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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Christ Lutheran Church, Waldersee, Manitoba

This is the Christ Lutheran Church, located in Waldersee, Manitoba. Photos were provided by my good friend Adrene Schmidt, who works for the church. My ancestors attended this church, were married here, and some are buried in their cemetery. I would love to visit it one day. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

52 ancestors in 52 weeks - week 2 - Christian Joseph

I'm falling behind on this, I know, but I have a really good excuse - I've spent all my genealogy time the last couple weeks working on the last assignment for my German genealogy class. All that's left now is the final, and I'm done! Yay!

This week's ancestor is my earliest known Joseph ancestor, Christian Joseph (or Krystyan Jozef, as it's written in the records). He is my 4th-great-grandfather on my paternal grandpa's mother's side. I don't know much about him yet, as I don't have many records of him. What I do know is that he was born about 1815, probably in Poland, and was married to Euphrosina Freder before 1836. They were the parents of Ludwig Heinrich Joseph, who was born in 1837. I know Christian was alive in 1859, as he is mentioned in Ludwig's marriage record that year, which also says that Christian's wife Euphrosina had already died. I don't have any further records on him, so I don't know when or where he died, or if he moved with Ludwig's family to Volhynia in the 1860s.

While searching for records of Ludwig's family in Poland, I found some records that I believe may be him. There are two birth records for sons of Krystyan Jozepp and Karolina Arendt, one for Henryk (Heinrich) Jozepp in 1855, and one for Wilhelm Jozepp in 1858. If the folks in these records are indeed my family, then it looks like Christian remarried after Euphrosina's death to Karolina Arendt. These sons would have been about 20 years younger than Ludwig, putting Christian in his early-mid forties at the time of their births. That's not impossible, especially if his second wife was younger than him. The timing fits (both sons born just a couple years before Ludwig's wedding, when I have definite confirmation that Euphrosina had died), the location is right, and the last name is close enough to possibly be a match. But the real kicker was the connection to the Arendt family. There were Arendt witnesses both at Ludwig's birth and wedding, and two of Ludwig's four godparents were Arendts. I'd really like to get back into the records and search for more records, and explore the Joseph-Arendt connection.

So to sum up, here's what I have on Christian Joseph so far. Events from documents known to be about my ancestor are in bold:

1811    Krystyan Josepp birth
1815    Christian Joseph birth
1816    Karolina Arndt birth
9/3/1837    Ludwig Heinrich Joseph birth
8/28/1855    Henryk Jozepp birth
1/19/1858    Wilhelm Jozepp birth
1859    Euphrozina Freder - death before 1859
9/4/1861    Michael Joseph birth (son of Ludwig, Karolina Jozef listed as    godparent)

It's funny to think that just a few years ago, My Joseph line was the one I knew the least about, not having any idea where they came from, except from my great-grandmother's death certificate, which incorrectly stated she'd been born in Berlin. Now I've gone back to the early 1800s, with the possibility of going back even further. Just goes to show you, even the sturdiest brick walls can be knocked down with time, perseverance, and a little luck.