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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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com.

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 Ancestry.com.

3) Family photo album.

 

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Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Helbling Family Home & School

 

Helbling family home in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. From a family photo but image may also be found in St. Augustine Diamond Jubilee, page 40-2, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA. From a family photo but image may also be found in St. Augustine Diamond Jubilee, page 40-2, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA.
Helbling family home in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.
From a family photo but image may also be found in St. Augustine Diamond Jubilee, page 40-2, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, PA.

In the year 1854, the Franz Xavier and Maria Barbara (Helbling) Helbling home was across from the Allegheny Cemetery and halfway between Sharpsburg and St. Philomena’s Roman Catholic Church. The Redemptionist Fathers of St. Philomena’s often stopped at the home of the devout Helbling family when traveling between the Church on Fourteenth St. and Sharpsburg. (The home was still standing in the 1930s, but 4807-4809 Butler St., Lawrenceville, PA, is now an empty lot.) German Catholics were very devoted to parochial schools- they felt their children should start their day with a Mass and that they should be schooled in a Catholic school. The Helblings had eleven children, and there were many more children of German Catholic families in the town of Lawrenceville, PA, near Pittsburgh which was rapidly becoming an important industrial city.

The Helbling children attended the English-speaking school at St. Philomena’s on 46th St., but it was quite a long way to travel. Father John Hotz, C.SS.R. visited the Helblings at their home in the fall of 1854, and asked if the Helblings would board a teacher who could instruct their children. A schoolroom was set up on the second floor of the double house, and the teacher arrived.

 

Nine of the Helbling children attended school with this teacher: Elizabeth Barbara, Francis X., William, Philomena Rosanna, Catherine Josephine, Mary Sophia, John Baptist, and Joseph Anthony Helbling; sometimes Bertha Louise, just 2 or 3, attended class. The teacher was very stern and strange, only left the house on Sundays to go to Mass, and wore a long black robe but was not actually a priest. (He may have been a Redemptorist lay brother but no information has confirmed this.) He prayed to a picture of Our Lady of Guadeloupe constantly. The story told is that when, one day, Mrs. Helbling sent little daughter Bertha Louise to get some corn cobs from the yard, the child returned with them and said, “I got them.” The teacher, not being very fluent in English, thought that the child had said a curse word, and said, “Bertha Louise is surely going to hell.”

The adults in the family soon began to question the eccentric behavior of this teacher that their children greatly disliked and feared. The family never even knew his name- he was always just addressed as “Teacher.” As a mother, Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling feared for her children that the teacher was about to lose his mind, and asked Father Hotz to dismiss him from their school and home. Fr. Hotz transferred the teacher to a school in Sharpsburg, where he did in fact lose his mind and have to be removed. Nothing further is known of him.

To be continued…

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) St. Augustine’s Parish History 1863-1938. Personal copy from a cousin, but the entire history may be found online at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~njm1/StAugJub-TC.html, page 11. Accessed 1-22-2014.

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Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.