Frank D. Sullivan and Carolina Buertel
As I am now approaching the ninth decade of my life, I have decided to do a final rewrite of my work on the Frank D. Sullivan and Carolina Buertel genealogy. The story my mother, Ella Lorene Sullivan Andris told to me is still a very good starting place. Then I will summarize the conclusions I drew from years of working at and consulting with the staff at the Local History and Genealogy Archives of the Washington County, Ohio Public Library, as well as correspondence with relatives. More recently, correspondence with the great grandson of my mother's Uncle Bill, as well as deeper work in Ancestry.com, has led to some shocking and exciting possibilities.
Lorene Andris' story
Frank Sullivan, my grandfather, was born 23 Mar 1881 [some records suggest 1882], the son of an Irish father, David Sullivan, and a German mother, Carolina Bartell. He had a short and a hard life, but my mother loved him very dearly. My mother always said that Frank's father, David Marion Sullivan, worked on a riverboat. He was born in Cork County, Ireland, from where he had migrated. His main address was Cincinnati, Ohio. He met Caroline Bartell on the river, (when he was fairly young) and they proceeded to have 5 children. My mother tells that he had an older sister, Maggie, a brother, Bill, and twin sisters who were scalded to death at an early age. He would go on the riverboat after each child and come back.
Sometime soon after my grandfather was born, his father disappeared, never to be seen again. His mother pined away about his absence, and died of cancer when he was only 4 years old. The children were adopted out. Mom has long speculated on the nature of Frank D.'s disappearance. Could he have fell into the water and drowned, been killed in a gambling squabble, left for another woman? But she just didn't know.
My own research
In the year 2001, I was able to add even more information about my great grandfather. My thanks goes to Catherine Sams, for helping me to figure this out. I found in Cochran's Washington Co. Marriages this reference:
"Frank D. Sullivan and Caroline Battle, 9 Oct 1875."
As you can see, there is too much similarity here for this to be just a coincidence. Caroline Battle was, of course, Carolina Buertel. And the family lore about David Sullivan's middle name just had to be disgarded. His name was Frank David Sullivan, probably, and Franklin Marion Sullivan was his namesake.
Catherine Sams also showed me the Census of Washington County, Ohio, taken from the 1880 Ohio Census of Washington Co. Here we uncovered even more exciting facts. The entry reads:
What a wealth of information is here, if these records are correct! My great grandfather was born about 1854. He was not only born in Ohio, but both his parents were born in Ohio. And he married a German woman several years his senior. We find Maggie and Willie as small children in the home, Maggie is two and Willie is one month old. This information basically verifies mom's initial story.
And Frank David worked in a sawmill! This is all the more remarkable because, as we shall see later, Frank D. Sullivan probably worked at the sawmill owned by Jacob Zimmer, III and wife Elisabeth Buertel. The Zimmers adopted my grandfather, Frank, yet to be born son of Frank D. Sullivan, when his mother Elizabeth's half-sister, Carolina Buertel, died at an early age. In other words, if all these things are true, it is possible that Frank David Sullivan got a job as a young man in Jacob Zimmer's sawmill, and met wife-to-be, Carolina Buertel through her half-sister Elisabetha, who was married to his boss.
A few years later, I looked in the Ohio 1870 Census to see if I could find another record of Frank D. Sullivan. Assuming the 1880 Census record is fairly accurate, I found leads but nothing definite.
Following these leads, I wrote the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and requested specific information on the David Sullivan who married Catharine Lucy. However, the genealogical worker in that office was not able to confirm this hypothesis. Facts were not coming together, and once again, I put the Sullivan line on the shelf.
In early 2014, I began a correspondence with my second cousin once removed, Michael Sullivan. Our common ancester is Frank D. Sullivan. He had read what I had put on my website about his great grandfather, William Sullivan, who was also my grandfather's older brother. Michael had found intriguing records I had missed. It turns out that our common grandparent could very well have been a Frank D. Sullivan who ended up in Cincinnati married to another woman, Rosa. I will construct the story below, but at this point, it is only just that, a plausible story.
Take a look at the actual data in the 1910 Census. Here is a Frank D. Sullivan, 55, living with a Rosa Sullivan, 63. It looks like several families lived at 451 Second Street in Cincinnati. This location is quite near today's Cincinnati Reds' Stadium in the downtown area. A close look at the marital status box indicates "M2" by each name, which means that they both are in their second or subsequent marriage, and that would be for 30 years. It says Frank was born in Ohio, and both mother and father were "Ire. Irish," which most probably means "Ireland Irish." Rosa was born in Ohio, her father in Ohio and her mother in Pennsylvania. They constitute a family. The two zeros indicate the number of Rosa's children and living children. No information about Frank's children is given.
Continuing with the remaining census information, we see that Frank is a laborer on steamboats, he is a wage earner and rents his home. Both he and his wife can read and write. This census was enumerated on April 15, and Frank was employed at that time. He does experience 15 weeks of unemployment a year. This might be because steamboats generally don't run in the cold or flooding weather.
Michael found another record—the death record for a Frank Sullivan—that matches up to our ancestor very closely. According to this record Frank Sullivan was born on June 2, 1854. That would make him almost 55 in the 1910 Census. He was a "river man," married, had an Irish father named John, with nothing known about his mother. We also find out that a doctor B. C. Willis had been treating him for about 6 months for pulmonary tuberculosis when he died of exhaustion on August 29, 1912. Also the location of 440 East Front, Cincinnati, is the "usual residence," just a couple of blocks from the 1910 address of him and his wife, Rosa. We don't know who the "informant" is: a George Fey of 1030 Welstadt St. He was buried in Wesleyan Cemetery.
While there is a lot of detail that remains unknown, this is too much of a close match to just be disgarded as a mere coincidence. The match is so strong, that instead, I think the assumption has to be that this is my great grandfather and Michael's great great grandfather until further evidence to the contrary is discovered. So here is my plausible account of Frank D. Sullivan, consistent with what we know, but not for certain.
If Frank has been truthful about being born in Ohio, then what happened is this. His father John immigrated to this country, and whatever the bond between John and Frank's mother, it was either broken by illness or death, or by the one leaving the other. Frank D. was put into an orphanage at an early age, and had to make his own way as best he could. He was no stranger to hunger, hard knocks, criminality, hard work, hard drink, gambling, temporary unemployment. But somehow, the river life, based around the steamboat trade and travel, offered him sustenance. When that sustenance failed, he picked up work where he could, as in his stint at the sawmill in his early life.
He also found some comfort in the arms of my great grandmother, Carolina Buertel (Bartell, Battle), whom we shall see came to the USA from Dennweiler, Rheinland Pfalz, Germany as an infant with her father and two older sisters. Her mother may have died in childbirth or soon after. That same year Adam Buertel, then 41, had taken a new younger wife, Katharina, and her (possibly illegitimate) 10 year old daughter, and they had emigrated, ending on a farm in Washington County, Ohio. For whatever reason, Carolina was still unmarried at age 30 when she began her relationship with the river man, Frank D. He came and went through the three children Maggie, Willie, and Frank, jr., and possibly twin girls (family lore).
Frank D.'s travels on the river took him up and down the Ohio, certainly west and south to Cincinnati, which is about a 200 mile stretch of river, but possibly beyond those limits. He settled into Cincinnati as a home base as the breakup of his relationship with Caroline was proceeding. Family lore has him leaving around 1882, and the 1910 census has him forming a relationship with Rosa in Cincinnati around 1980. We may never know the details of this transition. Indeed, sad as it is to reflect on, Frank D. may have sired other children with other women living along that stretch of the Ohio River over the remaining three decades of his life.
Frank D. probably lived his entire life in the shadow of poverty, shady living, tough times, and bad health practices. It is not a big surprise that he was battling tuberculosis and died in his late 50's. I told this fanciful story first, but there is possibly another thread to it that could lead across the Atlantic Ocean to his Irish ancestors.
Ancestry.com suggested a link to me that was intriguing from
Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915
There is a lot here that fits the story of Frank D. Sullivan we've been developing. In a way, it's quite consistent with the family lore my mother passed on to me regarding his city of origin. But also, it conflicts with more than one record where Frank D. Sullivan claimed he was born in Ohio. From what we know about him, though, among his many faults probably was a tendency to bend the truth to what he perceived as his advantage. People of known Irish extraction were the subject of extreme discrimination at this time. Likewise, only one record of his birthdate was exact, and that was on his death certificate. Frank himself was in no shape to be a resource here. If we take that date and the baptism date literally, then he was baptized before he was born, a truly amazing feat. My main takeaway is that all the evidence points to a 1854 date of birth. And we do have more than one source that points to his father's name as "John." And all other sources but this one have no information about the mother. So is that fact disqualifying of this reference, or is it leading information to a different story?
We will continue to investigate this matter. Watch this space.
[Webmaster's note: This section will be updated and rewritten in the near future.]
Mom had a picture of her grandmother, and thought her name was Carolina Bartell. However, we have found out much more about Carolina Buertel, my great grandmother. It was an exciting day when I found the following entry in the Personal Descriptions/Berg Church/Membership/Church Business:
20. ADAM BUERTEL
1. Philippina born 28 Apr 1834 in Dennweiler
married the second time in 1847 to
4. Elisabetha born 7 Jul 1849 in Fearing Twp.
They emigrated from Dennweiler in 1848.
These stark facts fit together with pieces of my mother's recollections in such a way that this Carolina Buertel, born 9 May 1847, is almost certainly my great grandmother. Mom knew only that her father Frank's mother's name was probably Caroline Bartell and that she had a sister Elizabeth who married Jacob Zimmer. Jacob and Elizabeth had taken Frank in and raised him. The Berg Church record above surely looked to me suspiciously like the family in question, even though the name was Buertel instead of Bartell.
All doubt was removed when I remembered seeing an obituary for Elisabeth Bartell in a clipping in one of mom's scrapbooks. I called her long distance and told her that I wanted her to dig out that obituary and see if the date of birth corresponded to the July 7, 1849 date in the Berg Church records. She was gone for a long time. When she returned, she exclaimed, "Jimmie, that's your grandmama!"
Thirty years of census records on the Buertel family
In the 1850 Census of Washington Co., Ohio we find this entry:
This information confirms almost exactly what the church records state, with one glaring exception. In the church records, Carolina and Elisabetha are almost exactly two years apart. In the 1850 Census records, the two girls are 5 years apart. Moreover, in the 1860 Census of Washington Co., presented below, this same discrepancy occurs again only now it is 6 years! We also note that the daughter of Catharine and Peter Born, Philippina, is no longer in the Buertel household. There are also three new children, two of which, Julia and Carl, will play a special relationship in my genealogy.
In the 1870 Census we find yet another metamorphosis of the family name, and both Carolina and Elisabetha are gone from the family home. What happened to Elisabetha was that she got married to Jacob Zimmer on Jan 13, 1870, according to Cochran's Washington Co. Marriages. We know that Carolina got married on Oct. 9, 1875. What happened to her in the years between 1870 and 1875 is not known.
There is no 1890 Census (it burned), and I didn'f find the Adam Buertel family in the 1880 records. However, in the 1880 Census, we do find the following entry for his son, Frederick. In 30 years we have seen the following name transformation: Frederich Buertel -> Fritz Battel -> Fritz Burtel -> (Adam) Bartell -> Frederick Bartle. Actually some of this can be explained as the difficulty of understanding the German "ue" sound. Referred to as U-umlaut, and written as ü, it is pronounded by saying "ee" with the lips rounded as in "oo." There is no direct English equivalent, but all of the above pronunciations are close approximations to the German sound.
In the document "Baptisms 1881 on the Hill Lowell" we have a record of two of the cousins of Carolina Buertel. Friedrich Buertel of Dennweiler Fronbach and Carolina Becker of Schwartzerden, St. Wendel, Rheinprussia had these daughters:
What became of Frank D. Sullivan's siblings
According to Lorene Andris, Maggie was adopted by someone and moved to town. She had a child who went by the name of Marie Preston. Then she married a man by the name of Ernest Shires and they ended up in Oneid, Oklahoma. Mom found out through correspondence that she was working as a waitress in a hotel after her husband had died.
Near the end of 2002, I was contacted by two of Maggie Sullivan Shiers relatives who corrected this information and added considerably to my understanding of Maggie's descendents. You can read about this communication in my connections section.
William married Mary McBride before 1913. They had six children: Pearl, Garnet, Mabel, Walter, Ralph, and Betty. Pearl was a man, very handsome, looked like mom's father . He moved to Akron, went to work at the Quaker Oats Company in the 20s. Garnet and Mabel also went to Akron and died very young, in their 30s. It was in the paper.
Walter married a Schaeffer girl and they had children by the name of Walter, Jr., Polly, Susan, Clifford, Jack, Lester. James, Lorene's oldest son, went to school with Walter, Clifford, Jack. They lived at 303 Green. Columbus is where some of them are. Leslie went to Alaska for a while. Polly married Ed Hadley and works up to the Big Bear.