Treasure Chest Thursday – German Gesangbuch

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For those of you who know me, you know that Thursdays are my favorite day of the week – choir and handbell choir rehearsals! I love being a part of the thriving music program at our church. A few years ago, my parents gave me the most wonderful little book as a gift. It is a German Gesangbuch, or hymnal, that belonged to my great-grand uncle, Christian “Christ” Linnemann.

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The first page is printed with “Ach bleib mit Deiner Gnade.” According to Google Translate, this means Oh stay with your grace.

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Christ’s name is written on the back of the first page. The first two pages appear to have been repaired with some white tape that covers the end of his name and part of the next  page. The following page is printed with “Widmung” which means dedication, but nothing is written on that page.

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The Evangelisches Gesangbuch is a Protestant hymnal. This edition was published in 1897 in Dortmund, and reads for Rheinland and Wesfalen. Christ was born in the state of North Rhein-Westfalia, so it appears to be an edition from that area of Germany.

There is a table of contents which lists times of the Christian year (New Year, Sunday, Advent, Easter, Ascension, etc.) and page numbers with hymns. There are also sections for morning, midday and evening.

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The hymnal’s binding is very tight, so I am careful not to open too far and damage it (see my earlier post on caring for a Family Bible).

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Each hymn has the first verse with the music, and then the following verses without the music. At the end of the book is an index  of composers (translated as song poet, which I LOVE!). I plucked out some of the hymns on the piano, but do not recognize any of them. They appear to be more chant-like (many of the composers were born in 1600s) and not the familiar Presbyterian hymns that I am used to singing.

Christian &  Elizabeth Linneman
Christan Fasel Linnemann with his sister Elizabeth Linneman Speck, circa 1920.

Christian Linnemann was my great-grandmother’s oldest brother. He was born in 1887 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany as Christian Fasel. His father died shortly before he was born and his mother later married Gerhard Linnemann. Uncle Christ never married, and my father remembers him sitting quietly and reading his Bible, or maybe this Gesangbuch. His mother’s religion was Catholic on Christ’s birth record, but when his sister Elisabeth was born, she and her husband were both Protestant (Evangelishes). The Linnemann family came to America in 1904 when Christ was 16 years old.

I am so thankful to have this Gesangbuch. Do you have a special family heirloom that you treasure?

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mamas out there! I thought I’d post a few pictures of moms and kids from our families.

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My mother with her mother, Elise Gegenheimer Haberkern, in Stein, Germany, 1945.
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My father with his brother and mother, Agnes Speck Cubbage, on the North Side of Pittsburgh, 1945.
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My great-grandmother, Maine Swank Cubbage, with her daughters Marian, Marge and Babe, and most likely her daughter-in-law Happy Griffith Cubbage, Monessen, Pennsylvania, 1930s.
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My husband’s great-grandmother, Mary Kelovcy Simko, with children Mary, Susan, Michael and Walter, circa 1930.
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My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Linnemann Speck, with either Agnes (1915) or Frank (1918) in Monessen.
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My great-great-grandmother, Barbara Elisabeth Nilkowski Linneman, with her children Christian, Gerhard, George, William and Elisabeth, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 1904.

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Uncovering Family Details – Elizabeth Linnneman

Elizabeth LinnemanElisabeth Maria Linnemann was my paternal great-grandmother. She died 53 years ago this week (20 April 1966). I have been thinking about her a lot lately as I’ve been using her as an example of genealogy records in my Intro to Genealogy presentations. I am almost finished with an extensive biography of her, with records and images, but that’s a bit long for here.

When we look into our family history, we often learn things about ancestors that we didn’t know, or that our parents and grandparents didn’t know. What often strikes me about Elizabeth is that she was the only biological grandparent that my father got to know (his other three grandparents shortly before his birth). He called her “Mem” and has shared stories about her, yet there are details about Elizabeth and her family that I have uncovered which my father never knew.

Elizabeth has shown up in some of my earlier posts – stories previously known and unknown about her husband, brother and father. Below are some of the previously unknown details about Elizabeth and her family that I have uncovered and been able to share with my Dad:

Mem was the only daughter of Gerhard Linneman and Barbara Elizabeth Nilkowski. My Dad knew of her brothers that lived in Monessen – Gerhard, George and Christian (Christ) – and has faint memories of seeing “Uncle Christ”. He did not know that she had a brother, William, who moved to Chicago, and that Mem had two brothers who died in Germany, both named Rudolph. My Dad now understands why his Uncle Frank’s middle names was Rudolph.

Mem’s father Gerhard was her mother Elizabeth’s second husband. Her first husband was Christan Fasel, who died a few months before their son Christian was born. Elizabeth married Gerhard within a year of his birth, and Christian was always known as Christian Linnemann. Uncle Christ was Elizabeth’s half-brother.

Mem and her first husband Frank had a third child, Alma Mary, who lived for only one day in 1916. Agnes Elizabeth (his mother) was born in 1915, and Frank Rudolph was born in 1918.

Mem’s father Gerhard committed suicide. This was a complete shock to my father, and he believes it was unknown to many in his family. I wrote about Gerhard’s death here. My dad grew up with Mem, remembered some of her brothers, but had never heard of the suicide. In fact, he didn’t even know that her father had ever been in the U.S. – Gerhard was never mentioned.

Mem graduated from nursing school in 1926, when she was about 29 years old. A newspaper article mentioned that the class of six women had been in training for three years at the Memorial Hospital in the neighboring town of Charleroi, as well as studied at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. This is an especially notable unknown detail about Mem since her daughter Agnes (my father’s mother) also went to nursing school after they moved to New Jersey. It is unknown how long she worked as nurse, but must have stopped by the time my father was born and/or living with her in the 1940s.

Mem’s first husband Frank had a moving and storage company in Monessen, which my Dad knew about. He did not know that the company ran into some troubles in the 1920s. A front-page newspaper article announced the settlement of a case against Frank and his company. A man was accidentally killed by a railroad rail that was dropped by an employee. The widow received $9000 in the settlement. Two years later, another article reported a man was critically injured after being crushed by a truck operated by Frank. By 1936, there was a notice of a final bankruptcy hearing for Frank.

Even when we feel certain that we know about our family history, it is possible to uncover surprises or unknown details about our ancestors. While none of these were truly shocking family secrets (well, maybe the suicide), the others were unknown details that helps us to understand who Mem was, and how these details may have affected her as a mother and grandmother.

Mem & Pap, Christmas 1958, New Providence, NJ

Mem and Pap (her second husband) were my father’s grandparents – the ones he celebrated holidays with, lived with, and connected with as a boy and then as a young man. The details about her life – both known and previously unknown – are parts of her story. I am thankful for who she was and the family that she raised, including my grandmother and father.

Have you uncovered any hidden details about ancestors – big or small – that were unknown to your family?

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

#52Ancestors: Frank F. Speck – My Brick Wall

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge. The prompt for this week is “Brick Wall.”

My great-grandfather Frank Speck died 79 years ago yesterday – 7 April 1940 – in Monessen, Pennsylvania. I know much about his life in Monessen, yet almost nothing about him before he appeared around 1915.

Frank and Elizabeth in 1915.

Frank was born around 1886-1888 in Germany, although there is some speculation about his place of birth. His death certificate and funeral card both report his birth date as 21 May 1887. Frank married my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Linnemann, in January of 1915. Their marriage license application records that he was a hotel clerk living in Monessen, and he was born in Germany. His parents were deceased but named them as Peter and Agnes (no maiden name). Frank and Elizabeth’s daughter Agnes was born just over nine months after they married. I am fairly certain that Frank was working as a hotel bartender in nearby Manor (Westmoreland County) in 1910.

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I have yet to locate a passenger record for Frank’s arrival into the US. Three census records for Frank have three different immigration dates (1894, 1904, and unknown). I also wonder if he could have Americanized or changed his name after he arrived in the United States. He used the name Frank Friedrich Speck, but could it have been Friedrich and he went by Frank? Or was his last name Specht or Speckmeyer or something else? I have yet to locate a record that gives the name of a town, or county, or region of Germany. Plus, the borders of Germany had changed so much – could he be from Poland? The 1910 census recorded Frank as “Aust. Polish.”

My father remembers a time when he was young and his grandmother Elisabeth (Frank’s widow) had some papers out. He remembers seeing what would have been Frank’s birth certificate and said something to the effect of “He was born in Poland?” His grandmother put the papers away and never really answered him. I’ve gone through my parents’ pictures and records from my Dad’s family and haven’t been able to locate that birth certificate. My Dad said that his father tossed a bunch of old papers many years ago – ugh!

The Speck Family circa 1927.
The Speck Family circa 1927.

I am hoping that using DNA data and matches could help me narrow down some possibilities for Frank’s family. Unfortunately, my father is the only living descendant of Frank (his son never had any children), so it may take a while or be difficult to weed out other ancestors. Frank’s obituary said that he was survived by a sister in Germany (unnamed). I really need to learn chromosome mapping and DNA Painter (I’ll report on that when I do!).

Another place that I need to research further are Pennsylvania court records. I have found some newspaper articles about Frank and his company, which was involved in some lawsuits, plus a bankruptcy case. I wonder if any of those records may hold a clue or a more specific place of birth for Frank. Also, I need to take another look for local church records in Monessen.

Frank’s origin is still a mystery … a brick wall that I plan to take down a little bit at a time. I’ll keep you posted of my progress.

Which ancestor has you stumped??

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.