Monday, March 19, 2012

Where Did You Go, Joe?

Back in November when first released the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, my great-grandfather's entry looked like this:
Not long after it was released, the database was pulled due to the fact that some living veterans had inadvertently been included (along with their social security numbers).

Earlier this year, re-released the database.  This is what my great-grandfather's entry looks like now:
Where did his name go??!  Everything else matches, including the all important social security number.

When reading about the collection in more detail, I found this:
"The majority of information in the index comes from the BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification Records Locater Subsystem) Death File; however, the veteran's name has been added by cross-referencing the Social Security Number in the BIRLS Death File with the Social Security Death Index."
My great-grandfather isn't in the Social Security Death Index.  Since there wasn't a name to cross-reference with the SSDI, it no longer appears in the database.

As interesting a quirk as it is, it isn't a big deal to me that his name is now missing.  Although, if I hadn't already known he was in the database, I probably would have given up looking for him fairly quickly.  I'm especially glad that I had his birth, death and social security number to search under since searching under his name was getting me nowhere.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with any of the websites or organizations mentioned in this post.  I am a paying subscriber to and that is the extent of my relationship with that company.  I received no remuneration or prompting to writing this post by any party.  All opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect those of any of the websites or organizations mentioned or linked to in this post.

Friday, March 16, 2012


While looking for enumeration district information in preparation for the release of the 1940 US Census, I realized just how close together several important locations were:
A) Michigan State Prison.  My great-great-grandfather, John G. Allen, was a guard there for many years.
B) Mercy Hospital.  John G. Allen's great-grandson, and my father, was born here.  Standing there today is the Jackson County Medical Care complex.
C) "New High School" is Jackson High School.  My father went to school there, as did many of his relatives.

My father's family weren't ones to stay in one place for long and lived all over Jackson over the years, including the area above at various times.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unexpected Obituaries

Some weeks ago, I was excited to learn that the Allen County Public Library has an online index of the obituaries published in The Evangelical Messenger.  Published between 1848 and 1925, The Evangelical Messenger was the English-language publication of the Evangelical Church.  My great-great-grandparents were members, as were their parents.

I found several relatives in the index and ordered the full obituaries from the ACPL (at $2.50 each).  A few weeks later I got a lovely package in the mail.  The best part?  These were all obituaries I didn't think existed.   These were average people who weren't famous and they lived at a time when detailed obituaries weren't common.  My favorite of all the ones I received is the one for my 3rd-great-grandmother, Barbara Steiner vonAllmen:
"Allmann. -- Died happy in the Lord, at Evansville, Indiana, June 24, Sister Barbara von Allmann, nee Steiner, aged 63 y., 9 m.  She was born in Lanter-brunnen, Canton Berne, Switzerland, and married to Christian von Allmann in 1839.  This union was blessed with 11 children, 7 of whom preceded their mother to the spirit world.  They emigrated to America in 1842, and settled near Olney, Ill.  She was converted in 1846, and with six more persons joined the Evangelical Association.  These seven persons were organized as the first class of our church in and near Olney.  About 30 years ago they moved to this city.  Sister A. loved the church and took delight in Christian work.  Her disease was consumption.  She bore her pain with Christian patience.  She leaves a husband, 4 children, 2 sons-in-law, and 1 daughter-in-law and grandchildren, to mourn.  Christ. Stier." 6 July 1886, page 427, Evangelical Messenger.
I can't get over the level of detail given and was especially happy to learn their year of arrival in the US (something I hadn't known).  The only thing I wish had been mentioned were the names of her four living children.  I know one was my great-great-grandmother, Susanna, and that the two boys were Abraham and Joseph.  But who was the second daughter alive, Margaret or Mary/Maria?

If you have ancestors who were members of the Evangelical Association, or were German-Americans in the Midwest, it might be worth checking out the database - you might be pleasantly surprised like I was!

Christ. Stier, "Allmann," obituary, The Evangelical Messenger (New Berlin, Pennsylvania), 6 July 1886, page 427.

Friday, March 9, 2012

In 1940... (Part 1)

1940 Jackson (Michigan) City Directory
... my father's family really loved the letter J.

the1940census.comThey were largely in Jackson, Jackson, Michigan by 1940.  John G. Allen (Sr.) above is my great-great-grandfather.  Below him are his sons John S. and my great-grandfather, Jos(eph) J(ames).  John G. Allen, Jr. is actually John S.'s son.

When the 1940 US Census is released in a little over three weeks I'll be using the above to find them.  1124 Scott St. will be in ED 38-50 in Jackson's 8th Ward, block 80.  207 W South will be in either 38-25 or 38-33.  According to the map, it was a city limit boundary street in 1940.

US City Directories, Michigan, Jackson 1940, page 36, John G. Allen through Jos J Allen; digital image, ( : accessed 07 March 2012); citing Polk's Jackson (Jackson County, Michigan) City Directory 1940. 1940. Detroit, Michigan: R.L. Polk & Co.

Disclosure:  See my previous most here to learn more about my relationship with the 1940 Blog Ambassador program.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bergers in a Flash

My grandmother (living), was the daughter of Gideon Gottlieb Berger and Georgiana Wellons.  Gideon and Georgiana were married in 1919 in Yreka, Siskiyou, California.[1]  At the time, Gideon was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Sisson; Georgiana was a school teacher in nearby Edgewood.[2]

Gideon's father, John W. Berger, was also a minister.  He preached for the Evangelical Association in German and was the son of Rhineland-Palatinate immigrants.[2, 3]  Gideon was born in Wabash County, Indiana on 11 Oct 1885 and came to Oakland, Alameda, California in 1891.[2, 4, 5]  He was one of nine children.[3]  Gideon lived in California throughout his life and died in 1965.[2, 6]

Gideon's father, John, was born in Marshall County, Indiana on 17 August 1841.[3]  His father, Heinrich Michael Berger, was a farmer who had arrived in the US around 1832.[6]  When the Civil War broke out, John enlisted in Company K of the 29th Indiana Infantry Regiment.  He fought at Shiloh before becoming ill and being discharged.[3]  In 1866 John married the daughter of Swiss immigrants, Susanna vonAllmen in Evansville, Vanderburgh, Indiana.[7, 8]  John, through his church work, lived in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and lastly California in addition to the several years he spent doing missionary work in Germany.[3]  He died in Oakland, Alameda, California in 1891.[9]

John’s father, (Heinrich) Michael Berger, was born in 1788 in Annweiler, Germany.[10]  He and his wife, Friederika Matz, had their first known child in 1814 in this same area.[11] 

Coats of Arms of the Südwestpfalz and Südliche Weinstraße, present-day districts in the
Rhineland-Palatinate which encompass the Berger family's ancestral homeland.

Total word count (excluding sources): 267; written for the 115th Carnival of Genealogy.

Associated Berger surnames: Wellons, vonAllmen, Matz, Kupperin, Ringgenberg, Beyler, Zimmer, Walmer, Parker, Lawrence, Jory, Tretheway, Fisher, Nemitz, Grimshaw, Miller.

1. Siskiyou County, California, marriage license and certificate, Siskiyou County Marriage Register book 13, page 75, Gideon Berger to Georgiana Wellons, 26 September 1919; Siskiyou County Recorder's Office, Yreka.

2. "Pastor of Grace Methodist Church Retires," undated clipping, circa 1957, from unidentified newspaper; Berger family papers; likely from the Stockton [California] Record newspaper; privately held by Leah Allen, [address for private use].

3.S. H. Baumgartner, compiler, Historical Data and Life Sketches of the Deceased Ministers of the Indiana Conference of the Evangelical Association, 1835-1915, E. W. Praetorius, editor, volume 1 (Cleveland, Ohio: Publishing House of the Evangelical Association, 1915), pgs. 116-119.

4. "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital image, ( : accessed 28 February 2012), card for Gideon Berger, Oakland Draft Board #4, Draft Card B, database image 192; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, NARA microfilm publication M1509. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm roll 1531211.

5. "U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 February 2012), card for Gideon Gotlieb Berger, born 1885; citing Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration., Family History Library film number 1784583, image number 02312; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., United States.

6.  Social Security Administration, "U.S. Social Security Death Index," database, ( : accessed 28 February 2012), Gideon Berger, 556-48-9940, California (1953).

7.  1880 US Census, Saint Joseph County, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, enumeration district (ED) 163, p. 470D, dwelling 746, family 867, John Berger (Head); digital images, ( : accessed 13 August 2011); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 309.

8. Vanderburgh County, Indiana, Book 5: page 481, Berger-vonAllmen, 9 December 1866; Index to Marriage Records 1846-1920 Inclusive Volume VIII, WPA, Original record located in County Clerk's Office.

9. "Berger," obituary, The San Francisco (California) Daily Call, 14 December 1891; online images, The Library of Congress (  : accessed 15 January 2012),  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

10. Germany Births and Baptisms, 1559-1898." index, FamilySearch ( accessed January 15,  2012). entry for Henrich Michael Berger, born 15 May 1788; citing Church Records, FHL microfilm  193772 ; Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.

11. Germany Births and Baptisms, 1559-1898." index, FamilySearch ( accessed January 15,  2012). entry for Heinrich Berger, baptized 5 July 1814; citing Church Records, FHL microfilm 193230; Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.