…at Shades of the Departed! My friend footnoteMaven apparently thinks I’m humorous, so I’m spending the weekend at her place. Please visit the debut of my monthly Weekend with Shades column, The Humor of It. This month’s post: Off With Their Heads!
Archive for March, 2009
I rarely have time to even read Randy’s Saturday Night Fun Challenges on a Saturday night, much less respond to them. But tonight, I do have some time, and this one is not so challenging for me to answer! If Randy had chosen any other line, it would have been harder.
The challenge is this: Provide a list of your paternal grandmother’s patrilineal line. Answer these questions:
* What was your father’s mother’s maiden name?
* What was your father’s mother’s father’s name?
* What is your father’s mother’s father’s patrilineal line? That is, his father’s father’s father’s … back to the most distant male ancestor in that line?
* Can you identify male sibling(s) of your father’s mother, and any living male descendants from those male sibling(s)? If so, you have a candidate to do a Y-DNA test on that patrilineal line. If not, you may have to find male siblings, and their descendants, of the next generation back, or even further.
Here are my responses:
My father’s mother was Margaret Bergmeister (1913-1998), born in Philadelphia, PA.
- My father’s mother’s father’s name was Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927), born in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was also named Joseph Bergmeister (1843-unknown before 1885), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Jakob Bergmeister (1805-1870), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Joseph Bergmeister (1763-1840), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Johann Paul Bergmeister (1721-1784), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Martin Bergmeister (ca 1689-1752), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was likely Jakob Bergmeister / Permeister but this info is still being researched.
My grandmother Margaret Bergmeister had three brothers –
- Joseph Bergmeister (1902-1986), who had three sons: Joseph, Robert, and Carl. There are three males descended from Joseph and Robert, and Carl had no children.
- Max Bergmeister (1905-?) had no sons.
- Julius Bergmeister(1907-?) had no sons.
Even if I did not have three male second cousins with the Bergmeister surname (two of whom I have been in touch with so far) and therefore candidates for the Y-DNA of my grandmother’s patrilineal line, I am also in touch with fourth and fifth male cousins with the common ancestors of Jakob (b.1805) or Joseph (b.1763) shown above. I haven’t looked into any kind of DNA testing, especially for this line, because there are plenty of Bergmeister men – both in the genealogical records and in my email in-box! Thanks, Grandmom, for having an easy patrilineal line to research! Click on the Bergmeister Family tab above for more info on this line.
I enjoy highlighting unusual genealogical resources – records other than vital records, passenger lists, naturalizations, and the federal census. Recently I entered some of my “usual suspect” names into Ancestry and discovered a resource previously uknown to me: immigrant bank records. The historical background about these records is described on Ancestry.com as follows:
In the port cities on the east coast of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, many charitable organizations aided immigrants arriving from Europe. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) was one of those organizations. There were “ethnic” or “immigrant” banks in many port cities, usually conveniently located in the Jewish neighborhoods where newly-arrived immigrants tended to settle. These banks were commercial enterprises, started mainly by established German Jews, as a place where recent immigrants could save money and arrange to purchase steamship tickets to bring their families to the United States. HIAS preserved the original records of some immigrant banks formerly operating in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Blitzstein, Rosenbaum and Lipshutz/Peoples Banks.
Today, the record books of the Blitzstein Bank, Rosenbaum Bank, and Lipshutz Bank are housed at the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center (PJAC). They offer unique kinds of information, including the name and U.S. address of the person who paid for the tickets, port of entry – usually, but not always the port of Philadelphia – and intended final destination (again, not necessarily Philadelphia).
The person I found in the index was Zofia Mach, but not much info is provided from the index alone. It simply provides her name as the Passenger, as well as the Account Open Date (24 March 1929), Purchaser’s Name (Carl Mach), the Bank (Lipshutz/Peoples Bank) and the Order Number. To obtain an actual copy of the record, instructions are provided on the JewishGen site with a separate page for each of the 3 banks that are indexed. For the Lipshutz/Peoples Bank, a copy of the record can be obtained from the Philadelphia Jewish Archives (see below for more info). I knew from my research that Carl and Sophie Mach lived in Philadelphia, so it was likely the correct family. I was curious enough about what other information could be obtained from these bank records to send $9 to find out. Here is a copy of the record I received:
I already knew Carl’s address and relationship to Sophia/Zofia. Normally, one would expect that Zofia’s passenger arrival record would be easy to find without this record as a resource. However, in this case, Zofia’s record is indexed incorrectly in Ancestry.com’s database: she is listed as Sofia Wach although her name in the passenger list itself is Sofie Mach. Because of the mis-indexing, I used the ship name and date on this bank record to find her arrival record and may not have found it without the extra info. (Although the typewritten info shows departure from Hamburg to Philadelphia, the ship and date noted in handwriting at the bottom traveled from Copenhagen to New York.)
Two other interesting tidbits came from this record. First, it lists Sophia’s address in Żyrardów, Poland. Although I could not find it on a modern map of the town, the information could still come in handy for research in Poland. Second, it’s the first time I’ve seen the cost of a ticket to America on any of the records I’ve found. A second class ticket cost $143. In the 1920’s, that was a significant sum of money – note that her husband had this bank account for five years before she made the journey.
The records of the three Philadelphia banks are also available on microfilm through the LDS Family History Library., and you can search the records via the JewishGen site if you do not have access to Ancestry.com. See the detailed pages at JewishGen on their US databases page under Pennsylvania. Be aware that the family I researched was not Jewish! One did not have to be Jewish to have an account at these banks.
In total there are approximately 138,000 records among the three banks ranging from 1890 through 1949. If you had relatives living in or near Philadelphia, it may be worth a quick search – especially if you have had difficulty locating their passenger arrival record.
Although the sites indicate that the records are held by the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center, they wrote in their response that they are moving to the Temple University-Urban Archives Center “in late Spring”. So if you are planning to request a record, you may want to call either archive first prior to writing.
In the case of Sophia Mach, this was actually her second journey to America! Since Mach is not one of my family surnames in the sidebar, I’ll write more later this week on why they are a subject of my research. Are they related to my family? More to come…
Today it was announced that actress Betsy Blair died on March 13 at the age of 85. Unless you are a fan of classic film and/or Gene Kelly in particular, you might not recognize her name. Her obituaries seem to highlight two main facts about her life: she was the first wife of Gene Kelly, and as an actress her most memorable role was her Oscar-nominated performance in 1955’s Marty with Ernest Borgnine. For me, the news of her death was more than just a headline because I had the opportunity to meet her on three different occasions.
In late 2001, I was contacted by Gene and Betsy’s daughter, Kerry, concerning a benefit showing of Singin’ in the Rain. My Gene Kelly web site, The Gene Scene (1994 – 2012), was about seven years old and had a large enough following to be of use in promoting the event. I asked Kerry a rather bold question: “I’m traveling to London in a few months…would your mother meet with me?” I knew Betsy resided in London with her second husband, filmmaker Karl Reisz. To my surprise, I received her phone number and the instruction to call her when I arrived. I did, and I was further surprised with an invitation to her home for tea. I wanted to meet her, but I didn’t expect such graciousness to a stranger.
Betsy Blair was always described in magazines or biographies as the plain “girl next door”. When she invited me into her home, she became the “grandma next door” and immediately made me feel welcome. As we chatted, I was a bit starstruck – here was a woman who, at the age of 18, was married to one of Hollywood’s hottest emerging stars and was the friend and hostess to many of the biggest film stars of the 1940’s and ’50’s. Did it seem surreal to you, I asked, to have Judy Garland, Phil Silvers, and Lena Horne sitting around your living room on a Saturday night? She smiled and paused, as if thinking of how to describe it. She finally shrugged and said, “It was all so normal - at the time, it was so new – I didn’t realize there was anything unusual about it!”
Betsy had the unique ability to immediately make me feel as if we had been friends for years. She became as interested in my life as I was in hers. I didn’t ask questions as if I was interviewing her; we merely conversed. She understood that I admired the man who had once not only been a Hollywood star, but also the love of her life, and it was almost as if our mutual (if different) love for Gene bonded us together for that brief time. We talked about many things over the course of an hour, including the old studio system for making movies, her current work, movies today, Gene’s widow, Stanley Donen, and Gene’s reputation as a perfectionist. She told me that while filming On the Town, Frank Sinatra didn’t really want to rehearse the dancing, so he’d joke and fool around. Gene and Stanley would pretend the cameras were rolling so they’d get some practice time in!
A few months after my trip, I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet her once again – this time with her daughter in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the benefit showing of Singin’ in the Rain. At a dinner before the showing, it was Betsy who sought me out and rushed across a crowded room to say hello as if I was an old friend. More of her “down to earth” personality emerged throughout the evening as she shared a smoke with fans outside the theater and answered questions from two young Gene fans. One rather young fan excitedly asked a rather personal question, “What was it like to kiss Gene Kelly?” She smiled in my direction and gave a rather eloquent answer to the child: “When you love someone, it’s very special to kiss them – no matter who they are. Gene and I were married and in love, so it was very special.”
In 2003, Betsy published her memoirs, The Memory of All That. She told me about it during my first visit with her – including that the title was not her first choice. Her favorite title was Lucky in Love but since the book wasn’t only about her love life, the editors “didn’t like it”. She said, “I’m not sure who’s really going to want to read it anyway – there’s no scandal in it!” I met her again at a book signing in New York City, and again it was like a family reunion.
Betsy’s modesty is apparent even in her name – she wasn’t Liz, a flashy star’s name, but plain and simple Betsy. She was born Elizabeth Boger in Cliffside, NJ. After taking dancing lessons for years, she went to New York City at the age of 16 to get a job as a dancer. She met Kelly when she auditioned for a show at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe. There she mistook him, the show’s choreographer, for the busboy; he hired her anyway. Gene was, at the age of 28, twelve years older than Betsy. She appreciated his sophistication, and he became smitten. Over the next two years, Gene advanced from choreographer to Broadway star to a Hollywood contract, and their relationship also grew. The couple married literally on their way to Hollywood. In 1942, their first and only child was born, Kerry.
In the late 1940’s, Betsy appeared in some films. But her most famous “role”, at least according to news reports, seems to be the accusation that she was a communist. It almost lost her the role in Marty, and she became blacklisted moreso for her support of others who were blacklisted rather than any involvement in communist activities herself. Gene and Betsy divorced in 1957, but she never had anything bad to say about him afterwards (nor did he about her). She later married Karel Reisz and continued to work in films in Europe.
This weekend, newspapers and film sites will remember Betsy Blair as Gene’s wife, Karel’s wife, Ernest’s co-star (despite other film appearances, that was her most lauded role), and more. What you may not read about is her unassuming and gracious nature, her intelligence, and her wit. I wish I could have known her better, or longer, but I am grateful that my life was able to brush hers briefly. Good-bye, Betsy – I’ll miss you! Requiescat in pace.
Joan Delores Pater was born on August 30, 1932 in Philadelphia, PA. She was the first born child of Henry and Mae Pater. Their family was made complete three years later with the birth of a second daughter, Anita Jane, who was born in 1935. Despite their closeness in age, the two sisters did not get along from the time they were children. Each had different interests and hobbies from their youth through to adulthood. Both, however, had a great sense of humor! For several years, the Pater girls and their parents lived on Mercer Street with their maternal grandfather, Joseph Zawodny, until his death in 1944.
In 1949, Joan married at age 17 – the third generation of Pater’s to do so. Both her father, Henry, and her grandfather, Louis, were 17 when they got married – both to slightly older women. She married a boy from the neighborhood, Richard. Although they were happy while dating, marriage was not what she expected. Her husband’s personality seemed to change overnight, and he became verbally and physically abusive. Despite these difficulties, the couple had a son, Richard, on August 22, 1951.
Baby Ricky became the joy of their lives, but he also brought great sadness. Ricky was born with a heart defect, and he never properly matured or learn to talk or walk. He was a happy baby, and he loved to flirt with ladies! His short life ended on December 9, 1952. He was only fifteen months old. His entire family was devastated by the death — his mother Joan most of all. After that experience, she knew that she did not want to have any more children because the pain of losing one was too great. Joan and Richard remained married, but their son’s death added to their marital problems. The couple split up about five years later.
Joan began to work as a secretary at Anheuser-Busch in Philadelphia – much to her family’s amusement for she lacked the two skills essential for secretarial work, stenography and typing. Joan simply made up her own style of shorthand, and she must have learned how to type because she remained with the company for several years!
Joan’s sister, Anita, married in 1956 and had two children, Drew in 1959 and myself in 1967. We gave Joan a new job: Aunt Joan. She relished the role of aunt; we became “her kids”. When Drew was very young, Joan lived with the family for about two years. Even after moving, she visited on weekends to “play”. When I was in kindergarten, Aunt Joan accompanied my mother as chaperones on a field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. One day several weeks after the trip, she came with my mother to pick me up from school. One of my classmates who had been in our group on the field trip recognized her. The girl shouted loudly, “I know you - you’re from the zoo!”
Another memorable recognition, or more appropriate, a mis-recognition, occurred years later. In 1978, my mother had surgery. Aunt Joan went with my brother and I to pick her up from the hospital. As we all stood with my mother waiting for her discharge, a nurse brought over a wheelchair. Wheeling past my mother directly to Aunt Joan, the nurse asked her to get in. “It’s not for me! How bad do I look?” she yelled as we all laughed.
In 1978, Aunt Joan became re-acquainted with someone she knew from the neighborhood where she lived as a teenager – Ken Silvers. Ken had also been married and divorced, and he had two preteen daughters. Joan and Ken fell in love, and this time the marriage was forever. Ken was a former Navy submariner who had served on the USS Tusk. That experience, as well as time spent as a commercial tugboat captain, gave him a love for boating that he passed on to Joan. For many years, they belonged to the Wissinoming Yacht Club in Philadelphia. Despite the name, there was nary a yacht among the members’ boats, which were mainly powerboats, sailboats, or cruisers – which is what my new Uncle Ken owned. On their small boat, Uncle Ken’s seat was labeled as “the Captain’s Chair” – but Aunt Joan’s was labeled as “the Admiral’s Chair”!
Ken served as “Commodore” of their yacht club for some years, and he occasionally wore a “Captain’s” hat. Once, around 1978-79, the pair took the boat down to Atlantic City for the weekend. While at a bar at one of the brand new casinos, they couldn’t believe how nice the bartender was and how they kept getting free drinks. Later that night, they realized why – “Captain & Tennille” were playing at the casino! While my aunt & uncle did not necessarily resemble the singing duo, a huge hit at the time, my uncle’s mustache and captain’s hat were enough to confuse the bartender!
As I grew up, I tried to visit Aunt Joan when I could. At a minimum, visits would take place for birthdays and other holidays. My favorite visits were during the summertime when I would not visit their house, but the boat instead. Occasionally, my uncle would take us for a ride on the Delaware River. Other times, we’d simply sit on the boat at the dock. We’d always have food – with my aunt trying to get me to eat as much of it as possible. This became a much-loved ritual. Often, Uncle Ken would grill lobster tails on a little propane grill. Alternately, we’d have steamed crabs or even steak. As we enjoyed the food, Uncle Ken would smile, wink, and remark, “What are the poor people eating tonight?” It became our signature comment every time we feasted on the boat.
In 2004, I visited on August 29th to celebrate Aunt Joan’s 72nd birthday, which was the next day. It was a great visit! The weather was beautiful – sunny, but not hot, with a cool breeze. We took the boat out for a short ride on the river, then returned to the dock for a meal of crabs and beer. And birthday cake! It was relaxing and fun, and I remember talking with my aunt about how good she looked for her age. She commented on how good she felt. Looking back, I wish I had stayed just a little longer to visit. My last memory of my aunt is her waving good-bye from the dock as I drove away. She died suddenly six days later from a heart attack.
I realize now that there are a lot of things I never got to know about my aunt’s life. But, after her death, I realized one thing for sure – I was loved – truly, deeply, unconditionally. I didn’t always give her the respect or love I should have, but I loved her – just probably not as much as she loved me. Since I am also an aunt without any children of my own, I now understand her in a completely different way. I hope that my nieces and nephews will know how much I love them like the way I know Aunt Joan loved us all. I miss you, Aunt Joan!
In Loving Memory
Joan Delores Pater Silvers
30 Aug 1932 – 04 Sep 2004
[Written for the 68th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: A Tribute to Women]
But what’s the question? Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will know that it’s the meaning of life, the universe and everything. But on Sunday, March 8th, 42 happens to be the next mile-marker on my own personal odometer. (Coincidentally, I just found out that March 8th was also the date that Hitchhiker’s radio broadcast premiere 31 years ago – oh, the cosmic implications!)
I plan on taking a birthday break from blogging by spending the weekend gazing at palm trees, so I came up with a different and unusual way for my friends to wish me a “Happy Birthday” greeting. After all, my friends are different and unusual. Since you all also have a wonderful sense of humor, I do hope you’ll join in by posting a comment about THE BEST TIME WE NEVER HAD. That’s right – your best fictional memory of our fun. For those of you that think I’ve lost my mind along with my youth, let me explain…
I’m borrowing this idea from another blog I read called Darwin Catholic. For the last few years, she has celebrated her birthday by asking for “completely made up and fictional” memories. And the results are pretty funny. Since my friends’ humor IQs tip the scales, I thought this would be a unique challenge. (I’m counting on Thomas, Joe S., Killa, Jasia, MO, and various members of the Bucs clan at a minimum!) Come on, give the old gal a laugh while I’m sipping pina coladas on the beach!
Several genea-bloggers are celebrating “Celebrate Your Name Week” from March 2 through 8. I’ve missed out on some of the events, but today, March 4th, is set aside as “Unique Names Day”. Since my surname is unique enough, I’m glad my name isn’t quite that unique (although it’s definitely not as common as it was in the decade before I was born). To honor the unique names in my family tree, I’m going to link to an “oldie but goodie” post that I already wrote on this topic – “Call Me Ishmael”. While Ishmael doesn’t show up in my genealogy, several other unique first names do – and, like that opening line, you tend to remember them! Read all about my personal favorites among my family’s names, including Dionys, Kreszens, Wolfgang, and Walburga from Bavaria, and Hilary and Teofila from Poland. And if my sister-in-law is reading this (she who is expecting her third child next month) – I know you’re still looking for suggestions, but don’t even think about using any of these “favorites”!
What unique names are found in your family tree? Tell me!
Janet Hovorka, the Chart Chick, had a link to her sister’s blog. Her sister talks about how great it is to use Facebook to meet up with old friends and plan a family reunion. Then she asks an intriguing question:
…wouldn’t a genealogical version of facebook, devoid of time and space, be intriguing? Locate family members, link generations, pictures, tidbits, get to know your long losts…. I’d love to “friend” my 3rd great-grandmother Magdalena Straubhaar Schwendiman and have a bit of wall-to-wall with her. And I’m sure I’d love the status reports from my great-grandfather Joseph Hatton Carpenter. He had some jolly songs and anecdotes and was somewhat of an English character. Hmmmmm…
You had to do it…here I am off from work on a snow day and feeling in a creative mood. Well, let me think…what would it be like to have my ancestors on Facebook? See my take on what it would be like if my ancestors were on Facebook (click on the image to see a larger view):
I can see it now…what groups would my grandparents join? Would my grandmother “friend” her sisters that did not get along? Would the feuding brothers be friends? Further back, would the German-speaking ancestors befriend the Polish-speaking ones because they share common descendants? Who would be addicted to bumper stickers, flair, and games? What would my great-grandparents be “fans” of?
The “what-if” possibilities are endless – and humorous! If we could communicate with our deceased ancestors, we’d not only have more Friends, but more people commenting on our status, photos, and friends. Hmm, maybe we all already have enough advice in our lives!
It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea. ~Dylan Thomas
My father James was the first-born son of James and Margaret Pointkouski. Just before his eighth birthday, a new addition arrived to the household – a baby sister, Jean. As my grandmother recuperated in the hospital, her son sent a note:
Dear mother, How are you and how is baby sister. I am doing find. I am a good little boy. I forgot to tell the Ladys in school that baby sister just looks like me. I am having a good time playing after school. I will be seeing you. Kisses for you and baby sister. xxxxxxxxxX P.S. By your son Jimmy
Little did Jimmy know then that history would repeat itself. Jimmy grew up and got married. His wife was surprised at the large age difference between brother and sister – surely they wouldn’t have children that far apart. Their first child was a stillborn baby girl. But a son was born the following year, James Drew. Despite efforts to provide brothers and sisters to only-child Drew, none came. None, that is, until shortly before Drew’s eighth birthday when a new addition arrived to the household – a baby sister, Donna.
Drew was happy at first, but quickly became dismayed and suggested that perhaps our parents ought to “return” me to the hospital as if I was broken. When asked why, he replied, “She can’t talk and she can’t walk – she can’t do anything!” Fortunately I got a repreive from my parents, and eventually I learned how to talk, walk, and do everything.
Having an 8-year gap between brother and sister has its ups and downs. My aunt and I had a big brother to look up to; my father and brother had a little sister to protect. But by the time my aunt and I were old enough to really “get along” with our brothers, they were out of the house on their own. Because of that, both brother and sister experienced life as an “only child” while also knowing the joys and sorrows of being a sibling. One thing is for sure – no matter how old we all get, no matter if we see eye to eye or not, or have anything in common, as my mother always says, “Blood is thicker than water” – which means we’ll always be there for each other no matter what. That’s what brothers and sisters are for!
[Written for the 11th edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival: Brothers & Sisters.]
“Donna’s Picks” is my occasional feature to highlight other blogs, posts, or articles that may be of interest to my fellow genealogists. Sit back and enjoy the following links!
History - A few weeks ago Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, wrote about a new oral history project. The West Point Center for Oral History will interview veterans of World War II through the present conflicts and archive their stories on the site. According to the site, it “will serve as a powerful learning tool for West Point cadets and as an important research center for historians and the general public.” I couldn’t agree more. Plus, my second cousin on the Bergmeister side is the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets at West Point, so here’s a little “shout out” to my family!
Genealogical Records – Have you ever had difficulty deciphering old handwriting in records? Seriously, who has not had difficulty! Read “What’s That Say?” by The Polish Genealogy Project for a great primer on how to figure out handwriting in various languages through the ages.
Genealogy Blog – Well, it’s not specifically genealogy-related, but the Strange Maps blog is a delight to genealogists, history lovers, and anyone who loves maps of all kinds. Some have a unique genealogy twist though, like the 11-year-old boy’s drawing of his immigration! Don’t click through to the site unless you have some time to kill, because there are so many interesting posts you’ll have a hard time leaving. Consider yourself warned.
Genealogy Blogger Challenge – It’s not a challenge, per se, but Craig Manson came up with a great idea for bloggers to post their Names, Places, & Most Wanted Faces. Several bloggers have already posted their lists. I’m still deciding and/or writing some posts, but my names and places are listed on the sidebar to the right if anyone wants a sneak peak.
A New Carnival in Town - see the very first edition of the latest genealogy-related carnival, the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival!
That’s all of Donna’s Picks for today. Here’s a Happy Blogiversary wish to footnoteMaven who is celebrating two years as a genea-blogger. In blog years, she’s a veteran! I’d also like to send out some get well wishes to Terry, Ernie, and Becky - come back soon because I miss your posts!