Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Learn these so you don't do the same 
by Gray 

If you are an experienced genealogist, then you have graduated way-y-y-y past these mistakes. As for me, the mistakes below are mine.  I own them. 

Uh-oh. Not safe to assume that other people's family trees are correct.
At the start, you should assume their research contains errors, and their work is not "the answer," so much as it is "useful." Think like a detective: Unless you can prove this information on your own, you are wise to keep your doubts.  Vet every bit of data you get rigorously.  

File:CousinTree kinship.svg

Errors I have made and have seen would make for a long list.  Some biggies include 
1) placing absolute trust in impeccable sources, 
2) conflating people together, 
3) attributing family stories to the wrong branch, and 
4) processing information (like old European political geography) through the lens of our own modern times.  

Consider that Great Story
Keep in mind that a story is just a "story."  It's a great start.  Still, you are searching for the Truth, which is often different, surprising, increasingly fascinating, and sometimes really delightful!  

Some Stories are Tall Tales.  Truth can reside more in the fun if not the facts.
As an adult, I have come to the bemused conclusion that, despite his claims, my great great father (he was called Grosspop) was not really a part of the Kaiser's personal guard.  On the other hand, the fact that he told that story to his little grandchildren does make him something of a character.  His name was George Anton Geisel.

Another Grosspop GEISEL story: his told the grandkids that he carried a bullet on his leg from the Franco-Prussian War. Then he would take a bullet out of his pants pocket and show it to them.   

Silly and engaging humor like that continues through the generations of my family.  His grandson (my Dad, Charlie) glued a dime onto a hatpin, and wore it, and called it his "dime-on-pin."

Uh, which Dorothea Koeberlein do you mean?  Our 2nd Great Grandma?  Her niece?  Her sister-in-law? 
Misidentifications happen, even among the most rigorous and sophisticated researchers.  Similar names in similar times can lead to confusion.  Expect it.

Here's an example: this is one of my misidentification. Hope you don't mind me saying, it was rigorously researched with the best information we had at the time.

The "Family Story" of Philomena Henn (with a MORAL at the end). - included information as we were told by our parents, aunts and uncles...

·         born: Philomena SUTTER (Husband to Joseph HENN),
·         Daughter of Margaretha-Philipina SUTTER,
·         Family came from "Alsace-Lorraine"
·         died: Dayton in 1941
·         Birthdate of 19 Jun 1859 - the funeral card stated she was born 10 years later, but that was a typo. She was age 91, not age 81 as stated on memorial card"

From the above family clues, we find this match from the LDS website
·         born: Philomena SUTTER
·         Born 19 Jun 1849
·         Town of Kogenheim, Alsace
Ta da!  A perfect fit!  

um...too bad it was wrong!

Subsequent research changed the picture, as we repeatedly encountered conflicting data as we solidified  the documentation  (you know, the usual: census, death certificates, marriage data, etc.) .

·         born: Philomena KLEIN
·         Daughter of the late John KLEIN and Margaretha-Philipina SUTTER (nee HUSSONG, married KLEIN, and re-married SUTTER)
·         Born 19 Jun 1859
·         Town of Bierbach, Saarland
·         The mother is of the family HUSSONG; which migrated to Germany from Lorraine
Ta da!  After lengthy, pains-taking research.  A much better fit!  Perfect? At least for now, I consider this correct!

Moral of the Story: 
The research can fit together perfectly, and be wrong.

My Escaped Beast: A dumb thing I did took a life of its own
Do you remember the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode where a new, independent life-form escapes from the hologram chamber?  Well, in a way, I did that.  

In a quick and frantic e-mail exchange, I relented and gave my GEDCOM file to my cousin's young daughter after her computer crashed and she lost her work.  Bad decision. Wha' ya think would happen next?:  She posted an open and free download access to it on the internet - errors and all, including the mis-ID on Philomena. Consequently, that error (and a slew of others) has escaped to cyber-space.

It is still out there with all its falsehoods, roaming wild, and making connections of its own.  I now refer to that file as  

"My Wild Beast GEDCOM."
Fiction-spreading Beasts are lurking in cyber-space!

Now let's talk about the "Geography of Europe"  We'll also stop discussing morals.

What town is your family from? In what country?
Hate to tell you this, but town name and country is not enough to go on. Google maps (great tool) is not enough to go on. Via Michelin (another great tool) is also not enough to go on.  I like Via Michelin a little better, as it will give you multiple choices and a drill-down when you enter a town name.

Example #1 My GGGM is from Mimbach, Bavaria, Germany.  Where exactly is that? Here are some choices:

1) Mimbach, Saarland  (CORRECT ANSWER - YES, it is) 49° 13' 60 N , 7° 16' 0 E
2) Mimbach, Bavaria/Bayern 49° 31' 0" N, 11° 52' 0" E (this was deceptively incorrect, as the above Mimbach, Saarland was part of Bavaria at the time of my GGGM, and showed up as "Bavaria" in legal documents. In other words, it was indeed Mimbach, Bavaria at the time, the town by that name is still there today, but a map of today's Bavaria no longer includes this region.)
3) Mimbach, Rheinland-Pfalz  near Wattweiler 49°14'0"N / 7°19'0"E
Source: http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Maps

Example #2 My GGGF is from Pfannenstiel, Germany.  Where is that?
here's a pic

 Here are some choices:
1) Pfannenstiel, Bavaria/Bayern;
2) Pfannenstiel, but not found in Google Maps nor Via Michelin and now actually called Fachsenfeld.  (CORRECT ANSWER - it's not on the map, but the locals will sometimes use the old Pfannenstiel name for this present-day neighborhood in the larger city of Aalen, Baden-Wuerttemmberg,)

The town name in the family bible, death certificate or military draft document, etc. is helpful.  It's a start, but modern maps may well confuse rather than clarify. It's up to you to figure out where it is.

Now, give me that again:  How exactly do you spell your name?
Name changes happen all the time. It's easy and so common that personal records over time can look like different people. In my recordkeeping, names change from given to middle, sometimes the spelling will change, nicknames come in, and obvious misspellings.  Like baseball cards, I collect them all.  These are the  "AKAs" in my genealogy software package.

Zooming in to the front: the Morphing of Given Names 
Here are examples of  altered given names from my Tree.
  •  MINNIE from Minneapolis, Wilhelmenia, Philomena, Phillipina
  • PHILOMENA from Minnie from Phillipina (same person)
  • WALTER from Valentine, Valtin
  • JOHN from Johann, Johannes
  • JOSEPH from Johann-Josef (Josef as middle name).

Zooming in to the rear: the Morphing of Surnames
Here are examples of altered surnames from my Tree.  Some of them are quite cringe-worthy!

2.      HUSSON (French) into HUSSONG (German)
6.      FRANZ into FRANTZ, FRANY
9.      GEISEL into GEASEL

Reasons for Surname name changes include
  • Spelling convention from German to English   (WAIZMANN into WAITZMAN) 
  • Spelling convention from French to German (HUSSON into HUSSONG)
  •  Translation from French to German(MEUNIER into GOELTZER 
    • in English, this means: miller, or "grinder of grain")
  •  Conscious decision to differentiate legally from other family member (HENN into HENNE) 
    • in this case, two brothers lived at the same address; their wives had the identical and unusual given names, leading to confusion to outsiders (like bill collectors).
  •   Typed transcriptions of difficult handwriting (FRANZ into FRANY; HUSSONG into HURFONG; HAUENSTEIN into HANENSTEIN) - this is so common
  •  Mispronunced and then spelled wrong (GEISEL into GEASEL) 

 Strange but true: Two diffferent Surnames with identical spelling
  • WAITZMAN - a unique Old North Dayton name that is a morph of German WAIZMANN
  • WAITZMAN - a Jewish Eastern European name associated with Ukraine, Russia, Poland

The Personalities of Genealogists.  With this, you have been warned.
People rightly take a strong sense of ownership in their work, so not every researcher will be glad to be informed of your corrections or even your questions. The reality of life is that there are all sorts of personalities in this world.  In your pursuit of genealogy, you will find one of each.  We are all really nice people most of the time.
Yikes! Agglomerators: The Borg of Cyber-Space.  
You might prefer to steer clear of the on-line "agglomerators". These are people who do not actually research their data.  Nor do they vet the sources.  Instead, they are focused on amassing a really, really huge interconnected genfile.  They hungrily link into family trees regardless of the blood-relationship to themselves.  An in-law of an in-law is fair game, as they help connect different trees together.  "Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated." 

Recently, a dreaded "Agglomerator "sent me information from my "Wild Beast GEDCOM," and then asked me to add to it.

There is no substitute to gum-shoeing.  You are more than just a compiler of work that others have done.  So you will go to courthouses, cemeteries, churches and visit old distant living cousins.  You will do primary research that no one else will do. Why? Because you are a detective, and that is what detectives do. This is honorable.

Web Research Spots that I like 
The Genealogy Blog sites - these folks are writing, not just compiling.  Much of it as at a level of sophistication that causes me to look in awe. Will I ever be worthy? 
·         LDS Family Search - free/  LDS Pilot Project - free.  I love the Mormons.
·         Southwest German Emigration site (for Baden-Wuerttemberg) - free (a good fit for me!)
·         Geneanet.com (French / German) free (another good fit for me)

·         That really large genealogy company that is gobbling up every small genealogy web service in sight.  I have very mixed feelings.  (Sorry).   On the downside, this can be a risky place to look for information because 
  1. it is highly populated with beastly, error-laden trees that been put together by beginners, (they DO make it so easy for you to get started) 
  2. they will try to charge you for information that can be found elsewhere for free. 
  3. they have tried to sell me info that I (me! mysef!) had compiled and posted on their sites.  Arrrrgh!

On the BIG upside, it's a great place to connect with other researchers.  My cousin from the Arizona-Mexico border visited with us in Dayton recently with her family.  Our wonderful friendship blossomed from meeting at a website like this.

Well, there it is:  Wisdom or rant? You be the judge.
Happy Researching!   

All errors contained above are mine!

Monday, January 17, 2011

When the Writers Block is Broken

On the way: 1) Revealed: the true origin of the term "panhandler" 2)  Discoveries in an old canal house 3) A young girl remembers the Wright Brothers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What If Your Name Is Mud?

by Gray

Part I: So the story goes...

This is an old story about a troubled family name and the assassination of the President.  This surname is in the family of Abraham Lincoln as well as the family of my wife. 

Image by D. Van Nostrand, 1865. Courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

The year was 1865. 
The Civil War ended only months before.  President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated by a stage actor named John Wilkes Booth. The killer and cohorts were captured after a massive search. 

In their grief, the American public learned of Dr. Samuel Mudd. Although he denied any bad intentions towards the President, he could not deny that he had met with Booth months earlier. Nor could he deny that, hours after the assassination, they had met again in his Maryland home, not far from Washington, D.C.  Dr. Mudd had treated and set the broken leg of Lincoln’s assassin, allowed him and his accomplice, David Herold, to spend the night, and then sent them on their way.  

Dr. Samuel A. Mudd.  source: Wikimedia commons. Library of Congress Photograph

Dr. Mudd was tried and convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of the President. He received a life sentence at hard labor, and was transported by ship to a federal prison called Fort Jefferson.  This prison is located within a group of remote islands known as the Dry Tortugas, located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida.  The islands and the prison facilites remain today, as part of the Dry Tortugas National Park.

 Fort Jefferson Federal Prison.

Imprisoned for life on a small island miles from nowhere, with no hope of escape, Dr. Samuel Mudd was gone.

He was certainly not forgotten. Mudd’s name continued in conversations among the American people in a special way. A despised, discredited or unpopular person could be described with these words: 

“His name is Mud.” 

That expression continues to this day, or so the story goes. 

But there is much more to this story.

Part II. Mud and Mudd before and after 1865

English cows in English mud. 
Kine at the fodder by Waulkmill, Torphins 2007 source: geograph.org.uk

1)       It was already an old expression. “His name is mud” was already an expression before Samuel Mudd was born.  In an 1823 English publication, it carried the meaning of “he is a stupid, twaddling fellow.”   The events of 1865 had injected new meaning and intensity into the phrase, from “stupid” to “despicable.” Source: (from John Badcock's (aka 'J. Bee’) Slang - A dictionary of the turf etc., 1823)  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/your-name-is-mud.html

2)   Mudd’s guilt is disputed. As my wife's family can tell you, the debate continues to this day on Mudd’s personal guilt in Lincoln’s death. Some of his neighbors thought of him as Unionist, but there was no doubt of his slave ownership. 

3)   Mudd received a Presidential pardon. In 1867, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in the prison colony on Fort Jefferson. Dr. Mudd was credited for saving lives of prisoners and staff, at great risk to his own. In 1869, during his last days in office, President Andrew Johnson issued a pardon for Mudd, and he was released. 

Lincoln's own close connection to the Mudd family. 
There is a sad irony in the linking of the surname Mudd to the murder of Abraham Lincoln.  If Samuel Mudd and Lincoln could have met under the right circumstances, Abe might have happily brought up his close friendship in Illinois with Henry Luke Mudd, a distant cousin to Dr. Mudd.  

Lincoln’s uncle was married to Henry’s aunt.  Abe Lincoln and Henry Mudd were thus cousins by marriage. President Lincoln had offered his friend Henry Mudd a job in Washington DC, but he declined, preferring to remain in Illinois.   source: http://www.abrahamlincolnlongninemuseum.com/map.php   

My wife's connection to the Mudd family. 
I know the Mudd family as gentle, hard-working, sweet-natured, deeply religious, salt-of-the-earth type people.  My wife, Marie, is a Mudd. Her grandmother was born Rose Mudd of Kansas. Her son had moved to Dayton, Ohio to work for the Mudd furniture store. The locally owned Dayton business has been gone for years; some Mudd Furniture Showrooms are found now in Kentucky. 

Post Scripts:

1. Historic Fort Jefferson is the largest masonary structure in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest in the world (after the Great Wall of China). It is composed of over 16 million bricks and contains over two-thousand masonary arches.  Because of their remote location, Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas rank among the least-visited of the U.S. National Parks.

2. The 1993 music video “My name is mud” was released by alternative rock band Primus from their album Pork Soda.  Like the soda, this music is not everyone’s taste; the imagery is disturbing, but it starts with some pretty good licks on bass. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=953PkxFNiko&feature=related In 2010, Primus re-cut this song in Spanish.

3. A Witness to the Assassination participated in a gameshow in the 1950s.  This link takes you to the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jgGX1v4YFo

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Genealogy Christmas Present

by Gray

Prologue: Where did I come from?

That is a question that I have carried inside for practically all my life. It seems that I have always been curious about my parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and the many preceding them. Many, perhaps most, people do not often think about such things. But I do.

Many stories have been found over the years. Occasionally, a story affects me in a very personal way.  

This is one such story.

Part I. Tragedy in the young life of Minnie Klein.

Minnie Klein was baptized in the old Reformed Church in the village of Mimbach, a short distance from Bierbach
John Klein was my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side.  He arrived in 1872, in Dayton, Ohio from the small town of Bierbach, not far from the Saar river along the French-German border.  

John arrived with his sister, Katherine Klein, his wife, born Margaretha Hussong, and their six children. One of the children, Minnie Klein, age thirteen, was my great-grandmother.

John had worked sporadically as a day laborer. The work was hard. On the last day of his life, John had worked for the Haas Brothers threshing grain by hand. It was only one year after arriving in Dayton that he drowned in the Miami Erie canal, leaving behind his sister, wife and six children. These women and children spoke German, they were not yet U.S. citizens. Suddenly they were on their own. 

Part II. Enter Mr. Schwind, Katherine Klein and Joseph Henn – Godfather, new mother and husband.

Celestine Schwind was the owner and proprietor of the Dayton View Brewery, a wealthy and powerful figure in the community. His imposing mansion was a landmark well into the 20th century. This grand home was also the spot where the Dayton Ballet began.

Mr. Schwind hired young Minnie’s Aunt Katherine Klein as his housekeeper.  This decision by Mr. Schwind made it possible for Katherine to take over the care for the two oldest children, including my great grandmother Minnie. 

The Schwind Mansion.

Katherine truly became their new mother; so much so that our family trees trace back to Katherine as a “mother” rather than an aunt. After the children had grown, at the age of 47, she married Martin Autz, and lived on their small dairy farm very close to Emmanuel Catholic Church.  (Today, the C-J high school stadium encompasses that farm land.)

After Martin died, Katherine moved in with Minnie in a house in Old North Dayton.  Minnie's husband, Joseph, built that house.  It's still in the family.

Joseph Henn was my great grandfather. His father was the Mayor of Laudenberg, a village in an area of forests and meadows in Germany called the Odenwald. 

Picnic shelter in the forest near Laudenberg.

Joseph had arrived to Dayton in 1870, two years before the Klein family. He was a stable hand on the Hussong farm. Minnie's uncle owned that farm. 

Mr. Schwind signed the naturalization paper for Joseph Henn in 1874.  The secret, and it's a big one, can now be told:  Joseph applied for citizenship one year too early, falsely stating the year he arrived. If this deception were caught, Joseph's future would have been in jeopardy. Hmm. . . perhaps, as a mayor's son, Joseph had a sense about this: The formidable Celestine Schwind would sign these papers. Who would dare risk a confrontation with Mr. Schwind?

In our family history, Mr. Schwind was a great man. When he hired Aunt Katherine as housekeeper, he rescued my teen-aged great-grandmother from destitution. With his signature, he secured citizenship for my young great-grandfather.

Mr. Celestine Schwind was our family's benevolent godfather.   

Celestine Schwind

Part III. The search for Celestine Schwind’s descendants.

For years, I have hoped to tell this story to a descendant of Celestine Schwind.  In my imagination, I would close with these words: “On behalf of my family to yours:  Thank you for what you have done for us.”

Dayton can feel like a small town. I expected to find Celestine’s descendants sooner or later, but the prize proved stubbornly elusive. I found no Schwind names in the phone book. There is a Schwind building in downtown Dayton, but it does not trace back directly to Celestine, but to a sibling. In my research of old breweries of Dayton, I had at last found a descendant of brewer who married into the Schwind family. He was friendly, but said, “Sorry, I am not a direct descendant of Celestine Schwind; he was a distant uncle by marriage.” Just last month, I met a woman with that surname, but her Schwind family had moved here fairly recently: they’re not the same family.

And yet I still think this is a good story. Will I ever meet a descendant of Celestine Schwind?

In his day, Celestine Schwind was a member of Emmanuel Catholic Church.   These days, my wife, Marie, and I are very involved in that same church.

Historic Emmanuel Catholic Church.
Traditional Christmas Eve at Emmanuel Church -  2010.
On December 25, 2010, my wife’s cousin, visited for Christmas Mass.  Among many things, she is a book publisher, historian, and genealogist.  She has a Dayton history book in preparation, which easily led to a conversation about the rich history of the church and neighborhood. I gestured towards the former farm land where Katherine Klein once lived with her husband Martin. She wanted to know more.

The next day, December 26, 2010  the conversation continued by email.  Again, I told the story of Minnie, Aunt Katherine, and the benevolent Mr. Schwind. She compared it to her own research, and sent me this e-mail message in reply:

“I have news for you. Your wife, Marie, is a descendant of the father-in-law of Celestine Schwind.”

The quest for a direct descendant continues. The real prize remains elusive, but it is certain that day will come.  

Epilogue: How we fit together

·       Celestine Schwind was my wife’s second great grand uncle  or "great-great-uncle."
·        John Klein was my second great grandfather.
·        Katherine Klein was sister to John, but became in an adoptive sense my second great grandmother.
·       Celestine Schwind hired Katherine Klein, and thus saved our family from destitution.  He helped my great grandfather Joseph Henn to become a U.S. citizen.

Now, I close with this message to Mr. Schwind, as I hope to say some day to one of his descendants:
“On behalf of my family to yours:  Thank you for what you have done for us.”

Christmas, 2010

Gray, our son Micah, and Marie.
2012 UPDATE - At last!
On Saturday, June 9, 2012, Dayton's Calvary Cemetery hosted a Dayton Brewing Heritage Tour in conjunction with Dayton History/Carillon Park and the Miami Valley Chapter of the Brewery Collectors Club of America.  Events included food, beer (at the adjacent Carillon Park), a tour of the often luxuriant gravesites of the local Dayton Beer Brewers and a unusual opportunity to meet with people with a special interest in these families.  

This was the day that I finally met Mr. Schwind's descendants:  two of Celestine Schwind's Great Granddaughters (now living in Chillicothe, Ohio), and his Great Great Grandson (who lives in the Dayton area).  Of course, they were touched by the story of Mr..Schwind adopting my Klein family into his home and life.  One of them said, "let's stand together for a family photo!"  

 The Schwind-Klein family connection:  Established 1873.  Re-established 2012.

“On behalf of my family to yours:  Thank you for what you have done for us.”

Summer, 2012