In times long past, the tradition of our ancestors was to document the family history in the family Bible and pass that along to future generations. Alas, we had no such marvelous resource, so we had to rely on my eldest sister Eileen's baby book where my mother had dutifully listed her recollection of the names of four generations of the family tree. My sister read the names to me over the phone: on my mother's side was Marcus Monaghan, Berthalia Jacquet, Herman Fertig and Maude Waldeck. On our father's side was Bernard Cook, Mamie Noonan, Henry Dillemuth, Albert Cook, Katherine Smith, Patrick Noonan, Frances Neithammer, Lydia Hawk, someone named "Cape" and someone named "J.J."
It was a good start.
First, I searched for an Albert Cook in the census records and only found one in Staten Island married to a woman named Kate, but he was an Irish immigrant living with his Irish parents, so that ruled him out. We knew he was German and likely the original spelling was Koch or Kuch. I never found another viable census record for an Albert Cook. I had to conclude that either “Albert Cook” of our family never in his entire life participated in a census, or his name wasn’t Albert. Similarly, I couldn’t find any “Patrick” Noonan married to someone named Frances, so I had to assume we had the wrong first name for him as well; which, it turned out, we did.
Eventually, I found Bernard and Mamie (Mary Ann) Cook in Ohio in the 1900 census in Cleveland, where they list a child, Viola age 2, who ultimately died as a toddler. Supposedly, Grandma also later had a doll she named Viola. In the 1910 census, Bernard and Mamie are in Cleveland with Loretta (spelled this way, not the way she eventually spelled it – Lauretta), and Dorothy. In the censuses, Bernard states that he was born in Maryland, Mamie was born in Ohio; Bernard’s father was born in Germany and his mother in Pennsylvania. This gave me new hints to find his family in Maryland and his mother's family in Pennsylvania. Needless to say, finding Cooks and Smiths was quite an adventure, considering how many zillions there were. The Noonans were a little bit easier.
I found an 1880 census in Niles, Trumbull County, Ohio for a family named Noonan, and guess who lived next door to them? Jacob and Margaret NEATHAMER [sic], which meant that Frances Neathammer, who shows up as Frances Noonan with her husband and Mary (age 1) in this census, was living next door to her parents in her early marriage to CHARLES NOONAN. Yes, Mamie’s father was named CHARLES, not PATRICK. Her mother’s father was Jacob Neathammer b. 1838, wife Margaret b. 1833, both born in Wurttemberg Germany. I later discovered that Margaret's maiden name was Schuler.
I searched in vain for hours for an Albert Cook and found a very interesting person in a census with an easy name to research: SEBASTIAN ANTHONY COOK, b. around 1881, father born in Maryland, mother born in PA, lived between 1910 – 1960 in exactly the same neighborhood as Bernard Cook. He was a real estate agent in Cleveland, married to a Mary L. Cook (nee Kriz), with kids named HELEN, ADELLE. This was, of course, Bernard’s brother. Eileen later told me, “Oh, yeah, that was Uncle Bass.” And I said, “You knew about this man with a great name like SEBASTIAN and you didn’t tell me?” (Eileen's belated recollection would frustrate me more than once.)
So, with that easily searched name, SEBASTIAN, I tried finding him before 1900, and he does not appear. There is no record of the 1890 census, which was quite a problem researching this family. The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire in 1921. Sebastian claims on his census to have been born in Ohio (while his father was born in Maryland and his mother in PA), and BERNARD JOSEPH claims to have been born in Maryland. So, I had to figure that the mystery Cook family moved to Cleveland from Maryland sometime before 1890, after Bernard was born in 1875. But, even using Ohio as the location, I could not find ALBERT COOK or CATHERINE COOK in Ohio.
My conclusion - His name was not ALBERT! His name was not Sebastian, but it could be JOSEPH, based on the German tradition of naming eldest sons after the father or his father; since I tried searching Bernard and there were no viable results.
I hit pay dirt with Joseph.
JOSEPH J. COOK, also known as “J.J.” (another convenient thing Eileen remembered after I tracked him down) and wife KATIE (Catherine E.), nee Smith, appear in the Cuyahoga County censuses from 1880-1930 (except 1890), and they had an alphabet soup pot of kids: Anna, Bernard (listed as Joseph in one of the censuses), Bertha, Albert, Sebastian, Adelbert (Delbert), Charley, Louisa (Lulu), and Elroy (also listed as Francis), from 1874-1893. The first four (Anna, Bernard, Bertha and Albert) were born in Maryland, the rest in Ohio. Then I found Joseph Cook in Maryland, with his parents, John Bernard Cook and Louisa Anschutz. We discovered Louisa’s maiden name was Anschutz through Joseph Cook’s death record that lists his father’s full name and his mother’s maiden name – both born in Saxony, Germany. The Cooks came to Maryland from Germany in 1852 when Joseph was born either en route to Maryland or upon arrival. I have found nothing more about their families before they came to Maryland.