The Weber files: Part I
Collections of records from a single family are generally referred to in the preservation world as “family papers.” Family papers would include many actual pieces of paper (correspondence, household or business records, legal documents, etc.) but can also include photographs and, sometimes, three-dimensional artifacts as well. One such collection at the Anoka County Historical Society is one for the Weber family of the Centerville area. The collection is sizeable, and tells many parts of the story of this particular family.
The earliest records in the Weber collection are three baptismal certificates from the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, dated Feb. 22, 1868. These take a little bit of deciphering, since they are written in Latin, but they provide some interesting information. The dates of birth listed on them are from earlier years – 1820, 1848 and 1853 – so we believe the family was getting notarized copies of these documents from the Roman Catholic Church before they left Europe to come to the United States. Johann Weber was born on May 29, 1820, and his sons Joseph and Johann were born in 1848 and 1853, respectively. They had two other brothers named Frank and Ignatz; if notarized copies of their baptismal certificates were made, they were not part of the materials donated to Anoka County Historical Society. Shortly after these certificates were made, the Weber family moved to America and settled near Centerville.
They were not the only ones. Centerville was known to have a “French” side and a “German” side in its early years, and the Webers may have been drawn to an area that had other immigrants from Germany and Austria-Hungary. They liked the area well enough to stay. We have a certificate granting citizenship to Joseph Weber on July 23, 1900, and we know he married a woman named Anna Marie (Annie).
Joseph’s brother, Johann, also settled in the area, and several legal documents in the collection indicate he later left land to his children. Joseph and Annie had several children as well: Leonard, Jacob, Martin, Theresa and John. It was Leonard and his wife Mary (Flascher) Weber who inherited the farm from his parents and later passed it down to his son Donald, who was the last Weber to own the farm.
This is part one of a three-part series about the Weber Family Collection. Next week, we’ll discuss some other records in the collection, including features of how the farm was passed down through succeeding generations. In an era before nursing homes, where did older folks go when they retired? The Weber family had an interesting solution to this issue, so check back next week!
Audra Hilse is the archivist and administrator for the Anoka County Historical Society.