Thursday, March 14, 2019

Week 11: Large Family

     When you come from a family that has heavily German Catholic roots, there is a good chance you come from a big family. Maybe not quite as big as a Greek or Italian family, but probably following right behind. My dad's family is Catholic and we have German roots that came over to the US in the early 1800s. The average family size for the family going back was 8 (2 adults and 6 kids). Well, would you believe, my dad is the oldest of 9 children? And yes, they all are still living to this day. So let me introduce you to my Fuchs Family.
     My dad Dennis, Uncle Mike, Aunt Patty, Aunt Sandy, Uncle Kevin, Aunt Karen, Uncle Marty, Aunt Shelley, and finally Uncle Chris. By 1960, they had a full house! Or should I say, a full barn! Yes, you read that right. By the time Uncle Chris came along, they were living in a barn. It had two rooms: Upstairs and downstairs. Grandma did her best to make it a home for everyone. The barn has since fallen down, but Uncle Marty owned the property and has kept pieces of wood so he could create beautiful frames for all his siblings to hold photos of the barn.
     And just like with all families, add a little love, and it grows. All but two of the siblings are married, and then 7 out of the 9 couples had kids. But wait, there is more. Now those kids are having kids. OH dear me, it's like gremlins all over again! LoL just kidding. But here are the final totals:

Aunts, Uncles & Spouses: 16 
Children: 19 
Grand Children: 25 (and growing) 
Great Grand children: 3 (and growing) 

     As you can see, we have quite the crew. For the holidays, we have to rent out a hall, just to hold us all. Here are a few photos from the last get together. We are blessed to have all the Aunts & Uncles still living. Sadly, though, through the years, we have lost a few cousins. But they are still counted as part of the family. Here are some photos of our family.

The Original 9 on Easter in 1962

The Original 9 at Christmas in 2018

Aunts, Uncles & Spouses

Children & Grand Children
     For years we have gathered to celebrate many holidays from Christmases to Thanksgivings, even birthdays and graduations. We are so blessed to have the family we do have with us. We wouldn't be able to have these celebrations without the ancestors that came to St. Louis in 1830. In 1953, the Fuchs family got together for the first annual family reunion of the descendants of Frederich, Franz and Andreas Fuchs; the first of the Fuchs family to come from Bavaria. This photo below was published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in the September 1953 issue. It represents six generations of the Fuchs family, and as you can see we are still growing.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Week 10: Bachelor Uncle

     What an obscure subject. Definitely one that requires you to stop and think. Bachelor Uncle. Who in my tree hasn't been married that I haven't already talked about. While I'm sure if I go back far enough in my tree, I would find someone, but I think I have the perfect ancestor to write about this week. And he actually is an Uncle of mine, through marriage. Uncle Keith Rickards. (Not Richards lol)
Keith & his Grandpa Rickards
     Keith Warren Rickards was born on December 5, 1937. He was the first born child of Joseph & Lilly Rickards. He was the brother of my father in law. I never got the opportunity to meet Uncle Keith because he died on September 19, 1989; many years before I ever met my husband. I've been told stories, shown photos and even visited his grave. He was a very special man, and he was never married. The short time he was on this Earth was a blessing for sure. Why do you ask? Because Uncle Keith was born mentally retarded.
Keith with his father & brother
     Lilly found out when he was three years old. The doctors told her to lock him up in an institution and forget about him. She could not do that. That was her child. But she knew, it was more than she could handle. So he was admitted to a local rehabilitation center when he was 5. I'm sure that was probably the hardest decisions of her life. Although, he was living there, he was not out of their lives. She was up there visiting as often as she could. You see, she still had another child to raise; my father in law. He was only 2 years old when his brother was admitted. Keithie, as she called him, was getting the best care he could to learn how to grow up and become an adult.

     In later years, Lilly took a job at the rehabilitation center in the gift shop, so she could be close to her son. She loved him with all her heart. Her baby. Her first born. She was interviewed for an article for the St. Louis Post Dispatch celebrating Mothers. You can read in her own words, what she thought, how she felt, and some details about his life. My husband has no memories of when Uncle Keith was alive, but does remember attending his funeral. He said it was the first time he saw his father cry. He is buried right next to his mom and dad. He lived until the ripe old age of 52. While normally that seems young, but for what he was born with, he lived a long full life.

Dad, Brother, Keith, Mom
The last photo ever taken of Uncle Keithie

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Brick walls - We all have them

     Brick walls, we all have them. That stubborn, well built, solid brick wall that we just can not break through. We throw sticks, rocks, dynamite, whatever we can get our hands on, but just like with the big, bad wolf, we can not blow that darn thing down. It's frustrating. It's annoying. It's maddening. It makes us throw our hands up in anger and walk away. But, then all of a sudden, a crack appears and we have hope. It's not as permanent as we would like it to believe. So we do our best to chip it away, piece by piece. It may take months or years before we finally see through it, but we make progress.
     I know you are probably asking, "Why are we talking about masonry?" LoL! Because this brick wall I am referring to is our genealogy research. Those illusive ancestors that we just can not get past. I know you have a few of them. I have a few of them. They have literally put up a road block in our research, and we can not walk forward any further. How does this happen? Could be records were destroyed. Could be our ancestor lied about some information. Could be we are looking in the wrong area. Whatever the reason is, it is maddening! Sadly, some mysteries will never be solved. As hard as we try and as much we throw at our brick wall, it may never come down. But that is not always the case. There may be a key out there that just unlocks a hidden door in that brick wall. We must not give up. We must continue our work. We must do a reasonably exhaustive search to eliminate all possible avenues. Don't give up. Keep pushing forward.
     I'd like to share with you some of my brick walls from my tree. Some have been solved, others have not. Some just have a few missing bricks. But I want to share this to encourage you to not give up. With the advances in DNA and records being digitized every day, you may still break through. So here are a few of my brick walls.

Joseph Melchoir Ilg & Margaret Buer's marriage
This was my first brick wall I encountered when I started doing genealogy research back in 2012. I was told Joseph and Margaret were married July 23, 1919. I had this information written in the family datebook along with other pieces of info backing this up. Well you can imagine my surprise, when I found them both in the 1920 census, but they were both still single and living with their own families. I had known they had went to Detroit, Michigan at some point because my grandma was born there. I looked everywhere in St. Louis for their marriage record, but no luck. Then finally with the help from another genealogist, they located the marriage record in Detroit. That makes sense. But what did NOT make sense was the date. The marriage record stated they were married July 23, 1920 - not 1919. Uh oh... that means they were pregnant when they got married since my grandma was born September 9, 1920. So they went away to Detroit to get married and hide the truth. I mean, they never would have expected years down the line, their marriage record would be put online and their great grand daughter would just happen to come across it. Sorry Great grandma and grandpa, but the truth has come out. Oh and they went to great lengths to hide it too. So as you can see this brick wall is solved. The reason it was a brick wall to begin with was they had lied and purposely recorded the date wrong.

Jacob Helfrich & Family
My 3rd great Grandma Maggie Molten had two husbands in her life. One being Jacob Helfrich, her second husband. This information was written in the family date book. Sadly, there was not a lot of details about Jacob Helfrich.
I had no birth date, marriage date, parents, residence, nothing. So tracing him and connecting him to his family was going to be difficult. For four years I was stumped, not knowing how to proceed. He had been killed in an accident according to the date book and he was not buried with Grandma Maggie. Maggie was listed in St. Louis in the 1900 census as being a widow. The last census I had for Maggie before that was the 1880 census where she was still married to her first husband. So that doesn't help. I checked City Directories but found no help there. Then one day, I was looking more closely at Joseph and Margaret Ilg's marriage record (the same couple mentioned above) and one of the witnesses was an Emil Helfrich. Hey, there is a connection! Finally my first tangible piece of evidence that there is a Helfrich attached to my family. So I decided to trace Emil to see where he led. I documented this trail in another blog post: My Helfrich Connection. Long story short, through this marriage record and tracing his line, I was able to reasonably deduct which Helfrich family I was connected to. That brick wall was finally solved.

Nicholas Buer
Ah... the elusive Nicholas Buer. One of my biggest brick walls. I've had this wall since I started my research in 2012. What I did have was very little. I had no birth date nor death date. I had estimates based on Census records. Little by little over the years I have chipped away a few bricks from his wall, but not much. I have not done a completely exhaustive search on him yet. This will take me going to some libraries and historical societies in Jefferson County, Missouri. Maybe one day, I will break through and find him. I know he came from France, but no clue where in France. I can't even begin to trace back there yet until I find everything I can in the US. One day.... I have hope, one day....

Maggie Molten
My biggest and longest brick wall (next to Nicholas Buer), my 3rd great grandma, Maggie Molten. Like Nicholas, I haven't been able to trace her back any farther. But what makes it even more frustrating is she was born in the US. It's not like she came from another
country. She was born in Nashville, Tennessee. And what also makes it frustrating is the fact information was purposefully hidden or lied about. Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to trace you if you aren't going to give me the truth? Well, I've had to glean each record I came across for any hints or leads to help me trace her. Slowly (and painfully) I've been pulling the bricks down, one by one. I still can't find her parents, but I've been filling in gaps from her life, trying to make sense of things. One day, grandma. I will trace you. I've wrote a few blog posts about my journey trying to trace her. Check them out here:
Found it! The Marriage Record for Jacob & Maggie
The Search for Maggie Molten continues...

As you can see, some brick walls have come crumbling down while others still stand tall. Maybe weakened somewhat, but still standing. I'm not giving up. I have hope. One day I will be able to blow these suckers up!

Share some of your own brick walls below. Have you broken them down? Are they being stubborn and not falling? What techniques have you used? I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Week 9: At the Courthouse

     So I haven't written a blog post for the last two prompts. Week 7 was about love, so I shared the blog post I had already written about when my hubby and I got married. Week 8 was about Family Photos. As important as Family Photos are to me, my mind was just on other things this past week. I've been working on researching my 2nd Great Grandma Pauline Ilg, and I hope to have a blog post about her in the next few weeks for her upcoming birthday.
     This week's prompt is called "At the Courthouse." I have to admit, courthouses are somewhat intimidating to me. Anywhere official like that is intimidating. The last time I visited an actual courthouse for research was back in 2015. I had written a journal entry about that experience, so I decided I would just type that up and share it. So here is my last experience "At the Courthouse":

October 8, 2015

     It has been a good couple of days for research. I will attempt to explain it all clearly without jumping around. I get excited and lose focus on what I'm writing about. First, I finally made a trip downtown to the civil courts building to get probate records and divorce records. I was so nervous because parking downtown is not easy. Luckily, I found a spot diagonally from the building. 
     First stop was the 3rd floor for divorce records. The lady told me I didn't have to come down, that I could have called. I told her I did and was told I had to come in. Well, now I know. She took down the information and told me I will receive notification in the mail whether they find something or not. She also told me they weren't going to charge me. BONUS! So they are looking up divorce info on Grandpa Les Wheeler and his first wife, Ruth Pirtel; Grandma Ruth Ilg and her first husband, Joseph Valdes; Aunt Ruth Buer and her first husband, Joseph Mrazek; and Oma Mae Dennis and her first husband, Edward Buer. Hopefully I will have some information in hand in a couple of days.
     Second stop was the 10th floor: Probate Records. I spoke with Jeanie; a real nice lady who is also a genealogist. So she was extra helpful. She got me the probate records of Pauline Ilg, Leona Ilg, Edward J. Buer, and Maggie Helfrich. The only one who didn't have a will was Edward J. Buer. The probate record I was really looking forward to looking at was Maggie Helfrich. I was hoping there would be some listing that could lead me to the Helfrich family or back to Tennessee. Sadly, no. Jacob Helfrich wasn't even listed. As of right now, two things stood out. One: where her signature should be, it had an 'X' and written by it was, "Her Mark." It confirmed what I found in the census records. She could not read or write. Even my daughter was like, "That's so sad." Two: where it listed who got everything, her daughter, named Oma Caldwell, (new married name) was listed as receiving only one dollar ($1.00). I asked Jeanie about this and she explained in order to keep family from contesting the will for not receiving anything, they would only give them $1.00. Oma had practically abandoned her daughters, so Maggie raised them. Honey and Auntie got everything. Honey is Maggie Ilg and Auntie is Ruth Kelley. I didn't get copies of every document, but got what seemed important. I don't see much else that is noteworthy at the moment, but will continue to look over everything.

     There was more to that entry, but that was all that had to do with my courthouse visit. A few days after this entry, I received two envelopes in the mail with information about the divorce records I was looking for. They could not find anything on Joseph Valdes and Ruth Ilg, nor could they find anything on Joseph Mrazek and Ruth Buer. But they did find information on Les Wheeler and Ruth Pirtel as well as Edward Buer and Oma Mae Dennis. That was exciting to go through. It really answered a few more questions. 
     It wouldn't be until the next year that I locate the divorce record for Ruth Ilg and Joseph Valdes. That record was at the St. Louis County Court house. I had been looking at the city. Believe it or not, St. Louis is divided up into two parts: St. Louis City and St. Louis County. And then in the county it is divided up into smaller towns. So depending on where your ancestor lived, the records you are looking for might either be in the City Courts or County Courts. At the end of this blog will be a few website links explaining the split and what people call "The Great Divorce". 
     While this was a few years ago, it is still my most successful visit to a courthouse that I can remember. Traveling downtown these days isn't always feasible for me, although I do need to plan another trip at some point. I made sure to keep all the notes I took about visiting the courthouse so I would remember what I need to do for next time, so my visit is just as smooth. 

The Great Divorce

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Week 6: Surprise!

     Well, I don't know about you, but last week's blog post was a difficult one. I really couldn't come up with much, so it was just a really short entry. It is what it is. Not ever topic can be exciting! Haha! This week's topic is "Surprise". That is a little easier to write about. I had to think about it for a little bit because I've had quite a few surprises in my journey. I learned my great Grandma & Grandpa Ilg lied about when they got married to hide the fact they got pregnant out of wedlock (OOOOOOO); I learned there were actually more Ilg relatives still alive today that I was able to get in contact with (BONUS!); I traced some of Mark's family to the town of Silverton, Colorado (a small town we actually didn't live far from and visited before we moved from Colorado); I tracked down an old Cash & Carry coin used at White Line Laundry where my grandma and grandpa worked at together; I've found out I'm related to some of my friends (It's a small world after all); and that's just a few of the surprises I have encountered on this journey.
     Out of all these (and more) surprises, I'd have to say, the biggest surprise I had in my journey had to do with Mark's 2nd great grandfather, Capt. Joseph Henry Rickards. It all started with Mark's mom showed us his sword he had from the Civil War. It was beautiful! We knew we were related to him, but did not know where or how far back the connection went. So I went to work. It didn't take long to make a connection to him. Researching him has definitely been full of surprises. If you click on the link on his name, you can read about him. But the biggest surprise I received came from a long lost cousin.
     Through my research, I got acquainted with Bob Richardson. He is a descendant of Capt. Rickards as well. His grandpa is the youngest son of Capt. Rickards. I was so happy to be in touch with him. He had been doing research for a long time and had filled me in on a lot. Including the fact he was once the sheriff of Liberty, Missouri and had a run in with Jesse James (yes this is documented in book and at the local museum in Liberty). But the biggest surprise was he actually had photos of Capt. Rickards and his family. Oh my gosh, I literally jumped up and down screaming when I got that email. Mark and Sancia thought I was crazy! You gotta understand, I love pictures. And to put a face with the man I'd been researching for so long was just mind blowing! I honestly never thought we would find one with it being that far back.
Capt. Joseph Henry Rickards
abt 1865

     So that was the best surprise I've gotten though my journey through genealogy as of yet. I know there will be more to come, and I can't wait. It's the surprises that keep me coming back for more. If I had to choose my second biggest surprise, it would be finding out my 3rd great grandma was actually not my 3rd great grandma by blood. Read about it here ---> Huge Shock! More to come and I can't wait!