Weddings past & present

May 19, 2018 –a memorable day for weddings.  Our son married his high school sweetheart here in Oklahoma.  Oh, yes, there was another wedding in London, England.

So, weddings are the topic of this blog post. Specifically, I share information about the marriage of my maternal great-grandparents, William Frederick Tucker and Bertha Traver. William is the son of Jeremiah Tucker and Margaret Irwin. Bertha is the daughter of Esbon Traver and Nancy Jones.  Both the bride and groom lived in Greene county, New York.  Among other items from my mother, I inherited a folded up gift box.

Tucker-Traver_marriage certificate_box

Marriage certificate for William F. Tucker and Bertha Traver, 11 September 1887, privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Certificate, in pieces, in folded-up gift box. Given to Ms. Ellerbee by her mother, Eunice Bertha Tucker Posten, granddaughter of William F. Tucker & Bertha Traver.

box label

 

The handwritten label on the box reads:

 

The box contains large and small fragments of paper.  My graphic artist husband scanned the pieces and created a digital copy of the certificate.

TuckerTraver Marriage Certificate

Digital copy of marriage certificate for William F. Tucker and Bertha Traver, 1887. Created by Jerry L. Ellerbee, 2010.

Although incomplete, the certificate confirms information about William and Bertha’s wedding, including date and place. “William F. Tucker of Freehold, Greene  County and Miss Bertha Traver of Norton HIll, Greene County, were united in holy matrimony according to the ordinances of God and the State of New York at ______________________ on the [11th] day of September in the year of  Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and eighty seven.”

Last month, I received a box of old pictures and other family memorabilia from a cousin.  I was ecstatic to find pictures of William and Bertha which may have been taken about the time of their wedding!

William F Tucker_Bertha Traver_crop

William F. and Bertha  (Traver) Tucker photographs ca 1887, names written on back of photographs; privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Photographs originally held by Esbon Herman Tucker, grandson of William F. and Bertha. Photographs given to Ms. Ellerbee by Mary Ann (Tucker) Rogers, daughter of Esbon Herman Tucker, April, 2018.

Piece by piece, my maternal great-grandparents’ story emerges.

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Reflection:  

For privacy reasons, I choose to not provide pictures and other information about our son’s wedding. We are pleased to add my son’s bride to our family. Other marriages will be the subject of later blog posts. A marriage represents a significant transition in the lives of individuals and families. Records and information are available but may only come to you in pieces.

Two sides to every document

FACT: There are two sides to every document. An obvious statement, you say. I agree. So, why am I writing about this? Because I was surprised recently when I turned over a document and read what was written on the back of the page. Here’s the story.

In my last blog post, I mentioned a box of family pictures and documents sent to me by a cousin.[1] Among the documents is a yellowed, fragile piece of paper with a list of names and dates. An uneven edge and incomplete dates suggest that the paper was torn. The paper measures 10 inches long x 4 inches wide.  A scanned copy, received via email about two months ago, did not reveal the color or condition of the page. First guess? From a family Bible, although the page did not include the usual headings of “Births” and “Deaths”.

Jones_Jimmey_Patience_children_crop_for blog

Jimmey Jones and Patience, list of names & dates.  Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. 

The list appears to be a list of children born to Jimmey Jones and Patience Heamons/ Havens (or variation). These characteristics identify the document as a primary or original source. The origin of the information is unknown although possibly based on firsthand knowledge of the events. [2]  (For a review of  primary, secondary, and tertiary sources, read  “Evaluating sources & information”.

The person of interest is “Nancy born September the 22: 1823” (line 9). Nancy A. Jones, wife of Esbon Traver, is one of my maternal great- great grandmothers. Nancy’s maiden name is carved on their gravestone. [3] I admit that I presumed the information to be true and haven’t actively done the research to confirm Nancy’s maiden name.

This list of names introduced me for the first time to Nancy’s parents, Jimmey (James) Jones and Patience Heamons/ Havens. Confirming names and dates on the list is the subject of a future post. Today, I focus on the document itself.

I turned the page over, expecting to find it blank. Imagine my surprise, and delight, when I discovered additional information there. A printed form with hand written entries, a date, and tape marks. Get out the white gloves!

Reverse side of Jimmey Jones and Patience list:

Esbon_Traver_reverse side Jimmey Jones_Patience children.jpg

The list of names and dates wasn’t a page torn from a family Bible! It was written on the back of a form. Tape marks suggest that someone thought one side was more important than the other.  As a genealogist, both sides of the page are equally important. Where is the rest of the page? What information is on that paper?

Who is George Barker, named as substitute for 37 year-old Esbon Traver? Many men “avoided military service by simply taking advantage of that section of the Enrollment Act of 1863 allowing draftees to pay $300 to a substitute who served for them.” [4]  I am still looking for his service record and will report in a later post.

Compare the handwriting on both sides of the documents. I’m not a handwriting expert but the handwriting appears to be that of two different people. Ink appears consistent with time period of 1860s. I need a hero- an historical document expert!

Review of historical documents is one aspect of genealogy. Asking questions – who, what, when, where, why- reveal information about the document and its provenance.  The National Archives suggests these steps to analyze such documents: [5]

  1. Meet the document.
  2. Observe its parts.
  3. Try to make sense of it.
  4. Use it as historical evidence.

As you meet a document, inspect it carefully. Dates and signatures give clues about the document’s authenticity.[6] Is there a seal on the document?  Look for signs of tampering. Read the words carefully. Is there a hidden meaning? Consult books on historical and/or genealogical research for more information about document analysis.

Questions and preliminary answers:

  1. Who wrote the document? List of names could have been written by Esbon Traver, his wife, Nancy Jones, or one of their children. A different person probably wrote the entry on the other side.
  2. What information is contained in the document? One side: A list of names and dates beginning with Jimmey Jones and Patience Heamons/ Havens and their presumed children. Other side: Entry for a substitute for Esbon Traver, dated 1864.
  3. When was the document written? List of names: After 1866, since that is last date on the document. Substitute form:  Probably 1864.
  4. Where was the document written? Unknown, possibly Ulster or Greene county, New York.  Sources: census records for Esbon Traver and his wife, Nancy.
  5. Why was the document written? List of names: to preserve family history? Consider possibility that back of substitute document was an available piece of paper and, therefore, used for the purpose of recording family names and dates.
  6. How was the document produced? Printed form on one side.  Handwritten entries on the form. Handwritten name and date list on the other side of the form.

Next steps:  Consult with historical document expert and/or handwriting expert. Continue search for records about Jimmey, Patience, and their children. Identify Civil War service record for George Barker.

Online resources:  I found this Document Analysis Worksheet  on the National Archives Website.

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REFLECTION: 

I was really surprised to find the ‘substitute’ form and entries on the back side of the name list. I don’t know why I expected a blank page. Now, I have more information about Esbon Traver.  I plan to follow up on the substitute information. I remembered bits and pieces about evaluating historical documents from various research courses. The date on the form helps to date the paper itself and gives another clue about the date of the entries on both sides of the paper.  I don’t have the exact provenance of the paper – who gave it to my uncle? Since he and my maternal grandfather are both named Esbon, presumably after Esbon Traver, I wonder if the paper was given to my grandfather by one of his parents and then to my uncle. I need to buy a basic ‘genealogy how-to’ book for reference purposes. Maybe one about historical research methods?

What I learned:  Always look at both sides of a document! Expanded my knowledge base about the dating of documents.  Found a worksheet for document analysis.

What helped:  seeing and handling the original document. Having an archival quality plastic sleeve for the document.

What didn’t help:  knowing the document was old but no idea how old (paper from 1864). I would have gotten my white gloves out sooner!

Future plans: Consult historical document expert.

SOURCES:

[1] Family papers and photographs from estate of Esbon Herman Tucker (1917 – 2003). Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Items sent to Ms. Ellerbee by Mr. Tucker’s daughter, April 2018.  Mr. Tucker is brother of Ms. Ellerbee’s mother.

[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 24-25.

[3] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed 27 April 2018), memorial page for Nancy H. Jones Traver, Find A Grave Memorial # 92468922, citing Locust Cemetery (Greenville, Greene county, New York), memorial created by Lorna Puleo, photograph by Lorna Puleo.

[4] Michael T. Meier. “Civil War Draft Records: Exemptions and Enrollments”.  Prologue, Winter 1994, Vol. 26, No. 4, Genealogy Notes.  (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1994/winter/civil-war-draft-records.html  :  accessed 8 May 2018), paragraph 4.

[5]National Archives, “Teaching with Documents: Document Analysis,”  National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/education/lessonsaccessed 8 May 2018).  Includes worksheets and other materials related to the analysis of documents and other primary sources.

[6] History Detectives, “Document This,” PBS, History Detectives (http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/educators/technique-guide/document-this/  :  accessed 8 May 2018).

 

Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker (1907 -1985)

On this “Thankful Thursday” ,  I express my gratitude to Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, my maternal great-aunt, for writing down names and information about the Maurer and Tucker ancestors[1].  I have a carbon copy of the original.

Maurer Tucker History_ca1980_for blog_April 2018

Page 1 of “Maurer-Tucker Family History” written by Blanche Viola Maurer Tucker, ca 1980.  Carbon copy privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee. 

Do you remember carbon paper?  carbon paper imageBefore copy machines, there was carbon paper.  First, insert a piece of carbon paper between two pieces of paper.  Write or type on the top page.  An exact copy, more or less, of the top page appears on the subsequent pages. Generally, you can produce three or four clear copies this way. Each piece of carbon paper lasts for 4-5 copies.  Messy, but effective!

For more information about the history of copying, read this story:   ‘Photocopier’ 

Back to my story. Viola was my mother’s aunt, my maternal grandmother’s sister.  Called ‘Olie’ by us, she had always lived with my grandparents (at least, as far back as I can remember!).  I didn’t really think much about those living arrangements when I was a child or even as I became an adult.  I knew that both of Olie’s parents died when she was young and that’s why she lived with her sister.   As I carefully reviewed documents for Genealogy Do-Over  and recorded information on research logs,  Olie’s situation really hit me.

Blanche Viola Maurer was born on March 16, 1907, the youngest  of nine children born to  George Herman Maurer and Anna Klee.  Her brother, Herman Charles, born in 1893, was her closest living sibling.  Between 1893 and 1907, Herman and Anna buried two children – Charles Harry and Lillian.  Charles Harry, born in 1893 and died in 1894, was probably twin brother of Herman Charles.  Lillian, born January 7, 1901, [2]  ‘died in infancy’ according to Viola’s handwritten family history. [3]

Anna was 43 years old when Viola was born.  It is possible that Anna was beginning to go through menopause at the time.  When Viola was 11 years old, Anna died [4]  leaving Viola and her 60-year-old father alone.

Charlotte  (aka “Lottie”),  Viola’s only living sister, married Esbon J. Tucker in June 1917 [5].  Lottie and Esbon did not establish  their own home immediately.  In January, 1920[6], the census taker found Herman Maurer,  widower and head of household with 13-year-old  Viola, as well as Charlotte (Lottie), Esbon, and their two children, Esbon, age 2, and Eunice (my mother).

Herman , Viola’s father, died in May  1927[7] , leaving 20-year-old Viola an orphan.  She continued to live with Lottie and Esbon. [8] Viola had no children of her own but was like a second mother or a big sister to Lottie’s children.  Viola was an accomplished needlewoman.  She taught her niece, Eunice,  to knit and crochet.  Eunice, my mother, then taught me.  I still enjoy these crafts.

As mentioned in the introduction, I did not appreciate her situation until now.  Olie was a constant person in my grandparents’ home, as she had been when my mother was growing up.   I cannot imagine losing my mother at age 11 and my father by the time I was 20!  What was it like to constantly rely on a sibling for a home?  How did she respond emotionally to these events?

Consider the time period.  Women rarely worked outside of the home in the 1920s and 1930s.  Was Olie a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ during World War II, when so many women took on the jobs of men to support the war effort?  Mom never said anything about that and I never thought to ask.   According to the 1940 census, Viola worked as a salesclerk in a bakery. [9]  That explains all of the wonderful cakes at their house!

By 1970, Lottie suffered  several strokes and dementia.  Pop and Olie cared for her at home for as long as they could.  My mother said that she only found out about the problems when Pop decided to put Lottie into a nursing home, about 6 months before her death. This very difficult experience probably deepened the bond between Pop and Olie. After Lottie died in 1974,[10] Olie married my grandfather. Two old people, living together for decades, now joined in marriage.

Esbon Tucker_Viola Maurer_1975

How did Viola  feel about all of her losses?  I remember her as being cheerful and kind.   At first, she probably was overwhelmed then accepted her situation.  I do not know how I would have reacted .  Did the experience make her stronger?

Viola wrote the nine-page family history in the late 1970s or early 1980s. She mentions Lottie’s death (1974) and her own marriage to Esbon but not Esbon’s death in 1984.[11]  Using available resources, I have confirmed much of the information that she gave.  One surprising fact is that she reported her full name as Blanche Viola Lucy Maurer when she applied for a Social Security number.  [12]  This is my first encounter with that name!  I learned earlier that Germans traditionally used a middle name in everyday life rather than the person’s given first name.

Again, I express my gratitude to you, Blanche Viola Lucy Maurer Tucker, my third grandmother. Thank you for teaching my mother to knit and crochet, so she could teach me. Thank you for being part of my childhood.  Thank you for taking time to write down our family stories. Questions still to be answered:

  1. Is there another ancestor named Blanche in the family history?
  2. Is Viola’s middle name of Lucy on any other documents?

 

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Reflection:

I started writing this post about 2 months ago but wasn’t sure exactly what direction I would take.  As I searched for inspiration, I looked again at daily blog prompts  suggested by Thomas  MacAntee.  The idea of “Thankful Thursday” caught my eye. I am grateful to Viola for many things. We visited my New York grandparents only once a year but I vividly remember some things – a red and white enamel kitchen table with pull-out leaves (now a collector’s item!), two black and white cocker spaniels,  German stollen (a sweet yeast bread),  a sleeper chair (like a sleeper sofa but twin size), a musty basement.  As I delve more into the family history, I see German connections in each generation.  The written legacy of names and dates proves invaluable, even though, on the surface, the contents appear skeletal.  I build from the bare bones outward. Without Viola’s document, progress would be much slower.

What I learned:  carbon paper is hard to find in 21st century America. I developed a new appreciation for the difficulties that Viola must have faced from her early teens.  Or, am I projecting my own values on her?

What helped:  Amount of research already done on the Tucker-Maurer family.  Transcription of Viola’s history done in 2010. Copies of birth and death certificates from New York.

What didn’t help:  Nothing that I can think of.  Not ordering Viola’s birth and death certificates before writing blog.

Future:   Consider other daily topics for future blog posts. Order Viola’s birth and death certificates. Order death certificate for Anna Klee Maurer, Viola and Charlotte’s mother.

Sources: 

[1]  Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1975-1980);  carbon copy  privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010. Copy given to Ms. Ellerbee by her mother who received copy from Viola ca 1980.  Transcribed by Ms. Ellerbee in 2012. Ms. Ellerbee is great-niece of Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker.

[2] “New York, New York, Extracted Birth Index, 1878 – 1909”,  online database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  :  :   accessed 10 April 2018); entry for Lillian Maurer, born 1 Jan 1901, Kings, New York; citing  “Index to New York City births, 1878-1909”, New York City Department of Records/ Municipal Archives, New York City, New York.

[3] Maurer., “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” Section – Charlotte Amalie (Anna) Maurer, page 1.

[4] Cyber Angel, “Anna b Bklyn d Huntington NY 1918 hus Herman,” Surnames: Maurer Family Genealogy Forum, discussion list, 8 February 2002;  (http://genforum.genealogy.com   : accessed & printed 9 June 2007), transcription of obituary posted in Brooklyn Standard Union, 28 July 1918.

[5] Suffolk county, New York, Affidavit for License to Marry (3 pages), 14570 (stamped); 783 (penned), Esbon J. Tucker Charlotte A. Maurer, 1 June 1917; New York State Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Genealogy Unit, Albany, New York.

[6] 1920 U.S. Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 113, p. 7A (penned), dwelling 136, family 139, Viola Maurer, daughter, age 13; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com    : viewed, downloaded, printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625, Roll 1269.

[7] Hermann Maurer, death certificate no. 10424 (1927), Department of Health of the City of New York, New York City, New York.

[8]1930 U.S. Federal Census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 63, p. 2A (penned), p. 132 (stamped), dwelling 35, family 46, Viola Maurer, sister-in-law, age 23; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, downloaded & printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T626, Roll 1651.

[9] 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 52-97, p. 12 B (penned), household no. 463, Esbon Tucker (head); Viola Maurer, sister-in-law, age 32; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded, printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T627, Roll 2785.

[10] Charlotte Tucker, death certificate # 031537 (9 April 1974), New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Albany, New York.

[11] Esbon J. Tucker, death certificate no. 100055063 (barely legible) (18 July 1984), New York State Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Albany, New York.

[12] Blanche Viola Lucy Maurer, SS no. 077-09-2343, 30 Nov 1936, Application for Account Number (Form SS-5), Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland.

 

A maz(e)ing Genealogy (subtitle:  Proving family stories)

Subtitle: Proving family stories that provide minimal information

Watch the genealogy shows on television. The searches appear straightforward with records obtained in clear chronological order. Occasionally, the host says, “We had to really look for this information.”  Subjects type a name into an online database, usually Ancestry, and a particular record for their ancestor appears.  At a county clerk’s office, the marriage book opens to the exact page with the person’s marriage record. These presentations simplify the process of genealogy. Yes, genealogy can be simple and straightforward. More often, our genealogy path seems more like a labyrinth or maze with frequent dead-ends and no clear way out. The ‘brick wall’ may actually be a hurdle or temporary road block.

Read “The Brick Wall Checklist” for an opinion about brick walls.

person in maze

Source:  http://www.the-burgenland-bunch.org/Newsletter/Newsletter266.htm

“Which begs the question: what is the difference between a maze and a labyrinth? Although considered synonymous by some, it is generally accepted that a labyrinth contains only one path, often spiralling around and folding back on itself, in ever-decreasing loops, whereas a maze contains branching paths, presenting the explorer with choices and the potential for getting very, very lost.” (Source: https://theconversation.com/how-to-escape-a-maze-according-to-maths_71582:  accessed 10 Feb 2018)

Some characterize genealogy as a puzzle with missing  pieces. How do you put a genealogy puzzle together? Read this blog post for some ideas:  Finding all the pieces to the puzzle.  For me, the image varies with each family group/ person and the specific goal.

I have been doing genealogy for over 20 years. Last year (2017), I started a Genealogy Do-Over by carefully reorganizing and reviewing files. Each file contains multiple records and notes. This year, I focus on my mother’s family (Tucker-Maurer) with forays into my husband’s family lines (Ellerbee-Simmons and Johnson-Reed). The person of the week is Rosina Maurer, sister of my great grandfather, Herman Maurer, and the maze that I found myself in.

The first rule of genealogy is “Start with what you know.”  In this case, I started with a handwritten family history by my great-aunt, Viola Maurer Tucker, written in the early 1980s.  [1]

“Valentine & Katherine Maurer had 5 children:  Herman, Katherine, Joseph, Rose, Edward. . . . Rose married Jacob Smetz.  We lost track of them after Herman (our father) died.  They had 2 or 3 children and lived in New Jersey.”

With these minimal clues, the search began with the first record found for Rose –  1892 New York State Census, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York: [2] 

Page 3, column 1, lines 13-17: Valentine Maurer, 65, b. Germany; Annie Maurer, 64, b. Germany; Rosie Maurer, age 24, b. U.S., box maker; Joseph Maurer, age 23, b. US, brass worker; Edward Maurer, age 17, b US, mechanic.

New facts: Rose, a.k.a.  ‘Rosie’, born about 1868, single and living with her parents in 1892.  Disclaimer:  Still lost in the maze of 1870 and 1880 census records for this family. I haven’t yet done an exhaustive search in these records.

gg62755812Keep chronological journal, handwritten or computer-based, of when and where you find information even if information is conflicting or negative. This journal / research log will keep you from retracing your steps later. Transfer appropriate information to your family tree. On family tree, write notes about conflicting and negative information.

With this basic information, I am now ready to enter the maze to find Rose/ Rosie Maurer Smetz. First, I went to Ancestry’s online database and typed “Jacob Smetz” as Rosie’s spouse.  No records found for Jacob Smetz or any children.  A dead-end, return to entry point.

Next, I remembered a document already in my files -probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, Rose’s mother, who died in 1899: [3]

Anna Kathrina Maurer probate pg 2_crop

Probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, 1899.  Last paragraph on page 2.

 Did Viola have Jacob’s name wrong?  Try another direction.  Begin again with 1900 census. Changed Jacob’s surname to ‘Schnitz’.  – no results!!! Changed residence from New York to New Jersey. Again, no results! Back to entry point. Record each direction and results in journal.  This feels like a roadblock, so I end here to return later.

Start over.  Review available information again before entering the maze.  From the probate records, I saw, for the first time(?),  ‘Rosina’.  Try  ‘Rosina’ again with both ‘Smets’ and ‘Schnitz’.  Nothing found on Ancestry website. There have to be records for this family!

Try another strategy using Family Search online genealogy.  At last, a record found:  Marriage record for Rosina Maurer and Jacob Smets,  27 November 1895, Manhattan, New York. [4]

Jacob Smets, Marriage, 27 Nov 1895, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States; New York (City), New York, male, 34, single, white, birth year (estimated) 1861; birthplace: Elimpt, Germany. Father: John Henry Smets. Mother: Gertrude Corzilius. Spouse: Rosina Maurer, female, 28, single, white, birth year (estimated) 1867, birthplace Brooklyn, N.Y. Father: Valentine Maurer. Mother: Ann Catherine Corzilius.

This record opened the 1900 census for Jacob and Rosa Smets in Stonington, Connecticut [5]:

Jacob Smets, head, 26, b. June 1864, Germany. Rosa Smets, wife, 33, b. Nov 1867, New York, mother of 3, 3 living. Gertrude Smets, daughter, 4, b. Oct 1896, New York. Joseph Smets, son, 2, b. March 1898, New York. Arthur H. Smets, son, age 11/12, b. July 1899, Connecticut.

Jacob & Rosa apparently moved from New Jersey to Connecticut, about 140 miles,  between April 1899 (date of her mother’s probate) and June 5, 1900, date of 1900 census.  Arthur, their youngest son, recorded as born in Connecticut in August 1899, so the family moved during Rosa’s 5th or 6th month of pregnancy. I now have the names for 3 children and an interesting twist.  Why did they move to Connecticut? Jacob’s listed occupation as a weaver in a velvet mill probably answers that question.

The 1900 census led to the 1910 census for Jacob & Rosina Smets in Brooklyn, New York [6]:

Jacob Smets, head, 48, M1 [1st marriage], married 14 years. b. Germany; immigrated 1891, naturalized citizen. Rosina Smets, wife, 42, M1 [1st marriage, married 14 years, b. New York. mother of 4, 4 living. Gertrude Smets, daughter, age 13, b. NY. Joseph Smets, son, 12, b. NY. Arthur Smets, son, age 10, b. CT. Robert Smets, son, age 9, b. NY. Anna Dale, lodger, 70, b. Ireland. Henry Ryder, lodger, 65, n. NY. Murphy, lodger, 19, b. NY

Another child, Robert, born in 1901 in New York. Jacob & Rosina moved from Connecticut back to New York before Robert’s birth in 1901.

Circled back to Ancestry website, and found Jacob & Rosa in Brooklyn, New York, per 1905 census. [7]

Jacob Smets, 39, no. of yrs in U.S. = 15. Rose Smets, 36. Gertrude M. Smets, 8. Joseph Smets, 7. Arthur H. Smets, 5. Robert Smets, 4.

This again confirms their move from Connecticut back to New York.  It’s  late at night and I am stuck in the maze.  Time for bed!

032-Genetoons-AncestralFindings

Source:  Genetoons Genealogical Cartoons  (https://ancestralfindings.com/genetoons-cartoons-2/

Still in the maze but making progress. Continued to circle around the Ancestry database and discovered another opening:

1920 Census [8]—South Brunswick, New Jersey:  Jacob Smits [Smets], head, 58, immigrated 1892, NA YR: 1897. Rosina Smits, 52. Gertrude Smits, 23. Joseph Smits, 21. Anthon [Arthur] Smits, 20. Robert Smits, 18.

The family did live in New Jersey! Followed the tracks of Jacob and Rosa’s children with some success (to be reported in a later post).

Another opening: 1930 Census[9]—South Brunswick, New Jersey!  Jacob & Rose Smetts.  Changed surname spelling again:   Jacob Smetts, head, 64, b. Germany.  Rose Smetts, wife, 55, b. NY.  Herbert Dorer, Boarder, 32, b. Switzerland.

Changed direction to Find A Grave for Smets/ Smetts. Many possible detours (i.e. names) but no entries found for Jacob, Rose, or any of their children.

Changed direction again – to Newspapers. Com website. Nothing found for Jacob or Rosina Smets.  Then, three large openings in the maze after using ‘Smetts’:

24 July 1930 Central New Jersey Home News:  “ Letter of admin to Rose Smetts for estate of the late Joseph Smetts, who died. . . July 12.” [10]

17 Dec 1936 Central New Jersey Home News:  Obituary for William J. Smetts, “William Jacob Smetts, husband of Mrs. Rose Smetts.” [11] 

According to German naming traditions,  first names given at birth were rarely used and people were usually known by their 2nd name.  Could ‘Rosina’ be her middle name?  If so, what is her first name??

9 July 1949, “Henry Renk attended funeral services for Mrs. Rose Smetts. . . “  [12]

Possible clear path out of the maze, except for the mention of Henry Renk. What is his relationship to Rose?  Definitely a  BSO to be explored another day!

Retraced steps back to Ancestry website, searching now for  ‘Rose Smetts’.  Another opening:  1915 census – Frankling Twp, Somerset County, N.J.[13]:

Smets, Jacob, 46, b. June 1865, Germany. Rosina,  40, b. Nov 1874, New York.  Gertrude, 17, b. Oct 1896, New York. Joseph, 16, b. Mch [March] 1899, New Jersey. Arthur H., 15, b. July 1900, Conn. Robert, 14, b. June 1901, New York.

Retraced steps (again!) to  recheck for page numbers of newspaper entries (forgot to record these earlier).  Looked around the location one more time and discovered a previously overlooked item:

Death notice for William J. Smetts, 14 Dec 1936:  “son, Arthur H., died November 18 [1936). . . daughter, Gertrude Anderson.”. [14] 

At last, a clear path out of the maze!  Some areas (residence in 1870 , 1880, 1940) remain just out of reach.

Looked over the top of the maze walls, using a broad search term: “Rose Smetts died 1949”.  Found:  Obituary for Mrs. Rose Smetts[15]:

Maurer_Rose_mSmetts_death notice

Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 6 July 1949, p. 2, column 3

Exit point of the maze.  Now, the final test question:  Was information given at the entry point proven?

“Rose married Jacob Smetz.  We lost track of them after Herman (our father) died.  They had 2 or 3 children and lived in New Jersey.”

“Rose married Jacob Smetz” – Rose married William Jacob Smetts.  Proven with spelling variations of Jacob’s surname.

“They had 2 or 3 children” – Jacob and Rose had 4 children, 2 of whom died between 1930 and 1940.   Proven plus one.

“lived in New Jersey” – Jacob and Rose moved to New Jersey between 1910 and 1915.  Both of them died in New Jersey.  Proven.

If you are interested, view Rose’s life summary: Maurer_Rose_Timeline2

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:

What began as a routine task soon became an intriguing and frustrating study. I often run into name variations but there seemed to be more twists and turns than usual for Rose’s family. Maybe I just wasn’t picking up on clues. I originally viewed this as a zig-zag path with many choices of direction. Then, I realized that I was going in circles. The concept of a maze seemed more fitting as I reached dead-ends and had to retrace my steps. Before starting my Genealogy Do-Over, I rarely followed through for the siblings of my direct ancestors.  And, I stopped quickly when I could not access readily available information.

What helped:  handwritten family history provided by great-aunt Viola, even with its minimal information. Tools and techniques learned during the past year. Slowing down and documenting everything.  Searching for additional information before finishing this post.

What didn’t help:  early frustration when surname variations didn’t produce results.

What I learned:  Go back to original data, even when you think that you have learned everything you can from it. Thorough documentation takes more time but helps by forcing review of information more than once. It’s OK to put research aside for days, weeks, or months.

Footnotes/ Sources:

[1] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” p. 4 ; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017. Carbon copy of original document created ca. 1975-1980 sent to Ms. Ellerbee by her great-aunt.

[2] New York State Department of Health, “New York, State Census, 1892,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded 31 January 2018), entry for Rosie Maurer, age 24; citing New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education, Albany, New York; 173 Hopkins Street.

[3] Probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, p. 2.  Kings County, New York, Probate case files, Anna Katharina Maurer; “New York, Kings County, Probate Administration Records.,” digital records, Author: New York. Surrogate’s Court (Kings County)., Ancestry. com, New YOrk, Wills and PRobate Records, 1659-1999 (www.ancestry.com: accessed & printed 20 May 2016); names children, confirms date of death.

[4] “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24C2-M4S : 10 February 2018), Jacob Smets and Rosina Maurer, 27 Nov 1895; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,493,451.

[5] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M97F-TCG : accessed 10 February 2018), Rosa Smets in household of Jacob Smets, Stonington township (excl. Stonington borough), New London, Connecticut, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 488, sheet 7A, family 166, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,150.

[6] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M5S9-VNK : accessed 10 February 2018), Rosina Smets in household of Jacob Smets, Brooklyn Ward 30, Kings, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 1098, sheet 7B, family 151, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 985; FHL microfilm 1,374,998.

[7] 1905 New York State Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) Assembly district A.D. 07, E.D. 22, p. 18, lines 1-6, Jacob Smets; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 10 February 2018); citing New York State Archives, Albany, New York..

[8] 1920 U.S. Census, Middlesex County, New Jersey, population schedule, South Brunswick, enumeration district (ED) 71, p. 5A (penned), dwelling 59, family 60, Jacob Smits [Smets] 58; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 10 February 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T625_1057.

[9] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X4XG-DQN : accessed 11 February 2018), Rose Smetts in household of Jacob Smetts, North Brunswick, Middlesex, New Jersey, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 63, sheet 2B, line 100, family 50, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1367; FHL microfilm 2,341,102.

[10] Letter of admin for Joseph Smetts.

[11] “William J. Smetts,” Obituary, Central New Jersey Home News, 17 December 1936; online images, Newspapers.com (http:///newspapers.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 10 February 2018).

[12] “Henry Renk attended funeral services”, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey”, local newspaper (9 Jul 1949): p. 7; PDF images, (http://www.newspapers.com  :  accessed 10 Feb 2018), key word Mrs. Rose Smetts.

[13] 1915 New Jersey State Census, Somerset County, New Jersey, population schedule, Frankling Township, p. 1A (penned), Jacob Smets 46; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 16 February 2018); citing New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey, reference no. L-14, Film 58.

[14]“William J. Smetts”,” death notice, The Central New Jersey Home News, 14 December 1936, death date, death of son, funeral information; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 16 February 2018); citing The Central New Jersey Home News. p. 17, column 4.

[15] “Deaths: Smetts- Rose Maurer”, Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 6 July 1949, p. 2, column 3. accessed, downloaded & printed 23 Feb 2018 from Newspapers. Com.

Writing & publishing a family history: Part 3. Evaluating sources & information

In two previous blog posts, I described format changes for the next edition of Dad’s family history and examined citation of sources.   This blog post, third in the series, presents evaluation of  sources and  the information in them   Get a cup of your favorite beverage and a snack because this is a long post!  You may even want to read it in 2 sittings!

Entering the facts in a database or research log is only the beginning!  “Oh, no,” you say, “there’s more?”  Oh, yes, there’s more!  Review the document itself.  Identify the document  (or source)   as original/ primary, derivative/ secondary, or authored / tertiary.  Classify the information found in the source as primary, secondary, or unknown.   A statement about both the source and its contents can be included in your citation of the source.

“The Evidence Analysis Process Map”, designed by Elizabeth Shown Mills, puts these concepts in perspective:

QL17-Gallery (1)

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17:  The Evidence Analysis Process Map”.  Evidence Explained (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-17-evidence-analysis-process-map  :  accessed 18 December 2017.

To begin, use one of the sources cited in the previous blog:

1790 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, township not stated, p. 112 (penned), col. 1, Peter Pofte [Poste]; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, viewed, downloaded 17 October 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M637, roll 8.

1790 United States Federal Census

The document is a scanned or microfilmed copy of the original document, held at National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. (the repository).  An online database provided access to the document. Document is a primary source.

The writing is uniform, indicating that one person filled it out. Census takers received instructions about the report and what information to collect.  Recording the information at or near the time of the event, the census taker asked questions of a household member, possibly the head of household, Peter Poste, or a neighbor.  The number and ages of people in the family should be validated by other sources and serves as a base for future research.    Primary information.

Guidelines for Evaluating Sources & Documents

Sources

In genealogy, sources are classified as original, derivative or authored. [1] You may also see the terms primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. [2] , [3]  The concepts are essentially the same.  An original source is “material in its first oral or recorded form.”   [4]  Created at or near the time of the actual event, reports by someone who experienced or witnessed an event are  classified as original sources. [5]   This includes original materials from the time period, such as tax lists.

Examples include original birth & marriage certificates, physical objects (such as a cross-stitch sampler), autobiographies, personal diaries and audio recordings.  A map created at or near a specific date is an original source. [6]  Other examples are creative works, such as art, poetry and music and original articles or reports of research studies.  Are satellite images of the earth primary sources?  Yes, if the image has not been changed.  An exact photocopy , microfilm image, photograph or scanned image of a document [7]  are generally classified as primary sources.  However, the information may be either primary or secondary.

One of my prized items is an autograph book that belonged to my maternal great-grandmother, Anna Klee Maurer.   The small book contains notes from her friends and teachers.  The most significant entries (to me) are the notes written by Anna’s future husband, Hermann Maurer (dated October 21, 1883) and the notes written, in German, by her future in-laws,  Valentine and Katharina Maurer.

Anna Klee front pages_crop

Anna (Klee) Maurer .  “Autographs Album”  ( book,  Brooklyn, New York, ca 1883); privately held  by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Ms. Ellerbee is Anna’s great-granddaughter.  The book has multiple handwritten entries which appear to be from her friends and teachers as well as her future husband, Hermann Maurer, and his parents, Valentin & Katharina Maurer.  Entries by Valentin and Katharina are written in German.  Some entries are dated, varying  from April to October, 1883. Hermann and Anna married December, 1883. The book was found in the personal effects of Ms. Ellerbee’s mother, Eunice Bertha (Tucker) Posten and was probably given to her by her mother, Charlotte A. (Maurer) Tucker, daughter of Hermann and Anna.

The book itself is a primary source.  Translations of the German language entries are derivative sources.  A transcription of all entries in the book becomes a derivative source with secondary information.

In contrast, derivative or secondary sources are created after the event.  A copy of an original or original in which the content has been manipulated are examples.  Derivative sources interpret or evaluate evidence, especially when the original work was done by others.  Specific examples include delayed birth certificates, tombstones, county record books (which are transcriptions of original documents), databases, translations, transcriptions of personal diaries or audio recordings, and some family histories.

An image copy of an original birth, marriage, or death certificate is a primary source.  However, if the certificate is a transcription of the original certificate, then it is a secondary source. My maternal grandparents’ death certificates, obtained from the state of New York, are original sources with a blend or primary and secondary information.

My great-aunt Viola wrote a brief family history of the Tucker and Maurer families.  The handwritten document names five generations of my mother’s family with some birth, death, and marriage dates.  Two family stories tell of possible lost fortunes.  I have a carbon copy of the original document.   Here’s my citation with source and contents evaluation:

“Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1985), carbon copy privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010.  Transcribed by Ms. Ellerbee in 2012. Author considered  reliable.  No sources given.  Family stories told to Mrs. Tucker by her grandparents.  Most names & dates have been verified with other sources.  Secondary source with blend of primary and secondary information.

The third category of sources is authored works which are a “hybrid of both original and derivative sources” [8]  Labelled as tertiary in other disciplines, these sources obtain information from primary and derivative sources.   Examples include manuscripts with personal conclusions; family histories may fall into this category.   Other types are county histories with genealogical and biographical information, textbooks, directories, video documentaries and reference books such as encyclopedia, handbooks, and manuals.  The Posten family history that I am revising is this type of source.

Q & A

Are photocopies  original or derivative sources?  Mills (2015, p. 30) states  “. . . image copies as originals so long as (a) the images are legible; and (b) their information does not conflict with other information.”  If these criteria are not met, treat the image copy as derivative and  “seek access to the material from which the images were made.”   This concept provided my rationale for seeking the actual books at a local library instead of using online copies of the same books.

What about a scanned or digital image of a  marriage record found online?  Most consider this as a primary source, it meets the criteria above.  Some consider this as a derivative source.   If possible, obtain a copy of original by personally visiting or requesting the document from the repository.  Remember that the county clerk’s office or the church where the marriage was performed are the repositories, not the online database.  The church or county hold the original document as filed in their office.  A note of caution here.  Ask for an actual copy of the original or you may get a copy of a form with information typed in.  This type of document is a transcript of the original and, therefore, not a primary source.  (Disclaimer:  I read this on a blog and now can’t find the reference!).

Information

As the next step, evaluate the information in the document. Similar to the classification of sources, information is classified as primary, secondary, or unknown.  Any document may contain a blend of these categories.  Information in the document, a.k.a,  content , is classified according to its origin[9] :

Primary information is information provided by someone who experienced or witnessed an event .[10]  If created at or near the actual event, the document or information is marked as primary. [11] Examples include eyewitness accounts of an event, names of persons on census records, and first person accounts of an event  in their original form, such as handwritten entries in a personal diary.

What about death certificates?  Death certificates contain both primary and secondary information.  The person’s name and  death information – date, time, place and cause of death- are primary information.  The person’s date of birth, place of birth and parents’ names are secondary information.

Secondary information  is information provided by someone who has some knowledge of the event but did not actually witness the event.  An intrepretation or evaluation of someone else’s work is secondary.  Specific examples include marriage information copied into a courthouse or county marriage book, hearsay, tradition, and local lore.  The family stories documented by my great-aunt Viola are secondary information.  A newspaper report of a family reunion contains secondary information although the reporter may use information obtained directly from the participants.

Information is labelled as ‘unknown’  when you don’t know who provided the information.  Two examples are a newspaper obituary with no documentation of source and a photograph with no information about the persons in the photograph.  This information needs to be validated by other sources.  When you locate the newspaper where the obituary was published and the publication date, the information can then be classified as ‘secondary’.

Demarious Family Bible

Family Bible Records:  Original or derivative? 

To evaluate family Bible records,  follow guidelines from historical research methods for evaluating documents.  [12], [13]  Ask these questions:

  1. When was the Bible published? If the Bible was published prior to the events documented, then the record (and its scanned or photo copies) might be a primary source.   When photocopying or scanning Bible records, also copy the title and publication date pages.  “My cousin sent me a copy of the Bible pages but doesn’t  have the page with the publication date!”  Now what?  Look further.
  2. Who wrote the entries? You may not know exactly who entered the information.  I am fortunate to have a scanned copy of the presentation page for one family Bible so I know who the Bible belonged to and can date the entries from that point.  A transcription of that information equals a derivative source.
  3. Look for differences in handwriting. If the entries were made close to the time of each event, you should see differences in the style of handwriting as well as differences in the ink.

Ask similar questions about each document that you review.

  • Who created the document? Does the person have the authority to do so?  Ask if the creator is an expert on the topic.  A mother who writes her baby’s name and birth date in the family Bible is certainly an expert on the baby’s birth!
  • What does the document contain? Is the information relevant to your research?
  • When was the document created? If not an original document, when was it copied?  If a transcript of the original,  when was the transcription done?  How accurate is the transcription?  Think of census records.  How many times have you seen a name that was transcribed incorrectly?  Was the error because of poor or illegible handwriting?
  • Where was the document created?
  • Why was the document created?
  • Assess the quality and accuracy of the information in the document. Can you verify the information using other sources?

To summarize, careful review and analysis of every source and fact leads to a more accurate story about your family.  Seek primary sources whenever possible.  Do you include an evaluation of every source and every piece of information?  Ideally, yes.  Drop-down menus appear on most genealogy software programs for this task.  Document  the classification of sources and information on research logs.  Use software, such as Evidentia  (https://www.evidentiasoftware.com ), to assist in your analysis.

For a fun and more concise view of the topic:

RootsWeb’s Guide to Tracing Family Trees, Guide No. 12 (http://rwguide.rootsweb.ancestry.com/lesson12.htm   : accessed 18 December 2017.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION

As a nurse and teacher, I participated in 10-12 research studies during my career.  As either primary or co-investigator, I wrote and implemented protocols, then analyzed  the data and finally, wrote the final reports.  I applied lessons learned from these experiences to genealogy.   As I wrote this blog, I realized that I have not consistently evaluated sources and information.  In some cases, I saw what I wanted to see.  Months later, as I again reviewed the document and my notes, I thought, “How did I ever come to THAT conclusion?”  I am slowly becoming a better genealogist.  There is so much to learn!

What helped?  Reading about each topic from a variety of sources.  Fairly consistent information in the sources. There is some debate about whether photocopies of original certificates are primary or secondary sources.  Putting the information in a chart form for easy comparisons, although I didn’t include the chart here.

What didn’t help?   Finding other websites written in a more concise or reader-friendly format.  I had to consider that maybe I just needed to post a list of the websites and let readers go there.  But, I always learn something when I write my blogs, so here it is!

Next steps:   Take time to critically review at least one document or piece of information per research session.  I often just skim over this process.  Put a copy of the Evidence Analysis Process Map on my bulletin board.  Add items to my Research Toolbox (done).

References

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 24.

[2] The US GenWeb Project, Primary & Secondary sources (http://www.usgenweb.com/research/sources.html  : accessed 19 Dec 2017).

[3] “Comparative Literature:  Primary, secondary & tertiary sources.”  Yale University Library (https://guides.library.yale.edu   :    accessed 14 October 2017.

[4] Mills, Evidence Explained, 24

[5] George E. Morgan, How to do everything: Genealogy. 3rd edition.  (New York: McGraw-Hll, 2012), 32.

[6] Joni Seager,  “Mapping” Primary and Secondary Sources. (http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/25244   :  accessed 19 December 2017

[7] Morgan, Genealogy, 10.

[8]Mills, Evidence Explained, 24.

[9]Mills, Evidence Explained, 25

[10] Ibid.

[11] Morgan, Genealogy, 32.

[12] Randall Seaver, “Original or Derivative Source?  Bible Records,”  Weblog:  Geneamusings, 13 June 2012 (http://www.geneamusings.com/2012/06/original-or-derivative-source-bible.html  :  accessed 14 October 2017.

[13]   Gena Philibert Ortega, “Genealogy 101:  #4:  The Family Bible.”  Weblog:  Genealogy Bank, 8 November 2016 ( https://blog.genealogybank.com/genealogy-101-4-the-family-bible.html  :  accessed 18 December 2017.

Civil War Veterans- Confederate and Union

WARNING:  This post contains information about men who fought in the Civil War for both Confederate and Union armies.  Some readers may be uncomfortable with the content. My children inherited genes from both Confederate and Union soldiers.  This post shares the stories of their great-great-great grandfathers:   James T.L. Powell, a soldier in the Confederacy, and Jeremiah Tucker, a Union soldier.
home soldiers.jpg

Display in our living room.  Civil War soldiers were cross-stitched by my sister from a pattern issued during Civil War Centennial, ca. 1961.

James Thomas Lafayette Powell

James T.L. Powell is my husband’s paternal great-great- grandfather.  James T. L. Powell was born on May 13, 1835[1], in Georgia, probably Calhoun County, tentatively identified as the child of Hilliard Powell and Laney Faircloth.[2]  James married Deborah A. C. Daniel on June 28, 1857,in Sumter County, Georgia. [3] By 1860, James, school teacher, and Deborah moved to Calhoun County, Georgia, apparently with no children. [4]

James T.L. Powell enlisted in the Confederate States Army on March 4, 1861, in Morgan, Georgia and served as a private in Company C, 25th Regiment, Georgia Militia. By 1864, he achieved the rank of  2nd lieutenant.    At the Battle of Nashville on December 15 – 16, 1864, captured Confederate soldiers included Lieutenant Powell.  [5]  Transported first to the nearest military camp at Louisville, Kentucky,  James’  journey north continued four days later, on December 20, 1864, to a final destination of Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky, Ohio.  The  500-mile  journey from Nashville to Johnson’s Island probably consisted of travel by both train and on foot.

Powell_civil war records_draft3.jpg

Three of 18 records found in James T L Powell’s Civil War records files

The Prisoner of War Depot at Johnson’s Island consisted of 40 acres and held prisoners from April, 1862 to September, 1865. [6]  Less well known than the infamous Andersonville Prison in Sumter county, Georgia, conditions at over-crowded Johnson’s Island were  similarly desperate.  Ill-clad Confederate prisoners of war also suffered because of not being used to northern winters.[7]  Arriving in December, James shared the same raw conditions as other prisoners.

‘Discharged or paroled’  from Johnson’s Island on June 17, 1865, [8]  James made his way back home to Georgia and reunited with his wife, Deborah, in Calhoun County, Georgia.  The 900-mile trip home coiled through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.    James and Deborah had three children:  Alonzo ‘Alvey’, born about 1866 in Georgia ; James M. born about 1868 in Georgia, and Peter, born about 1871 in Texas. [9] Deborah probably died in Texas.

On April 22, 1877, James married  Catherine Brown, 17-year-old  daughter of R.L. Brown and Marguerite Puckett  in Cherokee County, Texas.[10]  They had three children:  Katherine Deborah , born August 15, 1879, in Cherokee County, Texas ; William B. , born February 19, 1882 in Texas and Jessie , born January, 1889 in Cherokee County, Texas. [11] The younger Katherine and her husband, James Walter Ellerbee, are my husband’s paternal great –grandparents.

James T. L. Powell died on September 27, 1890, and is buried in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana. [12]

James TL Powell gravestone.jpg

Find A Grave Memorial ID #67392240.  Photo by Jerry Bohnett, taken ca 2011.

He may have been visiting his children when he died.   His widow married Elias Barker on September 1, 1892, in Cherokee County, Texas.  Mr. Barker died on August 20, 1900, leaving Catherine again a widow.  Catherine Brown Powell Barker died on March 8, 1944, in Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas. [13]

See also:  Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison,  Friends and Descendants of Johnson’s Civil War Prison:     https://johnsonsisland.heidelberg.edu/index.html

Jeremiah Tucker

Jeremiah Tucker is my maternal great-great grandfather.  Jeremiah Tucker was born on September 23, 1839 in New York, child of Thomas W. Tucker and Lavinia Clearwater.[14]   Jeremiah married two times, possibly three – to Margaret, surname either Irwin or Collins, and Allie Traver.  (See Blog posted on April 24, 2017, for some information about Margaret and Allie; report pending).

Jeremiah served as a private in the 56th New York Infantry Regiment, Company I. [15] His unit defended Washington, D.C., then fought in battles at Yorktown and Williamsburg, Virginia.  In July, 1863, they reinforced the black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry at the Fort Wagner, [South Carolina] siege, memorialized in the film, Glory. [16]  From there, the 56th New York continued south to Charleston, South Carolina, where the men mustered out. [17]  During the war, Jeremiah reportedly lost vision in one eye.

Jeremiah_Tucker_civil war records1

Partial service record for Jeremiah Tucker

After discharge, Jeremiah returned to his home in Greene County, New York,  where he married a woman named Margaret in 1867.[18] Together, they raised five children:  William Frederick, born 1868; Millie, born 1870; Augusta, born 1872; Mary E., born 1874; and Thomas George, born 1877.  Their oldest son, William Frederick Tucker, and his wife, Bertha Traver, are my maternal great-grandparents.  Another child, Lavinia, born in 1862 and recorded as ‘daughter’, resided with Jeremiah and Margaret as late as 1880. [19]

Jeremiah Tucker c

Original photograph given to my uncle, Esbon, from my great-aunt Viola. 

After the Civil War, Jeremiah became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans.   Jeremiah died on April 16, 1914 at the age of 74 years, 6 months, and 23 days and is buried in his home town of Greenville, Greene county, New York., [20]

Interesting similiarities:

  1. Both men married for a second time after the Civil War.
  2. The first child born after the Civil War became our (my husband’s and mine) great- grandparents.
  3. After the war, both men faced a journey of about 900 miles to return to their homes. I expect that James’ journey was much more difficult than Jeremiah’s.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection/ Journal entry

This post will be seen by some as not politically correct, especially in light of recent events surrounding statues and images of Confederate leaders.  I was disturbed this summer by the acts of vandalism against statues of Confederate leaders. Destruction of property is a crime.  I understand that some are offended and/or uncomfortable with these images and the beliefs represented.  However, the Civil War is part of our American experience, whether we like it or not.  Brave men and women fought for their beliefs on both sides, much as men and women fought in the American Revolution and wars since.  History cannot be erased and is often retold.  Sometimes, we judge our ancestors’ actions according to current morals and ethics.  This can lead to the retelling of history according to standards different than those of the actual time period in which the historical event occurred.  I believe that the perspectives of the actual time period should be considered.

Some may say,  “But, your viewpoint is skewed because your husband’s ancestors fought on the side of the Confederacy.”  Perhaps.  I want my children to be proud of their heritage,  all of their heritage!  So, we proudly display pictures of both Confederate and Union soldiers in our home.  When we visit the grave of James T.L. Powell,  we will place a Confederate flag because he is a Confederate veteran.  And, my children know that they have both Confederate and Union blood flowing in their veins.

Enough of the soapbox.  What did I learn?  The horrors of Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp.  My husband’s family includes others who fought and died for the Confederacy.   The number of slaves owned by my husband’s ancestors varied widely from one to thirty or more.  I learned about the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R, veterans of the Union Army).    I was surprised when I looked up the location of Fort Wagner and immediately made the connection with the film.   I have no information about my mother’s family’s views about black persons although I do not recall ever hearing her say anything discriminatory or derogatory.

A federal law granting benefits to Confederate Civil War veterans passed in 1958. Information and misinformation abounds concerning the language and intent of this law and earlier, related  legislation.  If you are interested, here are three of many websites with information on this issue:

Confederate veterans benefits:   https://www.truthorfiction.com/confederate-soldiers-are-considered-u-s-veterans-under-federal-law/

“Confederate soldiers were not United States veterans.” Blog posted August 24, 2017 by James Howard.  Presents both sides of arguments about Confederate veterans and pardons for them.    https://jameshoward.us/2017/08/24/confederate-soldiers-not-united-states-veterans/

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.  National Park Serive, Department of the Interior. “Confederates in the Cemetery:  Federal Benefits & Stewardship”  :  https://www.ncptt.nps.gov/blog/confederates-in-the-cemetery-federal-benefits-stewardship/

What helped ?  Access to online and print sources.  Careful review of documents revealed new information and insights.  Being open to the stories.  Searching for evidence to support conclusions.

What didn’t help? My negative reaction to those who seem to want to erase the Civil War from U.S. history, or water the history down to a version that is ‘politically correct’ according to today’s standards.  This formed the impetus for me to write this post. Incomplete sources and citations.

Summary:   This post describes two ancestors –men who fought for the Confederacy (Ellerbee family) and Union (Tucker family).  Individual stories grew from genealogical and historical records.  The post ends with a short rant about recent attacks on statues of Confederate leaders. I realize that genealogy blogs are not the usual place for political commentary and I recognize my own subjectivity on this subject.

[1] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed & printed 29 November 2012), memorial page for J.T.L. Powell, Find A Grave Memorial # 67392240, citing Wallace Cemetery (Evelyn, De Soto Parish, Louisiana), memorial created by Jerry & Donna Bohnett, photograph by Jerry & Donna Bohnett.

[2] Coolnethead, “Powell Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/42063713/person/20387548981/facts  : accessed 9 November 2017); “Hilliard Powell”,  birth and death data undocumented.

[3] “Sumter County, Georgia Marriage Book, 1850-1857”,  marriage record for James TL Powell & Deborah A. C. Daniel, Book 3, page 218.  Marriage Books, Sumter County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives (http://vault.georgiaarchives.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/countyfilm/id/289112/rec/3  : accessed, downloaded & printed 24 March 2017), citing The Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

[4] 1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, pop. sch., 3rd District, p. 47 (penned), dwelling 335, family 335, James T.L. Powell age 25; digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com  : accessed, downloaded & printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M653_113.

[5] “Carded records showing military service of soldiers who fought in the Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865; ” entry for James L. L Powell (18 pages); digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com :  accessed, downloaded & printed, 8 November 2017);  ; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M266, record group 109, state Georgia, roll 0386.

[6] Depot of Prisoners of War on Johnson’s Island, Ohio.  (http://www.johnsonsisland.org/history.htm  : accessed, printed & downloaded 14 Nov 2011).

[7] James I. Robertson, Jr.  The Civil War: Tenting tonight.  The soldier’s life. (Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1884), 113, 115.

[8] Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension, Catherine Barker, widow’s pension file no. 50567, Civil War, Confederate, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.  Carded records, compiled service record, James T. L. Powell, Lt., Co. C, 25th  Regiment Georgia Infantry, Civil War, RG 109, NARA-Washington, D.C.

[9] 1870 U.S. Census, Calhoun County, Georgia, pop. sch., Militia District 626, p. 55 (penned), p. 585 (stamped), dwelling 510, family 486, Jas T L Powell; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded 9 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593_138.

[10] Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension, Catherine Barker, widow’s pension file no. 50567, Civil War, Confederate, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

[11] Death certificates for Katherine Deborah Powell & William B. Powell, personal files of Susan Posten Ellerbee.  “Jessie Booker”, step-daughter listed with ‘Elide & Catherine Booker” in 1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, pop.sch., Justice Pct 8, p. 284 (stamped), dwelling 16, family 16, Jessie Booker; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : viewed 9 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623, roll 1619.

[12] Find A Grave, J.T.L. Powell, Find A Grave Memorial # 67392240.

[13]  Jefferson county, Texas, death certificates, death certificate #14269 (1944), Mrs. Catherine Barker, 8 March 1944; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 9 November 2017); citing Texas Department of State Health Services, “Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982”, Austin, Texas.

[14] Jeremiah Tucker, death certificate (copy of original certificate stamped ‘for genealogical research only’),  no. 22078 (16 April 1914), New York Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Genealogy Unit, Albany, New York.

[15]“Abstracts from original muster rolls for New York State infantry units involved in the Civil War: 56th Infantry,” New York State Archives; entry for Jeremiah G. Tucker; Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com   : accessed 9 November 2017); citing New York State Archives, Digital Collections, Records of Military Service, Civil War, (http://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/).

[16] Glory, directed by Edward Zwick (1989, Hollywood, California: TriStar Productions).

[17] “56th Infantry Regiment, Civil War,” NYS Division of Military and Naval Affairs, New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center (https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/56thInf/56thInfMain.htm:   accessed 8 November 2017 ); citing The Union army: a history of military affairs in the loyal states, 1861-65 — records of the regiments in the Union army — cyclopedia of battles — memoirs of commanders and soldiers. Madison, WI: Federal Pub. Co., 1908. Volume II.

[18] 1900 U.S. Census, Greene county, New York, pop. sch., Greenville, enumeration district (ED) 78, p. 8A (penned), dwelling 189 , family 196, Jeremiah Tucker; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623_1039.

[19] 1880 U.S. Census, Greene county, New York, pop. sch., Greenville, enumeration district (ED) 81, p. 2B (penned), dwelling #1, family #1, Lavinia Tucker age 18; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded and printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 836.

[20] Jeremiah Tucker, Greenville, Greene county, New York; death certificate no. 22078 (16 April 1914).

Memorial Day 2017 – In honor of Herman E. Maurer (1923 – 1944)

memorial day stampIt’s Memorial Day weekend.  I planned to continue with a post about using research logs and genealogy.  That post can wait.  I am going to write about my first cousin once removed, Herman E. Maurer,  who was killed in action during World War II.

As I reviewed my other blog posts, I realized that I have been doing more teaching and not so much reflection.   I am a nurse for over 40 years now and 25+ years of that time was spent in education, teaching men and women how to be nurses.   One of our teaching tools is journaling – having the students reflect on their clinical experiences.   I remember telling them to write more than just a list of what they did.  What did you do today?  How did you feel about giving a shot or watching a baby being born?  Nervous? Confident? Frustrated? Awed by the experience?   What did you learn? What or who helped? What or who didn’t help?  Suggest ways to make the next clinical day better.   So, starting with this post, I am going to take my own advice and do more reflecting.

What memories do you have of Memorial Day?  When I was in grade school and middle school in northern Kentucky,  Memorial Day meant that the school year ended.  I don’t remember doing anything special as a family.  Dad was an airline mechanic so he often had to work on holidays.   As a nurse, I, too, often worked on this holiday.  On the other hand, my husband’s family usually got together and had the first family barbecue of the summer season.

As an older adult, I began to appreciate the significance of this holiday.  Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day, honors those who have died in battle defending our country.  It is a uniquely American holiday.  American flags are placed on the graves of veterans, whether or not the veteran died during war time.  Facts:

  • The idea began after the Civil War. “It [Decoration Day] was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.”[1]
  • General James Garfield made the first Decoration Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery. “About 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.”[2]
  • Originally, Memorial Day was on held on May 30th. [3] In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) and made Memorial Day the last Monday in May. Controversy about the 3-day weekend versus May 30th continues to the present.
  • Several southern states honor the Confederate war dead on these days: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

The Memorial Day website has more information about this holiday.

Now, remembering my first cousin, once removed, Herman E. Maurer.   Herman was born on July 13, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York. [4],[5]   to Herman Charles Maurer and his second wife, Elizabeth Veronica Major.   By 1925[6], the family moved to Huntington, Suffolk county, New York, where other members of Herman’s family also lived.  Herman E. enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 25, 1942.[7]  Assigned to the 485th Bomber Group,  828th Bomb Squad and trained as gunner, he was quickly promoted from private to staff sergeant.  Herman was a member of Crew #17 with pilot, Hudson Owen.

On June 26, 1944, Herman Maurer flew with Parke Bossart’s crew.  Unknown is whether Herman volunteered to fly with a different crew on this day or whether he was assigned.  The B-24 Liberator crew of 10 was assigned to bomb  an oil refinery near Florisdorf, Austria.  About 9:30 am, they engaged  Germans in an air battle.  According to one document in the file, [8]  Herman had flown about 24 missions.  During the attack, Herman was wounded and reported “enemy planes coming in at tail.”  One crew member reported  last seeing Herman as he entered the tail turret.  Herman was the only crew member who died that day.  The others were captured and interred at Dulag Luft. [9]

Herman was initially buried at the Pressbaum Cemetery, Pressbaum,  Austria.[10]  His body was later returned to the United States.  On May 18, 1949, Herman E. Maurer was laid to rest in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York.[11]   Herman E Maurer gravestone

The pilot,  Parke N. Bossart,  later filed this report: [12]

“One of the other officers in my crew (I’ve forgotten which one) was shown Maurer’s dog tags by his interrogater [sic]  in Frankfurt and told that the tail gunners’ remains were found in the wreckage. Reports of the other member of the crew indicate that Maurer destroyed either two or three of the German fighters who made the final attack on our plane and was presumably killed by them. He should be posthumously cited for this, but since my return, I haven’t found anyone sufficiently interested to do anything about it – or even take a report on it.”

air medal_memorial day 2017

United States: Air Medal.  Picture copied  from Project ww2awards website

Herman did receive two posthumous medals —  Purple Heart and Air Medal.[13]  The Air Medal , established in 1942, ‘is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the armed forces of the United States, shall have distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight”.[14]

Being an avid researcher and probably OCG (obsessive-compulsive genealogist), I wanted to know more.  I googled ‘485th bomber group World War II’ and found a website[15]:      I followed the 485th Photos button to the ‘Photos of the 828th Squadron Crews’ button and down to Bossart crew.   Parke Bossart was the pilot.  There, in the picture, third from the right, was a man without a name, listed as ‘unknown’ on the picture legend.  All of the other men were identified by name.  Could this man be my cousin, Herman E. Maurer?  Further down on the website was a picture of the Owen crew and Herman is named.    But, there are only 4 men on the back row and 5 men are named.  So, which one is Herman?  I am waiting confirmation from the webmaster.

 

Owen Crew_Herman Maurer named here

Owen crew – 828th Squadron – Original crew #17
Front Row, L – R:  Joe Coker, Engineer/Gunner; William Roberts, Co-Pilot; Hudson Owen, Pilot; Jerry Durden, Bombardier; Perry Monroe, Gunner.
Back Row, L – R: Alfred Aborjaily, Radio Operator/Gunner; George Mack, Gunner; Kenneth Ponte, Gunner; Herman Maurer, Gunner; Fales Holcomb, Navigator. 
The assigned plane for this crew was “My Brother and I”.  Fales and Durden were killed flying with Thomas Baker’s crew on 7/20/44, when the plane was shot down by fighters on the Friedrichschafen mission.  Maurer was killed while flying with Bossart’s crew on 6/26/44 and Mack became a POW, also flying with Bossart’s crew on the 6/26/44 Vienna mission.  Several from this crew were wounded when they crashed while landing at Bari on 6/28/44.  

Picture and narrative retrieved 26  May 2017:  http://www.485thbg.org/Photos/828th/828th.html

By this time, I am in tears.  The picture of Herman will be put with the story and other documents.   He was 3 weeks shy of his 21st birthday and a year younger than my youngest son.  Thank you, Herman, for your sacrifice!

 Before you ask, yes,  I sent an email with copies of all  information to the contact person on the website.   After I dry my tears , I will fill out a research log.

Reflection on this experience:   Today, I learned about the history of Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day.  Most exciting thing was possibly finding a picture of my cousin who died in World War II.  The emotions almost overwhelmed me.  I used the internet effectively to find out more about my cousin’s military service.  What didn’t help was that I did not have complete sources for several documents that I downloaded five years ago.  I felt frustrated when I couldn’t quickly access those documents again so I could get the source.  Ultimately, I did find the documents again and now have the complete sources.  As I write these blog posts, I am using skills that I am learning as part of my Genealogy Do-over, specifically documentation (using research logs) and source citation (using templates).  Primary challenge remains  slowing down and taking time to review/ analyze information, as well as documenting sources and my thought processes.  I am still a novice when it comes to use of research tools.

[1] Memorial Day (http://www.usmemorialday.org  : accessed 24 May 2017), “History.”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., “Date Restoration.”

[4]  Department of Veterans Affairs, “Nationwide Gravesite Locator,” database, National Cemetery Association. (http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov   : accessed 24 May 2017), entry for Herman E. Maurer (1923-1944), Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, New York.  

[5] 1940 U.S. census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Huntington, Enumeration District [ED] 52-102, p. 7A (penned), household # 106, Herman Maurer: digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 25 May 2017); from National Archives microfilm publication T626, roll 1651, image 1014.0.

[6] 1925 New York state census, Suffolk County, population schedule, Huntington, p. 44, dwelling [blank],  for Herman E. Maurer in Herman C. Maurer household;  digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 25 May 2017), citing State population census schedules, 1925. Albany, New York: New York State Archives.

[7] “U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946”, database and images, Ancestry.com  (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 26 May 2016), record for Herman E. Maurer , enlistment date 25 Nov 1942, New York City, New York; citing Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

[8] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), compiled 1942-1947,” database and images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com   : accessed 25 May 2017), Report No. 6822 (36 pages), Serial No. 41-29291, Year: 1944; Record Group 92: Publication No. M1380, Roll 02401-02500,  National Archives Catalog ID 305256.  National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

[9] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs, compiled 1942-1947,” database,  Report No. 6822, Year: 1944.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Dept. of Veterans Affairs, “Nationwide Gravesite Locator,” database entry for Herman E. Maurer (1923-1944).  

[12] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs, compiled 1942-1947,” database Report No. 6822, Year: 1944.  Individual Casualty Questionnaire completed by Parke N. Bossart, pilot.

[13]“U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962”, database and images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com :  accessed 25 May 2017),  entry for Herman E. Maurer,  serial no. 12189684,  citing Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962. Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

[14] Project ww2awards.com, (http://en.ww2awards.com/award/247  : accessed 25 May2017), “United States: Air Medal AM.”

[15] 485th Bomber Group Association, (http://www.485thbg.org  :  accessed 25 May 2017),  “485th Photos, Photos of the 828th  Squadron Crews.”

Reflections on Mother’s Day, 2017

Today, I decided to focus on my grandmothers.  No special reason, it just seemed like the right thing to do.  I realized that I had few pictures of either one of my grandmothers.  I went to a small brown trunk and a red cardboard box of pictures.    I found a 1954 picture of my dad’s mother and a 1955 picture of my mom’s mother.

Jennie Amelia Richards (paternal grandmother)

Jennie Amelia Richards was the daughter of Ostrander Richards and Amelia Magdellene LaCoe.  Jennie was born on January 15, 1884, in Ransom Township, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania, the youngest of seven children[1],[2].   Her father was a farmer.   Two of her siblings died before Jennie was born – Mary Amelia Richards, died in 1878 at age 11[3], and William Ostrander Richards, died in 1883 at age of 13[4].  A third sibling, Ora Nathaniel Richards, died in 1893[5].  One of her brothers, Leslie Frank Richards, was known as “progressive truck farmer” in Lackawanna county. [6]  The family was still living in Ransom Township in 1900.[7]  Jennie married John Ray Posten, a fireman from West Pittston, Pennsylvania, in September , 1910. [8], [9]  Six children were born to Jennie and John:  Lester Joseph (b. 1911); George Ray (born 1913); Grace Amelia (born 1915); Daniel Richard (born 1917 – my dad);  Martha Gertrude (born 1920) and Mary Elizabeth (born 1923).  According to Aunt Mary[10], “we moved around a lot” and  lived on small farmsteads outside of city limits.

Grandma Posten 1954_ver2

Jennie was very religious and regularly attended church , usually walking to services.  She had a ‘green thumb’  (which my dad inherited) and was very proud of both her vegetable and flower gardens.  As the United States entered World War I, John and Jennie owned a farm on Russell Hill, near Tunkhannock, Luzerne county.   According to Aunt Mary[11],  John chose to work  the farm and raise food for the soldiers rather than serving in Europe.   They lost the farm during the depression.   However, Jennie was frugal and a good manager, so the family always had food.  The boys hunted and provided meat in the form of squirrels and rabbits.[12]  Pancake batter made from sourdough was also a staple food item.

In 1940, Jennie became the main provider for the family as John suffered health issues  and was hospitalized.   John died in 1948 and Jennie went to live with her son, Lester.   I remember going to Pennsylvania every other year.  Jennie, aka Grandma Posten, always seemed quiet and withdrawn.  She knew Dad and had to be re-introduced to us, her grandchildren, each time.  This could have been simply because we visited so rarely.

How little I know about Jennie’s early life beyond the events listed here!   Being a farmer’s daughter, she probably worked on the farm from an early age.  She completed 8th grade[13].  I recall Dad saying that she insisted on each of them attending high school, showing that she valued education.  Pride in a flower garden indicates that she also enjoyed the beauty of nature, perhaps appreciating it as a gift of God.

ImageJennie died peacefully on June 25, 1964, at the age of 80.[14]  She was found sitting on the floor, with a sandwich and a glass of milk next to her.  Cause of death was probably a massive heart attack.  Aunt Mary and Aunt Grace said that I look like her.  Unfortunately,  I did not inherit her green thumb!  But, I do enjoy a small herb garden and a few flowers.  After Dad died, we had a small vegetable garden for several years.  Digging in the soil helped me feel closer to Dad and, without recognizing it at the time, his mother.   Thank you, Jennie!

Amalie Charlotte Maurer (maternal grandmother)

Amalie Charlotte Maurer  was the daughter of George Hermann Maurer and Anna Klee.   Lottie, aka Gram, was the granddaughter of German immigrants; her grandfather came to the United States in the 1850s. Lottie was born in Brooklyn, Queens, New York, on May 26, 1892, [15]  the fifth of nine children.   She married Esbon Jeremiah Tucker of Greene County, New York, on June 3, 1917.[16]   Lottie and Esbon had 4 children:   Esbon Herman , born 1918; Eunice Bertha, born 1919 (my mother);  William Burde, born 1923; and Mercedes Viola, born 1925.  After the death of their parents , Lottie’s sister,  Viola Blanche Maurer, came to live with Lottie and Esbon.

Huntington NY May 1955 names_ver2

By 1910, Lottie’s parents  had moved to Huntington, Suffolk county, New York[17], which is on Long Island.  Herman was a brass worker, which means that he may have worked in a smelting factory.  Lottie and Esbon remained on Long Island for the rest of their lives.   Gram spent all of her life in urban and suburban areas.  Like many suburban families, she  had a small garden for personal use.  However, they family did not rely on this garden as a primary source of food.  My grandfather, Esbon, worked for the phone company and apparently did not lose his job during the depression.  Although money was scarce, they had the necessities of life and, because of Pop’s job, were a little better off than many other families.

Gram & Pop's house Spring Street ca 1957_ver2

I also know little about Lottie’s life beyond the facts and events recorded here and my own memories.  Lottie collected salt and pepper shakers, which were stored in a wood cabinet in their musty basement on Spring Street in Huntington.   I am not  sure what church they attended.  Both Gram and Viola knew how to knit and crochet; they taught my mother, who taught me.  I continue to enjoy these crafts.   Gram’s kitchen was very small and a 1950s style kitchen table made it even more crowded.   However, the amount of food that came out of that kitchen was always remarkable!

Lottie and Esbon lived in their own home throughout their  57 years of marriage.  Lottie died on April 9, 1974 in Huntington, Suffolk County, New York at the age of 82.[18]  My grandfather died 10 years later. Thank you, Lottie!

Reflecting on my grandmothers, I realize that I am, indeed, a composite of both.  From Grandma Posten,  I inherited physical characteristics and an appreciation of growing things, although not her green thumb.  Her daughter recognized Jennie’s ability to manage;  for the last 18 years,  I have been in a mid-level administrative/ management position.    From Gram Tucker, I inherited needlework skills and a love of cooking, especially German food.   Canning and preserving food was a necessity for both grandmothers.  I enjoy the process and results although I do not have to raise the food.   Hopefully, I inherited the longevity genes from both and can expect to live 80+ years.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I honor my mother’s mother , Amalie Charlotte Maurer Tucker, and my father’s mother, Jennie Amelia Richards Posten.  Both contributed unique talents and values to their children who, subsequently, shared those same talents and values with me.

Genealogy to-do list for today:  Scan pictures pulled from boxes.  Add items to Research Logs:  Mary Amelia Richards – confirm death date & location;  William Ostrander Richards—confirm death date and location.  Marriage certificate and death certificates for Esbon Tucker and Charlotte Maurer Tucker were ordered  in March, 2017; should be arriving soon!

[1] J.B. Stephens, compiler, History and Directory of Newton and Ransom Townships, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania (Montrose, Pennsylvania: J.B. Stephens, 1912),  216; digital images, Pennsylvania State University Libraries Digital Library Collections,    (http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm4  :  accessed, downloaded & printed 8 June 2010.

[2] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate no. 062881-64 ,  Jennie Richards Posten (1964) ; Division of Vital Records, New Castle, PA.

[3] Unknown, IGI Family Group Record, Family Group record # 34426625.

[4] Unknown, IGI Family Group Record. No other information listed.

[5] Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com   : accessed 14 May 2017), memorial 73363200,  Ora Richards, Milwaukee Cemetery, Scranton, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania; gravestone picture by JGordon24.

[6] Stephens,  History and Directory of Newton and Ransom Townships, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, 215-216.

[7] 1900 U.S. census, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, RansomTownship, Enumeration District [ED] 40th, sheet no. 10A (penned), 225A (stamped),  dwelling 133, family 137, Jennie Richards, daughter: digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication T623, roll 1419.

[8] Stephens, History and Directory of Newton and Ransom Townships, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, p. 216.  John and Jennie’s marriage date is recorded as September 21, 1910.  Their marriage license was issued on September 21, 1910 per county records.

[9] “Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Marriage License Docket, 1907-1918”, John R. Posten-Jennie A. Richards, 21 September 1910, license no. 56312; image, “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950”,  FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GPR3-2KV?cc=1589502&wc=Q6VB-1ZY%3A1590262681%2C1590262994   : accessed 14 May 2017).

[10] Mary E.  Button Posten (Luzerne County, Pennsylvania), telephone interview by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, 21 Jan 2011;   transcript privately held by Ellerbee,  [address for private use, ] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2011.  Mary, a daughter of Jennie, spoke from personal knowledge of her mother.

[11]Mary E. Posten Button, interview, 21 Jan 2011.

[12] Daniel R. Posten (Bryant, Saline County, Oklahoma), information given to Susan M. Posten Ellerbee,  ca. 1975,   no transcript available, information  privately held by Ellerbee,  [address for private use, ] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Daniel, a son of Jennie, spoke about his childhood.

[13] 1940 U.S. census, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Tunkhannock Township, Enumeration District [ED] 66-23, sheet no. 14A (penned),  family 236, Jennie Posten: digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication T627, roll 3640.

[14] Pennsylvania death certificate no. 062881-64  (1964), Jennie Richards Posten.

[15] New York City Department of Records and Information Services,  birth certificate no. 5947 ,  Amalie Charlotte Maurer (1892); Municipal Archives, New York, New York.

[16] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1975-1980), Esbon J. Tucker, p. 2;  carbon copy  privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010.  Transcribed by Ms. Ellerbee in 2012. Ms. Ellerbee is the granddaughter of Amalie Charlotte Tucker and great-niece of Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker.

[17] 1910 U.S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, pop. sch., Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 1367, p. 2B, Family #26, Herman Maurer (head); digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 31 January 2017); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T624, roll 1083.

[18] Charlotte A. Tucker funeral card, Huntington, New York, privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017. This funeral card was among papers that belonged to Eunice Bertha Tucker Posten, daughter of Charlotte Maurer and Esbon Tucker.

Genealogy Do-Over: Month 2, Blog #1

Month 2 – still working on the re-organization of paper files and completing worksheets.  I started with in-law files then decided to tackle the more difficult files- my dad’s.   I am still spread out on our dining room table.  By the end of the month (February, 2017),  dad’s files were done and I began on mom’s files.  Once my documentation system was in place,  the process went a little smoother.   As I quickly reviewed dad’s files to write this blog, I realized that I had forgotten an important item on each document – signing and dating each form. oopsI didn’t start doing that until I was into mom’s files.  So, two months later and I am back into the paper files to make sure that each document is signed and dated.

Why is signing and dating a worksheet or family group sheet  so important?   First, it tells who filled in the blanks.  Many forms have space for this information.  Unfortunately, the forms that I chose do not have a designated space to fill in.  Second, date tells when the form was filled out.  I found many old forms with dates as early as 2001- 2002 and one or two from the 1990s. There had been numerous updates to most of the information since the original form was filled out.  However,  I am keeping the old forms as a record of my research at that time.  Also, these old records helped me to identify research habits that needed changing.

Which brings me to the focus of this month’s activities :  1) establish base practices and guidelines and 2) setting research goals.  Recognizing the need to ‘clean up my act’ was the motivating factor to do this in the first place.

Where to begin?  Start with myself [1].   Goal #1 for month 2: Collect and record information for myself, husband Jay and our parents.   Outcome:   Completed for Jay (husband) and myself on February 2, 2017.  Completed for both sets of parents by the end of February.   This was relatively (excuse the pun) easy.  In 2011, I became an official Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR) and had collected my documents for that application.  In 2013 and 2014, I created family history scrapbooks for my in-laws and had collected many of their documents.  A DAR application for my mother-in-law finished the collection.  Birth, death, marriage, divorce certificates are now in appropriate folders for these two generations.  Individual checklists are filled out as much as possible.  Our siblings have their own family group sheets and checklists.  However,   I don’t have their birth & marriage certificates.  More items for the To-Do list! Oh, well!

Now, onward to Generation 3 , grandparents.  I have the documents for my paternal grandparents as result of DAR application.  My maternal grandparents were born in New York in late 1890s. I began getting certificates last year but not in any systematic manner.  Last year,  I had written for, and received, a death record for my great-great-grandfather, who died in 1898 in New York.  New York has wonderful records!Love NYI already have my grandfather’s birth certificate, sent to me by a New York cousin, so my grandmother was next on the list. Birth certificate received on March 14, 2017!  Here’s a partial transcript.

Full name of child: Amalie Charlotte Maurer
Sex: Female. No. of child of mother: 5 
Date of Birth: 26 May 1892. Hour of birth: 4 pm
Place of birth: Hopkins Street 
Mother’s full name: Anna Maurer. Age: 28 years
Mother’s maiden name: Klee Birthplace: Brooklyn
Father’s full name: Herrman Maurer. Age 32 years
Father’s occupation: mat???llmoulder Birthplace: Brooklyn

Seems like routine information.  But, there were several surprises.  First,  name of child.  I had always heard that Gram’s name was Charlotte.  Family and friends called her Lottie.   Her middle name has been reported as both Anna and Amalie.  Amalie was her first name!  Make corrections to all of my records.  Second,  she is reported as 5th child of her mother.  Wait a minute – according to my records,  Amalie Charlotte was Anna’s 4th child!  Another item for the To-Do list:  discover 5th child born to Herrman and Anna between December, 1883 (date of their marriage) and May, 1892. So tempting to follow that BSO now!  And, finally, just what was Herrman’s occupation??

Enough for this post!  In my next post, I will explore more of my not-so-wonderful research practices and what I am doing to improve.

Genealogy Do-over: Month 1, Part 2

Progress report:  Month 1,  Goal #2:  locate/ sort/ file essential documents and those that ‘”took considerable time, effort and money to order or collect.   Set aside for later review.”[1]

As of April 24, 2017 (Month 4),  this task is finally, almost complete for maternal & paternal lines, maternal  & paternal- in-laws families, taking much longer than I anticipated.  But, then, I realize that there are 500-600 people (or more) in each tree,  going back 5-7 generations.  Yes, not all of those people are directly related to us!  My husband said, more than once, “I hope that all of this  will actually help!” as I totally took over a dining room table.  Son #2 has his computer on our office desk so that space isn’t currently available.  I kept telling husband and sons, and reminding myself, that it was as much for those who will inherit my files as for me now.  I think that their eyes glazed over more than once when I tried to describe why I was doing this!   During the re-organization process,  I tried to carefully review documents.  I jumped ahead to Month 4 (research log) for a couple of brick walls and questions that came up.   I am proud of myself that I only followed 3-4 BSOs!  Staying away from those is a definite challenge!

What is a BSO?  BSO stands for “Bright and Shining Object”.   According to Thomas MacAntee [1],  a BSO is anything that “can cause your research to be derailed while you lose focus on your original research goal.”   For me, this has included not only those hints on the genealogy websites but a note that a town in the 1880 census no longer exists (spent 2 hours finding out more that was not really relevant to our family’s history), a 1940s newspaper clipping about a boy with our surname (turns out he was son of a 2nd cousin) and the death certificate of wife of  distant relative (until 2 am tracking her parents).   He recommends using a To-Do List.  To-Do lists include what you are trying to find, what you have found, and what you need to find to meet your research goal.  Basically, it’s a research plan and incorporates the BSO that is tempting you.

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BSO example #1:    Finding 1st wife of  my  maternal great-great grandfather, Jeremiah Tucker.  According to oral family history, his wife’s name was Margaret/ Maggie Irwin.

Census records for 1870, 1880 & 1900 show Jeremiah and wife, Margaret.   A closer look at 1900 census record shows that Jeremiah & Margaret have been married for 33 years or estimated marriage year about 1867.  So, what’s the problem?  1870 census record – child, Lavinia, age 8 (born about 1862).  1880 census – daughter, Lanna, age 18.  If marriage information given in 1900 census is correct, then Margaret is probably Jeremiah’s 2nd wife.   Next item of interest already in my files, death certificate for George Tucker (age 3 in 1880) — his mother’s name is listed as Margaret Collins.  Wife, Margaret, listed in 1870/1880/1900 census records died before Jeremiah, who died in 1914.

Was  Jeremiah Tucker married to another woman named Margaret ?

This is definitely a BSO!  At any other time, I would have gone after this immediately.  But, I restrained myself .  So, here is the To-Do list:

  1. Confirm death date & location for Margaret Tucker.  Obtain death certificate.
  2.  Confirm death date & location for Lavinia Tucker; obtain death certificate.
  3. Obtain death certificates for other children of Jeremiah & Margaret – William Frederick Tucker (my great-grandfather),  Augusta Tucker Sanford.
  4. Search New York marriage records for Jeremiah Tucker and 1st wife, possibly also named Margaret, years 1860 to 1862.

During the re-organization & review process,  I encountered more BSOs and was able to avoid the temptation most of the time.  Frustrating?  Yes,  because I REALLY want to find the answer to the questions!   I will discuss other BSOs and my experiences with research logs  in a later blog.

For the moment,  I am beginning to see the benefits of the time spent on the re-organization of my files.  For each person, I can quickly scan 1 or 2 sheets of paper and see exactly what I need to find.  I also have entered  questions on the to-do tab in my genealogy software program.  Most of these will eventually be entered on the more detailed research logs.  And, future searches will, hopefully, be more focused and efficient because of time spent now.

Still to be done:   complete scanning of BMD certificates sent to me from cousin.  Put original certificates in archival quality plastic sleeves in appropriate notebooks.

[1] Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016);  download from Amazon.com