Collaboration in Genealogy – An Example Of Doing It Right

While I was travelling through Scotland and Ireland, I received an email from Ancestry.com notifying me that another Ancestry member with the user name kforsman72 had sent me a message.

I will often receive these types of emails that are typically from people asking for more information about someone in my online public Ancestry tree. This message was different.

The message I received stated “I just wanted to let you know that I came across the graves of the Kletzings in Section 5 of Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. The graves include Josiah, Kate, Arba, Clarence, Florence Amy, and Kathryn Gall. I’ve created memorials and uploaded photos of the graves to Find-A-Grave, in case you are interested in viewing them.”

Once I was home from my trip, I went to the Find-A-Grave site where I searched for and found the Kletzing memorials reference in the Ancestry message.

KLETZING Josiah gravestone from findagrave

Grave site of Josiah and Kate Kletzing, Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois (Photo by Kate Forsman, 2015. Used with permission)

The memorial pages provide the information found provide information from and a photo of the grave of my wife Ellen’s first cousin, three times removed Catherine ‘Kate’ (Nusbickel) Kletzing, her husband Josiah Kletzing and some of their children.

Kate Kletzing was the daughter of Frederick Nusbickel and Elizabeth Wagner, an older sister of my wife’s 2X great grandfather Rev. Jacob Wagner. Kate was born 1 March 1855 in Rose, Wayne County, New York and according to U.S. census records she married Josiah Kletzing around 1880. Josiah and Kate had five known children, three of whom are documented on the gravestone. Kathryn Gall, who is listed on the gravestone, was Josiah Kletzing’s second wife whom he married in 1915.

I now know kforsman72 to be Kate Forsman and from what I can determine Kate does not have the Kletzing family in her family tree. No, Kate took a photo of the Kletzing grave and set-up the Find-A-Grave memorial pages to help out other genealogists and researchers. That’s a good thing.

But Kate took it a step further, checking on Ancestry to see who might have this Kletzing family in their tree. She found me and through that initial message, she helped me add some valuable evidence to my research database.

Well done, Kate. I believe the genealogy community is made of great folks who love to help others and Kate has demonstrated why I hold that belief.

52 Ancestors: Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (1857-1945)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

A switch again this week to one of my wife Ellen’s direct ancestors. This week the story of her paternal great grandfather Rev. Louis Henry Wagner. 

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (photo taken about 1918)


I have always found Louis to be an interesting man. Born in New York State, he was raised and received his early education in Berlin, Waterloo County, Ontario, apprenticed at a young age as a tanner and leather belt maker, attained post-secondary education in the State of Illinois as a land surveyor only to return to work in Ontario as an accountant and salesman before settling into life as an itinerant preacher for the Evangelical Association.

Louis Henry Wagner was born in Grove, Alleghany, New York on April 11, 1857. His father was Rev. Jacob Wagner, an Evangelical Association preacher whose ‘territory’ included not just western New York state but also parts of southern Ontario. On his trips into Ontario, and the German community in Berlin, Jacob would stay with Jacob and Margaret Hailer. Jacob Hailer was said to have been the first German to settle in Berlin and he would offer up the space of his woodworking shop to serve as a church gathering place for the Evangelical Association. It was here that Jacob Wagner met his wife, the Hailer’s eldest daughter Margaret (or Margaretha), the mother of Louis and his older sister Catherine, or ‘Katie’ as the family called her.

Before he was a year old, Louis’ family was moving to Berlin to live close to his maternal grandparents because his father Jacob Wagner had decided to change careers, moving to the business world, establishing a tannery in partnership with his friend and by then brother-in-law Louis Breithaupt. Mere months after the family move was complete, and just one week after Louis’ first birthday, Jacob Wagner died.

Fortunately for Louis, his family rallied around and supported him, his mother and sister. It appears that Jacob Wagner had died intestate, that is, he did not leave a Will naming a guardian for his children and the laws at the time did not automatically cede guardianship to the mother. So on September 3, 1859, letters of Guardianship were granted by the court to Jacob Hailer for both Louis and his sister Catherine. With his Berlin pioneer grandfather as his guardian, Louis went to live with his uncle Louis Breithaupt, after whom he had been named. Interestingly, Louis took up maintaining a diary as a teenager in December 1872 and much can be learned about 19th century Berlin, Ontario life in the pages of Louis’ diary volumes. His first diary entry, dated Sunday, December 15, 1872 begins with “We were all in church as usual ….” 

Over the years, the maturation of Louis is evident as his writings evolve from descriptions of the numerous times he was off to church, to his arguments to be allowed to apprentice in his uncle’s leather business, to his frustrations with the apprenticeship progress and his desire to find excitement in life, eventually leading to the anguish he experienced when his wife Mary Staebler died of typhoid fever in 1887, leaving him a widow with a one year old son.

Louis was educated as a land surveyor at Northwestern College in Naperville, Illinois although he does not seem to have ever practised that profession. When he returned home to Berlin, he took up employment as an accountant and salesman – again with his uncle Louis Breithaupt’s Eagle Tannery. In 1882, he made his final career change. After having been so involved in his church, Louis applied to the Canada Conference of the Evangelical Association, who that year were meeting in nearby St. Jacobs, Ontario, and on April 20, 1882, he was granted his first preacher’s license as a “Preacher on trial.” His first appointment was as assistant pastor in Sebringville, Ontario. 

On May 20, 1884. Louis married Mary Staebler in Berlin, Ontario. Their only child, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner was born on May 10, 1886 in Hespeler, Ontario. On July 4, 1889, Louis married for a second time to Sarah Lodema Moyer with whom he had three additional children: Ida Louisa Wagner, Carl Henry Wagner, and Margaret Florence Wagner.

Louis spent the remainder of his long life continuing his work as a minister and officiating at many family events including the June 2, 1901 wedding of his cousin Albert L. Breithaupt to Lydia Anthes in which childhood friend and future longest serving Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King served as Best Man.

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner holding his great grandson Carl Edward ‘Ted’ Wagner


Even late in life, Louis continued to officiate at family events including baptizing his great grandson Carl Edward ‘Ted’ Wagner, Ellen’s brother. 

Louis Wagner died in his residence at 253 Weber Street in Kitchener, Ontario on January 8, 1945 at the age of 87. He rests in peace in Kitchener’s Mount Hope Cemetery with his wife Sarah.

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner and Sarah Lodema Moyer gravestone, Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario (photo by Ian Hadden)

Sometimes My Genealogy Stars Are Aligned

As luck would have it, I stumbled into a gold mine of family records while I have continued to pursue my wife Ellen’s ancestors. As I have recorded through many blog posts, Ellen’s ancestry is rich and compelling, with roots that include United Empire Loyalists and American Revolutionaries  I can trace her ancestors back to the 1620’s in New England, their arrival occurring just a few years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Ellen appears to be one of the few people who can claim U.E.L. (United Empire Loyalist) and D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) status (although neither has been applied for to date).

With such a lengthy and deep ancestry in North America, spread over hundreds of years, family members in subsequent generations have been found in all corners of the United States and Canada.

In the past couple of weeks, I have devoted time to tracking down the family members directly connected to Ellen’s second great aunt, Elizabeth Nusbickel (nee Wagner). Elizabeth was the sister of Ellen’s second great grandfather Jacob Wagner. Both Jacob and Elizabeth had immigrated to the United States along with their parents Heinrich ‘Henry’ and Anna Marie ‘Mary’ (nee Eckhard) Wagner around 1833, settling in Wayne County, New York. Henry provided for his family by both farming his land and by plying his trade as a cooper. The photo, above right, was taken by Ellen’s uncle Gordon Wagner in 1976 and was provided to us by Gordon as part of his genealogy work charts and papers on the Wagner family. The photo, which I scanned, depicts Stewart Smart (a cousin) with a barrel made by Henry Wagner over one hundred years prior to the photo.

Elizabeth Wagner married Frederick Nusbickel around 1843. Elizabeth and Frederick had five known children, the youngest, Catherine or ‘Kate’ was born in 1855 in Rose, Wayne County, New York. Around 1880, Kate married a Lyons, Wayne County, New York school teacher named Josiah F. Kletzing. Subsequently, Josiah and Kate left New York state and moved to the Chicago, Cook County, Illinois area where they settled down and raised their family.

While I have used the Ancestry website to view and save many records connected to the families, when the Ancestry ‘well ran dry’, I turned to FamilySearch.org to explore the Cook County databases that are available. This is where I got lucky. Through FamilySearch, I was able to locate and save vital records for the births, marriages, and deaths for the five known children of Kate and Josiah. In the case of their daughter Kathryn Kletzing, I was able to go one generation further by finding an image of her 1912 marriage license to Ralph Clayton Moulding as well as the birth records for three of their four children.

Fortunately, I was possibly one of the last people to access the record images online. Yesterday, FamilySearch ‘announced’ through it’s wiki that these images would no longer be available directly through FamilySearch. The wiki now explains, under the “Image Visibility” section, that, “Due to the provisions and guidelines of a newly revised contract with Cook County, FamilySearch has removed all images for Illinois, Cook County vital records from its historical records collection online; free indexes to the collections will remain.”

This affects the following databases:

  • Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878 – 1922
  • Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers. 1871 – 1915
  • Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878 – 1922
  • Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871 – 1920


Although the images are no longer available online, they can still be acquired through microfilm viewed at a local Family History Centre, through the Cook County website for a fee, or through a Family History Library “photoduplication” request. I feel lucky that timing was on my side in the past few days as none of the now current acquisition methods is nearly as convenient as my experience.