Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?": Marisa Tomei and Blair Underwood

We're gonna talk about both episodes today, just cuz I'm feeling lazy. But both episodes sorta jumped out at me because of the use of newspapers and court records to flesh out the stories of certain ancestors of both Marisa and Blair - Marisa had questions about the murky circumstances and official records regarding her great-grandfather's death and Blair was intrigued by the fact his 3rd great grandfather ended up in a mental institution, and I think these episodes highlighted the importance of finding out the stories, not just the facts. Plus, I have that same kind of relative in my family - the brothers Ricklefs, John and Charles - where you find out one little factoid - in my case, that they were in jail - and it snowballs into a mountain of information that not only tells you they were criminals, but gives you this amazing insight into their character and personality and makes you think about their motivations and what influenced and drove them. So that also made me think again about the Martin Sheen episode, where I noted that it didn't really speak to me - but I think maybe I was a little harsh in not liking it, because we all have that particular story or that particular relative who speaks to us, who fuels our genealogical curiosity, and even though Martin's uncles didn't do it for me, they did it for him, and that's what matters.

In the Marisa Tomei episode, I liked that she was able to alleviate some of the stigma her mother had attached to their murdered predecessor, that he hadn't been a philanderer, that he didn't deliberately break up the family. Because that kind of legacy can weigh on a person. And I thought it was just wonderful that a relative and friend of Marisa's great-grandmother was found and wrote her a letter who was able to give her a firsthand account of what her great-grandmother was like in life, and how broken up she was by her husband's death, but how happy she became with her second husband. And it's true - if the great-grandfather hadn't died, his wife wouldn't have remarried to a fisherman, and her son maybe wouldn't have taken up the trade and emigrated to America. It's all the little things that come together to bring us to where we are today.

I thought Blair's story was interesting - I wasn't really into the whole cousin reunion thing but for African-Americans, I think it's definitely great to be able to find a country or tribe in Africa that you're probably descended from, since so many of them really hit an unbreakable brick wall before the Civil War. But a 10th-cousin is almost no relation at all - I don't know this offhand, but Cousin April and I are related somewhere way back when that's so far back that it almost doesn't even matter. We feel related because we have that common ancestor we're both chasing, but I'm probably just as closely related if not more closely related to half the people in my town, half of whom I've probably never even met.

But I did like, as I said before, all the story he was able to find on Sonny Early, and how he was actually able to get both sides of the story when it came to why Sonny was shot. But not everybody has that colorful character in their family tree, and someone like that is always a good hook to get people interested. But my absolute favorite part about the Blair Underwood episode was his discovery that he had free black ancestors living in this country as far back as 1790 - what an incredible find. There are so many African-Americans who are more American than so many white Americans, if their family came here as slaves in the 1600, 1700s, except they can't prove their ancestry back that far. But for a black American to be able to look at an 1840 census and see his relative's name, or original records from even earlier in the 19th century proving that his relatives were free more than half a century before slavery was officially abolished in the U.S. - well, I'm not black, but for many who are, they know deep down that someone, somewhere down the line, was enslaved, and that has to be a terrible realization, especially when these people start to become three-dimensional, real, and well, alive to you. So to be able to say your family was free - I would be proud. Relieved and proud.

Anyway, I enjoyed them both. I think I really enjoyed Blair Underwood's episode because Blair turned out to be so nice when I went to see him at the Paley Center. And if we're keeping count, I'm three for three with the tearing up this season. Closest to crying while watching Blair's episode. And that was in public, surrounded by 100 people in a tiny theater. Embarrassing...what can I say...when I see people blown away and emotionally affected by the genealogical discoveries they make, I'm a total sap.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?" panel at the Paley Center for Media

I love anything that combines the things that I love, which is part of the appeal of "Who Do You Think You Are?" for me, since I am both a media buff and a genealogy geek, so when I saw on Facebook and on that the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) in New York was having a WDYTYA panel discussion last night, I immediately bought a ticket ($20 for nonmembers, but $15 with the Ancestry promo code) - I mean, what is the point of living so close to the city if you don't jump at these opportunities, right?

The event started at 6:30 but I got there 45 minutes early, which netted me a seat right in the center of the second row. The auditorium was not huge by any means but I was literally 15 feet from where the panel members would be sitting. The audience was an interesting mix - many were genealogy enthusiasts who were either hobbyists for themselves or professionals for others; the guy sitting behind me had his own company that helped people scan all their photos, digitize all their home movies, and record interviews with family members. A lot of people were simply fans of the show and a handful, you could tell, were celebrity stalkers. I don't blame them for going to the event even if they don't watch the show - I would've shown up just to see Blair Underwood, too!

So, the panel consisted of moderator Maira Liriano, archivist for The New York Public Library, who did some work for the show; Alex Graham, the creator of the original British series; Josh Hanna from; Lisa Kudrow, executive producer of the American series and featured during the season; Kim Cattrall, who was featured in the first season; and Blair Underwood, whose episode airs this Friday. Kim, who is a trustee for the Paley Center, gave some opening remarks, then Lisa introduced the Blair Underwood episode, which we got to watch and which, as per usual, made me tear up. I'll remark on that episode after it airs, as I still haven't talked about the Marisa Tomei episode, but we'll get to that in another post.

WDYTYA panel: Josh Hanna, Kim Cattrall, Blair Underwood, Lisa Kudrow, and Alex Graham
Then there was the panel discussion. It was actually quite interesting - Alex Graham talked about how he came up with the concept for the show and how hard it was to not only convince the network that it was worth putting on the air but also convincing celebrities initially to participate, although now the show is so popular, at least in England, that people approach him saying they want to be on the show. He was very entertaining, and his Scottish brogue was awesome. Lisa talked a little about the importance of knowing your family history and passing that on, as well as helping to bring genealogy to the mainstream. Lisa, Kim, and Blair all talked about their particular episodes and how some of what they discovered was painful but how they were all glad they did it. Blair and Lisa also talked a little about the process of the show, which I found very interesting - there's an initial meeting where the celebrity is asked if there's something in particular they're interested in finding out or if there's a family mystery they want to solve, and then the researchers do some digging to see if there's a story to be told. I had wondered what happens if there's not an interesting story to tell and Alex Graham noted that sometimes, they do have a celebrity interested in being on the show but there's just no story to tell in their family history.
Kim Cattrall, Blair Underwood, and Lisa Kudrow

So anyway, the researchers get cracking and they know where the story and episode is headed but the celebrity is kept in the dark so that the viewer really is seeing them make those family discoveries as they are making them. I also liked that Lisa, in response to an audience question, remarked that its an imperfect process, due to money and time constraints. They only have so many researchers on the show and only so much time to film and to air, so they can't trace every line and they can't always be as thorough and sometimes some lines that may be interesting have to be dropped in order to focus on another line. Which of course makes sense - we as genealogists know we spend YEARS researching our family trees and they're still not complete.

Kim and Blair
One thing I will say about the Blair Underwood episode right now, just because Lisa was giving so much acknowledgement to the people who do the actual research on the show, is that while other episodes have glossed over the work and time that goes into finding genealogical information and how its other people, and not the celebrities, who are doing a lot of the grunt work and leg work, this one kept mentioning it, which I liked.

WDYTYA panel discussion at the Paley Center for Media in New York.
And just as a side note, all three celebrities - Lisa, Kim, and Blair - seemed so nice and so down-to-earth, in their interactions with the moderator, with each other, and with the audience, and that was just so cool to see.

Blair Underwood and Lisa Kudrow talk about "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Also, Blair Underwood is as yummy in person as he is on television. I could just eat him up with a spoon.

Just sayin'. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nancy Drew and the case of the possible re-marriage

I have many women in my family tree who, unfortunately, were widowed quite young. The one who has been most well-known to me is my great-great grandmother, Mary Ellen Horgan Gorry, whose husband James died when she was only about 24 years old, leaving her with my 1-year-old great-grandfather, Elmer Anthony Gorry, Sr. Now, she never remarried, and so because of that, somewhere in my head, I never assume to look for a second husband when I'm dealing with other widowed women in my family. That blind spot has made it very difficult at times to find some of these ladies in census records or to find death certificates or obituaries.

The first woman I had that breakthrough with was my 4th great-grandmother, Catherine Naeher, whose first husband (my 4th great-grandfather), John Meinberg, died somewhere in the mid- to late 1870s (I would LOVE to finally solve that mystery, but I can't find a death record for him anywhere!) when she was only in her 30s. I knew very little about Catherine until I inadvertently stumbled across her obituary at while looking for info on her daughter, Eva Meinberg Haase. That's how I discovered that after John's death, Catherine had remarried to Georg Hellmann and that Eva had several Meinberg siblings as well as a half-sister, Catherine Hellmann. Catherine's marriage certificate for her second marriage as well as her death certificate, which I could now find because I had a name and a date, gave me both of her parents names and opened up what had previously been a tightly locked door, revealing a wealth of information about her (and my) family roots in the towns of Hambach and Heppenheim in the Hesse region of Germany.

Now, this current mystery I kind of, again, stumbled onto, involves my great-great grandmother, Meta Johanna Ricklefs Haase. I actually know quite a lot about her life - she's the one who grew up in East New York, Brooklyn, whose two brothers, Charles and John, spent the better part of their lives in prison. She was married to Xavier Gustav Haase, better known as Gus, who died in Bellerose, New York, in 1928 at the age of 41. I don't have his death certificate yet, so I'm not sure why he died so young, but I have Meta in the 1930 census living with two of her three children, and I've just been waiting for the 1940 census to come out to see where she is 10 years later.

So, I was randomly plugging names in to the search engine at Fulton History because they recently added new newspaper pages and I came across a list of people who had recently applied for a marriage license from Jan. 10, 1931 and one of the couples was a George E. Roe, 42, of 14 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn, and Meta J. Haas, 40, of 40-44 Seventy-third Street in Jackson Heights in Queens County. My Meta would have been a "Meta J. Haas" in 1931, and while I have her as being born around August 1889, I don't have a birth certificate for her, so it's possible she was 40 in 1931 (it's also possible the listing got her age wrong). Could this be my Meta?

Here's the other reason this listing pinged my genealogy-radar. In the past, I've come across and dismissed an article from Dec. 30, 1931 in which deputy tax commissioner George Roe and his wife, Elizabeth, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. The Roes had four children, including a son, George R. Roe, and at their small anniversary party for "relatives and close friends," in addition to the immediate family present are Mr. and Mrs. Fred Stutzman (my great-grandparents, Fred Stutzman and Helen Haase, who is Meta's daughter), Edwin and Millicent Haase, who are Meta's two other children, and Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon Butt, who are Meta's sister and brother-in-law. I didn't know any Roes, I didn't have any on my tree, and so I always skipped over this story, but if only relatives and close friends were invited to this party, are my relatives there because the Roes' son, George, is the second husband of my great-great grandmother, Meta? I'm ignoring the difference in George's middle initial - newspapers always get those wrong. But these two articles together are making my gut believe that Meta did in fact remarry after her first husband Gus died. What I need to do is find George Roe and Meta Haas's marriage certificate, which would possibly say whether this was the first or second marriage for Meta and probably list her parents, which, since I know her parents are John Ricklefs and Meta Tiedemann, would help me either verify this possible second marriage or rule it out.

If this is in fact my Meta, will it open up any locked doors for me? Not really. But it will help me find her in the 1940 census, and it would give me a better picture of what the later part of her life was like. My curiosity is piqued!

EDITED TO ADD: is allowing free access to the 1930 U.S. census through Feb. 20. I just checked where Meta was living that year - 3737 88th Street in Queens County...which is smack dab in the middle of Jackson Heights, the area where the Meta J. Haas of said marriage license listing was living less than a year gut is telling me this is my gal, and when it comes to genealogy, my gut is never wrong! So exciting!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fifty days until the 1940 U.S. census is released to the public...

...and this is why I'm looking forward to it:

  • the new information asked of household members, including occupation, where they were living in 1935, and maybe most importantly, who provided the info to the census-taker (which will give you an idea of how reliable that info is)...
  • kinda excited to see my paternal grandmother in her first census
  • I have several ancestors, including my great-great grandmother, Meta Ricklefs Haase, and her mother, Meta Tiedemann Ricklefs, who I have no idea when they died, and this census will narrow the window either way, depending on whether they are in it or not.
  • My two uncles (of the multiple greats-degree) Charles Ricklefs and John Ricklefs were in and out of prison and over the course of the first half of the 20th century and I'm curious to see where they both were in 1940.
  • This will be the last census several of my ancestors are listed in - including my great-grandfather Timothy Cronin (died 1948), and great-great grandparents Rudolph Stutzmann (1946), Augusta Lindemann Stutzmann (1945), J.J. Raynor (1944), and Theodore Berg (1944).
While the census will be released April 1, be aware that it won't immediately be indexed, so unless you know where your ancestors were living in that year, you may have to go page by page looking for your family until an index comes out. Note - you can volunteer to index! Look at FamilySearch's website for details!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The wonders of using modern technology to look at old records

Leave it to the boyfriend to suggest, when I complain to him, "I can't read this record!!," referring to the old German kirchenbuch entries I've been using to research my Stutzmann line, that perhaps it would help to use Photoshop to lighten and sharpen. It's amazing how much more clearly the written words show up when they're darker and the background is whiter.

In any case, looking at several of these records, I've determined that Rudolph Schlick's occupation was "ackersmann," which in German means "husbandman," which translated from English to actual English means a kind of farmer. So that's cool. I find my ancestors' occupations extremely interesting. I love that I'm descended from so many bar owners, ha ha...and a shoemaker. And a hatmaker. But I think that gives you a little insight into the person, into the time, and into the place. Which is part of what genealogy is all about. I will now be using this so-obvious-I-needed-someone-else-to-point-it-out-to-me technique to look at my other German records and to see what else I can discover about my Stutzmanns - watch out, German ancestry! I'm comin' for ya!! :)

Who Do You Think You Are?: Martin Sheen

I just realized I never wrote about this episode. And tomorrow is already the next one - oh well, only a week late!

Those of you who have followed these WDYTYA posts in the past know that my goal is to eventually get through one of these episodes without crying. So far the tally is: crying, every episode; not crying, zip. On that note, I didn't really connect with Martin Sheen's third season premiere episode as much as I thought I would, but I did cry at the previews for the whole season, so that's going to count.

I'm not sure exactly what left me so bleh about much of this episode - I was watching it with the boyfriend, who has never seen the show before, so I had someone to explain a lot of things to and he was able to give me a little bit of a novice's opinion about what he was seeing. As I explained to him, each celebrity usually has a goal they want to achieve or a question they want to answer, and they usually find one person *they* really connect with and want to find out more about. I think maybe it's the fact that most of the episode was spent on Sheen looking into two of his uncles, and nothing further back, that I found kind of boring. He really could've done all that stuff on his own, without the help of or the show. But in his defense, he really did identify with and admire these two men, and he found in them traits and characteristics that had been passed along to him, and no one should miss out on that. That's part of the fun of genealogy.

The part I did enjoy was when they were talking about his fourth (I think) great-grandfather, the don. First, looking at the Spanish records, I explained to the boyfriend how when I was researching my best friend's Dominican family history, their birth records are very telling - a child will be described as "legitimate" or as "natural," and one means the parents were married, and one means they were not. And I told this all to him before the guy on the show explained it to Martin Sheen, so that made me feel a little cool.

The don, meanwhile, turned out to be a person Sheen didn't particularly care for, a ruthless judge who had an entire illegitimate family, but I think part of genealogy is realizing we're not going to always like the people we're descended from.

But then the cool part, of course, was when it turns out that a girl who the judge had pursued for getting pregnant out of wedlock and seeking an abortion, was another something-great grandparent of Sheens, that generations down the line, her descendant and the don's descendant were married. The boyfriend noted that the reveal of that sent chills down his spine and I agree that it's a pretty interesting story. It's also further proof that it's SOOOO important to know more than just names and dates, that we should try to get at least some rounder picture of these people's lives - in the case of Sheen, if he hadn't known the backstory of these two people, the fact that he was descended from both of them wouldn't have meant anything at all.

Anyway, tomorrow night is Marisa Tomei. The promo made the episode sound beyond melodramatic - murder or cover up? - but I think it sounds interesting, and though I won't get to watch it until the weekend, I'm excited about it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Working our way backward: Ottilia Elisabetha D'Huy

This is the title page of the kirchenbuch I've been using to research my Stutzmann ancestors of Grossbockenheim. I thought it looked kinda cool:

Kleinbockenheim and Grossbockenheim kirchenbuch, 1751 
Okay, so we've determined that immigrant ancestor, great great Grandpa Friedrich Stutzmann, was born in 1845 to (Johann) Peter Stutzmann and (Luise) Charlotte Schlick in Grossbockenheim in the Rheinfpalz region of Germany. Peter's parents were (Johann) Michael Stutzmann and Jacobina Blasius. We think we can find Michael's parents by exploring the records from nearby Asselheim and we still have to track down the records on Jacobina's parents. On the other side, we know Charlotte's parents are (Johann) Rudolph Schlick of Kleinbockenheim and Ottilia Elisabetha D'Huy, my fourth great grandparents. We know very little at this point about Rudolph's parentage but right now let's talk about Ottilia, also known as Ottilie.

The records, as you can see, are very difficult to read. This is Ottilia's baptismal record. The year is definitely 1779, and it looks like the date is March 31. She is born Ottilia Elisabetha D'Huy to Johannes D'huy of Grossbockenheim and his wife Maria Catharina. I can't tell a maiden name for her. There are a whole bunch of other names listed which I assume are her godparents, since it seems it's tradition for German children to have more than 2 godparents.

We don't have a marriage record for Ottilia and Rudolph at all, but later on, on Dec. 17, 1863, we have a death record for Ottilia, which, again, is very hard to read. Damn you, Germans, with your meticulous records but atrocious handwriting!

But this is basically what I can tell from this record - Ottilia died in Kleinbockenheim on Dec. 14, 1863 at the age of 84 (putting her birth year at about 1779, which again jives with what I know) and she was buried 3 days later. Again, we find the name Johann Rudolph Schlick of Kleinbockenheim, who was her husband, as well as Johannes Dhuy and Maria Katherina, her parents. There is a date in there I'd like to take a closer look at as well as some other words. I don't know if I'll be able to determine what letters are there, though sometimes trial and error helps...that's what I'll be working on today!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A call for help: Rudolph Schlick and Ottilia Dhuy in the Amts- und Intelligenzblatt des K├Âniglich Bayerischen Rheinkreises

So recently I was Googling some family names and places, just to see what turns up, because you never know what information is available out there on the Internet. When I looked up the names "Schlick" and "Kleinbockenheim," I came across this page in the 1834 version of the book "Amts- und Intelligenzblatt des K├Âniglich Bayerischen Rheinkreises," or "Official Journal of the Royal Bavarian intelligence and the Rhine district." It is, of course, in German, but I was able to read that my 4th great-grandparents, Rudolph Schlick and Ottilia Dhuy, are mentioned in this book (in that first big paragraph in the righthand column). As far as I can tell from the horrible translation provided by Google Translate, this has something to do with a foreclosure or property sale - I would be very curious if anybody with a better understanding of German could help me get a clearer picture of the context in which they are mentioned. But I'm also, in a sense, more curious about what these books were for - they seem to have come out every year for a few years there and I didn't really come across anything on the Internet that was able to explain to me what they were, so if anyone is more familiar with these books than I am and could tell me what they are for, I would greatly appreciate it!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday: Tim Gorry makes a defensive touchdown

My dad loves football. He played football in high school for Chaminade High School in Mineola and in college for St. John's University. He's an avid Jets fan and passed that love of his team down to my brother, Denis. I'm more of a Giants fan, but I think I've started to inherit that love of the sport and I know that when we're watching a team together, I can always depend on my dad to explain things to me and answer all my questions. This is a newspaper article from 1970, I think, my dad's senior year of high school, in which he made a defensive touchdown. Go, Dad! And go Giants! :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Plainview Family History Center: Fun discoveries with Charlotte Schlick

Charlotte Schlick was always a murky, shadowy name on my family tree, and that was it. I knew a lot about the Stutzmanns, but all I knew about Charlotte was that she died in Germany before her husband, Peter Stutzmann, joined his children in New York.

Charlotte was one of my German holdouts for a long time, but now, as it turns out, the Stutzmanns have clammed up and it's Charlotte's line that I'm able to trace further back. Thanks to her marriage record, I know that her parents were Rudolph Schlick and Ottilie Elisabetha Dhuy of Kleinbockenheim, Germany. I didn't order the microfilm that has her death record on it, but its possible I could find it - according to Schlegel's, she died about 1885. FamilySearch gave me the info on her parents and I verified it upon my Plainview Family History Center trip by checking the kirchenbuch for Grossbockenheim and Kleinbockenheim. But I'm very proud of myself, because I managed to find a piece of Charlotte all on my own.

According to Schlegel's, Peter Stutzmann and his son, Friedrich, both were confirmed in the Lutheran church at the age of 14. So I thought to myself, maybe there's a record for the females, too. I'm still working on finding a baptismal record for Peter and I couldn't find a confirmation record, but according to Charlotte's marriage record, she was born in 1819, so as I was scrolling through the kirchenbuch microfilm and I ran across confirmation records amongst the baptismal, marriage, and burial records I was actually focusing on, I thought, why not? Charlotte would have been 14 in 1833, so I scanned to that year. Boy, was that section of the microfilm a nightmare. Anyone NOT knowing what they were looking for would have an actual hell of a time trying to find the records they needed. But I knew Charlotte and I knew her parents, Rudolph and Ottilie, so while it was still a nightmare to read and I still haven't examined them that closely, their names almost literally jumped out at me.

I told you. Once they feel comfortable with you, they want to let you in.

So, here we have it, the one discovery I made on my own so far on my Family History Center excursions, Charlotte Schlick's confirmation record:

FHL #193802 - confirmations in Grossbockenheim, 1833

Charlotte is #5 - what I can read is Charlotte Schlick,, daughter of Rudolph Schlick and Ottilia, born DeHuy.

Every record you find that backs up the info you have is a good thing...(it's also okay if records don't match up, that's how we weed out the bad info) ... but it's so much cooler when they do! Rudolph and Ottilie/Ottilia, here I come!

Learning German - the fun of researching records written in another language

At some point or other, if we're lucky, we end up depending on records in a language other than our own when we do our family history research. Even records from English-speaking countries can end up being in Latin. I mentioned in another post how I was helping my friend, who is Dominican, with some of her family history, so the records I was looking at were in Spanish. But I speak and read Spanish. I took it in school for five years, and I've spent more than 20 years surrounded by her Spanish-speaking family and friends.

German, however, is a whole other story. That's what I'm dealing with now, with my Stutzmann family line. In some ways, German is easier, because many of the words are extremely similar to their English counterpart. But looking at 19th- and 18th- century records, which is what I'm doing, and you have to factor in the completely different letters as well as the completely different way they wrote letters that we're familiar with, so that looking at these records can be like translating an alien language.

Nancy over at My Ancestors and Me has a great post with really helpful suggestions for resources on translating old German handwriting here and here. I've printed out some of the pages as cheat sheets because while I can recognize many of the proper nouns as names and places, I realize there's probably a lot of useful and important information I'm glossing over because I can't understand it. And looking at at least one of the records, I see a possible profession for Rudolph Schlick that I'd like to know.

So, it's always good to ask for help. And if you know something others don't, it's always good to help! And for anyone needing German handwriting resources, if you want to save time, definitely check out My Ancestors and Me.

Plainview Family History Center: Nancy Drew and the case of Michael Stutzmann's parents

So, for many years, I was under the mistaken impression that my 4th great grandfather's name was Christoph Stutzmann. That was based on info I got from the German genealogy anthology Schlegel's. But Peter Stutzmann and Charlotte Schlick's marriage record states that Peter's father's name was in fact (Johann) Michael Stutzmann.

Now, Peter was born around 1812, supposedly in Grossbockenheim. I have yet to verify that. That's still on the to-do list. But his parents, according to his marriage certificate were Michael, as I said, and Jacobine Blasius. Okay, so I found a death record for a Michael Stutzmann that says he was buried in Grossbockenheim on March 7, 1844, that he was married to a Jacobine Blasius, and that he was 72 years old.

FHL #193970

A search of the FamilySearch website finds two Michael Stutzmanns born late in 1771 - Johann Michael born Aug. 1, 1771 to Johann Phillip Stutzmann and Maria Elisabetha Schrank in Asselheim in the Rheinpfalz and Johann Michael born Aug. 14, 1771 to Johann Michael Stutzmann and Anna Barbara Wessa in Dannstadt in the Rheinpfalz. Fun, right?

So, these were all my clues. This is what I have to work with until I can find a marriage record for Michael and Jacobine that definitively states "Michael, son of so-and-so." In lieu of that, I have to make an educated guess or find some other clues. First, I determine, which town is closer to Grossbockenheim - Asselheim or Dannstadt? Because people tended to not stray too far from home. Asselheim is less than 4 kilometers away, while Dannstadt is more than 32. So Johann Phillip and Maria Elisabetha take the lead as Michael's possible parents.

Next, my trip to the Plainview Family History Center yielded several helpful clues. In the notes next to Michael's death record, almost as an afterthought, is written "geb. 1 Aug 1771." Born Aug. 1, 1771. Definitive? Possibly. But since both of my possible Michael's were born in August 1771 with a "1" in the date, I can't be absolutely certain that whoever recorded this didn't leave out the "4" in "14."

So I keep looking. A lot of the writing is, unfortunately, gibberish to me but I'm starting to get familiar with the way German letters looked back then and any words that have been capitalized naturally jump out and it looks to me like I'm seeing the word "Asselheim," that the record is saying Michael is originally from Asselheim. Definitive? No. But my gut is telling me that Michael Stutzmann of Asselheim is my guy and I feel like I have enough to make an educated guess. So on my to-do list is to find a marriage record for Michael and Jacobine, which may require me ordering the microfilm that has the records for the Asselheim kirchenbuch, which may list his parents, and if I'm right, I should be able to use that same record to keep tracing the Stutzmanns back.

FHL #193802

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lisa Kudrow uncovers a long line of Sheen family rebels

In case you forgot that tomorrow night is the third season premiere of "Who Do You Think You Are?," found this article on Tomorrow night's episode will cover actor Martin Sheen. Should be interesting!

Lisa Kudrow uncovers a long line of Sheen family rebels

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Great grandpa Fred Stutzmann gets a speeding ticket

Speaking of the Stutzmanns, this is from the Oct. 13, 1927 issue of The Daily Star:

Fred Stutzmann, 24, speeding ticket reported in The Daily Star Oct. 13, 1927, from

Plainview FHC: Peter Stutzmann and Charlotte Schlick

Okay, so Friedrich Stutzmann, my 3rd great grandfather, was born in Grossbockenheim, in the Rheinland-Pfalz region of Germany about 1845 to (Johann) Peter Stutzmann and (Luise) Charlotte Schlick. Germans are fun, genealogically, and I'm being sarcastic here so it's not going to come across all that well, mostly because they like to give their children first names that they don't use or go by. So technically, Peter Stutzmann is Johann Peter. He also has brothers who are Johann Something-or-other. Everyone is a Johann or a Maria. I think I read somewhere that the seeming first name, the one all the children have that's the same, is actually a baptismal name, and it's the middle name that's the actual given name. But God forbid anything be easy for us in our search, right? ;)

Okay, so Peter and Charlotte of Grossbockenheim in the Rheinpfalz region of Bavaria were married May 2, 1841 in the Protestant church in what appears to be Kleinbockenheim, the next town over - Gross means big and Klein means little, so these towns were basically Big Bockenheim and Little Bockenheim and today, they exist as one place, Bockenheim.

Peter Stutzmann and Charlotte Schlick's marriage record FHL #193970

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If you're having trouble reading that, like I was, here's the record again, this time from the kirchenbuch:
FHL #193802

So according to this, Peter's father is Michael Stutzmann of Grossbockenheim and his mother is Jacobine Blasius (even though it looks like a C and a p, those letters are a B and a s). Charlotte's (see, here you can clearly see her last name is Schlick) father is Rudolph Schlick of Kleinbockenheim and her mother is Ottilia Elisabetha D'Huy.

D'Huy - not such a German name, huh? The Rheinpfalz is not that far from'll be interesting to see if I can find out where this name came from...

Plainview Family History Center:Friedrich Stutzmann

I would like to begin this post by thanking everyone who takes time out of their lives to help the rest of us historians out by transcribing and indexing these records. Without the index provided by FamilySearch, my Stutzmann research would literally have been like looking for a needle in a haystack, between the atrocious handwriting and 19th-century German alphabet. Most of it would have still been possible for me to find, but it would have taken me probably weeks on end as well as the better part of my eyesight, and though I will probably still have to do the line-by-line approach to find some other names I'm looking for, I am so grateful to all those genealogists out there who realize we really are a community - a family even! - and share their time and information!

My grandmother, my father's mother, was Helen Meta Stutzmann Gorry, born 1932. Her father, Frederick Casper Stutzmann, was born in New York in 1903. His father, Rudolph Stutzmann, was born in New York in 1875. His father, Friedrich, was, according to Schlegel's German family genealogies, born in Grossbockenheim, Germany on Dec. 12, 1844. Here is what I found on the microfilm I ordered from the Family History Library:

Friedrich Stutzmann's baptismal record is second from the top, FHL #193970.

Close up of Friedrich's baptismal record.

Friedrich's father is Peter Stutzmann and his mother is Luise Charlotte Schlick.

Can I just say that after viewing all these records, I love German meticulousness but I haaatteee trying to read the actual words. Even the few words I understand in German, like parents (eltern) and born (geboren) I can't read because the letters are so different. And don't get me started on the handwriting! The only reason I can tell that Friedrich's mother's last name is Schlick is because other records tell me it is.

Luckily, this same record can be found in the Grossbockenheim Protestant kirchenbuch, in standardized form, showing Friedrich was baptized Dec. 21, 1845:

Friedrich Stutzmann's baptismal record, FHL #193802.