How did you meet your spouse/sweetheart? How did your siblings or friends meet theirs? Most people I know met at school: college or high school. Of course there have always been more interesting and unusual ways to meet, and these stories usually get told and retold. I suspect there are more matches made these days by online or other dating services as well as fix-ups among people who have settled into a job and place to live without a significant other. As we wait longer to match up, the needs change for meeting a special someone.

For earlier generations I think it was a little different. Do you know how your parents met? Or your grandparents? I know for my parents and one of my two sets of grandparents, so I am doing well. My husband doesn’t know for his parents, and has a family myth for one set of grandparents (never confirmed or fleshed out as far as I know) and doesn’t know for the other set. The stories I know confirm that young people met at school or in a neighborhood, or sometimes through friends (but still in a relatively close geographic neighborhood).

How their parents met is a large question mark for my husband and his sister. Neither parent would talk about the past much by the time my sister-in-law was asking and my husband wasn’t as interested when he was younger. Now both of their parents are long gone, as are my father-in-law’s sister and her husband, who might have known some of the story. The problem is that Sarah, my mother-in-law, was born and raised in Milwaukee and was in school in Chicago (the furthest East I can place her) up until the time they married in Buffalo. Izzy, my father-in-law, was living and working in Buffalo having been born and raised in Syracuse New York. I don’t know that he ever traveled as a youngster or young man any further West than Buffalo. I was thinking about this mystery again, which inspired this post.

The couple who couldn’t have met

Here is what I know about Sarah and about Izzy, along with my thoughts and many speculations and questions about what might have led to their meeting. The basics are as stated in the previous paragraph. Sarah had been raised by her mother in Milwaukee, who was a single parent so life was difficult. At any rate, Sarah graduated from high school and went to college, finishing at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1932. Then in March 1937 she was admitted to the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration as a graduate student, taking one course per quarter (according to her transcript). She attended classes in the Spring and Fall Quarter of 1937, withdrew for the Winter Quarter of 1938, and resumed classes in the Spring and Fall Quarters of 1938. She left after the Fall Quarter of 1938 and did not earn a degree. In March 1939 she and Izzy were married in New York.

Izzy started high school in Syracuse and the family moved to Buffalo in his senior year. He finished courses in Buffalo but officially graduated from Central High School in Syracuse (because he didn’t meet the residency requirement to graduate in Buffalo he always said). He attended the University of Buffalo from about 1928 – 1932 when he graduated with a Law degree. He soon went back (this was the Great Depression) and since he had already completed some of the coursework, he graduated with a B.A. In 1936. There is some reason to speculate that by being a student, perhaps only part time, he was eligible for some student benefits and perhaps even some financial support. From 1936 to 1941 he worked in the Buffalo area but I don’t have an accurate picture yet of where or for how long. He told his children that he worked for the Water Department in what he described as a sinecure, and he had a small (?) private practice as a lawyer.

So how did a graduate student in Chicago and a young lawyer in Buffalo happen to meet and fall in love? That is the $64,000 question. On the face of it, their meeting seems so unlikely as to have been impossible. The first piece of evidence showing them to be in the same place at the same time is when they applied for their marriage license in the Buffalo clerk’s office in March 1939.

So far, I have come up with the following fantasy scenarios. Izzy went to Chicago for a union strike (or to visit a college friend) and they met. Izzy went to Detroit to visit relatives and Sarah was visiting in Detroit and they met. Sarah went to Buffalo for some reason (I’d say a professional conference but in the late 1930s I would guess that was very unlikely). As far as I know they didn’t have any common relatives or even friends. So, for now, while I struggle to think of ways to find out which one traveled and what the meeting circumstances were (?purely social, purely political? something else?), it looks like this is another documented case of ancestors dropped in place by aliens and their lives went on from that time forward. Unless it was just Sarah who was abducted by aliens and she found herself in the clerk’s office where you apply for marriage licenses and Izzy just happened to be there doing some other legal business and they decided it would be a great joke if they got married.

I am focusing today on developing my strategies for contacting the living possible relatives of this Scheier line. I have posted about this family before (click here). And contacting the living descendents has been on my genealogy to-do list for a long time. So now I’m going to get serious about doing it.

Briefly, what I know about the family is that Joseph and Zissel Scheier had 9 children, 8 of whom were living as of the 1910 census, and 6 of whom I have found at least names for. The Scheier family came from the Dubno, Russia, area, possibly the smaller town of Verba. The 6 that I have found (Julius, Sam, Pearl, Ida, Louis, and Abe) were all in the US, along with Zissel, by 1902. Father, Joseph, may have come earlier and died before the whole family arrived. I have names for the grandchildren of some of these Scheier children, although I am still searching for a married name for Ida. I also am not sure about whether some of the children had any children of their own, or for some of the female grandchildren what their married names might be.

Here is what I have done so far in my quest to contact them: I have contacted (via letter, Facebook and a phone call from my sister-in-law) one relative with no success; I have found two other individuals who are likely relatives and am trying to figure out how to approach each of them to maximize the likelihood that they might respond to me. In addition, I know there must be others out there, so while I keep looking for names, part of my strategy needs to be broadcasting my search.


I think this is the easier part to describe, so I will start here. This post is a kind of broadcast. It includes the names of the furthest generation back I know in the title. I am tagging the post with the family name as well as the location of Milwaukee which was the central point for the immigrant generation and often their children. I will post publicly on my Facebook wall that I have published this post. I will try to remember to tweet about it. This morning while I was walking and talking with a friend, it occurred to me (duh!) that I could/should post a general inquiry on any Scheier listserv I can find. Now what avenue have I missed?


This is the more difficult step for me, since I am somewhat shy by nature and especially since I haven’t had very good luck so far. I have a suspicion that I am so obsessed about interested in getting information that I haven’t thought through how a cold contact might appear to someone not as interested in family history. It also occurs to me that I need to think through just what I am looking for from any of these folks. And along with that, it occurs to me that I need to think about what I can offer in exchange.

I feel like I don’t have much (that is the big picture reason why I want to find others who know more) but I do have some information and a picture or two, and the family tree as I know it. And I’m willing to share with anyone who is related and interested.

Now I need to figure out how to approach these people in a way that makes them want to be in contact with me. I find myself wondering what I would think in a similar situation and how I would respond. Would I be skeptical? Would I think it was a scam or a nutcase or someone trying to get information from me to steal my identity? What would my concerns if I assumed it was a potential relative? What would intrigue me? Unfortunately, in this world, I can think of many negative responses and it is harder to think of positive ones.

Uncle Julius, my husband’s great uncle Julius Scheier, was not on the family radar until I started doing the family history. There were 3 Scheiers who were known about: grandmother Pearl, Uncle Doc, and Uncle Louis. As I have written before, these relationships weren’t certain but based on what my mother-in-law called them.

Uncle Julius was likely the first of the Scheier family to arrive in the United States, having come in about 1885. At least this is the date he gave on the 1900 federal census. I have not yet found any documentation about his arrival, or about his naturalization, although he was recorded as naturalized on both the 1900 and 1920 censuses. I’m still searching for the 1910 census where he and his family were enumerated. (For some reason all of this Scheier family has been very hard to find in the 1910 census.)

As the first Scheier here, Julius was the person each of his siblings came to and seem to have relied on when they immigrated. He was already established in Milwaukee with a job and a young family. Julius had married Cecelia Pokras on 5 June 1890, in Milwaukee.

Scheier - Pokras marriage record

Finding the index to their marriage on lead me to send for the marriage record. Here it is.

There is a lot of information on this record, even more than I hoped for. Julius gave his birthplace as Dubno, Russia. He listed both parents, including his mother’s maiden name (Masec or Mases, the handwriting is hard to decipher). Celia also listed both parents with mother’s maiden name. She gave her place of birth as Kiev, Russia and her age is noted as 24. So, although from the federal censuses I had some information, this marriage record provided both corroboration and new information.

The first census, the 1900, that shows the young Julius Scheier family lists a step-daughter, Bertha, born in September 1885 in Russia. This census also lists Celia and Bertha as having immigrated in 1887. It begins to look like Cecilia and a young daughter Bertha might have came to the US with her parents and a sister. Her parents and another female are in the Wisconsin 1895 census in Milwaukee, and in the 1905 Wisconsin census the elder Pokrases are living with a Sarah Arnow. I haven’t yet found the immigration records that would document this family’s passage.

Based on the city directories I have searched so far, Julius and his family were in Milwaukee up to 1893. Then Julius was not listed for 2 years. Then he and Bertha (only the working single woman was listed in those years) were listed again through 1907 which was the latest directory I viewed on our Washington DC trip. I also have Julius on the 1900 federal census and the 1905 Wisconsin census. I have searched for the 1910 census without success so far. And the 1920 shows Julius and his family in Spokane Washington. Then the 1930 shows Celia and youngest son Joseph back in Milwaukee, living together and both widowed.

So where were they in the few years from about 1893 to 1896, or why was no one listed in the Milwaukee city directory? And why can’t I find them in 1910? And when and why did they go to Spokane? And many other questions.

Julius and Celia had three children: Max S. (b 1891), Herbert (b 1895), and Joseph B. (b 1901). Bertha also took the name Scheier. Looking for information about the children starts to answer some of my questions. The first thing I noticed on the censuses was that son Herbert was listed as born in Texas although the other sons were born in Wisconsin. Further evidence about Herbert turned up the information that he was educated at Harvard, where his home address was given as Spokane. His WWI registration in May 1917 in Spokane also showed that he was a student at Harvard University. And the WWI registration listed his full birth date and birth place – Henderson, Texas. Henderson Texas is in north east Texas, not far from the Louisiana border. What in the world was Julius Scheier doing there in 1895? So far I have no clue.

When I searched for son Max I found a record of his burial in Milwaukee in 1910. He died in March 1910 and was buried in Milwaukee. Hm – so far I haven’t found any other information about how he died or where. I do assume that it was in Milwaukee or close by, since I would doubt that the family would have taken him back to Milwaukee to be buried if they were very far away. And youngest son Joseph B. was born in Milwaukee in 1901, so they were back from Texas by then. Thus, although I haven’t yet found the 1910 census, there is evidence that the family was only in Texas for a few years and then back in Milwaukee until 1910 or later.

Based on Herbert’s Harvard listing, they were probably in Washington by 1913. When I did a general internet search for Julius Scheier, I turned up a Federal Reporter report of a district court case in Washington that referred to both Julius and Louis and a bankruptcy they had filed for their partnership, Scheier Brothers. This case was dated June 2, 1911 in Washington state. Since I have also not yet found Louis Scheier in the 1910 census, this opens new questions about where both Julius and Louis were. And what was the business that the Scheier Brothers engaged in? The 1920 census for Julius listed him as a storekeeper of a grocery, and working on his own account (as opposed to being a worker).

Sometime between 1920 and 1926, the family moved back to the Milwaukee area. Julius died in January 1926 in Wisconsin. An obituary for him provides some information

Julius Scheier obituary

about his family (including a married name for Bertha, yay!) and his career. It also says that he was a 35 year resident and merchant of West Allis (just west of Milwaukee). This doesn’t agree with the city directories searched or the federal censuses found so far. He likely was a resident and merchant in West Allis at the time of his death but he doesn’t seem to have been there for 35 years. An index of deaths and burials found on the website for the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee
shows Julius’s burial in Spring Hill as well as Cecelia’s and Max’s, and Bertha’s. Cecelia died in September 1943.

I am left with questions about why this family spent some time in Texas and then why, later, they relocated to Spokane Washington for a number of years before returning to Milwaukee. This will send me off to search for histories of these two communities to see if I can figure out what would have attracted Julius to move there.

Today, while avoiding the household tasks I should be doing, I have been making a spreadsheet to show the city directory I collected last week in Washington. I listened to a couple of talks about using city directories to add to what you know about a family and then when we visited the Library of Congress (I have my own official Reader card!) I started going through microfilmed city directories for the city of Milwaukee in search of the Scheiers. As an aside, choosing what to research at the Library of Congress was a very difficult choice. There are so many collections that called to me. Not to mention the history/exhibits side which we didn’t even see. And, difficult as it is to believe, we didn’t make it into the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room (not where the city directory microflims are kept).

The Scheier family has been one of my roadblocks in searching my husband’s family lines. Dan’s maternal grandmother was Pearl Scheier who married Benjamin Riddner and had two children. When I started researching his family, the only known connection was that he and my sister-in-law both had heard their mother refer to “Uncle Louis” and “Uncle Doc” – I think they actually may have met Uncle Doc when they were very young. As I started to search records I was able to document that Louis Scheier and Abe Scheier (a physician) existed in the right time and place. However, for years I was unable to find anything that actually documented their relationship to Pearl, or any of the other Scheier people I could find in the Milwaukee area. Then there was a picture of an older woman taken in Milwaukee, who I guessed was the mother of at least some of these people (why else would it be in my mother-in-law’s possession, right?

likely Zissel Scheier, in Milwaukee

I wonder if she knew who the woman in the picture was.). Intriguing hints but very little real data. This picture is still unidentified to my satisfaction, although I cannot figure out who else it might be.

I applied my usual scatter-shot approach to the problem and started looking at federal censuses, then Wisconsin sites for vital records (trying to find my mother-in-law’s birth record and her parents’ marriage among other things; also looking for anything about her brother who was rumored to have died very young). I’ve written before about some of my difficulties and about finally finding some of the Scheiers in the 1910 federal census which gave me the link between Zissel and her children Pearl, Ida, and Abe. Yay! Pearl and Abe are brother and sister, so “Uncle Doc” was an accurate title. But who is Ida? Never heard of or saw her name before. Huh. Then I found an obituary for Louis that listed his brother Abe and that connection was made.

At some point more recently, I went back to the 1910 census and noticed that Zissel reported having borne 9 children, 8 of whom were still living. So far I had 4 of them, living in this country. How many others came too? Who are they? I have been aware of a number of Scheiers in the Milwaukee area and have collected some of it, thinking they must be related. Sam Scheier, for example, was one of the witnesses for the naturalization application of Abe Scheier. Likely to be a relative, maybe or maybe not a brother. Then there is another picture from my mother-in-law of someone labeled Joseph B. Scheier on the back. Uh-oh, turns out there are 2 Joseph B. Scheiers in Milwaukee, born 5 years apart. One to Sam and one to someone else. So I have guessed that the picture is Sam’s son, and another indication that he is a relation.

Unfortunately, as is obvious, I have had too little true information and too many guestimates and assumptions to be comfortable about all this. So I went to the city directories at the LOC and – huzzah! – I found another Scheier and all of the Scheiers living together at different points. Now

Scheirs all together, 1904

this doesn’t prove that the siblings are in fact siblings, but it is another piece of the puzzle. The “new” Scheier, Julius, was the earliest Scheier I found listed, and seemed to be the key person. Going back to the censuses showed me that he was married and had 4 chidlren (including the other Joseph B.) and two of the children had appeared in the directories once old enough and employed. Looking on has provided me with some information about Julius’s marriage, including the invaluable listing of his parents’ names, and the birth of his three children born in this country, This was also how I pinned down which Joseph B. belonged to which parents. It turns out I was wrong about the picture and if I had only thought about the date on it I would have known that. The picture was dated as well as labelled, and the date was 1919. Sam’s son Joseph would have only been 13 that year, but Julius’s son would have been 18 and probably graduating from high school which is what the picture looks like.

She should be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her mother.  She was only 2 at the time of the 1910 federal population census.

This family has been most elusive in the 1910 census.  Over the years I have tried every variation on the spelling of the last name that I can think of.  Finally, in the past year, I had some successes.

I know that her father (Ben Riddner) and her mother (Pearl Scheier Riddner) were in Milwaukee by about 1904 and married there in 1905.  I have copies of the application for the license (which gave their parents’ names – hurrah!) and the registration of the marriage.  I have a copy of Sarah’s birth certificate – she was born in Milwaukee in 1908.  There is no reason to think that the family would be anywhere else.  Except they don’t show up where I expected them to be.  And, except that the family story is that Ben left them and divorced Pearl, at some point, and moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Not clear when.

Then, having looked at everything (I thought), I went back and checked Ben’s name at again and – what do you know?! – a new database of crossings into the US from Canada.  And it turns out that Ben had been in Canada since sometime in 1908 until Dec. 1910.  So, no wonder I couldn’t find him in the census.  But what about his wife and child?

I started looking for Scheiers in the census.  I knew that there were Scheier relatives in Wisconsin in about the same time period.  I thought that a couple of them were brothers of Pearl, although I haven’t had evidence of that (beyond Sarah in later life calling them Uncle Doc and Uncle Louis).  I looked and looked for either of these in the 1910 census.  They, too, should be there and most likely in Wisconsin.  Eventually, and just recently, I finally found Abe (later Dr. Abe) under the name Abe Sheer (at least that is how it was indexed).  And, surprise!, when I looked at the image, he was living with his mother, Susie Sheir (Zissel or Zietle Scheier) and two sisters: Ida Sheer and Pearl Viddne (a misspelling of Riddner I never thought of).  A bonus.  I have some evidence that Abe and Pearl were brother and sister.  And found another sister.

But I still have missing Scheiers, and now I also have a mystery.  Pearl was still married at that point.  And she had a 2 year old daughter, who was not enumerated in the same household.  Why not?  Was Sarah living somewhere else at the time?  Why would she have been?  The remaining person I know about in this family, Louis Scheier, is still among the missing in the 1910 census.  The line for Susie or Zietle also shows that she had 9 children, 8 of whom were still living in 1910.  So I’m looking for at least 3 more Scheiers, somewhere in the world.  I have just finished going through the pages for the Ward and District that these Scheiers were in, page by page.  No Louis and no Sarah.  I tried looking at Heritage Quest briefly today, and still no Louis or Sarah.  So I have my work cut out for me.  Any suggestions are welcome as I make finding these two a goal for 2010.