Last Christmas, my husband and his mother took DNA tests through Ancestry. When we got the results back, my husband decided to start taking a look at the information I had collected for his family and he began to do research himself.
We don’t research the same way. He is interested in connecting with cousins he hasn’t seen in years and with finding items for ancestors that he knew personally. I’m more interested in digging into the lives of the oldest known relatives and collecting every scrap of information that I can while trying to get back another generation. It’s been interesting to see the differences in our approaches. But bottom line – it has motivated me to take a break from my side of the family and to look back at what I know about his side of the family. And I’m amazed at how many more records are available now than there were when I last looked at this family.
Because of the DNA testing, my husband connected with a distant cousin who had access to a scrapbook that was kept by my husband’s great-great-grandmother – Caroline Berger Schmidt. She kept any newspaper clipping that related to our family and then passed the scrapbook on to her daughter who did the same thing. Caroline and her husband, August, spent their entire married lives living in the Kankakee, Illinois area. Our new cousin generously sent us scans of everything. What a goldmine! I can’t say that there was a ton of new genealogy information, but the snippets of life from that time are precious to us. It also brought back to mind a family mystery. Looking at my husband’s great-great grandfather’s (August Schmidt) obituary, we find the puzzle.
…“where he resided until 1880, when he went to Kansas where a sister resided, he spent two years there then returned to this place.”
A sister in Kansas? We only know of one sister, a younger one, who we have been able to trace quite thoroughly and she went to Minnesota, not Kansas. My first thought was that the person who gave the information for the obituary must have been mistaken and it may have been a relative, but not a sister.
In the scrapbook was another obituary from another newspaper and it said:
“Shortly after he attained his majority, he went west and located at Galesburg, Kansas, where he learned the trade of a wagonmaker.”
Interesting. Not just Kansas, but a specific town in Kansas. We already had his 1880 census in Illinois and searching for a “Schmidt” or “Smith” in Kansas wouldn’t work. A sister living in Kansas more than likely had been married and therefore wouldn’t have the same last name.
Have you ever read a document MANY times but not really read it? You skim through it looking for “important” details and totally skip over other parts? That’s what I had done when I read the newspaper account for August and Carrie’s wedding.
Thursday Newspaper 27 Dec. 1883
Married on the 20th inst., at the residence of the bride’s parents, Mr. August Smith and Miss. Carrie, eldest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. John Berger. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Mr. Bruegmann, Lutheran Pastor of Goodrich. The relatives of the family present from abroad were Mr. & Mrs. John Herscher of Herscher, Misses Meyer, Kankakee; Mr. & Mrs. Charles Smith, Avoca; Mrs. Boj, Kansas; Mr. & Mrs. John Milly, Wilmington.
The home was filled with friends. The guests were served with a skillfully prepared dinner and supper, and the evening was passed with music and conversation. The young people had an enjoyable time in tripping the light fantastic toe. The presents were numerous and valuable. May they live a long and useful life is the wish of your humble correspondent and begin right by subscribing for the Gazette.
Did you catch it? “Mrs. Boj, Kansas” was listed as a relative. How could I have never noticed that before? I’m so used to searching for common surnames like Smith or Stephens. Could I find a Boj in the 1880 Kansas census? Yes – one family jumped off the screen at me, last name “Boje”. And they lived about 70 miles from Galesburg. Coincidence? Certainly worth checking out! And the “coinicidences” just kept piling up.
1880 Centerville, Neosho Co, Kansas census
Crist Boje – age 41 – born in Holstein
Elvina Boje – age 32 – born in Prussia (died in 1938 in Galesburg, Kansas)
Henry Boje – age 14 – born in Illinois
Mary Boje – age 11 – born in Illinois putting them in Illinois in 1869 (remaining children born in Kansas)
Crist and Elvina Boje had 5 children in the 1880 census. And the two oldest were born….in Illinois. August and Carrie Schmidt were from Kankakee, Illinois. Coincidence?
I decided to add Crist and Elvina to my tree in Ancestry to see what else I could discover. One of the first things that I found was the Find-a-grave entry for Elvina Boje. She died in 1938 in Galesburg, Kansas. That’s the town that was named in August’s obituary as the location that he went to learn wagon making. Coincidence?
According to Find-a-grave, her maiden name was Fritz. And August Schmidt’s mother was Caroline Fritz. Coincidence? Could it be that Elvina Fritz was a half-sister to August Schmidt? Perhaps the daughter of Caroline Fritz from a previous marriage that we know nothing about yet?
I continued to dig into the Boje family and eventually found the obituary for the oldest son, Henry. In the obituary, it said that Henry was born in Kankakee, Illinois. Coincidence?
I have tried to find the Boje family in the 1870 census, but I have had no luck. According to the 1880 census, their daughter, Mary, was born in Illinois in 1869, but I have searched high and low to no avail. I wonder if perhaps they were traveling to Kansas during the time that the census was being taken and therefore were missed?
“Boje” is a fairly unique name, so I did a Google search and was able to find a blog written by a descendent of Christian and Elvina. I was able to collect more information about the family through that site and I was able to get in contact with the writer. She has also sent me some helpful files.
I turned to other trees on Ancestry for Elvina to see what else I could find and someone had unsourced information that Crist and Elvina had been married in 1863 in Ottawa, LaSalle Co, Illinois. August had a sister – Whilhemina – and on her marriage record, she stated that she had been born in LaSalle County, Illinois. Coincidence?
I searched the Illinois marriage index and found 1 record that was interesting.
Christian Berger and Alvina Fritz married in LaSalle County, Illinois, in 1864.
Could Alvina be a sister to Elvina? Perhaps a twin? I was excited to find that FamilySearch had online marriage records for LaSalle County and I anxiously clicked the link only to discover that to see the images, you must be in a Family History Center. You cannot view them from home or from the library. Oh no…remember me, the shy one? The one that has never gone to a courthouse or society meeting? They want me to go to a Family History Center that I’ve never been to before?
I did a search and was happy/dismayed to find that there was a FHC a VERY short distance from the restaurant that my husband and I have breakfast at almost every Saturday. Did I have the nerve to go by myself? I have seen the church before. It isn’t very large and there is no sign about how to get into the FHC. What to do?????
I researched the facility further and found that they are only open 5 hours a week. Two hours every Wednesday night and 3 hours every Saturday. My husband came to my rescue and told me that he would go with me. That night.
I won’t bore you with all the details of getting to the FHC, but I will tell you that I have no qualms about going back, even by myself! And while we were there, I was able to download the digital versions of the Marriage Register and the Marriage License. I was dearly hoping for the names of the parents, but at that time, that information was not recorded.
I was quite surprised to find that on one portion of the Marriage License, Crist’s last name looks like “Berger” (and had been indexed that way), but at the bottom, where the Minister had signed the document, he had written “Boeje”. Bingo! The Alvina that I thought might be a twin to Elvina was actually Elvina herself!
And the Minister’s name? H.F. Fruechtenicht. Now THAT’S a name I can Google!
Next time…It Continued with Fruechtenicht!