A few days ago, I received an email from a man in Freeport, Illinois. I had put a request on Ancestry.com a week or so ago for an obituary lookup for my great-great grandparents, Louisa and Henry Gerke. He sent me a lengthy email with not just one, but three different obits for my great-great grandmother. I couldn’t believe it. Here is one of them:
Freeport Daily Journal
Monday, July 7, 1913
Mrs. Henry Gerke, 14 Garfield, died at her home yesterday morning at 6:30 from cancer which she had suffered for the past 7 years. Mrs. Gerke was born in Lippe Detmold, Germany, May 23, 1830, and came to this country from there with her parents before 1848 when she was married to Henry Gerke, of the same place. They settled on a farm near Loran, where they lived until 1897, when they moved to the home in this city in which she died. Mrs. Gerke, who was Miss Sophia Ploeger, is survived by six children: Mrs. Carrie Tollymeyer of Pearl City, IL; Mrs. Simon Stinecke of Cherokee, IA.; William, of Minnesota; Henry of Aurelia, IA.; Fred, of LeMars, IA.; Simon of Neelsville, WI.; Edward died two years ago, Louise died in 1893, and John and Carl died in infancy. Her husband, Henry Gerke, died in 1901. No funeral arrangements have been made as yet because of the difficulty in getting word of the death to her son William, in Minnesota.
I know it is a little sad, but this information brought tears to my eyes the other night. I learned a lot from this small paragraph (and the other obits that were sent). First, I learned that I had been on the right track regarding the Ploeger family. Through German births, baptisms, and marriages, her side of the family had suddenly opened up completely. I had seen these records times before, but until I received her death certificate and other info, I could not be positive I was looking at the right person. However, a few weeks ago, I was 99% positive I had found her birth and baptism records, along with a few Ploegers that I found lived near to her. This all just helps confirm it.
The birth records said she was actually born Sophia Louise Ploege, which matches many documents I have. Her birthdate and baptism date all match. The Ploeger family around her that look to be her brother and sister all match census records, etc. Everything is starting to match up. Through this information, I can now go back seven generations on the Ploeger side, and it opened up a lot of really interesting information and many new names. For example, I have found that my great-great-great grandmother Ploeger was born a Martensmeier, and her brother Adolph was among one of the first settlers in the Wisconsin Lipper settlement, and there is tons of information about him and his family online. It’s amazing.
Another thing I had learned that had been a complete mystery was the name of two of her children. I had known for a long time that she had ten children, but only eight survived. I just recently found the eighth, Louisa. I had known there was a Hoefer that married one of the Gerke daughters, but because they had spelled the Gerke name so many different ways, I had struggled to find the marriage record for her. I just recently learned her name and her husband’s name, and started to complete that line of the family. However, two children still remained a mystery. I didn’t know if they had grown to adulthood or passed away young. This obit answered my question. Turns out they died in infancy, and their names were John and Carl.
But a lot of what this did was just prove to me that I was on the right track. Not just with the Ploeger family, but with the Gerke family. I’m right. I didn’t screw up my great-grandfather’s siblings by going down the wrong line. It was a proud moment, because that is one of my biggest fears: being wrong. I have a couple family members that did some research on the family (only half seriously) and it was completely different from mine, so it is always in the back of my mind. But I have the proof to back up my research.
The nice couple that did this lookup for me told me that they were going to continue to look up some obituaries for me. Henry Gerke, my great-great grandfather is starting to turn into one heck of a brick wall, and they are looking for that obit. I can’t find any records of him at all in Germany, and I pray they can help. They were also going to look for Edward’s obituary. All in all, it was a slow blogging week, but a very fruitful week of genealogy. I don’t have a picture of Louisa or Henry, but I do have a picture of their gravesite, which will have to do.