Philip Helfer is Phil Hartman

Recently, while tracking down the family of my great great grandmother, Maria Hein (Mrs. William Solle), I looked into her sister, Mrs. Anna Helfer.

On 9 Sep 1887, a Philip Halfer committed suicide in Springfield. The next day, both the Illinois State Journal and the Illinois State Register ran lengthy news reports on his death. I’ll write another post later about the circumstances of the suicide. However, there were two pieces of information in the Journal’s report that compel me to write before I’ve completed much additional work.

The Journal’s report does not give Mrs. Halfer’s name. She is merely referred to as Mrs. Halfer. But it does say she is a sister of Mr. Charles Warner of East Springfield. Emilia Kibele’s obituary lists her siblings, including Mrs. William Solle, Mr. Charles Werner, and Mrs. Anna Helfer. It appears that suicidal Philip Halfer is the husband of my 3rd great aunt, Anna Hein. I love it when I can piece things together and make a connection.

The second intriguing things was the item title: “Philip Hartman Finds Rest”. Throughout the article, the text refers to Philip Halfer. Philip Hartman sounded odd, but sometimes Springfield newspapers of the time were sloppy with spelling. Indeed, every other record gives the surname Helfer rather than Halfer, and his grave marker spells his first name as Philipp. Perhaps the paper was even sloppier than I thought. However, I didn’t completely read the article because the quality of the microfilm scan degrades toward unreadable the further down the page one goes. But it isn’t all unreadable:

Philip Hartman Finds Rest
While contemplating suicide the day before his death he told Mr. John T Rhodes that his real name was Hartman and not Halfer.

Now that’s an intriguing tidbit! I’ve already got my great grandfather’s unexplained name from Ă–man to Hallin and the mystery switch of Mary Evelyn Sorenson to Frances Marie Newton. Now I can add the mystery of Philip Hartman to Philip Halfer. (More on the spellings later…)

Mrs. Bertha Hein

I came across a very intriguing obituary today. On 12 Mar 1880 in the Daily Journal of Springfield Illinois, this appeared:

1880-03-12 - page 4 col 2 - Mrs. Bertha Hein

Mrs. Bertha Hein, an estimable lady, who had resided in this city over twenty years died Wednesday night at her residence on Capitol Avenue between Tenth and Eleventh streets. She was born in Prussia and would have been 73 years old on April 14. Mrs. Hein came to America 25 years ago, residing for four years in Connecticut.

The funeral will take place from the German Catholic Church at two p.m. today.

This is intriguing because I am looking for the parents of my 2nd great grandmother, Maria Hein Solle. I’ve previously found a number of siblings, but I hadn’t found any information on their parents. I believe it is likely that Bertha Hein is my 3rd great grandmother.

William Solle and his wife Maria Hein lived at 1017 Capitol Ave. In an obituary for their daughter Carrie that appeared on 13 Dec 1880, their home is described as being on Capital Avenue between 10th and 11th streets, exactly the same wording as that used 9 months earlier for Bertha Hein.

A woman with the same surname as Maria living at the same home in the same year is extremely likely to be a relative. Because Bertha’s date of birth is in 1807 and Maria’s is in 1843, Bertha is from Maria’s parents’ generation rather than her grandparents or her own. Bertha could be an aunt by blood or marriage, or a cousin of some sort of her parents, but the obvious relationship to start with is mother.

Meet the Heins

The shortest lineage I’ve documented in my family tree is that of the Solles. My great great grandfather William Solle immigrated to Springfield Illinois where he married another recent immigrant from Germany, Maria Hein. I know very little about William Solle’s origins and knew even less about Maria Hein. Until recently.

I searched around to see if any web site had added more Illinois newspapers, and noticed that GenealogyBank now had a number of Springfield newspapers in their database. I’ve made a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Library’s newspapers on microfilm collection before and pulled a lot of obituaries for my known Solle family. But researching newspapers without an index or search facility is extremely limited, so I was quite ecstatic at discovering that the newspapers had been digitized.

Here I must break the narrative to thank Michael John Neill for his excellent genealogy blogs, and Genealogy Tip Of The Day. His posts cover the nuts and bolts of genealogy research when other blogs regurgitate press releases or write about other fluff that doesn’t interest me. His sponsor is GenealogyBank, and I remembered that there were subscription links posted. So rather than pay the $69/year that is GenealogyBank’s regular rate, I got a good deal at $55 for my first year.

After subscribing, one of the first hits when I searched for William Solle was this obituary for an Amelia Kibele, sister of my great great grandmother:

"The Mortuary Record", Illinois State Journal, 13 Mar 1900, page 6, column 3
“The Mortuary Record”, Illinois State Journal, 13 Mar 1900, page 6, column 3

It’s the first good clue that I’ve found for additional family in that branch. It doesn’t tell me much about her parents, but now I have a bunch of possible siblings I can dig into.

In addition to Emilia Hein Kibele (Emilia is how her grave stone spells the name) and Maria Hein Solle, I suspect the remainder of the mentioned siblings are:

  • Charles Werner (abt 1828 – 1902). The two obituaries for Emilia give different spellings for his name. The one above spells it Warner, and the State Register’s spells it Werner. I haven’t been able to find a Charles Warner in Springfield, but Charles Werner’s obituary has a few biographical details about his immigration that make me think he’s the same person. His life could be really fun to research, as the difference in surnames perhaps has a story behind it.
  • Bertha Hein Schultz/Schutz (abt 1831 – 1914). A few other newspaper articles reference Maria Solle’s sister giving her name as Bertha Shultz. There are a number of possible matches in various records from Detroit, with a woman who died in 1914 being the most promising.

  • Otto Hein (abt 1834 – 1902). This Otto Hein died in Nebraska but had lived a number of years in Petersburg, Illinois and was buried there. Petersburg is about 20 miles northwest of Springfield.
  • Anna Hein Helfer (1844 – 1927). Married to a Philip Helfer, and there was a Philip Helfer in Springfield for a number of years, so she’s my current top candidate for this sibling.
  • Hugo Hein (1845 – 1919). This is the only Hugo Hein in Springfield with an approximate age that could make him a brother.

Obviously these are all speculative identifications. One big flaw in these tentative identifications is that none of the death records and indexes for them have matching parents names. They variously have the father listed as Henry Hein, Vincento Hein, or Frank Hein. It’s going to take some work to resolve the conflicting information.

And in fact, I don’t have a solid genealogical proof that the Mrs. William Solle mentioned in the obituary is my great great grandmother. There was indeed a second William Solle who lived in Springfield for a brief time before being run out of town. It’s possible he left a wife who also had a connection to the Hein family.

But a rather large brick wall now has a really good opening in it.