Wednesday, March 30, 2011

John Reinhardt death record, Union, Hudson County, New Jersey 1870

I've had this for about six months now, got lazy about uploading it, then misplaced it, and since I've started cleaning house, just recently rediscovered it. I've always been very happy with the service of the New York City Municipal Archives as well as the National Archives, but with my Reinhardt relations having spent a few decades across the river in New Jersey, I've had to use the New Jersey State Archives as well and they have also been extremely helpful. So, two snaps to well organized, well preserved archives!

This is the death record for John Reinhardt, my 5th great-grandfather, the maternal grandfather of my Civil War ancestor Charles Haase. John is one of my immigrant ancestors, and though I don't know specifics about where he came from or what happened to his wife after he died, I now have a little more information on his death. John was also the patriarch of several generations of well-known and influential Reinhardts in the Hudson County, Union/Hoboken/Weehawken area of New Jersey.

So, since the pictures aren't great (the first is the whole record, the second two are the first and second halves of the record taken a little closer), here's what it says (John's is the highlighted name):

It's from Volume AQ, p. 412 from 1 Sept. 1870 - 1 Sept. 1871; town of Union, County of Hudson, State of New Jersey; John Reinhardt died Oct. 17, 1870. He was married, 56 years old, no occupation. Town of death was Union. Place of birth was Germania. No parents listed (boo). Cause of death - atrophy of the brain. Not sure what that means...anyway, it's interesting to see how deaths were recorded before certificates and in different states. Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thoughts on the "Who Do You Think You Are?" Steve Buscemi episode

Finally watched the episode last night and made it through 95 percent of the episode without so much as a tear - I think probably because I was so exhausted from my weekend away - but ended up tearing up toward the end, so anyone who's still betting, the record remains intact. :)

  • Was looking to see if I recognized any Valley Stream landmarks, as I am only four towns such luck!
  • It was really interesting to see how Buscemi's approach to acting and directing, trying to find the motivations of a character and really getting to know him, translated easily to his genealogical search - not that he was looking for a character per se but that he was hoping someone in his tree would have a compelling a writer who thinks about the motivations and stories of characters, I see myself doing the same thing with my family tree searches...
  • I think it's interesting to see what and who interests the person in particular who is searching - Steve probably could have kept tracing his family back, to see where they originally came from, but for him, Ralph Montgomery was the person who caught his attention, and the story of what happened to him and to his family is what drew Steve in.
  • Always enjoy seeing the Municipal Archives in Manhattan pop up...that place has been a godsend in my research...
  • This show is obviously done with the help of, and is obviously always used as an advertisement-inside-a-show for the website, but while that felt particularly in-your-face in this episode, with Steve using a lot more features and searches than they usually highlight, I didn't mind, because I really believe the website provides a valuable service, not just in being a place to find records, but in being a place to connect with distant cousins doing the same research. If Steve hadn't found and met up with his third cousin, it's possible he might never have known (or that at least it might have taken much longer to find out) what happened to Julia and Jane Montgomery after Ralph died.
  • It was nice to see, for a change, Steve helping with the research. So often on this show the celebrities just show up somewhere and are handed the documents they need, but this episode not only showed Buscemi thumbing through pages and bent over books and microfilm machines, but I think it also gave a sense of how tedious and let's face it, sometimes boring, the whole research process can be, despite the potential for rich and exciting payoffs in information.
  • It was interesting how Steve was able to find a family connection to depression and suicide and it was kind of sad how tragic a character Ralph Montgomery seemed to be, but it was when Steve was talking about how discovering all the terrible things his ancestors had to live through and how it made him realize how lucky he was with his own family and how it made their problems seem not so bad that I kind of teared up.
  • I was happy that, as someone who considered himself from the "country of Brooklyn" (I thought that was cute), that he was able to find the starting point of when his family left New Jersey and ended up in Brooklyn.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday musings and our regular WDYTYA reminder

My dad is starting to think like me.

Today he was talking about all the baby steps and giant leaps, all the zigzags and decisions that each one of our ancestors had to make-unrelated, ordinary people from nowhere near each other in national origin, social stature, religion, money class-so that eventually their descendents would end up in the same place at the same time to meet each other and become our parents and grandparents and so on and so forth. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason and there seems to be a lot of chance and luck involved, but maybe there is something a little more deliberate to it. I don't know. It's crazy but it's so amazing, and I think it's one of the most fascinating things about genealogy, how the journeys of these people's lives are the reasons we are here it's kinda cool that my dad thinks that, too. Right on, Dad! :)

On another happy note, tonight is the first new episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" in awhile. I believe the featured celebrity is Steve Buscemi. I don't know anything about how family, but I know he's a local Long Island boy from Valley Stream, just a few towns over, so I'm interested to see what he's looking for and what he discovers. I'll be visiting friends this weekend so I won't get to watch the episode till I get back - look for my thoughts and musings on it early next week.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" airs at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.

Happy weekend everyone! :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Catherina Neher Meinberg Hellmann's will in Brooklyn probate January 1919

FamilySearch, like Ancestry, is constantly updating their available records - recently found this addition to the Kings County Estate Files database, Catharine's will. There are 15 pages, but I've included only the first two pages and the last two pages. The second page lists her heirs, including my 3rd great grandmother, Eva Haase, and the last two pages are her actually will, including my favorite part, Catherine's actual signature (and what a fancy old-fashioned one it is - love it!):

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mad props to those doing genealogy right

Genealogy, it seems, is the hobby of the moment. Some of us have been doing it for years before it became "in." And some of us have discovered an interest in it because of its increase in popularity. Doesn't matter your reasons - but for some of the more recent genealogy converts, (and some of us who have been doing it for so long that we really should know better) easy Internet access to other people's often unsourced trees has led to a proliferation of inaccurate information. People copy trees and then quote those trees as "sources," perpetrating a vicious cycle of bad research.

Believe me, I get how people get caught up in the excitement of finding what they think is an accurate family history when just the day before they knew nothing about their ancestry - if only things in life were that easy, but they rarely are, are they? This is not to say every person has to do their own research from scratch - that's part of the reason we're all doing this, so future generations don't have to - but check that the information you're taking is sourced and it'd be worth your time to check those sources to see if they're primary or secondary sources (the ones that will be most accurate).

That being said, I'd like to use this blog post to recognize those of you who are doing genealogy right. In particular, I'd like to single out Tom M. For those of you who have been following this blog, you'll know that Tom is a distant cousin of mine who only recently started researching his family tree and we've been corresponding, sharing ideas and information. Since he and I started e-mailing only a couple of months ago, he has been knocking down brick walls for our shared family branch left and right. Not only that, but he's been building up accurate and comprehensive bios on as many of his ancestors as he can. He is using all avenues at his disposal - family letters and photos, primary and secondary sources from the trees of distant relatives, such as mine, visiting cemeteries, ordering vital records from the New York Municipal Archives. The Internet is where his search began, but he has used it simply as a jumping off point, which is what it should be - he found e-mail addresses and contact information for people in other states who had information he needed, for historians and archivists in Germany who had information he needed, and he is pursuing those avenues and getting the information that he needs. I am amazed at how much he is finding out and how quickly he is finding it, but it goes to show how a little patience, persistance, and hard work can pay off in such exciting ways.

So thank you and mad props to Tom M. and all you other newbies and pros out there doing genealogy right, setting the good example for us all and future generations, and keeping me inspired. And a quick thank you to Tom, too, for breaking down one of MY brick walls today, on a branch of my tree that we don't share, John Meinberg, who unlike his wife Catherine Neher, has been an impossible nut to crack, and which I'll talk about in another post, hopefully this week.

Happy spring everyone!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Genealogy's Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boy(s)

Growing up, I read my mother's whole collection of Nancy Drew mystery novels from the 1940s, and then moved on to the 1990s continuation that followed an updated Nancy Drew, which sometimes included, and frankly were my favorites, books featuring a collaboration between Nancy Drew and Frank and Joe Hardy to solve a mystery.

Because I see genealogy as part detective work and I'm a huge self-proclaimed fan, I sometimes fancy myself to be Nancy Drew. And since I'm Nancy Drew in this scenario, I guess that would make my dad one of the Hardy Boys.

The other night, he waited till one of my favorite tv shows ended to tell me about some detective work he'd been doing regarding letters his great-grandmother, Mary Horgan Gorry, had written to a soldier, R. Morrow, in 1918, while he was stationed in Tennessee. Who was this guy? How did she know him? Why was he writing to her?

So my dad, like any good genealogist and detective, started with some basic assumptions - if you don't have facts, you start with an educated guess based on what you do know, and the information you find will either help confirm or refute your hypothesis. So my dad tells me that since they were writing to each other, he assumed they knew each other and so that R. Morrow lived in New York. Fair assumption. I'm not sure they had the same soldier pen pal services during World War I that they have nowadays. And just to give himself somewhere to start, he assumed the "R" stood for Robert. Also a fair assumption. He looked in the 1920 census and found a Robert Morrow living at 646 East 16th St. in Manhattan. In 1910, R. Morrow was living at 648 East 16th St.

In 1910, More Grandma lived at 652 East 16th St. So they were neighbors. And my dad is still working on it, trying to figure out what happened to R. Morrow from there on out. He's got some leads. He's making more educated guesses. He's working all angles of this case.

Father, I have taught you well.


Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day ode to my Irish ancestry

As an Irish-American, I feel like St. Patrick's Day tends to be more of an Irish-American than an Irish holiday, and as an Irish-American New Yorker, I sometimes feel like it's even a more narrow holiday than that! :)

But today, when all my friends "become" Irish, when they join me in celebrating my heritage, even if they don't know what they're celebrating, even when they think it's about a shot of good Irish whiskey and a glass of good Irish beer, the experience of everyone coming together in the Irish spirit reminds me to be proud of my Irish ancestors who came before.

So today I'd like to thank all those Irish branches of my tree both known - the Gorrys, the Corrs, the Horgans, the Murphys, the Tormeys, the Prendergasts, the Donnellys, the Cronins, the Caseys, the Enrights, the Collins, the Donohues, the Cullinans - and possibly forever unknown, for all your struggles and trials and tribulations, for making it through the potato famine, for living in a time when your country was not your own but belonged to the British, for braving the unknown journey to America so that your children might have a better life than you did and then struggling in the tenements of the Lower East Side barely making ends meet, for continuing on as your husbands and parents and children died early and cruel deaths, for believing in yourselves, for believing in each other, and for believing in the future, and therefore, believing in me.

And today we all say, "Erin go braugh!"  "Ireland forever!"

(And later we'll all say "Sláinte!")

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Catherine Neher Meinberg Hellmann

Thanks to Tom M. for posting this photo on This is the headstone of my fourth great-grandmother Catherine Neher Meinberg Hellmann, born 1839 in Heppenheim, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, died 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. She is buried in Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, New York. And as she continues to reveal the story of her life to me in bits and pieces, of course I also found her will and probate records on last night, so I will post about that later this week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Heppenheim sippenbuch - the Meinberg connection

All the Johns in my family tree are elusive bastards - John Horgan, John Enright, and the focus of this post, John Meinberg.

John Meinberg was the father of Eva Meinberg Haase and the first husband of Catherine Neher Meinberg Hellmann. He was living in New York by 1861 when Eva was born and was dead/out of the picture by 1878, when Catherine remarried. That is all I know about him.

Catherine, more than any of my ancestors, wants to be found. Her family has been revealing itself to me in leaps and bounds lately, generation after generation, male and female lines.

Her first husband? Not so much.

Well, he might be stubborn, but so am I. (Maybe that's who I got it from!)

From looking up Catherine's family in the sippenbuch, it appears she might have known John from her hometown, as one of the families included in this particular family book is the Meinberg family. I don't have photocopies of the pages about them, but as soon as I've exhausted Catherine's side, I'm coming for you, John!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Musings on the Lionel Richie episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

  • Any African-American whose family has been here since before the Civil War has a good chance of finding an ancestor who was a slave. As a white American, I can't imagine how that must feel. You can think about these things in the abstract but to be actually confronted with the word "owner" like Lionel was when tracking down J. L. Brown, has to kind of people like a suckerpunch to the gut.
  • I definitely felt for him when he was visiting J.L.'s grave site and there was no headstone in the pauper's section of the cemetery. There are certain family members I visit, particularly my poor Irish ancestors, who couldn't afford a marker. It makes you realize how important those things are to not only remembering people gone but to actually have a tangible object and place to go and reflect and grieve and remember.
  • Slaves getting pregnant by their owners is an unfortunate part of American history in the South, but how refreshing to see an owner, Morgan Brown, who, though obviously not so enlightened and progressive as to not own another human being in the first place, was compassionate and progressive enough to ask that the slave woman and her child be freed, that she be given property, and that her child receive an education...whether or not that was actually honored after his death, it definitely spoke to Morgan's character.
  • Loved all the documents outside of the normal range that Lionel was able to find, including Morgan Brown's diary - how cool??? :)
  • I'm glad that Lionel was able to find out so much about his great-grandfather and that what he found out made him proud of his ancestor, even though his grandmother obviously never talked of him and even though his great-grandfather pretty much abandoned his wife and child. That must have been very hard on his grandmother. But it shows that there are two sides to every story, and I also agree with Lionel, that his grandmother probably didn't keep that info from her family - she probably never knew it in the first place.
  • This episode's major crying moment - when he was visiting the cemetery where his great-grandfather was buried. Emotional moments like that for them lead to my own emotional moments, every single time!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Learning a new language:deciphering and reading the Heppenheim sippenbuch

First, I want to thank Tom M. yet again for obtaining copies of 12 pages from the second and third volumes of the Heppenheim sippenbuch.

Second, I want to head all you smartasses off and say that yes, I know the book is in German and is therefore in a different language. Got it out of your system? Okay.

Can I just say that this was one of the most overwhelming pieces of documentation I have EVER come across in my entire life. As already stated, the book is in German. On top of that, there are a lot of abbreviations and symbols. This is where this handy little legend courtesy of the St. Louis County Public Library special collections department really came in handy:

Ok, confused yet?

Now, the way it seems to work, as far as I can tell, is you have a family entry with husband, wife, kids, dates of birth, dates of death, dates of marriage, places for all if known, and sometimes little notes about occupation or running off to America without your wife and kids in the case of Martin Neher. The family entry has a number, and next to each name and/or marriage there is also a number, in parentheses. If you follow it, for example, from the father of the first family entry, it will take you to another family entry, where the father is the kid listed with his parents, and you keep going like so until you reach the end.

So there actually is a bit of order to it all, although once you start following several lines, you need to keep track of which parents belong to which kid. But the fun doesn't stop there. For that extra kick, in the case of Heppenheim and vicinity, it was a small town, so on top of being in German and abbreviated, we have the same first and last names repeating over and over again as the same families intermarry with each other for generations.

And then there are those who married more than once.

If a man married more than once, a family entry might list him with two wives and all his kids - I couldn't tell which wife belonged to the first wedding date and therefore did not know which kids belonged to which wife (and god forbid she married more than once, too, and so her first husband's name or next husband's name was also listed). I got so bogged down in one entry I just wanted to cry. Instead I read it several times and then wrote it out several times, but couldn't make heads or tails of it. So I decided to leave the wife for now and follow the husband's line back.


In the entry for the husband where he's listed as the child, his marriages are written in order, each wife next to the date of the right marriage. And so I was able to move forward again from there and follow the proper mother back.

The moral is, you are going to have to read this thing both forward and backward and then forward again.

Also of note - if a person is married more than once, there may be multiple family entries, one for each marriage.

The moral of THAT is, make sure you follow the right family numbers.

I'm still going through everything, but from the looks of it, I have very deep Hessian roots, and I'm just so excited to find out more...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Women's History Month - Fearless Females - the Mary Ellen Gorry club

Am I named after any one in my family...

Do I share a name with any female ancestors...

Where to begin, lol...

If you read this blog, then you already know the answer to this, but as this is today's "Fearless Females" blogging prompt, I thought I'd talk about it again...also, I was just exchanging e-mails with Tom M. about how confusing it can be when a name is repeated over and over again in a family - when you're looking at records, you might not know which person that record belongs to. At the same time, a repeated name can be a great clue as to whether or not a person IS part of the family - when I was trying to find Gus Haase's parents, the fact that he had a son named Edward made me think the Edward and Eva Haase I found were probably his parents (and they were).

Anyway, back to me...

I have always liked my name. It's definitely an old-fashioned name, not one you come across to much anymore (unless you know a lot of Irish Catholics, which I do), but barring everything else - documents, photos, stories, everything - my name has always made me feel connected to my family history. Always. Who knows...maybe that's why I became so interested in genealogy to begin with.

As I've written before, I am the latest in a long line of Marys, Mary Ellens, and Mary Ellen Gorrys (some by birth, some by marriage). My dad's sister was Mary Ellen Gorry. My grandfather's mother was Mary Ellen (Tormey) Gorry. Her husband's mother was Mary Ellen (Horgan) Gorry (and a sister who died in infancy was Mary Gorry). HER husband's mother was Mary (Corr) Gorry (and his sister was Mary Gorry). And HER husband's mother (and possibly sister) were both Mary Gorry. Unoriginal? Yes. a tangible connection to great-grandmothers and aunts past? Absolutely.

Then there are my other Mary Ellen connections. My maternal aunt (and godmother) is Ellen. Her mom (and my grandmother) is Mary. HER mom (and my great-grandmother) is Ellen. HER mom (and my great great grandmother) was...anyone want to guess? Sense the pattern?...Mary. So my name connects me to my mom's side of the family as well.

No wonder I tend to identify with my Irish roots...

It makes me sad when I think I might be the last Mary Ellen Gorry, at least on my branch of the Gorry tree. There aren't a lot of Gorry branches as far as I know - on my line, there are my two brothers and the three sons of my dad's male cousins by his dad's brother. Those are the only Gorry men on my branch as far back as my 4th great grandfather Cornelius Gorry (1812-1897), so unless any of my brothers or cousins marry a Mary or have a daughter named Mary, I'm it. It's a nice club to be a part of, and I'm determined to make all the Marys and Ellens and Mary Ellens proud... :)