Category Archives: Surname Saturday

Surname Saturday – Lawhead or is it Laughead?

Open Court sound spelling cards

Open Court sound spelling cards

My great grandmother’s maiden name was Lawhead or most likely Laughead. Lawhead is one way to phonetically spell  the name and it is how I see the name spelled most often, especially in written records like censuses. If you know anything about teaching children to read, as I do, the Open Court reading program (which we use in my school district) has a card for the /aw/ sound.  It’s called the Hawk card and it gives two spellings for /aw/: aw and au. There have been a few occasions where I have seen the name spelled Laughead which leads me to believe that Laughead is the proper spelling of the name. I can also easily picture semi-literate people spelling Laughead as the more phonetic Lawhead. Some instances of the name being spelled Laughead are on my grandmother’s birth certificate and my Great Uncle Jim’s middle name.

A quick search on the internet has provided virtually no meanings or crests for the name Lawhead/Laughead. It is actually quite funny when landing on the website, they have posted “the meaning of Laughead has not been submitted”. So what’s a girl to do? I have deduced that Laughead is probably related to the Irish Loughead or the Scottish Lochhead and left it at that for present.

Marriage record of Joseph Laughead & Cassandria Harden, 1838, Belmont County, Ohio

Marriage record of Joseph Laughead & Cassandria Harden, 1838, Belmont County, Ohio

I lose the trail of this family pretty early in the 1800s. The last Laughead I have is Joseph, my grandmother Gladys’s great grandfather. According to census records, he was born about 1817 in Pennsylvania. In 1838, he makes his first appearance in written records on his marriage certificate in Belmont County, Ohio. Coincidently, the surname is spelled Laughead. There are several other Laugheads and Lawheads living in this region of Ohio at that time as well. I seem to keep circling around them trying to figure out how they all fit together.

1850 Census Seneca, Belmont County, Ohio for the family of Joseph Lawhead

1850 Census Seneca, Belmont County, Ohio for the family of Joseph Lawhead

On the 1850 census, Joseph, Cassandria and their 5 children lived in Seneca, Guernsey County, Ohio. Enumerated with the household is an older woman named Basheba Lawhead. She was aged 60 years and was also born in Pennsylvania. Because of her age, I have always gone under the assumption that Basheba was possibly Joseph’s mother. I have yet to find any evidence of this, either way.

Joseph and his family moved further west and settled in Greene County, Indiana for a time. Along the way, another family of Lawheads always seemed to be around. This family had a son Elijah G. Laughead who was about the same age as my James Henry Lawhead. In 1860, both young men worked as farm hands for the family of William McNabb. Elijah eventually married Mr. McNabb’s neice, Mariah. And many years later, one of Elijah’s daughters married James Henry’s oldest son. I have always felt that there is a familial relationship between Elijah and James beyond being in-laws, perhaps they were first cousins. And just to let you know, Elijah’s name was spelled Laughead on his gravestone.

Joseph & Cassandria, photograph provided by a long lost cousin, circa 1860s

Joseph & Cassandria, photograph provided by a long lost cousin, circa 1860-70s

©2012 copyright owned by Deborah Sweeney
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Surname Saturday – Schiele

My grandfather’s middle name was Schiele. It was a common custom in the past to saddle a child with the maiden name of its mother as a middle name. My grandfather was the “lucky” child in the family who got Schiele as his middle name. Have I mentioned that my grandfather hated his name and preferred to be called “Jake”? My grandparents continued the tradition and gave my grandmother’s maiden name to my uncle John, hence John Foster Yegerlehner. I hope my uncle didn’t dislike his middle name as much as his father detested his.

Regardless, Schiele was the surname of my grandfather’s maternal grandmother. Schiele is German. My family always pronounced the name Shē – lē. Two syllables, both with long e. I have seen it spelled phonetically as Sheely in old census records and on Michael’s naturalization papers. I don’t really know what the name means or where exactly my Schiele family comes from in Germany. I found one definition for Schiele that is quite funny (or tragic) “one who was crippled; one who squinted”¹. I picture some near-sighted Huns wandering about the forest, running into stuff. If you can’t see very well, I am sure you could very easily cripple yourself, walking into things.

Naturalization paper for Michael Schiele, Clay county, Indiana, 1866

Naturalization paper for Michael Schiele, Clay county, Indiana, 1866

All humor aside, my great, great grandfather Michael Schiele is a bit of an enigma to me. In many ways, he is one of my earliest and most prolonged brick walls.  Why? He is from Germany. His branch is one of the most recent branches of my family to land on North American soil and therefore, more difficult for me to trace. Until recently, there have not been many German records available to search, either in a library or online, and they are usually in German.  I have always wished that I knew how to read German, especially when one wants to read old German records. Michael also did me the disservice of dying before 1900.  So no death record! And so far, I haven’t been able to locate an obituary either. He did leave two biographies in Clay county history books which have provided me with a wealth of clues and some bread crumbs.

In The History of Clay County, Indiana by William Travis (1909), there is a very nice biographical sketch of Michael within the write up of his son, Reuben Jacob Schiele. In addition, the book’s section “Memoirs of leading and familiar home people” includes a separate biography just for Michael. These biographies are written after Michael’s death and they provide a lot of good information which I have mostly verified. Travis gives Michael’s birthplace as Wittenberg, Germany. Wittenberg is a city located in the Saxony area of Germany. The only problem is that other sources give Michael’s nativity as Württemberg which is located in the area now known as Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany.  These two cities are nowhere near one another and I have been told that there are also multiple locations that have used these names in the past.  Some even better and more tantalizing clues are in Charles Blanchard’s Counties of Clay and Owen, Indiana (1884). This biography gives information on Michael’s parents. It opens with “MICHAEL SCHIELE, farmer and stock-raiser, was born, November 2, 1831, in Germany, and was the fourth child born to Michael and Mary (Smith) Schiele, both natives of Germany”.  Oh woe is me! A SMITH! Schiele, Michael - Blanchard, 1884

I keep hoping someday that a database will come online with German birth and marriage records that will reveal more about my Schiele family (AND that I can read in English). I do know when Michael was born and I know the names of his parents. I know all the names of his children and grandchildren. For now, that is enough.


  1. Meaning of the surname Schiele from


Wed (postmark June 24, 1942 8:30 PM)

Dear Mother-

Hope you are home all OK. We just got home and pretty tired, had a big day we had to shoot 22 platoons this A.M. and there are about 84 men to each platoon and besides that there was near 400 to examine.

I got real “writey” last night – wrote to Uncle Wes and Mom. Lentz was catching up on his writing so I thought I’d do the same.

It really got cold here last night – had to get under cover but it warmed considerable today-Didn’t get any mail from home today. Hope you stop that as soon as you get there because I don’t like to

(page 2) have to send it back.

Lentz didn’t take my white suit-it was in a paper cover and we just missed it at least that is what he said. But he did take the raincoat.

We ate at the Famous Café last night the food was OK but the service was poor had to wait about one hour. Don’t know where we will go tonight. I just go along because I don’t do the driving.

I’m unusually hungry tonight so will ring off and get some eats-

Love Daddy

Saturday’s Surname – Foster

The Foster Family, by The American Genealogical Research Institite, 1973.

The Foster Family, by The American Genealogical Research Institite, 1973.

Many years ago I was given a copy of the book The Foster Family from the American Genealogical Research Institute. The book is copyrighted  1973 and it does not specify whether there were multiple printings or additions. I know the book was given to me by a well meaning relative but I don’t remember who at this point. The book has several chapters ranging from “the family name and arms”, “census of 1790” and “constructing the foster family tree”. And before you comment upon my lack of capitalization, I am copying straight from the book. Books like this are great for the novice genealogist, I guess. But even when I received the book, I already knew how useless it was for my own research. Books like this are mere grandiose summaries. They talk big, but they have no meat as they are comprised mostly of lists.  And since the book was written in 1973, much of the information is likely inaccurate and obsolete.

One fascinating aspect of the book is the first section “the family name and arms”. It gives a brief history of Europe, which starts laughingly with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the waves of Barbarians sweeping across Europe in the 4th and 5th centuries. Wow! Really, how does this help me trace my Foster family? The narrative continues with the Norman Invasion in 1066 and then engages in a mini lecture on the evolutionary nature of names. According to the book, Foster was originally Forrester. The title of Forrester was given by the Saxons to men appointed to guard the forests and to protect the Lord’s hunting rights. Over time the name Forrester evolved to Forster and then Foster. That may be, but how does that help me trace the lineage of one Gladys Foster, born 1905 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Frankly, it does not. There are multiple origins of the name Foster. What about those individuals who “fostered” children? Or, I like this French version “Shearer or scissors maker” from the Old French “forceter”. Regardless of the actual history of my Foster family, I am sure it has little to do with this pompous tourist brochure that now takes up precious space on my bookshelf. I guess it is good for a laugh or two.

Chart of the children of James B. Foster and Lydia C. (Dicks) Foster, in my grandmother's handwritting

Chart of the children of James B. Foster and Lydia C. (Dicks) Foster, in my grandmother’s handwritting

I was lucky enough to inherit a lineage chart that was written in my grandmother’s handwriting that traced her father’s family. The chart names all of my great grandfather’s siblings and his parents. Considering my grandmother never spoke about her father or his family, it is rather fortunate that the chart even existed. My great grandfather was James Edward “Ned” Foster whose father was James Benjamin Foster whose father was Benjamin Coates Foster. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the end of the line, the brick wall of my Foster family. I have traced the line back as far as my 3rd great grandfather, six generations. That’s decent by some standards, but not good enough by mine. I’ve hit that proverbial brick wall because of those early waves of western migration that brought young Americans from the coastal states to the new territories of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and the lack of proper recordkeeping.

Benjamin Coates Foster was born April 13, 1797 in Pennsylvania. Yeah, Pennsylvania! No county, just Pennsylvania. On the 1800 census, there were 602,365 people enumerated in Pennsylvania. There were at least 68 heads of household with the surname Foster. (I got this figure from Ancestry so we also have to allow for entries misspelled in the index). The first time I can legitimately find Benjamin C. Foster on a document is his marriage on March 28, 1828 in Lawrence County, Illinois to Belinda Barker. He appears on the 1830 census in nearby Clark County, Illinois where he remained the rest of his life. In 1838 and 1839, there were several land purchases in Clark County. Benjamin can be found on the United States censuses for 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1870 in Clark County. I have also found him on the Illinois State censuses of 1855 and 1865. One of my favorite things that I learned about Benjamin from the 1850 and 1860 censuses is that Benjamin’s occupation was a tailor! For those of you that don’t know me, I am also a seamstress and pattern maker so it is nice to know that such things are in my genes. This is also why I like the French translation of Foster since it has to do with scissors.

Benjamin and Belinda were blessed with at least 9 children, of which only 6 survived to adulthood, and of those only 4 had children to pass on the genes, 2 were male, leaving my 2nd great grandfather James B. Foster the only child of Benjamin and Belinda to have any male children to pass on the surname of Foster.


I believe this is one of the last letters I have from Uncle Jim for awhile. It is good to know that eventually the brothers-in-law will meet up.

Letter transcription:

U.S.N.C. T.C. Camp Bradford, Ships Co. c/o Camp Allen, N.O.B. Norfolk, VA

Sunday 7 June 1942

Dear Sis-

Just today received a letter from Jake, he wanted me to meet him last night at the Y.M.C.A., mail is not so fast here as you can reddily see, anyway I wrote him and I think we will be able to get together soon.

Please let me know when you plan coming for sure I will try to get two or three nights away if you want me to, if that won’t interfere with your plans, maybe we can have a grand party, or something. Anyway I will get to see you at least once, I am writing to find out if Thelma is going to get a vacation, if she does I will have her down here for a week or two. It won’t be in June I am most sure of that, but sometime later.

Hello John and Mark, you should see your uncle Jim in a sailor uniform.

Love Jim

Surname Saturday – Yegerlehner

Yegerlehner is a rather rare surname.  You can generally bet that anyone in the United States with the surname Yegerlehner is related to me. Yegerlehner is Swiss in origin, and in fact, is correctly spelled Jegerlehner. When my ancestor David Jegerlehner arrived in America in 1851 with his wife and 3 children, they changed the spelling to reflect how the name should be pronounced.  In the Germanic languages, the letter J is pronounced as an English Y. The second letter e in the name is also pronounced ā (long a).  So the Je (in Jegerlehner) is pronounced Yay.

My grandmother always told me that the name Jegerlehner meant “hunter of the hills”.  I always thought this was rather romantic considering there are some rather impressive hills in Switzerland that I would like to see some day. Jeger, the first part of the surname, is the German word for hunter.  So that part of the translation seems to be correct.  I haven’t really been able to come up with a satisfactory translation for lehner though.  Lehner appears to be “a status name for a feudal tenant or vassal, from an agent derivative of Middle High German lēhen ‘to hold land as a feudal tenant’.  (

David Jegerlehner had two sons, Christian and Johannes (John). After first settling in a Swiss populated area of Berlin Township, Holmes County, Ohio for a few years, the family decided to move further west. Christian and his father moved to Owen County, Indiana for a few years and then permanently settled in neighboring Clay County.  The other son John moved his family to northeastern Indiana around Ft. Wayne. The descendants of Christian traditionally spelled their name Yegerlehner.  John’s descendants wrote the name Yagerlehner. Over the next few generations members of the family continued to alter the spelling of the name, mainly in an effort to aid pronunciation. I have seen variants as: Yager-Lehner, Yagerline, Yegerline, Yegerlener.  John Henry Yegerlehner, the son of Christian and grandson of David, continued to spell the name Yegerlehner.   John Henry is the only son of Christian’s that continued a male line into the 21st century. So that is why if you find someone with the name Yegerlehner today, they are most likely related to me.

If you would like to learn more about the surname Jegerlehner, one of my distant Swiss cousins maintains this website:

Letter translation:

Mon Eve 1800

1026 Magnolia Ave

Dear Mother-

We are now in our new home and I think we are very lucky to get such a nice place for 5.00. We have twin beds and plenty of drawer space but the bath is upstairs. Ou

Our working hours have been changed from 4:00 to 4:30 but we still have to be there at 8:30 three mornings per week and 7:30 the other three.

I think in a week or so you should come down and stay a week. We can get rooms at the Chamberland Hotel for $2.50 per day but of course we would have to ride the street car unless you could bring the car but we can see about that in a few days.

We had our first air raid warning today – just practice. Everyone had to stand by for 30 min. The station Unit X had to be prepared – all windows closed lights & water shut off. It was day time. The

(page 2) warning is a weird sort of a noise – sounds like a big Jackass but at least every one can hear it. There hasn’t been any night block out since I’ve been here. I don’t know how much of this stuff I’m supposed to write or not write but I did anyway.

The two letters I got Sat. were the only ones I have received so far but the others will be forwarded when they get here. I don’t believe I’d ever get a letter thru the naval station. From the

Hope the collections are still coming in as we will need them. I’m not sure yet how the finances are coming out. The income tax probably will be the hardest to meet but next year it won’t be so much.

Well, I’ll try to do better tomorrow-

Love Daddy

©2012, copyrighted & written by Deborah Sweeney