Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ring, Ring, New York Calling

About a week after sending my letter to Harry Bingle the phone rang.  A  Betty from Carthage, NY  called.  When she informed me the Harry Bingle in the nursing home wasn’t the one I wanted, my heart plummeted. She told me the Harry I wanted had died in 1968. Then she told me the Harry I was looking for was her father and Catherine Sauer Meyer her great-grandmother. She went on to say it was just by luck the letter had reached her. Someone on staff knew her and had recognized I was inquiring about her family and had passed the letter on.  Talk about serendipity.

She went on to tell me several of Johann Meyer’s descendants still lived in the area. Her family had kept in contact with the far flung offspring who’d left for Wisconsin but eventually had lost track of them. She was able to verify, the names I had for the girls, were correct. She promised to send me her Great- grandmother’s obituary which said the family had been from Strasburg, Alsace.  And she offered to do more digging in the records in her area when she had time.

Not long afterwards a Mr. Seyforth from Milwaukee Wisconsin e-mailed me.  He’d seen my query on Johann Meyer and thought we were looking at the same family. Several quick e-mails back and forth determined that we were indeed were and we each had information to share.

When I had begun my Meyer search both my Mother and Aunt Gert had mentioned that their parents occasionally made trips to Mondovi, Wisconsin to visit relatives. They weren’t sure who they were or which side of the family they belonged to.  When my new contact mentioned his Seyforth family had farmed near Mondovi I knew they must be the relatives my grandparents had visited. My mother had also mentioned a Jessie Koch and a Trilling from Sheboygan as Meyer relatives who came to their family gatherings. How they were related she didn’t know.

Soon I got a packet of printed material my Seyforth contact.  Someone in his family had compiled the family names birthdates at an earlier time and he included that along with his research. The papers gave the place of origin for the family as Alpheshiem,  Niederetses, France and listed the name of Johann’s first wife as unknown.  (Niederetses, I would later learn meant Alsace) Then it listed his children as:

Margaret  who had married a Phillip Welter and they had lived in Pepin county, Wisconsin.

Anna had married Fredrick Seyforth and lived in Mondovi, Wi.  He was also her step-brother and son of Julia, Johann’s second wife.  (No wonder my grandpa George had trouble keeping this family straight.  He had an uncle who was being raised by one of her daughters and an aunt who had married her son.)

Catherine (Kate)  had married in New York to Fred Sauer.

John,  who had married Mary Thomsen and lived in Cascade, Wi

Mary married a William Demand and lived in Sheboygan.  She had descendants by the name of Jessie Koch and a Hattie Trilling the names my mother had mentioned.

George  married a Sophie Allman and they’d gone to live in Aberdeen South Dakota around 1900.

Also included in the packet was a copy of this photograph taken in Plymouth, Wisconsin.


Meyer siblings. L-R Mary, Margaret, John and George taken about 1900

Johann Meyer married second, Julia Schleider Seyforth  Her children were:

Theresa who married Mr. Hoffman. ( The family said she was unable to have children and so adopted her half brother Johnann and Julia’s youngest son Augustus and lived in Wayne County, New York.)

Wilamina married a Mr. Sontag and lived in Clifton Springs, New York.

Fredrick married Johann’s daughter Anna Meyer.

Together Johann Meyer and Julia had children:

Charles  Meyer who live in Carthage, New York (father of Pierre and Edith)

Augustus Meyer Hoffman ( child adopted by half sister)  Family stories said his half -sister had been unable to have children so Julia and Johann had allowed her to adopt their youngest child.)

I now had two separate branches of the family to collaborate with.  Together we were able to fill out much of the family tree and account for not only the children of Johann but their children as well.  But there was still some details that eluded me including where in Alsace thy had come from?  Without a village name it would be next to impossible to trace the family back any further. Our collaboration had suggested several names: Strasburg from some of the girls obituaries, Airsheim from John’s marriage certificate and the Aphesheim suggested on the Seyforth document. With the exception of Strasburg I’ve been told the other places had never existed. It was suggested that perhaps the places had been eaten up as the city of Strasburg grew.  I also  needed to know the name of where Johann had died.  Who was the brother he went back to live with?  And of course I wanted what every genealogist wants to know, who were the parents?

For the next several years I added very little to my Meyer research until another descendant of the Meyer family contacted me. But that is another story to be shared another day.

Johann Meyer

Johann Meyer with some of his Seyfourth grandchildren. This photo was probably taken around 1870. I see a definite resemblance to my Grandfather George H. Meyer also one of his grandsons. What do you think?

Analysis of Pierre Meyer’s letter

(Johann Meyer, b. abt. 1818 -John Meyer b. abt. 1842, George H. Meyer b. 1888)

Pierre Meyer’s letter had confirmed most of what I had heard about Johann Meyer. He’d come from Alsace, his first wife died, he’d remarried and they had a hers, his and ours sort of family. It had given me the name of his second wife and their two sons Charles and August. It had also mentioned another son named George (not to be confused with my grandfather George) and that there had been four daughters. It confirmed they had first lived in Lewis county New York and had moved to Sheboygan county around 1863 and he had eventually had returned to Alsace.

Checking the 1855 census where I had found a John Maiars.I found the information matched -Johann was listed as age 37, making him born around 1818 and his wife Julia as age 43. The children listed were Margaret Mairars age 16, Catherine – age 15, Anna – age 14, John – age 10, Mary – age 8, Joseph age – 11, Charles age 1. Listed as Saefart’s were Fredrick age 17, Aiwivina age 18. With the name Julia for the wife, and her Seafart children also listed I was confident I had the right family. And now I had names for the four daughters.

If I had this information now I’d have gone straight to and other on-line sources to do further searches but in 1997 things weren’t that easy. I still had no married names for the girls making them difficult to trace. So I did what many a genealogist does I entered all the information I had on Johann and John Meyer into a Meyer mailing list as well as the two counties they had lived in hoping someone else might tracing him and be able to fill in the missing pieces. In the meantime I moved on to other lines.

Then one day while cleaning I again ran across the scrapbook Grandma Rose had kept. As I flipped through it’s pages an obituary fluttered out. I had read it before. It was for a Charles Sauer whom my mother said had been a good friend of her Dad’s. She said they had worked as farm hands together and had enjoyed great times her Dad spoke of often. I had pointed out the obituary said Charlie had lived all of his life in New York. But she said he must have come to Wisconsin during the summers because she was sure her Dad had worked with him on a farm in his teens.

Since I had not been working on the family history at the time, I never questioned it. Now, it seemed odd. Then a name jumped out at me-Catherine Meyer. Charles Sauer was the son of a Fredrick Sauer and Catherine Meyer and he had lived in Naumburg, a town near Croghan, NY. Catherine was the name of one of the girls on the 1855 census. Was this Catherine, John Meyer’s sister? If so, Charlie was my Grandfather’s cousin and his mother, his aunt.

The obituary was dated 1962 and stated that Charlie had lived all his life on the family homestead and never married. His only survivor was a nephew Harry Bingle. This nephew might hold the key to the answers I sought but was he even alive. More than 30 years had passed since Charles had died. answers I sought.

I searched the on the internet for an address and phone number for a Harry Bingle in Lewis county, New York. I found one but the address was for a nursing home. Was he still alive and if so would he be well enough to give me the information I sought? Ever hopeful, I dashed of a letter with the information I had. And once again I began the waiting game.

A Letter From Pierre Meyer -1939

What follows is a letter written by Pierre Meyer searching for more information on his Grandfather Johann Meyer in 1939.

Dear Miss Anne E. Crawford,                                                                                September 20th, 1939

Thanks for the information in your letter of September 9th.

The three land purchases you referred to, if they were made by my grandfather must have covered some other land other than the farm on which father was born in Naumburg ( authors note: this would be Naumburg, Lewis County, NY) on May 10, 1954.  Grandfather Meyer came to America and originally settled on a farm near Belford. We have no record of the year he came but believe it was the year 1848 or 1849 and perhaps it was 1850.  He came to America with his first wife and I think five children, four daughters and one son, John.  He built a log house on a farm in Belford Where George was born.  His wife died either in the winter or early spring after George was born and was buried in the clearing not far from the log house.  The following year, probably 1851 or 1852 he moved with his children to Naumburg.  Don’t know whether he moved on the farm in Naumburg, where father was born, or bought it after he moved his family to that village.

He married as his second wife, Julianna Schlieder (known as Julia) who was the widow of Frederick Seyfert.  Frederick Seyfert and his wife, Julia with four children, came to America in the spring or summer of 1846 and settled on the first farm on the right hand side of the river road, between Naumburg and Carthage.  The house is still standing.  She was living in the Seyfert farm at the time of her marriage to John Meyer, and at that time he owned the adjoining  farm towards Carthage, which must have been bought in  1852.  In the fall of 1853 he started to erect a very fine home on the farm. A superior house to those found on a farm in those days, The family moved into the house about three weeks prior to father’s birth on May 10, 1854. The house is still standing.  At the time it was built it was the largest house in that vicinity and may travelers took it for a tavern as it was larger than  many of the hotels in those days.  Father’s brother, August Lewis Meyer, was born in the same house in the year 1856.   When he as about six months of age he was adopted by his half-sister, Theresa Seyfert Hoffman, and now living in Newark, NY.  Several years prior to father’s death, he visited the old farm, went through the old house.  Father said the interior of the house, including the wood box, which he use to fill as a boy, was just as it was when he was a boy.

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Grandfather Meyer must have been a man of some means.  At the time he came to America he had sufficient capital to buy the farm from land agents in New York City or prior to coming to America (author’s note:  he may well have bought the land before coming. Land agents were active in Alsace touting the wonders of buying land in Lewis County, NY )  Don’t think he would have made the purchase if he he’d inspected it before buying. At any rate, he had sufficient capital to dispose off it at a loss and move to Naumburg where he bought a very good farm, and as stated, built a large house.

Grandfather Meyer disposed of the farm and other real estate he owned in Lewis County and moved with his wife and unmarried children to Wisconsin when father was around 9 years of age.  Don’t know when,  the year was 1863 or 1864 but I believe it was the year 1863.  They settled on a farm west of Sheboygan, near Cascade.  Just when grandmother Meyer disposed of her property, which she inherited from her first husband Seyfert, I do not know.  Believe he died in the year 1848.

The above information has been give to you with the thought that it might aid you in locating other land purchases Grandfather Meyer made prior to the year 1860 in the town of Croghan, which I would greatly appreciate if you would look up in the Lewis County records for me and in turn I am willing to pay you for the trouble.
 When grandmother Meyer died she instructed her son, August L. Hoffman, to have her tombstone made with “Mayer” instead of Meyer, saying that was the correct spelling of the name.  Father’s cousin, Ernst Schlieder told father and I many years ago that on the early tax records in Naumburg, the name was “Mayer.” I do not know whether the spelling of the name was changed from Mayer to Meyer while they lived in the Naumburg district or after moving to Wisconsin.

The trip to Wisconsin was made by traveling over land to Cape Vincent and taking a boat from Cape Vincent to Sheboygan  Father told us many times about the trip when the family moved to Wisconsin.

To the best of my knowledge, grandfather Meyer came from some small village in the Alace-Lorraine section of Germany and was 3/4 German and 1/4 French.  Of his ancestry  I do not know which side was French descent.  They came here after the the Prussian and French war at the time Alsace-Lorraine was lost to France.  Grandfather Meyer and his wife, after living in Wisconsin a few years, moved to Wayne County (NY)  and settled on a small farm near Farifield about six or seven miles from Newark, NY. In the year 1870 he divided with his wife the wealth they had acquired and she went to live with her daughter, Thersa Seyfert Hoffman in Newark and he went back to to Germany to live with his brother’s family. When he got back to Germany he only stayed two days there  and returned to America again due to the outbreak of the war in that section, at which time Germany regained the Alsace-Lorraine territory.  Grandfather Meyer spent about 1-1/2  years in America visiting all his children and then returned to Germany again in the year 1872 and died in his 90’s sometime after 1900.

Father was no hand at corresponding with his relations other than his own brother, August, and frequently with his half-brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.  As a child I do not ever recall him receiving a leter from his father.  At the time of his death he left a small estate, which was settled by the attorneys in Germany – a check was sent ot his sister in Wisconsin and in turn was divided equally among the children.  I have not not been able to obtain any information from any one of father’s half-brothers or sisters or descendants as to where the family came from in Alsace-Lorraine, or where he died.  There is no question in my mind but that the family was German or at least he stood for the German ownership of the district in which he came form, otherwise, he would not have made the trip to his old home in 1870, staying two days and returning to America  and then in turn going back to his home land two years later for permanent residence, if he had not been in sympathy with Germany.

A stated, you will be doing me a great favor Miss Craword if you will  dig up what records are available covering land purchases made by Johann Myer or Mayer.  He was always know as John in the family.

Authors Notes:   Alsace was a part of France when Johann Meyer immigrated with his family to the United states.  There had been a war with in the 1815-1818 period but the Franco Prussian war he refers to was not until 1870. After 1815 Alsace faced economic and demographic factors that led to hunger, housing shortages and lack of work.  These conditions led many to seek life elsewhere including the U.S. and were the most likely factors in Johann’s decision to move his family to the U. S. The years between 1830-1850 saw many from that region move to new areas.

Charles is correct in that Johann could very well may have gone to Alsace and decided to return to the U.S because of Franco Prussian war – the dates work.  Whether or not he was sympathetic to the Germans or just wanted to escape a period of war is unknown. After the Franco Prussian war Alsace was controlled by Germany until after WWI.  Also it is important to remember that the united Germany we think of today did not exist until 1874.

Coming soon-  What are the names of all Johann’s children and where did they live?

Meyer Family

L-R back John Meyer, George Meyer standing behind Rose Uelmen Meyer, Arno Myer in back of Mary Meyer wife of John Meyer holding Gert Meyer, Camilla Meyer standing next to husband Frank Charles Meyer. The little boy in front is Rose and George’s son John Meyer as is the baby girl named Gert in her Gandmother Meyer’s arms.

In Search of Johannes-

(Johannes Meyer b. 1816, father of John Meyer b. abt. 1842, father of George H. Meyer b.1888)

Sometimes all it takes is the right piece for a puzzle to fall into place, genealogy is often works the same way. And the right piece to solve the Johannes puzzle was alluding me.

In the previous post I had said that John Meyer’s marriage certificate stated Johannes Meyer was his father and in the 1880 census John was living in Cascade, Sheboygan county, Wisconsin. But my search to find Johannes living in the same area had come up blank. Had he died? Did he live somewhere else? If so where? His Meyer name was far too common to hope to find without some concrete clues.

My Mom and aunts suggested I contact their cousin Margaret Meyer. She was happy to hear from me but couldn’t add more than I already knew. She did say though that her parents had been good friends with Pierre and Edith Meyer. They had vacationed together, yearly, in Florida.She thought she remembered something about her father being named for their father which would mean John had a brother named Charles. She didn’t know where they had lived in NY and without a way to narrow my search I stayed stuck.

Then one day my Mom called me all excited. She’d been cleaning cupboards and found a pamphlet about a De Spyster family in New York and the Meyer and Roosevelt’s were named. My body tingled as she read about the De Spyster history going back into the Colonial times. Then had her reread it. Yes, a Charles Meyer was mentioned but he was married to a De Spyster. No one in the interesting history she’d read were related to us. Once I got past my initial disappointment I realized though it still contained an important clue. The Charles Meyer had children and they were named Pierre and Edith. Better yet it said they had all lived in Lewis County, New York. I had a place to look.

Time to go back to the census. I found a record for a Johannes Meyer in Lewis county in 1855 and 1860 plus a naturalization record. But I didn’t know enough about him to be sure he was the right one. I decided to send a letter to the Lewis county Historian to see if she could shed some light on the man.

I wasn’t expecting much after all if my Johannes had lived there it was a long time ago. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find a letter from the past residing in my mailbox a few weeks later. Who had written it is a rather long story so I will save it for my next post.

Why Cascade?


(Home of John and Mary Meyer in Cascade abt. 1912)

Growing up my family never celebrated old customs or made traditional foods the way many of my friendsdid. We were American, that was good enough.  And it was – except I wanted to know more.

My paternal grandfather told me his family had come from the south. He thought they might have owned a plantation and had moved North because of slavery. But he had no idea where or when they had originally came here.

My mother, on the other hand, knew her grandparents had come to the U.S. as children. She thought they’d come from Prussia to avoid it’s warring ways. Why they’d chosen to live in Wisconsin or if they’d ever lived elsewhere in the U.S she couldn’t say.

She’d heard the Meyer’s were somehow connected to the Roosevelt’s of NY and her Dad had two cousins who lived in upper NY by the name of Edith and Pierre. She thought they might be rich as they wintered in Florida. Later she remembered that her grandpa Meyer had come from Alsace Lorraine and his wife from Denmark. And there had a been some kind of remarriage in the family with a his, hers and ours sort of family. She thought it was probably John’s parents and that one of them had returned to live in Europe. Two things she was sure of, her grandfather had been a shoemaker and he and his wife, Mary Thomsen had raised their family in Cascade.

While she didn’t know much about her grandparents my mother did know lot more about her Meyer uncles. She knew the oldest had been born inn 1883 and a still older son had died as an infant.That meant John Meyer would have had to have married no later than 1880-81. My first search was to see if I could find him in the 1880 census.

Today I could pull up the record quickly using my computer but In the 1990’s I had to find both the Wisconsin 1880 census and it’s index in a library. Lucky for me my local branch had both. Scrolling through the microfilm I found a John Meyer,living in Cascade, single, age 35, boarding with a August Hafemeister. Both men were shoemakers and John had been born in France. Since Alsace was part of France, he sounded like my man. Better yet, a few entries down was a Mary Thomsen, age 20, a servant for the hotel keeper. Schleswig, a part of southern Denmark, was listed as her place of birth. Chances were she was soon to marry the shoemaker.     

I felt sure I had the right people but I needed more proof. Plus, I still wanted to know when had they come to Cascade and who were their parents? Had they come alone as teens or with families?  I decided to write to the Sheboygan county genealogy society and see if someone could find their marriage record.

(The below photo if beside in the yard of John Meyer. He is the gentleman on the far right)


While I waited for an answer I shared the information I’d found with my mother.  She in turn unearthed a scrapbook her mother had kept. It was a mish mash of stuff, most having nothing to do with the family, but in the very back she had written down the names of the Thomsen side of the family. Now I had Mary’s parents and siblings names and birthdates. No town name was given but she did say they had come from Schleswig a part of Denmark.

Meanwhile I went back to the 1880 census for Cascade and found Mary’s parents Thomas and Anna Thomsen. He was a wheelwright. Not long afterwards I received the marriage record in the mail. A John Meyer, son of Johannes Meyer and Marguerite Sontag, had married an Anna Mary Thomsen of Cascade. John’s birthplace was listed as Airshiem, Alsace. Also enclosed was a newspaper clipping from their 25th wedding anniversary and an ad for John’s shoe shop.

The 1890 census had been lost in a fire so the next census I could consult was 1900. It would, if I could find them, tell me how long they’d lived in this country. I found John and Mary still in Cascade along with their three sons. John’s arrival was listed as 1848 and Mary, or Anna M. as the census listed her, as coming in 1874. Both had their place of origination shown as Germany but since both Alsace and Schleswig were under German jurisdiction in 1900 it wasn’t unexpected. Neither the 1880 census or the 1900 census had any indication of John’s family living nearby. If he had arrived in 1848 he’d only have been 4 or 5 years old. Where was his family? What had happened to them?  And how did the two NY cousins fit in? To learn I was going to have to dig farther back into time.  The question was where?