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.