Another day, another brick wall smashed through!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog and this is somewhat due to working and not having time for as much genealogy as I’d like, but it’s also due to a lull in my research. On my maternal side, I need to make a trip up north to the land my ancestors farmed for generations, to get records, but that requires time and money. On my paternal side, I’ve found almost everything I can for right now, at least in this area. Can’t really do much more until I go overseas and can research on foot in Germany. But that’s for another time and another post!

Research hasn’t completely stopped though. In an older post I told you that I found Scottish roots, and I recently stumbled upon some books at the St. Louis County Library that I was hoping would help me find a little more. These books were on gravestone inscriptions for Berwickshire, Scotland. Unfortunately the books proved to be useless for me, for right now anyways.

The trip was not all bad. A while back I messaged another Ancestry user who had Schepperle family in his tree. He believes that George Arnold Schepperle, my fourth great grandfather, and his ancestor Benedict Schepperle are brothers. Neither of us can know for sure, because we don’t have any info on who their parents are.

A little background information on George: He was born in 1820 in Ellwanger or Ellwangen, Großherzogtum which was in the Grand Duchy of Baden. He came to Highland, Illinois 4 Jul 1854. I knew that his wife, my fourth great grandmother, was Ferdinandina Potthast. According to the St. Paul Catholic Church baptismal records, there were 10 children born to them: Josephine, Theresia (this is my ancestor who married Heinrich J. Gramann III), Paules, Pius, Godfrid (or Godfried), Carol (or Carolina), Cecilia, Paulus, Frideric Leopold (or Frederick), and Maria Anna. Many of these children could not be accounted for when their deaths were. I also could not find any of them, including George and Ferdinandina in the cemetery book for St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Highland.

Besides these children, there are a possibility of four more children: Maria, Mathilda, an unknown child (who may have died in childbirth), and Zillia (possibly Elizabeth). I could not wrap my brain around these children. The reason for this is that Maria was born in 1852, and Mathilda was born in 1854. This may seem like a moot point, but when I searched in the marriage records for St. Paul, I found that George and Ferdinandina were married 11 Nov 1855. This meant that one of the two had to have been previously married. Looking further back in the marriage records, I found that Ferdinandina had previously married to Christian Huels on 31 Mar 1851. According to records, he died 21 Nov 1854. This means the two children could be his.

Furthermore, an account on George Schepperle, confirmed that he was also previously married. According to this account, George was married to a woman named Maria Agatha in Germany and bore two children with her, probably Maria and Mathilda (probable especially since her name is Maria and so is the one daughter’s). Also to add to the evidence, Maria Agatha died 11 Sep 1854 in Highland, so Mathilda could have been born just before her death or she could have died in childbirth.

Back to the marriage record between Ferdinandina and her first husband, Christian. It was an especially good find because it listed her parent’s names as Christophor Potthast and Christina Linneman. While this got me another generation further, it brought on another brick wall (hooray, right?).

Now I haven’t forgotten about Zillia. Zillia is an interesting name for sure. It’s of Hebrew origin and is a biblical name, which isn’t surprising considering German Catholics almost always use biblical names. I haven’t been able to find any record of Zillia, except for that she shows up in the 1880 census with the Schepperle family. She doesn’t show up in the 1870 census, but in the 1880 census it says she is 12 years old and was born in c.1868. Maybe she was adopted? Could be, but I have nothing to indicate that and the census record lists her as “daughter” not “adopted daughter.” Some trees seem to think her name is Elizabeth, but I can’t even be sure about that. For now I don’t know who she is or how she got there.

The rest of the story on George and Ferdinandina is interesting. I found their find-a-grave pages, which took finding those marriage records first, not sure why, but I’m also not complaining. The find-a-grave pages for them and some of their children finally showed what I had suspected. Many of their children died early including: Paules, Godfrid, Carol, Paulus, and Frideric. None lived to be more than 20, and most lived to be less than 5. The site also showed that none of them had headstones, which is why they didn’t show up in the St. Joseph’s Cemetery book.

George became a citizen 9 Oct 1960. I found some records that show where George paid for a retail liquor license and taxes and in 1866 he was living in Highland as a barkeeper. In the 1870 census, he is listed as a Carpenter and by 1880 he is a boarding house concierge. It would be interesting to find out where his bar was. I’m sure the Highland Public Library might be able to help with that. George died 6 Dec 1898 in Highland. Ferdinandina had died two years earlier 9 Jun 1896 in St. Louis from Entero Colitis.

The story of George and Ferdinandina is a long and confusing one, and it certainly isn’t over. I still don’t know who George’s parents are or where exactly Ferdinandina was from. More in-depth research will hopefully lead me to an answer, but that’s for another time. I think I’ve rambled on long enough, so for now, happy hunting!

Here’s a pic of George smoking a long pipe and holding an alcoholic drink in one hand and a pail in the other. He is standing in front of a barn, next to a dog. He looks like a very interesting fellow. This picture was most likely taken around 1880.
George Arnold Schepperle

Breaking Through Brick Walls

In the genealogy world, the words “brick wall” bring shrieks of horror from researchers. I have been fortunate that most of my brick walls came about from ancestors who immigrated here. I have names to go off of, but knocking down the wall requires traveling to those countries to look for records. I don’t have the money for that right now, so I have cast those aside for the time being. 

I did have one brick wall on my maternal grandmother’s side. Louisiana (Noble) Evans was the woman in question. I had known from census records she was born in Mississippi in the early 1800’s, but didn’t know what town or who her parents were. She had revealed in 1880 that her parents also hailed from Mississippi. For a while I had ignored this wall because fellow researchers had told me brick walls in the South for 1800’s and back were a hard nut to crack. Feeling defeated and out of answers I turned to my colleagues at r/genealogy on reddit. I have always shouted this from the rooftops as my go to resource for asking questions related to genealogy and sharing information with others.

I asked my query and only got one bite, from a user named phronimost. He or she had found Louisiana’s daughter Hattie’s death record, which stated her mother had been born in Natchez, MS. Unfortunately this information was not enough to give any leads. Phronimost was not ready to give up and I wasn’t either. Still hungry to find answers, phronimost found more Nobles who lived in Adams County, MS, specifically Henry Noble, whom he or she believed was the grandfather of Louisiana. He or she also noted that Henry had many children and that someone on Ancestry believed his song Solomon to be the best candidate for Louisiana’s father. Solomon Noble had married Lucy Ann Soujorner in Adams County, but I had nothing to prove he was her father.

Even the will of Solomon Noble was a dead end. Louisiana was nowhere to be found in the list of names bequeathed Solomon’s possessions. I was feeling defeated, but then another day later with no ideas left, Phronimost came through again. He had found mention of Lousiana’s husband William Evans in a historical book about Bond and Montgomery counties in Illinois. Under a section about Bois D’ Arc Township, it told the story of prominent farmer William Evans and in it detailed a blurb about Louisiana (Noble) Evans being the daughter of Solomon and Louisiana Noble.

Finally, we were able to connect her and find out her origins. It all made sense now! Louisiana shows up in a few census records as “Lucy,” which I hadn’t put two and two together that she and her mother’s names were one in the same. This was the first time I had recruited help from r/genealogy for a brick wall, and certainly won’t be my last. I had seen countless other users have their walls broken down with the help of others. Sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of eyes or someone who can look at a resource you missed. I am so grateful to my community of helpers on r/genealogy. The help I received has only made me hungry to break down more walls and has renewed my interest in genealogical research. I can’t wait to visit Germany, Ireland, and Scotland someday to do more research.

For now, happy hunting!

Talking to Older Relatives is Important

I am fortunate in the fact that I started doing genealogy relatively early in life. I cannot tell you how many older genealogists have said they wish they could have started earlier so that they would have picked the brains of the older relatives for what they knew. Even when I started, I had already lost my paternal grandfather, and one of the worst things I can admit about his life is that I knew nothing. Okay, well that’s not true, I knew my grandfather was an avid lover of local sports, keeping score at games, fishing, hunting, etc., but I feel like I missed a real opportunity to get to know the man.

In my earlier years of life my grandpa and I were pretty close, but as I grew older, I was always more interested in spending time with grandma. If I could go back and relish those years I had with my grandfather, I would. There are so many questions I would ask him. I really would just like to go back and get to know who he was and who his family was. I have names, dates, and a few stories, but I don’t know these people– he did though. Fortunately, I still have three grandparents left, and believe you me, I have shaken them for every bit of information they know. 

Last Christmas I bought an electronic tape recorder. I was inspired by the transcription I read of my maternal great grandfather Joseph Buckles’ memoir of his life and where he grew up, that he recounted for a woman who was doing a historical project on Pawnee, Illinois for their Centennial. She also interviewed another of my great grandfathers, but unfortunately the tapes are of poor quality and need a lot of time to go through and transcribe them.

I want to follow in this woman’s foot steps and interview my grandparents. I want to know about their life. What was it like growing up during The Great Depression? What were your parents like? Who is the oldest ancestor you remember? Who had the greatest impact on your life? These are just a few questions I want to field to them. Technology has definitely improved from the days of the cassette tape recorders of yesteryear, so it’s on my side.

Recently, my grandmother was diagnosed with having had a stroke. She is having some slight memory issues, so I think now, more than ever, it’s pertinent to start writing the questions down and getting to these interviews. I know it may take more than one visit with them, because of the breadth of what I will want to ask, but also because anyone who knows my maternal grandpa can tell you, you have to have a whole lifetime just to hear all the stories and experiences he has to share. Everything from life experiences in the Air Force to “tall tales” he heard and passed on about “watching out for Falling Rock” the Indian who left his village and never returned (I still think this story was to keep my sister and I busy on roadtrips!) 

My original intention of this blog post was to talk about how keeping my grandparents informed on what I’ve found in my research has reminded them of people, places, and stories, but it’s so much more than that. On a recent trip with my family to Germany, me for the first time, but my parents, aunt, and grandparents the umpteenth, I got to share some of these people, places, and stories in person and it was an experience I won’t ever be able to forget. When we were planning this trip, my mom asked why it was so important that I go with them and not just go by myself when I am older. That was the reason! I had to go with the people who had been there.

Castles are just castles to me, but when you walk up to Schloss Linderhof and mom, dad, and Buckie regale coming in the middle of a blizzard during one of the hardest winters in Germany and having their own self-guided tour, because no one else was stupid enough to go out in the blizzard. THAT’S what I wanted to see. And I got it. I got to see part of their life, through their eyes.

Until next time, happy hunting!

Why did our Ancestors move Around?

I recently had a shaky leaf hint show up on my Ancestry account for a familiar name. The name was Agnes Schmidt. She was the wife of my great grandfather’s brother Joseph Benedict Spihlman. While the hint was for another tree she was mentioned in and not a document, like I had hoped, it did answer a few possible questions. I had thought Agnes died in 1979, which meant that Joseph and she would have had to have gotten a divorce. Family stories told me that Joseph was remarried to a Kathleen Hill, who were married up until their deaths in 1969 and 1983 respectively.

On this tree I found, the guy who created it listed Agnes’ death as 1959. That would make more sense and would explain why Joseph got remarried. So now my mission is to prove her death is in fact 13 Oct 1959. So far, I’ve checked Missouri Death Records and still have to check in Illinois, Minnesota, and possibly elsewhere.

On a semi-related note, I discovered in Joseph Benedict’s profile that I had added a WWI draft card record, but didn’t actually record the date or location of the record. It showed that he filled out a draft card in Hill County Montana on 5 Jun 1917. The record is worn and hard to read, but that much was clear. Just to catch you up on Joseph, he was a traveler. Born in St. Louis, Missouri on 17 Dec 1895, he lived with his parents in Venice, Illinois up until their death. He then shows up working for the Frank family in Breese, Illinois in the 1910 census as a farm hand. Joseph traveled a great distance to end up on the border of Montana and Alberta. Maybe he went there for gold or maybe he was going to try to evade the war. I hope to one day find out why he went where he did.

A little over a year later Joseph is back in St. Louis living with his brother Bernard John, according to Bernard’s WWI draft card. They would stay together and move around up until Bernard’s death in 1933. Agnes was living in Wabasha, Minnesota around the time Joseph and Bernard show up in Minnesota, which is probably where Joseph and Agnes married.

In his life Joseph moved around a lot. He also lived in South Dakota and Wisconsin, besides. Part of the reason I think he moved around was due to the hard times of finding steady work. I’m sure he did his best to provide for his wife and daughter. He was even the mayor of Wabasha for a few years, but mostly he found work as a shoe maker and repairer, a trade his father also did. It’s even possible, with Joseph being the oldest sibling that his father passed down the art to his son.

There are still more records to find and more to discover on Joseph and his family. I someday want to travel to all the places he lived and find more about him. I will definitely go to Wabasha in hopes of finding a photo of Joseph and maybe his family. It would be really exciting to know the story of Joseph’s life, he does share my name, after all.

Well, until next time… happy hunting!

The Benefits of Collaboration

Sometimes when I am researching genealogy, I come across other people researching the same or similar things as I am. Now, some people would be too nervous to message them, but I am not one of those people. It’s a good thing I’m not, because I have further developed my tree from the information I’ve gotten through collaboration. Sometimes it’s photographs, sometimes documents, and sometimes information on people. 

Almost five months ago, I was on a thread on reddit and the person who created it was asking for websites he could use to do genealogical research. A bunch of the users who frequent the subreddit r/genealogy gave their imput, as well as myself and I had mentioned wanting to go to the courthouse to look for records. Another user asked what the process was like in Illinois, he lives in Minnesota. We swapped stories and I mentioned ordering two death records from Minnesota for my great grandfather Sylvester’s brother Bernard and his niece Henrietta (Joseph’s daughter). 

One thing led to another and I told him that from these records I had concluded that they were buried in Wabasha, MN at St. Felix Catholic Cemetery. The user told me he was about an hour or less away from there and if I would like, he could stop in the cemetery and look for their gravestones next time he was in the area. I excited agreed, and told him if there was anything I could find for him in the St. Louis area to let me know. 

We swapped information, I gave him the names and dates he would need and he gave me some info on some obituaries he wanted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I had almost completely forgotten about the headstones until today when he sent me the links to them on Honestly, I could not believe he had done this for me. A few months ago he messaged me saying he went to look, but there was too much snow. He had, however gone to the church and confirmed they were indeed buried there. That was more than I had asked, and I am grateful to him.

I still want to go to Wabasha, MN. Joseph’s daughter Henrietta was married twice, but I have come across no children for her and she died in a nursing home in Winona, MN in 2003. Her headstone lists her maiden name, as well as her second husband’s last name “Jacques.” I am also unsure of where he mother Agnes is buried.

When Joseph lived there, he was the mayor for three or four years. It would be interesting to see if they have a photo of him somewhere. If there was a living relative there, that would be cool too. I know that Bernard died in 1933 from tuberculosis, having no children. Unless Henrietta had any children, then no living relatives would exist. 

I’m staying hopeful and someday when I’m older, I’ll make the trek up to Minnesota to see where my great grandfather’s two siblings lived.

So if you are doing research, don’t be afraid to talk to other family members or strangers who are looking to share information. It could help you get further in your tree and you could make a new friend. Here are the pictures of the two headstones. Until next time, happy hunting!



Newly found Scottish roots!

The title of this post is pretty self-explanatory. I have been trying to further my Irish ancestral lines, which is quite difficult because a lot of records have not been digitized and the ones that have exist after my Irish lines left Ireland. 

One of my Irish lines starts with my great-great grandparents Michael Thomas Whalen and Elizabeth “Liza” Jane Logan. My grandfather had told me this story as a young child that Michael was a coal miner from County Cork, Ireland and met Liza’s brother who was a coal miner from Wales, as was she. They migrated to Annie Darko, Oklahoma and mined there before coming to Illinois. After a little digging, and grandpa asking his brother, we debunked the story.

Michael is actually from Nilwood, Illinois. His parents however are from Ireland, but as of yet I have not been able to discover where. Liza on the other hand is not from Wales at all, but Sheepwash, Northumberland, England. She has three brothers John, Walter, and James. Her parents are William Logan and Mary Ann Thompson.

She shows up in the England Census of 1891 in Backworth, Northumberland, England and lived with her mom and brothers. Some accounts say she immigrated in 1893, 1895, or 1898, but she would have been too young to come alone, unless she came with a brother. Her parents stayed in the UK.

The census proclaimed that her father William was born in 1854 in Scotland. A little digging on in the Scotland Births and Christenings would reveal he was born 14 Mar 1854 in Edrom, Berwickshire, Scotland. How cool! Before now I had no idea I had Scottish roots.

Mary Ann Thompson, Liza’s mother, was born c.1855 in Earsdon, Northumberland, England. I have no more information on her as of yet, but she last shows up as a widow in the 1891 England census, with her four children. She was 36 years old at the time.

Back to William Logan. More digging added more people to his line. His birth record I found on familysearch listed his parents as Walter Logan and Elizabeth Purves. I added them in and saw two hits for England census records for 1861 and 1871, where he was living with his parents and siblings in New Backworth and Earsdon, in Northumberland, respectively. 

The more stuff I added, the further I wanted to go! I was able to deduce Walter Logan’s birth as 1812 in Dunse, Berwickshire, Scotland, and his death as 1892, which could have been in Scotland, but is more likely England, where he was last recorded in the census of 1891 in Murton, Northumberland, England. There is a Walter Logan who died in Tynemouth, Northumberland, England in 1891, who was 78 years old. This could be him, but there is no information on a birth date or his spouses name, so I cannot be sure.

I wasn’t able to find more information on who Walter’s parents are. He and his wife Elizabeth had 11 children in total, with William being the second to last child. 

I did, however, find more information on Elizabeth’s family. Her parents are Alex or Alexander (not sure which, but presumable Alexander) Purves, and Elizabeth Dickson. Do not have any information on their births or deaths, but in the 1841 Scotland census, her grandmother Alison Dickson, lived with her family in Dunse, Berwickshire, Scotland. The census says she was born c.1771 in Berwickshire. in the 1851 census, her other grandmother Alison Purves, lived with her family in Edrom, Berwickshire, Scotland. This census says Alison was born c.1764 in Dunse. 

Well, that is all I have found for now. I, of course, am not ready to give up, because once you catch the bug, you’re hooked and it’s so hard to want to stop. There are a few possible leads to more documents for a few of the people I mentioned, but without more verifiable evidence, I cannot be sure, and searches bring up many people with the same name (think Smith in the US). Hopefully I can go back to England and go to Scotland someday to see the places these people lived and do more research, but for now happy hunting!


Making Progress with a Little Help

I recently went to my paternal grandmother’s house to collect family photos. She has probably a million photos (okay, not really, but she has an overwhelming amount). I scoured the photos for the ones I wanted to scan and we sat down and looked at them. She told me stories about them and pointed out the people she knew. Some of the photos were already labeled and others were not.

The older photos were the ones I found particularly interesting. Pictures of wedding days, family photos, baptisms, etc. were found. One of the interesting things to notice is how in wedding photos, the bride and groom didn’t smile. On such a happy occasion, you would expect at least a little bit more emotion in their faces. 

One of my favorite photos was a family picture of the Zurliene’s. The fact that they managed to get all of their children in a photo was nothing short of a miracle, I’m sure. I mean, they all stayed in this area, but with 10 children, the first and last being 27 years of age apart, and both parents still living, it would be a feat for sure. Here is the photo taken out front of their home, most likely north of Aviston:


ImageHere you can see father Johann Theodor and mother Eva Barbara sitting in front with their children behind. It appears the photo may be from Katie’s wedding, so if I had to guess, the photo is from 1909, which is the year Katie was married and the year Johann died. From left to right you have: Frank, Joe, George, Theodor, Katie, John, Tillie, Barbara, Maggie, Rosa, Annie, and Mary Zurliene. 

This photo got me interested in this line of the family again. Somewhere on the forums of Ancestry, I found a person inquiring information on the Zurliene family, specifically Johann and two siblings. I had no siblings listed for Johann, just names of his parents with little info on them. The woman had posted in 2006, but I thought it might still be worth emailing her to find out. She emailed me back with unfortunate news. Apparently, the woman had been helping an elderly friend find her heritage, but her friend passed away in 2011.

She sent me what she found, and I was able to add two siblings of Johann’s: Maria Catherine and Gertrude Zurliene. Both died during child birth fairly early on, but they also both came to the same area as Johann and are buried here somewhere. I will have to do more research to find out. 

Besides photographs, my grandmother also had a family bible and a photo album that had belonged to my third great grandfather, on my paternal grandfather’s side, Clemens Waller. I have no idea who the people in the photos are, except for three photos that were labeled. The family bible had two pages of names and birth dates, but they were hard to read and entirely in German. 

Luckily, I had been talking to a woman named Sue Lewis. She lives around here and also has relation to the Waller family. I sent her what I had and she said she would share it with her two brothers. So far she or her brothers have not said much about the photos I sent, but they did send me this family photo of Clemens, his wife, and seven of his children.


Clemens was married three times, this is with his second wife Katie. The last row includes: Henry John, Bernard, Caroline, and Mary Waller. In the front row: Herman, Frank, and Francis Waller. His daughter Caroline is my connection to the Waller family. 

I went back to reddit hoping someone could help me decipher this family bible. I was in luck. Someone commented saying their wife knew German and she would take a look at it. As it turns out she said it was written in Old German text and that she had learned it from her mother when she was a little girl, but never had to use it before that day. Between her, another redditor who said he is studying old languages (he said this text is also called Kurrentschrift), and myself we transcribed it. Here are the two pages followed by their transcriptions:
Clemens Waller Family Bible Page 1
Clemens Waller Family Bible Page 2
Page 1:
Clemens Johann Waller born on 17 Jan 1847
Hendrina Cornelia Waller born Bolk born on 27 Jan 1858
Bernard Heinrich Schomaker born on 29 Nov 1894
Hermann Heinrich Waller born on 22 Apr 1896
Franz Clemens Waller born on 25 Mar 1898
Cäcilia Gesina Schomaker born on 15 Feb 1901
Page 2:
Wilhelm Vincent Waller born on 5 Apr 1901
Aloisius Theodor Waller born on 22 Jun 1903
Catharina Leonardina Christina Waller born on 18 Dec 1905.

These pages contain the names of Clemens and his third wife Hendrina, as well as his children with his second wife Katie (He and Hendrina never had children), and two names of children Hendrina had with her late husband. This information did not really lead to any discoveries. Sue and I had already come across the birth dates of all the people in this family. It is still interesting nonetheless.

Don’t be afraid to message people who ask questions about family members. I’m so glad I did. I have made a new friend and found more information and photos than I had before. Sue said I renewed her interest in genealogy, which is rewarding too. Hopefully we can figure out more of those photos. If we do, I will update you guys for sure. That’s it for now. Happy hunting!