Friday, April 11, 2008

Backstories

R. Sherman made a comment the other day that I would like to post here. He said, "Genealogical research can sometimes produce those interesting tidbits, yet the backstories are usually left to our imagination." He is right of course and it is those backstories that I do occasionally find that keep me interested in pursing my genealogy hobby. One of the first backstories that I ever found concerned my 3G grandfather John and his wife Mary.

I first found documentation of my ancestors in the 1860 Federal Census literally a week after they were married. By the 1870 Federal Census, they had five children and John's brother and his wife living under their roof. The children were Anna age 9, Henry L. age 7, Ritta age 5, George W. age 3 and Emma age 8 months. Ten years later in 1880, John was remarried to a new wife named Lizzie, 21 and only two of his children Henry and George remained. Although divorce was extremely rare in those days, it did cross my mind that perhaps that had happened since the three females were missing along with their mother. It wasn't until later when looking through a scrapbook created by my 2G grandmother and wife of George W. did I learn the backstory and truly how horrible life could be back in those days. Here is the article posted in its entirety:

Died. In Charles City, May 31, 1879, of paralytic convulsions, Mary, Wife of John Kuck, aged 42 years 4 months 23 days. It is said, "Afflictions never come singly." On the 14th day of December 1878, John Kuck lost one child; by the 3d day of January following, four more had been taken, all by the same fatal disease. And now comes the reaper, and takes his companion. The death of the children undoubtedly had much to do with Mrs. Kuck's illness, as it seemed to weigh heavily upon her mind. Mrs. Kuck was a practical Christian, having been a member of the German M.E. Church for 25 years. She has left a devoted husband and two sons, Henry and George. The funeral was held Sunday at 3. P.M. in the M.E. church. It is a singular coincidence that just nineteen years before, on the same day and hour, this couple were married in Galena, Illinois. The funeral was very largely attended, over 75 teams falling into the procession.

So two more children whose names I may never know were born and died along with the three girls and my 3G grandmother Mary, all in the space of half a year. Why, is perhaps another backstory that I will never know yet I have my hunches. In 1878, the Mississippi River valley was having an epidemic of Yellow Fever and estimates of 20,000 people died. I can't find any reports of it reaching as far north as Galena but I suppose it was possible. I imagine my 3G grandmother Mary took care of her daughters while husband and sons were working in their harness and saddle shop and thus the highly contagious and deadly virus spread amongst themselves. George would survive and grow quite prosperous as a businessman here in Iowa. His brother, my 2G uncle Henry, would later move out west to The Dalles, Oregon and become a famous saddle maker whose saddles can still be bought on eBay for quite high prices and are pictured in many history books on saddles.

Furthuring my ancestral lineage search, I at long last found the boat my 3G grandfather John immigrated from Germany to the United States on a few months ago. He arrived in early January of 1853. His wife Mary would immigrate from Switzerland around the same time though I am still searching for her record on occasion when I get some free time. Currently I am trying to track down their marriage license to see if I can find any useful information on her family or origins. John and Mary are the last of my 3G grandparent ancestors to immigrate to the Unites States. Just about all my other lines that I have traced came in the 1600's.

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