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One missing little girl

It goes without saying in genealogy.

You have to read every word.

Every single character, in every single field, in every single document.

It doesn’t matter what the document is.

It doesn’t matter what particular use you’re making of it.

You have got to parse through everything it says.

Case in point: the delayed birth certificate of a second cousin of my father.

Alfred Marks, the certificate reports, was born at home at 3530 West 61st Place, in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, at 9 o’clock in the morning on the first of August 1916.1

The child was male, legitimate, the son of Herman Marks, a 30-year-old baker born in Germany, and Elisabeth (Graumüller) Marks, a 28-year-old housewife, also born in Germany.2

And — for years — my eyes then skipped down to the signature block where Elisabeth Marks signed the certificate as the mother, listing her address as 5540 South Halsted Street, and then the stamped filing date of 4 October 1934.3 It’s that different address and that date that tells us this was a delayed certificate, filed when Alfred was 18.

Now I believe (at least I hope!) I had noticed line 27 of this certificate — the line that asked about the “number of children of this mother (at moment of this birth and including this child)” — before this week.

And I believe I’d noticed that, under subpart (a), it said Elisabeth had two living children. Alfred had one older brother, Ernest, born in 1914.4

But what, for years, my eyes had skipped right over was the entry under subpart (b) of line 27. The part that asked about those who were “born alive but now dead.”

Until this week, I never consciously noted that there is an entry in that subpart of that line. It is a single digit. The number “1.”

Marks

There was another child.

A child I knew nothing about.

A child I went looking for after finally noticing that entry in that subpart of that line.

That single digit that I had never really noticed before.

And her name was Elizabeth.5

She was Herman and Elisabeth’s first-born, and she came into this world in the very early hours of a cold Sunday, the 5th of February 1911.6

Her parents, Herman and Elisabeth, were living at 4839 Bishop Street in Chicago7 — that was then the home address, my family research has taught me, of Elisabeth’s aunt Anna (Graumüller) Nitschke and great uncle and great aunt Frank Schreiner and Auguste (Graumüller) Schreiner.8 It was to that address that the doctor was called in the early hours of Sunday, the 5th of February, 1911.9

But it was a difficult labor, according to Dr. G. R. Landau of South Ashland Street. And the little girl born at 3 a.m. didn’t survive long that cold day.10

We know it was well below freezing when little Elizabeth Marks was born; the high for the day was forecast to just break the freezing mark.11 But the weather turned treacherous that Sunday in February: more than eight inches of snow fell that day — the “worst snow blizzard” so far that year.12

Despite the terrible weather, the undertaker G.E. Kruse came and took that little girl away. She was buried the next day, Monday, February 6th, at Mt. Greenwood Cemetery in Chicago, roughly 12 miles from her home.13

Anna, the baby’s great aunt, had the sad task of serving as the informant on the death certificate. The father, she said, was Herman Marks, born in Germany. The mother, Elisa Graumueller, born in Germany.

And then she gave the information about little Elizabeth. Four questions: how long resident in city; how long in State; how long in US; age at time of death.

All with the same answer: one hour.14

Losing a child is bad enough. And there is nothing my generation can do to ease the pain her parents felt at her loss.

But losing even the memory that she ever existed…?

That, at least, is something my generation can do something about.

As long as we read every single character, in every single field, in every single document.

Her name was Elizabeth.

She was our cousin.

We will remember.


SOURCES

  1. Cook County, Illinois, delayed birth certificate 54205, Alfred Marks (1916); County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, filed 4 Oct 1934.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. See e.g. 1920 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 29, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 1789, p.160(A) (stamped), dwelling 25, family 33, Ernest Marks in Herman Marks household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T625, roll 346.
  5. City of Chicago, Certificate of Death, Physician’s Form, No. 20829 (stamped), Elizabeth Marks (1911); Department of Health, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1239888.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. See 1910 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 29, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 1272, p. 71(A) (stamped), dwelling 143, families 394-395, “Nitckle,” Graumuller and Schreiner families; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 Oct 20115); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1272.
  9. City of Chicago, Certificate of Death, Physician’s Form, No. 20829, Elizabeth Marks.
  10. Ibid.
  11. “Weather Forecast,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 5 Feb 1911, p. 1, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Sep 2015).
  12. “Blizzard Grips City and West; Traffic Tied Up,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 Feb 1911, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Sep 2015).
  13. City of Chicago, Certificate of Death, Physician’s Form, No. 20829, Elizabeth Marks.
  14. Ibid.
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