Today I’m sharing a post about solving a German sibling brick wall in Chicago. Breaking through this brick wall with Chicago records makes it extra satisfying.

Anna and Her Sister Elise Sail to America

Solving German Sibling Brick Wall in Chicago

Anna and Elise Schumann, lines 410 and 411, SS Westphalia, 13 May 1885, from Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 054 D; Page: 581; Microfilm No.: K_1733, via Hamburg Passenger Lists database, 1850-1934, accessed 25 Jun 2010.

My great-grandmother, Anna Friedrike Luise Schumann, sailed from Hamburg on 13 May 1885 for New York. She traveled with her sister, Elise Ernstine Hermine, on the SS Westphalia.

They were joining their parents, brother Friedrich, and sister Marie, in Chicago, who had sailed in October 1884 from Bremen to Baltimore on the SS Amerika.

Anna was 24 and Elise was 20 when they left Hamburg. Both were born and baptized in Freienwalde, Kr. Saatzig, Pomerania, Prussia. The trip, though unpleasant in steerage, was uneventful according to the shipping news. Anna and Elise were admitted to the country at Castle Garden on 25 May 1885.

The Mysterious Sister Elise

And at this point, sister Elise disappears from the record. After her arrival on 25 May 1885 in New York, Elise seemed to disappear from the records. Her siblings marry; her mother dies in 1886. Elise’s father remarries in 1888, and eventually dies in 1908. But there is no record of Elise marrying or dying in Chicago.

When asked, my mother, then in her early 90s, recalls visits she made as a child with her mother to visit an Aunt Lizzie, an “old maid.” She lived in some kind of institutional building, perhaps for the blind, in Chicago. My mother and grandmother would take the streetcar to go see her. These recollections suggested that Elise, aka Aunt Lizzie, was still alive in 1930.

Searches of census in Chicago for variant forenames for Lizzie or Elise Schumann either had too many results or none. So did searches for Cook County marriage records. Narrowing my focus to the Illinois Industrial Home for the Blind, I examined the 1920 and 1930 federal census records listing occupants for this institution. I recorded the surnames of women named Elise or Lizzie in the age range for my great-great-aunt Elise.

Finding Sister Elise

solving a german sibling brick wall chicago

Exterior view of the entrance of the Illinois Industrial Home for the Blind, located at 1900 South Marshall Boulevard in the North Lawndale community of Chicago, Illinois, 13 Sep 1913. Courtesy Chicago Daily news photographer, Chicago History Museum via Explore Chicago Collections.

Here the matter rested, until COVID cancelled our travel plans for Sweden this summer. So, I began instead to thoroughly review and process the family records my sister permitted me to have after my mother’s death.

One of the first things I discovered was an address book. From the names inside (and the mix of Kurrentschrift and English handwriting), I quickly realized it belonged to my great-grandmother Anna. And on the page for B surnames (see featured image above), I found an entry for Herbert Blaum. This was one of the surnames on my lengthy list of possibles!

Solving a German Sibling Brick Wall

So, all at once my great-grandmother’s sister Elise Schumann was found. She married Charles Blaum on 1 Oct 1894 in Chicago. They had two (known) children: Martha Maria Margaret, b. June 1897, Herbert Edwin Charles (of the address book entry), b. May 1900.

Charles, Lizzie, and their children appear in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses in Chicago. Charles worked for 20 years as a teamster, before turning to furniture dipping. He died in 1928. Lizzie lived with her daughter Martha and her family in the 1930 census.

And, at last confirming my mother’s recollections, Lizzie appears in the 1940 census. Lizzie has been an “inmate” at the Illinois Industrial School for the Blind since at least 1935. Preliminary research shows that the chief product made at the Illinois Industrial Home for the Blind was brooms. It sounds rather grim, making brooms in an institutional setting in one’s 70s. I hope she felt cared for there.

I have not yet found a death record for Lizzie Schumann Blaum. Perhaps the 1950 census can help shed some light in a few years. However, I am happy to say that Aunt Lizzie had six grandchildren and five step-grandchildren. I hope they all visited as regularly as my grandmother and mother did.

So the mystery of my great-grandmother’s sister, Elise Schumann, is solved. But like all good brick-wall busting, there are now new research horizons ahead to discover more about the Blaum (Blaine, Blamm, Bloom, Blaune) family.

UPDATE: I’ve found Aunt Lizzie’s death in the Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994 at FamilySearch. She lived to be 90, outliving all of her brothers and sisters, her husband, and her son.