Periodically, my grandfather would reference “shirt-tail relatives,” but I don’t remember him ever explaining who they were beyond that they were from “Nellie’s side of the family” (his mother). I always assumed that they were from Nellie’s mother’s family, the Jacobs, but I have since figured out that they’re from Nellie’s father’s family, the Brennes.

But first, a word about what “shirt-tail relatives” means. I always assumed it was a semi-derogatory phrase referring to relatives who were poor and not seen often (because Grandpa always referred to them as “poor as church mice”). As it turns out, it means:

Thank you, Google!

I never thought I’d figure out who any of these people were, but it turns out vital information about them was right at my fingertips!

Part of the notes I took while Grandpa told stories as we drove around Cleveland, Spring 2000.

I’ve been able to find the Sandburgs of Mentor, Ohio and the Krumm’s of Madison, Ohio. Bessie Sandburg’s and Lizzie Krumm’s parents were Henry (Heinrich) Brenne and Caroline Horn; I’m 99% sure that Henry was the brother of Louis, Nellie’s father. Not quite relatives by marriage and a little closer related than “shirt-tail” implies, I think.

Records from my Grandpa and from the old Brenne family Bible indicate that Louis Brenne’s parents were Frederick Brenne and Elizabeth Gosmann.

Rosa Brenne’s Bible, a gift from her sister, Louise Jacobs with Birth and Death pages.
Close up of the Death’s page: Louis’s parents Fredk and Elizabeth.

I found records for a couple with extremely similar names; I think it’s fair to assume they’re the same as Henry’s parents:

Friedrich Wilhelm Brenne born 1814 (probably Louis and Henry’s father), from FamilySearch.
Possible marriage Brenne and Goesmann — Friedrich and Anna/Elisabeth ??, from FamilySearch.
Henry/Heinrich Brenne’s christening, 1848, from FamilySearch.

I love, but it’s expensive! Lately, I’ve been using and have found a wealth of free documents!

Henry and Caroline Brenne’s 1881 immigration to the United States (from Germany), about 1/3 down the page.
1900 census, proof that Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Bessie are sisters.

I’ve come across “Mrs. Kipsy Brenne” on Ancestry and FamilySearch, clearly referencing Caroline Horn; however, I have no context for this nickname. I’m not sure if I will ever find out, but it is one of my new research projects!

I started with searching for Bessie Sandburg. In addition to some of her death records, I found her marriage record to Mark A. Sandburg. The only “Charlie” I could find connected to the Sandburg’s was Mark’s father, Charles. Based on Charles’s death records and several censuses, it looks like Charles stayed with Bessie and Mark for quite some time; his wife, Anna, died in 1928.

Marriage record of Bessie Brenne and Mark Sandburg, 18 June 1910.
Death certificate of Annie Caroline Sandburg, infant daughter of Bessie and Mark Sandburg. Annie was possibly their first child. Not the cause of death!
Mark Sandburg’s WW1 registration card, note his request for exemption due to “dependents.”
Anna Sandburg’s Death Certificate (Bessie’s mother in law), 1928.
Charles Sandburg’s Death Certificate (Bessie’s father in law), 1935.
Mark Sandburg’s WW2 registration card, 1942.

The discrepancy between Grandpa’s story and the documents I’ve found (namely the identity of “Uncle Charlie”) is most likely that Grandpa confused Mark with his father Charles or confused Bessie’s husband’s name (Mark) with her sister Lizzy’s husband (Charles).

I couldn’t find many records specific to Lizzie and Charles Krumm, but I did find proof that they existed in and around Madison, Ohio.

1910, 1920, and 1930 census records for Lizzie and Charles Krumm of Madison, Ohio.
Charles and Lizzie Krumm’s son’s marriage record, 1932.
Charles Krumm WW1 registration card.
Lizzie and Charles Krumm of Madison OH Census Records

Grandpa never mentioned any of Bessie and Lizzie’s other siblings (Heinrich, Emma, and Helena), but I did find record of some of them:

Luise/Louise Brenne birth record, 1879, from FamilySearch.
Helene Brenne birth/christening record, 1880, from FamilySearch.
Heinrich Friedrich Louis Brenne birth/christening record, 1877.
Emma Brenne Birth Record, Dennison Ohio, 1883 (bottom 1/3 of page).
Louise Brenne’s marriage record to Joseph E. Miller, 27 April 1902, from FamilySearch.
Death certificate of Louise (Brenne) and Joseph Miller’s daughter, Doris Louise Miller, 1908-1911.
Find a Grave record for Louise Brenne Miller, tragically dying a few months after her daughter, Doris.

I’d like to find more concrete proof of Henry/Heinrich’s relationship with our Louis. So far, I haven’t found one; it is possible that they are more distantly related despite the commonality of their parents’ names. Wish me luck in my search!