Thursday, January 2, 2020

Significant Anniversaries of 2020

Genealogists collect dates and facts about our relatives, but instead of just filing them away and forgetting about them, it's good to think about them and remember them, tell the stories of what happened.  So as I did last year, I searched through my family tree program to see what milestones from my family's history will occur this year.  Unlike last year, there's a good balance between events from my father's and my mother's sides of the family, which is good, so people don't think I'm researching only one side.

150 Years Ago

My paternal great-grandfather Thomas Kirkland Gauntt, son of James Gaunt and Amelia Gibson, was born May 23, 1870 in Fairview, Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.  He was the father of my paternal grandmother.  I've written about him a few times before on my blog:  I celebrated when I found his birth registration on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City; I have found him in eleven censuses (but no 1890); and I created a timeline based on all the records I have found for him.  I'm also fortunate to have a few photographs of him.  I did not know him, because he died before I was born, but my father remembered him well.

My great-great-grandparents Cornelius Godschalk Sellers (son of Franklin Peter Sellers and Rachel Godshalk) and Catherine Fox Owen (daughter of William Owen and Sarah Fox) were married in January 1870, most likely in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I don't write about the Sellerses as much as I used to, after determining that my grandfather became a Sellers by informal adoption.  But neither Grampa nor any of his siblings knew that, and Grampa did know his grandmother Kate, so I thought it fitting to commemorate the 150th anniversary of her first wedding.

100 Years Ago

In the 100-year category I managed to hit the trifecta, with a birth, a marriage, and a death.

Morton Eli Perlman was born August 18, 1920 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.  He was the son of Louis Perlman and Jennie Novitsky and was my first cousin twice removed through the Novitskys (and my grandfather's first cousin).  Jennie was the sister of my maternal great-grandmother Minne Zelda (Novitsky) Meckler and filled the role of mother-in-law for my maternal grandmother, as Minnie died before my grandparents married.

I met Mort once, when I went to Florida to see my grandmother.  She had his address and thought it would be nice to visit him.  He had done some genealogy research and shared what he had collected on the Novitskys and Perlmutters, which has been invaluable in my research now, as he was the only one who had saved that information.  I was very fortunate to have met him when I did, as he died suddenly a few months later.

On January 18, 1920, Benjamin Brainin (son of Morris Brainin and Rose Dorothy Jaffe) and Yetta Braunstein (daughter of Max Braunstein and Betsy Schwartz) were married in The Bronx, Bronx County, New York.  Benny was my great-granduncle, the youngest brother of my maternal great-grandmother Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon.  Benny worked with automobiles in some form or another for most of his life.  I never met Benny or Yetta, but I know their granddaughter Janis (Brainin) Monat.  Along with (kind of) sharing the same given name with me, she also is interested in family history, and is one of the few relatives I've met who had done some family history research.

Benny was born in the Russian Empire, probably in some part of what is now Latvia.  There is a family story that he was shot by a Cossack when he was 3 or 4 years old, while walking in a cemetery.  I don't know if I'll find a way to prove or disprove that, but it's an interesting story!

Eight days after Benny was married in the Bronx, his brother William Brainin died, on January 26, 1920, in Manhattan, New York County, New York.  He was probably about 31.  While Benny was the baby of the family, Willie was two children before him.  He died of complications of the influenza virus, which he probably caught while he served in the U.S. Army at the end of World War I.  My grandmother used to tell a story of how when he was sent home he infected his sister (my great-grandmother) while she was pregnant (with my grandmother), but I don't know how much of the story is true.

There was at least one photograph of Willie that we had in the family.  When I was sorting through photos with my grandmother, she pointed one out and said, "That's my Uncle Willie in his Army uniform."  But the photo has mysteriously disappeared.

75 Years Ago

Raymond Lawrence Sellers was born September 23, 1945 to Dorothy Mae "Dottie" Sellers and (probably) Clarence Newcomb "Zeke" Lore, in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.  I've been looking for Raymond for a little more than four years now, which I realize isn't very long.  Dottie is my paternal aunt, and she asked me to help her find Raymond, the son she gave up for adoption.  I write about him a few times every year in my blog.  Because New Jersey adoption records are very, very closed, we don't know anything about what happened to him after Dottie surrendered him.

If Raymond is still alive, he will be turning 75 this September.  I realize, however, that he might not be alive.  I don't know what his name was changed to, if he ever married, if he had children, or anything that happened to him.  All I know is that I want to find out before my aunt, who is currently 94 years old, passes away.

50 Years Ago

My great-grandmother and my father's paternal grandmother, Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland, died October 23, 1970 at the age of 88 in Niceville (yes, that's really the name), Okaloosa County, Florida.  I never got to meet her, even though she lived until I was 8 years old.

Nanny Ireland, as she was called throughout most of her adult life from what I can gather, was definitely an interesting woman.  She bore my grandfather as an illegitimate child and declined to state the name of the father on the birth certificate.  She married Elmer Sellers seven months later, and he raised my grandfather as his own son, with neither my grandfather nor his siblings ever knowing anything different.  She and Elmer had eight children together (notwithstanding rumors that not all of those were Elmer's), three of whom survived to adulthood.

Elmer died young, but that didn't stop Laura (because she wasn't Nanny Ireland yet at that time).  Three years after Elmer had passed away, Laura had another child, and again declined to name the father on the birth record.  Sadly, little Bertolet (yup, that was really her name) died before reaching the age of 6.  And would you believe that even on her death certificate, Laura did not name the father?

In 1929, Laura married a man named John Ireland.  I was told by one of my cousins that she did so because someone had convinced her that she needed a man to help her take care of her children and her affairs.  I was also told that soon after marrying John, she decided that was a load of crap and got rid of him (one hopes by divorce).  But the name Ireland stuck, and she became known as Nanny Ireland.

I'm really sorry I didn't get to meet Nanny Ireland.  She would have had some fascinating stories to tell, if she had been so inclined.

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