Finding Lost Family Members – Or Not….

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing – Wernher von Braun

In a post about a circa 1907 family reunion on the Rightmeier homestead in Jewelllost family County, Kansas, I mentioned a great great uncle, August, we had lost track of.  A friend who has a gift for finding lost family  on the Internet decided to poke around for me.  I was humbled that she took time to do this.

 I had found an 1880 census record of an August G. Rehtmeyer on Ancestry that put him working as a “clerk in a store” in  Pocahontas, Bond, Illinois.  He was 19.
What We Found On August G Rehtmeier
  • He voted in 1890 while living at 819 W North Avenue, Chicago, IL
  • On November 24, 1887 he married Catharine Goldenbogen in Chicago, IL.  Sir name spelled Rithmeyer on the marriage license.
  • 1900 US Census shows him in Chicago at that same location with a wife, Kate and three children, Neta
  • (Nettie) (11), Walter (8) and Florence (5) Sir name spelled Rehtmeyr and occupation as a furniture dealer
  • He and Kate took a ship while cited as being a resident of Chicago and he went to Hamburg, on the Hamburg-Amerika line, a Dampfschiff (steam ship)
  • 1908 He’s married and going from Hamburg through a French port to New York
  • September 12, 1912 He, Kate and the two girls takes the ship President Grant from Boulogne sur Mer France to New York
  • 1920 Census he and Kate are living in Los Angeles on 3008 West 7th Street in a rental. He is listed as a furniture merchant and employer. The building there today looks about a 1920’s stor
    efront. It is probable they lived above the store he ran. Name shown as AG Rehtmeyr
  • Then I see him going from Hawaii to LA on a ship 1923 and he’s living in LA on Olive St in 1926. He voted in CA as a Republican.
  • Two places have his death mentioned: Jan 6 1929, Los Angeles, CA at age 67. He’s buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. He was considered American on all the ships manifests.

There is just one problem, when I went to update my family tree maker information,  I realized this was not my Uncle August! I had mis-identified the man from Pocahontas, IL.  I should have realized as the red flags arose:
  • My Uncle August was Konrad (Conrad) August rather than August G.  (forgot)
  • He was born in 1848 rather than 1861 (My uncle naturalized around 1861
  • My Uncle’s wife’s name was Maude (Martha) vs. Kate (Catherine)
Close But…
  • Yes, they were both from the same area of Germany, Lippe and traveled back to Germany at about the same time.
  • Name spellings were known to evolve due to literacy levels, accents and the manual manner in which records were kept. Even in our family the name Rightmeier took on a couple of variations in the 1800s.
  • My Aunt Maude’s name had only one source, a handwritten note on the 1906 family reunion photo – it could have been a mistake, etc. etc.
lost familyIn the end, when I compared who I thought was my uncle, with the known facts, I realized I had taken a wrong turn on the Ancestry hi-way.  (Sigh)
It was fun finding out about the August G. Rehtmeier family. After his death, the 1930 census shows his widow and two daughters, Nettie, never married, and Florence (Higby) divorced all living on Sunset Canyon Country Club Drive in Burbank.  It indicates that Nettie was administrating her father’s estate as an occupation.  This was the address of Kate and Nettie until at least 1950.  August G and Kate are buried in Forrest Lawn, Glendale. Their two daughters, Nettie and Kate are near-by side by side. Addie and Walter and buried in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, CA.
My husband and I lived in southern California for ten years.  As I was locating this information I kept wondering if I had an entire unknown branch of the family just over the hills of Pasadena.  I was both disappointed and relived when I found out these were not distant cousins.
Lessons Learned
This process has revealed a number of things:
  • It is amazing how you can recreate the lives of a branch of a family tree you knew nothing about – even if it is not your own!
  • The spelling of names needs verification.  This family had a lot of changes as did mine.
  • I was surprised at how excited I was as I discovered information on this family and at how disappointed I was when I realized we were not related!
Treasure Awaits In Lost Family Found
Finding family is a bit like finding lost or hidden treasure.  Sometimes that treasure, if is is indeed yours, comes with grime and soot of past broken relationships,  misunderstandings, and regrets.  As one gets past the accumulated grit, there is a joyful satisfying piece reinserted in one’s life.  At the same time, most of us have family with us here and now.  With the season of Thanksgiving upon us, I look forward to carving out time with family while carving the turkey and ham.
What can you do this week to embrace your family this week?  Please share in the comment section below and if you have not, already, subscribe!

I am a former air traffic controller, pilot, Aircoupe owner, married 42 years to a great guy. We live in a 125+ year old historic Victorian, enjoy cats, vintage anything, precious friends. My passion is Giving Lost Stories A Voice – Giving Found Materials Fresh Form and Purpose!

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