Ancestor profile: Charles Haase

Sometimes, as our family trees grow and the information we find paints a fuller and more complete picture of individuals, there are certain people who jump out at us. As in all things, some people have more compelling stories than others. I offer these ancestor profiles as examples of the kinds of stories you can find, the kinds of people you can discover, and also to illustrate what resources I used and how I pieced their stories together.

Charles Haase is my 4th great grandfather, on my paternal grandmother's side. I first learned about Charles from his son's birth certificate. I went through a whole convoluted journey to paint his picture, but there was a lot of information there to be founded - I used U.S. census forms, I ordered his death certificate, I visited his grave where I learned he was a Civil War veteran, I got his pension records from the National Archives in Washington D.C., and successfully tried out the New Jersey archive system to get his marriage record.

Charles was born in Germany, in Saxony according to the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census. Those census years as well as his marriage record put his birth somewhere around 1838-1839. According to his death certificate, he emigrated from Germany about 1855. I have a record in the 1860 census that I've gravitated toward as possibly being him living in Manhattan with a mother named Louisa but I can't prove it...

He's listed in the New Jersey Marriage Registry as marrying 20-year-old Barbara Reinhardt, daughter of John and Catherina, on July 12, 1861. They were married in New York but resided in Union Hill, Hudson County, New Jersey. His occupation was as a hatter.

When I visited his grave in Evergreen Cemetery in Brooklyn, I discovered that Charles was a Civil War veteran. According to Civil War records, he enlisted as a private on 22 September 1864, and was drafted into Company H of the 33rd Infantry Regiment New Jersey. He mustered out 1 June 1865 in Bladensburg, Maryland, same rank, company, and regiment.

Looking up Company H of the 33rd Infantry Regiment online for the time period of September 1864-June 1865, I found out it was part of the Army of the Cumberland. While Charles was with them, they took part in the occupation of Atlanta (Sept. 2-Nov. 15), Sherman's march to the sea (Nov. 15-Dec. 10), the siege of Savannah (Dec. 10-21), the Campaign of the Carolinas January to April, 1865, the advance on and occupation of Raleigh April 10-14, among others. The regiment lost during service 6 Officers and 72 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 85 Enlisted men by disease for a total of 163. This immigrant hatter from New Jersey saw more of the country than he probably ever would have dreamed (and probably more bloodshed and gore in more time away from his young family then he ever wanted) during the war. He was only about 26 years old and besides his wife, he had a young daughter, Louisa, at home.

In 1870, Charles and Barbara were still living in Union, New Jersey and things appear to be back to normal - Charles is still a hatter, and besides daughter Louisa, they now also have a son, Edward (my 3rd great-grandfather). In 1880, Charles has moved his family to Brooklyn, and all but one of his six children are born. His mother-in-law is living with them, he is still a hat maker, and his son Edward is listed as being a "fruit huckster" (according to Milt Haase, another descendent of Charles, his cousin vaguely remembered Edward, and that he grew up to be a grocer, which became the family business).

Sadly, Charles Haase died on January 10, 1891 at the age of about 53. While his death certificate lists his cause of death as nephritis or kidney inflammation, more information is provided in the Civil War pension records for his wife from the National Archives. In December of 1890,Charles Haase applied for a pension on the grounds that he was unable to work due to "rheumatism, asthma, heart trouble, kidney troubles and several complications of diseases (that produce) general disability." He died a month later, after which his widow applied for a pension to support herself and her three minor children: Louis, Jacob Frederick, and Josephine.