Saturday, April 3, 2010

The question of the day is...what happened to John Meinberg??

Eva Meinberg Haase is my 3rd great grandmother. Her parents were John Meinberg and Catherine Neher. I recently discovered that Catherine remarried to a man named George Hellmann after being widowed. John Meinberg, so far, is a ghost.

I actually have no records of John's existence. I know of him via other people. He is listed as Eva's father on her birth certificate, her marriage certificate, and her death certificate. Catherine's name from her first marriage, Meinberg, is listed on her second marriage certificate. So this is what I know:

Eva was born in New York City in 1861, to John Meinberg. Her brother John was born in 1864 to John and Catherine. Her sister, Elizabeth, was born in 1868, and her brother, Frederick, was born in 1873. In theory, John, Catherine, Eva, John, and Elizabeth should show up in the 1870 census, but so far, they're MIA. Just one of the many families on my tree who like to make things difficult for me...

Ok, so Frederick was born in 1873. Catherine Nehr Meinberg was 33. Five years later, 38 year old Catherine was a widow marrying a 24 year old George Hellmann. Since John could've died after Frederick was conceived but before he was born, that gives me a roughly six year window where John could've died. And unless he was much older than Catherine, that means he was in his 30s when he died.

Unfortunately, I have a bunch of progenitors who died too young, in their 20s and 30s and 40s and early 50s, but in most of their cases, I have death certificates that give me reasons...I think in the 1870s it was probably more common for someone to die young, but it was probably still unusual for someone to die in their 30s. I'm tempted to send away to the Archives for a death certificate - I'd have to have them search all the years from 1872-1878, and a couple of different boroughs, which makes it more expensive, but it might be worth it...on the other hand, Meinberg is, unfortunately, one of those names that shouldn't have many spelling variations but somehow does, which could make my chances of a positive hit not that great. I'm just so excited by how much I've found out about Catherine in the last few weeks that my curiosity about my 4th great grandfather has been really, really piqued.

Catherine Hellmann death certificate

Came today, not too shabby...considering one record the Archives had to search for and one I gave them the record number for, the fact that they arrived one day apart is pretty sweet...and within two weeks? I am rarely disappointed by the Archives.

For the most part, the death certificate was pleasing. My dad noted that he wished there was more detail than "Germany" for "place of birth," but in a death record, there rarely is. Other than that, there were plenty of details - Catherine was born June 24,1841 (I actually think she was probably born 1840, not 1841, but close enough), it said she was in the country 61 years, which fits in with my 1857-1860 window of her immigration, her father as Martin Neher was verified, and her mother was listed as Anna M. Mitch. I imagine that if Mitch was actually Anna Maria's last name, it was probably spelled Mitsch, which would be more German than the English-sounding and spelled Mitch. I'm both surprised and pleased that there was a maiden name there, but it's so different than what was on Catherine's marriage certificate, where for the most part Anna Maria's maiden name was illegible, though it looked like "Dho," that I'm still determined to find Elizabeth Rider's marriage and/or death record, to compare the information.

What else was there - the death certificate was delivered to my ancestor, Eva Meinberg Haase, Catherine's daughter, and it said that Catherine was buried in Lutheran All Saints' Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens. So I guess another visit is on the horizon to that cemetery. I like to visit my family's graves. Besides whatever information I can glean from the headstones or deed records, I like to go and introduce myself and pay my respects.

Any excuse to visit a cemetery. I have an odd fascination with them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Nice to meet you, Martin and Anna Maria...welcome to the family!!

As you probably guessed, I got one of the vital records I was waiting for in the mail today, Catherine Nehr Meinberg's marriage certificate to Georg(e) Hellmann, her second husband. It's all right there - that she was a widow, that this was her second marriage, that her last name was Meinberg but her real maiden name was Nehr. Lovely. I love vital records.

I'm still waiting for her death certificate, but since information on a death certificate is, for obvious reasons, not supplied by the person themselves, it's not always accurate, or the info you want isn't even there. For example, Catherine's children might not know her parents names, so that information might not even be there. But Catherine knew her parents names, and there they are - two new names and two new people to add to my family tree, Martin Nehr and Anna Maria Illegible-last-name. That part is frustrating, but I'm still excited. I always get excited when all the hard work pays off.

Anyway, it's possible Anna Maria's maiden name will be on Catherine's death certificate, if that ever comes. If not, I'm already planning a second course of action - from Catherine's obituary, I know she had a sister, Elizabeth Riders. If I can find a marriage certificate for Elizabeth, that same information should be there and maybe the person doing that record-keeping will have had better handwriting. Just an example of how valuable siblings of direct ancestors can be in genealogy research.

So far, I haven't been successful in that search for information on Elizabeth. It's only been three hours though. I'm still hopeful. :)

Oh, those Ricklefs boys, they never learn...

Boy, this story just gets more and more interesting! So, here's what else I've discovered about the Ricklefs brothers, John and Charles, my great-great grandmother's brothers, since I last wrote...

In 1907, when John Ricklefs was first arrested, he went by the alias Henry Young. In 1916, he was charged with two robberies. On trial for the first, his brother, Charles, took the stand and unexpectedly admitted that it was he, and not John, who had committed the crime. Whether that was true or he was taking the fall for his older brother, John was off the hook and Charles was sent to Sing Sing. Of course, this also freed up John to go on trial for the second crime, that of the last post, where he was acquitted on a technicalities.

Fast forward 22 years, where Charles "Dutch" Ricklefs (where did that nickname come from?), now 41, has been arrested with five other men for holding up the Mattituck National Bank, out on the North Fork of Long Island. Apparently, their bank heist was successful, and the bandits (as the papers labeled them - also called them a gang) got away with the loot, because one of them bought a fancy new car and that was how he was caught. Dutch was arrested in Bedford, Massachusetts. Up till now, I didn't know the outcome of that story, but after being held on $50,000 bail, Dutch Ricklefs was sentenced to serve 15 to 30 years in Sing Sing.

Either Ricklefs was just plain dumb, never learned his lessons, or really, really loved prison.

But this is how I discovered more to that story - with a name like Ricklefs, you gotta cover your bases. Unless you're looking for a name like Jones or Smith (and even then, you can never rule out typos), you have to assume different spellings for a name. Some search engines will give you the option to do a soundex search (which I don't always love - I think it casts the net *too* wide), others will let you replace the end of a word with * ... so typing "Ric*" will turn up, among others, Ricklef, Rickleff, Rickleffs, Ricklefs, Richlef, Richleff, Richleffs, and Richlefs. Or you can just do those searches by hand, which is what I did, finding stories about the Ricklefs brothers under all those names (I've also seen Rickleefs and Ricleff).