Forty years ago, I had the foresight to ask my Grandma & Grandpa Lueders to write down what they remembered about their ancestors. They complied, and the handwritten letter that Grandma sent me is a real treasure. Most of what she wrote I have since confirmed, and expanded upon, from other source documents. But due to their recollections, I feel a more personal connection to real people. She included some little known anecdotes and often referred to people by the nicknames that they actually went by.
But some elements of the story are still a bit sketchy and mysterious. Take, for example, Grandpa’s Mother. They didn’t tell me much; only that her maiden name was Barbara Lauer; her mother died in childbirth; her father’s name was Johann; and he died when she was 12.
Of that, the only thing I have been able to confirm is her name. I have seen it many times in the birth and marriage records of her children. But the coolest occurrence of her name is on the inside cover of a Prayer and Devotional Book (in German) which was found among my Grandparents’ things. The year 1864 would suggest that it was given to Barbara Lauer when she was 12 years old which would be about right for a Confirmation gift. How I wish I knew who wrote her name in that book.
For the first 30+ years of Barbara Lauer’s life, I can only form a dim picture from a few entries in city directories and census records. Before I go on, I must point out that the Lueders had roots in both Milwaukee and Chicago and so it is quite possible that Barbara may have move back and forth between those two cities.
In the 1860 census we find this Lauer family living in Milwaukee, WI
Johann, 49, laborer
Johann, 17, mechanic
Barbara, 7, in school
Looks like the ideal family: dad, mom, two kids, one boy, one girl. Their ages a little spread out, perhaps. Johann is the right name for her father. But her mother had supposedly died well before this. Plus, Barbara Lauer went on to have five daughters of her own and didn’t name any of them Maria. Barbara is the right age and I think this is my Gr-Grandmother but I am not convinced Maria is her mother.
The next time we see Barbara Lauer she is 10 years older and had apparently entered into servant’s work.
In the 1870 Chicago census there is a Barbara Lauer, aged 18, servant, living with a family named Sterling.
In the 1872 Milwaukee City Directory there is a Barbara Lauer (she would be 20), a servant, living at the same address as Herman Mack. Herman was the “H” in H. & S. Mack & Co., which was a notable clothing firm in Milwaukee.
In the 1875 Milwaukee City Directory there is a Barbara Lauer (she would be 23), a servant, living at the same address as Mrs. Felbow and at least one other servant.
In the 1880 Milwaukee census there is a Barbara Lauer age 27 living with her brother Peter Lauer age 39. Peter is widowed with two daughters aged 16 and 8. Barbara’s occupation is “keeping house”.
This takes us up to within 3 years of the time that Barbara Lauer and August Lueders were married and starting their family. But, apparently, before that happened, there was another turn of events in Barbara Lauer’s life. I have not been able to find a marriage record for a Barbara Lauer anywhere. But I did find this marriage record for August Lueders and Mrs. Barbara Chorengel.
April 9, 1883; August is 28; Barbara is 30; it takes place in Chicago. Everything is right! I really think this is my Grandpa’s parents. But who is Mr. Chorengel and what happened to him. I assumed, of course, that he died. But I could find no record of that. In fact, “Chorengel” is a very unusual name that rarely shows up anywhere. And, as I said, there is no record of a Barbara Lauer ever getting married.
Then I found this item in the Chicago Daily Tribune for April 10, 1883
So Barbara was not a widow. She was divorced from August W. Chorengel for desertion. And if you do the math, the divorce was finalized on April 9, 1883; the very same day that August Lueders and Mrs. Barbara Chorengel got married. So it looks to me like they had to wait until the divorce was final and then they immediately walked down the hallway to the Justice of the Peace and got hitched.
One final note of interest:
I did eventually find August W. Chorengel – Barbara’s deserting ex-husband. Ten years after the divorce, he is mentioned in his father’s Last Will & Testament. Gerd F. Chorengel, his father, willed that after he and his wife were both gone everything was to be split equally among their four children. Simple as that! But then he threw in this final clause regarding only this one son.
“I hereby however order and direct that my son August Wilhelm Chorengel is to receive his share only on the express condition that he uses his full name August Wilhelm Chorengel otherwise his share shall be equally distributed among his brothers and sister.”
A rebel to the end. I’m thinking maybe he changed his name and went on the road as a jazz musician. But then I could be wrong.