A String of Finds to Get to Ben

There’s a school of genealogical thought that essentially says “writing about the genealogy research process is not what matters. It is the finished product that matters.”

While the finished product (the compiled genealogy or the analysis and correlation of records to make the case that a conjecture has been established) is important, the research process matters. If the finished product was sufficient by itself, textbooks would have no need to explain anything. Seeing the process by which others have solved problems helps readers (and students) develop their own ability to solve problems. Pointing out when a process or conclusion was wrong is illustrative as well.

And so a search for a “little more information” on my great-grandfather Habben lead to the discovery of a probable “new to me” brother and sister for his wife’s great-grandfather.

The Quincy, Illinois, Public Library has digitized newspapers from the earliest issues through 1970 on their website. For reasons that are now lost to me (my memory is nothing if not short), I wanted to see if there were any references to Mimke Habben besides his obituary. Other than having to search for various renditions of his first name (Minke, Mimka, etc. all of which are on a master list to keep me from leaving any out) the number of hits is usually manageable.

A reference to in a 1935 edition of one of the newspapers on the site mentioned a reunion that had been attended by Mrs. Mimka Habben and her children. Great-grandpa was not in attendance. The Habbens had attended the Dirks and Adams families reunion. I had seen a handful of references to the Dirks family reunion in the newspaper and many of them were attended by Tjode (the “Mrs. Mimka Habben) and her children. This was the first reunion notice I had discovered that referenced the Adams family as well. The mother of the Dirks family was Heipke (Müeller) Dirks and her sister had married an Adams. The combined reunion made sense and I didn’t think much about it.

I realized I might have overlooked some reunion references and decided to search for the newspapers for “Dirks and Adams” in digital images. My search had to quickly be refined to include additional words. The newspapers were printed in Adams County, Illinois, and “Adams” as a keyword was none too effective.

A refined search led to a 1931 newspaper reference to a Dirks reunion in northern Adams County–Adams family members attended but the reunion was referred to as the “Dirks reunion.” The notice indicated that my own great-great-grandmother had become a great-grandmother for the first time since the last reunion (without naming the child) and that Ben Miller of Quincy, Illinois, a “cousin” of Mrs. Henry Dirks, Sr., had passed away since last year’s reunion.

At that point the gears started to turn. Mrs. Henry Dirks, Sr., died in 1924 and her husband well before that. Was the paper referring to her? Most likely it was since it did specifically mention Henry Dirks, Jr., by name (in the list of attendees). The cousin reference was significant. The only relatives of Mrs. Henry Dirks, Sr., that I knew of were her parents, Henry and Geshe Müeller, and her sister Anke Müeller Adams.

While “cousin” can be a vague term, it does suggest a biological relationship that needs to be explored further.

We will save those discoveries for a further post.

The drawback to writing about the research process is that sometimes it can mirror a trip down a rabbit hole. That happens because sometimes those rabbit holes (when travailed with some restraint) can produce results.

The discovery of Ben Miller began with a search for Mimka Habben. There’s another important reminder as well–Mimka Habben did not even attend the reunion of his wife’s family that got this whole chain of discoveries started.


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