My youngest granddaughter’s middle name is Elise. She has a cousin in Hawaii named Elise and another in Oregon with a middle name of Elise. My two daughters also have two cousins (# 6 and # 7) with the middle name of Elise. In my own generation I have my cousin Maureen Elise (# 4) and my youngest sister (# 5) with the Elise middle monicker. Then there is Elise # 3, Elise Maureen Dwyer, my Dad’s sister. Elise # 2 is their mother and my grandmother, Mabel Elise Theler. But who was the first Elise? Ah, in all my research over the years looking for bits of information on my great grandfather William H Theler and his parents I have managed to find lots of information on another family member, William’s sister Elise.
My Dad used to talk a lot about Aunt Elise and he told us that there was a large picture of her in the hallway of his grandparents’ house on 25th Street in San Francisco. For years I just assumed that this Aunt Elise was related to my great grandmother Emma Belduke, mainly because the name “Elise” sounds so much more French than German and Emma’s father’s family came from Quebec and spoke mostly French. Dad also had a photo of this Aunt Elise and in the back of the photo in my Dad’s handwriting are the words “Aunt Lizzie.” So she wasn’t always called Elise. Maybe she was born with another name.
Also on the back of the photo is a stamp that tells us that the picture was taken at a photo studio on Staten Island in New York City. So I decided to concentrate my research on Staten Island for awhile and there I found Elise Theler, William’s older sister.
Elise appears on three US Census reports. In 1870 she is listed as Elise Thailer and is living with her mother Agnes Thailer in a boarding house on West Street (along Manhattan’s Hudson shore opposite New Jersey) in New York City. But I also found an Eliza Theler living with a head of the household named Adra Theler in a boarding house in Middletown, NY in 1870. Are these two people really one and the same? Could be. My great great grandfather Joseph Belduke appears twice in the 1880 census, once living in a San Francisco boarding house and once across the Bay in an Oakland boarding house. And my great grandfather Tom Muckle was living with his family in Carson City on the 1880 census and also in a boarding house by himself in Bodie when the California census was taken a few weeks later. In 1900 Elize Theler is managing another boarding house (on Hyatt Street) in New Brighton, NY. My, I thought, she really got around the state of New York! Then a little more research revealed the fact that most of Middletown changed to Castleton and then most of Castleton became New Brighton. She spent most of her life in just one place, Staten Island, NY. Finally, in 1910 Elisa Theler is listed as an inmate at a home for old Mormons on Amsterdam Avenue in New Brighton.
I also found Elise’s obituary in the New York Tribune for June 12, 1914: “THELER – On Thursday, June 11, Elise, daughter of the late Frederick Theler, in her 71st year. Funeral services at the Chapel of the Home, 104th St. and Amsterdam Av., on Saturday, June 13, at 11 a.m.” This obituary verifies that she is Frederick’s daughter but also points out that she was born three years before Frederick and Agnes were married. Was Frederick married twice? Or are Adra and Agnes the same person? Also, one of the census reports say she was born in New York, another says Germany and the third states Bremen, Germany, a city in northern Germany with access to the North Sea and a popular port in the 19th century for shipping lines between Germany and the US.
In 1886 Eliza Theler became a director with two other persons of The Straub Envelope Company. The three directors invested $10,000 in the company. According to Webb’s Consolidated Business Directory of Staten Island in 1886, Miss Eliza Theler was also running a boarding house at 352 Richmond Terrace, New Brighton. I also ran across an article in a NY newspaper in the 1880s where Miss Theler’s Boarding House on the lower terrace was mentioned.
So we now know more about Elise /Eliza than we do about her brother and either of her parents. It’s too bad that all of those census reports are after 1868 when William arrrived in San Francisco. Where did William and Elise live before that date? Why don’t they appear in the 1850 or 1860 census? William claims he was born in New York but we can’t find a birth certificate. And there are no death certificates anywhere for Frederick or Agnes. The only record I ever found for Frederick besides his marriage record is that he was living in a boarding house in New York City in 1850, according to Doggett’s New York City Directory for 1849-1850.
Someday I hope to find the record or records that will solve this mystery. This year we are going to spend a few days in northwest Germany visiting the area where most of the Thelers lived before migrating to the US. Perhaps something will turn up there. Maybe I’ll discover a definite link between my family and the Thelers of Ohio. And maybe I’ll find Elise’s birth record!
In the last six generations of my Dad’s side of the family we have ten people named Elise. And this is the story so far of the First Elise. Tomorrow I will write a bit about my grandmother, the second Elise. My Dad told me she was a lovely lady. And doesn’t she have a lovely name?