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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Iroquois Theatre Tragedy of 1903 : Over 600 Victims Perish

Can you imagine holding tickets to a well advertised theatre production in 1903 in Chicago....So many people did expect to see a wonderful program.  The theatre was advertised as being FIRE PROOF.  They even installed an asbestos curtain on the stage to keep the audience from harm in the event there was a fire on stage during a production.

Mr. Blue Beard was billed at the Iroquois Theatre starting the week of December 28, 1903.  Children were out of school for the holiday season.  Families made plans to gallop about town during the winter season to visit the various  family friendly venues in Chicago.  Most of the tickets for the matinee scheduled on December 30, 1903 were  purchased by women and children.  It promised to be an exciting outing.  After all, the theatre had only been open for 5 weeks prior.  What could go wrong?

The horrific scenes that ensued after a fire spread throughout the theatre were etched in the minds of the police and firefighters.  It is said that the fire was started by a spark of a faulty spot light in the stage during the production.  But, that was not confirmed by every fire inspection report.

How could such an ordinary looking spotlight cause the death of over 600 persons?  Impossible?

Newspapers across the nation reported on the horrible news of the massive carnage.  Lists of those who lost their lives were published, as well as those who were not expected to live after their injuries proved to be too much for them to survive.

There are so many graves of the lost from this tragedy strewn across the Chicago area and suburbs.  The Bartlett family lost three of their family members on that fateful day.  They are laid to rest in the Bronswood Cemetery in Oak Brook, Illinois.

In the aftermath of this theatre fire, the fire departments across the nation began to review the building fire codes that were in place. As a result, most of the large city building fire codes were upgraded substantially.  Lessons were learned, and hopes were high that extreme numbers of persons will not lose their lives in tragedies such as this ever again.

Names of the identified victims of the Iroquois Theatre fire can be found at :  

Find A Grave has a virtual cemetery which lists 150 memorials of some of the victims, which can be viewed at

Newspapers across the nation filed their reports of the horrific story.  Search for their stories on Chronicling America at

Monday, August 11, 2014

Murder - Suicide of 1919 in a sleepy Chicago suburb

In a local cemetery, there stands a monument dedicated to the memory of a family.  All four of those persons interred there were taken from this earth on the same day....April 15, 1919.  The Marwitz family, of Hinsdale, were murdered by the head of the family.  He then took his own life. No given names or dates are etched on the stone.  Nothing to give the identity of those laid to rest in this plot.   Here stands the monument in this quiet, peaceful burial ground of Bronswood Cemetery :

Marwitz family monument, Bronswood Cemetery, Oak Brook, Illinois, Section I, photo taken by S. Reif 2009

After searching the burial log for Bronswood Cemetery, found at the Oak Brook Historical Society's website, I find the names of the four individuals laid to rest here :
     William J., Clara K., Marguerite and Kenneth

On April, 16, 1919, newspapers across  the nation printed the horrific news of this tragedy.  The Chicago Daily Tribune posted the story in their issue, with images of the slain family :

16 April 1919 Chicago Daily Tribune

The article written by the reporter, tells of the sad story.  A wife and two children were shot by the head of the household, William Marwitz.  One can only imagine the shock felt by the relatives and friends of the Marwitz family.

16 April 1919, Chicago Daily Tribune

William Marwitz, assistant postmaster, killed his two children, his wife and then himself.  He learned that his wife, ill from a botched dental surgery, had a limited time to live.  Thinking that he could not raise his children without the help of his wife, he decided that they all should leave this earth together, and spare himself and his children the burden of living life without Clara, his wife.  

continuation of article 16 April 1919

With the illness of his wife, and mounting financial problems, William Marwitz became depressed.  It appears that he was burning his candle at both ends.  Things must have seemed hopeless.  

continuation of 16 April 1919 article

The Chicago Daily Tribune article continues on....telling of the events which lead  to the end of life for Mrs. Marwitz and her two small children.  Clearly, William Marwitz was suffering from mental issues and stresses of his life.  Miss Lehmann, a relative of Mrs. Marwitz, was staying at the home as a household aide.  She witnessed the mental state of William as he carried out the demise of his family and himself.

last article piece, 16 April 1919 Chicago Daily Tribune

After killing his family, Mr. Marwitz telephoned his mother to tell what he had done, and added that he would join his family by his own hand.  He hung up the telephone and then took his own life.

The Chicago Daily Tribune had reported the most complete article about the incident.  Many other papers received the news and published their own shortened versions of the story.  Elkhart, Indiana...Tampa, Florida...Trenton, New Jersey... Sheboygan, Wisconsin...Bridgeport, Connecticut...Logansport and Connorsville, Indiana...Kansas City, Kansas...Twin Falls, Idaho...Butte, Montana...Harrisburg, Pennsylvania...and the list goes on as the story reaches the cities across the nation.  

The headline for each of the articles in the various newspapers were very similar.  Most printed something on the lines of : 

By far the worst headline that I have found regarding this tragic story simply read :

CLEANED UP THE WHOLE FAMILY...which I found in a small Indiana heartless.

Newspaper articles regarding this news incident were found at the following websites:


Newspaper Archive


Chronicling America

Monday, August 4, 2014

Using Linkpendium to Reach Your Research Goals

Linkpendium (  is one of those websites that clusters many links of research sources. It will help to find information to plug those holes of missing information in your family trees.

At first look, the Linkpendium home page appears to be very generic.  You might even be a bit skeptical, as there are no flashy designs or exotic colors in its design.  Don't let that fool you.  Look on...  It boldly states that it covers over 10 million genealogy links.  Is that enough for you? Or, do you need more?

Every state in the United States has it's own link, with sub-links that take you even farther into your research.  There are statewide links, county links and even some city/town links.  Further on, you'll see links to Church records, Cemeteries, Bible records, Newspapers, Directories, Court Records, etc.  The list is quite extensive.  

I will tell you that it does NOT contain every research link that you could ever need. There is a note at the end of most compiled link pages....Please, add your favorite Website(s) to this page!
yes, you can add a link to the list!!! How neat is that?  A collaborative effort!  
Linkpendium Logo

Researching in European records?  No problem if your interests include the United Kingdom and Ireland.  There are over 10 thousand links to resources in England, Ireland, The Isle of Man, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, etc.  Once again there are specific links for each parish and county, and also for directories, vital, church, court and institution records.  

Lastly there are links to Surnames, worldwide.  I took the leap...and looked up the link to my maiden name : Bognar.....very Hungarian.  There I find many links regarding the surname : findagrave, wikitree, Rootsweb message boards, gazetteers, maps and newspapers.  Wow.  I will have to do some clicking on some of these to see what has been posted by others on the boards and trees, and also find out the distribution of the family name.  It appears there are mentions of the name in their lists of Indiana, Illinois and Ohio newspapers, too.  
1918 St. Louis City Directory, Bognar listings
found from the link to

As with the other pages, on the bottom you can click and add a link for a surname database.  If you have a website that is dedicated to your family/family name, don't hesitate to add it to the surname list of links.  It just might steer someone to your family site and you could make a connection to a cousin with additional information that you can't get anywhere else.  

Have I convinced you to visit Linkpendium?  Try it out, and pass on the goodies that you might collect.