Mystery Monday: Emelia and Aunt Lizzie- Solved

Emelia and Aunt Lizzie, possibly Peoria, Illinois.
“Emelia and Aunt Lizzie”, possibly Peoria, Illinois. (Click to enlarge.)

Helbling Family (Click for Family Tree)

Last Monday our Mystery Monday: Emelia and Aunt Lizzie post included the above image in hope of someone seeing it and being able to help us solve the mystery of Emelie and Aunt Lizzie and how they fit into the family. We now think we have a solution, although we do not know for sure who each of the persons are in the photograph- yet.

Trolling through my family tree to try and find an “Emelie” was fruitless, but “Lizzie” was a hit: Elizabeth “Lizzy” Barbara Helbling surfaced after I had entered some data from old notes, specifically some from cousin Mary Lou, who did so much great Helbling research back in the days before the internet, and was so generous in sharing it.

Lizzy was born 25 Feb 1839 in Lawrenceville, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, to Franz Xavier Helbling and Mary Theresa Knipshield. Lizzy was therefore the sister of Franz X. Helbling, Jr., thus the aunt of ‘our’ Gerard William “G.W.” Helbling, son of Franz. The photo album belonged to G.W. and his wife, Anna May Beerbower Helbling, so she would have been “Aunt Lizzy” to May who was putting the captions in the album.

I thought the image was probably taken in the 1930s, but Aunt Lizzy died 25 Dec 1928, so it would have to be sometime in the 20s. She is likely the very elderly woman on the right in the photo, since she was listed as age 81 in the 1920 US Federal Census, and died at age 89.

If this was taken in Peoria, she was a pretty spry lady- she was living in Pittsburgh, PA in 1920 so would have probably taken the train to Peoria in her 80s. Spry also with sitting on the ground for the picture and possibly a picnic- getting up might have been hard!


So who then is Emelie? Emelie is the daughter-in-law of Lizzy, as Emelie married, probably in 1892, Frederick A. J. Spahn, the son of Lizzy and John Spahn. Emelia/Amelia was listed as a Practical Nurse in the 1920 US Federal Census, so she may have traveled with her mother-in-law as Emelia and Frederick were living in Lizzy’s household in 1920 in Pittsburgh. (How convenient to have a nurse around for someone 80 years old!) Emelie L. Heidemann was the daughter of Hermann and Louise Heidemann, born about 1840 and 1843, respectively, in Germany.

Researching Emelie in the census was challenging at first, since her given name was spelled so many ways, and I did not have a maiden name. Thankfully an tree did have a maiden name, so searching using that last name as a clue, I was able to find her family. Her death certificate confirmed her maiden name, as it listed Hermann Heideman as her father, and that she was the widow of Fred J. Spahn.

Emelie was born in 1870, so would have been 50 in 1920. She might be the woman on the right in the dark dress, or the upper left with glasses. Fred is not listed in the caption in the photo album, so he may not have come on the trip- or could have been the photographer! (He died in 1837.) We will need to find a photo of both of them, and one of Lizzie, to try to match up images and identify these folks. Hopefully someone else out there has this same photo with identification. Please let us know if you are a Spahn or Helbling relative!


Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Emelie Heidemann in the 1880 US Federal Census- Year: 1880; Census Place: Saint Louis, St Louis (Independent City), Missouri; Roll: 722; Family History Film: 1254722; Page: 655D; Enumeration District: 100; Image: 0738; via

2) 1920 US Federal Census for Elizabeth “Lizzie” Barbara Helbling Spahn Bushman- Year: 1920; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 26, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1526; Page: 19B; Enumeration District: 739; Image: 1122; via

3) Family photo album.


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