Monday, December 31, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 52

St. Louis Arch
This is the last week of the 2018 52 Ancestors Challenge and the writing prompt is, appropriately, Resolution. I am choosing not to write about an ancestor this week, instead focusing on a reflection of this year’s challenge. It has been wonderful to write about a different ancestor each week. The purpose of the yearly challenge is to get us to write down our ancestor’s stories, and this is a good way to do get it done.

Having said that, I don’t think I will be participating in the 2019 challenge. Personally, I found that many of the writing prompts did not inspire me, and some of that was probably due to the fact that I would take them too literally. The other issue I had was trying to avoid redundancy. Because I have written about many of the ancestors before in the February writing challenges I have participated in, it was a struggle to come up with new ancestors who fit the bill for the topic of the week’s writing prompt.

My resolution for the new year is to find a different challenge for myself, whether that is one I create myself or something I find on the internet. I definitely want to keep researching and writing, but I need to find something that doesn’t end up feeling like such a chore each week. I do genealogy because I find it interesting and fun. I certainly don’t want a writing challenge to take that away.

Here’s to breaking through some genealogy walls - and writing about it - in 2019!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 51

Since the writing prompt for last week was Naughty, it makes sense that this week’s would be Nice. I searched through the names in my family tree, looking for one that would be fun to write about. I found an Edgar Allan Poe, but first of all that was probably not a nice name to grow up with, and second he was a very distant relative by marriage only.

Then I found the name Rudolph Kemper, my paternal 4th great-uncle. Since it is just days before Christmas, I thought it might be fun to take a look at him. Rudolph was born about 1825 in Germany, the son of Henry William Kemper (my paternal 4th great-grandfather) and an unknown mother.

Henry arrived in Louisiana aboard the ship Mississippi on 23 December 1846, accompanied by his children: Anna Mary Kemper age 23, Herman Henry Kemper age 11, and Catherine Mary Kemper age 9. As Rudolph was 21 when the family left Germany, he either remained behind or had already traveled to America. I am assuming that Henry’s wife died in Germany prior to their departure.

The name Rudolph derives from two stems: hrod meaning fame, and olf meaning wolf. So in translation the meaning would be fame-wolf. In the United States we are all much more familiar with the name being associated with a famous reindeer. As the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer did not appear until 1939, Rudolph Kemper did not have to bear the bullying of other children laughing and calling him names. It would be interesting to know, though, if he did Americanize his name once he came to his new homeland. Did he go by Rudy? Or perhaps Rolf?

On my maternal side of the family, I have a 1st cousin 4 times removed who is named Rudolphus Orth. He was born in Germany in 1812. His brother John Orth named a son Rudolph Orth in 1845. So I have had a few fame-wolfs in the family.

Friday, December 14, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 50

This week’s writing prompt is Naughty. Today’s post is about someone who might be on Santa’s Naughty List. My paternal 2nd great-aunt Matilda (Tillie) Boegel would definitely fall into that category. She was born 18 May 1872 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the fifth child of Johann (known as John) and Sophia (Suhre) Boegel. Her siblings were Johann born in 1861, William born in 1864, Emma born in 1868, Louisa (my great-grandmother) born in 1870, John born in 1874, and Charles born in 1877.

At first blush it appears that Tillie led a pretty benign life. On paper, she never married or had any children. She lived with her parents until her mid-late twenties, working as a tailoress in Cincinnati. That was also the occupation of my great-grandmother, her sister Louisa.

By the 1900 Cincinnati census she was boarding at 219 Odeon with Mary Lambert, a widow with a 14 year old son and a 12 year old daughter. Tillie’s occupation was still listed as tailoress. In the 1901 Cincinnati Directory she was a tailoress residing at 1562 Linn St.

In the early 1900s, Matilda’s life took an interesting twist as she hooked up with her cousin’s husband. The cousin, Sophia Saatkamp, was born in Cincinnati in March of 1870 to Henry and Richie (Suhre) Saatkamp. She married William H. Niederhelman on 22 August 1888. William was a jeweler, who at one point owned a jewelry store. They had two sons: Albert born in 1889, and William born in 1896. Sophia divorced William as she felt he was paying too much attention to her cousin, Tillie. Around 1904 or 1905, William and Tillie left Cincinnati together, and set up a home in Terre Haute, Indiana. There are conflicting reports as to whether the divorce of Sophia and William occurred before or after they took off.

The couple lived in Terre Haute several years, and though she was often referred to as his wife, there is no record of a marriage between William and Tillie. She left him just before Christmas of 1909 to go and live with her brother John Boegel, his wife Luella, and their three sons in Connersville, Indiana. By that time, according to a newspaper account, she was blind, deaf, and suffered from paralysis of the left side.

William Niederhelman's death
William, now going by the name of William Helman, met up with a woman named Effie Sellsbury at a hotel in Terre Haute on Christmas Day in 1909. Effie then met with William again around 8 January 1910 in Chicago. They had dinner together, and she was registered at a hotel as his wife. They departed on the same train out of Chicago on 9 January. He left the train in Terre Haute, and the next morning, Monday, 10 January, William was found dead in bed, a supposed victim of poisoning. He left a note accusing the Sellsbury woman of giving him the poison. He also alleged she had stolen from him, and that she was engaged in white slavery.

Effie, in the meantime, had continued on the train in the company of a man named Henry Corcoran. When they arrived in New Orleans they were arrested and charged in connection with the death of William. They vehemently denied the charges, and stated William was fine when he got off the train in Terre Haute.

Police believed that William had committed suicide because he was despondent that Effie would not stay with him, and the coroner sent the body to the State University at Bloomington for examination. It was determined the William had committed suicide by taking 53 grains of cyanide potassium. Chemists confirmed that this amount would have caused instant death, so Effie could not have given him the poison in Chicago 12 hours before he died. Effie and her male companion were released after spending a couple of days in a New Orlean's jail.

In light of William’s death, Tillie’s brother John petitioned to take care of William’s estate, but in the end he could not prove that William and Tillie ever married, despite the fact that they had lived together as husband and wife. The estate was thought to be worth $5,000. William carried two life insurance policies, each with a death benefit of $500. One was payable to his estate and the other to “Mrs. Mathilda Helman, Cincinnati.”

But someone else was also interested in William’s estate - his ex-wife Sophia. She traveled to Terre Haute with her son Albert to petition the court to be appointed administratrix of the estate. Ultimately, co-administrators were appointed, one for each of the so-called wives of William.

In another odd twist the Cincinnati Enquirer, in covering the sordid tale of the 1910 death of William. reported that about two yeas ago a liveryman committed suicide. It is alleged that he ended his life when his wife learned that he had an “engagement with the woman know as Mrs. Helman No. 2.” That would be Tillie.

Tillie died 16 September 1910 in Connersville, Indiana at the age of 38. The cause of death was listed as “Exhaustion”, having a duration of one year. It must have been exhausting to live a life of betrayal, deception, infidelity and ostracism from your family. But one has to wonder if something else contributed to her debilitating illness. Syphilis can cause blindness, hearing loss and neurological issues. It bears consideration.

Friday, December 7, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 49

Mayme Crusham ~1950
With the writing prompt being Winter, I immediately searched through old photographs to see if I had a wintertime photograph of one of my ancestors. I came across this one of my maternal grandmother, Mary Barbara (Metz) Crusham.

Known by all as Mayme, she was born 5 February 1890 in Cincinnati to Peter and Bridget (Maher) Metz. Mayme was the second oldest of five children, with the others being Helen b. 1888, Alice b. 1892, Stella b. 1893, and Walter b. 1895. Mayme married Michael Crusham on 21 June 1911 when she was 21 years of age.

The photograph was taken in front of Michael and Mayme’s house at 1238 Rosemont Avenue in the Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. My older sister Kathleen is seated on the bumper of what was probably my dad, LeRoy Kubler’s, car as we owned the house next door to Grandma and Grandpa. After discussing the photo with my sister, we decided the boy in the photo is most likely our brother Kenneth. It is difficult to say as he is turned away from the camera, and with my sister being seated you can’t get a feel for the difference in their height. Kathy is two years older than Ken. Our older brother LeRoy was diagnosed with aplastic anemia when he was a couple of years old, so he would not have been allowed out in the snow.

Having said that, and guessing that Kathy is around six years of age in this photo, it is likely that the photo was taken late in 1950. LeRoy died at the age of seven in January of 1950. And a huge storm system moved into the central part of the United States in November of that year.

The snow started out just before Thanksgiving in 1950 as a seemingly normal weather event, but it turned deadly. The significant winds created blizzard conditions, and Cincinnati and other areas received more that 2 feet of snow in three days due to the slow-moving storm. The snow conditions lasted from November 22-30. As if that wasn’t bad enough, above average temperatures during the first week of December led to flooding, with the Ohio River reaching 56 feet, 4 feet above flood stage. That certainly must have made for an interesting winter in Cincinnati.

There are a couple of things that strike me about this photo. First, Grandma’s feet and legs must have been freezing! It sure doesn’t appear as though she has boots on. Second, just in looking at her I would have guessed she was in the winter of her life. And yet, she would have only been 60 in this photo. Heck, I’m older than that right now, which makes me totally revise my idea of the definition of the “winter of your life”!