Sunday, April 26, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Is Your Birth Surname Henry Number?

Tonight for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Randy Seaver has us poking around in our genealogy databases.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music here), is:

(1) Do you know what a "Henry Number" is?  It is a descendant numbering system from a specific person.  The Wikipedia article for Genealogical Numbering Systems describes it as:

"The Henry System is a descending system created by Reginald Buchanan Henry for a genealogy of the families of the presidents of the United States that he wrote in 1935.[3] It can be organized either by generation or not. The system begins with 1. The oldest child becomes 11, the next child is 12, and so on. The oldest child of 11 is 111, the next 112, and so on. The system allows one to derive an ancestor's relationship based on their number. For example, 621 is the first child of 62, who is the second child of 6, who is the sixth child of his parents.  In the Henry System, when there are more than nine children, X is used for the 10th child, A is used for the 11th child, B is used for the 12th child, and so on. In the Modified Henry System, when there are more than nine children, numbers greater than nine are placed in parentheses."

(2) Go to your earliest known ancestor with your birth surname in your software program and calculate your Henry Number from that person.  Show each generation of your line of ancestors with your birth surname with their Henry Numbers.

(3) How did you calculate the Henry Numbers?  What do these numbers tell you?

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

2.  Well, my birth surname is the same one I have now, Sellers.  When I checked my database, I discovered that I have 575 Sellerses in there.  Going back in time from myself, the earliest ancestor I have with the name Sellers is only seven generations back, because before him the name was Söller (of which I have four generations in the database).  Here's my Sellers line:

1 John Sellers (1731–1783)
11 Abraham Sellers (1758–1831)
11X Peter Franklin Sellers (1800–1863)
11X1 Cornelius Godschalk Sellers (1845–1877)
11X12 Cornelius Elmer Sellers (1874–1918)
11X121 Bertram Lynn Sellers (1903–1985)
11X1214 Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr. (1935–2019)
11X12142 Janice Marie Sellers (1962–living)

3.  I calculated the Henry Numbers manually.  I started with the first generation with the name Sellers and moved forward through time.  Not only is creating reports in Reunion something I don't enjoy, it didn't give me an option of using the Henry Number system.

Two things I had to contend with which are not described in the handy-dandy description that Randy quoted are an adoption and multiple marriages.  My grandfather was informally adopted by Elmer Sellers and was not his biological son.  Since Elmer was the only father my grandfather knew, however, and since neither my grandfather nor any of his siblings knew this was the case, I counted my grandfather as child #1.

My father was the first (and only) child of my grandparents, but he was my grandfather's fourth child, because my grandfather had three children with his first wife.  Since this system follows the father, I counted my father was child #4.

I was the first child of my parents, but my father and his first wife had a child before me.  Again, following the father, I am child #2.

4.  I have this blog post, a comment on Randy's blog, and a Facebook post!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Yom HaShoah: Remembering the Names of the Lost

Today is Yom HaShoah, the annual day of remembrance to honor the Jewish victims of the Holocaust during World War II.  It is usually held on 27 Nisan on the Jewish calendar, which this year fell on April 21 on the Christian calendar.

The following is the list of my known family members who died in the Holocaust.  They are all from the Mekler/Nowicki side of my family and lived in Grodno gubernia in the Russian Empire (now in Belarus).  May their memory be for a blessing.

Beile Dubiner
Eliezer Dubiner
Herschel Dubiner
Moishe Dubiner
Sore (Mekler) Dubiner
Aidel Goldsztern
Golda Goldsztern
Josef Goldsztern
Pearl (Gorfinkel) Goldsztern
Tzvi Goldsztern
Esther Golubchik
Fagel Golubchik
Lazar Golubchik
Peshe (Mekler) Golubchik
Pinchus Golubchik
Yechail Golubchik
Mirka (Nowicki) Krimelewicz
— Krimelewicz
Beile Szocherman
Chanania Szocherman
Maishe Elie Szocherman
Perel Szocherman
Raizl (Perlmutter) Szocherman
Zlate Szocherman

The Dubiner Family: Eliezer, Sore, Moishe, Herschel, Bela (front)

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Which Ancestors Would You Like to Talk to?

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is almost too easy in some ways.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music here), is:

(1) We sometimes find we have questions we would love to discuss with our ancestors:  the who, what, when, why, and how questions that might help with our genealogy research.

(2) Which ancestors would you like to talk to?  What questions would you ask?  

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

So the easy answer here is, "Every one!"  I have questions I would like to ask of every single one of my ancestors (and collateral relatives, too).  The most obvious question is parents for those end-of-line ancestors, but I'd love to know about birth dates, marriage dates, siblings, grandparents, details of their lives, and so much more.  I can't think of a single ancestor for whom I know everything, which means there's always something more to learn.

Oh, we're supposed to come up with something concrete?

Well, feh.

In that case, the first person who comes to mind of whom to ask questions is my paternal great-grandmother, Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland.  And the first question to ask of her would be, "Who was the biological father of my grandfather, Bertram Lynn Sellers?"  I have to hope she would actually know the answer, of course.

The second question I would ask is, "Who was the father of your daughter Bertolet Grace Sellers?"  (Who was born three years after her husband, Cornelius Elmer Sellers, had died.)  I think it's a safer bet that she would know the answer to that one.

And for a possible third question, I might ask, "Did Elmer know that my grandfather wasn't his biological son?"  I'm pretty sure Elmer knew, but it would be nice to confirm that.

Gee, after that, nothing else seems quite so compelling.

I do have two questions about photographs that I would like to ask of ancestors, though.

I have a photo of my great-grandmother Sore Leibe Brainin and her mother, Ruchel Dwojre (Jaffe) Brainin, with another woman and two girls.  I want to know who those other three people are.  I think they are Ruchel Dwojre's sister, Yetta Rashe (Jaffe) Michelson, and possibly her two daughters.  But I don't know for sure, and no one I know can verify or refute my hypothesis.

I also have a photograph of a photograph of a man.  It looks as though it was colorized.  The man resembles the male Gorodetsky members of my family.  My hypothesis is that he is Gersh Wolf Gorodetsky, my third-great-grandfather.  I think asking my great-grandfather Joe Gordon (originally Joyne Gorodetsky) or his father, Victor Gordon (originally Avigdor Gorodetsky), would be good options to get that answer.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: The Games Your Family Played

I hope Randy Seaver is able to keep us occupied with plenty of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges while we're all trapped in our homes!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music here), is to:

(1) Think about the games that your whole family would play when you were a child. 

(2) Tell us about one (or more) of them — what was it called, what were the rules (as you remember them), who played the game, where did you play the game, who usually won?

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

The first games I remember my siblings and I playing were card games, primarily poker and pinochle.  My parents used those games to start teaching us numbers when we were pretty young.  They taught us the standard rules and played with us in the beginning, but later it was just the three of us, playing cutthroat.  I don't remember who won the games.  My brother was always the most competitive of the three of us, so it might have been him, but the winning may have been more evenly distributed.  As I recall, we played on the dining room table during nonmeal times.

Next we moved on to Monopoly.  My mother and father probably played with us some when we first started, but for the most part the competitors were the same, my siblings and I.  This game, however, my brother absolutely won almost all the time.  I don't recall that we played with any variant rules; I think we just followed what was written.  After a while it wasn't any fun to play, Mark won so much.  It's still not a game I enjoy very much, in great part because of that.

And then came chess.  That's a two-player game, so we obviously didn't all play at the same time.  And that was another one my brother won most of the time.  I don't remember that my sister ended up playing very much.  Mark studied standard opening moves and beat me soundly every time.  After a while I was no longer a challenge, so he started playing against my father's friends who came around to visit.  And he beat them also, usually in about five moves.  I remember my father enjoying that a lot.  And the first time I won a chess game didn't come until I was 29 or 30.

The next major game I remember us playing was Pong on a Magnavox Odyssey.  I won the Odyssey through a coloring contest sponsored by K-Mart, I think in 1975.  (I was really good at coloring contests.  I won that K-Mart contest three years in a row.)  That was pretty cool stuff at the time.  We had the Odyssey connected to a TV in our family room.  My father used to play with us kids, but I don't think my mother did.  I don't remember who won the most when we played.  Probably Mark again!

The only game I remember my mother playing a lot with us was Scrabble.  She liked word games and crossword puzzles, so that was more up her alley.  I enjoyed playing that with her.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Telling Part of My Story: My Tattoo

It's my birthday today!  Yes, I have survived one more revolution around the sun and am now 58 years old.  Not the oldest person around, certainly, but since I had some people predict I wouldn't make it past 30, a lot better than it could have been.

One of the recurring themes for family history during the past few years has been that along with documenting all of those ancestors, the family genealogist should also remember to document his own life.  So starting today I decided I will write something about myself for my blog on my birthday.

After such a momentous decision, however, comes the next one:  what to write about?  What is interesting about me or my life?  Or interesting to me about my life?

I finally settled on a topic that in some ways is intrinsic to my identity, or at least to identifying me, but which for years my family knew nothing about.

I have a tattoo.  Meet Dart.

My inspiration for having a tattoo started when I was very young:  My father had a tattoo, and I loved it.  (It occurs to me now that I don't know if we have any photographs of it.  My sister and I think it was on his left arm.)  It was of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of wind, air, and learning.  And I thought it was so cool, I wanted a tattoo also.

Actually following through on that took a long time.  I had to work myself up to it.  I found someone to do the artwork about 1983.  I wanted a dragon for strength.  I don't remember the name of the guy who did the drawing (which I admit is bad), but he let me have the artwork to take somewhere else.  My roommate at the time got a tattoo the day before she was going to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy (because you're not supposed to get tattoos after you've become an officer) and vetted the tattoo artist as doing clean work.  (It used to be you worried about getting hepatitis from an artist who didn't use clean needles, but by this time you had to worry about AIDS.)

The artist was Bob, and the place was Spotlight Tattoo on Melrose Boulevard in Los Angeles (and they're still there!).  I remember it cost $75 and took one hour for the tattoo.  But during that hour Bob asked me something like four or five times if I was okay.  He finally said he had never seen anyone stay so white for so long.  (Um, yeah, low pain threshhold, sorry, dude.)

So I finally had my tattoo!  And I loved it!

I named the dragon Dart after the dragon in the Roger Zelazny short story "The George Business" (I'm sure this transcription of the story violates copyright), which I read in the anthology Dragons of Light, edited by Orson Scott Card.  Dart was strong and intelligent, which I thought was a great combination.

And no one in my family knew about him until about 2007.

See, my maternal grandmother was Jewish.  And Jews traditionally aren't supposed to get tattoos.  I've always been told that you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo.  And I didn't want my grandmother to know that I couldn't be buried in a Jewish cemetery, because I was the grandchild the most interested in our Jewish history.

So to make sure that Bubbie (my grandmother) wouldn't know, I figured the safest thing to do was not to let anyone in the family know, just in case it might somehow accidentally come up in conversation sometime.  I never wore anything sleeveless around family members.

And I managed to keep that secret.  Bubbie died in 2006.  At that point I had conditioned myself so well that it still didn't occur to me to mention it to family.

Until I watched a program that explained how a body was identified because of the tattoo the person had.  Investigators publicized the tattoo, and someone who recognized it was able to identify the deceased person.

I realized it was unlikely, but it occurred to me that if something similar were to happen to me, investigators could publicize the tattoo all they wanted, and no one in my family would know it was me.  Because they didn't know about the tattoo.

So I told them.  And I stopped worrying about being an unidentified body.

Monday, April 6, 2020

My Grandfather Bertram Lynn Sellers and His "Wives"

My paternal grandfather, Bertram Lynn Sellers, was born April 6, 1903.  This took quite some time to confirm and turned into almost a scavenger hunt.  But eventually the documentation showed that yes, this was indeed his birth date.

Grampa was married three times, lived in sin with my grandmother (while still married to his first wife), and fathered five children that I know of:  three with his first wife, one with my grandmother, and one with his second wife.  Here are photos of him with my grandmother and the later two wives.

Anna Gauntt and Bert Sellers (probably 1930–1940)

Anita (Loveman) and Bert Sellers (probably 1954–1957)

Adelle (Taylor) and Bert Sellers (probably 1961–1970)

Something I realized while writing this post was that the first names of all three of these women begins with the letter A.  I never noticed that before.

Another thing I realized is that not a single one of these photos is dated.  I can narrow them down somewhat, but that's very frustrating.

Not as frustrating as still having no photo of Grampa's first wife, however.  I've been trying for a while to find a photograph of Grampa with Elizabeth Leatherberry Sundermeier, but no one in my family seems to have one, or even one of her by herself.  It's almost as if she never really existed, except that I knew my aunts, who were her daughters.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Oldest Family Photos

I'm always happy when I read the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver and know exactly what I'm going to write about.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music here), is:

(1) What are the oldest family photos that you have?  Can you date them?  Do you know who is in them?

(2) Show us one or more of your oldest photos and provide a date and the subjects.

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

I have only one really old family photograph, so this was an easy choice.

The photo was taken in Kamenets Podolsky, Russian Empire about 1890.  The people in the photo are Avigdor, Etta, and Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky.  Avigdor (later Victor, after he immigrated to the United States) and Esther Leah were my great-great-grandparents.  Etta was their first child and the older sister of my great-grandfather Jojne (Joe in the United States).

I have photocopies and scans of some older family photos, but that just isn't the same as having the real thing.