Saturday, September 24, 2022

Mineral Wells Texas Mystery Solved - With Pictures

Back in 2010, when transcribing an interview my grandmother gave back in 1987, I heard her mention that her mother and grandfather spent some time in Mineral Wells, Texas. She didn't know the details, but I assumed there had to be some basis to the story. One does not make up a town like Mineral Wells, Texas.

In 2020 I found evidence that they were there in 1907 and 1909. But they were back in St. Louis by the 1910 census.

This week I received from a cousin some photographic evidence - and an explanation for what they were doing there.

Morris, Molly, Henry and Pearl Blatt riding donkeys in Mineral Wells Texas

Morris, Molly, Henry and Pearl Blatt in Mineral Wells Texas. They pose in front of a log cabin. Henry is holding a rifle.

These pictures are of my second great grandfather, Morris Blatt, his second wife, Molly/Mala Kellner Katz Blatt, and their two children Henry and Pearl. Blanche and my great grandmother, Annie, Morris's children with his first wife, were adults at the time of the photographs. 

Annie was actually only 17 in 1907, and is recorded in the 1907 Mineral Wells city directory. She is not in the 1909, and likely returned to St. Louis on her own by then. That might mean these photographs are from after she left, or she just wasn't in them.

These have the feel of vacation pictures to me. My cousin says Molly had arthritis and they were there for her health. This may be accurate as apparently the Mineral Wells were trendy in the early 1900s as a place to cure ailments. 

My cousin stated that Henry ultimately would own land in Mineral Wells, and a son of Molly’s from her first marriage, Harry Katz, lived there as a shoe salesman. I have found Harry living 90 miles north in Wichita Falls, and sufficient records to verify it’s him. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Calendar Whiplash in the Hudson Valley 17th Century

I have written before about keeping track of what calendar is being used with my Eastern European ancestors, since some territory went back and forth between Julian and Gregorian depending upon changing government borders. 

I was not aware that there was even greater confusion in North America. In general, one is told that the British colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. And that is that. Of course, Britain was not the only one to have colonies in North America. The Netherlands were an early adopter of the Gregorian Calendar.

My ancestor, Myndert Frederickse (and his brother Carsten) were among the founders of the First Lutheran Church of Albany. In a history of the church (Swan of Albany, Henry H. Heins, 1976) there is a discussion about the calendar changes for the Hudson Valley.

1664 - The British annex New Netherland

It is difficult to ascertain the exact date of the British annexation of New Netherland beyond “late summer, 1664,” because at that time there was a difference of ten days between the calendar used by the Dutch and that used by the English. The Netherlands had already switched from the Julian (Old Style) to the Gregorian (New Style) calendar in 1583, while the English would not do so until 1752. Thus in 1664, the Dutch settlers’ calendars were ten days ahead of the ones used by their new government. 

With Peter Stuyvesant’s surrender, therefore, the calendar went back to Old Style in the Hudson Valley, and the dates of the previous week or two were relived for a second time by the Lutherans and everyone else who was already there. (P. 15) 

1673 - The Dutch retake the colony. 

Since the Dutch naturally retook the colony with every intention of holding on to it, the restoration of the Dutch calendar (New Style) quickly resulted. The ten days that were added in 1664 were taken away again: anyone in New Orange or Willemstadt who had a birthday during the changeover lost it in 1673. (P. 20)

1674 - Less than a year later, the Dutch lost the colony again. 

The days of the week were the same on both calendars, and the actual day of the changeover — October 31 (OS) November 10 (NS) was a Saturday. This made the transition easier, but it also meant, since the difference was not 14 but only 10 days, that the dates of the month which then had to be repeated fell on different days of the week than they had the first time around. Here is how the month of November was actually observed in the year 1674, as we have reconstructed the situation: (P. 21)

The author then explains that this was at the tail end of the Trinity season on the liturgical calendar. Apparently there are 27 readings for a potential 27 Sundays between Easter and Advent, though a 27th Sunday is rare. Unfortunately, Easter fell early in 1674, and a November with Six Sundays created a 28th Sunday before Advent. The author wonders whether the pastor preached the same sermon twice.  

Any dates for events in this time period for the Dutch colonies need to be looked at carefully to ascertain what calendar is most likely being used.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

On the Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (June 28-July 3)

I’ve been thinking about this post for many months. How to write it. What to state. What not to state. This is one of the more disturbing events I have uncovered in my research.

The number of times he was stabbed in his own home varies between news articles. Somewhere between 75 and 200 times. The killer admitted to fleeing, and then returning the next day and attempting to burn the body and all the evidence.

The killer was convicted of arson and sentenced to a handful of years in jail.

He was found not guilty of murder, despite his confession.

Different newspaper accounts use different terms for his defense. One has him claiming that the victim attacked him. Another has him claiming that the victim made a pass at him. All reports indicate the victim was unarmed. Completely unarmed from his head to his feet, by most accounts. The exact details of the claim I have yet to uncover. I do know the two met in a bar, and the victim invited the killer back to his home. One would think the number of stabbings was a bit excessive if the intent was merely to escape the attack, even if that word was appropriate. (Drug use by both parties was indicated.)

The victim is/was a cousin of mine. First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, I’m not going to state. Nor am I going to state the location, beyond the United States, prior to Lawrence v Texas (2003). But in my lifetime. I am hopeful the results of the trial would have been different today. I fear there are people trying to move our country backwards to the culture that influenced these events and the outcome of the trial. 

The victim had no offspring, but close kin are still living.

From an internet search, it appears the killer is also alive. The given and surname combination isn’t common.

If you believe you know the particulars of the case, please do not add any information in the comments. I don't want readers to know the particulars; they don't matter. I have intentionally phrased this so that this blog post will not come up in searches, nor will it be easy for readers to figure out the identities.

I've downloaded lots of newspaper articles that will not appear in upcoming Amanuensis posts. My cousin's death will be documented for any family members who view my research.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Memorial Day 2022

  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

Saturday, April 9, 2022

1950 US Census Records

The 1950 US census records went online on April 1. It’s not easy finding records. There is a machine OCR index, but most of the census is cursive and OCR technology isn’t great with script. (Some have commented machines can read cursive better than *some* members of Gen Z. Of course, that’s because the computers have been given instruction.) When the index fails, you have to browse the records. Fortunately I already knew the neighborhoods my ancestors should be in, so I have retrieved the records for all of them. I’ll have to wait for human indexing on most other kin. 

Below is the 1950 census record for my maternal grandparents, mother, and aunt. (I have deleted the information for my mother and aunt from the image, as they are still alive.) My grandmother's sister was recorded with them. According to my mother’s recollection, she was still living primarily in Texas, and working as a teacher, but my grandmother was sick (Colon Cancer) and her sister would visit when she could. I’m guessing it was “Spring Break.” The third no in Minnie's line may be wrong. Columns 16 & 17 ask about employment during the past week. However, 18 asks, if they didn't work in the past week, do they still have a job. If my mother’s recollection is accurate, the answer should have been, "yes," and her employment as a teacher should have been recorded.

I'm slightly curious if she got recorded in Texas as well. It probably depends if she usually resided with someone else, like one of her children. If so, they may have mentioned her. If she usually lived alone, then her home may have just been marked "vacant." I will need to wait for Texas records to be better indexed.

A few houses down from my grandparents - Fred and Marjorie Helmkampf. They were good friends of my grandparents, and were mentioned a lot in the letters they wrote back and forth during WW2. My grandmother died in 1951. Fred would die in 1962. In 1965 my grandfather married Marj. I was born 4 years later, and would grow up thinking of her as my grandmother.

Here are my paternal grandparents. My father's info has been removed, but his brother passed away in 1997. 

My grandmother was on one of the "Sample" lines and was asked additional questions.

Both of her parents were born in Russia. (Actually, one was born in Losice, Poland, and the other Volhynia, which is now part of Ukraine.) She completed 12th grade. Being over 30 years old, she didn't have to answer whether or not she attended school in the past two months. She did indicate that in the past year she worked 42 weeks outside of the home. Though she earned no money from it. She probably was referring to volunteer work.

My paternal grandmother's parents, Herman and Annie Feinstein.

Here, it is properly recorded that Annie was born in Poland. It is indicated that in the past week, Herman only worked 24 hours as manager of a laundry.

My paternal grandfather's parents, Barney and Bertha Newmark, barely get recorded. A lodger has all their information recorded. However, my great grandmother doesn't have her name recorded, and all of the other columns are blank. In the notes section, it is stated that a neighbor claimed their census was taken in Miami Beach, Florida. It is recalled that they were simply on vacation, so this is unlikely. I’ll have to wait until Miami records are better indexed. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

More Tax Assessments for Selig and Anna Feinstein - And Fun with OCR

A month ago I found the 1910 Tax Assessment for my second great grandparents Selig and Annie Feinstein published in the St. Louis Globe Democrat 

I had been searching on his name and it came up. It was the only year it came up for, and I didn't dig much deeper.

This past week I was searching for his business partner, fellow blacksmith, Max Wieselman. A tax assessment list for 1907 came up:

I scrolled back a few pages and found my second great grandfather.

One nice thing about is you can view the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) text. Since I knew that it wasn't reading it as, "Feinstein," I was curious what it was reading it as. Felnatein. Reading an "i" as an 'l' isn't surprising. Neither is reading an 's' as an 'a.' So I started conducting more searches with various character replacements.

Then I went to the header on the first page. I wanted to find the list for as many years as possible. The opening sentence in the body of the article says "The Globe-Democrat, following its custom of many years, presents the complete list of St. Louis Taxpayers whose assessments are $5000 or more." How long was this custom?
Searching for "Assessments for Taxation" yielded no lists.
Searching for "St. Louis Taxpayers Who Are Listed" yielded none of the lists.
So I wondered - what was being indexed for the clipping above?

It looks like headline-size text is not read very well - which is the opposite of what I would expect. I searched for "Increase over last year" without much success. 

So far I have only uncovered 1902, 1907, 1909 and 1910 listings in my search from 1900-1915. I have found references to the listing in other years saying something to the effect "this list appears in today's paper," but the list isn't there. I think some years it may have been published in a separate pull-out section that didn't get scanned when the microfilm was made, and thus didn't get digitized. Though it is possible there are some years that have been digitized, but I just haven't had any luck finding the listings yet.


                                            Selig and Anna Feinstein didn't make the 1902 list




Selig's assessment dropped a little from 1907-1909, but a joint assessment with his wife appeared. From 1909 to 1910 the individual assessment remained the same, but the joint assessment grew. So far, this is all I know about the financial success of his real estate business.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Timeline for Moshe Leyb Cruvant - 1858-1911

Timeline for my 2nd great grandfather, Moshe Leyb Cruvant
  • June 12, 1858 (*) - Moshe Leyb Cruvant was born in Ceki┼íke, Kauno, Lithuania, to Mina and David Aron Orel Kruvant.
  • Before 1877 - Father David Aron Orel dies. 
  • 1881 - Moshe Leyb Cruvant married Minnie Mojsabovsky in 1881 when he was 24 years old. 
  • Dec 11, 1882 (*) - Son, Benjamin born in Pereyaslav, Lithuania 
  • March 17, 1885 - Son, David, born in Pereyaslav, Lithuania 
  • 1885 - Immigrates to US 
  • Sept 29, 1886 - Daughter Bertha born in either St. Louis Missouri or East St. Louis, Illinois 
  • May 8, 1889 - Daughter Stella born in St. Louis, Missouri 
  • March 1892 - Daughter Flora born in St. Louis, Missouri 
  • Jan 1, 1893 - Son Solomon born in St. Louis, Missouri 
  • April 7, 1895 - Brother Simon dies in St. Louis 
  • 1895 - Resides at 1128 North Eighth Street, St. Louis
  • 1900 - Resides at 1111 Morgan Street, St. Louis
  • 1903 - Seeks work in Chicago with son, Ben 
  • 1904 Returns to St. Louis 
  • May 26, 1904 - Son Ben marries Lillian Goldian White in Chicago Illinois 
  • July 19, 1904 - Grandson Clifford Edward born to Ben & Goldie in Chicago 
  • July 22, 1905 - Granddaughter Sarah Ruth born to Ben & Goldie in Chicago 
  • April 1907 - Ben leaves Goldie 
  • May 2, 1907 - Daughter Stella marries Louis Stern in St. Louis, Missouri 
  • June 1908 - Ben & Goldie divorced in East St. Louis, Illinois (appears in newspaper June 20) 
  • Oct 29, 1908 - Grandson Aaron Stern born to Stella and Louis in East St. Louis, Illinois 
  • June 27, 1909 - Son David marries Anna Rubin 
  • Aug 2, 1909 - Brother Girsh dies in Cekiske, Lithuania 
  • Before 1910 - Brother Notka dies in Lithuania or Ukraine.
  • 1910 - Resides at 435 Collinsville Ave, East St. Louis, Illinois
  • Feb 14, 1911 - Grandson Bernard Alan born to David & Anna 
  • Aug 27, 1911 - Daughter Bertha marries Barney Newmark in East St. Louis, Illinois 
  • Sept 26, 1911 - Moshe Leyb dies in East St. Louis, Illinois
(*) These dates are based on Lithuanian records and are Julian calendar dates. In both cases the individuals observed their birthdays about 20 days later. 12 days to adjust to the Gregorian calendar, and they were probably observing the anniversary of their Brit Milah at 8 days.


1) By noting the vital records of his children and grandchildren, kernels appear of the story of Ben and Goldie, which I have written several blog posts about. What I don't know is whether Moshe Leyb knew about the relationship when he left Chicago, and what he thought about it. I do know that when Ben and Goldie returned to St. Louis, all heck broke loose, because Goldie wasn't Jewish, and Ben was given an ultimatum. Ben chose his parents over his wife and children. (Though divorce records indicate he tried and failed to gain custody of one child.)

2) The exact date of daughter Bertha's birth is uncertain. She always observed her birthday on the Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShana, and wasn't certain whether she was born in 1886 or 1887. The date given in the timeline is Rosh HaShana 1886.

3) Moshe Leyb's brother, Notka, married a woman from Kiev, Ukraine - and family lore isn't certain where they resided and where he died.

4) Moshe Leyb died of liver cancer. His death certificate indicates the doctor began seeing him about a week before his daughter, Bertha's, marriage.