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 AmericaMy 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 EliseHere 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.
[…] it’s easier to search census for ancestors who may have been cared for institutionally. I solved a brick wall of my own this […]
I have not found an obit for Herbert Blaum. Lizzie was Lizabeth as we were always told. My mother (deceased) was a daughter of Herbert.
Dawn, I’ll email you what a reader sent me for Herbert.
Since you had so little information, how did you happen to focus on Blaum?
Doris, I’d kept a list of surnames of women at the blind institution named elizabeth or elise.
I’m happy you found that! It’s always so satisfying to finally solve those mysteries, especially when you’re so close. I agree about the obits, but it’s an awesome feeling after you’ve had to work a bit at it. 🙂 Thanks for taking us on all of your genealogical adventures!
Is it such a satisfying feeling, isn’t it, when you finally break through? More genealogical adventures ahead, Michele. Th for reading.
According to her son’s obit, her name was Elizabeth Blaum. He died in 1949 and she was still living.
An obit for Herbert? Do tell!
Nancy, how wonderful to have broken down this genealogy brick wall about your great great aunt, Lizzie!
Thanks, Chris! You know how it bugs to have one of those loose ends that turn into a dead end. So I’m very happy to have found Elise.
Please E mail me [address withheld]. See my comment above. Thanks Toni
I have so many Chicago relatives that fall into that 1950s death certificate “black hole” that can’t be found online. It’s possible your Lizzle went from one institution to another – the 1955 death record in Bremen, Cook, IL that could possibly be that she was a resident in Oak Forest Hospital. I had a German Lizzie of my own who died there in 1951; I don’t have her death record yet (sigh), but she was buried on the hospital grounds in the Lutheran cemetery and a little research showed that Bremen, Cook County was, in her case, the OFH, the TB hospital/asylum/poor house. Like you said, the 1950 census will hopefully give you some answers.
Yes, Michele, I think we are in the same boat. I have (too many) Chicago relatives who died in the Oak Forest hospital. But I still have a bit of research to go before I wait for the 1950 census release. I hope you find a record for your German Lizzie too.
An update, Michele. Aunt Lizzie did indeed die at Oak Forest Hospital, in 1955 at the age of 90. Now if they’d only have done an obit!