|When I taught
genealogy classes, another one of my classes that would fill up in
quickly was my class on DEAD ENDS... As I find time, I'll
be adding different tips -- this week it is breaking apart an
obituary... We all collect them but do we really know what we can
glean from them if we REALLY LOOK?
This short 6 sentenced obituary of
my Great-Grandmother provides a WEALTH OF INFORMATION and an
abundance of clues
to help you avoid the literal DEAD ENDS -- you just need to read
between the lines!
Newspapers provide a window into
the lives of our ancestors through advertisements of popular
products, local area news columns, notices of births, deaths and
marriages, long-forgotten news items pertinent to the day, as well
as the more common obituaries. At a minimum, an obituary is
a notice in the newspaper of a death and funeral arrangements. But
it can be much more: a record of the extended family – both living
and dead and it can be a compelling story of a life. Since
most of us will never be famous to appear in books & biographies,
I like to consider an obituary a common person's biography.
Let's start by clarifying the
different types of sources in genealogy before we begin. There are
basically three kinds of sources. There
is a primary source, a secondary source, and a questionable
source. A primary source is a piece of information or a
document that was generated in the presence of the person it
involves, like a marriage certificate. A secondary source would be
a source that was generated for a person after they died or
outside of their presence, like an obituary. A questionable source
is when someone tells you a story or when you download a gedcom
from online. Most obituaries fall into the classification
of SECONDARY SOURCES... and even if you do write your own
obit, SOME of it will still be a secondary source -- you died, you
didn't finish it. A genealogist will appreciate information
from all three sources and will weigh the information's accuracy
on the type of source from which it was acquired. Just
because it is in an obituary doesn't make it so!
OK, on to Great-Grandmother's
obituary. The adjacent obituary was very typical of ones
found in the Shawano area in the 1920's for the average woman.
Prior to 1920, you might
have had a couple lines in the LOCAL NEWS section of the paper
mentioning the person had passed and was missed by her husband and
children... and maybe where the funeral had been held as well as a
list of people who attended from far-away places... and even those
are great, too. But within the 6 sentences in this obit,
I'll show you how you can put together the TERRIFIC CLUES to get
you past a literal DEAD END.
SOURCE: Bonduel Times, 8
(Note: If you need an obit
from the eastern side of the county, contact the Bonduel Community
Archives! They have access to The Bonduel Times 1909-1971
and that covered quite a large area. They do charge a small
copy fee BUT every last dime is spent on the Bonduel
Community Archives -- no one makes any money here! This
covers their copying costs to make sure this service is available
to you in the future as well as providing for preserving these
records... they are not subsidized by a church. If they ask
for copying costs, please consider giving them a little more!
Great folks! and it's tax deductible.)
1) "MRS. CHAS. BLAESE"...
what we find from this line is that she was married to Chas.
BLAESE... most married women were referred to as Mrs. ____.
My own mother ALWAYS signed documents Mrs. Fred Taylor... she
would sign a personal letter Dorothy Taylor but married women were
referred to as Mrs. ____. One generation later, I can't
remember ever signing my name as Mrs. Czaplewski... it's always
been Anne Taylor-Czaplewski. Mrs. Czaplewski was my
mother-in-law...(grin) So, likewise, Henrietta's first name
is not even mentioned in her own obituary.
2) "Funeral will be held this
afternoon at Frieden's Lutheran Church"... this tells us that she
was probably buried at Frieden's and most likely this is where she
attended church the last few years of her life. Great place
to check CEMETERY RECORDS for who else is buried in the
plot she is interred in as well as nearby graves. And, as in
her case, further inspection of the CHURCH RECORDS show
that her children were baptized in this parish as well.
Also, it provided the clue she was Lutheran -- if her children
were not listed in Frieden's, one would search the Bonduel area
Lutheran churches as well.
3) "Mrs. Chas Blaese, nee
Krause"... perfect! You now have a MAIDEN NAME... not as
perfect as having her first name provided and "daughter of the
late Carl & Dorothea Krause", but it's a great resource.
4) "died on Sunday evening, Sept
4, as six o'clock at her home in the town of Hartland"... first,
this gives us the EXACT death date -- September 4, 1921 (from the
newspaper date) allowing us to now locate the DEATH CERTIFICATE
for Mrs. Blaese. This also provides another lead to start
looking for LAND RECORDS for property owned by Chas.
5) Sixty two years old... in this
case, it goes on to give the BIRTH DATE but if it didn't,
62 years old will give you a good idea of a birth date.
6) "The deceased was born in
Pommern, Germany, May 17, 1859, where she was married to Chas
Blaese in 1882." -- PAY DIRT! You have an exact BIRTH
DATE as well as a BIRTH PLACE... and MARRIAGE DATE
when she married her husband... Pommern is like saying "born in
Wisconsin" in looking for German records but it is a start!
7) "In the year 1884 they
moved to Canada where they resided for five months, after which
they moved to the town of Hartland." This beats looking
through random volumes of the Filby's Germans to America!
You know the couple was married just 2 years and then ventured to
America via Canada. With little effort I located
IMMIGRATION RECORDS and I found them on the SS Frisia that
sailed from Hamburg to NYC -- they continued on to Canada with
members of Henrietta's family, including her mother, Dorothea
Krause -- but no children are mentioned in regards to Carl &
Henrietta. Also, this played an important clue for me in
locating all the birth/baptismal records for their children.
A very pregnant Henrietta arrived in Ottawa, Canada March 1884 and
had their first son in June 1884. The obit says they
relocated to Hartland Twp. 5 months after they arrived in Canada
-- August 1884. This means they were in Wisconsin for the
1885, 1895, 1900, 1905, 1910, and 1920 censuses... and when you
locate Chas. (Carl) Blaese in the censuses, you will find his
wife's first name is Henrietta and you also find in the 1910
census that she had 12 children with 9 living. Family
members always said she had lost 2 children prior to coming to
America. We later find that she married in late 1882 and
unless she had twins, she only had 1 child in Germany if you do
the math, as is the case. We find burial information for
children #7 & #8 in Bonduel. So, indeed, she only had 12
8) "She leaves to mourn five sons
and four daughters. They are Fred, August, Mrs. W. Noffke, Mrs. H.
Hinkfuss, Mrs. F. Laedtke, Albert, Richard, Mrs. Anna Horn, and
Henry Blaese." This is a little confusing here as hubby Carl
survives her as he passes away in 1945. Again, this is why
it is a secondary source -- it's an omission in wording by whoever
wrote the obit at the newspaper -- the Bonduel Times published the
obit but usually the funeral home supplied the information.
As for the children, it supplies you with names (and sometimes
places) where you can continue your research. Women's names
are sometimes hard to uncover, but with the censuses for 1920 and
1930, we readily can find the husband's name and the family unit.
And we also can see that Carl Blaese is listed as a widower in
And we learned all this through
simple clues provided in a 6 sentence obituary! But, you are
still doubting this as this was a family member and I KNEW "the
rest of the story"? OK... at this point I would ask the
class for one of their "DEAD END" obits... so what I did this time
is I went to the Schmidt-Schulta Funeral Home site and found a
random obit -- and I mean random... no clue who this person is at
all... so here's the 4 sentence obituary... and if you find a clue
I missed, email me and we'll add it!
(Died April 14, 1933)
Emma (Pleshek) Nemetz died April 14, 1933.
She was united in marriage to Joseph Nemetz. He survives.
In addition to her husband, survivors include two children, Walter
Nemetz and Nora Umland.
1) DEATH DATE is April 14,
1933... you should be able to obtain a DEATH CERTIFICATE from the
Shawano courthouse which might possibly list parents and her BIRTH
DATE and BIRTH PLACE. It will also list where she is
buried... which might provide a lead as to the faith/religion of
the family... leading to possible churches they might have
attended... and additional family members interred in the
2) MAIDEN NAME is Pleshek...
husband is Joseph NEMETZ... the 1930 census (closest to the year
she passed) shows Joe R. NEMETZ and his wife Emma living in
Bowler. Emma is 47 years old, making her birth about 1883...
Emma was married when she was 17 -- making the marriage date right
around the 1900 census. She was born in Wisconsin but her
parents were both from Czechoslovakia. Hubby Joe shows that
the same marriage info so one can assume this is the first
marriage for both. Their son Ernie who is 30 is also living with
them. The 1930 census also shows that they own their own
home, making a search for LAND RECORDS for Joseph NEMETZ a
possibility as well. The 1920 census lists Emma (38 years
old) & Joseph R. NEMETZ, occupation Saloon Keeper, living in
Bowler, Almon Twp. They have 4 children listed: Ernie, 21
years; Edward, 19 years; Nora, 15 years; and Walter, 13 years; --
all the children were born in Wisconsin. Back another 10
years, Emma & Joseph NEMITZ are again in Bowler, Almon Twp., --
Emma & Joseph have been married for 11 years (about 1899) and they
have the four children as listed above... Emma has had 4 children
with all 4 living in 1910. Joseph is again a saloon keeper
and owns his own saloon. And we go back again to 1900
census, where we find Emma & Joseph w/ Ernie & Edward living in
Waukechon Twp. Emma lists her birth date as August 1881 and
she has had 2 children with both living in 1900 -- and married for
2 years. Oldest child is born November 1898... this gives
you a clue as to where to look for MARRIAGE INFO... I'm guessing
here at November 1897 -- I know this rule doesn't hold fast to
every case, but it's a good guess to start. As for her
parents, they SHOULD be listed on Emma's marriage certificate as
well as her death certificate. If not, I would look to see
which Pleshek families were in the Waukechon area on the 1898 Plat
Maps. In scanning the 1898 maps for Waukechon, I find John
Pleshek #80, Jacob Pleshek #102, Joseph Pleshek #105, Frank
Pleshek #108 and J. NEMITS #109 -- and an obit on Jacob, Joseph or
Frank might turn up a surviving daughter named Emma Nemetz... had
the 1890 census survived, you could have searched it to find a
child named Emma Pleshek in her parents household...
3) Surviving children: Walter &
Nora... from previous census info, we know that two of Emma's
children died between the 1920 census and her death in 1933.
And, I intentionally did this
without checking the Shawano site or message boards...that would
have made it way too easy! After checking the Shawano GenWeb
site, I found Emma & Joseph buried in the Forest - Birnamwood
Cemetery, along with their children Edward (1899 - 1929) and
Walter (1906 - 1979). A trip up to the Shawano Message
Boards revealed there are other researchers who have info on this
family that are willing to share data. And, a final trip to
ancestry.com, this time to the World Tree Database, finds Emma
PLESHEK (born 8 Aug 1882), wife of Joseph NEMETZ, daughter of
Jacob PLESHEK and Catherine TOMASHEK.
Now, start going back over those
obits you have stored in shoeboxes because you might very well
have the clues you are looking for in your possession already...
to help you past the literal DEAD ENDS.
QUESTIONS? We're here 7
days a week and would love to help! And if this page helps
you develop a strategy, let us know as well so we'll post more
Next time... Where to find