Cassville Cemetery

While in Wisconsin earlier this month, I wanted to find out some information about my great great grandparents, Clara and Anton Weiss. I knew when Anton died because of some scriblings in a book a cousin found at my great Aunt Babe’s house:

from the inside of 2010 Popular Quotations of Emo

Most families at the time wrote down births, baptisms, christenings, deaths, etc. in their family bible. The Weiss family? That’s the inside of 2010 Popular Quotations of Emo, a book published in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Why that? I don’t know. My second cousin Christopher Weiss thankfully snapped a photo of that page. I now know whoever wrote that, but it was between 1911 and 1914, because it has Anton’s death but not Clara’s.

I looked through the microfiche holdings of the Wisconsin Historical Society and found a copy of Anton’s obituary a few days after his death in the Cassville Index. I was going to include that obituary here, but I just found out that it didn’t upload properly or something to my archive, so I do not have a copy! Fuck!

Edit: I requested a copy of the obituary from the Wisconsin Historical Society. They didn’t even charge me the normal fees for research and copying (I had a a complete cite including the microfiche reel catalog number), and they emailed me a copy before I woke up. Huzzah for the Wisconsin Historical Society!

Obituary for Anton Weiss
Obituary for Anton Weiss

Anyhow, the obituary stated that Anton had been buried in the Cassville Cemetery. So I drove two hours to Cassville that night and got a room in a really rundown motel. As best as I can tell, there are only two places of lodging in Cassville, which has about the same population today as it did in the 1880s. The people at the restaurant there were not friendly either.

The next morning, I drove up the bluff to the cemetery outside of town. I’d guess the cemetery is a three or four acres in size. Not super-large, but not tiny either. I parked and looked around.

View looking southwest

The rows aren’t particularly neat, and I didn’t immediately see the marker. My fear was that the graves would be unmarked. I could have written to the cemetery association, but the turnaround time would have prevented me from getting a reply before I returned home. Tombstones tend to blend together so I went systematically. I walked crosswise to the rows, straight out from about where that photo was taken. Got to the end, moved over about 10 feet, and walked back. It was on the second return leg that I looked over (outside of my 10 foot range) and saw the headstone a ways off. You can see it in that photo just behind the tree.

Here’s the plot close up.

Weiss Plot

That’s a huge headstone! Pretty much my entire family in Washington is buried at Evergreen Memorial Park, which means flat markers. The Sorenson markers I found at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison were actual tombstones, but they were maybe 6 or 8 inches tall. That thing is about 4 or 5 feet tall and wide, and around 18 inches deep above the base. It is a massive piece of rock!

Buried in the plot are Anton and his wife Clara. She died in California 3½ years after him at the home of one her daughter Celia Klindt in Ontario California. I took the year of death from the marker and went back to the Historical Society and looked up her obituary to find that out. Also buried there are two of their daughters, Mary and Agnes. I know Mary died in Colorado, and Agnes in Cassville.

Obituary for Clara Voigt Weiss
Obituary for Clara Voigt Weiss

After getting a few shots of the individual markers and the headstone, my next task there was to photograph every tombstone in Cassville Cemetery. Yup. Every damn one. I suspected that I’m related to additional people buried there, but I didn’t know who. Since I won’t get back there for a while, I figured I might as well walk the entire cemetery. I’d purchased an 8 GB memory stick for this, which gave me room for about 2,600 photos. I took about 1,550 photos there.

The side with the older markers took a long time. Some of the markers are nearly unreadable. So I took multiple photos from different angles hoping to catch the shadows different ways so I could read them. At first I tried to dictate into my phone some of my guesses as to names while I was there to actually touch the markers and feel the words. However, after one such marker I decided I didn’t have the patience for that and stopped.

In addition to the Weisses, I also found the graves for Clara Weiss’ brother Peter Voigt and his family, and the first husband of one of Clara’s sister. I’ve barely begun to track down the Voigt branches. Also buried in the Cassville Cemetery are a couple dozen of the Grimm family. I’m not directly related to any of them, but William Hugo Grimm Sr. was the first husband of a third great aunt, Julia Elizabeth Ryan. They had one child and then divorced. Theirs is one of the earliest divorces in my family tree. Julia Ryan remarried and moved to Colorado with her husband and William Grimm’s daughter.

After all that, I drove to three more cemeteries, two of which I also photographed in their entirety. Although they were smaller. And the bugs started getting to me so I gave up 80% of the way through the last one. But it’s 1:45 now, so end of story.

Clara Weiss Troeller

Figuring out that Anton Weiss is my great great grandfather opened up a lot more of the family tree quickly. The 1880 Census lists a number of children of Anton and Clara Weiss, and that’s where I started from:

1880 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss family
1880 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss family

Then I checked the 1860 and 1870 census records and also found Anton and Clara Weiss:

1860 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss
1860 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss
1870 United States Federal Census for Anton Weiss
1870 United States Federal Census for Anton Weiss

The listed children in 1880 were: Cecilia (~1859), Franz (~1862), Joseph (~1866), Mary (~1869), Clara (~1871), and Agnes (~1878).

The listed children in 1860 were: Robert (~1857) and Celia (~1858). I’d previously found the 1860 record, but didn’t do anything with it because I didn’t know if Anton Weiss was the correct father for Joseph. Celia is certainly Cecilia. Over the course of the decades, the U.S. Census has been taken on different dates: 1 Jan, 1 Apr, 15 Apr, and 1 Jun (at least). But both the 1860 and 1870 censuses were taken officially as of 1 Jun, so the difference in approximate birth dates is just someone getting it wrong, either the census taker, or whoever in the Weiss household the worker talked with.

The 1870 census record was harder to find. In the 1870 Census, the two are listed as Antony and Clarra Weist. All of these census records are found on, where people have transcribed and indexed them. The name matching algorithm is pretty good, but for some reason it never matched Anton Weiss with Antony Weist. Wise and Weise match, but the t messed up the soundex type search. At this point, I don’t remember what I put in that finally pulled up the name, or if I went through the Cassville records page by page. For a small place like Cassville, reading every page is fairly easy. There are 23 pages for Cassville in 1860, and 34 in 1870. Reading page by page would be much more laborious for a place like Los Angeles.

The children listed in 1870 were: Robert (~1857), Cecelia (~1858), Frank (~1860), Theadore (~1861), Joseph (~1863) and Mary (~1869).

Here, the birth years for Joseph and Frank really don’t match up, and Theodore’s doesn’t match with other information I have either.

It’s usually easiest to track the male children, because they don’t change their names when they get married, like women overwhelmingly did. However, I had a really good clue for Clara Weiss, so I started tracking her first.

1900 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss
1900 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss

In the clip of the 1900 Federal Census record for Anton Weiss, I included the house and family number column. Some of the censuses include the street address, but this is a different number. Each census taker basically counted off families and dwellings. Sometimes several families would live in the same house. Anton and Clara had the 44th house counted in Cassville, and were the 45th family. Everyone in the same family number is related. Related being in quotes because sometimes servants were counted as their own family, and sometimes not. The last person listed is a Loueller, Clara, listed as a daughter born in March 1871. So it looks like Clara married someone named Loueller!

There’s possibly an interesting story behind that. Why was Clara at her parent’s house in 1900? Was she just visiting? Were she and her husband estranged for a period? Was she stashed at her parents’ for expediency while the husband was setting up a new household or conducting business? I still don’t know.

Searching for women named Weiss who got married in Wisconsin at the Wisconsin Genealogy Index brought up 2 promising hits: Clara Weiss married in Grant County in May 1896, and Clarissa S. Weiss married in April 1894 in Monroe County. I checked Grant County first, because that’s where Cassville is. That Clara Weiss looks to have married a Richard Gross. I’m not 100% certain of that because I haven’t purchased the original record, but his is the only male name that came up as getting married on the same day. It would have to be a pretty weird set of circumstances to marry someone in 1893, marry someone else in 1896, and carry the first person’s surname again in 1900. Clarissa Weiss getting married 4 Apr 1894 seemed like a better possibility, but the possibly spouse search turned up no hits.

Then I looked at the 1900 Census image again, and thought perhaps the name was not transcribed correctly. That could possibly be a Tr and not an L. Plugging in Clara Troeller brought up all sorts of hits, including another one for 1900 in Larrabee, Iowa married to a Conrad Troeller! Thank god for double counting. As it is, a number of people in the Troeller family had already entered her into their family trees, some with the Weiss last name. None of them had connected her to Anton Weiss, but it was enough for me to match them.

Going back to the Wisconsin Genealogy Index, Conrad Troeller does indeed appear, and married someone on 4 Apr 1894. But his marriage is listed in Grant County rather than Monroe County, which confused the possible spouse search. I haven’t yet ordered the original record for that, but I assume it’s an indexing error.

Other states they’ve lived in kept better records and more of them are public, so I as able to find a lot. Helpfully, someone in San Bernardino County, California cataloged a lot of head stones and put the list online, and one of them had her name. Upland California seemed like a long way away, but the other information matched.

So here’s the story as best as I can piece it together from the genealogy records: Clarissa Sophia Weiss was born on 4 Mar 1871 in Cassville, Wisconsin. She married Conrad Troeller from Dodge County, Wisconsin on 4 April 1894 in Cassville, Wisconsin. The Troellers moved to Brule County, South Dakota either with or shortly after her brother Frank (more on him later), where she had a son Harold in 1896. By 1898, Conrad and Clara had moved to Larrabee, Iowa where Conrad worked as a hardware dealer and they had son Paul in 1898 and daughter Agnes in 1903. By 1907, they’d moved to the Los Angeles area, where daughter Margaret was born in that year. But Clara is not to be found in the 1910 census; she died a couple of months before the census on 24 Feb 1910.

What happened after she died explained why they moved to California in the first place, and provided me with a clue as to where other members of my family were. And I have more sources than I did last month too. But that will have to wait for another entry.

Joseph Weiss marries Frankie Ryan

So why post about the Weiss family yesterday? It’s because I found new information. A lot of new information about my genealogy. The following is what I knew about my great grandfather Joseph Weiss yesterday morning:

Joseph P. Weiss Descendancy Chart
Joseph P. Weiss Descendancy Chart

From the memory book Aunts Jane and Sue gave me, I knew that Joe Weiss married Frances Ryan and had six children: Marie, Joe Jr., Helen, Glenn, Arch, and Babe. Other than my grandfather Arch, I didn’t have any other information when I started. From I was able to find them in the census records for 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930. That gave me more information, such as approximate birth dates.

Particularly, I didn’t know who Joseph’s parents were. There were three Joseph Weisses born in Wisconsin about the same time. And I knew Joe had a brother named Theodore. He didn’t show up on the census records for any of the three Joe Weisses I found. Ryan was also a pretty common name. I had an idea which was the correct Ryan family, but didn’t have enough to feel comfortable. So I was kind of stumped. also had a database record that showed Joseph Weiss marrying a Frankie Ryan in 1891. That had to be my great grandfather, but Ancestry had only the names, date and location. They did not have the original record, which could have given me more information and confirmed that it was actually my great grandfather.

A quick note about sources. From what I can tell, genealogists classify their sources into three basic strata: primary, secondary, and everything else. Primary is something that is recorded at or near the time of the event, or is related by someone who was there. Secondary is something that is based off a primary source, such as a history book. Then there’s the rest, which could be family legends, or family trees that other people put on the internet, etc. Generally primary sources are the most reliable. And what’s primary or secondary isn’t always clear. For instance, the information on my grandfather’s death certificate is a mix. The death information is primary, but the birth information is based on what I told the funeral director, which he submitted to the health department.

The database that had the marriage information is no better than secondary. Information could have been transcribed incorrectly. This is what Ancestry had to say about the provenance of the data:

Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp.. Wisconsin Marriages, 1835-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000. Original data: See Description for original data sources listed by county.

Original data: Grant County, Wisconsin Marriages, 1835-1890. County court records located at Lancaster, WI or FHL #1266662 and 1266982-1266988.

That doesn’t tell me a lot. I figured at some point I would stop by the county courthouse or state records division on a trip there and look up the microfilm myself.

Last month, I was perusing the web site for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. They have a genealogy database, which is based off the same microfilm records that Liahona Research used. In fact, they are more complete than what was sold to But not only that, you could easily order a copy of the original microfilm page for each record for only $15. They had the record listed for the Joseph Weiss/Frankie Ryan marriage. So I ordered it.

The record came yesterday.

Marriage Record for Joseph Weiss and Frankie Ryan
Marriage Record for Joseph Weiss and Frankie Ryan

Pay dirt!

This lists Joe Weiss’ father as Anton Weiss, which is the the family I’d considered the most likely before. Now I can list his parents as Anton and Clara and add a number of siblings from the 1880 census record to what I know. One mystery is where is Theodore in the 1880 census? Him not being there is why I didn’t add the Anton Weiss family to my known information. Boarding school is unlikely, but possible. Perhaps he moved out young to work on his own or for a local farmer. In addition to the census information, the marriage record lists his mother Clara’s maiden name as Voight. Taking on the husband’s name makes finding wives’ birth families through census records a pain in the ass. Since both Anton and Clara are from Germany (I cut off that part of the census record below), I will have names as starting points when I eventually dig into German genealogy information.

1880 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss family
1880 United States Federal Census Record for Anton Weiss family

Frankie Ryan’s father is listed as William Ryan, and that was also the most likely of my choices for the Ryan family. What had kept me from concluding this was the case before was that in later censuses, Francis Weiss’ father is listed as having been born in Canada, but the W. D. Ryan listed in the 1880 census is listed as having been born in Wisconsin. The marriage record has Laura Ryan listed as a witness, and the William Dennis Ryan family in the 1880 census had a Laura as a child. Suspicions there are confirmed, and I can add additional information from the 1880 census record for this family as well.

1880 United States Federal Census Record for William Ryan family
1880 United States Federal Census Record for William Ryan family

Since the Ryan family is of Irish descent, I can add Irish to the list of nationalities that make up my mutt blood.

There’s some curious things about the William Ryan family in that census, but that will have to wait for another post.

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.