Martin and Dora Brunkhorst would be celebrating their 105th wedding anniversary today if they were still alive. I will be attempting to tell their story today. In the case of Dora, I have already attempted to tell part of her story in a previous post, Seelitz to Jacob. However, I may not have gotten her story correct. In fact, based upon a document I found, some information we have in our German Family Tree may be incorrect. So, let’s start with Dora.
Dora is called Dorothea Margaretha Henrietta Schlimpert-Menard in our German Family Tree. Dora’s biological parents were Zacharias Menard and Carolina Schuerenberg. She was born on March 9, 1889. I am told that we have a book in our museum somewhere that is called the Jacob Family book. I have not seen that book yet, but it is said to have information in it that was written down by one of the pastors at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois. In that book, it reportedly says that Dora was the illegitimate child of Zacharias and Carolina. I think that is probably not the case. I say that because I found this Illinois marriage record for Zacharias and Carolina. It says this couple was married in Monroe County, Illinois in 1888.
This document indicates that Zacharias and Carolina were married prior to the birth of Dora, thus making her a legitimate child. However, another later document demonstrates that this marriage did not last long. We find Zacharias marrying Eva Wood in 1894, also in Monroe County.
I think the most likely thing that occurred was Zacharias and Carolina getting a divorce not long after they were married and had a child. Carolina would marry again on November 24, 1891. Her second husband was Joseph Schlimpert. There is an Illinois marriage record for that wedding also. That wedding took place in St. Clair County. Carolina has her maiden name on this document, not her married name of Menard.
All of these marriages took place outside of Jackson County, Illinois, which is why none of them are found in the books of Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob. In the 1900 census for Fountain Bluff Township, we find the following Schlimpert household. Dorothea is called a S. daughter (step daughter) at the age of 11.
We know that Dora eventually went by the name of Schlimpert. It is also said in that Jacob Family book that he adopted Dora as his own daughter. We find Dora in the 1910 census living in a Riethmann family working as a servant. That family lived in East St. Louis, Illinois.
It is also in the Jacob Family book that we find the September 12, 1915 date for the marriage of Dora Schlimpert to Martin Brunkhorst. I was unable to find any official documentation for this marriage. Now, we will take a look at the life of Martin Brunkhorst.
Martin was born on May 19, 1885, the son of Heinrich and Katharina (Wichern) Brunkhorst. He was baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois. We find Martin in his first census in 1900 at the age of 14. He worked on his father’s farm.
Next, we find Martin in the 1910 census for the same location.
Three years after he was married, Martin had his World War I draft registration completed. This form says Martin did farm labor for the McLeod brothers.
When the 1920 census was taken, we find Martin’s household right next to a McLeod household. Two of this couple’s 8 children were on this entry. I do not know the origin of the nickname, but our an Ancestry family history says their first child, Elmer, was called “Beans” Brunkhorst.
Next, we find the Brunkhorst family in the 1930 census. We see all 8 of the Brunkhorst children in this entry.
The last census in which we can view Martin and Dora is the one taken in 1940. This time they were found living in the Somerset Township, which is located near Murphysboro.
In 1942, Martin had his World War II draft card completed. This form says Martin was a farmer for George Huthmacher.
Dora died in 1964 at the age of 74, one day short of her 75th birthday. The following obituary can be found on Findagrave. She is called the daughter of Joseph and Catherine Schlimpert in this obit. I find it interesting that this article was placed in a local paper on Dora’s birthday.
Martin died in 1969 at the age of 84. We can also view his obituary. This is another source that states the wedding day for Martin and Dora was September 12, 1915.
Martin and Dora Brunkhorst are buried together in the Pleasant Grove Memorial Park in Murphysboro, Illinois.
It sometimes happens when doing family research that you run across evidence that what you once thought was the truth is not necessarily the case. I think today’s tale may be one of those situations. Perhaps the descendants in this family may get comfort out of knowing that the story of a scandalous illegitimate birth may not be true. Dora’s mother and father were likely a married couple when she was born in 1889.
One more thing. I wonder, given today’s moral climate, whether the term, “Illegitimate child” will even be discussed in the future. I’ll just be glad to be in heaven and not have to deal with doing family research when that time comes.