And Who Would’ve Thought…It Figures


Seriously an awesome read. Check it out for yourself.

Originally posted on A Strange Kind of Pilgrimage:

In October I decided, rather on a whim, to order a genetics test from 23andMe.  It’s a company that compares your DNA to populations all over the world and lets you know where your ancestors likely hailed from.  I didn’t do this because I doubted my parentage at all (did you hear that, Mom?  I believe you.  Maybe other people who see us together assume I’m adopted, but I do not.  Anymore), but I wanted to see my father’s side of the family tree more clearly.


My dad passed away when I was very young.  His mother passed when he was very young, and his father died almost exactly two years after Dad did.  So while I had a vague idea of the Benson family heritage as communicated to me by my mother and aunt, I still felt a bit rootless.  I knew we were Russian and…

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I went on my first genealogy trip… and it was a bust!

Let me start by saying that this is a rant post. To preface, I’ll go back first before the trip. For about a year, I had wanted to go to Springfield and look for vital records. Now, where I live, it’s not exactly around the corner, so I planned out my trip. I saved up some money and wrote out a detailed list of the records I wanted. I’ve already been to my own county’s courthouse and the records cost me a whole $4 per record, which means I could get a lot of bang for my buck!

So let’s fast forward to today. I asked my aunt to join me on the trip and she graciously accepted. We made the trek to the Sangamon County Courthouse and what I thought was going to be a fun day where many records would be found and I would have a lot to show for my trip, I was sadly left with just two records. Two records!

At other courthouses, I’ve walked out with anywhere from 10-20 records, but not today. Nope those dreams were swiftly crushed. Haha. Upon entering the county clerk’s office, we were informed that death and marriage records would cost $25 a piece, and birth records cost $29. They only do certified copies, which is dumb because I’m using these for genealogy. If I needed them to apply for a passport, I could see that, but an uncertified copy is always cheaper.

The female employee said we could look through the index books, which we decided was the best idea. Of course, though these books don’t provide dates. There were a few, maybe three or so, records I desperately wanted to find because they were for people who’s various BMD dates I was unsure of. You’re probably reading this and thinking “things looked up and you found those records, right?” but no, I did not. So the search continues!

The worst part was when we asked to view a record, it was a death record for “Mary Evans.” With such a common name and not having any idea when she died, I didn’t want to purchase the record without asking first to see it. The employee told us that only they could view the records, not us (really nice of them!) Luckily, another employee interjected that if I gave them some information, like husband’s name or location, she could look and see if that matched up. Unfortunately this record didn’t include her husband’s name. Later on when I gave her the three records I decided I wanted, she was nice enough to tell me that one record only included the names and date of the marriage and that it wasn’t worth spending $25 on (oh so now you’re being nice?!)

Half of my family has lived in Sangamon County for more than three generations, which means there are oodles of records to look for. I am going to have to seek out another avenue for obtaining these records, because I just cannot see spending the money to get all these records (nor do I have the money). The only good things were that I got my great and second great grandparent’s marriage records. That’s two more records down… a million to go! If I ever have to get records from them again, we at least got the volume and page numbers for the records I couldn’t get on this trip.

If you think I’m giving up, I’m not. I may have hit a speed bump, but I will get those records eventually. It just wasn’t meant to be today. Hopefully my next genealogy trip will be more fortuitous. Until then, happy hunting!

Quick little update

So while bored today, I decided to start working on my genealogy book. It’s for my surname. This is what one page might read like. Let me know if you like it or if you think it’s too wordy. I’m very open to constructive criticism.

“Generation 1 – Benedict Spihlmann

Benedict Spihlmann
B: 21 Oct 1832 in Lengerich, Emsland, Niedersachsen, Germany (Handrup Parish)
I: 1892
D: 2 Dec 1914 in Breese, Clinton, Illinois, USA
C: 5 Dec 1914 in Breese at St. Dominic/St. Augustine Catholic Cemetery

His parents were:
Johann Bernard Spihlmann
Marie Aleid Toebben

M: 5 Sep 1854 in Lengerich, Germany

His wife:
Maria Anna Storm
B: 25 Aug 1831 in Lengerich, Germany (Langen Parish)
I: 19 Mar 1892 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA
D: 1 May 1902 in Aviston, Clinton, Illinois, USA
C: 2 May 1902 in Aviston at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery

Her parents were:
Johan Herman Storm
Margaretha Adelheid Kruep

Their children:
Marie Carolina Spihlmann
Herman Bernard Spihlmann (1855- )
Johan Bernard Spihlmann (1859-1932)
Theodore Clemens Spihlmann (1861-1885)
Franziska Spihlmann (1864 – )
Anna Christina Spihlmann (1865-1949)
Bernard Herman Spihlmann (1867-1908)
Anna Maria Spihlmann (1872-1956)
Antoinette Spihlmann (1875-1956)

Benedict was born in Lengerich, Germany in 1832. 1, 5, 6, 8 Maria was also born in Lengerich. 1, 5, 8 She and Benedict married in 1854 in Lengerich and the record listed their parent’s names. 1, 5, 8 All of their children were born in Germany. 1, 5, 8

In 1892 they immigrated to the US. According to Emslanders, Benedict immigrated in 1892, but no ship manifest has been found to support this. 5 Maria came to Baltimore, MD aboard the ship Karlsruhe.2 Her name is misspelled on the record, but she arrived with daughter Antoinette, son Johan and his wife Maria, as well as their 4 children Agnes, Bernard, Johanna, Lena. Their destination is listed as Illinois. This leads me to speculate that Benedict came ahead of them and sent for them when he arrived in Clinton County, but this is purely speculation. Some of his children may also have already been in the US as well, but I have no immigration data to support that.

Benedict and Anna show up in the 1900 census living in Sugar Creek Twp., in Clinton County with their son Johan’s family. 9 Benedict is listed as retired for his occupation and not naturalized. Anna’s occupation is not listed, but she most likely helped out around the house. Her naturalization is not listed, which during that time, if your husband became a US citizen, you and your children got citizenship by proxy. This is no longer the case. Neither of them spoke English, but both could read and write. Their son Johan is listed as a farmer, so they were probably living on a farm near Aviston.

Anna died in 1902 in Aviston, according to her death record. 4 It lists her as being 70 years old, which was correct since she died before her birthday. Her cause of death was hypertrophy of the heart, or an enlarged heart. Her death record is the source of her death and burial date and location. Her headstone is very worn and hard to read, but the epitaph is in German and translates to “Here rests in God. Alas, I have loved you always, my beloved. You have been pulled from me, which will do me no good.”3, 6

I have not been able to find Benedict in the 1910 census. By 1910 Johan’s family had moved to St. Rose. There is a person who fits with Benedict’s info, but the name of that man is George, who is listed as a boarder with a family in St. Rose. I cannot be sure that they are the same person. George could be Benedict’s middle name, but I have no documents to support that claim. His middle name could be listed on his baptismal record, but that is not accessible to me at this time.

Benedict died in 1914 in Breese, according to his death and burial record at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. 7 This record lists his parents names, with his mother listed as “Többen” instead of “Toebben.” Also listed on the record is his burial place and date. No cause of death was given, but at 82, I’d imagine “old age” is a good guess. His headstone is along the tree line but still completely legible. 6

1. Auswanderungen und Auswanderer aus dem ehemaligen Kreise Lingen nach Nordamerika by Walter Tenfelde
2. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 and 1954-1957
4. Clinton County Illinois Death Records
6. Headstone
7. Illinois, Diocese of Belleville, Catholic Parish Records, 1729-1956
8. Lengerich Parish Records
9. 1900 US Census”

Sorry for the weird looking numbers, but I could not figure out how to do superscript on here, so those are actually corresponding to the end notes and it looks better in Microsoft Word.

Thanks for taking the time to read a sample of what one day might be an entire book on the Spihlmann families. Let me know what you think. Happy hunting!

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!