My first clue

Posted for the meme Genealogy Blog Party hosted by Elizabeth O’Neal of Little Bytes of Life. May’s theme invites posts involving genealogical “Duh Moments.” I’ll admit to having more than a few of my own, including the one recounted here.

…should have been the fact that the names and ages of individuals on the 1925 North Dakota census report[1] for some of my paternal relatives was typed rather than handwritten.

The family of interest is Nicholas and Elizabeth (Wehner) Ulschak[2]. (Elizabeth is my great aunt, the older sister of my paternal grandmother, Magdalena Wehner Arnold.) According to Elizabeth’s 1984 obituary, Nick and Elizabeth were married in April 1912, and their oldest child was born in August 1914.

1925 ND Census-Ulschak, Nicholas household 20160526

My research question was: How many children were born to Nicholas and Elizabeth Ulschak? I was especially interested in verifying the identity of an infant Barbara, reported as age 1/12 (1 month) as of the April 1st, 1925 census date. Barbara’s census entry was an outlier to every other record I’ve found about the family (see entries for the Nick and Elesabet “Ul(s)chack” family, highlighted rows 24-27; two sons were born to the couple in 1926 and 1928).

When I first discovered this record, I somehow managed to ignore the warnings I had read about the possibility of errors in transcribed and indexed records and proceeded as if everything in the report was accurate. I’m guessing the typed version of the report was transcribed from a damaged original when the originals were microfilmed. Whatever the circumstances of the transcription, it means there were one or more persons in addition to the original enumerator involved in the 1925 census record for the families on this record, and that those additional persons increased the chances for errors in the record.[3] Nevertheless, I am grateful this record exists (and that the interventions are obvious) because it is less frustrating (for me, at least) to have a perhaps flawed census report for a family when/where they should have been at a given time than it would be not to find them.

Further investigation revealed that the census sheet recording the Ulschak/Wehner family was the last of a series of nine typewritten census reports in a filmstrip of 311 census images. The only handwritten information on these half typed/half written census reports was the sheet number and the tallies of males and females by age categories. The blanks for locality (township, village or city) and assessor’s district were not completed. The forms did specify that the information recorded should be for “every person living April 1st, 1925. Omit children born since April 1st, 1925” but they did not have a space to record the enumeration date.

To better analyze my problem, I created a spreadsheet that detailed family members by name, dates of birth, death, and marriage, spouse’s names, marriage place, etc. I have entries for the 1915 and 1925 North Dakota state census reports, and the 1930** and 1940 U.S. censuses. I have not yet found the family’s 1920 U.S. census report, but it is not a key component of this analysis since Barbara was born in 1925. I sanity-checked myself by recording each person’s age as reported on the several census reports to ensure I was tracking the same family group.

**I had a lot of trouble locating the family’s 1930 U.S. Census report. I finally succeeded by following a tip I read several months ago: enter the first name of a child, leaving his/her surname blank, and the first name of one or both of the child’s parents. In this case, I used “Curtis W” for the child (because his name was the most unusual one among his siblings) and “Nick” for the father. The first result on the list was for “Nuldrak,” which is, admittedly, a long way from the family’s “Ulschak” surname, but when I followed the lead, I was thrilled to discover a one-to-one match with my Ulschak family except, of course, for the mysterious Barbara.

Since Nicholas and Elizabeth and most of their children are deceased, my next step was to analyze available death and obituary information for the family and add those details to my spreadsheet. I arranged the obituary analysis from earliest death to the most recent and marked each person as “L” (living) or “D” (deceased) according to the obituary’s content. None of the obituaries mentions Barbara or even the passing of an infant daughter.

My last step was to contact a granddaughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth who has a public tree at Ancestry.com. Her 90-year-old mother, the youngest daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth, was born at the end of June 1925. Nicholas and Elizabeth’s daughter reports that she never heard even a hint that her parents suffered either an infant death or a stillborn child.[4] Nevertheless, this nonagenarian’s June 1925 birth date does offer one other, admittedly farfetched, possibility: that is, if the census taker (1) didn’t get to the Ulschak family until sometime in July, (2) didn’t follow instructions about before/as of/after April 1st, and (3) somehow mis-recorded the child’s name, then this mystery infant might be approaching her 91st birthday!

So, despite missing an obvious warning sign about the validity of a questionable (but still useful) record, I am satisfied that between the 1925 North Dakota Census, the 1930 U.S. Census, and the several obituaries I’ve reviewed that Nicholas and Elizabeth had a total of eight children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

[1] 1925 North Dakota state census, Sheet 19, Stark County, Township/Village or City [blank], Assessor’s District [blank], Nick Ulschack [sic] household; Ancestry.com. North Dakota, Territorial and State Censuses, 1885, 1915, 1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
[2] The family’s Ulschak surname is frequently misspelled. Neither of the spellings (Ulchack, Ulschack) recorded in the 1925 North Dakota census are correct. Other variants include Nuldrak (1930 US Census) and Ulshak (Elizabeth’s obituary and death index).
[3] This discussion is not an attribution of blame, as this writer has no knowledge about the contents of the original census report. It is entirely possible that the original enumerator made an incorrect entry that was subsequently included in a transcribed copy of the original.
[4] W. Jorgensen to [undisclosed recipient], message/e-mail, 22-23 May 2016, “your ancestry question” and “further update on Ulschak family,” Wehner, Elizabeth (1883-1984), Arnold-Armbrust Family Tree, files privately held by W. Jorgensen [contact information available by request via tidbitsandtreasures2011.wordpress.com].

Notional Visit to my Grandmothers

Posted for the blog meme Genealogy Blog Party hosted by Elizabeth O’Neal of Little Bytes of Life. April’s theme is “Time Travel to an Ancestor.” Questions posed for this challenge include (1) Who is the ancestor you will meet? (2) What question(s) do you need him/her to answer? (3) Is there a problem you can help your ancestor solve? (4) Will you reveal your true identity to your ancestor? If so, how will your visit impact the future? (4) Will you bring your ancestor to the future to meet his/her descendants? What will be the outcome if you do?

My dream time travel adventure is to Stark and Dunn counties in North Dakota in late summer 1930. The different counties are necessary because I want to meet both my grandmothers. The timeframe is dictated by my paternal grandmother’s death in November 1930 due to complications of childbirth.

The advantage of this time period for meeting my paternal grandmother, Magdalena Wehner Arnold (1897-1930), is that all but one of Magdalena’s 11 children were already born. Of these, all but one survived to adulthood. By that time, the family was living in the modest 3-bedroom home I remember from my childhood (1950s-1960s), and I have mental images of the house and its outbuildings as well as family lore about the youthful antics of my dad, aunt, and uncles who lived there as children and young adults. And, of course, I would be thrilled to meet the 5-year-old version of my own father (William Henry Arnold, 1925-2003).

Similarly, visiting my maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Jaeger Armbrust (1906-1946), at that point in time would almost certainly provide me the opportunity to meet the toddler version of my mother (Irene Agnes Armbrust Arnold, 1929-1970), who would have then been about 18 months old. Irene was an “only” at that point; younger sister Dolores and baby brother Elmer were born in 1933 and 1934 respectively. Sadly, I doubt Irene was the center of her parents’ attention in mid- to late-1930—I have documents indicating that in November 1930 Elizabeth and husband, Daniel Armbrust (1895/96-1936), defaulted on a mortgage for Daniel’s homestead in rural Dunn County, North Dakota (the area was so “rural” that it was marked as “No population” for the 1930 U.S. Census).

With both women, I would be more interested in general “getting to know you” conversation and observing relationships and lifestyle than answers to specific questions. It does occur to me, however, that conversation with Magdalena might be hindered by a language barrier. According to my dad and his brothers, they spoke only German until they started school, so I’m hoping one of Magdalena’s older children is available to interpret during my visit.

I doubt I would reveal my identity to my grandmothers. It seems to me that informing either woman about my time or place in relation to them would be so sensational and disruptive that it would probably ruin (for me at least) the purpose of the visit. I think it would be fairly difficult for me to help either one solve a problem, given my very limited understanding of their time period compared to the present. For both, however, I would try to encourage them by telling them what a good job they are doing (based on my time-advantaged knowledge of how their children turned out). Likewise, I doubt I would suggest a visit to the future for either of my grandmothers, though I’m sure they would be delighted to learn about the 10 grandchildren that resulted from the union of their offspring and absolutely amazed by the conveniences their children enjoyed compared to their circumstances in the early 1930s.

Daniel Armbrust (1897-1936): By his own hand

Posted for Week #20 of the 2015 edition of the blog meme 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks hosted by Amy Johnson Crowe of No Story Too Small.

My maternal great grandparents, Anton and Barbara (Ehli) Armbrust, and their seven children immigrated to the United States from Russia in May 1892.[1] According to the ship’s manifest, the children’s names and (approximate) ages were Wilh.e,[2] 19; Anton, 16; Marianne, 14; John, 12; Marcus, 9; Michael, 3; and Katharine, 6 months. Anton and Barbara had two more children after their immigration: Eva (b. May 1896[3], later known as Genevieve) and Daniel, my maternal grandfather.

Daniel Armbrust, was born in or near Richardton, Stark County, North Dakota on November 13 in either 1895,[4] 1896,[5] or 1897,[6] depending on which record you review.

Daniel’s father, Anton Armbrust, died in December 1904.[7] His mother, Barbara (Ehli) Armbrust, subsequently married Peter Heiser in July 1908.[8] Daniel would have been between 7 and 9 years old when his father died and between 9 and 11 years old when his mother remarried. Barbara was enumerated in the 1910 U.S. census as Peter Heiser’s wife, along with Mr. Heiser’s children, Geneva and Markus.[9] I have not yet located a 1910 census report for Daniel.

The next record for Daniel is his marriage to Rosa Mischel on January 7, 1918, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Dickinson, Stark County, North Dakota.[10] A few months later, on June 5, 1918, “Dan” Armbrust registered for the draft, reporting Rosie Armbrust as his wife.[11] Rosa died on June 23, 1919.[12] Daniel is subsequently enumerated in the 1920 U.S. census as a laborer on a farm in Dunn County, North Dakota.[13]

1918 Armbrust, Daniel & Mischel, Rosa marriage record

Daniel married my maternal grandmother, Elizabeth A. Jaeger, on July 8, 1925, in a civil ceremony at Manning, Dunn County, North Dakota.[14] Daniel and Elizabeth parented three children: Irene Agnes (my mother), born February 2, 1929;[15] Dolores Catherine, born April 21, 1933;[16] and Elmer John, born September 4, 1934.[17]

1925 Armbrust-Jaeger marriage license & certificate (front)

Daniel died on February 19, 1936,[18] apparently of suicide following an unsatisfactory sale of cedar posts harvested near property he rented in Grassy Butte, North Dakota.[19]

Armbrust, Daniel 001R-2

This photo of Daniel, with its salt-and-pepper beard, was probably taken within a year or two of his death and is likely how his children remembered him. Sadly, his suicide left his widow, Elizabeth, with sole responsibility for their children, ages 7, 4, and 2 respectively. Daniel is buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Dickinson, North Dakota.[20]

[1] “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 May 2015), entries for Anton Armbrust family, lines 688 to 696, arrived New York, New York, 20 May 1892 aboard the Scandia.
[2] Likely an abbreviation for Wilhelmina since both the departure and arrival manifests identify this person as female.
[3] 1900 U.S. census, Township 142, Stark, North Dakota, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 0164, p. 10A, dwelling 130, Anton Armbrust family; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 May 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1232.
[4] North Dakota Department of Health, death certificate no. 4127, Daniel Armbrust (1936); Bismarck, North Dakota.
[5] “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database and images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 May 2015.), registration card for Dan Armbrust, serial no. 2, North Dakota, Stark County, Roll: 1819496.
[6] 1900 U.S. census, Township 142, Stark, North Dakota, pop. sch., ED 0164, p. 10A, dwell. 130, Anton Armbrust family.
[7] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 13 May 2015), memorial page for Anton Armbrust (1842-1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 18986940, citing St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Dickinson, Stark County, North Dakota.
[8] Tom Dietz, “Stark County, North Dakota Marriage Records, Book 6,” transcription (approx. 1907-1908), USGenWebArchives (http://files.usgwarchives.net/nd/stark/marriage/marriag6.txt : accessed 13 May 2015), arranged alphabetically by groom’s surname, entry for Peter Heiser, Sr., to Barbara Armbrust, 20 July 1908.
[9] 1910 U.S. census, Dickinson Ward 6, Stark County, North Dakota, population schedule, enumeration district 163, sheet 13A, dwelling 229, family 247, Peter Heiser, Sr; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 May 2015; citing NARA microfilm publication T624_1148.
[10] Stark County, North Dakota, Marriage Licenses and Certificates of Marriage, Book 10, p. 71, Daniel Armbrust to Rosa Mischel; Stark County Recorder, Dickinson.
[11] “U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database and images, Ancestry.com, card for Dan Armbrust, serial no. 2, North Dakota, Roll: 1819496.
[12] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 13 May 2015), memorial page for Rosa Armbrust (1896-1919), Find A Grave Memorial no. 103462057, citing St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Dickinson, Stark County, North Dakota.
[13] 1920 U.S. census, Dunn County, North Dakota, population schedule, Township 147, enumeration district 54, sheet 9-A, dwelling 159, family 159, Daniel Armbrust; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1333.
[14] Dunn County, North Dakota, Marriage Licenses and Certificates of Marriage, Book 3, p. 36, Daniel Armbrust to Elizabeth A. Jaeger; Dunn County Clerk/Recorder, Manning.
[15] North Dakota Bureau of Vital Statistics, certificate of birth 4105 (1929), Irene Agnes Armbrust; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Bismarck.
[16] Irene A. Arnold (Dickinson, North Dakota) to “Dear Dolores” [Dolores Catherine Armbrust]. Letter. Undated, estimated writing September 1950. Copy obtained from the Adams County Recorder/Clerk of Court in connection with a request for a copy of the marriage license and certificate for George Moe and Dolores Armbrust. It is believed the date added to the top of the letter is Dolores Armbrust’s date of birth, which was necessary because she was a minor at the time.
[17] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 13 May 2015), memorial page for Elmer J. Armbrust (Sep 4 1934-Feb 16 2008), Find A Grave Memorial no. 42585615, citing Springvale Cemetery, Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota.
[18] North Dakota Certificate of Death State File No.4127 (1936), Daniel Armbrust, State Health Department.
[19] “Dunn County Farmer Takes Own Life Here,” undated clipping, approx. February 20, 1936. Likely source: Dickinson Press, February 1936.
[20] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 13 May 2015), memorial page for Daniel Armbrust, Find A Grave Memorial no. 103461232, citing St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Stark County, North Dakota.

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