Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Evansville Genealogy

I've recently been "digging" into the branch of my family tree that lived in Evansville, what an interesting and fruitful trek I must say! Vanderburgh county, Indiana has proved to be one of the better represented counties on the internet, from the vast obituary collection available, to its GenWeb site to the cemetery records that are available online, I have discovered so much on my Evansville relatives lately, its been a genealogists dream! My Evansville connections begin in the Canton of Bern in Switzerland. Christian vonAllmen married Barbara Steiner around 1840 and they soon had a daughter, Maria (or Mary) around 1842. Around 1844 the family came to Illinois, settling in Richland co. where Christian had many relatives (if you look at census records from the time, the Richland area has a very high number of families either born in Switzerland or from Swiss stock). They had a second daughter, Margaret in 1846 and my ancestor, Susanna in 1849. Three sons followed and when Joseph, born in 1857 was young the family came to Evansville. Christian established a broom-making business which apparently thrived because after his death in 1887 some of his sons took it over. The family, when they came to the US dropped the 'von' part of their name and went by Allmen, Allman or Alman most of the time and that is exactly what they are listed under in various records. Now, my ancestor, Susanna married John Berger in Evansville in 1866 and they didn't stick around much longer, but most of Susanna's siblings did stay in the area. Her sister, Margaret married Andrew Maurer in 1867 and they stayed in Evansville, raising their three children, Emma (b. 1870), Joseph (b. 1875) and William (b. 1877). Emma married left the area but died without issue as did Joseph and I think but am as yet, unsure that William followed in the same path. Two of Susanna's brothers also died without issue and I believe, Mary/Maria did also. The youngest, Joseph, married Missouri Myrick in 1887. Joseph is the brother that was the missing link when I was trying to figure out Susanna's parentage. When I inherited several pieces or correspondence between the siblings I was quickly able to tie the pieces together and figure out Susanna's family. Joseph is an interesting figure, whose life seemed to have been touched with some tragedy. He and his wife, from cemetery records I've gathered, lost several infants and then their thirteen year-old daughter, Hazel in 1903 when she was killed by an errant bullet during the Evansville race riot. Joseph and Missouri's surviving two daughters would go one to have families though and remained largely in the Evansville area. Daughter Helen married Conrad Boemle and they had: Helen, Wayne, Joyce and June and lived in Evansville. Daughter Alzadia "Zadie" married Louis Otto and had: Helen, George and Marvin Otto and also lived in Evansville. I knew little before the other day of Joseph and his family, and now thanks to these new internet finds, I've discovered a whole new branch of my family tree!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Week Wrap Up: Really Just a Bunch of Odds and Ends...

Recently found some sites of interest, first up is the Mid-Atlantic Archives. Site offers a lot of valuable information including research forms and a wealth of information on Burlington co., New Jersey (among many other places). Next is this blog of a fellow Northern California genealogist. On the right side of the blog you'll see links to many valuable California resoucres.

I haven't seen or heard about anyone else out there doing this but I've started clipping pictures of people from old newspapers and adding them to DeadFred. I mean, sure, they aren't pictures in the conventional sense, but they are still PICTURES and DeadFred hasn't given me a hard time about it (yet) plus I try and clean up the pictures as best I can before I upload them. Oh well, it seemed like and good idea at the time and actually still does so I'll keep doing it.

Back to the Civil War (and you probably thought I forgot! Well, your're right, I did.): I'm debating about whether or not to pay NARA for the pension file on my John Berger (my only direct ancestor to serve in the war). It would cost $75 but the possible return could be wonderful (for one thing it might confirm John's parentage and for another it will definitely shed light on more details of John's life). I'm such a skin-flint which doesn't really bode well with an obsession for genealogy... The NARA site actually offers a lot, so it is definitely worth checking out (though their ordering options are a little confusing and I wish they had WWI records available).

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I've had a Footnote (FREE) membership for awhile but always kind of wrote the site off because I really had no desire to sign up for a pay subscription (although their rates are certainly affordable), mainly because I already have a subscription to Ancestry and most of the info I find on Footnote I can also get there. Footnote has also always been a little sparse as far as records go that pertain to my family. I found a neat civil war picture on there awhile ago (of which I found another copy of it on Wikipedia and the Wikipedia copy was far and away a better copy), but that is pretty much it. One thing Footnote has that I think is fab and that other sites should try and emulate in some way are the member story pages. This feature is a new one (I only recently learned about it) and I have been playing with it lately. The pages are very easy to make and edit and once published are viewable by the Footnote community. So, while I still don't (and don't plan on getting) have a pay subscription to the site, the Footnote pages makes the site worthwhile. At least I can get out the information I have (through their upload feature and by writing "story pages") which opens up my genealogy to more people making connections and matches and possible info exchanges more probable.

Home Movies

I know most people have home movies, and I have a few from when I was little, but the medium was never really taken advantage of in my family. This website, however, has the potential to be a great genealogical tool (in a few years, once the collections have REALLY expanded).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Civil War Sites

The Civil War was an important event in many people's family histories (well, history in general) but I never really looked into the Civil War mainly because I've only got one known direct ancestor who participated. My paternal lines were still in Europe at the time and my maternal grandfather's family was already in California (a world away from the war), but my maternal grandmother's family was still in Indiana and Iowa and some of them did participate in the war (Union side for all of them). The only direct ancestor of mine who served in the war was Rev. John Berger (spelled Barger in some war records). I had heard that he was a Union chaplain but now I can't remember where I heard that or even if there is any truth to it... In any case I've been doing a lot of research into the war lately. More on that later, but here are some sites I've recently found with lots of good information:

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors
Indiana Regiments

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where Do You Go To?

So, the title of this post is a reference to the song Where Do You Go To? which really doesn't have much to do with this post, I just like the song and thought the lyric fit.

One thing about genealogy that I find interesting is migration patterns. I'm trying to figure out why some of my ancestors left their original family homesteads in the US. New England and Virginia migration is easier to understand since those areas were the first to be colonized and quickly became congested. Usually the oldest son inherited the family farm leaving the younger children to try and make a living elsewhere (unless they were clergy or craftsmen, which, in early America were minority positions compared to farming). Other events have also triggered migration (usually west) such as the Gold Rush in California which brought one branch of my family out west from New Jersey in 1850. Another reason for migration involves the economy of the place where the family originally lived (think of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl migration). Political upheavals also were a reason (I've always thought the rise of the fascists in Italy contributed to my Italian ancestors migrating to the states, but they were also from the famously "poorer part" of Italy, the rural south, which could also be the reason). I've also discovered that religious reasons are a factor in migration (besides the obvious, the puritans and Quakers who came to New England, I've also had ancestors who worked as missionaries and moving was just a part of the job). But why did my Wellons family leave Kentucky in 1850, the place where they had lived for at least two generations? And, after leaving Kentucky, why did they continue to migrate? Why did they eventually settle in Iowa in the 1870s? Why did their son, my ancestor, George Wellons go to Colorado, did some of his family go with him (bear in mind that this move to Colorado was long after Pike's Peak so that couldn't be a factor)? Why did my Webb family leave Indiana, where they had been since at least 1800 for Colorado in the 1860's (this is closer to the Pike's Peak migration boom there, but I doubt that was the reason)? What made California so attractive to my various ancestors (besides the Gold Rush and religious reasons)? Why did another branch of my Wellons family go to Washington (Yakima specifically) and THEN return to Iowa? I'm looking into these and other migration stories in my family tree right now (among other things I'll also blog about) so it is off to Wikipedia for me!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Grandma!

October 3rd would have been my great-grandmother's 110th birthday. This December will also mark ten years since she died. I am lucky because I was one of the last of her great-grandchildren (and now great-great-grandchildren) to have known her. She died right before my eleventh birthday (actually her funeral was the day after my birthday), but she is the relative that I remember most fondly and vividly when I think back to when I was really young. I also think she is the reason why I am interested in genealogy. She always, until the day she died, remembered every one's anniversary, birthday, the names of all their spouses, children, pets and everything else. She marked everything with a card and not just any old card, she made every card whether for a birthday or bereavement, personal and special and that's something that I think all of us in the family fondly remember about her. She was also one of the most generous, warm-hearted people you could ever meet and she was known as "grandma" to everyone, even outside her family. I regret that I didn't appreciate her more, that I always assumed she'd be around (as did we all, I think) and that I'd lose my temper with her because it took her longer to do or say things as she got older. More, importantly I regret not taking much interest in her VERY interesting life. Granted, I was only ten when she died, but it is still something I wish I had done. Towards the end of her life (and she lived to be a hundred!) she gave interviews which, while interesting, only scratched the surface of her life. She was born in turn of the century San Francisco, the only child of a second-generation son of a prominent Nova Scotian family who came west to strike it rich in the gold rush and then chose to stick around afterward and settle and the daughter of Danish immigrants who were ranchers in Mt. Eden (now Hayward, California). When she was a young girl, she lived through the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, where the only thing of theirs that was saved was a doll of hers. Following the earthquake my grandmother and her mother, Kathryn, stayed with Kathryn's parents across the Bay and watched the city burn, all the while wondering if my grandmother's father was alive or not (he survived). They slowly rebuilt their lives after this and eventually returned to the city. In 1918, when my grandmother was around twenty, her mother died. Following Kathryn's death, grandma's father, Lauren, remarried and had three more children. Grandma, while never saying anything bad about her half-siblings, never spoke of her step-mother and must have resented this interloper in her family. In the 1920 census she is seen living with Kathryn's parents- could this be indicative of a rough relationship with her new step-mother? During this time she also worked as a secretary for the phone company and as a stenographer for a bank. In late 1922 she married my great-grandfather and the "city girl" chucked it all to go be a farmer's wife. She raised a family and lived on "the ranch" with her husband until his death in the 1940's. She never remarried or left their ranch (until her final years in a nursing home) and always had a freezer full of bon-bons and Oreo's and other sweets in her pantry and an open door to all the neighborhood. I've never seen pictures of her parents and San Francisco family and most of the information above, I learned either through a third-party, research on the internet or read in interviews. I wish I had asked more and paid more attention when she spoke. But, I do have many fond memories. I remember sitting on her porch with her, looking at her fancy crochet hooks and other needlework, watching things like the Miss America competition and PBS with her and sitting in her sun room with her looking at her picture books, I remember all the times we stayed over with her, the meals we shared in her dining room and Christmas' with her and the cousins in her living room. I don't really remember the conversations, mainly because we didn't really have any, which makes me sad. But I remember the sound of her voice, her little mannerisms, the hairstyle that she had that in all the time I knew her never changed, her rose perfume and pearls that she always wore and her incredible memory which, frankly, we all should have taken more advantage of. I'm sorry I didn't ask more or tried to talk with you more, sorry I got impatient and rude with you, sorry I never really appreciated you, sorry I didn't do more for and with you. Sorry. Love you grandma,


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Albright Brethren

A few months ago I inherited much of my grandmother's family history articles (pictures, documents, letters, etc.). The information supplied within the various things was plentiful and fascinating. One thing of particular interest to me were the letters of my great-great-grandfather, John Berger. All we had ever known about him was that he was a minister from Indiana who came out to California around 1890. The letters shed light on, among other things, his work as a pastor. John was the son of German immigrants and probably grew up speaking German. He served as a chaplain for the Union army during the Civil War and did missionary work in Germany with his wife and their two young children. While there more children were born to them and their eldest died some time around then. When the family came back to Indiana in the 1880s, they had more children, including my ancestor, and this is also when John's letters begin. He writes about being a member of the Albright Brethren which, as it turns out, was a religious organization which preached in German. Many of John's letters are from him to his wife from various places in the Midwest that he travelled to to preach. I was intrigued by this "Albright Brethren" and looked it up online and was fascinated to discover its unique history. The other day, I stumbled across Ancestry's 1890 Census Substitute and on a whim searched for John in the California directories in the hope of finding out where the family came in California and when. I knew that Susanna (John's wife) and their children ended up in the Oakland area and had always assumed that that was the first place they went to in California. Well, after searching for a pastor John Berger throughout the Bay Area and getting no luck, I broadened the search to include all of California and sure enough there he was in, of all places, Los Angeles! Listings for him in 1888 and 1890 have him working for the German Evangelical Association (which is what the Albright Brethren became!). It was very exciting and interesting mainly because I had never come across any family ever living in southern California before now. It was also exciting because I was able to give John and Susanna's youngest child a birthplace (before then we only knew that she was born in 1890 in California). After making this find I went over to google and typed in the address John gave in the directories and the words German Evangelical Association and lo and behold if I didn't get a hit! John would die in 1891 and while I can't say if he died in Oakland or Los Angeles, I now have a better idea of why he came to California and the family's original destination. And to think, I would have never found any of this if I hadn't followed up on that mysterious Albright Brethren!

Internet Finds:

This evening, while perusing the Ancestry Magazine archives, I found an interesting article which cited some sites I hadn't heard of. I visited one, and while it was interesting, the second site cited proved to be a stalkers delight!, while a little frightening how much they know about people, actually gave me a lot of information and filled several gaping holes in my family tree. My grandfather on my father's side had two sisters that my father only vaguely remembered. Since my grandfather wasn't really around for much of my father's life and died several years ago (and with him died the last close relative of my father's paternal line) it seemed like we'd never know what happened to I. and M. (my grandfather's sisters). My father had remembered the ladies married names though and that one of them had gone to California, so that was something. I'd hunted for them on sites before but never had much luck. Tonight, after being on for less than an hour I had not only located one of the sisters but I was fairly sure about the other. I., it turns out, did indeed marry a Mr. V. and lived in California, Northridge to be precise. It also lists her as living in Brooklyn along with some possible relatives. Taking this information, I went back to Ancestry and plugged in their names. Eventually I ended up in the California Birth Index database and hunted for possible children (since Northridge is in Los Angeles co., I looked there) and sure enough, there were four children last name V. with their mother's maiden name matching I.'s and to top it off, the first born was a Jr. so I knew for sure that this was the son of I. and her husband! As for M., I'm not so sure, but the info I found offered lots of possibilities. I knew from my father that M. married a Mr. F. and that they lived in Adrian, Michigan. Going on to I looked for M., but no luck. So, I typed in her husband and a gentleman matching his name was indeed listed in Adrian, but not much beyond his name was provided so I could be wrong about his connection with M. There was a couple matching M. and her husband living in Richmond, Michigan, but since I don't know if they ever lived there, I'm doubtful about this hit. In any case, I certainly have a better idea of what happened to them beyond the 1930 census (when they were young children). While is a pay site, a lot of information can be found for free, I definitely recommend checking it out!

Note: Relatives that I have no death info on appear only with their initial(s), like M. and I. above.

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Guide to Internet Genealogy, Vol. 1

So, I know everyone has an obligatory "guide" on their page that I bet 90% of the people that go to their site ignore/miss it (or am I the only one?) and chances are that you'll ignore this too, but I'm going to go ahead and make one for two reasons. Reason one is that doing this helps me remember all the tricks I've picked up over the years and reason two is that the tricks I've picked up are good ones that get results, so I thought I put them out there for you to use if you want and ignore if you'd rather.
But first, I'm sentimental so bear with me as I take a walk down memory lane... When I first started doing internet genealogy it was in the early stages and there wasn't much beyond GenWeb, Ancestry and FamilySearch. I can remember going onto the query pages of GenWeb counties and you could count on one hand the number of queries that were posted. Now, I have to search through VOLUMES of archived queries just to get back to those original ones. I also remember looking-up trees on Ancestry and being lucky if I got a hit, now I expect to get at least ten when I go one there. The industry certainly has boomed over the years and mostly for the good. You're welcome to disagree with me, but in the beginning there wasn't the sense of community amongst internet genealogists that there is now, I think. A few people went on message boards or the query pages and they'd be lucky if anyone saw their post, I'm happy to say that now things have done a 360 and it is common to get a two response minimum. This is another point where you are welcome to disagree with me (and you probably will), but in the beginning internet genealogy didn't have the legitimacy that it has (in some circles) now. It was the venue of choice for "hack genealogists" or "armchair researchers," this according to the die hards that believe that the information isn't real unless you can hold it in your hands. Well, newsflash, its called a printer! I know that isn't what they meant, but I DO put a good amount of stock into internet genealogy (I'll admit that 90% of my research is done in front of my computer) and I think it is legitimate, with some caveats I'll go into below.

Tricks The LDS site is and has always really been Ancestry's only competition and for good reason, FamilySearch is good (and with the development of FamilySearchLabs, I would say the Church has eclipsed Ancestry in terms of quality internet genealogy). One problem with the search engine is that you can't localize last name only searches nor can you do first name only searches. To get around this I've found a few tricks to get around these limitations. First, go ahead and do the non-localized surname search IF the name you are researching is pretty rare, like Wellons, Croad or Dacci. Be careful though because Family Search doesn't do exact searches so names that you think are rare, like Tock, will come up with THOUSANDS of results including Tuck, Tack, Tooke, and any other variation they can find. Another thing you can do is ENTER WHAT YOU KNOW! If you know that your ancestor, John Doe was the son of Jonathan Doe and Jane Smith but you want to find out who John's siblings were go ahead and enter John and his parents and if you find them note where they lived (if you are really lucky an ancestral file or pedigree will give the siblings names, but for this let's assume you weren't that lucky). If John was born in San Francisco, then search other sites (the US census records are very helpful for this and some years can be viewed for free through the FamilySearLabs site) for a Doe family in San Francisco. Say that you find a census and it says that John had a sister named Mary and that the family was living in Oakland (just across the bay from San Francisco). Well, then go back to FamilySearch and look to see if there were any Mary Does born in either San Francisco or Oakland (you can't get that localized on FamilySearch, but you can type in Mary Doe and her parents Jonathan and Jane Smith Doe in California and then give a birth year (you can skip this if it is a rare name, if not use the "about" birth date from the census and chose the +/- 5 years option where it asks if you'd like an exact year search). Once you find a name that fits your parameters, search some more and validate it with sources with possible. Then, if you're lucky, a search of the message boards or query pages on other sites will connect you with Mary's relatives and you can exchange data and meet new family members! No offense, but this site is rubbish beyond its GenForum and will try to charge you for anything and everything and a lot of the time the info can be found on FamilySearch or Rootsweb (the free sister site of Ancestry). FYI: is also owned by TGN (along with Ancestry and a host of other genealogy sites), I just thought that was something worth sharing... So here is my trick for AVOID IT! These tricks are for the old search (I have only tried the new search a few times and frankly, it is just too dreadful for me to want to reuse. Although, the one and only nice feature of the new search is the image preview so if you are looking for newspaper articles, excerpts from books or pictures, you might want to brave trying the mess that is the new search). The old search is pretty golden, I think, with a few exceptions. Whereas FamilySearch was easier to search using obscure last names, Ancestry is far more difficult (ya think they planned it that way?). Searching for a name like vonAllmen on FamilySearch yields a fair amount of quality hits, but a search of the name on Ancestry gives you JUST vonAllmen records and they are a little sparse. What do you do if your vonAllmens had their name butchered, or should I say "Anglicanized?" For instance my vonAllmens changed their name (for the most part) to Allmen when they came to this country and the census taker for some of those years must have had a hard time spelling or understanding their thick accents because they come up as Ollman, Almann, Allman, and Allmon, among others, in various records. My saving grace and the only reason I've been able to find them? I knew they lived in Evansville, Indiana and I knew their first names. So, I diligently looked for my family WITHOUT their last name in various records. The head of the family was Christian and he was married to Barbara and I had birth years for them so I looked for them using loose birth years (like in the FamilySearch example above). Example: Christian in Vanderburgh co., Indiana born bet. 1810 and 1820. This usually works well enough to find the person you are looking for, but what to do if that doesn't work? Well, you can always wildcard your search. By doing this I can type one of two things. First things I could do would be the ? search, say I am looking for my Petersen family but their name has probably been changed so I can do Peters?n which means I'd get Peterson and Petersen hits. Second thing I could try, and this works best for given names, would be to search with Cro* if I wanted to look for Croads.