Autumn is in full swing already, and school is well underway. I recently re-discovered this old class photo amongst my scanned family photos. My 2nd great-grandmother, Louise Marie Nahrstaedt, was born in Sandau, Germany, in 1879. As far as I know, her family lived there until 1891 when they emigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago, Illinois. This image is a class photo from 1885, when Louise was in first grade. She is the girl circled in the front row. She seems to be very good friends with the other three girls in the front row, because they are all sitting close to each other, holding hands or linking arms. I wonder if she was still friends with them when she was 12, leaving for the United States, and if they were, did they ever have a chance to write to each other and remain friends? Would she find close school friends here in the United States? Only time will tell!
Today, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will roll across North America. For many, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Illinois, some people remember the partial eclipse experienced here in 1970 and 1979, but the last time Illinois residents experienced a full total solar eclipse was in 1869. This eclipse was the only time in the history of the state (established in 1818) that a total eclipse had ever been observed! As this Daily Herald article discusses, Illinoisans were building the State Capital building at the time, and attempted to commemorate the occasion with a monument at the capital. Since solar eclipses are such relatively rare occurrences, I wondered, which of my ancestors experienced a solar eclipse during their lifetimes?
It turns out, some of my ancestors would have been able to see a complete solar eclipse from their homes, and even a few more who would have seen a partial solar eclipse sometime in their lives. Unfortunately, none of my ancestors recorded their solar eclipse experiences, but I can imagine what they would have seen and done.
7 March 1970:
My mother remembers this partial eclipse from her home in Northern Illinois. In her area, the sun was about 70% covered by the moon. She remembers standing on her back porch, watching the eclipse with her homemade cardboard box eclipse viewer. Local newspaper reports indicate that clouds and rain were threatening to block out the view, but apparently my mom attempted to see it anyway!
24 January 1925:
A 95% total eclipse would have been observed in DeKalb County, Illinois, but it was apparently overcast that morning, and the eclipse was not entirely visible. Six of my great-grandparents lived with their families in DeKalb County or Chicago, and would have missed out on this eclipse because of weather. Perhaps they paused their daily lives to try to peek out at the partial eclipse through the clouds.
My paternal great-grandparents would have had a much better view of this eclipse. George and Pauline Weil lived in Kingston, New York at the time and would have been able to view the total eclipse. George worked as a teacher at Emmanuel Lutheran School. He and Pauline had four young boys at home. George may have used the solar eclipse as a teaching opportunity and taken his oldest boys, ages 7 and 5, outside in the frigid cold to view the eclipse. According to the evening issue of The Kingston Daily Freeman from that day, the weather was brutally cold but the sky was wonderfully clear to watch the eclipse. Daily business came to a standstill during the moments when the moon was completely covering the sun. (Read the full fascinating account here on Newspapers.com.) I imagine that George and his family would have also viewed this moment with wonder.
8 June 1918:
During this eclipse, the moon covered about 70% of the sun in Northern Illinois. Unlike the 1925 eclipse, the weather that day was clear, and the eclipse was clearly visible. My Illinois ancestors who didn’t get to see the eclipse in 1925 likely caught a glimpse of this partial solar eclipse. My great-grandparents, Charles and Emma Drake, may have simply been working on the farm that morning as usual and paused to look up at the sky. Emma would have been 8 months pregnant with her first son. In some cultures, it is unlucky for pregnant women to view the solar eclipse, so I wonder if she was slightly superstitious and stayed inside, or if she was curious and glanced at it. My other great-grandparents, Glenn and Mildred (Lawrence) Kaiser, and Erwin and Dorothy (Mueller) Wischmeyer were not yet married, and were living with their families in DeKalb and Chicago, respectively. Glenn Kaiser would have missed the eclipse entirely because he was serving in the military in France. Perhaps he heard about the eclipse from family members who wrote to him while he was away.
7 August 1869:
My great-great grandmother Jennie Holbrook was nine years old and lived with four siblings and her parents on a farm near a small town named Manlius, Bureau County, Illinois. They were just a tad too far north to see a complete eclipse, but at over 90% coverage of the sun, the sky would have still been noticeably dark. On this particular Saturday, I’d imagine that they also paused their daily routine to admire the nearly full eclipse. They may have read about the eclipse in the Ottawa Free Trader or another local newspaper. This eclipse was the first eclipse in the United States to have a clear photograph taken of it. The center of the eclipse passed right through Springfield, IL as they were building the Capital. This was the last time that Illinoisans experienced a total eclipse.
Later today, I will try to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a total solar eclipse from my home. I wonder, will the weather cooperate? Will it be cloudy, like the eclipses my relatives experienced in 1925 and 1970? Or will I get lucky, like George and Pauline Weil, and be able to view the total eclipse under clear skies? And will it be memorable, so that I can someday tell my children about it? Time will soon tell!
Did any of your relatives experience any cool eclipses in the past?
I’m looking to reconnect with any relatives of the Medine family from DeKalb County, Illinois!
This semester, I took an online Genealogy course at University of Illinois with genealogist Nicole W. Miller. I feel like I learned so much about developing trends in genealogy, and I developed better practices for researching and sourcing my own family history. One of my accomplishments was writing a formal compiled genealogy for the Medine family. I realized that there are still some close Medine cousins that I know very little about! I would love to reconnect and share family stories with their descendants. If you are descended from any of the relatives listed below, please connect with me by commenting on this post! I know the basic information for each of these people, but I’d love to add more to their biographies! I will definitely share the final genealogy paper with you!
Ralph/Harry Shaffer, born about 1913, Illinois. Son of Roy and Julia (Medine) Shaffer. He likely grew up in DeKalb, Illinois, and I believe that he lived in Chicago in 1943. No further information.
Leona G. Bowen, born 16 September 1913 in Mayfield, DeKalb County, Illinois and died 4 February 1975 in Sycamore. Daughter of Jesse Scott and Augusta (Medine) Bowen. She married Melvin Ernest Voltz on 25 November 1933 in Elgin, Kane County, Illinois. He was born 27 October 1909 in Illinois and died on 29 October 1983 in Wisconsin.
Donald M. Bowen, born 18 November 1916, Sycamore; died 9 December 1989 DeKalb County, Illinois. Son ofJesse Scott and Augusta (Medine) Bowen. He married (1) Edna Eddy on 15 June 1946 and (2) Teresa Mary deRin on 2 September 1949 in Geneva, Kane County, Illinois. Teresa was born 17 January 1921 in DeKalb, the daughter of Anthony and Sylvia deRin, and she died 26 May 1988.
Helen M. Bowen, born 11 July 1920, Mayfield; died 27 July 1949, Elgin, Kane County, Illinois. Daughter of Jesse Scott and Augusta (Medine) Bowen. She married Charles Joseph Leonard on 25 April 1940 in Dubuque, Iowa. He was born 25 April 1912 in Illinois to James and Mary Leonard, and died 26 December 1993 in Van Nuys, California.
James Leonard Medine, born 30 June 1924, Genoa, Illinois; died 11 December 1944 in France. Son of Fred and Lillian Kleona (Leonard) Medine. He served in the military in WWII and was killed in action.
I will also be writing a compiled genealogy for Gustaf Medine’s siblings who also settled in DeKalb County, Illinois. They are all the children of Andreas Danielsson and Lena Stina Svensdottr, born in Smoland, Sweden, and emigrated here in the 1880’s. Their original last name was Andreasson, and they all changed it to Medine when they arrived in Illinois. Please contact me if you have any additional information about the following individuals! Thank you!
Peter Sven Medine was born 9 June 1858 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden, and died 12 January 1930 in Sycamore, Illinois. He married Mathilda Johnson (1861-1925) in DeKalb County, Illinois on 9 December 1887. They had four children, all born in DeKalb County: Harry William Medine (1888-1964), Arthur Albert Medine (1890-1972), Carl Edward Medine (1894-1987) and Ernest Glenn Medine (1900-1991).
Mary/Maria Medine was born 1 May 1856 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden, and died 27 Mar 1940 in Sycamore, Illinois. She had one daughter who was born in Sweden, Amanda Helena Medine (1882-1953), who married Alfred A. Reed and Edward Castenson. In 1890, Mary married Andrew Turkelson (1834-1910) in Illinois, and they had three sons: John William Turkelson (1892-1953), Rienhold Turkelson (1895-1910) and Carl Victor Turkelson (1897-1970).
Helen Medine was born 1 March 1863 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden, and died 15 November 1948 in Maywood, Cook County, Illinois. In 1886, she married Andrew Elmberg (1851-1924). They had one daughter, Maud Victoria Elmberg (1888-1967). Helen later married Herman H. Phillips (1867-1943).
Christine Medine was born 5 March 1846 in Mistelås, Kronoberg County, Sweden and died sometime after 1907. She arrived with her father Andreas in Illinois from Sweden in 1899. When Andreas passed away in 1907, she is named as “Mrs. Christine Anderson of Mayfield.” I’m not sure who she married (if she did marry), or when she died, or if she went back to Sweden after 1907. She had a son, born in 1873 in Sweden, named Anders Göran.