Skip to main content

Fri May 22, 2015 at 07:43 AM PDT

GFHC: German Genealogy #2

by Zwenkau

This diary continues where our Community’s suspended Friday “Open Thread” series leaves off…. What are you doing, genealogically speaking, this Memorial Day weekend?  Some “tips” on Germanic genealogical research follow below.


Genealogically, what will you be doing this weekend?

7%1 votes
7%1 votes
0%0 votes
7%1 votes
0%0 votes
23%3 votes
7%1 votes
7%1 votes
0%0 votes
7%1 votes
23%3 votes
7%1 votes
0%0 votes

| 13 votes | Vote | Results

Continue Reading

Fri May 15, 2015 at 07:57 AM PDT

GFHC: German Genealogy #1

by Zwenkau

Last week we announced that the “Open Thread” series of Fridays would be suspended.  But everyone is still welcome to submit diaries to the Community!!  I will be posting on Fridays, when I post them.  And anyone and everyone is invited to comment on anything — and/or to update us as to how your week is going, or to talk about whatever you’ve been researching lately.

As for me, I’ll be sharing my passion for German genealogy.  My “mission” in retirement is to encourage others to research in this area if they have Germanic ancestors (and many of us do — even some who haven’t discovered that fact as yet!).  More below the squiggly….


I know the place from which my German ancestors came.

40%11 votes
51%14 votes
3%1 votes
0%0 votes
0%0 votes
3%1 votes

| 27 votes | Vote | Results

Continue Reading

Thu May 14, 2015 at 08:43 PM PDT

The Last Hanging in Tombstone

by RepackRider

Reposted from RepackRider by edwardssl

While going through some old family papers I came upon this document.

Charging document for Thomas and William Halderman, signed by Wm. Momonier April 7, 1899.
It is a court document charging two men, the brothers William and Thomas Halderman, with murder.  I did a quick search, and found that these two men were the last hanged in Tombstone and the last buried in "Boot Hill."

The document, dated April 7, 1899 specifies the charges.  "...[O]n or about the 6th day of April, 1899 in the County of Cochise, Territory of Arizona, William Halderman and Thomas Halderman willfully and with malice aforethought made an assault on Mr. C.L. Ainsworth with a deadly weapon and did then and there willfully and of this malice aforethought did mortally wound him the said C.L Ainsworth of which said mortal wound he afterwards did die."

Hitch up your skirts and step over the cow pie for more.

Continue Reading

Have you discovered a colorful character or two somewhere in your family tree? Anyone who hunted and killed 101 Black Bears? None of my plain old boring ancestors did that, either. But I ran across a story about someone who did and it also turns out that he's a distant cousin.

My interest in genealogy and family history has evolved over the years. I started out just wanting to fill in some blanks in my paternal family tree. Now I'm almost obsessed with researching and developing stories that I think are worth sharing with family and friends. The story might be inspired by someone's family story that's been passed down through generations. Maybe it's a story that somehow connects to family or place.

An early story I posted on DKos was about Horatio the Elephant who fell through the bridge over the Connecticut River back in 1820 was one of the first that sent me off doing research about the event. My 4th and 5th great-grandparents lived in that little New England town at the time. I have no doubt that they were personally involved in the activities surrounding the event.

I spent a lot of time researching the details. And I still got a few things wrong in that story. Still, my research didn't end. I now know the details about the first five elephants that were brought to North America. I have even collaborated with the Baraboo [WI] Circus Museum researchers. I've found diaries of people who wrote about seeing this "curiosity" back in 1789. It would have been appropriate to publish part of this story when the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus recently decided to phase out the use of elephants altogether.

Good for them.

I am not happy about the fact that the subject of this story trapped and killed 101 Black Bears. I am interested in telling the story of this colorful and interesting man and sharing his wit wisdom with everyone.

But first, here's the community graphic that I have often failed to include in the GFHC Open Thread.  

Genealogy & Family History Community

klompie avatar
edwardssl book

Visit our favorite LINKS, but leave the
blood feuds at home

family treed
I'll tell you the story of 101 Black Bears on the other side of the Cheese Poof...
Continue Reading

One of the fun aspects of genealogy for me has been tracking down places my ancestors lived. On my father's side of the family, I've been to most of the places which are still extant where ancestors lived at the time various records were generated  ~ and I've seen the locations for many where Victorian tenement slums were replaced with post-WWII council housing. {I've been to many locations for my mother's side as well, but there are many more of them ~ and many more for which I just have a town, rather than an exact address....} With the prevalence of census returns in genealogical research, it's easy to focus on where our ancestors lived.

But places other than their residences were also important in the lives of our ancestors....thinking about what places ancestors might have been associated with can help fill out the bigger picture of their lives.

Follow me over the orange doodle for pictures of some of the places other than their residences that mattered to my ancestors....

Continue Reading

Fri Apr 24, 2015 at 07:54 AM PDT

GFHC open thread

by Zwenkau

We’ve been fairly quiet as a DK community lately, so I’m guessing that everyone’s pretty busy. That would explain why fewer of us have been signing up to host a Friday.  No problem!  This should be more about fun and less about obligation, so while I indeed have a topic to discuss I invite all to jump in with whatever genealogical thoughts they have to offer today.  The floor is open, below the squiggly and my topic of the week.


Have you spoken on behalf of your favorite group?

42%3 votes
0%0 votes
28%2 votes
14%1 votes
14%1 votes

| 7 votes | Vote | Results

Continue Reading

On my recent research trip to Scotland and Ireland, I spent lots of time in various archives and libraries. (Yeah, I managed to fit in some other stuff.... a few pictures here....).

I'm pretty familiar with how such places work ~ and one advantage to traveling in the off-season is that I was often one of very few people at whatever library or archive I had targeted for the day. (Side note: massive kudos to the Borders Archive in Hawick and the Highland Archive in Inverness for amazingly helpful service! And I think the archivist at the Edinburgh City Archives was almost as excited at my find as I was....)

My great grandfather, aged 8 months, and his siblings, in the records of the Edinburgh Poor House, found in the city archives:

Yeah.... found a record for my great grandfather.  Documents about his life are scarce, so every bit helps ;-)

Continue Reading

Don't ya love it when online records from which you think you've gleaned every possible tidbit of information get updated - but you don't know what the range of information they updated or added or corrected was?  Does the updated record now include additional counties or cities?  Does the updated record now include a different time span?  Or was this just a general, miscellaneous, hodgepodge assortment of data additions/corrections?  So if you don't know what the nature of the update was, the record that you've exhausted once already has to be scoured all over again,  making it necessary for you to spend hours and hours re-checking names/dates.

Wouldn't it be nice if they would tell you exactly what the update was about so that you can target your subsequent search better?

OK, it was a little gripe.  A little pet peeve.  Got it off my chest.  For now.

Welp, I subjected you to my little whine-fest because we had no volunteers for today's Open Thread, and this was the whiny thought I had as I was wondering what to throw together for a quick and dirty Open Thread Diary.

Continue Reading

Brick walls. Ancestors who appear to have been aliens dropped from outer space.

Anyone researching their family tree runs into people like these :-(

My recent research trip has me thinking that it's worth distinguishing between brick walls (a term in fairly common use in genealogical circles) and dead ends.

Follow me over the sliced orange haggis for more....

Continue Reading
Reposted from Readers and Book Lovers by klompendanser

I grew up believing an untruth, and it was all my grandmother’s fault.

Not my mother’s mother, who’d raised six boys (Julius, Oscar, Charlie, Louie, Dan, and Bob), one girl (Mum), and one extremely spoiled princess (Betty).  Oh no.  That grandmother lived until I was ten, and even as an elderly woman she was the dictionary definition of “formidable.”  She’d been the driving force behind the entire family long before my grandfather had been crippled by arthritis and a taste for bootleg beer, and she was still climbing onto sewing machine tables to change light bulbs, slamming back Peruna when she felt poorly, and bossing the fruit of her loins well into her seventies.  I can’t say I remember her all that well, but remember her I do, particularly after a second cousin told me a few years back that I looked a bit like her.

No, the grandmother who inadvertently lied to me, my parents, and pretty much everyone else was my father’s mother.  She hasn’t appeared in these diaries before because I only saw her once or twice before her death in the early 1960’s.  The only thing I recall about her is that she lived in a smallish house somewhere north of Pittsburgh, that she was partial to chintz and dark wood furniture, and that she had a couple of scatter rugs in her foyer.  I’m not sure I saw a picture of her until I was an adult, and most of what I know about her came from my mother, who hadn’t known her well.

I’m not even certain of her first name; family records refer to her variously as “Harriet,” “Hettie,” “Nettie,” or “Anetta,” which is, to put it mildly, confusing.  I do know that she was in her 30’s when she married my grandfather, and pushing forty when she gave birth to Dad in 1923.  Her age is almost certainly why Dad was an only child, and why she looks more like his grandmother than his mother in family photographs.

Dad and his mother.  Note the "spinning wheel" in the background....
The somewhat stern expression on her face is probably at least partially thanks to being rather older than the average mother of a young child in the 1930's.  She looks even sterner (and older) in pictures taken after Dad was drafted in 1943, not that I blame her; my grandfather had died of pneumonia that winter, and she had no way of knowing if the brand new blue star in her window would be replaced by a gold one before the war was over.

Fortunately for her (and me), Dad came home safe and sound in the fall of 1945. His next few years were busy with college, graduate school, work, and taking pretty young colleagues to dates at gay bars jazz clubs, but he remained close enough to his mother that her wedding present to him and his bride was the neat little house in Edgewood that my grandfather had bought new thirty years earlier.  My parents fixed it up and lived there for the next three or four years, and of course they visited Dad’s mother whenever they could.

It must have been on one of those visits that my grandmother told her daughter-in-law the lie that Mum told me, and that I believed until I was well into my teens.  As I said above, I don’t believe it was a deliberate falsehood, not at all.  By all accounts my grandmother was not given to making things up, and she probably thought she was sharing a precious bit of family lore that the future mother of her grandchild should be able to pass along in her turn.  She wasn’t a genealogy buff like her cousin-in-law Kate Evans Tharp, and absent those skills she was all but certainly just repeating what she’d been told.

The lie was simple, and patriotic, and even plausible.  Mum thought it was true, and Dad thought it was true, and so did I until I actually decided to see for myself whether my grandmother was descended from the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

That’s right.  My grandmother, whose maiden name was “Hancock,” was convinced that she, her son, and her son’s daughter, were the great-great-great-great-issue of John Hancock.

Who had died childless in 1793.


In my grandmother’s defense, she’d probably heard about her family’s non-existent connection to John Hancock during the Colonial Revival of the early 20th century.  This was the era when middle class Americans, enthralled by the magnificent art, architecture, and historical monuments they’d seen in Europe during World War I or on the Grand Tour, were determined to explore their own glorious past.  Books like The Flowering of New England, art like Wallace Nutting’s tinted photographs of quaint cottages, wealthy collectors like Electra Havemeyer Webb finding value in cigar store Indians:  all fueled a new, and somewhat less than critical, interest in the early days of the Republic.  

Furniture modeled after 18th century originals, fashions allegedly inspired by post-Revolutionary styles, linens from the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework, restored hostelries where George Washington (or Paul Revere, or even possibly John Hancock) had allegedly slept – these were only a few of the ways that early 20th century Americans explored the culture and folkways of their country.  It’s no accident that many of the living history villages that dot our landscape, from Colonial Williamsburg to Old Sturbridge Village, were founded soon after the doughboys came marching home.

A great many families, especially of the white Anglo-Saxon persuasion, were so caught up in the Colonial Revival that they seized upon the merest hints that they might have some connection to the hardy patriots of that earlier time.  That my grandfather actually had such a connection thanks to Evan Evans was a fine thing – but wouldn’t it have been even finer if his wife could claim descent from the bold, brave man who’d signed his name in large enough letters that King George would be able to read them without his glasses?

Whether my grandmother actually knew that Hancock had only had two children, neither of whom survived to adulthood, is of course impossible to determine.  My mother never questioned what she’d been told, and neither did I until I happened to read a passage in Esther Forbes’ Paul Revere And The World He Lived In that made it clear that John Hancock was not my forebear.

I wasn’t very happy to learn this.  Not only was I quite proud of being related to the man for whom they’d named an insurance company (and later a big, bland skyscraper that shed so many glass panels it had to be clad in plywood while its owners figured out how to keep the whole thing from being blown into Copley Square), I’d even modeled my own John Hancock after his.  Finding out that Mum (and my grandmother) had been wrong was a cruel blow for a teenager.

Fortunately for me, my revelation came in sufficient time for me to avoid boasting about my illustrious ancestry at college.  Smith in the 70’s may not have been the bastion of old money and older families it had been a generation or so earlier, but when one’s housemates include scions of men and women who were drinking buddies of Myles Standish, claiming descent from a childless man would have been the rough equivalent of Greg Louganis missing the springboard completely and splatting himself on the judging platform next to the diving pool.

Continue Reading

In the early morning hours of August 8, 1880, a young woman was murdered by her former husband near the small, peaceful town of Shutesbury, Massachusetts.

My 5th g-grandparents settled in Shutesbury. My 4th g-grandmother was born there. I even wrote about one interesting character who lived in Shutesbury, Ephraim Pratt, who claimed to live to be 116 years old. He was not exactly accurate about some things.

This was a sensational story. It was initially reported in print on August 9, 1880, in the Springfield, Massachusetts newspaper, The Republican. The editors of this newspaper spread this story over the Victorian Internet right away. This was, of course, by telegraph throughout the news distribution networks of the day.

I first read about the event in this article on the front page of the August 10, 1880, edition of a Sacramento, California newspaper.

Sacramento California newspaper, 10 Aug 1880.
This was printed the day after it was printed in the Springfield paper.

It turns out that there are several facts that are wrong.

A short list of the errors follows the cheesy doodle thingy.

Continue Reading
Reposted from Ellid by klompendanser

My family came from The Garden of Wales.

This may surprise long-time readers of these diaries, many of which begin with a story about my upbringing in the less than bucolic suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Not only that, the majority of these anecdotes concern my maternal relatives, who were descended from a sturdy clan of farmers, cobblers, and factory workers who had clawed their way into the middle class thanks to a combination of Grandma's business sense, Bob and Dan's farming for the war effort, Oscar's CPA, and Mum's teaching certificate.  This side of the family emigrated from Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz in the mid-19th century, and my grandmother and great-aunt were in close touch with their cousins in the Old Country as late as August of 1939.

So they were most definitely not Welsh.  "You're a Kraut, and don't forget it," Mum would say once in a while, and even my miserable failure to learn German as a second language did not change this.  They were Teutons, probably with a good dash of Slavs and possibly Magyars in the mix, and proud to say so.

No, the ancestors I speak of today were my father's ancestors.  

I always knew a little about them, thanks to one of Dad's cousins.  Her name was Kate Evans Tharp, and she may have been the first member of the extended family to be interested in American history.  Kate was a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, founder and first Regent of the Waubonsie Chapter of Clarinda, Iowa, and a fervent patriot and genealogy buff.  She'd managed to trace the family back as far as the ancestor who'd fought in the American Revolution, one Evan Evans, and made sure that Dad's family was given a copy of her research in case any of the women wished to join.  

To the best of my knowledge none of Dad's aunts did so (why, I have no idea), and I'm about as likely to join an organization that includes Phyllis Schlafly on its rolls as I am to desecrate a grave.  However, I do still have copies of Kate's research should I decide to change my mind and become one of those civic-minded little old ladies who weeds the parklet around the Civil War Memorial Statue on the town common.  As long as they don't mind me showing up in my typical stylin' threads, it could potentially work.

Kate's research is actually quite interesting.  It seems that I'm a direct descendant of one "Evan Evans," a Welshman who came to Pennsylvania in the early 18th century, married a woman named "Jenet," and had issue named things like "Margaret," "James," "David," and "Cadwallader."  I'm not descended from the grandly named Cadwallader damn it, that would be SO COOL, but from his brother James, who married a woman named Griffith.  One of their children married the daughter of a Scotch-Irish immigrant named Robinson, and one of their kids fathered a son who fathered the man who eventually fathered me.  

That the family also produced someone named "Hiram Evans," which is a name that belongs on a patent medicine bottle, amuses me no end.

Alas for Kate, she was unable to trace the family back past Evan Evans.  Little wonder; not only was it much more difficult to trace one's bloodline in those days,"Evan Evans" is the rough Welsh equivalent of "John Smith."  Worse, Kate didn't even know the maiden name of Evan's wife Jenet so had no way of determining just which Evan Evans she was looking for, and which part of Wales birthed him.  Short of actually traveling to Berks County, Pennsylvania, and spending several years combing through church records, Kate had about as much chance as finding about more about the Evan Evans who served under Captain John Robeson in the Revolution in the early 1900's as she did of winning the yet-to-be-established Pulitzer Prize.

So the matter lay for many, many years.  I was mildly interested in knowing more about Evan, but since he'd died 170 years before I was born it wasn't as if Dad had told me heartwarming stories about his great-great-great-great-grandfather to encourage me.  Evan Evans was a name in a record someone else had compiled, nothing more.

Then my friend Bunkie, who's a genealogy fanatic, decided to get involved.  How she managed to do this is still not clear; from what I could tell it involved a proprietary combination of mad Intarwebz skillz, years of experience on and similar web sites, and just plain luck.  Regardless, it took her less than fifteen minutes not only to track down my Patriotic Ancestor, but his wife, his town, and his parents' names.

Thus it is that I now know the following:

- The family can trace its roots to Caernarvonshire in the early 14th century, then moved about the countryside before ending up in Llanmihangel-ar-Arth in Carmarthenshire, a farming region called "The Garden of Wales."

- They might have been Quakers or Methodists, but Evan himself was no pacifist; not only did he fight in the Revolution, he was a veteran of the French & Indian War twenty years earlier.

- Evan was born in 1720, came to the new lands of America no later than 1740 or possibly a few years earlier, and married no later than 1750, when he was around 30.

- His wife, Jennet Hughes, was only 14, meaning that Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddad was either a raging pedophile or (far more likely) following the custom of his time.  

- Evan had died in 1790, followed by Jennet fifteen years later.

- Their descendants fanned out all across Pennsylvania and the Midwest by the early 20th century, and can be found pretty much everywhere from Massachusetts to California.

-  I may be an only child, but go back a couple of generations and I probably have more cousins than Sir Joseph Porter of HMS Pinafore fame.

- Genealogy is a lot more interesting than you'd think.

I'm not sure how much farther back I want to trace my family tree; between work, these diaries, setting the world afire with my mad textilez research skillz, and making sure the Double Felinoid has food, drink, and comfortable places to sleep, my time is limited.  I have, however, managed to learn a bit about Llanmihangel, a sleepy little community notable for a 15th century church that was restored in the 19th century:

The Ancestral Church of Ellid, where Evan Evans was shoved, naked and screaming, in a baptismal font sometime in 1720, and only took until 1740 to beat feet for the comparatively drier climes of Berks County, Pennsylvania.  
Church of St Michael, Llanmihangel (John Lord) / CC BY-SA 2.0
I have been unable to confirm rumors that the town has recently welcomed a casino called, I kid you not, "Llas Vogas" and an airport boasting a large plastic head of Sinead O'Connor.  However, given that this is the place that eventually led to me, it's not out of the realm of possibility.  

Yes.  Really.

Continue Reading
You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.


Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site