Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not exactly genealogy, but happy 115th birthday Amelia Earhart!

File:Amelia earhart.jpeg

I didn't know anything about my family history when I was a kid, but I was always interested in history in general, and I used to read a lot. ::cough::nerd::cough::. That's right. I'm a history nerd. Anyway, as a young, impressionable girl, I used to devour books and through that I developed several strong, female heroes who I just thought were the coolest - Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Annie Oakley, and Amelia Earhart. These were real life women who lived on the harsh frontier and challenged what was expected of them in particular and women in general. I wanted to be just like them.

Today is Amelia Earhart's birthday, and she's been in the news a lot lately because the anniversary of her disappearance (July 2) just passed and there was a research excursion to try to find the wreck or remains of her plane. I think Earhart fascinated me in particular because of her mysterious disappearance...it always made me kind of sad.

As I got older, I learned about my own family history and developed an appreciation for the heroines in my own tree - women who may not have become as famous as my other heroes or who may not have bucked as many trends, but who kept their families together in dire circumstances and did what they could to make a better life for their children and their children's children...people like me.

But I still remember my childhood heroes like Amelia Earhart, and even looked them all up on Ancestry.com records such as census images, tracing their journeys and remembering the things about them that inspired me.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Budget Travel article: Find Your Roots in Ireland

Very nice article from Budget Travel about tracing Irish ancestry on CNN.com today - read it here. On a personal note, the author consults with Paul Gorry, a leading genealogist in Ireland who not only has the same last name as me but uses the same spelling. Makes looking up Gorry Irish ancestry very difficult in Google, as every result has to do with him. Should contact him and see if he can help a girl out!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Third wife's the charm: Friedrich Stutzmann probate proceedings

I've been knee-deep in Raynor genealogy, using the Queens County probate records that are now online at FamilySearch.org, but today I decided to switch it up and take a look at my father's side of the family. I found a bunch of names in the index for Queens, Kings AND New York counties, though the actual records are not yet online (I know, I'm getting greedy) but I did find the index AND probate proceedings for my third great grandfather, Friedrich Stutzmann, who died Jan. 14, 1906 in Ridgewood Heights, Queens County. Now, my third great grandmother, Mathilde Rau, was Friedrich's first wife, and died very young in 1880 from yellow fever. With small children to raise, Friedrich married again, this time to Rosalie Goess/Goesz, who also died fairly young sometime in the 1890s. Looking at his probate proceedings today, I see that, who is requesting letters of administration for his estate, is his WIDOW Augusta. So great great great granddaddy Fred had a third wife that apparently nobody recorded, not even Schlegel's. I went to the Italian Genealogy Group's website, italiangen.org, as I usually do when I'm looking for New York City vital records, and there it is - on May 8, 1901, a Fred Stutzmann married an Auguste Sander.

Looking back, I realize I saw Friedrich with a wife Augusta in the 1905 New York State census, but for some reason, I assumed it was a mistake - that Friedrich's daughter-in-law, also Augusta, had mistakenly been listed as his wife. Because that sometimes happens. So today was twofold productive - the discovery of a third wife I never knew about (even if you're not related to them, second/third/beyond spouses can help you find family in future census records/directories/newspaper articles etc) AND I relearned the valuable lesson to NEVER assume in your research - if you see something that looks like a mistake, check it out. Maybe it is, or maybe it's brand new information.

Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Local & family history: Demolition of Kings Park psych center buildings set

Newsday reported today that demolition of the old Kings Park Psychiatric Center will probably begin later this month. Though it closed officially in 1996, at the turn of the 20th century, this psych center on the North Shore of Long Island was home to many psych patients from Brooklyn (Kings County, hence the name Kings Park for the area - before that, it was known as St. Johnland. You can read details and history on the place here. It's all very fascinating, how people and families used to have to care for senior family members or members with senility or with actual psychiatric problems. Many of them couldn't, hence these psychiatric centers. And at the turn of the century, even they didn't know exactly how to deal with these people.

But the demolition of Kings Park hits particularly close to home for me because my great-great grandmother, Nora Donohue Cronin, lived there for at least 20 years. She emigrated from Ireland to New York shortly before the turn of the 20th century to be with her children - she had nine children here but something was wrong enough with her that none of them could care for her, or wanted to care for her. And she was about in her 70s when she died, which means she was institutionalized by the time she was in her 50s. I asked my grandmother, Mary Cronin Raynor, once what she remembered of her grandmother or what she knew about her time at Kings Park, but she didn't know anything - she was young when Nora died and back then, mental problems just weren't discussed I guess. Psychiatric records are also almost impossible to get ahold of, so it looks like this is a family mystery that will forever remain a mystery, why Nora lived at Kings Park for so many years. I've driven past the center several times, never been, and I know that there's no reason NOT to demolish the facility, but as it's a part of not just local history but my own family history, it still makes me sad.

You can find the Newsday article here.

Building 123 sits abadoned, with its roof collapsing,File:KingsParkPC-Building 93.jpg

Friday, July 6, 2012

Where there's a will, there's a way: FamilySearch to the rescue again, New York Probate Records, 1629-1971

Cousin April and I have been on the hunt, seriously now, for months to find out or prove the parents of Jacob Raynor, our common ancestor. We looked at earmark records in the state archives in Albany, we looked at inventories of estate in the archives at Hofstra University, and our next step was to visit the Queens County Surrogate Court to look at wills. Well, the wills have found us. FamilySearch.org is constantly updating the records available online at their website and so I check back regularly. Yesterday I realized that they have probate records for many (not all) of the counties in New York State, including, that's right, Queens County. Hallelujah! The genealogy gods are finally taking pity on my broke, weary soul! The only problem is, if you like easy solutions, that these sections aren't indexed - they're organized, to an extent, thank god, but not indexed. But you wouldn't be into genealogy if you liked easy solutions, would you? It took me most of the day yesterday to find some of the things I was looking for, but find them I did, after checking the index for names, and then matching those names to either letters of administration for people who didn't have wills, or to actual wills. It looks like, at least in Queens County, the wills are transcriptions of wills, not the actual wills, but it's the whole deal, not just an abstract. Whitehead Raynor, god bless his racist soul, was quite descriptive about family relationships in his will, and Samuel Seaman, another great-plus-grandfather of mine, I was actually able to prove for the first time was my great-plus-grandfather thanks to his descriptiveness of relationships. I have only glanced at Jacob slightly - I'm not sure I have the will or stamina to jump into that without Cousin April's support. But if you have New York family history and more than a few hours on hand, I highly recommend looking at this set of records. I checked out Kings County and Westchester County as well to look at family there and the categories and breakdown of records are similar to Queens, though not exact. It, like everything else we do in this field, is a puzzle that you have to put together, but the pieces are there! I can't wait to get back to it...good luck in your searches!

Happy weekend, y'all! :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day, America!

Today is the United States' birthday - 236 years old, which, when you really think about it, is a very young birthday for a country. On July 4, the course of this nation's history changed, and most of my family was not happy with that course. But my family has been here so long - almost 150 years by July 4, 1776 - that I consider myself almost thoroughly American. Even when I research my German or Irish or Danish family, it's almost ancient history. I am American. My family history is American, is the history of this country. My family saw it all. And so today I'm inspired again to find out more about what life was like for my family when they lived in this colony, when they lived in this fledgling country, and as they watched the United States change and grow. Happy Independence Day, everyone - have a fun and safe holiday and hopefully you'll be celebrating with family, be it the family you were born into or the family of friends you chose, because FAMILY is what it's all about!