Albert "Rabbit" Zenner (1886-1964): Woodsman of the Upper Peninsula

When you discover a relative in your family tree nicknamed "Rabbit" you obviously have to find and tell his story.

I discovered Albert "Rabbit" Zenner (1886-1964) when I was researching another family member that I wrote about here: Making Kuchen, Bread, and Wickelklöße With a Smile: Martha Zenner Muenzel (1868-1960).

Albert was the younger bachelor brother of Martha Zenner Muenzel (1868-1960). Albert lived with Martha and her husband since at least 1920. They lived together for another 20 plus years in Donken, Michigan after Martha lost her husband, Emil Muenzel (1866-1939). Martha and Emil had no children. 

Albert and Martha are my 1st cousins 4x removed. Their grandfather (speculated to be Carl F. Zenner) would be my 4th great grandfather. Albert and Martha were 1st cousins to my 2nd great grandmother, Fannie Schmidt Ratz (1870-1944). Albert and Martha's father was the brother of Fannie's mother. 

Here Rabbit stands, hands on hips, with lumberman's suspenders sloppily hiking his pants over his waist. He is donning a "newsboy cap" and has what appears to be a large wad of chewing tobacco tucked in his right cheek. 

Albert "Rabbit" Zenner (1886-1964)

Albert "Rabbit" Zenner (1886-1964)

While there may be others, this is the only known photo I have of "Rabbit". Here is the larger photo it was cropped from. Left to right are:

  • Mary "Mayme" Hanley (b. 1884) - my 2nd great aunt

  • Alma Ratz Hanley (1894-1979) - my great grandmother

  • Martha Zenner Muenzel (1868-1960) - my 1st cousin 4x removed

  • Peter McNamara (1874-1956) - the husband of my 3rd great aunt, Lydia Schmidt McNamara 1876-1961)

  • Albert Martin "Rabbit" Zenner (1886-1964) - my 1st cousin 4x removed

Albert "Rabbit" Zenner - far right

Albert "Rabbit" Zenner - far right

The only information I have about Rabbit directly family family reports comes from my great aunt, Beverly Hanley Mansour (1929-2009). She wrote of Rabbit and Martha:

"Mother [Alma Ratz Hanley], Martha Muenzel (related on Mother’s side). She lived in the little lumber town of Donken on the road past South Range. She was a widow and lived with her brother Albert (known to all of us as "Rabbit", A bachelor).

"Rabbit" [Martha's brother] was very comical—always a joke or two I have very special memories of these visits. Dad [Michael John Hanley] took me down to see the sawmill. The men were on machines flipping the logs. They would have to judge how to place the tree logs to get the most boards from each tree. Dad was explaining what was going on to me."

From several U.S. Federal Census documents I learned some more about Albert. In 1920 he lived with Martha and her husband, Emil, in Elm River, MI, not to far from Donken. At that time he was listed as a farmer.

By 1930 he was listed as a "woodsman" in the lumber industry and was still living with his sister and brother-in-law.

The 1940 census has some suspected errors (name and ages are off, due most likely to transcription error because of poor image scan) that I have tried to correct. But, I am near certain that document shows that Martha and Albert were living together (after Martha's husband died). Albert was listed as a "laborer" in the sawmill.

In 1942, as a 56 year old man, Albert registered for the World War II Draft. I've found no other military record for him and it is doubtful that he served.

Albert "Rabbit" Zenner WWII Draft Registration Card

Albert "Rabbit" Zenner WWII Draft Registration Card

Albert's place of birth is listed as "Sascong", Germany. I am wondering if this is a poorly written version of Saxony, a state in Germany which I believe I have seen mentioned in other family documents. 

There is little else known about Albert between 1940 and his death in 1964. He is buried at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Houghton, MI. Near him are Martha and several other of the Zenner and Muenzel family members. A simple headstone fittingly marks his grave. 

Here is the obvious question that you all are (or should be) asking yourselves:

How in the world did Albert get the nickname "Rabbit"?

Unfortunately, your guess is as good as mine. Regardless, I would love to hear your hypotheses. Feel free to comment below or send me an email.

In the meantime consider some of these questions as you reflect on the life of Albert "Rabbit" Zenner.

  • How did he die?

  • He lived most of his life with his sister Martha. What were the last for years of his life like when she was gone?

  • What do you think, wonder, and feel when you read about the story of Rabbit?

  • Are there any people alive today who might have some first hand accounts of Rabbit?

This is the 32nd of 52 weekly posts planned for 2018. It was inspired by the #52Ancestors writing challenge issued by professional genealogist, Amy Crow Johnson. The challenge: once a week, for all 52 weeks of the year, write about a relative in your family tree.