Friday, April 11, 2014

Looking for Paul Primas

I have been looking for my great-grandfather Paul Primas for a long time.  When I started my family history research for a school project in 6th grade, he had already been gone for over 50 years. 

What I knew about Paul Primas when I began was that he was my grandfather Oscar Primas’ father and my father’s grandfather.  I knew he had a wife who lived for over 20 years past his death.  He had five children, four boys and one girl.  I was told he was from a town called Nekla in what is present day Poland but was Prussia when he lived there. 

I wrote to my grand-uncles who still survived and asked for more details.  There was another son who died young.  Paul’s wife was Emma Natalie Stroschein.  They had been married in Prussia before they made the trip over.  Her parents were Ludwig and Susanna Stroschein.  I was never told anything further about Paul.

Later I learned that Paul and Emma had come to the US in about 1887.  They came to Chicago yet three of their children were born in Wisconsin.  Paul died in Chicago in December 1906 at the age of 46 years old leaving his wife with five children ranging in age from 18 years old to 9 years old (my grandfather).

Paul Primas' sons:  Otto, Fred, Frank and Oscar c.1948

Over the years I have been searching, researching, writing letters and trying to find out more about Paul Primas.  As a teenager I wrote to the German Consulate to ask how to find records I was looking for and was told all the records were lost in the war (World War II) and any that did survive were now behind the Iron Curtain and unavailable.  I kept looking and asking.

As more information came on-line, I started to get little hints and clues.  He arrived in Baltimore, not Ellis Island.  He came with his wife Emma and their son Franz on the ship Köln from Bremen  I found his citizenship was granted in Dunn County Wisconsin, even though his Declaration of Intent was filed in Cook County.  In the 1891 City Directory for Chicago he is listed as a tailor.  Based on his children’s birth records, between 1893 and 1897 when he was in Wisconsin he was a laborer in the lumber camps.   In the 1900 US Census he and his family are living at 156 North Kedzie in Chicago and he is listed as a janitor.

In 2012 I decided I needed to go to Poland and try to find out more information about my elusive great-grandfather Paul.  I still had many questions.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Memorable Christmas

Caron's First Christmas
Carol and Aaron with Taffy (the dog) and Caron

Our family has always had strong Christmas traditions.  Family is always the focal point.  Every Christmas morning from the year I was born and lasting 40 years, my parents hosted a casual Christmas breakfast for family and friends.  People would drop by on their way to and from other places.  We served a continental breakfast:  breakfast breads, grapefruit, juices, coffee, egg casseroles in later years, and lots of Christmas cookies.

My mother had a guideline for Christmas gifts for her children she used over the years and I adopted:  something to read, something to play with and something to wear. 

I do not know if my sisters will remember but in 1965 we were living in Wheaton Illinois at the end of a dead end road in an unincorporated area – a rural feeling atmosphere.  Dad was working hard to make his new business a success, traveling a lot, and Mom told us (or maybe just me) that there was not a lot of money for Christmas this year and not to expect too much.

I did not think too much about it until Christmas morning.  Donna and I had a few gifts under the tree.  We each got a book and a new sweater/skirt outfit.  I do not remember what Amy received, but she was still very young and probably had an outfit and a book as well.  After we opened the gifts under the tree and from our Christmas stockings, Dad told us to go get the stuff for breakfast from the garage refrigerator.   He insisted that both of us go do this chore together.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the door to the attached garage and saw shiny new bicycles with our names on them sitting there!  We were very excited as the bikes would give us more freedom to get around and to get to school.  While it may not have been my best Christmas ever, it certainly is one of my most memorable!

New Bikes!  Amy, Donna and Caron

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Birthday to Lissi!

Lissi Diehl celebrates her 
100th birthday on 27 December 2013! 

She was born Elizabeth Diehl on 27 Dec 1913 in Marburg, Hessen, Germany to Jacob and Lina (Schraub) Diehl.  She had two younger sisters, Margarete and Hildegard.  During the Diehl Family Gathering in Butzbach, Germany in 2007 she met many cousins from other countries, including Finalnd, Sweden and the USA.  She still lives in her home in Butzbach under the care of her nephew Alfred Häuser.

Hilde and Lissi in 2007

Friday, September 13, 2013

What is in a Name?

Those middle or first names of family members that appear out of the blue could be from relatives you do not yet know about, famous people, locations, or someone's maiden name.

And it is always possible your ancestor simply pulled the name out of thin air.

Used with permission © Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 7 Aug 2013.

The 3 Merles

                      When I read this tip it resonated with me!  I share a middle name with my mother, who was named for her maternal aunt and godmother.  All three of us have October birthdays.   My children have their own unique first names, but their middle names are after family members.  My sister used the same naming convention with her children – unique first name, family middle name.
                In doing family history research, it is apparent that there were naming conventions in many of my “branches.”  One direct line has 5 generations of Henrys, along with a plethora of Samuels, Benjamins and Williams!   We also have three women in three generations named Merle in our family tree.  Merle Davies was my great-grandmother Mamie’s younger sister.  (Mamie’s full name was Mary Elizabeth Davies Kell.)  Mamie named her daughter Merle Elizabeth.  Merle Elizabeth then named her daughter Merle Jean.  The middle name Jean came from her younger sister, Sarah Jean.
                Recently my mother revealed how her daughters got their names in her Living Story.  It seems in high school my parents discovered that the middle letters of their first names were the same. When Mom found out she was pregnant, they assumed the baby would be a boy and he would be Aaron.  Surprise!  I turned out to be a girl, so they stayed with the middle letters and named me Caron. (The nurse in labor and delivery warned her that I would hate her for the unusual spelling, but I like it!)  During my mother’s second pregnancy, they once again anticipated a boy, who would be called Donald, after my father’s cousin.  Turns out it was a girl, my sister Donna, still named for her godfather Uncle Don!   When my mother was pregnant a third time, the baby was referred to as Amos by all of us.  When the baby was a girl, she was called Amy with her middle name for her godmother.
                My paternal grandmother gave her first born son family names as middle names.  My father was the second son.  She named him Aaron Leon.  Those names appear NOWHERE in our family tree.   She is no longer available to ask the origin of that name so I can only speculate.  She was a church-going lady and so perhaps Aaron was a Biblical reference.  No idea where Leon came from.  Asked my mom, she doesn't know either.  Another family mystery!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Carol’s Living Story

                 I won a raffle prize at the DuPage County Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference in St. Charles, Illinois on February 23, 2013. My prize was a Living Story for the subject of my choosing by Janette Quinn of  In May 2013 I asked her to work with my mother Carol (Koepke) Primas and write her story.
                Janette met with Mom twice to interview and digitally record her memories in her Lombard home.  I provided many family pictures and documents to help stimulate Mom’s memory (she is 82 and still pretty sharp!) for the interviews.  Janette used the family history and photos and also conducted independent research about the places, people, activities and circumstances of Mom’s life. She also encouraged Mom’s own writing about memories and messages she considers to be most important. Finally, Janette melded it all into a book almost 50 pages long.   
                My sisters and I were anxious to hear what Mom had to say.  While I provided old family pictures, my sisters sent her questions they wanted answered and other suggestions.  Even though Dad is no longer with us, there was a lot of his information in the book as well.  Mom and Dad had been married over 50 years when he died and they had a lot of history together.
                We received the final copy a few weeks ago.  It is wonderful!  Mom has read it several times and we have shared it with other family members.   Mom’s brother Dick passed away in 2002.  His children were grateful to hear about his childhood through Mom’s story.  

Dick and Carol c. 1935

                From my perspective, it was a great family bonding experience.  I think Mom may have been a bit more open with an “objective third party” listening and taking notes than she would have been with a daughter.  It stimulated discussions about other family members which never made it into the book.  The younger generations learned about things they might not have otherwise known – like as kids, Mom and Dick jumping on the bed and breaking it.  The Living Story is a great legacy.  We had copies made for all the daughters and there are enough copies each grandchild will have one of their own as well.
                After reading the story, we are already planning additional “chapters”.  It was also noted that while Mom talked about daughters and grandchildren, no mention was made of son-in-laws!  We also decided we would like more pictures – but then we are a picture-oriented family.
                We as a family agree this would be a wonderful experience for all families!  Thank you to ISGS and Janette for this great gift!           

       is a member of the Association of Personal Historians and the Association of Senior Service Providers. Its principal, Janette Quinn, lost both of her parents at ages 55 and 60 to cancer on September 17, 1973 when she was 18. Her personal and corporate mission is to preserve families’ most valuable assets, the stories of elders in their own words, before it’s too late. She holds a B.S. in journalism from Northern Illinois University and an M.S. in management consulting from DePaul University.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Can I Say I Told You So?

All Europeans are related if you go back just 1,000 years, scientists say.  

“A genetic survey concludes that all Europeans living today are related to the same set of ancestors who lived 1,000 years ago. And you wouldn't have to go back much further to find that everyone in the world is related to each other.

“Family researchers have long known that if you go back far enough, everyone with a European connection ends up being related to Charlemagne
The concept was laid out scientifically more than a decade ago. Now Coop and University of Southern California geneticist Peter Ralph have come up with the evidence. Their findings were published on Tuesday in the open-access journal on: none;">PLOS Biology.”

You can read the full study,  "The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry Across Europe," and a less technical synopsis of the research on the PLOS Biology website.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

For the Love of Spreadsheets

                Yesterday I attended DuPage County Genealogical Society’s 38th Annual Conference:  Discovering Early American Roots.  My first session was Jeanne Larzalere Bloom’s presentation Spreadsheets 101: EXCEL, the Genealogist Underutilized Tool on using Excel Spreadsheets.  I have always been a spreadsheet aficionado, so I thought I might pick up some pointers.  She had some good examples of how she documented her research using customized spreadsheets.
                In her syllabus Jeanne cited Gary Minder’s  So of course, I had to go check it out.  This website has also been written up in Dick Eastman’s newsletter.  In the responses to Dick’s article on Gary’s spreadsheets, there was one from Dae Powell of Shoestring Genealogy.  He suggested a key spreadsheet was missing on – one to track city directory finds.  Since I have one of my own for that, I wanted to see what Dae came up with.  I was pleasantly surprised to see 22 forms offered for download on as well as a wealth of other material he has compiled!

                I reviewed Gary’s spreadsheets, which include more than just census sheets by the way.  I liked them enough I bought the package of 40 spreadsheets.  I may not use them all, but it was a fair price for the work Gary has put into the spreadsheets.  Why did I buy these instead of downloading the ones at Shoestring Genealogy?  I liked the idea of having spreadsheets I could actually enter data into on my computer – Shoestring is a download of a PDF file.  You will need a pencil or pen to use those.  Then how do I get them back into my computer or manipulate the discrete data elements?
                Everyone has their own way of managing their genealogy data.  One of these sites may have something that will help you!