Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Long-lost Haase cousins - the Mooneys

So in my last post, I talked about a wedding announcement for George W. Mooney, whose cousin Gustav Haase (my great great grandfather) was his best man.

What I didn't mention was that this was the first time I had ever heard of the Mooneys. Between myself and Milton H., one of my living Haase relatives, who has done some pretty extensive Haase research on his own, we had the family of Charles and Barbara Reinhardt Haase pretty thoroughly covered. But neither of us had the Mooneys on our trees.

As I said in my last post, the guest list is a veritable who's who of Haases, so I made the assumption that George was Gustav's cousin on his paternal Haase side, and not his maternal Meinberg side. If they were actual first cousins (and don't be fooled, sometimes cousin can mean second cousin or even just be a loose term for relative - I refer to Milt H. and another relative, April E., who has done extensive research on my Raynor branch, as my cousins, although it is many times removed) - then George's mother had to be the sister of Gustav's father. Charles and Barbara Haase had six children, and all of them and their spouses were accounted for except for one - the oldest Haase, Louisa.

Louisa was born about 1861, which made her the right age to be George's mother. And a search of the New York City wedding database on revealed that a Louise Haas did in fact marry an Edwin Mooney in 1881. (George's parents are listed in the wedding announcement as Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Mooney). I thought that was pretty cool.

And just because I thought the wedding announcement was fairly interesting unto itself, I emailed it to Cousin Milt, who I correspond with regularly if not frequently. I included an explanation of who everyone was or who I thought everyone was.

I'm so glad I sent it, because I heard back immediately from him that though he didn't have the Mooneys on our family tree, he knew the name well, because not only does it turn out that the plot at Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn where Charles and Barbara Haase are buried was bought by the Mooneys (which I didn't know, but he did, and always wondered what the connection was between the Haases and Mooneys), but he had actually met George Mooney and his wife, Lilly...and never knew they were related.

Amazing. See, you learn new things every day, even when you're in your 70s like Cousin Milt. The searches and discoveries never end.

The other lesson to be learned is - share the information you have! You never know who you'll be helping or who will then be able to help you!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A family portrait

So, it's not an actual family portrait, or even a picture in the normal sense of the word, but to me, it paints a picture in words of a large and close family.

In the June 27, 1907 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, there's a wedding announcement for George W. Mooney and Lilly A. Kucker. Up until this past week, I had never heard either name before, but I was using to look up newspaper articles with either the name "Ed Haase" or "Gus Haase" (I don't remember which one - they both appear in the wedding announcement), and this story turned up because Gustav Haase, my great great grandfather, was the best man and the groom was his cousin. Besides saying who performed the ceremony and what the bride wore, the announcement goes on to list many of the people in attendance and that list is a veritable smorgasbord of Haases, Reinhardts, Meinbergs, and Ricklefs. Any relative of George and Gustav's that was alive at that time seems to have been there, and even relatives of relatives who neither of them were related to, but who I am. You see names listed so often and grouped only with immediate family so often that you sometimes forget that people are connected to an extended, multigenerational family who lived near each other, lived with each other, and celebrated the special moments in each others' lives together.

So, among those present were:
Gustav Haase, my great great grandfather
George Mooney, the groom, who was Gustav's cousin
George's parents, Edward/Edwin and Louise (Haase) Mooney - Louise was Gustav's aunt, sister to his father.
Edward and Eva Meinberg Haase, Gustav's parents and my 3rd great grandparents
Frederick and Florence Haase - Frederick was Edward and Louise's brother
Louis and Elizabeth Haase - Louis was Edward, Frederick, and Louise's brother
Joseph and Nettie (Haase) Steiner - Nettie was Louis, Edward, Frederick, and Louise's sister
George and Josephine (Haase) Silberberg - so, with Josephine, we have all the children of Charles and Barbara (Reinhardt) Haase accounted for at this wedding. But there's more...

We also have, John Steiner, Jr. - George and Gustav's cousin
Mrs. Hellman - that would be Catherine Nehr Meinberg Hellman, my 4th great grandmother, and mother to Eva Meinberg Haase, the groom's aunt by marriage
Mrs. B. Haase - Barbara Reinhardt Haase, my 4th great-grandmother and grandmother of the groom (and best man)
Mrs. B. Haase is followed by Mrs. Lutz, Mrs. Thomsen, and Mrs. Schaffer in the list. Those would be Barbara's sisters - Kate Reinhardt Lutz, Wilhelmina Reinhardt Thomsen, and Elizabeth Reinhardt Schaffer.

There is also a Miss Ricleffs listed, who, since they got married five months later, would probably be my great-great grandmother Meta, who was the girlfriend/fiancee/future wife of the best man, and then also Marion Williams, the flower girl, who was the adopted daughter of Barbara Haase.

Now, in addition to that, there are several names on the guest list that are familiar to me, in particular Henry Merwin, who was a witness at Gustav and Meta's wedding, but looking up other newspaper stories it appears that Gustav Haase, George Mooney, John Steiner, the boys' other cousin George Silberberg, and wedding guests Henry Merwin, Robert Elliott, Charles Mack, and William Kucker (brother of the bride) all ran in the same circle and belonged to the same group of friends. Not only is it kind of cool to see that several of these Haase cousins were friends with each other, but for some reason it really strikes a cord in me to see not only family but good friends celebrating this milestone in the life of one of their own.

Like I said, not a picture per se - but a nice family portrait nonetheless.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?...

Well, not exactly Carmen, unless I can prove we're related...

For much of my research, the census has been my go-to record to find out where people were living, who had been born, who had died, what people were doing for a living, where they had come from. But there are some people who *should* be in a census who are just not there. They're like ghosts. Or super-awesome, top secret CIA agents, living off the grid. Somehow, I have a feeling that's not the case.

Here are some examplee of what I'm talking about:

The Gorrys - James and Mary and their kids Mary, Michael, Hannah, and James - are in the 1860 and 1870 censuses and then again in the 1900, but I can't find them anywhere, at all, in the 1880 census.

John Horgan - my third great grandfather, died in 1908 in Manhattan, but is he in the 1900 census? Not at the address where he died, and not anywhere else so far as I can tell.

Hiram Horatio Raynor - I may have to come back to my 3rd great-grandfather at another time because I have a nagging suspicion he's going by a different last name in 1850, and there's a long story behind that, but that would explain why I can't find him, even though he's alive and well in 1860, 1870, and 1880.

The Meinbergs - my third great grandmother Eva is alive and well into the 20th century as is her mother, Catherine, as I just discovered, but I can't find either in the 1870 census.

Sometimes the problem is spelling. I do various spellings of last names. I do soundex searches. I do first and last name. I do no first name.

Sometimes dates are wrong and birth places are wrong. Or, if someone is born in, say, Bavaria, they might be listed under Deustchland or Germany or Bavaria. Or something completely wrong.

Sometimes you think you know where someone lived. Most of my ancestors stayed in New York, but if you start to look outside that area, you find them there, like the Haases and Reinhardts in New Jersey.

If your ancestor has an unusual last name, like Gorry, they might be easier to find than if your ancestor has a common one, like Smith. However, Smith is easier to spell than Gorry, so the Smith search might actually be easier.

Sometimes you want to put more information to narrow down the search, because if you put James born in 1869, you're going to get more than a ton of hits. But if you narrow it down too much, you might miss something. You can't assume that since all your family lives in New York that everyone else lived in New York. That's how I almost missed out on my Civil War veteran ancestor Charles Haase, who fought for the 33rd infantry, *New Jersey*.

I have a suspicion that maybe some of these people went back to the motherland for some time before returning to the States. I've started looking at passenger lists covering the missing years, after their initial immigration if I know it. Because there comes a point when you've looked for someone in a census record under every permutation possible with no luck that you think, well, maybe it's simply because they weren't there.

Maybe the answers aren't that complicated. Maybe they're very, very simple.

It gets frustrating. But I'm not giving up. Did Nancy Drew ever give up? No, she did not. Yes, she had George and Bess and Ned to help her, but I have the internet. And we both have determination and a desire to find the truth. I'm going to solve these cases yet, you just wait and see!

Still being inspired...

I made a fatal error this week and watched "Who Do You Think You Are?" as it aired instead of waiting to the morning. Now it's Friday night and my eyes are all blotchy and bloodshot from crying.

It's just so incredibly moving, not so much the information these celebrities discover, but their motivations behind beginning their research and their reactions to what they find. Like, Lisa Kudrow last week needed to find out the truth about her great-grandmother's Holocaust murder, not only for herself, but for her father. Tonight, Matthew Broderick was trying to find a way to connect to a father he adored who died when he was 20 and to grandparents he never met, and yet again, the person researching their tree spoke words that said it all - that you discover these cold, hard facts that when put together, paint a vivid picture of a human life. Broderick (who, by the way, seems like a totally cool guy - Matt, I live in New York, we should totally meet up and hang out one day!) discovered his grandfather was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in action in France during WWI, and that his great great grandfather served in the Civil War, fighting in Gettysburg before being killed in action by a musketball to the head outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

(This line of inquiry, by the way, gave me new information - that if I want to find out more about my own Civil War veteran ancestor's actions and service during the war, I need to look at muster rolls - unfortunately, I think the New Jersey archives are currently in the middle of a project to restore those records. But maybe the National Archives has info...)

Okay, back to the show. Not only was Broderick's great-great grandfather KIA, but he was buried as an unknown soldier. Through his research, they were able to identify the grave, and it will now be recorded under the proper name of the man, Robert Martindale, who is buried there. You don't think Robert isn't happy about that?

Broderick was obviously very proud of his relatives and with good reason. He found out some important things about them. Important things, but not extraordinary things. A lot of people have relatives who fought in WW I. A lot have relatives who fought in WWII. These are ordinary things done by ordinary people, but that makes it no less extraordinary to discover. It makes it no less extraordinary to discover a person you never knew, and things about that person you never knew. It might be ordinary that people have ancestors who fought in the Civil War, for example, but it's extraordinary that *your* ancestor fought in it.

I don't know. It's inspiring. I'm inspired. I'm learning new avenues to explore, I'm re-energized to follow up dead-ends, I wish I had the time and money and other resources to go to the roots that I know of, the villages and towns in Europe, to continue my research there and to stand on the ground my ancestors stood on, breathe the air they breathed.

And I think, no wonder so many people dream of being famous, because everybody wants to be remembered when they're gone. Nobody wants to be forgotten. Nobody on my tree comes anywhere near being famous (except maybe Rudolph Stutzmann), but if I can find them, then they're remembered, at least by me. And even one person remembering you means you haven't been forgotten.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses...

You never know what crazy characters you'll turn up in her genealogical pursuits. Sometimes the fun stories come from your relatives' families, and not your direct ancestors themselves, which makes the stories no less interesting...

My second great-grandmother, Meta Ricklefs Haase, had five siblings growing up in East New York, Brooklyn at the turn of the century (last century, that is). All four of the girls - Meta and her sisters Sophie, Olga, and Margaretha - got married but neither of the brothers - not John nor Charles - ever did. Not in and of itself interesting, true...I have the boys in census records, I have them signing up for the draft for both World War I and World War II. For all I knew, they lived fun/peaceful bachelor lives...

My father relates that his father always told him that Nanny's family (my father's grandmother, my grandfather's mother-in-law) was a bunch of criminals. Nanny was Helen Meta Haase Stutzmann. My dad always assumed his father was talking about the Haases, but it appears now, thanks to newspaper articles I found on, my new favorite genealogy website, that he was actually talking about Nanny's mother's family. Nanny's mother was Meta Ricklefs. Apparently, there was a reason the Ricklefs boys (who were Nanny's uncles) never got married. And apparently things in East New York haven't changed much in the last 100 years. A few excerpts from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, courtesy Old Fulton NY Post Cards...:

On April 3, 1916, the headline read, "Says he got bullet while trying to rob: it is still in Ricklefs' chin, life term if he is committed." The story goes, "Still carrying in his chin a bullet, which police say he received while committing a burglary and which he says he acquired quite innocently, John Ricklefs, 28 years old, faced Justice Aspinall...Ricklefs is under indictment for burglary in the first degree and assault in the first degree as a second offender, and if the jury finds him guilty as indicted, Judge Aspinall has no choice but to send him back to Sing Sing for the rest of his life...He was released from Sing Sing last July, after doing a ten year term, less commutation, imposed by Judge Fawcett, for burglary. In 1907 Judge Dike sent him to Elmira for larceny."

Three days later, the headline read, "Not Guilty, Verdict; 'Guilty,' Says Judge. 'Don't Do It Again.'" The subheadline quotes Judge Aspinall as saying that the acquittal of Ricklefs was due to doctor's "stupidity." The doctor testified that he was called to tend to the wound caused by the bullet in John Ricklef's face at 2:15 in the morning, instead of 3:15, like he actually was. His mix-up of the timeline made it impossible to place Ricklefs at the scene of the crime, and the jury acquitted him, though Judge Aspinall told him, "You were there that morning. There is no doubt about that....This is the fourth crime you were mixed up in. The third one you got out of because your companions took the guilt upon themselves and one is in Sing Sing, the other in Elmira; that's how you got out of that. You are only 28 years old. I advise you to try and lead a better life. First thing you know, they will have it on you right and that will be the end of you." Apparently one of the men who took the blame for that other crime was John's younger brother, Charles.

On April 30, 1916, it was reported that Charles Ricklefs had been arrested by Detective Doherty and convicted.

In a 1918 issue of the New York Evening Telegram, a blurb reads, "To permit an attempt to identify him in connection with highway robbery in Manhattan, a charge of suspected burglary against Charles Ricklefs, No. 456 Glenmore Avenue, East New York, was dismissed in the New Jersey Avenue Court, Brooklyn, today. He was taken to the Fourth Branch Detective Bureau, Manhattan, to be questioned as to complicity in the theft of $2,700 from a bank messenger...three weeks ago."

SIDENOTE: According to an inflation conversion calculator I found online, $2,700 in 1918 is about equal to $38,500 in 2008. Just to give you an idea...

This quote from the April 3 story is my favorite, and I think sums up both Ricklefs brothers quite well and rather poetically: "Despite his youth, Ricklefs has been labeled by the police as a desperado."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Catherine Naehr/Neher Meinberg Hellman update!

Yes, I know it's only two minutes later, but I just ran over to to look up Catherine's marriage to George Hellman - their records only start about 1864, so they wouldn't have Catherine's marriage to John Meinberg - so I looked up George Hellman and got six returns. Clicked on George Hellmann, Oct 20 1878 in Brooklyn, and who did he marry? "Kathar Meinberg."


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,, 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 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!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More thoughts on "Who Do You Think You Are?"

* I really enjoyed the Emmitt Smith episode, mostly because he voiced so many thoughts that I feel myself when I'm doing my family history, how I feel like a detective and how I can feel the spirits of my ancestors being so happy to have not been forgotten.

* I always think about how African-Americans, if they can trace their family trees back to the Civil War, pretty much have hit an ultimate brick wall with any slave ancestors, but watching Lisa Kudrow research her great-grandmother's murder by the Nazis in 1940s Belarus, it seems to me that Americans of Eastern European Jewish descent have the rawest deal, being unable to go further back than that generation...

*I record every episode Friday night and watch it Saturday morning...I can't watch it Fridays before going to bed because, without fail, I always end up crying during this show.

*I just get so excited to see these people get so excited by what they're doing and what they're finding out...

Next week, Matthew Broderick traces his family tree (wow, James and Marion and Tabitha Broderick really lucked out, getting help with both sides of their family tree by professionals!!)

And this doesn't have anything to do with the show, but I read this quote today while I was looking into my Stutzmann genealogy, and I just thought it hit the nail on the head, especially in explaining why we do what we do to people who have no interest and just don't get it:

"Those who take no pride in the recording of vital records or the achievement of their ancestors are not likely to accomplish much that will be remembered with pride by their descendents."

U.S. Census 2010

So, the 2010 census has been delivered for Americans to fill out and all I can think, when I look at it, is how, when it becomes public record in 72 years, it will be no help whatsoever to genealogists.

Yes, since the 2000 census, there have been changes - my 95-year-old grandmother is still alive, my mother is gone, and my brother has moved out. But besides asking for names, ages, race, and relation to the head of household, there is no information to be gleaned. Even for the government using this census, I can't imagine what they can learn from the questions they are asking. It's almost insulting. The 2010 census is about as basic as the 1850 or 1860 census. From 150 years ago. I think about how rich and informative the 1900 or the 1930 census are - occupations, where a person was born, where his parents were born, whether or not they are a veteran, just all these clues to lead you in directions to finding out information further back. Which I guess means that it's up to me and all my fellow genealogists and historians to keep track of as much information as we possibly can so that future generations don't have to rely on this census for their info.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's all in the details

It occurred to me recently that for all the genealogical records I have and all the information I've gotten from them, I've only half read them. I've read the names. I've read the dates. But every bit of information on them is a clue. Maybe not to some GREAT BIG REVEAL about an unknown foreparent...but maybe. Or maybe to some interesting story. At the very least, it can help round out the picture for the life of someone you already have on your tree and help you get to know them a little better.

So, to that end, this past week I went through my genealogy book, where I keep all my records, and just made note of all the details I never bothered to look at before, for whatever reaon (who knew I had been such a lazy genealogist?) For example - on a marriage certificate, what was the name of the church? Where was that church located? Who performed the marriage ceremony? Who were the witnesses? My great-grandparents Frederick Stutzmann and Helen Haas didn't have a church listed on their marriage certificate, but the name of the guy who married them, Thomas F. Maher, revealed that he was a county clerk, so it looks like they got married at city hall. Sometimes the marriage witnesses are siblings or other relatives, but one of the witnesses on the 1885 marriage certificate for my 3rd great-grandparents Edward Haase and Eva Meinberg is Gus Follmer or Gus Follmar, who Eva was working for as a servant in 1880. Also, both witnesses appear to be male.

My great great grandfather, Jimmy Gorry, presented his son, Joseph Gorry, with a first communion missal in 1894 (they both died shortly after), but it was a missal that belonged to him, that he got at his own first communion in May of 1880. It states that he made his communion at St. Bridget's Church. A Google search reveals that there was a St. Brigid's Church that was located on Avenue B and Seventh Street near Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. It was known as a "famine church," having been founded in 1848 by Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine. I've looked at the missal before but St. Brigid's was a new clue for me, and quite possibly an important one, because I can't find Jimmy, his siblings, or his parents in the 1880 census. That neighborhood seems to be where they are in all the other censuses, but the church where he made his communion is a strong indicator that the Gorrys were somewhere in that vicinity in 1880, if I just have the patience to look and imagination to figure out what name in the census they're indexed under...

Today, I decided to look at letters my great great grandmother, Mary Horgan Gorry, received in 1918 from a soldier she was apparently in correspondence with during World War I. I had read them, but never really *read* them. The letters are written on YMCA stationery by "R. Morrow." In one dated Sept. 10, 1918, he talks about getting used to military life. He doesn't name where he's stationed, but talks about getting passes to go into Chattanooga, about it being a military camp, and being located in Chickamauga Park. A Google search revealed that during WW I, the Army had a base at Fort Oglethorpe, near Chattanooga, with two training grounds, Camp Forrest and Camp Greenleaf. The YMCA helped erect some of the buildings, and the medical camp there extended into Chickamauga Park by the end of summer 1918. R. Morrow talks about this being near Civil War battlegrounds and visiting the various monuments erected to "some great deed(s) performed by some great (men)." He also asks about Mary's husband, Elmer, saying he hopes that Elmer gets sent there, as it's a good camp.

In an Oct. 1 letter, Morrow talks about still liking camp life and going to school, studying anatomy, physiology, first aid, drills, articles of war, and medical training. The return address is "R. Morrow, N.C.O. School, Section C Co. E, Camp Greenleaf, Chickamauga." According to a Web site I found, Fort Oglethorpe and Chickamauga Park were hit by the influenza epidemic that fall - more than 3,500 soldiers got sick, and by November, medical training activities at Camp Greenleaf were suspended.

Those are the only two letters I have. They don't really provide too much insight into the life of Mary, except that she became pen pals with a soldier, but I wonder what happened to R. Morrow. Did he get sick and/or die from the flu epidemic? If not, where did he go when the medical training stopped, just a month after his last letter? Does he have any descendants living today who would be interested in reading the things that he wrote? Maybe I should try to find them, since I would want someone to do the same for me.

Anyway, the point is, that the important facts are, obviously, important. The details may or may not be important but they sure can be interesting.

Meet the Reinhardts of Hudson County, New Jersey

I've written a lot about my 4th-great grandfather Charles Haase, my Civil War ancestor. Well, I recently decided to take a second look at his wife's family, the Reinhardts, partially because they're a continuing source of frustration as one of my dead ends, partially because they're one of my only families that found its way out of New York, so they offered something a little different to look into.

Barbara Reinhardt was born in New York City in 1841 to immigrant John Reinhardt and his wife, named in various records and at various times as Magdalena, Caroline, Carolina, Leni, Helen, and Lena. Yeah...that's not at all confusing.

Anyway, Barbara was the third of about seven children so in addition to looking at various New Jersey records that were available where New York records were not, I decided to look into her siblings. Siblings are valuable sources of information. Descendants of siblings are as well. Most of Barbara's siblings are actually fairly well researched except for her oldest sibling, her brother John, so I decided to focus on him.

So, in 1850, the Reinhardts are living in New York City, where John Sr. was working at a porter house, but they were possibly in New Jersey as early as 1852, as their youngest child, Catherine (Kate) is listed as being born there. In 1859, they were living in West Hoboken in Hudson County, New Jersey, where John Sr. was working in a lager beer saloon. It's curious to me why people make the moves that they do, so I wonder what brought John Sr. and his family from New York to New Jersey, but it is here in Hudson County that the Reinhardts would make their mark.

According to my records, most of the Reinhardt children were born in New York, with the exception of Kate and the oldest, John, who was born in Havre, France in 1838 to German immigrant parents (according to his obituary). Le Havre was a common emigration point to New York and I'm not sure how long the Reinhardts were there after leaving Germany and before John was born, but they supposedly came over in 1839, though I've yet to find them on a passenger list (though you'd think a baby on board would be easy to find). I also don't know where in Germany they came from.

Anywho, in 1860 the Reinhardts are living in North Bergen, still in Hudson County. John Sr. is a hotel keeper; John Jr. is a bar keep. In July of 1861, Barbara married Charles Haase in New York, settling in Union Hill in, you guessed it, Hudson County. Charlie Haase, as we all know, fought in the Civil War with a New Jersey regiment. The John Reinhardts were still working in a saloon in 1864. About this time, Barbara's brother John married Anna Margaret Reisenweber and moved out on his own. In the 1870 census for the city of Union in the county of Hudson, he's listed as being in real estate. John Sr. is apparently no longer working.

Now, in the 1880 census, John Jr. is living with his family in Jersey City in Hudson County with his profession listed as ex-sheriff. So this past week I backtracked a bit and a Google search turned up archived New York Times articles that John Reinhardt was, in fact, the sheriff of Hudson County from 1871-74. A search of the NYT archives themselves got confusing because at the same time that John Reinhardt was sheriff, a Jacob Reinhardt was coroner and also involved in many of his cases...yeah, that was fun.

Also, it's noted in The New York Times that in November of 1874, John Reinhardt, ex-sheriff, was dangerously ill with diptheria. So, he was well-known enough for that to be considered news-worthy.

John Sr. was dead by 1880 as far as I can tell, and his wife seemed to split her time between John Jr's in Hudson County and Barbara Haase's, who had moved with her family to Brooklyn. One of my current goals is to narrow down that 10-year window for John Sr.'s death, and try to determine whether he died in Hudson County, where he made his home, or in Brooklyn, where his wife seems to have ended up.

All of my direct family is out of Jersey by 1880, but in the 1895 New Jersey census, John Jr. and his family are still living in West Hoboken.

John Jr., who was my 4th great grandmother Barbara Haase's brother, had his own son, John (my 3rd great-grandfather Edward Haase's cousin), and there's actually some info about him (and his father) in a book called "Genealogical histories of Hudson and Bergen Counties, New Jersey" by Cornelius Burnham Harvey, published in 1900, where he's listed as a somewhat up-and-coming public figure in Hudson County.

In John III's biographical sketch, his father (Barbara Haase's brother) is described as "for many years one of the most prominent and best known men in the county, serving as Sheriff from 1871 to 1874, and holding other positions of trust and responsibility." John III (Edward Haase's cousin), for his part, seems to have been involved in real estate as well as also in political affairs, serving as a justice of the peace and notary public (this was written in 1900, when he was only 26 years old). He is described as "public spirited, progressive, and patriotic, taking an interest in the welfare of the community and liberally supporting and encouraging every worthy project." There's even a photograph and everything.

John Jr., Barbara's brother, died in 1898. He actually has an obituary in The New York Times on Jan. 22: "John Reinhardt died at his home, 406 Charles Street, West Hoboken, yesterday from a complication of diseases. He was born in Havre, France of German parents in 1838, but was brought to this country in 1839. He was a Democrat and served as Sheriff from 1871 to 1874, being elected three times. He also held several local offices."

It's been very interesting getting to know my Reinhardt family, but what does this mean for my Reinhardt research in trying to break down that brick wall? It means I'm looking at passenger lists for around 1839, 1840. It means I'm looking to a possible trip across the river to Hudson County to look at local newspaper archives, local municipal record holdings, local cemeteries. If my 5th great grandfather John Reinhardt is there, Hudson County may hold the clues to knocking down that next wall...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Who do you think you are?

Ok, I wanted to post this entry before last night, since I've known the show "Who Do You Think You Are?" was coming for months now, but stupid NBC doesn't have a way to link to Blogger and I got lazy. Then I figured I'd watch it first to see what I thought before telling everyone to go out and watch it.

Well, I watched it this morning. So go online and watch it. Now. And record it next Friday.

This family history show is a British import - I think they just completed their seventh series over there - and it follows celebrities as they trace their family trees. Now for many people, including one reviewer I read, that may sound incredibly boring. Why do you care about somebody else's family history? And while you're slaving away doing your own research, these people sweep in with their hired professional genealogists and historians. All good points. But you should watch it anyway.

Maybe it's because I'm fascinated by history and genealogy in general, not just my own, but I thought the show was fascinating. As someone with my own colonial, honest-to-God American roots, I loved seeing Sarah Jessica Parker follow her own, from her relative who died in the Gold Rush to the one who was accused of witchcraft in 17th century Salem. My brother caught a part of the episode as SJP was saying she couldn't stop thinking about her Gold Rush ancestor and he remarked that he thought that sounded silly, but I told him I knew exactly what she was talking about, because there comes a point where that person becomes real to you. To be honest, I was moved to tears as I watched. Now, maybe it was just hormones, but maybe it was seeing SJP moved to tears herself by the people she discovered.

Anyway, even if the celebrity family tree angle doesn't interest you, I thought it was helpful just for tips on how to go about researching your own family tree. I was kinda wary before it aired about the information they would use and the sources they would go to for it, but they seem to have used only reputable genealogical and historical sources and experts and relied mostly on primary sources, which was a relief. Some of the sources, such as the records on Ancestry, I already know about, but even for my own family history, I learned about the New England Historic Genealogical Society's Great Migration Study Project, which is piecing together what I assume would be reliable biographical sketches of many of the immigrants to America in the years following the Mayflower landing (this period of time is known as the Great Migration). A search of the index of people they already have research on lists my immigrant ancestor, Edward Raynor, and that in addition to the index of their holdings is leading me to consider joining their society. So, something I learned from this show.

It was also a reminder that while the internet has put a lot of reliable records right at our fingertips, that there are so many more out there if we're just willing to do a little digging and a bit of some actual fieldwork. I don't want to be a lazy genealogist, giving up on something just because it's not available on my computer screen. So I'm resolved to start doing more real life hunting.

I just get excited when people get excited about finding out where they came from. Not that I don't think you can't know who you are without knowing where you came from, but we all are where we are because of the lives of the people who came before, so...I think it helps to be able to connect to something. And someone.

So I'm excited to see the rest of the stories to come. And in the meantime, it has stoked the fires of doing my own research. Every now and then, especially when you get discouraged, you need that. And you need something to remind you how much you love doing this.

So...who do you think you are? Fridays at 8 p.m. on NBC. Watch it!