Born on the Fourth of July

Immigrants’ child

He was born, the record tells us, on the Fourth of July.

B_F_E_SchreinerHe was a first generation American, this little boy, born to immigrant parents in the Windy City of Chicago.1 His father, Herman Franz Schreiner, was born in Gera,2 Reuss Jüngere Linie, Germany,3 and his mother, Augusta Paula (Graumüller) Schreiner, in Köstritz,4 Reuss, Germany.

His father, called Frank, was 41 years of age and a locksmith — a “safe mechanic.” His mother was 37. And this was their first-born child.5 It was, perhaps, because of Augusta’s age that the birth was attended not by a midwife but by a doctor, Carl Krone.6

They had married, his parents had, in 18817 and had come to America in 1886,8 the first of The Legal Genealogist‘s father’s kin to travel to this new land.9

They had clearly come to appreciate their new country by the time their child was born.

It isn’t just that Frank had become a naturalized citizen in 1894.10

And it isn’t even the fact that they’d begun the pattern of chain migration that was to mark this family’s — my family’s — history. In 1890, they had brought my grandfather’s sister, Hattie, to America to live with them.11

It’s also the name he and Augusta gave this child.

That name, for that little boy, born on the Fourth of July?

Benjamin Franklin Ernest Schreiner.12

You can almost imagine the fireworks in that household that day, can’t you? After 14 years of marriage, finally, finally a child. A new citizen for their new land. What better name than Benjamin Franklin?

But there is another record that tells another part of this story. And it is not so happy. Because five years after Benjamin was born, there was a census taken in Chicago and elsewhere in the United States. And there is no hint of Benjamin in that census.

His parents were enumerated, his cousin Hattie living with them… but no Benjamin.13 And on the 1910 census, there isn’t even an indication that Augusta had ever had a child.14

There is no death record for little Benjamin. No record I have found yet as to where he was buried. Nothing to say how it came to be that he left this world so soon after entering it.

But he was born, we know, on the Fourth of July.

He and his name are part of our family history. And he, and that gloriously American name of his, bring a smile to this cousin’s face every time I think of it.


  1. Cook County, Illinois, Return of a Birth, No. 15466, Benjamin Franklin Ernest Schreiner, 4 July 1895; Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago.
  2. Wikipedia (, “Gera,” rev. 28 June 2014.
  3. Wikipedia (, “Principality of Reuss-Gera,” rev. 24 March 2014.
  4. Wikipedia (, “Bad Köstritz,” rev. 5 March 2014.
  5. Cook Co., Ill., Return of a Birth, No. 15466.
  6. Ibid.
  7. They were shown in 1910 as having been married 29 years. 1910 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 29, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 1272, p. 71A (penned), dwelling 144, family 346, Frank Schreiner household; digital image, ( : accessed 4 July 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 275.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Augusta (Graumüller) Schreiner’s sister, Emma (Graumüller) Geissler, was my great grandmother.
  10. Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court, Naturalization vol. 49: 283, Frank Schreiner, 15 October 1894; Clerk’s Office, Chicago.
  11. Manifest, S.S. Rhein, August 1890, page 7 (penned), passenger 329, Hedwig Geisler; digital images, ( : accessed 8 March 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication M255, roll 48.
  12. Cook Co., Ill., Return of a Birth, No. 15466.
  13. 1900 U.S. census, Cook County, Chicago, Illinois, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 914, p. 71A (stamped), dwelling 210, family 528, Frank “Sweiner” household; digital image, ( : accessed 10 Feb 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 282.
  14. 1910 U.S. census, Cook Co., Ill., Chicago Ward 29, pop. sched., ED 1272, p. 71A (penned), dwell. 144, fam. 346, Augusta Schreiner.
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8 Responses to Born on the Fourth of July

  1. Amanda says:

    What a fascinating, yet sad, tale. I note on the 1900 census that Augusta was listed as being the mother to 0 children and no children surviving. Does the birth record note if Benjamin was live-born? One would still think a record of death and/or burial would be found. Thank you for sharing your family story!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Remember that death records were pretty spotty in Chicago in the late 1800s. It’s very common not to be able to find a death record — and extraordinarily fortunate that this birth record exists! The law at the time required records of live births, not of stillbirths.

  2. What great insight into this immigrant family’s experience and feelings about their new nation, but how sad about their child. I’ve seen on multiple occasions that mothers often neglected to mention their deceased children in the 1900 and 1910 census. I’m sure these were painful memories that they perhaps didn’t wish to recount to a census enumerator.

  3. Lawrence Leveque says:

    I suspect that the census taker got information from a neighbor. I have found that while neighbors often have the basic facts right, they do not have all the details, such as exact ages, dates and places of birth, or sensitive information.

    I say this based on many years of historical/genealogical research and having managed census field operations on the north side of Chicago during the 1990 Decennial Census.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      As to the 1900 census, I would agree with you based in part on the errors the entry contains on basic things like name. I’m not so sure about 1910.

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