Sunday, November 10, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (on Sunday!): A Veteran's Service and Gravesite

I've missed the past few Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges, mostly because they were repeats of ones from previous years and I didn't have anything new to say.  This weekend, however, Randy Seaver came up with a new twist for Veterans Day:

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) To celebrate Veterans Day, pick one of your ancestors or relatives with a military record and a gravestone.

(2) Tell us about your ancestor's military service.

(3) Tell us about your ancestor's gravestone:  Where is it, what is the inscription, when were you last there?  Show us a picture of it if you have one available. 

(4) Write your own blog post about this ancestor and gravestone, or share it in a comment to this blog post or in a  Facebook post.

The reason I wasn't able to do this for Saturday is because at first I couldn't find one of my military relatives for whom I had a photo of a gravestone.  I went through several ancestors, futilely searching:

Umpty-umpth-great-grandfather Hananiah Gaunt, Revolutionary War veteran:  no known tombstone in his own time

Umpty-umpth-great-grandafther (one fewer generation than Hananiah Gaunt) Moses Mulliner, Revolutionary War veteran:  no known tombstone in his own time, unknown location of grave now

Father Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr., New Jersey and Florida Army National Guard veteran:  He doesn't have a tombstone.

That finished the ancestors whom I know had any type of military service.  Then on to collateral lines:

Maternal uncle Gary Steve Meckler, U.S. Army veteran:  I don't have a photograph of his tombstone.

First cousin John McKay Appleton, Coast Guard veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.

Second cousin once removed Victor Gordon, U.S. Navy veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.

Granduncle Sidney Gordon, World War II U.S. Navy veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.  At least I have photos of him in uniform during the war.

Great-granduncle William Brainin, World War I U.S. Army veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.  I used to have a photo of him in his Army uniform, but it has disappeared.

I also looked at individuals in my adoptive Sellers line:

Great-great-grandfather Cornelius Godshalk Sellers, Civil War veteran:  probably no tombstone originally, now unknown grave location (because the cemetery was sold for a housing development and only graves for which people ponied up money were moved)

Distant cousins Edwin Elias Sellers, career U.S. Army veteran, and his son David Foote Sellers, career U.S. Navy veteran, actually do have tombstones I can find images of.  I considered writing about one of them — and I would have had tons of material, because they both had long, well documented careers — but I kept hunting for someone on one of my blood-related lines.  And I finally found:

Great-granduncle David Harry Brainin, World War I U.S. Army veteran (and William's brother).  Born approximately March 25, 1888 (at least that's the date he used on some records in the United States), probably in or near Kreuzburg, Russian Empire (now Krustpils, Latvia); died May 6, 1971 in Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey; buried in Alliance Cemetery, Norma, Salem County, New Jersey.

I wrote about Dave and my discovery of what little I know of his Army service a few years ago.  He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 in Butte, Montana.  According to his fast-tracked military petition for naturalization, he arrived at Camp Lewis, Washington on March 5, 1918.  He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on June 4, 1918.  The two witnesses on his petition were a captain and a first lieutenant, probably officers in his unit.  I don't know when he officially entered or mustered out of the Army.

But I do have a photo of his tombstone:

There isn't much of an inscription:  Just BRAININ over DAVID 1888–1971 and BETTY 1900–1978.

Thank you to Mary Ann Missimer-Moore, who took this photo and has given blanket permission to use the photos she posts on Find A Grave.

There's about an 80% chance that any documents relating to Dave's service were destroyed in the 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire.  I actually live not far from what was Camp Lewis, now Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  I searched and discovered that Lewis Army Museum is on the base.  I doubt there will be anything specific to my uncle in the museum.  But I won't know for sure about either until I try, will I?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wedding Wednesday

My maternal grandparents, Abe (Jewish name Avram) Meckler and Esther Leah Gordon (known as Lily), were married October 29, 1939, in The Bronx, Bronx County, New York.  Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of their marriage.

The marriage lasted 50 years, ending with the death of my grandfather.  He had been ill for some time but held on long enough for the big 50th anniversary party that was held in Las Vegas in 1989.  So many of my relatives came!  Zadie (Yiddish for grandfather) died in December.

Fifty years is a good long marriage.  Just out of curiosity, I looked up "longest marriage" and found that a Sikh couple in India had been married 90 years.  That's nothing short of amazing.

My grandparents had a double wedding with my grandmother's older brother, Al.  Alexander Gordon married Roslyn (Rose) Rubin on October 28.  I have been told that Jews aren't supposed to do double weddings (don't know if it's actually true), so Al and Rose were married just before the end of the 28th and my grandparents right after the beginning of the 29th.  I was told the changing point was midnight, but that would have made for a very long night.  On top of that, by the Jewish calendar, the day changes at sunset, so maybe it was actually earlier in the day.  I don't think I have a copy of Al and Rose's marriage certificate, so I probably need to get that to check on the story, don't I?

In 1999, when Bubbie (Yiddish for grandmother) and I were visiting my grandfather's cousin Mort, Mort showed us a basic family tree that he had put together.  He told us that the family name of Perlman had originally been Perlmutter.  I made a somewhat cynical observation that there must be a family story that they were related to the famous operatic tenor Jan Peerce, whose original name was Perelmuth (a spelling variation), and Mort said yes, indeed, that they were.  Suddenly Bubbie popped up and said, "He sang at my wedding."  We both stared at her and said, "What??"  See, Jan Peerce was already very famous by 1939, and my grandparents, although I loved them dearly, weren't anything special in New York City society.  So why would the great Jan Peerce be singing at their wedding?

And my grandmother explained that Zadie's brother Harry was married to Jan Peerce's cousin and that the two families were in a catering business together.   So we had a connection.  Maybe Harry asked his wife if she could get her famous cousin to sing at his brother's wedding?  Bubbie even remembered the two songs he sang:  "Oh Promise Me" and another one (which I can't look up because I still don't have access to my previous family tree program).  (And here's a recording of Peerce singing "Oh Promise Me.")

I have put a little effort into trying to verify the story but haven't gotten anywhere.  I believe I checked the New York Times and didn't find anything.  I suspect that if Jan Peerce was there the wedding would have been written up in one of the many Yiddish neighborhood newspapers that existed in New York City at that time.  Alas, I don't read Yiddish, and none of those newspapers is indexed, much less in English.  But some day I will figure it out.

I have two more photographs from the wedding, which I can't currently find due to too many boxes still unpacked after my move two years ago.  One is of my grandmother alone, and the other is of her and Rose together.  Surprsingly, I don't think I have any photo of Al from the wedding.  I should get in touch with Al and Rose's daughter and rectify that.  And maybe she also has heard the story about Jan Peerce singing at the wedding.  At least that would be more support for it being true.

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Photograph(s) of Your Favorite Heirloom(s)

What heirlooms do you have in your family?  This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver wants to see the heirlooms readers have been discussing:

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Last week we shared the heirlooms that we inherited or obtained from our families.

(2) This week, please show a photograph of one or two of them.

(3) Share your cherished heirloom(s) in your own blog post, on Facebook, and leave a link to it in the comments.

In previous posts about heirlooms I have written about the silverplate dinner flatware and the earring I have left (as the other one was stolen, along with a necklace) that used to be my great-grandmother's.  But I also have lots of photographs, primarily from my maternal grandmother's family.  I think my favorite photograph is this one:

This scan is only of the actual photo and does not include the card backing.  The front of that backing indicates that the photo was taken in Kamenets Podolskiy, Russia, now Kamyanets Podilskyy, Ukraine.  Because of clear resemblances of the adults in the photo (the man to a known, identified photo of my great-great-grandfather and the woman to one of my great-grandfather's younger sisters), I am fairly certain that these are my great-great-grandparents Vigdor Gorodetsky and Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky, and that the little girl is their first child, Etta (my great-grandfather's older sister).  That makes the photo about 130 years old at this point.  Esther Leah died in 1908 in Kishinev, Russia (now Chisinau, Moldova), and soon after that the chain migration of that branch of my family to this country began.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Now That's What I Call a Blended Family!

My stepfather
Recently I visited Florida for my high school 40th reunion (which I may write about at some point; still processing my feelings about it).  While I was there, I stayed at my stepfather's house, and it occurred to me just how blended of a family I have.

Both of my parents have passed away, my mother 25 years ago this coming January and my father this past May.  So the only living parents I have now are my stepparents.

When I scheduled the trip for the reunion, I was also intending to visit my father and stepmother.  After my father's death, however, my stepmother has been moved to Texas, where she now lives with her son and daughter-in-law, because she really couldn't live on her own anymore.  So I didn't get to see here, unfortunately.

My stepmother's son, of course, is my stepbrother.  He has two sisters, who are my stepsisters.

My stepfather has two sons from his first marriage, so I have two more stepbrothers.  (I did get to see both of them on my trip.)

I have a full brother and full sister from my parents' marriage.

I also have a half-sister, about whom I have written several times, from my father's first marriage.

I guess I had a stepgrandmother growing up, because my grandfather was on his third wife before I was even born.

I even have a living stepgrandmother, because my stepfather's mother is still alive and kicking (in fact, she turns 94 this December!).

And as if that weren't enough to keep track of, my brother used to ask people this question, just to see their reactions:

"When is my sister's sister not my sister?"

And that happens when your half-sister's mother remarries and has a daughter with her second husband.  So my half-sister's half-sister is not biologically related to me and therefore not my sister.

(They could have used a variation of that line on NCIS:  When is my brother's brother not my brother?  Ziva's half-brother, Ari, had a half-brother, Sergei, from his mother's second marriage.  Sergei was not related by blood to Ziva at all.  And so we have art imitating life.)

I guess that's why I had to become a genealogist — just so someone in the family could keep track of all this.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Where Are Those Other Children?

Mary Lou is on the right
Today is October 16, the birthday of my half-sister's mother, Mary Lou Jocelyn (Bowen) Sellers James.  I have been posting my memories of her on my blog over the past few years.

Mary Lou was really good at storytelling.  Sometimes she may have exaggerated just a little.  One of the stories where she apparently did that was about my father (the parent I share with my half-sister).

Several times Mary Lou told me, seemingly with all sincerity, that my father had other children somewhere out there.  She appeared to be absolutely convinced that there were little bastard kids out there I was related to, little mini Lynns running around.  She never told me how she knew this, but she insisted it was true.

I never asked my father about this while Mary Lou was still alive, probably because I thought it might cause some kind of trouble.  But some years after she passed away, I did broach the subject with him.

You could tell he had heard the story many times himself.  As soon as I started asking him, he knew exactly what it was about.  And he told me flat out that no, as far as he knew, he had no other children out there.

He didn't seem to know where Mary Lou had gotten the story either and why she continued to repeat it.  He had told her multiple times it wasn't true.

I think my father had the last laugh, though.  He has almost 6,000 people who match him on DNA testing sites, and the only children matches are my sister and me.  No one else is even close.

I guess Mary Lou was just making it up.

Mary Lou would have been 81 years old today.

Wordless Wednesday