Ida Oswald (Seidenspinner)

One of the things I personally find interesting is looking at photos of my ancestors as they have aged. The best series of these I have is from my 2nd great-grandmother Ida Oswald. The below sequence shows her aging from a small child, to a young lady, then a mother and ultimately an older woman. You can see the same features and expressions throughout her life. It’s also a kind of solemn reminder that time catches up with all of us eventually:

Beyond the aging illustrated in this series, there are a few other things I find personally amusing. The center top picture of she and Gustave is actually their wedding photo. She looks absolutely thrilled. This lack of enthusiasm is matched only by her expression in the photo directly underneath where she has three children (my great grandfather Alfred is on the left). Candid photos had an entirely different meaning back then…

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George Friedrich Steinhaus

He’s my second great grandfather and probably had one of the hardest lives out of my most recent ancestors. He was born on May 5th in Strosswitz, Germany and it didn’t take too long for things to start going wrong for him. His mother, Johanna, died when he was only 19 months old, which in and of itself is terrible enough. In May of 1852, at the age of 10, he left the port city of Hamburg, Germany on his way to America. He spent three months in the ship’s steerage, and arrived in New York in July of that year, ultimately settling on a farm in Mosel, Wisconsin. At the age of 21, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and saw some of the bloodiest combat in the civil war. He was ultimately shot in the foot on July 1st, 1863 in the battle of Gettysburg and, after suffering an infection, lost the lower third of his right leg. Medical practices being what they were at the time, I’m sure this was a fairly horrific procedure.

He was discharged from the army in May of the following year. Three years after returning home to Wisconsin, at the age of 26, he married a German immigrant, 7 years his junior, named Marie Antoinette Wagner. They ultimately had 6 children. He worked for a while as a cigar maker before becoming a saloon keeper in Mosel, WI. He and Antonette eventually purchased 40 acres of land in the southeast corner of the township and operated a roadside hostelry and tavern on the main road between Sheboygan and Manitowoc. He died just 5 months after the birth of their last child, Walter, at the relatively young age of only 43. His death certificate lists the cause of death as a skin disease, erysipelas, also known as St. Anthony’s fire. Although easily treatable with today’s antibiotics, left unchecked this disease can lead to sepsis, which is probably what occurred with George.

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All in all, he lived an extremely hard life. He suffered through losing his mother before he was even 2 years old, immigrating to a foreign land as a young child, losing a leg in the Civil War and ultimately dying at age 43. Thinking about the sacrifices people like him had to make often makes me much more appreciative of the life I live today.

Sophia Melahn

She’s the shortest branch on my mother’s side of the family tree. Most parts of her side of the tree extend back well over 250 years. Sophia, however, is the only person on the Faxon side for whom I’ve been unable to track down 4th great-grandparents. Part of this stems from the fact that she was a first generation immigrant, and this is where I most frequently run into a dead end. She was born on April 1st, 1830 in Germany. According to census records, she arrived in America 1854 and later married Henry (Heinrich) Suhr. They ultimately had 6 children. I’ve been able to track down pictures for most of them, including my 2nd great grandmother, Louisa Suhr (McFall), shown below.

Louis Suhr and Levi McFall

I’ve been checking every now and then for German birth records or passenger lists that may be hers, but so far nothing has come up that looks like a good match. The marriage date given by several people on ancestry.com is November 12th, 1855, in Milwaukee. If I were able to track down their marriage certificate, it would more than likely contain her parents names. However, the 1855 marriage date and location is suspect for a variety of reasons.

  1. Milwaukee started recording marriages in 1852, and theirs does not show up in the Milwaukee database.
  2. If she were married in 1855, that would mean she immigrated, met Henry, settled in Milwaukee and married him all in one year. Possible, but not likely.
  3. Their first child was born in 1861, so if the 1855 date is true it would also mean that after the above sequence of events, they then decided to wait 6 years to start having children.

There could be likely explanations for any one of those things, but taken together, it seems more likely that they married somewhere closer to 1859-1860 in a state that was not keeping very good marriage records. Will just have to keep looking, something will turn up eventually…

Foster Family Photos

I did a little searching on ancestry on the Foster side of the family tree and came across these two:

The fellow on the left is my third great grandfather, Thomas Foster (1822-1882) and the man on the right is his father, Joshua Clay Foster (1794-1883). Both of them were farmers in the small town of Maquon, Illinois, just west of Peoria. It’s always a nice surprise to randomly find pictures of your ancestors on-line. I wasn’t able to find pictures for Thomas’s daughter, Olive, my 2nd great grandmother. Likely because she died at a relatively young age of 44. I did however find her marriage record from 1891 in the Maquon Methodist Church records, which I still thought was kind of neat:

Olive and Eddie Marriage Record

Maybe at some point something more will turn up, but that’s all that was available for right now.

The Penningtons

Do you know who these two are:

Chances are, probably not. To me, they’re two of the most frustrating people in my family tree, my fourth great-grandparents, Pennington. Based on what’s written on the back of their pictures they’re her parents:

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She’s Mary Pennington (Kirk), my third great grandmother, born around 1830 and died around 1868. Somebody decided to just write, “Grandma and Grandpa Pennington” on their pictures and leave it at that. Real helpful. This is her with my 2nd great grandmother Mary Kirk, furthest on right:

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Try as I may, I’ve been completely unable to track down her parents names. Usually it’s the other way around, I have names and dates but no pictures. That’s what makes her parents so irritating.

Usually a simple marriage certificate will solve something like this. She was married around 1850 in Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin to Samuel Kirk. Unfortunately, Wisconsin law didn’t require marriage events be recorded with state officials until 1852, two years later. Fon Du Lac county did start recording them in 1844, but it was spotty and after checking with the state, her marriage was not one of the ones that was recorded. Additionally, I have not been able to track down any death certificate for her. If anyone comes across this and can provide me with any additional information, it would be much appreciated. Until then, I’ll keep searching…

Frederick Royse

Every now and then I come across older ancestors and am surprised by the amount of research that has been done on them. Frederick Royse is definitely one of those people. He was born around 1750, most likely close to Bardstown, Kentucky and fought with the Frontier Rangers from 1778-1783 in the Revolutionary War. Shortly before enlisting, he married Sarah Dewitt of Hampshire, Virginia. They ultimately had 10 children and in 1815, at the age of 65, founded what is now the small town of Fredericksburg, Indiana.

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In 1971, Chelsea Dinn published an entire book about his life story, “Frederick Royse, 1750-1825: Revolutionary War Militiaman“. The amount of time and energy spent researching this one person is really amazing. His relation to me is as follows:

Frederick Royse (1750 – 1825)
5th great-grandfather
Rebeckah Royse (1796 – 1831)
daughter of Frederick Royse
Harvey McFall (1815 – 1875)
son of Rebeckah Royse
Levi Augustus McFall (1863 – 1930)
son of Harvey McFall
Edna Dell Mcfall (1898 – 1989)
daughter of Levi Augustus McFall
Richard Faxon (1920 – 1999)
son of Edna Dell Mcfall
Patricia Faxon (1949 – )
daughter of Richard Louis Faxon
Benjamin Steinhaus

Wolfach, Germany

My second great grandfather, Gustave Seidenspinner, left Wolfach, Germany in 1881 to immigrate to America. Before leaving he captured an image of the family home from a nearby hillside. Several months back, I began to search the internet for images of Wolfach today and was surprised by what I found…

Seidenspinner Family Home

The Seidenspinner Family Home in Wolfbach, Germany circa 1881.

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The Seidenspinner Family Home in Wolfach, Germany today.

Not only had someone captured an image from almost the exact same vantage point, but the building where Gustave had lived still appears to be completely intact. Visiting this town is one of those things that got added onto my bucket list.

Louis Henslie Faxon’s Death – 1929

The below was a document I found recently on ancestry.com corroborating the date and cause of my great grandfathers death. He was killed at the age of only 37. He was walking home from work one Tuesday evening and was gored to death by a bull that had escaped from it’s pen.

Louis Faxon Railway Death

It’s kind of morbid, but I think some of the strange causes of death of my ancestors are one of the most interesting things about my family history. Not so many people died in their sleep at the age of 85 in a nursing home. There were several people who suffered horrible fates. It reminds me of how easy I have it now, compared by to my forefathers.

Otto and Me

So, the first obvious question is probably, “Why Otto and Me?”. Otto von Steinhausen was my 14th great grandfather, born in Vacha Rhan, Thuringia, Germany. He’s the furthest back that the Steinhaus name has been traced by my family. I figured it only made sense when tracing my family roots and journey to the present day to name the blog after he and I.