My father’s grandfather will be the topic of this week’s post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge (I’m so far behind it’s not even funny anymore, but I want to keep chugging along anyhow).
My dad was very close to his grandfather as he raised my father for many years after my dad’s parents divorced when he was a little boy.
Adam Villhauer was born in Baden, Germany on May 24, 1879 (according to his WWII draft card) I found his Baptism record in Baden Germany on family search stating that he was Baptized on May 24, 1879. His parents are listed as Ludwig Villhauer and Susanna Askani. I have been unable to find death dates for Ludwig or Susanna. Ludwig was born February 22, 1855 and Susanna was born February 3, 1853 in Baden, Germany. (I found Ludwig’s birth record on a microfilm image, and Susanna’s birthdate as well as Ludwig’s again, on their marriage record- both from family search- this was the first time I’d ordered microfilm through family search and I was excited to find images of so many original documents featuring many of my father’s ancestors!)
On July 3, 1880, Susanna and an 11 month old Adam arrived in the United States. They are listed in the steerage section. Adam’s father Ludwig is not listed with them on the passenger list. My best guess is that he arrived in the US before the rest of his family, possibly to procure a place to live as well as possibly a job. Whether he was around for the birth of his son or left for American after they found out Susanna was pregnant, I’m not sure. Either way they all met up in New York again in 1880.
Since there is no 1890 census, I have not located the family again until the 1900 census where they are all living in Queens, NY. By this point Susanna is no longer listed with the family. She and Ludwig had a second child in New York. I found Their daughter Elizabeth’s birth record on family search listing Ludwig and Susanna as her parents, she was born on March 8, 1883. My guess is that Susanna died in childbirth as according to the 1900 census, Ludwig was married for 17 years to a new woman named Barbara. That would mean that he married her in 1883, the same year Elizabeth was born. Ludwig and his second wife Barbara also had a child named Sophie who was born in 1890. There is also another child living with them named Emile Walter who is listed as Ludwig’s step son. So Barbara also had a child from a previous marriage. Emile is 13 in the 1900 census.
On the 1900 census, Adam is 21 years old and is employed as a Mason. I received a scan of this wonderful memento of days gone by, my great grandfather Adam’s business card showing that he continued work as a contractor. I love knowing this fact about him as my own dad (Adam’s grandson) is a general handyman who also does this type of work, as well as any other household repairs, plumbing, electrical work, etc. I love seeing these kinds of similarities in my family trees!
From November 1900 until November 1905, Adam was a corporal in the US Marine Corps, and fought in the Spanish American War. My dad remembers his grandfather showing him this huge scar on the inside of his upper arm which was from an injury he received in combat when he was badly cut by an enemy’s bayonet. A couple of my dad’s cousins were kind enough to share Adam’s discharge papers as well as many of these wonderful photos. I also have a found a record on anestry.com from the “Spanish American War Military and Naval Records” which shows that he was accepted for enlistment Nov 22, 1900 and that he served on the USS New York from 2-16-01 to 7-8-04. He was promoted to Corporal and served on the New York in Philippine Waters. He was honorably discharged on Nov. 21, 1905.
I did some searching online and found an amazing assortment of photos from the USS NY that were taken around when Adam was on the ship, each of these photos was labeled as circa 1900. Adam was aboard the USS NY by February 16, 1901. Whether or not he was in the background of any of the photos, I really can’t say. But it’s still amazing to get a glimpse of what life was like aboard the very ship he served on and to see photos from the right time period as well.
I was able to find a WWI draft card for Adam on ancestry,which shows that he is living at 64 Stryker Ave in Woodside, Queens, NY along with his wife Mary Elizabeth Villhauer. His profession is Brick Mason and he works for the John Rohan Bros. The form says that he is of medium height and build with brown hair and blue eyes.
In 1910 Adam is still living in Queens, NY on Stryker Avenue, and is married to Mary Dodds (1885-1959) she was born in New York to parents who had also been born in New York. I have been unable to find much information on Mary, other than her birth date through census records and death date from her tombstone. on the 1880 Mary is show living with her mother, Catherine, and father, John H., who is a truck driver. By the 1905 NY state census, Catherine is no longer listed, although Mary (listed here as Mamie-her nickname even as an adult) now has two younger brothers- James (born around 1886) and George (born about 1889). As of 1910, Adam and Mary have 2 chidlren Rose who is almost 2 and Elizabeth who is about a half year old.
The 1920 census record states that Adam was naturalized in 1900. They now have three children together Rose who was 11 in 1920, Mary who was 8, and my grandfather Louis who was born on June 23, 1912 and is 7 years old at the time of the census.
On the 193o census states that Adam was married to Mary at the age of 27 which means that they got married sometime in 1907. He is now 50 years old and is working as a gas tiller, they still live in Queens, NY on 34th Avenue.
I also found a WWII draft card for Adam saying he is 62 years old and now living at 128 Highland Blvd, Monmouth New Jersey and is self employed as a concession owner. I love that his signature is on here too!
My dad told me the story of Adam and Mary’s time working at the Keansburg, New Jersey amusement park. They owned a baseball throwing game and their stand was located on one of the side streets off of the main boardwalk. They left New York to retire to New Jersey sometime around 1948 or so and then opened up this game. My dad went to live with them a few years later when he was in second grade, so around 1951 or so. He remembers that customers paid 10 cents for 6 baseballs, and then would toss the balls at heavy black canvas panels that had buttons embedded in them. If the thrower hit a button they earned points. The points were kept track of electronically above the stand. The buttons were arranged with a 90 point button in the center, and four 40 point buttons in each corner. A thrower also got 30 points for hitting the back ground. The canvas panels must have been pretty far back! There were ten sets of baseball games all lined up along the front of their stand. Players would then use their points to purchase novelties from Adam and Mary. My dad said that Adam would spend the winter months, when the amusement park was closed, in his basement of their bungalow home at 128 Highland Boulevard, just a few streets away from the park and boardwalk, making and painting plaster dogs that people could win with their points. Adam and Mary, along with my dad, would also make trips to warehouses, such as Redbank to pick out other prizes buttons and even horse clocks!
My dad remembers his grandfather crawling around behind the game to fix the gears and mechanisms that made the game work. During the summer season when the park was open, my dad and and his grandparents lived in a small apartment that was attached behind the game. There was just a kitchen, a small room for my dad, one for his grandparents, and a bathroom. There was a gas stove and an old ice box that they had to fill with ice to keep their food cold. My dad lived with his grandparents from his 2nd grade through 7th grade years. He remembers falling asleep listening to the sound of people playing the baseball game. He’d hear the thunk of the ball as hit it the canvas, or a ringing bell when a successful thrower hit a button. “We have a winner!” his grandfather would call out in the night. He remembers seeing his grandparents sitting together at the end of the day counting their dimes from all the players that evening.
Another memory my dad has with his grandfather is from a spring day when they were working on fixing the steps leading up to the front door of their bungalow. My dad and Adam were clearing out rocks and tossing them aside so they could have a clear space to work. One of the rocks they tossed sat in the sun and when it warmed up they saw it hop away. Turns out they tossed out a toad that had been in it’s petrified hibernation state. They thought it looked just like a stone, but once the sun warmed it the frog woke up!
My dad remembers that Adam died from a fall off of his garage roof at his home. They were pretty sure he had a heart attack which caused him to fall from the roof.
The last record I have for Adam is his Veterans Grave site record from Ancestry. It states that he died on June 28, 1958 and is buried at Long Island National Cemetery. His wife Mary is also buried there and she died ten months later on May 12, 1959.