Showing posts with label Family History Through the Alphabet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family History Through the Alphabet. Show all posts

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge Posts

You wouldn't think that one post per week would be too much of a challenge.  For me the challenge came in choosing a topic that met the alphabetical guideline for the week rather than actually writing the post.  Some weeks I came up nearly empty and scraped through by the skin of my teeth.  It was definitely worthwhile to participate -- I had to push myself a little -- but I'll think really carefully before deciding to do an alphabet challenge again.

All in one place, here's a list of the posts for the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge that I wrote between January and July, 2013.

A is for Abel Armitage
B is for Bradford Cathedral C is for Census Dates
D is for Details
E is for Ephemera
F is for Farmers and Fraternal Organizations
G is for Gerner
H is for Homes, Houses
I is for Immigrant Ancestors and Inventions
J is for Jewelry
K is for Killed (or Died) in Childhood
L is for Language
M is for Matrilineal Ancestors
N is for Names
O is for Occupations P is for Patience and Persistence
Q is for Quilts
R is for Rootsweb Mailing Lists
S is for Signatures
T is for Timelines
U is for Ubiquitous
V is for Vital Records
W is for Weddings
X is for x
Y is for Yes!
Z is for Zerelda


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Z is for Zerelda - Family History Through the Alphabet

With a name like Zerelda, I think she deserves a post of her own -- and this is the perfect time and place to share her story.  I wish I had a photograph of Zerelda but I haven't been able to definitively identify her in any of my Meinzen photos.

When I was a child Zerelda nearly always came to the Ridge with the Steubenville aunts when they drove to Mineral Ridge to visit my grandparents.  The aunts were my Grampa Meinzen's sisters, Belle Hashman, Mina Harris, Lula Sticker, and Naomi Rhome -- great-aunts to me.  In the photo at right, left to right, are Mina, Lula (standing), Belle (sitting), Grampa, and Naomi.  These aunts, especially Aunt Lula, are part of Zerelda's story. 

Zerelda seemed much older than my mother though not quite so old as the aunts.  I never understood how she fit into the family.  She wasn't an aunt or a great-aunt but no one explained her relationship to me.

It wasn't until I began researching our family that I learned more about her.  I received vague and unclear information from a distant cousin when he quickly and haphazardly named my grandfather's siblings and their children.  Then I spoke with my aunt to see what she remembered.  Bit by bit I was able to place Zerelda and learn about her life.

Zerelda's mother and my grandfather were siblings.  Her parents were John and Hannah Meinzen Hendricks.  Zerelda was born on May 27, 1909.  Her older sister, Edna, had been born in January, 1908.  Another sister, Anna, came along in August, 1910.  Stair-step children if ever there were, each born less than a year and a half of her older sister.  Within two weeks of Anna's birth, Hannah was dead, leaving three motherless little girls.  Edna was 2 1/2; Zerelda, 13 months; and Anna, 2 weeks.  It seems that the girls' father, John, was either not prepared, not able, or did not wish to take care of the girls.  Edna moved to the home of her maternal grandmother and/or an aunt and Zerelda moved to the home of another aunt.  Baby Anna went to the home of her paternal grandmother.  (Anna died the March after her birth.)

In 1920, Zerelda was living with her Aunt Lula and Uncle Charlie -- Charles and Lula Sticker, a couple without children of their own.  Also living with them was Zerelda's cousin, William O. Henderson, son of Bertha Meinzen Henderson who had passed away in 1918.  Zerelda and William O. were about the same age.

In the 1924 Steubenville city directory Zerelda was listed as a student living still with Aunt Lula at 618 Brady Avenue in Steubenville.  She would have been about 15.  I've been unable to locate information about her life between that time and her marriage to Leonard Fair on May 10, 1937.  Leonard and Zerelda were both 28 when they married.

In May, 1939, Zerelda gave birth to a baby boy whom they named Charles E.  He was either stillborn or died soon after his birth.  Five years later, in June, 1942, Leonard met with an above-ground coal mine accident and was killed.  I can understand how Zerelda must have relied on her aunts during the difficult times in her life.  It was kind of them to include her during their travels to visit my grandfather.  There must have been a close bond between them but especially between Zerelda and Aunt Lula.

Zerelda died at the age of 88 on August 15, 1997.  She's buried in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Ohio.

A few interesting side notes:
  • Zerelda's given names were Elizabeth Zerelda.  But everyone I know called her Zerelda. 
  • Jesse James's mother's name was Zerelda.
  • Zerelda is a derivative of the German name Serhilde which means "armored warrior maiden."  Did her parents sense how challenging Zerelda's life might be when they chose the name or did they just like the sound of it?

When I think of Zerelda as I knew her it's hard to believe that she was only 6 years older than my mother.  Perhaps the challenges in her life weighed her down and aged her more quickly.  No matter her age, I'm grateful to know our relationship and to have learned about her.

This post was written to participate in the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created and hosted by Alona Tester of Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Y is for Yes! - Family History Through the Alphabet

I hope you've had this experience.

You search and search and search for your ancestor's parents.  You have nearly nothing to go on except the name and last location of your known ancestor.  You search in unnumbered locations, databases, and indexes.  (Of course, you could count them because you did keep an excellent research log and then you'd have a number, but you don't because it might be so discouraging.)  You find nothing, nothing, nothing.  This ancestor practically drives you to distraction.  Then you find possible leads that turn out to be someone else, a different person, someone else's family.  It begins to feel as if you will come up empty-handed forever, as if you will never find this contrary ancestor.

And then, suddenly, there's just the littlest hint of a real possibility.  Maybe it's nothing but maybe it's something.  You follow the lead, you search.  You search some more.  You find names, birth dates, marriage records, death dates, a will.  You make possible connections between your last known ancestor and this new one.  One little hint leads you to another possible source, then more and more until finally, finally....

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

And you want to celebrate like crazy because you found another set of x#-great-grandparents.  It seemed to take forever but you did it.  Sing it on the housetops and invite the rest of the genea-world to celebrate with you!

Family history is fun without the difficult searches but there's such a feeling of joy and satisfaction when the search is long, ardent, and (finally) successful.  I hope you've had that experience at least once.

This post was written for the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created and hosted by Alona Tester of  Genealogy & History News.  Thank you, Alona.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

X is for x - Family History Through the Alphabet

An x was the mark my illiterate ancestors used to sign documents.  I remember being appalled when, as a beginning family historian, I learned that one of my great-grandmothers was illiterate.  No, not possible, I thought.  Then I learned that it was common for people of earlier centuries to be unable to read and write.  I learned that more and more of my ancestors had been illiterate.

The image below is from a deed in Jefferson County, Ohio, Deed Book No. 67.  The date the property was sold was February 20, 1892.  I doubt that this is Elizabeth's x.  I think the records in court books are usually transcriptions.  It must have been impossible to distinguish between signatures.  Witnesses must have been relied upon to verify that they'd seen an individual sign a document.

Illiteracy seems to have been familial.  Neither Elizabeth nor her father, Abel Armitage, could read or write.  My great-great grandmother, Lydia Bell, nor her father, Jacob Bell, nor her husband, John Thompson, could read or write.  My great-great-grandmothers Catherine Saylor Froman and Rebecca Smith Bartley were both illiterate.  I'm sure I'll learn of more as I continue research. 

Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like for them but I find myself imagining them in my time and place instead of in their own situations.  I remind myself that illiteracy was more common then than now, that books and newspapers were probably not available as readily as now, and that they may have had little time to sit and read.  I can't imagine not being able to read and write but I'm sure their lives were filled with living life instead of reading about it.

This post was written to contribute to Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge on her blog, Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

W is for Weddings - Family History Through the Alphabet

W is for weddings (not to be confused with marriages).

My ancestors knew the definition of marriage as
a : the state of being married
b : the mutual relationship of husband and wife : wedlock
c : the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family

On the other hand, they referred to a wedding as the marriage ceremony and the festivities associated with that ceremony.

In all of my family history research I've found many marriage records.  But I have information on only two weddings:  my parents' and the wedding of my maternal grandfather's brother and his bride.

Jacob Meinzen and Nellie E. Leonhart were married on June 28, 1906.  The wedding was described in The Steubenville Weekly Gazette.  It was "a pretty home wedding" at the residence of the bride on 808 Sherman Avenue, Steubenville.  
The cosy home was fitted up for the happy event, and presented an attractive appearance.  Promptly at 4 o'clock the bridal couple entered the parlor to the strains of the wedding march, accompanied by Miss Mina Meinsen, sister of the groom, and Mr. Phil Leonhart, brother of the bride, and took their places before the officiating clergyman, Rev. Rowland, pastor of the Third Presbyterian church, who officiated in a beautiful service.  The bride was becomingly gowned in white Persian lawn, trimmed with lace, and her bridesmaid was also prettily gowned in white.  After the ceremony, congratulations were showered upon the happy pair, and at a later hour a nice wedding supper was served, covers being laid for twenty-five. 
The only additional information I could wish for is a photograph of the bride and groom and a list of the attendees.  I would like to see what her white Persian lawn gown trimmed with lace looked like.  Beautiful, I'm sure.

My parents were married on September 15, 1938.  Their wedding was described in The Niles Daily Times.
     At 7:30 last evening in the Methodist Church at Mineral Ridge, Miss Audrey Meinzen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Meinzen, Mineral Ridge, was united in marriage to Lee Doyle, 360 Warren ave., Niles.
     Rev. Robert S. Clemmons heard the exchange of vows.
     Mr. and Mrs. Earl Tuxford of Niles were formal attendants and Howard Todd of Mineral Ridge and James W. Sullivan of Warren were ushers.
     Mrs. Phoebe Johnson, Mineral Ridge, presided at the organ for a program of nuptial melodies and Mrs. James Woodward, also of Mineral Ridge, was soloist, her numbers including "O Promise Me" and "I Love You Truly."  The Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin was used for the processional and Mendelssohn's wedding march for the recessional.
     The altar was banked with palms and ferns and decorated with standards of garden flowers.
     Given in marriage by her father, Miss Meinzen was a lovely bride in her blue velvet gown with harmonizing accessories.  She carried an arm bouquet of pink roses.
     Mrs. Tuxford chose dubonet with matching accessories and she carried garden flowers.
     Multi-colored garden flowers decorated the Meinzen home on Furnace st. when the immediate famlies and a few friends were received following the ceremony.  A tiered wedding cake with the conventional bride and groom decorated the refreshment table.
     Late in the evening the young couple left for a short honeymoon, their destination a secret.  For traveling, the bride wore a modish two piece ensemble with accessories to match....
I have no photographs of this wedding, either, but my mother saved a booklet in which guests signed their names.  (More on that later.)  I do so wish to have been able to see her dress and my father's suit.

This post was written as a contribution to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created by Alona Tester of Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

V is for Vital Records - Family History Through the Alphabet

V is for vital records:  birth, marriage, and death records.  In some ways these records are a family historian's best friend.  They offer names of individuals plus dates and locations of the events for which they were created, and sometimes plenty of other information, too.  (Click on the image below to enlarge and view three vital records.)
Even though these types of records were created at or near the time of the event, we need to be careful not to take every bit of information in a document as absolute truth.  If a birth record was created days, weeks, or a month after the birth, the father providing information for the certificate may not have remembered the exact date of birth and may have calculated it based on the day he mowed the hay.  In the case of a marriage record, young lovers may have chosen not to provide completely accurate information regarding age.  Information on death certificates was sometimes provided by friends, relatives, or in-laws who didn't know details like the decedent's birth location or the names of his or her parents.  If provided by a spouse or child, grief may have clouded the memory or caused questions to be misunderstood thereby allowing for misinformation.  It is best to use the information in vital records in conjunction with other sources.

The years when vital records were first created vary from country to country and state to state.  Often marriages in the U.S. were the first to be recorded, sometimes as early as 1800.  Births and deaths were recorded at the county level in some states beginning in the 1860s, then moving to the state level in the early 1900s.

A search on the internet will help you find when and where to search for these records.  FamilySearch and have indexed many vital records.  FamilySearch's wiki provides more information about birth records, marriage records, and death records.  FamilySearch also provides an excellent page about U.S. Vital Records, including what you may find in a record, how to analyze what you find, and links to information about vital records for each state.

If you are new to family history, I encourage you to begin with vital records (as well as census records) to help you find your ancestors.  If you're not new to searching for ancestors, I'm sure you already know the worth of vital records

This post was written as a contribution to Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created by Alona Tester of  Genealogy & History News.  Thank you, Alona.


Friday, June 7, 2013

T is for Timelines - Family History Through the Alphabet

I think of timelines as one of those essential tools to help find gaps in information about an ancestor; to help discover possible inconsistencies; and to help place an ancestor in his environmental setting at any particular time.  Timelines may be especially useful when trying to figure out where to turn next to find more  information about an ancestor.  I think they are a concise way to see an overview of an ancestor's life.

I include every event I learn about an ancestor and note the date (of course!) and geographic location where the event took place.  I think it's important to include a note in the timeline after each entry giving abbreviated source details about where you found the information.  (You'll have recorded a full citation elsewhere, such as in your genealogy software program.)

Sometimes dates and ages are calculated from a census, other times the record gives the age and date.  Here are some of the things I include in my timelines.  Possible sources are in parentheses.
  • Birth dates and ages of the focus ancestor and every member of his/her family (civil record, church record, newspaper announcement, obituary, gravestone, death record, interment record)
  • Baptism, christening, confirmation  (church records, possibly newspaper announcements)
  • Immigration information (passenger lists)
  • Naturalization (county or federal government records)
  • Marriage (government or church documents, calculated from some census records, newspaper announcements)
  • Divorce (government documents, vital statistics in some newspapers)
  • Property purchases and sales (county records)
  • Military service (government documents, newspaper articles)
  • Moves/relocations (census records, city/county directories, newspaper articles)
  • Wills (county records, newspaper announcements)
  • Deaths of individual and all family members (government records, church records, grave markers, obituaries, interment records)

I think of timelines as working tools, subject to change as I learn more information about my ancestor.  If a birth year is calculated from a census record, I may learn more accurate information from some other source, and then I change it and make an additional note about where I found the information.

Timelines sometimes help me sort out information.
  • Ages:  Is the mother old enough to have a child, too old to have a child?  Are the children spaced at least 9 months apart?  Is there a wide age gap (3 or more years) between siblings?  Perhaps a child was stillborn or died without being recorded in a census.
  • Immigration:  If an ancestor is located in a distant city two days after his ship arrived in the U.S., perhaps they are two different people. 
  • Moves:  If the ancestor is in different locations in consecutive census records, it can narrow down the date he moved to at least 10 years.  Additional research (city/county directories, state census reports, property records) may help narrow the move even further.
  • Local and world events:  I include these if I suspect my ancestor immigrated (from any location to another) because of problems in his homeland or previous location.  Knowing that the community scorned people from his homeland would help me understand a move to a new community.  War may be another reason for an ancestor to move.

I've noticed that many people like to make horizontal timelines, probably because we think of time as horizontally linear (at least I do).  I find a vertical timeline easier to use when I know I'm going to be adding information.  Using a computer I can insert dates and just move the information below it down.

Your genealogy software program may be helpful to you.  If you've included as much information as you know about an ancestor you may be able to use it to begin a timeline.  By clicking on an ancestor's page in RootsMagic, it shows me the date of every event I've added for that person.  That will be a good basis for an even more extended timeline (or incentive to add all the information to the software program). 

For more information about timelines
  • Do a google image search with the words "timeline family history" and see how others have created timelines.
  • Look at FamilySearch's US Timelines - Creation and Use with Families or Family Tree Magazine's  Create a Personal Timeline where you can read more suggestions and ideas about timelines.
  • For those researching in the United Kingdom, the BBC Timeline Tool gives a nice historic overview of national and local events that may help you understand more about your ancestor's situation and the reason for some of his/her decisions.
I've posted three timeslines:  Elvira Bartley Gerner - Her Years from Birth to Burial, Timeline for Harry Hepler, and Every Scrap of Evidence - Timeline for Henry Meinzen.  They are not perfect timelines but they helped at the time I was researching the individual.

This post was created to participate in Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy and History News.  Thanks, Alona. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

S is for Signatures - Family History Through the Alphabet

Finding signatures of ancestors is a fun part of family history.  I wish I could analyze handwriting from just a signature.  Maybe it would tell me something about my ancestors' personalities.

A few signatures in my collection

My father's signature, taken from his marriage license:
My paternal grandfather's signature, taken from his marriage license:
My paternal grandmother's signature, also taken from her marriage license:
My mother's signature, taken from her marriage license:
My maternal grandparents' signatures, taken from their marriage license:

My maternal great-grandfather's signature, taken from the death certificate of his wife, Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff:

My maternal great-great-grandfather's signature, taken from his Civil War Pension File:

I think I may have several more signatures but the documents haven't yet been scanned.  It would be fun to make a pedigree chart of signatures, don't you think?  I would have several "x" signatures in mine and probably many blanks for lack of signatures.

This post was written to contribute to Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

R is for Rootsweb Mailing Lists - Family History Through the Alphabet

A mailing list is a group of people who have some topic in common, in this case, some aspect of genealogy.  It could be a surname, a geographic location, a profession, or any number of other topics or themes.  People on the mailing list receive mail from every other participant and when a participant responds to an email, it goes to everyone in the group.  Most mailing lists have members with widely varying levels of knowledge and experience on the subject so the knowledge of each individual in the group contributes to what can became a collectively powerful resource. 

Rootsweb Mailing Lists offers over 30,000 lists categorized by surname, U.S. state, country, and other.  (You can click on the image at right to enlarge it or click on the link above to go to the page.)  In the Surnames category, each letter of the alphabet offers several screens of names.  In the U.S.A. section, choose a state and additional options will include cities, counties, and subjects like cemeteries, Civil War, ghosttowns, railroads, and veterans, etc.  The International category is broken down into countries and within those countries, is subdivided into geographic regions, time periods, and other subjects of interest for the country.  The Other category includes topics like ethnic areas, medical, military, newsletters, research techniques, etc., and each is subdivided further.

The lists are so extensive that browsing the categories could take many hours.  To find out if there is a mailing list for a specific topic, you can click on Find a List Search.

When you find a mailing list you'd like to join, click on the link to it and you'll be able to read specific instructions about how to subscribe (and unsubscribe if you decide it's not the mailing list for you).

If you're interested in a mailing list but would like to know a little more about the conversations that take place, you're in luck.  Rootsweb archives all the mailing list conversations.  You can view them at Rootsweb's Threaded Mail Archives.  You'll need to know the title of the mailing list of interest.  Then you can click on the letter of the alphabet and choose a month and year to review the emails.

But perhaps you already know you don't want more mail in your inbox but you want to find out if anyone has discussed your topic of interest on any of the email lists.  Rootsweb has made that possible for you.  At Mailing List Archives Search you can type in a keyword and learn whether your topic of interest has been discussed on any of the mailing lists.

Some mailing lists are very active with a dozen or most emails each day; others are quiet with one or two emails per week.  I like having the availability of subscribing, reading without subscribing, and searching.

Do you use Rootsweb Mailing Lists?  If not you may be missing out on some helpful resources.

This is a post written to participate in Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy and History News.  Thank you, Alona.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Q is for Quilts - Family History Through the Alphabet

When I hold a quilt made by one of my ancestors I can almost feel a physical connection with her, almost as though she's giving me a hug.  Quilts pass through the hands of their makers again and again, from washing and ironing the fabric, to cutting the pattern pieces, to stitching the layers together with needle in hand, as the quilter creates something to warm and comfort a loved one.  Even the most humble quilt has an endearing quality because of the time, care, and effort one of my foremothers took to create it.  Quilts become fragile with use, often ending in tatters and shreds, then discarded.  I'm grateful to have several that have withstood the years of use.

This is a poor photo of a beautiful Dresden Plate quilt that my mother made and that she and my grandmother quilted.  The 9 1/2" plates are made from scraps of 1940s and 1950s fabrics then stitched onto 10" muslin squares.  As a child I appreciated the bright colors of the plates but looking at the quilt now, I'm amazed at the fineness of the quilting.  As far as I know, my mom and grandmother did not quilt on a regular basis so I don't know where they learned the skill.  Many sections of the plates are now threadbare and there's a hole in the middle.  The quilt has been retired from regular use for a dozen or more years.

My sister-in-law, Jan, made this sampler quilt for my older daughter when she was a baby a little over 30 years ago.  Jan's avocation was quilting and she dedicated many hours to the craft.  She was meticulous in pattern and fabric preparation, making sure each piece of fabric was cut on the square.  All of her quilts were handmade from start to finish.  No rotary cutter for her.  She used paper patterns and cut the pieces with scissors, then stitched each quilt by hand.  Jan became so proficient that she was awarded a grant to teach apprentices the craft that she had so carefully and skillfully mastered.  This quilt warmed and cuddled two babies and is still in excellent condition. 

This Wedding Ring quilt was made by my father's paternal grandmother, Tressa (Froman) Doyle, sometime in the 1920s or 1930s.  I think the quilt was hand-pieced and it was definitely hand-quilted with very fine, even stitches.  Some have said that Maw was somewhat grumbly.  True or not, she must have been tender-hearted toward my father to make this quilt for him before he left home.  It has been lightly used and well cared for.

I'm grateful for the connection quilts provide to these relatives I knew and to a grandmother I never had the opportunity to know in person.

This is a post for the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created by Alona Tester of Genealogy and History News.  Thank you for hosting, Alona.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

P is for Patience and Persistence - Family History Through the Alphabet

Patience and persistence are sister attributes that make life more successful for family historians.  If we don't start with them, we surely acquire them along the way.

We patiently wait till we can arrange the visit to the courthouse two states away; for the response to our letter of inquiry from the sexton of the cemetery; for FamilySearch to index a record group or patiently browse the images one at a time.  Then when we get to the courthouse and learn that they're not really thrilled to have "guests," we persistently (and very politely) persuade them to let us have a look.  When there's an online site that continues to add more material, we return on a regular basis to search once again for that particular ancestor.  We keep digging through those unindexed records (unless we're willing to patiently wait).

The following experience was a good early lesson.  In 2007, not long after I'd begun working on family history, I was trying to find the Lutheran Church records for my German-born great-grandfather who lived in Steubenville, Ohio.  I discovered the name of the church as it was in 1870, then noticed that its name evolved several times through the next 40 years.  When I learned that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America had records for most of its parishes, I contacted them.  By U.S. mail.  (I can't remember if it was their choice or my preference.)  I corresponded across five letters to different people and different offices until I finally learned that they had no records for my grandfather's church.  Hmmm.  What to do next?  I contacted the Steubenville public library to ask if they knew where records might be.  I learned that my grandfather's Lutheran Church had joined with the United Church of Christ.  It's name had changed once again but it was easy to find on the internet.  I contacted the church and learned that they did, indeed, have records from the time the church began and that yes, they had a church historian who would not only search the records but was able to read old German.

I felt as if I'd struck gold - and as though I'd been panning for a year!  That early lesson in patience and persistence has stuck with me.  I can't give up when the first answer is unhelpful.  I have to keep keep looking and waiting till I find the resource, record, or help I need.  As for patience, sometimes it helps to let an ancestor rest and return to him or her a little later.  I let search options stew in my brain for a while and sometimes when I return to the search, I find just what I was hoping to find. Patience and persistence have become my friends.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences?

This is a post for Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy and History News.  Thanks for creating and hosting, Alona.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

O is for Occupations - Family History Through the Alphabet

O is for occupations, specifically carpenter and wagon maker.  I have several in my family, on both sides.

On my maternal side
There were four generations of Bickerstaff men who were carpenters.
  • Generation 1:  Ellis Bickerstaff (1840-1907) was a listed in the 1880 census as carpenter and in the 1900 census as bench carpenter.  Ellis orginally lived in Steubenville, Ohio, then later moved to McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
  • Generation 2:  Edward Jesse Bickerstaff (1871-1945), son of Ellis and Emma (Nelson) Bickerstaff, was also a carpenter.  He was born in Jefferson County, Ohio, then moved to Mineral Ridge, Trumbull County, Ohio.  At least one house he built still exists there.
  • Generation 3:  Edward Bickerstaff (1904-1962), son of Edward Jesse and Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff, also worked as a carpenter in the Trumbull County area.
  • Generation 4:  Edward C. Bickerstaff (1923-1983), son of Edward and Agnes (Pressell), worked as a carpenter in Trumbull County.

Henry Carl Meinzen was both carpenter and wagon-maker according to various resources.  He emigrated from Germany in 1866 and lived in Steubenville and Jefferson County from about 1870 until his death in 1925.  His son, William Carl Robert Meinzen, married Edward Jesse Bickerstaff's daughter, Emma Virginia Bickerstaff.  I sometimes wonder if the children met because their fathers shared a profession and knew each other.  Were Henry and Edward Jesse in a carpenter's union?  No records have yet been found for a carpenter's union in Steubenville.

On my paternal side
Dixon Bartley (1806-1900) was listed as a farmer in census records but a newspaper article mentioned that he also worked as a wagon maker in Martinsburg, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

When I think about these men who worked with wood a century or more ago, I try to imagine what they would think of our modern tools:  power and table saws, electric drills, nailers, and sanders.  How much more quickly their work would have gone with such tools.  And yet I think they would would have felt a loss of some satisfaction in the work, of measuring, cutting, and accurately chiseling a tendon to fit snugly into a mortice; dovetails to fit neatly together; of seeing a house or barn erected as a result of the labors of their own hands; of seeing a wagon surviving the repeated jostling over unpaved roads and holding fast.  Surely they would have missed the joy of using real wood instead of today's modern composites.

I have nothing to recognize or commemorate their work, no artifacts of any of their efforts, no photographs, no tools passed through the generations.  Yet I can imagine their satisfaction in work well done and a good night's sleep at the end of the day.  Well done, Grandfathers, uncle, and cousin.

This post was written for the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge, created and hosted by Alona Tester of  Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.

Image from Woodworking Tools 1600-1900 by Peter C. Welsh, available at Project Gutenberg.


Monday, April 29, 2013

N is for Names - Family History Through the Alphabet

Names always interest me, especially the unusual or uncommon ones, but I'm also interested in the ones that are handed down multiple times.  There are both among my ancestors. Some of our unusual names include the old-fashioned ones of Elvira, Beulah, Mabel, Arabella, and Keziah, which are all on my paternal ancestors' sides.  On my maternal side, we have names like Crusin/Cruson/Crewson, Sabra, Rena, and Zerelda.  Strangely enough, uncommon women's names are more prevalent than uncommon men's names. 

On My Paternal Side
Elvira Snair was named for her grandmother, Elvira Bartley Gerner.  Elvira Snair's mother was Lana Gerner Snair.  The younger Elvira was born in about 1904, the older Elvira in 1854.

Alonzo and Alfonzo Gerner were born in 1874.  Their nicknames were Lon and Fon (also spelled Fawn).  I sometimes wonder how their parents decided on these names which sound of Spanish origin to me.  In The Little House on the Prairie series of books, from about the same time period, there was a young man named Alonzo.  Perhaps these were popular names of the time.

Beulah Riss, born about 1919, was named for her aunt, Beulah Gerner Doyle, who died in 1913.  The younger Beulah's mother was Bessie Leota Gerner Riss, sister to Beulah Gerner.  Bessie cared for Beulah's half-orphan son, Lee, after Beulah died.  It was a kind way for Bessie to honor the memory of her sister.

Then there's a string of men named William Doyle in our family.  Andrew Doyle's father was William and Andrew named one of his sons William (born 1863).  Andrew and his son both emigrated from England in 1869-1870.  William, the one born in 1863, did not name any of his sons William but he has a grandson (through Gust Doyle) named William; and that William named his son William.  Oh, yes, the dates help!

Gus, Gust, August, and Augustine
The names Gus, Gust, August, and Augustine are abundant on both sides of my family.  On my father's side are his father, Gust Doyle.  In one census he is listed as August; other times he signed his name Gus.  My father insisted that his father's name was Gust so that's how I record it.  Gust Doyle could have been named for his mother's brother, Gus Froman.  Gust Doyle's cousin, Gust Proud, could also have been named for his uncle, the same Gus Froman.

On my mother's side there's Augustine Bickerstaff, who had a son named Augustine.  It's a good thing there are dates to differentiate between them.  I do not know if either of these men were called by nicknames.

On My Maternal Side
Crusin/Cruson/Crewson Bell and Rena and Sabra Bickerstaff are all names I've heard nowhere else but in our family.  Sabra was born in 1798.  Perhaps it was a common name then. 

Emma Nelson, born in 1845, named her son Edward Jesse Bickerstaff.  Emma died when Edward Jesse was about 7 years old.  He named his oldest daughter Emma.  I can only assume it was in honor of his mother.

Elizabeth is a common name but it seems unusual that so many in the same family would use the name without it being in honor of a mother or grandmother, an honor bestowed either by her husband or her children.  Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen had 15 children.  Two daughters' names included Elizabeth:  Hannah Elizabeth and Wilhelmina Elizabeth (which she reversed during WWI).  Hannah named one of her daughters Elizabeth Zerelda.  Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen's oldest son, Henry, named his oldest daughter Elizabeth; and one of Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen's younger sons, Jacob Meinzen, named his daughter Elizabeth.  It's not uncommon for daughters to be named for their mothers but to have three granddaughters named after their grandmother was a surprise to learn.  Was she much-loved, much-revered, or both?

Jacob Increase Meinzen and Lula Bernesa Meinzen had uncommon middle names.  Increase was, perhaps, bestowed with the hope of many descendants.  Unfortunately, Jacob was killed within four months of his only child's birth.  Where did Bernesa come from?  I had never heard it until this discovery.  It was the name of both mother and wife of Jesse James.  Strange, huh?

Perhaps our family's most unusual name is Zerelda.  She gets her own post.

Do you have any unusual names in your family?

This post is a contribution to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created and hosted by Alona Tester at Genealogy and History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

M is for Matrilineal Ancestors - Family History Through the Alphabet

The matrilineal ancestors, or mothers' mothers, are sometimes so hard to find, especially their maiden names.  But I keep searching.  (Sometimes I think, seven years and this is all I have?!  Of course I have more but no more mothers on these two lines yet.)

My mother's matrilineal ancestors, beginning with her and moving to each next mother
  1. Audrey Victoria Meinzen, 1915-1997  (married Lee Doyle)
  2. Emma Virginia Bickerstaff, 1893-1973  (married William Carl Robert Meinzen)
  3. Mary Thompson, 1872-1940   (married E. J. Bickerstaff)
  4. Lydia Bell, 1851-1930  (married John Thomas Thompson)
  5. Lydia Fithen, abt. 1826-btw. 1880-1900   (married Jacob Bell)

My father's matrilineal ancestors, beginning with his mother and moving to each next mother
  1. Beulah Mae Gerner, 1888-1913   (married Gust Doyle)
  2. Elvira Bartley, 1854-1943   (married Fredrick K. Gerner)
  3. Rebecca Smith, 1820-1899   (married Dixon Bartley)

And that's as far as the research has taken me on the women in these two lines.

This post was written to contribute to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge, created and hosted by Alona Tester of Genealogy and History News.  Thanks so much, Alona!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

L is for Language - Family History Through the Alphabet

I'm using the word language in a very broad sense to include words used by a group of people (such as the English language, the German language, etc.); both written and spoken words; and also aspects of language such as definitions, dialects, accents, idioms, etc.

Just think of the difference in the English spoken by someone from the U.S. and someone from England.  We understand each other but may not understand some words, phrases, or idioms.  Also consider the difference in the English spoken by someone from New England and someone from the deep South.  In that case we understand each other but sometimes accents may affect understanding.  I believe there may be a similar effect with our modern English and the older English (or any other language) our ancestors wrote and spoke.

Also consider the change in word definitions over time.  In my lifetime I've seen many words change (or add to) their meanings.  When reading an old newspaper, letter, or journal, don't assume that all the words have the same meaning now as then.

Here are just a few brief thoughts about our language and our ancestors' language(s)
  • Same word, different meaning
  • Same word, different sound (accent and/or different spelling or spelling variation
  • Different word, unknown meaning to us
  • Different idiom, common to our ancestors, new to us
  • Same word, different spelling (may involve accents)
  • Same spelling, different meaning

I've written several posts about this idea and how it relates to the search for our ancestors.

Judy G. Russell at The Legal Genealogist often shares legal terminology found in old documents, then translates and explains it for her readers.

And for a treat and an illustration of my thoughts above, you may enjoy Jennifer's post, Lost in Translation:  Words and sayings, and what did Mammy say to the milkman?.  You'll laugh and you'll learn.

This post is a contribution to Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.  Thank you, Alona, for creating and hosting the challenge.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

K is for Killed (or Died) in Childhood - Family History Through the Alphabet

Losing children was a frequent event to our ancestors and perhaps it's morbid to discuss infants and children who were killed or died of disease or illness and yet I think it's important that they be remembered.  How a mother must have mourned at the loss of her child....  Just a few below.
  • Little 5-year-old Ethel Clair Gerner was killed from poisoning.  She was a daughter of Fred K. and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner.  She was born on 15 May 1892 and died 16 April 1897.  She is buried in Bear Creek Cemetery, Petrolia, Butler County, Pennsylvania. 
  • Less than 3 months old, Netta (or Meta) Mildred Gerner died of enlargement of the liver.  She was a daughter of Fred K. and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner.  Born 23 Jun 1894, died 9 Sep 1894.  Buried Bear Creek Cemetery, Petrolia, Butler County, Pennsylvania.
  • William Meinzen, born about 1872, died of typhoid fever on 24 Nov 1888.  He was the son of Henry Carl and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen.  He's buried in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio.
  • Stillborn Infant (unknown gender, unnamed) was buried on 25 Jan 1891 in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio.  The parents were Henry Carl and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen.
  • Carl Nelson Meinzen, born 3 Sep 1896, was the son of Henry Carl and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen.  He died on 14 Sep 1896.  Burial location is uncertain but probably in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Ohio
  • Flora Victoria Bickerstaff was the daughter of Edward Jesse and Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff.  She was born on 5 Aug 1909 and died 30 Aug 1910.  Her cause of death was convulsions.  She is buried in Oakland Cemetery, Mingo Junction, Jefferson County, Ohio.
  • Leila Doyle was just 3 days old when she died on 2 Mar 1913.  She was the daughter of Gust and Beulah Mae (Gerner) Doyle.  She's buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Sandy Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
  • Alice Bickerstaff, daughter of Ellis and Emma (Nelson) Bickerstaff, was born 27 Apr 1871 and died of convulsions on 21 May 1871.  

I appreciated the following quote from The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman:
Of course, the losing of children had always been a thing that had to be gone through.  There had never been guarantee that conception would lead to a live birth, or that birth would lead to a life of any great length.  Nature allowed only the fit and the lucky to share this paradise-in-the-making.  The graveyards, too, told the story of the babies whose voices, because of a snakebite or a fever or a fall from a wagon, had finally succumbed to their mothers’ beseeching to ‘hush, hush, little one.’  The surviving children got used to the new way of setting the table with one place fewer, just as they grew accustomed to squishing along the bench when another sibling arrived.  Like the wheat fields where more grain is sown than can ripen, God seemed to sprinkle extra children about, and harvest them according to some indecipherable, divine calendar.

Length of days is not guaranteed to any of us and I feel the need to record and/or document the brief lives of those who came before.  

This post is a contribution to Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge, hosted Genealogy and History News.  Thanks for creating and hosting the challenge, Alona.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

J is for Jewerly - Family History Through the Alphabet

Cameos are the jewelry I'd like to share.  Even though my father was a jeweler, we females of the family didn't own or wear much jewelry.  My mom and I both had lockets.  I suppose my sister did, too, but I don't remember.  My mother had several rings, including her engagement and wedding rings, a single strand of pearls, some earrings that she wore frequently, and these cameos.  She had other jewelry but none that is memorable.

When I was little I loved the larger cameo brooch with the dancing ladies.  Who knows why something catches a child's fancy?  Perhaps the dancers looked happy, even flamboyant to my young eyes?  When Mom wore the  brooch  she also wore the earrings, above it.  They are not exactly matching but since they're separated by a face, I doubt anyone compared them.  I don't remember my mother wearing either pendant.  The one on the left is my favorite these days.  I love the details of it.  The one on the right is so pale that it didn't photograph well.  It must have been a part of a larger piece of jewelry -- at least that's what I guess because of the rings both top and bottom.

The large brooch is about an inch and a quarter long.  I didn't measure the others but you can guess their size from the photo.  The metal on the large cameo was repaired at some time in the past and it looks like it needs a repair again.  It was interesting to photograph these then enlarge the photos to see so much detail.  (You can enlarge the photo, too, by clicking on it.  It will open in a new screen and be larger, then enlarge again if you click on it in the new screen.)

As I was researching cameos today I learned that I have not been as kind as I could have been to these.  They have been together in a fabric holder but because they are susceptible to scratches and breakage they should be carefully stored either laying in their own places without touching other pieces or gently wrapped in fabric.  I also learned that they can be cleaned with white toothpaste and a soft toothbrush.  Because the shells dry out, they also need to be conditioned a few times a year with baby or mineral oil left on overnight and removed with a soft cloth.

I love these cameos but they've been hiding away and I rarely look at them.  Maybe I should find a small shadow box so I could display and enjoy them.

This post is a contribution to Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.  You can read more about the challenge and find links to others' posts at her blog, Genealogy and History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Friday, March 22, 2013

I is for Immigrant Ancestors and Inventions - Family History Through the Alphabet

I is for immigrant ancestors.  I believe all of my ancestors were immigrants at one time or another, ancestors who arrived in North America from European countries.  More research will prove or disprove this belief.  My immigrant ancestors include, in no particular order,
  • Jacob Saylor and his family, including my direct ancestor, Katherine Saylor Froman, immigrated in about 1852 from Germany.  They settled in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
  • John Froman arrived in the U.S. in about 1856.  He made his home in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
  • Henry Meinzen came to the U.S. in 1866 from Prussia (or Hannover, or Germany, depending on which census one reads).  Jefferson County became his new home.
  • Abel Armitage and his family, including his daughter Elizabeth Armitage who is my great-grandmother, immigrated in 1864 from England.  They settled in Jefferson County, Ohio.
  • Fred Gerner and his family immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in about 1855.  They settled in Butler County, Pennsylvania.
  • Andrew Doyle and his family, including my direct ancestor, William Doyle, immigrated to the U.S. from England in 1865.  Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, became their home.
These cannot be my only immigrant ancestors but I haven't researched far enough back to determine who earlier ancestors were and when they arrived in the United States.

I is also for inventions, specifically those invented during the times of my known ancestors.  I thought I'd mention just a few that may have impacted them.
  • Safety razors were invented in the 1880s by the Kampfe Brothers but did not become common until disposable blades were invented.  My grandfather was a barber by trade and barbered until the mid-1960s.  As far as I remember, he never switched to disposable razors in his shop.  It's probable that he used disposables at home as he grew older.
  • Automobiles became available in the early 1900s.  Imagine the transition from driving a horse at 5 miles/hour to driving a car at 10-20 miles/hour.  Wouldn't people have felt like they were speeding along?!  I do not know when any of my ancestors first owned automobiles but I remember that my grandmother, born in 1893, seemed uncomfortable in cars even in the 1950s and 1960s.  She never obtained a driver's license but she surely could have earned a backseat driver's license.  I remember her sitting beside my grandfather while he was driving saying things like, "Bob, you slow down.  You're going 35 miles and hour.  That's too fast!"
  • Glass canning jars were invented and patented in 1858.  To be able to safely and inexpensively preserve the garden's produce must have been a boon to women (and their families) of the late 1800s and after.  I don't have any oral or written family history about the use of canning jars but I know that one of my maternal great-grandfathers was a gardener by profession.  I have no doubt that his wife learned to can using canning jars.
  • Indoor plumbing must have produced joy and amazement.  To have water come into the home without having to carry it from a distance, even if the distance was only from a well between home and barn, and to not have to carry the used water back outside in buckets must have been a great work-saver to many in the family.
I think of other inventions and imagine how they lightened the workload of the ladies (vacuums, sewing machines, electricity), eased transportation (railroads), enhanced communications (telegraph and telephone), and offered entertainment (moving pictures, bicycles, photography).  There are so many inventions that we take for granted:  invented a century or more ago, then enhanced so many times that the items we use sometimes bear little resemblance to the original inventions.  Ah, progress!

This post is a contribution to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.  Go to the link and you can see other submissions for this meme.  Alona Tester of  Genealogy and History News is the creator and keeper of this meme.  Thanks, Alona! 


Thursday, March 14, 2013

H is for Homes, Houses - Family History Through the Alphabet

My home, my ancestors' homes....  Buildings where I lived, where they lived, places where we loved, learned, laughed, played, and worked....  When I think about family history I think about individual ancestors, but I often find my thoughts meandering to the houses and homes -- the environments -- where they were born and grew up, where they moved with their spouses and started families of their own, where they grew old and died.

I grew up knowing two homes:  the home where my parents, siblings, and I lived; and the home where my grandparents lived.  I knew both houses inside and out:  the kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms; the basements where, early on, the laundry happened in wringer washers and the canned goods were stored; the houses where, at first, there were no indoor "facilities," then later the bathrooms were added.  They were homes of both happiness and sorrow.  In my mind's eye I can walk through the houses and remember the layout of each room and where chairs, couches, and televisions were placed; the dressers and beds in the bedrooms; remember the canisters on the kitchen counters.  They were homes where loved ones shared meals, watched television, and played games together; where we learned honesty, responsibility, work, to mind our p's and q's, and a multitude of other values.

I can't help wishing to know about the buildings where my ancestors lived as well as about the homes they created.  What interactions took place?  What values were instilled in children as they grew?  How were chores delegated?  What games did the children play?  It's easy to find some general information about families in different time periods but I wish I knew specific information about my own ancestral families.  

I have few photographs and even less information about the houses in which my ancestors lived or the homes they created inside those buildings.  I so wish I could walk back in time to see how my grandmothers washed their clothes and what those clothes looked like; how they grew or purchased and prepared food; how they arranged the furniture in their homes; and, most especially, how they mothered and taught their children and interacted with other family members.  I wish I could see how my grandfathers built wagons and houses and farms; how they taught their sons and daughters; how they worshipped; and how they interacted with their wives.  I wish I could spend a day working along side them, help prepare and sit at a family meal, and worship with them on a Sunday.

Like most of us, our ancestors lived in houses and grew up in homes.  To me, home is a place where a family lives, loves, gathers, works, plays, learns, and shares.  It's the place which determines the path on which a child will begin his or her life's walk.  That beginning at home effects the people our ancestors became. 

This post is a contribution to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.  Go to the link and you can see other submissions for this meme.  Alona Tester of  Genealogy and History News is the creator and keeper of this meme.  Thank you, Alona! 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

G is for Gerner - Family History through the Alphabet

Gerner is one of my surnames of interest (and challenge!).  I am currently researching Christian Gerner in an effort to make a connection between him and Frederick Gerner, my great-grandfather who is my earliest known Gerner ancestor.  This is a brief overview of some of the sources I've found for Frederick Gerner. 

Surname Variations:   Gerner, Garner, Gurner; possibly Gardner, Gernier

    Known Ancestors
    • Frederick Gerner, born ~1848 in Germany, died 1926 in Butler County, Pennsylvania (my great-grandfather)
    • Charles Gerner, born abt. 1850-51 in Germany, died 1929 in Butler County, Pennsylvania (Fred's brother)

    Uncertain Ancestors / Collateral Relatives
    • Christian Gerner, named as Fred's father on Fred's death certificate
    • Christian Gerner, possible brother to Fred as named by Brendice Gerner, Fred's daughter
    • John Gerner, possible brother to Fred, also named by Brendice Gerner
    • Emma Gerner, possible sister to Fred, named by Brendice Gerner.  Emma may have married a man named Alf Heusel.

    Records for Fred Gerner include
    • 1872 Bible marriage record, Sugar Creek, Venango County, Pennsylvania (photocopy)
    • 1880 U.S. Census, Scott District, Putnam County, West Virginia
    • 1900 U.S. Census, Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
    • 1910 U.S. Census, Fairview Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
    • 1916 Butler County Directory, farmer, Fairview, RD #1Petrolia, Butler County, Pennsylvania
    • 1920 U.S. Census, Bruin, Butler County, Pennsylvania
    • 1926 Death Certificate, died in Bruin, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  Died 26 March 1926
    • 1926 Burial in Bear Creek Cemetery, Chicora, Butler County, Pennsylvania
    • 1926 Will admitted to probate, March 31, 1926
    • 1926 Newspaper article telling that Fred's will had been filed for probate (The Butler Eagle, Friday, April 2, 1926, p, 17, col. 1)

    Country of Origin
    Germany is always mentioned as the country of origin in family and census records.  Family records suggest various locations in Germany including Anaheim, Mannheim

    Notes from Brendice Gerner, Fred's daughter written when she was 93
    "This is what I can tell you about my father.  He was born in 1854, I will guess, in Anaheim, Germany.  [In another letter she says he was born in 1848.]  Came to the U.S. with his parents when he was six months old.  Then there was a girl Emma, who married Alf Heusel [spelling not completely legible].  I think they lived in Chicora.  Also a boy named Charlie.  After they were married I am sure they lived in Butler.  I should have told you before that my grandparents came to Butler County, Penna.  They attended church in a little town, Fairview.  It was a German Reformed at that time.  They were buried in the cemetery there which no doubt is a parking lot today [1988].  I cannot think of either of my grandparents' first names. 
        "All these little towns are in Butler Co. and not too far apart."

    Until I can make a fairly positive connection between Fred and Christian Gerner (more than a name on a death certificate), I'm not considering Christian a great-great-grandfather yet.  More work will include searches of property records.  I've written a number of recent posts about Christian which you can find by typing "Christian" in the search box in the left sidebar under "May I help you find someone on this blog?"

    This post is a contribution to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.  Go to the link and you can see other submissions for this meme.  Alona Tester of  Genealogy and History News is the creator and keeper of this meme.  Thank you, Alona! 


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