Thursday, July 29, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - goodbye brick wall!!

This is a part of the census record that helped me blow a big hole in a brick wall that has been bugging me for years. My great-grandmother, Rosie Sitzman Wagner, came to the US as a little girl with her mother and sister, both named Mary. I knew quite a bit about the three women from about 1920 onward - who they all married (even Mary the sister, who married several times), where they lived, when they died. What I didn't know is how to go backward before 1920 and get more info on the Sitzman family closer to the time they came to the States, which was sometime around the turn of the century.

My grandma, Blossom Gibson, over the last couple years has given me all kinds of information on the Sitzmans, including letting me scan several photo albums, each containing several hundred (yes, several HUNDRED) pictures. She remembers names, some dates, places, and interesting tidbits about lots of these people. The only problem is I've been pretty unlucky in terms of finding historical documents on the Sitzmans. I wrote a few posts ago about finding a goldmine of Sitzman info in some historical newspapers on I've had those in my "waiting to sort through and analyze" pile since then. Not that I didn't want to go through them, but they had a lot of names I didn't recognize at first glance, and I wanted to take my time and go through them properly. I also wanted to have something in the way of primary source documents to check them against. As it was, all I had was a few census records for Mary and her daughters.

Enter yesterday. I was looking through the records I have on Mary Sitzman and her daughters, and noticed that I didn't have the 1910 census. I thought this was odd, as I should have collected all the censuses I could find by now. So I went looking, and found it pretty quickly. But, as you can see in the picture up top, the head of the family wasn't Mary Sitzman - it was her brother, Sebastian Sitzman! This was the first historical document with definite proof of one of Mary's siblings that I'd discovered. Boy was I excited! Using that info, I went back into the newspaper hits from a few weeks ago, and began compiling a list of all the names and relationships listed in them. It turned out be a good idea to use a list like that, as there were a lot of people that appeared in multiple articles, but under slightly different names. I knew from talking to my grandma that Mary had a sister named Rose, another sister named Barbara, and three brothers, Mike, Frank, and Joe. Oddly enough, she'd never mentioned Sebastian, so I'll have to ask her about him. But the articles listed an additional sibling as well - Carrie Morgele (also spelled Magual in another article; apparently it was an unusual enough name that the writer just spelled it as he/she heard it).

After going through one or two newspaper articles, I went back to the FamilySearch Labs site and searched through their Montana marriages database, and found a whole slew of marriages related to the Sitzmans, at least six or seven marriages. I'm not sure I even pulled all the marriages I could have, as it was after midnight when I was looking them up, and I was a bit groggy at the time, even though I was excited about what I was finding. I even found Sebastian in a few Butte, Montana city directories!

So now, needless to say, I have a treasure chest FULL of documents to go through and analyze more fully, which will hopefully propel me onto finding other documents (I know, for example, that Sebastian was naturalized, and his sister Rose petitioned in court for the authority to sell part of his estate some time after his death, so there's a couple documents to go after right there!). If I can only track this Sebastian, find out more about him and where he's from, it might be enough to FINALLY track this family across the pond. Woo hoo!!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

Today for Tombstone Tuesday, I am profiling my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Joseph. He was born on 2 February 1866 at or near Uljanowka, in the Volhynia region of present day Ukraine, to German parents - Ludwig and Justine (Witt) Joseph. He had several siblings, including Justine (also known as Christine or Tena), Gottlieb, and Wilhelmina (known as Minnie). He married Pauline Rosen (or Rossenke, as it's been spelled in other documents) about 1888 in Ukraine. Together they had five children: Olga, Augusta, Helena Patricia, Emil, and Lydia.

Sam's older brother Gottlieb moved from Volhynia to Manitoba, Canada in 1896. Sam and his family stayed in Ukraine for another nine years before following Gottlieb to Manitoba. The family of seven made their way up to England, and set sail from Liverpool, England on the SS Tunisian on 5 October 1905 and arrived in Quebec, Canada a few days later. Soon after arriving, they made their way west to Manitoba, and settled near Winnipeg, close to Sam's brother Gottlieb and his family.
The family didn't stay long in Manitoba. Olga married Gustav Haft in 1906 and moved shortly thereafter to Anaconda, Montana. Three years later, Pauline passed away on 6 January 1909 in Grass River, Manitoba. Three months after Pauline's death, Sam packed up his family and they moved to Anaconda.

Sam lived the rest of his life in Anaconda, but made frequent trips back to Winnipeg to visit his father and mother, who had emigrated there around the same time as Gottlieb. Four of his children married and stayed in Montana. Emil changed his name to Elmer and married Julia Barret, daughter of Michael and Julia (O'Connors) Barret. Augusta (my great-grandmother) first married Charles Staffan in 1910, and he died in 1918, probably as part of the worldwide flu epidemic. She then married John Frederick Gibson (my great-grandfather) in 1925. She died in 1931, following a hysterectomy. Helena (who later went by her middle name, Pat) married Jack Walsh, a wealthy business owner in Butte. Lydia married Jacob Reitnauer and they moved to South Dakota. Apparently, from what my grandpa tells me, they didn't have much contact over the years after the move.

Sam worked for many years on the Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific Railroad, as did his son-in-law, John F. Gibson. He lived with John and his son, Fred (my grandpa) for several years, and then moved in with one of his other children. He passed away 10 April 1955 in Rocker, Montana. He is buried in the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Anaconda, as are his daughter Augusta and son Elmer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: My Recent Acquisition

Most of the genealogical 'treasures' I've collected over the years have been historical documents - census records, birth, marriage and death certificates, draft registrations, and the like. One of the non-documentary treasures I've come across is the set of photo albums my grandmother owns, with about 800 pictures taken and/or collected by her mother, Rosie Wagner, over the course of 40 years. It's been amazing to go through those old photos and get to know some of my relatives that have long since passed away. It's also shown me where I get my 'shutterbug' drive, as my mom calls it - the desire to take lots and lots of pictures.

But the treasure I want to talk about today is an unusual one. It was never actually owned by my ancestor, as it was created a couple years after his death. But it was held by people who knew him, that served with him in his regiment in the Civil War. And the fact that it's now 111 years old (eleventy-one years, as Bilbo Baggins would say) makes it by far the oldest object in my house. The object I'm referring to is this:

It's a ribbon commemorating the 18th annual reunion of the NY 115th Infantry regiment that served in the Civil War. My 4th-great-grandfather, Alexander Blood Shute, was in that regiment from the time they mustered in early 1862 to the end of the war. He would have seen a lot of battles, and was even captured by the Confederates early on at Harper's Ferry (if I remember the regiment's history correctly). He died in 1897, two years before this ribbon was created. But his fellow soldiers would have met, and maybe shared stories and remembrances of him, at their reunions. And it just hit me that people that probably knew him better than I ever will owned this ribbon. So getting to own this helped me feel a little more connected to this somewhat distant ancestor.

Eventually, I'd like to get something to commemorate all the military heroes in my ancestry - my great-grandfathers Jack Bergstad and Jim Harris who served in WWI and WWII respectively, my grandfather Fred Gibson's service in WWII, and my dad's service in Vietnam. My great-grandfathers have both passed, so I can try to look up info on their service records. But my grandpa and dad are still alive, so I'm not sure how to approach them and ask them about their service. Do you have any ideas or tips on how to talk to living relatives about their military service? If so, please share! I'd love to hear what you've done to find out more about family's military history.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Madness Monday: My family and slavery

This is kind of a follow-up post to my last post. In looking into the Berry family records I have (which, it turns out, were not as plentiful as I had previously thought) I saw I didn't really have as much info on Lucinda Berry, daughter of Benjamin Berry (one of the two slaveholders I knew were in my ancestry), other than the fact that her dad left her some land in his will. I had found her in the 1850 census, living in Greene, Platte county, Missouri, with her children (her husband had presumably died by 1842, though I apparently forgot to note how I came to that conclusion). I hadn't found her in the 1860 census, though by 1870 she had moved to Montana to live near her oldset son, Thomas (my ancestor), at his farm in Three Mile. So, I decided to do some quick research to try and find a couple more census records on Lucinda.

Before going into what I found, I should note something. My grandmother, Sally Crawford, has researched this family quite a bit, and had heard somewhere that Lucinda had owned a big plantation with slaves in Kentucky or Missouri, had lost everything in the Civil War, and then decided to come up to Montana to live with her son Thomas. I didn't know how accurate that was, as I knew little (and still know little) about records showing the transmission of slaves between family members, and the only record I did know of was her father's will, which, as previously noted, didn't leave her any. I'd assumed (a bad thing to do in genealogy!) that that meant she'd had no slaves, so I just put that family story aside in doing my research.

Now, however, I decided to put that assumption aside, and do some more digging. I started by pulling up the 1850 census slave schedule on I knew where to find Lucinda in that census, and could easily verify it was her if she did appear in it. When I clicked search, I was surprised to see she did in fact appear in the slave schedule as a slaveholder. I counted the entries, and she owned 12 slaves in 1850. Almost 10 years of assuming slavery had stopped with Benjamin Berry were thrown out the window by looking at that one document. It was a bit hard to take in, that slavery had gone down another generation in my family tree. I determined to find Lucinda in the 1860 population schedule, and to see if she continued to hold slaves. Within a few minutes, I had located her, listed as LB Harris, with some of her children, still in Platte county but now in the city of Weston. I pulled up the 1860 census slave schedules, and found a listing for NB Harris with 14 slaves. I checked back at the 1860 population schedule, and there was an NB Lober listed in the household above Lucinda, and thought for a minute that maybe the census taker had confused the two households. I tried a new trick I'd taken from Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems podcast - looking for info on the neighbors of your ancestors in the census. I tried finding the Lober family in 1850 in Platte county, with no luck. I also looked at the other names listed on the pages before and after Lucinda in the slave schedule, and confirmed they were her neighbors in the population schedule. I also noticed one or two other names in the same section of the slave schedule differed slightly from the population schedule (EE Wilkerson vs EE Wilkinson, for example). So it doesn't seem unreasonable, given the last name, the number of slaves, and the slight name differences of others in the schedule, that this is my Lucinda Harris.

So, the long and short of it - Lucinda Harris was a slaveowner, for at least 22 years after her father passed away. This means I now have a whole new set of records to try and find. I also want to know how she got the slaves - did she receive any from her father before he made his will? Did she and/or her husband Lewis Harris purchase them? Did her husband receive any from his father? What happened to the slaves after the Civil War? That's my "Monday Madness" - being hit with a whole slew of questions about a generation of my family tree I had thought for 10 years didn't apply, and may not even be able to find answers for.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A tough wrestle

So I finally finished going through my Bergstad files and updating my genealogy file with everything that I have (and have added). I say finally because I started going through the Bergstad stuff back in January! I added probably 30 or so census records (the only research I did, really, during this phase) so that kinda stretched out the process a bit, but I feel very confident that everything Bergstad-related I've gathered so far is noted in my file. Now I move on to a line with much more diverse documentation - the Berry line.

My Berry line ends with Lucinda Berry, my 4th-great-grandmother on my mom's maternal side. She was one of 18 children of Benjamin Berry (11 kids by the first wife, 7 by the second, and no he wasn't a polygamist, his first wife passed away and he remarried). Benjamin was a pretty well-to-do guy - he was a farmer, had a distillery and a mill, he had a big estate, left lots of money and land to his kids, and he owned a lot of property - including slaves. Benjamin was one of two known slaveholders in my family tree (the other being Harrison Harris, grandfather of Lucinda's husband, Lewis Harris). I haven't really spent a lot of time researching the Berry family, as my grandmother Sally Crawford has done most of the research on that line, and most of what I have is copies of her discoveries. But now that I'm getting into recording the Berry side, I kind of want to try something - I'd like to see what happened to those slaves, where they ended up, and maybe learn a little about them. From what I've seen in shows like 'The Generations Project' and 'Who Do You Think You Are?' when slaves were freed, they often took the last name of their owner. There also seems to have been a lot of cases where the female slaves were taken advantage of, and the offspring of those women were moved on to other family members. I sure hope none of that is in my family's history.

As far as where Benjamin fits into the larger slavery picture of pre-Civil War Kentucky, I'm not sure yet. I know he had at least six slaves, as they are mentioned by name in his will - Frank, Rose, Belville, Martin, Jerry, and Friday. Benjamin stated in his will and the codicils that Frank and Rose were to be given to his son, Benjamin Jr., Bellville was to go to his son, Younger (yes, his name was Younger), his daughter Harriett Redd was to receive Jerry, while Friday and Martin would go to Lewis, one of the executors of the will. Most of the slaves were given a monetary value (it shocked me to see it the first time I read it, seeing a price attached to a person), except for one, Friday. Regarding Friday, Benjamin said: "I leave my negro man Friday to my son, Lewis A. Berry, he is to take care and protect him as long as he lives, for his labor, he being an old and faithful servant and wish him well taken care of." Part of me wants to see this as Benjamin seeing Friday's humanity, realizing that he deserved some dignity and good treatment in his old age. But at the same time, part of me sees this could also just be "take care of this for me, it's old and fragile," like asking someone to take care of an old pocketwatch. I mean, Friday was as much a human being as Benjamin, but even after an apparent lifetime of 'service,' Benjamin didn't release him from it. Why not? If Friday was an old man by this point, why not free him? If you really wanted to thank him, that seems a more appropriate gesture.

But I also can't judge Benjamin by my days' standards; I can only try to understand him by what he saw and knew and understood. In his day, slavery was legal. It would be for nearly 30 years more after he died in 1838. If Friday was old when the codicil was written in 1836, it's not likely he lived to see the end of the Civil War. What I'd really like to know is: what did Friday think of Benjamin's request? Did Lewis fulfill that charge? Did it mean anything to Friday? What was Friday's relationship to the other slaves that were divided among some of Benjamin's other children? Were any of them his family - sisters, brothers, even children? If so, how could Benjamin have justified splitting them up like he did?

Obviously, in genealogy, you're lucky to find a few facts about your ancestors - birth, marriage, and death dates and places if you're lucky, maybe a will (like Benjamin's) or some land records, maybe a mention or two in a local newspaper, and at possible best, a journal or two and some photos. Answers to questions like mine just aren't going to be found in most of those records. As far as I know, Benjamin left no journal, and he lived too early for photos to be taken. Haven't really tried looking for newspapers yet, and I have a land record or two (or at least know of them). I guess that's why I want to see what his kids did with the slaves they inherited - it's really the best way I can think of to kind of see what their father taught them about slavery. It won't be perfect, they were their own individuals and made their own choices, I know that. But at least it can give me an idea of what they were taught. Who knows, maybe it all had something to do with Lucinda's son Thomas (my 3rd-great-grandfather) striking out west all on his own in 1850. Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Vacations ROCK!!

So last week Lisa and I took our first ever kid-free vacation, courtesy of my mom and dad. We went down to Orlando, Florida for 5 whole days of fun in the sun! Well, 2 days in the sun, 2 in the hotel, and 1 getting lost on the road, to be exact. Quick recap:

Days 1 and 2 - Lisa and I went to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot parks. HOLY CATS there are a billion things to do there! SO many exhibits and movies and restaurants and other things to see/walk through/eat.

Days 3 and 4 - BOTCON!! Yes I, your humble correspondent, got to attend Botcon this year, thanks to my wife's careful, devious planning. All I can say is - wow. So many awesome people, made some new friends, met some of the folks behind Transformers, and got some pretty awesome, hard to find stuff.

Day 5 - tried to go to church (missed the first hour due to getting lost in rural Florida), and visited Lisa's grandma Charmaine Smith. What a fun lady, very feisty and opinionated, but very sweet too. Lisa hadn't seen her in about 15-20 years or so, so it was pretty neat to be in on that reunion. Here's a photo of Lisa and her grandma. Do you see a resemblance? I sure do.
Overall, it was the best vacation EVER!! Now I'm trying to get caught up on all the genealogy I missed. Starting to make some progress on the Bergstad documents - I've finally got all of Philip Hammer's pioneer record noted in his file. Now I just have to go through a few of the Bergstad-related emails I've gotten (there's only 5 or so) and I'll have the whole Bergstad folder finished! It's hard work, going through the files I've compiled over the last ten years and making sure they're all noted in my genealogy file. Most of them haven't been, so it's been a lot of work. But I feel good about knowing that everything I've found so far will (eventually) be noted in my file. Then, once that monumental project is done, I need to go through my source list and edit it, make sure it conforms to Elizabeth Shown Mills' standards in her Evidence! book. That will be another task. Then comes breaking out the pictures from the pages I scanned from Grandma Blossom's beige book. Hooo-ee! Have I got my work cut out for me or what?