Thanks again to DNA

It seems a little odd to The Legal Genealogist not to be looking at the distaff side of DNA results on this Mother’s Day 2018.

Especially when I think about cousins, my mother’s side generally comes into play no matter what: she was one of 12 children, 10 of whom lived to adulthood. Between her siblings — my aunts and uncles — and my maternal grandparents’ many siblings, I’ve been supplied with what seems at times like an unending array of cousins — first, second, third and more.

But the DNA results that came in this week have me riveted on the other side of the family.

Chicago cousins

Second cousins Alfred Marks, Ernest Marks, Hugo Geissler

My father’s side.

The side where, until very recently, I knew of few if any relatives at all.

My German-born father was one of only two children born to my grandparents Hugo Ernst and Marie Margarethe (Nuckel) Geissler, and the only one to survive to adulthood.

So I have no first cousins on his side at all.

My father’s mother had two sisters and one brother who lived to adulthood — none of whom I had even heard of until I started doing genealogical research.

I know they had some children living in the 1930s or 1940s, but because of German privacy laws, it’s very hard to trace living people in Germany, and essentially impossible to trace women who married in the 1940s or later and changed their surnames. I’ve written about this effort to chase down those folks before.1

So… no contacts with second, third or more distant cousins on that side.

My father’s father was the baby of the seven children I know of born to his parents, and I had been utterly floored to discover he wasn’t the only one to come to America. He was actually the last of four to emigrate to the United States — and my grandfather had aunts and an uncle and even a cousin who emigrated as well.

Again, I’ve been working on chasing any cousins who might still be in Germany,2 but my research suggested there wouldn’t be much to find here. All I’d ever heard in my father’s lifetime were passing references to “two old maiden aunts” in Chicago. Not a hint that there could be living cousins in the U.S. to chase on this side of the Atlantic.

• Hugo Ernst’s oldest sister Hattie Geissler Knop had only one son, Irving. He predeceased his mother and neither his death notice in 1961 nor hers in 1966 mentioned a child or grandchild.3

• Martha Pauline Geissler Benschura had two sons, Alfred and Willie4 — and there’s not a shred of evidence that either of them had children at all.

• Elly Marie Geissler Froemke — no children at all.5

The earlier generations — my grandfather’s aunts and uncle — also pretty much punked out:

• Auguste Pauline Graumüller Schreiner had one child who died before the age of 5.6

• Anna Graumüller Nitschke Zons — no known children, though her death notice suggests a stepchild.7

• And Karl Emil Graumüller hadn’t stayed in the United States — he’d gone back to Germany by the early 1920s.8

And because of those “old maiden aunt” references — to “Tante (Aunt) Anna” and “Tante Liesl” — I hadn’t thought there was much of a chance of finding anyone here.

And then the DNA results started coming in.

That old maiden aunt — “Tante Liesl” — wasn’t a maiden, and wasn’t an aunt either. She was Martha Elisa Graumüller Marks — a first cousin of my grandfather and so my father’s first cousin once removed. Born in 1879,9 she was older than my grandfather and so as a matter of courtesy would have been called “Tante” by my father.

And as Elisabeth Graumiller, she came to America in 1907 with her aunt Anna,10 settled in Chicago and there married Hermann Marks on 3 September 1910.11

She had two sons, Ernest and Alfred, pictured above with their second cousin, my father.

And, it turns out, Ernest and Alfred had children.

And their children had children.

And these Marks descendants are now popping up in my DNA results.

Third cousins. Third cousins once removed.

After a lifetime thinking that my father’s descendants were the only representatives of my German family here in the United States, I am finding cousins.

Cousins!

Here in the United States.

Cousins who have photographs. Cousins who want the photographs I have. Cousins who can tell me about their branch of the family. Cousins who want to hear about mine.

That is why I do DNA testing.

To find those cousins.


SOURCES

  1. See e.g. Judy G. Russell, “Henni, we never knew you,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 28 Apr 2018 and “O cousin, where art thou?,” posted 24 Sep 2016 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 12 May 2018).
  2. See e.g. ibid., “The widow’s legacy,” posted 16 Dec 2017.
  3. For Irving, see Chicago Tribune, Death Notices, 15 June 1961, p. 42, col. 7; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 12 May 2018). For Hattie, see ibid., 26 Sep 1966, p. 74, col. 7.
  4. See generally Manifest, S.S. George Washington, 9 January 1924, p. 137 (stamped), lines 15-16, Alfred and Willy Benschura; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 3439).
  5. See 1940 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 103-1194, sheet 7B, household 127, Paul and Elly Froemke; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 957.
  6. Benjamin Franklin Ernest Schreiner was born 4 July 1895. Cook County, Illinois, Return of a Birth, no. 15466, Benjamin Franklin Ernest Schreiner. But he was not enumerated with his parents on the 1900 census or thereafter. See 1900 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 30, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 914, p. 71A (stamped), dwelling 210, family 528, Frank “Swiner” household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 282.
  7. Anna’s death notice called her the “loving mother of Mary Ross.” Chicago Tribune, Death Notices, 17 Mar 1954, p. 51, col. 8. In truth, Mary was the daughter of Anna’s husband Theodore Zons, born long before his 1926 marriage to Anna. See e.g. 1940 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 103-2447, sheet 6A, household 122, Hugo Ross household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 999.
  8. See Passport Application, Form for Naturalized Citizen, Emil Graumüller, No. 42658, 27 May 1921; U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M1490, roll 1629.
  9. Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taufregister Seite 16 Nr. 69 aus 1879, Baptismal Record of Martha Elisa Graumüller; digital image of entry in the possession of the author.
  10. Manifest, S.S. Pretoria, August 1907, p. 160 (stamped), line 14, Elisabeth Graumiller; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 972).
  11. Cook County, Illinois, Marriage License and return no. 544476, Marks-Graumüller, 3 Sep 1910.
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