The Sisters Solle

One of the things that I want to do with my family history research is tell the stories of my forgotten relatives. One such set of relatives are my first cousins twice removed: Clarabel, Marie, Catherine and Helen Solle.

The Solle sisters are the daughters of my second great uncle Frederick Henry Solle. Fred Solle was an oil and gasoline dealer in Springfield, Illinois and he died young. After his death, his wife Emma Neff Solle took her four daughters and moved to Los Angeles. Clarabel married Fred Adams, who died a few years after their nuptials and they never had children. Marie and Catherine never married and never had children, so far as my research has found. Helen married Floyd Chandler, had one child, and died shortly after that. They also had a brother who died in infancy before their father passed away. Seven people and only one descendant to remember them. For such families, I often wonder what happened to their personal effects, particularly their photos.

While researching this week, I came across photos of Catherine (a.k.a. Kay) and Helen from their time in a Los Angeles area women’s club, the Wilshire Juniors. They appeared four times in the Los Angeles Times in 1½ years. The final one appeared in November of 1937 and is the featured image at the top of this post.

Mrs. Maurice Miller, Miss Kay Solle, Mmes. Ralph Mather, Henry Graef, Clarence Hausser, Miss Helen Solle and Miss Dorothy Berry (in front)
Mrs. Maurice Miller, Miss Kay Solle, Mmes. Ralph Mather, Henry Graef, Clarence Hausser, Miss Helen Solle and Miss Dorothy Berry (in front), from the 28 Apr 1936 Los Angeles Times
Miss Helen Solle, Mrs. Ralph W. Mather, Miss Kay Solle, and Mrs. Henry A. Graef
Miss Helen Solle, Mrs. Ralph W. Mather, Miss Kay Solle, and Mrs. Henry A. Graef, from the 9 Jun 1936 Los Angeles Times
Mrs. Louis Miller, Misses Kay and Helen Solle
Mrs. Louis Miller, Misses Kay and Helen Solle, from the 26 Sep 1936 Los Angeles Times

Now I’ve gotten to tell a bit of the story of two relatives who didn’t have as much chance to pass on their stories as some.

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.

William Solle’s incongruent age of first marriage

I just noticed something interesting today. The 1930 US Census asked people at what age they first got married. Here are the answers for my great grandfather William Solle and great grandmother Flora Sorenson Solle:

Entries for William and Flora Solle in the 1930 US Census

William and Flora got married in 1910, which is verified by their marriage certificate. In 1930, Flora was 42 and first got married at age 22. That matches up with the date of her marriage to William in 1910. However, William is 65 and first got married at age 42. That works out to be 1907, which is not when he married Flora.

Census information isn’t particularly accurate or exact. However, that’s intriguing enough that I now am going to start looking for possible records of an earlier marriage. I may have additional relatives I didn’t know about.

Mysterious Dr. Walter Solle

So here’s an interesting mystery. My grandmother was Lillian Solle. She was the daughter of William Solle, born in Springfield, Illinois in 1865, but moved to Madison sometime between 1900 and 1905. His father was an German immigrant from the Kingdom of Hanover (before Germany was a country), also named William Solle. Germany never centralized all the various records from all the principalities and kingdoms after it federated into the German Empire. So there’s not a whole lot of genealogy records online from Germany. If I ever want to dig into the German branches of the family, it’s not going to be easy like it has been with Sweden or Denmark. Consequently, I haven’t pursued much about the Solle family.

But now I kinda want to.

Solle is not a very common name in the U.S. Searching for “Solle” in Madison newspapers brings up only 732 hits. I haven’t looked through all of them, but I have poked around a lot. One was an item from the 26 Jun 1924 Capital Times about the Solles (Flora, Lillian, and William Jr.) visiting relatives in St. Louis. Much of the text is faded in the microfilm and unreadable. But it mentions a cousin, Dr. Walter Solle. I’d previously noted that and promptly forgot about it. Found my notation yesterday and searched a bit.

Solles visit St Louis (scan from the Capital Times)
Solles visit St Louis

The first thing I did was search for Walter Solle in the immigration databases on Though I can’t read the text of the article, it mentions Germany so I assumed he was visiting from Germany. And there are a lot of passenger manifests post 1900. Bingo. He arrived from Germany in New York on the ship Albert Ballin in May 1924, a month before the trip to St. Louis. And the manifest lists William Solle of Madison as his cousin, so I know this isn’t a different Walter Solle.

Walter Solle lines on Albert Ballin passenger manifest
Walter Solle lines on Albert Ballin passenger manifest

The interesting thing here is that he lists his occupation as political economist. Which would be cool, because the world of political economy really wasn’t that large in the 1920s.

There’s also a second manifest with him on it from 1927, coming from Germany again. This time he’s listed as a merchant, and he’s also a resident alien.

I did a narrower search for Walter Solle in the Madison newspapers. If he’s living in Madison now, they were likely to have written about him at some point. Bingo. On 28 July 1924, the Capital Times had an article about him moving to the U.S.

Article on Walter Solle moving to Madison
Walter Solle to live in Madison

Only instead of being a political economist list he was a couple of months earlier, now his profession is a composer. The article goes into some detail about his exploits in the German Army during World War I. Since the source for those tales was likely Walter Solle himself, I’d tend to take them with a grain of salt.

Anyhow, all I know about Walter Solle is contained in those four items. He doesn’t show up in the 1930 Census. No other mentions I could find quickly in the Madison newspapers. Did he return to Germany? Did he die? What was his real profession?

Burial records

A great source of information for my family genealogy has been burial records. I don’t mean lists of tombs in cemeteries, though those have been a good source too. Some cemeteries have put their burial records online, and they have been awesome.

The first relevant cemetery I found that did this is Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison. I stumbled on this last summer. They don’t put original copies of their records online, but at some point they transcribed everything into electronic form and that is there. Here’s what they had for my great grandfather, William Solle:

Burial record for William Solle

Prior to finding that, I’d thought he’d died in 1945, as that’s the year I was told. Mind you, the information isn’t all correct. For instance, the record states that there is no monument and no marker. I’ve been there and have photographed the marker.

Brigham City Cemetery and Ogden City Cemetery in Utah have also transcribed their records, including parents and spouses of the deceased. Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs put a listing of their burials online too. Theirs has plot location and year of burial, and sometimes birth and death dates.

Even though I don’t have any relations buried at the grounds, Lake View Cemetery locally put their records online.

Most of the ones that put their records online are government owned cemeteries. A lot of private cemeteries will charge anyone but family wanting to look up where a grave is. I find that kind of irritating.

I found a really fun one last week though. The Solle family originally settled in Springfield, Illinois. There are a number of them buried in Calvary Cemetery. I came across a set of interment records for Oak Ridge Cemetery last week. Curiously, all the Solles are listed in their records. I don’t know why this is, but perhaps the two cemeteries were jointly managed for a while. I don’t know. Anyway, this was an awesome find because this set of records are scans of the original burial log books. They include age, date of death, location of death, and cause of death.

Edit: I found out why they are listed in Oak Ridge Cemetery in the official records but Calvary Cemetery elsewhere. The two cemeteries abut each other, and there isn’t clear demarcation in all places. Years ago, someone inventoried graves in Calvary Cemetery and the Sangamon County Genealogical Society posted their list. However, due to the lack of a good boundary, they included some markers from Oak Ridge in their list, including my family. Then people copied that list to other places, and so the misinformation spread.

Here’s the page for my second great grandmother, Maria Solle.

Burial record for Maria Solle

One obstacle to using these records is that the Illinois Digital Archives decided to display these images one section at a time.

Row 2, image 1 of page containing Maria Solle burial record
Row 2, image 1 of page containing Maria Solle burial record

No problem. I downloaded all the pieces and started lining them up. But that was very time consuming. Thanks to the lazyweb (specifically Fes) I found Microsoft Image Composite Editor. It’s made for stitching together panoramas, but these is a very easy case of the same problem. I simply dropped in all the pieces and it sorts and merges them, though I had to adjust things once or twice. There are a few old maps that I can get pieces of online the same way, so this is gonna be a great tool.

And here’s a bonus for reading this far. Oak Ridge Cemetery is where Abraham Lincoln was buried. Like everyone else there, the cemetery entered his information in the log book. Here’s the re-assembled page. I’m sure someone else on the internet has already done this, but I couldn’t find it.

Burial record for Abraham Lincoln
Burial record for Abraham Lincoln

Kicking off the Weiss side

My father, George Robert Weiss, died in 1972, when I was 2 years old and my brother Dan was yet to be born. For years, I believed that he’d died of lung cancer. It’s probably the biggest contributing motivation to me never wanting to start smoking. I have no memories of him. My first recollections are from 1974 or early 1975 at the house in which we lived on Phinney Ridge.

Unlike the Hathaway side, information on the Weiss side of the family was a little harder to come by. First is that my father died and mom remarried. The second is that Grandpa Weiss divorced in the mid 1960s and we had no contact with my grandmother. I suppose that my aunts and possibly even my grandfather would have told me anything I wanted to know, but I was too young to know I’d ever be interested.

The key about all this is that mom never really talked about the Weisses all that much. Daddy George was just a name growing up. We had various get togethers with my aunts and cousins, but my only contact with more extended Weiss family was with Steve and his wife Connie. Steve is my dad’s cousin who moved to Portland from the ancestral family home in Wisconsin.

Weiss Family Memory Book
Weiss Family Memory Book

About 6 years ago, my two Weiss aunts put together a book of information about the Weiss family. My grandmother died in 2001, and I think that spurred them to make this. I got my copy around Christmas 2004. It’s mostly a photo book with some information. There’s a photo of my great great grandparents, the Sorensons. There’s a few of my great grandparents, the Solles. There’s one of my great grandmother Weiss. Lots of photos of my grandfather, many of them taken in uniform. He was a navy enlistee in the 1920s and became an officer in the 1930s through World War II. Then lots of photos of my dad and his siblings, and their respective husbands and kids, and a sprinkling of Connie and Steve’s family.

It’s main purpose was memories for us. It has the only photos I possess of anyone in the Weiss family taken before I was born. But Aunt Jane and Aunt Sue did put some genealogical information in it too. There’s a copy of my great grandparents’ marriage certificate. There’s a list of my grandfather’s siblings. And there’s a couple of death certificates in the back.

The biggest surprise for me was that my father did not die of lung cancer like I believed. I’m sure he had cancer in his lungs and that was the proximate cause. The death certificate lists testicular cancer as the cause of death. And here I was avoiding smoking because I thought I was especially prone to lung cancer. I also found out that part of my family was Danish (the Sorensons), and part was French (the Solles). I knew the Weisses were German, because it’s a German name.

A couple of years ago, my great aunt Babe turned 100. This was right in the middle of the last months of mom’s life, so I wasn’t able to make her birthday party in Madison. I wish I could have. This year when I went to Wiscon in May, I paid a visit to her after the conference. She’s 102 now, and lives in the house where she was born (or moved to shortly afterward). That house will have to be torn down after she dies. It’s functional, but beyond repair or renovation. As of this summer, she didn’t even have 24 hour care. Just caregivers there during daylight hours. Her Alzheimer’s is pretty bad though. She didn’t remember me or my dad. She talked about Arch (my grandfather) some. But we had the same conversation about 10 times in the couple hours I was there. After a few minutes, she would start the conversation over where it began because she couldn’t remember what we’d talked about. I’ll stop by again this May around Wiscon again. She isn’t in great health, but she’s a tough bird, so I expect she’ll be around still. And hopefully she’ll have a little more lucid of a weekend. Armed with a few facts, I will attempt to get her to talk about old times.

I’ll write some more about the informational details shortly, but that’s the introduction.