Sunday, March 21, 2010

A little bit persistence, a little bit serendipity...

I just made a huge genealogical breakthrough, completely by accident. I may have totally broken down one of my brick walls.

As I've said, I've found "Who Do You Think You Are?" to be completely inspiring to me as a genealogist, igniting my own excitement in the face of many frustrations and many, many brickwalls. If one avenue you're trying isn't working, it's time to try another. There are countless sources of information out there, if only you are wlling and able to try to find them.

This newest nugget of info I just discovered, literally 15 minutes ago, follows such a convoluted avenue that even with my persistence it can only be by serendipity that I found it. Here's what happened:

Part of what I've really enjoyed about "Who Do You Think You Are?" is finding out the motivations and stories behind the people these celebrities have been discovering, so since I'm always looking to round out the picture for my own ancestors more completely, I decided to start with the one I knew there would be the most information about, Rudolph Stutzmann - he's my great great grandfather, the undertaker and founder/president of Ridgewood Savings Bank. I used both the New York Times' article archives and another Web site, www.fultonhistory.com, which has newspaper articles from all over (mostly) New York State and some of New England from as far back as the 1850s. I found out some interesting things about Rudolph, including photos, a lot about the founding of Ridgewood Savings Bank, a lot about his involvement in German-American society in Brooklyn/Queens, and the reasons behind some of the many voyages he and his wife Augusta made together between 1910-1930. One immediate thought that I want to share about this investigation is, as someone who is so thoroughly American, my most recent immigrant ancestor being my great-grandfather and all my immigrant ancestors being here before 1900, that I have no real, tangible connections to my cultural heritages (no special meals, no customs and traditions practiced)that it was kind of nice to discover that my Stutzmann relatives in the 1910s and 1920s were thoroughly immersed in their German heritage, even if, as my father tells me that his father told him, it kind of bordered on a pre-Nazi/Aryan slant. But I'll get back to my Rudolph Stutzmann adventures in another post. I'm too excited about this right now.

So...I was looking up Rudolph, and decided, well, if www.fultonhistory.com in particular has a variety of newspapers archived, even if my other ancestors weren't as newsworthy as Rudolph was, maybe there were obituaries to find. And there were. Augusta Lindemann Stutzmann, Rudolph's wife, was there. Her mother, Eva M. Lindemann, had an obit, and it would have been extremely informative if I hadn't known anything about her. Eva Meinberg Haase, my 3rd great grandmother, had an obit, and so did her husband, Edward Haase, who had another extremely informative one (though there wasn't any new info there, just confirmation to info I already had). Edward Haase is actually in the Brooklyn newspapers a lot, with his obit clarifying why - he was a great bowler, one of the best bowlers in East New York. That was mentioned in his obit, and looking at the newspaper pages confirms that he and his team were champions for a few years, and his scores are always listed.

I am a terrible bowler. I obviously did not inherit that gene from Edward.

So, Rudolph to random family obits to Edward, and so I jumped to Google to look up "Edward Haase" and bowling, just to see what turned up. Nothing much, lots of stuff from Missouri, and then, three pages in, I saw the phrase, "died at the home of her son in law, Edward Haase, 180 Arlington Ave."

Intriguing. Edward Haase at 180 Arlington Ave is my Edward.

This is what I knew about Edward's mother-in-law. From Edward's wife Eva Meinberg's marriage certificate, I knew her mother was Catherina Naehr. From her death certificate I knew her mother was Catherine Neher. In the 1910 census there's a "Kathyrn Haase" indexed as Edward's mother-in-law, but the last name is wrong and the age was too young. I knew Eva was born in New York in 1861 to John Meinberg and I had found on the Family History Center Web site that a John Meinberg was born about a year and half later to John and Catherine, so I assumed Eva also had a brother John, but I could never find John or Catherine in a census, I couldn't find them on a passenger list, I had no idea when or where they died, when they were born, I assumed they were German immigrants but I didn't know from where. They were essentially ghosts.

So anyway, I clicked on this link and it brought me to a Brooklyn genealogy Web site, one I've been to before, where they transcribe a lot of stories and obits from early Brooklyn newspapers, and this is what the blurb read:

7 Dec 1918
Catherine N. HELLMAN, widow of George HELLMAN, died on Thursday
of apoplexy at the home of her son-in-law, Edward HAASE, 180 Arlington
avenue. She was born in Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany, seventy-eight
years ago, and had been a resident of Brooklyn for sixty-two years. She
is survived by two sons, John and Frederick; three daughters, Mrs. Edward
HAASE, Mrs. Anton SMITH, and Mrs. Henry HENNINGER, fourteen
grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and a sister, Mrs. Elizabeth
RIDERS. The funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon.

I mean, how awesome is that?!?!?!? This is the kind of discovery you dream about. I have a date of death. I have an approximate year of birth. I have a *place* of birth. I have an approximate immigration date. I have not just daughter Eva Haase but *four* other kids (including John!!), grandchildren, (I think the great grandchildren are my great grandmother and her brother), I have a *sister*, I have a new last name, Hellman (the middle initial of N matches her maiden name of Naehr/Neher), so I assume she remarried at some point. I can order a death certificate. I can look for her on the census. I can see if she and George Hellman have a marriage certificate. I can look for a passenger list record. This excitement, this *finding* of someone, is the reason I do this. I can't wait to start finding out more about Catherine and adding that info to my tree!

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