Saturday, December 31, 2011

Surname Saturday - William Thacker, the Last and the First

William Thacker's headstone, courtesy of
No, this post isn't about anything in the Bible. It's about something I came across while finishing up my review of the McFarland-Red Corn family documents. Yes, I have finally finished going through all the documents I have on my wife's family! Can't believe it took as long as it did, but I learned a lot about them in the process, and got to see a lot of new document types along the way. This week, I found myself looking at the last document (hence the "last" in the title of this post) - the death certificate for William Thacker, son of Samuel Thacker (my wife's 3rd-great-grandfather) and his second wife Nannie Roberts. He died at the age of 39, and was apparently married at the time (it lists Lucille Thacker, wife, as the informant). When I looked at the cause of death, it listed three causes. The primary cause was pulmonary embolus, which my medically-inclined family and friends told me means a clot in the lungs. There were also two secondary causes, which brought on the clot - the first was mesenteric thrombosis. Again turning to my friends and family who know about such things, this was another clot, this time in the arteries supplying the intestines. (As a side note, when asking your family and friends about mysterious medical terms, make sure you let them know up front where you got the terms. That way, no one will freak out thinking that you have these problems.) Both of these causes were likely brought on by the third cause - "gunshot wound abdomen".

I did a double-take when I read those words. Gunshot wound? Abdomen? I remember thinking "that doesn't sound like an accidental wound." That's when I noticed the entry in section 21A of the death certificate. Where the certificate asks whether the death was an accident, suicide, or homicide, it said homicide. William Thacker was murdered! It was an awful thing to read, and the first time I've ever encountered a murder in my genealogy research (hence the "first" in the title). Going through the rest of the death certificate, I saw that the gunshot happened on May 5, 1951, in a public place, but not at his work. He was taken (I'm sure he was in no condition to transport himself) to Knoxville General Hospital, where they discovered he had a perforated colon and liver. He died 8 days later, on May 13, 1951. He was also a veteran of World War II, as the death certificate gives what I assume is an enlistment date of March 2, 1944, and his headstone states he was a private. (The actual wording is "Tn Pvt 33 Sig Training WWII". Anyone with military knowledge care to translate this for me?) I find it tragically ironic that he survived World War II, and whatever dangers he may have encountered during his military service, only to be murdered back here in the States.

Unfortunately, that's all I know of the story so far. I haven't been able to find anything further on Google, Mocavo, Ancestry, FamilySearch, or Newspaper Archive, and I don't have time or means to get to an actual repository or library this weekend. I would assume there was a story in the newspaper about the event, but haven't been able to find one so far. I might try contacting the hospital, see if they have anything they can release to me (William died 60 years ago this past May, so hopefully that puts him past whatever statute of limitations they may have on records, if they have any remaining). I just find it very interesting that right as I'm about to finish up my work on my wife's family, at least for now, I stumble across probably the most interesting story of them all, and now feel compelled to get out there and find the rest of the story.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - the Forgotten Children

David Lanz is probably my all-time favorite piano player. I have a few of his CDs, and I just love his music. I'm not advertising for him, I just really like his music. He has a great Christmas CD, and one of the best songs on there is called "Dream of the Forgotten Child". There's a story behind the song, but I can't remember it, and can't find it online. One person on Youtube did say it was about homeless children at Christmas, and I think Mr. Lanz was thinking of what a child would feel if he/she were forgotten on Christmas. He wrote the song, if I remember correctly, because it helped him get over the thought of any child being forgotten.

In my research in my wife's ancestry recently, I've come across a number of death records, including several records of children or infants. With my family having just gotten my kids over being sick (not fun, especially just before Christmas), the thought of losing either of my kids is just overwhelming. So, at this Christmastime, I'd like to remember these children, and all other children, who didn't get to share many, or any, Christmases with their families.

Baby Patterson (boy), born 25 April 1915, died 25 April 1915

Baby Thacker (boy), born 8 February 1915, died 8 February 1915

Louis Junior Patterson, born 2 November 1925, died 2 November 1925

Pearl Worthington, born 27 August 1920, died 16 October 1923

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

Monday, December 12, 2011

And the real Jane Thacker is...

Once I'd gathered all these records on Jane Thacker, I started comparing them, seeing what they told me and whether they were talking about the same person. I started dividing them into two groups - those that defined Jane McFarland, and those that defined Jane Thacker/Patterson. The first group was larger, so I'll start with what those documents told me.

The Jane McFarland group included a marriage bond for her marriage to Allen McFarland, three census records (1910-1930), a photograph of her headstone (obtained from my wife's cousin, Diana Moss-Clark), and a memorial for her on The marriage record is the only one that mentions her maiden name of Thacker. No in-laws, siblings, parents, or other relatives appear in the censuses; it's just her and her kids (and her husband in 1910). Her headstone simply gives her name, Jane McFarland, birth and death dates, and the inscriptions "MOTHER" and "Asleep in Jesus". The Findagrave memorial is likewise brief - it transcribes the birth and death dates and the inscription of "Mother", and gives the headstone's location as Indian Creek Cemetery, Anderson County, Tennessee.

The Jane Thacker/Patterson group included one census (1900), death certificates for Prior Patterson and Jannie Patterson, and a series of emails from Sharp's Funeral Home. The census lists Jane as the daughter of Samuel and Margaret Thacker, living in Roane County, Tennessee, with Jane's siblings and step-siblings. It also gives her birthdate as June 1891. All these details match very well with the death certificate for Jannie Patterson. The death certificates for Prior and Jannie establish their marriage, though they don't help in determining when that marriage took place. Jannie's death certificate states she was buried in Cove Cemetery, Oliver Springs, Tennessee, which is where Prior Patterson was buried, according to his death certificate. And, as it turns out, Oliver Springs is pretty unique town - it is simultaneously part of three counties - Morgan, Anderson and Roane.

As far as I could tell, nothing in group A overtly conflicted with anything in group B. But neither was there a "smoking gun" - a document that explicitly linked Jane McFarland to Jane Thacker/Patterson. But one thing that helped me make the decision on whether these two women were the same person was the series of emails I mentioned. Jannie's death certificate said that her undertaker was Sharp's Funeral Home in Oliver Springs. A quick Google search led me to the Sharp's Funeral Home website, complete with contact information! I sent them a short email asking if they had any information on whether the Jannie Patterson they provided funeral services for could be the same person as Jane McFarland, and whether Indian Creek Cemetery was also known as Cove Cemetery. Ninety minutes later (yes, that fast!) I had a response! They did not have any funeral records on Jane McFarland, but they did show Jannie Patterson as being buried in the Indian Creek Cemetery. They also said that Indian Creek Cemetery was also known as Indian Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Cove Cemetery, and the Cove Road Cemetery. This meant that Prior Patterson and Jane Thacker/Patterson were buried in the same cemetery as Jane McFarland.

So, while I still don't have that smoking gun, I think I have enough evidence to make a conclusion. Given the location of burial for Jane and Prior; the coincidence of Jane's birth and death dates between census records, the death certificate, and the headstone; and the lack of significant conflicts between the data in these records, I have concluded that Jane McFarland and Jane Thacker/Patterson are the same individual.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Which Jane Thacker are you?

I'm still pushing my through the documents I have on my wife's family, about two months after I started on them. I know I said this last time, but I still can't believe how long this is taking - I didn't think I really ever sat down and did a ton of research on them, just grabbed a few records here and there, based on the info I got from my mother-in-law. I'd made it almost all the way through all of the census records for both my father-in-law's and mother-in-law's families, when a branch of my FIL's side stopped me cold yesterday.

The Thacker line in my wife's ancestry has always puzzled me. I don't know what it is, but every time I try to sort things out, I come out feeling more confused than when I started. But, now that I'm trying to be more serious about doing really good, sound genealogy, I figured I'd do what I've heard the pros say over and over - start with the most recent generation and work back from there. That meant starting with Jane Thacker.

From what my MIL gave me, Jane was born 15 June 1891 in Roane County, Tennessee, to Samuel Thacker and Margaret Vann, and lived her whole life in Tennessee. She married Allen J. McFarland in 1908 and had four boys with him - Walter, James, Edward, and Charles. Allen died in 1919, leaving her a widow to raise the boys alone. She died 11 Aug 1946 in Roane County, Tennessee.

To back this up, I had previously found the marriage bond for Jane Thacker and Allen J. McFarland, showing their marriage took place on 9 May 1908 in 1910 and 1920 censuses, with Jane and Allen living with their oldest son Walter in 1910 (along with Allen's two daughters from his first marriage), and Jane living as a widow with sons Walter, James and Edward in 1920. That agreed with the 1919 death date my MIL had given for him, and decided to keep looking. With a little digging, I found the 1930 census, and Jane was again listed as a widow, still living with her son, Walter. So far, so good, but I wanted more info on Jane. I figured FamilySearch would be a good place to look, so I started browsing their Tennessee collections on birth, marriage, and death records for Jane Thacker or Jane McFarland.

I didn't find anything at first for either name, so I started searching for a Jane that died in Tennessee in 1946. That returned way too many results, so I filtered them down by adding variations on her father and mother's names, Samuel Thacker and Margaret Vann. That did the trick - I found a death record for a Jannie, daughter of Samuel Thacker and Maggie Vann that matched the death date exactly, the birth date was just a couple days off, and the county and state matched, though not the city. There was a problem, though - it was for a Jannie Patterson, not McFarland. It even listed that she was a widow of Prior Patterson. Could this be the same Jane Thacker?
Photo courtesy of
I went back to the 1900 census I had found earlier on Jane Thacker's family. It listed Samuel and Margaret Thacker, with children Jane, Emma, and Elijah, and stepchildren Nancy and Mary Turpin (from Margaret's previous marriage). Jane's birthdate is given as June 1891, the same as the Jannie Patterson death certificate. The link between the two seemed obvious, too much information matched. So if Jane Thacker, daughter of Samuel and Margaret, was married to Prior Patterson, was she the same Jane Thacker that married and had children with Allen McFarland?

I thought researching Prior Patterson a bit might help answer the question, so I started looking for info on him. I was able to find a bit - he appears in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, and his death certificate was in the same database Jannie Patterson's was in. From these records I learned he was married twice before Jannie, and both of those wives died, as he was listed as a widower with two children, Melvin (8) and Addie (4) in 1910; married (but no spouse listed) with four children, Melvin (18), Adda (13), Clifton (5), and Maggie (3) in 1920; and widower again in 1930 with his two youngest children, Jennie (13) and Clifton (17). I couldn't find the mother of Melvin and Addie, but I did discover who the mother of Clifton and Maggie/Jennie was - Emma Thacker, sister of Jane Thacker!

Photo courtesy of
Prior and Emma had married on 19 Feb 1911 in Anderson County, Tennessee (according to FamilySearch's Tennessee marriage database). Thus he was still single in 1910. However, I soon found Emma's death certificate, and saw that she died 23 April 1919, a full year before the 1920 census. Perhaps the census taker misunderstood Prior's marital status, or Prior may have still been grieving the loss of his wife, especially given her cause of death - child birth. Of all the ways to lose a wife, that would have to be one of the worst. Not only that, the couple had already suffered the loss of another child back in 1915, when a baby boy was stillborn. So Prior had a pretty rough life - between 1906 and 1919, he lost two children and two wives. Still, he was willing to get married again, and sometime between 1930 and 1940 he married Jane Thacker, sister of his second wife Emma, and stayed married until his death in 1940.

So back to Jane Thacker. Now that I knew all this info about Prior Patterson, it seemed clear that the Jane Thacker my MIL had attached to Allen McFarland was the same as Jannie Patterson, widow of Prior Patterson. The major question in my mind at this point was - were there two Jane Thackers? Stay tuned to see what I found!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Madness Monday - I knew I was behind, but this is just sad

For the past year and some, I've been going through all my old files, and trying to make sure every document I've gathered over the last 11 years is noted in my database. I've found a few censuses and letters and such that I missed, but by and large I've been pretty good about getting things entered. Or so I thought.

The last six weeks I've been working on entering the documents I've collected on my wife's family. I had a lot more than I thought, and I never thought it would take me this long. I remember getting a gedcom of her ancestry from her mom not too long after the wedding, and going through Ancestry and grabbing whatever I could find - SSDI references, census records, WWI draft registrations, etc. I filed them all away to be entered soon (at least, that was the intention). I did go back and enter some of them, as I've discovered in going through my files the last few weeks. But a lot of them never got entered - particularly the censuses for my wife's Osage Indian ancestors (probably due to the fact that the censuses were annual, so there's a lot of them).

Now, five and a half years later, I'm finally getting around to entering them. Some of the people I downloaded censuses for I no longer remember how they are connected, and I don't have any emails or notes on them. I must have heard something from my mother-in-law on them, but since I didn't write it down, and my memory of stuff I just hear is pathetically short, I don't know who these people are any more. Luckily, my MIL is just an email away, so I can ask her again and (hopefully) she can tell me what she knows about them. But if this had been info from a grandparent or other older relative that was now gone, I'd be sunk. And the worst part is, it'd be my own fault.

My main problem is when I get on a research kick, I collect documents, but don't enter and file them right away. I also don't yet have a good way of noting where exactly I found something if I don't take the time right then and there when I find it. If you have any ideas on how to organize your findings so that you remember both where you got them and to enter them sooner than five years after you collected them, I'd be very interested in hearing them.

Little side note on the Indian censuses - they don't note everyone in the household every time. My wife's great-grandfather's brother, Wakon Iron (or Wah-kon-te-ah, his Osage name) and his wife Ida had a son named Walter Iron in 1914. Walter is listed in every census after his birth that I have for the family - 1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, and others. Walter and Ida had another son named Owen Woodrow Iron in April 1918. The family of four appears in the 1920 US Federal Census, but only three of them in the 1919 and 1920 Osage census - Owen is nowhere to be found. Likewise my wife's grandfather, Douglas Red Corn, who was born 1918, doesn't show up in the 1919 or 1921 Osage censuses (his first appearance is 1924). What was the deal with leaving some babies off the census but not others? Walter made it in the census the first year after he was born, but his cousin Douglas took several years, and his little brother never did. I know very little about the Osage tribe in general, so there may be a perfectly logical explanation. Just one more thing to look up, right?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - so much to be thankful for!

On this Thanksgiving Day, I thought I'd take a minute to just list some of the genealogy-related things I'm thankful for this year. In no particular order, here they are.

1. Ellis Island records for my great- and great-great-grandmothers. I finally have a connection to Ellis Island, even if they did deport my ancestors.
2. Church records for my Joseph ancestors - I have learned so much going through these records, and still haven't finished mining them for everything they contain.
3. The SS-5 for my great-grandaunt Mary (Sitzman) Wagner. I totally didn't expect the request to go through (long story) but the SS-5 arrived in the mail this week after a lengthy 3-month wait. Now I have to puzzle over the fact that she gives her father's name as Chris Schmidt, when everything I've seen before named him John Schmidt.
4. Mom's excellent record storage methods. She has safely preserved many of my grandfather Tom Bergstad's records. Now that I have scans of them, they can stay in storage and stay preserved.
5. My ProGen class members. It's been such an education and pleasure to work with a group of people as passionate about genealogy as I am, and working together towards being able to do genealogy on a professional level.
6. Old family photographs, and the ancestors who took them. I've had more family photographs come out of the woodwork this year than I could possibly really analyze in several months. They really bring these names, dates, and places to life, and help me remember that they were flesh and blood people, with all the ups and downs and joys and disappointments of life.
7. The ability to not just understand my family's past, but to come to terms with the difficult parts of our past, and not just ignore them or gloss over them. I have found some skeletons in the family closet this year, which I shouldn't have been so surprised about since we all have them. But as learned about the difficult and sad parts of my ancestors' lives, instead of blaming them or getting angry or disappointed at them, I found myself feeling a compassion I didn't expect, an understanding that they were imperfect people who led imperfect lives. Yes, their actions had consequences for my family, but we've become a stronger family through those events. And now, I know we can get through difficult times, because we've done it before.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family, past and present!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Sad and Slightly Twisted Joseph Family Story

A couple months ago, I decided to splurge and purchased a couple of records from the Manitoba Vital Records Agency. At $12 a pop, it's not often I can do this, but I'd been wanting those records for quite some time, so I finally cracked and ordered them. They arrived this week, and I'm very glad I ordered them!

Let's start with the death record for Juliana (Kublick) Lorenz. She was the daughter of Gottlieb Kublick and Christine Klein, and my great-great-grandfather Samuel Joseph's second wife. She couldn't have been married to him for too long, as my grandpa remembers Sam (and only Sam) living with him around 1930, and Sam and Juliana were married in 1913. The death record doesn't actually give Juliana's first name - it says her first name was 'not known' - but I could tell it was her because of other details -
1. It gives her surname as Lorntz-Joseph. When she married my ancestor, she gave her last name as Lorentz, so the surname on the death certificate made sense. Not only that, the death certificate says she was married three times - no surname was given for her first marriage, and her maiden name is listed as unknown, but the surnames for her second  and third marriages are listed as Lortnz and Joseph respectively.
2. Her date of birth in the death certificate is July 1852 (with the word 'about' written in above the year). That's reasonably close to the calculated birth year of 1859 from her marriage record.
3. Her nationality is given as German, which makes sense given that she was married in a German Lutheran church, whose records were kept mostly in German.
4. Her death certificate says she'd been living in Manitoba for approximately 20 years, which equals out to the year she married Sam Joseph.

The death certificate also lists some things which (if they are accurate) I didn't know about her. Of course, her death date of 6 January 1933 was new info, as was the cause of death - cerebral apoplexy, which it says lasted two days. If the Wikipedia definition is correct, that means she died of a brain hemorrhage. Yikes. The death cert also says her place of birth was "Lublanc, Poland." Oddly enough, the place name was written in twice, once on the line, and once more in smaller letters, above it. Maybe someone who knows Canadian records better would be able to explain why they would do that, because to me, it makes no sense to write the same name in twice. The death place and residence were identical, so it sounds like she died at home.

The saddest part of the record was the info given in the occupation field. It gives her occupation as none, but for 'kind of industry' it says "Indigent." Just seeing that one word changed how I saw the whole death record. It made me see Juliana as this elder lady, living in poverty, who died at home of a brain hemorrhage, and couldn't even be fully identified for her own death certificate. What changed between her and Sam from the time they were married in 1913 to her death alone and impoverished in 1933? I still know so little about her, and not knowing Canadian records that well, it may be a time to begin learning them so I can discover her story.

Though actually, the other record I ordered did give me a bit more of her story already, more than I thought it would. This was the marriage record for Sam's younger brother Ludwig Joseph (who also went by Louis). Ludwig's wife was listed on the Manitoba Vital Records Agency website as Seraphine Lorenz, and when I ordered the record, I hoped that somehow the marriage record would show a connection between Seraphine and Juliana. As it turned out, it did. The marriage record made by Manitoba lists a lot of info about the couple - name, age, residence, marital status, religion, and - names of parents. Seraphine's parents were August Lorenz and Juliane Kubelik.

This I had not expected. I'd thought that maybe they were sisters, or related in some other way. I never thought that Ludwig had actually married the daughter of his brother's wife. Given that Ludwig and Seraphine got married first, it may be that Sam met Juliana because of his brother's wedding. It also leads to an interesting thought - that the baby that Ludwig and Seraphine had in 1918, a girl they named Adeline, was not only Sam's niece, she was also his step-granddaughter. How's that for a dual relationship? Sam wasn't quite his own grandpa, but not everyone can accurately claim to be a (step) grandparent to their niece!

All in all, it was totally worth the expense to learn all this about the Josephs. I have at least a little more information on Juliana, her first marriage to August Lorenz, and her unfortunate end. Now I just need to start filling in the gaps in between. I've already got at least one more lead on her - I just learned tonight she was buried in the same cemetery as many of my other Joseph relatives. I've written the church, so we'll see if they have any additional light they can shed on this still somewhat mysterious relative, and whether I can learn enough about Manitoba records to dig up some info on my own.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - Assume nothing

Roland John "Tom" Bergstad
When I got into genealogy 11 years ago, my mom gave me the records she'd collected up to that point, as well as a pretty good sized PAF file with everyone she'd found and what she knew of them. It got me off to a fantastic start, as most of the 3rd and 4th generations were already filled in. Of course, being the impetuous, naive budding genealogist that I was, I immediately started at the furthest generation of Gibsons I had and went from there. I didn't stop to look too much at my grandparents, because three of them were (and, thankfully, still are) alive (note: DO NOT EVER DO THIS!! You never assume someone, particularly a grandparent or elderly relative, will live until you make time to talk to them. Mine fortunately did, but if I could do things over again, I would have started pumping them with questions from day one. Ok, soapbox rant is over).

In time I came to the line of my maternal grandfather, Roland John "Tom" Bergstad. He died before I was born, but because I had info on his parents, I skipped over him, and went on researching. I've found a goodly amount on the Bergstads, who were Norwegian, and have traced their line into the early 1800s and beyond. I'd always taken it for granted that because my mom's stories about Grandpa Tom began in North Dakota, that's where the family had put down the most roots, and never looked much into whether they had a Montana connection beyond just my grandfather.

That changed yesterday. I decided (both as part of an assignment for the Professional Genealogy course I'm taking, and out of my own curiosity) to go through my files and see what I had on Grandpa Tom. My database had the birth, marriage, and death dates my mom had entered, but no documents were sourced to those dates. I was taken aback - my own grandfather, completely undocumented? I thought, well, I must have something on him. I went into my files, and dug through them all, here's what I came up with - five pictures, a copy of a business card from his band, and a parade ribbon. That's it. I was pretty shocked that I had missed someone so recent - one of my grandparents - so completely. So I am setting about to change that. Grandpa Tom is the focus of my next research assignment, and I'm going to see how much in original sources I can dig up on him in the next two weeks. I've also asked my mom, grandma, and aunt and uncle to see if they have anything on him as well. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping they can help fill in the gaps I've left for far too long.

Then, just to see if I really had misjudged my Bergstad family as badly as I thought I had, I went to my favorite FamilySearch database - Montana County Marriages 1865-1950. I did a search for the last name Bergstad, and within three minutes, I had found thirteen marriages! Thirteen!! And those were just the ones that I could tell right off were my family. Including Tom's parents! I have a lot of re-evaluation and research to do on the most recent generations of this branch of my family.

Bottom line - assume nothing. We all make mistakes early in our research, but hopefully the rest of you haven't made the mistake of not researching your own grandfather.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - Shute facts

I'm still in the middle of going through and cataloging all the documentation I've collected over the years. I finished the Wagner/Sitzman piles (finally!) and now I'm into the Shutes. I started researching this line way back when I first got into genealogy, and have dabbled in it now and again since then. But I haven't really brought my research lens onto the family in quite some time. Thus, while going through my records, I've found a few little tidbits I thought were kind of cool.

1. My 4th-great-grandparents Alexander and Letitia (Sanford) Shute lived in Princeton, Mille Lacs Co., Minnesota in 1870. A few doors away, Alexander's youngest sister Mary Josephine Shute, an 18-year-old teacher, was rooming with the family of Letitia's oldest brother, Gilbert Sanford. Must have been interesting, living your sibling's in-laws.

2. In the 1890 Veteran's Census, Alexander says he was a Corporal in Company D, NY 115th Infantry, and that he served two years, 10 months, and eight days in the Civil War. I think it's pretty cool a) he knew how long he had served down to the day, and b) he was a Corporal after serving for just under three years. He also says he suffered sunstroke, and was wounded in the foot and hand, but doesn't say which foot and hand. I'll have to look in an old dictionary to see what sunstroke meant to him, see why he thought it worth mentioning along with a hand and foot injury.

3. In 1910, Alexander's son Burr Shute was living with his wife Annie, their three daughters, and a hired girl named Alice Profitt who was 16 and was born in Wisconsin. In 1920, Annie is no longer in the home, Burr and Alice were married (you can tell it's her because of her age (26), and the fact that she was born in Wisconsin), and had a seven-year-old son named Ralph (whose mother was born in Wisconsin). I'd sure like to know how that trade-off worked out.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Surname Saturday - Sitzman, Zitzmann

I'm not sure if I'll get this post done in time to be posted on Saturday, but oh well. I wanted to wrap up this little miniseries on the Sitzman/Zitzmann line, and tell you about the last few discoveries I've made this week, and other things I've learned.
Since learning my great-great-grandma and her daughters were deported on June 11, 1906, I've tried to find where and when they came back to the States, but haven't been able to yet. I'll keep looking, because I'm keen on finding out now that I know getting to this country was more difficult for them than I first had thought. But even though I haven't been able to find that specific record yet, I've found several others that I think are just as important in tracing this family, and which have also helped confirm where this family came from. Using the location names of Rosshaupt and Bohemia, and the alternate spelling of Sitzman as Zitzmann, I went to looking for other immigration records. They just happened to have a week's free access to all immigration and naturalization databases going on right now (through Labor Day), and I thought, if I can get lucky once, why not twice?

I went back to the 1910 census I had for Sebastian Sitzman, and saw that he said he came to the US in 1891. I tried searching for Sebastian in the (temporarily) free databases at Ancestry, and found him! In the passenger list I found for him, he is listed as being born in Austria and 23 years old (making him roughly 8 years older than my great-great-grandma), which fits well with the data he gave in the 1910 census, (where he said he was a German born in Bohemia, and 45 years old). He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland on the SS Hermann on August 7, 1891. His stated destination was Pennsylvania, and that got me thinking - by 1910, he was in Montana. What drew him to Pennsylvania? The only thing I could think of was the same thing that drew four of his other siblings there 15 years later - family.

I went back to the obituary for Barbara Wills, thinking there might have been something said about when she came to the US in the article. Lo and behold, there was indeed! Her obituary said she came to Buffalo, New York, in 1883, moving later to Pittsburg before coming to Butte, Montana around 1913. Wondering if my luck would continue to hold, I went back to Ancestry and did a search for Barbara Zitzmann arriving in 1883. I did not find a passenger list showing her arriving at an American port, but I did find Barbara Zitzmann, a single 30 year-old, from Rosshaupt, Bohemia, leaving for New York on April 12, 1883, on the ship Polynesia. Not only that, there's a J. Plumer also from Rosshaupt listed just above her, and a Margaretha Hofner, also from Rosshaupt, on the previous page. It looks like another instance of people from the same hometown (again, a very SMALL town) immigrating together, and that last name Hofner sounds a lot like Haffner, as in Johann Haffner, who came with a later group of Zitzmanns. It feels like all this stuff I'm finding is just the first chapter or two in a whole new book! (By the way, I've since found the Port of New York record showing Barbara's arrival, so I have both the departure and arrival records for Barbara now).

Still, I've never really been the type to stop and thoroughly analyze documents I've found until I've stopped finding them, so I decided to keep looking. Frank/Franz Zitzmann's passenger list entry had a naturalization record number next to it, so I thought I'd try to find it (again in the free Ancestry records). Nothing came up for Frank, but I did find his brother Joe's record under the name Josef Zitzmann. I knew it was him because in the declaration of intention he gives his date of arrival as June 4, 1906, having sailed to the US on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, and states his birthplace as Rosshaupt, Bohemia, Austria. To paraphrase that old guy from the A-Team, I love it when genealogical details come together! I haven't had time to look over this record properly yet, but I did notice that by 1912 (the year he filed the declaration), he was married and had four kids - his wife was Teresia, and his children were Rosa, Catherine, Frederick, and John. I wonder if I can locate any living descendants of his? It'd be fascinating to compare notes with them, and see if any tales of the 'old country' survived in their lines better than they did in mine.

Just for fun, I also looked for and found Joseph Haffner in the 1900 Pittsburg census. I did so for two reasons - one, to see if I could find something on him before the Zitzmanns came over with his brother Johann, to see if he'd been in the area for a while. And two, to remind myself I need to look into his family and see if they are perhaps related to my Zitzmanns. I still need to find Louis Fullmer (who, according to the 1906 passenger list really was family), J. Plumer, and Margaretha Hofner. The to-do list never grows shorter, does it?

But still, even with Grandma Hoffman's silence on the issue, we're starting to blow some big holes in that brick wall. I've got a lot of new information to sort through, a lot of really good, solid leads to follow up on, and some really interesting stories that no one knew about. Not a bad week, eh?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Follow Friday - Almost an immigrant

Christ Hoffman and Mary Sitzman's marriage license
After I'd gone through the obituaries and census records for Grandma Hoffman, I went to FamilySearch's Montana County Marriages database (which, as I've said before, is a goldmine for anyone doing Montana research) and looked for the marriage record for Mary Sitzman and Christ Hoffman. Didn't take long to find it, and I am now SO glad I did! It gives the names of both of their parents - Christ's parents were Gottlieb Hoffman and Kunijnunda Buchner (if you can tell me how the mom's name is pronounced, please do), and Mary's parents were John Sitzman and Teresea Doffler. The witnesses were Rose Sitzman (probably Mary's sister, not her daughter), and Charles Aspling (no idea who he is). But the real find was the birthplace Mary gives - Rosshaupt, Fromberg county, Austria.

Rozvadov in the Czech
Republic, courtesy Wikipedia
I know nothing about that part of the world other than a few names of countries that no longer exist (Czechoslovakia, anyone?) so I hopped online and did some digging for info on Rosshaupt. What I found was very interesting. It turns out, Rosshaupt is now known as Rozvadov, and is just inside the western border of the Czech Republic. The best part is, it's a tiny town, the population is only about a thousand inhabitants even today. That's the best part because it means it's more likely that it's where she's actually from. Kind of like when people from out of state ask where I'm from, I don't tell them Fife, because they've never heard of Fife. They might know about Tacoma, five miles south of here, but to save myself from having to explain where Tacoma is, I just say I'm from "near Seattle," even though Seattle is 30 miles north of here. But Rosshaupt isn't a Seattle town - it's a Fife town! Heck, compared to Rosshaupt, Fife IS Seattle. But that little village name has become very important in finding out more about the Sitzmans, as I'll explain later.

In researching Rosshaupt, I asked for help in finding it from the Germans in Volhynia and Poland mailing list I'm on. One of the members of the list said it was in Bohemia around Grandma Hoffman's time, and Bohemia had been part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, and thus outside of the scope of the mailing list. Bohemia, if you'll recall, is where Grandma Hoffman said she was from in the 1910 census, so that made perfect sense. It also explained why she said Rosshaupt was part of Austria on her marriage license. On their recommendation, I joined a Germans in Bohemia mailing list and asked them for assistance in finding Rosshaupt and Mary Sitzman and her family. Within a few short hours (yes, hours!) I had several responses. The good people of the Bohemia mailing list told me Rosshaupt was in an area known as Pfraumberg (which sounds like Fromberg), and sent me a whole host of links and tidbits about the area, which I'm still wading my way through.

One especially nice lady, a fellow Washingtonian as it turns out, suggested I look at Ellis Island's records as the Sitzmans might have come through there when they immigrated. I'd tried searching the Ellis Island website before, but I'd had no luck on finding Mary Sitzman, and figured she must have come through another port like Baltimore or Philadelphia or something. I asked her why she thought Mary would have come through Ellis Island. She responded, but not with words - she sent me a copy of the passenger list from Ellis Island, showing Maria Zitzmann, her two daughters Marie and Rosa, and three siblings - Franz, Rosina, and Josef, all from Rosshaupt!!! The passenger list says they sailed from Bremen, Germany on the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, and landed in New York on June 7, 1906. She also sent a copy of the immigration record (a little plaque-like thing Ellis Island creates showing the immigrant's info extracted from the passenger list) and a picture of the ship they had sailed on. I just sat there, stared at the screen, and couldn't believe my eyes - there was Mary, Rose, Frank, and Joe Sitzman, with my great-grandma Rosie and her sister Mary as little girls, ages 2 and 6. But I'd never found them because I'd always searched for Sitzman, and never thought to try Zitzman or Zitzmann.
SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
The more I stared at this passenger list, the more info I started to see - Josef Zitzmann had a long number written next to his name, which (thanks to Lisa Louise Cooke and Stephen Danko) I figured was his naturalization record number. All the Zitzmanns were listed as going to visit a brother-in-law, Louis Fullmer, who resided at Rear 153 - 43 St. in Pittsburg. (I still don't know who Louis Fullmer is or whose sister he was married to, but I am going to find out!) There was another former resident of Rosshaupt on the boat with them as well, Johann Haffner, who had been to the US before and was going to see his brother Joseph Haffner, who also lived in Pittsburg. I'd like to find more on him too, see if maybe he was a relative or something. The family had $300 between them, which (according to this inflation calculator) would be equivalent to $6800 today. Not bad! But then I noticed that the word 'deported' was stamped over a handwritten SI that had been written next to Maria, Marie, and Rosa's names. My mailing list friend didn't know what that meant, and neither did I. No one in my family knew anything about any ancestors being deported, so that didn't make sense. To really understand this passenger list, I needed help from someone who knew these records better than I did. So I turned to the only person I could think of - Stephen Danko himself.

I certainly didn't expect Mr. Danko to get back to me so quickly (he is a well-known and very busy man, after all), but he did. He responded just a couple hours later, with a lot more info than I was expecting! First, he confirmed that the number next to Josef's name was in fact the information that will lead me (when I get time and opportunity to do it) to his naturalization record. He also said that the SI notation meant Special Inquiry, and meant that Maria and her girls had to meet with an inspector from the Board of Special Inquiry before being admitted to America. There was a page in the ship's manifest (which Mr. Danko was kind enough to look up and send me) that showed the results of all Special Inquiries from this voyage. The notes from inspector Cowley about my Zitzmanns just say "LPC Illegit. ch." Mr. Danko explained that the notation meant the "reason for deportation is LPC, meaning that the authorities thought that since Maria was unmarried and had two illegitimate children, they would likely be unable to support themselves and would become public charges." Whether the girls were really illegitimate, I don't know, but the inspector apparently felt that the risk of them becoming public charges was great enough to send them back to Europe.

And that is how my great-great-grandmother and her two little girls were deported from Ellis Island.

There's more that I've found, but that will have to wait until next time.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wisdom Wednestay - From brick wall to stepping stones

Mary (Sitzman) Hoffman
My great-great-grandmother and her two little girls were deported from Ellis Island.

But before I get into that story, first let me give you some background. Ever since I started tracing my family's history back in 2000, there have been two lines that were the hardest to find concrete details on - the Josephs (my paternal grandfather's mother's side), and the Sitzmans (my paternal grandmother's mother's side). Within the last year or so, as I've blogged on here many times, I've had a lot of success (both in my own research, and in genealogical serendipity) in breaking through the Joseph brick wall. I now know much more about the Josephs than I thought I ever would, and I still have several leads I need to follow up on when I have time. But then my grandmother requested that I come over and talk about her side of the family, which pulled me away from the Josephs, and got me looking at her Wagner and Sitzman lines.

As I started going through my Sitzman records, I realized I still didn't know very much about Mary Sitzman, my great-great-grandmother. Her daughter Rose, my great-grandmother, once told my mom that Grandma Hoffman (as my great-great-grandmother was known) had come over pretending to be the wife of one of her brothers so he could sponsor her passage. She came over and used her maiden name, which she also gave to her girls, which led us to suspect she might have been running from her husband, but that was just a theory. We knew she was German, that she and her girls had come over around the turn of the century, and that Grandma Hoffman was very tight-lipped about the 'old country'. She didn't want her girls speaking German, and she said nothing about her life or family back in Europe. I knew of several siblings - Frank, Mike, Joe, Barbara, and Rose - via my grandmother, but grandma didn't know any concrete dates or events, though she did know some stories about them, and even had a few pictures of them. But no records from that line have come down, and without solid info to go off of for any of Mary's siblings, finding records on them was nigh impossible.  For Grandma Hoffman herself, I had her death certificate, a few census records, and an obituary, plus a lot of photos. I hadn't really found anything or seen anything in those records that jumped out at me with any real clues to where she was really from. So while I could trace her life from 1910 (the first census record she appears in) to her death in 1960, I didn't know of any leads that could tell me where she came from. Her death record and a census record said Germany, two other censuses said Bohemia, wherever that was, and the obituary was silent on the issue. Not much to go on.

The first break came when I was going through old newspapers online, and started finding some obituaries. The first one I found was for Christ Hoffman, who died in 1942. The obit for Christ Hoffman confirmed the names of some of Mary's siblings, namely Rose, Frank and Joseph, but it also named additional siblings - Fred Rhump and Sebastian Sitzman, both from Butte, Montana, and Carrie Morgele from Pittsburgh. I also found an obituary for Barbara, which listed most of the siblings I knew about, both from my grandma and from the other obits - sisters Rose (Mrs. William Fredrickson), Mary (Mrs. Chris Hoffman), and Carrie Magual, and brothers Frank, Joe and Sebastian. There was still no mention of Mike Sitzman, but I got really excited at finding all these names anyways, and started making a list of all these siblings to run past my grandmother.

When I visited my grandmother last week, I showed her the list of Sitzman siblings I'd put together. She recognized Joe, Frank, Rose, and Barbara, of course. She was puzzled at Sebastian, who in one of the obits was said to be from Dewey, Montana, which is where Grandma remembered Mike being from. She concluded that Mike and Sebastian were the same person, given that the name Mike never appeared in any of the records I'd found, though Sebastian did (I'd also found him in a city directory, newspaper articles, and census records). I've found other cases in my family where a person went by a name that had nothing to do with their actual names (my grandfather Roland John Bergstad went by Tom; my great-granduncle Donald Roscoe Wagner went by Bill; and my great-grandaunt Mary (Sitzman) Wagner was called Susie by her daughter). So Sebastian and Mike being the same person made sense. And honestly, I felt a little relieved that it wasn't another relative somehow managing to stay out of all major record sources! Grandma had never heard of Carrie, nor either of the last names she was given in the obits (Morgele and Magual), nor yet of Frank Rhump. I still know nothing more about Carrie and Frank than what's wirtten in the obits, so I still have work to do on them. But I was finally starting to feel like I had a handle on who my great-great-grandmother's siblings were.

The second big break came with what I discovered once I found Mary Sitzman and Christ Hoffman's marriage record. But that story will have to wait until next time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Madness Monday - Random family connections abound!!

I think I've written before about how all of my family lines come together in Montana, and how much of my genealogy I've found there. But it's been brought home to me tonight on a whole new level.

I've been going through my Wagner-related files, sorting through the documents and newspaper articles and census records I've collected over the years, finding the info they contain, and entering and sourcing it in my Rootsmagic database. A lot of the records, probably most of them, are already there. But there's a goodly number that are not, and even the ones that are haven't all been documented thoroughly. I'm finding I don't really need to do a lot of research at this point; I really need to delve deeper into the piles and piles of stuff I already have!

So while I've been going through all these Wagner documents, I've come across a number of really interesting/weird/coincidental family connections between different lines of my family. I think part of this comes from the fact that Montana isn't a densely populated state (even in its mining heyday), so families were bound to bump into each other over several generations. But some of these connections are just so interesting and random, they jump out off the page at me. Here's some of them that I've discovered just in the last couple of days:

Elsie Dean was the wife of Howard Wagner, my great-grandfather Charles Wagner's brother. Reinhard Nelson was the father of Thomas Nelson, my grandma Blossom's first husband. Gilbert Bacon (uncle of Elsie Dean on her mother's side), Reinhard Nelson, and Winfield Dean (Elsie Dean's father) and their families, all appear in the same city at the same time - Colgate, Steele Co., North Dakota in the 1910 census. Also, the Bacons and Nelsons were both Norwegian.

Rev. Martin Hudtloff was the pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Butte, Montana. He performed
the marriages of:
Augusta Joseph and Charles Steffan (my great-grandmother and her first husband)
Lydia Joseph and Jacob Reitnauer (Lydia was Augusta Joseph's sister)
Edward Haft and Hilma Hubredt (Edward was my grandpa Fred's cousin)
Augusta Haft and Charles Moutrey (Augusta was another cousin of my grandpa Fred)
Robert Richter and Elizabeth Metz (parents of Rudy Richter, who married my grandma Blossom's cousin Ellen Weyhe)
St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Butte
He also officiated at the funeral of Frederick Hoffman, the 2-year-old son of Christ Hoffman (my great-great-grandma Mary Sitzman's second husband) and his first wife Annie Clausen.
I would love to just sit and pick that man's brain about my family!

David Wolfe, a minister, officiated at the marriages of both my second-great-grandaunt Rose Sitzman and William Fredrickson, and Rose's niece (and my great-grandaunt) Mary Sitzman and Henry Winter. The marriages were less than a year apart.

Grace (Craddock) Cote (my great-grandmother Edna's sister), Beatrice (Baltazar) Morris (sister-in-law to my great-grandmother Rosie's second husband Clarence Morris), and Jane (Norton) Talbott (mother-in-law to my great-great-grandfather Ernest Craddock via his second marriage) were all at the same party in Twin Bridges in 1956.

It's just fascinating to see these different family lines living near each other, going to church together, and attending social functions together. I tend to think of the world getting smaller being a modern phenomenon. In Montana, at least, it's always been small.

10-14-11 update: Found a couple more connections to throw into this pot. Martin Hudtloff also married Mary (Wills) Hatton, my great-grandma Rosie (Sitzman) Wagner's cousin, to her second husband, Fred Bechtold. That means this one pastor knew my Hoffman, Sitzman, and Joseph relatives!
Also, George David Wolfe also performed the marriage for Mary Wills and her first husband, Sidney Hatton, making three Sitzman family marriages he officiated over two generations (Rose Fredrickson, her neices Mary Winter and Mary Hatton).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wedding Wednesday - one bride, two husbands, and some twisted branches in the family tree

Just a quick but interesting thing I discovered/rediscovered this week. In going through the files of my Wagner and connected families, I came across a census I had mislabeled. I had thought it was George Greenfield with his first wife Cala and their kids, Boyd, Clarence, Iva, and Charles. The fact that the husband's name was given as W O Greenfield didn't really register as a problem, as census takers do get things wrong sometimes, and George's middle name was Oliver, so I figured the census taker had just gotten the first initial wrong. However, I noticed in going through the census records for George that he had a brother named William, and I found in my notes that Cala had married William Greenfield at some point (didn't know for sure when, but it was before 1930). I had totally forgotten that my great-great-grandmother's second husband had a sister-in-law that at one point had been his wife! I haven't yet dug deep enough to know what became of all the kids, though I did find the three younger children, Boyd, Clarence and Iva, were living with Cala and William, along with a Charles Greenfield, born around June 1919, and I presume the child of the two of them. That would make Charles both the half-sibling and cousin of the other kids in the house, since their mother was his mother, and their father was his uncle. I wonder what that will mean for their kids' relationships?
One other thing that kind of complicated the Greenfield tree was the names of the boys in George and William's family. After going through the censuses I've collected so far on them - 1880 Federal, 1885 and 1887 Washington state censuses - there were three boys whose names got a bit confusing. It worked out like this:

1880 - George C. (3) and Oliver (1)
1885 WA - Charles (8), George (6), and C. (2)
1887 WA - C.G. (10), George (8), and Charles (4)

So between the three boys, there are two Georges, two Charles', and an Oliver. How in the world did the boys know who was being called, when each of them shared one name with another brother? The oldest and youngest of the three were likely named for their father, Charles Greenfield, but I don't know why they felt two sons also deserved the name George. Just one of those unexpected quirks that makes unraveling our family history that much more interesting and intriguing, and at times, head-scratchingly odd.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Marriage Monday - Samuel Joseph and Juliana Lorentz

I got the civil record for Sam Joseph's marriage to Juliana Lorentz! It came a while ago, but I've been too swamped to blog about until now. But this record definitely identifies the groom as my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Joseph, son of Ludwig Joseph and Justine (Witt) Joseph. His marital status is widower, which he had been for four years by that point, his age puts him born about 1865, and religion is Lutheran. It all fits. The most interesting bit of information was his residence, which was listed as S22 T18 R12 in - Manitoba! This was supposedly four years after his move to Montana. When I saw that residence, I remembered that the Tracks of Time book I picked up on eBay had some undated maps of several townships in the Glenella, Manitoba area. I looked them up, and there actually is a map of S22 T18 R12 there! I looked through the map, and found a plot of land owned by none other than Gottlieb Joseph, Sam's brother. Kinda makes me wonder if Sam really lived there, or if he just crashed there to get married. Particularly because his bride gives the same address.
As for Juliana, the marriage record confirms that she was a widow, so that means Lorentz wasn't her maiden name. It also says her father, Gottlieb Kublick, was deceased, though it gives no information as to where she or her parents were born. I was kind of hoping for birth information to help me locate Juliana in other records, so I guess I'll have to keep searching. I probably just need to sit down and look up what kind of records exist for Manitoba, aside from the census and vital records I already know about.
One avenue I still need to pursue is ordering the death record for Juliana. I'm pretty sure it's her, as the last name is Lorntz-Joseph (no given name listed), born about 1852 (compared to 1859 as given in the marriage records for Juliana), and decedent is female. If that document doesn't pan out, I'm gonna have to do a lot more digging to find more on Juliana.
All in all, the civil copy of the marriage record was worth what I spent - it confirms all the details of the church's version, and gives me the added info regarding Juliana's widowhood (if that's a word). I'll post a follow-up with what info the death record has, and what I think it means for my future research.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just when you think you know someone...

I finished going through all the church records I got from Christ Lutheran Church in Manitoba, and boy, what an education! Most of the records were for Gottlieb Joseph's family, as they seemed to stay closest to the church, and for the longest length of time. I did get to see some of my direct ancestors in the records, though, and that was really neat to see. Here's some of what I found:

My great-grandmother Augusta was a witness for her older sister Olga's wedding to Gustav Hoeft (also spelled Haft, Heft, and Hoft) at her wedding in 1906.
Of the five children in the family, only Augusta and her sister Lydia were confirmed in the church. Augusta was confirmed in 1906, just a few months after her arrival in Canada, and Lydia in 1907.
Augusta was a witness at the marriage of her cousin Olga Joseph (yes, same exact name as her sister) to Philipp Oswald in 1908.
Also in 1908, my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Joseph, was named godfather to his nephew, Helmut Joseph (the only time Samuel appeared in a record that didn't directly involve him).
Augusta was also godmother to her cousin, Wilhelmina Magdalena Liona Siegel, when her cousin was baptized in 1912. That suggests that she stayed in contact with her family up there, maybe even made some trips.

It was fascinating for me to see these records. The other records I've found of my great-grandmother - censuses, passenger lists, even her marriage records - seemed more of a "here I am" stamp, showing me her location at one point in time. These chuch records just bring her to life for me. They show her being involved in a church community, staying interested and involved in important events in her family's lives. It's also interesting that her siblings (with the exception of Lydia's confirmation and Olga's wedding) are totally absent from all of the church records. I know Augusta's brother Elmer ended up marrying an Irish Catholic girl named Julia Barrett, and her sister Helena married Jack Walsh, who was also Catholic. The aforementioned Olga Joseph (Augusta's sister, not cousin) married Gustav Hoeft, who came from an active Lutheran family, and a couple of their children were baptized into the Lutheran church. But after Gus died in 1949, she married Michael McKeown, an Irish Catholic (notice a trend here?). Lydia married Jacob Reitnauer, an active Lutheran German, and stayed Lutheran once they moved to South Dakota (per the South Dakota state censuses I've found so far). And Augusta's first husband was Charles Steffan, who might have been Lutheran as well; I don't know for sure if he was, but I do know they were married in St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Butte. It's just intriguing to see a trend like that - those who were in the church records stayed active, and those who weren't, didn't.

But as for the title of the post, it's more in reference to a couple of things that I've come across recently. One is a church record that my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Joseph, appears in. I knew that his first wife, Pauline, died 6 January 1909, and that he moved with his five kids to Anaconda, Montana, in April that same year. So far as I knew, he lived with his kids until they all married off, and then with one or the other of them after they'd all gotten married until he died in 1955. However, in going through the church records, I found one that pointed to a chapter of Sam's life none of us knew about - his second marriage.
According to the marriage record Sam married a woman named Juliana Lorentz, daughter of Gottlieb Kublick and Christine (nee Klein). Her name is interesting because it suggests that this wasn't her first marriage either, and because Sam's brother Ludwig/Louis married Seraphina Lorenz, who could have been a relative. I plan on following up on this, once I get the marriage certificate for Sam and Juliana (which I ordered a couple weeks ago, and should be getting in the mail any day now). I'll need to order the marriage certificate for Louis and Seraphina as well, but first I want to find out more about this mystery wife.

Since I discovered the existence of this second marriage, I've tried to find more about Juliana, but she doesn't appear in the 1911 or 1916 Canadian censuses, and a general search of turned up nothing. Nor could I find her in the 1930 Montana census where Sam is living with his daughter Augusta, son-in-law Frederic Gibson, and grandson (and my grandfather) Frederick. In that census Sam's marital status is widowed, which I'd always taken to be a reference to Pauline, his first wife. Now it might actually be referring to Juliana.

The other interesting tidbit from the marriage record is that (if I am reading the German correctly) it says that Sam was living in Waldersee at the time of his marriage, which was 26 December 1913. Did Sam move to the States, then move back to Canada? It might help explain why I can't find him in the 1920 census. But neither can I find him in the 1916 Canadian census. The time between 1913 and 1930 is kind of a "lost period" for Sam. I'll have to do more digging to see what happened to him during this period. But for now, I'm still getting over the shock of the second marriage. I wonder what other surprises I'll find?

Turns out, I've already found a couple! We had a family reunion for my grandma Blossom's Wagner family a couple weeks ago, and on the way to the reunion, we stopped at my grandparents' house for breakfast. While we were there, my dad thought it'd be a good idea to bring the Wagner pedigree chart we printed a few years ago, just in case the chance to talk genealogy ever came up (it never did, sadly). While looking for it, I came across a notebook on the Josephs my mom had put together for my grandpa, which everyone had forgotten about. In it were mostly just some pedigree and descendancy charts (which I've filled out quite a bit more in the 11 years since they were created), but towards the back were some pictures I'd never seen before. One of them was a photo of Sam Joseph and four of his kids. Papa Fred recognized three of them, but didn't know the fourth (I think it's Lydia, the daughter who married  Jacob Reitnauer). If I'm right, then those in the photo are  (l-r, b-f) Augusta, Lydia, Helena, Sam, and Elmer Joseph. The lower right corner of the matte board is stamped Hunter, which  I'm assuming is the photography studio that took the photo. It has Anaconda, Montana stamped underneath it, so that would date the photo to sometime around 1909-1910 (between when they moved to Anaconda and when Augusta got married to Charles Steffan). There's a handwritten note on the back that says "Mrs. Olga Haft" so I think they took the photo and gave it to Olga (who isn't in the picture). I just couldn't believe there was another photo of Sam and the kids. I was (and still am) ecstatic. It gives me hope that there might be other pictures floating around out there.

The last thing I found out about was another picture in the same notebook on the Josephs, which led to the other reason for the title of this post. There was a picture of four people, one of which I recognized right off to be my great-grandfather, Fred Gibson Sr. On the back someone had written "Freddie, Vera, Emma & Fred  Deer Lodge, Mont 1938." I asked my grandpa about it, and he said it was him, his dad, his dad's second wife Emma, and his step-sister Vera. I about choked when he said step-sister! I had no idea he even had a stepsister! I never thought to check if Emma had any children from her previous marriage (I can't remember who she was married to, I'll have to follow up on that). I've never heard anyone mention Vera before, so I'll see if I can get more info on her. But to think of my grandpa having a step-sister is just mind-boggling. He's always been an only child in my mind, so this really shakes things up a lot.

In short, it's been a very eventful, very paradigm-shifting couple of weeks. My grandparents are in town today, so hopefully I'll be able to mine a few more details about some of these new facts.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - Finally into the church records!

After several months, I've finally waded through all the stuff in my "Stuff to file" folder! Now I'm into the church records I ordered from Christ Lutheran Church in Manitoba, Canada. I've only read through six of the 48 so far, but I ran across one that just tugged at the heartstrings a bit. My great-great-grandfather, Samuel Joseph, came from a family of seven children, of which he was the second-oldest. Some (most? I still haven't done the timeline yet) of his family got to Manitoba before he did, in late 1905, including his older brother Gottlieb and his family, and his parents Ludwig and Justine (Witt) Joseph. But the record I reviewed today was the death record for Samuel's youngest brother, Michael, who died at age 21 on 21 April 1905. Michael's death occurred just six months before Samuel and his family landed in Quebec, so I wonder if they even knew of the death before arriving in Manitoba. That would be one of the worst things to have happen - to travel thousands of miles to be with your family, only to find out your littlest brother died just months before you got there.
I'm not sure how they used this, but there's a scripture noted in the death record (it's a church record, after all). The verse is 2 Samuel 1:26, which reads: "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." The verse is very fitting, and shows the love the family members had for each other. I can't imagine Ludwig and Justine's heartbreak at losing a son just before their family would have been reunited after many years apart.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Divorce in the Joseph family

I've got two interesting tales of divorce to chronicle today - one involving stolen fruit, and one that was part of an epidemic. First up, the fruit. My first cousin three times removed, Louise Leistiko, was born in Montana around 1912. I recently found a marriage license for her at FamilySearch, stating that she married a man named Arthur Popham, another native Montanan a few years older than she was, on 16 Feb 1929 . I also found another marriage license, linking her to Harold Dunville, dated just nine months after her marriage to Arthur, while also stating that she had not been previously married. This caught my attention - either there was a case of mistaken identity on my part, or there was a story here that would explain this situation. I figured newspapers would be my best source for quickly answering the question, so I went looking for more information on A few clicks later and they had answered my questions - there was indeed a story!

The first article I found showed me what probably led to the breakup of Louise and Arthur. In May 1929, while the two were on a trip to Saint Maries, Idaho with a friend named Louis Helm, something happened, I'm not sure exactly what, that caused the three of them to be arrested for stealing 50 bushels of fruit. My city-based upbringing leaves me completely ignorant of what exactly a bushel is in terms of size or weight. Wikipedia helped out greatly the last time I had a question like this, so I went back to them. Wikipedia's definition was one bushel equals four pecks. Ok, what's a peck? 8.81 litres or 297 fl. oz, or apparently two of those white paper bags of apples with the handles on them. All right, so eight of those white bags is one bushel, and Arthur and company were arrested for stealing 50 bushels? That's a LOT of fruit, so there's no way this was a case of walking away from a farm with an extra apple in his pocket. Again, I don't have all the details of who did what, but obviously something happened. The article covering the incident also mentioned that Arthur was an "old offender." He'd apparently already done time for grand larceny and forgery, and just finished a parole term when the fruit incident happened.
The next article I found seemed to indicate Louise and Louis (the friend) were not found guilty. It was from July 1929, so it was two months after the fruit incident and five months after the wedding. It stated Louise was then filing for divorce "on the grounds that her husband was convicted of a felony on charges of grand larceny in May and that he was given a five-year term in the state penitentiary." Shortly afterward, the divorce was granted, and Louise was ok to resume using her maiden name of Leistiko. Within a couple months of the divorce, she married Harold Dunville and (to my knowledge) lived happily ever after. That's a lot to have gone through in just one year's time!
The second tale of divorce comes from the life of John Levick, the second husband of my second-great-grandaunt (and Louise's mother), Justine "Tina" (Joseph) Leistiko. Years before he married Tina, John married his first wife, Natly "Nettie" Moliniak (no relation to Megan Smolenyak, I already checked). I had been told previously that Nettie had died about a year after marrying John (sometime around 1903), but hadn't found any corresponding records confirming the story. I went on FamilySearch and found Nettie and John's marriage record, confirming they were married on 11 Aug 1902. However, I found another marriage for John dated 26 Apr 1904, less than two years later. This marriage was to Mary Zylick, a name I'd not heard before, and someone had written on the license that John Levick had been married before but had been divorced. Obviously both stories - the death and the divorce - couldn't be true, so I went back to and did some more digging. A few minutes later, I'd found several articles about John and Nettie's divorce proceedings. The divorce was filed sometime around Oct-Nov 1903 (after the death date I'd been given for Nettie, so that showed me the death info was incorrect), and was being heard by Judge Napton of the local court. One article even stated that John was not considered likely to attend the hearing, meaning Nettie would just need to bring her proofs and she'd be free and clear. John must have changed his mind, or the reporter was just misinformed, as the case did continue through December, when Judge Napton postponed judgment on it indefinitely.
You're probably wondering by now how this divorce was part of an epidemic. John and Nettie's divorce was apparently one of many lawsuits then going on in the area. The article that announced the finalization of the divorce listed many other rulings and status updates of other cases, and the article was titled "LEGAL EPIDEMIC HERE." Many other people were suing for various things (there was even another lawsuit of John Levick against Nettie and a guy named George B. Winston, though I don't know anything about that case yet). But eventually, in January 1904, the judge ruled them divorced and told them "to go on their way rejoicing. I'm not sure that's what I'd tell a divorcing couple, but maybe they were happy to have their marriage ended by that point. At any rate, it freed John up to marry Mary Zylick in April, three months after his divorce from Nettie was finalized.
The two cases are interesting to me not because they involve divorce, which seems to have been a fairly common occurrence in Montana even then. It's interesting because of the shortness of the two marriages - one lasted a few months, the other a year and a half; also because of the unusual circumstances Arthur and Louise's divorce - theirs is the only marriage I know of that ended because of fruit theft. As for John and Nettie, I wonder if they got caught up in the "legal epidemic" or just happened to drift apart at the same time all those other lawsuits were going on. I don't know that there's any way to ever know, but it's intriguing to think about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More interesting connections

My grandmother, Sally Crawford, has some deep Montana roots. She's descended from Thomas W. Harris, one of the first white settlers of western Montana, who came to Montana in the 1850s. Sally married Jim Crawford back in 1993, and started researching his genealogy soon thereafter. She discovered that among his ancestors were the Colcords, with his most recent Colcord ancestor being his great-grandmother Mary Eleanor Colcord, daughter of Thomas Colcord and Eleanor Davis.

I mention these details because tonight I discovered that my grandmother's wedding was not the first Harris-Colcord wedding. It turns out, George Harris, brother of my grandmother's grandfather Frank Harris, married Leona Colcord, daughter of John Colcord and Effie Williams, in 1911. Leona is Jim's first cousin twice removed (ie Jim's grandmother Eleanor Knapp was Leona's first cousin). Which makes the children of this marriage (there were two that I know of Dorothy and Ralph Harris) both a first cousin once removed to Sally, and a second cousin once removed to Jim. So while Sally and Jim aren't directly related by blood, they do share some cousins. Pretty interesting, no?

A quick funny

I saw this and thought I had to post it. I've been going through Montana marriage licenses like nobody's business (it still amazes me just how many relatives of mine lived their whole lives, or at least a good portion of them, in Montana). The form that was filed on the state level for the marriage certificate requires the officiating party to state where the marriage took place - usually just the city and county, though sometimes the person filling out the form has listed the address of the building or residence where the marriage was performed. However, in looking at my great-great-granduncle James Harris' wedding to Florence Irene Thomas on 21 Sep 1927, the officiator wrote something I've never seen in this field - the time. Where most officiators wrote the name of the city the marriage was performed in, J.D. Wasson, a minister, wrote 9 o'clock P.M.
I think that's very interesting, mostly because I don't know anyone personally who got married that late at night. (The reception for my own wedding was well underway by then). To me, it's just one more example that you really can't take anything for granted as to what your ancestors did and when - not even the time of day for a wedding.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why do some traditions die out?

In going through my stack of stuff to file, I came across a very humorous story (though I didn't realize that's what it was at first). My great-grandfather Jim Harris had six older brothers (though one died as an infant) and though I have a few census and other records on them and their families, I don't really know too much about them yet. Mostly they're one branch of the family I still have yet to do real research on.

However, today I found a newspaper article about the second-oldest son in the family, William Harris, and his marriage to his second wife, Mary Mazza. The article begins with the normal details - they were married in the rectory of a Catholic church, in a ceremony officiated by Father John P. O'Malley (a good Irish Catholic name if I've heard one). It even gives some details on the bride's gown.

The funny part is what happened after the honeymoon was over. After spending a few days in Butte, they came home to "a charivari ride through the business section of the city on an improvised sulkey made on the back springs of a cart hitched to an automobile, after which a reception was given at their new home in
Parker's addition by their friends."
European sulkies, courtesy of Wikipedia

Being the modern city boy that I am, I had no idea what a "charivari ride" or "sulkey" were. A quick trip to and Wikipedia helped fill me in though. According to, a charivari, or shivaree/chivaree, is a "discordant mock serenade to newlyweds, made with pans, kettles, etc." And Wikipedia had a really good article showing just what a sulky is (the newspaper mispelled it apparently). It's a little carriage usually pulled by a horse, often in races, having only a seat and wheels, but no body.

So, if you reread the article, it sounds like William and Mary came back from their honeymoon, and sat on a little mini-carriage hooked up to a 1930s car, and were pulled through the business district of Philipsburg, while all their friends and neighbors followed banging on pots and pans and singing loudly and purposefully out-of-tune. Which leads me to my question - how do traditions like this ever die out? I think it's an absolutely hilarious way to welcome back a newly-married couple, and would love to be in on a revival of the tradition should one come about. It just goes to show you - people back then sure knew how to have a good time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - What I learned about and from Christ Hoffman

Mary and Christ Hoffman
Christ Hoffman (b.1861 in Germany to Gottlieb Hoffman and Kunijnunda Buchner) was the second husband of my great-great-grandmother, Mary Sitzman. I first started learning about him in going through my Grandma Blossom's photo albums, as Grandma Blossom's mother, Rosie Wagner (one of Mary Sitzman's daughters) had taken a lot of pictures of Christ and Mary. Before he was married to my great-great-grandmother, however, he was married to a girl named Annie Clausen, b. abt 1858 in Germany. I think they married in Nebraska, as that's where their oldest surviving child, Christ Hoffman Jr., was born in 1891. I say oldest surviving, because in the little research I've done on the family so far, I've found that of their seven children together, only three lived to adulthood. Two children, whose names I have not yet found, died before 1900. Another child, August, born around 1894, died somewhere between 1900 and 1910. The only death I've found much information on was little Frederick, who died at the age of 2 years and 7 months. His passing was mentioned in a newspaper article in the Anaconda Standard in 1905, which also stated the funeral would be held at the family home. A really touching thank you from Christ and Annie appeared in the Standard a few days later, which said : "We desire to express our heartfelt thanks to our friends and neighbors for their kindness during the illness and death of our beloved son. We also wish to thank our friends for the many floral offerings.
I think it says a lot about Christ and Annie to have responded so quickly to thank their friends and neighbors, even in the midst of their grief.

Christ was also very successful at raising chickens. He won several awards for his Barred Plymouth Rocks and single-comb white Leghorns at the Montana state fair in 1909. He used those wins to his advantage the next year when trying to sell the eggs from his "prize-winners" in the local paper. In another ad he placed in 1912, Christ said he was willing to trade two very large St. Bernard dogs for chickens - a trade which would seem a hefty loss on the part of the dog owner to me, but then, I don't know chickens like Christ did.

One of the most fascinating things I came across was an ad he placed tyring to sell an egg incubator. The model he listed was a 240 X Cypher's Incubator. I got curious as to what that would have looked like, so I did a Google search. I didn't find the exact model, but I did find some pictures from a vintage Cypher's catalog someone was trying to sell online, which included pictures of several other models of Cypher's incubators. The photo at left shows the 360- and 440-egg capacity incubators, so I'm guessing the "240 X" in the model name meant it was a 240-egg capacity incubator. That's a lot of eggs!!

Christ married my great-great-grandmother on 1 July 1919, and they stayed married until his death in 1942 at the age of 80. He had a very interesting life, and I look forward to learning more and more about him and his descendants.