Friday, February 9, 2018

Mystery Muddle: Ancestry DNA and Me

I just had to. So, for Christmas this year, we all got DNA tests done. Mine had some surprising results
that I haven't quite figured out since my research has not indicated much of it to be true. The Scandinavian results was 61% and Iberian Peninsula was my next big group at 11%. Based on my work with the family tree, I expected a lot more English and German and I have no idea where the Iberian Peninsula thing came from. So, it will be fun figuring it all out.

One of the features of Ancestry DNA is the matching they do between you and others who share some DNA. Some are closer relatives, but most are distant - 4th to 6th cousins or more. The results of this was not surprising for the most part. People I'd been in contact with over the past few years are confirmed as actually being DNA-connected as well. If there were ever any doubt, my dad can be assured that he is in fact the child of his known parents!

What was a big surprise was this close cousin (1st/2nd) that popped up that I'd never heard of before. I couldn't figure out from what I could learn, how we were related. I contacted her and she told me her tale. Her mother had been adopted. She had traced her birthmother's family (Simmons) and a likely birthmother but had no clue on the birthfather.

The process of research on the detective trail is the fun part for me. First, I needed to establish that I was not related to her on "Sue's" mom's birthmother's side. That was borne out rather quickly. That meant that I might find the key to solving the puzzle.

Then, I took the shared DNA connections and used them to exclude possibilities based on the year of birth of the mother and age of the birthmother - two estimated things we knew.

The solution was found in the Smith-Smull line. The only Smith-Smull crossovers were with Jennie Elnora Smull and Kate Smull, who both married Smith men from our line. Jennie's boys were ruled out as were two of Kate's boys. Then, that left one Smith boy. I feel fairly confident that we have located the birthfather of her mother.

I absolutely live to work on puzzles like this. And, I got a new close cousin out of the deal. Pretty cool.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Things and Other Things that Are Coming Up with Love

What we work on, in our genealogical research, is discovering what the lives and loves of our ancestors were like in whatever small way we can, without a big book of family stories to read from. Filling in those blanks has brought me great pleasure this past three years. I've taken trips of exploration, interviewed distant relatives, researched parts of family I never knew I had, and met with others in my own far-flung family who share my interests in-person from time-to-time (shout out to my cousin in Clarksville!)

This past several months have been most busy. Hopefully making memories that won't be quite as hard to unearth for future generations.  I am blessed to be the mother of three children, all brought into my life and heart through adoption. They are all well-adjusted and amazing kids and I couldn't be more proud of them and their accomplishments thus far in life. They are all grown now and settling into adult lives of their own making. My oldest is married and has a two-year-old child of his own. To see him with her would warm the coldest of hearts. You can read a little bit about my youngest two's start in life here. They are doing far beyond early predictions. All three are the greatest joy of my life.

Recently, I've been trying to put together pieces of the family trees of all three of them. Fortunately, two will share the same information or it might have gotten a little crazy. In discussing doing the work on this with them, they, who have generally shown little or no interest in their biological families, are indeed most interesting in hearing about the people who came in generations before.

What I've discovered thus far is compelling and fascinating. The two stories are about as different as they could be from one another as it relates to the path of immigration, but each story is very rich. And, both stories end up in the north-central Midwest.

I don't have the resources with their research I've had with my own biological family. I can't ask a cousin to ask a cousin if I can come up and talk to them. Most of their relatives don't even know they exist. It could be a bit shocking to make those calls! They all had open adoptions, so talking to at least one birth parent is not a problem, but, what we find out from that adventure, we have yet to discover. It's one I'm looking forward to doing what I am able to do and providing it to my children to help them in their own quest for self-identity.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Catholics: O'Connors of Black Hawk County

The O'Connors are the paternal line of my first cousin's husband. Unlike most of our Protestant, atheist/agnostic crew, this family and the ones it married into were all Catholic and settled in primarily Catholic Gilbertville, IA area, Washburn, and Waterloo, which all had heavy Catholic presence.

John J. O'Connor was reportedly from Tipperary, County Cork, Ireland, according to a great-great grandson. He was born on 07 Jun 1813. He married Bridget Carlin (many variations in various records), who was born on 24 Jun 1823 in Ireland. Bridget and John were married 08 Jan 1844 in Friendsville, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. They settled in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, where they had their first three children, Thomas, John Jr., and Peter between 1844 and 1849.  By 1852, they were in Illinois, where Mary was born. They are reported to be in Black Hawk County later in 1852 and their next child was born in Black Hawk County in 1854 with six more to follow through 1874.

The O'Connor family quickly became well-known in the region and had grain, lumber, and grocery interests as a family. They belong to St Mary's Catholic Church in Gilbertville.

John died on 13 Dec 1897 in Cedar Township, Black Hawk County, Iowa and was buried in Poyner Township. Bridget lasted five more years. Both had been early and productive pioneers of the area.

Mrs John (Listed as Richard) O'Connor Passed Away at Home There This Morning
Washburn, Jan 2 - Special to Reporter: Mrs John (listed as Richard) O'Connor, one of the oldest ladies in this part, of the county, died at her home in this place this morning at 3 o'clock. Old age was the primary cause of death, the woman having reached the fourth year beyond the four score mark, although also had been a constant sufferer for more than one year from hemorrhage of the lungs. Her illness  from this was very severe at times, and her death had been expected for several months.
Mrs John O'Connor leaves a large family of children They are: Peter, Westgate, Iowa; John, Raymond, Ia; James, Sumner, Ia; Richards, Jr., Washburn, Ia, who is engaged in buying grain at that place; Victor, Boyd, Iowa; Mrs Michael Nugent, Washburn, Ia; Mrs Frank Youngblut, Washburn; Mrs O'Connor had made her home with her daughter, Mrs Nugent, at this place, since the death of her husband which occurred five years ago. The familly has resided in this community for many years and are known by a large number of people. Deceased was a member of St Mary's Catholic church at Gilbertville, and the funeral will be held in that church, but the full arrangements have not yet been made.
Semi Weekly Reporter
Tuesday, January 3, 1905, Waterloo, Iowa

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Catholics: Youngblut, Simmerl, Hottua, & More

Diekirch and Esch-Sur-Alzette
My first cousin is married to a fella' quite different from the rest of our Protestant or atheist/agnostic family. His family on all sides came from completely Catholic roots. Additionally, his forefathers came from Ireland and surprisingly, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a small country in Western Europe abutting Belgium, Germany, and France.  Today, I want to talk a little about the Hottua's and Simmerls, of Luxembourg.

Oberfeulen, Diekirch, Luxembourg is a village of about 300 souls in the commune of Feulen and Canton of Diekrich.  This village was a rural, agricultural one. ANGELA HOTTUA was the daughter of Petrus Hottua (the name was Hothoi until this generation) and Catherine Glesener and was born in on 16 Feb 1806. Petrus and his family were blacksmiths.

She married Theodore Simmerl on 14 Feb 1827 in Oberfeulen. Theodore was born on 26 Sep 1797 in Oberfuelen and  was the son of Joseph Simmerl JR and Marie-Jeanne Gilson.

Theodore was a teacher from 1825 to 1830. In 1848, he took up being a "white painter," which was a painter who painted house facades with white chalk, a common practice of the era. Theodore died in 1855 after he and Angela had 12 children.

Daughter Susan, born 02 Apr 1831 in Oberfeulen, had a child out of wedlock of an unknown father at age 25, according to church records, was baptized and born on 30 Dec 1856, and listed as "Filia naturalis," meaning she was illegitimate.  In the 1852 and 1855 censuses she is listed as maid in the Jean Manderscheid household in Oberfeulen.  We can only guess who the father might have been.
Susan, her unmarried brother, Peter, and three sisters, went to America, arriving in May 1857 in New York. They moved on to Luxemburg, Liberty Township, Dubuque County from there. They had left Susan's daughter Barbara with grandmother Angela in Luxembourg (along with her three sisters).

Liberty Township was first settled between 1838-1851 by English, Irish, Luxembourg, and German immigrants. By the mid-1850s, about 60 families requested a Catholic church, and the first frame structure was built in 1861 and dedicated in 1865.
Susan Simmerl & Frank Youngblut
After six months, Susan married recent immigrant Frank Jungblut/Youngblut in Dec 1857.  The couple began farming outside Gilbertville, in Black Hawk County and would have 9 children of their own; seven of whom survived to adulthood. They retired to Gilbertville in their old age.

Frank, too, hailed from Luxembourg, having been born in Aspelt, Esch-Sur-Alzett, near France.  In Luxembourg, he had been a farm worker. He emigrated in 1852 through New Orleans, making his way up the Mississippi River until he arrived in Dubuque County and then on to Black Hawk County. He worked as a farm hand in Black Hawk County for a few years until he could purchase his own land at a whopping $9 per acre. He took part in the community and was an active Catholic. According to records, he aided in building the slabs of the first Catholic Church in Gilbertville, Immaculate Conception.

Peter Simmerl sent for mother Angela and niece Barbara, and they settled Granville, Sioux County, Iowa.  Angela died in 1897, after living some time with son Peter. Barbara married in 1876 to Henry Bunkers, and they lived in Granville during their lifetimes and raised 11 children.

Frank died on 11 May 1892 in Gilbertville. Susan survived an additional 15 years, having lived with daughter Anna Youngblut Wendling in Independence and then with son John.
Mrs Youngblut died at the home of her son John in Fox township Sunday evening at 6:00 o'clock, after a lingering illness of several months. Deceased has lived here for many years on the farm now occupied by her son Frank H, having come here with her husband in the forties. Her husband preceded her in death about 15 years ago. Mrs Youngblut lived in Washburn several years and until last winter when she started to visit with her daughter, Mrs J Wendling, near Independence, where she became sick, but was removed at her request to the home of her son John some time ago. She will be buried tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10:00 o'clock in the Catholic cemetery here. She leaves seven children to mourn her death - John of Fox township, FH of Cedar township, Josephine of Indiana, Anna near Independence, and Mary at Marion, Sophie at Washburn and Susie, Boyd, Iowa all of whom are married.
Semi Weekly Reporter Friday, May 25, 1906, Waterloo, Iowa

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

SIDEROAD: Peter Mesch

Peter Mesch & Katie Heber
FERDINAND MESCH > PETER MESCH m (1) Catherine "Katie" Heber (2) Lavina Theresa Alexander

Peter Mesch was the oldest child of Ferdinand Mesch and Margaret Duehr, born in Feb 1874 in Dubuque County, Iowa. There were a total of 13 children of this union.

Peter was a good looking fella'. He married Catherine "Katie" Heber on 21 Sep 1897 in Dubuque County. In 1900, they were living with her mother and several of her siblings on their farm near Balltown. He was doing farm labor there and by then had had their first two children: Elizabeth and Nicholas. In 1902, Margaret came along and in 1904, they had an infant daughter who died shortly after birth.

On 20 Feb 1905, Katie died after a terrible accident the previous week, where she had taken a fall. She left her husband and three children to mourn her. She was only 32 years old.

Peter married relatively quickly, the following year on 30 Oct 1906 to Lavina Theresa Alexander, who was born 06 Aug 1878 in Washington Mills, Dubuque County. They began their family in 1907 and would ultimately have eight children. Peter moved to Delaware County near Manchester and farmed on a rented property.

Lavina also died young.  On 24 Jul 1931, she died in Milo Township of stomach cancer. She had suffered for some 18 months prior to her death.

Peter lived until 18 Sep 1962 and died in Manchester. Eight of his 12 children survived him.

Besides the infant who died in 1904, three other children predeceased him. On 26 Apr 1926, his daughter Margaret, who had married Walter Salzsiedler, on 16 Apr 1925 in Campbell County, South Dakota, died just a year after her marriage in Mound City, South Dakota, with no children.

Daughter Mary Mabel, only 13 years old, died at the Dittmer hospital on 18 Apr 1928. She had a tumor on her spleen that was inoperable.

And, in 1920, Peter and Lavina lost their infant daughter Martha Luella.

Caption on photo reads: Top Row: Joseph Mesch, Catherine (Kate), Albert, John, Rachel
and Nicholas. Bottom row: Peter, Mary, Catherine Arend

Saturday, November 18, 2017

SIDEROAD: Ferdinand Mesch

My uncle Roger married Ardella Jean Mesch. Jean, as she was known, passed away in 2012. I've always been interested in her family which was a large, sprawling German Catholic family whose patriarch, Ferdinand Mesch, settled in America in 1871. Every time I think about writing about him, I keep going back to the research of Elgene Schmidt Mesch, wife of Alvin Mesch, Ferdinand's grandson. Elgene has since passed away and this document is widely shared on Ancestry, so I'm going to reprint it here, unless I hear any objections. This will serve as the basis for Mesch stories to come.

FERDINAND MESCH m Mary Margaret Duehr > PETER MESCH m (1) Catherine "Katie Heber" (2) Lavina Theresa Alexander > (2) JOSEPH R MESCH m Wilma Irene Helmrich > ARDELLA JEAN MESCH m Roger Linsey

by Elgene Schmidt Mesch

During the early 1860's, most of Central Europe was in turmoil. The economy was very weak, jobs were scarce, people were suffering everywhere. Prussia, Austria, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany were all fighting over boundary lines, land, and control of certain provinces. The local populations in the border territories lived in poverty and in constant fear of war and disputes. Young men were being conscripted and forced to serve in their national armies.

One of those young men was Ferdinand Moesch (born Nov. 1845). He lived with his parents, Mary Theresa and Wilhelm Moesch, in the city of Baden-Baden, near the French border in Taubien Province in southwest Prussia (Germany). At age 17, Ferdinand was the oldest among several siblings and, like other young men his age, probably worried about being drafted into the Prussian army.

The unworldly Ferdinand was likely confused and frightened and, perhaps, unhappy with his current lot in life. He probably daydreamed about America. Ferdinand would have undoubtedly seen the posters being hung and handbills being distributed throughout Europe, telling of limitless opportunities and freedom in America. Settlers were needed to homestead America's vast Midwest. It was the "Land of Opportunity," in contrast to Europe. Eventually, he determined to go to America. Being enterprising and bold, he may have quietly planned his escape to America and told no one around him about his dream.

Two stories have emerged from among his descendants about the events which led to Ferdinand's departure for America. One story has Ferdinand already conscripted and serving in the Prussia Army, which he deserted through a daring escape to America. In the other version, he ignored the army's notice of conscription and planned his escape to flee prosecution for draft evasion.

  Ferdinand may not have had the $15 to $20 passenger fare to cross the ocean. Even if he had the money, he would have been considered either a draft dodger or army deserter, and authorities watched the loading docks for those kinds of passengers. He knew he would have to steal aboard a ship as a stowaway. Exactly how he accomplished this feat isn't known. He certainly would have had to discard, disguise or hide his uniform. He was somehow able to secretly slip aboard a ship headed for America and hide among the cargo in the lower levels of the ship. Stowaways were not uncommon in those days. Many times, even if spotted by a ship's crewman after leaving port, they were often ignored or sometimes given menial tasks to do to earn food during the voyage.

Emigrating to America was an arduous test of human endurance. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean was still done by sailing vessel, which, depending on the winds, could take from one to three months. Third-class passengers were confined to the lower decks, which lacked fresh air and were over-crowded and unsanitary. Passengers had to provide their own food for the trip and shared communal stoves. Estimating how much food would be necessary was difficult and, on long voyages, hunger became a problem for many. Illness and disease could spread quickly.

Upon arrival in New York, all passengers would off-board and be herded into the Customs Office and Receiving Center, where their names would be recorded and they would be detained until sponsoring relatives or friends would come for them. In the chaos, noise, and confusion of the Customs Office, Immigration Officers recorded the name of each new arrival. Spelling errors regularly occurred, as officials, misunder-standing word pronunciations of the various European languages, would simply write the names like they sounded; possibly accounting for the several different spellings of Mesch (Moesch, Maesch, etc.).

In the Receiving Centers where they were detained, the new arrivals were able to buy milk and bread, wash in free hot water, and sleep on benches or the floor. They always had to be on-guard for thieves and pick-pockets or shysters attempting to dupe them of what little money or few possessions they had.

How long he was detained and who sponsored him are unknown, but once released from the Receiving Center, Ferdinand immediately set about locating the Peter Duehr family, who had been neighbors back in Baden-Baden. Peter and Caroline (Masen) Duehr had arrived in America a short time earlier, with their four small children, the oldest of whom was seven-year-old Margaret. The Duehr family had made their way to Iowa and settled at Balltown. Ferdinand followed them and found work with various farmers in the area.

During the next ten years, Ferdinand watched Margaret grow to become a capable, hard-working young woman. They married Oct. 21, 1873, at Sherill, Iowa, not far from Balltown, and began farming and raising a family in the area. Over the next fourteen years, Margaret gave birth to ten children.

In 1887, Ferdinand moved his family to Buncombe, near Zwingle, Iowa, where their son, Adolph, was born. Four years later they purchased a farm at nearby Sylvia. Ferdinand and Margaret had three more children here, and this farm was known as the Mesch Farm for the next 56 years.

As the Catholic population grew in the area around Sylvia, John J. Keane, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, granted permission for construction of a new church honoring the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which would be located less than one mile from the Mesch Farm. During 1895 and 1896, Ferdinand and his neighbors provided the necessary materials, donated their time, talents and energy, and worked together to build their new church, which was completed for a total of $750.00. The first Mass was celebrated Christmas Day, 1896, in their new church, which was still without pews. Margaret's younger brother, Albert Duehr, a parishioner, made the pews by hand during the next few months. The following summer, the parish held a week-long fund-raising celebration and even hired the Ruesso Orchestra out of Chicago. The congregation raised enough money to pay the entire remaining debt for the new church.

In addition to farming, Ferdinand traveled throughout the area with his breeding stallion, servicing the mares of many farmers. He was an outgoing man and, often during his travels, would stop at a country store or saloon along the way to enjoy refreshments and a gabfest with the locals. Ferdinand's refreshment of choice was likely an alcoholic beverage, and his frequent social stops contributed to his ongoing problem with alcohol. Ferdinand often arrived home after dark and, sometimes, quite inebriated. However, the horses needed only minimum guidance to find their way home, and one of his eight sons could always be counted on to open the gate for him and to unharness, feed and water the horses, and check them in the barn. Whatever his shortcomings, a silver lining to Ferdinand's enjoyment of alcohol was its impact on at least one of his sons. After observing his fathers' behavior, Adolph, at the young age of 10 or 12, vowed he would never drink alcohol. He kept his vow throughout his life.

Ferdinand and Margaret prospered on their farm during the next ten years. Four of their children married during that time. Their sons remained to help on the farm, except one. At age 17 or 18, Ferdinand, Jr., left home to seek his fortune in the West; he was never heard from again. Occasional rumors were heard. One had him joining the Texas Rangers in the early 1900's, another said he was living in Montana. Several years ago, a cousin of mine who is also interested in genealogy told me about her conversation with an elderly woman from Balltown who was related to or had known the Mesches. The woman remembered one of Ferdinand's boys had wanted to be a priest or monk and may have left home to join a monastery. Nonetheless, unlike his siblings who returned to visit mother and brothers and sisters, he never came back. Ferdinand, Jr.'s whereabouts have never been verified.
As time went on and no word arrived from his son, Ferdinand's mind must have often flashed on his own abrupt and wordless departure from his family and place of birth. Ferdinand had no known contact with his parents or siblings after he arrived in the United States. His status as a deserter from the army or draft evader may have forced his severing contact with them.

Suddenly, after suffering a short illness, Ferdinand died on Jan. 18, 1905. The kind, hard-working Margaret now had to raise her nine remaining children by herself. Daily chores included carrying water from a nearby spring for not only drinking and cooking, but also for canning, washing clothes and bodies, cleaning the house, watering livestock, etc. Years later, a well was drilled nearer to the house. Each summer, the Mesch family grew, harvested, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables. Potatoes were planted and cultivated, dug after the first frost, and then stored in a root cellar to be used during winter.

Margaret experienced the joys and sorrows of raising children. She endured the trials of living with an alcoholic husband and then losing him when her youngest child was just seven years old. She also carried the heartache of a child leaving home and never seeing him again.

Margaret managed the farm and the activities of her children on her own for seventeen years. Then, in January 1922, she sold the farm to her son, Adolph, and his wife Elizabeth (Zeiser). Margaret moved to Dubuque and lived on Lincoln Avenue with an unmarried daughter, Katherine. Margaret died on Oct. 21, 1929, at age 73. She was laid to rest with Ferdinand in the Assumption Church cemetery at Sylvia.

Adolph and Elizabeth raised their six children and lived on the family farm for nearly a quarter century. They endured the loss of one of their children, Vincent, who died at two years of age on Feb. 21, 1921, and was buried in the church cemetery at Sylvia.
Ferdinand arrived 10 Oct 1871 on the Columbus.
*The couple had at least 14 children

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

SIDEROAD: Lewis Lichty, Servant of the People of Waterloo

This is a continuation of information related to the renown Lichty family of Waterloo, Iowa. My 2GAunt Mary Madora "Dora" Smith married Benjamin Franklin Lichty.

Lewis Lichty, son of Jacob Lichty (brother of Abram through whom BF Lichty is related) and Catherine Hunter, was the second of nine children. He was born 29 Feb 1828 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Lewis came to Waterloo when it was a village, still not even spread to the east bank of the Cedar River. That was in the early 1860s. He married his wife Henrietta C "Etta" Bennett in 1862 at Winchester, West Virginia. According to family accounts, the couple had difficulty leaving West Virginia due to the Civil War, but eventually reached Somerset County, where they resided for many years. She died in 1873 in Waterloo after giving birth to three children, a son and two daughters. Lewis spent the next 37 years a widower, but maintained a home for his children until his daughters married, then he moved in with his son Harry.

His early years in Waterloo found him practicing law. His brother, who later moved to Michigan and died before Lewis, was a practicing physician in Waterloo for several years. In 1868, the Waterloo municipal organization was established and Lewis was named its first solicitor. The next year, he was named Clerk and he served in that role until 1873. In 1873, he was elected Waterloo's second mayor and remained so until 1876. In 1874, he was also trustee of the Fourth Ward, and in 1878, was chosen at the regular election for trustee. He served as mayor again from 1882-1844.

Once Waterloo established their own independent school district in 1866, Lewis served as its first vice president, and later spent 30 years as the secretary.

In 1878, he was one of those responsible for the creation of the Waterloo Building & Loan Association and served as its first secretary. He was active in its management until 1898, having to give up the more difficult duties of secretary to serve as president.

Active in the community, he participated in Masonic work until his death. He was a charter member of Lodge No 25. He died, after a lifetime of service, on 06 Feb 1911.

His son, Harry, would pick up his mantle, serving as president of the Library Board, referee in probate for Black Hawk County from 1933 until 1945. He was a past president of the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. He was member of the Elks Club, director of the Waterloo Building and Loan Association, and a director of the Waterloo Dairy Cattle Congress.

Harry graduated from the University of Iowa in 1891 with a BA. He was born 29 Dec 1869 in Waterloo. He married Annie M Buren at Princeton, Mo. on 07 June 1893. Lichty owned and managed the Waterloo Concrete Co, which became the Construction Machinery Co, and was sold. He also was one of those responsible for the platting of the Highland Addition in Waterloo and was associated with the Sedgwick-Lichty Abstract Co. He died of a heart ailment on 26 May 1946.