?

The most commonly asked question about CPGen concerns the origin of our name.  As a born’n’bred Chicagoan with a penchant for Chicago’s history and a one-time collector of all things Chicago World’s Fairs (the first, in 1893, was the Columbian Exposition honoring 400 years since Columbus sailed–eh, it was a very different time in the 1890s), it’s actually a nice progression.  But, the real impetus was a single photograph.

pop-and-anthony-st-something

One evening during an overlong holiday vacation, I finally went through the family photos and papers I’d sorted out after my sister unexpectedly passed away during the previous year.  Among them, I found a photograph of my father that I’d not before seen.  On the back was written: Jimmy and Anthony-Chicago World’s Fair.  (That’s my dad on the left.)

And, of course, my first thought was: Why didn’t I ever ask?

 

During that same stretch of vacation boredom, I privately messaged a cousin on my mother’s side, explaining a family story that she certainly should have known but didn’t.  She ended the conversation with that oft-given phrase: We should write a book.

Ah, I suspect those two statements began the career of many of genealogist.

Who doesn’t think their family is intriguing enough to write that book?  (If you know of someone who doesn’t think so, then they must not know their family history.)  While I’ve dealt with many a client or family member incredibly disappointed that the great-grandmother they believed an “Indian princes who danced for the Queen of England” or the great-great grandfather who single-handedly defeated Napoleon wasn’t and didn’t, what I unearthed about their ancestors tends to be much better.  Most often, men and women who were risk-takers, especially those who left their homes and homelands to come to America—land of great promise and great uncertainty—and persevered.

And, is there one human on the planet over the age of 40 who hasn’t, at least once, mentally kicked themselves for not thinking to have asked a deceased parent or grandparent about that time when they…?  Or, worse yet, not being interested enough to have really listened while their grandparent regaled them with stories.

Those were the two events that propelled me into becoming a genealogist.  And, somehow, We Should Write a Book or I Shoulda Asked Genealogy didn’t have quite the same ring as, Centuries of Progress Genealogy.  Plus, neither of those lend themselves to a cool Art Deco logo as does CPGen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For more information on the Chicago’s 1933 Centuries of Progress World’s Fair, the Newberry Library’s “Picturing a Century of Progress, the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair” is a great starting point.  For an amazing array of Century of Progress records, check out the 264 photographs and 16 oversize folders at the Chicago Public Library.