Friday, August 3, 2018

Poetry Friday - 1492 - Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus, (1849 - 1887)

Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,
Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,
The children of the prophets of the Lord,
Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.
Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,
The West refused them, and the East abhorred.
No anchorage the known world could afford,
Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.
Then smiling, thou unveil’dst, O two-faced year,
A virgin world where doors of sunset part,
Saying, “Ho, all who weary, enter here!
There falls each ancient barrier that the art
Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear
Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”

The Alhambra Decree was signed March 31, 1492, and Spain's Jews originally had four months to leave. That was extended by 10 days to August 10th.

Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492. In his crew was the interpreter, Luis de Torres. Born Yosef ben HaLevi HaIvri, he had converted to Catholicism on August 2nd.

The Alhambra Decree was officially revoked on December 16, 1968.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Days of Love - Religious and Personal

Tu b'Av is a relatively obscure Jewish holiday that falls on the fifteenth day of the month of Av (sundown Thursday, July 26 to sundown Friday, July 27 this year).

The fifteenth day of each month on the Hebrew calendar falls on a full moon, and the holiday was observed as a sort of fertility festival during the period of the Second Temple. After the destruction of the Second Temple, it was forgotten for the most part in the Diaspora, only to be revived in modern times as a Jewish alternative to St. Valentine's Day.

To some, St. Valentine's Day, or Tu B'Av, may feel manufactured for greeting card companies, florists, and chocolatiers. However, most couples have their own personal "Days of Love." Whether the annual date commemorates a first date, an engagement, a marriage, or another anniversary, it's significant only to the individual couple.The memories connected with these dates are often stronger than the ones associated with the annual religious or societal holidays. Still, any reason for two people to celebrate their love for one another is a good reason.

To A Lady
by Victor Hugo,
From Les Feuilles D'Automne

Child, were I king, I'd yield my royal rule,
     My chariot, sceptre, vassal-service due,
My crown, my porphyry-basined waters cool,
My fleets, whereto the sea is but a pool,
     For a glance from you!

Love, were I God, the earth and its heaving airs,
     Angels, the demons abject under me,
Vast chaos with its teeming womby lairs,
Time, space, all would I give--aye, upper spheres,
     For a kiss from thee!

translation by Thomas Hardy
photogravure by Goupil et Cie, from a drawing by Deveria, appears in a collection of Hugo's poetry published by Estes and Lauriat in the late 1800s.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Amenuensis Monday: Obituary for Julia Wallace (1867-1934)

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Today I transcribe the obituary for Julia (Wallis) Wallace (1867-1934), the second wife of my wife's second great grandfather, John T Wallace. Clipping found at

Funeral services for Mrs. Julia Wallace, 66 years old, who died Tuesday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Elmer Kindred, in Crowder, were conducted at the residence at 10 o'clock Wednesday morning by the Rev. A.C. Sullivan, pastor of the Morehouse Baptist church. Burial was in Memorial Park cemetery.

Mrs. Wallace, who had been ill for approximately a year, was born in Florence, Ala. on June 2, 1867. In March 1898 she married John Wallace. She had been a member of the Missionary Baptist church at Vanduser for the last twenty-six years.

Besides Mrs. Kindred, Mrs. Wallace is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Verbal Rodgers, Sikeston, and Mrs. Edna Hamlin, Vanduser; two sons, Alva Wallace, Vanduser and Arthur Wallace, Morehouse; three stepsons, Turner and David Wallace, Vanduser, and Jim Wallace, Morehouse; and thirteen grandchildren. Three children have died. Mr. Wallace has been dead for eighteen years. Welsh service.

1) My wife's second great grandfather had two wives, Lorrah Wallis and Julia Wallis. All indications are that when his first wife died in 1893, he married her younger sister the following year. Lorrah was the mother of my wife's great grandfather, John Turner Wallace. (I haven't yet verified the parents of Lorrah and Julia that are indicated on some family trees are accurate.) Wallis and Wallace are alternate spellings of the same surname, so John T Wallace may have been related to his wives in some fashion, perhaps distantly.

2) The obituary doesn't list the names of the children who predeceased Julia. Jesse (1902-1911) is one of them. I'm guessing the other two died as infants between censuses.

3) "Welsh service" is a reference to "Welsh Funeral Home," which is now called "Ponder Funeral Home."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Amanuensis Monday: Obituary of Melvin Van Every (1863-1929)

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Today I transcribe the obituary for my great grandfather, Melvin E. Van Every, which appeared in The El Paso Times, May 29, 1929. I found the obituary at

MELVIN E. VAN EVERY, 66, of Garfield, N.M. Funeral services were held from the chapel of Kaster and Maxon at 4 o'clock Tuesday afternoon with the Rev. W. Angie Smith officiating. Burial was in Evergreen cemetery. Pallbears were members of the  W.O.W. Mr. Van Every is survived by his widow, three daughters, Mrs. Minnie Benold and Mrs. I.T. Herrin, both of El Paso, and Miss Myrtle Van Every of Kansas City, Mo., and one son, Dr. S.O. Van Every of Kansas City.


1) I believe W.O.W. stands for Woodmen of the World, a fraternal benefit organization that provides life insurance for its members. From other sources I already knew my great grandfather was a Freemason.

2) My grandmother, Myrtle, appears in the St. Louis City directories every year between 1921 and 1930. It is possible, however, that she spent some time in Kansas City with her brother, as well. She appears in the St. Louis census in 1930, but her brother is listed as living with a woman named, Myrtle, in the Kansas City census. The woman is listed as a wife, but no record with her appearance after the census has been uncovered. I think it's possible my grandmother would occasionally visit her brother, and whoever provided the information for the census (a landlord perhaps) wasn't aware they were brother and sister.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Amanuensis Monday: Ebenezer Denyer's Muster Roll Index Cards

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

The service record of Ebenezer Denyer, my second great grandfather, is described in A Brief History of John and Christian Fretz, Rev. A.J. Fretz, 1890.

"Mr. Denyer served in the Mexican War of 1848, with Captain Henry McCohlogh, and was with the Ohio Rangers for several years. About 1858, he moved to Onion Creek, Hays County, Texas, where he remained until the breaking out of the Civil War, when, after moving his wife to her mother's home in Eastern Texas, he joined the 2nd, Texas Company Volunteers, mustered at Marcos, Hays County, in the summer of 1861, and served throughout the war in the Confederate service. He was taken prisoner at Vicksburgh, Mississippi, was exchanged, and laid in the hospital at Galveston until the close of the war."

My grandmother wrote to the Department of Interior in 1933, providing what she knew from the above family history, and requesting confirmation of her grandfather's war service. She was seeking membership in the Daughters of the Confederacy, and her nephew was seeking a scholarship. She received responses from both the Department of War and the Texas Library and Historical Commission State Library.

Several years ago I found his muster roll records at Fold3.

Recently I found  his name in the Texas Muster Roll Index Cards database at Ancestry. There wasn't any new information, which isn't surprising. They're index cards for the muster rolls I had already found. But in addition to providing a summary of his activities, there was a surprise waiting for me on the last index card below.

Ancestry Database: Texas, Muster Roll Index Cards, 1838-1900

Source Texas, Muster Roll Index Cards, 1838-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Original data: Civil War Muster Rolls index Cards (both Confederate and Union). Also Texas State Rangers. Austin, Texas: Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Name: Ebenezer U. Denyer
Rank: Private
Com. off: Capt. Henry E. McCulloch
Organ: Texas Vols.
Date enlist: Oct 25, 1848
Date disch: Dec. 8, 1848
Age: 20
Remarks: 1 month. 13 days service. Ranger Muster Rolls.
Name & Rank: Denyer, Ebinezer, Pvt.,
Comm. Off: Collins, Thos. B. 2nd Lieut.,
Organ: Co. "E", 2nd Tex. Vol. Inf., Col. Ashbel Smith, CSA.
Enlist: June 12-62 in Hays Cty. for the war.
Disch: Served 3 months at $11 per month
Remarks: R&F 61; Roll dated Dec. 31-62 to Feb 28-63; En.Off. Randall; Last paid D.1-62; Am't of Pay $33; Bal. Paid $33; Transferred from June 11-63; Detached service as Teamster Ja.17-63; Stationed at Camp Maury, Miss.; Disc. Instr., Arms,
Accoutr. & Clothing good; Military appearance fine; Co. moved to Yazoo City Feb. 10th; N.L. McGinnis Insp. & Mus. Off.;
Name & Rank: Denyer, Ebenizar, O[phan], Pvt.,
Comm. Off: Holder, Wm., Capt.,
Organ: Co. E, 2nd Regt., TVI, Col. Ashbel Smith Comdg., CSA
Enlist: Je.12-62 in Hays City. for the war
Descrip: R&F 62; En.Off. Randall; Mus.Off. Col.Ashbel Smith; Last Paid Ja.12-'63; Disc.,Instr.Mil.App.&Cloth.good; Arms & Accoutr, in good order; Change of sts.F26-63 from Camp Maury near Yazoo City to Ft. Pemberton; from Ft. Pemberton Ap.11-64 to Camp Timmons near 
Vicksburg; Sta. in the field in Miss. Ap.30-63. Detached service as teamster Ja.17-63; [Married Sarah Ann Hartly. This information received from his granddaughter, Miss Myrtle Van Every, St. Louis, MO.]


1) The information on the last index card above clearly matches the information the Texas Library and Historical Commission State Library gave my grandmother in 1933. I love that they added to their record some of the information she had given them, and cited her as the source. I'm certain that the bracketed part of Ebenezer Denyer's middle name also came from my grandmother.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

JRI-Poland Record Indexing and Morris Blatt (Jewish Records Indexing - Poland) is a must for anyone researching their Polish Jewish roots. Four of my 16 second great grandparents came from Poland - Samuel Newmark, Rose Cantkert, Morris Blatt, and his wife, Belle.

Not only have they indexed a lot of records, and are slowly digitizing those records and linking to the images from the index, they provide a summary of the records that are available from each town, and the status of the indexing.

As can be seen below, while they aren't done, they've done a great job indexing the available records from Losice, where my Blatt ancestors came from. Unfortunately, my great grandmother, Anna Blatt, was born in 1888, and her older sister, Blanche, in 1886. Neither year is available. I interpret that to mean that the records from those years haven't survived. If so, no amount of waiting will make them magically appear online.
That means I have to rely on the records that do exist.

1) Anna's father was Morris (Moshe) Blatt, son of Jacob or Yankiel Blatt. (Source: tombstone)
2) Moshe Blatyta, son of Yankiel Blatyta married Chaia Beila Boksern in 1885. (record indexed, and digitally available online). Chaia Beila was 16 and Moshe Blatya 22. It was the first marriage for both of them. Many other individuals with the Blatyta surname shortened it to Blatt.
3) Anna's daughter, Belle, and Blanche's daughter, Belle, were both named after their grandmother (Family history).

Family history indicated Moshe Blatt's wife was named Belle Wyman. Jokes were made because their daughter, Blanche married a Wyman. While their mother died in Poland, there wasn't enough of a generational gap to yield too much confusion. However, Chaia Beila Boksern could have had a Wyman ancestor in her family tree, which could have been conflated to mean that it was her maiden name.

4) Moshe Blatyta was born in 1862 (Record indexed). According to his death certificate, Morris Blatt was born in 1864. Both 1862 and 1864 birth records have been indexed. That doesn't mean there weren't birth records from 1864 that have been lost.

There could have been two Moshes son of Yankiel born two years apart. But absent contrary evidence, I'm leaning towards accepting that there was only one. I admit that the availability of the birth records for both Moshe and his father, Yankiel Blatyta (though not yet digitized) is an influencing factor. I'm also slightly influenced by the fact that if the relationship is correct, according to the research of another genealogist, my grandmother was second cousins with Jay Black (David Blatt) of Jay and The Americans.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day - 2018

Below is my annual post for Memorial Day.

A post on what Memorial Day is for, besides barbecues.

The above image comes from a past version of the Memorial Day page at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, explaining that Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who died in the service of their country.  [Read the full text of the poem.]
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action. [source]
[More on the history of Memorial Day]

Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier - by Walt Whitman (From 'Specimen Days')

OF scenes like these, I say, who writes—whoe’er can write the story? Of many a score—aye, thousands, north and south, of unwrit heroes, unknown heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first-class desperations—who tells? No history ever—no poem sings, no music sounds, those bravest men of all—those deeds. No formal general’s report, nor book in the library, nor column in the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or west. Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest soldiers. Our manliest—our boys—our hardy darlings; no picture gives them. Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds, thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump, or ferny tuft, on receiving his death-shot—there sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass and soil, with red blood—the battle advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by—and there, haply with pain and suffering (yet less, far less, than is supposed,) the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him—the eyes glaze in death—none recks—perhaps the burial-squads, in truce, a week afterwards, search not the secluded spot—and there, at last, the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown.

The cartoon above is by John T. McCutcheon - published circa 1900

I have many ancestors and kin who served in their nation's armed forces during war-time. I honor them on Veterans Day.

However, the closest relative who was killed in action was my grandfather's brother, my great-uncle, Mandell Newmark.

Mandell was born Jan 31, 1923. He was almost certainly named after his great-grandfather Mandell Mojsabovski. He enlisted in the army on Feb 22, 1943, and served as a Sgt. Technician Fifth Grade, in the 163rd infantry. He was killed in action on April 15, 1945. Less than a month prior to VE day