Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kings County Estate Files: Matilda Stutzmann continued

The thing about these probate records to make note of is that just because the probate year doesn't match the year your ancestor died, doesn't mean it doesn't belong to them. So don't automatically disregard a record that has the right name but appears to be the wrong year. Por ejemplo:

Matilda Stutzmann, who we were talking about yesterday, died in 1880. I found a second probate record for Mathilde Stutzmann filed in the Kings County Surrogate's Court 26 years later. It reads, "Feb. 10, 1906, Kings County Surrogate's Court in the matter of the application for letters of administration with the will annexed of the goods, chattels, and credits left unadministered which were of Mathilde Stutzmann, deceased."

This type of record is different from the original one we looked at, which was, as far as I understand, trying to prove Matilda's last will. This one, it seems, is under the category "administration," which seems to have to do with naming a new executor of her estate. Also, it seems there are different sets of paperwork for if there is a valid will or if there is no valid will on record. Confusing, right? Yeah, I'm still trying to sort it all out.

It continues: "The petition of Augusta Stutzmann respectfully shows that your petitioner is a resident of 1558 Green Ave in the Borough of Brooklyn, and is the administratrix of the sole legatee and devisee named in the last will and testament of Mathilde Stutzmann deceased, and is of full age. ...that said deceased left a last will and testament in and by which Frederick Stutzmann was named executor thereof, who duly qualified.  That the last will and testament was duly admitted to probate by the Surrogate's Court of the County of Kings on the 4th day of October, 1880 ... that the said executor has departed this life, leaving certain property and assets of the said testatrix unadministered, the value of which does not exceed the sum of 60 dollars."

Basically, it would seem that since there was still some part of Matilda's estate unadministered 26 years after her death, her son Rudolph's wife, Augusta, has been named the new administrator of her estate because the original executor, Matilda's husband Friedrich "and sole legatee" died a month earlier, on January 14, 1906.

What I find interesting is that Augusta is made administrator - she and Matilda never met, so why wasn't Matilda's son and Augusta's husband, Rudolph, named administrator once Friedrich died?

Taking a tour of historic Freeport

I wasn't really taking a tour of historic Freeport, but I pass by this spot all the time, and did twice in the past two days, so I figured as long as I had my camera, I might as well take a picture. The plaque reads: "Site of grist and saw mill of Daniel Raynor. Raynortown settled by Edward Raynor or his children 1659." Just kinda cool to be walk on the same spots and look out over the same water my ancestors did. Daniel Raynor is not a direct ancestor of mine, but Edward Raynor was my ninth great grandfather

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kings County Estate Files: Matilda Rau Stutzmann

So FamilySearch, the Mormons' genealogy research website is adding new records and building a new site, which can be found at the moment @ There still aren't very many records available, but for those of us with Brooklyn, New York ancestry, they do now have scanned images in their Kings County Estate Files from 1866-1923, which is where I found my third great grandmother on my dad's side of the family, Matilda Rau Stutzmann.

I don't know Matilda very well. She came over to New York from Germany on July 29, 1871 on the same ship as the man she would marry, Friedrich Stutzmann. She had three children with him, including my 2nd great grandfather Rudolph Stutzmann, who went on to found Ridgewood Savings Bank and be a leading member of German-American society in the Ridgewood area of Queens and Brooklyn. She's listed with her family in the 1880 census, but that same year, just 9 years after her arrival, on August 26, she died of bilious fever (also known as yellow fever) at the young age of 35.

Yet despite her short and seemingly ordinary life, she's the only person on my dad's side of the family that I've been able to find a record for in the Kings County estate files. And not only that, but there are two records for her. I'm still not sure I understand what these records are saying - there's a lot of legalese and repetition, but for anyone who has Brooklyn ancestry, some of these documents have a lot of good information that can either back up what you already know or shed new light on the person you're researching, including family members, address where the person lived, date of death, and possibly even a will.

Let's take a quick look at Matilda's record. The first one has 12 pages and is dated Oct. 4, 1880. It reads, "Kings County Surrogate's Court, in the matter of proving the last Will and Testament of Matilda Stutzmann, late of the City of Brooklyn."

"In the matter of the application for the probate of the last Will and Testament of Matilda Stutzmann...the petition of Friedrich Stutzmann of the City of Brooklyn respectfully shows to this court that I am an executor named in the last Will and Testament of Matilda Stutzmann late of the City of Brooklyn; that the deceased was at the time of her death a resident of the County of Kings and departed this life in said County on the 27th day of August in 1880; that said last Will and Testament relates to both real and personal estate and which said instrument bears the date the 25th day of August in the year 1880 and all the next of kin of said deceased are as follows, to wit: her husband your applicant of full age and three children to wit: Lena Stutzmann aged seven years, Rudolph Stutzmann aged five years, and Matilda Stutzmann aged seventeen months. Said infants have no general guardian and reside with their father your applicant in the City of Brooklyn."

It goes on to name a guardian for the kids to represent their interests through this whole proving process and has them all coming back to court several times, affadavits that summonses were delivered, that others witnessed Matilda signing a will even though apparently there was no official will on record, and of course, as with everything in government, everything seems to be in triplicate (that's an exaggeration, but that's what it feels like when you're reading the same exact thing page after page, so not an exaggeration by much...)

Wordless Wednesday - Timothy Ambrose Cronin & Ellen Marie Casey Cronin

One of my favorite photos of my great-grandparents, Timothy and Ellen (Casey) Cronin. I believe this was taken at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, and I don't know the exact year but they look very much like they do in their wedding photo, so probably sometime around 1912.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Elijah and Elizabeth Sprague @ Greenfield Cemetery, Uniondale, NY

Elijah and  Elizabeth Sprague and an unknown Emma Sprague at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale, New York

Elijah and Elizabeth Sprague are my 5th great grandparents on my mom's side of the family. Their daughter, Elmira, married James Raynor, and they are my 4th great grandparents. So many of my ancestors are buried in Greenfield, some because it's just local, and others because they were originally buried in Freeport, but that cemetery was built over and all the bodies moved to Greenfield, two towns up. I didn't know Elijah and Elizabeth were there, although I should have assumed. I went there on my lunch break a few months ago to take photos of and visit the Raynor, Berg, and Dauch family plots and once I was done with that, I decided to wander around, as I am wont to do when I'm in a cemetery. Sometimes I'm looking for interesting headstones, but in Greenfield in particular, I'm looking at and recognizing almost every single name from my genealogy research-by marriage and through other branches, I feel like I'm related to everybody in there!

Anyway, I stumbled upon these headstones by accident. Or maybe the universe drew me to that place so I could finally "meet" these relatives I had so far only known through census records. Elijah's headstone reads, "In memory of Elijah Sprague who died Dec. 31, 1858 aged 80 years, 9 mos, & 13 days."

Right next to him is Elizabeth (they say she's a Smith, but I've never been able to verify that or connect her to any Long Island branch of the Smith family), and her headstone reads,"In memory of Elizabeth, wife of Elijah Sprague who died March 29, 1859 aged 80 years, 10 months, & 26 days."

Next to them is a third headstone for an Emma J. Sprague, and to be honest, I'm not quite sure who it is. I was just checking and I don't have an Emma Sprague in my records, but maybe it's a grandchild of theirs, based on the dates? That headstone reads, "In memory of Emma J. Sprague died Dec. 18, 1885, aged 16 years, 8 months & 16 days."

Man finds dozens of relatives in census records - genealogy article on today's homepage

Genealogy's everywhere, people! And the fact that people are doing it is newsworthy...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Military Monday - Charles Haase muster rolls

In case you haven't noticed, most of my military records belong to Charles Haase. While my grandfathers and great grandfathers also served in the military, I don't have a lot of records for them, and Charles is the only one I know of who actually served in a war (the American Civil War). So anyway, here goes again with ole' Charles...

I sent away for these records to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Getting records from there, depending on what you ask for, can be pricey, but they have a lot of good stuff archived and the records usually get shipped pretty quickly.

I wanted Charles Haase's muster roll records because I had the date he enlisted in the Army, and the date he was discharged, but I was curious as to where he spent his time in between (it was less than a year that he served). I know his unit took part in General Sherman's March to Sea, but as I've learned from my research, unless you're so lucky that you have a muster roll for an actual date of a battle, you really can't say for certain what aspects of the war your ancestor took part in. Of course, a muster roll does give you a general vicinity in which that person was at that time, so if your ancestor was recorded as being in New Jersey in October of 1864 then you can be fairly certain he wasn't part of, say, the siege of Atlanta.

The muster rolls are somewhat informative - if I hadn't known for example that Charles was a hatter by trade, I would have found out from these records. It can also give a description of the individual, his possessions, what he owed, etc.

I have one muster roll for Company H of the 33rd New Jersey Infantry: "Charles Haase appears with rank of private...roll dated Trenton, N.J., Oct. 23, 1864." It says he was born in Germany, is age 35, occupation hatter. Drafted and mustered in Sept. 22, 1864, Newark, N.J. for a period of one year. His eyes are blue, hair is light, complexion is dark, and he stands 5'7".

One one roll he's charged 8 cents for a cartridge box plate and "also 23 cents for screwdriver." On June 1, 1865 he was present in Bladensburg, Maryland, which is when and where he mustered out. He had drawn $72.77 from his clothing account. On July 17, 1865 he was in Washington, D.C. where he still owed money for his clothes. In another, it says he was drafted out of Union township in New Jersey.

Even if these records don't tell you anything new, the fact that they're repeating the same information you already know helps to corroborate the information you have. The more you can back up your research, the more accurate it probably is.

You can find the National Archives at

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday's Obituary - John Horgan

"HORGAN - On April 10, John Horgan, beloved husband of the late Julia Murphy and father of Mary E. Gorry, native City of Cork, Ireland. Funeral from his late residence, 652 East 16th st., on Sunday, April 12, at 2 p.m."

Ah, Irish Catholics. Not only do we love reading obituaries, but we love clipping and keeping them.

John Horgan was my 3rd great grandfather and I know very little about him besides the information in this obituary, which is actually a pretty informative obit - place of birth, wife's maiden name, address. I had to use information in this obit (such as the day of the week the dates fell on) and info from the back of this clipping (a headline for a boxing match) to determine what year John Horgan died. I now also have a death certificate for him and a ship passenger list with his name on it, but between his arrival to New York in 1871 and his death here in 1908, I have almost no information about him - I have a mid 20th century record of him as the father at his daughter Mary's baptism, but I can't find him on a census, city directory, military record, marriage certificate, naturalization record, etc. nada, nothing. John and Julia are two of my most frustrating, mysterious ancestors, but I'm still working on "finding" them somewhere in that almost 40 year gap - they can't be complete ghosts, right?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Funeral Card Friday - a family hobby

This is actually a topic that is near and dear to my heart, as it seems Irish Catholics in particular have an obsession with, besides reading the obituaries, collecting funeral cards. I was about to call out my grandparents for this somewhat morbid hobby when I glanced at the wall of my cubicle and realized I have not one, not two, but three funeral cards pinned there. And I know I have one on my dresser at home. And another one on top of my bookcase on the other side of my room...

Macabre? Maybe. But extremely informative. Date of death. Sometimes a date of birth. Sometimes a photo. Usually the name of a funeral home, which can be a clue as to where a person died. Of course, if your relatives collect funeral cards like normal people collect baseball cards, you may have to sift through the family friends and neighbors and co-workers and complete strangers to find the ones that belong to actual relations of yours, but they're definitely helpful tools in your genealogical pursuits.

Michael Gorry was my great-great grandfather James' older brother. He was in his 70s when he died in 1933. He never married, and lived in Brooklyn with his and James' two sisters, Hannah and Mary. After James died in 1897 at the age of 28, his widow Mary Horgan didn't remarry, so while she worked for a living in Manhattan, she sent her son Elmer Anthony, my great-grandfather, to live with his spinster aunts Hannah and Mary and bachelor uncle, Michael, in Brooklyn, where they pretty much raised him. Hannah, Mary, and Michael never had any children of their own, which is why something like this funeral card is important - they might not have any descendents to remember them, but it helps me remember them and the huge role they played in forming the kind of person my great-grandfather became, which in even just a small way is helping to form the kind of person I'm becoming.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's the story, Grandpa Gorry? At work for NBC with JFK

My grandfather, Elmer Gorry, worked at the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) for quite a few years (Dad, if you're reading this, feel free to chime in with exactly how many if you want!) During that time he had a lot of different position titles and worked on a wide variety of shows, met a lot of people, saw a lot of things, some of which I'm still learning about from my father. This is a photo that came from my grandfather's house that's been sitting in my living room for I guess what must be four years already. The back reads: "Taken March 28, 1961 in the President's Cabinet room for the JFK Show." That was two months after John F. Kennedy took office as President of the United States. He's obviously the one sitting behind the desk on the left. My grandfather is standing in the back, second from right. This is just one example that reiterates how the people in our family trees aren't just names and dates - they're talents and emotions and experiences, situated in a time and place in history.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One man's junk is another man's treasure...

My grandfather, Elmer Anthony Gorry Jr., died four years ago, yet somehow we're still sifting through the "junk" he left behind in his house. Obviously, I don't consider it junk. My grandfather was quite a pack rat, though, and he saved, probably literally, everything. My father inherited that trait from him, which is why we've still got most of this stuff in our garage. I admit that I, too, inherited the pack rat Gorry gene, which I often try to keep under control but which always breaks through around old family stuff.

If you love genealogy, you have to love the pack rats in your family, because while photos and vital records and the obvious stuff are all things you want to hold onto for future generations, it takes the true pack rat eye and mentality to realize that almost everything can have genealogical value for future generations. So while my father rather rightly finally threw away some real junk my grandfather had held on to, I'm thankful for all the helpful things we did find after my grandfather died. In fact, it was the funeral cards and funeral bills and clipped obits and letters my grandfather held on to that really got me started on the right road researching his side of the family - without them, I wouldn't even have known where to start, and so much of it helps to round out the story of the people the Gorrys (and forebears) were. So since I've been sifting through his "junk" lately, I'll be posting every now and then about the stuff we have now because he saved it for fifty-odd years, as a thank you to my very own pack rat and as a reminder to you to talk to your own family pack rats to see what kind of "junk" you can find amongst their junk.

Wordless Wednesday - "Onkie" Dan Horgan

From my grandfather's house, scrawled on the back says "Onkie Dan Horgan."

Probably a relative of great great grandma Mary Horgan Gorry's and her father John Horgan - possibly an uncle ("onkie") of one or the other? The Horgans are still very much a mystery to me, including this unknown relation...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A little bit of old school genealogy: More fun with newspapers. And libraries.

Just as an example of how popular researching one's family tree has become, the Patchogue-Medford Library out in Suffolk County, Long Island, has a whole page on their website devoted to the genealogy books and databases and other resources available inside their building.

A couple of their links are for newspaper databases on the web, available from anywhere. So, if you have New York City or Long Island ancestry from the late 19th to early 20th century, you may want to check these sites out. I had so much fun with them last night that I stayed up waaay later than I should have. But that's what happens when you're a genealogy addict, I guess. Oh, and was able to find the obit in The Mid-Island Mail that cousin Claudia mentioned for John Ricklefs. Now to shoot an e-mail to the Patchogue town clerk to see if she's the person I ask to try to find his death certicate for me. Anyway, enjoy!

Tombstone Tuesday - Charles Haase in Evergreen Cemetery (The Evergreens Cemetery), Brooklyn, New York

Charles Haase, born about 1838 in Germany, died in Brooklyn 10 January 1891. Married to Barbara Reinhardt. Finding this headstone, which also reads "Private, co. H, unit 33, NJ infantry," was my very first indication that I had a Civil War veteran in my family and was the impetus for one of my most exciting lines of research.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Schlegel's American Families of German Ancestry

Before I knew anything at all about my father's side of the family, before I had done any research on my own, I had my grandmother's binder of information and research she had gathered over the years, and even though she is my mother's mother, I think she realized, as any true genealogist does, the importance of knowing all sides of the story, not just your own, and so she was the first person to research my father's family tree. In that great big binder full of Raynors and Dauchs and Bergs and Cronins and Caseys, four handwritten, photocopied pages were stuck in the back, devoted to my father's mother's family, the Stutzmanns.

So that was that, for awhile. I didn't look into it further, I didn't wonder where the information had come from, and even once I started doing genealogy more seriously, I kind of forgot that those four pages were there. Eventually I noticed that my grandmother had also copied a title page, which said those pages had come from something called Schlegel's German-American Families in the United States. An internet search revealed that this was a four-volume compendium published by the American Historical Society between 1916 and 1926, and so, just so I would have an original source and not just those photocopies and also in case my family research turned up my relation to any of the other families mentioned in the books, I ordered my own copies, which are now part of my genealogy research collection at home.

As it turns out, the genealogies in it are not entirely accurate - I found a few discrepencies when I went to verify the info on my own. But it's fairly accurate and it gave me quite a detailed place to start my Stutzmann research, from the name of the town in Germany that they hailed from to great great grandpa Rudolph's rise to one of the most prominent German-Americans in early 20th century Ridgewood. I highly recommend these volumes for anyone researching their 19th century German-American roots. This is what the review on has to say about the compendium (including the names of families covered in the volumes):

"Of all the information-rich sources of German-American ancestry, none is this comprehensive or as useful to the researcher, as illustrated by its coverage of the following families:

Ackermann, Aichmann, Altenbrand, Ammann, Auer, Barkhausen, Bauer, Baumann, Becker, Bender, Bermel, Biertuempfel, Boos, Bossert, Brandis, Braunstein, Breidt, Broking, Burger, Cordts, Cronau, Dangler, Dannenhoffer, de Kalb, Deck, Dippel, Dittenhoefer, Dochtermann, Dornhoefer, Doscher, Draesel, Dreier, Dressel, Drewes, Dreyer, Eichacker, Eichhorn, Eimer, Engelhardt, Espenscheid, Faber, Faller, Fink, Fischer, Flammer, Focht-Vogt, Frank, Frey, Fritz, Froeb, Funk, Gaus, Gobel, Goebel, Goepel, Golsner, Grell, Gretsch, Groborsch, Gunther, Hauenstein, Haug, Haupt, Haussling, Havemeyer, Hechtenberg, Hecker, Helwig, Hering, Herkimer, Herlich, Herrmann, Hoecker, Hoffmann, Jaeckle, Jahn, Janson, Junge, Just, Katz, Keene, Kern, Kessler, Kiefer, Kircher, Kirsch, Kleinert, Kline, Kny, Kobbe, Kochersberger, Koelble, Komitsch, Korth, Kost, Koster, Kraemer, Kramer, Kroeger, Kuhn, Lafrentz, Lamprecht, Lausecker, Leisler, Lexow, Liebmann, Limbacher, Lohse, Lotz, Luckhardt, Luhrsen, Lutz, Marquardt, Martin, Maulbeck, Maurer, Meeker, Mehlin, Mende, Meurer, Meyer, Mielke, Mietz, Moeller, Moser, Mueller, Muhlenberg, Muller, Naeher, Nissen, Nungesser, Oberglock, Offermann, Otto, Pedersen, Peter, Pflug, Poppenhusen, Prahl, Rasch, Rath, Reichhelm, Reisinger, Reppenhagen, Reuter, Ridder, Riedman, Ries, Ringler, Roehr, Runkel, Ruoff, Sauerwein, Schaeffer, Schalck, Schering, Scherrer, Schieren, Schill, Schilling, Schissel, Schlegel, Schlitz, Schmelzer, Schmidt, Schmieder, Schneider, Scholzel, Schortau, Schrader, Schroeder, Schultz, Schumann, Schurz, Schwarz, Sebold, Seyfarth, Sigel, Solms, Specht, Spengler, Stadler, Steiger, Steil, Steingut, Steinway, Stemme, Stengel, Steubner, Steurer, Stiefel, Stier, Stohn, Strebel, Stuber, Stutz, Stutzmann, Sutro, Thumann, Vogeler, Vollweiler, vom Hofe, von Bernuth, von Briesen, von Steuben, Wahlers, Weber, Weimar, Weismann, Weitling, Wendel, Wenk, Wesel, Wilhelms, Wintjen, Wischmann, Wolffram, Zaabel, Zechiel, and Zobel

This is a reprint of the largest collection of German-American genealogies ever published, a full-blown compendium of family history and biography unknown to all but a handful of specialists. The first three volumes were published somewhat inopportunely between 1916 and 1918, with a fourth volume added in 1926. Each volume was limited to 200 numbered and registered copies, and consequently only a dozen or so three-volume sets can be located today, while the fourth volume is all but unknown. This is a complete paradox, for like similar compendia by Virkus and McKenzie, this work should be available to all students of genealogy and should be the very first resource for anyone researching German-American ancestry.

Unlike other great compendia, however, Schlegel doesn't just start out with the immigrant ancestor; rather, each family history usually begins two or three generations back, examining the family in its historic setting before bringing it forward to the immigrant ancestor and his descendants in America. Averaging about ten pages in length, including portraits and coats of arms, the family histories are no mere catalogs of births, marriages, and deaths but are rich biographical and genealogical studies, each depicting the education, service, achievements, life, and career of the various family members, and each tracing the roots of the first four or five generations in America, usually commencing in the 18th or the 19th century, naming thousands of related family members."

Military Monday - Charles Haase's Civil War army discharge

Thanks to cousin Milton for this document. A transcription of the document text is:

Know that Charles Haase a Private of Capt Barent Frazer Jr Company H 33rd Regiment of New Jersey Volunteers who was enrolled on the 22 day of September one thousand eight hundred and Sixty Four to serve One year during the war is hereby DISCHARGED from the service of the United States this First day of June 1865, at Bladensburg, MD In compliance with General Order No 77, War Dept. C.S. No objection to his being reenlisted is known to exist.
Said Charles Haase was born in Germany in the state of ____, is 25 years of age 5 feet 7 inches high, dark complexion, Blue eyes Light hair and his occupation when he enrolled, a Hatter.
Given at BLADENSBURG, MD 1865
Capt R. H. Wilbur
Captain of the 102nd Regiment, NY Volunteers

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ancestor profile: The mystery of Hiram Horatio Raynor...

Hiram Horatio Raynor is my third great grandfather on my mother's side of the family. He's buried in a plot in Greenfield Cemetery, Uniondale, Long Island, New York along with his wife, Ann (Raynor) Raynor, their son and daughter-in-law, Joseph J. "J.J." Raynor and Annie (Poole) Raynor, and J.J. and Annie's three children - William Poole Raynor, Eliza "Lidie" Raynor, and Monroe Raynor (my great-grandfather) and Monroe's wife, Amelia Berg Raynor (my great-grandmother). Hiram's headstone reads, "Hiram H. Raynor, died Dec. 18, 1898" and his age puts his birth about Dec. 24, 1824.

His parents were Joseph and Elizabeth, who died in 1829 and 1828, respectively. Now, I personally have not been able to verify that particular information. That's based on research done by other Raynors before me, so we take that with a grain of salt, although there is evidence, both real and circumstantial, linking him to both Rebecca Raynor (Joseph's mother) and Whitehead Raynor (Elizabeth's father).

In my records, and as far as I can tell, everyone else's records, Hiram disappears, from his birth until 1855. He should appear in the 1850 census, but I can't find him, despite extensive and exhaustive looking. I even looked under the name "Hiram Horatio Smith" on the theory that it's possible Joseph's sister Elizabeth and her husband, Uriah Smith, took him in as a child after the deaths of his parents. I arrived at this possibility due to inaccurate information on the Long Island Genealogy website (which gives a good place to start looking but which is shamefully, embarrassingly inaccurate) that listed a Hiram Horatio Smith, born 1824, as one of the children of Elizabeth and Uriah. That theory so far has not panned out, and neither has the one that Hiram H. Raynor left Long Island as a young adult and traveled somewhere else for awhile before returning home, but I haven't given up yet that I'll find him there, although he may turn out to be an 1850 census ghost - I have a lot of relatives who are, frustratingly, census ghosts...

So, we don't have Hiram in the 1850 census, but we do have him in the 1860, married to Ann with son Joseph, as well as the 1870 and 1880. In all three he's living in Hempstead, Long Island - listed as a seaman in 1860, a bayman in 1870, and an oyster planter in 1880, which is how many of the residents living on the water in those times made a living...So far I haven't been able to find him in the 1892 New York State census, either, but I've only just started looking for him there. You have to be patient and persistent when it comes to these things. I am neither patient nor persistent, so genealogy, in addition to being fun, is teaching me to be both those things...

But, you ask, didn't I say that Hiram appears on records before the 1860 census, in 1855? He does indeed, and I thank cousin April E., for sharing with me these documents that she found. In October of 1855, Hiram H. Raynor was made one of the executors of his grandmother Rebecca Raynor's estate. The beginning of the one document reads, "The people of the State of New York, to Jacob Raynor, son of Rebecca Raynor, deceased, and Hiram H. Raynor, grandson of said Rebecca Raynor, deceased, send greeting."

So, that's pretty interesting. The inventory of Rebecca's estate gives you some insight into her life, but sometimes we forget to look at the other names on the document, such as her grandson Hiram and his uncle Jacob...and looking at those names places my third great grandfather five years earlier than the 1860 census does, but there's still a 30 year gap that I would love to somehow, some way, eventually narrow down and/or account for. Also, I would love to know where his middle name came from. It sounds like something straight out of Shakespeare, right?

I don't have any photos of Hiram but I visit his grave at Greenfield sometimes, just to say hi and see if maybe he'd like to give me some insight into where to look for him next.

Hiram Horatio Raynor's headstone is on the left, next to the grave of his grandson, William Poole Raynor.

And, awesomely enough, thanks to April, I also have my third great grandfather's's the little things that make me happy. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Newspapers: a glimpse into the daily lives of our ancestors

In most cases, I think newspaper stories related to our ancestors are limited to birth, marriage, and death announcements. But every now and then you get the juicy, scandalous story of a bank-robbing relative. And every now and then you get family who lived in a small, suburban/rural town where the local paper covered the mundane, daily activities of the local citizenry, and while for the general public these minutiae might not be interesting, for the genealogist, it can give a very real, full picture of what every day life was like for your ancestors - selling property, going to work, going to parties, visiting friends, getting sick, serving on juries, adding on to their homes, doing well in school, just living life, the way we all do every day. has a large selection of newspapers indexed on their site. For me, is more useful because most of the newspapers are for the New York City/Long Island region, although it also has an extensive upstate collection as well as a few papers from the rest of the United States. But also don't forget your local library - many of them have old, local newspapers available for you to look at. And it's the small, local newspapers that are going to be your best bet to find information on any of your relatives who never really made it to the national spotlight :). Oh, and it's also fun to look at old ads for products that are no longer in existence or to see how ridiculously cheap everything used to be...

Here are just a few examples of what I've found on my own family:

From The Long Islander:
Friday, August 17, 1917 - Under Hicksville news: "Allan Dauch, who is employed with the General Electric Company at Schenectady, N.Y. is spending a two week vacation at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adam L. Dauch."

Friday, February 23, 1912 - Under Hicksville news: "Mr. and Mrs. John Dauch, old residents of this village, celebrated their golden wedding at their home Sunday afternoon and evening, February 18, in the presence of their six children, five grandchildren, and several intimate friends of the family. At 5 o'clock supper was served in their spacious drawing room, which was elaborately decorated with carnations, ferns, and palms, the tone of the room being golden yellow. The celebrating couple received many beautiful gifts of china and gold..."

Friday, January 5, 1906 - Under Hicksville news: "John Dauch while cutting wood recently made a miss and chopped off part of his finger."

Friday, June 26, 1930 - Under Hicksville news: "The Dauch homestead on Cherry Street has received a fresh coat of paint."

Friday, December 7, 1917 - Under Hicksville news: "A very enjoyable time was spent at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Dauch on Friday evening. The hours were passed in games and music. A splendid luncheon was served, the table being decorated  with red, white, and blue."

From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Sunday, January 6, 1918 - "Mr. and Mrs. Theodore P. Berg of Hempstead, L.I. are located here for the season after a pleasant motor trip from Jacksonville."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Ellen Casey Cronin

My great-grandmother Ellen Casey Cronin riding her bicycle on South Main Street, Freeport, New York, circa 1930.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Eva Justina Hoerner Dauch

Eva Justina Dauch, my fourth-great grandmother, died April 13, 1877, and is buried in Greenfield Cemetery, Uniondale, Long Island, New York, in a plot bought by her grandson-in-law, Theodore Peterson Berg (my great-great grandfather). According to the headstone, she was 84 years, 3 months, and 7 days old.

I don't know much about her. I know her death was listed in the Queens County Sentinel, a now-defunct newspaper. I know that according to a ship passenger list, she arrived in New York harbor aboard the Leila on Sept. 22, 1845 from Le Havre, France with her husband Nicolas, 46, and three of their children - Andreas (Andrew), 19; Thomas, 16; and Marie (Mary), 9. They were all born in Bavaria according to the list. I know she and her family disappear for 25 years after that - I can't find her in the 1850 or the 1860 U.S. census - and when she reappears, her husband is dead and she is living near her son Thomas in Hempstead, Long Island, and with her daughter, now Mary Gasser, and she is listed in the census as "Christina Dowe" (The Justina in her name sometimes gets switched to Christina and the "Dauch" last name is actually pronounced "Dow" and so often got spelled that way...). I know that she is one of those Germans who had extra first names she probably didn't use - I think on her death certificate, she's listed as "Mary."

But for the most part, she's still a mystery to me. I don't know why she left Germany, and if one of my distant relatives is correct in his research, why she left some of her children behind when she did. I don't know where she went during those missing 25 years between her arrival in Manhattan and her appearance in the 1870 census.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An All-American girl...

So as we all know, I'm a mutt. I'm half Irish, a third German, a tad Danish, and the rest a mad mix o' ethnicity by way of England. Lots of Americans *are* mutts. That's part of the whole "melting pot" mentality. But, at least here in New York, we also have a lot of, for lack of a better term, "purebred" ethnicities, recent immigrants who have just come to this country. My best friend is a first generation American of Dominican descent. My boyfriend is a first generation American of Honduran descent (though, he's also more of a mutt than most Latinos, but that's a story for another day). For those who aren't first generation Americans here in the tri-state area, many of European descent are second generation Americans - I'm thinking specifically of Italian-Americans, like my good friend Suzy C. The point I'm trying to make is that I tell people I'm Irish-German-Danish-English, and maybe that explains where I get my hair, eye, or skin color, but for me, when it comes down to it, I'm All-American, and that actually makes me sad. My best friend and boyfriend speak Spanish and eat foods from their parents' homelands and dance dances from their cultures.  My good friend Suzy C. is thoroughly steeped in her Italian heritage. She goes back to Italy regularly to visit her second and third cousins who live there. My visible ties to my heritage are weak at best, which might explain why researching my family tree and learning about my heritage are so important to me. My most recent immigrant ancestor, generation-wise, is Timothy Ambrose Cronin, my maternal grandmother's father, from Cork, Ireland. I'm not sure he passed along anything of his heritage to his family (men, right?), except for the legend that he once saw a leprechaun. My most recent immigrant ancestor, year-wise, is my great-great grandmother on my dad's side of the family, Augusta Lindemann Stutzmann, who was born in Germany. Both were here by the turn of the 20th century, enough time for Old World traditions to pretty much fall by the wayside. I feel like, culture-wise, my German heritage has been passed along to me the most successfully, mostly in terms of food, mostly through my father through his mother. But I almost feel weird telling people I consider myself part Danish and part English, too, because Peter Hansen Berg came here before 1845 and Edward Raynor was here by 1634. English colonial ancestry? Celebrating the 350th anniversary of the village your ancestor founded? You don't get more American than that.

I love that I can trace my tree that far back *because* my family has been here for that long, but sometimes I do feel like I'm missing visible, tangible ties to my past because I don't know any German recipes and I can't sing any Irish folk tunes. But I think, on the other hand, that's why I encourage that kind of cultural passing-on of the baton in my friends. My mother once mentioned to me, in passing, that she was sorry she never made me and my siblings do Irish step dancing. I like that Dania and Sam can speak Spanish, and I hope they teach it to their kids. I like that Suzy and her family cook the same Italian food their parents and grandparents made, and I know Suzy will do it with her kids, too. Especially for cultures where vital records might not be as readily available as they are in the United States (where I've lucked out), like in the Dominican Republic or Honduras or even Italy, being able to pass on something to the next generation that shows where you come from (where they've lucked out) is just as valuable, I think...

Genealogy in the age of the Internet and social networking sites

When I hit brick walls tracing my family back, I amuse myself by tracing my family to the sides. Finding cousins on parallel branches opens up new research avenues - connecting with them allows you to pool your collective information. If your great-grandmother had a family Bible with a listing of birthdates that she didn't hand down to your grandfather, the children of your grandfather's sister might have it in their possession. A cousin several times removed who tracked me down had in his possession the only known photo of my 4th great-grandmother, Barbara Reinhardt Haase, which he shared with me. I never would have known what she looked like (a good, strong German woman who could have easily been a linebacker in the NFL, by the way) if there had been no sideways family tree research done.

When you trace your family to the side, you end up finding your contemporaries - not just your cousins, but your second cousins, and third cousins and fourth cousins as well.
Alumni updates, obits, social networking sites, blogs - these are all online sources of finding cousins and "getting to know them" even though they might not know you exist and you might not ever meet them. Some people might call this "internet stalking." I call it finding out the things we have in common with each other and discovering some amazing people you can call "family." On the blog front, I've found a few - one cousin writes a wonderful blog about her and her husband's journey adopting children from abroad, many with special needs, another wrote well written articles about her decisions to court rather than date, and yet another, who is Mormon, writes about the adventures she has as a missionary in Asia.

So another thing I've learned is that writers also run in my family, apparently.

I've found distant cousins who I know only by name and family line on sites such as MySpace and Facebook - one of them posted "movies" he and his brothers had made, which is interesting because directing and editing short films is something my own brother has been known to dabble in.

And of course, people have family websites, where you can find family tree information not only going backward, but going forward, too, as people announce their weddings and the births of children or grandchildren, helping you fill out the ever expanding sideways branches as well.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Taking the first steps on the road to certification...

"Why don't you do this for a living? What do you have to do to become a professional genealogist?"

That's what the ever-persistant Samuel has been asking me the past couple of months and I finally relented and sent away for the application packet for the Board for Certification of Genealogists because the truth is, I love doing this. It goes beyond a hobby for me. When I don't have anything to research on my own family line, I trace my friends' families. When I get stuck on theirs, I pick a celebrity or some famous figure to look into. I love doing it, and even though I'm still learning new things every day about how to do it better, I think I have a knack for it. I have good instincts about leads. I get feelings about information I can't yet prove, but when I do prove it, I was usually right. (Not to brag! Lol...)

Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh right, Sam was being annoying, but supportive and probably right. If you can make money doing something you love, you should. And beyond that, if you have a gift, which I believe I do, what a waste to not share it with the world and use it to help other people. When I was able to show Sam's mom ship passenger lists with her grandfather on it, it backed up pretty much all the stories her family had ever told her about the man, who left the family before her father was even born, and also shed light on new information about him she had never known - what he looked like, who he worked for, what town in Sicily he came from. But their reaction to my "finding" him again just makes me want to do this even more, and validates my feelings about what I do.

Board for Certification of Genealogists website:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Today we'll take a break from genealogy... remember all the souls who were lost nine years ago today and their loved ones who were left behind and must somehow go on. Every family tree has someone who was lost too suddenly, too violently, and/or too soon, and every family tree has someone who lived through a significant event or time in history, and we honor them by never forgetting, just as all the victims of 9/11, living and dead, are honored by our remembrance of them and the remembrance of them by future generations...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Raynor family reunion: your living relatives are important, too

I mean, duh - the fact that your living relatives are just as important as your dead ones should go without saying, but I know from personal experience, sometimes I spend so much time looking up those who have gone before me that I sometimes forget about the ones who are here with me, not only as a valuable source of family stories and information, but as people, as friends, and as family. And I'm not just talking about the cousins and aunts and uncles, but the second cousins and so-and-so number cousins removed so-and-so many times. These are the people you are connected to now. These are the people your grandchildren will be looking up someday.

On July 31, my mom's side of the family, the Raynors, had a family reunion at my aunt's house. Almost 50 descendants of my great grandparents, Monroe Raynor and Amelia Berg Raynor, showed up to this thing - my mother's cousins, my cousins, my second cousins, and now the next generation of Raynor-Bergs, as my second cousins get married and have kids. None of my great-grandparents seven children are still alive, but my 95-year-old grandmother, Mary Cronin Raynor, was also there, so we had four generations under one roof. It was pretty amazing. Many of these relatives I knew from other family reunions - many of those many, though, I hadn't seen in close to 15 years. Others I knew of from my genealogy research but had never met. Some I knew nothing of. But you could see some similarities in some of the cousins, like the gigantically tall gene my cousin Cliff and second cousin David share, or how so many of my mom's female cousins look like each other, or like my grandfather's sisters.

And of course, the topic of genealogy was part of the day. My aunt ordered copies of the family tree compilation put together by the Freeport village historian in the 1970s, enough so everyone could bring a copy home with them. Everyone brought photos of their families and I brought some of the family genealogy I had worked on. Old photos of my grandfather's generation and his parents generation were brought out and we marveled at how easy it was to pick out my grandfather in one, even though he was only 10, and how one of Amelia Berg's brothers looked exactly like my mom's brother Cliff, and how much they both look like Teddy Roosevelt. And in that same photo, we made up stories about Amelia's brother Royal Howard, who stood out as looking handsome, suave, debonair, and by far the best-dressed of the bunch. And at the end of the day, we did what all families should do, especially those who are so genealogically-inclined, we took a family portrait on the front lawn, a souvenir of a fun family get together and another record of our family for future generations to use in their own research.

July 31 Raynor reunion family photo as printed in the Raynor Family Association's August 2010 bulletin.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Taking a stroll through history: my grandmother's high school yearbook

I think that, often, when we're doing genealogy, we get up in the formality of it all - finding records, verifying records, recording all our information as accurately as possible. It's thorough, and it's good, but it's kind of cold and impersonal. It takes the human face off of genealogy - this is family, after all. It's okay to not treat them completely like strangers.

I talked about it a little when I talked about the importance of recording nicknames as well as full names, about recording the names their family and friends knew them by, but I think it's also why photos and letters and personal effects are important, too. These things remind you that this person isn't just a name and a date, that he or she was real - they had friends and hobbies and sometimes they took goofy photos instead of the formal portraits you usually see. They made mistakes and had flaws - they fell in love and they had bad hair days.

Anyway, I have all four of my grandmother, Mary Cronin Raynor's, high school yearbooks. She graduated from Freeport High School in Freeport, Long Island, New York, in 1933. This is the inside cover of the yearbook from the year she graduated:

You know, like I think sometimes we have these pictures and focus on these pictures and put the emphasis on these pictures of our ancestors when they were old. Sometimes we see them as babies. Or when they get married. But they were teenagers, too. Some of them even went to high school like we did.

That's my grandmother in the upper right hand corner. To be honest, she looks a lot older and mature than the 18-year-olds I went to high school with. A lot of the kids in her yearbook do, I think. But some of the girls look young, with their smiling. As do the boys, with their goofy hairdos. My grandmother's caption reads, "Plain without pomp, rich without show," which I think describes her perfectly, and her activities include hockey, basketball, glee club, the Masque and Wig club, Spanish club, and science club. Which are all things I never would have pictured her doing, so that's kind of cool.

That's my grandfather, Clifford Raynor, who was Mary Cronin's husband, in the top left corner. He was a year older but graduated the same year as her. Not surprisingly, he was not involved in any school activities, and his caption, "Be silent, and safe; silence never betrays you," feels right when I remember the way he was.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And the universe chimes into the genealogical conversation...

You know how I was just talking about the importance of sharing genealogical information? It's like the universe heard and was pleased...

I received an e-mail this afternoon from one of the cousins I correspond with regarding our shared family trees re: my third great grandfather on my dad's side, John Ricklefs. You may recall that, judging from not one but both his sons doing not one but multiple stints in prison for multiple bank robberies, John Ricklefs probably never won any Father of the Year awards for his parenting skills, or lack thereof.

I knew where he was from, when he was born, when and where he was married, and that he and his wife, Meta Tiedemann, moved all the way out to the boondocks of Suffolk County by 1930, living on a farm in Patchogue. But the trail went cold after the 1930 census. I attempted to obtain a death record from the Patchogue village clerk but without any way to narrow down what year he might have died, outside of telling her "somewhere between 1930 and this morning," or going out to Patchogue myself to see if they would let me look through the files (and while Patchogue is close, it is not close by foot, which is how I currently travel), I had hit yet another deadend. It was not a typical deadend, though. A death after 1930 is a fairly recent death, which meant not only was it very likely there was a record, but that somewhat still alive might actually remember him. So I had a feeling it was a temporary dead end, but I didn't know how long I would have to wait.

I guess that answer would be, until today. So, this is the message my cousin sent:

Mary, it's been a while, I kept looking for information on John & Meta Ricklefs. I found a death listing for John Ricklefs, in the 10 March 1937 issue of the Mis Island Mail. It was a local newspaper. John Ricklefs died 23 Feb 1937, at the Patchogue Community Hospital. The address was 311 Bay Ave., Patchogue.

I mean, how cool is that? One short e-mail and a ton of brand new information. So, I guess my next step will be to either go to a library that has the Mid Island Mail on microfilm and look for the obit, and/or contact this village clerk in Patchogue again and see if an exact date will get me the record I'm looking for. I already know his parents names, so I'm not looking for that, but anytime you can find more than one record verifying the information you have, it's helpful and further proof. And actually, on John's marriage certificate, I'm not entirely certain of his mother's maiden name. So that would be helpful if her name is on it. Also, the death record might say if his wife Meta was still alive or not, when his birthday is, what his occupation was, etc. etc. I'm very excited, and oh so grateful that I have family I can turn to when I need help finding something out, and not only do they help me when I ask, but they keep it in the back of their heads and continue the search for me. Well, not for me. For us.

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Martin Nehr Comment

So as I mentioned in my previous post, a Horst5457 posted a comment on August 3 on my 5th great grandfather Martin Nehr's profile on my family tree. This is what he (or she, I suppose) wrote:

Sippenbuch Heppenheim 3 Nr.7171 Kind Nr.5 Martin Neher *29.05.1806 Hambach ,+USA OO am 25.11.1834 Heppenheim mit Anna Maria Mitsch *18.11.1803Heppenheim,+19.02.1854 Hambach er fl├╝chtet 1847 nach Amerika bei Zur├╝cklassung von Frau und Kindern. Eltern von Martin Neher Johann Neher *12.02.1776 Hambach,+28.12.1823 Hambach Nr.7171 oo am 18.02.1800 Heppenheim mit Anna Maria Petermann *28.07.1776 hambach,+01.04.1849 Hambach als Witwe

When you plug that into Babelfish, this is how it gets translated:

Kinship book Heppenheim 3 Nr.7171 child Nr.5 Martin Neher *29.05.1806 Hambach, +USA OO to 25.11.1834 Heppenheim with Anna Maria Mitsch *18.11.1803Heppenheim, +19.02.1854 Hambach it flees 1847 to America in leaving of woman and children. Parents of Martin Neher Johann Neher *12.02.1776 Hambach, +28.12.1823 Hambach Nr.7171 oo to 18.02.1800 Heppenheim with Anna Maria Petermann *28.07.1776 hambach, +01.04.1849 Hambach as a widow

I'm pretty sure that's not entirely accurate...

My first thought, of course, is a pat on the back to myself at the guess I took that the "Anna Maria Mitch" listed on her daughter Catherine's death certificate probably should've been spelled the more German "Mitsch" seems to have some confirmation. It also seems possible that Martin and Anna Maria came to America - so that gives me some American records to look at, possibly. And it gives me towns in Germany to look at.

Of course, I don't know how reliable this information is, if at all, but it gives me some place to start looking, where before I had no place to start looking. And where I have some place to start, I have some place to go. I'm hopeful, as I usually am when I get new leads, at figuring this comment out - Nancy Drew ain't got nothing on me! :)

It's all about sharing...

Genealogy, in my opinion, is all about sharing. It's about sharing tips. It's about sharing information. You probably do it not just for yourself but to keep the family tree going to share with future generations of your family. Most of my information I've gotten through my own legwork and from vital records and other documents and photos, but many times, I've been able to find that information or a missing link on a particular branch because someone shared that information with me and helped me. I will never understand these people who have private family trees on I get that you are the person who put in the hard work and the long hours to put that tree together and you may resent some stranger you don't know (who is probably actually a distant relative, if they're looking at your tree) coming in and taking that information, all la di da, but I honestly believe we can't do this if we don't help each other. Plus, you're going to pass that tree down to your children, right? They're going to have that information without doing all the hard work and putting in the long hours - you're not going to make them start from scratch when you already have the information they'll need.

Anyway, was just thinking about this because of an interesting comment I got on my family tree (it's called the Gorry-Raynor family tree). Two of my recently discovered ancestors are my 5th great-grandparents on my dad's side, Martin Nehr and Anna Maria Mitsch. Though I was ecstatic to have found out that new information, it had, again, left me at a dead end, just a generation further back. So, on Aug. 3, someone left a comment on Martin Nehr's profile on my tree. I'd never gotten a comment before, so that was kind of exciting. Of course, the comment is also in German, but I'm not sure genealogy would be half as fun if it wasn't so much of a challenge so much of the time. But basically it looks to have birth and death dates and places for Martin and Anna Maria, as well as the parents of Martin, which would take me back yet another generation. But I wonder - who is the guy who posted the info? His profile is extremely uninformative. Where is his information from? How reliable is it? Is he an as yet undiscovered cousin of sorts who also has Martin and Anna Maria on his family tree? So this is the current genealogical mystery I am attempting to solve...