Elisabeth 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 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?
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