Monday, April 24, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: An Unknown Relative Sold His Car in Detroit in 1924

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.

This week I look at a newspaper advertisement mentioning an unknown relative.

To the left is the full advertisement.  If one were searching for surnames using the traditional method of browsing newspaper microfilm, most likely it would be missed. But with databases of digitized papers, one can find surnames in unlikely spots. (emphasis added)

In the lower left corner:



1923 Rickenbacker Coupe
Sale Price $1350 / List Price $2345
Equipped with 2 Bumpers, Stoplight, Motometer, good Tires. This car has the wonderful Duco Paint Job which cost $175.00, and will last for years. Driven 7,000 miles. Formerly owned by Mr. Cruvand, Peterboro Avenue.

Notes:

1) The 'Cruvand' surname (with all of its variant spellings) is rare. While one hesitates to say that "all people with surname X are related" I have been able to connect all instances I have found. In one mysterious case, a 16-year old Cruvant popped up in an England database, and I was able to prove it was a misspelling. Could this be another? No known Cruvands, Cruvants, Kruvands or Kruvants lived in Michigan in the 1920s.

One possibility that comes to mind is Edward/Clifford Cruvant the son of my great grandmother's brother, Ben Cruvant, and his first wife Goldie White. Born in 1904, he would have been 20 in 1924. In 1910 the mother and children were in Chicago, Illinois. In 1914 Denver, Colorado.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ten Years - Ten Discoveries

I’ve been researching and blogging about genealogy since April of 2007. Ten years. Below are ten of my most significant research discoveries, and where I found them.

1) Confirming the family story that my second great grandparents changed their surname from Dudelzak to Feinstein.
a. I found my second great grandfather’s immigration record under the surname ‘Dudelsack’, as well as his sister’s death certificate which provided ‘Duderzock’ as her father’s surname. I also found descendants of my second great grandfather’s brother who had been told the same story. I prefer the ‘Dudelzak’ spelling since I suspect it derives from the Yiddish ‘Dudel’, a diminutive for David, and means ‘Son of David,’ as opposed to the German bagpipe.
2) The European towns of origin for my Newmark and Dudelzak ancestors.
a. I found the town of Warka, Poland in the Naturalization records for my great grandfather, Barney Newmark, and second great grandfather, Samuel Newmark.
b. I found the town of Aleksandriiya, Volhynia in my great-grandfather Herman Feinstein’s application to join a Masonic organization.
3) The maiden name for my second great grandmother, Rose Cantkert Newmark.
a. Birth and death certificates for children had various spellings, including Sankad and Sandgart. Jewishgen’s database search engine actually suggested the Cantkert spelling, and I found Cantkerts listed in Warka documents. (No Newmarks appear in Warka documents, but many appear in nearby Warsaw, leading me to believe my second great grandfather was born in Warsaw, and moved to Warka either prior to or after marrying Rose.)
4) My second great grandfather, Selig (Dudelzak) Feinstein was a blacksmith in St. Louis for 10 years.
a. Family lore had passed down his occupation industries as Real Estate and Laundry. However, from the St. Louis City Directories it is clear he spent a decade as a blacksmith. He only went into Real Estate and the Laundry business when his children were starting their careers, and it appears he may only have been sharing his business experience to get their careers started.
5) My maternal grandmother’s previous three marriages
a. From a combination of sources including my grandmother’s Official Personnel Folder (She worked at the US Post Office), a divorce record she saved, letters from her parents to her, and newspaper records. [First three husbands: Jack (last name still unknown), Arthur Connevey, & Dale Ridgely]
6) The Deutsches (my maternal grandfather’s line) were Cohanim
a. The symbol for Cohanim (which is also the Vulcan symbol from Star Trek) appears on my second great grandfather’s tombstone.
7) My ancestor McGregory Vanevery didn’t own a slave
a. I was able to follow back the sources listed in a family history published in 1947 and show that the author had misinterpreted the evidence.
b. I should note it is almost next to impossible to prove a negative. But I did show that at least some of the evidence the author had used had been misinterpreted.
8) My discovery of the Dawes Commission Testimony of my Hartley and Denyer ancestors.
a. Found on the website Footnote, which is now Fold3.
9) The explanation my wife’s 3rd great grandfather, Louis C Gober, gave for fighting for the Confederacy
a. I also found this information on Fold3
10) The story of how my wife’s great grandmother, Mabel Fulkerson, age 14, and two of her cousins helped prevent a train wreck
a. I found this news story at ChroniclingAmerica.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DNA by the Numbers

My DNA - Ancestry.com (as of April 2017)

• 67% European Jewish
• 11% Western Europe
• 3% Ireland
• 2% Italy/Greece
• 2% Eastern European
• 2% Finland/Russia
• 5% Scandinavia
• 5% Caucasus
• <1 islander="" p="" pacific="">• <1 iberian="" p="">• <1 britain="" great="" p="">
Genetic Communities
• Jews in Central Europe
• Jews in NW Poland, Lithuania, & West Belarus
• Settlers of New York City & Long Island

5 DNA Circles
• Samuel Vanevery (1820-1888) – 2nd great grandfather – 4 members (3 DNA matches + me)
• Abigail Stuart (1825-1866) – 2nd great grandmother – 3 members (2 DNA matches + me)
• Andrew Vanevery (1798-1873) – 3rd great grandfather – 3 members (2 DNA matches + me)
• David Vanevery (1757-1820) – 4th great grandfather – 5 members (3 DNA matches + me + 1 non-match)
• Israel Swayze (1753-1844) – 4th great grandfather – 6 members (1 DNA match + me + 4 non-matches)

Cousin Matches
• 2nd Cousins – 2
• 3rd Cousins – 9
• 4th Cousins or Closer – 1,734

30 Shared Ancestor Hints: 1 second cousin, 1 third cousin, 6 fourth cousins, 22 distant cousins

My wife's DNA - Ancestry.com (as of April 2017)
• 27% Scandinavia
• 21% Great Britain
• 20% Western Europe
• 13% Eastern Europe
• 11% Italy/Greece
• 7% Ireland
• 1% Iberian Peninsula

Genetic Communities: None
DNA Circles: None

Cousin Matches
• Second Cousin: 1
• Third Cousin: 4
• Fourth Cousin or Closer: 304

19 Shared Ancestor Hints: 1 third cousin, 10 fourth cousins, 8 Distant Cousins

Notes

1) I discussed several months ago the possibility of a Van Every Surname Non-Paternity Event. One piece of evidence I used was that I appear to have no genetic cousin matches with a known-shared-ancestor more distant than my 4th great grandfather. I granted that it might be because it gets difficult to research that far back (though research that far back has been published for the Vanevery family.) Another possibility I considered was that the amount of shared DNA that far back becomes smaller and smaller.

Looking at my “Ancestor Circles” – the cousins in my 2nd great grandparent circles, should also be in my 3rd great and 4th great. But they’re not all there. I’m sure this isn’t due to an NPE, but instead, we share less DNA from our 4th great ancestors. We can share DNA from our shared 2nd greats, but still share none from our shared 4th greats.

2) I find the non-DNA matches in my Ancestor Circles interesting, but obviously, it is possible for two people to have different non-matching DNA from a shared ancestor.

3) I’ve also discussed the significant difference in cousin matches for my wife and me. I still think this is due primarily to a higher rate of false-positive cousin matches for Jewish testers. I’m not sure the reason behind this, but I do know Ancestry stated that they changed their algorithm to reduce it. (And they did reduce it significantly) But it is still there.

Still, I notice that my wife has 33% less Shared Ancestor Hints than I do. Those aren’t false positives. It appears she has a smaller percentage of relatives interested in their genealogy. (Or a smaller percentage who have done enough research for the Shared Ancestor Hints to kick in.)

4) As I mentioned when discussing my FamilyTreeDNA results, I am curious about my alleged 1% Iberian and Pacific Islander DNA. It may be a false-positive, but both AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA claim it is there.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: Myrtle Van Every Dines in Gasconade County - 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.

This week I look at an article mentioning my maternal grandmother, Myrtle Van Every.

Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Dingley entertained the following in their home Sunday: Misses Kathryn Howerton and Myrtle Van Every of St. Louis, Britton Harridon of Marshalltown, Iowa and his boy friend, John Burch of Alton, Ill. On this event it happened to be Miss Myrtle’s birthday. At noon a sumptuous dinner was served to the guests and the afternoon was spent in a jolly good way. Here is wishing this young lady many more such happy occasions.

The Bland Courier, Bland, Gasconade County, Missouri, April 26, 1934, page 1.



Notes:

1. My grandmother was born on March 21, almost a month prior to this article being printed.  March 21, 1934, was a Wednesday. It is certainly possible that my grandmother's birthday was being observed by her friends a few weeks late. Or the newspaper may have made a mistake, and it was Miss Kathryn who was celebrating. However, my best guess for the correct Miss Kathryn Howerton, a Kathryn Howerton Bogard (1906-1997), celebrated her birthday on Feb 14.


2. This is clearly a married couple hosting either two friends and their dates, or four single friends, in their home. However, the text would definitely be phrased a bit differently today. One has to be careful when reading old newspaper articles to interpret the language as it would have been interpreted then.

3. I do not know if my grandmother was 'with' Britton Harridon, or John Burch, or how long that association lasted. My maternal grandfather would transfer to the St. Louis Post Office Division Headquarters in June 1934, and Myrtle would transfer there in July 1935, and they would marry in December of 1936.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

New FTDNA ethnicities


FamilyTreeDNA updated their DNA ethnicity guesses. (Yes, guesses, the science behind them is nowhere near exact)

My current breakdown is on the left.

I am aware that the trace results are so small that they can easily be false-positives.

However, is that Siberian indicative of my alleged maternal Native American ancestors who may have come over on the land bridge?




My mother's current DNA breakdown is on the right.

She doesn't have the trace Siberian. Is it possible that it is from my Paternal side? What about the Oceanian and Iberian?

I haven't encouraged my father to be tested as I assumed it would be 100% Jewish Diaspora/Eastern European, and the high number of false-positive cousin matches for Jewish DNA makes it less useful as a tool for finding cousins.

The odds are that my trace results are false positives, but still, perhaps I should get someone on my paternal side tested to be certain.

My Middle Eastern ancestry is clearly maternal. Ancestry (see below) still defines it as "Caucasus" and indicates it could also be Romanian, which suggests that it comes from my Transylvanian maternal grandfather.

Both Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA suggest a trace of Pacific Islander/Oceanian. That's rather unlikely, but it does appear in both places, and is a very intriguing possibility.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2017

My Great-Grandfather, Barney, celebrated his birthday on March 17th, and claimed to have been born in Dublin, Ireland. It's significantly more likely that he was born in Warka, Poland - on the outskirts of Warsaw. The dates of March 25th and April 14th also appear on some documents as his date of birth, but no birth records have been uncovered, so anything is possible. There may be some significance to the fact that there are 20 days between March 25th and April 14th. (12 days adjustment between the Gregorian and Julian calendar, and 8 days between birth and circumcision.) There are also 8 days between March 17th and March 25th.

After a holiday post in 2007, a friend introduced me to online genealogy, and the rest is family history.





Past St. Patrick's Day Posts
2016: Corned Beef on Rye
2015: Corned Beef on Rye
2014: Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014
2013: Happy St. Patrick's Day
2012: Happy 126th Birthday to my Great Grandfather
2011: Happy St. Patrick's Day
2010: Barney's Birthday and Birthplace
2009: On St. Patrick's Day Everyone is Irish
2008: My 'Irish' Great Grandfather
2007: Corned Beef and Cabbage on Rye

Monday, March 13, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: Melvin Vanevery's Cheese Creamery 1914-1915

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.

This week I look at several reports in industry journals about my great grandfather's creamery business in Berclair, Texas - and a possible second location in Beeville.


Manufactured Milk Products Journal, Vol 5, 1914, p. 310

Berclair, Tex. – What perhaps is the only institution of the kind in Texas began operations here this week. Mr. M. E. Vanevery, one of the most extensive apiarists in the state, has completed the erection of a creamery for the manufacture of cheese and the product turned out compares favorably with that shipped in from the North. The plant is equipped with silos and the ensilage has proven a success as a milk producer. The plant is located about two miles from town and is attracting much attention.

The Milk Dealer, Volume 4, 1914, p. 47.

Berclair, Tex. – Mr. M. E. Vanevery has in view the erection of an ice cream factory in connection with his cheese factory.

The National Provisioner, Volume 52, April 17, 1915, p. 20

The erection of a cheese factory at Beeville, Tex., is planned by M.E. Vanevery, of Berclair, Tex.



Texas Trade Review and Industrial Record, Volume 20, April 15, 1915, p. 114

Beeville, Tex – M.E. Vanevery, Berclair, Tex., plans removing his creamery plant to this city and greatly enlarging it.

The American Produce Review, Volume 40, April 21, 1915, p. 25

Beeville, Texas – M.E. Vanevery, of Berclair, who is an experienced cheese manufacturer and who is now making and selling a first-class product in his small factory at Berclair, wants to locate in Beeville.

Notes:

1. I found these clippings in a Google Books Search. The clipping from Manufactured Milk Products Journal is identical to what appeared in The Galveston Daily News on Nov 29, 1914. The other clippings concerning a second location in Beeville are a new discovery. It is unclear whether the plans came to fruition. My great-grandfather still had a beekeeping business in Berclair in 1916. They moved across the state to Fabens, Texas, near El Paso,  in 1917, where he had a job as County Apiary Inspector.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Approaching Anniversaries

In May of 2002, I began blogging on a myriad of topics, sometimes political, sometimes religious, rarely genealogical.

In March of 2007, I wrote an entry for the alleged birthday of my great grandfather: Corned Beef and Cabbage on Rye

Shortly thereafter, a friend emailed me a link to a census document with my great-grandfather on it. Prior to that, I had no idea what was available online.

So I am approaching my 15th year of blogging, in general, and 10 years of genealogy research. (Plus, in April, my wife and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage.) This would be a great time for some retrospective posts.

And while not chasing
twin four-year-olds, or sleeping,
I'll see what I can do.

I may find the time
to write a brilliant haiku,
or even two.

Celebrate Your Name Week

Reposted and updated from 2009 

The first week of March is Celebrate your Name Week
Celebrate Your Name Week is a holiday created in 1997 by American amateur onomatologist Jerry Hill. Hill declared the first full week in March a week for everyone in the world to embrace and celebrate his or her name, and to appreciate names in general, by having fun getting to know facts about names. This is a week set aside to participate in names-related hobbies, activities, and to take part in entertaining names-related events inspired by a fondness for and true appreciation of names.
My first name: John

John comes from the Hebrew Yochanan, meaning 'G-d is gracious.' It isn’t short, as some assume, for Jonathan. Jonathan comes from the Hebrew Yanatan, which means 'Gift from G-d,' and is a longer form of Nat(h)an.

My Hebrew name: בָּרוּ (Baruch).

Baruch is a Hebrew word meaning, “Blessed.” Benedict is the common English version of this name. My parents chose “Baruch” naming me after my great grandfather, Barnet "Barney" Newmark (1886-1956).

My middle name: Cruvant.

Cruvant is one of my ancestral surnames, the maiden name of my paternal great grandmother Bertha Cruvant Newmark (1887-1978; She and Barney were married in 1911.) Since my parents followed the tradition of choosing names from deceased ancestors, my middle name came from Bertha’s father, Moshe Leyb Cruvant. The origin of Cruvant is the town Kruvandai, Lithuania. Almost every conceivable phonetic spelling exists somewhere on the family tree: (C/K)r(U/OO)van(T/D). I blame it on individuals who were used to transliterating Hebrew to English, and had no problem 'transliterating' Lithuanian to English as well, even if the two languages shared an alphabet.

My surname: Newmark

The origin of our surname isn’t certain. It is thought that the surname was Neimark (or Nejmark) in Poland. There are multiple Newmark “clans” in the United States, and it is uncertain whether they are related, though several appear to have originated in Poland, and several made stops along the way in Great Britain.

Namesakes

I share the name “John Newmark” with a Canadian pianist (1904-1991) - Though he came from Germany, and his original surname was Neumark.

I also share my name with the British biologist, and identical twin who appeared on the television show, To Tell the Truth, with his brother, George.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ancestry's We're Related - at 100 celebrities

Ancestry’s We’re Related app has now told me about 100 possible relatives. This is a good place to discuss some statistics.

Occupations (my categories)
  • Actors - 25
  • Presidents - 19
  • Entertainers - 13
  • Authors - 13
  • Politicians - 9
  • Athletes - 4
  • Science - 4
  • Business - 3
  • Military - 4
  • Activists - 2
  • Artists - 2
  • Vice Presidents - 1
  • First Ladies - 1
Note: The meaningful of this is is of course slightly dependent on the breakdown of the individuals they have in the database.

Furthest confirmed ancestor on my chart
  • Betts, Capt. Richard - 7
  • Chamberlain, Joanna - 2
  • Chamberlain, Robert - 3
  • Clark, Abigail - 52
  • Horton, Barnabas - 1
  • Horton, Penelope - 1
  • Meyer, Elizabeth - 2
  • Pitney, Mary - 16
  • Schauer, Michael - 2
  • Swazey, Joseph - 3
  • Van Tock, Hannah - 8
  • Wines, Sarah - 3
Note: Abigail Clark is definitely my 'gateway ancestor' to the most alleged celebrity kin. Mary Pitney a distant second.

Individuals for whom my research confirms my alleged ancestry (8/100)
  • John Kerry
  • Mark Twain
  • Jim Varney
  • Johnny Depp
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Tom Hanks
  • Stephen King
  • Theodore Roosevelt
I could say these are individuals for whom the relationship is very likely...if I trusted the research for the celebrities. But...

Individuals for whom my research confirms my alleged ancestry, and other research I trust confirms the celebrity’s ancestry (1/100)
  • John Kerry
Note: I haven't actively tried to research any of the celebrity ancestries. However, with the advent of Who Do You Think You Are and other genealogy shows, many celebrities have had some professional research done. And even without the shows, many politicians have had their genealogies well-researched.

Out of the 19 Presidents I'm allegedly related to – those for whom the alleged President’s ancestry is confirmed through Ancestors of American Presidents by Gary Boyd Roberts, 2009 edition. – 2/19
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
Note: There are 4 generations in my own ancestry I'd have to confirm to prove this relationship.
  • Barack Obama
Note: There are only 2 generations in my own ancestry I  have to confirm. I'll step out on a limb and say this relationship is the likeliest of all the Presidents the app has generated. If anyone can find sources for me to back up the ancestry on WikiTree linking Mary Pitney to Samuel Smith, that would be helpful. (Sources other than WikiTree, that is.) I discussed this possibility back in October.
                                                            
For the other 17 Presidents, the number of extra generations that are extended unto Gary Boyd Roberts' research

George Washington - 1
John Adams - 1
James Madison - 2
William Taft - 2
Richard Nixon - 2/3 *
Calvin Coolidge - 3
Theodore Roosevelt - 3
Harry Truman - 3
James Carter - 3
Thomas Jefferson - 4
Franklin Pierce - 4
Zachary Taylor - 4
George HW Bush - 4
George W Bush - 4
Abraham Lincoln - 5
William Clinton - 6
Ronald Reagan - 7

*App provides a different 6th great grandfather for Nixon, and then goes 2 more generations.

Note: Washington and Adams would appear to be the easiest for me to research to confirm/disprove. However, the number of unconfirmed generations in my tree are 7.
               
Celebrities whose alleged ancestry goes through an ancestor’s adopted parent (I'd have no problem with this if the app made it clear.) - At least 1/100
  • Robin Williams (his mother was adopted)
In Summary

The app is very entertaining. However, without sources to back up the ancestor charts, that's all it is. The percentage of alleged matches where I have been able to confirm the ancestry back to the shared ancestor for either myself, or the celebrity, is quite small.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Defining a Person by their Occupation

Most genealogy databases have a category field for Occupation, which can be entered similar to an Event with a date and place. And if someone was faithful in entering data into the field, and used consistent terms, it could be used to search the database. You could find all the tailors, or all the famers.

However, some tailors are called furriers, and some blacksmiths are called farriers, and there are subtle differences between musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters. It's difficult to be consistent with occupation titles without running into individuals who don't quite fit into your categories. And since the choices can be subjective, decisions will vary.

***

I wrote about how Ancestry's We're Related App categorized Richard Nixon as "Politician" rather than "President." While that was an obvious error, their simple decision to sort the results into occupational categories, and only allow one occupation per individual, means many of their choices are going to be debatable.

A simple example: William Howard Taft.

Sure, his primary categorization is easy - President.

However, the app's listing of categories (see right) currently tells me that I have no relatives who were U.S. Supreme Court Justices. And I know that isn't true. (And a good percentage of the Politicians and Presidents are/were also Lawyers.)

Below are all the "Possible Relatives" the app has currently suggested to me for whom I would categorize differently. [All my suggestions are used for other individuals by the app.]



  • Robert E. Lee - Military Figures
  • Ring Lardner - Authors
  • B.F. Skinner - Scientists 
  • Walt Disney - Artists
  • Britney Spears - Entertainers
  • Franklin Pierce - Presidents
  • Richard Nixon - Presidents
The last two are the most obvious mistakes. Classifying Ring Lardner as an entertainer also seems to be a mistake when he is known for his writing. Walt Disney was definitely entertaining, but I think not classifying him as an Artist is a slight against cartoons and animation. I'm not sure if B.F. Skinner's categorizing is a mistake or a slight against Psychology as a science. There are several people in the Musicians and Composers category that raised my eyebrows, but most of them have either played a musical instrument, or at least composed some of their songs. Britney Spears' name has appeared in conjunction with others in some of her song credits, but she is known for her performances.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017

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.


Why is Valentine's Day on February 14th?

There is a theory that the only reason today is associated with Cupid is due to a poem Geoffrey Chaucer wrote.
In 1381, Chaucer was busy composing a poem in honor of the arranged marriage between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. This was a very big deal indeed, and Chaucer was looking for just the right saint to honor on May 3, the day Richard II signed the papers of engagement to his Bohemia beauty. 
His search ended, Kelly surmises, when Chaucer learned that a Saint Valentine of Genoa had an honorary feast day on May 3. Perfect! So he wrote the poem "The Parliament of Fowls" in the couple's honor. 
"The Parliament of Fowls" literally means "the meeting of birds," says Kelly. "Chaucer dreamed up the idea that all birds chose their mates on May 3rd," he says.

After Chaucer's death in 1400, Valentine's Day celebrations got pushed back to February.
Why exactly is unclear, however, if you forgot, and someone is upset, perhaps you can use this information to give yourself a few extra months.

Friday, February 10, 2017

We're Related App - Categorization Error

Apparently, Ancestry's We're Related app places Richard Nixon in the "Politicians" category and not the "U.S. Presidents & Vice Presidents" category.



I'm fairly certain this is a coding error and not a political statement. But it is humorous.
Almost makes up for the appearance of him as a possible relative.
I have informed Ancestry using the Feedback app.

Including Nixon, the app has now informed me of 17 Presidents to whom I may be related. I am unable to verify both halves of the ancestry on any of them.

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Barack Obama
  • Bill Clinton
  • Franklin Pierce
  • George H.W. Bush
  • George W. Bush
  • George Washington
  • Harry S Truman
  • James Earl Carter
  • James Madison
  • Richard Nixon
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • William H. Taft
  • Zachary Taylor

There are two other presidents - FDR and Grant - to whom I am fairly certain I am related, but the app, so far, hasn't found. For these connections, I am trusting the research done by Gary Boyd Roberts in Ancestors of American Presidents, and my own research for my own ancestors. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

We Are Not a Nation of Immigrants

"A Nation of Immigrants"
implies all our ancestors
were immigrants.

Some were Native Americans,
some slaves,
and some indentured servants.
Others were refugees.
Those that voluntarily came prior to 1789 --
mostly colonists.

Words matter.
Grouping all migrants together
erases differences.

Were our ancestors fleeing oppression?
Were they seeking a better economic future?
Did they arrive here under duress?
Did their nationality change?

The different paths followed
led us to where we are.
By celebrating these differences,
we honor all of our ancestors.

***

Back in November, I stated, in part:

I have immigrant ancestors from the following geographies:

  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • Great Britain
  • Canada
  • Lithuania
  • Transylvania
  • Volhynia.

That's not entirely true. I can't factually state that any ancestors immigrated from The Netherlands. My Vanevery ancestors traveled from The Netherlands to a Dutch colony (New Amsterdam). That's not immigration. Immigration requires movement from one nation to another nation. A colony is part of the mother-nation.

All the other countries in that list belong there. I have British ancestors who were colonists, and others who immigrated after 1791. All of my Canadian ancestors were descendants of Loyalists who fled to Canada during the Revolution.

Whether or not some of my ancestors were refugees is open to question. My Puritan and Mennonite ancestors might be classified as such, along with my Jewish ancestors. Though I think most of my Jewish ancestors were seeking better economic circumstances and weren't fleeing any particular pogrom. As I mentioned last week my Cruvant ancestors may have left Lithuania because their home was destroyed in a fire.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: Čekiškė Conflagration - 1887

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 Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust: A-J, Shmuel Spector, Geoffrey Wigoder, NYU Press, 2001, page 236.

CEKISKE (Yid. Tzeikishok) Kaunas dist., Lithuania. Jews first settled at the end of the 18th cent. a conflagration in 1887 left most Jews homeless. The J. pop. in 1897 came to 432 (65% of the total). In 1915, the retreating Russian army, together with local farmers, staged a pogrom against the Jews before expelling them to Russia. After WWI only some returned. The Zionist movement won widespread support. In 1940, there were about 60 J. families in C. After the German conquest of 1941, the Jews were killed on 4. Sept. 1941, according to a Nazi document, which reported the deaths of 22 men, 64 women, and 60 children.

Another source has more information:
In 1887, a fire broke out in Cekiske that burned all of its houses, including the two prayer houses and their valuable books. A young woman was burned to death. Only 3 houses remained intact. About 160 families remained without shelter and without any means. Among them was the Rabbi of the town, Rabbi Avraham Levental, who was a wealthy man and who lost his entire property in the fire. Jews from the nearby towns of Vilkija, Seredzius, Raseiniai, Girkalnis and other towns were the first to bring wagons loaded with bread and foodstuffs to the stricken families, who were living under the open sky. A call for aid in their names was advertised in the “HaMelitz” on July 1887. It was signed by Eliyahu Gorland.

Notes:

When did my Cruvant ancestors immigrate from Čekiškė, Lithuania to America?

My second great grandfather's 1911 death certificate stated he had been in the US for 35 years, implying an immigration year of 1876. However, two sons appear in Lithuanian birth records for 1883 and 1885. I've theorized the death certificate was 10 years off, and 1886 is a more likely year.

It was said that my great grandmother, Bertha, was born in Missouri on the Jewish New Year in 1886 or 1887. In 1887 that would have been September 19. But no birth records have been found in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, or St. Clair County, Illinois. (Not exactly definitive since birth records weren't required in Missouri until 1910.) While she doesn't appear in Lithuanian birth records, either, could she have been born en route? If the fire occurred before July (when the call for aid was advertised), they may have been able to get to the US prior to September 19.

There were family stories told by some branches that they were escaping a pogrom. A home destroyed by a fire isn't exactly a home destroyed by a pogrom, but it's not difficult to envision the story being embellished upon. (And the neither description gives an indication of the cause of the fire.)

The earliest documentation of my ancestors being in St. Louis is a naturalization record from 1889.

There were cousins among the 22 men, 64 women, and 60 children who were killed on September 4, 1941.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: Dreams in the Mist

Several months ago I discovered Dreams in the Mist: Loyalist House Season I by Barbara Nattress

The short novel (156 pages) concerns a woman, Marilee, who after retiring from a teaching career opens a Bed and Breakfast in Niagara with her husband. Marilee starts to have dreams, populated by ghosts, through which we learn what happened in the home during the early 19th century.

I discovered the book in a Google Books search for my Van Every ancestors, who happen to be the ghosts. (Actually, the ghosts aren't my ancestors, but close kin.)

Noticing that it was self-published, I decided to save a few dollars with the Kindle version. I knew I was buying a work of fiction. However, I was hoping to enjoy a story set in a time and location of interest, with some characters closely related to my ancestors. I wasn’t disappointed in that regard.

The initial pages where the protagonist is retiring from her career, and seeking to purchase a B&B, go by slowly. However, when the house is purchased, and Marilee starts to have the dreams, the pace picks up.

The point of view switches back and forth between Marilee and the ghosts in her dreams. I was most interested in the dreams, and the description of Marilee’s research into the history of the house. The sections of the novel where Marilee describes the day-to-day business of the bed and breakfast were of less interest, and I found myself skimming those paragraphs for more interesting material.

The author is a retired teacher, who operated a Bed and Breakfast for eight years in Niagara, and is now a realtor. While those sections of the novel are written from experience, perhaps the author put a little too much in. I'd rather she had focused on  Niagaran history. However, someone with a passion for Beds and Breakfasts might feel different. There is a collection of recipes at the end of the book as well, which might interest some.

The author includes a short bibliography, for which I am grateful as well, indicating where she conducted her research on the family, time, and setting. Of the four sources listed, I've  downloaded a free ebook of one, found a copy of another at a local library, and can purchase the third - though it is also searchable via Google Books. The fourth only appears to be available from the Canadian Archives.

While I enjoy reading historical fiction and have dabbled with writing fiction myself, the idea of fictionalizing the lives of my own ancestors troubles me. I don't think I could do it. I don't mind reading it, but I think I would be unable to write it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Newspapers Can Make Mistakes

I found the below news story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch archives and considered it for my Amanuensis Monday series. But further research led me elsewhere.



St. Louis Star and Times, Sept 23, 1916, page 7

BOY HIDES BRAND UNDER SHED, FIRE FOLLOWS

Four-year-old Harry Feinstein, 1340 Semple avenue, hid a burning wood brand under a chicken shed in the rear of the butcher shop of Fred Turpeson when a playmate shouted to him, "Your mamma is coming."

The shed and its contents of poultry and feed were damaged $325 by the fire which followed and a shed belonging to Mrs. M. Vogel, 1345 Arlington avenue, was damaged $50.


My second great uncle, Harry Feinstein, brother of my great grandfather, Herman Feinstein, would have been 32 in 1916. So this is definitely not him.

I can find no record of other Harry Feinsteins in St. Louis at the time. So I instantly knew the newspaper had made some mistake. But what was the mistake they made?

Harry had a son, Willard, born in 1912. Did they put the father's name in the newspaper by accident? That was certainly a believable option. And I knew that my great-grandfather had lived on Semple when he registered for the WW1 draft. Did his brother live nearby?

But several years ago I researched the St. Louis City Directories. I checked my notes, and Harry Feinstein and his family weren't recorded as living on Semple in 1916.

A 1918 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article indicates a Bornstein family living at 1340 Semple. Were they living there in 1916? An error with similar surnames is also a distinct possibility. There was a Harry Bornstein, but he was born in 1909, so he would have been 7 in 1916. (Did a handwritten 7 in a reporter's notes get mistranscribed as a 4? I've done that.)

I don't know who the child was, but I suspect he wasn't a relative.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Top Ten List of Top Ten Lists

When the family history blogger is unsure what to write about, there is always the ever-popular Top Ten List. Here is my Top Ten Top Ten List Ideas for Top Ten Family History Bloggers.

1) Top 10 Online Databases
2) Top 10 Genealogy Software Programs
3) Top 10 Research Tools
4) Top 10 Research Suggestions for (Geographical Location/Historical Event)
5) Top 10 Books on (Geographical Location/Historical Event)
6) Top 10 Discoveries I have Made in my Research
7) Top 10 Brick Walls I Have Yet to Topple
8) Top 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Have Made in my Research
9) 10 Female Ancestors with the Highest Ahnentafel Numbers
10) Top Ten Words Family History Researchers Use that Generate Blank Stares From Others


Friday, January 6, 2017

Selig Feinstein - Donation to Jewish Charitable and Educational Union

I had a chance to conduct some more microfilm research recently at the local library. I am slowly going through archives for The Modern View - a St. Louis weekly Jewish newspaper from the early teens to the 1940s. I can go through about six months of issues before my eyes get too tired. I'm mostly scanning for surnames, but items of historical note tend to slow me down.

So far, my ancestors don't appear often in the social notes; in the early part of the timespan, they were still climbing their way out of the tenements. However, they do appear in lists. For example, The Modern View published annually a list of youth being confirmed by local synagogues. In 1915, they published a list of people who had given money to the Jewish Charitable and Educational Union, along with dollar amounts. My second great grandfather, Selig Feinstein, appears on the list for $6.

This may not have been a simple annual donation, though. Selig passed away in March of 1915. (A competing newspaper, The Jewish Voice, had an obituary.)  I have had difficulty tracking down a will so far. He resided in the city of St. Louis, but there is an online index for city wills, and he doesn't appear in it.  I've searched the St. Louis County index on microfilm without success. It's also possible the money was given by family after his death, but in his name.

Despite the timing of the listing, it could be a simple donation. Selig was very active in the community. He helped start a Free School for Jewish children, was active in the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, and was one of the founders of Tpheris Israel Congregation,


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Degrees of Separation - Genealogical

Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are related Ancestry.com researchers recently announced.
Common Ancestor: John of Gaunt (1340-1399).
16th cousins, twice removed. 18 degrees of separation.

Media have reported John of Gaunt relationships before.
For example: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are 19th cousins.
If you have to go back to pre-Colonial aristocracy to find a common ancestor, the connection isn't noteworthy, in my opinion. 
Here are the fifty-one celebrities Ancestry’s We're Related app has currently alleged are related to me, sorted by degree of relationship. While I don't know for certain if it's true for everyone, for me at least, the app hasn't indicated any cousin relationship greater than 10th cousins, which limits cousins with a degree higher than 11 to mostly historical figures. (If a limit is coded for either cousin and/or times removed, 10 is psychologically a very likely choice.)

14 degrees (1)
• George Washington (6th cousin, 8x removed)

13 degrees (1)
• Benjamin Franklin (4th cousin, 9x removed)
• Jane Austen (7th cousin, 6x removed)

11 degrees (17)
• John Brown (4th cousin, 7x removed)
• Zachary Taylor (5th cousin, 6x removed)
• Helen Keller (8th cousin, 3x removed)
• Henry David Thoreau (8th cousin, 3x removed)
• Walt Disney (8th cousin, 3x removed)
• Ann Coulter (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Avril Lavigne (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Bill Clinton (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Britney Spears (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Carrie Underwood (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Elon Musk (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Jake Gyllenhaal (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Johnny Depp (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Kate Upton (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Meghan Trainor (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Peyton Manning (9th cousin, 2x removed)
• Willie Nelson (9th cousin, 2x removed)

10 degrees (19)
• Ralph Waldo Emerson (6th cousin, 4x removed)
• Rutherford B Hayes (6th cousin, 4x removed)
• Thomas Edison (7th cousin, 3x removed)
• Abraham Lincoln (8th cousin, 2x removed)
• Johnny Cash (8th cousin, 2x removed)
• Warren Buffet (8th cousin, 2x removed)
• Bill Gates (9th cousin, 1x removed)
• Harry S Truman (9th cousin, 1x removed)
• Matt Damon (9th cousin, 1x removed)
• Sarah Palin (9th cousin, 1x removed)
• Virgil Grissom (9th cousin, 1x removed)
• Christina Aguilera (10th cousin)
• Elvis Presley (10th Cousin)
• Harry Reid (10th Cousin)
• Jessica Simpson (10th cousin)
• Lady Gaga (10th cousin)
• Mitch McConnell (10th cousin)
• Ronald Reagan (10th cousin)
• Stephen King (10th cousin)

9 degrees (8)
• Mark Twain (6th cousin, 3x removed)
• Edgar Allan Poe (7th cousin, 2x removed)
• Barack Obama (8th cousin, 1x removed)
• Dolly Parton (8th cousin, 1x removed)
• George HW Bush (8th cousin, 1x removed)
• Mitt Romney (8th cousin, 1x removed)
• John Kerry (9th cousin)
• Marilyn Monroe (9th cousin)
• Meryl Streep (9th cousin)

8 degrees (1)
• Kevin Bacon

I do find it somewhat ironic that the celebrity of the closest degree of separation for me is Kevin Bacon. The We're Related app appears to lean slightly towards living celebrities. However, Patrick Swayze, if he gets added to the database, will be a 7th-degree relationship for me. (7th cousins)

While he wrote the screenplays for Murders in the Rue Morgue and Captains Courageous, among others, Dale Van Every may not quite have the celebrity status necessary to appear in this database. If he did, he'd only be five degrees separated. (3rd cousins, twice removed) It's possible my grandmother met her third cousin, but that's a different post.

Sunday, January 1, 2017