When I was growing up there were people who appeared in our lives who were only there at certain times of the year. I didn’t know if they were connected to our family or not. They were never introduced, they just appeared. Since I started doing genealogy, I have learned many of their stories. One of those people was Lorraine. This is her story.
Every year on Thanksgiving, the doorbell would ring and there would be Lorraine. I don’t know how she got to our house, but she always came for dinner. She was a slender woman with medium grey curly hair. Wearing a beige silk dress with a lace collar she would usually sit in Mom’s armchair in a corner of the living room with her feet flat on the floor in front of her. I m sure she engaged in conversation with my parents and the other adults that were present, but I don’t remember talking to her.
When I started doing a family history for my father’s parents, I learned that my grandmother Henrietta was born to Hermann and Eva Schmitz Burbach in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Henrietta was the youngest of six children in the family and the only surviving daughter.
Her brother George married Rose Schmitt in Milwaukee on 17 Feb 1897[i]. George and Rose had three daughters before the death of Rose on 4 Dec 1901. [ii] Lorraine was my dad’s first cousin!
Lorraine Henrietta Burbach was born 22 Feb 1901, shortly before the death of her mother. She and her older sister Olive became close while their father mourned the death of his wife. Eventually George would re-marry and have eight more children but the ten-year age gap between the two sisters and their half siblings would remain.
So far there are very few records to document Lorraine’s life. She is listed in the census in 1900 and 1910 but I haven’t found her in 1920 or 1930. Her sister, Olive age 20, is listed as a lodger in the 1920 census and in the 1930 census Olive is apparently in a tuberculosis sanatorium in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Lorraine is listed in the 1922 Milwaukee city directory as living at 646 Astor and working as a waitress.[iii]
In 1940 Lorraine appears with her husband Wilby Gist living at the Biltmore Hotel in Chicago.[iv] According to the census, Wilby was a bus driver and Loraine was a telephone operator. They had both finished High School and were living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1935.
Social Security Death Index shows a death date of 4 Feb 1985 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois.[v]
I never knew Wilby, so I can only assume he died during the 1940s and probably in Chicago unless he was in the war. There is no record of Lorraine having children and I have yet to find a gravesite for her.
An article in the Daily Herald from 1968 describes Lorraine’s many
collections and her many accomplishments.[vi] Reading the article makesme think that her life wasn’t as sad as I had originally thought.
[i] Wisconsin Marriages, pre-1907;Vol 35 page 0337.
[ii] Wisconsin Death Index 1820-1907 ; Volume:27;Page 0306; Reel:89; Index Volume:09;;Sequence Number:048690
[iii] Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
[iv] Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00927; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 103-184A
[v] Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2014. Number: 387-03-2074; Issue State: Wisconsin; Issue Date: Before 1951
[vi] Ancestry.com; Info The Daily Herald (Chicago, Illinois); 1968 September 11