Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Number One Songs

When I saw the title for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, I thought it was going to be talking about our favorite songs.  But that wouldn't be very genealogically oriented, would it?  No, Randy Seaver had something else in mind.

Tonight, we're going to go down memory lane a bit.

(1) What was the #1 song on the day you were born?  Or on your birthday when you were 15?  When you were 18?  Or when you married?  Or some other important date in your life.

(2) Go to, enter the date, and select from UK, US, or Australia record lists.  Note:  The first date available is 1 January 1946. 

Alternatively, go to and search for "number one songs in yyyy" (insert your year), enter the month and date, and see a list of number one songs for each year since 1940. 

(3) Tell us what your results are (if you are sensitive about your age, don't list the date or year) in a blog post of your own, a comment to this post, or a Facebook status line or note.

So, let's see what I came up with.

• Birth date April 9, 1962:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was "Good Luck Charm" by Elvis Presley, also #1 in Australia on that day.  (YouTube says that the song hit #1 the week ending April 21, which means spanning April 15–21, so the "This Day in Music" site may not be entirely accurate?)

• 15th birthday, April 9, 1977:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was Abba's "Dancing Queen", which was also #1 in Canada on that day.

• 18th birthday, April 9, 1980:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" by Pink Floyd, another song which was also #1 in Canada on that day.

• 25th birthday, April 9, 1987 (which was important to me because I turned a quarter of a century):

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", which was yet another song that was also #1 in Canada on that day.

• I haven't been married, but my anniversary date with my ex is February 14, 2007:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song was Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" (which I've never heard of, but I haven't heard of any of the other songs from that date either).

• 50th birthday, April 9, 2012:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was "We Are Young" by Fun (featuring Janelle Monáe), would you believe another song which was also #1 in Canada on that day.

The year 2012, when I turned 50, was also the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and I celebrated my birthday at a costume ball commemorating the ship.  According to one site, the most popular song that year was "That Haunting Melody" by Al Jolson, but I can't find anything for a specific date.

"This Day in Music" also provides the #1 song in Australia and in Germany, by the way.

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

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Genealogy Volunteer Work in Oregon

I knew I would end up doing volunteer work in genealogy after my move to Oregon, because volunteering is just something I do, and most of it nowadays has something to do with genealogy.

Less than a week after I arrived I called the Family History Center in Gresham, a mere three miles from my house, and asked if they were looking for volunteers.  No surprise, I was told, "Yes!"  I think I started my Tuesday morning shift the week after that.  It's a lot slower pace than when I was at the Oakland Family History Center in California, though.  We usually have only one or two patrons come in during the four-hour shift, and most of the time the help they need is computer-oriented rather than for research.  I'm still trying to figure out ways to "market" the FHC to get more people to come in and use our resources.

I didn't realize I hadn't posted about this when it started, and somehow a year has passed already.  Last fall I took on the job of coordinating the African American Special Interest Group (AA SIG for short) at the Genealogical Forum of Oregon.  The group began the year before, soon after I moved here, and I attended regularly.  The person who started the SIG determined she was trying to do too many things and asked for someone to take over leading the group.  Apparently I was the only person who volunteered.  I have had a small amount of pushback, because I am not black, but neither of the two people who complained was willing to do the work and everyone else is fine with me, so I'm still doing it.  I've been able to get some good speakers, and we've built a pretty solid group.

At the 2018 Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference, one of the sessions I attended was about records access for the genealogical community.  The primary genealogical group that keeps an eye on such issues is the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), which is a joint effort between FGS (which is now part of NGS), the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, and the National Genealogical Society (NGS).  I felt so inspired by the presentation that I volunteered to be the contact person for the state of Oregon, which did not have one at the time.  One of my responsibilities is to let the committee know about "records access and preservation activities within the state, including both problems (issues) and successes."  So if you hear about any records access problems in Oregon, please let me know!

The most recent position I've taken on is Vice President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon (JGSO).  The board voted me in a mere week ago.  My primary job is handling programming for our meetings.  So far I've attended only one board meeting, although I have put together a long list of ideas for future programs.  All I need now is the schedule for the year (which someone else is handling), so I can try to find speakers!

Genealogy still relies heavily on volunteers in so many ways for societies to function.  I'm very happy I am able to help these groups.

What genealogy volunteer work do you do?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Which Ancestral Home Would You Like to Visit?

Randy Seaver asks for a difficult decision in this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

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

Tell us which ancestral home (an actual building, a village, a town, even a country) you would most like to visit.   Which ancestors lived there and for how long?  

(2) Share your ancestral home information in your own blog post or on Facebook, and leave a link to it in the comments.

Thank you to Linda Stufflebean for suggesting this topic.

Randy appears to be fortunate in that he has several lines in his family that were in the same location, making it easy to choose that place.  Mine are kind of scattered all over the place, which makes the choice difficult.  On the other hand, Randy did give country as an option, so I think I'll choose "Russian Empire."  As in the one that doesn't exist anymore.  But it was the country from which all of the ancestors on my mother's side of the family emigrated.

All the American documentation I have says that the Brainins came from Kreuzburg, which is now Krustpils, Latvia.  I would love to go there and try to find some European documents that actually confirm that's where they were from.  Supposedly my 3x-great-grandfather was a doctor; maybe that increases the possibility of finding a record about him?

The Mecklers came from Kamenetz Litovsk, Grodno gubernia, which is now Kamyanyets, Belarus.  I have that family tracked back to my 3x-great-grandfather Zvi Mekler.  I wouldn't expect to find much about my family in modern Kamyanyets, but I want the opportunity to look.

The Nowicki family came from Porozovo, Grodno gubernia, now Porazava, Belarus.  This is another location where not much has survived regarding the former Jewish population, but you never know unless you try.

The Gorodetskys were at least registered in Orinin, Kamenets Podolskiy gubernia, which is now Orynyn, Ukraine.  I don't know how far back that registration goes or how long it might have been since someone lived there.  The family was apparently at one time in the city of Kamenets Podolskiy (now Kamyanets Podilskyy), which is where my great-grandfather and his older sister are said to have been born, so that's probably the more important location to visit first.

The Schneidermans were also said to have been from Kamenets Podolskiy, although I don't think it was stated whether that was the city or merely the gubernia.

I don't know where the Jaffes, Bindermans, Blooms, or Yelskys are supposed to have been from.  I guess I would start searching for the Jaffes and Bindermans in Krustpils and the Blooms and Yelskys in Porazava.  I might also have Cohen and Kardish/Kortisch ancestors.  I would start my search for them in Kamyanets Podilskyy.

So that gives me a lot of territory to cover.  What was once one (very large) country would now necessitate going through at least three modern countries.  And not going at all to modern Russia, because my ancestors all seem to have stayed in the Pale, apparently not having any of the high-end occupations that permitted one to reside in Russia proper.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: One of Your Immigrant Ancestors

All of us have immigrant ancestors of some sort, although some can be researched more easily than others.  This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver asks us to choose one of those ancestors to discuss:

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

Tell us about one of your immigrant ancestors.  Where and when did he come from, how did he migrate, where did he land, where did he settle?

(2) Share your immigrant ancestor information in your own blog post or on Facebook, and leave a link to it in the comments.

Thank you to Linda Stufflebean for suggesting this topic.

Unlike Randy, my family is made up of much more recent immigrants.  On my mother's side of the family, the least recent arriving family member came in 1904.  On my father's side, however, the most recent came in 1890.  I think I'll write about her today.

Jane, about 1881
My great-grandmother Jane Dunstan was born April 28, 1871 in Manchester, Lancashire, England to parents Frederick Dunstan and Martha Winn.  Her father died when she was 3 years old, and I'm sure the family went through difficult times.  In the 1881 census the family was enumerated at 48 Owen Street, Hulme, Lancashire.  Jane's mother died about 1884, when she was about 13.  I don't know with whom she lived after that point, but she immigrated to the United States on October 21, 1890, arriving in Philadelphia on the Lord Clive, and thereby missing the 1891 English census.  (Jane's older brother, Frederick Cleworth Dunstan, also came to the United States, but I have not found him on a passenger list, so I don't know which sibling came first, although I suspect it was Fred.)

Soon after Jane's arrival into Philadelphia, she apparently moved to New Jersey, because there she married Thomas Kirkland Gauntt on September 2, 1891 in Greensand, Middlesex County.  Upon her marriage Jane instantly became a U.S. citizen, because she was a female foreign national marrying a male citizen.

Between January 7, 1892 and December 30, 1914, Thomas and Jane had ten children that I know of, seven of whom lived to adulthood.  My grandmother Anna Gauntt was the second child and oldest daughter.  It is interesting to note that the first child was born only four months after the marriage.  Perhaps that is why Thomas and Jane married in Middlesex County instead of Thomas' home of Burlington County?

In every census (both federal and state) in which I have found Thomas and Jane, they are living in Burlington County, except for 1895, when they were living in Camden County.  Thomas was almost always listed as a farmer or farm laborer, but in 1910 he was working as an insurance agent.

Thomas (left) and Jane (middle)
with granddaughter Esther
My father knew his grandparents and remembered that his grandmother maintained an English accent all of her life.  Not only that, her accent might have worn off on her husband, whom my father also remembered as speaking with a slight English accent.

Thomas died January 21, 1951, leaving Jane a widow.  She lived only a few more years after that, dying on August 1, 1954.  They are both buried in Brotherhood Cemetery, Hainesport, Burlington County, New Jersey.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Most Frustrating Brick Wall Problem

I was driving home from Klamath Falls last night after teaching a four-course seminar there during the day.  I didn't get home until midnight and pretty much collapsed right after I got home anyway, so I was unable to post my response to this week's challenge from Randy Seaver in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun until now:

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

(1) What is your most frustrating brick wall problem?  Tell us what you want to know and what you have found to date.

(2) Share your genealogy brick wall problem in your own blog post or on Facebook, and leave a link to it in the comments.

I have two very frustrating research problems:  determining who the biological father of my paternal grandfather was (which I have posted about several times) and finding my great-great-grandmother immigrating with three small children to the United States.  By my definition, neither is a "brick wall", because I haven't exhausted every possible avenue of research yet, but I'm pretty close to that on the latter, so I'll write about it.

My Brainin family came to the United States in a chain migration, as was common with immigrant families.  The first one to show up was the oldest child in the family, Nachman (later Max), who arrived in New York Harbor on August 21, 1904 aboard the S.S. New York.  He said he was coming to his cousin H. Weinstein, whom I have not yet identified (and no one in the family knows of any Weinstein cousins).

Next came Chase (Lena), Sora (Sarah), and Dovid (David) on the Caronia on August 2, 1905, also into New York.  They were the next oldest children.  Sarah is my great-grandmother.  Per the passenger list, their fares were paid for by their brother, which should be Max, and they were going to their sister Sophie Rosen.  I know of no sister in the family named Sophie, and that wasn't Max's wife's name, but I'm sure it's the correct family because the rest of the information matches, plus the numbers written above Sarah's name on the page correspond with her naturalization file, which I have obtained.  Lena, Sarah, and David were detained for special inquiry because they were two single women and a young, unskilled man.  They were held for two days as likely public charges based on the number of meals they ate and were admitted on August 3, but the 1905 form unfortunately does not include the name of the person who picked them up.

The next family member I found on a passenger list is my great-great-grandfather Mendel Hertz Brainin  (he went by Morris and Max in the United States).  He arrived on April 17, 1906 on the Gneisenau, also into New York.  He was going to Max, and his son paid for his ticket.  The passenger list has a notation about a "Dr Cert", and he was held for special inquiry as a likely public charge.  He was there about seven days and was admitted on August 24, again with no note of who picked him up.

And in 1910 the entire family appears in the United States federal census:  Max (Mendel), Rose, Lena, Sarah, David, William, Bessie, and Benjamin at 236 East 103rd Street, Manhattan, and Max (Nachman) and his new wife and son, Nellie and Sidney, at 101 West(?) 94th Street, also in Manhattan.

"Wait a minute!," I can hear you say.  "You didn't tell us when Rose, William, Bessie, and Benjamin came to the U.S.!"

Yup, and that's my frustrating research problem.  I still haven't found them.

Seriously, how can anyone lose a woman and three young children?  That's four people who should be together on a passenger list somewhere.

But it's true.  I can't find them.

I know all of their Jewish (Yiddish) names.  Rose was Ruchel Dwojre, maiden name Jaffe.  William was Velvel, Bessie was Pesche, and Benjamin was Binyamin.  Ruchel Dwojre was born about 1866–1871 in the Russian Empire, Velvel was born about 1891, Pesche about 1892–1895, and Binyamin about 1896.  So I know the names and approximate ages to look for on the passenger lists.  Still no luck.

Since Chase, Sora, and Dovid came relatively soon after Nachman, I'm pretty sure they were the second set of arrivals.  I don't know whether Ruchel and the youngest children arrived before or after Mendel.  It's common both ways, for the father to come last or for the wife and youngest children to come last.  But I know that they had arrived by 1910 because they appear in the census, so sometime between 1904 (after Nachman's arrival) and 1910.

My beginning hypothesis was that they had come into New York, as did all other family members, so I focused my searches there.  When discussing this once with my grandmother, she said that she remembered her grandmother saying something about coming into Watertown, which led me to research Boston records.  I later discovered that there is a Watertown, New York which was a border crossing, so I searched Canadian border crossing records.

I have looked for Ruchel and the children in the Ancestry New York passenger record collection; the Ellis Island database, using the Steve Morse interface; microfilmed Ellis Island index cards at the Family History Library; the Ancestry Boston passenger record collection; the Ancestry Canadian border crossing collection; and the FindMyPast outbound UK passenger list collection.  I have searched using only their Jewish given names and have looked under Brainin and Jaffe.  I have found no one who even closely approximates them.

I recently discovered that Binyamin (Benjamin) filed a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen, when my cousin (his granddaughter) suddenly told me she had a copy of the declaration.  On that, he stated that he had left Europe from Libau on the Coronia and had arrived in New York on September 15, 1906.  I did not find the ship arriving in New York on that date.  I have searched that ship’s passenger lists for other dates in 1906 on Ancestry and through Steve Morse’s site, but not exhaustively.

William said on his World War I draft registration that he was a naturalized citizen.  Willie was in the Army, and he likely had a fast-tracked military naturalization (such as his brother David had), which has almost no details; these naturalization documents often lack information such as the date and ship of arrival into the United States.  I did, however, request a USCIS index search to see if they could find his naturalization file.  I submitted the request in 2016 but never received the results.  When I checked the tracking system today, however, it said that the search was completed in 2017.  So I have just now sent a request for another copy of the search results.

I have one remaining clue I have not yet pursued.  On the 1910 census, there is a note that Max (Mendel) had filed naturalization papers, i.e., had made a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen.  I have not yet pursued this, because I strongly suspect the search will not be profitable and because it currently costs $65 to request an index search from USCIS.  In the 1920 census Morris/Mendel (who died before the 1930 census was taken) was listed as an alien, not as having filed papers.  It was common for older immigrants not to become naturalized citizens.  But there are discrepancies in other information on the 1920 census:  It says everyone in the family — Morris, Rose, Lena, Dave, and Willie — arrived in 1904.  I know Morris came in 1906; of course, I still haven't found Rose and Willie, so I don't know when they arrived.  It also says that Dave became a citizen in 1907 and Willie did in 1909.  I have Dave's naturalization papers, and he became a citizen in 1918.  So it is possible that Mendel did file papers, as the 1910 census states, and that the information on the 1920 is incorrect.  But right now I don't have the extra $65 to cough up for that search.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (on Tuesday!): Your Best Genealogy Humor

I wasn't able to do this when Randy Seaver posted the most recent Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise, but who needs to be constrained by something as arbitrary as the calendar?  I finally had time today, so here it is!

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

(1) We're supposed to have fun doing this — show us your best genealogy humor:  joke, cartoon, story, etc.  The more the merrier!

(2) Share your genealogy funny in your own blog post or on Facebook, and leave a link to it in the comments.

I also have a collection of genealogy-themed comics that I've been collecting for several years.  As with Linda Stufflebean, however, I don't want to intrude on anyone's copyright (especially since I teach a class on the subject!).  So I too am including links (some of which took a while to track down), except for one of my favorites, the Bizarro cartoon, because he has a very nice policy for using his material.

Genealogist and genie sound pretty similar, right?

Rubes, October 21, 2015

Are you descended from a gnome?

Luann, September 9, 2012

Who thought the Ellis Island myth would show up in a comic strip?

Get Fuzzy, December 21, 2012

Closing out with a comic that isn't humorous but is a beautiful sentiment about adoption.

Family Circus, March 2013

And I love the one Randy posted with Janet's sentiments about standing on her boobs!

Friday, September 20, 2019

RootsTech 2020 Is Coming and You Can Register Now!

Next year is the 10th anniversary of RootsTech.  It has changed quite a bit since its beginnings and is now the largest genealogy conference in the world (as far as I know).  And I will be there, because I had a presentation accepted!

I will be talking about how useful it is to learn something about the languages your ancestors spoke, as doing so increases the chances you will be able to find them in records and have better results from your research.  It's a brand-new talk, and RootsTech will be the first time I present it.

And if you are planning to go to RootsTech, you can register now!  Registration opened on Wednesday, and almost a thousand people signed up within the first few hours.  I don't think it can run out of spots, but better safe than sorry, right? You can click on the registration link on the RootsTech home page or go straight here.  The super special early-bird discount pricing is good through October 11, so do it soon if you want to save some money.

And I hope to see you next year in Salt Lake City!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday the 13th: A Day for Superstitions

Many people are aware of the reputation of Friday the 13th as a day for bad luck in Western civilization and are therefore extremely afraid when the 13th falls on a Friday.  There's even a word for that fear:  paraskevidekatriaphobia (try to say that three times -- or should it be thirteen times? -- quickly).

My mother was superstitious about a lot of things, but she flipped a couple of superstitions to the reverse.  So she considered Friday the 13th to be a good luck day.  She also said that black cats were good luck.  I agree with that one, because I think of all cats as being good luck.

But she taught me several other superstitions that I still follow.

Lot of people have heard that it's bad luck to open an umbrella in the house.  That one you can come up with some reasons why you wouldn't want to do it, and maybe they morphed into it being bad luck to do.

My mother taught me that it's bad luck to put a hat on a bed.  She had a minor fit the day I graduated from high school, because when we got home after the ceremony I tossed my mortarboard onto my bed.  She ran over and grabbed it off the bed, kvetching at me about how I dared do such a thing.  I told her I hadn't really thought of the mortarboard as a "hat", to which she responded, "You put it on your head, don't you?"  So I've never put a mortarboard on my bed again.

It's also bad luck to put shoes on a bed.  I can't say that I remember putting shoes on my bed, but I remember my mother telling me I shouldn't do it.  I'm sure she would say that slippers count as shoes because you put them on your feet.  I may have put slippers on the bed once or twice, but never around her.

For several superstitions, you can come up with a logical explanation of why you might not want to do that or why it could be bad for, but superstitions aren't really about logic.  Bad luck for seven years if you break a mirror is another commonly known superstition.  It's also one that you can come up with a good explanation for -- now you have a lot of broken glass around and you might cut yourself.

Don't walk under a ladder, because that's bad luck.  Okay, that makes sense also.  If you walk under a ladder, something might fall on you from it, or the ladder itself might fall on top of you.

But what's with knocking wood?  Why is it good luck to knock wood?  Well, maybe not good luck, but a way to ward off bad luck.  You say something and then knock wood.  Yup, my mother did that a lot.

Do you know the one about salt?  If you spill salt, you're supposed to take some and throw it over your shoulder, or bad luck will come to you.  I've read that one probably comes from the days when salt was extremely expensive, so spilling it was wasteful.

Along with these starter superstitions that my mother provided for me, I have learned additional ones on my journey through life.

My mother said that if someone dies on a piece of furniture, such as a couch, you have to get rid of that furniture.  Sounding like a corollary to that is if someone is wearing shoes when he commits suicide, you can't use the shoes again but have to get rid of them.  That one didn't come from my mother but from a published family memoir.  (I've been told these are specifically Jewish superstitions.)

How about picking up a penny?  "Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck."  Sure, I learned that from my mother.  But someone later in my life (I think my friend Eileen?) taught me a second half to that rhyme:  "Find a penny, leave it lay, bad luck will follow you all the day."  I know it was Eileen who taught me a variation on this:  If the penny is face up, you're supposed to pick it up, because that's the good luck side.  If it's face down, you don't pick it up, but you flip it over so that the next person who comes across it can pick it up to get the good luck.  Bet you didn't know superstitions could be that complicated, did you?

Eileen also taught me a superstition for necklaces.  Often, while you are wearing a necklace, the latch circles around from the back of your neck and ends up in front touching the pendant.  When that happens, you're supposed to kiss the latch for good luck and then return it to the back of your neck.

I learned my first "foreign" superstition when I worked in the USC Industrial and Systems Engineering Department.  We had three Turkish professors in the department, and they all followed this.  You can't take a knife directly from someone's hand; if you do, the two of you will fight soon.  Once I gave a letter opener to Ali Kiran, one of the Turks.  He quickly put it down on the counter and lightly spat in its direction.  I, of course, asked him just what in the world he was doing.  He said he had taken the letter opener from me without thinking but then, realizing that it, in terms of superstitions, was essentially a knife (kind of like the mortarboard and a hat), he had to counter the bad luck -- which is done by getting the offending item out of your hand immediately and then spitting on it.  So I filed that away in the back of my head to remember.  Scissors count for this one also.

Another superstition I picked up somewhere (maybe the Chinese roommate I had for a while) was that spilling rice from your bowl is bad luck.  This sounds similar to the one for salt, because rice is such an important food staple that you wouldn't want to waste it.  I don't remember it there is a way to remedy the situation if you do spill some, however.

Do you know any interesting superstitions you learned in your family?

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Grandparents Day

To celebrate Grandparents Day this year, this is a photo of my five grandchildren last year when we went to Sauvie Island for the corn maze and choosing pumpkins for Hallowe'en.  Unfortunately, the light rain that started when we arrived turned into a torrential downpour before we were halfway through the maze, which we bailed on, and we all ended up looking very soggy.  This photo was taken when we had only been dripped on a little bit.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Create Your Own Tombstone

Is it morbid to create your own tombstone?  Randy Seaver of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun apparently doesn't think so!

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

(1) Create your own tombstone at  And/or create one for a relative who doesn't have one, or one for an event or significant issue.

(2) Share your creation with the genea-sphere in your own blog post, or on Facebook or Instagram.  Be sure to drop a link in a comment to this post.

Here's mine:

I couldn't figure out how long I want to live, so I left it up in the air.

I also created a tombstone for Moses Mulliner, one of my Revolutionary War ancestors.  His brother was a Loyalist who was hung for treason, yet he has a tombstone that is regularly replaced.  Moses has no surviving tombstone, even though he was a Patriot.  So I figure Moses deserves one.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your School Yearbook Photos

It's always fun to have a timely subject, which is what Randy Seaver has done this week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

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

1) updated their School Yearbook collection and it is FREE to access until 2 September.  Use

(2) Show us your school yearbook photos from the Ancestry collection, or from your personal photo collection.  Tell us the school and year.  Add your spouse or best friend or children if you wish!

(3) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

Here's what I could come up with:

So first of all, I was surprised to see that my high school — Niceville Senior High School, in beautiful Niceville, Florida — actually is represented in the collection.  Unfortunately, none of the years I attended (1976–1979) is there, and I have no idea where my yearbooks are in the house.  I know I bought them and kept them, but they're in a box somewhere.  So much for high school photos of me!

I did find the USC yearbook for my senior year in the collection.  I graduated in 1983.

Janice Sellers, University of Southern California yearbook, 1983, page 174

Next I tried looking for my parents.  I didn't find my mother, but I did find two photos of my father in the 1954 Seminole High School (Sanford, Florida) yearbook.  I wish I had found these three months ago, while my father was stil alive.  I could have asked him about his experiences in the Pan American Club, Projectionist Club, Camera Club, and Glee Club (although I think the first three might have been in Moorestown, which was spelled incorrectly in the yearbook).

Salmagundi, Seminole High School yearbook, 1954, senior photos, page 28

Salmagundi, Seminole High School yearbook, 1954, Glee Club, page 59

I couldn't find any of my grandparents.  I looked for my best candidate for my paternal grandfather's biological father and struck out.  I did, however, find my ex, who went to Santa Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica, California.

Hugh Singh, Compass, Santa Monica Catholic High School yearbook,
1966 (freshman), 1967 (sophomore), and 1969 (senior)

I also found the younger of my mother's two brothers (but not the older), about a dozen members of my aunt's family (but not her), and all three of my ex's brothers (but not his half-sister).  Obviously, one could spend many, many hours searching through these for family members.  They sure are fun!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ancestor with Most Unusual Occupation

Randy Seaver has gone in a different direction for tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge:

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

(1)  Which of your ancestors had an unusual occupation?

(2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

Well, I haven't found any truly unusual occupations while researching my family, and certainly no snake oil salesmen.  The best I can come up with is that my great-great-grandfather Frederick Cleworth Dunstan was a file grinder in the suburbs of Manchester, England.  It used to be a fairly common occupation, but I don't know if people still work doing that.

There's an interesting essay online about the life of file grinders in Sheffield, England, which was pretty harsh.  I'm guessing that it was similar in Manchester.   Unfortunately, nowhere in the essay does it actually define the work that a file grinder did, so I'm still a little fuzzy on that.  I don't know what types of files were ground or what the files were used for.  The impression I have is that file grinders were pretty far down on the socioeconomic scale, however.  I was particularly struck by the comment that most file grinders died young, because that is what happened to Frederick Dunstan, who was only about 34 years old when he died.  He left behind my widowed great-great-grandmother Maria (Winn) Dunstan and five children.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Were You in a Youth Organization?

Randy Seaver has taken an idea from someone else for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun posting challenge.

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

Did you join a youth organization such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, Job's Daughters, for example?

(2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

Thank you to Lisa Gorrell for suggesting this several months ago.

I was in a few youth organizations at different times.  When my family lived in California, I was in Camp Fire Girls (today, apparently, simply Camp Fire), as was my younger sister.  My mother was our group leader (whatever the group was called).  That would have left my brother alone, so he was our (unofficial) group mascot and participated in activities with us.  We were in the youngest age group, which at that time was called Bluebirds.  I think somewhere I still have my Bluebird uniform.  The Wikipedia Camp Fire page says that kids can earn beads; I have no recollection if we earned anything or just did social activities.

The next group I was in was Girl Scouts, which was after my family returned to the States from Australia.  I must have been a Cadette Girl Scout, I think for all three years of junior high school.  I remember earning badges, particularly my cooking badge, for which I learned how to make authentic Italian food from the chef at a local restaurant.  I think my mother was their bookkeeper, so I had an in.  I still make my pasta sauces the old-fashioned way I was taught then.  I earned a sewing badge, too.  I also still have that uniform and my badges.

After the third year of Cadette Girl Scouts, we went on a big trip to Atlanta, which is about 325 miles from the tiny little settlement of Villa Tasso, Florida, where my family lived.  We visited Stone Mountain and Underground Atlanta, and probably a few other sites.  The main thing I recall from that trip, however, was how the driver of the car I was in got lost in the "wrong part" of Atlanta on our way to where we were staying. (Translation:  She was a "traditional" white Southerner, and we somehow ended up in the black part of town.)  She was freaking out and panicking, totally afraid of the people around her, even though they weren't doing anything.  This was well before the days of ubiquitous mobile phones, so no Google Maps or even being able to call one of the other driver/chaperones.  We were able to get to where we were supposed to be because I knew how to read a map.  I talked her through Atlanta streets block by block until we arrived.  I think I'm happy I don't remember her name.  And somehow I just never got excited enough to be a Senior Girl Scout.

The third group I participated in was 4-H.  I think that was only for one summer while we lived in Villa Tasso.  I have no memories of what we did, simply that I did it as a summer activity.

In college, my best friend was involved with the Future Farmers of America chapter in Santa Maria, California.  One weekend we went up to help out at an event.  I ended up in a hog pen, trying to convince a hog which direction it wanted to go.  As I recall, I was not particularly successful, and one of the kids had to help me out.  But the hog eventually ended up where it was supposed to be.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were You in 2000?

For Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this week, Randy Seaver is asking us to reach back in our memories almost twenty years.  Let's see how I do compared to him.

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

Do you recall what you were doing in 2000?  Family, school, work, hobbies, technology, genealogy, vacations, etc.?  If this doesn't work for you, what about your parents?

(2) Tell us in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

As usual, I am amazed at Randy's amount of recall.  This is what I could cobble together.

I was living in Oakland, California in the house I had bought in 1993.  I no longer had a housemate.  The friend who had cosigned with me to purchase the house had moved out in 1998.  In mid-1999 I had a friend who needed a place to stay, so I let him have the extra room.  By the time 2000 had rolled around, however, he was gone.  He had gone out drinking on New Year's Eve and had apparently spent the night with a young lady, who then took all of his money and disappeared — which is exactly what the housemate did for several months, being too embarrassed to admit what had happened.  I finally tracked him down three or four months into the year and got him to take all of his stuff out of the house.

In 2000 I had been working for the Seismological Society of America for two years.  I was the publications coordinator — at that point I was not yet editing one of the journals; my work was administrative only — and the "junior Webmaster" — I assisted the primary Webmaster with maintaining and updating the society's site.  I don't remember if I had learned HTML by that point or not.  I was probably doing only really basic stuff with the site.

The Seismological Society of America (SSA) is a scientific membership association.  Most members are seismologists and geologists, with a smattering of volcanologists and other geological specialties.  SSA holds an annual conference, as do many scneitific societies, where members and other attendees present talks and posters on recent research.  The 2000 conference was held in San Diego right after my birthday.  I remember there was a field trip of some sort to Old Town, which was enjoyable if somewhat touristy.  I also remember that was the year I met Shri Krishna Singh.

See, there was an international enclave of seismologists at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National University of Mexico).  Certainly there were scientists from Mexico, but they also had Kostoglodov from Russia, a Japanese man whose name I've forgotten, and Shri Krishna Singh from India.  I met him in San Diego when I heard someone speaking fluent Spanish behind me, turned around to see who it was, and was momentarily nonplussed when I saw a man who pretty clearly seemed to be from the Indian subcontinent.  It took a few seconds for my brain to process, and then I realized who it had to be.  I had communicated with him by e-mail prior to that but had never met him in person.

(Years later, when I was with my stepsons' father, whose father was born in India, I contacted Shri to find out if he had any advice for doing genealogy research in that country.  He told me that after he had been a successful scientist for several years, he went back to India himself to try to find some record of his birth.  He was dismayed when he could find absolutely nothing and learned that his brother had literally made up a birth date for him when he started school.  He told me I was pretty much out of luck.)

In August I'm prettty sure I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for GenCon, the largest gaming convention held in the United States.  I don't remember whose booth I would have been working at.  It might have been Reaper Games or Pegasus Publishing.  I just learned from reading the GenCon page on Wikipedia that the 2000 convention was the first year that Hasbro owned it, having bought Wizards of the Coast the previous year right after the 1999 convention.

There's a good chance that I also attended the Origins Game Fair in Columbus in July.  That's another game convention, I believe the second largest in the United States.  Again I don't remember who I worked for.  If I did go, I probably visited my aunt's sister, who lives in Columbus.

It's almost guaranteed that I went to two of the three game conventions in Los Angeles run by Strategicon:  OrcCon over Presidents' Day weekend and Gateway over Labor Day weekend.  I don't know if I went to the Memorial Day weekend convention, Gamex; it was a significantly smaller convention, and it wasn't always cost effective to attend.

If I still had access to the e-mail address I used at that time, I could easily check on all of this.  Unfortunately, Eudora has not been supported for many years now, and I don't have access to the old files.

All of those conventions used to use up all of my vacation time, so I usually didn't do much additional travel other than that related to work.  I might have gone to one or two professional training seminars for SSA.

I was doing genealogy research back then.  As I recall, I had Family Tree Maker 3.0 for Macintosh (before Ancestry abandoned it!)  installed on my work computer.  I think I had upgraded my home computer to a 486 because I needed a hard drive to use the version of FTM I had discs for.

2000 was the year I began volunteering to help at the Oakland Family History Center, after having used the library for several years for research.  I kept helping people, so one day one of the staff asked, "Would you like to volunteer here?"  I said I wasn't Mormon, and he said it didn't matter, so I signed up!

That's about all I can recall for now.  Maybe something else will percolate up through my brain during the next few days.  If so, I'll post an addendum.