Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - My Family-The Next Generation

Below are pictures of the next generation of my family - my kids, and those of my siblings (including siblings-in-law) and cousins. The next generation is growing fast - already 20 strong (with one more still on the way). It's crazy to think that my generation is all grown up, raising families, and in some cases, not far from watching those kids go off and start life as adults. Kinda can't help but think of the Lion King theme song, Circle of Life, but it's true. We're part of something much larger than ourselves - an endless stream of families going back in time, laying the foundation for the generations yet to come. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Obsolete German villages in Bohemia

I recently learned of something terrible that happened in Bohemia, the homeland of my great-grandmother Rosie (Sitzman/Zitzmann) Wagner. After World War II had ended, the Sudeten Germans, the German-speaking inhabitants of the Bohemian part of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), were brutally attacked, killed, and driven from their homes. According to one source, 3.2 million people were forcibly relocated to Germany, with no say in the matter, and only with those possessions they could carry with them. I've spoken recently to a survivor of this tragedy, who provided me with the above map. Each red dot represents one settlement where German-speaking residents, some of whose family had lived in the area for centuries, were beaten, killed, or forcibly driven from their homes and country. Most of these settlements were left uninhabited, and are now gone.

This really struck home, as my great-grandmother and her family lived on the western border of Bohemia, in the Tachau region, which is on the far western edge of the region. Her family had lived in the villages of Rosshaupt, Neuhasl, Ströbl, Zirk, and others since at least the late 1700s. To think that her relatives were treated in such a brutal way is unthinkable, yet it happened. Maybe that was one reason she forbade her daughters to speak of where they were from.

To learn more about these events, and to read English translations of first-hand accounts, please visit

Sunday, March 16, 2014

52 Ancestors, Week 3 - Margaret Waechter

This is a photo of my fourth-great-grandmother Margaret Waechter. She was my great-grandmother Edna Craddock's great-grandmother on her mom's side. I don't have a lot of details about her life, but I do have enough to have a rough sketch of who she was. She was born in Europe, probably in March 1830 or 1832 (despite what's written on the photo). Her birth place is given in the census records as Germany, Prussia, and France, which kind of suggests Alsace-Lorraine (especially since her husband's birthplace is given as Alsace the same year hers was given as France). She emigrated to the US in 1851, and married George Waechter soon after, probably around 1853. They had 11 children together  - my 3rd-great-grandmother Amelia was the oldest, followed by Elizabeth, Caroline, William, George Jr, Edward, Frederic, Ida, Maggie, Clara, and Harry. The first four kids were born in Ohio, the rest in Pennsylvania. She was alive in 1910, living with her daughter Clara McClelland and her family. If she did pass away in 1917, she would have been about 87 years old.

She's an important ancestor for me, because she is my oldest known mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) ancestor. My mtDNA haplogroup is H3v, or part of "Helena's" descendants (from "Seven Daughters of Eve"). I would love to find a match (ideally one I could find our ancestral connection with) and see where our DNA comes from beyond Margaret.

I have one important lead to follow up on in my research about Margaret. While getting ready for this blog post, I went looking for more info on Margaret herself, and the daughter she was living with in 1910. It turns out, this daughter, Annie Clara (Waechter) McClelland, was born in 1875, and lived to be 92 years old. She lived long enough to apply for, and receive, a Social Security Number. If I can get a copy of her SS-5, it might just tell me Margaret's maiden name! I plan on ordering that this week. The hard part will be waiting the weeks or months it takes the Social Security Administration to get around to filling requests. But I'm cautiously optimistic about this. I'll do a follow up post when I get the form.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Ancestral Signatures

When I found the treasure chest of records on Fold3 last year, one of the real gold nuggets was coming across the signatures of some of my ancestors. Below are the signatures of my 4th-great-grandfather, Paul Groff, and his mother, my 5th-great-grandmother, Hannah Groff (maiden name unknown). It amazes me to think that their own hands wrote those signatures almost 170 years ago.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

An adoption mystery solved!

As I mentioned the other day, I've been going through the descendants of Sam Joseph and Pauline Rosen, trying to flesh out their descendant tree. I turned my attention to their youngest daughter, Helena Patricia Joseph, also known as Pat. She married John "Jack" Walsh in 1922 in Anaconda, Montana, and had no children of their own. My grandpa told me they adopted a daughter named Mary Ellen, and she was their only child. I found confirmation of this (not that I doubted my grandpa! His memory is far too sharp and accurate to doubt) in a newspaper article detailing Mary Ellen's marriage to William Palmer in 1959. But being the nosy genealogist I am, I wanted to know more about Mary Ellen's birth family, see if I couldn't find out more about where, or maybe even who, she came from. I called my grandpa and asked if he knew anything about her birth parents, and he said he thought she was actually the daughter of Jack's sister. Doesn't sound impossible, right? Here's what I found in the paper trail.

My first stop was the 1940 census. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I haven't yet pulled the census records for many of my relatives in 1940 yet. Given how crazy everyone was over the census when it was released in 2012, and the breakthrough that started with my Wagner cousin's recent find in the 1940 census, you'd think I'd have jumped on the bandwagon before now, right? In my defense, I was working my way through The Project at the time, and then started my German genealogy class. But I'm starting to come around now!

Anyways, like I was saying. I found Pat and John Walsh in the 1940 census pretty quickly. Interestingly, it showed Pat and John, and another resident - a niece, born in California, named Mary Ellen Franey, age 3!

The age, first and middle names, and relationship all fit! The only thing that threw me off was the surname - I didn't have any records of any Franeys. Being the obsessive-compulsive genealogist that I am, had actually researched the Walsh family quite a bit, at least for a couple generations. William Walsh was born in County Donegal, Ireland, his wife Jessie Burke was from County Tipperary, Ireland, and had apparently met in Montana, as they married there in 1888. John was one of their nine children, two of whom died in youth, that I haven't found names or further information on. Of the other six surviving children, I had the names of the spouses of daughters Annie and Ora, and son Paul, with no Franeys among them. I didn't have any spouses listed for sons James and William, or for daughter Agnes. Agnes seemed the likeliest candidate, but I wanted to try to find marriage records for all three of them, just in case. I tried searching Montana marriage records at FamilySearch (still my favorite database), but came up empty-handed on all three.

I turned next to Newspaper Archive, which I can access for free through my local public library, and searched Montana newspapers for articles with Walsh and Franey. I got several hits, and quickly pulled up the articles. They turned out to be obituaries for both James and William, who, I learned, had both died without marrying, James in 1936 and William in 1938. That was two strikes, leaving me only one more shot - Agnes. Both obituaries listed surviving relatives (mostly siblings, as both parents had died in the 1920s), and both named a Mrs. Austin Franey of Oakland, Calif. as a sister. "Now we're getting somewhere!" I thought.

I pulled up the 1940 census, and searched for Austin Franey in California, and right away, I knew I had the family I was looking for.

Here was Austin Franey of Oakland, Calif., with a wife named Agnes, and two daughters, with Agnes being the right age and born in Montana. I was almost absolutely sure I had the right family. The pieces fit together so well. But I wanted more proof, so I tried finding a marriage record for Austin and Agnes. I couldn't find one in California, which kind of surprised me. I figured, with their oldest child being born in California, that they would have married there. But given that their second child Jessie-Ann was born in Colorado, I went looking there as well, and that's where I found this: 

So there you have it. Agnes Walsh, daughter of William and Jessie Walsh, was the mother of Mary Ellen Franey, who was adopted by John and Pat Walsh. I don't know when the adoption took place officially, or if it was ever even done officially. But it was really something to see how quickly and neatly the pieces all fit together. 

One final thing stood out to me that may just be coincidental, but the timing was very interesting. When Agnes' brother William Walsh died in 1938, he was apparently living with Agnes' family in Oakland, or was at least in their home when he died. Agnes accompanied the body up to Anaconda, Montana for burial. Mary Ellen would have been about a year old at the time. Part of me wonders if that's when the adoption took place, or at least when she began to live with John and Pat. 

I'm still not entirely sure why Austin and Agnes gave their daughter Mary Ellen to her aunt and uncle to raise. Being just a few weeks away from having my third child, the idea of parting with that child, and giving him to a sibling to raise as their own is just unthinkable. There may have been difficulties they had to deal with that would have made raising Mary Ellen harder or impossible, or they may have just seen John and Pat with no children of their own and made the biggest sacrifice a parent could make. Either way, I'm happy with, and humbled by, what I found. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday - A distant relative with a cool story

While going over some of the videos FamilySearch has posted about the recent RootsTech convention, I saw one that mentioned a new website, Puzilla has been certified by FamilySearch to work with Family Tree, and offers a new spin on your fan chart - it has the power to show you not only your ancestors going back, but also to let you pick an ancestor and see their descendants going forward. That way, you can see how many of their children's lines extend to the modern day, and which are incomplete. It's a great way to find your cousins, as Elder Neil L. Anderson said at RootsTech. So I gave it a shot.

I pulled up my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Joseph. You can see his tree below (ignore the birth place info; that came from his death certificate, and I've since corrected it to say Zhitomir, Volhynia, Russia).
The line going up and left is my line of descent, with the three nodes on the end being me and my siblings. The upper right line is Lydia Joseph, Samuel's middle child. I know she had two kids, Latha and Ilene, but I don't have any children identified for them yet. The bottom right line is Olga Joseph, who had five kids (three of whom I've entered into Family Tree). The bottom left is Elmer Joseph, Samuel's only son, who had four children. The little stub above Elmer's line is his sister Helena Patricia, or Pat. She had a daughter that was adopted, who I haven't entered into Family Tree yet, as I still need more info on her. So you can see right away, this is a great tool for checking the completeness of your family info in Family Tree.

I decided to look for more info on one of Elmer's kids, his second daughter Frances. I knew from prior research that she married Clifford Wensley in 1941, but I didn't know much more about her than that. I did some quick searching on FamilySearch and Google to see what I could find. My search didn't turn up much, but what I did find was interesting. It seems Clifford's family moved around a bit - his dad was from Ontario, his mom from Wisconsin, his brother was born in Montana, while Clifford was born in New York. He was about 20 years old when he and Frances were married, while Frances was 22. World War II was well underway by that time, and in June 1944, just shy of their third anniversary, Clifford enlisted in the Army. I couldn't find what unit he joined, but the thought of joining the army during wartime, leaving a young wife and possibly children behind just really struck me. I couldn't imagine leaving my wife and two kids behind to go fight in a war that I might never come back from.

Fortunately for Frances, Clifford did return and lived to the age of 70, passing away in 1991. Frances survived him and lived another 16 years, and was buried next to him. I haven't found any obituaries for either of them yet, so I don't know if they ever had children. But it was neat learning a little about a hitherto unexplored branch of my family tree. I think Puzilla will come in very handy for planning future research.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday - We found a Boddy in Chicago

No, I didn't misspell body, this isn't a story about the Mafia. It's about my third-great-grandmother Friedericka (Wendt) Wagner, and some startling new information about her that came to me this week.

Friedericka (Wendt) Wagner, abt 1916
Earlier this week I got an unexpected email from my cousin Sylvia, a Wagner relative of mine. She had found my second-great-grandaunt Rose (Wagner) Randall and her husband Hector in the 1940 census for Chicago, along with her mother Friedericka, and sister Alice. However, there was a surprise addition to the family - Friedericka had a new husband, William Boddy! He was 66 at the time (compared to Friedericka's 91 - a difference of 25 years!), and born in England. Prior to this, we had no idea that she had ever remarried after the death of her husband Charles Wagner in 1909. Sylvia also sent me a page from the 1930 census, showing Friedericka and William Boddy together in Chicago. This got me very curious about who this William Boddy was, and how long he and my ancestor were together.

I went looking for them in the 1920 census, and found them very quickly, listed as husband and wife, renting a room from a guy named William Clarkson. I went back to the 1920 census for Friedericka's son George Wagner, and she was listed with him as well! There, her name was incorrectly given as Charles F Wagner (her late husband's name), but the age, gender, birth info matched. I don't know why she would be listed in two separate households, except maybe she had married William Boddy only recently and so was claimed in both families.

One document I found that supports that theory, though I didn't know that at first, is William's World War I draft registration. From it, I learned William's full name, William Francis Boddy, and his exact birth date - August 7th, 1873. In it, he lists his closest relative as Mrs. William Boddy, which I assumed (a bad thing to do, I know!) to be Friedericka, but with her residence given as Seattle, Washington. Since I had William and Friedericka identified in the 1920 census in Chicago, I thought maybe they had moved out to Seattle for a time and moved back, or were perhaps in process of moving back. Sylvia checked in city directories for Seattle around 1917, but didn't find anything on either William or Friedericka. While I was going back over the WWI draft registration, the idea hit me - what if William's father's name was also William, and he had died, leaving his wife a widow? William might then list his mother (a logical choice for closest relative) as Mrs. William Boddy. Worth a shot, right?

I went searching for likely candidates for William's mother in the 1920 census, and found a Sarah Boddy, a widow age 74 (so born about 1846) living in Medina, just a few miles east of Seattle. I traced her back to 1910 (still a widow, still in Medina), and then to 1900 - living in Minnesota, married to William Boddy, born 1846 in England, with a son named William F. Boddy born in August 1873. Jackpot!!

So I now have a little more complete idea of William Boddy Jr's family. From what I've seen in the census records, it looks like William's family moved around a lot - his father came to the US in 1866, his mother Sarah and brother Frederick in 1899, his brother Edward in 1890, and William himself in 1886. He also had one brother, John, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1877, so the father evidently went back and forth between the US and England to keep having children. Though John's birth confuses me - how was he born in the US in 1877, if his mother didn't immigrate until 1899? Obviously there is more to the story that needs to be dug up. Figuratively.

But that isn't even the best part! What really makes all of this a real treasure chest Thursday is the death record I found for Friedericka. It confirms that the Friedericka who married William Boddy really is my ancestor - it gives her name as Friedericka Wagner Boddy, and gives her birthplace as Mecklenburg, Germany, which is how it was listed in the census records from earlier years. But best of all, it names her parents - Ludwig Wendt and Friedericka! If this is accurate, this is the first time I've seen any information confirming her maiden name of Wendt (which was told to me by a relative who didn't name the source), as well as the first time I've seen her parents' names.

The only thing that really puzzles me about all this is the age difference between William and Friedericka. If they did marry in 1920, she was 73 and he was 47. So far as I've been able to tell, he never married anyone else. Why would he marry someone so much older than he was? They couldn't have had any children. They stayed married until Friedericka's death in 1940 (shortly after the census was taken).

I still haven't gotten over how much information I've come across on this heretofore little-known ancestor, and can't wait to see where all these new threads lead.