One day, as I went through one of the many fruit boxes full of documents formerly belonging to my grandparents, I happened upon an undated, uncited obituary for J. J. Siever. It took some time and re-reading of the article for me to make the connection that J. J. Siever was Johann Jakob (or John Jacob) Seewer, my third great-grandfather.
Up to this point, I had my grandma’s pedigree chart, which gave his birth year as 1854, his death year as 1917, his parents as Peter Johann Jakob Seewer and Susanna Catharine Reller, and his wife as Lucia Gander. I also had two photographs, which indicate that he enjoyed smoking a pipe.
I examined the article further. Flowery descriptions aside, there was a lot to be gleaned from it.
- He died of heart trouble.
- He lived near Gruenheim Church. (I didn’t know where that was, but I could find out)
- He was about 60.
- Lucia was still alive. (Unless he had remarried)
- He had several children still living.
- One daughter was married to Christ Camenisch.
- He immigrated from Europe. (With a name like Siever/Seewer, probably Germany or Switzerland)
- He was a citizen of Lincoln County. (Another location clue)
- He was a farmer and stock raiser of Jersey cattle.
- He was a good man and a fair businessman. (Not necessarily a relevant fact, but the kind of thing you like to find out about your ancestors)
- He had several medals for expert marksmanship.
I looked him up on Find A Grave. His tombstone gave a birth date of October 10, 1854 and a death date of September 18, 1917. The biographical information confirmed what was on the pedigree chart. I trust this information because it was added by one of my cousins, who has done extensive research on this branch of the family. Find A Grave also gave me a location for Gruenheim and Lincoln County. They are in Kentucky.1
I looked for census records after that. With Ancestry, sometimes less is more, so I looked for John Seewer, born circa 1854, living in Kentucky. I found him in 1910 in Hustonville, Lincoln County, Kentucky, with his wife and a son. From this census, I learned that he and Lucia married circa 1878. He was born in Switzerland and immigrated in 1881. He was a farmer. Seven of his children were still living.2
Since he immigrated in 1881, he wouldn’t be in the 1880 Census. There are no surviving Kentucky fragments of the 1890 Census. I was still missing him in 1900. I tried the search again but I changed Seewer to Siever. Soundex wouldn’t have picked it up in my initial search because the codes would be different. Sure enough, there was J J Seiver. This record didn’t give me much new information, but it did confirm previous discoveries.3
It’s strange. I only have a handful of sources for him, but I know more about him than I do about other ancestors for whom I have lots of sources. That’s the value of a well worded obituary, I suppose.
- “Peter Johann Jakob Seewer (1854 – 1917) – Find A Grave Memorial.” FindAGrave.com. Douser, 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 29 Mar. 2011. Find A Grave Memorial # 46950505.
- 1910 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Hustonville, Lincoln, Kentucky. p.8A. Family #152, lines 22-24.
- 1900 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Turnersville, Lincoln, Kentucky. p.1B. Family #11, lines 55-60.