18 May 2009

Thinking Out of the Box...

Last night while pondering what to blog about today I went thru a mental list of things I thought maybe would be of interest to those who read my blog. I really didn't come across anything that jumped out at me, at least not until this morning.

So many times when I talk with people who have brick walls, they start off by saying, "I've done all the normal stuff". Okay, but what have you done besides the normal stuff? By normal stuff I mean things like all census work on parties involved in the brick wall, vital records, city directories, land records, obituaries... you know all the stuff you are SUPPOSED to do. Have you tried thinking out of the box?

For many people thinking outside the box is a real push. If you take them outside their scope of "normal" they just don't function. Other's like me... thinking outside the box is sometimes the best way to go.

Several years ago when I started to research the Krugman family of Lorain County, Ohio, I saw mention of a Krugman wife who died tragically in a house fire, leaving behind two young daughters. But the person who had written the original "Krugmans To America" article had no clue as to what the young woman's name was, where or when she died or much else for that matter. So I had very little to go on.

She did say who she was married to, so I did have a little to work with. I did my census homework, I managed to find him, the widower with his two small daughters, living with his parents. Both daughters were small enough at the time of the fire that they were born between census. The census before their birth he was not married to their mother. So here I have a single man, who marries, has two children and then becomes a widower all without the wife ever showing on a census with the family.

I had no death date so I could not look for an obituary, no name so I had no clue, really who I was looking for. So I started to think how I was going to resolve this. After some thinking I decided who would know better about fires than a FIRECHIEF? I quickly went on line and with the help of a search engine I was able to locate the firechief for the community where I thought the fire had taken place.

Taking a few minutes I composed a letter for him, explaining my predicament and what I was trying to learn. I gave him as much information as I knew, as well as my home address & phone in case he wanted to contact me off line. After writing and then reading the letter thru a few times I hit the send button. Now the hard part - waiting!

After several months of waiting I finally just decided he wasn't going to answer and I edited my notes on the husband, Charles Krugman to state that I had gotten no reply and that other options would have to be considered.

A month or two later, I received a letter in the mail. It was from a reporter for the local newspaper in Lorain County, Ohio. The following material was in the envelope along with a letter from the reporter stating that the firechief had turned my note over to him after the chief ran out of options. He was sorry it had taken so long but this was all he could find. Was it worth the wait? Read on & see for your self...

#1 Fostoria Review Dispatch, 29 NOV 1898
Mrs. Krugman Dies

Mrs. Charles Krugman, who was fataly burned yesterday noon by an explosion of gasoline, died at seven o'clock last night. The funeral services will be held at St. Wendeline's church Monday morning at seven thirty o'clock and the body will be taken to Elyria, where Mr. Krugman's parents live, for burial. Mrs. Krugman had hundreds of friends here who know her best as Anna Kritzer and who feel her loss most painfully. Mr. Krugman has the sympathy of the entire community in this hour of his bereavement.

#2 The Star, Marion County, Ohio, 26 NOV 1898 -

Mrs. Charles Krugman Fatally Burned at Noon Tuesday
Kindling a Fire with Gasoline and the Can and Contents Exploded

At this writing, two o'clock this afternoon, Mrs. Charles J. Krugman lies at her home on South Union Street, awaiting the summons of death, burned to a crisp and moaning, directing to her husband the care of their three small children.
Mr. and Mrs. Krugman and family moved here from Hammond, indiana, two months ago, and he has been employed by Mohler, the tailor, since that time. Both parties lived here about six years ago, he marrying her, Miss Kritzer, in this city, she being a sister to Mrs. George O'Brien.
Mr. Krugman said this afternoon that he went home to dinner, and hs wife thought she would get a quick dinner. There was a little fire in the kitchen stove and both he and she and a little child were standing beside the stove when she picked up what she thought was a coal oil can, but which may have contained gasoline, and taking off a stove lid began pouring the fluid onto the coals, when instantly the contents exploded, throwing now burning fluid in all directions and wrapping the body of the unfortunate woman in a sheet of flame. The glass in the stove was blown out, and the ignited fluid was distributed over the floor and table and blackened the walls of the room wherever it struck. Mrs. Krugman screamed in pain while her husband tried to extinguish the flames which enveloped her; in doing so he severely burned both of his hands while the little daughter is also slightly injured.
An alarm of fire was turned in, but the services of the department were not needed, though medical assitance, in the persons of Drs Hale, Leonard and Hoege, was hurried to the scene.
Mail carrier Lovett, who lives in the adjoining house, was the first person outside of the family to hear the cries of the woman and to rush in. He grabbed a lot of carpet and wrapped it about the woman, who was nothing more than a pillar of fire, and shortly had the flames extinguished, but the cruel flames had done their work. Most of the clothes were burned off her body, the hair was scorched and singed, the lips, nose, ears and eyebrows were burned to a crisp, and it is just possible for her to see.
The doctors state that there is not a spot on her body as large as one's palm which is not horribly burned. The physicians have done everything that can be done to ease the awful pain, but express no hope that she will live, and death is but a few hours off at best. Father Griss is with the poor woman to give spitirual comfort in her last hour.
The daughter who was burned is about three years old and her left hand is badly blistered.

So, by stepping back and thinking "out of the box", I was able to resolve the questions I had about the terrible tragedy that took the life of this young mother. Not all brick walls can be solved, this quickly - it took months rather than years, but by stopping and rethinking all the parties involved, and the rolls they played sometimes the answers can be found and brick walls can come down.

Now if I could just locate her headstone...



Karen Packard Rhodes said...

What a story. Yes, we often have to think outside the box to resolve a genealogical question. Your solution was definitely original.

lindalee said...

You and I have similar areas in OHio...Darke County and Lorain County. I live in Cuyahoga County and can get to Lorain or Elyria without any trouble. If you need a cemetery search, let me know.