Monday, February 29, 2016

Family Birth: Leap Day Baby, John S. Pollock

The Number 29
In honor of this unique day, I'm featuring my husband's 2nd great-uncle. John S. Pollock was born on February 29, 1868, in Elizabeth, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. His parents were farmer Henry G. Pollock and Florilla Patterson. He was one of six children (3 boys and 3 girls).

In 1880, John was a young man of 12 at home with his parents. At some point over the next dozen years, he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and became the father of a daughter. John appears in the 1895 Minnesota state census as a carpet salesman, with wife Clara Turnbull Pollock and their children, Nancy and John. By 1900, he was back in Pennsylvania, where he had another daughter, Janet. Over the next 40 years, John was involved with carpet and awnings, eventually owning his own store and working with his son. 

John S. Pollock died on February 26, 1943, very close to the day of his birth. Except that 1943 wasn't a leap year.

Do you have any leap day births in your family tree?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Impact of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic on Your Family

Partial clipping from the front page of
The Pittsburgh Press, October 7, 1918
I've written before about how scary life must have been during past epidemics (see post at the end). One of my great-grandmothers and an extraordinary number of others died of influenza in 1918, so the fear felt across the country is understandable.

Although your ancestors probably knew someone who had died from influenza, there are other ways the epidemic would have impacted their lives. A search of Pittsburgh newspaper articles from that year shows how various groups were affected:

  • General Public - All public gatherings and meetings were prohibited, which led to many closures such as motion picture establishments, theaters, dance halls, pool rooms, and sport venues. Even some Halloween celebrations were banned. People were asked to walk whenever possible, instead of using public transportation, and to avoid any unnecessary shopping.
  • Orphans - A Pittsburgh newspaper in November 1918 reported, "The children's service bureau announced yesterday that there are 100 children in Allegheny county who are known to have been made orphans and are homeless as a result of the epidemic. The bureau is trying to find private homes for them." 
  • Teachers/Students - Schools, including universities, were closed. Apparently during this period, teachers were asked to visit the homes of their students to see if any were sick, with the intention that their findings would help decide when classes could resume.
  • Clergy - As you can see from the newspaper headline above, state health departments ordered churches to close and funeral services were not allowed.
  • Police Officers - Police patrolled the streets to make sure pedestrians kept moving, and officers "were instructed to arrest persons who spit on sidewalks or in other public places..."
  • Bar Owners - The sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited, in an attempt to eliminate the gathering of individuals. This included saloons, hotel bars, and social clubs. Restaurants remained open as long as they did "not allow patrons to loiter on the premises."
  • Healthcare Workers - Doctors were required to make daily reports of sick patients; the Red Cross sent out letters searching for women in the community with any nursing experience, and hospital visitations were banned. The federal government took over Pittsburgh's Magee Hospital to care for the city's sick soldiers and sailors.
  • Undertakers - At the top of a Pittsburgh newspaper's death notices, this statement was printed: "All funeral services and all interments are private, by order of the State Commissioner of Health." Even when other restrictions were lifted, public funerals were still banned. "The undertakers of Pittsburgh are working under many difficulties. These men have given splendid service, and through their efforts Pittsburgh has been saved from many distressing scenes such as occurred in other places. It is difficult for them to find time to conduct private funerals as rapidly as is desired. Public funerals consume so much more time than private funerals it would be impossible for them to proceed if the order in question were rescinded."

As you can see, even if none of your family died during the influenza epidemic, it's likely that their lives were still greatly affected by it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lost Sisters

I have a great-grandmother on each side of my family who is somewhat of a mystery. Kunigunda Boser Stenglein arrived in the U.S. with her husband in 1891, and Alice Laubersheimer Huber arrived in 1899. I still haven't identified the parents for either woman.

In both cases, I was hoping that a sister connection would lead me to the information I was missing. Research siblings to learn more about their parents, right? In theory that should work, but it turns out that the sisters are lost in the records somewhere.

Kunigunda had a sister, Kathryn, who arrived in the U.S. eight years later and appeared in the 1900 census as a member of Kunigunda's household in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Because I can't find her after that, I'm assuming she got married...but I haven't located a marriage record. She could have died before the next census, but I haven't found a death record. Kathryn Boser might be spelled numerous ways, which could be a reason I'm not finding her in vital and census records.

Alice arrived in the U.S. with two women, Bertha & Marie, whom I'm assuming were her sisters. They were close in age, had the same surname, and all were going to meet an uncle in Pittsburgh. While Alice was in the 1900 census as a servant in a physician's household, I haven't found any signs of her sisters yet. Did they marry, or die, or even return to Germany?

These sisters of my two great-grandmothers are lost for the moment, but I'm sure they will be found. Until then, the search continues for them as well as their parents. Do you have any similar stories of unknown parents and vanishing siblings?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Where Did the Child Come From?

Image of Orphan's Home, 1914, Our
Presbyterian Educational Institutions
It's a question that's hard to answer, the one often asked by adopted children themselves. If a child appears in a census record but is old enough that he/she should have been in the previous census, it makes us wonder how that child became part of the family.

I have two different Andrew Kleins in my family tree who were living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and either adopted or became the guardians of children. Because of the children's ages in their first census record with the family, it isn't likely that they are the biological offspring of the parents.

Walter Klein was 16 in the 1920 census when he first appeared with parents, Andrew & Magdalena Koenig Klein. In the previous census, when Walter would have been about 6 years old, the couple was childless and in their late 40s. I'm assuming Walter was adopted, but I don't know for sure the circumstances of his arrival.

Andrew & Frances Theis Klein became the parents of two boys sometime between 1910 and 1920. Bernard and Albert Klein were ages 12 and 8 in 1920, but Bernard didn't appear with the family in the census ten years earlier. But the census enumerator seems to have made a mistake/assumption when he recorded the boys' surname as Klein. In later records, they appear with the Kleins as Bernard & Albert Golembiewski. After some digging, I learned that Frances Klein was their aunt. I haven't found a death certificate yet, so I don't know what happened to Maria Theis Golembiewski, but the boys' father Dominic clearly needed help caring for his children, which wouldn't have been unusual for a city laborer with no wife.

Although we may be unable to uncover all of the details, it's wonderful to see examples in our families where a couple is willing to open their homes and hearts to children who have experienced loss and need a family. Do you have any similar stories in your family tree?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Timing Is Everything

Even in genealogy, timing can make a huge difference. The level of detail on certain documents produced a decade or two apart is astonishing.

A passenger list from the 1870s provides just the basic information such as name, age, gender, occupation, country departed, and country intended to inhabit. The 1899 immigration record for my great-grandmother, Elise (Alice) Laubersheimer, provides so much more. I can see that her last residence was Pirmasens, Germany; her final destination was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and that she was going to join her uncle Fred Waldschmidt on Federal Street in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

My husband's great-grandfather, Caspar Kaufman, arrived in the U.S. in 1876. He submitted his petition for naturalization in 1911. That document is such a treasure! Unlike earlier naturalization records, it contains the birth details for his entire immediate family, showing that the family moved around Washington and Allegheny counties in Pennsylvania, until settling in the town of McDonald:
  • Casper - 25 Jul 1858, Breitenbach, Germany
  • Gertrude - no birth date given, Valrodt (perhaps Wallrode?), Germany
  • Elizabeth - 19 Apr 1884, Bulger, Pa.
  • Mary - 14 Nov 1887, Oakdale, Pa.
  • Edward - 24 Jan 1890, Oakdale, Pa.
  • Margaret - 18 Dec 1891, Sturgeon, Pa.
  • George - 1 Mar 1896, Midway, Pa.
  • Anna - 23 Jun 1900, Midway, Pa.
  • William - 6 Feb 1903, Midway, Pa.
  • Freda - 5 Jul 1905, Venice, Pa.

An additional bonus is that it's typed, so it's easy to read. I'm very glad that Casper waited almost 40 years to finalize his U.S. citizenship!

Petition for Naturalization, Casper Kaufmann, 1911

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Problem with the Paff Brothers

There were at least seven Paff brothers in Pittsburgh, but the two giving me trouble are John and Thomas Paff. Thomas married my maternal grandfather's sister, Elizabeth, on January 7, 1930, and they divorced 12 years later in Florida. Although they both moved on and married again, they had 3 children together, so I'd love to know what happened to him.

It's not unusual for genealogy records to contain inaccurate information. Therefore, it's important to analyze each piece of the puzzle and separate fact from fiction. Two key facts that were causing me trouble were Thomas' name and his birth date. And I was hoping that, by determining when he was born, it might lead me to when he died.

Thomas and his older brother John first appeared in the 1910 census. "John P." was 4 years old (abt 1906) and "Thomas F." was 3 (abt 1907). They are listed in the 1920 census as well but with no initials this time, ages 14 (abt 1906) and 12 (abt 1908).

In Ancestry's collection, "Pennsylvania Birth Records, 1906-1908," I found the birth certificate for John Paff. The parents match the census records, so I know I have the right family. The birth is recorded as March 9, 1907. Although I tried other search techniques, I couldn't find Thomas in this database. I browsed the state birth indices, which is often necessary to do as I wrote in a previous post, but I found no other Paff born to mother Annie until another brother Francis came along in 1910. Thomas' birth record wasn't there.

In 1930, "Thomas J." was married to Elizabeth, and they were living with his parents in Library, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The census record shows his age as 23 (abt 1907). A blurb in a local newspaper about the 1930 wedding refers to him as Joseph Paff. So I assumed his full name was Thomas Joseph Paff.

In 1945, three years after his divorce from my great-aunt, "J. Thomas Paff" applied for another marriage license and provided a more specific birth date: November 9, 1907. But wait - I knew the year couldn't be right since his brother was born that same year more than six months earlier. So I still didn't know Thomas' birth date.

The key record for my research was when I obtained a copy of Thomas' first marriage license application from the Allegheny County Orphans' Court. As far as I know this record isn't online yet. And there it was. Date of birth? March 9, 1907. So the birth record I thought was for brother John Paff was actually for Thomas. It appears the J. stands for John and not Joseph, even though there was already a living child named John.

I still need to find out when and where Thomas died, but hopefully I'm a little closer to those answers now. It's interesting how members of our family tree can be difficult to track down even though their births and deaths are relatively recent.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

6 Genealogy Lessons We Learned in Kindergarten

For most of us, genealogy is a process of constant learning. Being open to education--whether you prefer reading online articles or learning in formal class settings--helps us to advance our genealogy knowledge and family research. But there are some basic lessons we learned when we were young that also are helpful to remember:
  1. Walk, Don't Run - While it's easy to get excited and quickly add people to an online tree or follow leads in multiple directions, it's important to slow down and take time to map out a focused research plan.
  2. Share with Others - Your work may help others with their genealogy research, so please don't keep family trees private and do think about sharing your finds on blogs or other social media outlets.
  3. Listen when Others Are Speaking - We can learn so much from others, so take time to read genealogy blogs and view webinars.
  4. Say 'Please' and 'Thank You' - Don't forget to use kind words when requesting research help in libraries, courthouses, etc. 
  5. Raise Your Hand - If you need help or have a question, there are lots of people in the genealogy community who are willing to provide guidance, so don't be afraid to contact a blogger or send your message to a Facebook or other online group.
  6. Clean Up - Take time to make sure every fact you add to your family tree has a source and that you use consistent place names and date formats.
Each of these lessons is basic but important. Do you have any others to add?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Seeing Salt Lake City in 1905

You can always find interesting publications in both the Internet Archive and HathiTrust Digital Library. This one, called Seeing Salt Lake City, was published in 1905 by The American Sight-Seeing Car and Coach Company. It is full of photographs of attractions, hotels, businesses (both interior and exterior shots), and residences.

"Salt Lake appeals to everyone with different force. To the reader of history she lies as the first great outpost of western civilization. To the casual tourist she appeals as the home of a people of strange religious belief, a place filled with quaint architecture and tower-tipped temples. To the pleasure seeker there is the charm of her wondrous salty lake--twin sister to that other Dead Sea of the Holy Land--there are the attractions of her fuming springs, her shady drives, the crafty fish which lie in the deep pools of her mountain streams, the ducks which fly over her marshes and the big game which roams among the canyons of her eastern barrier. The man of money sees in her mines and rich tributary country millions yet to come. To the invalid 'The City of the Saints' promises a new lease of life, and, drinking in of its invigorating air, he finds his strength returned and hope renewed."

Check out Seeing Salt Lake City for yourself, and be sure to search for publications related to the cities or towns where your ancestors lived.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Left Behind...

Image from The New York Public Library
As thousands converge in Salt Lake City for RootsTech, some of us couldn't make the trip. Sigh. It got me thinking about genealogy and some themes related to being left behind, like:
  • Immigrants who left behind family - It wasn't unusual for the head of the family to sail to a new country without his wife and children in the hopes of sending for them after he had time to save money for their trip.
  • Soldiers who left behind girlfriends - War took soldiers away from their loved ones, sometimes permanently. The Indianapolis News printed in 1916 that "it is almost a certainty that when a regiment leaves its home town...the band will strike up 'The Girl I Left Behind Me.' The song was sung in America during the Revolutionary war."
  • Ancestors who left behind records - As we know very well, all kinds of vital, military, land, and court records help us learn about the members of our family tree.
So, just as we don't want to lose sight of any of these left-behind people or records, don't forget about us at home. Be sure to share lots of highlights of your time in Utah, since we'd love to hear all about it.