Friday, July 26, 2013

Notes from Our Vacation Trip (with Thanks for Your Comments Yesterday)

Thank you all for your wonderful comments yesterday, and for the many practical ways in which you offered support. I'd like to respond to each of you individually, but am not sure I can count on being online except at rare intervals today.* Jose, you asked me a direct question, and I'll definitely reply to you when I have a moment to post a reply. Thanks for your question.

Crystal suggested a day or so ago that I take pictures and post them as we travel. I haven't been taking any photos, but her suggestion makes me realize that I might at least tell you a bit about our trip--at the risk of thoroughly boring all of you. As anyone reading this blog for any length of time may now realize, Steve and I take distinctly odd vacations.

In two days, we've driven from Little Rock to a little place in northwest Indiana called Crown Point where Steve has some family roots he wants to try to dig up. Crown Point would not, I think, be most people's idea of a vacation destination. It interests Steve because one of his family photo albums is full of pictures of people taken in the latter half of the 19th century at a studio in Crown Point.

The pictures aren't labeled, unfortunately. But the blond, fair people in these photos are clearly close relatives of one of his great-great-grandmothers who was, family stories say, born in Schleswig-Holstein, came to America, and married Steve's great-great-grandfather, a Catholic immigrant from Baden. The wife was Lutheran.

This family has proven hard to trace, since it was not common for Catholics and Protestants to marry in this era, and when this happened, they don't generate the usual records: it's not clear to Steve where the couple married (Lutheran church? Catholic?), where their children were baptized, and so forth. Family stories say that the couple made an agreement to raise some of their children as Catholics and others as Lutherans, and as a result, the family is divided in death in the little community in southern Minnesota where they finally ended up, with some buried in the town's Catholic cemetery and others in a nearby Lutheran cemetery.

Steve knows the great-great-grandmother's maiden surname because the baptism record of one of the couple's sons (Steve's great-grandfather) at a German Catholic church in Chicago gives his mother's name. He also thinks he may have found the record of the ship on which she and several siblings arrived in New York before the family moved to the Chicago area. Chicago is just across the state line from Crown Point.

And so the search: where was this studio at which these pictures were taken? Did it leave records or archives? Who are the people in the photos? Do any nearby churches have any records that might pertain to this German-immigrant couple? Everything is complicated by the fact that some of the records that have survived for this couple are filed in Chicago. But most of the records of Chicago in the period in which Steve's family lived nearby have not survived, due to the fire that Mrs. O'Leary and her cow caused there.

An interesting quest, and I'm happy to help Steve with it. At some point not long after the couple married and began to have children, they seem to have gotten involved with a Verein in Chicago that was gathering settlers for the new socialist utopian community in New Ulm, Minnesota, which was being organized by socialist-leaning Germans in Chicago and Cincinnati, and they bought a plot of land in New Ulm from the Chicago Verein and moved to New Ulm. There Steve's great-grandfather met a woman who had arrived from Bohemia and married her, and they eventually moved north in Minnesota. The Bohemian community in New Ulm, which included the famous artist-photographer Anton Gág and his equally famous writer-daughter Wanda Gág, also leaned socialist in this period, though they were strongly Catholic and Catholics were later to be thought of as opponents of socialism.

So this is our "vacation"--a quest. Since we'll spend today and tomorrow in libraries, courthouses, churches, and so forth, I doubt I'll have much time to be online, or have a constant internet connection. I am very grateful, though, for your comments about what I posted yesterday, and wanted to post a note of thanks.

(We stopped the first night in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, to which I have a kind of family connection. I've posted a number of times about a branch of one of my ancestral families, the Winns, in which a white Southern planter built a married life and family with a free woman of color whom he could never legally marry. As I've also noted, the couple sent their children north from Arkansas to Ohio to buy farmland and obtain an education as the Civil War neared, and the three children all married children of prominent New England abolitionist families who had come to Oberlin to work in the abolitionist movement.

One of these marriages produced a son who settled at Mt. Vernon, Illinois, where he owned a lumber company. I've written about the document I've found in Arkansas after his mother died: because the mother was white and the father of mixed black and white ancestry, the legal marriage of the couple in Ohio was not recognized in Arkansas, so that the father had to petition the court for guardianship of his own children after their mother died.

We spent part of our evening in Mt. Vernon walking through the beautiful old cemetery, Oakland, in which a son of this couple is buried along with his wife. Because the surnames on the plat map posted at the sexton's office in the cemetery were too tiny for my aging eyes to read, we never located the grave of James R. and Delia E. Winn so that I could pay my respects. I do have a photo of it from a researcher who has shared it online, though.

Yesterday, about the only memorable sight we saw amidst lovely fields of corn, one after the other, was the whopping huge Effingham cross. I mean no offense to anyone's faith, but I can't say it did a lot for me.)

P.S. 9:21 A.M. CST: as a final task online before we begin our day's knocking about, I checked the NCR site to see what's happened with Purgatrix Ineptiae's comment I highlighted yesterday. It's now gone. Your objections to it were heard! Thank you all very much, indeed.

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