Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another Summer Vacation Report: Serendipity Amidst Tombstones, Marriages and Re-Marriages

It takes very little to make a story, doesn't it? Start with a name--mother, Agheda Leibholz. A name in a baptismal record . . . . 

And then the confusion of names: is this Agatha Leibholz the same woman as Agatha Leupold, who arrives in New York from Germany in 1857 with what seem to be siblings Johann Georg and Katharina Margaretha? The age of Agatha Leupold on that ship's record matches the age of Agatha, wife of Anton Kuld, in one record after another, and there's also this: George and Katherine head from New York to Crown Point, Indiana, which is right outside Chicago, where Anton and Agatha settled and their son was baptized. And the death record of Anton and Agatha's first child, a daughter Katherine, states that she was born in Indiana in 1861.

It would make sense for the name Leupold to appear in some records as Leibhold, Leibold, or Leibholz. In some German dialects, "eu" is pronounced as "ei." And "p" and "b" bounce around in some regions of Germany so that, as our friend Maria in Braunschweig says, "I don't know if they're talking about luggage (Gepäck) or cookies (Gebäck)!"

George Leupold/Leibhold you can trace, sort of. He becomes a Civil War soldier, marries several times, dies in Indiana. You find records of his soldiering, his marriage, his death and burial. But Katherine is--and this is too often the case when one tries to find women in records of the past--elusive. A marriage record shows her marrying a John Fischer in Crown Point in March 1862, and then she vanishes. As does John Fischer.

And here's the rest of that story, which we discovered yesterday: when Steve looked at an index to names in Crown Point newspapers of the past, he happened to see a Katherine Fischer. The index stated that there was an article in a local newspaper about her marriage in 1862. Steve retrieved the microfilmed copy of the paper, scrolled through it to the issue denoted by the index, and there was the marriage announcement: John W. Popp marries Mrs. Katherine Fisher.

We hadn't been able to track Katherine Leupold/Leibhold after her marriage to John Fischer/Fisher in March 1862 because--who knew?--she turned around and married a John W. (Johann Wolfgang, we later find) Popp in November of that very same year. Which must mean that Mr. Fisher had died, a death perhaps connected to the war then raging in the U.S., which was taking the lives of many young men.

And once we knew the name under which to be searching for Katherine, one new record after another opened to us, leading us to her obituary in one of the local papers and the information that she and John are buried in a cemetery in Crown Point with their daughters Lizzie and Julia, who didn't marry. (The obituary says that Katherine was living with and being cared for by Lizzie at the end of Katherine's life, and I see from the federal census that Lizzie was a dressmaker with a shop in Crown Point at this time.)

So we drove to the cemetery, confident we'd find the graves, since a curator of the town's historical museum had told Steve the section and row numbers for the graves. But (and doesn't this always happen?) once we found the cemetery, we could find nary indicator anywhere of section and row numbers. 

So we drove and peered, around and around, until Steve finally stopped the car and said, "There's nothing left to do but walk up and down each row, is there?" And then we get out of the car and I head up the nearest row, and there, three tombstones into the row, are markers reading John W. Popp and Katherine Popp, with Julia and Lizzie beside them. Steve has stopped the car right next to the row he's seeking, something that happened several years ago when we were searching for the tombstone of Anton Kuld in Minnesota--another story.

It takes very little to make a story, doesn't it? And now Steve knows beyond a shadow of a doubt who the woman with the several daughters is, in his Kuld family photo album with the pages of pictures from Crown Point, Indiana, which have photos of a woman who looks so much like Agatha Leupold Kuld that Steve had wondered if this is her mother, and if the mother came to Indiana at some point.

We now know that the elderly woman is Agatha's sister Katherine, and the younger women arranged around her are her daughters Mary, Margaret, Lizzie, and Julia. And this is how we're spending our summer vacation, happily, dreamily knocking around graveyards and archives and libraries, trying to find the elements for stories people have forgotten how to tell . . . .

(The photo is from Katherine Leupold Popp's Find a Grave memorial page, and was taken by a contributor with the username Indiana Bill.)

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