Friday, August 9, 2013

Katharina Elizabeth Neumayer Vetter, (1857 – 1903), my Great-Grandmother on my Father’s side

Katharina Neumayer Vetter
I decided to write about Katherine Vetter now for two reasons.  First, so far I’ve written very little about any of my Vetter relatives, because I know so little about them.  Katherine and her husband George were born in Germany and did not immigrate to the United States until 1883.  Since I have yet to develop my research skills beyond the United States I do not have any documentation about their lives before they came to this country.  Katherine died at 46 so she only lived in the US for 20 years.  She appeared on the 1900 census living in Chicago but had died before the 1910 census.  The 1890 census was destroyed in a 1921 fire.  Census data provides valuable information for genealogists – not having these records means a dearth of information.

The second reason I’ve chosen to write about Katherine is that I recently “met” the great-granddaughter of one of Katherine’s daughters, Rosie Elizabeth Vetter – one of my grandmother’s four sisters.  The great granddaughter’s husband Chris contacted me after seeing an article and photo I submitted to the California Genealogy Society.  The photo depicts George Vetter in front of his liquor store in Chicago.  Chris had heard the story about George owning a liquor store and my photograph proved the story to be true.  Making connections with distant, unknown relatives is one of the great joys of doing family history research.
Katherine in hat & muffler
Chris provided a birth record showing Katherine was born on February 25, 1857 in Wattenheim, Frankenthal, Bayern, Germany. This location jibes with records from Gramma Pattillo. If you Google this place a link to the Family History Center in Utah comes up and this message: “This place has no commentary yet.”  So, I cannot tell you anything about where Katherine was born. According to the same document, her parents were Guilelmi Neumayer and Maria Anna Hofmann.  I know nothing more about her parents – will save that for a future post when I’ve completed more research.

The spelling of her maiden name is a real puzzle.  So far I have found 7 different spellings on various documents.  It is spelled:
Neimeyer on Emma's birth and death certificates.
Neumeier on Kate's birth record.
Neumeyer on Lizzie's death record.
Newmeyer on Kate's death certificate, Anna's birth, and in Anna's bible.
Newmayer on Anna's wedding record.
Newmeir on the Wallace Family Tree on Ancestry,
And Neumayer on Katharina's own birth certificate – so that is what I’ve chosen to use.

Katherine was born during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and though she lived in Germany until she was 26 she would no doubt have been influenced by the Victorian era. According to Wikipedia "It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain."
Katherine with her hair up

When she was 14 years old in 1871, and still living in Germany, the city of Chicago was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. The city burned for two days, destroyed 3.3 square miles, and killed hundreds of people. It was one of the largest disasters of the 19th century, but led to the rebuilding of the city into one of the great cities of the world. Twelve years after the fire, George and Katherine immigrated to Chicago, joining a large population of German immigrates who chose Chicago to start new lives.

Katherine and George Vetter were married in 1883. The source for this date is the 1900 census which included a column for “number of years married”. The amount and type of information gathered during each census varies and reflects the trends of the time.

Katherine and George immigrated to the United States on July 25, 1883 shortly after they married. They travelled by ship departing from London and arriving in New York. The name of the ship was “France” owned by the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique. The France was in service from 1896 – 1915 when it was sunk by a submarine.

New York passenger list for the "France" showing George Vetter, stonecutter and Catherine "wife" heading for Chicago
The 1900 census also included a column that recorded how many times a woman had given birth and how many of the children were living. This is how I learned that there was a sixth child born to Katherine and George – previously I’d only known of my grandmother Anna and her four sisters.

The sixth child was another daughter named Augusta Elizabeth Vetter. Augusta was born May 13, 1884 in Chicago and died October 16, 1884, so she only lived five months. At the time Augusta was born the family was living at 500 S. Halstead Street in Ward 7 of Chicago. The cause of death listed on the death record was noted as convulsions. Augusta was buried in St. Bonifacius Cemetery which was consecrated in 1863, and according to their website was the first German catholic cemetery. Buried there are the “builders of the German catholic community” in Chicago. Augusta is also the middle name of another Vetter daughter – Mary, born in 1888 has Augusta as her middle name. This seems significant and suggests that Augusta is a family name. Hopefully, sometime in the future I’ll figure out the source of this name.
George, Katherine and daughter Kate

In 1885 Katherine gave birth to her second daughter and named her after herself. Kathe or “Kate” Vetter was born July 16th. Followed by Mary Augusta born November 2, 1888, Rosie Elizabeth “Lizzie” born February 22, 1890, Emma born November 9, 1891, and finally my grandmother Anna on September 17, 1893. All were born in Chicago. They were still living on Halstead when Kate was born. Mary, Lizzie and Emma were all born while the family was living at 1328 W. 20th Street in Ward 10 of Chicago. I don’t have the exact address of where they were living when Anna was born. I have found one or more birth records for each of Anna’s sisters but none for Anna. I do know she was born in Ward 10. Chicago is divided into 50 wards each represented by an Alderman. Ward 10 is the largest ward and is located in the southeast corner of the city.

The 1900 Chicago census is a gold mine of information for our Vetter family. The data was collected on June 14, 1900 at which time they were living at 409 21st Street, Chicago in Cook County. Six family members are listed: George 42, Kate 43, Kate 15, Mary 12, Lizzie 10, Emma 9 and Anna 7. Off all the people listed on this census page, 37 showed both parents having been born in Germany, 9 showed both parents born in England, and only 6 parents from other places. Clear evidence that this was a German community.

Mary, Lizzie, Anna, Kate & Emma with their father George ca. 1903
I believe Katherina died in 1903 because Gramma told us that her mother died when she was ten years old, but I do not have a death certificate or other document to prove the death date. My notes also state that she died from asthma, but I don’t have a source for that fact either. It seems likely that George would have buried her with her first born in the Bonifacius cemetery – something to follow up on. I don’t recall Gramma having said much about her mother, probably because she was so young when her mother died, so I have no personal information about her – what kind of person she was. The few photographs I have depict her with her hair always up and wearing somewhat severe clothing – typical of the Victorian era.

During her prime – from age 27 to her death – Katherine witnessed an era of great transportation innovation. The first motorcycle, automobile and airplane were invented during this period. She also experienced three major information technology milestones – the first musical record, Tesla’s invention of the radio, and the first movie being made.

Sources: Birth and death records for Katharine's daughters, New York passenger list, Google, stories from Gramma Pattillo, and other family trees on

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