Saturday, May 31, 2008

Good Intentions

Declarations of Intent to become a citizen are a good source of genealogical information, if your ancestor went through the process after Sept 26, 1906.

Before that date, the Declaration of Intent looked something like this, and contained the following information: Name, age, country of origin, date of declaration, and signature.

The St. Louis Genealogical Society has a database for the pre-1906 naturalizations conducted in St. Louis, providing one with the court, volume and page number, along with several locations the naturalizations can be found.

Most of my ancestors went through the process prior to 1906. The two exceptions were the Newmarks and the Deutsches.

The Deutsches would have gone through the process in Chicago courts. I already have my grandfather's copy of his Application for Citizenship, which contains even more information, as well as his birth certificate from Varalmas, Hungary, so there isn't much information I would find on his or his father's Declaration of Intent I don't already know. The one exception would be his father's birthplace, which could have been a different town than his children's.

The Newmarks went through the process in St. Louis courts, so their declarations are easier for me to obtain, being on microfilm at my local library. I'm kind of surprised I waited this long to retrieve them since I've been to the library so often, but I've been busy with other records.

The St. Louis County Library website has the post-1906 naturalizations in St. Louis indexed by volume number. If you don't know the year to look in, you can search the entire site using the search box at the top of the page. The index provides the specific court, declaration number, volume, page, and both the library's and LDS microfilm number.

This is what the post--1906 naturalizations look like. (Click to enlarge) It is my second great-grandfather's Samuel Newmark. It contains:

Name, Age, profession, physical description (eyes, hair, complexion, height, weight), place of birth (city, country), birthdate, last foreign residence,
current address, port of departure and arrival for immigration, name of vessel, date of arrival, and signature. (Or a mark, and the signature of whoever witnessed the mark. In the case of my great-great-grandfather, one of his sons.)

This is much more useful to the genealogist than the pre-1906 forms. After 1916, two more pieces of information were added: Name of wife, and the country where the wife was born.

New information for me included his date of birth (Oct 2, 1863). His tombstone had said 1862, with no month or day. His town of birth was also new information: Wurka, Poland. A search at JewishGen led me to Warka, which is part of the Warsaw province. Most of his children put down Warsaw for their birthplace, and that is what had been passed down, though I suspected they hadn't actually been from the city, but one of the rural towns nearby.

My great grandfather's declaration of intent was also fun to look at. As I've mentioned before, Barney claimed to be from Dublin and to have been born on March 17th. This made a lot of business sense in a town filled with Irish immigrants, and he could explain his accent by mentioning he spent 14 years in England. The suggestion one commenter made awhile back that my great-grandfather may have gotten the idea for his 'born in Dublin, Ireland' fib from Deblin, Poland is getting more interesting. If you look at the map on the first link in this paragraph, you will see Warka, Poland is half way between Warsaw and Deblin.

His 'born on March 17th' fib is also looking less like a fib. Barney definitely did say April 14th for his draft registration, and that's the date that his wife gave for the death certificate. However, his family celebrated his birthday on March 17th, and on his declaration of intent in 1910 he said he was born on March 25th. 8 days after March 17th. This could be significant since in Jewish tradition, 8 days after birth is when a young boy is welcomed into the Covenant with G-d.

Perhaps there was some confusion at some point - maybe due to the need to convert from the Hebrew calendar to the Gregorian - and Barney's birthday was computed using the wrong Hebrew date. And later this was discovered. This explanation might not be extremely likely, but still a possible defense of his claim. Still, the earliest document now found puts his date of birth in March, not April.

Another interesting discovery is that Samuel's youngest son, Israel David, declared his intent in 1922, at age 19. But I don't know why he needed to. Minor children automatically naturalize with their parents, and Israel would have been 7 years old in 1910 when Samuel began the process. I don't know the date Samuel actually became a citizen, but the process wouldn't have taken long enough.

For access to Naturalization records from other courts, if you can't find the records locally, FOIA requests can be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Census

The Torah (the Hebrew word for the first five books of the Old Testament) is divided up into portions (Hebrew: Parasha) to be read each week. This Friday's portion is Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1 - 4:20)

On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, saying:

Take a census of the whole Israelite community by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names, every male, head by head. You and Aaron shall record them by their groups, from the age of twenty years up...
The Velveteen Rabbi often writes poems inspired by weekly portions, and I suspect several readers will enjoy this week's, as it is on the census, and genealogy. She also records her poems, and the audio is available on her blog.

Monday, May 26, 2008

On Memorial Day

During Memorial Day Weekend I've been thinking about my ancestors who fought in various wars. [The cartoon on the left is by John T McCutcheon and is circa 1900.]

Since Memorial Day is primarily to remember those who fell in service, I first thought of my Great Uncle Mandell Newmark, who died in WWII. I wrote a year ago about scanning in his war journal, but his handwriting unfortunately lacks legibility in many parts.

Mandell's brother, and my grandfather, Melvin Newmark, served in WWII, as did my maternal grandfather, Martin Deutsch. However, Mandell is the only relative, direct or collateral, I know of who died in military service.

I've claimed before that I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War and the American Revolution. I'm not sure that is true. Family lore has said it is true, but I think there was some flexibility on the definition of 'ancestor' to include collateral relatives.

I have only two ancestors who were male and of the correct age during the Civil War. One: Ebenezer Denyer, definitely fought for the Confederacy. I've found a lot of documents on him at Footnote, including his signed surrender at Vicksburg.

The other would be Samuel Van Every. He was born in 1820, and by 1860 ten of his ultimately 22 children had already been born. If he did any fighting there's a good chance it was on the side of the Union. He lived in Michigan. There is a "Samuel Vanevery" listed on the Union rolls from Michigan on Ancestry, however, there is also a widow of a "Samuel Vanevery" of Michigan, listed on the pension rolls, and my second great grandfather didn't die until 1888. (And the first name of the widow doesn't match any of his three wives.) So it appears there were two Samuel Van Everys in Michigan at the time, which isn't too surprising.

My odds are better with the American Revolution, especially since I have been unable to trace all the possible lines. My second-great-grandmother even claimed to be 1/8 Choctaw, and many Choctaw fought on the side of the colonies. Unfortunately, I know nothing about her parents.

I am definitely descended from Loyalists - McGregory Van Every and his son David Van Every can both be found in the United Empire Loyalist rolls. I was looking through the DAR Patriot Index on Saturday at the local library, and there are several Van Everys, Showers, Hortons, and Swayzes on the list -- all surnames in my ancestry - though only one name matched a name on my tree - a Michael Showers from Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, while the Michael Showers in my tree may be from Pennsylvania, he was a registered member of the UEL (and allegedly the first Loyalist allowed to build a farm on the Canadian side of Niagara.) Alas, finding a direct ancestor on the winning side of either war may prove difficult.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Missouri State Archives

The Missouri State Archives in Jefferson City offers something I haven't seen before, though my experience is limited.

They have over 55,000 reels of microfilm from various counties in Missouri containing "deeds, marriages, circuit court and probate court materials. as well as census film and some state agency publications."

The link above contains a listing, by county, and anyone can order a copy of an entire roll for $15, and it will be theirs to keep.

There's not much in the St. Louis City/County holdings that I would be interested in which isn't available for me to browse through at the local library. However, if I wasn't likely to be going to Jefferson City for work in the near future, and I couldn't find someone who lived there to look it up for me, I might order a roll of film from their Jackson County collection, in particular the one that is likely to contain the will of my mother's Uncle, Samuel Van Every, if he had one. He died relatively young, without any dependents. Anything he had left he would have probably left to one of his sisters.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Cost of Fuel

Jasia asks whether the cost of fuel is affecting genealogy research

I don't have much to judge against since I've only been obsessing for about a year now, and while fuel costs continue to rise, it was already rising when I started.

Recently I did pay someone in Springfield, IL to send me a copy of a death certificate. She only charged me $5, though, which is 1/3 of the price the Cook County Clerk would have charged me for the same certificate, and even at old prices, that was better than what it would have cost me to drive round trip (200 miles) to Sringfield.

At current prices it will cost me $27 ((200 miles / 30mpg) X $4/g) I could conceivably come up with enough Springfield research to do to make the trip worthwhile, since I have several Chicago relatives, but I would have to take a day off from work, which suddenly changes the math. By the way, if anyone has any Illinois research that can't be done online, you should check out Mollx's website The death certificate I had her look up was in the mail within 48 hours of my initial contact.

I do want to make a trip to Jefferson City, MO, which is a little further (260 miles round trip.) However, I usually have a morning meeting I have to attend once or twice a year for work there. I'm not expected back in St. Louis in the afternoon, so it would give me a few hours research with my fuel costs reimbursed. I just have to wait for the opportunity, and of course, now that I have something to do in Jefferson City the opportunity hasn't arisen yet this year.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Quiz on how to read the census

This is a simple quiz. Multiple Choice. I am going to provide you with data on a family from a series of census forms, as well as two draft registrations, and then ask one question. The data includes names, places of birth, birth years, and the relationships provided on the census. Most of the names below have been changed.

1900 – St. Louis
Parents: Jim and Jane (Russia)
Larry (1886 Russia)
Peggy (1884 Russia)
Sarah (1894 Missouri)
Hugh (1896 Missouri)

1910 – St. Louis
Residence 1:
Parents: Jim and Jane (Russia)
Larry (1886 Russia)
Sarah (1894 Missouri)
Hugh (1897 Missouri)

1920 – Chicago
Residence 1:
Jane – Hospital (Germany)

Residence 2:
Larry (1888 Russia) Head
Sarah (1892 Missouri) Wife
Hugh (1897 Missouri) Brother
Suzy (1899 Russia) Wife

1930 - Chicago
Residence 1:
Hugh (1895 Missouri) “Brother-in-law”
Sarah (1893 Missouri) “Sister-in-law”
Living with Unknown family

Residence 2
Suzy (1900-Russia)
Brenda (1920-Illinois) Daughter

1918 WWI Draft Registration
Larry – Married
Hugh - Single

Question: Who is Brenda’s father?
A. Larry
B. Hugh
C. Not enough information

Yes, it certainly looks like in 1920, siblings Larry, Sarah, and Hugh are all living together, and there is actually only one wife, and the census taker got it wrong.

Or possibly there is a second Sarah but since Hugh and Sarah are together in 1930, Suzy and Larry were the other couple.

In 1930 either husband/wife or siblings Hugh and Sarah are still living together, and Suzy – the definite newcomer to the family from 1920 is alone with her daughter. So Larry is the father, right?

Well, if you answer that way, congratulations, like I was, you’re wrong.
The answer should be C. (Or B if somehow you're psychic) Because Brenda is still alive, and insists her father is Hugh. I’m willing to accept this statement. Especially since I am told that Hugh went through five wives, and Brenda was raised by her mother.

I think there are three Sarahs – a sister and two wives. All born in Missouri about the same time.

I think in 1920 Larry was married to the second Sarah, and Hugh to Suzy.
I think in 1930 Hugh was now married to the third Sarah, and Suzy was raising Brenda.

The sister Sarah probably married someone prior to 1920.

I'm glad I found Brenda -- hopefully she can straighten this mess out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Hundred Cousins

Census forms are great for many reasons. One is that when researching distant cousins you know less about, it provides the names of all the children for further research.

Of course, one should always be wary of that word 'all'. The thing with children is they tend to move out of the house when they reach a certain age. Ten year snapshots will usually catch children before they move out of the home, but if there's a child that is already full grown when they arrive on the shores of the US, you might not see them.

I've talked at length before about my Dudelsack lineage. My second great grandfather Selig had a brother named Julius. Previously I thought Julius had four children - Pearl, Louis, Harry and Sarah. Those were the names that appeared on the 1900 census. Luckily, I recently found Pearl's obituary, and it mentioned a brother named Samuel. I realized he had to be older, so I started the basic Ancestry searches.

As I found them in the census reports, surname only slightly misspelled, my mouth began to drop. 1910 - 5 children. 1920 - 11 children. 1930 - 13 children! I found the name of one of the children on an Ancestry Public Family Tree, and contacted the owner. She said her family was familiar with the 'Dudelsack' story, but most of them thought it was a joke! (I can't imagine why.)

I have learned three of Samuel's children are still alive, and they, along with Samuel's grandchildren and great-grandchildren have an annual reunion with an approximate attendance of 100 every Memorial Day Weekend. They're opening the invitation, though with the short notice, I'm not sure how many of our branch will make it this year.

In the future I might be able to make it, but unfortunately, I won't be able to say much here. Because WHIVSIV.

There is no question in my mind that my subscription to is worth it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Name Game

The Genealogue asks Is Cherry Garcia Jewish linking to an article that suggests Spanish surnames may indicate Jewish roots

I have heard it said that in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, he left the day after it was decreed that all Muslims and Jews had to be gone from Spain, and several slept that night on board. A quick check on Wikipedia suggests this is extremely close. The Alhambra Decree set the begone date at July 31, 1492. Columbus set sail August 3. So it's possible a few of his crew spent a couple days and nights on board.

Longfellow's Jewish Cemetery at Newport

The very names recorded here are strange,
Of foreign accent, and of different climes;
Alvares and Rivera interchange
With Abraham and Jacob of old times.

Of course, playing 'the name game' isn't very scientific. Those who left Spain in 1492 had Spanish surnames, but so did those who remained!

Regarding the question of Cherry Garcia...
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield - yes
Jerry Garcia - no
Cherry Garcia - Yes

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Baptisms by Proxy

Kimberly Powell and Craig Manson both discuss the Vatican’s recent announcement

In an effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic dioceses throughout the world have been directed by the Vatican not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah.

I’m not Catholic, but I am Jewish, and way back in 2002, long before my recent obsession in genealogy, I wrote a post on the controversy of, as I saw it initially, “forced conversions” (Let me warn you, that some of what I wrote back then wasn't family appropriate, and I ask anyone who follows the link to read through the comments, because my thoughts and position changed as I learned more information.)

Now, post-onset of genealogical obsession, what are my thoughts?

1. I am very thankful for the LDS obsession with genealogy

2. is a great website, and their new appears as if it will be a magnificent contribution to many family historians.

3. Baptisms-by-proxy really could be called something better since the current term implies a conversion, when the Mormon teachings appear, from what I have read, to imply the proxy provides the soul a choice. Only if the soul accepts is the process completed. So anyone upset about seeing a family member on the list is, in a way, expressing doubt that their family member would remain faithful to the religion in which they lived their life.

4. I am confident that all religiously spiritual members of my family tree (and for that matter, the non-religiously spiritual too) were strong enough in their beliefs that their beliefs won’t change merely upon being given a choice in the afterlife. And if the soul makes the choice, it is still their choice. In my family tree I have Catholics, Methodists, Mennonites, and Jews. I don’t have a problem if any of my ancestors decide to switch over to Mormonism in the after-life.

I would like for them to somehow let me know, so I can record it in my database, but other than that, I’m fine with it.

What's in a name...

In 2005 a man tried to legally change his name to his wife's name, and was told he would have to pay four times what his wife would have to pay to change her name to his, as well as needing to advertise his name change in the newspaper, and get judicial approval. A lawsuit was filed in 2006, and finally, a judgment has been returned in his favor.

Michael Buday wanted to take his wife's surname after marriage but found that the DMV wouldn't issue him a new license in that name.

Women get to change their names all the time, and Buday figured it was his right to change his. Plus, he promised his new wife that he would take her name, Bijon, because their were no sons in her father's family to carry on the Bijon name.

So, what's in a name? A three-year legal battle for starters. Today, Buday, uh, Bijon was granted the right to become Michael Bijon. Strike up one for women's liberation.


Prior to his lawsuit, if Buday wanted to make the change to Bijon, he would have had to pay court fees of more than $300, advertise his plans in newspaper for four weeks and get judicial approval.

The traditional method of Bijon taking on Buday's name would have cost
somewhere between about $50 and $90. And that's it. No newspaper announcement, no judicial approval.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

How Genealogy Can Determine Your Age!

This takes less than a minute. Work this out as you read .

Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out!

1. How many Great-Grandparents do you have full name, date of birth, and date of death for?

Secondary spouses don't count. Only (pardon the redundancy) direct ancestors count.

2. Multiply by the number of biological parents you have, regardless of whether or not you have any information on them. (Everyone should have the same answer here. 2.)

3. Add the number next to your paternal grandmother on your ahnentafel chart. (Once again, everyone should have the same number. 5.)

4. To honor the year the Roman Emperor, Claudius, adopted Nero -- Multiply it by 50

5. To honor the birth of Revolutionary War soldier, Nicholas Fish, add 1758.

6. If you haven't had your birthday yet this year, subtract 1.

7. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should have a three digit number

The first digit of this is the number of great grandparents you have all that information on!

The next two numbers are:


Don't deny it!

Note: This will not work if you are at least 100 years old. (But, congratulations!) This will also have to be tweaked, just a little, in future years. Only one step will have to be changed, though. I'll leave it up to you to figure out which one.