Last time, I wrote about a “mystery sister” for my husband’s great-great-grandfather, August Schmidt. I have found a potential match for this sister and the last thing I had found was an interesting name on her marriage record – H.F. Fruechtenicht.
I did a Google search for the name and it was not at all difficult to find the name of his church – The German Evangelical Lutheran Zion Church in Ottawa, LaSalle Co, Illinois. In the year 2000, an article was written about the 150th anniversary of the church.
Nearly five million immigrants made their way to the U.S. between 1830 and 1870. Many of these immigrants were of German, Scandinavian and Irish descent, looking for a better life and freedom of religion. As a large group of German families made their home in Ottawa, the need for a formal church — offering services in the language they understood — became apparent.
Pastors of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, established in Chicago in 1847, began recruitment and training of pastors to be sent out as missionaries. In the late 1850s, Lutheran pastors from Chicago found their way by rail to Ottawa.
Pastors went from house to house, knocking on doors. When someone answered, they would say “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” in German. If the person answering did not understand, it was obvious they were not German. The pastors would apologize and move on to the next house. Their mission work was much targeted.
As they canvassed this small outpost town, Zion Lutheran Church began to form. As early as 1855, the Rev. Henry Wunder, of Chicago, led Lutheran services in Ottawa. For several years thereafter, these services were in the courthouse, Mechanic’s Hall and other places. The services were primarily spoken in German until 1918.
The 17 families — original chartered members — were determined to build the church in 1861 regardless of what it would cost. Included among those first families are Werner, Wittie, Reitz, Frischauf, Krieger, Walkling, Schmidt, Vette and Turk.
Rev. Fruechtenicht was the pastor at Zion from Nov. 1860 to Nov. 1875. According to different census records, August Schmidt and his family arrived in America around 1858. August’s obituaries state that he was born in Blue Island, Illinois and his family moved to Marseilles, LaSalle Co, Illinois when he was a small boy. Marseilles is 8 miles from Ottawa, where Zion Lutheran Church was located.
I did a search on FamilySearch for records from Zion Lutheran and I was ecstatic to find that their records had been microfilmed! The film was ordered and I waited about a week and a half for the film to arrive.
When I have looked at marriage records from other German Lutheran churches, the parents were almost always given. This was not the case for Christian Boeje and Alvina Fritz.
This record did confirm the dates of birth for both Christian and Alvina. Still hoping to prove the connection between Alvina and August, I began to look through all of the records. Would you think it was a coincidence, or “proof” that they were related if I were also able to find August and his family in the same church records?
Based on other records, I knew that August was born 31 August 1858 and his younger sister, Wilhelmina, was born 6 June 1861. I decided to see if they had baptism records in the same church – and they did! Coincidence?
Interestingly, this record shows an 1857 date of birth instead of 1858. Normally, I wouldn’t think that was super important, but because I have a potential date of arrival in the US as 1858, this could change the timeline a bit.
While I was beyond excited to find these records, I was still a little disappointed that I didn’t find a clear connection. I know that tradition was that family members were often Godparents so in the back of my mind, it would be my proof if one was a Godparent for the other. So does that mean that THESE Godparents were related in some way? I decided that I would go through the book and look for all entries with these surnames as well as Schmidt, Fritz and Boeje/Boje/Bojie.
I started by writing the information in a spiral notebook, but after awhile, I was having a hard time keeping it all straight in my mind. I decided to put the information into an Excel database, but believe it or not, it did not help me as much as I thought it would. But I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was focusing on the names and who was a Godparent for who. I decided to take a break from collecting information and to put the marriage and baptism information into my notes.
My notes are written as a chronological list of every piece of information that I find for every member of a family. I add a lot of images of the documents that I have so I can tell at a glance if I have a digital document or an index. I often wonder if a document holds some detail that I hadn’t noticed before, so keeping the images as part of the notes helps me to quickly check for a detail. I had already begun to add all information for Alvina and Christian Boje to my notes, but their notes were put in a different color so that if I had to go back to remove it, it would be easier to find. When I added the new information, a new connection jumped out at me!
The marriage and the baptisms had occurred on the same day! 28 Sept 1864. Coincidence? I need someone to tell me that this is no longer a series of coincidences!
After I discovered this connection, I decided to make an index card for each of the events that I had written down and to keep combing through the book for additional entries. I have been able to take cards and arrange them and re-arrange them based on different criteria. I can put them into chronological order. I can arrange them into surname groups. I’ve been able to discover some of the family groups of the church by doing this. I’ve found several baptisms in which Christian and Alvina were the Godparents. But August and Wilhelmina’s baptisms are the only time that that Karl Schmidt and Caroline Fritz appear in the records.
But once again, I’m guilty of looking for the “important” information and overlooking other obvious clues. About 90% of the time, the far right column gives the name of the Pastor who performed the service. But as I was creating my cards, a new word popped out at me: Marseilles.
August Schmidt’s obituary said that his family moved to Marseilles, Illinois when he was a small boy. And the Looft family were the Godparents for the Boje’s oldest son and on the same day, they were the Godparents for their son. Another coincidence?
I decided to do some research to find if there was a German Lutheran Church in Marseilles. I found a book on Internet Archives called “The Story of Marseilles 1835-1860“. On page 18, they tell the story of Trinity Lutheran Church.
Based on this, I believe that August and Caroline probably attended Trinity Lutheran Church, not Zion Lutheran Church. Looking through the records for Zion, I now see in the final column indications of “Morris”, “Brookfield”, “Seneca”, “LaSalle” and “Earlville”. All of these towns are near Ottawa so I believe these are all locations of churches that Rev. Fruechtenicht traveled to in order to minister to the people.
So where to next? I’m going to continue to learn all I can about the people on my index cards. I’m not sure what I’m looking for yet, but hopefully, there will be some wonderful surprises ahead!