Elly, Paul, the censuses… and the divorce…
There is no question of the relationship of the couple on the 1930 census. On line 29, he is enumerated as head of the household, and on line 30, she’s enumerated as his wife, and the marital status for each of them is shown as M, for married.1
And there’s no question of the relationship of the couple on the 1940 census. On line 69, he’s enumerated as head of the household, and on line 70, she’s shown as his wife, and the marital status of each shown as M, for married.2
But between those lines… oh, between those lines… there’s a story to be told.
The focus of the story is Elly Emma Martha Maria (Geissler) Nasgowitz Froemke — and she has been driving The Legal Genealogist to distraction for some time.3
She was my paternal grandfather’s older sister, fifth child and fourth daughter of Hermann and Emma (Graumüller) Geissler. She was born in the village of Bad Köstritz — in what was then the principality of Reuß jüngerer Linie and is now the German State of Thüringen4 — on 31 December 1888 and baptized in the Lutheran church there on 24 January 1889.5
She was married in Germany, to Max Wilhelm Nasgowitz on 10 February 1920,6 but that didn’t last. Elly left Germany in late 1922, arriving at the Port of New York on the President Harding on 17 January 1923. She was bound for Chicago, where other family members had settled.7
Now… if I’d stopped with the census records, I’d have concluded that Elly met Paul Anton Froemke there in Chicago, married him, and they lived happily ever after. I mean, after all, I have them coming back into the United States together from Germany in September 1927, both of them listed at the same permanent Chicago address.8 Then they’re together on the 1930 census, the 1940 census, and even on the 1950 census — shown there on lines 3-4, Paul as head of household, Elly as his wife.9
By 1954, they’d moved to California, and they’re recorded one after the other on the voter rolls of Riverside County, both living at 549 Orange Avenue in Beaumont.10 Elly died there in Riverside in 1964,11 and Paul in 1969.12
And I can even throw in Elly’s naturalization records from 1939, where she identified Paul A. Froemke as her husband.13
So what’s the story between the lines here?
Elly married Paul in Chicago.
Once, the Illinois marriage index says, on the 28th of June 1926.14
And again, the marriage record from Cook County Clerk says, on the fourth of May 1935.15
And in between?
Well, it sure didn’t match my theories.
First, I’d thought they’d married in Germany when they went there to visit her family in 1927, and remarried in Chicago because they couldn’t get the documentation to support her later naturalization.
Then, after an eagle-eyed reader spotted that index entry for the 1926 marriage, I thought maybe they’d remarried because — well — there is that minor matter of the first marriage in Germany to Max.
But then through the help of a genealogy colleague I was able to get the license application for the 1935 marriage, rather than just the license and return.
And it said both Paul and Elly had been divorced in Cook County, Illinois, in January 1935.16 Didn’t say from whom, but the fact that the date for both divorces was the same and the addresses they claimed to be living at when they applied for this license were different strongly suggested this was this couple getting divorced from each other.
That still left the question: why? A problem because of the Max marriage? Or something else?
The divorce case file came in yesterday, thanks to very quick work by a Chicago researcher.
And … sigh … it’s something else.
On the 23rd of October 1934, Elly went to court in Chicago and asked for a divorce from Paul. The grounds? Desertion: “Paul Anton Froemke, on the 25th day of January, A.D. 1932, wilfully and without any reasonable or just cause therefor, deserted and abandoned plaintiff, and wholly refused to live and cohabit with her as husband and wife.”17
She claimed she didn’t know where Paul was — his last known residence, she said, was back at his family home in Clinton, Oklahoma — so the court gave her leave to notify him of the action by publication and by mail.18
When Paul didn’t answer by the end of November, Elly’s lawyer asked for a default judgment. But to support the application, she had to submit a Certificate of Evidence — and that’s where the good stuff is. Both she and her sister, Hattie (Geissler) Knop, were examined by Elly’s lawyer. “I treated him very good,” she said. “He treated me very mean.” “She was very good to him,” Hattie said. How did he treat her? “Very cruel.”19
And so, on 8 January 1935, Judge Philip J. Finnegan entered the decree, divorcing Elly from Paul and allowing her to resume her maiden name of Elly Geissler.20
Now… think about this. All through late 1934 into early 1935, Elly has no idea where Paul is, and thinks he may be back in Oklahoma. He’s gone, he won’t support her, she wants out.
And not even four months later, Paul — living at 5534 South Ashland Avenue, Chicago — gets a license to marry Elly — living at 5238 South Ashland Avenue, Chicago.21
Plug those addresses into Google Maps. It says it’s 0.4 miles, and an eight-minute walk.
Wouldn’t you have wanted to be a fly on the wall for the conversations that occurred, somehow, in those 0.4 miles, between January and May?
So the mystery of Elly and how she managed to re-enter the United States under the name Froemke in 1927 when she married Paul in 1935 is solved.22
But oh man… would I ever like to know what happened in those first months of 1935.23
There’s such a story between these lines.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Between the lines,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 28 Jan 2023).
- 1930 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago, enumeration district (ED) 16-583, p. 140 (stamped), dwelling 188, family 211, Paul and Elly Froemke; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Jan 2023); imaged from NARA microfilm T626, roll 441. ↩
- 1940 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago , enumeration district (ED) 103-1194, sheet 7B, household 126, Paul and Elly Froemke; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Jan 2023); imaged from NARA microfilm T627, roll 957. ↩
- See Judy G. Russell, “The New Year’s Eve baby and the resolution,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 31 Dec 2022 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 28 Jan 2023). And see “The plot thickens…,” posted 21 Jan 2023. ↩
- See generally Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org), “Reuß jüngerer Linie,” rev. 15 Dec 2022 ↩
- Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taufregister Seite 57 Nr. 89 aus 1888 (Church book, Baptismal Register, Page 57, no. 89 of 1888); digital image of entry in the possession of JG Russell ↩
- Marriage Certificate, Nr. 81 (1920), Max Wilhelm Nasgowitz and Elly Marie Geissler; Standesamt Gera, 4 January 1929 (photocopy provided by Stadtarchiv Gera). ↩
- Manifest, S.S. President Harding, 17 January 1923, p. 131 (stamped), line 1, Elly Nasgowitz; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Jan 2023); citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3244. ↩
- Manifest, S.S. George Washington, 9 September 1927, page 225 (stamped), line 9, Paul Froemke, and page 218 (stamped), line 7, Elly Froemke; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 Dec 2022); citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 4125. They’re on different pages because Paul was a U.S. citizen and Elly was not, not yet. ↩
- 1950 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago, enumeration district (ED) 103-1387, sheet 82, dwelling 4125, Paul and Elly “Froemk”; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Jan 2023). ↩
- California Great Register of Voters, Riverside County, 1954 Official Index, Beaumont Precinct 2, entries for Paul A. and Mrs. Elly Marie Froemke; digital images, “California, U.S., Voter Registrations, 1900-1968,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jan 2023). ↩
- Riverside County, California, Death Certificate 3397, state file 03058, Elly Marie Froemke, 10 Dec 1964. ↩
- Entry for Paul A Froemke, 19 Jan 1969, “California Death Index, 1940-1997,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 28 Jan 2023). Yeah. I know. I need to order his death certificate. ↩
- U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, petition 187495, certificate 11 207667, Elly Martha Marie Froemke; digital images, “Illinois, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Jan 2023). ↩
- “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1968,” entry for Paul A Froemke and Elly Geissler, 28 June 1926; database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 28 Jan 2023). ↩
- Cook County, Ill., Marriage License and Return No. 1446337, Froemke-Geissler, 4 May 1935; digital image in the possession of JG Russell. ↩
- Cook County, Ill., Marriage License Application No. 1446337, Froemke-Geissler, 4 May 1935; digital image in the possession of JG Russell. ↩
- Complaint in Chancery, Froemke v. Froemke, Case No. 34C22464, Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court, Chicago; digital image in the possession of JG Russell. ↩
- See ibid., Certificate of Mailing Notice, 29 October 1934. ↩
- Ibid., Certificate of Evidence, 6 December 1934. ↩
- Ibid., Decree for Divorce, 8 Jan 1935. ↩
- Cook County, Ill., Marriage License Application No. 1446337, Froemke-Geissler, 4 May 1935. ↩
- Of course, there is still the minor matter of how the marriage to Max ended legally… ↩
- Nope. Before you ask, there’s nobody alive today who would know. Elly and Paul had no children, all of their siblings and niblings long gone. Darn it. ↩