Monday, May 27, 2013

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 18: Fireworks and Cotton Candy

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

If only I could have divided this manuscript up in a way that this installment would fall near the Fourth of July!  It tells about fireworks and the Fourth of July, circuses, and some other miscellaneous things.

On the Fourth of July, we would have some fireworks. Mostly firecrackers and some sparklers. The boys liked the “Devil on the Walk”. These I hated. They were small and sort of round which you held in your hand. The boys would through them on a hard surface, like a sidewalk, they made a loud noise and spattered pieces all over. They liked to get in back of you and then through one back of you. We would jump a mile. The boys would laugh but it hurt if some of the pieces hit your legs, it would burn.

The boys had some fire crackers that didn’t have any wicks. They put these into the ground, up right then preced to light them. Then they would go off. I had some without wicks, I thought I’d do the same thing, it looked easy enough. Well, I planted it in the ground, lit my match, no responds. I waited a bit and nothing happened, so I ran into the house to get another match. Instead of lighting the match I knealed doun and blew on the firecracker, it went off right in my face and eyes. I ran into the house and my mother said “I never had any use for fire crackers anyway.” I ran into my bed room and had a good cry I new my dad would scold me. I could hear her saying Just wait until your dad gets. I can’t remember what my dad said but I did injure my eye. The doctors tell me I had a injury on that eye and the crying I did was the best thing I could have done. Don’t do what the other fellow does, be careful of the fire works.

Dad used to sole our shoes when we were young. He had a shoe tree and three or four awls to fit all our sizes of shoes. We would leave our shoes in fron of our bedroom door at night when we went to bed, the next morning the shoes were mended, soled and cleaned. Dad was proud of polished shoes, I think by being in the ppolice force made him notce them more.

It was quit a day when the circus came to town, probably once a year. All the neighbors turned out on this day, and of course we also went It was going to be a big day, we’d get up early to get our chores done. We would pack a lunch, cheese and crackers, bread and bologna and fruit. Of course we got dressed in our best, when we were all fixed to go, we left in our wagon, drawn by our horses. We planed on spending the day there, seeing all the people we knew.

The circus was housed in a big round tent. Along with this cicus was a carnival, here we would walk around looking around to see what we could buy with our few pennies. We would save all year to buy one thing. Dad would buy us each a square brick of pink popcorn with a pretty fan on top of the corn. We ate it during the performance. The tent was very hot, we had lemonade to drink, just one for each of us. Money was scarce but we had always had a lot of food and a lot of love and a fine house, we were happy. We really appreciated the little extras.

We also some pink cotton candy which Dad thought a waste of good money. He said “You put it in your mouth then its gone.” What have you got. Dad couldn’t eat sweets so he couldn’t appreciate the sweet taste. Pullin off the cotton candy off was fun. We loved seeing the animals perform. Wishing we could teach our animals to do tricks.

On the farm the boys found three rims off the wheels. The wooden wheels, were, two rims wide the other rim narrow. They decided to use them to make a make believe car. The boys used a long lath for the handle and a short lath nailed to one end of the long lath. This was used to start the car. You stood this rim right up, then put one end of the small lath insede of the rim, close to the edge, twist it around on the rim. It would start if lucky. You would run behind this rim guiding with the small part of the lath. To stop this car, use the little lath part, one end next to the rim, holding on to the rim. This will stop it.

I made the mistake by leaving my car (which was called a Dodge car) My car was the narrow rim. It was so much harder to keep up. I left his Dodge in front of the pump house, well Dad nearly fell over it: the boys were very quick to tell him it was mine. He grabbed me and started to spank me with the handle of my car. I told him not to break my Dodge car. He stopped and sort of grinned. At this time didn’t realize he didn’t know what my Dodge car was. I think he thought it was my bottom. This is the only spanking I can remember. He usually scolded which was far worse.
I believe that the story about the “Dodge car” must have been one of Elsie’s favorites, for she told it to me several times.

I know that there was something behind the passing comment that “Dad couldn’t eat sweets so he couldn’t appreciate the sweet taste.” I don’t know the full story, but I have heard comments from other family members about his aversion to sweets.

This is clearly the end of one section of the manuscript, as it ends mid-page and the next page begins with a title.

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Luxembourg Records: A Little Practical Advice

In some ways, bringing the Luxembourgish branch of my family history to life is much more challenging than the American or English. It is much more difficult to find sources relative to remote regions of Luxembourg, and when I do find them, chances are they aren’t in English. On the other hand, the primary research is often much easier. Once I made it over the hurdles of learning to read Gothic script and understand records written in French, German, or Latin (none of which I studied in school), it turned out that the primary sources are very easy to navigate. Although the names are often variously spelled in their French, German, or Latin counterparts, the records leave very little room for doubt about a person’s identity. They consistently refer to women by their maiden names even when married, and often identify age, birthplace, and parents. Sometimes a document will record even more information than that.

Now that so many of Luxembourg’s civil records are available for free online at FamilySearch, the potential for research on your Luxembourg line is immense. However, the task looks daunting at first glance. The records are not only unindexed, but they are in another language—some in French, some in German, some in Latin—and both the handwriting and the typeface is difficult to decipher. All your experience in interpreting nineteenth century American handwriting will help you little, because this is an entirely different kind of script. Known as Gothic script, it can be extremely challenging for the modern genealogist, accustomed to our Roman style, to read.

Fortunately, a period of unemployment a couple years ago furnished me with ample spare time to devote to going through these Luxembourg records and teaching myself to read Gothic script. I found the chart in this piece of immeasurable value in understanding both the script and the typeface. Even the preprinted parts of the records can be difficult to understand without aid.

Practice Gothic Script

I am not going to reiterate all that has already been said on reading Gothic handwriting; it has already been said very well and succinctly at the link I mentioned before. I will, however, share a few of my experiences and some hard-won advice in the civil records from Luxembourg specifically.

I recommend beginning to familiarize yourself with some of the later records first, because it can be easier to translate the printed portions of the records rather than immediately diving in and trying to figure it out in Gothic script. Often what was customary to write in the blank spots in the earlier records became pre-printed in the later records. Therefore once you know what you’re looking for, such as “geboren zu (born in)” or “wohnhaft zu (residing in)” or “sohn der (son of), ” and realize approximately in what order the information is likely to appear, it is much easier to locate the pattern of words in the handwritten portions. The letters that were once indistinguishable as s, f, or h begin to organize themselves into coherent words.

A rather simple example of later typewritten records clarifying earlier handwritten records, but it serves to show the concept.

Often, although the record may be written in Gothic script, the names will pop out easily in Roman script. This can be exceptionally helpful in scanning through the records for your ancestors. In birth records, I usually look for the name following “erschienen,” as that is almost always the name of the father, to see if a record is relevant to my search. The signatures, in the eternal nature of signatures, are often much more difficult to read. They do not follow the pattern of names being in Roman script, as the people sign however they are accustomed to write.

Occasionally, a completely handwritten record will be tucked in the pages. Now that you are used to German, this record is unaccountably in French! Don’t despair. Firstly, it is likely in Roman script, easier to read. Secondly, although the words are different, it tends to follow the same pattern. Usually I scan these for relevant names and, if I find something of interest, I return to them later. It can be difficult to switch back and forth between French and German, Gothic and Roman script, so I look at them when my mind is not so full of the Gothic German.

If you do not speak French or German or Latin, don’t give up! You may have gleaned from the preceding paragraphs that I am not fluent in any of those languages. As a matter of fact, prior to this experience I had no training in any of those languages. I did, however, take several years of Spanish, and my passing familiarity with that grammar served me in the challenge of comprehending another grammar. As long as you have tenacity, a modicum of language ability, and access to Google translate, you will be able to figure out the records more or less successfully. I used a combination of Google translate and a physical printed German-English dictionary in my translation. This was partly because of the well-publicized deficiencies of computerized translators. (Just translate a sentence from English into German and then back again and see what you get!) You have to use your brain in combination with the help from the translator. Sometimes it will get hung up on word combinations that are probably legalistic and don’t make sense to it. I had to often frequently cut down the sentences and translate a phrase rather than the entire sentence in order to get to the meaning of the sentence. The physical dictionary also helps in occasions where a word is spelled phonetically or dialectally. The online translators cannot help you there, but a physical dictionary provides a word list from which you can often pick out what was meant.

Helpful Lists

Make a list of the months of the year, the numbers from 1-10 and the tens from there, days of the week, and the ordinal numbers—first, second, third, etc.


I also keep a list of Luxembourg place names in their French, German, and Luxembourgish stylings. Every once in a while if you cannot identify a town, you will find it is written in its Luxembourgish designation. This list is comprehensive; I prefer to make a smaller list of my own, including only the towns that I have found relevant to my search and referring to the larger list only when stumped. Also helpful to refer to a list of German occupations such as the one found here.

French Republican Calendar

Once you get back to a certain period before 1804, you might come across another surprise: suddenly the records you were expecting to see in German are written in French. Or, perhaps more surprising, the records written while under French rule are written in German. I found one such marriage record for Henri Mertz (AKA Heinrich, etc) and Catharina Audrimont. The date was puzzling to me because no matter how I looked at it, all I could get for the year was “11” and for the month “Nivos,” which means nothing in either French or German. Finally I discovered that during this period of time Luxembourg was under French Republican rule and was compelled to use the French Republican calendar, which, believe it or not, is a metric calendar. Ten days in a week, and months that one British wit once translated to “Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy and Nippy; Showery, Flowery and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety.” The years are dated from proclamation of the French Republic. Therefore, the year I was reading was correct—it was the year 11, which roughly translates to 1803. (However, due to the non-coincidence of new year’s days, part of FR 11 was in 1802.) The month was a misspelling of the month Nivôse.

Dates found in the French Republican calendar (and a number of other calendars, for that matter) can be looked up on this calendar converter. However, before you use the converter, make sure you read a little about the French Republican calendar so that you understand how it works (i.e. what the décades are) or you will end up with the wrong date.

Don’t Give Up!

Although looking at the original Luxembourg records can be challenging at first, it is well worth the effort. Each record is likely to contain a wealth of information. That same marriage record of Henri Mertz and Catharina Audrimont which I mentioned above yielded results I hadn’t dared dream to anticipate:

Henri Mertz
Catharina Audrimont
b. 28 Jan 1780 in Keispelt
b. 19 Nov 1774 in Medernach
Occupation: nurse

Parents: Theodor Mertz and Susana Trauscht of Keispelt
Parents: Peter Audrimont and Margreta Arens of Medernach

This was in addition to the expected information about the wedding itself: the date, place, and witnesses, and it was all new information to me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 16: School Days

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

This installment of Elsie’s manuscript is rather a long one, but a common thread runs throughout. It discusses the Underwood kids’ school days, telling a little about the school itself, but mostly focusing on the human element: what they would do at different points in the day, and incidents that happened either on the way to or from school.

We went to Ten Mile School. It was at least one and a half miles around the road. Walking the canal bank was a little shorter. We were never tardy, we got a certificate. I wonder how many children would like to walk that far to school. now a days. Rain, frost, snow or sun shine?

This was a one room school with eight grades and just one teacher.

The canal ran part way thru our place and came out close to the school house. There was a bridge over the creek, this bridge we had to cross in order to reach the school. Sometime we walked the canal bank.

The owner that the canal ran thru his fields, warned us he had a ram goat that was real mean. He gave us permission to go thru his fields but be very careful of this ram. He said if we saw the ram not to go in that field.

One morning my friend Margaret Church and I was alone going to school, this morning we couldn’t see the ram anywhere, so we decided we would take our chances. We decided to go thru this field. We didn’t see the ram until we were almost out of the field.

Our hearts nearly stopped There he was on the canal bank right in from of us. No way to avoid him, water in the canal and a small creek on the other side. My girl friend jumed toward the stream. I was so scared I stood, afraid to move, by this time I was face to face with him. He such big horns, the kind that circles around, I had never seen such horns. I don’t know how but I put my hand out to pet him. He seemed as surprised as I was. His big horns were so rough and hard. I was so scared, I tried to move away. He then tossed his head, I stepped backwards and as I did I slipped and fell on the ground. I think I slipped on a small rock. The goat didn’t hurt me. I got up and looked at him and he at me. Then somehow I got out of there. The goat just stood and looked at me, I guess he was wondering how I got there.

In the mean time, my friend had ran to the school house and told everyone the goat had knocked me doun. But it didn’t. I had slipped by myself and fell. I wasn’t afraid anymore but I didn’t go thru that field again unless my brothers were there to see if the gaot was anywhere to be seen. Why press your luck.

The school had a big bell, I was located in a belfry. On top of the school. The bell was rung by pulling a long rope. You could hear this bell when it was rung, for a long ways. The bell was rung in the morning and again at our lunch time and at our recesses. The bell was rung more times in the morning, just once the other times. The teacher let me ring it once, it took me off my feet. My brother used to ring it often, he was taller. (Walter)

The teacher would line us up in a row to march us in to the school house. In the morning, lunch time and the recesses. The small children in the front and the tall ones in the back.

We had a out house, just one. The grounds was partialy fenced in. on one side it was as nature left it. Sagebrush and big boulders. In the spring there were a lot of wild flowers and a lot of bright colored moss. I loved that moss it had such a pretty color and velvet like feeling. There was a real flat big rock we called Table Rock. This is where, some of us would sit and eat our lunches every day.

Margaret and I would exchange sandwiches. She was fond of cheese We always had cheese at our house. She would have peanut butter and I was fond of that. So we got along fine.

The school, we had a pot belly stove that heated the whole school room. We had a huge blackboard right back of where the teacher sat. The desks and seats were connected. The seats would push back when we got off of them. They stayed until we pushed them doun, when we sat doun. The teacher had a regular chair and a fat cushion to sit on.

I wonder what occasion this photograph commemorates. The streamers imply some sort of celebration. (Elsie is the second girl from the right in the front row.)

The books, pencils and tablets were pushed into the front of the desk. The to of the desk didn’t lift up.

We chalk and erasers, to use on the blackboard. The teach ever so often would have a couple of the kids stay after school to clean the erasers. You had to be careful the chalk dust would fly all over. The boys (mostly) were the ones asked to do this, they would hit two erasers together to knock the dust out.

We carried our lunches in a lunch pail, we had no cafeterias those days. The lunch pails were put on a shelf in the cloak room. No lockers. Our hats, coats and goullashes, hung up in this small room.

Our lunch pail was probably a five pound lard pail. Our tablets were called “penny tablets” a very cheap grade of paper. The older children used pens. The pens then was a holder which held pen points. The pen points came in differend size points of course you used one point at a time. There was a small hole in the desk at the top and to one side, that held a ink well, which had a top, with a small hole in it. So the pen could enter. You’d have to dip the pen often to have enough ink to write much. They finally invented fountain pens.

The first fountain pen I had I lost in the snow and never found it untill the snow melted in the spring then it was too late. It had frozen with the ink in it and burst.

The boys used to like to put the tip of the braid of the girl that sat in front of him. They did’t dare do mine as I had two brothers big.

Inez was born, she was named after, the Shaw’s daughter. Inez Shaw. She was a surprise to me I didn’t know I was going to have a baby sister.

Coming from school one day. I had walked around the road. I was close to our house, I had to still go across the bridge of the canal.

A short ways from the road I was on was a big puddle of water. See there stood a big coyote with his teeth showing, and lookin straight at me. I was scared to pass in front of him I turned around and ran all the way back to our neighbors, about one half mile away. Never being late home from school, my mother got worried, she called the neighbors, to see if I was there. The neighbors told her I was there and afraid to go home. Mother sent some one to take me home. Mother was sure the coyote had stopped for a drink as he probably had been running. Said coyotes won’t attack you unless their hungry. I don’t know I didn’ stop to ask him if he was hungry. After Mother’s experiences with couotes I wasn’t taking any chances.

In the winter time the distance was a long way. There a lot of cold days in Idaho. We were lucky we had friends to walk with. The wind would blow a gale and seemed to go right thru you.

We wore scarves around our necks, up around our mouths Our hot breathe going thru the scarf entering the cold air would form icicles. We would blow our breathes to see the white steam come out. It looked like white smoke. Our noses were like a big red cherry. Our hands were so cold we couldn’t feel them at all, and we had on warm gloves.

When the snow came Mother didn’t want us to eat the first snow that fell She said it had germs in it. The snow cleaned the air. We children would make snowmen, angels by laying with our arms out straight and moving up and doun. Which made the wings. We would lay on our backs in the snow. Having brothers we made forts. We had a lot of snowballing. I didn’t mind the soft ones but the boys learned to soak the in water and they would hurt.

When it was really snowing, we would have two layers of clothes on. Lon johns, and long black stockings. Over our shoes we wore galoshes, which were called “over shoes”. They came all most up to our knees. Dad would wrap gunny sacks over our galoshes up to our knees. My brothers would have to remove these gunny sacks before we got to school. They would hide these sacks under the bridge of the canal. We would have to put them on the way back home after school. We took off our “over shoes” after we got to school. The teacher was good to help the little ones. These mornings the heat from the pot belly stove felt good

Our “over shoes”, buckled up in front of the foot with six or more buckles. There were hard to pull on over our regular shoes. Some of the other children got frost bitten because they weren’t dressed warm enough.

This little story reminds me of our family. A teacher was helping to put on a little boys over shoes. She tugged and pulled, finally succeeded in getting them on. The little boy piped up Those aren’t my over shoes. Reluctantly she took them off. Then the little boy exclaimed Those used to belong to my sister. So the teacher had to tug and pull them back on the little fellow. She wasn’t very happy about it.

At our house we only had a heater and the kitchen range for heat. We had a lot of fun popping corn and eating apples Some times we could make candy, I remember once, we were making some fudge, it was boiling real good and I stuck one of my fingers into it. I was burned real good. I learnt a lesson I never did that again.

In the winter we wore fannel gowns to sleep in. The gowns were long, we would wrap them around our legs when we got into bed. I bedrooms were always cold.

We wore long johns until Easter Sunday, off they came the long johns, on with the light weight clothes. It felt as tho we had lost ten pounds. We could wear white stockings.

Sometimes Dad would make a sliegh out of his wagon. If it snowed while we were in school and not clothe for the weather, he would pick us up, not only us but all the other kids. He would sing “It’s a long way to Tipperary” but my hearts right there.” We all got a kick out of it. I always thought he meant getting home.

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Murder in the Family

I have known for most of my life that my great-great-grandfather’s death was an unsolved murder, and since adulthood have heard it said among the family that his son probably did it. Naturally, such rumors are calculated to intrigue. I have long entertained a certain morbid curiosity on the subject, but found little information on my own. The information I did have consisted in his name: John Stephen CRAIG; his estimated birth information: Apr 1859 in Scotland; his family unit: wife Martha Mulvena RUBENALL (whom he married on 26 May 1886 in Denison, Crawford, Iowa), sons Matthew, Harry, and Dewey, and daughter Mary Josephine; and the following death information: died 21 Feb 1917 on 16th St in Omaha, Nebraska, and buried 26 Feb 1917 in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery of the same city. Now, as for names and dates that appears fairly complete. However, I knew there was a story for this man, and one that might prove quite interesting.

Finally I gave in and sent away to the Omaha Public Library for some research on my behalf. Although the internet has been a godsend to genealogists, there are still some things that must be done offline, and this, it seemed, was one of them.

Yesterday I received the lovely, creased envelope bearing my address in my own handwriting. This was it! I was finally going to read about my ancestor’s murder in the words of the local reporter. I slit open the envelope and pulled out four sheets of paper. The first was a cover letter; the other three were articles from the Omaha World Herald in 1917.

It is an odd sensation to find oneself delighted while reading about the violent death of one’s own great-great-grandfather, but delighted I was. At last I was reading first-hand information, not family rumors that might have been exaggerated through the years. For the first time I learned which son was suspected of his death. I learned that he died near 10th St, not on 16th St. Perhaps most remarkable, because it was the first time I heard of it, I learned that his wife had left him and possibly remarried.

But let’s back up just a bit, and I’ll share the articles themselves with you.

The first appeared on the front page of the Evening World-Herald on the day following his death.
Craig is Found Dead; How Killed Mystery.
Murder or Accidentally Killed by Train, Ask Police; Investigating.
Body Found Frozen Beside Little Used Track; Well Known Expressman.
Mystery surrounds the death of John Craig, aged 62, an express driver, whose body was found early this morning within a short distance of his home at Tenth and Paul streets, with mortal wounds about the head.
“I’ll die by violence some day,” was the fatalistic remark of Craig a short time ago, and his prediction was fulfilled. He had lived in Omaha nearly forty years, and for a long time past, had led the life of a hermit in a one-room wing of the 3-room shack he called hime [sic]. There are rumors that he had considerable money. He had an express stand at Fifteenth and Harney streets, and ran a little store at Eleventh and Paul streets.
For about two years he had been separated from his wife, who is now said to be remarried and living in California. Two sons, Matt and Harry, live in Omaha, as well as a married daughter, Mrs. Henry Stroesser. Matt and the daughter say they have not seen their father for some time past, and have had nothing to do with him on account of family troubles. Harry, the second son, could not be found.
Neighbors say that Craig came home as usual about 5:30 last evening, and put away his horse. He was not seen again until his body was discovered by Ole Jackson, colored, living at 2528 Patrick avenue, and Lewis Lesslow, Tenth and Seward streets. The body lay beside a commercial spur track leading from the Union Pacific yards across Eleventh street to the rear of the T. G. Northwall company building.
Half a dozen large boards which Craig had evidently been carrying when he was killed lay beside the body.
Murder or accidental death are the two theories on which the police are working. The fact that the dead man’s clothes were not disturbed, and that about $7, his watch and some personaly [sic] papers were not taken from the pockets, would indicate that he was not killed by robbers, say the police.
The position of the body beside the railroad tracks leave it possible, it is added, that the man was struck by a freight car being switched in or drawn from the spur track during the night. The body was frozen stiff when found.
The body is at Taggart’s undertaking rooms. An inquest is considered likely.

It certainly creates an image to read that John CRAIG “had led the life of a hermit in a one-room wing of the 3-room shack he called hime [sic],” that “for about two years he had been separated from his wife,” and that his children “have had nothing to do with him on account of family troubles.” And when he is quoted as predicting “I’ll die by violence some day,” I can’t help but wish that the reporter had elaborated, if only to tell how he learned of the prediction. He couldn’t have learned it from John himself!

Also, it is somewhat chilling to read such a dispassionate account of the condition of the body, when the body belongs to one’s relative. I have always found such descriptions much more unsettling than the gaudiest thing that gothic literature could invent, because there seems to be such a disconnect between “the body” and the person it once was. Gothic literature, at least, preserves the horror of the viewer.

The second article appeared the following day, but by now the story has been relegated to the second page of the newspaper.

Son Held as Police Probe Craig’s Death
Official Suspicion Aroused by His Story of Whereabouts Wednesday Night.
Sees All Three Newspapers, but Ignorant of Father’s Death, He Says.
Harry Craig, son of John Craig, 62, recluse, who was found dead with his head mutilated in a field near his hut at Tenth and Paul streets yesterday morning, was arrested by Police Detectives Dunn and Gaughan late yesterday, and is held without bond while the police investigate further his father’s mysterious death.
The police declare that they have nothing tangible to connect the younger Craig with his father’s death, but his story of his whereabouts the night before aroused their suspicions.
Harry Craig told the detectives that he saw three newspapers yesterday, but knew nothing of his father’s death, which was prominent on the first page of all the papers.
He said that he left the Millard hotel, where he washes dishes, at 6:15 Wednesday evening, wandered about town, and returned at 10:30, going to bed. Craig’s roommate told the police that he did not notice Craig until a few minutes before 6 o’clock in the morning. According to the police, young Craig was at a loss to tell exactly where he had “wandered about” earlier in the evening.
The police are now convinced that Craig was murdered. No cars are switched at night on the tracks near which the body was found, so he could not have been killed by a passing train. The blow on his head crushed his skull badly. Money and jewelry on his person were not touched and the padlock on his shack was not broken, so robbery could not have been the motive.
The police learned that Harry Craig had quarreled with his father recently and that they had been seen frequently together. According to the meager information they gathered of the family, Harry Craig blamed his father for trouble between himself and his wife.

So it was Harry who was suspected of his father’s murder. I have very little information on Harry CRAIG: only that he was born in February 1893 in Omaha. I do not even have the name of his wife. These CRAIGs have been difficult to research because it is a rather common surname—and paired with common Christian names—in a densely populated area. The problem is not that I cannot find a record for Harry CRAIG, it is that I find too many records and am unable to differentiate between them.

It seems that the trouble between Harry and his wife must have been serious, since they don’t appear to be living together. The article speaks of Harry’s roommate at his home. The idea of a parent causing trouble between a child and his spouse reminds me of the family rumor regarding John’s wife, Martha. It has been said that she had more than motherly feelings toward her son-in-law, Harry STROESSER. Whether that caused problems in her daughter’s marriage, I don’t know, but I can easily see how it could. These CRAIGs are definitely turning out to be an interesting bunch.

The third, and most enigmatic, story appeared in the morning edition of the newspaper on 24 Feb 1917. It is no more than a blurb way back on page 15, and a confusing one at that:

Deny Story of Arrest.
Denial of the statement that Harry Craig, son of John Craig, the expressman whose body was found along railroad tracks near his home Thursday morning, was arrested at the Millard hotel Thursday evening, was made last night by Harry Stroesser, carpenter employed by the city, and by Matt Craig, son of the dead man and brother of the man in jail. Stroesser is a brother-in-law of the Craig boys.

What does that mean? It says that Harry STROESSER and Matt CRAIG denied the statement of Harry CRAIG’s arrest. But what are they denying about it? They can’t deny that he was arrested; he is identified as “the man in jail.” If he weren’t arrested, how would he end up in jail? Are they denying that the arrest took place at the Millard hotel or that it took place Thursday evening? The most probable assumption would be that they are disputing his identification as a suspect, but if that is the case, the reporter has expressed it dismally.

Although I have long known that it was an unsolved murder, I find it frustrating to end on a mystery. Somehow I expected at least some closure. And I can’t help but wonder if my great-great-uncle got away with murder—and even more, if his brother and my own great-grandfather were accessories after the fact.


“Craig is Found Dead; How Killed Mystery.” Evening World-Herald [Omaha] 22 Feb 1917: 1.

“Son Held as Police Probe Craig’s Death.” Evening World-Herald [Omaha] 23 Feb 1917: 2.

“Deny Story of Arrest.” Morning World-Herald [Omaha] 24 Feb 1917: 15.