What is the best kind of vacation for a genealogist?
A vacation that combines a visit with a good friend, meeting a newly-found cousin, a quite-altered family reunion and genealogically-related traipsing through four cemeteries in Iowa and Illinois...Priceless!!!
|The Clam Man in |
|Reunion was next door to this|
house that had belonged to our
|Crossing Mississippi River|
newly- found cousin
It all started over a year ago, when I visited my cousins in northern Illinois for visits and to gather family history information. As I was talking to these cousins about some of our half-cousins, I realized they seemed very unsure of whom I was referring.
So, I started planning a Pearce family reunion for July 2020. Never had organized a family reunion from scratch before, but I felt confident in my abilities. I had this, I could do this!! I mean...what could go wrong?! 😀😉
We were all in for quite the surprise when COVID-19 altered life throughout the world. It stopped all of us in our tracks for several months, before we started to venture out again.
Although our crowd of 100+ had dwindled down to 9, we choose to go forward with the reunion, only with some changes. Masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer were now as much a part of the plan as the visiting and talk of family history.
|After the reunion, we all paid|
respects to our Pearce ancestors
at the Pearce Cemetery,
The hubby and I spent the week before the reunion in Muscatine, Iowa, visiting a good friend of ours. Much time was spent along the Mississippi River, visiting local sites and cemeteries.
First cemetery was in Muscatine itself. I had no ancestors that had ever lived in Muscatine. However, I had recently discovered that my 4x-great grandfather's brother, Green Sparks, had moved to Muscatine at some point, and was buried there in the Greenwood Cemetery, along with his wife and two daughters.
Alas, this is one of those fruitless searches that turns up no stones or grave markers of any kind. The cemetery office has records that show they are buried here in this section, but we found nothing there.
Greenwood Cemetery: burial place of Green Sparks, Susan (Hunt) Sparks and two daughters.
A day trip up to Dubuque County to the small towns of New Vienna and Luxemburg where my maternal grandmother was born and raised. Some of her ancestors had arrived here in the 1830's, and her great-grandfather is actually mentioned in a Wikipedia article regarding St. Boniface Church in New Vienna, Iowa.
|St. Boniface Catholic Church.|
(Photo Credit: Eileen Moore)
If you would like to learn more about this church, I have provided the link here. However, below, you will find the section that mentions my 3rd great-grandfather, (Wilhelm) William Steffen, Sr.
"The church was 64 by 100 feet (30 m) with 22-foot (6.7 m)-high walls. A local resident, William Steffen Sr., was sent with two teams of horses to get three bells for the church. He arrived back in New Vienna just before Easter; the bells were raised in time to chime for the first time on Easter Sunday. This second structure was used until 1887."
The following three photos are three generations of my maternal grandmother, Mathilda (Steffen) Pearce, from her great-grandfather to her grandparents.
|William Steffen, Sr., my |
|Her grandparents, Theodore & |
Maria K. (Bonenkamp) Steffen
|And her parents, Frank W. and|
Josephine (Schulte) Steffen
Within a five-mile radius, I was able to visit two cemeteries (St. Boniface Catholic Church and Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church) in two very small towns that was the final resting place of most of my grandmother's siblings, ancestors, cousins and extended family back to the first immigrants from Germany.
Without time to consult my family history papers for specific ancestors, I took photos of all headstones bearing the following surnames: Steffen, Schulte, Trenkamp, Bohnenkamp and Sudmeier. As I sort through my photos and paperwork in the near future, I will certainly be including more posts about the Steffen line, I am sure.
As I thought about all of those ancestors I had just visited, it made me realize how much I missed two that were not to be found in either cemetery. My Grandma (Tilly) Pearce and her baby sister, Alice Morganegg.
In her 20's, my grandma had left her home in Luxemburg, Iowa and traveled to Kendall County, Illinois...with Aunt Alice eventually finding her way there, also.
Why, and When? What made these two young ladies set out for northeastern Illinois in the 1930's or so? I have not discovered the answer to this question yet, but I have not given up just yet! Lol
|The Steffen sisters: Catherine,|
Alice, Mathilda, Florence
Newly-found cousin and ancestors, Illinois and Iowa, a reunion and 4 cemeteries...and a relaxing visit with a good friend! All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better vacation!