Finding the unexpected
So The Legal Genealogist is on the road (again) (yeah, what else is new, I know, I know), this time in Chicago where I have the honor of speaking to the Chicago Genealogical Society today. It’s going to be a ton of fun as we explore everything from 17th century thinking about law and women to 21st century concepts of DNA as part of genealogical research.
But yesterday… oh, yesterday… yesterday I got to do something totally outrageous.
I got to research (gasp) my family.
My father’s family, to be precise.
My German immigrant family that began to settle here in the Windy City sometime back in the late 19th century.
My great grandaunt Auguste Pauline (Graumüller) Schreiner and her husband Herman Franz “Frank” Schreiner were the first to come to America, in 1886,1 and the first to settle in Chicago, by 1888.2
My grandparents, Hugo Ernst and Marie (Nuckel) Geissler — bringing with them their then-not-yet-four-year-old son, my father — were the last to come over, in 1925.3
I never knew my grandparents; both were dead before I was born.4 My father rarely spoke of his family, and the little I knew about what my grandfather did for a living was confined to things like what he reported when he applied for a Social Security number: he was a laborer.5
But yesterday… oh, yesterday… yesterday I learned a little bit more.
Yesterday, thanks to CGS President Stephanie Carbonetti, I got to go to the Newberry Library in Chicago. Although I was a bit like a kid in a candy shop, not knowing what to sample first, I managed to concentrate just long enough to think that one thing I really needed to look at was the Newberry’s set of Chicago telephone directories.
And there it was. Right there in the 1930 telephone book:
My grandfather ran a delicatessen.6
Now I don’t know — I can’t know — what the neighborhood around 1059 North Laramie Avenue or even what the building that housed the deli might have looked like in 1930 or 1931. But I sure know what that location looks like today, thanks to Google Street View:
It’s that building on the left with the green overhang that’s 1059 North Laramie. And to my genealogist-granddaughter’s eyes, it looks wonderful.
I hope my grandfather enjoyed being a shopkeeper. I hope he loved the smell and the feel of the things he bought and sold. I hope that he had an absolute ball during the short time the deli operated.
Because it was a short time. An all-too-short time.
My grandfather couldn’t have known, when he opened the doors of that business, mostly likely in 1929, that the Wall Street Crash that year wasn’t a short-term phenomenon. That its effects would deepen and spread and, eventually, wipe out a corner deli at 1059 North Laramie Avenue in Chicago.
By 1932, there was no telephone listing for the Geissler delicatessen any more. There wouldn’t be a telephone listing for any Geissler again in Chicago until the 1940s.
But for that brief moment, in that small shop, my grandfather ran a delicatessen.
And yesterday… oh, yesterday… yesterday the telephone books in the Newberry Library brought it all to life.
- See 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 July 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 275. ↩
- See Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago, 1888 (Chicago: Chicago Directory Co., 1888), 1508; digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 12 Sep 2014). ↩
- Manifest, S.S. George Washington, Jan-Feb 1925, p. 59 (stamped), lines 4-6, Geissler family; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 Feb 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 3605. ↩
- Illinois Department of Public Health, death certificate no. 1145, Hugo Geissler, 13 Jan 1945; Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield. Also, Ill. Dept. of Public Health, death certif. No. 12011, Marie Geissler, 12 Jan 1947. ↩
- Hugo Ernst Geissler, SS no. (withheld), 17 Dec 1936, Application for Account Number (Form SS-5), Social Security Administration, Baltimore. ↩
- Chicago Telephone Directory, Summer 1930 (Chicago: Illinois Bell Telephone Co., 1930), 474, entry for Geissler, Hugo; microfilm, Newberry Library, Chicago. ↩
It’s those about whom we know so little that make finding even the smallest clue so rewarding. Good for you, Judy!
Thanks, Dave! It sure was an exciting find.
How interesting, another serendipitous connection to one of your blog postings! (The first was your first posting about the Pettypool (and variant spellings) family, found during a search for that branch of my husband’s ancestors.)
I believe I was at this building (or possibly the one to its right if it also once had a commercial use on the ground floor, as appears possible from the photo) in the late 1940s or early 1950s, when it was either a hobby shop or one of the fairly numerous small “corner” variety stores located here and there in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. I, probably with a friend or more, remember walking there from where I lived, a little south of Chicago Ave. (which is 800 North), during one or more of the yo-yo crazes of the period, both to buy yo-yos (and replacement strings) and to attend periodic demonstrations by a Duncan Yo-Yo Co. representative. They were held out front on the fairly large paved area, where the guy performed all sorts of amazing maneuvers/tricks that we aspired to, which he tried to teach us.
I remembered that John Hay School (public elementary school) was approximately across Laramie from the store, and indeed found it still there when I looked on the other side of the street using Google’s Street View.
Do you think your grandparents lived in the apartment/flat above the store, as was common whether the space(s) were rented or owned? If so (or if they lived nearby), they might have attended a reasonably nearby church (or perhaps traveled to one already attended by relatives). Were they Roman Catholic or, perhaps, Lutheran?
If Catholic, they might well have attended the nearby Our Lady, Help of Christians church (commonly heard and said by us kids as “Help-A-Christians”), in the 800 block of N. LeClaire Ave., two short blocks east of Laramie and a couple long blocks south. There was also a parish elementary school, with a huge enrollment in the post-WWII years. I think that church started as predominantly Irish around the turn of the 20th century but later became very diverse.
The Austin neighborhood was loaded with Lutheran churches, originally connected with one or another immigrant nationality, from German to Swedish to Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, and more. The first German-connected church in the area that came to mind was St. Paul’s-Austin (still in existence, along with its school). It was at Menard (5800 W.) and Iowa (900 N.) (Laramie is 5200 W.) This church was and may still be affiliated with the Missouri Synod. In fact, I was married there in the 1960s, though never a member. I believe this church still had one weekly German service at least well into the 50s. I just looked up a bit about Trinity Lutheran Church, at about 1400 N. Laramie (at Hirsch), which I vaguely recalled as having a German origin, but it was part of the United Lutheran Church synod originally, not Missouri, I think. The United group became part of the merged ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America) later. The congregation evidently went out of business there (so to speak) in the late 1970s, but its records are at the Newberry Library. The building is now occupied by a Baptist church.
For whatever it might be worth (probably nothing), I went to high school with a Schreiner (Luther H.S. North, not in Austin but considerably northwest in Chicago).
That’s just amazing! I do think they probably lived above the store, at least for the brief period when they ran it, though my guess is (until I can get to the land records) that they were tenants, not owners. There’s so much more now I want to know… and you know the old saying: “So many ancestors… so little time!”
I love this! My family ran a store in the late 19th/early 20th century which I envision to be like the general store from Little House on the Prairie. I do have pictures of it (which I cherish) and there is even one with my great great grandfather standing in front! And it’s an original photo and it’s mine, ALL MINE! And in the 1918-1919 time frame, my grandmother talked about working in the store in her letters to my grandfather. It makes me feel like I was there! You made a great find 🙂
Sounds like your finds were even better, Debi! Cool!