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!

Been away for too long!

I haven’t written a new post in a long time, but I have been very busy with school and now that I’m on break I can get back into genealogy. Next week I plan on going to do more research at the library and maybe some more if I can. 

Recently, I decided to give one branch of my tree some more attention. This branch is on my paternal grandmother’s side and it’s the branch I had found the least information on. The two people in question are Casper Boenhoff and Catherine Clemens.

The only information I knew came from a church death record for Casper, a picture of his gravestone, and a death record for Catherine. Casper’s death record reveals that his parents are from Germany, but does not reveal their names. This was rather disheartening, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet.

His son William’s death record, which I found on Ancestry, told me he was born in Muenster, Germany, as well as his wife Catherine. I input this info, hoping it would lead to more, but it didn’t.

So I took to Clintonilgenweb’s site. I frequently use this because I have a lot of ancestors who lived and stayed in Clinton County for multiple generations. This website has user-added and generated information. It’s a good source for cemetery records and headstone photos, as well as local history, and even has some photographs, vital records, and other historical records. 

Using this site was how I originally found Casper’s headstone. He is buried at St. Dominic/St. Augustine’s Cemetery and so I thought it was possible his wife may be as well. I knew from the photo I had that his stone was a single stone and not a double plot. Catherine showed up as “Catherine Clementz.”

Unfortunately her headstone photo is not online, but the location of it is, so I could possibly go sometime and snag a photo myself. I knew Catherine died in the early 1900’s, so finding a death record at the county courthouse would be a total gamble, but I didn’t want to stop until I had exhausted every resource, so I went and looked and sure enough I found it. It listed her parents as “Unknown Clementz” and “Anna Worth.” I was hoping adding this information would lead me to her parents, but it didn’t. 

For a few days I had given up the search thinking I wouldn’t be able to find out more short of going to Germany and searching myself, but then another idea popped in my head. One of the sites I frequent is, and one of my favorite subreddits is r/genealogy. The people who subscribe are very friendly and knowledgeable about genealogy. They are also  always willing to help others with their problems, so I knew this was the place to ask.

I started my query by asking for help with census records. I had located Casper and Catherine in the 1880 and 1900 censuses, but I knew that they had been in the US since at least 1850, so they had to be in the 1860 and 1870 censuses. My own search for Boenhoff turned up nothing, and even trying “Benhoff, Bienhoff, and Buenhoff” as it is sometimes spelled wasn’t giving me anything.

A gracious user on r/genealogy thought to search the censuses for “Casper” and “St. Louis, Mo.” This was a great idea, because Casper and Catherine’s first two children were born in St. Louis. He was able to find them under the names “Barnhoff” and “Bernhoff.” On the 1860 census, they were living in St. Louis, and the 1870, in Carlyle, IL

This certainly showed me where they were, but it didn’t really help me to go back any further, or so I thought. When I looked at the census image, I noticed that the next family on the census record was a “William Barnhoff.” Further research in the 1870 census showed “William Bernhoff” living near the Boenhoff’s in Carlyle and then “William Boenhoff” in St. Rose, IL, again near them. I conceded that he must be Casper’s brother. But there was more.

In the 1860 census, a Conrad Clement was living with Casper and Catherine’s family in St. Louis, he was listed as brother-in-law to Casper. This could be Catherine’s brother. I found him on another census record in St. Rose, IL, but was unsure if it was him. Clintonilgenweb’s records for St. Rose Catholic Cemetery revealed a Conrad Clement was born there.

In the 1870, 1900, and 1910 censuses Conrad Clement appears living with an Elisabeth Petermeier (or Petermeyer) and is listed as brother on the records. Could Elisabeth also be a Clement? Finding her burial record may reveal her maiden name. Looking all over clintonilgenweb turned up no results, so for now, I excluded the information, but made a note to search further.

Something else very interesting showed up though when searching maiden names in St. Rose Catholic Cemetery’s records. a Theresia (Clement) Gebhart. Her entry listed her parents as Henry Clement and Anna M. Werth. I had found the parents names I was looking for and made another sibling connection to Catherine.

I managed to stumble upon Anna’s headstone listed as “A. M. Werth” in St. Dominic/St. Augustine’s Catholic Cemetery and snagged a picture, but it doesn’t say where she is from or when she died. No sign of Henry anywhere, but her headstone does say that she is the wife of Heinrich Clement. 

I was able to find Anna Werth in census records, one of them with her daughters Theresia and Elisabeth, which then confirmed Elisabeth was in fact another sibling. They lived together in Apple, Mo., before joining the rest of the family in Clinton County. I also deduced from census records that Anna must have died some time between 1870 and 1880. More looking will have to be done to find her.

The last gem I found was a ship passenger record from the port of New Orleans, which revealed that Henry, Anna, and their children arrived in the US on 14 Jan 1850 and also revealed another son Johann Heinrich.

Genealogy can sometimes be so exciting, you don’t want to put down what you’re working on and just want to keep going until your questions are answered. I managed to piece together the all of the Clement clan, except their father. He seems to have fallen off the map when he arrived in the US, but I’m not giving up the search for him yet. That’s all I have to share for today. Happy hunting!