Monday, April 1, 2013

MATRILINEAL MONDAY -- EMMA GRIMM EGLI -- researching an orphan

Emma Grimm was a mystery to me for some time and it seems, even to her own family when they stopped to think about it. Her daughter, Maude, wrote in the family memoirs written many years after Emma’s death:

“It seems impossible that we never questioned mom about such things. But it seems there was no reason for questioning. Perhaps it was because there were always a lot of people around and my mother certainly had her hands full taking care of her large family – so when was there time for reminiscing?”

What Maude wrote about her mother and what Maude shared with me in conversation was all I had to go on in learning more about Emma. Maude shared what she thought was correct from memories of her mother telling about her young life.

“Emma Grimm Egli was born on April 2, 1877, to Samuel and Katie BĂ«rger Grimm near Tremont, Illinois, in a small cabin surrounded by dense timber or woods. . . . .She was about three months old when her mother died. . . .

We know nothing of who cared for the baby after the mother’s death. Later her father married again and had four more children; two boys and two girls.

When mom was 12 or 13 years old the stepmother sent her out to the woods to see why her father was not coming home. . . . They found her father lying under a large branch of the tree. They figured he had already been dead several hours. . . .

After her father’s funeral, mother’s stepmother told her she would have to make her own way now as she could not afford to keep her, plus her four little children.

So at the young age of 12 or 13 years mom had to assume the responsibility of looking after herself. From our second cousin, we learned that our mother spent considerable time in her mother’s home, since Aunt Annie was a sister to mom’s mother. This would have been the home of her grandparents. But we never knew if her grandparents were still living or what their full names were. Mom and Aunt Annie were near the same age.”

This isn't much to go on especially considering that the Aunt Annie referred to here was not a Berger; her maiden name was Riggenbach.

I started this research before the days of online records, so I began by writing to Tazewell County. They do not have birth records from 1877.  There was no record for a Samuel Grimm and Katie Berger in Tazewell County. Maude had an old marriage certificate for Emma and Christian so I knew the date of their marriage and requested their marriage record from the county. I was shocked to find that Emma had listed her parents as Chris Grimm and Barbara Berger!  How did Maude get them so wrong? And by now Maude was gone and I couldn't even share this information with her, but I recalled Maude telling me that her middle names were after her grandmothers. Her name was Maude Barbara Katie. And her paternal grandmother had been a Barbara. And according to this, her maternal grandmother was as well. So who was Katie? And who was Sam?

I searched further and found Chris and Barbara’s marriage record but I didn’t find anything with names Samuel and Katie.  I was searching census microfilm at the library by this time and began to search Tazewell County, Illinois. But I knew the chance of finding the right Grimm’s would be difficult. If Emma was a first child and was born in 1877, they would not appear in 1870. And in 1880 I didn’t know who I was looking for. I didn't know who his second wife was. I found a few Chris Grimm’s but they had all been married to their current wife in 1877.

I decided to look into the Anna Riggenbach story. Anna Riggenbach had married another of the Egli boys – John Egli, who was Christian’s uncle.  I looked up their marriage record and found her parents listed as Jacob Riggenbach and Catherine Bier. I went to the 1880 census and found a Katherine Riggenbach as head of household. In her household were a large number of Berger children (listed as her children) and three Riggenbach children (also her children) as well as one 3 year old granddaughter – “Ami Grimmer.”  If this was Emma, then Katherine Riggenbach could well be my "Katie."

I moved on back to the 1870 census and once again found a Catherine Riggenbach, head of household and the first child listed is Barbara Berger.

I then went back to the 1880 census and looked for Chris Grimm – I found him listed as Chris Grimmer with a new wife, Mary. Now it was back to the marriage records. There they were – Chris Grimm and Mary Flickinger – his second marriage her first.

I also posted a query on the Rootsweb surname site for Grimm. I relayed the story of Chris Grimm’s death hoping someone from the family of the second wife would recognize it. And eureka! They did.  One of Mary Flickinger’s grandchildren responded. She knew the story of her grandfather's death [dying when a tree fell on him] and they had heard rumors of his previous marriage and another child but had no definitive information about Emma. At any rate, they were able to confirm his second wife, their four children, his death and their location in Illinois. And one of the other four children had been named “Sam.”

So, in spite of totally incorrect information in the family record, I had found Emma’s family. 

Emma's connection to me:


Swartzendruber, Maude Egli, author and compiler. Family Memoirs of Christian Benjamin and Emma Grimm Egli: during the first 35 years 1895-1930. Hesston, Kansas: n.p., 1983.

Egli - Grimm Certificate of Marriage. Hopedale, Illinois. Issued by Omish Church (sic),  Copy held in 2006 by Ida Egli, Kalona, Iowa.

USA. Illinois. Tazewell County. 1870 US Federal Census. Population Schedule. Digital images: NARA microfilm. Heritage Quest.

USA. Illinois. Tazewell County. 1880 US Federal Census. Population Schedule. Digital images: NARA microfilm. Heritage Quest.

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