Veronika (Evertz) Gores (her maiden name was sometimes spelled Ewertz) was my grandfather Bill Prettyman’s maternal grandmother—she was his mother’s mother. She was born in Germany around 1860 and immigrated to the United States, where she met and married the son of German immigrants. Bill never had the chance to get to know his grandmother Veronika, as she died when Bill was less than a year old. Bill’s mother also died tragically early (read that story here) and after a prolonged period of strain in their relationship that had its origins in a fatal car crash eight years earlier (read that story here). Whatever details Bill’s mother Rose (Gores) Prettyman may have known about her own mother’s German origins apparently never got told to Bill, as he had no stories about Veronika to pass on to me.
Additionally, the stigmatization of German ancestry in the United States that began in the 1910s and carried through the end of World War II caused American families of recent German descent to hide their German ancestry (see here and here for more on this topic) for fear of being seen as un-American or unpatriotic.
Whatever the reason, there is a lot that we don’t know about Veronika Evertz’s German heritage. What we do know is that Veronika was born in Germany to German parents—Peter Evertz and Magdalena Kaufmann, that she had eight siblings (although we don’t know who they were), that her parents also came to the US, and that her mother lived with Veronika and her husband Frank E. Gores in her old age. But that’s just about all we knew for certain.
In an attempt to keep today’s post more brief than it might otherwise become, I’m going to be focusing on just one aspect of my research into Veronika’s German heritage—my discovery of the identity of her maternal grandparents. To the best of my knowledge, this is information that has been lost for nearly a century—since the death of Veronika herself on February 13, 1920.
Let’s start with what we know about Veronika and work back in time from there. Until I started working on this post, I knew of seven documents and a headstone that provided evidence for the life of Veronika Evertz. Let’s cover those first to bring you up to speed.
1885 MN census—A 23-year-old Farinica [sic] Evertz is living in the City of St. Paul, in the household of a 40-year-old man from Canada named T. Munning, along with a 33-year-old woman named M. Munning who was born in Illinois, and a 24-year-old woman named Katie McIntire, who was also born in Illinois. All four are listed as having foreign-born fathers and mothers.
1895 MN census—A 31-year-old Veronika Gores is married to a 28-year-old F. E. Gores and is living in Wadena, Minnesota, with four of their children: Frank H. Gores (7), Maggie Gores (5), Rose Gores (3), and Peter Gores (1). She is listed as having been born in Germany around 1864 (according to her stated age), to foreign-born parents.
1900 US census—A 41-year-old Veroneka [sic] Gores is married to a 34-year-old Frank E. Gores and is living in Wadena, Minnesota, with five of their children: Frank H. Gores (12), Rosa Gores (8), Peter Gores (6), Mary Gores (4), and Nick P. Gores (1). She is recorded as having given birth to 7 children, of whom 5 are still living. She is listed as having been born in Germany in May 1859 to parents who were also born in Germany. She is recorded as having lived in the state of Minnesota since 1881, and having been in the United States for 19 years (so since around 1881).
1905 MN census—A 44-year-old Vreonika [sic] Gores is married to a 39-year-old Fred E. Gores and is living in Wadena, Minnesota, with three of their children: Frank H. Gores (17), Rose Gores (13), and Peter Gores (11). She is listed as having been born in Germany around 1861 (according to her stated age), to parents who were also born in Germany. She is recorded as having lived in the state of Minnesota for 23 years (so since around 1882), and having lived in the current census enumeration district for 19 years (so since around 1886).
1910 US census—A 48-year-old Veronika Gores is married to a 44-year-old Fred E. Gores and is living on Fifth Street in Wadena, Minnesota, with four of their children: Roasa [sic] Gores (18), Peter Gores (16), Marie Gores (14), and Paul Gores (11), as well as with Fred Gores’ widowed mother Margerat [sic] Gores (76) and a 19-year-old servant named Marie Kemps. Veronica is recorded as having given birth to 5 children, of whom 5 are still living. She is listed as having been born in Germany around 1862 (based on stated age of 48) to parents who were also born in Germany. She is recorded as having immigrated to the United States in 1880.
1915 Biography of Frank E. Gores—In 1915, Henry A. Castle’s book Minnesota: Its Story and Biography, vol. I-III was published (Chicago and New York, USA: Lewis Publishing). Frank’s biography is one half page long, but the information about his wife is limited to the following: “At his birthplace, New Trier, in 1886, Judge Gores married Miss Veronika Evertz, daughter of the late Peter Evertz, who was a farmer at New Trier.”
1920 US census—A 58-year-old Veronica Goers [sic] is married to a 53-year-old F. E. Goers and is living on Fifth Street in Wadena, Minnesota, with two of their children: Marie Goers (23), and Paul Gores (21), as well as a 20-year-old servant named Erma Streeter. Veronica is listed as having been born in Germany around 1862 (based on stated age of 58) to parents who were also born in Germany. She is recorded as having immigrated to the United States in 1887 and having become naturalized in 1886 [this naturalization date is clearly in error, as the 1790 Naturalization Act required individuals to have been in the U.S. for at least two years before they could apply for naturalization].
Veronika’s headstone can also be considered a documentary source of information. It states that she was born on May 17, 1860, and died on February 13, 1920.
So that’s where the evidence stood as of just recently. Eight documentary sources of information, and almost as many variations for her name, age/birth year, and date of immigration. Not exactly a solid foundation, but it’s a reasonable starting point.
I also have three identified photos of Veronika, which I’ll share with you below. If you have or know of other photos of Veronika or her family members—whether positively identified or just a stack of unidentified photos that might contain a photo of her—please let me know! I’d like to scan them at high resolution to ensure their long-term survival for future generations.
What I knew about Veronika’s father Peter Evertz was from the Frank E. Gores biography (so just his name and the fact that he migrated from Germany to New Trier), and what I knew about Veronika’s mother was from the 1900 census (so just her name, birth month and year, country of birth, number of children, and immigration year).
A marriage record for Veronika Evertz and F.E. Gores would be a good next step. It should confirm the names of her parents and it might even give us some information about the date of her immigration to the U.S.
I could find no entries for the marriage in the Minnesota, Marriages Index, 1849-1950, the index to Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949, or the Minnesota Online Marriage System. On the hope that a parish record of their marriage survives, I wrote to the Catholic church (St. Mary’s) in New Trier to ask whether they might have Veronika and F.E. Gores’ marriage record. The parish directed me to the archives of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, who were happy to look for the record for me. Just a couple of days later the following arrived from the friendly folks at the Archdiocese:
My ecclesiastical Latin is beyond rusty, but this is what I think it says (if you can improve my transcription, please let me know):
14. Franciscus E. Gores, Veronica Evertz
A.D. 1885 die Octobrio 21a in matrimonium junni Franciscum E. Gores et Veronica Evertz. Testes fuere Nicalaus Gores et Helena Evertz.
Here is my attempt at a translation:
14. Francis E. Gores & Veronica Evertz
In the year of our Lord 1885, on October 21st, I joined in marriage Francis E. Gores and Veronica Evertz. Witnesses were Nicolaus Gores and Helena Evertz.
No mention of her parents or immigration details, but I finally have direct evidence for their marriage date (which differs from the 1886 date published in the Frank Gores biography). Additionally, the names of the two witnesses might be helpful. Nicholas Gores is a common name in the Gores family and so this Nicholas Gores could be any of a few people: F.E. Gores’ older brother, either of two first cousins, or his uncle. Helena Evertz is the more interesting name, as I have no one by that name in my genealogical database. Could Helena be one of Veronika’s unidentified siblings?
I had just learned of the Iron Range Research Center in Chisholm, Minnesota, so I searched for documents related to Peter Evertz. I found just one result—a naturalization record. The information on the search results screen was so thin (name, county, state—not even a date) that I had no idea whether this record actually had anything to do with the Veronika’s father. Cross-referencing this result with the matching result from the Minnesota Naturalization Records Index (1854-1957) on Ancestry.com, I learned that the document was a declaration of some sort and that it was dated to sometime between 1876 and 1888. For the $10 record research fee, I decided to take a gamble and get them to send me a copy of the record.
I got lucky. This does appear to be Veronika’s father (same name, the right age: about 40 years older than Veronika, the same county as Veronika, and an immigration date consistent with Veronika’s). Here is the record:
From this, Peter’s oath of intention to become a United States citizen, we learn that he was born in 1820, that he arrived in the port of New York in June 1881, and that he was living in Dakota County, Minnesota, by the time he swore this oath on November 1, 1884.
I tried searching for a similar document for Veronika or her mother Magdalena, but I had no luck.
Searching for a death record for Veronika’s mother, I found a curious near-miss on the Minnesota Obituary Index:
Name: Maria M. Evertz
Death Date: 5 May 1903
Death Place: WADENA, WADENA, Minnesota
Publication Place: Minnesota, USA
Source: Minnesota Death Cards
As far as I can tell, there’s only one person with the last name of Evertz living in the village of Wadena in 1900—Magdalena (Kaufmann) Evertz, mother of Veronika (Everrtz) Gores and widow of Peter Evertz. So who is this Maria M. Evertz? It’s possible that this is a transcription error and the person is indeed Magdalena Evertz. It’s also possible this is some other person who is truly named Maria and had heretofore slipped under my radar. With no age stated on the index entry, it’s possible it was a young child or a recent immigrant to the city. The actual record wasn’t available digitally so I requested another paid records search from the Iron Range Research Center.
While waiting for the death record to arrive, I started scouring digitized Minnesota newspapers on Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank.com, and ChroniclingAmerica.gov for the name “Evertz” just to see what I could find. I came across the following brief death notice on page 13 of the Thursday May 7, 1903, edition of The Minneapolis Journal:
It’s easy to see how no one had found this before, as the names of both mother and son-in-law had typographical errors (Maggalena instead of Magdalena, and F.E. Jones instead of F.E. Gores). The only reason I was able to find this notice was that I was trawling for any and all mentions of “Evertz” in Minnesota newspapers of that time period.
The previous Tuesday referred to in the death notice would have been May 5, 1903, the same date that appeared on the index entry for Maria M. Evertz’ Minnesota Death Card. Could it be that Magdalena Evertz and Maria M. Evertz were the same person?
I heard back from the Iron Range Research Center, but it wasn’t the digitized record I expected. Because the Minnesota Death Card was indexed in the Minnesota Obituary Index, my record research request got automatically submitted as an obituary lookup request, and I got the following request for confirmation that I really did want the potentially meager death card:
We are in receipt of your ‘Obituary Request’ for Maria M. Evertz, with a copy of that database reference being noted at the end of this e-mail. I just wanted to let you know that the record being requested is a ‘Minnesota Death Card’, rather than for an actual ‘obituary’. Several different types of records are included in the ‘obituary’ category in our online database, and this particular one is for a ‘Minnesota Death Cards’, as noted in the ‘source’ field, and this is one of the microfilm resources we have here in our library.
I don’t know if you are familiar with this resource or not, but the Death Cards were a record of death completed shortly after the death, and aren’t official death certificates or records, nor do they provide much information, so please look at this link – then look for the Question “Q: What information is on a death card (1900–1907)?) which will let you know what type of information might be on the record (please note: many death cards were filled out very incompletely though ~ ex: only the name, age, cause of death, where born), just so you’ll know what you might expect to learn from it).
I confirmed that I did indeed want the Death Card, and then just yesterday they emailed the following record to me:
Fantastic! Unless there were two elderly women with the surname of Evertz who were living in Wadena in 1903, both of whom were born in Germany, both of whom had the maiden name of Kaufman, and both of whom died on May 5, 1903… my 3rd great grandmother’s name was actually Maria Magdalena (Kaufmann) Evertz. Given that the population of the entire county of Wadena was only 7,921 in 1900 according to the Wadena County Historical Society, I am confident that this conclusion is a sound one.
Since Maria M. Evertz and Magdalena Evertz are one and the same person, then Maria Magdalena’s parents were Jacob Kaufman and Anna Hoffman, and her birthdate (based on her age at death of 73 years, 1 month, and 1 day on May 5, 1903) was April 4, 1830.
I’ve got to say I’m pretty impressed with this discovery. This previously unknown death card provides direct evidence for five facts not previously known (legal name, death date, birth date, father’s name, mother’s name), but could only be determined to be for the woman we’d previously known as Magdalena Evertz because of a previously unknown, error-riddled, one-sentence death notice that I found by searching for the word “Evertz” in all digitized Minnesota newspapers of the time period.
So now I need to research the family of Jacob Kaufman and Anna Hoffman to flesh out Maria Magdalena (Kaufmann) Evertz’s childhood, family, and her home town in Germany (which would presumably be Veronika’s German home town as well).
I’m going to leave that for a future post, though. I’ll leave you with just a hint. I found a record for a baptism that seems like it might be Veronika’s baptism. The child’s name is nearly perfect match (Veronica Everz), the father’s name is a nearly perfect match (Petri Everz), and the mother’s name is a nearly perfect match (Magdalena Kaufmann). The date of the baptism (May 19) is just two days after Veronika’s May 17 birthday. The only piece of information which doesn’t line up is the year—the baptism happened on May 19, 1857, three years before the birthdate stated on Veronika’s headstone (May 17, 1860).
This doesn’t bother me too terribly much, as Veronika’s birth year (inferred from her stated age on the various census) fluctuated over time:
|Document||Stated age||Inferred birth year|
|1885 MN census||23||1862|
|1895 MN census||31||1864|
|1900 US census||41||1859|
|1905 MN census||44||1861|
|1910 US census||48||1862|
|1920 US census||58||1862|
Putting on my speculation cap, I’d guess that Veronika was sensitive about her age. We know that she was older than her husband (who was born on December 15, 1866), but it would seem that she wanted to downplay just how much older she was. If she was indeed born on May 17, 1857, then she was 9 years older than her husband. When they married on October 21, 1885, she was 28 years old and he was 18 years old. Perhaps she even hid her real age from her husband and that’s why her tombstone states she was born in 1860 (he survived her by 16 years, so he would have been the one to decide what would be on her headstone). Or perhaps he knew her real age, but wanted to maintain the ruse to preserve her image as she wanted it.
In any case, if the baptism record I found is indeed Veronika’s, then she was baptized into the Catholic church in the town of Glaadt, Rheinland, Prussia. Glaadt is a tiny mountain village within the larger (but still small) municipality of Jünkerath, which lies in the Kyll river valley. Even today, the population of the entire Jünkerath municipality is just 1,777. It’s in a heavily wooded area of the Eifel Mountains and is only 7 miles from the Belgian border.
Glaadt is part of the Vulkaneifel district, which is the least populated district in the Rhineland-Palatinate, and is the fourth most sparsely populated district in all of Germany. It’s also one of the oldest places in the region, having been a station on an old Roman road that dates to at least the 4th century AD.
It sounds like an absolutely lovely place, but more research is needed to determine whether Glaadt is indeed the ancestral home town of Veronika’s family.