Nellie’s parents were born in USA

A brick wall without a hole or chink or a hurdle to hop over? Depends on your perspective and the status of your research.  In the case of Nellie Black Johnson’s parents, the wall has a tiny peephole. This post describes positive and negative evidence about Nellie’s parents and suggests next steps.

Nellie Black Johnson, my husband’s great-grandmother, married Henry Louis Johnson about 1910, likely at Limestone county, Texas [online tree with no source reported].  Her death certificate claims her race as White; birth date, place and parents as 16 January 1888 in Texas to C.W. Black and Mary Bull. [1]  The Johnson family was in Limestone county by the mid-1870s. Nell died on 2 May 1960 in Mexia, Limestone county, Texas and is buried in the Point Enterprise Cemetery. Informant was her oldest daughter, Katie Johnson Brannon.  Next steps: Determine place of birth for Nell’s parents using 1920 and 1930 census for Nell and Henry.  1940 census lists place of birth for the person but not parents.

Evidence:  

1930 census. Mexia, Limestone county, Texas. Henry L. Johnson, age 46; wife, Nellie Johnson, age 42; eight children:  Katie, 18; Luther C, 17; Horace C, 14; Alice P, 12; Annie R, 10; Edith N, 8; Mary L, 4; and Marie A, 1. [2]  Race, W [white] for all. Birthplace of Nellie’s father and mother recorded as “United States” and “United States”. Birthplace for both of Henry’s parents recorded as “Mississippi.”

1920 census. Enterprise, Limestone county, Texas. H.L. Johnson, age 35; wife, Kellie [per transcription] Johnson, age 32; 5 children:  Kate, 9; Clyde, 7; Horace, 5; Pauline, 2 7/12; Ruth, 2 months. [3] Race: W [white] for all. Birthplace of Nellie’s father and mother recorded as “USA” and “USA”. Birthplace for both of Henry’s parents recorded as “Mississippi.”

Analysis:   Listing parents as born in “United States” and “USA” seems odd. This is the first time that I encountered an entry like this. Perhaps she didn’t know or didn’t remember. Perhaps they said nothing more for a reason. Possible that Nellie knew but didn’t want to reveal that information? If not, why not?  

1920 census instructions for enumerators may shed some light (page 31, item 147, column 21)[4]:

“In case, however, a person does not know, the state or Territory of birth of his father, but knows that he was born in the United States, write United States rather than ” unknown.”

Enumerators for 1930 census received similar instructions (page 29, item 174, columns 19 and 20). [5]

According to a source at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City[6],  USA was sometimes used to designate birth in Oklahoma Territory or Indian Territory before Oklahoma statehood in 1907. This leads to the possibility that Nellie’s parents were born in Oklahoma Territory, Indian Territory or another territory.

Nellie & Henry Johnson, date unknown, circa 1950-1955? Personal collection, Susan Posten Ellerbee [Yukon, Oklahoma]

My mother-in-law reported that her grandmother was Native American, according to oral family history. Mother-in-law sent DNA to two companies. Neither one reported any Native American ancestry.

“Anyone with even a single indigenous American ancestor has indigenous American ancestry, but not everyone with an indigenous American ancestor has indigenous American DNA.” [7] 

Could Nellie’s Native American roots be so far back that they don’t show up in the current generation?  Do other descendants of Nellie have Native American genes in their DNA?

Next step- 1910 census.  April 1910. Waco City, McLennan, Texas.[8] 22 year-old Nellie Black, boarder, birthplace Texas, living with Sarah J. Bull, 45, head of household and her 4 children.  Nellie’s parents recorded as born in Texas.  Is Sarah J Bull related to Nellie’s mother, Mary Bull?  No definitive information about Sarah J Bull yet. Is this even our Nellie?

At least two online trees identify a South Carolina family consisting of C.W. and Mary Black as Nellie’s parents.[9], [10] According to census records, William Caleb Black and wife, Mary, lived in South Carolina continuously from 1870 to 1920. 1900 Census[11] shows a child, Nellie Black, born 1886 in South Carolina. Family does not appear to have ever left South Carolina.  Conclusion:  William Caleb Black, South Carolina, is not C.W. Black, father of Nellie Black.

From the scant evidence, I make these propositions:

  1. Nellie’s parents did not tell her where in the United States they were born.
  2. Nellie did not want to reveal where her parents were born.  
  3. Nellie’s parents were born in one of the territories prior to statehood.  
  4. Nellie’s ancestry does not include Native Americans.
  5. Nellie’s Native American heritage was not passed on genetically to her granddaughter.

I contacted DNA matches who have surnames of Johnson, Black and Bull.  One person shared some leads that are now on my to-do list.  Late last night, I found two interesting census records and will follow those clues later.

Reflection

March is Women’s History Month. This post briefly outlines one woman- Nellie Kay Janet Black Johnson, my mother-in-law’s paternal grandmother- and our DNA dilemma. This year, I plan to look deeper into my mother-in-law’s family.   I continue to work on goals related to other families.  

I am somewhat discouraged by the status of family trees on my computer-based genealogy program. I thought that I was making such good progress with my Genealogy Do-Over! Dad’s tree, the first one used for Do-Over, still needs work. Rewriting Posten family history will certainly help there! Other trees are in various states of repair.  Thanks to the Do-Over, I made a back-up every time that I worked on a tree. I re-opened the latest version and re-named with 2020 in the title. Note to self –one person and one family at a time!

What I learned:  A little more about DNA testing.  

What helped:  Picture of Nellie. List of DNA relatives for mother-in-law. Response from one DNA relative. Remembering that a genetic cousin is always a genealogical cousin. Just need to find the genealogical relationship! Writing this post.

What didn’t help: Ineffective and late night searches. I need to try different strategies!  Work on the brick walls earlier in the day. Not tracking what I found.

To-do:  Create research logs for Sarah J. Bull and others as I search; document findings. If needed, set aside for a week or two.  Follow leads from DNA match and census records.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2020


SOURCES:

[1] “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed & downloaded 27 February 2020), entry for Nell Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 37422.

[2]. 1930 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Mexia, enumeration district (ED) 11, pg. 6B, dwelling 135, family 149, Johnson Nellie, wife, age 42; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed & downloaded 26 Feb  2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626, roll 2371.

[3]. 1920 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Pt Enterprise School District, enumeration district (ED) 81, p. 3A, dwelling 41, family 47, H.L. Johnson head, age 32; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed & downloaded 26 Feb  2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1829.

[4] Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States, January 1, 1920, Instructions to Enumerators (Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1919), digital image;  United States Census Bureau (. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/programs-surveys/decennial/technical-documentation/questionnaires/1920instructions.pdf  : Accessed 26 Feb 2020).

[5] Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, January 1, 1920, Instructions to Enumerators, Population and Agriculture (Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1930), digital image;  United States Census Bureau (. https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1930instructions.pdf  : Accessed 26 Feb 2020).

[6]Susan M. Ellerbee,  handwritten notes, 27 July 2014, in vertical file for Henry Louis Johnson and Nellie Black.

[7] “Indigenous Americas Region, “ Ancestry Support (https://support.ancestry.com/s/article/Native-American-DNA  : accessed 27 Feb 2020).

[8]. 1910 U.S. Census, McLennan county, Texas, population schedule, Waco City, enumeration district (ED) 89, sheet 25B, dwelling 276, family 298, Nellie B. Black, age 22; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed 26 Feb 2020; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publicationT624_1575.

[9] Camtrot, “Trotter Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/20201602/person/943537300/facts  : accessed 26 Feb 2020), “C.W. Black,” born and died in South Carolina.

[10] GaryTaylor8958, “Lynda Jean Martin Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/9918609/person/-693511314/facts   :  accessed 26 Feb 2020, “William Caleb Black,” born South Carolina; last census record 1920 in Garvin, Anderson, South Carolina.

[11] 1900 U.S. Census, Anderson county, South Carolina, population schedule, Garvin, enumeration district (ED) 52, sheet 20A, dwelling 217, family 225, Nellie Black, age 14; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed 26 Feb 2020). Nellie listed as born in South Carolina.

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.

How many children did Phoebe Postens & Ludwig Brutzman have?

My last post introduced Esther Brutzman Lee,  daughter of Phoebe Postens and Ludwig/Lewis  Brutzman.   The 1850 census for Hamilton Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania also listed 10-year-old Alexander Bertyman [Brutzman] with Phoebe and Esther . [1]  Did Phoebe and Ludwig have other children?  brick wall Children Phoebe LudwigAccording to a Brotzman/ Brutzman family history[2] published in 1968, the answer is ‘Yes’.  But, the Brotzman history does not list either Esther  or Alexander.

 

Ludwig Brotzman/ Brutzman,  born on May 9, 1815 to John Brotzman and Suzanna Meyers,  “married Phoebe Poston of Pocono Township, Monroe County.  Later moved to Luzerne County, near Shickshinney.” [3] Again, Phoebe’s maiden name is given with no mention of her parents.  Five children are listed for Ludwig and Phoebe in the Brotzman history [4]:  (transcribed as written; each person was given a specific number.  Asterisk (*) indicates that more information was given about that person).

Phoebe Ludwig children from Brotzman history

Church records and an interview with a descendant are the sources given.  Church records are usually considered reliable and valid.  Interviews may or may not be reliable, depending on the age of the person and the distance in time from the events being related.  Personal bias may also color one’s memories. Unfortunately, I have not seen the church records and do not currently have access to them.

The 1900 county history[5] reads: ” In 1853, he [Philip S. Lee] married Miss Esther Brutzman, who was born in 1830, daughter of Lewis Brutzman, a well-known resident of Stroud Township, and his wife, Phebe (Posten), who now resides with our subject at the advanced age of eighty-two years.”

Do these two documents refer to the same Ludwig (aka Lewis) Brutzman and Phoebe (aka Phebe) Poston(aka Posten/ Postens)?   Names are similar enough to warrant a positive response.  Residences in Monroe county, Pennsylvania, are also consistent.  Inconsistent are the reported names of Ludwig and Phoebe’s  children.   Only Esther and Alexander, who are not named in the Brotzman history, are recorded as living with Phoebe in 1850.  Esther died in 1901[6], eight years before her husband, Philip[7],  so cannot be confused with Emily, who was apparently still alive in 1930.

Combining information from all documents yields 7 children for Ludwig and Phoebe:

  1. Esther, born 1836.
  2. David, born 1837.
  3. Alexander, born 1838.
  4. John, born 1840
  5. James.
  6. Jacob, born 1848.
  7.  Emeily.

For the moment,  assume that all seven children were born to our Ludwig and Phoebe.  Questions shape my to-do list:

  1. Why are Esther and Alexander not listed in the Brotzman family history? Speculation:  Esther and Alexander were baptized in a different church than the other children or not baptized.  Was Ludwig the father of all the children?   To do:  Search other church records.  Locate and search records of same church as referenced in Brotzman history.
  2. Where were the other children (David, John, James, Jacob and Emily) in 1850?  Speculation:  Ludwig died between 1848 and 1850.  Phoebe cannot care for all of them, so they were sent to live with other relatives. To do:  Search for other children in 1850, 1860 and later census records in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.   Locate Emily Stair in 1930 census, then follow her back in time.  Confirm Ludwig’s death date.  Search for more information about Ludwig and Phoebe in other documents, such as other county histories and newspapers.   Seek help from others, such as Daughters of the American Revolution in Monroe County.

disco-ball-150x150

For the moment, the search for more information about this family is a BSO (bright, shiny object) to be explored later.  I am thoroughly frustrated but still intrigued!  Still looking for document/s that name Phoebe’s parents. 

Sources: 

1]1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Phebe [Phoebe] Bertyman [Brutzman]; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed 3 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 789.

[2] (Compiler), Mary H. Forbes (compiler).  Descendants of Johan Frederick Brotzman and Maria Barbara Brotzman, 1738-1968. Laceyville, Pennsylvania: C.A. Christian, 1968. Repository: Monroe County Historical Society, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

[3] Ibid, p. 78, person #352.

[4] Ibid, pp. 78-79. Persons 833-837.

[5] Commemorative Biographical Record of NortheasternPennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and many of the early settled families. (Chicago:  J. H. Beers & Co., 1900), 150; digital images, WayBackMachine  (http://www.archive.org    : accessed 5 May 2017).

[6] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed & downloaded 4 November 2017), memorial page for Esther A. Brutzman Lee, Find A Grave Memorial # 84801350, citing Stroudsburg Cemetery (Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania), memorial created by P. Fite.

[7] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed & downloaded 4 November 2017), memorial page for Philip Shrawder “Big”  Lee, Find A Grave Memorial #158026280, citing Stroudsburg Cemetery (Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania), memorial created by P. Fite.

Dreams, brick walls and fans

Today,  I am just frustrated!  I have hit a brick wall and am not able to even poke a hole in it! My new, improved research habits seem to be of little use.

brick wall

Our recent trip to Pennsylvania and connecting/ re-connecting to cousins was definitely fun and produced some positive results. Finding and photographing my grandparents grave was one of the highlights (see post:  A tale of 3 cemeteries, for details).  Online, John R. Posten and Jennie A. Richards are now listed as being buried in the correct cemetery.

About a week after returning home, a cousin sent me a copy of a newspaper clipping from the September 11, 1908, Wilkes-Barre Journal  entitled “Posten Family Reunion”. [1]  The article includes information that genealogists dream of – names, dates and locations! Evidence for best guesses!   Confirmation of hypotheses! The article lists “about forty members of the Posten family” who attended and mentioned the “reading of a brief history of the Posten family”  which was printed “in part”.  The progenitor of our branch, Thomas Postens, and his youngest son, James D. Posten (my great-great grandfather, aged 79 at the time of the reunion) were the focus of the history.

After my initial delight and surprise, I read through the list of names again and quickly recognized many of them.  Others were easily identified as children, grandchildren, cousins or other relatives by searching my family tree database.  However, a few people have me totally stumped!  To assist with the identification process, I created a table, similar to a research log, for the information given in the article.  Since couples were identified together, i.e. “Mr. & Mrs. C.B. Fulkerson” and married women were identified by their husband’s name, i.e. “Mrs. John Posten”, I added columns for individual names and their relationship to James D. Posten.  Thus, “Mrs. & Mrs. C.B. Fulkerson” are identified in the table as “Olive Jane Posten & Cassius B. Fulkerson, daughter and son-in-law”.  Mrs. John Posten is James’ daughter-in-law, Sadie Krum Posten. An additional column for “Comments” provides space for other information.

posten reunion attendees

From the list of approximately 40 people, eight are unknown to me.  They could be friends or neighbors, members of James’ church family, or guests of one of the family members.  The people that have me stumped are:

  1. Mrs. Lake and Helen Lake, Pittston. Could be mother and daughter, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, or sisters-in-law. I have Henrietta Lake as mother-in-law of a distant cousin. [2]
  2. Murel Barlow, Pittston – given the naming conventions in the rest of the article, she could be a young single woman or an older woman who is either not married or a widow.
  3. Mary Bachman, Pittston– same comment as for Murel Barlow. Mary and Murel are listed together in the article, so they could be friends, maybe sisters?
  4. Miss Lizzie Knorr, Bloomsburg- possibly a younger woman.
  5. Mrs. Dotter and children, Clara and Reuben, West Pittston.

Month 9 of the Genealogy Do-over [3]  was presented shortly after I received the newspaper article. The topics are:  1) Conducting cluster research and 2) Organizing research materials- documents and photos.  Specifically, the first topic was just in time!

Using the F.A.N. (friends, associates and neighbors) concept, I plan to look at census records again for each of the known relatives who attended the reunion.  Expand search to people in their neighborhoods. In general, I stopped my research after discovering the names of spouses of children.  Example – I know the names  of C.B. Fulkerson and Olive Jane Posten’s children and the names of their spouses. However, I have minimal information about C.B. and Olive’s grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  Expand search for 1-2 more generations.  Keep research logs for each person and search attempt.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:   It has been about 3 weeks since my last blog post,  a delay due to personal and family issues.  And, therefore,  my post about this project was also delayed.  I haven’t decided if this project will be my next priority item or not. Working back from myself for the Genealogy Do-Over, I am still reviewing the vertical file for Daniel S. Posten, my great-grandfather and James D. Posten’s son.  I sometimes slip back into old habits, such as finding a census record but not documenting it on research log and/or not downloading/ labeling it in database.

What helped:  creating table to catalog information found in the reunion article.  I now have, in print, a list of who is known and who still needs to be identified.  Reminded myself to stay focused on task and don’t follow BSO today—it will still be there for another time!

What didn’t help:  Initial frustration at not finding information easily.  Trying to work too quickly and not taking time to document findings.

What I learned:  Take a deep breath and slow down! Keep Genealogy Do-over book in plain sight and refer to it often!  The goal is to do solid research that is well-documented with a reasonable analysis, not to finish the project in record time!   I will still encounter brick walls.

[1] “Posten Family Reunion,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 September 1908; online images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 18 August 2017).

[2] Alexander Sherman Lee (1867-1913) Family Group Sheet, Descendants and their spouses of Phoebe Postens Brotzman, Brotzman Family Tree.  Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Thoroughly documented with quality resources; includes comments about missing resources , content of available resources and contradictory information between sources.

[3] Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook (https://abundantgenealogy.com/tag/genealogy-do-over/    :  accessed 1 Sep 2017),  “Month 9-September 2017”.

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.

disco-ball-150x150

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