Sunday, March 14, 2010

Slowly Breaking Through Emil’s Brick Wall

I’ve written about my second great-grandfather, Emil Miller, many times in this blog.  Each post reveals new information or new leads, and ends with next steps.  I’m happy to say that I have found more information, namely a divorce file, which is answering many of my questions (and of course posing new ones).

I had my favorite Chicago researcher, Cynthia, perform a search of the divorce record index for Cook County looking for a divorce for Emil and Hulda Miller from about 1891 to 1901.  She was able to find an index entry and passed along the case file number.  I then ordered the file from the Cook County Court Archives.  Surprisingly, the entire process only took about three weeks.

When the envelope came in the mail, I immediately opened it and starting skimming the papers.  On one of the first few pages was a listing of the children with their ages, matching my family.  Further proving it was the right family was the testimony of Hulda’s brother, Henry Wach.

So, I have the right family, and apparently my instinct about divorce was correct.  But the file held much more information, solidifying some hunches, but also making me ask more questions.

What Did I Learn?

First, my hunch about the 1900 census and Chicago city directory listings for Emil Miller living at 29 Clarinda was confirmed.  The summons was left at Emil’s usual place of residence, 29 Clarinda.  And Hulda’s testimony also noted that they had lived together on Clarinda.

The bill of divorce and Hulda’s testimony indicate that Emil had apparently “left” Hulda about 1895.  Hulda’s testimony further states that two of the children were living with Emil’s “mother,” and one was living with Hulda.  The divorce proceedings took place at the end of 1900, and with the information about the address, I am certain that the 1900 census listing is for Emil and his two sons, Henry and Emil.

There is no indication that Emil appeared in court or provided a deposition.

More Questions

Given the previous uncertainty of the 1900 census I found for Emil, I had always questioned who the “mother-in-law,” Mary Chewrinsky, was who was living in Emil’s household, if in fact it was the right family.  Now that I am certain that this is the right family, I am even more confused about who Mary is.  The summons states the following:  “Served this writ on the within named defendant Emil Miller by leaving a copy thereof for him at his usual place of abode with Mary Miller, his mother member of his family, a person of the age of 10 years and upwards, at the same time informing her of the contents thereof, this 14th day of November 1900.”  To further complicate things, Hulda states in her testimony that they lived on Clarinda Street “with his mother.”  So who is Mary?  Is it Emil’s mother who perhaps remarried taking the surname Chewrinsky?  Her death certificate doesn’t provide any additional clues.

Why did Emil and Hulda separate?  And why did Hulda wait five years to file for divorce.  My guess is that she filed at the end of 1900 because she had met someone she planned to marry (she remarried on 18 January 1901, just over a month after the divorce was final).

Original Questions Still Unanswered

When did Emil die?  I now know that he was alive in November 1900 when the summons was left at his home.  I would assume that since the divorce was granted in December 1900, he was alive at the time, even though there is no evidence he appeared in court or provided a deposition.  This assumption is based on the idea that the divorce would not have been needed had he died.  It is possible that he died between 1901 and 1909 and that sons Henry and Emil went to live with (or near) their mother in McHenry County, as I am able to place both of them there (Henry in 1909 and Emil in 1912; both sons eventually returned to Chicago).

When did Hulda die?  Research indicates that her second husband remarried again before 1920.  So it is possible that Hulda died between 1910 and 1920.  It is also possible they divorced during that time period.

Additional Information

The 1900 census indicates an immigration year of 1881 for Emil.  Since I was able to place the family at 29 Clarinda, I was able to find a voter register for Emil in 1892.  The register indicates that he had been in Cook County, Illinois for 11 years, suggesting that he moved straight to Chicago upon arriving in the U.S.  The voter register also indicates that he was naturalized on 17 October 1892 with papers filed in the Cook County Circuit Court.  An index search of naturalization papers did turn up Emil Miller living at 29 Clarinda, with a naturalization date of 17 October 1892.

Next Steps

  • Obtain a copy of the naturalization papers found in the index (mentioned above).
  • Keep searching for the correct death record for Emil, focusing on Chicago between 1901 and 1909.
  • Search McHenry County for a death record for Hulda between 1910 and 1920.  If that turns up nothing, look for divorce records in the same time period in McHenry County.
  • Try to figure out who Mary is.  Is it Emil’s mother?  The 1900 census indicates that they both immigrated in 1881, so it is possible.
  • Search for passenger lists for Emil leaving Germany around 1881 (+/- a few years).

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