Sunday, October 6, 2013

William Sullivan is AWOL in 1850

I have spent all day trying to find the William Sullivan Family in 1850.  With no luck.  But some leads.  Let me explain: 

William is my great great-grandfather, married to Susanna Lambert.  I know William and Susan both emigrated from Ireland, probably in the mid-1830’s. 

1-Lynn Anne HANSON (19xx- )
2-Patricia Ethel SULLIVAN (1927-2013)
3-William Augustine SULLIVAN (1877-1957)
4-Michael SULLIVAN (1847-1929)
5-William SULLIVAN (1818-1893)
            Married abt 1843
5-Susanna LAMBERT (1822-1904)

From their obituaries, we learn what they and/or their children remember about their early years. 

As written in his 1893 obituary, William:
  •       landed in Baltimore in 1836
  •            lived in Rochester NY
  •       moved to Canadaigua, Ontario County, NY for 5 years where he married  Susanna Lambert on January 20, 1843
  •      arrived in Milwaukee Wisconsin fall of 1843 [Author’s note: Margaret was  born Nov 1843]
  •      bought 80 acres in Erin, section 23, where he lived for 50 years [Author’s  note: This implies he lived on land starting in 1843]
  •      was appointed County Commissioner in 1844 and served for 2 years
  •      was the first chairman and treasurer of his town
  •      served on the Board of Supervisors for several years
  •           bought land for the county farm in 1845

As written in her 1904 obituary, Susanna
  •          was born in Ireland Jan 1824,
  •          emigrated to Quebec, Canada at age 9 [Author’s note: about 1833]
  •          went to New York City “when she was old enough to leave home” [Author’s note: perhaps about 1840]
  •          met and married William in New York City in 1842
  •          came to Wisconsin that same year
  •          stayed in Milwaukee for a short time
  •          moved to Erin
  •          lived for 50 years on the farm now owned by Michael Powell [Author’s note: They would have sold the farm about 1892]

Do you see some contradictions in stories?  Hoo boy….  Presumably, William’s obituary was written with input from Susanna and almost 10 years earlier when she was just shy of 70 years old.  Susanna’s obituary may well have been written by her children who weren’t around in her early life.  Neither obituary is particularly reliable information as it is written well after the facts we’re looking for.

In 1850, William is about 32, Susanna, about 26. They have 4 children: Margaret (about 7), Mary Ann (about 5), Michael (about 3) and James (about 1).  Government land records list a William Sullivan as purchaser of parcels of land in 1844 and 1849 in section 23 of Erin, Washington County, Wisconsin.

So, it would seem the logical first place to look for the family is in Erin township.  They probably own land, their obituaries both mention they have lived for 50 years on the same farm (which for William’s death date, would have to have been purchased about 1843). Finding historical records of county and township officers would provide confirmation of location as well. 

With this information as background (taken with a grain of salt), I have searched every page of the 1850 Erin Township census rolls (luckily, only about 25 pages in 1850) and printed out pages that contained Sullivan family names.  There are 5 Sullivan families living in Erin Township in 1850.    One family is just a couple.  Another has only 3 children, all boys, all born in New York, including a set of twins. And a third family has parents that are too old, has 6 children whose names and ages don’t match our family.  So, 3 families are eliminated pretty easily.

The last 2 families look like this:

  •          Wm. Sulivan, age 31 Male, Farmer, land valued at $1,000, born in Ireland     
  •          E.  Sulivan, age 28 Female, born in Ireland     
  •          Marthy Sulivan, age 6, female, born in Wis.        
  •          Elen Sulivan, 5, F, Wis.        
  •          Daniel Sulivan, 3, M, Wis.        
  •          John Sulivan, 1, M, Wis.        
  •          Sarah Sulivan, 3/12 [3 months old] F,Wis.        
  •          M. Dunivan [Sullivan?], 50, F, Ireland     
  •          J.   Sulivan, 27, M, Labourer, Ireland     

This family starts with a William, of the correct age, whose wife and children also are about right with the exception of the child named Sarah.  I currently have a best guess birth date for William’s 5th child, a daughter named Catherine, as Feb 1851.  This child would be a almost a year older than that, born in June of 1850. The two adults at the end were undoubtedly living and working on the farm, not at all unusual to find in farm census data.  The biggest problem is the names of the wife and children.  Not one of them matches the names we know are right for this family.  Marthy could be Margaret, but the others aren’t even close.  

Looking for this family in records going forward might help eliminate or prove them as our William Sullivan family.  Also finding the elusive birth records for the children would help confirm their birth location and dates. But for now, I have to consider this family not a match.I’m not too concerned about the ages being off a bit.  Census records are notoriously inaccurate in these. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios where those interviewed might mis-state ages or enumerators mis-hear or mis-write what they hear. 

The last Erin Sullivan family also holds possibilities.  The original page has what appears to be a piece of tape (rectangular strip darkened differently than the page written on). It happens to cross over the Sullivan head of household and his wife, obscuring the text.  To exacerbate the issue, this enumerator didn't gather first names, just wrote the last name for each person.  So we have:

  •          T. (?) Sull**** ?, Male, Farmer, property valued at $2,000, born in Ireland [Age unreadable]
  •          --Sull**** 35 Female, Ireland     
  •          --Sullivan, 10 Male, born in Mass.       
  •          --Sullivan, 8 Female, Mass.        
  •          --Sullivan, 4 M, Wisconsin   
  •          --Sullivan, 2 F, Wisconsin   

Here we have the right number of children, approximately the right age and sex, except for the oldest child.  The mother is also significantly older than we would have expected. And two of the children were born in Massachusetts.  This is not likely our family either.  But the same further checking as above applies here too. 

In addition, looking at surrounding families and plat maps might shed some light on where within the census process our Sullivan’s might have been expected. Census takers went from house to house in geographic order, as much as possible and the census documents this order by using dwelling numbers and family numbers and in cities, names of streets and house numbers. 

For the moment, I have given up on finding William in the census and have made some quick checks for possible online records about early township officers and birth records for the children.  Nothing surfaced at all – no records anywhere.  Ugh! 

It looks like trips to Wisconsin Vital Records and the Wisconsin Historical Society, and probably Hartford's History Center, are in order.  I’m not too good at doing on-site research yet, but it looks like I’m going to learn. 

And it’s possible that this may have to wait till after Christmas.  I’ve given myself one more week to work on this research and then it must be put aside for some sewing and scrapbooking, some cooking and decorating. Christmas is just around the corner if I want to make something personal for gifts.  Yikes!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Looking for Marie Josephine Bednorz via the Census

Here's a look at Marie's nuclear family: her parents and siblings.

1895 Minnesota State Census
The first census the Andrew Bednorz family appear in is the 1895 Minnesota State Census.  At this time they are living in Waverly, Marysville Township, Wright County Minnesota, just 37 miles due west of Minneapolis.

As of June 5, 1895, Andrew Badnorz (note misspelling of last name) is 43, Frances is 42, John (10), Henry (8), Francis (6) and Mary (1).  That’s our Marie Josephine!  The census document tells us that Andrew, Frances, and John were all born in “Germany” and the family has lived in Waverly, Minnesota for 9 years and one month.   (That fits with the immigration information we have from the Ship Suevia’s 1886 passenger manifest.) Henry, Francis, and Mary were all born in Minnesota.  Andrew is working as a blacksmith. 
1895 Minnesota State Census Andrew Bednorz Family in Marysville, Wright County MN

1900 US Census

We meet the family again in the 1900 US Census where the family is listed as Bednore, living in Buffalo Township, Cass County, North Dakota.  (Buffalo Township is almost straight west of of Fargo on the western edge of the county.)  How or why they got there is a mystery.

The family now consists of Andrew (age 47) and his wife, Frances (46), who have been married for 29 years; their sons, John (15), Henry (13) and Paul (4); and their daughters, Frances (11), Mary (6) and Gertrude (2).  The census notes that Frances has had 12 children, 6 of whom are living.  The family is living on the William Metzger farm as are Metzger’s wife, daughter and mother, 3 female servants and 8 other single men working as farm laborers.  Andrew lists his occupation also as farm laborer and sons John and Henry are listed as day laborers. Frances and Mary are at school. 

Random Analysis notes
A Plat map of Buffalo Township from 1893 shows a William Metzger property of 171 acres in the northeastern corner of the town.  This fits with the census information of 1900.

This census lists an immigration date of 1885 for Andrew, Frances, and John and notes they have been in the country for 15 years. (Interestingly, the census taker lists John as being born in Minnesota, which contradicts both his own writing and previously known information.) Other discrepancies with this census are the births of Paul and Gertrude.  Paul’s birth is listed as June 1895 and he is 4 years old.  The Minnesota Death Index and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) list his birth date as March 14, 1896.  Gertrude’s discrepancy is similar: the 1900 Census lists her birth as June 1897 while SSDI and MDI list her birth as November 11, 1897.  Birth certificates (probably from Waverly, Wright County MN) are needed to clear up these discrepancies.  While it's not unusual for birth years to be off in census documents, it is unusual for the birth month to be off.

1905 Minnesota State Census
Andrew and family are back in Minnesota, in Marysville Township, Wright County where they have lived for 4 years and 8 months.  

He claims he has lived in Minnesota for 19 years 1 month, which doesn’t square with the 1900 census where they were in North Dakota.  (ND became a state in 1889, so it wasn’t part of Minnesota.  One question to ask is how long the Bednorz family remained in ND.) The data implies that the Bednorz family left ND about 4 months (September)  after the 1900 US Census. 

In Marysville, Andrew is farming at 53 years old. John Joseph is no longer at home, but Henry (18), Frances (16), Marree (notice the misspelling)(11), Paul (9) and Gertrude (7) are at home with their mother Frances (51). 

1910  Marysville, Wright County, Minnesota
By the 1910 Census, Henry (24), still single, is now the head of household on a Marysville farm which he owns by mortgage.  Andrew (58) is listed as his father and Frances (56) as his mother.  Andrew and Frances have been married 30 years and have borne 11 children, 6 of whom are living.  They are listed as immigrating in 1886 and Andrew is a naturalized citizen. He is also a blacksmith with his own shop.  Andrew and Frances report their parentage as “Ger. Polish”.  Henry’s sisters Frances (22) and Gertruid (note misspelling) (12) and brother Paul (14) are living with the family.  John and Mary, or Marie Josephine as we know her, is not living with the family.

Where's Waldo  Mary Josephine Bednorz? 
Buh Township?
We do find a single, 16 year old Josephine M. Bednor in Buh Township, Morrison County, Minnesota, about 100 miles north of Marysville.  She lists her parents as from “Austria (Ger)”.  This Josephine is a servant on the farm of John Premersberger (who, according to a 1907 Plat Map of Buh Township in Morrison County, owned 180 acres in section 35). The census document spells his name as Preimesborger.  He and his wife are 53, have been married 33 years, had 14 children of whom 11 were living.  They and their parents were from “Austria (Ger)”.  In 1910, seven sons ages 10-25 were living and working on the farm with their parents.  Could this be our Marie Josephine?
1910 US Census  Buh Township Morrison County MN - Josephine M Bednorz

We know that Marie’s brother John marries Mabel Christianson of St. Paul (Ramsey County MN), possibly around 1919, and in 1930 they are living in St. Paul.  Is it possible that John and Marie are living in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area in 1910?  Family lore says Marie meets William (who calls himself Arthur) while working at the Golden Rule store in St. Paul.  And they marry in Minneapolis.  So Marie had to be in Minneapolis before 1914 if family lore is even partially correct.

In searching the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for John, we find a  Mary Bednorz (or Bednorg)  living at 2305 Bloomington Ave in Minneapolis (Hennepin County).  This Mary is a lodger with the French-Canadian Joseph Payette family who have lived at 2311 Bloomington Ave for many years.  Based on previous census information for this family, they have never had a daughter named Mary.

This Mary Bednorz is 20 years old, in school with no occupation.  She was born in Minnesota, but parentage is listed as Canada-French for both parents.  It’s possible that the census taker first assumed Mary was a Payette family member as there is the horizontal line left of her name, indicating Payette as the last name.  Bednorz (or perhaps Bednorg) is written over the line.  Is it possible the census taker completed Mary’s line assuming relationship to the Payette family and was then corrected and didn’t follow through with changing the parentage?  Could this be our Marie Josephine, padding her age in an adult world? 
1910 US Census - MN Minneapolis (Hennepin) - Mary Bednorz

A mystery to be sure.  Especially since Marie and William now disappear from the records.  So far I have not found their marriage license.  The vital statistics clerk for Hennepin County  looked for all sorts of combinations of Sullivans and Bednorz to search her records and none come up at all. We have found a birth registration for Lu, but not for Edwin.

And we know that in 1920, Marie and WmA along with sons Lucius and Edwin are living in Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada.  Therefore there will be no 1920 US Census data for them.  We won’t see them on a census until 1930 when they are living in Oshkosh (Winnebago WI). What was going on in their lives between 1910 and 1930?  We have family lore, digging up family documents will be harder.  

There are still many holes to plug in understanding Marie Bednorz’ background before and just after her marriage to William A. Sullivan.  Sigh.  I wish someone had saved these important  documents for Marie and William.  

Using Census Data to Find Grandma

We, the Sullivan descendants, have a family lore about Grandma and Grandpa’s life.  We have birth and death dates, a few notes written by Sullivan siblings, and Sulli Cuzzin stories to accompany photos posted on our family Facebook page.  But how do we know any of these second hand stories are true?  How do we know what Grandma and Grandpa’s lives were really like?  Collecting as much information as possible from as many sources as possible is the first step in documenting our family story.  The second is confirming the facts of the story.  That means finding the family in vital records, in newspaper clippings, on plat maps, in cemeteries and any other documented sources we can find.  This part is both fun and frustrating.

One very useful source is the US Census.  The census is taken every 10 years and has been since around 1800. Census documents are kept private for 70 years before being released publicly.  The most recently released census is 1940, too early for any of the Sulli Cuzzins to be recorded.  The 1950 census will be released in 2022.  I hope I live that long!
1900 Census for Andrew Bednorz Family, Buffalo Township, Cass County, ND

Sadly, there are only 6,000 records remaining of the 62,000,000 records gathered in the 1890 census.  The original records were damaged and some destroyed in a 1921 fire in the Commerce Building in Washington, DC.  The remainder were destroyed by act of Congress in the 1930s.  That 20 year gap can be hard to fill in.  However, in Wisconsin and Minnesota, there were State censuses taken in 1895 and 1905 which can help fill in the missing information.

Finding people in the Census is not always an easy task.  Census takers wrote the information by hand, sometimes in illegible handwriting, often misspelling names.  For that matter, people changed their names seemingly at will.  Grandpa Sullivan appears in census documents as William, Augustine, or Wm A.  Grandma was listed in various census documents as Marie, Mary, Marree, or Josephine.  Bednorz was spelled Bednor, Bednar, Bednarz….well, you get the picture.  Then there are the indexers – people who read the census to create an index of the names found, making the information searchable in a database.  Without an index, you would have to page through all the documents for a town to look for your ancestor’s name.  Not too hard in 1850, but the population was significantly larger in 1940.  Indexers make mistakes too.  For example, Marie was indexed as Mance in one census.  But with some idea of where families were at a given time, some creative searching, and a lot of patience, you can be rewarded with a snapshot of the family at a given moment in time.  

Nancy and I have been working at finding out about the early lives of Grandma and Grandpa - Marie Josephine Bednorz and William Augustine Sullivan.  Check out the next post for what we've found so far for Marie.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Do You Know This Man?

Nancy and I have been working on finding records to confirm the information we've been given from all our various sources.  Today we found Lucius Arthur Sullivan's birth registration.  Uncle Lu is my mom's oldest brother and first child of Marie J (Bednorz) & William Augustine Sullivan.  Look at what we found:

Birth Registration for Lucius Sullivan

Look at who the father is: Arthur O. Sullivan.  Well, now, I'm pretty sure that Grandma wasn't sleeping with a different Sullivan so soon after getting married.  So it looks like Grandpa Sullivan wasn't too worried about using his legal name on his son's birth record.  Was he thinking he might someday want to deny his paternity of Lu?  (Just kidding)  And what about the O?  A bit of a flourish, don't you think?

Of course, this provides support for the stories we've heard that Grandma always called her husband Arthur - I can see why.  And Lucius' middle name certainly is Arthur as Aunt Tiny (real name Dorothy) asserts in her memoir I referenced yesterday.

Nancy and I are trying to figure out how Grandma and Grandpa met.  We know that in 1905, William A is living in Marshfield WI.  That was not easy to confirm. It turns out you would have to search for Augustine in that census as Grandpa is not listed as William at all.  But he is living at home with his parents Michael (car repairer) and Catherine, his sister Mary (a dressmaker) and brother David (still in school).

We know that Marie is living in Marysville, Wright County MN with her family.  They moved to a farm here shortly after the 1900 Census was taken where they were listed as farm laborers in Buffalo Township, Cass County, North Dakota.  Her dad lists himself as a farmer in the Minnesota 1905 census.  John is no longer at home, but all the others are: Henry, Frances, Marie, Paul and Gertrude.  (You can't search for Marie Sullivan in this census - her name just won't come up.  It turns out that the indexer for this census transcribed Marie's name as Mance)

We also know that in the 1910 US Census, neither Marie nor William are living with their families.  But searches of Minneapolis areas have yet to turn up either or both of these characters.  We know they married in 1914 in Minneapolis, so it is likely they are in that area.  More research needs to be done.  Stay tuned - or better yet, join in.  Let us know what you can find, or what you might have hidden in your own family archives.

Lucius Arthur Sullivan

Rumor has it that Marie is a dressmaker working in the Minneapolis area.  We know that Augie (Augustine, Bill, Arthur, William A.) is now in the lumber industry as he was listed as a lumber scaler in the 1905 Wisconsin State census. Simple searches don't turn up the names William A Sullivan or Marie Bednorz in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, but I feel sure they're hiding out somewhere in one of these states.  As we've learned, names can get messed up as indexers transcribe handwritten documents.  More patience will be needed to close this gap.

But thanks to you, Uncle Lu, we have confirmed one of our Sullivan mysteries!  We love you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

By George she's got it!

Major organizational success here!

I've been working on organizing my document "stash" since August.  Stash is the right description for the state of affairs when I started - assorted piles, files, and boxes - many of which I had used to document events in my Legacy genealogy program on my computer - none of which I could reliably find when needed. 

Since I'm relatively new at genealogy, I knew from the small number of documents I currently have and the disorganized mess I had made of them, that I needed to figure this out before moving forward with more research.  Here's what I ended up with:

Original files binders, one per grandparent surname: Hanson, Hintz, Sullivan, Bednorz. Of course the Sullivan binder is GREEN!

Subsections in the binders for types of document: artifacts, birth, census, church, death, family tree, ID, immigration, legal, marriage, military, newspaper clippings, and personal correspondence. 

With a ton of help from my sister Nancy, each original was scanned then put into archival page protectors.  Each page protector was labeled so it could be put away again.  The label included the binder surname, a file ID number, the subsection name, the name of the person, the year of the document and any description needed. 

Digital files were renamed LastNameFirstNameYYYYDescriptionFileIDNumber (example: SullivanPat2009Will00003.pdf) and filed in my Dropbox folders that were set up to match the binders. 

The pièce de résistance is the Excel spreadsheet I made that connects the digital and print copies of the original document.  Now I can look at the spreadsheet and find any file - digital or print - quickly.  I can sort by surname or by file name to find all the documents related to a family or an individual. 

A huge weight has been lifted but a ton of work still needs to be done. At least now I've got a way to move forward without creating an even bigger mess. 
It wouldn't be fair to claim credit for all this progress.  First I need to thank Nancy Walters who has been coming by for weeks to help figure this all out. She puts things away when done with them. Novel concept. Then I have to acknowledge all the helpful tips, ideas and confessions from the Facebook Organized Genealogist group.  I borrowed much wisdom from them in finding my personal solution.  

Now if only my house were this organized. Is it too early in the day for a celebratory glass of wine?

Monday, September 23, 2013

William Augustine Sullivan Revisited

William Augustine Sullivan

I've been re-reading a memoir written by Aunt Tiny and feeling like I should be sharing some of her stories about Grandpa William.  I also entered his military registrations for WWI and WWII today and learned some new things.  So, more on Grandpa Sullivan tonight.

I'm not sure when Tiny wrote her memoir - 12 typewritten pages of stories about people and places growing up.  My Mom thought it was around 1999 and was likely after Aunt Toots (Sister Augustine) passed in April of 1999.
Aunt Tiny is actually Dorothy Gertrude, 4th child of Marie and William A.  Her Dad nicknamed her Tiny because she only weighed 4 pounds when born.  In Tiny's words : 

Dorothy Gertrude Sullivan
Dad was born in Erin, Wisconsin on June 17, 1877 of parents Michael Sullivan and Catherine Whelan. He was named William Augustine but when he met Mama he told her his name was Arthur so she called him Arthur as long as I can remember and Lu’s middle name was Arthur. So… his mother called him Augie, Mama called him Arthur and his friends called him Bill. We called him Daddy, then Dad.

Dad had a sister Mamie, two years older than him and a brother several years younger, Dave. Though Toots and I went to Marshfield several times for visits, I never met Aunt Mamie. She was always working out of town. The only recognition I have of Uncle Dave was a photo of him in his World War I uniform.  He died at the young age of 27 from tuberculosis.

Dad was a small man and a very persnickety dresser; he had a thin face with dark hair and eyebrows and wore glasses. I swear, he looked the same when last I saw him. He always seemed to be ‘older’ to me but he was just “Dad’. We also knew that he was ten years older than Mama but that fact was not true. I sent for my Dad’s birth certificate in 1988 when I was having difficulty getting a passport for a European trip and his certificate gave his birth date as 1877, sixteen years older than my mother. I wonder if she ever knew.

The only photo I have of my dad is one that was taken in Canada – he was sitting on an outside stoop, hat perched jauntily on his head, with Lu on one side of him and Eddie on the other. He seems to be proud of his two sons so neatly dressed in their winter woolens and wooly stocking caps, also boots.  He called Eddie ‘Sonny’. 
Lu, William A. and Eddie Sullivan, Le Pas, Manitoba Canada

I have no idea what prompted Dad to pull up stakes in Canada and move to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Perhaps it was at this time that he became employed by the W. G. Wheeler Company of Rockford, Illinois; I know he became a lumber broker for that company and traveled for them, quite extensively, and Oshkosh may have been a central location....The state’s second largest city in 1866, Oshkosh became known as the ‘Sawdust City’ and the ‘Lumber Capital of the World’ with sawmills lining the Fox River and producing over one million board-feet of lumber....

Dad was traveling now with a Model A black Ford company car. He’d take his big, brown leather grip and set off for the week. On return he’d reacquaint himself with the children, have a good dinner and set off for a neighborhood tavern to co-mingle with his men-friends. He was ‘Bill’ to the men. He was making a good salary at that time.  Tiny Sullivan

My other re-discoveries today were Grandpa Sullivan's WWI and WWII military registration cards.  These are in the National Archives and Records Administration repository.  I accessed them through and downloaded the record copies.  For both wars, he was too old, but was required to register anyway.

Wm A. registered in 1918 while living in Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada.  He had his statements witnessed by the police magistrate of Le Pas and then mailed back to the Wood County Local Board.  According to his card, Wm A. was 41 years old, a lumber inspector for the Finger Lumber Company in Le Pas. He lists his mother, Catherine of D St in Marshfield, WI as next of kin.  The registrar noted that he was short, of medium build, light blue eyes, dark brown hair and no visible physical impairments.
WWI Registration for William Augustine Sullivan

When he registered in 1942 for WWII, William was divorced from Marie and living in Milwaukee at 737 No 15th St,  He has a phone number.  He is 64 years old and lists his birthplace as Hartford, WI. (He was actually born in Erin Township.)  The registrar notes that he is 5 foot 6 inches tall, weighs 147 pounds with blue eyes, grey hair and a ruddy complexion. He is employed by Quirk Crate Company, E Layton Drive in Cudahy WI.  He lists his daughter Anne, 50 Northwestern Ave, Oshkosh, as the person who would always know his address.  That would imply that he remained in touch with Anne at least somewhat. Sali, did your Mom ever talk about Grandpa?

WWII Registration William Augustine Sullivan
The Quirk Crate Company made wooden milk crates.  Someone was selling this crate on Etsy.

The North 15th St address doesn't have any vintage homes anymore.

I'm sure Bill/Augie/Arthur was a less than ideal husband and family provider, I still wish that I might have met him to know him myself.  His children write fondly about him - at least in his early years.

But I remember that about my own father - he was much more fun and approachable when my sister Nancy and I were young than when he and my Mom were struggling to raise 6 kids.  As I learn more about these grandparents, I discover that I have traits in common with them.  I learn to appreciate them as adults navigating a difficult world, something I couldn't know or appreciate when I was a child.  We had such fun in Oshkosh.  It could have been a totally different experience.

Visiting Grandma & Grandpa Sullivan's Graves

We had a week between Mom's funeral (Aug 6, 2013) and burial (Aug 13, 2013) - due in part to the massive storms that wreaked havoc on the infrastructure of Appleton the night before the funeral.  It took a few days longer than normal to get a death certificate processed in order to complete the cremation.

During this time, my  brother Dale, sister Nancy and I headed to Riverside Cemetery in Oshkosh to try to find Grandma & Grandpa Sullivan's graves.  William Augustine and Marie Josephine Bednorz Sullivan are my Mom's parents, my maternal grandparents.  I had never visited their graves.

Dale had been to the Sullivan grave site and had a vague memory of where the graves were.  However, after wandering a couple of sections along the river with no results, Dale resorted to calling Uncle Gerry to ask where Grandma was buried.  Besides directions - which Uncle Gerry had written down in his files (and could find in just a couple minutes of looking- Impressive!) - Gerry had stories to explain why Grandpa was buried next to Grandma - not at all a given since they had been divorced since 1936.

Dale Hanson communing with Grandma Sullivan
Grandpa Sullivan died March 14, 1957.  According to Gerry, he was a drinker, an alcoholic who spent the family's hard-earned money on treating his bar mates to drinks and buying expensive items (like $10 shoes) for himself.  Money was always tight and children were numerous.  Gerry says that when his Mom confided in a priest about how Augie was ruining the family with drinking and spending, keeping them in poverty in spite of her working to earn extra money, the priest suggested Marie leave her husband. Probably not in so many words, since Catholics don't divorce, but the implication was clear. (What an enlightened priest!) So she did. Gerry was no older than 18 months when the divorce was finalized in 1936.

After that, Gerry told us, Augie only contacted Marie when he had a "business scheme" he wanted Marie to invest in.  But Marie always knew that his only business was getting some personal spending money because he had drunk away all that he had and couldn't pay his bills.  Gerry seemed to think that Grandma would give him some food money and send him on his way without getting taken in by his schemes.  I wonder whether any of the children ever saw him again.  I need to ask Gerry.

At the end of his life, Grandpa was living in Milwaukee. My Mom always said Grandpa fell on a radiator (the old steam kind that got really hot) and died of his injuries.  A death certificate would help confirm or clarify this family story.

He died when I was 9 years old, and until then, I didn't even know of his existence.  I had always thought that Al Chappa was our grandpa, and  one day while I was still little, he mysteriously disappeared from Grandma's living room, never to be seen again.  No one talked about him after that. Since he never interacted with us, I didn't think much about it. I didn't really have a relationship with "Grandpa Al"

"Augie's" funeral was in Oshkosh - I remember a bunch of us cousins being at Grandma's house while the adults all left in their dress clothes.  I understand now that they went to Grandpa's funeral held in Oshkosh.  My Mom kept the funeral card which only gives dates of birth and death. And the birth date on the card is incorrect - on purpose?  According to the copy of Wm A's birth registration (in my collection), his birthdate is June 17, 1877.  The year on the funeral card is 1874 and the year carved in the gravestone is 1883.  Did Grandma just not know the actual year?  Why did she have the stone carved 1883?  We'll never know.
Funeral card for Wm A. Sullivan

So Grandma paid to have Grandpa's body shipped from Milwaukee, paid for the funeral, bought a grave site and headstone at Riverside Cemetery.  All for a man who drained the family's resources.  To me, this is a testament to the Christian charity of my Grandma.  She never turned her back on the scoundrel.  And it also shows the strength and good sense of my Grandma.  She managed to raise 11 children, buy a house and live a comfortable life all on her own.  Quite a feat in her day.  Makes you wonder what kind of conversations they are having now that they are back together again, side by side under one gravestone.

Sullivan William A. (Father, 1983-1957)
& Marie J. (Mother, 1893-1972)

 If you go, Marie J. and William A. Sullivan are buried in Riverside Cemetery off Algoma Boulevard.  The grave site is about 20 yards south of the intersection of St. John and St Peter streets.  They are near the river, but a bit up (east) from the road that goes along the river.  Hopefully, the map below may help you find them.  While at Riverside, you might want to look for their daughter, Ann Sullivan Beutler and her husband Kenneth Beutler.  I don't know where their graves are. Hopefully cousin Sali can fill us in on their location within this humongous cemetery.

St John & St Peter streets intersection
north of the Sullivan grave site
View from the Sullivan grave site
looking west toward the river

Research notes:  My to-do list for fleshing out this part of our history

  1. find obituary for William A and Marie J Sullivan (Oshkosh library)
  2. interview Jerry about the funeral and Grandpa's cause of death and whether he or siblings ever saw him after the divorce
  3. interview Monica about funeral and cause of death and whether she or siblings ever saw him after the divorce
  4. find divorce papers (should be in Oshkosh); determine actual date of divorce
  5. find death certificate for William A and Marie J Sullivan (one in Milw, other Oshkosh)
  6. find Milwaukee address for Wm A
  7. find church where funeral was held (Oshkosh)
  8. find Ann and Ken Beutler graves, photograph
  9. Add this gravestone to Find a Grave