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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicago Vital Records and a Neighborhood Study

Fredrick Blank age 23, married Ulricka Strehlow, age 19, at St. Peter’s Church at 39th and Dearborn on December 22, 1881.  Early marriage licenses for Cook County (1871-1920) have been posted on

My question was… where are the Blanks from?  Most documents have shown Germany.

Birth certificates have also been posted on Family Search (1878-1922), with some birth registers dating back to 1871.  These registers also record stillbirths.

This document places Fred Blank and his wife “Reaka” at 3927 Butterfield Street in 1886.

St. Peter’s Church would have been about a block away from their house.  Maps from the 1890s found on the University of Chicago website show that Dearborn and Butterfield were north-south routes, and that Butterfield was renamed Armour between 1890 and 1892.

While browsing through these Chicago birth and marriage databases, I noticed a number of other Blanks who lived in this same area, Ward 5 of Lake Township.  In fact, many lived on Butterfield or Dearborn Streets, within blocks of the church.  And many were inter-married to the Beilfuss family.  Could Fred be related to these other Blanks?

Henry and Henrietta Blank were living in the 5th Ward in 1870, though a street address is not given.  They were both born in Prussia in about 1820.  At home were their children Fred, age 18, “Yetta” Henrietta age 12, and daughter Lena, married to William Whitting.  By 1880, daughter Henrietta had married Herman Beilfuss and moved to Hyde Park.  Father Henry had passed away, but son Fred lived at 3916 Dearborn Street.

Immigration indexes on Ancestry show that Henry and his family emigrated through Hanover, Germany, and arrived in New York in June, 1866.  Also with them at the time were sons Wilhelm, age 23, and Heinrich, age 20.  The ships manifests from Hanover have survived (also on Ancestry), and the one completed there for the Blanks shows that they came from Schwemmin, Prussia, which is now in Pomerania, Poland.

The Illinois Death Index on Family Search (1916-1947) lists a Henry J. Blank, born in Germany in June, 1845 to Henry Blank.  He had married Caroline Beilfuss in 1869, they lived in the 5th Ward, and he passed away in Chicago in February, 1924.  His brother Wilhelm may have married Albertine Beilfuss, also in Chicago.

The Naturalization Record Index on Ancestry lists three Blanks naturalized in Cook County courts between 1870 and 1890 (Fr., Henry, William) and six Beilfuss’ (August, Chas., Charles, Herman, Wilhelm, Wilhelm).  These Blanks all appear to be brothers, and we have their town of origin.  What about their cousins the Beilfuss’?  A FamilySearch death certificate shows Henry Beilfuss, born in Keislin, Germany in 1848, who died at 3909 Dearborn in 1878.  Could this be the town or province of Koeslin or Köslin, now the district of Koszalin in Pomerania, about 30 km from Schwemmin?

While reviewing the census records for Beilfuss’, I noticed many in Albion, Michigan, and that town’s website explains.
One interesting fact… is that many of Albion’s German families all came from the same place in the "old German Empire:"  Most were from villages concentrated very close to each other in a small corner of Pomerania between the port city of Kolberg, and the town of Belgard 30 km inland. These include towns like Schwemmin (especially), Parsow, Pustchow, Dassow, Damitz, Kolberg, Drosedow, and others.  (Most) of the charter members of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (1868) came from this small corner, and many had known each other back there. Many of Albion’s German families are genealogically interrelated.

In summary, Fred and Ulricka Blank lived in the 5th Ward of Lake Township, Chicago between 1881 and at least 1886.  The Henry Blank family, with three sons, lived in the same area, within blocks of St. Peter’s Church from 1870 into the 1920s.  This other Blank family was from Schwemmin, Pomerania, Poland, and they intermarried the Beilfuss family, also from this Prussian-Polish town and also residents of the St. Peter’s Church community.  Fred Blanks association with this other Blank family seems to be just proximity, until we look at his wife’s history.

Ulricka Strehlow arrived in Baltimore, MD in November 1880.  She was 18 years old, born in Prussia, and bound for Chicago.  A death certificate shows that Ulricka was from Bogenthin, Prussia.  Also on board ship with Ulricka were these Blanks: Gottfried, Louisa, Ida and Fr.  They were bound for Michigan, and the census shows that they settled in Detroit.  

When we look at a current map of Pomerania and locate the Prussia town of Bogenthin, we are directed to Bogucino.  Schwemmin is now Swiemino, Poland, and the towns are less than 25 km apart.

Could Ulricka have been meeting a relative of these Blanks in Chicago? 
Or is it possible that she was traveling with her fiancé, Friedr. Blans (his name misspelled on the manifest above)? 
One final lead.  If Ulricka didn’t know the Blanks, she could have been joining relatives in Chicago and met Fred later.  On the 1880 census we find Charles Stralov (very similar to Strehlow) living at 3947 Butterfield, a block from St. Peter’s Church.   

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