Saturday, May 26, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 21

In previous posts I have written extensively about the ancestors in my family who once served in the United States military. So for this post on the writing prompt Military, I will instead talk about a military urban legend in our family tree.

Michael Cramer
My father had been told that his maternal great-grandfather, Michael Cramer, was in the Civil War. In fact, dad had seen with his own eyes a bugle and a rifle which were purported to have been used by Michael in the war. Those were to be passed down to my dad as he was the only male grandchild of Michael. However, somewhere along the line a cousin came to visit my grandfather (dad’s dad), and he asked for the bugle and rifle. My grandfather let him take them, and dad never saw the items again.

Through the years I have attempted to prove or disprove the legend. I was skeptical, because Michael was born 15 September 1853 in New Orleans to Michael and Catherine (Kemper) Cramer. As the Civil War broke out in April of 1861 and ended in May of 1865, Michael would have been only 8-12 years of age when the war was raging. Obviously he would not have been accepted into a regular regiment. He could, however, have been a member of a Fife and Drum Corps. But even that would be a stretch as the average age in the corps was 18.

Unfortunately members of the drum and fife groups were not normally documented, so I have been unable to locate a roster that lists my ancestor’s name. More telling, perhaps, is the fact that in the 1930 census under the box where the census-taker asked if you were a veteran of the U.S. military, “No” was marked by Michael’s name.

So where did the bugle and rifle come from? The only Civil War veteran I have been able to find definitive records on so far was Andrew Hungler, my dad’s 2nd great-grandfather. Perhaps they came from him. How sad that my dad did not have the opportunity to keep such important and historic family heirlooms.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 20

The writing prompt for this week, Another Language, stumped me for a bit. I don’t speak another language, and outside of a few German words carelessly thrown out by my father, no other language was ever spoken in our house. I don’t remember any of my grandparents speaking anything besides English.

truck of one of my Swiss cousins
However, when I traveled on my genealogy trip to Germany and Switzerland, language became a huge issue for me. Luckily most of the people I encountered spoke English. In both of the small hometowns I visited I was provided with a translator. The new relatives I met, with the exception of a couple of teenage girls, could only talk to me through the interpreter. That worked out pretty well, until the evening I spent alone with two cousins. They spoke no English and I spoke no German, and we went out to dinner together. Have you ever spent a few hours with someone and been unable to communicate? It was frustrating, for me as well as them, I’m sure. Not for the first time, I regretted not taking a German for Travelers class before I embarked on this journey. We resorted to drawing pictures on napkins, creating our own form of communication.

Kubler record
But most discouraging was the fact that all the records were in German, and in an old script to boot. I got to the point where I could at least recognize the name, and we took photos of the entries in each book. But there was no time to process how the people fit into my family tree. Between my photos and those taken by the man who was assisting me in looking for my family, I have hundreds of new names. Some I have been able to plug into my genealogy program, but many are stored on CDs that were given to me. I just don’t know what to do with them, short of hiring a German genealogist to make sense of all of them.

It is, indeed, another language. But it is all Greek to me.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 19

Joe, Mom and me ~1956
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, and also to all the women who have served in the capacity of “mom” regardless of birthing circumstances. The writing prompt for this week is, of course, Mother’s Day. For most of my life Mother’s Day was, in my mind, a time to celebrate my own mother. Even after I had my first child in 1985, it never felt like “my” day. After all, my mom had been doing the job a whole lot longer than me.

When she died in 1989, the “Mother” disappeared from “Mother’s Day”. Instead of a day of celebrating, it became a day of mourning. It was many, many years before I could even begin to look at Mother’s Day cards again. The fact that my son barely got to know my mom, and that my daughter never had the opportunity to do so, still breaks my heart. She was such an important part of me, and a wonderful and fun-loving person, that it is a shame they didn’t get a chance to share their lives with her.

me, Andy and mom 1989

my sister and me
Mother's Day 2013
I’m grateful for my older sister who, due to the difference in our ages, often seemed like a second mother to me as I was growing up. Our roles are different now that we are grown up, but she has been such a support to me as she felt our mother’s loss every bit as strongly as me. We try to get together on Mother’s Day, and that has helped with our healing.

I’m also blessed to have a mother-in-law who has always been a strong role model for me throughout the 40 plus years that I have known her. She is my mom in all the important ways, and I pray that we have many more Mother’s Days to share.

my mother and father-in-law with my mom and dad
Mother's Day 1979

Saturday, May 5, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 18

Catherine Crusham
This week I selected a photograph of my mother, Catherine (Crusham) Kubler, for the writing prompt Close Up. While I do have a photo of her from when she was quite small, she is in a baby carriage and her features are hard to make out. I believe this picture was taken around 1923 in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can’t tell from this black and white photo, but my mom was a natural redhead as were her father and at least two of her seven siblings.

Catherine was the third child born alive (two others were stillborn) to Michael and Mary (Metz) Crusham, and five additional children followed her. I’ve always been a bit surprised that this photograph was taken, as it was obviously done in a studio. Michael and Mary were not a well-to-do couple, and by the time it was taken a fourth daughter would have been added to the family. Where did they come up with the money for the portrait? Did the other children have their photos taken as well? I’ll have to ask my aunts next time I see them.

Mom seems pretty pensive in the picture. Perhaps the gargoyles carved on the chair scared her! Most likely she had never seen a photographer with a big camera before. But smile or no, I am grateful to have this depiction of what my mother looked like as a child.

Kim Kubler
I find it interesting to compare her photograph to one taken of me around the same age in Chicago where we lived from the time I was a few months old until I turned five. I obviously had no qualms about having my picture taken. My dad always had a camera around, so I was used to having one pointed at me.

Mom and I both had curly hair, though mine was brown while hers was red. I see the most similarities in the upper part of our faces, in the shape of the eyes and the nose. From my mom I also inherited my height, or lack thereof, my pear shape and my bunions. Yay…

But it is inside where we are most alike, I think. I share my mom’s sense of humor, her view of seeing the glass as half full, her fierce protection of her family, her love of travel, and her willingness to try new things.

It would have been wonderful had she lived long enough for us to be able to travel and try some new things together.