Saturday, November 26, 2011

SNGF: Historical County Boundaries

Per Genea-Musings.  I went with two locations actually: first was Mendon, Monroe, New York; the second was Livonia, Livingston, New York.  Although in different counties, they are actually quite near each other.

View Larger Map

My ancestors (Collins, Jackman, Doyle) arrived in Mendon in 1809 and 1811 respectively.  In 1828 some of them decided to move to nearby Livonia.  Thanks to the challenge, I now have a better idea where to look when I pursue land records for these ancestors.  Both Mendon and Livonia were a part of Ontario County until Monroe and Livingston were formed in 1821.

Case Study: Clements Family Arrivals

I know very little about my third great-grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Clements Allen.  They arrived in the US and were married before 1850, lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, had at least seven children and were likely both dead before 1900.

I have found them in various records but have no idea where they came from (the majority say somewhere in Ireland) and when.  I still haven't located them in any passenger records, but I believe I might have found Elizabeth's family.

The Back Story
In 1850 Elizabeth and Joseph were with Elizabeth's parents in Shenango Twp., Lawrence, Pennsylvania.

1850 US Census Excerpt for the Clements Family
Also in the household are Elizabeth's siblings, Jane and John.  Jane is listed as being seventeen, which would place her birth date around 1833; John is fourteen, giving him a birth date around 1836.  Their parents, James is sixty (so born circa 1790) and Mary is fifty (thus born around 1800).

Elizabeth and Joseph were in Ohio by 1860 but her family is still in Pennsylvania.

1860 US Census Excerpt for the Clements Family
Elizabeth's father seems to have died, the family is enumerated as 'Cleymonds,' and they were in New Castle, Lawrence, Pennsylvania.  Mary is listed as being sixty-five (which would change her birth date to around 1795) and in the household are Jane and John (aged twenty-eight and twenty-three respectively) again.  Also in the household is someone new, likely another sibling of Elizabeth's.  Below mother Mary are ditto marks to denote another Mary, this one thirty-four (born circa 1826).

From these two census records we can create a rough sketch as to what the Clements family might have consisted of:

Father: James Clements, born circa 1790
Mother: Mary Clements, born between circa 1795 and circa 1800
Children: Mary, born circa 1826; Elizabeth, born circa 1828; Jane, born circa 1832/33; and John, born circa 1836/37.

The Mystery
I've looked for arrival records for the family before and never had much luck, until recently.

On 22 May, 1847 the ship Pioneer arrived in Philadelphia from Londonderry.  On board were Mary Clements, age fifty (born circa 1797); Mary Ann Clements, age twenty (born circa 1827); Jane Clements, age fourteen (born circa 1833); and John Clements, age ten (born circa 1837).

Is this my Clements family?  I'm not certain, but I think it is.  The names and approximate birth dates match up very well which makes me think these are my people.  The arrival date of 1847 also fits with the fact that they were enumerated in the 1850 US Census.

But where is James?  Where is Elizabeth?  Why didn't they travel with the family?

Occam's Razor
It is possible that James had come over earlier and sent for his family later but that doesn't explain Elizabeth's absence.  I have doubts that Elizabeth and Joseph were married by 22 May, 1847 (their first known child was born in 1850), though it is a possible reason why she did not accompany her family.

It is also possible that Elizabeth stayed with a sibling in Ireland.  Mary would have been in her late twenties/early thirties when she started having children if we assume Elizabeth and Mary were her eldest.  Considering the age in which they lived, Mary was probably married by 1820 and had at least one other child by the time Elizabeth and Mary came along in the late 1820s.  The family was poor and I doubt their relatives were much better off which makes me question whether anyone other than a sibling (or other close relative like grandparent, aunt or uncle) would take Elizabeth in.

Then there is always the possibility that she was already in the US when her mother and siblings arrived.  I have a hard time with this because wouldn't it make more sense to make that kind of a trip with her family?  And if she did come with her father (the only other person known to be absent from the above record), why would he have taken her over his wife and other children?

However, if you look at the history of Ireland, 1847 was an important year and one of Ireland's worst.  The famine was raging and had actually hit its height three months before the family reached the US.  1847 also saw massive evictions of tenant farmers by landlords in Ireland.

This leads me to Occam's razor ("the simplest explanation is the most likely one").  In this case, with everything that is thus far known, I think James and Elizabeth (and likely other family members), for whatever reason, arrived before Mary and the others in 1847.  With everything Ireland was going through in 1847, I have a difficult time believing Elizabeth's family (especially her mother) would have left her behind.

While that may be the simplest explanation, it doesn't mean it is the correct one - only time (and more records) will tell.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

SNGF: Giving Thanks

This week's mission via Genea-Musings:

"1) Think about the answers to these questions: 
a. Which ancestor are you most thankful for, and why? 
b. Which author (book, periodical, website, etc.) are you most thankful for, and why? 
c. Which historical record set (paper or website) are you most thankful for, and why?"

For a. I would have to say my great-grandmother, Georgiana Wellons Berger.  Not only did she record her memories of her childhood and relatives, she saved tons of pictures, postcards letters, papers, etc.  She even collected pictures and bits of information from her family members and saved a lot that pertained to her husband's family.  She was also a long time member of the Siskiyou County Historical Society and made sure that the love she felt for her hometown was passed on to later generations.

For b. I'm going with anything and everything having to do with the National Genealogical Society.  I finally joined last July and have been reading anything and everything from them I could (and enjoying the many videos on their website).  Joining has been one of the best "genea-decisions" I ever made.

Part c. is an easy one: U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 from  Released just in time for Veteran's Day, it provided me with service information on many relatives and it gave me a date I had long been searching for, the death date for me great-grandfather.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Wellons in Warsaw

Walter E. Wellons
"Taken in Warsaw, Nov. 1919"
Walter, an Iowan, traveled often through his work with the YMCA.  His passport application for 1920 states that he arrived in Poland in October of 1919 and was still there in June of 1920 when he had to get his passport renewed.  He lists his work as secretary of the YMCA as the reason for his being there.

Poland was in the grips of a typhus epidemic in 1919 and received American aid.  I have to wonder if Walter was a part of the relief efforts.

Walter likely gave this picture to his 1st cousin, Mary Lou Ada Wellons (who always went by Ada).  Ada in turn gave it to their 1st cousin Georgiana Wellons Berger (my great-grandmother).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It Was Kennedy!

My father always said that his grandmother had a letter hanging in her home from the President commending my  father's grandfather for his WWI service.  He was also always sure that the President in question was Kennedy.

Wilson was President when my great-grandfather was discharged from the military.  Truman was President when my great-grandfather died.  But Kennedy?  It didn't make sense to me, until I realized what the letter was:

A Presidential Memorial Certificate (click to see a picture).

According to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs it "...was initiated in March 1962 by President John F. Kennedy and has been continued by all subsequent Presidents."

Mystery solved, it was Kennedy!  Now I have to wonder what happened to the letter and if anyone in the family had to apply for it (like you do now).

I do plan on pursing certificates for some of my ancestors (including a possible replacement for my great-grandfather's).  At the very least I would like to have one for my grandfather who was career Army and a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mappy Monday: My Family in 1920

I'm continuing to examine the residences and neighborhoods my ancestors were living in for each census.  This week covers 1920.

View Ancestors in 1920 in a larger map

1400 Vine St., Manistee, Manistee, MI
My great-great-grandparents are living in a pretty diverse neighborhood with a good sized immigrant community (primarily Polish and Swedish).  Almost everyone either works in a mill or factory (my great-great-grandfather was working as a machine operator in a planing mill).  They also owned their home free of a mortgage.

Croad Family Farm, Mecosta Co., MI
My great-great-grandparents are living in a community of farmers and farm laborers (including themselves).  Only them (England) and one other family (Sweden) are not native to the US.  They owned their farm but carried a mortgage (like most all of their neighbors).

615 W. Jefferson St., Grand Ledge, Eaton, MI
My great-grandmother married in 1919 and then again, to my great-grandfather, in 1921.  Sometime between then she was divorced.  In 1920 she is still listed as married but living as a lodger, without her husband.  This makes me think that she was divorcing when the census was taken.  She was working as a practical nurse.  Not much of an immigrant community.  Variety of occupations, though many seem to work for either a clay factory or chair factory.

12 Henry St., San Francisco, CA
Home was built in 1913.  My 3rd great-grandmother was living with her daughter and son-in-law.  Not much of an immigrant community. Variety of occupations, mostly clerks.  The family was renting.

Shinn Family Farm, San Joaquin Co., CA
My great-great-grandparents and my great-grandfather were living on the family farm.  Not surprisingly, most of their neighbors were also involved in agriculture.  Most everyone is from the US.  The family owned the farm mortgage free.

1508 Alameda Ave., Alameda, CA
Home was built in 1920 (were my ancestors the first owners?).  My great-grandmother was living here with her grandparents, aunt and uncle.  Lots of immigrants from all over, variety of jobs but nothing industrial (mills, factories, etc.).  They owned the home and had a mortgage.

1225 15th St., Sacramento, CA
My great-great-grandfather was living here.  There are no homes here now, mostly state offices.  He was renting and working as the manager of a lumber company.  Most everyone is from the US, variety of jobs (a few work for the railroad).

536 E. 21st St., Oakland, CA
My great-great-grandmother was living here with her son and daughter.  Most everyone works in or owns a store and are from the US.  They owned the home (sans mortgage) and it was built in 1915 which makes me wonder if they were the first owners.

429 Center St., Yreka, CA
No home with that address still stands.  Both of my great-great-grandparents were likely living here, but only Mary Anna Webb Wellons was enumerated.  Mostly everyone from the US and in a variety of occupations.

General Vicinity of the Berger Residence
Cannot locate home.  Family was living in an area of what is now Mt. Shasta City that no longer exists.  Not much of an immigrant community.  Most of the neighbors work for the railroad, rail yard or box factory (there was one in nearby Weed).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Census Sunday: Great-Greats, Part 6

I've finally had a little time to get back to these posts.  They actually take a while to write because as I'm working on them I'm cleaning up (or adding - for shame, I know!) source citations.  I will say though that this has been the perfect motivation I needed to go through the census records I had, analyze them and examine the citations for them.  Without further ado, here are my great-great-grandparents in the 1850 US Census (only three were known to be alive).  1849 was a good year in my family tree because two of the three below were born then - just in time for the census!

John W. Berger
(Heinrich) Michael Barger/Berger Family
1850 US Census
Marshall County, Indiana
John was nine years old and with his parents and siblings on the family farm in Marshall Co., Indiana.  John is not listed as attending school within the year.

1850 US Census, Marshall County, Indiana, population schedule, My Division, p. 450B, dwelling 25, family 25, Michael Barger Family; digital images, ( : accessed 7 November 2011); NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 160.

Susanna vonAllmen
Susanna was a year old in February of 1850.  She would have been with her siblings and parents in Olney, Richland, Illinois.  I have hunted and hunted but have never been able to find the family in the 1850 census.

George Washington Wellons
John C. Wellons Family
1850 US Census
Pulaski County, Kentucky
George was a year old and with his family in their native Pulaski County, Kentucky.  Not long after this census they moved to Indiana.  From Indiana they went to Iowa where they remained.  George was too young for school, but his siblings between the ages of 5 and 15 had attended school within the year.

1850 US Census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, Division 2, p. 112B, dwelling 546, family 546, John C Wellens Family; digital images, ( : accessed 7 November 2011); NARA microfilm publication M32, roll 217.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

SNGF: A Veteran's Service and Gravesite

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (challenge here), I'm going with my 2nd great-grandfather, John W. Berger.  John was twenty, the son of immigrants, and working the family farm when he enlisted in Company K, 29th Indiana Infantry in October of 1861.  He saw action at Shiloh before being taken seriously ill.  He spent the next four months in a hospital in Nashville before being discharged in December of 1862.
John W. Berger
circa 1866
John went on to become a minister and traveled the world spreading the message of his church (which was later absorbed into the current United Methodist Church) although he never really recovered from his war illness.  He died at the young age of 50 in Oakland, Alameda, California and left behind a widow and nine children, the eldest just eighteen and the youngest a year old (and severely handicapped). John was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.  His wife joined him there forty years later.
The only marker of the Berger family plot
in Mountain View Cemetery
As you can see, neither John nor his wife Susanna have a headstone, just their surname marking the general plot.  It is a dream of mine to remedy this one day and to especially have John's Civil War service acknowledged.  I have looked into getting a military headstone placed and hope to get the ball rolling before too long.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans In My Family Tree: The Last 150 Years

Everett Heman Shinn: USNR, 13 May 1944 - 13 June 1946.  My mother told me that he enlisted right after D-Day and was set to be deployed when the war ended.  Well, I now know that half the story is wrong as D-Day was a few weeks after the enlistment date above.  I have no idea if the second part of the story is correct, though I would imagine so.  She also told me that he was fascinated by the planes as the they took off because they would dip down as if crashing in the ocean after leaving the air craft carrier and then pop up again.

Harry James Allen: US Army (and Navy?), 16 Feb 1945 - 29 July 1946.  I know very little about his service.  I do know that he was involved in more than just WWII.  According to my father he also served in Korea and Vietnam and a picture I have of him in uniform from the late 60's/early 70's seems to corroborate this.  According to my father he also served in the Navy, didn't like it, and then re-joined the Army.  I have been unable to learn whether he actually was in the Navy at any point.  What is interesting is that he was seventeen when he enlisted and a full seven months from his eighteen birthday.  I remember reading once that it wasn't a problem to enlist that young so long as your eighteen birthday was within that calendar year (if I'm wrong  please correct me).  Another interesting thing is that his father, a WWI veteran, died in January of 1946 while he was in the Army.  I also know that he achieved the rank of E-6 (staff sergeant) which is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that he was an NCO.

Gideon Gottlieb Berger: USACC, circa 1918-1919.  Was a 1st Lt. in the US Army Chaplain Corps and was stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco, as well as Camp Fremont before the war.

Joseph James Allen: US Army, 11 May 1918 - 23 July 1919.  I know very little about his service.  My father said that he was badly gassed or injured during the war and that he participated in a major battle in France.  My father also remembers seeing a letter from the president (he said Kennedy but it would make more sense if it were Wilson or Truman) to either him or his widow commending his service.  My father also said that he spent the last years of him life in and out of the local VA hospital -earlier this year I was finally, and unexpectedly, able to validate this.

Giuseppe Lapiccirella: Unknown, circa 1918-1919.  Believed to have served for Italy during WWI.

John W. Berger: Union Army of the US, 1861 - 1863.  Served in Co. K of the 29th Indiana Infantry.  Participated in the Battle of Shiloh before being discharged due to illness.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Pro Deo et Patria"

I have many veterans in my family tree but few photos of them, and even fewer photos of them in their military uniforms.  This is one of the few I do have:

Gideon G. Berger (center) with mother and sister
Likely at the family home of  536 E. 21st St., Oakland
circa 1918
My great-grandfather, Gideon Gottlieb Berger, was a 1st Lt. in the Army Chaplain Corps during World War I.  He was stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco not far from his family and hometown of Oakland.  The Presidio, which predates the US, was a major center for recruitment, training and deployment during the war.

Before the war Gideon was working at Camp Fremont.  Built in 1917, Camp Fremont trained National Guard troops for combat in case the US went to war.  Located in the Menlo Park/Palo Alto area, Camp Fremont was closed after the war ended.  The Presidio continued to serve as a vital military base until 1994 when it was transferred to the National Park Service.  Gideon's father was a veteran of the Civil War, and his sons would be veterans of World War II.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

George S. Mott's Path to Florida and Early Death

I love doing case studies - sometimes I work from a list, sometimes it is the result of what I thought would be a little light research.  The case of George Smith Mott falls into the latter category.  I was originally looking for a record related to George's father when I unexpectedly found George's obituary.  Reading it, I was taken a bit aback because it contained information on George that I hadn't known before and that contradicted what I thought I knew about George (which wasn't much).

George falls into the category of "most neglected" when it comes to researching my family tree: someone never married, died young, and left no descendants.  What I knew about him could be summed up in one sentence, and the sentence isn't even my own - it is from page 62 of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 36 (January, 1905):
"George Smith, never married; killed circa 1836 in Florida, during the Seminole War."
What assumption conclusion do you come to when you read that sentence?  If it is that he must have died fighting as a soldier (or in some other military capacity) in the Seminole War then you aren't alone.  I'd been living under that assumption for several years.  Then I read his obituary:
"Mr. GEORGE S. MOTT, formerly of this city, son of the late Jacob C. Mott, was killed by the Indians at his plantation on Julington Creek, near Mandarin, East Florida, on the 18th May.  He had passed the winter in this city, and arrived in Florida on the 17th - only one day preceding his death." - page 2, New York Commercial Advertiser, 6 June 1836
Okay, not only does it sound like George wasn't in Florida in a role connected to the war, he apparently owned land there.  I don't know when George established his plantation, but a "G. S. Mott" is listed as a passenger on the steam packet David Brown for Charleston, South Carolina in July 1833.  This tells me he had been making trips down south for at least a few years.

I did some Google searches and found some more information in the most unlikely of places, an advertisement for the book 500 Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems.  One of the sample solutions contained this sentence:
"...the Jacob C. Mott family of Long Island, NY that had invested in land and citrus crops in Mandarin, FL..."
Well now I know why he was in Florida! But why was he killed, and so soon after his arrival?  GoogleBooks helped me out on this next question:

"For several weeks Indian raids have been discovered about the plantations near here.  It seems they have been in pursuance of a Mr. [George s.] Mott, a rich man whom they had sworn to kill.  He has been a trader among them, and used to whip them.  Last week he returned from New York - said he believed they would kill him if they have a chance, that he would go to his plantation and if he could not stay there, he would return and help fight them.  Night before last he went, and began to put out some small trees.  Just at sunset which it appears is a favorite hour of attack with the Indians, he was placing a tree, and one of his negros putting the earth round it.  They fired and shot him dead.  The negros ran.  The Indians then scalped Mott, went int his house, took what they pleased, set fire to it, and cleared into the woods. This was on the bank of Julington Creek, a branch of the St. John's, directly opposite the settlement of Mandarin, six miles from Dr. Hall's."
The above from a letter written by a resident in the area in Florida written not long after George's death.  She goes to discuss the Indians some more:
"'Tis thought the reason they did not do any mischief here before, was because they were determined to kill Mott and did not wish to raise any alarm, until they had accomplished their purpose."

The fighting in the area and George's death made the newspapers up and down the Eastern seaboard:
"A white person named Mott, very recently from the north, was killed and scalped a few days since at his plantation above Mandarin, and about 20 miles from Jacksonville." - from page 2, The Charleston Courier, 24 May 1836
George's native New York papers elaborate:
"By the mails of this morning we have some additional particulars of the murder of Mr. George S. Mott, late of this city.  Mr. Mott was killed and scalped on Thursday the 17th of May, at his settlement near Mandarin; his house and store burnt; his gun taken; but neighter his watch nor money touched.  He arrived but Sunday previous, from New York, where he has a sister and mother living.  His body was brought into Mandarin the next day, and decently interred, by 12 men who volunteered their services for that purpose.  At the time of his death, Mr. M. had a boy (half-breed) living with him, who was so affected with the sight of his murdered master that he took sick and died the same night." - from page 2, the New York Commercial Advertiser, 6 June 1836
And, just to show how much I truly neglected researching George, he has a FindAGrave memorial - since 2004 actually.  The most touching part of his tombstone is the message at the bottom:
"That the perpetrators of this cruel act may be forgiven is the prayer of his afflicted and ever sorrowing mother"
George clearly wasn't the nicest person, but he was someone's son.  He was the brother of my 4th great-grandfather, Isaac Thomas Mott.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Rural Question

Most of my ancestors were farmers.  Hence, most family events before the 20th Century occurred on the family farm - including births, marriages and deaths.  This has proved to be one of the more difficult sourcing challenges I've experienced over the years.  Let me explain:

When I first started doing genealogy I would include the nearest town as the place of residence.  For instance, a baby born on the family farm in San Joaquin County, California was written as occurring in Woodbridge, San Joaquin, California because that was the closest community to where they lived.

However, it dawned on me fairly quickly that this wasn't the right way to do things because the event never actually happened within the city limits of any town.  So, from then on whenever an event on a family farm needed to be recorded, I would just put county and state (i.e. Isabella County, Michigan).  More than anything, this was just a band-aid until I could come up with a permanent way of recording these events.

Now I'm cleaning up my family tree and this is a problem I'm once again faced with.  Do I stick with what I've done, county and state, or do I go a different route?  My concern since the beginning is that county and state just isn't enough information, and also that future generations won't know if I didn't know the town or if the event really did happen in a rural area.  But what alternatives are there?  The only one I can think of (and have used recently on a trial basis) is by putting "rural" or "farm" in place of a town, for instance: "Rural area, Marshall, Indiana."

How do you record events that did not happen within a community's jurisdiction?  This inquiring mind wants to know.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mappy Monday: My Family in 1930

I've taken an unexpectedly long break from my 'Census Sunday' series but hope to get back to it soon.  In the meantime, I've started making maps showing where my ancestors were for each census.  I also wanted to study what kind of neighborhoods they lived in to get an idea as to what the culture of the community was.

View Ancestors in 1930 in a larger map

330 E. Addison St., Jackson, MI
Working-class neighborhood, most residents Michigan natives.  Several people in the neighborhood work for the railroad, others factories, my great-grandfather was a lineman for the telephone company.  They were renting.

657 2nd St., Warren, OH
Built in 1910.  Four bedrooms, 1 bath.  Most immediate neighbors are Italian, also Czech and Finnish immigrants on the street as well.  Just about everyone works for the steel mill.  My great-grandfather was a tailor (he later went to work for the steel mill, Copperweld Steel, as well).  They were renting.

Shinn Family Farm, San Joaquin Co., CA
Just about everyone is a farmer or laborer (including my family).  Most everyone is from California, though quite a few German immigrants.  They owned their own home and farm.

411 A St., Petaluma, CA
When my grandmother and her family lived here it was the parsonage for the Methodist minister - I couldn't believe it sold for over $900,000 recently!  3 bedrooms, 2 baths.  Not much of an immigrant population.  Variety of occupations (and more than one minister - did they plan it that way?!).  Middle-class.  They were renting.

208 W. Washington Ave., Jackson, MI
Apartment building.  Not much of an immigrant population.  Variety of occupations, my third great-grandfather was working as a prison guard.  The building is sandwiched between the county clerk and city newspaper.

1400 Vine St., Manistee, MI
Most seem to work for either a boat factory or iron works.  Large Polish population.  

Croad Family Farm, Mecosta Co., MI
Exact location unknown.  Not much of an immigrant population.  Most everyone is either a farmer or laborer, including my great-great-grandfather.

1377 Broadway, Alameda, CA
No longer standing, present home build in 1936.  Working-class neighborhood (my great-great-grandfather was workin in a lumber yard).  Not much of an immigrant population.  They were renting.

1434 Everett Ave., Oakland, CA
Built in 1925.  Not much of an immigrant population.  Middle class, variety of occupations.  My great-great-grandmother owned the home.

Gold St., Yreka, CA
Exact location unknown.  Most everyone is from California or Oregon.  My great-great-grandfather was renting.

1626 Versailles Ave., Alameda, CA
Built in 1928 (I wonder if my ancestors were the first owners).  Besides my 3rd great-grandparents, not much of an immigrant population.  Mix of occupations.  They owned the home.

For a lot of my ancestors, this is the first time I've looked at their neighborhoods.  I found it pretty enlightening and I'm curious to see what, if any, changes in patterns I'll find as I go back each decade.  I used zillow for the property information above.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday's Obituary: Henry Berger

Although Henry wasn't a direct ancestor of mine, his obituary is one of my favorites.  It provides so much information (which was all new to me the first time I read it) about the family: where they were from in Germany, when they arrived in the US, and when they converted to the religion most of the family stayed with for the rest of their lives:

"Henry Berger of this city died unexpectedly at his home in this city Sunday morning.  He was sick only a little over one day.  The deceased was 84 years old.  The funeral services were held at the Evangelical church at ten o'clock Wednesday, conducted by Rev. Sweitzer, of South Bend.  A more extended notice will appear next week.
April 21, 1899, page 4
Henry Berger was born in Rindal, Germany, July 1st, 1814.  He came to America in 1832.  In 1843 he was united in marriage to Sophia Zimmer and to this union was born eleven children, six sons and five daughters.  One son and two daughters have preceded him in him to the spirit land.  He died at his home in Bremen April 9th 1899, at the age of 84 years, 9 months and 8 days.  He was converted October 30, 1848 under the labors of Rev. Geo. Platz, and died in the living faith of Christ.  The deceased leaves an aged wife, five sons, three daughters, thirty-two grand children, two brothers and three sisters, besides many friends.  The funeral services were held at the German Evangelical church in this city on last Wednesday conducted by Rev. F. Schweitzer, of South Bend." - The Bremen Enquirer, 14 April 1899, page 5

Henry's youngest sibling, John W. Berger (my great-great-grandfather), had died in 1891.  Henry and John also had at least one sister and two brothers who had died in infancy.  There is one typo in the obituary: the family wasn't from 'Rindal' but Rinnthal (although their parish was in Wilgartswiesen).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jackpot in the Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File

I've recently been feeling disappointed that the year is almost over and I've done practically nothing to solve the bigger mysteries in my family tree.  Well, apparently Ancestry heard my whining:

Name: Joseph James Allen
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 7 Apr 1891
Death Date: 2 Jan 1946
SSN: 367072333
Branch 1: AF
Enlistment Date 1: 11 May 1918
Release Date 1: 23 July 1919 added the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 where I found the above.  Before that record I didn't know when Joseph (my great-grandfather) died, when he was released from the military or even that he had a social security number.  Three great mysteries about Joseph answered with one record!  Now I can:
  • Order his social security application
  • Order his death certificate
  • Locate/order an obituary for him
  • Possibly deduce some information about his military service.  I plan on looking into July/August 1919 newspapers for Jackson, Jackson, Michigan (where he was from) that mention returning troops.
The mystery of WHERE he died still remains, but thanks to this record I found earlier this year, I know he spent the last years of his life in and out of a VA hospital near Battle Creek.  The other possibility is Jackson, where his home and family were.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a happy dance to go do.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Librarian in the Family Tree?

Two things I've always had a soft spot for were libraries and my great-grandmother, Georgia Wellons Berger.  Imagine my surprise when I found this:
From page 193 of News notes of California Libraries, Vol. 11
Wellons is a rare surname, and the only Wellons family in Siskiyou County I've come across is my great-grandmother's branch.  Besides her father (who was a farmer and gardener), Georgia was the only one with the G. initial.  Of the two, Georgia is the only one who would have received the education to be a librarian - and a school one at that.  Before her marriage in 1919, Georgia is known to have worked as a teacher in Oakland and her native Siskiyou County.  Additional information on the Vineland School District can be found here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Of my grandmother's four grandparents, each one was either born in Indiana or spent a period of their lives living there.  Therefore, I spend a lot of time working with Indiana resources.  And, on the whole, I've been able to gain quite a bit of information (though not all towns and counties have proved equally easy to research).

What can I do with all the information I've gathered?  Well, I can submit it to the two ongoing projects of the Indiana Genealogical Society: Always a Hoosier and Once a Hoosier.  I've known about both for a long time but am only just now getting to submitting my info to them both.

My "Always a Hoosier" Ancestors and Relatives:
(for those born before 1930 and buried in Indiana)

Christian vonAllmen (1814-1887), Barbara Steiner vonAllmen (1822-1886), and their children and grandchildren buried in Evansville's Oak Hill Cemetery.

Priscilla (Mason) Webb (1822-1863) and her sons, Samuel Polk Webb (1845-1864) and John Martin Webb (1843-1863).  Buried in Sheeks Cemetery, near Bedford, Lawrence, Indiana.

The Berger family (over 20 people, likely many more).  Most buried in Bremen Municipal Cemetery in Bremen, Marshall, Indiana.

My "Once a Hoosier" Ancestors and Relatives:
(for those born before 1930, buried outside of Indiana, spent some portion of their lives in Indiana)

Susanna vonAllmen Berger (1849-1932) and John W. Berger (1841-1891).  Buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, Alameda, California along with their son, Jesse (1887-1971).

George W. Wellons (1849-1932) and Mary Anna Webb Wellons (1862-1926).  Buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Yreka, Siskiyou, CA.  George and Mary Anna also have many siblings and nieces and nephews who fall into this category, as well as the "Always a Hoosier" project.

Andrew Webb (1820-1902), buried in Henley/Hornbrook Cemetery in Hornbrook, Siskiyou, CA.

Have you submitted your Hoosier information to the projects above?  Another incentive to do so is that submissions to the "Once a Hoosier" project have been compiled into a publication by IGS (they are up to volume three right now).

Disclosure:  I am in no way affiliated with the Indiana Genealogical Society - I'm not even a member (but I hope to be in 2012).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Church Contact

I've spent 2011 trying to better acquaint myself with church records and the goodies that can be found in them. Well, the year is mostly over and I feel like I've only just scratched the surface.  I also have not explored all records and churches of the various denominations of my ancestors, and that doesn't include all the ancestors whose religious leanings are as yet unknown.

The two denominations I have explored in some depth are the United Methodist church and the Roman Catholic church.  My great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were ministers in what is now the United Methodist church so my interest lies in finding biographical information on them above all else (though other records are always welcome too).  My grandmother was raised in the Catholic church and her parents are quite the mystery to me, hence my interest in those records.

I feel like I'm at a point where I'm knowledgeable enough about their records that I can request copies without looking like a fool.  So, now comes the hard part: find the church's contact information and then actually contact them.

I began my quest with my two Methodist ministers (specifically my great-grandfather because I know where most of his charges were and the years he spent in each).  I started at the "Find-A-Church" page of the United Methodist church website.  From there I was able to get contact information, and in many instances the churches had websites I could visit (and a page with church history information I could read).

My great-grandfather was a "circuit rider" which meant that he preached at several churches during his career, six in total - spending six or seven years at each place.  With that many churches to contact, I decided to come up with a form letter (which I'll also be able to use for my great-great-grandfather):


I am writing to inquire as to what records you might have concerning past ministers of your church.  My great-grandfather, _______________, was the minister of your church between the years of ____ and ____.  I was wonder if you might have any biographical information on him or any records related to him that you would be willing to share.  I would very much appreciate it and would be happy to pay for any fees you might incur.  Thank you very much for your time and any help in this matter you are able to give,

(My Name)
(My Address)
(My Phone Number)"

Next up, my grandmother's church, St. Mary's.  I already knew which diocese it is in, but a list of all the dioceses in the US can be found here.  I went to the Diocese of Youngstown website and located the parish there.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find an e-mail address, so will have to contact them either through phone or snail mail.  I decided to create a form letter for this church as well, even though I won't be able to e-mail it.


My family worshiped at your parish for many years and I was wonder if I could get copies of a few records pertaining to them.  I am looking for a copy of my grandmother's baptismal record.  I don't know when she was baptized, but her name was ________________ and she was born on __ __, ____.  I am also hoping to get a copy of the death record of my great-grandfather, _______________, who died on __ __, ____.  I would appreciate any help you can give and would be happy to pay for any fees involved.  Thank you,

(My Name)
(My Address)
(My Phone Number)"

Two of the resources I consulted for all this were RootsWeb's Guide to Church Records and an article from

I plan on firing these off in the next few days so wish me luck.  If anyone out there has any experience with this sort of thing, do you have any advice to pass on?  I'm new to requesting religious records, as well as "cold calling" strangers so insights are always welcome.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November To-Dos

This will be short and sweet because I'm tired of writing lists and then failing miserably to get anything on them done.
  • November is NaBloPoMo.  I have no delusions of grandeur, or of posting every day.  But I would like to double what I've been doing which should equal about 12 posts this month.
  • Index!  Specifically, FamilySearch Index.  More specifically, index more in the San Joaquin Co. obituaries project.  I've already done five batches in the project but want to do at least ten this month (did I mention it is unbelievably easy to index these records?!).  The project is open to anyone (you do need to create a FamilySearch account among a few other pain-free things) and if you are a FamilySearch indexer who wants something on the lighter end of the indexing spectrum, this is the project for you!  And yes, this is the same San Joaquin Co. where my family has lived since the county was formed so saying I have a personal stake in the project would be an understatement.  
That's it!  Two items!  If I can't get that done than I should just stop trying.