Friday, March 29, 2013

Finding a Maiden Name

Well it is that point in the semester when things start to become a little overwhelming and so I have not been able to find the time to post or research lately. However, working for a Catholic university provided me with a much needed day off yesterday (Holy Thursday) and today (Good Friday); thank God for Jesus, I always say.

Yesterday I ventured into Manhattan and had the opportunity to visit the NYC Municipal Archives. I have written about my experiences there before in this blog. It is one of my most favorite research facilities because one can view primary resources of vital records at a much discounted rate than ordering them online. And if you don't want to order a copy of a record your welcome to view and take notes from as many records as you would like for FREE.

I went with a list of a dozen records I wanted to see. Right now I am poking around on my Irish ancestors; some on my dad's side and some on my mother's side. The Irish are probably the most elusive of all my ancestors.

In any case, these dozen records were partly guesses. After combing through the NYC death record index online. I found some records that could potentially be related to me; siblings of my great-great-great grandparents. Some of my guesses were right, some were not. And why would I through away money on ordering documents for guesses? I wouldn't. That is why I look at guess in person for free at the Municipal Archives.

Lately, I have become quite interested in my 3rd great grandmother, Anna Hughes-Gray. My paternal grandmother, Nanny, has passed down to me Anna's memorial card. Anna was born in Ireland in 1843. She died in Queens County, New York on April 17, 1904. Her parents were Terrence and Ellen Hughes. I want to know more about the Hughes family.

From information provided by father's cousin Roseann, I know that a lot of the Hughes-Grays are buried together in a plot in Calvary Cemetery. Gratefully, I have dates of death for many of the family members but still, I wanted to look at their death certificates. 

Just because someone hands me information does not mean that I shouldn't verify that information with my own research. I am so very glad that I did look up the death certificates! I looked at Anna Hughes-Gray's mother's death certificate; Ellen. Ellen Hughes, my 4th great grandmother, died on March 10, 1884 in lower Manhattan - 535 West 11th Street to be exact. Ellen died in a time period when NYC began to collect the deceased's parents names and there - - there it was - - Ellen's maiden name which I had never seen before. Ellen was the daughter of Denis and Mary Sweeney. 

Holy Thursday, I'm a Sweeney!!

I love, love, love to find maiden names! I do realize women received their maiden names from their fathers and that it's still a patriarchal thing but a woman's maiden name connects you further into your roots. It leads you to her life before she took someone's name. It gives you another generation to search for. I love, love, love to find maiden names.

Monday, March 18, 2013

NY Times Article: Evolution of the New York Driver's License

I follow the New York Public Library Milstein Division of US History, Local History, and Genealogy on Facebook. Today they shared an article from the New York Times; "Evolution of  the New York Driver's License." I found the article interesting and to anyone researching the New Yorkers in their family, you too might find it interesting.

The first line of the article states, "New York State first began issuing paper licenses to chauffeurs in 1910..." This really grabbed my attention because, as I have blogged about in the past, I own a digital image of my Great-grandpa Charles Henry's driver's license from 1917. I did not realize that licensing driver's was such a relatively recent practice at the time Charles received that card in 1917.

The article provides images of NY State licenses from 1910 through present day with notation about the changes made over time.

I am sort of lucky that Cousin Timmy found the 1917 license because according to the article, in 1918 the first regular driver’s license, as opposed to a chauffeur's license, was offered. The regular license followed the same format of the chauffeur’s license but the regular one did not have a photo. I have a photo!!

A driver's license does not provide much genealogical information really. That is to say that it does not document a relationship. It does, however, provide an address which can be useful in genealogical research. And often it will provide a photograph. If you happen to acquire one while cleaning out the family attic, it is a gem you should hold on to.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Brush with the Law Proves Location and Name Change

When I started my genealogy research 22 years ago, I began on my father's side of the family trying to unpuzzle for myself some of the modern day connections I did not quite understand. I stayed on that side of the family for a very long time. I did not truly dig into my mother's lineage until after my grandpa passed away in 2004; about 9 years ago.

One of the big obstacles in researching my mother's side has been the fact that there was a surname change. My Great-great-grandfather, Damas Desjardins, French-Canadian by birth, Anglicized his name to Thomas Gardner. I suspect this was in order to obtain more work and avoid ethnic discrimination. I cannot find anything official about the name change and back then, before Social Security, it was easier to assume an identity.

In some records he appears as Damas Desjardins, in others as Thomas Gardner, in others as Damas Gardner, and still others as Thomas Desjardins. To make matters even more confusing, his offspring indiscriminately used either last name as well. His son, my great grandfather, Almond Desjardins, like his father also chose to use a more American sounding first name; Albert. Almond/Albert was indeed born in the United States; his name just sounded very French.

This flip-flopping of names not only makes constructing searches challenging it makes proving anything a daunting task. I often hear myself saying, "Well, yes, I know it says that but it is the same man." Anything I can find that helps me to solidify this family's surname change is precious to me.

Mind you, this branch of the family has also had some run ins with the law in nearly every generation. Which brings me to an article from the Brooklyn Daily Star titled "Sing Sing for John Miller: L.I. City Man who Swindled Magnus Larsen Sent Up on Suspended Sentence - Five Others Given a Chance to Reform" from December 21, 1907. In it is mentioned Almond Gardner. The first time I have seen my great grandfather listed with his very French-sounding birth name and Anglicized surname. In addition to showing his name in that way, it also documents that the family moved. What a gem of a find!!

It reads as follows:
"Almond Gardner, a former Astoria boy whose folks now live at Patchogue, took a quantity of lead pipe and brass sewer traps from a house belonging to George B. Ruthman on Main street last November. He is only seventeen years old and has promised to behave."
Interestingly enough, 24 years later, Almond's baby brother, Damas Jr. is also arrested for burglarizing a house while in his teens. That time, though, the house was out in Patchoque and Damas Jr. stole an electric pump with his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Elbert King. I found that in a March 31, 1931 article in the Patchogue Advance titled "Young Men Arrested for Stealing Pump." Tsk, tsk, tsk. What is with these boys?

Had Almond not committed his juvenile crime, though, I might never have had such concrete proof that he was known by variations of the names Almond Desjardins and Albert Gardner. Additionally, I knew the family had moved to Patchoque between the 1900 and 1910 censuses. This article, though, helps me to narrow the date of the family's move to after November 1906, when the crime was committed, and before December 1907, when the article was written.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lawrence Fay in the 1880 U.S. Census Mortality Schedule

I have developed a personal catalog of all my genealogy documentation. Recently, I have been working through all the census records in my collection; making sure I have produced a transcript for each one. By the way, one can find many blank U.S. Census forms available online to help with transcription.

Then I came across my copy of the 1880 U.S. Census Mortality Schedule listing my 3rd great-grandfather, Lawrence Fay. These Census Schedules are unlike the regular U.S. Census records. The U.S. Census Mortality Schedules list individuals who died in the preceding year; not the calendar year, mind you, but a census year. If the 1880 census started on June 1, the schedule list deaths from June 1, 1879 through May 31, 1880. I learned that fact this morning by reading a posted by Michael J. Leclerc on the Mocavo blog.

I found this Mortality Schedule by doing one of those broad sweeping, Hail-Mary type of searches in That's what I call a search when I am at my whits-end  and hoping to find anything I can by just searching for a last name; in this case, Fay. Sometimes I have success trying to see everything a database might have but most of the time that type of search results in too many hits and is just too overwhelming. I don't really recommend it but in this case I found a record I might not otherwise have found because he was indexed as Laramie Fay. Although, the record clearly looks like "Lawrense" to me.

These schedules provide the name of the deceased, age, sex, race, marital status, place of birth, parents' place of birth, occupation, month of death, how long a resident of the county, address at which he/she died, and attending physician.

At the time I found this record, I knew Lawrence Fay was buried in Saugerties, NY at the cemetery of St. Mary of the Snows Roman Catholic Church. I didn't know for sure where Lawrence died, though. I had found his wife, Bridget, and their children in a curious 1880 census record in which Lawrence's name is listed but then crossed out. I didn't know if he died in New York City or Saugerties.

Here is a detail from the 1880 U.S. Federal Census record I have for Bridget Fay and her children:

She was living on 44th St. in Mahnattan between 9th and 10th Avenue in 1880. See those Kellys listed between the two halves of the Fay entry?? Well, I have information that indicates Bridget's maiden name to have been Kelly. This record has me wondering if the Kellys living in the same building as the Fays in 1880 were perhaps Bridget's sisters or cousins of some degree. Maybe Larry & Bridget moved from Saugerties to Manhattan to be near her family because he was sick with Bright's Disease; an obsolete classification for nephritis, a kidney condition.

This 1880 census record has put me on a hunt for the Kellys but the other 1880 record, the Mortality Schedule, clarified for me why Lawrence's name was crossed out and helped me determine a date of death for him.  Lawrence's death certificate, which is held by the New York City Municipal Archives, indicates that he died on December 23,1879 and was buried on Christmas Day in Saugerties. What a very sad Christmas that must have been and what a very important record the 1880 Mortality Schedule proved to be.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Happy Women's History Month

I know that it is already March 7th and I have not yet wished you a happy Women's History Month. That is because, honestly, Women's History Month kind of pisses me off though. I mean, women are half the population; aren't we half the history? Shouldn't we have half the months? I know the month is supposed to bring focus to a portion of history that has long been neglected but still, I refuse to let just March be my opportunity to focus on women. I write about the women in my family all year long.

I do, however, have one family photo that jumps to mind whenever Women's History is mentioned. This photo:

Look at all those women and their children.

There is some debate in the Henry family about when this photo was taken and if everyone in it has been properly identified. I do know for certain, though, that the young girl standing in front in the white dress is my Great-Grandmother, Anna Marie Sauer-Henry-Stoothoff. She was born in 1899 and so it has been estimated that this photo was taken in 1909.

The women at the center of the photo is my Great-Great-Grandmother Agnes Gray-Sauer who was born in 1871 which means if this was indeed taken in 1909 that Agnes is about 38 here. That is how old I am today. I have to say, we look pretty good for our ages.

The boys to the left of Great Grandma Anna are most definitely her brothers, William Sauer and Joseph Sauer. William on the far left was born in 1901, Joseph Sauer, in the middle, was born in 1903.

I will not go on to further identifying the individuals in the photo because, again, I am not absolutely certain if I have the information right.

I just really like that I have a photo that dates back so far in my family's history. I like that the women and children are gathered together. And I like that most of them, especially my Great-Great-Grandmother in the center looks, look pretty happy.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Musically-Gifted Divorcee Died After Surgery

There is this writing exercise known as the Six word memoir in which the author provides a biography in 6 words. If I had to write one for Lillian Krantzel, the niece of my great-great grandmother, Sabina Krantzel-Prince, Musically-Gifted Divorcee Died After Surgery pretty much sums it up. However, to reduce someone's existence to a mere 6 words is really meant to just spark one's interest in the whole story.

Discovered Death Certificate Leads to Life

With genealogy research, if you're doing it right, you are moving back through time; documenting back one generation at a time from you to your parents to your grandparents, etc. That was certainly the case with Lillian. My discovery of her came while searching for the last name "Krantzel" in the NYC death index. First I found her death certificate. Then I looked into her life.

From her death certificate I learned that Lillian was born on August 22, 1888; the daughter of Frank Krantzel and Katherine Huth-Krantzel. I soon discovered she was their only child they had.

A Life Cut Way Too Short.  

Lillian died at the age of 32 on January 26, 1921 from complications after a surgery. The certificate was so illegible, though, that I couldn't tell if it specified the type of surgery.

Another detail which sparked my curiosity was the marital status listed on her death certificate; divorced. Divorce, of course occurred back then but it was not nearly as prevalent as it is today.

I then began to comb the NYC marriage index in the hope of finding out about her marriage. No luck. And so notes from Lillian's death certificate sat in my records for years.

Divorced Female Who Left No Heirs

It was through a random, broad search of the surname "Krantzel" in New England Historic Genealogical Society's online databases that I discovered Lillian's marriage. In 1912 at the age of 24 she married an actor in Boston by the name of Charles Docen. Lillian's occupation on that record is listed as actress.

However, in the 1915 NY State Census, Lillian is listed as single and living with her parents in New York City. There Lillian's occupation is listed as pianist. In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, just months before her death, Lillian is again listed as single living with her parents in Manhattan. On that last census her occupation is listed as organist employed at a movie house.

It makes me wonder how long Lillian was married to Charles Docen and just what it was that lead to there divorce. I can only imagine that it must have been something profound for her to return to using her maiden name.

Many Musicians Share Beautiful Resting Place

Last year I was able to visit Kensico Cemetery where Lillian is buried with her parents. It is a lovely cemetery; the final resting place of many famous people; a bevy of musically talent surrounds her including jazz-great Tommy Dorsey, composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Florenz Ziegfeld of the famed Ziegfeld Follies. 

Sadly, though, like so many of my relatives, Lillian's grave is unmarked. In fact, a gravedigger had to take us to the grave because she is in one of the oldest sections of the cemetery and it is not laid out like the rest of the sections. He too seemed a little sad to find there was no headstone on the plot.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Krantzel Cliff-Hanger: Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about researching into one of my great-great grandmother's line; the Krantzels.

My great-great-grandmother, Sabina Krantzel-Prince, was the daughter of Heinrich Daniel Krantzel (sometimes known as H.D. Krantzel or Daniel Krantzel) who served in the Civil War with the 8th NY Infantry. 

According to the New York Civil War Muster Rolls that I found on, H.D. Krantzel enlisted on September 5, 1862 for a period of 3 years. This was after the June 8, 1862 Battle of Cross Keys, VA where nearly 1/3 of that regiment was slaughtered. 

So, no, he did not die in that battle that I mentioned in yesterday's post.

The Muster Roll also states, however, that he last appears on the rolls on April 11, 1863. Mch 27/91 see letter attached. I read that to mean "March 27, 1891 see letter attached" but there is no letter following the image on

This prompted me to order Daniel Krantzel's Civil War Pension File. On October 19, 1889, an application for his pension was filed by his widow; Elizabeth. On the first page of the file it states that he "Died at Cincinnati - Ohio. Apl. 8 1877." This sheet is marked "ABANDONED."

In June of 1890 a new act governing the distribution of pensions was passed. On July 8, 1890, Elizabeth resubmitted her application for her husband's pension. Once again, it is indicated that he died on Apr. 8 1877. This file too though is stamped "ABANDONED."

After sorting through the 30+ pages of the Civil War Pension File, I found a type written note from the War Department dated June 1, 1894 which reads:
The military records furnish nothing additional to the report of May 2, 1890, in the case of Daniel Kreutzler, private, Company B, 8th New York Infantry.
No Medical record has been found. His name was dropped from the rolls by reason of his leaving the service without proper authority.
No amendment of his record can be made upon any evidence now before this Department.
The most curious thing in the pension file though, is a death certificate provided by Daniel's son Ernest Krantzel at a much later date in 1893. The certificate is from the City of New York for an unknown male who died on November 2, 1884. The corrected NY death certificate lists his date of burial at Lutheran Cemetery as Feb 12, 1891.

1891????  Huh?

And to make matters even stranger, I have an 1880 census record showing Daniel "Krancle" alive and well and living with Elizabeth and their children in the City of New York.

So what is all this business with his widow claiming Daniel died in Cincinnati, OH in 1877?

I am not sure but I get this terrible suspicion that Great-great-great Grandma Elizabeth Krantzel was trying to perpetrate a fraud against the Federal Government; attempting to claim a pension for a soldier who abandoned his unit.

It may be that Elizabeth believed Daniel finished his service honorable but she most certainly knew he did not die in Ohio in 1877. Unless, of course, she was suffering some sort of dementia or someone forced her into this fraudulent claim.

If Daniel is the unknown male who died on the streets on NYC in November of 1884, I wish I could find something more about those circumstances or some meer mention of the incident in a newspaper. The cause of death is listed as a cerebral hemorrhage in front of 186 Front St. in Manhattan.

This all may remain a mystery to me forever but it is one I continue to chip away at as more and more records become available.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Krantzel Cliff-Hanger

I guess it was about 4 years ago when I decided to make it my goal to fill in the names of all 32 of my great-great-great grandparents. Having started my genealogy research over 20 years ago, I had most of those individuals on the tree and well researched for some time. But there were just some branches dangling out there. Branches that needed just a little more attention.

One of the last limbs on the tree for me to really pour some research time into was that of my most maternal line. Women are generally more difficult to research because they almost always give up their maiden names when they marry. You'll notice that I always hyphenate the names of the married women I write about on this blog; but they did not hyphenate their names. I just do it to keep them attached to their maiden names.

My great-great grandmother was Sabina Krantzel-Prince. I knew this from having spoken to my Great-Aunt Anne before her passing. Anne was the daughter of Mary Prince-Fay; Mary was the daughter of Sabina Krantzel-Prince; but Sabina's parents eluded me. In fact that is the one word I would use to describe my Krantzels in general; elusive.

I'd search the U.S. census using with little success. I'd used the big search engines to do broad-sweeping, Hail Mary searches of the internet for any morsel of information I could find on them; and there wasn't much.

Ultimately, it was, though, that lead me to a researching cousin on that line. He shared with me a collection of documentation he had gained about the Krantzels or Kranzels or Krantzleins as the case may be. Spelling is a very modern day convention.

This researching cousin found me was because I saved a record from to my tree. It was a record that I only thought could possibly be Sabina's father. It turned out to most definitely be my 3rd great-grandfather, Heinrich Daniel Krantzel or Daniel Heinrich Krantzel.

The record was from the New York Civil War Muster Rolls which listed H.D. Krantzel as a member of the 8th NY Infantry, company B. The record contained an unusual note. It read as follows:
Born Worms Germany; occupation painter; eyes blue; hair dark comp. fair; height 5 ft. 5 in.
It was this record and this cousin's confirmation of the connection that lead me to request the Civil War Pension record of H.D. Krantzel. His file only made me curiouser and curiouser. Before I dive into the questions there, I researched the 8th NY Infantry a bit.

I came across a website about the Battle of Cross Keys, VA. There I learned that shortly after noon on June 8, 1862 the 548-man-strong 8th New York Infantry suffered more than 250 casualties in the short span of about 15 minutes. 

Was that the fate of Daniel Krantzel? When next I write I will share with you what I learned from Daniel's pension file.

Oooo, a cliff-hanger...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Earle Women's Heirlooms

There is something profoundly impacting about touching an object that was once held by someone you only know through stories and documentation.

Shortly after my paternal grandfather passed away in June of 2000, my grandmother (otherwise known as Nanny) gave me an Earle family heirloom as a birthday gift; a hand-painted plate. Nanny told me she was given the plate by my grandpa's Aunt Susie Earle-Gilvey. It is a plate that Aunt Susie brought with her on her immigration from Newfoundland to New York in about 1900. The plate, we believe, was hand-painted by my great-great grandmother, Sarah Samms-Earle-Bromley. 

As a painter myself with a deep interest in family history I think it was a very appropriate gift.  I am not sure if great-great grandma Earle considered herself an artist but hand-painting plates was a popular hobby for women of her time.

This is not the only hand-painted Earle family heirloom that Nanny has given to me. Several birthdays later, Nanny gave me this canister which was painted by my great grandmother, Ethel Mae Losee-Earle.

The next woman in this chain of Earle grandmothers would indeed be Nanny. Now she doesn't paint but she does handcraft afghans and shawls of which I own a few. 

God willing, I will be able to care for and maintain these artifacts long enough to hand them down to the next keeper of the Earle family crafts.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Grandpa's Mustache

Yesterday morning my 4 month old niece came to spend the day at my house with my dad and step-mother. I had to go to work but I did get to watch dad and Sofie play together for a while. She likes to yank on his mustache - - which reminded me of an old family photo that I have.

This here is a picture of my paternal grandfather's brother, my great-uncle, Allen Preston Earle (1916-1956) with his great-grandfather, John M. Losee Sr. (1841-1918). Based on Allen's year of birth and John's date of death this photo had to be taken in 1917 when Allen was about a year old.

Like my niece, I think little Allen was super cute with his devilish grin. And John had a pretty awesome mustache too. Don't ya think?