Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dark Records

At this time of year an awful lot of thought is given to the macabre; cemeteries, skeletons.

I am going to relay a story, a dark, serious story that many of my relatives would not want me to share. I do, however, feel it is an important family story to retain; a skeleton, if you will. And so here I go airing laundry in this very public medium.

It speaks to the character of my grandfather, Clarence Albert Gardner (a.k.a.: Whitey Gardner), love of family, and deep dysfunction.

To understand this man you need some back story...

My maternal grandmother, Marilyn Irene Fay-Gardner (a.k.a.: Lynne), died on June 5, 1972 at the age of 41 due to cancer of the liver. She left my grandfather a widower at the age of 44 with 6 children. Since I was not born until 1974 some of what I am about to relay is pure conjecture on my part; pieced together from stories I have heard from various relatives and feelings I have picked up on.

I sense my grandfather deeply loved my grandmother as evidenced by the fact that he never remarried. he did have a very close companion, though; Pat. She was a little kooky but the what member of the family isn't?

Grandpa was a warm and loving man in a quiet, unobtrusive way. He was the kind of man who you could go months, even years without speaking to but should you call, when he answered, it would be as if not a day had passed. He was always happy to talk to me and always wanted me to come see him at his home in Florida. Thinking back on it now, I don't know if my grandfather ever called me in his whole life. I am not even sure he knew my birthday...but I had no doubt he loved me and was very, very proud of me. I was the oldest of his 9 grandchildren; and named after my grandma. My full name is April Lynne Earle.

You see, after grandma passed and my mom got married, and my uncle was off on his own, Grandpa Whitey sold his home in Merrick, Long Island, NY and bought a trailer home in West Palm Beach, Florida. He took his four youngest children with him. I believe he wanted to start life anew; I suspect that he wanted to escape the memories of life with Lynne.

In any case, after my parents' divorce and my mother's subsequent remarriage, I would spent my summer vacations in Florida. I would divide my two months there between time with my grandfather and time with my father's sister. It was my opportunity to not only escape my evil step-father but to bond with my distant relatives; mainly grandpa.

He would take me on little excursions; long drives in the truck; museums; zoos; but mainly we played monopoly. Yes, one summer long game of monopoly.

Grandpa did not live in his past. Maybe his heart, maybe his mind carried the pains and scares of days gone by but grandpa lived in the now. He took what those would give him at face value and expected nothing; at least that is how he felt to me. We cherished every moment we spent together.

In the family's shadowy past existed my evil step-father who died many years ago. My mother had two children with that man; children who have not had an easy deal in life. My step-father taught his children to mistreat my mother who deserved nothing but love and respect really. My sister has matured into a warm and loving soul. My brother, who I really do not know at all, was a very troubled child. The treatment my mother received from them as small children, I believe permanently damaged her emotionally, but I digress.

At one point my grandfather, this non-intrusive man, could no longer bear to watch my mother be abused by her son and so grandpa filed a suit to have my brother removed from my mother's home for her own good. Needless to say it caused a huge rift between grandpa and mom and my brother. 

She would hate me for writing this. Grandpa would probably also be ashamed of me for airing such family matters; but I do not care to hide my history. It has shaped how I am today. 

So in among the papers I have gathered about my family history is a document I secured from the State of Florida acknowledging that Clarence A. Gardner made this plea to remove my under-aged brother from my mother's home. He did so because he loved his daughter. In his quite, strong, unassuming way he stood strong by what he believed in. He LOVED his daughter and needed to protect her at any risk; regardless of the results.

Ultimately the suit was dropped. My brother remained with my mom. 

So why save and this story of dysfunction, drama, and disdain?

Because these are the people I come from.

Because last night I had an incredibly intense dream about my grandfather. One of those dreams so vivid you wake up unsure where reality is. Here or there, I know he is with me. Although he may not have been a very present figure in my day-to-day. I know without a doubt he loved me like no on else.  

In the dream he told me share to this. That someone needed to read this. He told me that the advice I sort from a friend was the right friend to seek it from. And that even though the advice I was given did not yield a positive reaction; I did the right thing. He told me to be who I am, just the way that I am, and to love the only way I know how which is  OUT LOUD! Incidentally, not they same way grandpa loved.

And families are messy. I hate when people where their ancestry with snobbery or elitism. Your existence is a badge of honor and it is fine to polish it off, but believe me, I know what kind of crud can accumulate on it.

And not every picture of the past is a sepia-toned pose...but there is beauty in every fucking one.

Thanks, Gramps!

 Grandpa Whitey and I circa 1979.

Grandpa Whitey and I circa 1990

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Labeling Family Photos

I love old family photos. I don't even care who's family they depict; something about capturing a moment of familial love sort of warms my heart. Look at those people gathered attempting to document and share what is important to them; love them.. 

The one thing I would really appreciate, though, is that you label your photos. If these people and events mean so much to you, please take the time to leave some written clues on the back of the photo. I say this know fully well that I possess many photographs that are not labeled. In all honesty, my labeled photos far, far outweigh my unlabeled ones; that's the librarian in me!

My great-grandmother, Ethel Mae Losee-Earle, left a wealth of photographs among her possessions when she passed. Over the course of the next few days I plan to share some of my favorites on this blog.

Sadly, most of her photo have no identifying information. She had a small address book sized album that contained about 20 small  2x3" photos. Although she did not identify the people in the pictures, her son and daughter-in-law (my paternal grandparents) were able to help me label some of the images. When doing so it is important to indicate when you're labeling the photo. It is obvious the photos were taken in the 1920s; I made sure to write "labeled by April Earle, 2000" on the back of each photo. In 100 years should some other ancestor have the photo they'll hopefully understand how credible the information on the back of the photo is; I could have easily misidentified people given it was 80 years after the photo was taken. I am only reasonably certain who those people are.

The funny thing is that the only photo great-grandma Ethel labeled was one of her brother, Luman D. Losee, milking a cow and her eldest son, Allen Preston Earle, then about 3 years-old, was holding the milk pail. She didn't tell you her brother's name, no, not at all; she doesn't tell you what year the photo was taken, nope; she only identified the cow as Martha.

Reads: This is a pretty good picture only Martha isn't as thin as this look. Lu.
Allen Preston Earle, Luman D. Losee, Martha "The Cow" Losee.
Photo taken circa 1920. Labeled by April Earle, 2000.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Crossing New York City Streets in the 1920s

I came across a funny little video on called Driving Around New York City - 1928. I love the music, the humor, the reality of the scene.

Sadly, though, it was an automobile that took the life of my great-great grandmother, Sabina Krantzel-Prinz in 1926 on the streets of Manhattan; specifically the intersection of 76th Street and First Avenue on April 24, 1926 at 6:45 a.m.

I learned this detail through obtaining Sabina's death certificate from the New York City Municipal Archives.

What could a 65 year old woman be doing walking across 1st Avenue that early in the morning? Was she on her way to church, perhaps? I never think of my mother's side as especially religious. Could she have been off to work?? I know my great grandfather, James Fay, this woman's son-in-law, owned a laundromat or dry-clearner's store in that general area of Manhattan but who knows.

Can you imagine trying to cross a street like this at a time when they had few if any traffic controls??

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Finding my Michael Fay

Anyone who invests themselves in genealogy research comes to learn that there are those ancestors who want to be known and those who just want to be left alone. As a researcher though, one can be a bit thick when it comes to accepting that last truth. For years and years I tried to find my Michael Fay, my great-great grandfather. It was such a long arduous process that I know I can not accurately detail for you all the steps I took to finally find his resting place; but I did, I found it.

I do recall trusting my hunch that he would be found interned in Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. This hunch was based on the fact that I had found his wife and three of his children interned there; not all in the same plot mind you but in Calvary Cemetery.

This burial location hunch also came with the strong suspicion that Michael died in the great City of New York. Using the German Genealogy Group's New York City Death Index, searching for Michael Fay with no known date of birth (just an approximation taken from census records) and no known date of death resulted in far more many Michael Fays that I wanted to believe existed; 44 to be exact. Michael Fay is not quite the genealogical purgatory of say searching for a John Smith but still it was rough.

After applying what processes of elimination that I could, I narrowed the list of results. I knew he was listed in the 1910 census and that by the 1930 census his wife, Agnes Joyce-Fay, was living with her daughter, listed as a widow. I couldn't find either of them in the 1920 census. That alone reduced the results from the New York City Death Index list down to 10. Then by estimating those Michael Fay's birth years I limited the list further to 6 possibilities.

If you know a name and date of death for an individual interned in Calvary they are happy to provide a plot location over the phone; however, if you don't have a date of death then they charge a great deal to do the research for you. I don't recall the exact fee but it was enough for me to arrive at a different course of action.

Every week I would call Calvary and ask for a plot location for one of the 6 possible Michael Fays. Some weeks they would say, "Sorry, no Michael Fay buried here in that month." To which i would reply thank you and simply cross that man off my list of possibilities. Some weeks I would call and they would give me a plot location; that happened for 3 of those possibilities. On my 6th call, the woman who answered my call with a reply I recognized as a family plot. 

"Yes, Michael Fay who died on January 13, 1915 is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Cemetery #3, Section #17, Range #22, Plot EE, Grave #12."

That was the plot location I had for his two children, Leo Joseph Fay and Anna Fay who both died in 1918 with in days of each other.

The woman on the phone informed me that there were 4 internments in the plot. And so still there is the lingering question as to who the 4th interment is but at least I know great-great grandpa is there...without a headstone but the unmarked grave directly in front of this headstone erected for my 3rd great grandparents, John and Mary Ann Joyce; Michael Fay's in-laws.

Again, some ancestors would rather be left alone and others, others are begging to be found.

1918 Flu Pandemic: The "Spanish Flu"

I have mention in previous posts that my maternal grandmother, Marilyn Irene Fay-Gardner, passed away before I was born. Thus, most of what I have learned about my Fay line I have found on my own and through the kindness of researching cousins. It was through a distant researching cousin, Mary Anne, that I learned that my great grandfather, James Fay, had two elder siblings who are believed to have been a dance team that preformed on the vaudeville circuit. This great-great uncle, Leo Joseph Fay, and great-great aunt, Anna Fay, are rumored to have contracted the Spanish Flu while touring.

Now I have found nothing to this point to confirm their vaudeville connection but the did both die during the flu pandemic of 1918. Most victims were healthy young adult as opposed to typical influenza outbreak which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or sickly individuals. The pandemic lasted from January 1918 to December 1920; and it is estimated to have killed between 20 and 50 million people making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

For those of you Twilight fans, the fictional character Edwin Cullen was dying from the Spanish flu when he was turned into a  vampire; or so I'm told.

Leo Fay passed first on January 27, 1918 at the age of 29; the day before his 30th birthday. His cause of death is listed as "inherited T.B. diathesis, probably." His occupation is listed as laborer. He died at home. 

Anna Fay passed 6 days later on February 5, 1918 at the age of 28; just two days after her birthday. Her cause of death is listed as Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Her occupation is listed as embroiderer. She died at metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, NY. 

The two are buried side by side in a family plot in Calvary Cemetery in NY.

I tend to believe that these two were obviously close siblings in life and death, regardless of their occupations. And even though their cause of death is not listed as influenza, I would tend to believe that that is what they both actually fell victims to, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, based on the dates on which they died which were early in the epidemic's siege and that lingering word in Leo's cause of death; "probably."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Visiting Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

One of the greatest short stories to be born out of New York is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written by Washington Irving in 1820; available on Google books []. The story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow stirs fearful images in the minds of children and adults alike; the ride of the Headless horseman. But the real life Sleep Hollow Cemetery is the resting place for literally thousands of souls that called the area home. Death is scary, cemeteries can be seen as scary or at least sad, but that is not really how I see them...

A few days ago I wrote about the importance of tourism. I believe if you want to be successful in your family history research you must learning about the history of the place in which your ancestors lived. Today I am headed up to Tarrytown, New York where the legendary cemetery is located. My friends and I are off to experience an event known as Blaze; an exhibit of over 5,000 jack-o-lanterns. On the journey, though, we plan to stop at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. There are literally dozens of famous individuals interned there; and many other ordinary individuals. While there I will look for the grave of my great grandmother's 1st cousin; Frances Klementina Calder.

Frances Calder was born on June 27, 1903 to Edward Calder and Fannie Prinz-Calder and died on August 3, 1904; so sad, she was only 13 months old. She is interned in the children's section of the cemetery; Lone Valley, section 43, row R, grave 15, between plots belonging to Galligher and Griffin. Frances died of colitis in Irvington, NY. The undertaker was C. Vanderbilt; which makes me think of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the wealthy railroad tycoon for whom Vanderbilt University in Tennessee is named for; but trust me, it is not him. Vanderbilt is just a good ole New York Dutch name.

I learned all this information through documents shared by a researching cousin I met via is great for that! When I saved a record from Ancestry there was a note that another Ancestry member had saved the same record. It was through that that Carol and I connected. She shared with me the family tree that she had compiled for my great grandmother's line, the Prinz Family and in turn, I shared with her what I had gathered about the same line.

I knew my great grandmother, Mary Prince-Fay; that is to say that I met her once or twice when I was a small child. Mary was born October 15, 1893 in New York, New York and died on July 17, 1983 in Florida at the age of 89; I was 9 at the time of her death. Mary would have been 10 at the time her infant cousin, Frances, died. I am not sure if she would have attended the burial of this child but I am sure she would have known about the child's passing.

As morbid as it may sound, I like to visit the graves of those ancestors of mine that do not have direct descendants; those that did not have children of their own. Often these people were children themselves. I like to go because I feel that through the generations these people tend to be forgotten. Yet, I know that the death, the loss of a child, greatly impacts a family.

...I see cemeteries as the permanent residences of lives gone by. I'm simply going to visit a remind her she was loved.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Naturalization Papers Surprise!

For the last few days I have been writing about my mother's paternal line, the Desjardins/Gardner Family of Montreal, Quebec, Canada / Astoria, Queens County, New York / Patchogue, Long Island, New York.

On my father's line, a lot of my research was handed to me by various researching cousins. Oh, don't worry, I verify everything that is given to me with documentation and my own research. My mother's line, though, I have done almost all my discoveries on my own. No one has really taken me by the hand and pointed me in the right direction or handed me family trees until very recently. It is only within the last 3 years or so that I have found other researching cousins on my mother's side. Everything up until my 3rd great grandparents I found with very little help or guidance. I had just a few notes to work with from Grandpa Gardner and that was all. Unfortunately, Grandma Gardner passed away before I was born. To reach my 4th, 5th, 6th, and further generations of great grandparents, I did have to connect with researching cousins; they are the greatest resource I have! But at least in the case of Malvina Ethier-Desjardins, my great-great grandmother, everything I know I learned on my own.

The greatest document I have about her life her naturalization papers. For years and years I scoured the various New York District Court Records - - found nothing! And then I learned that Suffolk County's Naturalization Index was available online: Suffolk County Naturalization through the Italian Genealogy Group. Suffolk County is Long Island, New York's eastern most county and the one in which Patchogue is situated. That is where Malvina lived for the latter part of her life. And sure enough, that is where I found her naturalization papers.

It resolved one big mystery; Malvina did not arrive through Ellis Island, like so many newcomers to New York, Malvina came from Montreal via RAILROAD! Her port of immigration was Grand Central Station! Not only does the document reveal this, it list her date of birth, her address, her date of arrival in the U.S., and all of her natural-born U.S. citizen children's dates of birth and residencies, the document includes a photo. A photo! I had never seen a photo of any of my grandfather's relatives - none. And here on these documents from 1938 was a picture of my great-great grandma. 
Doesn't she look a lot like my grandpa?
They are each about 75 years old in these photos.

 Malvina Ethier-Desjardins circa 1938

Her grandson, my grandfather, Clarence Albert Gardner, circa 2003

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Desperate Times for the Desjardins - 1911

Yesterday I wrote about the passing of my great great grandfather, Damas Desjardins, in October of 1911. I shared his obituary from the newspaper, The Patchogue  Advance, which was the local newspaper for Patchogue, Long Island, New York.

Another article ran in that same paper two months later on December 28, 1911. It read as follows:
Mrs. Desjardin who has started a little store at her home on Avery avenue finds her business has been injured by reports that her husband died of a contagious disease. This is not true and her friends who sympathize with her efforts protest against this unkind attitude which is severely damaging her. Mrs. Desjardin's stock is entirely new and she is endeavoring to support a family of six and keep them together. She has has three deaths in less than three months.
Great great grandma, Malvina Ethier-Desjardins, did not have it easy; certainly not in 1911.

I know that one of those three deaths mentioned at the end of the article was that of her husband, Damas Desjardins who died on October 9, 1911.

In the family plot at St. Francis de Sales Cemetery in Patchogue, I discover the second death to be that of Anna Desjardins who, according to the headstone, was born on July 30, 1911 and died on December 18, 1911. I suspect that Anna may have been a grandchild of Malvina and Damas; whose child Anna was though, I am not sure. In 1911, Malvina was about 47; I suppose Anna could have been the child of Malvina and Damas but I doubt it.

The third death to take place in the family in 1911 occured on October 10, 1911; just the day after Damas died. On the 10th, the family lost a newborn, Clement Mono, aged 3 months. I learned this by purchasing the plot records for a grave in Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens County, NY. Clement was the son of  Emma Desjardins-Monno and Clement Monno, Sr.

In 2009, I was able through the use of the New York City Death Index provided by The German Genealogical Group's online, to track down the death certificate for my great grandfather, Albert Gardner.

I then purchased a copy of the certificate from the New York City Municipal Archives.

From that certificate I learned that Albert was interned in Calvary Cemetery.

Upon contacting Calvary Cemetery via phone, I learned Albert was interned with three others.

I visited the cemetery to learn there was no headstone which was not a surprise really, my relatives rarely have headstones.

The only way for me to know who was buried in cemetery 3, section 36, range 10, plot G, grave 16 was to order a plot record. I do not recall the exact price but in my opinion, it was steep; I remember that!

However, that plot record provided information about three relatives that I may have never otherwise discovered; Clement Mono, Edward Desjardins who the plot was purchased for in 1903 and who was the brother of my great grandfather Albert Gardner, and Alinna Ethier who I believe to really be Olivine Page-Ethier, my 3rd great grandmother who was born in Quebec, Canada and who was buried in Calvary Cemetery on December 14, 1906 at the age of about 70. I suspect Olivine died in the City of New York but I have never been able to locate a death certificate for her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Obituary: Damas Desjardins, my great-great grandpa

Yesterday, October 9, 2012, was the 101st anniversary of the death of my great great grandfather, Damas Desjardins. He was my maternal grandfather's paternal grandfather; if you can follow that.

I once interviewed my maternal grandfather about his family history. Grandpa Gardner was not terribly forthcoming with information. He shared but not in the same overly informative way other relatives have shared. In speaking with him, he mentioned that he grew up in Patchogue, Long Island, New York; although everything I have found on him roots him in Astoria, Queens County, New York. He told me his parents families came from Quebec, Canada; and that at some point the family name was changed from Desjardins to Gardner.

My search in Patchogue led me to this obituary about my grandpa's grandpa; confirming just what Grandpa Gardner said and many facts essential to my Gardner/Desjardins Family research.

You too can search through historic Suffolk County New York newspapers for free online through:

The Patchogue Advance
October 13, 1911

Damas Desjardins

Damas Desjardins died at his home on Avery avenue early Monday morning in his sixtieth year of his age, after suffering for eight months with a complication from diseases. The funeral was held on Wednesday, with service in St. Francis de Sales' Roman Catholic church at 9:30 a. m. The Rev. Fr. Cronin officiating and internment was made in St. Francis cemetery. Mr. Desjardins was born in Montreal, Canada. he was a carpenter by trade and was employed for a long time in New York. He had lived with his family in Patchogue for nearly five years. Mr. Desjardins was known to his friends here by the name of Gardiner, and Anglicization of his French family name. He leaves a widow and ten children some of whom live in the city.

Desjardins Family Plot, St. Francis de Sales' Cemetery, Patchogue, NY

Very hard to read here but this is the footstone with the family name.

D. D. is Damas Desjardins.

My Tree and the Ahnentafel Numbering System

There are many different numbering systems used by genealogists. In addition of the standard systems, I know many people who make up their own systems to keep ancestors in order. In the charts that I am going to share here, I use Ahnentafel, also known as the Eytzinger or Sosa Method. 

This system allows for the numbering of direct ancestors beginning with a descendant; me. The number of a person's father is the double of their own number, and the number of a person's mother is the double of their own, plus one. For example, I am number 1 in my own family tree. (But of course!) My dad is #2, my mom is #3, my paternal grandfather would be #4 (my dad (2) times 2 = 4), my maternal grandmother would be #7 (my mom (3) x 2 +1 = 7). Thus, fathers are always even numbers, mother's are always odd numbers.

In this blog I am only trying to speak of my dead. A friend asked why I didn't list the names of my relatives so someone googling a common ancestor might stumble across my blog. Well, that is my intent but I thought perhaps that discovery might come in time as I write about my relatives. But it got me to thinking that it couldn't hurt to actually post my family tree now.

Protecting the identity of my living relatives though, I am only posting my direct ancestors from my great grandparents back to my 3rd greats. I figure the details about their lives and others will come out in my blog over time. Some of my lines go much further back, most go at least one more generation, but at the very least I can name all 32 of my great great great grandparents.

In addition to posting this portion of my tree, I will list their names in text so that they can be googled. If you are a visual person like myself , though, you might want to see the tree. Therefore, I am explaining how the numbering system presented here works. 

So that this information can be searched by a search engine I am including the facts in the tree above as text below:

My Great Grandparents
8. Abram Thomas Earle (b. 13 January 1891 - d. 13 November 1973, my father's paternal grandfather)
9. Ethel Mae Losee (b. 14 February 1896 - d. 27 May 1960, my father's paternal grandmother)
10. Charles Aloysius Henry (b. 26 March 1896 - d. 14 June 1949, my father's maternal grandfather)
11. Anna Marie Sauer (b. 19 July 1899 - d. 8 May 1986, my father's maternal grandmother)
12. Almond Desjardins a.k.a. Albert Gardner (b. 21 September 1891 - d. 11 February 1946, my mother's paternal grandfather)
13. Mary Elizabeth Sharp a.k.a. Mayme Sharp (b. 2 October 1891 - d. 28 January 1961, my mother's paternal grandmother)
14. James Aloysius Fay (b. 11 February 1893 - d. 1 October 1964, my mother's maternal grandfather)
15. Mary Prince a.k.a. Mary Prinz (b. 15 October 1893 - d. 17 July 1983, my mother's maternal grandmother).

My Great-Great Grandparents
16.  Abraham Earle (b. 1849 - d. 1890, father of #8 above)
17. Sarah Samms (b. 1857 - d. 1899, mother of #8 above)
18. John M. Losee, Jr. (b. 1870 - d. 1940, father of #9 above)
19. Flora A. Smith (b. 1875 - d. 1920, mother of #9 above)
20. Victor Henry II (b. 1874 - d. 1908, father of #10 above)
21. Annette Hinch (b. 1868 - d. 1952, mother of #10 above)
22. William George Sauer (b. 1870 - d. 1932, father of #11 above)
23. Agnes Gray (b. 1871 - d. 1941, mother of #11 above)
24. Damase Desjardins (b. 1850 - d. 1911, father of #12 above)
25. Malvina Ethier (b. 1864 - d. 1944, mother of #12 above)
26. Daniel Sharp (b. 1825 - d. 1898, father of #13 above)
27. Lydia Marie McLean (b. 1868 - d. unknown, mother of #13 above)
28. Michael Fay (b. 1851 - d. 1915, father of #14 above)
29. Agnes C. Joyce (b. 1865 - d. 1933, mother of #14 above)
30. Johann Prinz a.k.a John Prince, Jr. (b. 1853 - 1925, father of #15 above)
31. Sabina Krantzel (b. 1860 - d. 1926, mother of #15 above)

My 3rd Great Grandparents
32. Elias Earle (unknown dates)
33. Sophia Goodyear (b. 1808 - d. unknown date)
34. Reuben Samms (b. 1830 - d. 1869)
35. Frances Organ (b. 1837 - d. 1925)
36. John M. Losee, Sr. (b. 1841 - d. 1918)
37. Susan Amelia Combs (b. 1843 - d. 1904)
38. Gershom Smith (b. 1844 - d. unknown date)
39. Sarah Garvey (unknown dates)
40. Victor Henry (b. 1838 - d. 1896)
41. Mary Carrillion (unsure of maiden name) (b. 1855 - d. 1907)
42. James Hinch (b. 1816 - d. 1886)
43. Jane Kavanaugh (b. unknown date - d. 1886)
44. George Sauer (b. 1827 - d. 1891)
45. Anna Schmitt (b. 1835 - d. 1899)
46. Thomas Gray (b. 1844 - d. 1899)
47. Anna Hughes (b. 1843 - d. 1904)
48. Eusebe Desjardins (b. 1825 - d. unknown date)
49. Elizabeth Clement (b. 1818 - d. unknown date)
50. Augustine Ethier (unknown dates)
51. Olivine Page ( b. unknown date - d. 1906)
52. Peter Sharp (dates unknown)
53. Annie Moore (b. 1782 - d. 1868)
54. Donald McLean (b. 1822 - d. unknown date)
55. Elizabeth Walker (b. 1842 - d. 1871)
56. Lawrence Fay (b. 1819 - d. 1879)
57. Bridget Kelley (b. 1832 - d. 1892)
58. John A. Joyce (b. 1828 - d. unknown date)
59. Mary Ann O'Neill (b. 1829 - d. 1911)
60. Johann Prinz (b. 1826 - d. 1888)
61. Franzisca Preuss (b. 1830 -d. 1902)
62. Heinrich Daniel Krantzel (b. 1825 - d. 1884?)
63. Elizabeth Goetz (b. 1830 - d. 1896)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Genealogy Research Begins at Home

Or at least it should! Often newbies to genealogy research will jump right in with both feet and start searching for grandma and grandpa or worse, great-grandma and great-grandpa. Don't do it! Start with what you know - - You!

Some may think that sounds silly or obvious or a waste of time but in 100 years when your great grandchild or great-great niece comes across your records his or her first question will likely be, "Who left me this?" Tell them. Put them on the right path. Include in your family document collection a note about yourself, how and why you started this research, where you've looked, what you found, and oooh, a copy of your birth certificate; maybe a diploma, your marriage license...something about you!

And then link back through documentation one generation at a time. Once you have your birth certificate, add your parent's marriage license to your collection, then their birth certificates, then each of their parent's marriage license. Create your family's paper trail. Let no date go undocumented. 

Many years ago I was shown an old family bible. Like many old family bibles there were handwritten notes regarding dates of birth and death for various family members. There was one very descriptive note about the death of Lydia Ann Losee (nee Smith). But who wrote the entry, I have no idea. I suspect it may have been Lydia's youngest daughter Sarah Elizabeth Losee but I'll never be sure. Well, I suppose if I found some known handwriting samples and could compare the entry to them, maybe, maybe then i could know with some certainty; but the likelihood of that is slim to none.

On the facing page is a notation that reads "Rote By J. Losee, Mother." Lydia Losee's mother was not J. Losee though. Lydia's mother was Elizabeth Raynor-Smith who per-deceased Lydia. That "Rote By J. Losee, Mother" refers to the following pages which list dates of birth for the children of Jane and Leonard Losee.

I believe in my heart of hearts that Jane Losee, my 5th great grandmother, born in about 1776 and who died in 1856, wanted me to know that she too cared about the history and records of our family. Additionally, I trust the dates of birth she wrote for her children more than any other document I may discover. 

And that family bible was not in an archive, I didn't see it online in some database; that family bible was in a relatives home. The Memorial Cards I wrote about in earlier entries; those cards were in my family bible at home and given to me by my grandmother from her home. HOME...that is where you should start your genealogical research! What do you or your close family members already own that reveals facts and dates about your family?

In short, start your family research with yourself at home.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The New York City Municipal Archives

Located at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan, the New York City Municipal Archives is open to the public Monday through Friday. Their hours are posted on their website:

Founded in 1950, the archives preserves and makes available the records of New York City dating from the early 17th century to the present. It holds approximately 160,000 cubic feet of records. The collections include office records, manuscript material, still and moving images of the city, maps, blueprints, census, city directories, and most notably, vital records; an essential resource for patrons conducting family history research based in New York City. 

I have used the Archives several times because like many Americans when my ancestors emigrated to the United States they arrived in NYC. Whether it was for a short time or for the remainder of their lives, many of them lived in one of the five boroughs; Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, or the Bronx. 

To begin your search of vital records in the New York City Municipal Archives I would recommend that first you go through the indexes which you can do through the comfort of your own internet connection. The two genealogical groups have worked together to make these important indexes available to everyone; the German Genealogy Group and the Italian Genealogical Group

By going to either of those sites you can search the vital records indexes which will provide you with the very important certificate number. Having that certificate number for the record you want will expedite your request significantly. You can make your request with or without the  certificate number online through the Municipal Archives website: for a reasonable price of $18.50 (with shipping).

You can also download a form and mail in your request.

However, if you have a long list of individuals to search for you might be best off going in person. Many people do not realize that they can go and observe these records for free. 

When I go to the Municipal Archives I go for a whole day. I leave my home early in the morning via the Long Island Railroad. I take the subway downtown and spend hours going through microfilm looking at certificates. I simply can not afford to purchase a copy for every record I want to look at. And sometimes I just want to look; perhaps I'm not 100% sure this person in the index is indeed my relative. I have an awful lot of Smiths in my genealogy. If you're taking a guess that document records details of your ancestors life, just a guess is not worth $18.50 to me. At the Archives you can just look and take notes. If you're there and you find a record you want a photocopy of they only charge you $11 on site.

The New York City Municipal Archives has provided me with a wealth of information. It is a wonderful research facility. And the work the German Genealogy Group and the Italian Genealogical Group has been an invaluable resource. I can not praise them enough.

However, your genealogical research should start at home...

...I'll preach about that in my next post.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I digress...The Importance of Tourism

Taking a break from my dead people to share my love of tourism...

I wrote about this same topic online somewhere else a few years ago but it is something i feel strongly about...I am in love with travel. AND honestly, it really can benefit you and your genealogy research to get to know the history of your country, region, state, and neighborhood. It helps one to understand the time and place in which our ancestors lived.

In my senior year of college I set a personal goal to drive to each of the 48 contiguous states before I turned thirty; the age at which I was sure you had to be grown up. I was just a few days shy of reaching that goal and a few years later I had the opportunity to add a great feather to my cap; I drove to Alaska. You’d be surprise how many people don’t think it’s possible to drive to Alaska. I blame that on cartographers. Every U.S. map that I have seen has Alaska cut out into its own little box, just floating there off to the side. That’s not really where it is, but I digress…

A few years later I was asked to give a presentation to my local DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) On any topic of my choosing. I decided to share with them some stories from the road, answer some of the most commonly asked questions that I get, and give them a little bit of insight into how helpful the Internet can be when planning a road trip.

In preparing for my DAR presentation I discovered that I have never truly been a tourist in my own home state of New York. Oh, sure, I had been to Niagara Falls, spent a weekend in the Catskills, driven out to the Hamptons in summer traffic (a fate worse than death), and climbed the steps of the Statue of Liberty (a fate seriously close to death). And I have scanned Lake Champlain for New York State’s version of the Loch Ness monster, loving known as “Champ,” but I have never really been a tourist. I have never gone to a location in New York just to see what it’s like; just to learn something about the area. No, during my trips around New York I have often been the tour guide taking relatives from far away to see the sights that define New York.

It was then that I decided it was high time to get my tourism on; to discover a part of New York that I didn’t really know. I charged up my camera, pulled up the figurative black knee socks (I never really where socks), and hit the highway for parts less known.

“In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, where they always prudently shortened sails and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.”

Thus begins one of the greatest short stories to be born out of New York, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written by Washington Irving in 1820. If you are not familiar with the ominous tale of the headless horseman and the ill-fated teacher, Ichabod Crane, which is set right here in my own backyard, I highly recommend you pick it up. It is available on Google books [].

If you do have the opportunity to tarry while in the Tarrytown area, I recommend a visit to Sunnyside, home of Washington Irving. A visit to an author’s home gives you a perspective on his or her life like no writing ever could. You will be permitted to linger in his study, climb the stairs to his bedroom, hold the handrails he held, and look out onto the ever changing Hudson River which sweeps by his home.

Up the road a piece from Sunnyside you can visit the grave of Washington Irving in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Like me, you might be surprised to learn that this is also the resting place of steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie; cosmetics empress Elizabeth Arden; and the “Queen of Mean,” Leona Helmsley. This sleepy, little market town was the retreat of many famed and wealthy individuals. Irving himself was pretty much a rock star in his day, hosting guest such as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and President Martin van Buren.

If you do happen to be in the area in October, plan ahead; purchase tickets online to an event called The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortland Manor in the town of Croton-on-Hudson. I am going next weekend with a few friends and I can't wait!! Blaze consisted of a display of more than 5,000 carved pumpkins. Words and photos cannot capture the amazing glow of never-ending fields of jack-o’-lanterns.

For those of you who may never get to go to Tarrytown, I invite you to be a tourist in your own area. What is your hometown known for? How did your town come to be what it is today? And what do you really know about it? Can you separate the facts from the legends? If not, I bet your local librarian can help you with that!

Speaking of Memorial Cards...

This is the oldest memorial card I own; Ann Gray died April 14, 1904. Two or three years ago my paternal grandmother, who everyone calls Nanny, gave a bunch of memorial cards to me. This was among them.

Now my Nanny was born in 1929. Her mother was only a very small child in 1904; great-grandma was born in 1899. Therefore this memorial card had to have come from my grandmother's grandmother, Agnes Gray-Sauer (my father's mother's mother's mother - for those of you drawing charts). Agnes Gray-Sauer was born in 1871 and died in 1941. I believe this to me the memorial card for Agnes Gray-Sauer's mother; Anna Hughes-Gray.

Note that these women never really hyphenated their last names. This is a modern day convention that I use to keep track of my female ancestors.

According to Ann's memorial card she was 68 years old when she died in 1904 placing her birth in about 1836. According to her death certificate though, Ann was 60 years old at the time of her death. I am not sure which date is correct but for my records I use the later, 1844, as her year of birth. 

I do not own a copy of Ann's death certificate; #14429 Manhattan 1904 from the City of New York. I have, however, observed the document at the New York City Municipal Archives at 31 Chamber's St. in Manhattan. 

The New York City Municipal Archives is a treasure for anyone who had ancestors who lived in New York City; and not just Manhattan but all of the boroughs; Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. My next entry will be on how to use this research facility; for now though, more on Ann Gray.

From her death certificate I have noted many facts. Ann died after having suffered from pneumonia for about a week. Her parents names were Terrence and Eleanor Hughes; no maiden name was given for her mother. Ann lived at 542 East 11th St. in Manhattan but was born in Ireland. According to the death certificate she had lived in the U.S. for 54 years placing her date of immigration at about 1850. She is interned at Calvary Cemetery which I have visited many time but have not yet seen her grave-site. I will soon...I promise.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Memorial Cards

I swore to myself that I would write for every day of October; Family History Month. Although I have already broken my promise to myself, on the days I have not written, I have spent them with family.

As I posted days ago, my great-uncle, Bill Cramer, Sr., passed away on October 1 at the age of 90. Thursday was the wakes and Friday, yesterday, was the funeral. As services go, these were very nice in that I got to see lots of relatives and meet some cousins I had never met before. Three of Bill's children live out of state and so it is a rare occasion that they come back to NY where they grew up. When they do visit, they just don't have the time it takes to see all of our extended family and so there are some Bill's grandchildren, my 2nd cousins, whom I had never met before.

After the funeral and post-funeral lunch yesterday, I came home to place my prayer card in my bible. You know what prayer cards are. Some people call them memorial cards, holy cards, funeral cards, mass cards, and even saint cards. They are the small, credit card sized, often laminated, cards that are available at wakes. On one side there is an image and on the reverse is a short prayer along with the deceased's name and dates of birth and death.

Typically genealogical resources contain the names of two or more people. After all, genealogy research is really about documenting relationships. A piece of paper that only manes one person does not really present a relationship. However, these memorial cards make for a fascinating addition to a genealogists collection. These little cards express something of the individuals character, the family's beliefs, and of course the life span dates of the individual.

At Uncle Bill's wake they funeral parlor offered many, many, many different images on the reserve of the same text. I chose two to bring home; one to place in my bible and the other to give to a friend who's parents were customers of Uncle Bill's Fuller Brush business for many many years.

I chose to keep the one of the Holy Family; a depiction of Mary to the left, Joseph to the right and a small Christ child in the center framed by flowers at the base. When I opened my bible, I looked for the memorial card I had for Bill's son Richard who passed away 18 years ago. To my surprise, I chose a very similar depiction of the Holy Family when I selected Richard's card from the ones available at his memorial service back in 1994.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A sad way to start family history month...

Yesterday afternoon I learned that my great uncle, William Cramer, Sr., passed away in his sleep at the age of 90; He was the brother-in-law of my paternal grandmother. All-in-all, it's not a bad way to go. He lived a good long life with a loving wife by his side, successful children and grandchildren who adored him, and a large loving extended family. He worked hard all his life, loved his job, worked for himself as a door-to-door salesman well into his 80's. I will remember him always for his warm smile and quick wit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Family History Month, Cousin!

There is a radio personality on an oldies station who calls himself Cousin Brucey; drives me crazy. I don't know what it is about it; is it that his nickname "Brucey" is longer than his real name "Bruce" or is it that he calls everybody "Cousin"? "Hey, Cousins!" Grrrrr.

But I love my cousins. All of them. There are the ones I grew-up with, the ones I watched grow up, and the ones I reached through research. And I will prattle on to anyone who will listen about how wonderful cousins are. They aren't like siblings who we grow up rivaling for our parents' attention. They aren't like aunts and uncles who are typically older than us and can exert some authority. And cousins aren't like friends that come and go throughout our lives. Cousins are constants. Even if they have long stretches of absences, you know they are out there somewhere.

With the title "cousin" there comes an almost immediate acceptance; this sort of "oh-so-this-guy-knows" feeling. There is a sense of trust. Consider for a moment the time you tell a friend you are going on vacation. Sure enough this friend says, "hey, I have a cousin there." A sort of comfort comes over you, doesn't it? That somehow id something happens at least my friend has a cousin there who could help me out. Ok, so maybe not. But that is how that title makes me feel.

Aside from the immediate bond I feel with cousins, they are the greatest genealogical resource. No, no, no, they really are. See, I believe that every generation has a keeper of the family lore. Not ever sibling takes an interest in all this family history junk; one usually does though. Maybe not your great grandpa, but maybe his sister Lois. And those family stories and heirlooms trickle down the family tree from one interested ancestor to their most interested child, to their most interested child.

Those family mysteries that you want to unpuzzle are probably secreted away in some cousin's footlocker.

It is my hope that this blog will help me find more researching cousins. Someone out there may google a relatives name and get a hit on my blog. Should this be the case for you, please do not hesitate to contact me. I may have the bit of family history your looking for............