Tag Archives: Stübe

A German American Family in Chicago

Several years after German immigrants Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois posed for a photograph together in their garden, they were photographed outdoors once again, this time with their children.

Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with children, from left, Leonard, Rose, George, and Oliver, circa 1904, Chicago, Illinois; digital image circa 2000, provenance of the original unknown.

Their youngest son, Leonard, seated at left, provides the biggest clue in dating this photograph, as his age is the easiest to pinpoint: assuming that he was, perhaps, three years old here, it can be dated circa 1904.1 George, standing between his parents, would have turned seventeen that year, Rose would have turned twelve, and Oliver, seated at right, would have turned eight.2 Sadly, Fred and Emma’s oldest daughter, Lillie, had died of meningitis as an eight year old in 1897.3

The Wiese family is pictured outside what may have been their own Victorian-style home at 2502 North Neva Avenue in Chicago’s Montcalm neighborhood.4 Only one of the six looks directly at the camera. Perhaps a second photographer was off to the side, where the other five members of the family directed their attention. This image is a scan of an original of an undetermined medium; it is rather heavily damaged with wrinkles, scuffs, and blotches.

Fred, who was a cigar maker by trade, sports a full mustache and wears a dark suit and tie.5 He is in his late thirties here.6 Emma, also in her late thirties, wears a white collared shirtwaist with a brooch at her throat, paired with a walking skirt in a darker color.7 A belt with a decorative clasp can be seen at her waist. A skilled seamstress, Emma was especially known for crocheting elegant garters, a talent she used to help support her family in her later years.8 It can well be imagined that she had a hand in making sure that she, her husband, and their children were well-dressed.

George wears a suit and tie much like his father’s; his fair-haired younger brothers sport rather voluminous white shirts and dark pants. Rose’s hair is pulled back into a braid and set off with a large bow; her simple shirtwaist and skirt, which falls mid-calf, are accessorized with a belt tied at her waist, a corsage, and a string of beads at her neck. These beads resemble pearls, although her mother was also known to make fragrant, darker-colored beads out of crushed rose petals which she would then alternate with pearl beads to create a necklace.9

This is the only known photograph of Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with their children. Despite the beating that the original print appears to have taken, it remains a special memento of a day in the life of this German American family in Chicago.

Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Marriage in Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Although more and more genealogical records are being digitized and made available online, images of German church books—those faded ledgers filled with seemingly indecipherable old script that record baptisms, marriages, and burials—are often few and far between. That’s why it was a cause for celebration when I discovered that the scope of Ancestry.com’s “Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969” encompassed the middle-of-nowhere German communities where a number of my ancestors lived and worshiped in the nineteenth century.

I knew something about the lives of Ernst and Friederike (Wegner) Stübe in America, where they had immigrated with their two-year-old daughter in 1869, but I had known little about their lives in the old country, the former Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Thanks to this record collection, I learned the following:

  • Ernst was christened Ernst Daniel Joachim Stübe following his birth on 29 January 1839 in present-day Starkow, Thelkow, Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, the son of Hans Arend Heinrich Stübe and Maria Elisabeth Ewert.1 He was baptized on 3 February 1839 at the village church of nearby Walkendorf, which still stands today.2

“Dorfkirche in Walkendorf,” 2008, Walkendorf, Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Ch. Pagenkopf.

  • Friederike was christened Friederike Johanna Dorothea Christiana Wegner following her birth on 9 August 1841 in present-day Selpin, Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, the daughter of Johann Wegner and Regina Lewerenz.3 She was baptized on 15 August 1841 at the village church of nearby Vilz, which still stands today.4

“Kirche in Vilz bei Tessin,” 2008, Vilz, Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Schiwago.

It is likely that Ernst and Friederike grew up on the manorial estates where their fathers were day laborers (Tägelohner).5 Serfdom had ceased in Mecklenburg-Schwerin only in 1820; landless men remained tied to the land where they toiled as contracted laborers on these estates, their wives often working alongside them.6 As children, Ernst and Friederike would have lived in estate-owned huts that were shared with their immediate families as well as, perhaps, their extended families or the families of other laborers.7

Childhood, however, was brief; by the time they were seven years old, Ernst and Friederike may have been hired out to work, or at the very least by the time they reached adolescence. Granted room and board for their services as a farm hand and maid, respectively, they would also have received a modest annual wage.8 Throughout their years of service, they may have moved among different estates and had the opportunity to mingle with a number of other young people at local festivals, and perhaps this is ultimately how they became acquainted.9

  • When they married on 24 October 1866, Ernst was twenty-seven and Friederike was twenty-five; they were married at St. Johannis in present-day Tessin, Stadt Tessin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, which still stands today.10

“Stadtkirche St. Johannis in Tessin,” 2008, Tessin, Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Schiwago.

As it so happens, Ernst and Friederike’s wedding day fell upon the date that the contract year for laborers typically concluded; as this was the beginning of a three-day holiday after which contracts might be renewed or laborers shifted to different estates, the young couple may have decided that this would be a practical time to marry and set up house once permission had been granted for their marriage.11 Indeed, as marriage restrictions in Mecklenburg-Schwerin remained strict at this time, a wedding was a true celebration and traditionally included several days of feasting.12

Following their marriage, Ernst and Friederike appear to have lived on the grounds of the estate Friedrichshof, located between Selpin and Walkendorf, where Ernst, like his father before him, was a day laborer.13 Friedrichshof is no more, although notably, it was the birthplace of Richard Wossidlo, a renowned folk historian and ethnographer.14 It was likely here at Friedrichshof where the Stübe couple’s first child, Emma, was born on 27 September 1867.15 Two years later, amidst a stream of emigrants from Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Ernst, Friederike, and Emma Stübe boarded a ship at Hamburg, and the rest, as they say, is history.16 

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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Tombstone Tuesday: Fred and Emma (Stübe) Wiese

Fred and Emma (Stübe) Wiese were German immigrants who lived out their adult lives in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Although both were born in the late 1860s in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, an area of present-day Germany located along the Baltic Sea, they left their homeland as infants. Fred – or Fritz – was the son of Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese and is believed to have been born near Wendisch-Baggendorf;1 Emma was the daughter of Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe and was born in Friedrichshof in Ritteramt Gnoien.2 These rural communities were not far in terms of distance, but separated by the Trebel River, the Wieses were residents of Pomerania and the Stübes were residents of Mecklenburg.

Both Fred and Emma arrived in America before 1870.3 While the Wiese family settled immediately in Chicago,4 Emma spent her childhood in rural Huntley, McHenry County, Illinois before moving to the city after her father’s death.5 It’s possible that Fred and Emma crossed paths as early as 1880; by that time, Emma’s presumed uncle, Carl Stübe, lived in the same building as Fred’s presumed uncle, Carl Wiese.6 They may also have become acquainted as members of the Missouri Synod First Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Chicago, located in a neighborhood that saw much of its growth in the years following the Great Chicago Fire.7

It was there that the couple married on 19 February 1887.8 They would have five children together, the first born that summer: George Charles Wilhelm Wiese (1887-1975), Lillie Johanna Josephine Wiese (1889-1897), Rosa Minna Emma Bertha Wiese (1892-1918), Oliver William Charles Wiese (1896-1969), and Leonard John Christian Wiese (1900-1947). The early years of their marriage were spent in Chicago’s Fourteenth Ward, near their parish in Wicker Park.9 Tragedy touched their lives when their oldest daughter succumbed to cerebral meningitis at the age of eight;10 a few years prior, weeks before the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair, Emma had tended to her sixteen-year-old sister as she died of the same illness.11


Grave of Fred Wiese (1866-1914), Elmwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; 2006, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. 

In 1902, seeking a fresh start, the family moved west from Wicker Park to a large home in the Montclare neighborhood. Their two-story Victorian home, which still stands today, was located on a corner lot and undoubtedly provided more space for the couple and their four surviving children.12 Fred supported his family as a cigar maker until his death from cirrhosis of the liver on 14 October 1914 when he was forty-eight years old. He was buried at Chicago’s Elmwood Cemetery.13


Grave of Emma Wiese (1867-1937), Elmwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; 2006, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015.

Emma remained in their home for more than two decades, crocheting “fancywork” as a modest means of support. She kept chickens, a garden, and was by all accounts a formidable housekeeper who used a rod to smooth the bed coverings to ensure that no wrinkles remained. In her later years, she had a German Shepherd, Sally, and her home was the gathering place for the weekly Saturday meal that she prepared for her children and their families. While her grandchildren considered her to be strict, she was also kind, offering them dimes for the movies and pennies for the organ grinder’s monkey.14 After Emma’s death from a stroke at the age of seventy on 6 November 1937, she, too, was buried at Elmwood Cemetery.15

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Pomeranians: Identifying a Family Photo

If you’d asked me about this photograph a few years ago, I might said that Joachim and Sophia were, in fact, Ernst and Friederike. That is, I might never have identified the couple in this cabinet card photograph if it weren’t for a few subtle clues that pointed me conclusively in the direction of one immigrant couple over another.

My grandmother’s paternal grandparents both came to America as infants, the son and daughter of Pomeranians from the region now known as Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. The first couple to reach America, Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese, traveled from Hamburg in 1868.1 The second couple, Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe, traveled from Hamburg in 1869.2 Both couples settled initially in Chicago, although within a few years, Ernst and Friederike would move to a rural community outside the city. The couples were born within several years of each other, and no other identified photographs of either couple existed in my collection in order to aid in their identification. Based on the provenance of this photograph in a family collection, I knew that it must show one of these two couples.


Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese, ca. 1885-1890, Chicago, Cook, Illinois; digital image ca. 2000.

The man and woman in this photograph are perhaps in their mid-fifties, give or take a decade. The photograph itself, taken by an unidentified Hansen of Chicago, is a cabinet card, a style that became popular after the Civil War.3 This, of course, fits the time period in which the Wieses and Stübes would have lived in Chicago. However, as both couples were only around thirty years of age in 1870, this photograph was more likely taken at some point between 1880 and 1900.

The woman in the photograph wears her hair parted in the middle and pulled back snugly, a no-nonsense style that is not specific to any era. Her ears are pierced and she wears what appears to be a dark wool suit with a fitted basque jacket featuring a high ruffled collar, a single row of buttons, and cuffed sleeves. Notable is the double row of boxed pleats on her underskirt; this style was popular in the latter half of the 1880s, as was the style of her jacket.4

The man is clean-shaven except for a trimmed neckbeard, and his hair is brushed away from his face. He has light-colored eyes – blue or green – and wears a typical three-piece suit. The age of the couple in this photograph as well as their style of dress suggest that, if this photograph was taken to mark a particular occasion, it may have been to commemorate an event such as their twenty-fifth anniversary.

Joachim and Sophia would have celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary circa 1890, a date calculated based on their ages and the birthdate of their eldest known child.5 Ernst and Friederike, however, did not reach such a milestone; Ernst died in 1879 at the age of forty.6 As the woman’s clothing in particular is markedly different from the styles of the 1870s, this photograph could not have been taken before 1879, and thus cannot be a photograph of Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe.

A final clue comes from the notation penned at the bottom of the cabinet card by a descendant: “Fatte + Matte?”7 A letter written by the granddaughter-in-law of Joachim and Sophia noted that his grandsons could not recall their names, but had called them “Fatta” and “Mota.”8 Coincidence? I don’t think so. My hunch is that these are phonetic spellings of perhaps an old dialect-based variation of the German words for father and mother, Vater and Mutter. This is how Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese were remembered by their children and grandchildren.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Chicago Couple


Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese, ca. 1900; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

This glimpse into a backyard garden at the turn of the twentieth century features Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Fred rests his hand on a trellis while Emma stands close by his side, her hand on her hip. Their arms barely brush together as they gaze directly at the camera.

Emma wears everyday attire in the form of a simple dark skirt and a collared shirtwaist. Her skirt is belted high, with an adornment of some kind at the center of the waistband. It looks to me like she could have been pregnant at the time that this photograph was taken, which seems entirely possible as she was pregnant no less than five times between 1887 and 1900.1

However, Emma’s sleeves are not nearly as full as those seen during much of the 1890s, nor are they as tight as those of the decade prior. Perhaps this suggests that the photograph dates closer to 1900,2 which is when her youngest child was born.3 She and her husband were both in their early thirties at this time, and I don’t feel that they could have been significantly younger in this photograph.4

Fred wears somewhat loose trousers and a collared shirt, set off by a buttoned vest and a checked bow tie. Most notably, he sports a full mustache, and what hair he has is cut short. With the exception of his pants, which typically would be more fitted, this, too, fits the time period.5

The photograph, pasted on an embossed white card, is clear and of good quality, despite the fact that it is a seemingly casual shot. Might it have been taken by a traveling photographer who passed through the neighborhood, offering his services? Fred and Emma are not dressed in their best, although their simple attire was certainly presentable enough for a photograph. Perhaps their urban garden was a source of pride, making it an ideal spot for the couple to pose together.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe

Word traveled fast in the genealogical community yesterday when it was announced that Ancestry.com had acquired Find A Grave. (Yes, it will still be free.) Find A Grave has grown to be an invaluable database of gravestone images worldwide based on collaborative efforts by volunteers. Frequently, photographs, biographies, and obituaries are included alongside the gravestone images, and visitors can leave virtual tributes.


Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 1 October 2013), photograph, Friedrieka Stube (1843-1891) and Ernst Stube (1839-1879), Memorial Nos. 67992191 and 67992204, Huntley Cemetery, Huntley, Illinois; photograph by Zavada Family, 2012.

Did you know that if there is not a photograph of your ancestor’s grave already online, you are able to put a request out to volunteers via Find A Grave? Thanks to a volunteer for the Huntley Cemetery of Huntley, McHenry County, Illinois, I was able to see the graves of my ancestors Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe from miles away.

My grandmother had visited their graves years ago and had made rubbings of the fading German inscriptions on the headstones. Unfortunately, the sandstone-like headstones were slowly but surely wearing away through the weather extremes of northern Illinois. I had no clear photographs of the graves, and hoped that someone might be able to confirm to me that they were still standing and at least somewhat legible. Thanks to the aforementioned volunteer, who very kindly gave permission for her photographs to be used for personal genealogical purposes online and made not one, but two trips to the Huntley Cemetery to photograph the graves of Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe, they are now documented on Find A Grave.1

Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe, originally of Friedrichshof, Ritteramt Gnoien, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany,2 arrived in New York in October of 1869.3 Their eldest daughter, Emma, my direct ancestor, was barely two years old at the time of their crossing; three more daughters, Lena, Minna, and Bertha, were later born in Illinois.4 The family lived in Chicago for a time, likely witnessing the Great Chicago Fire of 1871,5 before relocating to a farm near Huntley, McHenry County, Illinois. Later, it was recalled that, “Surrounding the cabin was a large garden space and a beautiful garden. All that remains is a pile of stones. It was located on what is now the Dieke farm directly across from the Harold Kunde farm on the Clanyard farm.”6

In 1879, ten years after his arrival in America, Ernst died at the age of forty.7 No death certificate could be located to provide details on what befell him.8 Shortly thereafter, Friederike relocated again to Chicago, where she supported her young daughters, ranging in age from two to twelve, as a seamstress.9 Life was surely difficult for this single mother of four; Friederike succumbed to typhoid fever in 1891, when she was forty-eight.10 She was buried beside her husband at the Huntley Cemetery.11

Do you have a Find A Grave success story?

1 Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 1 October 2013), photograph, Ernst Stube (1839-1879) and Friedrieka Stube (1843-1891), Memorial Nos. 67992204 and 67992191, Huntley Cemetery, Huntley, Illinois; photograph by Zavada Family.
2 Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, Census, 1867,” Friedrichshof, Ritteramt Gnoien, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, Ernst Stübe; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2013), citing Mecklenburg-Schwerin (Großherzogtum), Volkszählungsamt, “Volkszählung am 3. Dezember 1867,” Landeshauptarchiv Schwerin, 5.12-3/20 Statistisches Landesamt (1851-1945).
3 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2013), manifest, S.S. Silesia, Hamburg, Germany to New York, arriving 12 October 1869, Ernst Stübe; citing National Archives microfilm M237, roll 319.
4 1880 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago, Enumeration District (ED) 144, p. 257-C (handwritten), dwelling 25, family 74, Ricka Stüve; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2013), citing National Archives microfilm T9, roll 196.
5“U.S, City Directories, 1821-1989,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2013), entry for Ernst Stube; citing “Chicago, Illinois City Directory, 1872 (Chicago: Richard Edwards, Publisher, 1872),” page number not cited.
6 Louise (née Nelson) Wiese to Phyllis (née Wiese) Adam, letter, 2 April 1964, providing information about the family tree; Adam Family; privately held [personal information withheld].
7 Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 1 October 2013), photograph, Ernst Stube (1839-1879), Memorial No. 67992204, Huntley Cemetery, Huntley, Illinois; photograph by Zavada Family.
8 McHenry County, Illinois, certification that record was not found, issued 19 July 2012, no death record located for Ernst Stube or Stuve who died 24 August 1879 in Huntley, search conducted from 1877-1905; County Clerk’s Office, Woodstock.
9 1880 U.S. census, Cook Co., Ill., pop. sch., Chicago, ED 144, p. 257-C, dwell. 25, fam. 74, Ricka Stüve.
10 Cook County, Illinois, death certificate no. 16007, “Friedricka Stube,” 3 May 1891; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 January 2012). Note: Images no longer available through FamilySearch.
11 Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 1 October 2013), photograph, Friedrieka Stube (1843-1891), Memorial No. 67992191, Huntley Cemetery, Huntley, Illinois; photograph by Zavada Family.