Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Challenge of Henry Meinzen

I never tire of my great-grandfather, Henry C. Meinzen, because the more I learn, the more I realize what a character he was.  However, he pushes me to frustration for the lack of evidence I find concerning his life before arriving in the United States.  A character?  Perhaps more like a rascal.

He is one of the first ancestors I researched.  After spending years trying to find as much information as I could, I was still unable to find his place of birth or his parents.  I laid the search to rest.  But periodically, I pick up the hunt again, hoping that some new record set will help me locate his immigration information, his place of birth, his parents' names, anything else that will help me go back to his beginnings.

Lest anyone think I haven't searched deeply enough, I offer the results of searches with records and sources noted.  If you have additional suggestions of where I might look to find more information, I'd be grateful to know.

What I Know of Henry (undoubtedly too much information)
  • 25 Jul 1837 - born in Germany (family records, 1900 U.S. Census indicates birth month and year; 1900 & 1910 U.S. Censuses give location, death certificate, death certificate, obituary)
  • 1866 - immigrated to the U.S. (naturalization record, 1920 U.S. Census)
  • 7 Oct 1867 - applied for citizenship in Belmont County, Ohio, native of Prussia, age 28, immigrated June 1866; signed as Heinrich Meinzen
  • 24 Apr 1870 - married Elizabeth Armitage in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio.  He was 32, she was 17.  (marriage record)
  • 1 Jun 1870 - age 32, lived in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio, with wife, Eliza; born Prussia (1870 U.S. Census, dated 11 Jul 1870)
  • 25 Sep 1870 - Son, Henry, born (Jefferson County birth records)
  • 1871 - carpenter, lived at 116 South Water Street, Steubenville, Ohio (Palmer's Steubenville Directory for 1871)
  • 9 Oct 1871 - became a naturalized citizen (naturalization record)
  • 1872 - Son, William Meinzen, born (death notice in The Steubenville Weekly Gazette, Friday, 30 Nov 1888)
  • 28 Apr 1873 - purchased Lot 32,  Morris Second Edition [North 8th Street], Steubenville, Ohio for $600.00 (Jefferson County deed book)
  • 1875 - carpenter, lived North Eighth above Franklin (Steubenville City Directory for 1875-1876)
  • 13 Feb 1875 - daughter Hannah born (1880, 1900 U.S. Censuses, certificate of death)
  • 5 Mar 1879 - son Edward J. C. F. born (1880, 1900 U.S. Censuses, certificate of death)
  • 1 Jun 1880 - age 41, lived in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio, with wife and four children; born Hanover (1880 U.S. Census, dated 9 Jun 1880)
  • 28 Aug 1880 - daughter, Marie Isabella born (Birth Records of Jefferson County, Ohio)
  • 13 Nov 1882 - son Walter born (Birth Records of Jefferson County, Ohio)
  • 26 Jan 1885 - daughter Elizabeth Wilhelmina born (1900 U.S. Census) 
  • 20 Jan 1887 - daughter Lula Bernesa born (Jefferson County Birth Records)
  • 7 Oct 1888 - daughter Bertha born (Jefferson County Birth Records)
  • Nov 1888 - son, William, died (The Steubenville Weekly Gazette, 30 Nov 1888)
  • 8 Feb 1892 - son William Carl Robert born (Birth Records of Jefferson County, Ohio)  
  • 20 Feb 1892 - sold Lot No. 32, Morris Second Addition for $850.00 (Jefferson County Deed Book)
  • 15 Dec 1893 - son Jacob Increase born (Jefferson County Birth Records, WWI Draft Card)
  • 3 Sep 1896 - son Carl Nelson born (Zion Evangelical Church Records)
  • 14 Sep 1896 - son Carl Nelson died (Zion Evangelical Church Records)
  • 15 Oct 1898 - grew a six pound white radish, on exhibition at newspaper office (Herald-Star, October 12, 1898)
  • 22 May 1899 - daughter Naomi Faye born (Jefferson County Birth Records)
  • 7 Sep 1899 - exhibited 12' 4" corn stalk at HeraldStar Office (HeraldStar, 7 Sep 1899)
  • 1 Jun 1900 - age 61, lived in Cross Creek Township, Jefferson County, Ohio, with wife and 10 children; gardener, born in Germany (1900 U.S. Census, dated 12 Jun 1900)
  • 26 Aug 1901 - a team of Henry's horses "ran off" in Steubenville, Ohio (East Liverpool Evening News Review, 29 Aug 1901)
  • 8 Aug 1902 - bought north half of Lot No. 2 in Stokely's 1st Addition [S. Third Street], Steubenville, Ohio, for $3,000.00 (deed in name of wife, Elizabeth)  (Jefferson County Deed Book)
  • 1904 - lived at 306 S. Third, Steubenville, Ohio (Steubenville Official City Directory 1904-05
  • 1906 - lived at 306 S. Third, Steubenville, Ohio, owns confectionery (Steubenville City Directory, 1906
  • 31 May 1907 - son Walter died (death certificate, newspaper articles)
  • 15 Apr 1910 - age 72, lived in First Ward, Steubenville, with wife and six children; grocer, born in Germany (1910 U.S. Census, dated 18 Apr 1910)
  • 4 Sep 1910 - daughter Hannah died (certificate of death)
  • 1911 - lived at 308 S. 3d, owns confectionery (Steubenville Official City Directory, 1911
  • 15 Nov 1911 - son Edward J. C. F. died (certificate of death)
  • 1913 - lived at 306 S. Third, owned confectionery (Steubenville Official City Directory 1913)
  • 1915 - lived at 306 S. Third, owned confectionery (1915-1916 Steubenville City Directory)
  • 12 Sep 1917 - son Jacob Increase died (certificate of death)
  • 1918 - lived at 308 S. Third, owns confectionery (1918 Steubenvillce Official City Directory)  
  • 14 May 1918 - daughter Bertha died (death certificate)
  • 1 Jan 1920 - age 82, lived in Steubenville 4th Ward, Jefferson County, with wife, Elizabeth, and granddaughter, Edna Hendricks, born Hanover, Germany
  • 26 Jun 1920 - wife Elizabeth died
  • 30 Dec 1925 - Henry died, retired carpenter, born Germany, father Carl Meinzen
  • 2 Jan 1826 - buried Union Cemetery (Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church Records, Union Cemetery Records)

The Confusing Information

There is a Graves Registration Card for Henry C. Meinzen.  It indicates that he served in the Civil War from August 11, 1862 to August 10, 1863, in the U.S. Navy as a Seaman on the ships "Cairo" and "Brilliant."  All information on the card corresponds correctly to known information about Henry but I have been unable to locate any information about him serving in the Civil War.  If this information were true, it indicates that he arrived in the U.S. four years earlier than he states on his naturalization record. 

There is an immigration record at the Castle Garden website for Ernst Meinzen with information that corresponds to Henry's information -- all except the first name.  The age, arrival date, and destination could all be Henry's information.  I've found no immigration record for Henry or Heinrich Meinzen.  I continue to wonder if they could be the same man.  I've not found an Ernst Meinzen in Ohio.  Did Henry change his name or decide to use a name other than the one he used in Hannover?  A new start with a new name?

What I Lack Knowing of Henry
  • The location of his birth more nearly than Germany, Prussia, or Hannover.  I need a town, city, or village to find further useful information.  I have no idea where else to look.
  • His father's name is indicated as Carl on his death certificate but his mother's name eludes me.  She is apparently an unknown to both him and his children.

Obituary of Sopha Meinzen Kropp
On a side note, I discovered that Henry's sister, Sophia Meinzen Kropp, arrived in the U.S. in 1887, along with her husband and several children, and settled in Steubenville, Ohio.  Unfortunately, neither her death certificate nor obituary mention her mother's name.  Sadly, her death certificate tells me that her father's name is Deidrick Meinzen.  Of course, it's possible that it was Carl Deidrick or Deidrick Carl, or that the informant for the death certificate misunderstood the question, but there's no way to know until I find further information.  Those German naming traditions!

I have a cousin who has researched this Meinzen side of the family.  He's interested in sharing his information but from what I can tell no sources or documentation are included.  I'm of the opinion that family history without sources and documentation is family fable.

Henry Meinzen and information about him and his life have been easy to find in the U.S.  Information about his origins and his parents -- not so easy.  That rascal!  What a challenge he's been.

This is a post written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2019 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic for the week was "Challenge." 


Copyright ©2019, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Trio of Firsts

I began family history research just before FamilySearch and Ancestry became readily available online.  That means I started census research using microfilmed copies of Soundex index cards to find my families in the census.  Do you remember those cards?

Elizabeth Meinzen is 2nd from left with sunbonnet
Henry Meinzen is 4th from left with pipe

The first family I searched for was my mother's paternal grandparents whose surname was Meinzen and who, I knew, were from Steubenville, in Jefferson County, Ohio.  From my mother I learned that the family consisted of Henry and Elizabeth Meinzen, and their children, my mother's aunts, Belle, Mina, Lula, and Naomi, plus her father, Bob or Robert.

This was my first experience with Soundex and I learned that the code for their name was M525.  The first census I searched was the 1900 census.  Going to the public library to do this research, using the microfilm reader, finding their family -- it was all so exciting!

When I found the Soundex index card on the microfilm I noticed that there were two cards because there were so many people in the family.  I questioned whether it was really my great-grandparents or not because of all the extra people.  The card had a list similar to the one below, except, of course, it had been typed on a typewriter on what looked like 4" x 6" cards.

These are the names that were on the 1900 Soundex card:
  • Henry Meinzen
  • Elizabeth Meinzen
  • Hannah Meinzen
  • Edward Meinzen
  • Isabella Meinzen
  • Walter Meinzen
  • Minnie Meinzen
  • Luella Meinzen
  • Bertha Meinzen
  • Robert Meinzen
  • Jacob Meinzen
  • Naomi T Meinzen

There was enough similarity between the names my mother had given me and those on the cards to decide it was my family.  But who were all these people whose names my mom hadn't told me?  Did my grandfather really have nine brothers and sisters?  How did my mom not know this?   Finding the answers to those questions was a multi-year research effort.

Since finding this family in the census, I've spent a good amount of time researching each individual (plus others who weren't listed with the family in the 1900 census).  It's been an adventure filled with births, marriages, accidents, deaths, and some humor, too.  Stories and information about my Meinzens thread their way through blog posts over the years. 

This trio of firsts -- first family to research, first Soundex to find, and first census to view -- were perfect for a new researcher.  I would not change a thing about my first research experience.

This post was written for the prompt "First" for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, 2019.


Copyright ©2019, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wishing You a Happy New Year

I wish you all the best success in your family history efforts this year, plus joy, health, and blessings beyond your imagination.


Monday, December 31, 2018

A Year in Review: 2019

My family history progress this year was less than spectacular.  Research was sporadic and not nearly as focused as in years past, and blog posts even more sporadic.  In September my research and blogging dipped to a new low as other responsibilities called me away from family history.  But there were some good finds and some good posts.

I continued to search the trail of my Doyle and Reay ancestors and collaterals in Northumberland, my father's side of the family.   Blog posts concerning these families thread their way through the year.

Behind the scenes, here near my computer where none of you see, I still have that pile of Doyle files yet to be entered into RootsMagic.  I organized them but some little fellow who visited over Christmas moved them and I think they'll need to be reorganized again.  Perhaps it is the impetus I need to organize and enter them.

Most viewed posts in 2019 (least to most viewed)

Posts with the most comments (least to most)

I hope to spend more time working on family history this year, if I can keep the rest of my life out of the way.  It brings me so much joy and peace to search for my ancestors, learn about the places and times in which they lived, and share with others here on my blog.

Here's looking forward to great research and great blog posts for all fellow researchers and bloggers in 2019!


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas Greetings

It has been unbelievably busy, hectic even, here in my life, but I wanted to take a few minutes to wish you, dear blogging friends, the Merriest Christmas ever!  I hope your day is filled with joy.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

What to Do about Raymond

Raymond Doyle has once again been on my mind.  I always think of him at Christmas but this time he came to mind when The 70273 Project crossed my path a few months ago.  It is a quilting effort to commemorate 70,273 of the infants, children, and adults who were killed by Nazis because they were physically or mentally disabled.  How could I not think of Raymond?  He would likely have been put to death had he lived in Germany during Hitler's reign. 

I'm not sure where to place Raymond in my family tree, or even whether to add him yet.  In the 1910 U.S. Census he is recorded as "adopted son" in the family of my great-grandparents, William and Tressa Doyle.  That and the fact that throughout his life he used the surname Doyle are my only indications that there may have been a legal adoption.

I forgot that I had asked an older, distant Doyle cousin about Raymond a number of years ago.  I found her letter the other evening.  Lyda Kelly Brest, the one generally thought to be the holder of family history among generations of Doyles, responded to my questions about Raymond.  This is what she wrote about him in January, 2011.  (I had asked if the reasons Raymond had been adopted by my great-grandparents was because his parents had been killed in a fire.  I was trying to imagine the reasons why parents would give up a child.  My daughter just reminded me of the stigma associated with a special needs child at that time.)  "Uncle Bill" refers to William Doyle, my great-grandfather and her great-uncle.  Hazel is his daughter, sister to my grandfather, Gust Doyle.  Lyda's "Grandma" was Elizabeth Jane Doyle, William's sister.
No, I do not remember Raymond, but heard my Grandma speak of him.  He was of the Page family in Stoneboro.  Uncle Bill's daughter Hazel took a liking to him & it was through her they took him to raise.  He definetly [sic] was limited & was in Polk Institution a great part of his life, as far as I know.  I never heard of his family being in a fire.  Uncle Bill was very frugal, & [I] was always surprised at him getting involved with Raymond, but Hazel apparently won him over.

Without proof (yet) of Raymond's formal adoption and now (tentatively) knowing his surname of birth, I'm still in a quandary about whether to add Raymond to my tree or create one for him with his family of birth.  Perhaps the best choice at the moment is to continue research.  It seems clear to me that Raymond wants his records to be found and to be placed with a family.  After living with my great-grandparents through his youth, then living the rest of his life in a state home "for the feeble-minded," I can imagine his joy at having his records associated with his family.  But which one?

And as strange as it may be, I think of Raymond as family.  Not exactly a great uncle, because though an adult in years he never quite matured to adulthood, but a family member, nonetheless.

Raymond has been the subject of two previous blog posts, here and here.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Old News: St. Cuthbert's Gospel - Church Record Sunday

What news isn't old if we're posting about an ancestor?  But this news is less than seven years old so, in a sense, new old news.  Earlier this year I wrote a post about St. Cuthbert, his travels after death, and why there are so many churches named after him in Northumberland.  All interesting history, especially because I have at least two ancestors whose burials were recorded in the books of St. Cuthbert's Church in Bedlington, Northumberland.  As I researched for that post, I missed some interesting news from 2012 that I just learned.

When the casket of St. Cuthbert was opened in the early 1100s, the Gospel of John was found, a book that had been placed in his casket in the late 600s.  In 2012, the British Library purchased the book.  The purchase price of £9 million is interesting to note but of even more interest to me is the fact that the book is still in good condition.  In fact, it is the oldest intact European book.

File:The St Cuthbert Gospel of St John. (formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel) is the oldest intact European book. - Upper cover (Add Ms 89000).jpg
Image in the public domain, courtesy of British Library

It looks to me to be in excellent condition, considering that it's over 1300 years old.  It measures about 4½" by 3½" -- smaller than an index card.  There's lots of detail on that leather cover.

Notes about the book from Wikimedia Commons say,
The sections of the parchment pages are linked by chain stitch (as with Coptic sewing) and the boards are also sewn on. The lower cover is decorated in a different design by another method. This manuscript copy of the Gospel of St John was produced in the North of England in the late 7th century and was buried alongside St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne, apparently in 698, and later found in the saint’s coffin at Durham Cathedral in 1104. It has a beautifully-worked original red leather binding in excellent condition, and is the only surviving high-status manuscript from this crucial period in British history to retain its original appearance, both inside and out.

My ancestors have no direct connection to this book nor St. Cuthbert himself, except having their burial records at the church named after him in Bedlington, but I'm always alert to the names and locations of buildings, towns, and cities where my ancestors' paths crossed with others.

There are several longer, more in-depth posts with additional photos at


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Reasons the Cook is Grateful, Post-Thanksgiving Dinner

Indeed!  I'm grateful not to be one of my ancestors today.  This Thanksgiving I'm feeling so very grateful to live in 2018 instead of 1918 or 1868, or any previous year or any year between those dates.  We cooks and cleaner-uppers have a relatively easy time of it compared to our ancestors, with blessings that we may not even notice.   For example:

Our turkey.  I bought a frozen turkey at the store and thawed in it my refrigerator.  I'm grateful I didn't have to hunt, shoot, kill, and clean a turkey for dinner.  And am even more grateful I didn't have to raise one.

Potatoes.  I bought our our potatoes at the store.  I'm grateful I didn't have to plant, harvest, and clean them, especially because harvests are dependent on the weather and there's no guarantee of a harvest in any particular year.  And I love potatoes!

Stores with plentiful supplies.  I also bought green beans, corn, crescent rolls, bread for stuffing, and all the other food we ate.  I can't imagine having to harvest the wheat, grind it, and bake bread for the meal and for stuffing.

Butter, whipped cream, and milk.  I don't have to keep a cow to have butter and milk.  I don't have to churn the cream to have butter or whip it into cream.  Again, thank goodness for the abundance of the grocery store.

Running water.  And then there's the running water right in my home -- heated, no less.  I don't have to walk a distance to collect limited amounts of water, carry it home, and heat it.  And, of course, we have drains for the used water to flow away.

Kitchen Aid mixer.  It kneads my dough, mixes my cookies and pie fillings, so many things I don't have to do by hand.  What a blessing.

An electric stove (or even a gas stove).  Turn it on, it heats, I put the food in, and it cooks.  Done.  And we eat.  Well, there are a few steps between, like mashing the potatoes and making the gravy.  It's hard to imagine cooking a whole Thanksgiving meal over an outdoor fire, in a fireplace, or even on a wood stove.  (I admit there have been two years when our oven died -- once while the turkey was cooking and another on the day before so electric stoves are not sure-proof, but nearly so.)

A dishwasher.  It doesn't take care of all the pots and pans but what a blessing to have it wash and clean most of the dishes.  During childhood Thanksgivings or any other large get-togethers, the women prepared the food, served, sat and ate, then gathered in the kitchen to take turns washing and drying the dishes.  Depending on the group of ladies involved, it was often a fun time with much laughter and jokes.  But still, it was a lot of work.

Electricity to run all the appliances.  What good would a dishwasher, or stove and oven, be without electricity!  I'm grateful for clean dishes, heat, and light, plus plenty of other appliances, at the flip of a switch.  My post-20th century ancestors carried on without it.

I'm sure I've forgotten some things that make my life easier, things I take for granted.  What would you add to the list?

I know the cooks of centuries ago had no knowledge of future luxuries.  They may have lamented the hardness of their lives and the challenges of some of the tasks they had to perform, but there was usually no easier way until some invention came along.  Gradual progress made lives and work easier.  I'm grateful to live in a time when work is easier.

Happy Thanksgiving, Ancestors!  And Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear readers.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Greetings, 2018

I wish you and yours a wealth of blessings this Thanksgiving -- happiness, health, joy, and especially success in your search for your ancestors.

As usual, I have an embarrassment of blessings this year.  I'm beyond grateful for them and probably take too many of them for granted.  To name a few, I'm grateful for . . .

  • life itself.  I am so happy to be alive.  Life is not always easy but it's always interesting.  Through both the easy times and the challenging times I'm glad to be here on this beautiful earth.
  • challenges.  We don't usually think about being thankful for the challenges of life but I am.  They teach me so much about patience, faith, endurance, being true to oneself, and so many other things.
  • family:  my brother and sister and their spouses,  my husband and daughters, and my grandchildren.  I'm also grateful for my ancestors and the opportunity I have to search for them and research their lives.  Without my ancestors I would not be here.
  • my Savior and my faith in Him.  What a glorious, merciful being He is who offers guidance, grace, and blessings in abundance.
  • Hannah, our Airedale, who, at 12½, is slowing down but still gives us hours of joy and laughter.
  • this land of freedom, these United States, created as a democratic republic, where people have the freedoms of speech and religion.
  • my computer, my scanner, the internet, websites like FamilySearch and Ancestry, and  other resources available for family history.
  • time to create quilts and the resources and space to make it possible.
  • and plenty more -- a nearly endless list -- but I'll stop with just these.  Plus one more.

I'm grateful for all of you, dear blog readers.  Thank you for visiting and taking the time to leave comments now and then.

I send your way the heartiest of good wishes for Thanksgiving blessings.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Byker-Hill for Tenth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

This post is written as a submission for Bill West's Tenth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge at West in New England.  This Bill's challenge.
Find a poem by a  poet, famous or obscure, about the region
one of your ancestors lived in.  It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river) or a local
animal....  0r, if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a
video of someone performing the song.
 Bill will publish all contributions on his blog on Thanksgiving Day, November 22. 

While researching the town of Byker-Hill (or Byker Hill or just Byker), in Northumberland, England, where my coal mining ancestors lived, I came upon a Wikipedia entry which led me to a song by that title.  It should have been no surprise that it was about coal miners.  The nearest I could come to learning its origin was that it was a folk song, written in the early 1800s.  It's probable that my Doyle and Laws ancestors heard and perhaps even sang "Byker Hill."  I share this in honor of the men in those two families who were all "collier lads."  (Sing along if you like:  the lyrics are below the video.)

            Byker Hill

            If I had another penny
            I would have another gill
            I would make the piper play
            The Bonny Lass of Byker Hill

            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more
            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more

            When first I come down to the dirt
            I had no trousers and no pit shirt
            Now I've gottin' two or three
            Oh Walker Pit's done well by me.


            The pitman and the keelman trim
            They drink bumble made from gin
            Then to dance they do begin
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Geordie Charlton had a pig
            He hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig
            All the way to Walker Shore
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Oh, gentle Jenny's behind the barn
            With a pint of ale underneath her arm
            A pint of ale underneath her arm
            And she feeds it to the baby


As is true of many folk songs I found three or four variations of lyrics and more than a few extra or alternate verses.  This seems to be a drinking song and perhaps, as the collier lads became more inebriated, the lyrics deteriorated.  You can see several variations here at Mainly Norfolk:  English Folk and Other Good Music


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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