In 1997 a friend of mine started doing genealogy research, and convinced me to try it. Since my sister had done a rudimentary family tree on our grandmother Florence Schwemm Pahlke’s family, I decided to start there. I sent a survey to everyone in the United States with the last name of Schwemm. From that survey, I discovered that there were four groups with that surname that could be broken down like this:
* The East Coast Schwemms - These Schwemms had used Von Schwemm, and did not seem to be related.
* The Chicago Schwemms - I could find no link to this group based on conversations with my family.
* The Iowa Schwemms - This group had very similar family names and emigrated from Sterbitz Germany, but again no one in my family knew of any relation.
* The Barrington Schwemms _- This group, whom my great grandfather Joachim (aka Joseph) Schwemm was the patriarch, was my group.
The Iowa Schwemms settled in Barrington, but moved to Iowa about the time my great great grandfather, Joseph Schwemm, settled in Barrington. The move was either a coincidence or there may have been some bad blood between them!
I now know that Joseph Schwemm came to Barrington with his parents George and Sophie Schwemm in September of 1862. Are the Schwemms in Iowa related? The immigration records I found for Joseph Schwemm indicated that there was a second family named Schwemm in the same group. This record includes a gentleman close in age to George. Is George maybe a brother?
And what about those Schwemms in Chicago? Is their presence in Chicago just a coincidence?
Doing the Leg Work
While doing my research on the Barrington Schwemms, I always kept a file on the Chicago Schwemms just in case. Over the years I made contact with a couple of people who were related to the Chicago Schwemms and we shared our research. However, none of us could make a connection between the two families.
I also found a Schwemm connection in Elgin. Again even though I was not sure if they were related, I worked with Lisa Hopp, a fellow researcher, on gathering facts. In this case, a young woman named Frieda Schwemm married William Hoffman. Lisa and I have continued working on this family for seven years!
Over the years, I have spent many hours of my visits to my parents at the Barrington Library. My friends and family would shake their head in disbelief as I described reading the microfilm of the Barrington Review/Courier. In the beginning I was looking for specific events (marriages, deaths, births), but over time I would just pick a year and start reading the newspaper. This practice led to many exciting discoveries; for example, Mary Brandt Schwemm setting her and Herman’s apartment on fire!
When the library announced it was going to have portions of the historical film digitized, it was like Christmas! Now I could sit at home in Florida and read the newspaper. Life was good. My family and friends wanted to stage an intervention.
My first search (and largest) on the digitized Barrington Review/Courier was on the Schwemm surname. I got 342 hits! Over the years I have read and printed the majority of these pages. They range from tax notices, election results, and the all important “News around Town.” While this column has had many titles over the years, it basically reported the social happenings of the residents of Barrington and the surrounding communities.
Connecting the Chicago and Elgin Lines
Thanks to the “News about Town” columns, I found that my great grandmother, Emma Schwemm, and great aunt, Minnie Schwemm Schnetlage, attended the funerals of their cousins in Chicago. The names were familiar, and so I went to my Chicago Schwemm folder and they matched! While the term cousin was and is used loosely, it provided proof that they at least knew each other.
As I read more “News around Town” columns in the Barrington Review, I realized that one of the Chicago Schwemms, Florence Rosenbaum, had been the bridesmaid at my great aunt Mary Schwemm’s 1919 wedding. She also spent the summer of 1920 visiting relatives in town and there had been a party for her at the home of my great grandfather, Fred Schwemm. The article mentions that she has friends and family in town.
The next Schwemm breakthrough was finding a connection between my great grandfather Fred Schwemm, and Frieda and William Hoffman (aka the Elgin Schwemms). It seems from articles in the Barrington Review that Fred and Emma Schwemm, my great grandparents, vacationed with the Hoffmans. In another article, Minnie Schnetlage and Emma Schwemm are noted as having attended a funeral for their cousin Minnie Schwemm Mazlow, Frieda Schwemm Hoffman’s sister.
When I talked to my uncle about an Elgin connection, he said that when he was a boy, he knew that his grandparents, Fred and Emma Schwemm, used to take the bus to Elgin and spend the weekend playing cards. He assumed it was at the home of a relative but could not recall a specific name.
Resulting Big Picture
So, do all of these articles prove that the Chicago, Barrington, and Elgin Schwemm families were related? No, it only proves that they knew each other well enough to attend special events in each others lives. The articles show that there was some tie between the generation that emigrated from Germany to the United States, a tie that future generations did not nurture or know about.
I have added the Chicago and Elgin Schwemm families to our family tree (with a dotted line) so that I do not loose track of them. Some day someone may find an old picture, diary, or address book that references one of them and that may help in the search to prove or disprove the connection.
Were the Elgin Schwemms part of the original settlement of the Iowa Schwemms?
Are they related to both the Iowa Schwemms and the Barrington Schwemms?
I have recently connected with a member of the Iowa Schwemm family; maybe together we can sort this matter out. Until then, there are always more newspapers to read and more dots to connect.
And, by the way, my friend who lured me into this hobby dropped her genealogy research after about six months.