Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: No marker for Christian Hoffman

Instead of a tombstone for Christian Hoffman, next to the youngest of the immigrant family, all we have are these pages from the Lucas County Infirmary in Toledo, Ohio.

Lucas County Infirmary, County Home Registers, 1855-1882, (Vol. 1, filmed by Bowling Green State University), p. 88, "Name: Christ Hoffman, Age: 35, Place of Birth: Germany, When Received: July 11, When Discharged: July 12, No. of Days: 01, Township: Toledo, Remarks: Died July 12 th 12 1864 Congestian brain."

Henry Hoffman's brothers Christian and John came from Switzerland with their mother. They arrived in the port of New York on June 25, 1864 aboard the Goeschen from Le Havre.1 Having this information, I was puzzled to find no other records of 25-year old Christian. The sad answer came in Henry's 1889 biographical sketch which states that Christian had died at Toledo, Ohio, from smallpox.2

I couldn't imagine how to verify this death from long ago. At the Western Reserve Historical Society I looked at the books for Lucas County, Ohio, and checked cemetery transcriptions. Then I found a slender volume, an index to the register of the county home infirmary 1855 - 1882. And there was "Christ Hoffman" on a page immediately following the census of residents in June of 1864.3 This did not look like coincidence.

Dick and I later went to Toledo to visit the Lucas County Courthouse. At the Toledo library we viewed microfilm of the original register of the county home and printed the pages reproduced here. Three things seem to be in error: the name is shortened, the age is 35 and the birthplace is Germany. Since the 1889 bio said Christian was in delirium when accompanied there by a stranger from Switzerland, he probably couldn't provide information himself and we don't know if the stranger spoke English. I don't think this could be anyone else.

The entry shows Christian arrived on July 11 and died the next day, July 12, 1864, of "congestian [of the] brain." We don't understand how he came to be left at the home. The family must have traveled from New York by canal or train to Buffalo and then to Toledo on a Lake Erie steamer. There Christian was clearly too ill to transfer to land transportation.

Did they speak English? Did they have money to cover an emergency? And had they purchased tickets for their travel in advance in New York? It is likely that leaving Christian was the only thing they knew to do. Giving the contagion of smallpox and the awareness of it at this time, I wonder if the fatal disease was something else. It could easily have been epidemic typhus which can induce high fever and delirium and had common names such as "ship fever" and "brain fever."

Originally the poor farm, the county home and infirmary had a small cemetery, but it was moved for development. Most graves were unmarked. I hope to find records from the move, but it is unlikely Christian's grave was marked.

1. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, ), roll 242; Ship Goeshen, 25 June 1864, Christian Hofmann, p. 3, line 100.

2. Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess County, Illinois: containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of the State, and of the Presidents of the United States (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1889), 780, biographical sketch of Henry Hoffman: "[died] at Toledo, Ohio, from small-pox contracted on the vessel on the passage across the Atlantic. The particulars of his death were never fully known, as he was accompanied to that place by a stranger from Switzerland, who left him there in delirium. from which he never recovered."

3. Beverly Reed Todd, Indexer, Lucas County Home Infirmary Register: Vol. 1, Book 1, March 1855-February 1882 ([Ohio]: Lucas County Chapter, Ohio Genealogical Society, 1994), 42.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Madness Monday: When did Jacob Hoffman die? Where was he buried?

It is frustrating (maddening?) to be unable to locate death or burial information for one of the last surviving members of the immigrant Hoffman family.

Jacob Hoffman was the first born of the Hoffman family. As with all of the older family members, I do not know his birthplace, but the date is recorded in Oberglatt, their community (or gemeinde) of citizenship, as 16 December 1825. In the 1840s records show them residing in the community of Maur in Canton Zurich. There he married Elizabeth Zollinger on 6 October 1851. Their daughter Maria or Mary was baptized when they lived in Uessikon, a village in Maur. Her birth date was recorded as 5 December 1851.

Jacob’s brother Henry left Switzerland and took up residence in northwestern Illinois in early 1854. Jacob applied for a passport in August and followed on a long, arduous, journey to New York arriving 24 November 1854. With his occupation of carpenter, Jacob must have had plenty of work opportunities in the growing rural area of Derinda Township, Jo Daviess County, Illinois, where they settled.

Jacob’s wife and daughter followed him to Illinois in 1856 and they lived close to Henry for many years. Daughter Mary married another Swiss immigrant, Ambrose Benz, 6 December 1870. Two grandsons were born, Jacob in 1871 and Henry in 1873. Sadly Mary died 17 January 1875. In the 1880 U.S. census Jacob and his wife were enumerated with his niece Louiza, orphaned daughter of Caspar Hoffman, as well as son-in-law Ambrose Benz and the grandsons. They then lived in Woodland Township, Carroll County, which is adjacent to Derinda Township. The close family connection is illustrated by the fact that Jacob and Elizabeth stood witness to Ambrose’s second marriage in 1882.

Jacob experienced another loss when he wife died 29 December 1892. His next residence I’ve located is in the 1900 U.S. census when he was enumerated in Woodland Township as a boarder in the household of David Burk. David Burk (or Bork) has another family connection as the person in the process of purchasing land from Henry Hoffman at the time of Henry’s death in 1897.

When we visited the Carroll County courthouse in 2002 we were happy to find that the county has land record books that list all property transactions for each quarter section. Following the land Jacob owned, we learned that after his wife’s death he began selling his holdings in the NE quarter of Section 8, T25N, R4E (Woodland Township). He had some problems with it as one purchaser defaulted on his mortgage and on 2 June 1900 Jacob accepted a transfer of the mortgage to his grandsons Jacob and Henry Benz. A blank line was left for the money conveyed in the transfer. On 16 June 1900 the original mortgage holder, Samuel Larsen, and his wife signed a quitclaim deed to the Benz brothers. They, however, did not file the transfer until 25 June 1903. The transfer is recorded in Carroll County Miscellaneous Record Book 5 on page 123.

We have found no later record of Jacob Hoffman. We searched probate indexes in the Carroll County Circuit Court and found nothing. A book of funeral home records for Savanna does have a record for his wife’s burial, but not of his. The cemetery where she and their daughter are buried does not have a marker with his name. No cemetery transcriptions for either Carroll County or Jo Daviess County have his gravestone listed. Carroll County kept death records during this time period, but none could be found for him by a researcher at the Illinois Regional Archives Depository that holds microfilm of them.

Without any record of Jacob Hoffman’s death or burial, we can only approximate the date of his death. He was alive in June of 1900, but the land transactions seem to point to his demise sometime prior to 25 June 1903. We can only guess at reasons why his death and burial are not recorded, but the date seems to be in those three years.

Youngest brother John Hoffman of Savanna in Carroll County, Illinois was then the only surviving sibling in the family.

Hoffman Immigrant Family

Here is a chart of the immigrant family with the parents on the left and the children and their spouses on the right. At the top is Jacob, the oldest; it continues in chronological order. Remember to click on the image to see it full size!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hoffman Red Cabbage Recipe

I've just seen a blog post on family recipes (Sharing Family Recipes) and was reminded of a scrapbook page I did over three years ago featuring the red cabbage at family dinners as done by Jim Hoffman. Remember to click on the image to see it big enough to actually read the recipe.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Catherine (Hochrein) Hoffman & family

Well, maybe not wordless, but the text is part of this scrapbook page image.