The Family Lore of Bessie’s Brothers and Sisters

One of my most cherished family photos is the professional photo of my great- grandmother Bessie Beauchamp and her siblings Fred, Frank, and Lillian. I fondly recall seeing this photo on top of my grandmother’s roll top desk and hearing the sad story early on that Bessie’s brothers and sisters died after the photo was taken during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

Over the years the story around the picture changed a bit and eventually settled to become that Bessie (a solemn looking 8 year old in the photo) and her three siblings were the sole survivors of a large family that included many children who died during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

And like most instances of family legends or lore, some of this story is true and some is not. Either way, as I dug in and began to uncover the truth behind the family photo, I discovered records that allowed me to know much more about my family that I ever thought possible.

Truth be Told

As it turns out, my great-grandmother Bessie Beauchamp did come from a large family of at least eight children with just five of them living to adulthood: Fred, Frank, Bessie, Lillian and Mary. (Mary was born in 1905, presumably after this photo was taken.)

Two other children, and possibly a third, have been identified as Bessie’s siblings through census, cemetery, and death records of Chicago.

1900 Census Residence

In 1900, Henry and his family consisting of his wife Stella, and children, Fred, Frank, Elizabeth and Lillian, are enumerated at 173 W. 16th Street in an area known as West Town in Chicago. Henry is listed as being born in Canada and his occupation is listed as Carpenter. His sons Fred and Frank are listed as attending school.

Census records don’t tell us how long Henry and his family lived at this residence; however, while researching Chicago death records, the following death certificates list 173 W. 16th the residence at time of death:

  • 65 year-old female Elizabeth Beauchamp died March 2, 1898 at 173 W. 16th Street. The cause of death is listed as bronchi-pneumonia. She is buried at Calvery Cemetery. This is assumed to be Henry’s mother, and Bessie’s grandmother.
  • 2 1/2 year-old child Henry Bouchamp on January 18, 1899 at 173 W. 16th Street. The cause of death was Scarlet Fever & Diptheria. The child is buried in Waldheim cemetery.
  • Exactly two years later, on January 18, 1901, City of Chicago Death records list the death of Eddie Beauchamp, two-month old child living at 173 W. 16th street. Burial is at Calvary Cemetery.
  • The next day, on January 19, 1901, City of Chicago Death records list the death of Joe Bouchamp, two-month old child living at 173 W. 16th street. Burial is also listed as Calvary Cemetery.

The above records point to the connection between the residence of 173 W. 16th street and the family name of Beauchamp as proof that Henry, Eddie and Joseph were the children of Henry and Stella and Elizabeth the mother of Henry. However, there is always rooms for doubt (and additional research!)

Another Connection

Luckily for us we have another record for Eddie and Joseph that tie them directly to Henry living at 173 W. 16th Street and that is their baptism record.

The record is from Sacred Heart Parish located at 818 W. 19th street and within walking distance of 173 W. 16th street. The baptism records lists the “in private baptism” of Joseph and Edward, as the sons of Henrico Beauchamp. A notation on the baptism notes in latin “mortue sunt” translated as “they are dead”.

Henry is an Unknown

Without any additional primary source records, Henry’s parentage is a little bit more uncertain. It’s entirely possible that one of Bessie’s uncles was also living, or staying, with Bessie and her family at 173 W. 16th Street when they lost a child in 1899. Here’s why:

  • Henry (d. 1899) is buried at Waldheim and not Calvary cemetery where his brothers are buried
  • Henry Jr’s death certificate in January of 1899 at the age of 2 years and 6 months, place his birth date at July of 1896. The problem is we have Bessie’s own birth known as Aug/September of 1896. (Her birth month/year in the 1900 census is listed as August of 1896.) Either Bessie was Henry Jr.’s twin or Henry had different parents living at 173 W. 16th street in 1899.

The Search continues

In conclusion, we now know that Bessie did in fact have at least two, possibly three, young siblings die when very young. Within a few years after this photo being taken, another sibling, Mary “Dolly” Beauchamp, was born in 1905 for a total of eight known Beauchamp children being born to Bessie’s parents Henry and Stella. And to complicate things even more, in 1910, Bessie’s mother Stella reported to the census taker that she was in fact the mother of 12 children, with five now living.

Truth is we may never know the names and dates of the missing children. My hope is that as I continue to unravel the stories of the Beauchamp family, including why there are no birth or baptism records for any of the five surviving children, we’ll finally know the true story of Bessie’s siblings.

Favorite Find

I’m a little behind (already!) on the 52 Ancestor challenge and that’s because the writing prompt is a bit stressful for me. The prompt is “Favorite Find”.

Nope, I can’t do it. I cannot pick ONE favorite find. All of my finds are hard-earned research nuggets that deserve the spotlight. Therefore for this homework assignment I am going to highlight my most recent favorite find.

My most recent favorite find is mention of my Dad in a Chicago southside newspaper titled the “Economist”.

The newspaper headline reads “11 sets of Area Twins Are Feted” and goes on to report that the Chicago Public High School graduating class of 1960 had 68 sets of twins graduating with eleven sets of the twins attending the semi-annual twins’ reception held in the school board’s assembly room on N. LaSalle street.

According to the article, my Dad and his twin David attended the event, along with Barbara and Betty Schaefer, who were also representatives from Morgan Park High School.

It’s these little stories that make my research so fulfilling. Dad was always super proud that he was a twin and secretly I’m sure he wanted twin grandchildren. (His grandmother Antoinette was a twin!) While that did not happen, the genetic disposition is still there (I believe) and time will tell if this genetic trait will get passed down.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

A few years ago I had great intentions of participating in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge created and maintained by Amy Johnson Crow. Yeah, I failed.

Why did I fail? I’m not really sure except recently I’ve discovered that I struggle with Executive Functioning skills required to plan & break down tasks into bite size chunks. I also am easily distracted by bright, shiny objects a.k.a. new databases, ancestry “hints” and dna technology.

So I’m at a complete loss as whether I should commit to the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. According to the “Let’s Get Started” email that Amy sent out, I don’t have to worry if I can’t do all 52 weeks because “anything that you do will be more than what you had before you started”. True enough. Here’s my start:

This week’s prompt is “Foundation”.

Merriem-Webster defines “Foundation” as “a basis (such as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported” which leads me to think not about a specific ancestor, but rather my entire tree and the research behind it. For me high quality, well-documented research is the foundation of my tree. It always has been. I will not add a person or relationship to my tree until I have the genealogical proof that he or she belongs in my tree. I love sources. I love documents. My dopamine seeking brain will only move on to another task if I have discovered and documented the proof I am looking for.

Over the years I have accumulated alot of proof. Newspaper clippings, death records, marriage records. Hundreds of documents that sit on my hard-drive collecting dust. These documents represent the Foundation of my tree and it is my intention to use the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge to bring these documents to light.

Harriet Critzer Plummer

Harriet Critzer was born in July of 1856, the eldest daughter of Leander and Almeda Critzer. At the age of four, Harriet was enumerated with her family in the Owsley county census in the town of Proctor. The census taker documented Leander Critzer’s occupation as Blacksmith and noted that the value of his real estate at $50 and personal property as $300.

Less than a year later, the War between the States was declared and Harriet and her family no doubt found themselves in the midst of Kentucky’s struggle to remain a neutral state. At the time of this writing, there is no documentation to tell us whether the Critzer family members served during the war or where their loyalties lay. We do know that when the war officially ended in May of 1865, hostilities in south-eastern Kentucky did not end as Confederate guerrillas and Morgan’s Raiders continued to conduct raids throughout the area.

In 1870, Owsley county’s boarders changed and Harriet and her family either moved or the county line did, because we find the Critzer family living in Lee county, Kentucky in the area known as the Coal Branch precinct. Harriet’s father Leander is listed as a Gunsmith, and also holds the title of being Lee County’s first jailer in 1870.

The day-to-day events of Harriet’s younger years are unknown and we can assume that she at some time attended a rural Kentucky school. We do not know much more about Harriet other than as oldest daughter in the household, her chores and responsibilities grew each year with the birth of at least nine siblings, Franka, Leander, William, Emily, Polly, Lou Ellen, Margaret and Ida Mae between the years 1862 and 1878.

At the age of 23, Harriet is once again enumerated in her father Leander’s household in the 1880 census. However, at this point in time, Leander is enumerated as a farmer, with his son’s Leander, William and John also listed as “working on farm”. Harriet’s occupation is not listed; however it does state that she “works for support”

Twelve days after the census was taken, on June 27, 1880 Harriet wed Samuel Plummer.

Over the next 20 years, Sam and Harriet spent the majority of the years raising their own children. Family notes tell us that their first children were twins that died at birth or shortly thereafter. When their daughter Callie arrived in December of 1882, she must have been a welcome blessing to both the Plummer and Critzer families.

At some point, Sam and Harriet did move their family to Missouri, for what reason or for how long, we do not know. What we do know is that their son Harden was born in Missouri in October of 1886. Chances are that they chose to name him after his Uncle Harden, Sam’s younger brother, who was also living in Missouri at the time.

Around this same time period, the majority of Harriet’s siblings began leaving Kentucky, some of them headed Northwest to Washington territory and some headed to Oklahoma and Texas. What prompted the family to leave Lee county is not known; however, we do know that in 1887 Harriet’s brother William was sentenced to two years in the Kentucky State Penitentiary on charges of manslaughter. It would be 40+ year until Harriet and her brother once again reunited in Crandon.

It was also during this time-frame that Kentucky folks began thinking about heading north into the woods of Northern Wisconsin. Harriet’s brother John Critzer is actually the first family member to have owned land in Forest county, purchasing land and a home in the town of North Crandon in 1899. Members of the Plummer family followed him, with the William Matt Plummer family being enumerated in the Crandon census in 1905.

What eventually made Harriet and Sam decide to move to Wisconsin in 1914? We do not know for sure, but many things point to family connections. We know that after the 1910 census, many Plummer family members had decided to make Forest county their home. By the 1920 census Sam Plummer, Anderson Plummer, Harden, Callie, Junas and Reck were all living in Forest county and having families of their own.

Harriet, a big sister to at least ten younger siblings, a mother of ten (three dying in childhood) eventually became a grandmother to many. As a sibling, mother, and grandmother Harriet’s life was not an easy one. There were times of tragedy, including the loss of her grandson Eugene at age 12 when he was living with his grandparents at their farm in the Town of Nashville.

In 1930, Harriet and Sam celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a large family get together. The pictures that exist from this event paint a picture of a large, happy family. Additionally, knowing that many of the Plummer family photos that exist today were from Harriet’s own collection, and we can tell that Harriet spent quite a bit of time corresponding with family and neighbors back in Kentucky. Newspaper accounts tell us that Harriet and Sam did return to Kentucky at some point in their golden years, but chose to return to Forest county where their family ties were the closest.

Harriet lost her husband Sam in 1933 at the age of 78. Harriet spend the last four years of her life surrounded by her children and grandchildren. dying at the home of her daughter Mattie in October of 1937 at the age of 81. She is buried next to her husband Sam in the Lakeside cemetery in Crandon.

The search for the death of Angus Plummer

Years ago, as a young mom, I discovered a headstone in our local cemetery that peaked my interest. At the time the headstone was sinking a bit, the writing on it was barely discernable, and it appeared to be the oldest headstone in the Plummer family plot. Add to this fact that the headstone belonged to a 12-year old child that no one in the family could tell me about, only added to the curiosity that would eventually lead me to discover a passion for uncovering the lives of my ancestors and the stories that each one of them could tell.

My search for the story of Angus was in the very early days of my hobby and it was a part-time hobby with \access to census records via dial-up and newspapers were ordered on inter-library loan from the state library. Vital records were in an office open 8:30-4:30 and at the time I worked out of town from 8-5. It was a slow-moving project but my curiosity was peaked and I couldn’t let go.

I started my search in the 1910 census in Forest county. No luck. There was not a single Plummer listed in the 1910 Forest County census. I searched Lee County, Kentucky census records and began to slowly piece together the large Plummer families located there. But still I found no Angus.

I expanded by search to include the counties around Lee county: Owsley, Breathitt, etc., and was excited but dismayed to find even more Plummer family connections but not the ones I was looking for. Eventually I expanded my search in Wisconsin records to include counties surrounding Forest County and there I found Angus, age 9, living in rural Marinette county, in the small lumbering town of Dunbar.

Now that I found the family living in Dunbar, I surmised that Angus has died in Dunbar and went looking for an obituary in the county newspaper at the time, the Peshtigo Times.

Obituary of Angus Plummer, son of Anderson Plummer and Sallie Bowman.

Peshtigo Times. Peshtigo, WI. 1912 DEC 12.

An obituary of Angus was not published in the Crandon newspapers; however his burial is mentioned and points to the fact that his uncle Matt Plummer had chosen to settle in the Town of Crandon by 1912.

This led me to dig deeper in Crandon newspapers and in fact Angus’ burial was noted in the Forest Republican, although the editor was not yet familiar with the Plummer family, instead referring to them as the Palmer family.

Forest Republican. Crandon, Wisconsin. December 13, 1912.

Update on the Grocery Store business

Thanks to a recent comment by a fellow Reilly researcher (thanks, Linda!) I realized I never uploaded an improved scan of the Grocery Store photo featuring my grandfather. (Original post)

Consumers Grocery Store
6800 S. Halsted Avenue
Andrew Reilly, Mabel Carson and Jim Hannigan
June 24, 1935

Back of photo

As well as a scrapbook page I completed that includes the photo. (See…there is a reason why it took me nine years to get back to it!)

The Irish immigrant story

It started with a text message from my son. He was looking for “our family’s immigrant story” for a college class.

“Which one do you want?” I asked him. “Bohemian, Irish or Polish?”.

Irish was his response.

I fired up my database program and sat down to write a quick story about my great-grandfather John Reilly’s voyage to America.

Then something strange happened. I noticed a date. Actually a year. 1905 to be exact. The year John Joseph Reilly left Dublin, Ireland and traveled to America courtesy of his aunt Alice Cusack.

I’ve written about John’s travel to America before. I’ve known about his 1905 ship passenger record for about 10 years. But until just four days ago the date never clicked for me.

If John Reilly traveled to America in 1905 that means he was living across an ocean 4,000 miles away in Chicago, when his father Andrew Reilly died in Ireland in 1908.

Ten years ago this little fact did not stop me in my tracks. But now after losing my own father this past year, it did.

The Andrew Reilly family in Ireland prior to John's departure to America

The Andrew Reilly family in Ireland prior to John’s departure to America

My reaction to this find was both emotional and exciting. Emotionally because I could now offer some empathy to the great grandfather who only shows up in the margins of my memory. Did John mourn for his father? Did he feel guilt at not being with his mother and siblings as they mourned? Six short years later John named his 1st born son after his father.  No doubt a common Irish tradition, but in this case it is also a poignant reminder of his father buried in Ireland.

The excitement I felt after this discovery was due to the possibility of finding some missed genealogy clues. Did John return to Ireland for his father’s funeral? If so, there could be more ship passenger records to find. Or possibly a passport application.  Was there mention of Andrew’s death in a Chicago neighborhood newspaper? What about the correspondence between John and his family?  Does that still exist?

I guess that is what family history is all about. Uncovering the questions and facts that make up our unique story.

#52Stories #2017

A Report of the Disposition of Bodies at Dunning

I’ve said before that it’s amazing how much one can learn by thoroughly examining a genealogy record in your possession.  If your like me, the documents themselves aren’t enough.

Another case in point is my recent examination of the death record of my great-great grandfather Anton Liska.  I’ve had a copy of this death certificate for many years but due to the “genealogy do-over” project which encourages researchers to re-evaluate their sources, I have discovered not only a family story, but another resource for finding the death records of elusive Cook County ancestors.

Death record of Anton Liska. January 1905.

Death record of Anton Liska. January 1905.

Anton Liska died on January 21, 1905 at the Cook County Infirmary at Dunning.  At the time of his death, the conditions at the Dunning Poorhouse, Infirmary and Asylum had attracted the attention of the press who were demanding that the Cook County Board of Supervisors do something about the deplorable conditions at Dunning.

Chicago Daily Tribune. Feb. 14, 1904.

Chicago Daily Tribune. Feb. 14, 1904.


According to the Cook County Board Proceedings of 1905, there were “many things that can be done to greatly improve the situation”.  One of the suggestions was the removal of the Cook County Infirmary from the Dunning grounds due to the fact that admittance to the Infirmary gave the impression that the patients were confined to the “Poor House”.  This was especially true to “tuberculosis patients who are reluctant to enter the institution at Dunning until necessity compels them”. [Cook County Board Proceedings. 1905-1906. p13]

Looking closely at Anton Liska’s death certificate we can see that he spent 6 months and 11 days in the Infirmary with the cause of death being Tuberculosis of the Lungs.

An outcome of the Chicago Tribune’s attention to the conditions at Dunning was the Cook County Board’s appointment of Dr. V.H. Podstata as general superintendent.

Chicago Daily Tribune. May 29, 1903.

Chicago Daily Tribune. May 29, 1903.

Thanks to the University of Michigan, researchers can now read Dr. Podstata’s monthly reports to the County Board in the Official Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County, Illinois.  The reports are an accurate accounting of the monthly population of patients, hospital expenditures, and the final disposition of bodies from the Cook County Hospital for the Insane, the Cook County Hospital for Consumptives and the Cook County Infirmary.

And for those of us who research our family’s stories, it is this listing of the final disposition of bodies that connects us to this place and time.   It allows us not to just see our ancestors name on a government report, but rather it allows us a more thorough glimpse at the individuals who he came in contact with during his last days on earth.


Anton died on Saturday, January 21st, 1905 at the age of 47.   His body was delivered to Josef J. Liska, his brother, six days later on January 27, 1905.  His funeral was held the following day at 11:00 a.m. with burial at the Bohemian National Cemetery.  His obituary, alluding to the broken heart of his family members, appeared in the Denni Hlasatel on January 27, 1905.

Anton Liska obituary


Bohemian Congregation of Freethinkers

It’s amazing how much one document can tell you about the past!  KRIVANEK Frank_LISKA Anna 1908 OCT 08This week I’ve been slowly entering information into my database about the Frank Krivanek family.  This family, while not my direct line, has however had a direct and powerful impact on my personal life, as the three daughters of Frank and Anna, Bess, Bernice and Anna, were my father’s beloved “aunts”.  And while I never met them personally, their love and respect for my father after the death of his own parents in 1963, helped shape him into the wonderful father and grandfather that he was.


The marriage of Anna Liska to Frank Krivanek took place in Chicago on Monday, October 12, 1908.  According to document, the couple received their license to wed the previous Tuesday on October 6th from Cook County Clerk, Joseph F. Haas.

Source: The Semi-centennial jubilee of the Bohemian National Cemetery Association in Chicago, Illinois : a free English version of J. J. Jelínek's Bohemian Historical Sketch

F.B. Zdrubek. Source: The Semi-centennial jubilee of the Bohemian National Cemetery Association in Chicago, Illinois : a free English version of J. J. Jelínek’s Bohemian Historical Sketch

The marriage ceremony itself was performed by Frank B. Zdrubeck, Pres. and Minister of the Bohemian Congregation of Free Thinkers.  According to the 1910 Chicago Blue Book of Selected Names of Chicago and Suburban Towns, the location of Zdrubeck’s congregation was 1126 W. 18th Street.

But was this the actual location of the marriage
ceremony?  I am unsure.  A search of the internet today has given me just a brief understanding of the Congregation of Freethinkers and it is something I need to study more in-depth with the most pressing question being whether or not any archival documents exist for this “central community institution”

These freethinkers set up building and benevolent societies, maintained a school and a library, organized children’s programs and adult lectures, and sponsored musical and dramatic programs. Their congregation offered secular baptisms for their children and secular funerals, in the Bohemian National Cemetery, for their dead. (“Free Thought” Encyclopedia of

Interestingly enough, studying this document allows me to recall a conversation I had with my father at one of our lunch dates in Crandon.  At that time, I was researching my great-grandparents John and Antonette Liksa Koranda, and I asked him if he knew the reason why John was not married in the Catholic church like his brothers and sisters were but rather by the Cook County Justice of the Peace?  Dad was not sure.  But now I wonder if Antonette and his sister Anna, were possibly members of the Freethinker Congregation? Or if not actual members, questioned the established beliefs of the Catholic Church?

Free thought embraced reason and anticlericalism, and freethinkers formed their ideas about religion independently of tradition, authority, and established belief. A product of the Enlightenment, free thought was deist, not atheist. In nineteenth-century Chicago, freethinkers, many of them immigrants from Europe, institutionalized irreligion. (“Free Thought” Encyclopedia of Chicago)

There is always more research to be done!

Matilda Peterson Gretzinger

From the Johann Gobert photo collection.

From the Johann Gobert photo collection.

My lofty goal of writing short biographies of each of the chosen 52 ancestors is proving to be more difficult than I first thought.  Why?  Well, this week the ancestor I chose to write about is Matilda Peterson Gretzinger, my husband’s great-grandmother.  However, when I went to her record in my database, I found it incomplete. Very little data with incomplete citations.  Not even her obituary.

Which leads me to my current state of frustration.  Is the mission of this 52 week challenge supposed to allow me to highlight 52 ancestors or is the mission supposed to point out holes in my family tree which essentially leads to more in-depth and properly cited research?

Since this is my blog and my challenge, I choose both!

So here is this week’s post:

Matilda Peterson Gretzinger was born in February of 1889, the daughter of John and Anna Peterson.   The first record I have of Matilda is the 1900 census in which she is living in the Town of Matteson in Waupaca County, Wisconsin.  She is eleven years old and is listed as being “at school”.  Other members of the household include seven brothers & sisters and one half-sister, Mary Euhardy.  (Mary was the daughter of Peter Euhardy, Anna Hormish’s first husband).

At this point I don’t have detailed information on the Peterson family’s life in rural Waupaca county in 1900, but we do know that Matilda’s father was a farmer and more than likely his children attended a one room school with farm chores to keep them busy at home.

One Room Schoolhouse in Matteson. Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society. Image ID: 76131

One Room Schoolhouse in Matteson. Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society. Image ID: 76131








Jump ahead ten years to the 1910 census and we find Matilda still living in Matteson, Waupaca County with her parents and siblings.  Her older sister Anna is not living with the family, nor is her half-sister Mary.  We can only assume that they have married and have families of their own.  Speaking of getting married.  In 1910, at age 21, one has to wonder if Matilda has yet met the handsome John Gretzinger whom she will marry two years later at the age of 23?

Source: Memories of Forest County. Wisconsin State Historical Society.

Source: Memories of Forest County. Wisconsin State Historical Society.








Note:  The photo above lists the marriage date as 1911, yet Matilda’s obituary lists her marriage date at October 28, 1912.  (A research trip to Waupaca county is required!)

Shortly after their marriage, John and Matilda moved to rural Forest county and started their own family farm.  By 1920, the family has grown to include children Dorothy, Roy, Earl and Ann.  The exact location of the farm enumerated in 1920 is not known. It appears that the farm was enumerated on Range Line Road in the Town of Crandon with the Gretzingers nearest neighbors being the Ernest Feight and Isaac Dehart families.  Whether this location was the “old farm” now located on Linneman Road remains to be seen.

John and Matilda lived in rural Forest county near Argonne for approximately 30 years.  Their ten children (Dorothy, Roy, Earl, Ann, Ruth, Frank, Delores, Matilda (Tillie), John and William) and eventual grandchildren and great-grandchildren must have kept their lives pretty busy with family celebrations, get-togethers and the daily life a large family farm.  (The only known tragedy occuring when Matilda and John lost their son, Roy, on July 4, 1955, when he drowned in Lake Metonga during a July 4th celebration.)

In 1942, John and Matilda returned to Clintonville, eventually making their last move to Shawano a few years before Matilda’s death in 1961.  They are buried together in Graceland Cemetery in Clintonville.

Source: Moo, Esq. (Karen) 6/21/2013.

Source: Moo, Esq. (Karen)