Friday, October 31, 2014

Dried Corn and Bars of Soap

During the last week of October when I was a child our quiet evenings at home were interrupted.  Neighborhood kids -- usually teen boys -- collected dried ears of corn from the fields on the outskirts of town, removed the kernels, and, by the handfuls, threw them at our house.  They clattered and banged against the windows then clattered again as they fell onto the porch.  The quantity of kernels and the force with which they were thrown varied the announcement of Halloween.  "Those kids are out already!" my mother would say.  I assume that having an attractive teenage sister encouraged the boys to run by the house with their pockets bulging and their hands overflowing.  The next five or six mornings my mom swept off the porch after having heard the clatter the night before.  Then magically, it all stopped after October 31.

A quieter trick involved soaping windows.  Kids would pilfer bars of soap from their closets or sinks at home.  During the week before Halloween they roamed the streets of our community, stealthily crept onto porches, and rubbed the bar of soap across the windows.  I don't remember that they wrote any messages or drew pictures.  They just left scribbles and marks.  My mom disliked the soap more than the corn because it was so difficult to remove.  She determinedly cleaned the windows but I think I remember her once insisting that my sister help.  (As if my sister had any control over the other kids.)

My mom would never have considered spending money on a pattern and fabric for a costume, nor taking the time to cut out and sew one.  Consequently, our costumes were simple affairs:  what we could make from clothes at home or from a trunk of old clothes in my grandmother's closet.  The most common costumes were hobos, gypsies, clowns, or old women, but really, anything that made us look unlike ourselves worked.  We hid our faces behind half-masks that covered our eyes and the tops of our noses.  They wrapped around our faces, held in place by an elastic band that stretched around the backs of our heads.

There were only about a dozen homes on our street and only about 4 or 5 more streets in our village, each with as many or fewer homes than ours.  Trick-or-treating was slim when I was a child.  When I was 5 or 6 my mom walked with me to several houses and stood on the street while I walked up the steps and knocked on the doors.  At every home the person who answered the door tried to guess who was behind the mask.  If unsuccessful after about 3 or 4 guesses, we were asked to remove our masks and identify ourselves.  We received a treat only after the person at the door knew who we were.

Our community was so small that we never collected much candy, but always I sorted mine:  chocolate; other desirable-but-not-delicious candy; and the stuff I wouldn't eat (including chocolate with coconut or almonds).  I can't remember but I doubt I was allowed to eat more than a few pieces a day.

When I was 10 or 11, I sometimes went trick-or-treating with a friend or two.  But by that time throwing corn and soaping windows had completely gone out of style.  I missed my chance.

Happy Halloween to  you.

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My German-American Ancestors

I'm racing the clock to post this before the end of October and German-American month.   Below is a list of my known German-born American ancestors.  It includes their names, birth and death dates, countries of origin, and the sources that gives those locations.  I'm aware that all census information may be inaccurate, depending on who responded to the census taker's questions.  

John Froman  - b. ~1841, d. December 1871
  • Hessen - Passenger list of Bremen ship "Julius," arriving in Baltimore, Maryland, on 4 August 1856.  Surname spelled Frommann.  Johann (as he was identified on the passenger list) traveled with Werner, 54; Maria, 21; Anna, 12; Elisabeth, 7; Heinrich, 5; Caspar, 4; and Christiane, 23.  To date I have been unable to document a familial connection between John and the Frommann passengers.  Werner could be the father or uncle of John and the rest.  Or not.
  • Hesse Cassel - Naturalization document, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, 9 October 1868
  • Germany - 1860 U.S. Census, Hickory Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  Living with Werner, 58; Henry, 10; and Casper, 7
  • Prussia - 1870 U.S. Census, Pymatuning Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania

Frederick K. Gerner - b. 28 September 1848, d. 26 March 1926
  • Germany - Passenger list of ship "Cotton Planter," arriving in New York in June, 1853.  Fried., age 4, traveled with [uncertain name], 26, farmer; Anna Marie, 6; Elisabeth, 2; and Carl, 1/2.
  • Prussia - 1860 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Prussia - 1870 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Germany - 1880 U.S. Census, Putnam County, West Virginia
  • Germany - 1900 U.S. Census, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Germany - 1910 U.S. Census, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Germany - 1920 U.S. Census, Butler County, Pennsylvania
It is entirely possible that the "Fried." in the passenger list mentioned above and the Christian of the passenger list below, are not my ancestors but I've found no other individuals that more closely resemble my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather.

Christian Gerner - b. ~1820, d. 16 February 1899
  • Prussia - Passenger list of ship "Hungarian" departing from Havre, arriving in New York on 10 May 1852.  He traveled with Th. Daniel, 28, and Elisabeth, 25.
  • Prussia - 1860 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Prussia - 1870 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Prussia - 1880 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania

Henry Carl Meinzen - b. 25 July 1837, d. 30 December 1925
  • Prussia - Naturalization document of 9 October 1871, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Prussia - 1870 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Hanover - 1880 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Germany - 1900 U.S. Census, Cross Creek Township, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Germany - 1910 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Hanover, Germany - 1920 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio

Catherine Saylor (wife of John Froman) - b. 5 June 1844, d. 20 December 1928
  • Baden - 1870 U.S. Census, Pymatuning Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Rhine-Bonn - 1880 U.S. Census, Pymatuning Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Germany - 1900 U.S. Census, Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Germany - 1910 U.S. Census, Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Rhineland, Germany - 1920 U.S. Census, Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania

Elizabeth (or Mary) Stahl (wife of Christan Gerner, above) - b. ~1824, d. after 1880
  • Prussia - Passenger list of ship "Hungarian" departing from Havre, arriving in New York on 10 May 1852.  She traveled with Christian, 32, and Th. Daniel, 28.
  • Prussia - 1860 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Prussia - 1870 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Prussia - 1880 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania

Knowing the country is good.  Knowing the city or town would be better.  I'll continue research.

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Early Bird, Night Owl - Musings

Family history research has temporarily come to a halt.  In fact, nearly every non-essential activity in my life has come to a halt -- except the wondering, imagining, and musing about my ancestors and their lives.  For a few weeks I am working at a full-time job which begins every morning at 8:00 a.m.

This would be fine if I were an early bird, a morning person.  But I am not.  I am a night owl.  It's what my body tells me works best.  I usually go to bed between midnight and 2:00 a.m. and get up between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.  I get between seven and eight hours of sleep and it all works perfectly.  When I can do it.  But I can't do it these two weeks.  So I've been going to bed around 10:00 p.m. with the intention (and the hope) of getting eight hours of sleep.  Unfortunately, I toss and turn for the first few hours, finally fall asleep at about 2:00 a.m., and awake after less than five hours sleep to find that I have a headache.  (This is not a poor me post.  Really.  I'm not complaining, just giving background to help you follow the thread of my thoughts.)

I've never been a morning person.  My mom had the hardest time waking me when I started school -- and I had a hard time waking myself as I grew older.  As a young child with a bedtime of 7:00 or 8:00,  I would lie awake tossing and turning, finally falling asleep much later.

I attended college orientation with my mom who, when it came time to complete a schedule request, suggested that I take morning classes so I could have the afternoons free.  What was she thinking?  What was I thinking?  Maybe she thought it would help whip me into shape.  Those were the days before electric alarm clocks with snooze buttons:  I set three wind-up alarm clocks to go off at 10-minute intervals. 

After my babies were born I was thrilled to be able to nestle them in bed while I slept a little longer in the mornings.  Whether it's nature or nurture, neither is a morning person.  Both had to alter that tendency while in college and for jobs, but given the opportunity, both would go to bed late and get up late.

Is the concept (and/or the reality) of morning person/night person relatively recent?  Did the advent of electricity and artificial light change the sleeping/waking habits of people?  Or have there always been people who were early birds and night owls with preferred times to be awake and to sleep?  I suppose it's possible that nearly everyone was a morning person 100 or 150 years ago when the time after sunset was usually dark (except for the use of expensive candles and oil lamps).  Or perhaps a body eventually adjusts when the need arises?

If I had night owl ancestors, how would the night owl dairy farmer have managed a farm of cows that needed milked early every morning?  Or managed the planting and harvesting, both jobs that require daylight?  Did the night owls go through their days feeling tired and having headaches?  How did my night-owl ancestors manage when they couldn't be night-owls?

In agrarian cultures like that of our ancestors a century ago, life happened during the day.  I think that's the norm these days, too.  The expectation seems to be that people get up early and begin work at 8:00 a.m., sometimes earlier.   There's not much consideration for the person whose body tells her that sleep should begin at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., and so we drag along.

If a body really does adjust its sleeping habits when the need arises, by the end of these two weeks maybe I will have become a morning person.  That would be a surprise to everyone who knows me.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?  Do you know if your ancestors tended toward one or the other?

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What If They Did? - Monday Musings

These are further musings as a result of an earlier post, Two Degrees of Separation, at the end of which I commented that 200 years had passed since the birth of my 3rd great-grandmother.  Said great-grandmother knew my grandmother, and yet no accounts of said 3rd great-grandmother were ever passed along -- at least not along our family lines to me.

In fact, it seems that I come from a long line of non-storytellers.  Or maybe it was just my parents and grandparents who didn't tell stories.  I've never met any of my earlier ancestors because they died before I was born.

But what if my ancestors did tell the stories?  What if they told the stories of their lives to their children and grandchildren and shared memories of their parents and grand-parents?  What if the children and grandchildren didn't pass on those stories?  What if my ancestors told the stories and only a few of the grandchildren remembered?  Maybe other descendants and their families know these stories and my siblings and I are the only ones who don't.

Even if my 3rd-great-grandmother kept a journal it could not have passed to every single one of her descendants.  If she kept a journal and it survived, it would likely be in the hands of only one person (who is, unfortunately, not me).  If it has survived for 150 years and the descendant into whose possession it landed is not interested in family history, she may not know that a great-grandmother wrote it.  She may consider it a piece of junk.  And think of how many descendants into whose hands it could be.  Probably several hundred by now.

I suppose I'm moaning a little; and also feeling a little envious of those who do have stories and journals and photographs of ancestors.  If you have them, treasure them.  Preserve them.  Do what you can to share the stories, both with your descendants and online so others who may suddenly develop an interest can find them.

Yes, I do wish I were a designated descendant!

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Follow Friday:  The German-American Genealogist Blog



I am pleased to have discovered Josiah Schmidt's The German-American Genealogist Blog this week and would like to recommend it to you if you're trying to find your German ancestors or learn more about your German-American ancestors.

In honor of German-American Heritage Month, "Oktober," Josiah is posting a German research tip each day.  There are posts about German records; German names and naming patterns; occupations; geography; writing; customs; German websites for research; and more.  Plus more to come.  This is a young blog so there aren't scores of previous posts but the older posts are all excellent and well worth the time to read them. 

In Josiah's podcast, The Average Johann, he interviewed Teva Scheer, author of Our Daily Bread:  German Village Life, 1500-1850.  They discussed the daily life and customs of the common folk who lived in the areas that make up Germany today.  It gave me insight into the livestyles of my ancestors who grew up in Germany (and I realized how grateful I am to not live in such a restrictive time and location). 

When you visit his blog you'll see that the posts are presented with title, date, and a paragraph.  If you want to read the whole post you'll need to click "more."  I follow this blog in feedly, my preferred way to follow blogs and can read the whole post in one go.

With the help of the information in The German-American Genealogist Blog I'm hopeful that I can learn enough to discover the origins of some of my German ancestors.

Now, go read!  You'll be glad you did.

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Naming Relationships

Have you ever noticed that there are several ways to write how two people are related?  The easiest and most direct relationship to name is mother or father but as we go further back relationships become more complicated -- sometimes unclear and/or unspecific.  Some ways lack clarity;  other ways may be more clear but are down-right complicated. 

Here are some examples of various ways to say the same relationship:

My grandfather is
> my mother's father
> my father's father
This relationship is easy to clarify by indicating maternal or paternal grandfather.

My maternal great-grandmother (of which I have two) is
> my mother's maternal grandmother
> my mother's paternal grandmother
> my maternal grandmother's mother
> my maternal grandfather's mother

My brother-in-law can be
> my husband's brother
> my sister's husband
> my husband's sister's husband

My paternal great-grandfather is
> my father's paternal grandfather
> my father's maternal grandfather

My grandaunt (which I always wrongly called a great aunt) is
> my mother's aunt (on her mother's or father's side)
> my father's aunt (on his mother's or father's side)
> my grandmother's sister
> my grandfather's sister
> my mother's mother's sister
> my father's mother's sister

By the time one begins talking about great granduncle there's trouble in store for describing that relationship easily.  Not even the simple maternal or paternal adjective helps since a great granduncle is the son of one's great-great-grandparents, of which there are four couples.  Maternal or paternal on the parents' side; then maternal or paternal on the great-grandparents' side?  Clearly, it's fuzzy territory when trying to be clear.

I sometimes find it challenging to concisely state a relationship for a blog post.  I believe I have relatives who read my posts and may go away scratching their heads in a state of uncertainty, wondering exactly how they are related to the ancestor they just read about.

Can you think of other confusing relationships that are difficult to write clearly?  Do you have a system for choosing how you write relationships in your blog posts?

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Granite Mountain Records Vault, Home of Familysearch Records

Have you ever wondered what the Granite Mountain Records Vault of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks like? Or how they process requests for microfilm copies that you order at the Family History Centers around the world? Or what FamilySearch is doing to preserve images of records from around the world? Here's an opportunity to take a video tour and learn more.





In her post, Genealogical Trick or Treat, TK of Before My Time, mentioned a post about the Granite Mountain Vault which houses the genealogical records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I sent her the link to this post (originally published on September 10, 2010) to let her know she could "tour" the vault.  She told me the links were broken but that the videos were still available on youtube.  She suggested I fix the links and republish.  So here you have an updated blog post with two interesting, brief youtube videos.  Enjoy!

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Turning Back the Clock - Monday Musings

A few weeks ago my husband and I went to a rural produce auction an hour's drive from our home.  The vegetables, fruits, and flowers were fresh, bright, and beautiful.


The produce was the harvest of Amish farmers.  While the auctioneer's hum invited the purchase of hundreds of pots of chrysanthemums, I wandered around and took photos of the produce, then of the horses and buggies.  As I looked through the camera's lens it suddenly occurred to me that I was looking at a way of life that was akin to that of my rural ancestors a hundred or more years ago.

The adults and children, wearing simple styles of clothing, quietly visited with each other as they watched the auction's proceedings.  Little children shyly peeked out from behind their parents' legs.  The teams of horses were equipped for pulling farm wagons with heavy loads.  Individual horses were harnessed to lighter buggies carrying one or two people.  I imagined the homes in which the Amish live and the modern conveniences they live without.  The simple lives of the Amish must mirror the simpler lifestyles of my ancestors. 

As I looked at one of the wagons I thought of my great-great-grandfather who was a wagon-maker.  The horses called my mind to my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who farmed with horses.  The hand sewn clothing reminded me that my great-great-grandmothers hand-stitched clothing for their husbands, their children, and themselves.  I thought of wood-burning stoves and ovens giving service to my great-grandmothers to make meals for their hard-working husbands and sons.  Certainly the pre-modern ways of the Amish are akin to the ways of my ancestors.

I'm grateful for modern conveniences and technology but I find it's good to occasionally turn back the clock and visit areas where people live simple lives similar to the ways my ancestors lived.  In some small way I think it connects me to them in a way different from finding their names and dates in documents and newspapers.  It brings the reality of their lives to life, if only just a little.

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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