Monday, January 28, 2013

B is for Bradford Cathedral - Family History Through the Alphabet

Bradford Cathedral, also known as Cathedral Church of St. Peter, is located in Bradford, Yorkshire, U.K.  It is the scene of at least five events in the lives of several of my great-grandparents, beginning as early as 1813, and possibly earlier.

A Brief History of Bradford Cathedral tells me that a stone church had been built on the site as early as 1327.  Through the centuries the building received various changes and reconstructions.  The nave arcades were built in 1458 and are still in use now.  Even with all the changes, many parts of the building were in existence during the times of my known ancestors two centuries ago.

There are some older images of the cathedral available on the internet.  One drawing shows what the church might have looked like during the time of the Tudors, with a graveyard nearby.  Another undated drawing of the church shows smaller buildings clustered on streets near the Cathedral.  And one last drawing shows a view of the large, arched, stained glass window, out of our view in the photo above.

We can't know what the building and surrounding areas looked like during the times my ancestors lived near Bradford and attended the church.  Was it in the center of the town and surrounded by buildings in the early 1800s or did it stand apart with other buildings at a distance?  I like to imagine that when my ancestors walked into the heart of the church, the sun shone through the clerestory windows then just as it does now, enlivening the nave with a bright yet peaceful light.  Were they in awe of the beauty and majesty of the building?  The Cathedral may have seemed large and imposing to my ancestors, common folk who worked in the local mills and mines.  Were they regular attenders and comfortable worshiping there? 

Church records tell me that
  • Abel Armitage, son of John and Hannah Armitage, was baptized on October 21, 1821.  John was employed as a comber.  The family lived in South Horton. 
  • Abel Armitage and Eliza Hartley were married on January 13, 1847.  He worked as a carter, she was a mill hand.  They lived in Horton.  Abel's father, John, worked as a collier at the time of Abel's and Eliza's marriage. Eliza's father, Richard, was still working  as a cloth dresser.
  • Ann Armitage, daughter of Abel and Eliza (Hartley) Armitage, was born on May 21, 1850, and was baptized on June 16, 1850.  Abel worked as a barrier at the time of Ann's baptism.  The family lived in Bowling.
  • Elizabeth Armitage, daughter of Abel and Eliza (Hartley) Armitage, was born on August 24, 1852, and was baptized on September 19, 1852.  Abel was a porter at the time.  The family lived in Bowling.

Considering the line of association these two families had with Bradford Cathedral, I can guess that perhaps other records will be available for Abel's and Eliza's parents, their marriages, and other children in their families.  And I hope to find a death record for Eliza

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!

Both images of Bradford Cathedral are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  The photo of the outside of the Cathedral is courtesy of Mick Melton.  The photograph of the nave is courtesy of Popis.  I extend grateful thanks to both photographers.  To see more images of Bradford Cathedral search google and select "images."


Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Death Notice ≠ An Obituary

Christian Gerner's "obituary" from the Butler Area Public Library Obituary Index arrived yesterday.  Filled with eager anticipation, I was excited to open the envelope.

I was so disappointed to see that it was a death notice instead of an obituary.  Death notices are short announcements that state the person's name and may include death date, location of death, and age.  An obituary will usually include that information plus much more.  Often an obituary will tell the name of spouse, including her maiden name; the names of parents including a mother's maiden name; names of living and dead siblings; sometimes marriage date and location; employment information; etc.  May obituaries tell much more.

This is Christian Gerner's death notice:
GERNER -- At his home in Butler, Feb. 16, 1899.  Christian Gerner in the 80th year of his age.
That's it.  From this information I cannot tell whether this is my Christian.  I can tell that this Christian was born in 1819 or 1820, which fits the age range as a father to my Fred Gerner who was born about 1848.  And I can tell that this Christian lived (or perhaps better said, died) in the same county where my Fred Gerner lived.  But that's all the information I can glean from this death notice.

My next step was to order a microfilm of the Butler County wills for 1899 from the Family History Library.  More waiting.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A is for Abel Armitage - Family History Through the Alphabet

Bless his heart, my great-great-grandfather Abel Armitage disappeared after 1881.  No doubt he died and no doubt his wife and children mourned his passing and buried him.  But they've been efficient in keeping both his death date and burial location a secret:  here I am more than a hundred years later searching for the final link so I can draw a circle around Abel.

Below is what I've been able to learn from church, civil, and county records; city directories; and U.K. and U.S. Census records.

abt. 1821, Little Horton, West Riding Yorkshire, England

October 21, 1821, St. Peter's Church (also known as Bradford Cathedral), Bradford, Yorkshire, England

Marriage #1
January 13, 1847, to Eliza Hartley, at St. Peter's Church, Bradford, Yorkshire. 

Marriage #2
btw. 1852 & 1859, to Ann Bell

Children of Marriage #1
Ann, b. May 21, 1850; baptized June 16, 1850, St. Peter's Church, Bradford, Yorkshire
Elizabeth, b. August 24, 1852; baptized September 19, 1852, St. Peter's Church, Bradford, Yorkshire

Employment & Residence
1847:  carter, Horton, Yorkshire
1851:  rail porter, Slaters Square, Bradford, Yorkshire
1861:  coal miner, Trimdon Colliery Villages, Trimdon, Durham
1870:  coal miner, Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio
1875-76:  miner, Doty's Row, Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio
1880:  coal miner (disabled), Fifth Street, Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio

November 18, 1863, from Liverpool to New York on the ship "Sidon"

August 17, 1874, Jefferson County, Ohio

after 1880

Spelling Variations
Armatage, Armiddage, Harmatige, Harmatage

I'm drawing a circle, though a dotted line it may be, but I'm unable to close the circle until I find Abel's death date and burial location.

I think the 2013 Family History Writing Challenge will be the perfect opportunity to flesh out this information and turn it into something more interesting and readable.

This was written to participate in the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge extended by Alona Tester of Genealogy and History News.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Favorite Award to Give

There's been a lot of discussion, both pro and con, about awards in the genealogy blogging community lately.  Some bloggers have chosen to make their blogs "no award" blogs.  Others still welcome receiving the awards.  Caroline M. Pointer explained the problems with regards to search engine optimization (SEO) at Blog Awards and SEO.  If you want to know others' points of view you can go to GeneaBloggers, click "search" in the black band across the top, type in "award" and read other bloggers' posts and the comments to the posts.

As for me....  I appreciate receiving a blog award despite what it might do to my SEO results.  Many of us work hard to make our blogs readable, interesting, and worthwhile to our visitors and followers.  It's nice to be recognized in the form of an award.  I'm not one to praise myself but if someone else offers praise, I'm learning to accept and say thank you.

Right now I want to say thank you to Debi Austin of Who Knew? for the gift of the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award.  Thank you, Debi!  It was a huge surprise.  It's an award given to those who leave comments on the giver's blog. It is my favorite award, not because I'm such a great commenter but because I can pass the award on to those who support my blog by leaving comments. 

The rules of this award are
  • Thank the nominator and link back to his or her site as well.
  • Display the award logo on your blog.
  • Nominate no more than fourteen readers of your blog you appreciate and leave a comment on their blogs to let them know about the award.
  • Finish this sentence: “A great reader is…”
 A great reader is one who regularly reads my blog posts.  A better reader is one who leaves comments regularly! 

Thank you to the ladies below, readers who so abundantly support this blog with their comments (in no particular order).  I appreciate you!

I hope you'll click through to their blogs and read what they're sharing about their ancestors.  And leave comments!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Taking the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge

I missed the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge when it began last May so I'm beginning it this year.  It was initiated by Alona Tester of Genealogy & History News.  In her introductory post about the challenge she wrote,
Join us in taking the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge. It’s not hard, you just need to use the current letter for the week (A, B, C etc. whatever week we’re up to, right through to Z), and connect it to someone, something, or a topic relating to your family that you’d like write about.

For instance, for letter B, you might have a heirloom brooch that you’d like to make mention of, and maybe include a photo. F could be for family bible if you’re lucky enough to have one, and J might be for John Smith who is the bane of your life because you just can’t find him ANYWHERE! You might want to do O for orphan because one of your ancestors lived in an orphanage, and use the orphanage as your topic. You may even like to mention a website, book or society that has really helped you along the way. Anyway I think you get the idea.
I've put on my thinking cap, as my mother might have suggested dozens of years ago, to gather my options, choose my topics, write my posts, and collect my images.  Who knows what my posts will look like....

Join me if you'd like.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Accents, Spelling, and Surnames - Tuesday's Tip

I've been thinking recently about the spelling variations of some of my ancestors' surnames.  I generally assumed the variations were due to lack of standardized spelling until 50 or 75 years ago, but it recently occurred to me that some variations may be a result of accents.

An accent is a way of pronouncing words, and people from different places pronounce the same words in different ways.  A census taker would have recorded what he heard.  If the last name Bell was pronounced with a Southern accent, the census taker may have spelled it Beal or Beall.  If the last name of a person from Germany stated his last names as Werner the census taker may have spelled it Verner.

Being aware of this phenomenon may help you as you search for your ancestors who came to America from other countries or who lived in other parts of the United States.  I've found two websites with recorded accents that may be helpful in determining the way your ancestor pronounced his name.
The Speech Accent Archive of George Mason University is a way to listen to people from other countries speak in English.  The about section of the website tells us that the archive was "established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded."

Clicking on the browse link will take you to a set of options:  language/speakers; atlas/regions; and native phonetic inventory.  If you click on languages/speakers you will go to a page where you can browse by language.  Many of the languages are new to me:  Appolo, Kambaata, Djola, Maninkakan.  You will also find more commonly known languages such as Czech, Chinese, Croatian, Danish, German, Lithuanian, etc. 

Under German I found 32 listening options, both male and female, including accents from Bemen, Frankfurt, Offenbach, Niedersachsen, Stuttgart, and Vienna, Austria.  English offered 494 listening options from places around the globe:  Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Jamaica, New Guinea, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Panama, Scotland, South Africa, Trinidad, United Kingdom, and every state in the United States.  (If you don't want to scroll through the list, click the F3 key on your keypad and type in the desired location in the box that will pop up on the lower left of your monitor.)

An opportunity to hear British accents is available at the British Library Sounds which offers thousands of recordings of people from all over the United Kingdom.  These are primarily people speaking in a conversational tone describing events, memories, or activities in their lives.  Some recordings are from as early as 1917 but most are from more recent years.  They last from a few minutes to more than an hour. 

There are multiple ways to search on this site.  The column on the left offers categories.  In the search box on the right you can type in a specific location.  I used the search box to find recordings from Bradford, Yorkshire and Northumberland, native locations of my ancestors.  I was surprised to realize that I could barely understand some of the accents I heard.

There are probably other websites about accents that may give you an idea about how your ancestor spoke his name, but I found these helpful.  I hope they might be helpful to you, too.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

You Genealogists with More Experience than Me, ...

. . . may I please have a moment of your time?  I have a question for you.

When you find a document that may be about one of your ancestors (or may just as well not be about one of them), what do you do with it?

I have several documents (a will, a census record, etc.) about people who are probably my ancestors but I don't have enough information (yet) to make a  good case for a relationship.  I haven't been adding the names or documents to my genealogy program or to the notes section of my genealogy program, either.  But then when I find some other information that might support this person, I have to go searching for the previous information/document I found.

What do you do?  Add the person to your database or not?  If so, how do you identify the person as a possible ancestor (as opposed to a found ancestor)?

I would greatly appreciate answers from those of you who have more experience than me.

Thanks so much!


Note, January 15:  In addition to the comments below, Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings wrote a post answering my question. You can read it at "What Do You Do With a Document for a Potential Ancestor?" Thanks, Randy.

Note, January 26:  Michael Hait of Planting the Seeds: Genealogy As a Profession also responded with a a helpful post, "When you find a document that may be about one of your ancestors ..."  Be sure to read the comments accompanying that post for additional information.  Thank you, Michael.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


What a surprise to learn that Jana of Jana's Genealogy and Family History Blog awarded My Ancestors and Me the Liebster Blog Award.  I feel so honored!  Thank you.

Liebster is a German word that means friend, dearest, adored, beloved, chosen one.  The Liebster Award is given to bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

The rules vary depending on who gives the award.  Since Jana did the honors, I'll follow her rules.
  1. Thank the one who nominated you by linking back.
  2. Nominate five blogs with less than 200 followers.
  3. Let the nominees know by leaving a comment at their sites.
  4. Add the award image to your site.
Congratulations to my nominees for Liebster Blog Award!


Way back last August (how could it be so long ago!?) Teresa Wilson Rogers of Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places gave my little blog the Illuminating Blogger Award.  I'm very grateful to her for the honor.  Thank you, Teresa.  I wasn't able to publicly acknowledge and pass on the award when she gave it but I find that now is a good time.

Part of accepting the award is to nominate five other blogs and to mention one random thing about myself.  Hmmmm.  I'm a night owl and have trouble letting go of the day.  I usually think I can do at least one more thing before I go to bed,  then I do two or three and an hour or two has passed.

Congratulations to these blogs on receiving the Illuminating Blogger Award!  I always learn something when I read their posts.
More about the Illuminating Blogger Award
If you are nominated then you have been awarded the Illuminating Blogger Award. Just follow the steps below.
  1. The nominee should visit the award site ( and leave a comment indicating that she have been nominated and by whom.(This step is so important because it’s the only way that we can create a blogroll of award winners).
  2. The Nominee should thank the person who nominated him by posting & including a link to their blog.
  3. The Nominee should include a courtesy link back to the official award site ( in her blog post.
  4. Share one random thing about yourself in your blog post.
  5. Select other bloggers that you enjoy reading their illuminating, informative posts and nominate them for the award.
  6. Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog, including a link to the award site (
It's so exciting to receive awards.  Thank you!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Another Christian Gerner

The Obituary Index at the Butler Area Public Library (of Pennsylvania) lists an obituary for a man named Christian Gerner, age 80, who died in 1899.  His approximate birth year was 1819.  (The approximate birth year of Christian Gerner of Pittsburgh was 1809.)  I've ordered the obituary and hope it has helpful information.

I did not find Christian Gerner in the 1860, 1870, or 1880 U.S. censuses.  However, I found a man named Christian Garner in the 1880 census living in Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  His age was 60 (therefore born about 1820).  His family included wife, Elizabeth; children Charles, 27; Lizzie, 29; Christian, 25; and John, 23.

This man and his family are of interest to me for the following reasons:
  • Lizzie Gerner is named as the witness of the marriage of Fred Gerner and Elvira Bartley on 24 Jul 1872 in Sugar Creek, Venango County, Pennsylvania.  The marriage was officiated by Abner Dale.  (Abner Dale was the pastor of St. Peter's Reformed Church from 1856-1860 and again from 1869-1875.  The History of Butler County, Pennsylvania noted that Christian Gerner was affiliated with St. Peter's Reformed Church.)
  • Charles Gerner, brother of Fred Gerner, would have been about the same age as Charles Garner in 1880. 
  • One of Fred Gerner's daughters remembered that Fred had 3 brothers:  Christian, John, and Charles. 
I understand that Christian Garner may be a separate man from Christian Gerner but the similarities in their circumstances may prove them to be the same man.

I love a good mystery!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christian Gerner in Pittsburgh City Directories

There's no way to know the age of this man/men or to learn whether he/they are the Christian Gerner named on Fred Gerner's death certificate as his father.  Nonetheless, it's interesting to note what I've found.  Names include Christ., C., Ch., Christian, and Christopher.  Occupations include lock maker, laborer, saw maker, gent[leman], and locksmith. They may or may not be the same man.

My grateful thanks go to Claudia of Claudia's Genealogy Blog for suggesting I look at Historic Pittsburgh where I found more Pittsburgh City Directories than I needed (at least for this search).

1857, p. 72            Christian Gerner, lock maker, 39 Gibbon bt Chestnut and Magee
1858-59, p. 80       Christian Gerner, lab[orer], Penn'a av n Price
1861-62, p. 108     Christopher Gerner, B. H., 237 Penna av
1864-65, p. 110     C. Gerner, saw maker, Pa av n Madison
1869-70, p. 169     Ch. Gerner, gent, Fifth av
1870, p. 183          Christ. Gerner, Fifth av and Soho
1873-74, p. 214     Christopher Gerner, lab[orer], Fourth av, Soho
1876-77, p. 235     Christopher Gerner, 722 Fifth av
1877-78, p. 230     Christian Gerner, locksmith, 720 1/2 Fifth av
1878-79, p. 248     Christian Gerner, r 720 Fifth av, Soho

In the 1870 and 1876-77 directories, Gotlieb Gerner is named.  In the 1873-74, G., John, and Robert Gerner are named.  Relatives?

An obvious question:  Where is "Chas. Gerner" who was a 19-year-old apprentice in the 1870 census?  City directories usually list all males who were working outside the home.  


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Searching for Christian Gerner

My great-great-grandfather Fred Gerner's death certificate stated his father's name as Christian Gerner.  Fred was born in 1848 or 1849 in Germany.   From family sources and other documents I understand that Fred had a younger brother named Charles who was also born in Germany in about 1851 or 1852.

While searching the 1870 U.S. census this evening I found Christopher Gerner, aged 61, with son Charles, aged 19, living in Pittsburgh.  Could this possibly be my Christian Gerner with an anglicized name?

Having Charles with this family group seems to fit what I already know.  Fred, 21 or 22 in 1870, would have probably already moved from home, though I've yet to find him in the 1870 census.

In this census (image above) Charles's occupation is identified as "apprentice at m-------."  Can any of you read the last word?  Thanks for any thoughts or interpretations.

The source for this image is Heritage Quest, 1870 U.S. Census, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Series M593, Roll 1297, page 564, written page 72, lines 8-10.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year, Friends

Best Wishes for a
Happy and Prosperous New Year
to you and yours!


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