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On the German side

She was never — not ever not even once — The Legal Genealogist’s Aunt Anna.

Not Aunt Ann.

And certainly not Aunt Annie.

She was always — forever and ever amen — Tante Anna.

annaNot my aunt, mind you. Not even my father’s aunt. She was my grandfather’s Tante Anna. His mother’s baby sister.1

And one of the reigning matriarchs of my German immigrant family that settled in Chicago.

Born 149 years ago tomorrow, in the village of Bad Köstritz in what is today Germany and was then the tiny principality of Reuss jungere Linie, Anna Emilie (Graumüller) Nitschke Zons is certainly someone I wish I’d known — and about whom I wish I knew more.

I have the records of the bookends of her life: her baptismal record in the Lutheran Church in the little town where she was born tells us she was born at eight o’clock in the morning on 18 December 1867 and was baptized a month later, on 25 January 1868;2 and her death record from the city of Chicago, County of Cook, and State of Illinois tells us that she died at her home at 6235 South Mayfield Avenue on 15 March 1954 of heart disease at the age of 86.3

In between those two dates and those two events was a remarkable life, in two countries on two continents, including at least two marriages.

We know that she was married the first time in the city of Berlin, on 14 April 1894, to Johann Karl Nitschke.4

But — because my German-immigrant father was so secretive about his family — because I never met any of his relatives and never even knew about most of them until long after his death — there is so much we don’t know.

We don’t know, for example, what happened to that first husband. He wasn’t with her when she first came to America in 1904 with her brother Emil — and she didn’t use his name.

Anna and Emil, both shown as Graumüller, arrived at the Port of New York on 6 October 1904 on the ship the Graf Waldersee, sailing from Hamburg. Emil was shown as a 39-year-old castmaker and Anna as his sister, age 36 and single.5

She did use the name Nitschke three years later when, accompanied by a niece, she arrived in New York on board the S.S. Pretoria from Hamburg. She was shown on that manifest as age 30, female, and a widow.6

And she used it again in 1910 when she was shown on the U.S. Census in Chicago as a 42-year-old widow who had emigrated to the United States in 19047 and again in 1920, when she was shown as a 50-year-old widow, working as a housekeeper.8

She was naturalized in 1921, in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, having filed her declaration of intent earlier in the Cook County Superior Court.9

The records make it clear that it was pretty much a hardscrabble life for Anna in America. Lots of menial jobs. Lots of rented quarters. But something changed in 1926, when she was nearing the end of her sixth decade.

She met a man named Theodore Zons. They were married in Chicago on 10 November 1926.10

She and her new husband can then be found on the 1930 census at that Mayfield Avenue address where Anna eventually died. Theodore was shown as a 72-year-old bricklayer, born Germany who emigrated in 1890 and Anna as age 62, born Germany who emigrated in 1904. Both were shown as naturalized.11 And they were still there in 1940, along with her niece and her family.12

And then there’s the death notice, in the Chicago Tribune:

ZONS–Anna Zons, nee Graumillier, beloved wife of the late Theodore Zons, loving mother of Mary Ross, aunt of Elizabeth Marks, Hattie Knop, and Elly Froemke. Services at chapel, 5652 S. Ashland avenue, Thursday, 1:30 p.m. Interment Mount Hope cemetery. Member of Columbia Damenchor.13

Waitaminute.

“Loving mother of Mary Ross”???

There’s no Mary in any of Anna’s earlier records. There’s no Mary in Theodore’s census records before he married Anna.

Who the heck is Mary?? And what might she be able to tell me about Anna???

Sigh… a genealogist’s work is never done…


SOURCES

  1. My great grandmother was Emma Louise Graumüller, born 27 Oct 1855. Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taufregister Seite 110 Nr. 52 aus 1855 (digital image of entry in the possession of JG Russell). Tante Anna — Anna Emilie Graumüller — was born to the same parents 12 years later. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 10 Nr. 54 aus 1867, Baptismal Record of Anna Emilie Graumüller.
  2. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 10 Nr. 54 aus 1867, Baptismal Record of Anna Emilie Graumüller.
  3. State of Illinois, Certificate of Death No. 17539, Anna Zons, 15 March 1954; Department of Public Health, Bureau of Statistics, Springfield.
  4. Heiratsregister der Berliner Standesämter 1874 – 1920, Berlin IV a, 399: 167, Nitschke-Graumüller; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2016).
  5. Manifest, S.S. Graf Waldersee, 6 Oct 1904, p. 31 (stamped), lines 29-30, Emil and Anna Graumüller; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Dec 2016); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 501.
  6. Manifest, S.S. Pretoria, 23 Aug 1907, p. 160 (stamped), line 13, Anna Nitschke; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Dec 2016); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 972.
  7. 1910 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 29, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 1272, p. 71(A) (stamped), dwelling 143, family 344, Anna Nitchke; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Dec 2016); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1272.
  8. 1920 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 31, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 1874, p. 76(B) (stamped), dwelling 40, family 94, Anna Nitschke; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Dec 2016); citing National Archive microfilm publication T625, roll 348.
  9. Anna Nitschke, Declaration of Intent, 16 Apr 1919, Superior Court of Cook County, IL; Petition for Naturalization, file no. 40530, 23 Jun 1921, U.S. District Court (N.D.Ill.); FHL Film 1451977.
  10. Cook County, Illinois, marriage license no. 1134492 and return, Theodore Zons and Anna Nitschke, 10 Nov 1926; County Clerk’s Office, Chicago.
  11. 1930 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 15, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 576, p. 126(A) (stamped), dwelling 87, family 162, Theodore Zons household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2016); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 440.
  12. 1940 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 13, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 108-923, sheet 8B, household 153, Theodore Zons household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2016); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 948.
  13. Death notice, Anna Zons, Chicago Tribune, 17 March 1954, p. B11.
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