Sunday, October 05, 2008


I received the following e-mail message about two weeks ago:

Sep 22
Thank you for all the info you have given me on my family. I have been searching for any clues to my family ties for years without finding anything. I just knew that my grandfather had a half brother other names. I now know that Ludwig Backhaus was his father. I have gone to New Fane and found the grave. My grandfather was Charles Henry Backhaus born January 10, 1859 in the town of Scott. He died in Campbellsport Wisconsin January 8, 1951. I found more on too. But your website has been a joy for me. I pieced a lot of things together to make my family tree.

Ruthie Stoffel

I sent a reply to this message and haven't heard back from Ruthie yet. But I'm hoping that I will. Her grandfather appears to have been my great grandfather's step-brother. Both of them had a half-brother named Henry. It was basically impossible to explain Henry's relationship to my great grandfather without also explaining his relationship to Ruthie's grandfather, Charles. I keep finding individual pieces of documentary evidence and posting them on my blog, but it really doesn't mean much until someone else comes along who can see that those pieces do add up to something and do make sense.

I believe Charles also had a younger brother, Edward, born in 1863. I think it's likely that their mother, Henrietta Backhaus, died giving birth to Edward and he was raised by my great great grandmother, Marie, who married her next door neighbor, Ludwig Backhaus, after her first husband, my great great grandfather, Wilhelm Lubach, died in July of 1865 while serving the Union Army in the Civil War. She declared for a widow's pension and benefits for her minor dependents, Carl, William, Louise and Edward, but wasn't processed until 1867 after she had married Ludwig Backhaus and the children had become his legal wards. Henry was born in 1868, a year after Marie married Ludwig.

My great grandfather, William Lubach, is listed in the 1870 census for Scott Township in Sheboygan County as William Backhaus. The age listed for him is 74, but he was actually only 14. His older brother, Carl, isn't listed in that census, but their sister, Louise, is listed as a Backhaus, age 12, born in Wisconsin, along with their half-brother, Henry, age 2, and their step-brothers, Edward, age 8, and Carl, age 11. Edward appears in the 1910 census listed as Edward Lubach, age 48. I believe he married a neighbor listed on the same page of the 1870 census, Catherine Anne Luhn.

The whereabouts of Edward Lubach are important to me because that's the name by which my grandfather was known. It was his middle name. Edward was a popular name in Wisconsin in 1863. It was the first name of Lieutenant Governor Edward Salomon, a Prussian army officer who became Acting Governor of Wisconsin when Governor Harvey drowned in the Tennessee River in 1862 while reviewing the Wisconsin troops who had survived the Battle of Shiloh.

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln had a twelve year old son named William who died of pneumonia in 1862. William was the second of three Lincoln sons to die in childhood. The first was Edward, who died at age 4 in 1850, the year that William was born. Mary Todd Lincoln wrote a poem called Little Eddie about the loss of that son, which was no doubt revived to lament the loss of William shortly after the family moved into the White House. My father's middle name is Edward and so is mine.

Sometimes I'm just amazed at what a precise instrument the internet can be for finding those proverbial haystack needles. Theories based on hunches are all well and good, but they only become tangible when someone you've never met or even heard of provides that indispensable independent verification.

Thanks so much, Ruthie. I couldn't have done it without you.

1 comment:

Loren said...

It is rather amazing that a tool that seems this general, this diffuse, can end up uniting people who've led parallel lives?

Or put us in touch with people who live thousands of miles away but have similar experiences.