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The theme for Week 6 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “So Far Away”. This theme asked “Which ancestor is farthest away from you either in distance or time/generations?” My answer would have to be my 14th great-grandfather, Six Welshofer. I found it quite appropriate that a man with the first name of Six would be fit the theme for Week 6! At sixteen generations back, he is definitely the ancestor who is farthest away from me. I find the concept of sixteen generations mind-blowing since my goal when I started researching my family history was to discover where my eight great-grandparents were born in Europe.

Six’s Story

This is the part of the weekly post where I regale my readers with the story of my ancestor’s life and explain why I chose them for this week’s theme. However, I have one problem in telling Six’s story – there aren’t enough facts to fashion a life story. I am not even certain of his birth or death dates. What is known, however, based on the house histories for the town of Armetshofen in Bavaria, is that a man named Six Welshofer, a farmer, existed and lived in the town. He is assumed to have been born approximately in 1487 based on when he appears in the town’s history. I don’t have evidence of his death date, but the name of his son and the next several generations were recorded in the house-owner history of the town.

While I don’t know anything about the man who was Six Welshofer and the dates are mostly unknown until the 1600’s, I know that names that make up his line of descent lead down to me. Five generations of Welshofer men after Six lead to a female descendent. From there, another five generations of females lead to my 3rd great-grandfather. The final six generations from him to me are three pairs of fathers and daughters. So, in the absence of a story about the man named Six, I’d like to present his line of descent ~

Line of Descent

  1. Six Welshofer, b. circa 1487, born & died in Armetshofen
  2. Georg Welshofer, b. circa 1515, born & died in Armetshofen
  3. Johann Welshofer, b. circa 1555, born & died in Armetshofen
  4. Georg Welshofer, b. circa 1600 in Armetshofen, d. Dachau
  5. Johann Welshofer, b. circa 1620 in Armetshofen, d. 16.04.1662 in Viehhausen
  6. Ursula Welshofer, b. circa 1640s in Viehhausen, d. 22.10.1688 Webling, m. Wolf Hintermayr in 1661
  7. Maria Hintermayer, b. circa 1660s in Webling, d. 11.07.1735 in Breitenau, m. Martin Jaiß in 1694
  8. Katharina Jaiß, b. 06.07.1696 in Breitenau, d. 29.11.1739 in Breitenau, m. Johann Märkl in 1724
  9. Rosina Märkl, b. 28.02.1734 in Breitenau, d. 05.04.1808 in Röhrmoos, m. Andreas Baumgartner in 1751
  10. Anna Baumgartner, b. circa 1755 in Röhrmoos, d. 07.12.1793 in Schönbrunn, m. Jakob Sedlmair in 1780
  11. Katharina Sedlmair, b. 22.04.1781 in Schönbrunn, d. ? in Prittlbach, m. Josef Dallmayr in 1818
  12. Josef Dallmayr, b. 02.03.1819 in Prittlbach, d. ? in Asbach
  13. Ursula Dallmayr, b. 21.09.1846 in Asbach, d. 21.01.1911 in Regensburg, m. Josef Bergmeister in 1871
  14. Josef Bergmeister, b. 12.02.1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, d. 30.05.1927 in Philadelphia, PA, United States
  15. Margaret Bergmeister, b. 11.04.1913 in Philadelphia, PA, d. 14.01.1998 in Philadelphia, PA, m. James Pointkouski in 1934
  16. James Pointkouski (my father)
  17. Donna Pointkouski 
Area of Bavaria of the line of descent from Six Welshofer - gray line is distance from Armetshofen to Viehhausen, the move of Six's great-great grandson Johann.

Area of Bavaria of the line of descent from Six Welshofer – gray line is distance from Armetshofen to Viehhausen, the move of Six’s great-great grandson Johann.

Looking at the names and town names for Six Welshofer’s descendants offers a great history lesson on what life was like in Bavaria from the 16th through the 19th centuries. In fact, these lessons match my research on another family line in the Bavarian town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm in which I used church records to get back to the 1600’s (research on Six’s line has been primarily through town histories). Comparing the information I found in both places leads me to make a few generalizations about what life was like during that time and in that place:

  • Men usually lived and died in the town of their birth – but they did move, and when they did it was usually for their profession or if they were not the eldest son inheriting the land from their father.
  • Occasionally a man “married up” and moved to a different town to marry a wife of a higher social status
  • Women generally moved from the town of their birth to a nearby town in order to marry someone. After marriage, they would have a lot of children (by today’s standards)!
  • Infant mortality was very high.
  • When either spouse died young, they remarried – quickly!

In my ancestral line back to Six, it was his great-great grandson Johann Welshofer that apparently moved from the ancestral town of Armetshofen. He moved to Viehhausen, about 85 miles northwest of his birthplace, and got married there. My line after Johann switches to six generations of females, and all but one move to a different town to get married (and live the rest of their lives there). Only Johann’s great-granddaughter marries and dies in the town of her birth (Breitenau). Her story illustrates several of my generalizations listed above. She gave birth to 9 children in 10 years, but only five survived past infancy. She died at the age of 44 (leaving children aged 4, 5, 12, 14, and one who’s age is unknown). Her widower remarries seven weeks later! But her daughter from that marriage (the 5-year-old), lives to the age of 74 and outlives her own daughter.

After that first move up north to Viehhausen, the family moved back down towards Dachau (Armetshofen) in the next generation. All of the town names in the following generations are all in this general area – until generation #13 when my great-great grandmother moved to Regensburg – near Viehhausen. The biggest move of all comes from her son, my immigrant to Philadelphia.

It’s certainly hard to fathom sixteen generations. And humbling to realize that someone who lived and died so long ago made it somehow possibly for my own life in my time and place five hundred years later.

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 6: So Far Away

#52Ancestors

In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. So far, he arrived in Hamburg and stopped to see the lovely view nearby in Blankenese. Now he heads to Offenbach, which will be his “home base” for much of his trip.

21 August 1912 ~ Offenbach, Germany

Front: Zeppelin "Schwaben"

Front: Zeppelin “Schwaben”

Back: Ferdinand is having a good time so far.

Back: Ferdinand is having a good time so far.

The postcard reads:

Offenbach 21.8.12. Liebe Freunde ich amusiere mich sehr Gut hier und werde nächste Woche nach München fahren und werde von dort Euch schreiben Ich hoffe es Geht Euch Alle Gut und Grüßt Euch beide recht Herzlich. Ferdinand

Translation:

Offenbach 21.8.12. Dear friends, I am enjoying myself and will go to Munich next week and write to you from there. I hope you are all well. Greetings to you both. Ferdinand

This is a very interesting card! The caption on the front of it reads: Erster offizieller Postflug des Zeppelin-Luftschiffs “Schwaben” unter der “Reichs” Postflagge (Abwerfen der Post mittelst Fallschirm) which means “First official postal flight of the Zeppelin airship ‘Schwaben’ under the ‘Empire’ postal flag (dropping the mail by means of parachute)”.

The zeppelin, or airship, on the postcard, called the Schwaben, was built in 1911 for passenger service and is considered to be the first passenger-carrying airship that was commercially successful. It was 460 feet long, but the cabin only held 20 passengers and a crew of 13. It began passenger flights in July of 1911 and made 218 flights in the next year.

Advertisement in the  Darmstadt Tageblatt on Monday, June 10, 1912

Advertisement in the Darmstadt Tageblatt on Monday, June 10, 1912

But the Schwaben is significant for another reason that’s noted on the card – it was the zeppelin that first carried mail – in other words – the first air mail via zeppelin! Its maiden air mail flight was from June 10-23 in 1912 when the airship went between Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Mainz, Offenbach, and Worms. But the story gets even better – it wasn’t just air mail that the zeppelin carried during that trip – it was postcards.

The Hessen Royal Family created a home for mothers and children, and as a charity fund-raising event Postkartenwoche (Postcard Week) would have mail delivered by air from both the Schwaben and a propeller biplane called the Gelber Hund. The Schwaben carried the bulk of the mail and was piloted by the most famous airship captain at the time, Dr. Hugo Eckener. Funds were raised for the charity from the sale of special airmail postcards and stamps and admission to the parade grounds to watch the mail drops and pickups.

To put this in perspective, the distance between Frankfurt and Darmstadt is about 20 miles. It took the Schwaben about 13 minutes to make the trip.  Theoretically, that’s even quicker than a trip on the autobahn by car today, which according to Google should take about 34 minutes. Considering that the entire concept of flight began less than ten years before, this event in 1912 was huge by today’s standards. Crowds showed up to see the airship make the delivery, and there was a party atmosphere that included food, military bands, and an appearance by the Duke and Duchess. It was reported that 460,700 postcards were transported (between the airplane and zeppelin) and 35,000 marks was raised for the charity.

Shortly after Postcard Week, on June 28, 1912, the Schwaben was destroyed while landing. Strong winds and a buildup of static electricity caused a fire that destroyed the airship; over 30 people were injured in the accident.

Back to Ferdinand… On 21 August 1912, it was just weeks after the Schwaben came to its demise after over a year in the spotlight as a successful airship. While he didn’t have this postcard carried by the airship or mailed during the famous postcard week, I imagine it was one of the very last postcards of the airship still available for sale. Later on Ferdinand’s grand tour, airships will again be the subject of his greetings to friends in Philadelphia.

Sources:

Part 3 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

The theme for Week 5 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Plowing Through” and my ancestor is my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister. One might assume he was a farmer since the theme is “plowing through” but he was a baker. He did, however, have to plow through one particularly tragic year in his life.

Joseph’s Story

Josef (Joseph) Bergmeister was born on 12 February 1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany to Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Dallmaier. His father was a flour merchant, and based on the fact that the children were born in different towns throughout Bavaria (Asbach, Vohburg, Abensberg) I assume that he was a traveling merchant. Joseph had a big sister, Hilarie (called Hilaury, Lari, or Laura for short) who was three years older. Another sister was born in between but she did not survive. Joseph became the middle child when his brother Ignatz was born in 1876.

At some point during Joseph’s childhood, his father died. I have yet to find out when, but it was sometime after the youngest son’s birth 1876 and 1884, because in May of 1885 his widow is remarried and having another child. I know that the family – with or without their father Joseph – was settled in the city of Regensburg by 1879. By 1884, Joseph’s mother Ursula is married to Herman Goetz (Götz). The Bergmeister siblings gained half-brothers Herman in 1885 and Julius in 1886 as well as a half-sister Elsa (birth date not yet known).

Joseph Bergmeister, circa 1893-95

Joseph Bergmeister, circa 1893-95

From 1893-95, Joseph served in the Bavarian Leib Regiment, or the Königlich Bayerisches Infanterie Leib Regiment. They were headquartered in Munich at that time.

By 1897, Joseph is in the town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. It’s just an assumption, but given that his uncle lived there I presume he went there to work for his uncle. Uncle Castulus Bergmeister owned the bakery in Pfafenhofen (still in operation and run by my Bergmeister cousins) and Joseph was also a baker. In Pfaffenhofen, he met and married Maria Echerer, the daughter of a bricklayer whose family had been shoemakers in Pfaffenhofen for centuries. The couple married on November 2, 1897…just in time, for the following February – in fact on Maria’s 23rd birthday – they had their first child, a girl named Maria after her mother.

In May 1900, Joseph left Pfaffenhofen for Antwerp, Belgium where he boarded a steamship for the United States. His big sister Lari had immigrated in 1893. By 1900, she had married another German immigrant named Max Thumann. When Joseph arrived at the port of Philadelphia, Lari was there to meet him. Joseph lived with the Thumann’s for a while, but by the following year he had moved to a home of his own. In June 1901, his wife and 3-year-old daughter arrived in the U.S.

Joseph’s family started to grow considerably after that. Just nine months and two weeks after the happy couple reunited, they welcomed a son, Joseph. Two more sons followed: Max in 1905 and Julius in 1907. During these years Joseph’s family enlarged in another way as well – his brother Julius arrived in the U.S. in 1902 and Ignatz in 1904.

Unfortunately, Joseph and Maria lost two children who were born premature: a son, Charles, in 1909, and a daughter, Laura, in 1911. Earlier in 1911, Joseph’s mother died in Regensburg, and afterwards his brother Herman immigrated to Philadelphia.

One final child was born to Joseph and Marie – a daughter, Margaret, in 1913 – my grandmother! Despite the 15-year age gap between the oldest and youngest (and the 5-year age gap between the second youngest and my grandmother), the five siblings were close.

So far I’ve mentioned a few sad events in Joseph’s life such as losing his father when he was a boy and the deaths of two infant children. In addition, the year after Margaret was born, Joseph’s sister-in-law – the wife of brother Herman – died during childbirth due to a ruptured uterus. However, these tragedies are not why I chose Joseph’s story for the theme of “plowing through”. I realized that during one particular time period – from October, 1918 through November, 1919 – he had to plow through and struggle through some very sad events.

First, on 11 October 1918, Herman Goetz died of pneumonia at the age of 32. At the time, brother Julius was serving in the U.S. Army and his siblings were likely concerned about his welfare since the world was at war (he survived unscathed and died many, many years later at the age of 84).

Then, not quite four months later, on 05 February 1919, Joseph’s wife Maria died from heart disease. She was just weeks weeks away from her 44th birthday. Joseph and Maria’s oldest daughter was weeks away from turning 21 years old. Their sons were 16, 14, and 11, and my grandmother was not quite 6 years old.

The final event in the tragic year was the death of Joseph’s brother Ignatz. He died on 19 November 1919 at the age of 43 leaving behind a wife, an 11-year-old daughter, and a 10-year-old son.

Joseph had a very difficult time after his wife died, and according to his children he did not take good care of himself. He passed away from nephritis  on 30 May 1927 at the age of 54. At the time of his death, he had three granddaughters, Marie (age 7) and Mabel (age 3) from his oldest daughter and Helen (age 1) from his oldest son. He would eventually have a total of 14 grandchildren (as well as 30 great-grandchildren, 48 great-great grandchildren, and…I lost count of how many in the youngest generation at the moment!).

I wish I knew more about Joseph, and my grandmother wished she knew him a little longer. But I’m glad he had the strength and grace to plow through his struggles. He leaves a legacy of “plowing through” whatever life throws at you to inspire his numerous descendants.

Part of Joseph's entry in his sister's autograph book signed in the town of Plattling on 12 October 1890: Zur Erinnerung an Deinen Bruder Josef (in memory of your brother Josef)

Part of Joseph’s entry in his sister’s autograph book signed in the town of Plattling on 12 October 1890: Zur Erinnerung an Deinen Bruder Josef (in memory of your brother Josef)

Just the Facts

  • Name: Josef (Joseph) Bergmeister
  • Ahnentafel: #10 (my great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Joseph Bergmeister (1843-?) and Ursula Dallmaier (1846-1911)
  • Born: 12 February 1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany
  • Siblings: Hilarie Bergmeister Thumann (1870-1943), Maria (1871-1871), Ignatz Bergmeister (1876-1919), Herman Goetz (1885-1918), Julius Goetz (1886-1971), Elsa ?
  • Married: Maria Echerer (1875-1919) on 02 Nov 1897 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany
  • Immigrated: departed Antwerp on 03 May 1900 aboard the SS Aragonia; arrived in Philadelphia on 18 May 1900
  • Children: Maria Bergmeister Eckert (1898-1990), Joseph Bergmeister (1902-1986), Max Bergmeister (1905-1974), Julius Bergmeister (1907-1963), Charles Bergmeister (1909-1909), Laura Bergmeister (1911-1911), Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski (1913-1998)
  • Died: 30 May 1927 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Buried: 02 Jun 1927 in Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 5: Plowing Through

#52Ancestors

Many times old photos come with mysteries…have I solved this one? I recently acquired a number of photographs from a kind cousin. Many of the photos were either labeled or we knew who the people were from having other photos of them. Most of the photos were of Julius Goetz, my cousin’s grandfather, who was the half-brother of my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister. I still only have one photograph of Joseph, but I have many of Julius who was a very photogenic young man. In one photo, Julius is standing with another man – could this be his brother Herman? I’ve written about Herman before – because he died so young, no one in the family even knew who he was much less had any photographs of him. But, my cousin had two First Communion photographs of boys, and we knew which one was Julius. By assuming the other photo is brother Herman, and by using other available information, I’ve deduced that this is indeed a photograph of the Goetz brothers.

The Photograph

Julius Goetz is on the right - is the man on the left his brother Herman?

Julius Goetz is on the right – is the man on the left his brother Herman?

The Facts

Herman was born on 14 May 1885 and Julius was born on 09 November 1886. While the two men may not resemble each other very much, I know a lot of siblings that don’t look much like each other because each favors a different parent. From Herman’s passenger arrival record in 1911, we know that Herman was 5’9″. On Herman’s WW1 draft registration card, filled out shortly before his death, he describes himself as tall and stout with grey eyes and red hair. Julius was not as tall as his brother. On both his Declaration of Intent in 1908 and his 1919 U.S. Army discharge papers, he is listed as 5’5″. Also on both his is listed as having blue eyes, brown hair, and a medium build.

If the above photo does show the Goetz brothers, it would have been taken between April 1911 (when Herman arrives in the United States) and October 1918 (when Herman dies). The brothers would have been between 25-26 and 32-33 though I’d guess it was taken shortly after Herman’s arrival when they were reunited. Julius had been in the United States since age 16 in 1902, so nine years had gone by since the two had seen each other. One can easily assume they would want to commemorate the reunion with a photograph!

The Brothers as Boys

These are the two First Communion photos. Both were taken at the same photographer in Regensburg, Germany: Gustav Wild on weisse Lilienstrasse G. 93. It even looks like the same exact pedestal, crucifix, and background!

Herman on the left, Julius on the right. Julius' photo had the year 1897 on the back, so he'd have been 10 years old. This is consistent with a First Communion certificate for his half-sister who was also 10 when she received hers in 1890.

Herman on the left, Julius on the right. Julius’ photo had the year 1897 on the back, so he’d have been 10 years old. This is consistent with a First Communion certificate for his half-sister who was also 10 when she received hers in 1890.

Comparing the Boys to Men

Do you think the man on the left is Herman?

Do you think the man on the left is Herman?

In comparing the photos, the shape of the ears, noses, and mouths appear to be the same from the children to the adults. This, as well as the confirmed height difference of the two men as shown above, makes me believe that it is Herman with Julius. What do you think, readers?

In last week’s first installment of this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, just arrived in Hamburg on 10 August 1912. The postmark is illegible on the next postcard, and he didn’t indicate the date, but the postmark is definitely from August. Based on a map, this location would have been his next stop on the tour based on the date and location of the following postcard.

August 1912 ~ Blankenese, Germany

Front: Postcard from Blankenese

Front: Postcard from Blankenese

Back: a rather short but nice message

Back: a rather short but nice message

The postcard reads:

Blankenese  Freund Max und Laury Es Grüßt Euch Herzlich Euer Freund, Ferdinand

Translation:

Blankness Friend Max and Laury, sending you warmest greetings. Your friend, Ferdinand

Blankenese was a small town located on the banks of the Elbe River; today, it’s a suburb of the city of Hamburg. But one thing hasn’t changed since Ferdinand visited – it’s still a tourist destination and a resort town! The winding stairs, the castle at the top of the hill, and the picturesque views of the river remain the same. Ferdinand may have been just passing through on his way to his destination, but I hope he stopped and stayed a while and enjoyed the view.

This card reminds me of the quick “wish you were here” greetings that I’ve sent on postcards when I was younger and in a hurry. Spoiler alert: his messages to his friends get more interesting as he settles into his trip. I just like the fact that he’s sending his friends “warmest greetings” along the way so they can see what he’s seeing.

I found an image on Wikipedia very similar to the 1912 postcard – 100 years after Ferdinand’s visit, the view is just as beautiful. You can also view some great historical photos at this site.

A 2012 photo of Blankenese's view from the hill by Kroppe - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hamburg-Blankenese(01).JPG

A 2012 photo of Blankenese’s view from the hill by Kroppe – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hamburg-Blankenese(01).JPG

Part 2 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

Niederscheyern in the Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm district of Bavaria, Germany

Niederscheyern in the Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm district of Bavaria, Germany

The theme for Week 4 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Closest to Your Birthday” and my ancestor that holds that dubious distinction is my 4th great-grandfather, Dionys Daniel. Truth be told, I never noticed that Dionys’ birthday was close to mine until I looked in my database for this week’s challenge. But I have always admired Dionys because he has one of the coolest names of all my ancestors! Dionys is the German form of the name Dionysius, the Greed god of wine, revelry, and debauchery. I wonder if young Dionys was a rabble-rouser that lived up to the name or the complete opposite? Of course, the name shouldn’t only be associated with the infamous Greek god – it is also the name of several saints, and there are monasteries and churches dedicated to St. Dionys throughout Bavaria where my Dionys, status of saint or sinner unknown to his descendants, was born.

Dionys’ Story

Dionys Daniel was born on 07 March 1784 in the small town of Niederscheyern in Bavaria. He was the son of Anton Daniel and Anna Maria Olfinger.

The statue of Mary and Jesus in the Church of the Annunciation dates back to 1500! The church itself is unchanged since 1752, so it is the church in which Dionys was baptized, married, and died.

The statue of Mary and Jesus in the Church of the Annunciation dates back to 1500! The church itself is unchanged since 1752, so it is the church in which Dionys was baptized, married, and died.

I don’t know much about Dionys’ life, so I investigated the town in which he lived. Niederscheyern, or “Lower” Scheyern, lies in the shadow of the larger town of Scheyern. For centuries, Niederscheyern was a popular pilgrimage site itself. In the early 16th Century, miraculous powers were attributed to a statue of Mary in the Church of the Annunciation (Kirche Maria Verkündigung). The miracles and answered prayers attributed to Mary’s intercession were recorded in “miracle books” – from 1635 to 1804 there are over 16,000 entries of thanksgiving. The books still exist today in the library of the Benedictine abbey of Scheyern. The abbey also had a relic of the Holy Cross from Jerusalem – since 1180 – and many pilgrims came from all over Bavaria to pray there. The abbey was also the Wittelsbach family monastery (the Wittelsbach dynasty ruled over Bavaria for over 700 years into the Twentieth Century).

My Dionys wasn’t part of the royal family, however. He was merely a farmer living in Niederscheyern. I have no evidence of what his crops were or how much land he owned, but when I visited the area the primary crop is hops. In fact, hops growing is so prevalent that it is known as “green gold”.

The Catholic faith seemed to govern all aspects of Bavarian life at the time, and I wonder how closely his farming life revolved around the seasons of of the liturgical year as closely as the calendar year. One thing is certain – he lived during an interesting time. On 21 March 1803, a big change came to the Scheyern Abbey – the abbey was dissolved under the “secularization” of Bavaria. Dionys was 19 years old and grew up with the Abbey as the center of life in the area – how did its closure affect him? Or his livelihood as a farmer?  Or the surrounding towns? All I know is that the monastery came to life again during his lifetime – in 1838, Ludwig I of Bavaria re-established the monastery, and the monks returned.

On 11 September 1809 he married Walburga Schober – he was 25 years old and his wife was 31. In 1812 they had a daughter, Anna Maria, who is my 3rd great-grandmother. They also had a daughter named Rosalie, but I’m not certain of her birth year.

I don’t know much more about Dionys’ life other than his death date, which was 25 May 1873. He was actually alive when my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister, who is Dionys’ great-grandson, is born. I hope he got to meet him.

Dionys lived to be 89 years old, and what is amazing about this fact is that he outlives all of my direct ancestors in his line. One of his descendants, his great-great-granddaugther who is my grandmother’s sister, finally beats his age when she died at the age of 92 in 1990, more than two hundred years and four generations after his death. While 89 is an admirable age at death, life as a farmer in the 19th century had to be difficult and physically demanding, so making it to that age is rather impressive. Maybe Dionys didn’t live up to his Greek god namesake with a life of revelry (or maybe he did and that was his secret to good health)!

Just the Facts

  • Name: Dionys Daniel
  • Ahnentafel: #82 (my 4th great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Anton Daniel and Anna Maria Olfinger
  • Born: 07 March 1784 in Niederscheyern, Bavaria (Germany)
  • Siblings: unknown
  • Married: Walburga Schober (1778-1856)
  • Children: Anna Maria Daniel Bergmeister (24 Jun 1812-02 Feb 1871); Rosalie Daniel Fottner
  • Died: 25 May 1873 in Niederscheyern
  • My Line of Descent: Dionys Daniel-> Anna Maria Daniel Bergmeister-> Joseph Bergmeister-> Joseph Bergmeister-> Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski-> father-> me

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 4: Closest to Your Birthday

#52Ancestors

In 1912, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, took a trip back to Germany. While there, he sent postcards to his friends Max and Laura Thumann. Laura is the sister of my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister, and she saved her friend’s postcards in a scrapbook. They offer a fascinating look at travel just shortly before the Great War. While not directly related to genealogy other than the familial ownership of the collection, as ephemera these cards give us a glimpse into travel, communication, and connection with friends before the days of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Each week I will post a different card from Ferdinand’s “grand tour” of his homeland, and in the final installment I’ll try to provide more information about who Ferdinand was.  I welcome you to follow along with Ferdinand on his journey home…

10 August 1912 ~ Hamburg, Germany

Postcard from the Prinz Adalbert of the Hamburg-America line

Front: Postcard from the Prinz Adalbert of the Hamburg-America line

Back: Ferdinand has arrived in Germany!

Back: Ferdinand has arrived in Germany!

The postcard reads:

Hamburg 10 Ag 12   Leibe Freunde ich bin so weit gut angekommen gute Reise gehabt und bin gesund soweit Es Grüßt Euch Alle  Herzlich  F. Müller

Translation:

Hamburg 10 Ag 12    Dear friends. I have arrived well.          Had a good trip and am healthy so far.                                Sending you warmest greetings. F. Müller

The Hamburg-American line was established in 1847 and was the first German transatlantic steamship line. The SS Prinz Adalbert was launched in 1902. It was one of several ships that spotted the iceberg that sank the Titanic months before Ferdinand’s crossing. Most of us are familiar with the trips from Hamburg to the United States – I can only wonder what the trip from Philadelphia to Hamburg was like. I am sure the ship was a lot less crowded than the western voyages that would bring hundreds of new immigrants to the U.S.

Advertisement for the Hamburg-American line from the Washington DC newspaper, The Evening Star, July 23, 1912

Advertisement for the Hamburg-American line from the Washington DC newspaper, The Evening Star, July 23, 1912

The SS Prinz Adalbert left Philadelphia on Saturday, July 27. If the date on Ferdinand’s postcard is his arrival in Germany, it took two full weeks for the transatlantic passage.

What I love about this first message is the fact that he immediately let them know he arrived safely and he’s healthy. I also like how Ferdinand sends “warmest greetings” – the affection he has for his friends Max and Laura come through with every card he sends. I wonder how long it took them to receive the postcard in the mail? The journey begins…

Part 1 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

On January 12, 2009, I wrote a post entitled Research Plan: Finding Death Dates for Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Goetz, my great-great-grandparents. I knew their birth dates, but hadn’t yet found their death dates. I could go backwards several generations on Joseph’s side to include birth, marriage, and death dates, but I was still perplexed as to when he died. So, I developed a solid plan based on what I knew. Plans are great, but in order for them to work you actually have to put it into action. I didn’t. However, luck was on my side…without trying, I found the death date of Ursula!

Corrections!

I had some errors in my original post. I wrote:

Ursula Dallmeier was born in Aichach on 17 Mar 1847, the daughter of innkeeper Joseph Dallmeier from Aichach and Ursula née Eulinger.

The bold items were incorrect. The correct information is as follows:

Ursula Dallmeier was born in Prittlbach on 21 Sep 1846, the daughter of innkeeper Joseph Dallmeier  (or Dallmayr) of Asbach and Ursula née Eichinger.

The Plan

Based on the dates of the births of her children, I made some assumptions on the death date of Ursula Dallmeier Bergmeister Goetz. Based on the fact that she was alive at the time of her son Joseph Bergmeister’s marriage and she was not by the time of her younger son Julius Goetz’s marriage, I assumed she died between 1897 and 1919. The place was assumed to be Regensburg.

The Find

Funeral card of Ursula Götz

Funeral card of Ursula Götz

As I said, I never actually put the research plan into action, but I continued to research the family by tracking down some cousins. When I found her son Julius’ grandson, he shared a treasure trove of documents and photos with me. Among the pile were some funeral cards…and suddenly, I knew when Ursula died – 21 January 1911.

I still don’t know when her husband, my ancestor Joseph Bergmeister, died, and I don’t know when she married her second husband, Herman Goetz. But I now think that both events happened in Regensburg based on some of the information my cousin gave me. But there was something even better than filling in that piece of information about Ursula’s life. Some of the photos were labeled, and some were actually of Ursula. This is one of Ursula, approximately from the late 1870’s, taken at the Photographie von Martin Kraus, Ostengasse H 163, Regensburg:

Ursula Dallmayr Bergmeister Götz (1846-1911)

Ursula Dallmayr Bergmeister Götz (1846-1911)

Road side for Mała Wieś, photographed by Zenon Znamirowski on January 18, 2010.

Road sign for Mała Wieś, photographed by Zenon Znamirowski on January 18, 2010.

The theme for Week 3 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Tough Woman” and my ancestor is my great-grandmother, Rozalia Kizeweter Piątkowska. Rozalia, or Rose as she was called in the United States, is my only great-grandmother of whom I do not have a photograph. In fact, I know very little about my paternal grandfather’s mother except what I have learned through my research. Based on what I’ve found, though, I have no doubt that Rose was a tough woman!

Rose’s story

Rose was born Rozalia Kizeweter on 08 August 1866 in a small village called Mała Wieś, which literally translates to “small village”. The town is in the parish of Przybyszew, gmina Promna, powiat Białobrzeski, województwo Mazowieckie, Poland.

Rozalia's name in her 1866 birth record from the parish records of św.Apostołów Piotra i Pawła church in Przybyszew

Rozalia’s name in her 1866 birth record from the parish records of św.Apostołów Piotra i Pawła church in Przybyszew

She was the sixth of at least ten children of Jan and Marianna Kizeweter. As a blacksmith, Rose’s father moved throughout the countryside among various small towns just southwest of Warsaw. Her parents were married in a town named Piaseczno in 1855 when her father was a 21-year-old journeyman blacksmith and her mother was 22 years old. The couple’s first child was born in Warsaw the following year, but then other children were born in four different towns over the years. By 1879, however, the family appears to be back in Warsaw and, beginning in that year, Rose’s siblings all get married in Warsaw.

In 1900, Rose married Jan Piątkowski on 14 May in the parish of św. Stanisława i Wawrzyńca, or Sts. Stanisław and Lawrence. According to the marriage record, her husband Jan was 28 years old and lived on Wolska Street while Rozalia was 34 and lived on Młynarska Street. Rose’s brother Władysław was one of the witnesses. At the time of the wedding, Rose’s father was deceased but her mother was still living.

Jan worked as a tanner, and the couple lived in the Wola section of Warsaw. A son, Józef, was born on 03 November 1903 and a daughter, Janina, was born on 29 December 1905. However, from the U.S. Federal Census I know that Rose also bore four other children before 1910 that did not survive.

On February 17, 1906, Jan left Poland for America with his brother-in-law, Ludwik Czarkowski. After arriving in New York City, they soon settled in Philadelphia. Each of their families would immigrate in the following year.  Rose sailed on the SS Armenia from Hamburg, Germany on 23 October 1906 with her son and daughter. They arrived in New York on 10 November. The physical description for Rose on the passenger list tells me that she had brown hair, blue eyes, and was 5’3″. She was 41 years old, her son turned 3 on the passage across the Atlantic, and her daughter was only ten months old.

The passenger list had X’s next to their names, which usually means they were detained at Ellis Island for some reason. At the end of the passenger list, I found their names and the reason for detention – they had to wire her husband, Jan, for money since she did not have enough to cover their transportation to Philadelphia. It is difficult to read, but she only had either $1 – or none – with her. Rose had to stay at Ellis Island with her children for two days and they were finally discharged on 12 November.

After settling in Philadelphia, Jan – now known as John – worked as a leather worker in a factory. The family had a surprise a few years later – Rose was pregnant with my grandfather, the only Piątkowski sibling to be born in the U.S. He arrived on 06 July 1910 and was named James. At the time of his birth, his mother was just weeks away from turning 44 years old. Today that would not seem unusual, but in 1910, women rarely gave birth at that age.

Little else is known about Rose’s life other than the simple facts found in records.  Her son Joseph (who eventually began to use the surname “Perk” in lieu of Piontkowski) got married in 1927 and had daughters Josephine in 1928 and Jean in 1930. I assume that John and Rose got to know their granddaughters as babies, but in 1931 their mother, Kathryn, died suddenly. The girls were put into a home because their father worked as a truck driver and was not at home to care for them. He remarried and had another daughter, Geraldine, in 1936, so Rose may have gotten to see her third granddaughter as well.

Daughter Jean was married by 1930 to William Rose Hynes and living in New York City, then Florida. She may not have ever seen her parents again after her marriage.  Research continues on the fate of Jean.

Son James got married in 1934 and had his first child, my father, later that year. My father has no memory of his grandmother but she likely got to know him briefly when he was a baby.

Rose died on 10 February 1937 from “chronic myocarditis.”  She was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery on 13 February. John lived alone, rather unhappily, until August 1942 when he took his own life.

Although I know very little about her, Rose is my choice for a “tough woman” based on some simple facts:

  • At least four of her children as infants or toddlers.
  • After husband departed for America, she had to care for two children, a toddler and an infant, presumably by herself, for nine months.
  • She immigrated to America alone with a 3-year-old and a baby, spending two weeks on a journey that was likely uncomfortable, lonely, and, quite frankly, frightening. She didn’t speak the language in this new home, and she would never see her siblings (or her mother, if she was still alive at the time) again. Then after arrival she had to spend two days waiting for money to travel to Philadelphia.
  • She had a child at the age of 44. When this occurred, in 1910, she was at the age that other women would be a grandmother. I don’t care who you are or what century you live in, but I’m just slightly older right now and I can’t imagine having enough energy for an infant!

For these reasons, I salute my great-grandmother as a strong, tough woman. My grandfather once said that his mother was a tiny woman (as evidenced by her height listed as 5’3″ on the passenger list). But, despite her size and being dwarfed by her husband, she ruled the house and often told his father “how it was”. I wish I had a photograph of this amazing, strong woman!

A note on name spellings: Rose’s surname is spelled many ways in records of her siblings and parents. Kizeweter is the most common, but variations include Kizieweter, Kizewetter, Kieswetter, and similar variations beginning with a G, as in Gizeweter. The name Piątkowski (female version Piątkowska), translates into Piontkowski in English due to the absence of the letter “ą” which has an “on” sound. However, my grandfather changed some letters around…and now that’s my name.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Rozalia (Rose) Kizeweter
  • Ahnentafel: #9 – my great-grandmother
  • Parents: Jan Marcin Leopold Kizeweter (1837-?) and Marianna Ostał (1833-?)
  • Born: 08 August 1866, Mała Wieś, Przybyszew, Poland
  • Siblings:  Feliks Mateusz (1856-?), Katarzyna Marianna Slanina (1859-?), Józef (1860-?), Kazmierz (1861-?), Jan (1863-1863), Jan Józef (1868-?), Aleksander Józef (1871-?), Władysław (1873-?), Marianna Antonina Owczarek (?-?)
  • Immigrated: from Hamburg, Germany aboard the SS Armenia with Józef and Janina, arriving in New York City on November 9, 1906
  • Married: Jan (John) Bolesław Piątkowski (Piontkowski) on 14 May 1900 in Warszawa, Mazowieckie, Poland
  • Children: Józef (Joseph) Perk (1903-1953), Janina (Jean) Hynes (1905-?), James Pointkouski (1910-1980)
  • Died: 10 February 1937 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Buried: 13 February 1937 in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition – Week 3: Tough Woman

'The Slav Epic' cycle No.15: The Printing of the Bible of Kralice in Ivančice (1914) by Alfons Maria Mucha which commemorates the first printing of the New Testament in the Czech language.

‘The Slav Epic’ cycle No.15: The Printing of the Bible of Kralice in Ivančice (1914) by Alfons Maria Mucha which commemorates the first printing of the New Testament in the Czech language.

The theme for Week 2 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “King” and my ancestor is my 7th great-grandfather, Václav Jirsak (also spelled Jirsák). He was not a king, but his story is connected with kingship in various ways. First, the town of his birth is Králova Lhota in southern Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic) – the very name of his birthplace, Králova, means “king”, and is so named because the land apparently was once owned by the Bohemian kings. But his personal story also involves leaving his Bohemian homeland due to the policies of its kings (and queen) against religious tolerance. Finally, his exile to a new country takes place because of another king’s invitation for persecuted Bohemians to settle a new land.

My ancestor’s story begins in Bohemia. The traditional land called “Bohemia” makes up about two-thirds of what is the Czech Republic today. But it was once a kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire. From 1526, the kingdom was ruled by the Habsburg monarchy. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 was meant to solve religious disputes – princes were allowed to determine the religion of their subjects. The Hapsburg kings did not initially force their Catholic religion on Bohemia, which was mostly Protestant. But struggles over which religion would rule the land, so to speak, continued. The Thirty Years war was not only political, but also religious, and it was the battle between the Catholics and Protestants that influenced my ancestor’s personal story.

Queen Maria Theresa desired that her subjects share her Catholic faith as did Charles VII Albert, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia.  It became a crime against the state to be Protestant. Many Bohemians, my ancestors included, subscribed to the Protestant reforms of Jan Hus who believed that the Scriptures should be available in the language of the people, communion should be available under both forms, and the clergy should not have political power. But under Hapsburg rule, these teachings were forbidden. Although it was a crime, the faith continued to be passed down in private.

Václav’s Story

Birth Record of Vaclav Jirsak

Birth Record of Vaclav Jirsak

Václav Jirsak was born in 1715 to Jan Jirsak and Alžbĕta Chmelařová in Králova Lhota. The family was Protestant, and two years before Václav’s birth Jan was found to possess banned books of a religious nature and he was forced to confess to the Catholic faith.  In order to gain freedom of religion, widower Jan and his adult sons, Václav and Jan, decided to leave their homeland at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity came thanks to another king, Frederick II, King of Prussia.

In 1742 Frederick offered Czech refugees the chance to move to Silesia, now under Prussian rule. The Czechs were offered land and monetary support. That year the three Jirsak men emigrated to several colonies near what is Bralin, Poland today. Due to father Jan’s age, life in the new land was too difficult, and eventually he returned to Bohemia to live with his daughter, Dorota, and her husband, Jiří Zounar. Jan died there in 1751, but his sons remained in the new land.

Václav took on a leadership role in these new colonies. In 1749, at the age of 34, he helped to found the colony of Groß Friedrichstabor (today this town is Tabor Wielki in Poland), and by 1759, he was an “elder” at Klein Friedrichstabor in Groß Wartenberg (today this town is Tabor Mały in Poland). Václav was a farmer in this new community, and with his wife Kateřina had four daughters (Anna Marie, Marie, Alžbĕta and Anna) and three sons (Jan, Václav and Jiří).

The families that settled in these colonies are collectively known as the Česká exulantská – the Czech exulanti or exiles. They were able to maintain their religious beliefs (the evangelical church of the Czech Brethren) free of persecution. They also maintained their Czech language despite living under the rule of Prussia and later Russia.

Václav died in 1793 at the age of 77. His son and grandson, both named Jan Jirsak like Václav’s father, would continue the family’s migration through Prussia to Russian-ruled Poland in search of better opportunities for their families. In 1802, both men were among the founders of a new Czech settlement in Zelów, Poland. After another two generations, my ancestors would continue the migration farther east to the town of Żyrardów, and the next generation came to the United States. Other descendents of Václav Jirsak eventually made it back to Bohemia in the Czech Republic after World War II – nearly two hundred years after one brave man and his sons decided to move in search of religious freedom.

Note on name spellings: Václav is Czech but the name can also be listed as Wenceslaus, Wacław (Polish), or Wentzel (German). The surname Jirsak is also spelled Jirsák, Jersak, or Girsak. The feminine ending for Jirsak is Jirsaková.

Migration trail of my Bohemian exile Family Jirsak

Migration trail of my Bohemian exile Family Jirsak

Just the Facts

  • Name: Václav Jirsak
  • Ahnentafel: #888 (my 7th great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Jan Jirsak (1681-1751) and Alžbĕta Chmelařová (1694-1725)
  • Born: 04 Sep 1715 in Králova Lhota, Bohemia (Czech Republic)
  • Siblings: Anna (1711-?),Dorota (1712-?), Václav (1714-1714), Jiřík (1718-1719), Alžběta (1720-?), Jan (1722-1796), Lukáš (1724-1725)
  • Married: Kateřina (1723-1785)
  • Children: Jan (1746-1821), Anna Marie (1747-1780), Václav (1751-1788), Jiří (1753-?), Marie (1754-?), Alžběta (1758-1787), Anna (1760-1792)
  • Died: 03 May 1793 in Czermin (Poland)
  • My Line of Descent: Václav Jirsak-> Jan Jirsak-> Jan Jirsak->Anna Jirsaková Jelineková->Anna Karolina Jelinková Smetana-> Alžbĕta/Elżbieta Smetana Miller-> Elżbieta/Elizabeth Miller Pater-> Henry Pater-> mother-> me

Sources

52ancestors-2015

 

  Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition – Week 2: King

 

 

52ancestors-2015

This year I am participating in the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge. The theme for Week 1 is “Fresh Start” and my ancestor is my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller Pater. She was so confusing to research over the years that I needed a fresh start!

I first began researching my family history in 1989. While research methods, family group sheets, and pedigree charts have been the staples of genealogy for a very long time, looking back at when I began my search only twenty-five years ago seems like the dark ages. The first available federal census to research was 1910. No census records were online. No passenger records were online. No vital records were available online. There’s a theme here: nothing was available online, the paper records were difficult to come by, and even the microfilmed records did not cover the vast amount of years or locations that they do today.

After duly interviewing my parents about everything they knew about their immigrant grandparents (which was not much), I began my search. Considering the lack of easily accessible records, I actually did really well – of course, if I began today, I would find exactly the same information, plus a lot more, in a fraction of the time. But in the case of Elizabeth Miller Pater, I did not do very well. In fact, I made the biggest rookie mistake a genealogist can make – I made an assumption, lacked evidence of the genealogical “proof”, and continued researching. If the assumption had been correct, no harm done except for making professional genealogists cringe in horror. But – I was wrong! So for a certain period of time – a few years – I was actually researching the wrong Elizabeth Miller.

I based my research on a few facts from my mother. We assumed my great-grandparents married in Poland, but when I found my great-grandfather coming to the U.S. at the age of 14 – quite single – I realized that she did not come over under her married name. Therein lay the problem – pick a country and I can find you several dozen women named Elizabeth Miller. Whether it was Ireland, England, Germany, Poland, Russia, Autria, Hungary, Slovakia, or anywhere else, there were women named Elizabeth Miller. I limited my search to Polish (or Russian, given that Poland was under Russian rule, but my mother claimed that Elizabeth herself claimed she was Bohemian. Since my grandfather was born in 1912, I knew she immigrated before then, so “Bohemia” would have been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

I don’t remember my rationale at the time, but for some reason I found a teenaged girl with my great-grandmother’s name and thought I found her. The uncle she traveled with was not a name familiar to my family. But I persisted down the wrong research path. If I only knew more about the genealogical proof standard back then! Fortunately, I started fresh and began the research again. This time, things made more sense, names matched, and documents verified my mother’s stories (yes, she was technically Bohemian – she was descended from Bohemian immigrants to Poland). It wasn’t easy, but I finally “found” the only great-grandmother I actually met.

Lesson Learned: Don’t assume! Verify information with sources until you’re reasonbly sure you have the correct person – especially when dealing with a common surname. And if you’re stuck, sometimes it pays to put all of your research aside and get a fresh start!

Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth Miller Pater

Elizabeth Miller Pater: Left, approximately 23-27 years old. Right, approximately 64 years old.

Elizabeth was born Elżbieta Miller in 1890 in or near the town of Żyrardów in the Mazovia province of Poland (województwo mazowieckie). Although her parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents were born in Poland, they were all of Czech descent. Her parents, Jan Miller and Elizabeth Smetana, were born in Zelów in the Łódź province but moved to Żyrardów as children with their parents. Żyrardów had a large Czech community, and most residents worked in the linen and textile factory that the town was built around in 1833.

Elizabeth was one of at least seven children (research on the family continues). Her family spoke Czech at home, but also knew Polish and Russian. They, and the other Czech families, were all of the Protestant faith – the Czech Brethren or Evangelical Reformed church. Despite the fact that Poland was predominantly Catholic, Żyrardów was a large town with groups of Germans and Czechs and had an Evangelical Reformed Church, a Lutheran church, and a Jewish synagogue in addition to the Roman Catholic church.

Elizabeth’s brother Emil immigrated to the U.S. in 1905; his wife and daughter followed later that year. They settled in Philadelphia, PA, where there was a community of other immigrants from Żyrardów. Emil had two more children in Philadelphia by the time his sister Elizabeth immigrated alone in 1909 at the age of 18. The passenger arrival record provides a physical description: light brown hair, gray eyes, and a height of 4’11”. In 1910, she is living on the same street as her brother and is listed as a border in the household of another family named Miller. Although they are also from Żyrardów, I have not yet found a family connection.

Living just blocks away was another family from Żyrardów, the Pater’s. I can only wonder if Elizabeth Miller and Louis Pater had known each other as children in Żyrardów. Louis had been in the country since 1907. But just sixteen months after Elizabeth arrived, the couple got married. They married in Camden, NJ, rather than Philadelphia – perhaps because Louis had just turned 17 and may have required parental permission in Pennsylvania. Elizabeth was older by almost three years. Her brother Emil and her fellow border, Olga Olczak, served as witnesses. Olga was also from Żyrardów and would eventually become a relative of sorts to the Miller family through marriage.

Despite being from the same town, the couple were of two different religions. Louis Pater came from a Polish Catholic family. Elizabeth remained Protestant. It is just an assumption, but since Louis’ parents were also living in Philadelphia, I think it may have been a source of contention. My only proof of this is finding a baptismal record for my grandfather, Louis and Elizabeth’s oldest child, in the Catholic church near the Pater family’s home in Langhorne, PA. But years later when my grandfather went to marry in the Catholic church, he received a dispensation because he himself was not aware that he was baptized Catholic.

Louis and Elizabeth had five boys: Henry (my grandfather), Walter, Louis, Victor, and Eugene. Unfortunately, two of her sons died rather young, both from tuberculosis. Louis was only 24 when he died in 1940. His brother Victor was 31 and died just a few years after the same disease took his 22-year-old wife.

Both Louis and Elizabeth worked in the textile factories in Philadelphia. Elizabeth worked as a hosiery topper from the 1930’s through the 1950’s at Gotham Hosiery, which was located on Erie Avenue. The family lived on Hope Street, then N. Hancock Street, then N. Waterloo Street – all in the same Philadelphia neighborhood.

Elizabeth and siblings

From left to right: Alfred “Fred” Miller, his wife Mary, possibly Fred’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, unknown woman, Eddie Schultz, Mary Miller Schultz, Henry Schultz, and unknown man (possibly Walter Schultz)

Elizabeth seemed to be close to her siblings. Her brother Emil went back to Żyrardów sometime around 1910. He was apparently one of the exiles to Siberia around 1915 and died in Russia. His wife and son would later return to the U.S. and were close with Elizabeth. Their sister Mary immigrated in 1912 with her husband, Ludwig Schultz, and they lived in New York City. In 1913, brother Alfred immigrated with his five nieces and nephews, the children of Mary and Ludwig. Alfred lived in New York City and both of his brothers-in-law, Louis Pater and Ludwig Schultz, were witnesses for his marriage in 1921. The Schultz family eventually settled in Metuchen, NJ. In 1920, Elizabeth’s youngest sister, Sophie, immigrated to the U.S. accompanied by their mother, Elizabeth Smetana Miller. Sophie moved to Philadelphia but their mother lived with both Alfred and Mary. Mother Elizabeth died in Metuchen, NJ, in 1944. Elizabeth’s brother Ludwik remained in Żyrardów his entire life and owned a shoestore. The remaining known siblings, Paweł and Karolina, apparently died in exile to Siberia or in Russian prison. More research is being conducted to fill in these blanks on the family tree.

Elizabeth’s husband, Louis, passed away in 1957 at the age of 64. Elizabeth lived on Waterloo Street a few doors away from her sister-in-law, Victoria Pater Koruba. Elizabeth died from congestive heart failure on 28 July 1972 and was buried in Greenmount Cemetery. At the time of her death, she left behind three sons, seven grandchildren, and at least two great-grandchildren (including me). As much information as I’ve been able to gather on Elizabeth’s relatives, I’ve had a problem finding out information about the children of her sons Eugene and Walter (Walter decided that the surname Pater was unlucky and used his mother’s maiden name of Miller instead). Maybe it’s time for a fresh start with that research as well.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Elżbieta (Elizabeth) Miller
  • Ahnentafel: #13 – my great-grandmother
  • Parents: Jan Miller (c.1851-c.1913) and Elżbieta Smetana (1858-1944)
  • Born: 21 November 1890, Żyrardów, Poland
  • Siblings: Paweł (unk-bef.1919), Emil (c.1881-bef.1919), Mary (1884-1969), Karolina (1885-19??), Ludwik (1894-aft.1977), Ferdinand Alfred “Fred”(1896-aft.1969), Zofia “Sophie” (1903-bef.1969)
  • Immigrated: from Hamburg, Germany aboard the SS President Grant, arriving in New York City on April 16, 1909
  • Married: Ludwik (Louis) Pater on 27 August 1910 in Camden, NJ, USA
  • Children: Henry (1912-1972), Walter (1913-1975), Louis (1916-1940), Victor (1919-1951), Eugene (1920-1979)
  • Naturalized: 13 December 1954
  • Died: 28 July 1972 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Buried: 31 July 1972, Greenmount Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition – Week 1: Fresh Start 

#52Ancestors

On April 17, 2009, I wrote a post that asked “Do you have a photo of my great-grandmother?” I only had one photograph of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller Pater, but I wondered if others existed. I’ve had trouble tracking down my mother’s first cousins because they were born in the 1940’s and some used the rather common surname of Miller instead of Pater.

Here’s the one photo that I posted back in 2009 – Elizabeth is the woman seated in the middle:

Elizabeth Miller Pater and unidentified friends/family at a picnic in 1947.

Elizabeth Miller Pater and unidentified friends/family at a picnic in 1947.

On August 30, 2012, I wrote about “A Great Discovery” – finding a photograph of Elizabeth on her 1954 naturalization certificate. Here’s a copy of that photo:

My great-grandmother!

My great-grandmother!

I was thrilled to receive it, and it came as a surprise since none of my other ancestors’ naturalization records had photographs. I didn’t want to be greedy, but I still wondered if anyone had more photographs of my great-grandmother.

Update!

Well, someone did…all this time, a photograph of Elizabeth Miller sat in a box in a basement three thousand miles away from where Elizabeth lived, owned by someone whose surname I never heard of when I began my research many years ago. The naturalization document led to a search for the original bearer of the name “Elizabeth Miller” – her mother – since the alien registration document indicated a parent lived in the United States. I tried the mother’s name first and found a possible match. A death certificate confirmed some information, and led to more questions with the name of the informant. That in turn led to more research on that name…and suddenly a missing piece of the family puzzle was found.

My great-grandmother Elizabeth Miller Pater had a sister named Mary Miller Schultz who lived in Metuchen, New Jersey. My mother always said she had relatives in Metuchen, but she assumed it was on the Pater side. Mary had some photographs of her sister (as well as another sister and two brothers…more on that in a future post!), and she passed those on to her youngest daughter, Julia. Julia married a gentleman of Italian descent in 1935 and the couple moved out to California.

Following the trail led me to Julia’s daughter – my second cousin once removed! We had the opportunity to meet last June, and my “new” cousin graciously pulled out a box of photographs and family documents that had belonged to her mother. Actually, the word “box” doesn’t adequately describe it – to me, it was a treasure trove! I was able to fill in many missing details about my great-grandmother’s siblings. With a name like Miller, it was difficult to pinpoint the correct people, but now I know more about them as well as their spouses and children. As for photographs, not only did my cousin actually have a photo of my great-grandmother – but she had THREE! And two of the three included my great-grandfather as well. As if that wasn’t enough to cause a genealogy happy dance (and tears of joy), I am also now the proud owner of three photographs of my great-GREAT-grandmother – Elizabeth’s mother. And one of her father! And some of two of her sisters and two of her brothers!

But all of those photos and their stories will be told in future posts. For now, here is my newest prized possession. Fortunately, the photograph was labeled with my great-grandparents’ names – I’m not sure I would have recognized them given that the only photos of her are shown above and the sole photo of my great-grandfather is from 1947 when he was 53 years old. The amazing photograph below shows the couple on (or near) their wedding day, August 27, 1910, in Camden, New Jersey. My great-grandfather, Louis (Ludwik) Pater, had just turned 17 years old days before. He immigrated to the U.S. from Żyrardów, Poland, in August, 1907 with his siblings to join their parents. The bride, Elizabeth (Elżbieta) Miller, was 19 years old and immigrated from the same town in April, 1909.

Elizabeth Miller and Louis Pater

Elizabeth Miller and Louis Pater, August 1910

It may sound dramatic, but the gift of this photograph was a dream come true. The moral of this story: don’t give up searching for family photographs! Because you never know which photos were shared with siblings and which descendants inherited and saved all the goodies!

"15 with sea view" (C)  Leo Reynolds https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/

“15 with sea view” (C) Leo Reynolds https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/

On New Year’s Day a lot of people like to make resolutions to improve habits in the upcoming year. If the word “resolution” connotes something that is not usually achieved, then take heart – consider this list of things to do as mere suggestions! Either way, cultivate the habit of doing each of these tasks in your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly genealogy to-do list will greatly improve not only your research, but also allow you to have more fun while doing it. If you’d like to have a highly effective genealogical new year, consider adopting these habits:

  1. Contact – specifically, reach out to cousins! I had several names of cousins for years before I finally made the decision to make contact – and each time, I was sorry it took me so long to do it because my cousins were not only welcoming, but they also occasionally provided critical information to our shared family history. Whether it’s by email, phone, Facebook, or a letter by mail, don’t wait until it’s too late – contact cousins while you have the chance.
  2. Focus – on one research problem at a time. Often I’ll get distracted while researching, especially if I’m using online databases. Resist the urge to do a mass search if you have one particular problem in mind. Focus on that challenge and you’re more likely to find the path to a solution.
  3. Document – the sources you’ve searched so you don’t make the mistake of fruitlessly searching them again. Sometimes a list of “negative” searches is as useful as the list of records we’ve already found.
  4. Scan – photos and documents! Having digital copies of important photos and documents safeguards against loss or damage of the originals. Better yet, backup your digital data with multiple copies.
  5. Learn – new techniques or record sources. The opportunities for learning new genealogy skills are many. Consider webinars, online classes, local seminars, or attending regional or national conferences. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about genealogy, you may be surprised to learn something new.
  6. Share – your finds with your family. Sometimes your fellow genealogists get more excited by your new finds than your family members. But don’t stop trying! Share your ancestors’ stories with your family. One (or more) will one day thank you!
  7. Test – DNA! If you haven’t jumped into the gene pool with DNA testing, consider getting an autosomal, mtDNA, or a Y-DNA test (men only) for you or your family members. Sometimes research problems are solved through DNA – and even if it doesn’t help you solve your biggest brick wall, testing still offers an interesting glimpse into ourselves and what we’ve biologically inherited from our ancestors.
  8. Create – something unique. Whether it’s a beautiful chart, a photo collage, a scrapbook, or a full-fledged book of your family history, creating something unique about your family history is creating a lasting heirloom for your descendants.
  9. Photograph – places and people! You can’t take photos of your departed ancestors, but you can photograph their tombstones, the houses or towns in which they lived, or where they worked.
  10. Help – newcomers. We all were newbies once! And we all experienced acts of kindness when more experienced researchers showed us the way. So whether it’s in person at your local library or genealogy society or online in a genealogy forum, consider offering that same help to someone who is new to genealogy.
  11. Watch – genealogy on television! Fortunately genealogists have several opportunities to watch genealogy-related tv, including Who Do You Think You Are?, The Genealogy Roadshow, and Finding Your Roots. Each one is unique, and each offers some interesting stories.
  12. Join – a genealogy society. Societies can be valuable to genealogists for many reasons – a community to share ideas, libraries with specialized records or books, publications with great articles, seminars or conferences to learn new things, and even special members-only online research databases. Societies can be local, regional, national, or belonging to specific ethnic groups – each is useful in their own way.
  13. Read – blogs and books. Educate yourself by reading books about history and genealogy for your areas of research. There are also hundreds of genealogy blogs that offer news, tips, and great stories about others’ adventures in research.
  14. Write – your ancestors’ stories. Or if that’s too daunting, then write just one story. If you think you don’t know enough about your ancestors to tell even one story, then here’s a different challenge – write your story. Just one story from your life. Everyone has a story (or two), and if you don’t write it down no one else will ever hear it.
  15. Find – that one ancestor you’re missing. You know who it is – we all have one. I don’t like the term “brick wall” because I believe any brick wall can be knocked down if you have the right equipment. Or at least climbed over if you have enough helping hands to hoist you over it! Use the tasks above to help you figure out that angle you’ve been missing. The answer is out there – be determined to find it!

2014: A Look Back

Branagh as Macbeth in 2014

My Bucket List item – completed in 2014!

Even though I took the year off from blogging, my new year’s eve wouldn’t be the same without my look back at the past year.

Since this is a genealogy blog, first things first – genealogically speaking, it was a very good year. I met several new cousins and discovered some new ancestors. I even attended a conference – the Southern California Genealogical Society Genealogy Jamboree! One of my finds was the 1834 birth record of Jan Pater – I’ve known the approximate year and town name from his marriage record for years, but I had difficulty finding the little village – until earlier this year. Thanks to that find, I also found his 1833 marriage record of his parents, Hilary Pater and Agnieszka Kochanoska – my 4th great-grandparents. On another side of the family I finally located the marriage record of my 2nd great-grandparents (one of my 12 goals for 2012 – better late than never), Jan Kizeweter and Marianna Ostał. This was no easy feat for two reasons: they moved frequently and each of their several children was born in a different town, and, to make it more confusing, Jan would occasionally use his middle name for official records. But, now I know where each was born and their parents’ names, and records are available for both of those towns that go back a bit farther.

Besides finding more ancestors farther back, I also found some new information about my great-grandparents. In one case, I tracked down details on a sister of my great-grandfather after finding her husband’s death record. In the other instance, I found out that my other great-grandfather had a half-sister I didn’t know about thanks to some family postcards from the 1910’s.

With cousins Mary and Judy in California

With cousins Mary and Judy in California

But the best part about this year in terms of genealogy was that it was the Year of Cousins! I had the opportunity to meet many cousins! First I celebrated the birthday of my mom’s first cousin and met four of my second cousins for the very first time. On my trip to California, I met two of my mom’s second cousins and one of my dad’s first cousins. I had a wonderful time meeting all of them. I also tracked down some second cousins on my dad’s side and we can’t wait to meet.

The rest of my year was exciting in other ways, too. I made a new friend that brightened up the arctic blast of a winter we had in January and February by forcing me off of my sofa to explore my own hometown. We saw many wonderful things and shared many great conversations and that time together has created a cherished friendship.

I crossed off a Bucket List item this year! I wanted to see Kenneth Branagh perform Shakespeare live. I figured that one day far in the future I’d travel to England and see him – probably when he was old enough to play King Lear. But suddenly he was appearing in New York City for the very first time and I seized the opportunity to see him as Macbeth. Three good friends and I were mesmerized by a performance that could best be described as an “experience” rather than merely “seeing a show.” The tickets were expensive, but watching rival Scottish clans have a sword fight in the rain and mud just steps away from your seat? Priceless!

My travels this year didn’t take me out of the country, but the trips were still magical. I went to southern California specifically to meet my cousins and attend the Genealogy Jamboree conference with my old (and new!) friends. While there I also had fun looking through family photos, tasting at wineries, touring San Juan Capistrano, and hanging out on Laguna Beach. I spent a fun weekend walking around New York City and a week in southern Virginia where I hiked on the Appalachian Train and rode on the back of a Harley-Davidson.

Besides seeing Branagh in Macbeth, I saw a great production of The Comedy of Errors at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. In my own city, I saw a fun play called Incorruptible and went to Mary Poppins with my mother and two nieces. I went to four concerts that were all absolutely amazing. First was an acoustic Rob Thomas concert with my genea-bestie Lisa Alzo in Atlantic City. Next was a fun time seeing Reilly and Maloney for about the fourth or fifth time (on possibly their last tour of the East Coast). In June, I saw the amazing singer-songwriter Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame on his Words and Music tour. It was so good, I’m seeing him again in February! Finally, in December I saw one of my absolute favorite bands: Sister Hazel. I’ve been a fan for almost 20 years and seeing them perform live was really special.

2014 was a year in which I fell in love, discovered fun things about my own hometown, watched someone I met become a saint, celebrated my father’s 80th birthday, spent a lot of money beautifying my house, had my first job interview in ten years, discovered that I remember how to play the guitar after a 25-year break, and learned that if you do something for 100 days it becomes a habit. Fortunately it was a good habit: I now write every day. Maybe I can work on other healthy habits next year!

I enjoyed several books by Deanna Raybourn, Jill McCorkle, Harriett Evans, and Kate Racculia as well as Liane Moriarity’s What Alice Forgot, Felix Palma’s Map of the Sky, and Charlie Lovett’s First Impressions. My television favorites were both old (Rome) and new (Outlander).  My soundtrack of the year would definitely include John Legend’s “All of Me”, O.A.R.’s “Peace”, One Republic’s “I Lived”, and Barenaked Ladies’ “Odds Are”.

McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail

McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail

The biggest lesson from this year is that having a positive attitude is one of the healthiest things I can do and goes a long way towards being happy. I can thank one friend in particular for helping me cultivate the habit of thinking positively. He also taught me that we are how we treat each other and nothing more. Be kind; it’s worth it!

I learned that I’m not too old to make new friends. But unfortunately I also didn’t do my best to maintain the friendships that have sustained me for, in some cases, 35 years of my life. Next year I definitely want to be a better friend, and I hope to be a better aunt as well and spent more time with the four people who mean the whole world to me.

I’ve spent some time this December reflecting on 2014’s gifts and challenges. I found some deep questions to help me reflect, and one asked “If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?” My answer: smile, enjoy, hope. I did all three, and as I welcome a brave new year I pray that I can continue to smile at life, enjoy relationships and experiences, and hope that my dreams will come true. Thanks for sharing the ride with me!

Coming Soon!

Coming SoonIt has been 364 days since I last posted to this blog, and in 2013 I only had seven posts – six in the first four months of the year. So to anyone out there in the blogosphere that is still here and now reading this brand new post – thank you! I said I would keep blogging until it wasn’t fun anymore and, well, it started to not be fun anymore. But, I did a lot of research in the last two years. In the last few months, I’ve done a lot of writing. The combination of the two has created a lot of ideas, and suddenly the idea of blogging is fun again. So I’m back for the new year!

Some of the posts to come in the new year are:

  • Updates to several previous posts based on new information that has been found. I have updates for Do You Have a Photo of My Great-Grandmother?, The Millers’ Tale, the Research Plan on finding my great-greats’ death dates, the story of the Sister Who Disappeared, and a few of my Surname Saturday posts
  • An inspiring story about a group of my ancestors who fled religious persecution
  • Adventures in DNA matching
  • Some tips on using several resources that offer millions of digitized Polish records
  • Several old postcards that offered new insights into my family history
  • An fascinating example of a German Stammbuch – and how it told me a lot about the owner’s personality
  • Tracing my traveling blacksmith ancestor throughout Poland
  • 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – I’ve decided to attempt to participate each week in Amy Johnson Crow’s 2015 Edition of the weekly 52 Ancestors Challenge

After a long break, I’m really looking forward to blogging again. I hope that you’ll be along for the ride next year!

2013: A Look Back

2013-clockThis blog has been unattended for so much of the year that a 2013 retrospective seems pointless. But, my life and my research were not as inactive as the blog, so there are still many things to remember about this year before launching into a new one. I’ve blown the dust off of the keyboard and will make a valiant effort to continue my yearly tradition of looking back before moving on.

Despite the lack of genealogy blogging, this year I’ve discovered more genealogically than in any of the almost 25 years I’ve been researching. There’s a lot to say about it if I ever get the time to write! I “met” many cousins this year both in person and virtually. Finding and meeting cousin Bob was actually one of my unfulfilled 2012 goals! His grandfather and my great-grandfather were half-brothers from the same mother. Not only is he a wonderful person to know, he gave me a ton of cool genealogy things. First, there were many photographs – including a photo of my great-grandfather and his siblings as children with their mother. I never thought I’d see what my great-great-grandmother looked like, so that was the best present of all. I also learned her death date. Cousin Bob also gave me two albums that belonged to my great aunt that are worthy of several blog posts.

Another cousin I found was Judy. We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person yet, but we’ve shared many emails. Judy’s grandmother and my great-grandmother were sisters. Besides some great photographs of that side of the family, she had a wealth of information from her aunt that confirmed the origins of my Miller family. There is also a wonderful first person account of immigrating to the United States which was a joy to read just weeks after discovering the record of this family immigrating. There is still much to sort out on this branch of the family – and much to write about.

Cousin Lunch!

Cousin Lunch!

But wait, there are more cousins! One on my Pater side found me and we hope to meet in 2014. From this same side my mother and I enjoyed a “cousin lunch” with my grandfather’s first cousin, her daughter, and granddaughter. We had a wonderful time and wondered what took us so long to get together. The last time my mother saw her second cousin and mom was only about 45 years ago!  To round out my list of cousins for the year was a more distant Polish relation who found me through this blog. Despite the “degree” of cousinhood, the story of how are two lines are related was fascinating and soap opera worthy.

Besides all of the cousin meetings, I has the great opportunity to research in Salt Lake City for a week in August.  I discovered many records – surprisingly, many were from the late 1700s in Poland which is a time period that often does not have records. I found records for many 5th and 6th great-grandparents. The very best part of the research trip was confirming the Czech origins of my Miller family in Poland.

The year 2013 was a great one for the availability of more online Polish records. I was able to view records dating back to the early 1800s for several ancestral towns and find my 2nd great-grandmother’s death record in 1900 in Warsaw. This online availability is unprecedented and certainly makes researching Polish records much easier than ever before.

Finally, the other new genealogical information came through DNA matches. I was able to confirm a 3rd cousin and 4th cousin DNA match!

As I said, it was a busy year for genealogical research for me as well as a busy year for life in general. In the “real world” of relatives, there were some family deaths. In January a very dear friend of the family died – Frank was not related to me, but always was and always will be in my heart as my uncle. Later in the year, my Uncle Ken passed away as well – fortunately I spoke to him about six weeks before he died after a long absence. Both uncles will be missed and I will always cherish the memories I have of them. My mother’s first cousin Sandy passed away this year as well. I hadn’t seen her in a long time but I remember her humor and creativity with fondness.

CIMG2857My nieces and nephews continued to grow into great kids. My oldest niece graduated high school and started college, while the younger one made her First Holy Communion. The boys started playing t-ball much to my delight.

2013 was a year in which I had lunch with a movie star, finally went to a Phillies game, toured some Finger Lakes wineries, put my father into a nursing home, said good-bye to the only boss I’ve had for the last decade when he retired, celebrated my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary, and was furloughed from my government job for six days for the first time ever.

It was a very musical year in which I attended more live concerts than I ever did in my life. I saw amazing performances by Train, Gavin DeGraw, The Script, Matchbox Twenty, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Italian superstar Eros Ramazzotti. It was great! I also saw several theater performances including An Ideal HusbandJesus Christ Superstar (for the upteenth time), and two very different and equally enjoyable renditions of one of my favorite plays, Much Ado About Nothing. I also read a lot of great books (among them The Hangman’s Daughter series, The Bookman’s TaleWill in the World, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore). May next year’s entertainment be as much fun!

It always feels like there was never enough time spent with family and friends. But we tried, and 2013 had many fun lunches, dinners, parties, happy hours, and visits. I met new family members, made new friends, and cherished all the “old” family and friends just a little bit more. I’ve ignored my readers, if any of you are left, as I’ve ignored this blog. I think I still have more to say, though, so if you’re still out there…2014 may involve more blogging as well as more writing, more researching, more learning, and – most especially – more living. Happy New Year!

If my grandmother Margaret Pointkouski was still alive, today would be her 100th birthday.   This post is in her honor:

Various photos from throughout Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski's life. Top Row: First Communion Day (circa 1919-1920), with her first born - my dad (circa winter 1934-35), with husband James  (1957), portrait (1972). Center: Bergmeister siblings in 1959. Bottom Row: portrait (circa early 1930's), with husband James (1962), and with children (winter 1942-3).

Various photos from throughout Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski’s life. Top Row: First Communion Day (circa 1919-1920), with her first born – my dad (circa winter 1934-35), with husband James (1957), portrait (1972). Center: Bergmeister siblings in 1959. Bottom Row: portrait (circa early 1930’s), with husband James (1962), and with children (winter 1942-3).

Just the Facts:

  • Parents: Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927) and Marie Echerer (1875-1919)
  • Born: 11 April 1913, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
  • Baptized: 13 April 1912, St. Peter’s RC Church, Philadelphia, PA
  • Siblings: Marie (1898-1990), Joseph (1902-1986), Max (1905-1974), Julius 1908-19??), Charles (1909), Laura (1911)
  • Married: James Pointkouski on 13 January 1934 in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The civil marriage was later blessed at St. Peter’s RC Church, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Children: James and Jean
  • Died: 14 January 1998
  • Buried: 17 January 1998, Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
From left to right: Mabel, Carol, Marie, Helen holding Robert with Suzanne below, and Margaret holding Drew. Marie and Margaret are sisters & Helen is their sister-in-law. Marie is holding her granddaughter Carol, Mabel's daughter. Helen is holding her grandchildren, and Margaret is holding her grandson (my brother). Photo date - around spring of 1960.

Grandchildren & Second Cousins: From left to right: Mabel, Carol, Marie, Helen holding Robert with Suzanne below, and Margaret holding Drew. Marie and Margaret are sisters & Helen is their sister-in-law. Marie is holding her granddaughter Carol, Mabel’s daughter. Helen is holding her grandchildren, and Margaret is holding her grandson (my brother). Photo date – around spring of 1960.

Five Things I Learned About My Grandmother from Genealogical Records:

  • Grandmom’s middle name, according to her baptismal record, was Hermina. No one knew where the name came from until I found Uncle Herman Goetz in my research, her father’s half-brother who was also her godfather. The reason why no one in the family remembered Uncle Herman is because he died in 1918 and she likely didn’t remember him at all.
  • She was probably named after her maternal grandmother, Margarethe Fischer Echerer (1845-1895).
  • Grandmom barely knew her parents. Her mother died in 1919 about six weeks before Grandmom’s 6th birthday. Then in 1927 when she was not quite 14, her father died.
  • Although she was born in 1913, she is completely missing from the 1920 and 1930 census!
  • Her first child, my father, was born less than seven months after the wedding.
The Pointkouski family circa 1960

The Pointkouski family circa 1960

Five Things I Learned About My Grandmother from My Dad and Aunt:

  • According to my Aunt Jean, when Grandmom was born she was so tiny that she could fit into a shoebox. Her parents weren’t sure she’d survive – they had two children in between her brother Julius and her that only lived for one day. 
  • My grandmother always said that her Aunt Laura was very good to her. Laura was Hilaury Bergmeister Thuman, her father’s sister. After her parents died, Aunt Laura and her husband, Uncle Max, were the closest thing to parents she’d have. Uncle Max died in 1941 and Aunt Laura in 1943 – while I’m sure Grandmom would have liked their support for much longer in her life, at least by then she had a husband and children of her own.
  • A description of her parents was passed down, but I’m not sure if the memory came from my grandmother or her older siblings – likely the siblings since she was so young when her mother died. But, her mother was remembered as a very short, fiesty woman who ruled the household – and ruled her husband, Joseph, whom she called “Sepp” for short.  Although he was taller than his wife, he but obedient to everything she said.
  • Grandmom met my Grandpop at her brother Max’s store. Grandpop worked as a truck driver delivering ice cream, and Max’s soda fountain was on his route. He spotted Margaret one day, and excitedly asked Max, “Who’s that?” Max looked around, “Her? Aw, she’s just my sister.”
  • My Grandmom was called “Aunt Margie” by her nieces and nephews. She seemed to be very close to them, especially her nieces Marie and Mabel who were only 7 and 11 years younger than her (her sister Marie’s daughters). After Grandmom died, I found some correspondence in her house that she had saved over the years from her niece Helen and nephews Bob and Carl, all children of her brother Joseph.
Grandmom and me, 1977

Grandmom and me, 1977

Five Things I Learned About My Grandmother From Knowing Her:

  • She always called my grandfather “Pop”
  • She made ceramics as a hobby. Two that have survived over the years are a Christmas tree (with lights) and a candy dish shaped like a sleigh that says “The Pointkouski Family”.  I remember from my childhood that she made my brother a hockey player figurine (or was it a lamp?) with a Flyers jersey, and a Tin Man lamp for my father when he played the Tin Man in a show.
  • She was a knitter and made afghans. I still have one she made for our family.
  • She was blind in one eye for the last 20+ years of her life. I think it was due to glaucoma.
  • She always signed her cards “Grandmom, Love” instead of the other way around

Happy Birthday, Grandmom!

IamFrom

Back in July 2011, Randy Seaver posted a “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun” (SNGF) challenge to create a “Where I’m From” poem using the template at this site. I started a post then but never completed it, and I stumbled upon the draft on my laptop the other day. Now Randy has posted the challenge again tonight! This time I decided to let my creativity out and came up with this little ditty about Where I’m From.  We all have a story – where are You from?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Where I’m From

I am from home-cooked meals, from chicken soup and Tastykakes.

I am from the city of brotherly love, rooting for the Fightin’ Phils and the Broad Street Bullies, from playing wiffle ball in the street and riding bikes down Kirby Drive.

I am from sweltering humid summers, occasional blizzards in cold winters, from honeysuckle and buzzing cicadas.

I am from laughter and stubbornness, from Jimmy and Chick, from Pointkouski’s and Bergmeister’s and Pater’s and Zawodny’s.

I am from factory workers and truck drivers, from part-time tap dancers and comedians, from hard workers earning a living but never doing what their hearts wanted to do most.

I am from using every pot to cook a meal and never going out with wet hair.

I am from Catholic school, from believing in the Real Presence and knowing good priests and fun nuns. I am from the rosary and down in adoration falling and holding hands to pray around the kitchen table.

I am from the Far Northeast in Philly, from Poles and Bavarians, from pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I am from cheese steaks and hoagies, from chocolate and wine.

I am from the stowaway with the secret name, or maybe not, and from the baker called Sepp, and from the made-up surname that no one can spell.

I am from mysteries and myths, from faces in too few black and white photographs, from immigrants who left the only homes they knew to create a new one far away. I am from a family that didn’t hand down heirlooms but instead I inherited humor, love, and faith.

"The Passage of Time" - Photo by ToniVC at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonivc/2283676770/

“The Passage of Time” – Photo by ToniVC at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonivc/2283676770/

Well, it’s been a long break here since my last post. I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been off having some fascinating adventures, but… not really. As luck would have it (or lack of luck), I’ve never had so many different things to blog about at a time in which I have no time for blogging due to other duties. There’s been a lot of genealogical discoveries in recent weeks, so I hope to have time to write about them soon. Rather than spending a lot of time writing my usual long, fact-filled posts, here’s a sampling of some of my recent genealogical adventures that I hope to post about in greater detail soon:

Have you ever found a birth record for someone that convinces you it’s your someone…only to discover that person’s death record a year later? Hmm, right name, wrong person…that makes me wonder if any of my “ancestors” in my tree are the wrong person because I didn’t check to see if “they” died as a child.

Have you ever come to a complete dead end only to realize that maybe, just maybe you’re looking in the wrong place for the wrong name?  In my case, I hadn’t considered that the professional translator I hired may have translated a record incorrectly. I’ve been searching for the wrong person. In the wrong town. It happens; even pros make mistakes. Get a second opinion.  Or third.  For me, the third time was the charm.

I recently found a connection in someone else’s tree. Someone else’s very well-documented and well-sourced tree. That’s never happened before. After receiving confirmation through additional research that we’re talking about the same person, I was able to add his research to my tree. Lots of information. Almost 50 new surnames. On some lines, I went back so many generations my head was spinning. A 13th great-grandfather? Dates in the 1500s? Mind. Officially. Blown.

Besides all the great new Bavarian surnames I’ve added to my tree, some first names that are “firsts” on my family tree are: Sebastian, Ulrich, Veit, Kaspar, Sabina, Gregor, Abraham, August, Agathe, Brigitte, Nikolaus, and Melchoir. And about a dozen men named Georg. And another couple of dozen Johanns to add to my multitude of John’s and Joe’s.

liebster-award2Finally, William at Among My Branches has given me the Liebster Award. He’s asked me to answer some questions:

  • (1) How long have you been researching your family history? I officially began in 1989.
  • (2) What made you begin researching your family history? I watched Roots in 1977 and wanted to do what Alex Haley did because I had no idea where my ancestors came from. In 1989, I had some time and a friend who was equally interested in learning her family’s history so we learned about how to research.
  • (3) Was there an ancestor or relative in your family that was also interested in family history or preserved important documents and records? None at all.
  • (4) Have you uncovered any connections to famous people? Nope. I descend from good peasant stock.
  • (5) What is the furthest generation back that you have a photograph for that ancestor–i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd great grandparent, etc. I have photos of six of my great-grandparents. The oldest photo of a collateral relative is the brother of my 2nd great-grandfather.
  • (6) Do you have any family recipes that have been handed down through the generations? No.
  • (7) What was the country of origins for your grandparents? Bavaria/Germany, Tirol/Austria, Poland, and Bohemia.
  • (8) Name a fun fact from your paternal grandfather’s ancestry? My paternal grandfather’s grandfather is the first Polish ancestor I discovered who was literate. He was a valet/footman.
  • (9) Name a fun fact from your paternal grandmother’s ancestry? My paternal grandmother descends from a long line of Bavarian shoemakers and millers.
  • (10) Name a fun fact from your maternal grandfather’s ancestry? My maternal grandfather’s family were weavers, shoemakers, and cloth merchants. I now work with the apparel and footwear industry.
  • (11) Name a fun fact from your maternal grandmother’s ancestry? My maternal grandmother told me a lot of really interesting stories about her family that I’ve managed to disprove with my research!

My questions are a bit different. It’s not quite the Proust Questionnaire, but… I am not going to nominate 11 blogs because most of my blogger friends have either already been nominated, haven’t blogged for a long time like me, or don’t usually partake of award posts. So, any and all are welcome to answer my silly questions in the comments!

  1. What’s the most unique ancestor’s first name in your tree? 
  2. What’s your favorite ancestral surname?
  3. Twitter or Facebook?
  4. What’s the oldest verified birth year in your tree?
  5. Kirk or Picard?
  6. Who’s your favorite author?
  7. Kelly or Astaire?
  8. What’s your favorite sound?
  9. What’s your favorite quote?
  10. Who’s your favorite ancestor?
  11. Which ancestor would you most like to meet?
Academy Award winning actor Timothy Hutton congratulates the author on her iGENE Awards.

Academy Award winning actor Timothy Hutton congratulates the author on her iGENE Awards.

Each year the (nonexistent) Academy of Genealogy and Family History (AGFH) offers genealogy bloggers the opportunity to celebrate the “best of the best” – our best blog posts for the previous year. In fact, I usually try to avoid listing my “favorites” at the end of the year in anticipation of the annual iGENE post. But this year, the Carnival of Genealogy is on hiatus and I missed the annual opportunity to continue the tradition. So in honor of the 85th Oscar Academy Awards tomorrow – and giving me a good reason to show the photo above – I decided to go ahead and present my own 2012 iGENE Awards anyway. So without further ado, the “Academy” has reviewed all of the entries, read the critics’ reviews, and counted all the votes…it’s time to roll out the red carpet and present the honors.  Welcome to the 2012 iGENE Awards starring What’s Past is Prologue!

Anita_1950Best Picture

 “Gorgeous!”  ~ Wendy Littrell of All My Branches

The Best Picture award goes to Sepia Saturday: Mom on a Bike from August. My mom strikes a pose in the schoolyard when she was fourteen. The photo is from 1950, but her sense of fashion is timeless!

Best Screenplay

Your post is of great of encouragement to me that those who were once ‘lost’ may indeed be (and deserve to be) ‘found’.” ~ Cynthia Shenette of Heritage Zen

31225-001The story of my great-grandfather’s cousin in His Name was Józef Pater wins the award for Best Screenplay. And what a screenplay it would make! It’s the story of a decorated war hero who became a leader in the Polish Underground to fight the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Captured by the Nazis, he is given the opportunity to escape but passes to prevent repercussions for his imprisoned wife. Transferred to Auschwitz, Józef died as a political prisoner and his story was forgotten by his extended family – until now.

Best Documentary

“What a neat find, Donna. Guess it goes to show some of the best discoveries are accidental ones.” ~ Shelley Bishop from A Sense of Family

The winner of the Best Documentary goes to What Happened to Uncle Herman? which documented my investigation of why my grandmother’s uncle seemed to disappear from records. By tracking his life events and doing some additional research, I finally discovered what happened to poor Uncle Herman.

Best Biography

“Wonderful narrative!” ~ C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon, Stanczyk – Internet Muse™

For the first time in the history of the iGENE Awards here, the winner of the Best Biography category is also the winner of the Best Screenplay. Cousin Józef was by far the most interesting life story I’ve discovered out of all of my relatives so far.

Best Comedy

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“I can go to bed tonight with a smile on my face.” ~ Michelle Goodrum of The Turning of Generations

The winner of the Best Comedy award goes to September’s post, I Was a Teenage Car Thief. It wasn’t so funny at the time, but incidents like this become funnier as they become history. Read about how my friend and I stole our teacher’s car in high school…or at least that’s how the story is told.

Previous iGENE Award Posts:

 

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