Sunday, November 16, 2014

Of Beilsteins and Briscoes and relocations

It feels so good to be blogging again!! School has taken up so much of my time the last 6 months, I haven't had more than a few minutes here and there for any genealogy research at all, let alone blogging about it. But I've found a couple of interesting things about my 2nd-great-grandma Philena "Lena" Beilstein that I wanted to write about.

A couple years ago, I found a marriage record for Lena dated 1903, when she was about 15 years old, showing her marrying David Briscoe. I knew she was in Montana by 1907, as that's when she married what I thought was her first husband, Clarence Johnson, so I was shocked to see her in Montana four years earlier. The 1900 census shows Lena and her family - father Jacob (who would die soon after the census was taken), mother Amelia, and sister Annie Margaret, aka Maggie - living in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. I've wondered since then what Lena was doing out in Montana all alone just three years later. It finally occurred to me last week that maybe she wasn't all alone in Montana after all.

I knew that Lena wound up in Montana by 1903, and the 1910 census showed her mom and sister living in Nebraska, so I'd always thought that Lena had gone to Nebraska with them, and then somehow gone up to Montana and gotten married. That didn't make sense, but based on what I knew at the time, it's all I could come up with. So I thought I'd double check that theory, and go looking for evidence of Lena's family in Montana between 1900 and 1910. And I found it!

I found a city directory showing Amelia living in Omaha in 1901 listed as the widow of Jacob. I expected to find her there, due to her 1910 census record. But the next directory I found her in was a surprise - Carbon County, Montana, the same county Lena and David Briscoe were married in. And right under Amelia was Lena, listed as a student. Lena would have been about 15 at the time, rather young to be listed in a country directory on her own, but there she was. In addition, her brother-in-law Arthur Cooper was listed just a few names down, confirming that the whole family had moved to Montana.

And just to confirm that all the puzzle pieces were in the right place at the right time, I looked for, and found, David Briscoe's family living in Golden, Carbon County, in 1903. His father Thomas Briscoe, and maternal uncle Arthur Barney (who performed the marriage) are both listed in Golden, where they were married.

It was one thing to find Lena's marriage certificate to David. It was another to find that her whole family was living in Montana with her at the time of the marriage. It also helped explain how Lena got to Montana, met David and married him - she moved there with her family. That's a much more likely scenario than a 15 year old young girl going off on her own.

Amelia remained in Carbon County for a few more years, living in Gebo in 1905 and Joliet in 1907. In both 1905 and 1907, Lena is listed right next to her mom under her maiden name. It seems that her marriage to David was a short one. I couldn't find any newspaper or other records showing what happened between them. The only other record of the marriage is a little note in her marriage record to Clarence Johnson in 1907, that she was previously married.

Amelia next appears in the 1909 Omaha city directory, showing that she had moved to Nebraska between 1907 and 1909, putting her right where she appears in 1910. As Lena had married Clarence Johnson, she stayed in Montana, and would remain in Montana for the rest of her life as far as I've been able to determine. 

The years 1900-1910 were a lot more eventful for Lena and her family than I previously thought. They lost Jacob and moved to Omaha between 1900 and 1901; moved to Carbon County, Montana by 1903, the same year Lena and David Briscoe were married; Lena and David probably split before 1905, as she's listed under her maiden name as though no marriage had taken place; Lena married Clarence Johnson in 1907; the Beilsteins stayed in Montana until 1908-1909, when everyone but Lena moved back to Omaha. 

Not a bad weekend's work! I'm hoping to get a little more research time in tomorrow, as I think I may have found evidence that the Beilsteins lived in Omaha in the 1890s, rather than in Pennsylvania as I'd previously thought. Just when you think you know a family...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - An only child with four siblings

My seventh-great-grandfather Johannes Andersen of the Berstad/Bergstad farm married Dorethe (or Dordei) Larsdatter from Hiornevigen farm on 22 June 1751 in Evanger sogn, Voss parish, Hordaland County, Norway. It still boggles my mind that I have digital copies of the church records from when they were married.
Marriage record - Johannes Andersen Berstad and Dorethe Larsdatter Hiornevigen
A little over a year later, their daughter Marite Johannesdatter was baptized. Marite had at least four siblings that I have found records for - sister Barbru born in 1753, sister Anna born in 1756, brother Anders born in 1759, and another sister named Barbru born in 1761.

However, Marite and her parents suffered a tragedy in 1758 when the older Barbru died at just 4 years and 19 weeks old (she never even got to see the youngest two siblings). Another tragedy struck when little Anders died in 1760, just 16 weeks after he was born. They remained a family of five - Johannes, Dorethe, Marite, Anna, and the younger Barbru - for the next 12 years. Then something, perhaps illness, claimed the lives of both Anna and Barbru, who were buried the same day, 22 March 1772. Not yet 20 years old, Marite had witnessed her family lay four of their five children to rest. I can't imagine what that kind of frequent encounter with loss and grief would do to a young girl.

Then, nearly two years later, something wonderful happened - Marite married Sjur Nielsen from Horvei farm, also in Voss parish. Part of me wonders what she thought about that day - did she remember the siblings who should have been there? Did she grieve for her parents, who would only get to see one of their five children live to be married? Or was she happy that she was able to give them that day of joy, to give them the chance to see their only surviving child find a husband and have a family of her own? It was probably a mixture of all of that, and more.

It's sad that Marite ended up being an only child, but I'm grateful that she survived. The loss of her siblings may have helped her cope with the losses she suffered as a parent - she also lost four children in infancy. Her parents lived long enough witness the first of those losses, a son named Niels Siursen who died at 8 months, and I'd like to think that they helped her and her husband get through it. But Marite also had two children, Johannes (my ancestor) and Niels, that her parents lived long enough to see. Hopefully they were able to spend time with their grandchildren before they passed away. It wouldn't have made up for all the losses they experienced, but it might have made things a little easier knowing that some of their posterity would survive.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Two brothers, one name

In doing genealogy research, I've come across habits and traditions of people in different places that sometimes leave me scratching my head. I've written before about some American traditions of this nature, but in my research into Norwegian records I've come across a new one.

My Norwegian ancestors had a habit that is, from my perspective, very unusual. If the family had a child that died young, they would sometimes name a subsequent child (of the same gender) with the same name. I'm not sure if it was just a determination to have the name in the family, or the desire to see a descendant carry on a family name into future generations, or what ever else may have inspired the tradition. But I've seen it happen in multiple generations of that side of my family. For example, my second-great-grandparents Knute and Betsy (Olson) Bergstad had a daughter named Olga, born in 7 January 1900, who died before she was a year old. Knute and Betsy's next child, another daughter, was born 12 Feb 1901, and they named her Olga as well, but added the middle name Sophia. 

Knute's great-grandparents Johannes Sjursen and Brytteva Johannesdatter did something similar a hundred years earlier. Johannes's third child and second son, Johannes Johannesen, was born about September 1807, but died just 15 months later in February 1809. Later that year, Brytteva gave birth to a baby boy, whom they named Johannes Johannesen, just the same as his older brother. The name Johannes is pretty dominant in this family, so maybe they were just determined to have a surviving son carry the name forward. But it still seems a little morbid to me to give a child the same name as an older sibling who passed away. 

However, just recently, I found a new spin on this tradition in the family of Johannes Sjursen's parents, Sjur Nielsen and Marite Johannesdatter. Sjur and Marite's firstborn son, Niels Sjursen, was born in February 1775. 
Baptism record of Niels Sjursen b.1775
I knew from previous research that he died in 1779, and that a younger son, also named Niels, was born in 1779, so I assumed it followed the traditional pattern. But then I found that this wasn't the case. 

Burial record of Niels Sjursen, b.1775, d.1779
By going to the original records, I found that the older Niels was buried on 24 October 1779, but that the younger Niels was baptized on 3 October 1779, three weeks earlier. This took me by surprise; why would the family name one son Niels, and then a second son also Niels while the first Niels was presumably still alive? If the older Niels had died before the younger Niels was born, why did they wait at least 3 weeks to bury him? I am admittedly completely ignorant of Norwegian burial customs, but I doubt the family would have waited a month to bury their son after his passing. So what happened? 

Baptism record of Niels Sjursen, b.1779
After thinking about it for a while, I came upon a possible solution that made me very sad. What could have happened is this - perhaps the older Niels had taken ill or been injured at some point, but not fatally, or at least not immediately so. By the time the younger sibling was born, it was apparent that the older Niels wasn't going to make it, and they named the younger sibling Niels to preserve the name. Then sometime in the next three weeks, the older Niels passed away and was buried, leaving only one Niels in the family. I can't imagine losing one of my kids at any point in their lives. But to lose one so close to the time that another one is about to be (or has just been) born, and to know ahead of time that he was going to die, and so name your newborn son after him, is especially heartbreaking. 

If naming the younger child after the older was a form of paying tribute to the lost child, then the older Niels must have made quite the impression on his mom and dad in the short four years and eight months he was with them. And now, 235 years later and thousands of miles away, little Niels is remembered again. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday - My first foray into Norway

I was lucky enough a couple years ago to attend a class for Norwegian genealogy research at the local Family History Expo taught by Jan Sjavik, a Norwegian native who teaches Norwegian at the University of Washington. The class was awesome, full of real examples of how to use the records, and great explanations of how to use the Norwegian digital archives website. I've been a total Johnny-come-lately in getting around to making my first real attempt at original Norwegian research, but a week or so ago, I thought I'd give it a shot and see what I could find.

I've written before about getting some help in searching these archives, so I kind of knew how to go through them, I'd just never made the attempt on my own before. But I knew from Prof. Sjavik's class that the best and most reliable records for Norwegian research are the parish registers, and that all available registers have been digitized and made available online for free by the Norwegian national archives (pretty sweet deal, huh?). However, there aren't indexes for these records yet, so you have to know what parish your people came from, and then search the registers manually. Some of them are broken down by year and event type (baptism, burial, banns, etc), and some of them are just everything together in one book. Based on my previous research, I knew that my Bergstad ancestors came from Voss parish in Evanger, Hordaland county. So I decided to take a family I had some info on that I'd found in Ancestral File years and years ago when I was first starting out, but hadn't confirmed with actual records yet, and went in search of information to confirm or refute that info.

I started with the family of Johannes Sjursen Bergstad, my fourth-great-grandfather, who was supposedly born in 1777. He and his wife Brytteva Johannesdatter Horvei were the parents of 10 children:
Marita, Sjur (my ancestor), Johannes (who died as an baby), Johannes (they reused the name), Niels, Anna, Olav, Anders, Ivar, and Dordei. According to my info, Marita was born in 1803 and Dordei was born in 1820, so they had kids in pretty rapid-fire succession. Much moreso than me, I must say, with only 3 kids to show for 9 years of marriage. I figured I'd start with the patriarch, Johannes Sjursen, and see what I could find for him. I pulled up the Voss parish register book for 1777, went to the births, and started going through the entries one by one. I don't read or speak Norwegian, but I can recognize names, and I hoped that would be enough. Turns out, it was!

With some help from the Norway Genealogy Research group on Facebook, I confirmed that this was indeed my ancestor, who was baptized on the 21st Sunday after Trinity, or October 19, 1777. No actual birth date was given, but it does give his parents' names as Siur Nielsen and Mairtta Johannesdatter Bergstad, which was exactly what I have in my files. The names of the witnesses were interesting too - Knud Biørge, Knud Andersen Herveij, Niels Siursen Wasenden, Anna Biørge and Brita Andersdatter Bergstadnæs. I'm still not sure if or how Bergstadnæs is related to my Bergstad family, but I would tend to think so. That's something I still need to research. But boy was I excited by all this info! I had actually done original research, and found what I was looking for! I thought, if I could find him, why not look for all his children as well? So I did. 

I learned a couple things right away from finding all these records. First, the research I found on Ancestral file was very, very accurate. The only details that were wrong were Olav's name was actually Ole, Dordei was Durdei, and the first son Johannes died in February 1809 and not 1808. But everything else was spot on. That made finding these records a lot easier, and my confidence in the data grew with each record found. 

Another thing that stood out to me was the names of the witnesses for these baptisms. Some of the witnesses were from families whose surnames I recognized - Bergstad obviously, but Flantzaas (spelled Flansas in my files) and Horvei are both families that married into the Bergstads. There were many I didn't recognize, but kept seeing over and over again, especially Biørge. I wonder if there isn't a family connection there, maybe cousins or in-laws or something. 

I was also interested in how rare the name Johannes was, comparatively speaking. I thought it would be tough finding my Johannes, given how common the name John is in English speaking countries, but it actually turned out to be pretty rare. It made finding the birth records a lot easier, as the records all start with the name of the father, and I learned to skim the page for the father's name and just search for Johannes. 

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the search for Johannes' family was concluded, and how I was able to put the family together so quickly. I now have baptism dates for all of his kids, and exact birth dates for a few of them. Plus there's just something magical about seeing a two hundred-year old record in a foreign language, with the name of your ancestor in it, and you're one of only a few family members to see that record since it was written. I am really looking forward to finding more of my relatives in these records, and maybe (hopefully) learning how to read more than just the names.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - My Family-The Next Generation

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Obsolete German villages in Bohemia

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

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

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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

52 Ancestors, Week 3 - Margaret Waechter

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Ancestral Signatures

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

Saturday, February 15, 2014

An adoption mystery solved!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday - A distant relative with a cool story

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday - We found a Boddy in Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Wagner Bros. Logging

This is a picture of one of the lumber trucks from my great-grandfather Charles Wagner's lumber mill. See the Wagner Bros on the door? He and his brothers owned and operated their own lumber mill in Monroe, Washington during the 1940s. One of these days I need to go searching for records of the business, or look him up in some city directories, and try to get an idea of how long they ran the mill. The mill is long gone, there are houses built on the site now. But it was located near the house Charlie built for them. I think the house was even made of lumber from the mill. Imagine being able to build your own house from scratch!

52 ancestors in 52 weeks - week 1 - John H. Gibson

I know I'm late jumping on the 52 ancestors bandwagon, but better late than never, right? I'm starting my 52 weeks with my oldest documented Gibson ancestor - John H. Gibson, my 2nd-great-grandfather.

What I know about John's life before his marriage doesn't amount to much. He was born April 10, 1849 in New Brunswick, Canada. I'm not sure who his parents are, but the only candidates I've found so far are Henry and Ann Gibson, Irish immigrants who were both supposedly from the town of Pettigo, but on different sides of the Donegal-Fermanagh county border. John married Catherine Cain, daughter of Dennis Cain and Catherine Mulhearn, on 8 Sep 1879 in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Cathedral chapel where John and Catherine were married
Catherine was from a Catholic family, while John professed membership in the Church of England. This required them to get a dispensation from the local Catholic leaders in order to be able to marry, which they did. They were married in a Catholic church called Cathedral, pictured above.

John and Catherine had three children in New Brunswick - Annie (1880), Thomas (1883), and John Frederick, who also went by Frederick John (1884), and then moved to Helena, Montana. Their fourth child, David Henry, was born in Helena (1889). According to the 1900 census, they had a fifth child that died, but I haven't been able to find a record of that lost child yet. My guess is that the child who died was born between Frederick and David, as there's a five-year gap between them. 

A family story passed down from my grandpa (who heard it from his cousin Jack Condon, Annie's son), told how Catherine continued to attend Catholic church services in Helena. John wouldn't attend with her, so he would wait outside the church and go home with her when church was over. 

John and his family lived on Phoenix Ave. in Helena for many years. He worked in various jobs over the years - policeman (pictured below), teamster, clerk, laborer, jailor for the Lewis and Clark county jail, and in various positions with the Northern Pacific Railroad. 

John Gibson, far right, with Helena police force, 1891

Catherine's father Dennis Cain (known in Montana records as Dennis Kane) moved to Helena after his wife died, and lived with John and Catherine until his death in 1906. Catherine died the next year of pneumonia. John moved in with his daughter Annie Condon after Catherine's death, and probably lived with them until his death in 1914 at the age of 64.