Henry Carl Meinzen is my biggest stumbling block and the man I'd most like to meet at the moment. He is my great-grandfather, my mother's paternal grandfather. I've been researching Henry for a number of years. I search everywhere possible, learn a little, and eventually reach the end of options (for the time being), then return to him again a number of years later hoping to find more. From various sources I've learned that he was born on July 25, 1837; came to the U.S. in 1866; and settled in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio. There, in 1870, he married 17-year-old Elizabeth Armitage, an immigrant from England. At 32, Henry was nearly twice the age of his young bride. Together they had 15 children, only six of whom outlived them. Elizabeth died in 1920 at the age of 67; Henry in 1925 at the age of 88.
Having searched every possible currently known U.S. source for him, I have been unable to find a confirmed record of his arrival in the U.S., nor information of his homeland (let alone his place of birth) other than from census records which vary from year to year and tell me he hailed from Prussia or Hanover or Germany.
To tell me about his life and the kind of person he was, I have one snippet of anecdotal information from my aunt who was about four when Henry died, a few other tidbits from contemporary newspapers, and an obituary. He sounds like a character and I'd love to get to know him.
Were I able to jump back to the past to spend time with Henry I would like to ask him a few questions. I'd start with the nitty gritty ones.
- Where were your born?
- What was your full birth name?
- Who were your parents? I know you told your children your father's name was Henry Carl Meinzen, but you don't seem to have mentioned your mother's name.
- Meinzen does not seem to be a common name in German records. Did you change your name and/or the spelling when you arrived in the U.S.?
- Was Elizabeth Armitage your first wife? I ask because you were 37 when you married her: that's a little late for a first marriage. If you were married before please tell details about your first wife, marriage dates, and what happened to her.
- How did you meet Elizabeth?
- What are the names and birth dates of all your children? The 1910 U.S. census indicates that Elizabeth was the mother of 15 children but I've found only 14. I'd like to create a complete family group for you.
- How many siblings do you have? What are their names and birth dates?
And then there are the questions I'd like to ask him about his life.
- Tell me about your education. Did you attend school? If so, for how long? What kinds of things did you learn?
- What was your home life like as a child? Did you have kind parents? Did you have chores? Did you live in the country, in a village, in a town, in a city? What did you like about where you lived? What did you not like?
- Did you serve an apprenticeship in Prussia? What training did you receive? Your obituary states that you were a carpenter and wagon maker.
- Did you serve in the military in Prussia/Hanover?
- What prompted you to come to America? Did you come alone? Did you have family members who were already here and settled?
- What was your departure date and from which port did you sail? On what ship did you travel? Did you travel alone?
- When and where did you arrive in America? Where did you live before you arrived in Steubenville? Your first papers for naturalization were filed in Belmont County, Ohio, the county neighboring Jefferson County.
- Did you work as a carpenter / wagon maker in the U.S.? Did you have your own shop or did you work for someone else?
- You had a variety of jobs in Steubenville. How did that come about?
And a few more questions.
- What was your favorite food? Favorite color? Favorite item of clothing?
- Who were your childhood friends? What kinds of activities did you enjoy? Did you have favorite games?
- What did you miss most about your homeland after arriving in the U.S.?
- What was the most joyful experience of being a parent to 15 children? What kinds of activities did you enjoy with them?
- What do you think were your biggest successes in life?
- What regrets do you have about your life?
I suspect, from these questions and the way they are asked, you might get the idea that I'm a little frustrated with Henry. You would be right. How can a person live 88 years and leave so little information behind? Were I able to talk to Henry in person I would like to develop some rapport before pummeling him with questions. I would not be so blunt: kindness is always the best approach. After all, he is my great-grandfather. And Heaven knows, he could be a cantankerous old man who needs coddling and a gentle touch.
I have full faith that I will one day, on the other side of the veil, be able to meet and talk to Henry Carl Meinzen. I look forward to that experience.
April 2016 Genealogy Blog Party at Little Bytes of Life. The theme is time travel to an ancestor. I could have told details about the times in which Henry lived but chose, instead, to focus on the questions I'd like to ask to learn about him. I hope you'll click over to Elizabeth's blog to see other participants in the Blog Party. Thanks for hosting, Elizabeth.
Copyright © 2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.