Sunday, July 23, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Was the Biggest Surprise You Found about an Ancestor?

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver borrowed a provocative question from another blog.

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you:

(1) The Family History Hound listed 20 Questions about Your Ancestor, and I'm going to use some of them in the next few months.  

(2) Please answer the question - "
What was the biggest surprise you found about an ancestor?" 

(3) Write your own blog post, make a comment on this post, or post  your answer on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a link to your answer in comments on this post.


I considered whether I should choose learning that my grandfather's biological father was not the man his mother married, but that really wasn't a surprise.  By the time I had my cousin's DNA tested, I pretty much expected my cousin and my father not to match.

What was a surprise, however, was learning that my great-grandmother Nanny Ireland gave birth to a daughter three years after her husband, Elmer, had died.  It was also surprising that my grand-aunt did not try to hide the information.

Several years ago, I acquired a list of the children buried in the same cemetery plot as my great-grandfather.  One of the names was Bertolet Grace Sellers.  She was said to have been born about 1921 and died in 1927.

I had never heard of Bertolet Grace and had no idea who she was.  I had been told that one of my grandfather's sisters had had a daughter who was born about 1922 and died in 1927.  This little girl was very close in years, although that other child was not said to have been named Bertolet.  I wondered if perhaps there had been some confusion about the name in the records.

I called my grand-aunt and told her about my discovery.  I asked if Bertolet Grace could be Catherine's daughter, and someone had gotten the name very wrong.  Aunt Betty responded in a totally unexpected manner:  "Oh, so you've found our little secret, have you?"

She proceeded to tell me that no, Bertolet was not Catherine's daughter.  She was in fact a much younger sister [technically half-sister] born in 1921, three years after Elmer had died.  Aunt Betty did not know who Bertolet's father might have been.  She remembered her little sister very well, though.

Some additional research turned up another surprise:  a memorial printed in the newspaper on the one-year anniversary of Bertole's death.  The memorial was stated as being from Bertolet's mother (my great-grandmother) and all of Bertolet's siblings.  It was a very sweet poem saying how much the family missed the small light in their lives.  So not only did my great-grandmother have an illegitimate child out of wedlock three years after her husband died, she placed a memorial in the newspaper a year after the child had died.  Definitely not trying to cover up the information?

The last surprise related to Bertolet, at least so far, came when my sister obtained copies of Bertolet's birth and death certificates.  Nanny Ireland declined to list Bertolet's father on either document.

Overall, I think I'm safe in saying that Nanny Ireland was a surprising woman for her time.

Friday, July 21, 2017

My Genealogy Mentor: Marge Bell, June 8, 1946–July 20, 2017

Enoch and Marge Bell, Oakland FamilySearch Library, June 15, 2017
It's likely that even in the genealogy world, not a lot of people outside the San Francisco Bay area knew Marge Bell.  But in the Bay Area, she was well known and appreciated for her contributions and knowledge.  She had been on staff at the Oakland FamilySearch Library for many years, and we all relied on her.

Marge had also been researching her own family history for years, and her research was of the highest caliber.  She deplored the state of online family trees, whether on Ancestry, FamilySearch, or somewhere else.  She was particularly aggravated when FamilySearch began its collaborative tree, which allowed others to "correct" your information.  Marge had meticulously researched her tree, and she knew that any information she posted was accurate.  While everyone else (multiple times over) had her distant female ancestor's father as one man, she was the apparently the first (and only) person who made the effort to search through the unindexed loose probate documents for the county to find the father was a totally different man.

Marge was my genealogy mentor.  She tricked me into teaching my first genealogy class, but she gave me advice and feedback throughout the time I was creating the presentation.  She came to that first class and let me know what went well and what could use some work.  Her recommendations always improved my work and made my talks better.  I can't imagine where I would be without the benefit of years of her advice and support.

Marge was also wonderful to brainstorm with.  She could offer a different perspective and new insights on difficult research problems that had me stumped.  Sometimes I was even able to return the favor.  We enjoyed bouncing ideas off of each other.

Marge announced she was moving to Utah about the same time I had begun to make my plans to move to Oregon.  She warned me that just because we each were moving didn't mean I wasn't going to hear from her when she had a question or wanted a second opinion.  Unfortunately, I won't be receiving any more messages from her.

Marge had just barely moved to Utah when her health took a turn for the worse, one from which she was unable to recover.  The genealogy community, especially that of the Bay area and the Oakland FamilySearch Library, has lost a tremendous resource and a dear, loving friend.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Defending the League of Nations


I've run into a problem with posting the remaining documents relating to the dispute between Emma (Schafer) Le Forêt and her Curdt half-siblings.  The documents are oversized, and the large flatbed scanner that I normally use is not working at the moment.  I would prefer to avoid scanning them in pieces and then tiling them, because I'm really not very good at that.  While I wait for repairs, I decided to post this small newspaper clipping.

This is about 2" square.  It appears to be newsprint that has yellowed with age.  There is no indication on either side of which newspaper it came from or when.  It was mingled in with the documents about the property inheritance.  I suspect this was saved by Jean Le Forêt, as he seems to have to followed other international news stories.

I have tried some online searches but have not been able to determine the newspaper source of the item.  My first guess is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as other newspaper clippings saved by Jean came from it.  My guess for the year is 1923, as October 8 fell on a Monday that year.  I did find items with similar topics published in St. Louis and area newspapers in 1922.

I didn't recognize the names of the people, so I looked around a little.  "Senator Reed" was James A. Reed, a Democratic Party senator from Missouri from 1911–1929.  In addition to opposing the League of Nations, which was counter to the prevailing attitude of the Democratic Party at the time, he was against immigration of anyone who was not white into the United States, and he opposed reauthorization of an act designed to reduce infant and maternal mortality.  He got his mistress pregnant but wouldn't divorce his wife to marry her, instead waiting until his wife died and then marrying the mistress (even though his first wife had divorced her husband to marry him).  Sounds like a charming fellow.

Lee Meriwether was an author and worked for the government at times.  He wrote a biography about James Reed, who was a friend of his.

George Barnett's name appears many times in the Post-DIspatch.  He was an attorney in the St. Louis area and lived in Webster Groves at some point.

H. W. Belding lived in Webster Groves.  Along with being a judge, he was a member of the Board of Managers for the Federal Soldiers' Home.  One newspaper item called him a police judge.

Charles M. Hay was another lawyer in the St. Louis area.  The State Historical Society of Missouri holds a collection of his papers.

Webster Groves is described on Wikipedia as "an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis in St. Louis County, Missouri."  It is about 5 miles from Clayton, and 9 miles each from Overland and Creve Coeur, placing it squarely in the area in which Jean and Emma were living.  Maybe Jean attended the discussion himself.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Unbroken Chain of Gravestones

I'm going to be pretty much a total failure tonight for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge.  Lack of digitization is part of the problem, but not all of it.

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you to:

(1) Determine what is your longest unbroken line of ancestral gravestones:  How many generations can you go back in time?  Do you have photographs of them?

(2) Tell us and/or show us in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog, or in a Facebook status or Google+ stream post.


Let's see how lacking my contribution is and the reasons for that.

I am happy to report that my father is still alive.  That means that he has no tombostone, and therefore nothing for me to have a photo of.

My mother was cremated and her ashes scattered in Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa County, Florida.  She has no cenotaph or other marker.

So much for my parents.

On my mother's side, even though I have seen it, I don't think I have a photograph of my grandfather's tombstone.  I believe I have a photo of my grandmother's tombostone, but it was taken with a film camera and I haven't digitized the image.

On my father's side, I'm not sure if my grandfather has a tombstone.  If he does, I'm pretty sure I don't have a photo of it.

I do, however, have a photo of my grandmother's tombstone.  (Finally!)  Anna (Gauntt) Stradling [Sellers] was born January 14, 1893 in Westhampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey and died January 20, 1986 in Lindstrom, Chisago County, Minnesota.


According to FindAGrave, neither Nana's mother nor her father has a marker in the Brotherhood Cemetery in Burlington County, New Jersey, where they are buried.  So I have one generation in this unbroken chain!

But let's get hypothetical.  IF I could find the photo of my maternal grandmother's tombstone, that would give me one for that family.  I do have a photo of the tombstone of her father, Joe Gordon, who was born about 1892, probably in or near Kamenets Podolsky, Podolia, Russian Empire, and died May 2, 1955 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York:



That's my grandmother, Lillyan (Gordon) Meckler, standing on the left and her brother Sidney Gordon on the right.  I think this photo was taken at the unveiling of my great-grandfather's stone, but I'm not 100% sure about that.

I also know I have a nondigitized photograph of the tombstone of Joe's father, my great-great-grandfather Victor Gordon.  He was born about 1866ish in or near Kamenets Podolsky and died January 26, 1925 in Brooklyn.  So even though I'm not able to post them all tonight, I have a chain of three generations of tombstones on my Gorodetsky/Gordon line.  I have no idea when my 3x-great-grandfather Gersh Wolf Gorodetsky died or where he is buried, so I don't think I'll be adding that to my records anytime soon.  And my maternal uncles are happily still alive.  I think three is about as far as I'm likely to get for a while.

Obviously, I have not made a huge effort to photograph tombstones of my family members, nor to digitize the ones that I do have.  I guess I can't do everything!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Blogger Recognition Award


On Thursday Elizabeth O'Neal nominated me for a Blogger Recognition Award.  Beyond thanking her, I've been told that there are rules to follow after accepting one's nomination.

The Rules

• Thank the blogger who nominated me.
• Write a post to show the award.
• Write a brief story on how my blog started.
• Share two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
• Nominate seven other bloggers for the award.
• Comment on each of those seven blogs to let them know they have been nominated and provide a link to this post.

I thanked Elizabeth once already, but you can never say thank you enough.  So thank you again, Elizabeth!

How My Blog Started

My blog began after I attended a class through the California Genealogical Society in 2011.  Craig Siulinski, who has been blogging for several years about his family, encouraged everyone to jump in the pool.  I had been thinking about starting a blog for a while, and his class was the extra push I needed.  You can read my introductory post from January 15, 2011 here.

Advice for New Bloggers

1.  Commit yourself to writing on a schedule and put it on your calendar.  It's really easy to tell yourself, "Oh, I'll get to that tomorrow."  Then you'll find that it's been one, two, three, or even more weeks since your last post.  And if you don't write regularly, people will think your blog isn't active and move on to others that are.

2.  This is my advice for anyone who wants to start writing:  Don't be afraid to write, but take the time and effort to look over your spelling, grammar, punctuation, flow, etc.  I can't tell you the number of blogs I have read once or twice and then abandoned because of fractured grammar, misspelled words, and incoherent logic.  Every word processor has a spellchecker function, and there are grammar and writing guides available online and in print.  With all the blogs out there, I'm much more likely to read one when I don't have to reread every sentence to figure out what it was supposed to mean.  (Can you tell I've been an editor for a long time?)

My Seven Nominees

Since I'm coming along later in the chain, several of the blogs I read have already been mentioned.  Nothing in the rules says I can't renominate someone, but I bypassed some of the bloggers I read regularly in order to highlight ones I haven't seen mentioned.

Schalene Dagutis - Tangled Roots and Trees
Banai Feldstein - Ginger Genealogist
Emily Garber - (going) The Extra Yad
Lisa Gorrell - Mam-ma's Southern Family
Xiaoming Jiao - All of a Sudden Part Jew
Kenneth Marks - The Ancestor Hunt
Nicka Smith - Who Is Nicka Smith?, Atlas Family

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt Does Land Research


This sheet of paper is 8 1/2" x 13".  It's a piece of off-white 20# bond with a watermark of BERKSHIRE / SOUVENIR BOND / USA.  It has a small rectangular piece of paper, on which is written "Original" in pencil, folded over the upper left corner.  This page is followed by eleven others on the same type of paper.  They are backed by a rectangular piece of an advertising poster, which appears to have been cut down to size for the purpose of backing these pages.












Jean La Forêt was definitely willing to spend time on research.  It must have taken many hours to find all the records he cites in this document and then type up the summaries.  He researched the property that John Schafer, Emma (Schafer) La Forêt's father, bought in 1856 from that purchase through to 1919, the year Emma's mother died.  He even included transcriptions from Louis and Elizabeth Curdt's divorce case.  Here's a quick overview of the contents:

1856:  John Schafer bought lots 9 and 10.

1864:  A warranty deed was executed for lot 9.  The property was released on margin October 19, 1867, six weeks after letters of administration were granted to Elizabeth Schafer to handle her deceased husband's estate.

1870:  John Schafer's estate was settled.

1874:  Louis Curdt and Mrs. Elizabeth Schafer married.

1883:  Emil Petit and Emma Schafer married.

1885:  Emil and Emma Petit's waiver was filed.

1885:  Louis and Elizabeth Curdt filed a deed of trust on the land with a life insurance company.

1891:  Elizabeth Curdt divorced Louis Curdt on grounds of desertion.  She was awarded custoy of Louisa, August, and Alvina and ownership of lots 9 and 10 but received no alimony.

1891:  Louis Curdt filed a quit claim on the two lots.

1891:  Elizabeth Curdt took out a $2,800 mortgage on the land.  She paid it off in 1895.

1892:  Elizabeth Curdt leased some part of the land for two years to C. W. Seidel.

1896:  Elizabeth Curdt deeded part of lot 10 to Charles Frederick Schaefer (Louisa's husband), apparently for $3,000.

1897:  Charles and Louisa Schaefer filed a quit claim to Elizabeth Curdt for half of the property deeded in 1896.  The amount is $1 and "other consideration."

1897:  Elizabeth Curdt filed a quit claim to Charles and Louisa Schaefer, also for $1 and other consideration, to exchange property.

1898:  Elizabeth Curdt took out a mortgage for $2,800.  She paid it off in 1900.

1898:  Charles and Louisa Schaefer took out a mortgage for $1,000.  It appears to have been paid off in 1904.

1900:  Elizabeth Curdt took out a mortgage for $1,500.  She paid it off in 1903.

1901:  Charles and Louise Schaefer sold part of lot 10 to August Eves for $3,350.

1901:  Elizabeth Curdt sold part of lot 10 to Charles Schaefer for $600.

1903:  Elizabeth Curdt sold part of lot 9 to Jacob Wagner for $2,000.  In 1912 Jacob Wagner and his wife, Louisa, sold the land for $15,000.

1903:  Elizabeth Curdt sold part of lot 9 to William Curdt (a relative of Louis?) for $1,300.  In 1912 William Curdt and his wife, Katarine, sold the land for $5,500.

1906:  Elizabeth Curdt sold part of lot 10 to her daughter Alvina for $1,000.  In 1919, after Alvina had married, she and her husband, Edward Schulte, sold this for $1 on a quit claim deed to Emma Opperman.

1906:  Elizabeth Curdt sold part of lots 9 and 10 to her son, August Curdt, for $500.  In 1909 August and his wife, Mathilda, sold the property to his brother-in-law Charles Schaefer for $1 and part of the land Charles and Louisa Schaefer received in 1906.  August and Mathilda Curdt sold this second piece of land in 1912 for $6,000.

1906:  Elizabeth Curdt sold part of lots 9 and 10 to Charles Schaefer for $875.  In 1912 Charles and Louisa Schaefer sold part of this land for $5,600.  In 1914 they sold an additional section for $2,000.

1912:  Elizabeth Curdt sold for $100 a small easement adjoining property she previously sold.

I can see from this how one could interpret the sales and resales as ripping off Elizabeth Curdt.  Playing devil's advocate, however, it could be that the land had simply appreciated quite a bit due to development in the interim between Elizabeth selling the lots and the children reselling them.  It also could be the case that Elizabeth was being generous with her children.  It's obvious from previous documents that Jean and Emma believed she was being taken advantage of.  I don't think I see enough evidence here of that, though.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Ancestor Had the Most Children?

It's Saturday night, and time for more genealogy fun with Randy Seaver!  This week we're mining details from our family tree programs:

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you:

(1) The Family History Hound listed 20 Questions about Your Ancestor, and I'm going to use some of them in the next few months.

(2) Please answer the question "What ancestor had the most children?  How many?"

(3) Write your own blog post, make a comment on this post, or post your answer on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a link to your answer in comments on this post.


The most children I have entered for any couple in my database is ten.  I found two couples with ten children.  The first couple I am listing are my great-grandparents.

Jane and Thomas Gauntt, c. 1940's
Thomas Kirkland Gauntt, born May 23, 1870 in Fairview, Burlington County, New Jersey; died January 21, 1951 in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey.  He was the son of James Gauntt and Amelia Gibson.  He married Jane Dunstan September 2, 1891, probably in Burlington County, New Jersey.

Jane Dunstan, born April 28, 1871 in Manchester, Lancashire, England; died August 1, 1954 in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey.  She was the daughter of Thomas Cleworth Dunstan and Maria Winn.

The children of Thomas Kirkland Gauntt and Jane Dunstan are:

1.  Frederick Cleworth Gauntt, born January 7, 1892 in Rancocas, Burlington County, New Jersey; died March 17, 1910 in Rancocas, Burlington County, New Jersey.

2.  Anna Gauntt, born January 14, 1893 in Westhampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey; died January 19, 1986 in Lindstrom, Chisago County, Minnesota.  She married Charles Cooper Stradling on November 3, 1913 in Masonville, Burlington County, New Jersey.

3.  Bertha Gauntt, born June 14, 1895 in Camden, Camden County, New Jersey; died before June 27, 1900, probably in New Jersey.

4.  Carrie Florence Gauntt, born September 9, 1896 in Rancocas, Burlington County, New Jersey; died April 19, 1985 in Burlington, Burlington County, New Jersey.  She married Levi Ellis on July 29, 1914 in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey.

5.  Mary Louise Gauntt, born October 31, 1899 in Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, New Jersey; died 1971, possibly in New Jersey.  She married Oliver Goldsmith Holden on August 10, 1919 in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey.

6.  Edna May Gauntt, born July 15, 1902 in Masonville, Burlington County, New Jersey; died January 29, 1981 in Orlando, Orange County, Florida.  She married Roscoe Sherman Flynn on July 4, 1920 in Hainesport, Burlington County, New Jersey.

7.  James Kirkland Gauntt, born August 7, 1905 in Masonville, Burlington County, New Jersey; died October 31, 1949 in Fern Park, Seminole County, Florida.  He married Katherine Boyle in 1932 in West Virginia.

8.  Thomas Franklin Gauntt, born July 14, 1908 in Masonville, Burlington County, New Jersey; died December 4, 1991 in Sarasota County, Florida.  He married Anna Marie Stayton on July 12, 1935 in New Jersey.

9.  Elmer Gauntt, born March 30, 1912, probably in New Jersey; died June 1, 1912, probably in New Jersey.

10.  John H. Gauntt, born December 30, 1914, probably in New Jersey; died March 16, 1917, probably in New Jersey.


The second couple are the great-grandparents of Jane Dunstan and therefore my 4x-great-grandparents.  I don't have as much information about them and their children.

James Dunstan married Maria Hilton on June 6, 1811 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

The children of James Dunstan and Maria Hilton are:

1.  Sarah Dunstan, born about March 11, 1812 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

2.  Richard Dunstan, born about June 9, 1813 in Manchester, Lancashire, England; died after April 7, 1861.  He married Jane Coleclough on December 25, 1833 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

3.  Maria Dunstan, born about January 10, 1816 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.  She married Robert Hill on August 12, 1832 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

4.  Harriet Dunstan, born about January 7, 1818 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

5.  Frederick Augustus Dunstan, born about December 20, 1918 in Manchester, Lancashire, England; died after April 5, 1891.  He married Bridget before 1844.

6.  Mary Ann Dunstan, born about September 25, 1822 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

7.  James Dunstan, born about July 7, 1824 in Manchester, Lancashire, England; died before 1832.

8.  Susannah Dunstan, born about April 27, 1828 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

9.  Caroline Dunstan, born about February 16, 1830 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.

10.  James Dunstan, born about October 2, 1831 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.