If I had been a boy, it’s likely I would have been named Paul, Mom tells me. I would have been one in a long line of Pauls (and Paulas) on the maternal side of my family. A quick search of my genealogy database tells me tells me the name appears 609 times (though some of these are on the paternal side as well).
However, there are only two individuals in my database named Paul Hoffmann (with the “nn” spelling). One, of course, was my great-grandfather, who emigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1883 at five years of age. The other was his first cousin, Paul Auguste Hoffmann, who would have been thirteen years his senior. This Paul was born 19 December 1864 in Marne, France, the eldest child of Jean Nicolas and Marie Louise Gérard Hoffmann. Jean Nicolas was the next-eldest brother of Jacob Hoffmann, our Paul’s father. Some three years older than Jacob, he had first married Dorothée Sutter in 1855. Our Paul had a tragic end but did live to adulthood; Jean Nicolas’s Paul did not. He died 9 March 1867 at two years of age.
Jean Nicolas and Marie Louise had three more children. Albert Athanase Hoffmann was born only a month after Paul’s death on 13 April 1867. A third son, Auguste Laurent, was born 7 August 1868 but died less than six weeks later. Finally, Auguste Ludgard Hoffmann was born 30 November 1871. It is to his grandson, Daniel, that I am indebted for all of this history.
So I’ve defined “funeral card” pretty loosely today – this is the receipt for the funeral arrangements for my great-grandfather, Paul Hoffmann, eighty years ago this week (and reblogged on Sunday). Peter Schaeffer, a fellow church member riding in the first car when Paul Hoffmann drove into the path of an oncoming train in Bucyrus, Ohio, seems to have made the necessary arrangements to have the bodies returned to Fairbury for burial.
Interestingly, Wise Funeral Home is still in operation in Bucyrus and has been since 1845. According to the online Inflation Calculator, the $125 paid to Wise in 1933 is equivalent to $2187.50 today. It is difficult to make comparisons with Wise’s current price list, since I’m not sure what would constitute “crepe cloth casket full trimmed; outside box and personal service.”
I’ve uploaded images of newspaper accounts of the train accident from the Bucyrus News-Journal on my vital statistics page. These accounts can never capture the sorrow that befell the family, however, when 55-year-old Paul was killed so unexpectedly.
Genealogy puts one in direct connection with times and places long gone. It can be interesting to look back and imagine oneself in a generation other than the current one. Where would I have been in, say, 1900?
None of my grandparents were alive yet in 1900; Grandpa Montgomery would be born the following year. His parents, Charles William and Laura Maud (Walker) Montgomery, were living in Holdrege, Nebraska (Grandpa’s birthplace) that year, with their other six children: Myrtle, Mamie, Bessie, Alta, Walter, and John (Ward). Charles was working as a butcher and was 39 years old; Laura, 37. The children were 16, 13, 11, 10, 2, and 7 months old. Charles and Laura had been married for 17 years.
Carl Wilson, father of Grandma Montgomery, turned 15 in 1900. In that year’s census he appears in Lincoln, Nebraska, a boarder and farm laborer in the home of Jonas and Maggie Misler (maybe…the handwriting is difficult to decipher).
It would be seven years before Carl would marry Sophie Roberg. Three years his senior, Sophie was also “working out” in 1900. She can be found in Shell Creek, Nebraska, a housekeeper in the household of Mons Knudson, a 43-year-old widower with six children between the ages of fourteen and two. His mother, 76 years old, lived in the household as well.
Paul Hoffmann, Grandpa Hoffmann’s father, was 22 years old in 1900, the eldest child still living at home on the farm in Fountain Creek, Illinois; he would marry two years later. Paul and his parents, Jacob (age 63) and Christine (age 50), are listed as having emigrated to America in 1883. Christine had given birth to 7 children, of whom 6 were still living. In addition to Paul, those still at home were Andrew, 16; Maggie, 11; Sammie, 8; and Louisa, 6. Paul and Andrew have “farm laborer” listed as their occupation; the other children were attending school.
Paul’s future wife, Emma Slagel, was 20 years old and living at home with her parents in Indian Grove Township, Livingston County, Illinois. Samuel Slagel, then 50, and Mary, 45, had been married for 24 years. Mary had given birth to 4 children, three still living (and all at home): Emma, along with brothers Daniel (22) and Joseph (18). Also living with them was Mary’s niece, Lena Demler, twelve years old.
In 1900, Grandma Hoffmann’s father was still using the old German spelling of his name. He appears as “Albert C Schwing,” in Ash Grove, Iroquois County, Illinois. Another farming family, his parents were Albert, Sr., age 40, and “Kathrine,” age 38. They had been married for 16 years, and Catherine had given birth to 10 children, all still living, and all still at home: Martha, 15; Charles, 14; Lena, 12; Albert C., 11; Soloma, 9; Joseph, 7; Katey, 6; Anna, 3; Harry, 2; and Paul, 3 months. A further three children would eventually be born to the family.
The final and youngest of these ancestors, Lena Hunkler, was seven years old and living in Washington, Illinois. Her parents, George J. (age 37) and Mary (age 40), had been married for 13 years, and George is listed as a farmer. All five children are at home: Bertha is 13 and listed as Berty (?). Matilda is 11; John G. is 8; “Lenie,” 7; and Hulda, 4. All but Hulda had attended school in the previous year.
Seven years ago Mom and I took one of our many genealogical side trips while visiting our Fairbury (Illinois) relatives. This side trip took us to Roanoke, Illinois, some forty miles west. I knew a large number of relatives were purportedly buried in Roanoke, and we found the Roanoke Cemetery fairly easily. Wandering through the rows of graves we saw a lot of familiar surnames: Weyeneth, Fehr, Schumacher, Hodel, Zimmerman. But we couldn’t seem to find any of the really close connections we were looking for.
As luck would have it, it was mowing day, and an older gentleman was at work between the rows of graves. Neither Mom nor I are good at this sort of thing, but we ventured over. Perhaps he had seen “the look” before because he readily asked if he could help. I told him we were looking for some relatives’ graves but hadn’t been able to find them, and he asked who we were looking for. A little hesitantly, I said, “Well, Joseph Hoffman…” Immediately he said, “Oh, Uncle Joe!” He went on to explain that there was a separate Apostolic Christian Cemetery near the church, farther out in the country, and told us how to get there. I never did figure out if he was really a cousin of sorts (this Joseph Hoffman was my great-great-grand-uncle, not to be confused with my grandfather Joseph Hoffmann), or if everyone in Roanoke knew our Joseph Hoffman as “Uncle Joe.”
Mom and I set off again, another 3 1/2 miles southwest. And here were all the names we had been looking for, Uncle Joe among them. Joseph Hoffman was born May 2, 1872 in Renaucourt, France, the youngest full brother of my great-great grandmother Catherine (Hoffmann) Swing, and a half-brother of my great-grandfather Paul Hoffmann. He emigrated to America with his family in 1883. On February 27, 1898 he married Lydia Hodel, six years his senior. Lydia died January 23, 1940 and is also buried in the Roanoke Apostolic Christian Cemetery. A year later Joseph married Lydia’s younger sister Emma; he was 68 and she was 60. Emma died September 17, 1957 and is buried in the same cemetery as well. Joseph himself lived to the age of 95, dying October 22, 1967 in Morton, Illinois, and being laid to rest near his two wives.
Roanoke (PNS) –Joseph Hoffman, 95, died at noon Sunday at the Rest-Mor Nursing Home, Morton, where he had lived for six years.
His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Remmert Funeral Home and at 10:30 a.m. at the Roanoke Apostolic Christian Church.
Burial will be in the church cemetery.
Visitation will be 2 to 5 p.m.; 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Mr. Hoffman was born May 2, 1872, in Alsace-Lorraine France, a son of Jacob and Annatte [sic] Meyers Hoffman. He married Lydia Hodel Feb. 27, 1898. She died Jan. 23, 1940. He then married Emma Hodel Feb. 23, 1941. She died Sept. 20, 1957. Surviving are a brother, Sam, Cissna Park; and many nieces and nephews. Four brothers and nine sisters preceded him in death.
Mr. Hoffman was a member of the Apostolic Christian Church, where he served as a trustee and Sunday school teacher. He was a retired farmer and had lived in Roanoke for 71 years.