Saturday, January 30, 2010

Berger Pensions

While I sit anxiously patiently waiting for the Civil War pension record I ordered back in November for my ancestor, John Berger, I've been able to somewhat console myself with LoC's Chronicling America.  First I found a mention of John getting his pension in the 17 Oct 1891 Morning Call, a San Francisco paper.  This was two month before he died and what is even more interesting is that it took him nearly twenty years between when he applied and when he was actually granted the pension. Then, in the 5 Jan 1902 issue of the San Francisco Call, John's widow, Susanna is mentioned as getting a widow's pension of $8.  From the time of John's death to the time the pension had been granted, over a decade passed.  Now I feel badly over being so impatient about getting my copy of John's pension record from NARA considering it took John about twenty years just to get a pension and another ten years before Susanna got her widow's pension. Susanna, herself, was left with nine children to raise in a new town, thousands of miles from any relatives, at the time of John's death - five of whom were under the age of ten and her youngest (a year old at the time) handicapped with what would probably be called cerebal palsy today (family lore says she was "dropped on her head" at birth).  Her ten year wait for her widow's pension must have been a hard and difficult one.  It is interesting to note that there wasn't a flat rate when it came to pensions.  Civil War veterans in 1902 got $6 or $8 while veterans in the War with Spain got either $10 or $12.  One veteran (it isn't clear which war he was in) got a pension of $17 while the widow's pensions seem to vary anywhere from $8 to $12.

Transcription: John Berger Obituary

Since my post about LoC's Chronicling America, I've been playing with the site sporadically and to my surprise, I came across an obituary I'd been wanting but wasn'y expecting to find.  My great-great-grandfather, John W. Berger died in 1891 so I knew that his obituary might not have been published or survived all these years.  Looking through newspapers I thought his obituary might be in yielded no results so I gave up on an obituary for him awhile ago.  To my suprise, he showed in, of all places, The Morning Call, a San Francisco (the other side of the Bay from Oakland where the family lived) paper:

15 Dec 1891, Image 8, The Morning Call (San Francisco, CA)

BERGER - In Oakland, December 12, John Berger (late minister of the German Evangelical Association), beloved husband of Susanna Berger, a native of Marshal(l) County, Ind., aged 50 years, 3 months and 25 days.
Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral THIS DAY (Tuesday), at 2 o'clock P.M., from the German M.E. Church, Seventeenth Street, between San Pablo and Telegraph avenues, Oakland.  Interment Mountain View Cemetery.

For those wondering, the German Evangelical Association was an off-shoot of the Methodist Church geared towards Germans and those of German descent in the US.  Services were conducted in German and the group was mainly popular in pockets of the Midwest with large German populations in the mid to late 1800s.  Eventually the group was absorbed into the official Methodist Church. 

This obituary doesn't have much new information but it is still nice to have.  One thing I'm wondering about now is whether John was the minister of the church mentioned in the obituary.  I knew he went to Oakland with the GEA to take over or start a new church in Oakland a year before he died, now I'm thinking the one mentioned might have been his parish at some time.

UPDATE: Just found another article on John's death from 7 Jan 1892, The San Francisco Call:

"The will of John Berger bequeathed an estate valued at $9000 to the widow and nine children."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Transcription Monday: Mott Memoir Part 3

This was supposed to have posted yesterday but that didn't happen (thanks, Blogger!) so here it is, a day late and a dollar short (the next transcription will be longer).

New York

After our return to New York I became more reconciled to my new home.  My Grandmother was very kind to me though I always stood a little in awe of her.  She was a dignified old lady, very erect in spite of her seventy off years.  She was always dressed in black with a white kerchief and cap, her grey hair was cut short and she had a black false front, sometimes she had a pain in her head, then she would take off her cap and have me brush her hair, she thought it relieved her.  I used to amuse myself when we were alone by brushing it into all sorts of fantastic ways.  It was stained green by some linament she rubbed on her head and it looked very queer.

I asked her once why she had so much pain in her head and she told me that when she heard of her son being killed by Indians in Florida she had such a shock it made her very ill and she never had been quite well since.  I do not know much about this son except that he was named George and was quite a young man when he was shot.

Our cousin Rosalie Feeks lived with us.  She was about twenty years old then.  She had a sweet amiable disposition and was so kind to me I soon became very fond of her and went to her with all my childish troubles.  She seemed to take my mother's place.


Next section: School Days which spans the rest of Estrella's time in New York to her leaving for Hawaii in 1848.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Free Newspaper Databases Updated

The other day I was looking for an obituary for a recently deceased cousin when I came across an article on her marriage in the 1970s in GoogleNews.  Apparently they've updates their offerings to include the Lodi News-Sentinel among others.  I also found my great-great-grandmother's obituary in the Berkeley Daily Gazette from 1932.  I don't know how many newspapers they've added or even if they added any outside of California but if you haven't checked GoogleNews' newspaper archives lately, I suggest going over there and looking again.

Thanks to Greta, I also found out the Library of Congress' Chronicling America has been updated.  Of interest to me are the Sacramento papers they've added, the new San Francisco paper they've added and the Canfield, Ohio paper which is also new to me.  It seems like they've mostly added Texas papers but none for the area I'm interested in (Fannin Co.). This database from the LoC has and continues to be a favorite for me, it is great that they are continuing to add to it.

While newspaper articles aren't without errors, I like them a lot because they usually give clues and tidbits which can jumpstart my research.  It is because of that that whenever I hit a slump in my research I look for relatives in newspapers first.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NEHGS and Footnote Parting Ways (Sort of)

I'm sure Randy will post more about this, but I just noticed that as of the end of this month, NEHGS members will no longer be able to use Footnote from the comfort of their homes (due to unforeseen technical difficulties).  Access to Footnote will still be available at the NEHGS library though.

NEHGS is offering a great deal to its members though, you can get a Footnote membership for $29.95 ($50 off the regular price) until February 28, 2010.  I haven't been blown away by Footnote's offerings, but at that price I'm pretty tempted to sign-up.

(Full disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with Footnote and my only connection to NEHGS is through my paid membership.  I was not paid or in any way compensated for this post by either parties nor was I contacted by them to post this information.  I was just on the NEHGS website and stumbled across the information there.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Transcription Monday: A Mighty Mott Memoir, Part 2

This entry covers the last part of page 1 through the bottom part of page 3 and ends the "Reminiscence of New Jersey" section. 

"The first particular event I recall (I must have been about five years old) [so, around 1840] our mother told us Papa was coming.  I did not remember him and was very curious about this Papa.  We were dressed carefully and told we must keep nice and clean to see him.  When he arrived I was rather afraid of him and stood at the other side of the room and watched him until I made up my mind he was harmless and brought him a little cup filled with sugar and water for tea.  He caught me and put me on his knee and talked to me so kindly I was not afraid anymore.

Everything seems hazy after this until I find myself in New York at my Grandmother's house with my Father and Mother and some people who were strange to me.  I suppose they were my Aunts.  My Father and Mother were going to the theater and intended to take Evy.  My mother said I was too young and little, but I wanted to go and cried and begged so hard my Father said I could go so my Mother dressed me.  We went in a carriage which I thought very fine. I did not understand much about the performance but I was delighted with the scenery and costumes.

One day our Father told us to come see the new baby.  There in a bed was a beautiful creature with brown curls and red cheeks, its eyes were shut as if asleep, when father put his hand on it, it's eyes opened, they were a beautiful blue.  Father picked it up, I saw it was a large doll with a wax head and real hair.  I was perfectly delighted with it and as the others did not care much about it our mother gave it to me.  It was the only doll I ever had, I loved it dearly, it seemed more like a companion and friend than a doll.  When I was lonely and unhappy after Mother left us I used to sit with her in my arms and she seemed a living thing that understood and comforted me.  When we were going to Mexico I dressed her in new clothes and she was packed in one of the chests.  When we arrived at Honolulu I gave her to Matilda [Estrella's sister].

I do not remember anything that happened during our Father's visit to New York very distinctly except going one evening in a carriage for what seemed to me a long distance.  We stopped at a house and went in.  There was a room with a table set for tea and by the table in a big arm chair sat an old lady and what impressed me most of all, she was eating lumps of sugar out of the sugar bowl.  There was a little boy who hid under the table and peeked out at me.  I thought him very queer. I did not know then this place was Bloomingdale [as an aside, Mott Street, also in Manhattan, is named for the family.  Today it is in the Chinatown neighborhood and was imortalized in the Rodgers and Hart song "Manhattan." The Roses also left a mark on Manhattan, the Joseph Rose House on Water St. is one of the oldest in the borough] and the old lady was my Great Grandmother, Anne [Coles] Mott.  She was very old and childish.  Afterwards I heard many stories about her.  She imagined people were hiding from the British in the trees and were hungry.  She would leave pieces of bread on the ground under a tree that they might find them when they came down.  She was a young girl at the time of the Revolution and had often helped the American prisoners [at Sugar House] and in her old age she still thought of them.  The little boy was James Cornell, a connection of the Bloomingdale Motts.  I met him again when I was older.

The next thing I remember is my Father bidding us good-bye when he was going to sea again.  Though she did not know it, that was the last time his Mother ever saw him.  He settled in Mazatlan and never saw New York again.

Our Mother took us back to New Jersey and everything seemed indistinct until one night I was awakened by some noise in my mother's room.  Fanny and I slept in a room next to her's.  I called and strange women came in who said Mother was sick so I must not disturb her, but I had a nice little baby brother and if I was a good girl I might see him in the morning.  I was very much surprised and pleased.  I felt quite proud of having a brother.  I had two sisters but a brother was something new.  When her was old enough to notice and begin to play I was very fond of him. [This brother was George William S(mith?) Mott, born in 1840]

As I grew older I understood more of what people around me said.  One day I heard my Mother and Uncle George talking about a letter that had arrived.  It spoke of somebody named Charlotte and Mr. Holly.  I thought from the way they spoke that there had been a quarrel and it was Mr. Holly's fault.  I had the impression that he was a very bad man like the villains in the books I had read, I asked my Mother who Charlotte was and she said she was her sister and Mr. Holly was her husband.  The letter must have asked for a reconciliation for not long afterwards our Mother told us that Aunt and Uncle Holly were coming to visit us.  I was rather startled at the idea of the wicked Mr. Holly coming. When they arrived I was surprised to see a pleasant gentleman with curly light hair who told funny stories and did not look fierce and wicked.  Fortunately I did not tell any one of the opinion I had formed of him.

How little I knew when I heard about that letter what an influence it would have upon my future life.  If my Mother had not become reconciled with her sister we would not have spent that vacation at the Holly's farm where I became acquainted with the man who was to be my husband so many years afterwards.

One incident that happened before we left New Jersey is impressed very strongly on my mind.  When I was about seven years old, cousin Evy Feeks was staying with us for awhile.  One day our Mother said we could go with Evy to the beach.  We were within walking distance of the sea and liked to dig in the clean white sand,  We hoped to find Captain Kidd's treasure which was supposed to be buried on that beach [this makes me think that the family lived in the Raritan Bay area] but our mother would not let us go there without some older person.  When we were coming home we went through a field where some cows were grazing.  One of them stared at us in a suspicious way and when little Fanny shook a stick at her, started towards us.  Emmy [I think Emmy is the Evy Feeks mentioned earlier] and Evy each grasped one of Fanny's hands and ran, they were soon far ahead of me though I tried desperately to keep up.  I heard the cow, now really angry, coming after me.  I could hardly breathe and was almost in dispair when I came to a fence that crossed the field.  The older girls had climbed over and pulled Fanny after them but the fence was too high for me and I had no time to try for the cow was close behind.  Fortunately the lower bar was a slight distance from the ground so I lay down and crawled under.  I had hardly got through when the cow came up to the fence where she stood pawing the ground and bellowing.  It is no wonder that I have been afraid of cow ever since.

I do not remember anything else until our Mother was ready to sail on the long voyage to Mexico.  We came to my Grandmother's house in New York and in a few days she left us.  I can still recall that day as if it were yesterday.  It was early in the morning.  She told me I need not get up but I dressed myself and went down stairs.  After breakfast Uncle George came with a carriage and my Mother, Fanny and my little brother were driven away.  When I realized they were gone I felt quite forsaken and though my Grandmother tried to stop me I ran upstairs and cried by myself.  For some while I felt lonely and unhappy.  My relations were almost all strangers to me, I had seen them once or twice before but I was so little then I did not remember them very well.  Evy was four years older and so tall for her age she seemed to me quite gown up.  Not only did I miss my Mother and Fanny, I was homesick for the farm and the wide out door.  There was only a small back yard now for me to play in, with a grass plot and a few plants, that I was not allowed to touch and I wandered there feeling like a little prisoner.

To my great joy my Grandmother had some reason to see Uncle George and took us back to New Jersey for awhile, but the place did not seem the same without my Mother and Fanny.  I found a kitten that I amused myself with but I was ill with the chicken pox and had to stay in bed until it was time to return to New York.  I was sorry to leave the kitten and my Grandmother said I might take it with me.  I carried it in a basket and brought it home safely.  It grew to be a large and handsome cat and a pet of the whole family.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: The Death of Little Hazel

This post won't be wordless because there is a back story to the picture.  I found the picture recently, it is the first I have for Hazel.  She was the daughter of Joseph Allmen, the brother of my great-great-grandmother, Susanna (von)Allmen Berger.  Hazel's death at fifteen forever changed the lives of her parents and it also was a media sensation at the time.  Hazel, because of her young age, became the poster child for the Evansville race riot of 1903.  I've blogged about Hazel before but have since learned some more facts, like that her parents were also injured.  Hazel's mother (Missouri Myrick Allmen) took three shots in the shoulders and Hazel's father took some buckshot to the face.  Hazel herself took some buckshot to the chest which killed her.  I had read that all this happened on Court St. but now I'm reading that it happened on Division street.  Surprisingly, the The Atlanta Constitution had one of the best accounts of the events and what happened to Hazel.  According the paper, Hazel and her family were out driving and were attracted into town by the noise.  Apparently, in addition to the actual rioters, many people were like the Allmens and were just there out of curiosity.  Most surprisingly, a few women with infants in strollers were spotted in the crowd during the riot.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Transcription Monday: A Mighty Mott Memoir, Part 1

"I have often wished there was some one who could remember the events of my young days and talk them over with me, but they are all gone and no other person would be willing to listen, so I try to amuse myself by writing some of the recollections that pass through my mind as I sit here alone.  It is an occupation, when I feel the want of companionship.

I hope if anyone should care to read these lines they will remember the advanced age of the writer and excuse the numerous mistakes and erratic writing, and also if some of these seem trivial and childish, realize that I was a child at the time and regarded everything from a child's point of view."

- Estrella Charlotte Mott Lies
  Berkeley, California 1913

Several month ago I was made aware of this memoir, written by the eldest (to reach maturity) sister of my great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Gertrude Smith Mott Healey.  Mary's sister, Estrella was born in 1835 in New Jersey.  Their parents were Isaac Thomas Mott (1800-1860) and Mary Johanna Rose (1811-1865).  Their siblings were Evelyn or Everallyn/Everalyn Mott (born 1830 but died young), Frances Everalyn Mott vonSchmidt (1836-1875; she is an ancestor of the artist Harold von Schmidt and his son, Eric, the musician and artist who is noted for his work with Bob Dylan), George William S(mith?) Mott (1840-1843), Florence Matilda Mott (1844-1845), Matilda Florence Mott Gill (1845-1878), Marcus Henry Thomas Mott (1847-1880), William Wallace Mott (1849-1918) and Mary Gertrude Smith Mott Healey (1852-1927).  These, along with some extended relatives and friends and acquaintances make up the cast of characters in this memoir. 

One thing I wanted to get back to doing with the start of the new year is transcribing the stories, letters and words of my ancestors and get them out there for others to enjoy and so my other relatives who might be interested can have copies.  The memoir itself is about 50 pages so it will take awhile to get it all up.  When I first read it I was startled by how detailed and entertaining it is.  Estrella's story begins in New Jersey and spans her lifetime, from her early years in New York and the Eastern US to her time spent in Hawaii and Mexico to the family's eventual settlement in the Bay Area of California.  The memoir can be found in the library of the University of Hawaii at Manoa as part of an Hawaiian history collection.  I will try and post a page or two at a time for now, maybe more and maybe less at certain points.  I'd like to thank the relatives who sent me copies of Estrella's memoir.  A cousin very kindly and graciously mailed me a copy and around the same time, two other relatives generously shared their copies with me through e-mail.  Big, big, thank yous to them for sharing this story with me and now, I'd like to share Estrella's story with you:

Reminiscence of New Jersey

"From the mist that surrounds my infant days emerges the farm in New Jersey, the red house with the big locust tree beside it and the field so covered with dandelions in summer it looked a veritable field of the cloth of gold.  Fanny [Frances Everalyn Mott vonSchmidt] and I spent many happy hours in that field, indeed I think we were always happy and contented though we had none of the amusements that city children have and few toys, but we had plenty of room to play out-doors and we never quarreled but played peacably together all day with flowers and kittens.

In winter our mother read to us and amused us with games.  She did not allow us to associate with the children from the other farms as she was very careful of our manners and behaviour and she was afraid we might become rough.  Our mother did not live like a farmer's wife, she had nothing to do with the work.  There were two girls, an Irishwoman who took care of the rooms and a very competent American woman who did the cooking and washing, also made the bread and all kinds of cakes and pies.  I recall distinctly the wide open fireplace in the kitchen with the iron crane and kettles hanging from the hooks.  There was a big oven built in the side of the chimney where Anne baked the pies.  I delighted to see her draw them out when done with a long iron hook.  No pies have ever seemed so nice to me as those.  As our mother had no housework to do she had plenty of time to attend to us.  She taught us regularly and she must have been a good teacher for when I went to school I knew as much as other girls of my age.  I must have learned to read very young, for it seems to me as if I could always read.  When I was eight years old I had read Ivanhoe, the Talisman and some of Dickens' novels.

We could not go to church very often, we were so far from the town, Lockport, I think was the name, but on Sundays we learned verses from the Bible and some simple hymns.  We had a child's Bible with the stories and selections from the New Testament that I was very much interested in.

My mother's brother, Uncle George [nothing is known of this brother of Mary Johanna Rose Mott], managed the farm.  He was a young man, younger than mother.  He was very kind to us and I was very fond of him.  My step Grandfather Judge Wyman [the second husband of Mary Johanna Rose Mott's mother, Charlotte Clara Smith Rose Wyman], lived with us for awhile, I do not remember much about him except that he was very tall and that Uncle John Pattison [husband of Charlotte Smith Mott Pattison or Patterson, the sister of Isaac Thomas Mott] was his nephew.  He died sometime before we left the farm.  Another of mother's brothers, Uncle Henry [nothing is known of this brother either], came to see us frequently, and on one of these visits was taken very ill and died also, making two deaths during the time we were on the farm.  It must have been very hard for our mother but I was too young to think much about it.  Our mother's family were not so long lived as the Mott's.  Our father's sisters all lived to be over seventy but with the exception of Aunt Holly [Charlotte Matilda Rose Holly] none of the Roses were very much past fifty.  There was a [Augustus] Frederick Rose, another Uncle, who was at West Point, but died of fever quite young [1845, roughly age 33].  Our mother's sister Evy [Frances Everallyn/Everalyn Rose Irwin], for whom Evy [Estrella's sister Evelyn or Everallyn/Everalyn Mott] was named, was near our mother's age and married William Irwin who afterwards was Minister to Sweden.  She died a few years after her marriage leaving three children, a boy, also William who entered the Navy and two girls.  I do not know what became of them.  [I have more information of this Irwin family if anyone is interested.]"

"Reminiscence of New Jersey" will continue next week, stay tuned!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

SNGF: Superpower Edition

1) Answer the question: Do you have a genealogical “superpower”? (i.e., a unique research ability or technique that helps you track down records or assemble conclusions that others can’t?) If so, what is it?

2) Tell us about it in a blog post, a comment to this post, a comment to Dean's post, or a comment to this post on Facebook or Twitter.

3) If you have a picture of yourself in superpower mode, please show it to us!
I'm a little late to the party but still wanted to participate if only because I haven't done any SNGF prompts in what seems like forever and that makes me sad.  So, to get back in the swing of things here is my "superpower:"

I have a really good memory.  I'm able to take mental snapshots of things I see and hear and recall them pretty easily.  This makes it easy to do genealogy without my papers and databases in front of me and it also makes it easy to remember where to find my genealogical goodies.  I'm also able to recall the family stories I've been told over the years pretty easily.  Unfortunately, it also means that I'm not much of an organizer.  I generally remember where to find things so I don't really bother with any kind of a filing system.  It works for me but I pity anyone beside me who has to try and sort through the genealogy information I've compiled over the years.  Having a good memory also tends to make me lazy too.  Because I'm able to remember these things, I don't put much stock in writing them down or bothering to scan and photograph things.  I know that I need to change my mindset now because I'm sure I'll be paying for it in the future if I don't.

As far as a research technique or skill, I think I'm pretty good at looking at things from multiple angles.  If I can't get anywhere with my research I'll try other avenues and ways of looking at the information I do have in the pursuit of furthering it.   I put a lot of stock in the little details and I think that helps too.  Paying attention to all the details has probably been the hardest research skill for me to learn.  It is pretty easily to disregard the tiny things but I've found that they can make or break my research.  For instance, I've been having a heck of a time trying to figure out where in New Jersey one branch of my family tree lived.  I read a family memoir which mentioned a Lockport (though the author was unsure of the name so this could be wrong) as a nearest town and from there I figured that it was probably Keyport.   I also know from reading the memoir that going to New York City wasn't big trip.  They went often and New York City relatives visited them in the New Jersey countryside often too.  So I know they lived pretty close to New York City.  Then I reread some parts and noticed that it said they were "within walking distance to the ocean."  That was one new clue.  Next I read that they supposedly lived near the beach where Captain Kidd buried his treasure.  Now I have a pretty good idea where in New Jersey they lived after looking at different maps.  It was along Raritan Bay most likely and a fair distance from Lockport/Keyport, I'm guessing in the Treasure Lake/Cliftwood area.  Another possibility could be Loch Arbour.  It sounds similar to Lockport, it is on the ocean and is only an hour from Philadelphia, where the parents were supposedly married.  While I still don't know exactly where they lived, looking at all the details and angles has made it possible for me to point to a general (Monmouth County) area where they probably had their farm.

The only costume picture I have on me is of me dressed like a pirate from Halloween several years ago.  And since dressing like a pirate isn't my superpower, it probably isn't an applicable picture to use in this instance.