Thursday, November 24, 2016

Day 21 Genealogy Challenge - Military Days


Select an ancestor who served in the military, and write a letter to him or her from the perspective of a loved one on the home front. Ask about his or her health, or the conditions in the war. Read real-life wartime letters for inspiration 
My pick for this is my 3X great grandfather Samuel Wray who was born in 1821 in Williamson County, Tennessee.  In 1849 he married Mary Ann Neal and moved to Paducah, Kentucky where he owned a general store in town. He joined Company C of the 12th Volunteer Cavalry as a bugler,  and also worked as a wagoner. I am not surprised at this. Considering his age, he was definitely older than most soldiers. The job of a bugler was not only to play taps, he played the calls to go forward and retreat and many other special calls that I will write about at a later date.A wagoner was in charge of getting supplies to the troops. That didn't keep him safe, he was injured at the Battle of Cynthiana.
                                                                                                                  March 30, 1864
Dear Sam,
                I am patiently awaiting your next letter, I know how hard it is to get mail through the lines. Things have been difficult here. The Confederate Army led by a Major Forrest came in and stole many of our horses, mules and supplies and destroyed what they didn't take. They also attacked our fort, but they were repulsed. The sad thing is we lost 90 of our brave men.
When I see things like this I have a great fear for you and your life. How do you fare and where are you? Your last letter had you in Lebanon, Kentucky, are you still there? The store is still in its rightful place despite all the fires at the dock during the siege. There were gunboats on the river shelling us with their artillery and several places in town are gone, we were mighty lucky our little store survived. 
Are you getting enough to eat? Is there sickness in your camp? Every day we hear of young soldiers dying of sickness because they are not getting enough victuals. Has this happened in your company? The children are doing well. William is a big help in the store and Annie is as well. We are so lucky to have such well behaved children Sam. 
There is not much else to report. I pray God is with you and keeps you and your fellow soldiers safe. 
With love and affection,
Mary Ann

                            Battle of Paducah as seen on the wall along the riverside in Paducah

Day 20 Genealogy Challenge - Don't Leave Home Without It!

 Write a paragraph describing three items your ancestor would never leave home without.

Alice Eleanor Swinton, my husband's grandmother, was born August 8, 1892 in Toronto, York County, Ontario, Canada.  My husband always referred to her as his Victorian grandmother because she was so well bred and well versed in etiquette.  When my mother-in-law passed away we became the proud owners of some of her things and among them were these three items. Her glasses, Bible, and her calling cards. 

These may seem small and silly to keep to some people, but it is a small testimony of who she w as. She was a teacher in a one room schoolhouse in Mindemoya on Manitoulin Island, so of course her glasses were a must. Back then, the Bible was allowed and taught in school, so she needed to bring it with her as she also read it at home. Her calling cards are a sign of a bygone era. Whenever she visited someone, especially when she lived in Wiarton on the Bruce Peninsula, she would leave her card if they weren't home. They really are the forerunners of today's business cards! I love these cards; sometimes life is so frantic today with cell phones and everything at the ready, we miss some of the subtleties and grace of earlier times.

                                                     a case for calling cards.

Day 19 Genealogy Challenge - The Berlin Wall

Identify a major event that happened in your ancestor’s lifetime and as your ancestor write a first person journal entry describing it. What would your ancestor have thought about it? What would he have found exciting or frightening?

A little background on my ancestor : Bertha Liedke (shown in this photo, back row 2nd from left in 1919) born March 19, 1900 in Nowy Witoszyn/Neuwittoschinn, Kreis Lipno, Prussia/Poland. She was born into a German family living in Poland under Russian rule. Their town was German, their schools were German and they spoke German. I had a hard time figuring this out when I was young. I kept telling my grandmother if they lived in Poland and were born in Poland, then they were Polish. She would always pitch a fit and tell me they were Germans! It wasn’t until I read the history of Poland and saw all the border changes making it German, Russian and sometimes Poland, that I understood. Bertha was my great grandmother’s younger sister. My great grandmother and one brother emigrated to America around 1905, but the rest of the family stayed put. After they married and their parents passed away, most of them left Poland and moved to Germany itself.

Dear Diary, 
      I woke up to the most astonishing sight this morning! Somehow, during the night, there has been a wall of barbed wire erected on the border between East and West Berlin! I never heard a thing and I live close enough to be able to see it from the window of my apartment. I knew there were rumors that the police were going to tighten the border, but I don't think anyone expected this! Of course everyone immediately went outside to see what had been done. Somehow they managed to tear up some of the street, dig holes and put in concrete posts and then string barbed wire all across it. Not only that, but they have cut all the telephone wires ti West Berlin. We are truly cut off from the world. My sister Augusta and her husband Robert, my brother Adolf and my sister Emma and her husband Edmund all live on the other side of the wall. Oh why didn't we leave while we had the chance? It has not been easy living here to begin with! The communist leaders have been so repressive for many years and a lot of people have gone over to the other side and not come back. It is what Emile and I should have done, but we are old and the idea of starting again with absolutely nothing just wasn't something we thought we could do. We have heard that no longer can we cross the border to see the opera, go to soccer games or plays. We are stuck here forever! Please God have mercy on us!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day 18 Genealogy Challenge - Tobacco Road

Who was your ancestor’s best friend? How did they spend their time together? Write a paragraph or two about an adventure they had, real or imagined based on what you know of their childhood, time period and places they lived

Today’s ancestor will be Roy Cook, my husband’s paternal great uncle and his twin brother Coy who was his best friend for his entire life.

Roy and Coy’s family worked on a tobacco farm in Robertson County, Tennessee.  It was a hard living, but not uncommon in the very early twentieth century. Many people could not afford their own piece of land to farm, so they worked on the large farms that surrounded them. They lived in a small dirt floored cabin with their parents and 10 siblings. They were the youngest being 20 years younger than their oldest sibling. They were spoiled by all of them.

One day while they were helping their dad on the farm, they decided to see if they could swipe some of the tobacco for a smoke. What they didn’t understand at that age was that the tobacco was green and needed to be cured. They hid their big leaf under Coy’s shirt and secreted it away during their lunch break.

After dinner that night, they headed outside with some pilfered matches to get their tobacco. They rolled it into two “cigarettes” tossing the excess away and worked at getting them lit. Eventually they got a bit to smoke and puffed away feeling very grown up.

It wasn’t long before they started feeling a bit queer and stumbled home very green about the gills. Pap knew exactly what they had done as soon as he saw them and after they got their bottoms paddled, Ma got them outside quick enough before they hurled up their dinner. Never again did they try to smoke green tobacco!!

Roy and Coy never married and spent their lives being doted on by their family! Coy died in April of 1998 and Roy, lost without his twin, died in October the same year.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Day 17 Genealogy Challenge - A Special Heirloom

     Select a family heirloom and write a narrative from its perspective. Where has it been? How did your ancestor acquire it and what would it have encountered throughout the years? What important family milestones might it have witnessed.

     You might think I am just a lowly chair, not worth very much. Surely jewelry or pottery may seem more exciting to you, but I must tell you I have had a long and rich life. I was made in Germany and was so beautiful when I was finished. Though I am made of birch and not maple, I am well made for the special treat of rocking a young one to sleep. I am covered in a mahogany finish and have mother of pearl inlaid on my back piece. My seat is contoured for giving the most comfortable fit.
     I was so thrilled to be brought to the new world, what an astonishing adventure being shipped across the mighty Atlantic Ocean.  When I arrived at my first home in New York, there was great excitement. A baby was about to be born. People were running to and fro to make everything ready for the tiny bundle of joy. I was put in a nice quiet room with a beautiful crib and matching chifferobe. 
     I was only alone for a few days, in fact the mother came in several times and sat in me and rocked back and forth practicing sweet songs. Finally the day arrived and a sweet girl named Hertha was born. Mother came in when little Hertha was crying and brought her over to me. She sat down and nursed the sweet babe all the while rocking gently and singing lullabies. Each day they used my special ability to soothe and calm little Hertha. Before long, Hertha was getting around on her own and a new life joined the family. Her name was Eleanor and she was just as sweet as Hertha. Mother always rocked her, just as she had Hertha, and some days Hertha came in and rocked in me all by herself. Yet another girl arrived, this one name Florence.  What a busy family we had become. Over the years as the nursery gave way to little girl's bedrooms and then young ladies bedrooms, but I still had my place in the corner of one of the rooms. Fairy tales were read whilst rocking, books from elementary school and even more grown up books as the girls entered high school.
     One day, Hertha stopped coming home. She had found a husband and moved out. Not long after, Eleanor got married too. When she found she was expecting a child, she came to her mother and asked if she could bring me to her house to rock her baby in and so my residence changed. Over the years I was pleased to be used by yet another Eleanor, Phyllis, Ethel and Robert and then I sat alone for a long time unless the new young family's came by and then I would be employed to rock grandchildren in while they were visiting. Many more years passed and sadly I was relegated to the basement and there I stayed for a long time....until one day Eleanor's daughter Linda was expecting a little bundle and asked if anyone was using me. "No, her grandmother said, would you like it?"
"Oh yes, she replied, it's just what I have been looking for." So I came up out of the basement and was put in a car and driven to the state of Illinois, but that was not my final destination, oh no! The young parents were in the process of moving to the country of Canada, so I was loaded into a moving van and taken to Bracebridge in Ontario. Amanda was born and settled right in as her mother rocked her in me. She too sang beautiful lullabies as she nursed and rocked her. Before long Tiffany arrived and I was happy to be of service.
     It was time to leave Canada and move back to the United States and I found myself once again in New York, but a terrible thing happened to me during the move. The load in the moving van shifted and my seat was broken in two. For many years I sat in a garage waiting to be fixed, but it seemed there was no time for me and a new rocking chair was brought in to help with the newest addition.
I sat there for fifteen years and then moved with them to a new town. I think they kept planning to fix me, but didn't have the wherewithal to do it. I sat in the new house's garage until one day fairly recently, I was pulled out and given to a man for repair. This man was a wonder with all things wood. I was amazed sitting in his workshop at the beautiful things he made. Finally, one day he started working on me, carefully fixing my seat and all the loose parts that I had. The family was so excited to see me back healthy and whole, because now they have grandchildren who can be rocked in me once again.

Day 16 Genealogy Challenge - A Fairy Tale Life

Imagine one or more of your ancestors as the characters in a fairy tale or fable. What role would they play and what is the setting? What would be your fate?

Oh gosh, this is an interesting idea....who am I going to pick and what story should I relate? I think I will pick my husband's 2X great grandfather Hugh Carrigan who was born in Ireland in 1829

Once upon a time, there was a young man of Ballyknockanor who truly had a lovely heart. Many a time he would give up his own wants or needs to help one of his countrymen.He worked very hard on his small piece of rented land and often was seen giving food to the homeless people. If a man knocked on his door and asked for a potato or something to eat, Hugh would give it to him even if it was his last potato. Now there was a great famine in the land and the potatoes the people grew were turning black and inedible. This plague was happening all over Ireland and food quickly became scarce. Poor Hugh's garden was no longer producing as it had before because the molding potatoes were affecting everything in the garden. He wept for the people dying and prayed for God to help him help his people. He took stock of all he had in his little thatched house and decided to sell all his farming tools. So he walked all the way to Dublin city with his little cart to get the best prices he could. On the way back, a light brighter than any ever seen covered Hugh and a voice came from the clouds. "I have seen what you have done Hugh Carrigan and I delight in you. From now on, all you plant will grow exceedingly so you can keep feeding the people of Ballyknockanor." Hugh hurried back to his simple cottage and took the remaining seeds and potatoes he had tucked away and planted them. The plants flourished  and he was able to give oats and grain and potatoes to the people of his town. This is why Ballyknockanor made it through the years of the famine.

The moral of this story is if you give selflessly and keep God in all you do, he will hear your cries and answer them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Day 15 Genealogy Challenge - What in the World??

Today's challenge is really interesting - Pick an ancestor from the 1800's and drop him/her into today and as your ancestor write a letter to family members back in the 1800's. How would he describe today? What surprises him? What questions would he have?

Dear Mary Ann,
                           Holy cow! I don't know what happened but I seem to have been transported in time to a strange place. I think its Nashville, I recognize the courthouse, but everything is so different! The streets are mostly the same, but the houses are so different. I went by our home only to find the lot is empty and a huge building next door. Our lot has some black substance on it that is very hard and there are what I can only call horse-free carriages parked all over it. The buildings I see are so tall I cannot imagine how someone climbed up to build them. They must use some sort of engine to lift the workers up while they are building them.
     I am absolutely shocked by the clothing people are wearing. Some of the men have shirts with vulgar sayings on them and dungarees, but the dungarees have holes in them and I can't imagine why they would wear them in public. I see young men with their pants on their thighs with their underwear showing - why in the world would they do this? How can they run with their pants hanging down like that? There are also business men wearing suits but they carry this device they speak into and use their fingers to make it do other things. I see a lot of people with these things. No one is paying attention to one another and sometimes I see them walk right onto the street without looking up. How foolish are these people? If one of those horse-free carriages comes along, they are bound to be hit!
The ladies ( if I can even call them that) are even worse! They have no decorum, they look like ladies of the night. Some wear tops that show their stomach or their bosom and wear their pants so low I am afraid to look! They are not wearing a camisole, but wearing what looks like undergarments on the outside. How can they look at  themselves dressed like this? They too carry that device I spoke of even when with friends. No one is talking to their companions, they are too consumed by this device.
I do not see any horses around, but there is a strange contraption that flies through the air. It makes me think of some of the prophecies in the Bible. I don't understand how something so big can float in the sky.
     I have gone to a few of the stores. There are so many things to buy. How could you possibly need all these things? They have handyman stores that are so big and sell so many things you could spend days looking at everything. They even have something called a mall which has dozens of stores all under one roof. There is a hotel called the Gaylord that is nothing short of amazing! It has windows even on top of the building so you can see the sky, but you are kept out of the weather.

One thing that is curious is that I don't see children playing outside with each other - even they have the devices I mentioned earlier. There are so many people who are overweight, not by a little Mary Ann, but very big people. I think it must be because of that darned device, it keeps people from doing things that are healthy. I see people running places, but I think not having to do things by hand keeps many of the people from doing work that is good for them.
I have been going to church and it is very different from ours. They do not sing our beautiful hymns any more. Instead they have electrified guitars and drums and people who lead the singing of songs that are very repetitive. I don't think there is much to the words and I wonder why they felt the need to take away our thoughtful hymns. I see some of the churches don't have very many people, don't people believe in God anymore? That surely worries me.
There are some things I like about this world, certainly indoor toilets and bathtubs with water that you don't have to haul in and warm on the stove is very nice! Some of the foods are from other countries and actually quite nice to taste. My bed is wonderful and soft, I feel like I am in a dream and perhaps I am. I miss you and the children so much and I pray I find a way back to you. I love you Mary Ann.

Day 14 Genealogy Challenge - Journey to Canada

Write a diary or journey entry that details your immigrant ancestor's journey. What are their impressions of their fellow passengers. Research passenger lists and ships documents to make your description more accurate. I have picked my 3X great grandmother Johanna Stanton Driscol who was from Skibbereen, West Cork, Ireland. She left Ireland in 1846 in the height of the potato famine.

Dear Diary,
I fear this journey will kill me! We have been on this ship for almost a month now and I am so hungry and dirty. There is sickness and fever everywhere on this boat. We are jammed together having maybe six feet by 18 inches total to ourselves in which to sleep and eat. The bunks are 6x6 but we sleep four to a bunk and I was lucky that my mother and father and two brothers are also aboard so I don't have to share my bunk with strangers. I hear we started with 300 aboard in a boat that is only supposed to hold 150. We had to bring our own food for the voyage and there are now weevils and maggots in it. We still eat it because we won't survive if we have no nourishment. We are given 2 pints of water a day, but it is often fetid and I fear some of what is making us so sick. There is a slop bucket in a corner where we relieve ourselves, but it often gets tipped over when the boat hits rough weather and there is typhoid fever and dysentery on board. Every day there are people dying and I worry about my husband Denis who has become ill this day. People are sick in their bunks and the vomit is dripping down to the bunk underneath.They call these ships coffin ships and now I know why. We left Skibbereen because we were starving there. Thousands are dying from the potato famine and we felt the only way we could survive was to buy passage on a ship to Canada. The tickets were less expensive than buying one for America and it took all we had. We each brought a small bundle of clothes which was basically all we had left after selling what little we had for tickets. I hear once we are there, it will be easy to get into America and that is our plan. I pray we all make it!

Day 13 Genealogy Challenge - A Wedding

 Describe an ancestor's wedding.Study marriage certificates, wedding banns and photos, clothing and rituals to fill in details.

I am choosing my dad's parents for this, mainly because of the lovely wedding pictures!
Mabel Nancy Schloman, daughter of Henry Garry Schloman and Lillian Schneider married Albert August Miller who was  the son of August Miller and Karolina Amelia Barie. Both were born in New York City and eventually moved to the Bronx. I am not certain how they met,  and that is a pity, (it is why you should ask questions of your family now while they are still here!) I know lots of little stories about each of them, but not their love story)

Suffice it to say they fell in love in the mid 1920's and married in 1928. They were Lutheran as they were German, so there was no need for banns to be read. I do have many photos of them sharing days and outings with their families so I suspect there was a lot of group dating going on - safety in numbers as they say!

Mabel came from a small family. She only had one sister named Edna. Al was from a larger family having sisters Marie, Margaret and Augusta and a brother Carl.

I love this picture - the beautiful gown she wore and the large bouquet of flowers with the streaming ribbons are so indicative of fashion in that time. Her sister Edna, maid of honor sits next Albert, while his brother Carl,  the best man sits to Mabel's right. I know one of Al's sisters, I believe Augusta is behind Albert, I am not sure if the other woman is related somehow to Mabel but her facial structure is similar!
 Being German, I imagine the wedding was full of polkas, lots of beer (August was a brewer) and German songs like Ein Prosit (A toast, a toast, to cheer and good times)and certainly the song Du, Du Liegst im Herzen (you, you are in my heart). There would surely be traditional customs.
After the ceremony, the bride and groom would saw a log in half to symbolize overcoming life’s tough challenges together and the guests would throw rice at the couple. It is said that whatever amount stays in the bride’s hair is the number of children the couple will have.

I do have to share one story - when Al and Mabel came home from their honeymoon, they found their friends had spread limburger cheese on their radiator and they spent the night cleaning it off! 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Day 12 Genealogy Challenge - A Love Poem

I have been out of town celebrating my nephew's wedding so I am playing catch-up here, but what better way than with this challenge. Craft a poem or love letter from one of your ancestor's to his or her future spouse. The ancestor I am using is Gayen Miller who was born in Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1674. His family were fairly unique in Ireland at the time being Quakers. The love of his life was Margaret Henderson. As a Quaker, feelings of love and such were not verbalized very much as the religion was based on service to God. This is my imagined poem from Gayen to Margaret on the eve of their marriage in 1695 in Armagh.

For Margaret

When I see you across the room at prayer
My heart is stilled by the beauty I see
Your love for our Saviour
Touches me beyond measure
Surely the beauty I see
Was given by God above
And I hold my breath
Til our lives are entwined forever

Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 11 Genealogy Challenge - Falling in Love

Above is a photo of my grandfather Robert Haindl and grandmother Eleanor Riess. I love this picture and have always called it their wedding picture. I am not sure if it is or isn't, but its the one photo of them that embodies their love for each other.
Eleanor Riess grew up fairly privileged. Her father Peter was a wealthy furrier with his own company. There are many photos of her and her sisters at a young age with beautiful fur coats from their dad. During the depression they pretty much lost everything other than the apartment building and house they owned. She was a smart girl, but a bit on the rebellious side. She dropped out of high school, not uncommon in the 1920's, and found a job.
Robert Haindl grew up in a family that did well also although not as well as Eleanor's family. Rob however, like Eleanor had a rebellious streak too.  He also did not finish high school and instead apprenticed in his father's butcher store.
He enjoyed hanging out at the local park playing baseball with his friends and Elly and her friends used to watch his team play. When she first met him, he thought she was cute, but she thought he was a jerk! He kept pestering her until she finally went out with him. She was all of 16 and he was 19. Her mother did not like him at all. She wanted her girls to marry men who would be well to do so they wouldn't have to scrimp and save as she was now doing. She would warn Elly that if she married him, she would never have money!
Of course that, as it would be for most young girls, only made things seem more romantic.
It didn't take long for them to hatch a plan to run away and get married.
Since she was underage at 17, they decided to ride up to Greenwich, Connecticut where she could get married legally without her parent's permission. They drove up on Sunday June 7, 1931 just a few weeks after she turned 17 and got married. I am not sure if she told her parents right away, but I do know my great grandmother was steaming when she found out! She told her, "You made your bed, now you lie in it!" Pretty harsh words, but in time she came to love Rob, and although he and Elly never had a lot of money, they were married until he died in October 1988. They had four children together, and 16 grandchildren. By the time Elly died in 2002, there were 11 great grandchildren.

Day 10 Genealogy Challenge - Streets of Yesterday

  The challenge is to use yesterday's location and describe your ancestor's walk down the street. Invent a destination and use a city directory and imagination to describe who or what he might have seen on the way. So, today we are back in Nashville, Tennessee in 1880. The day is May 20, and it is a Thursday. We are talking with Samuel Wray age 51, my 4X great grandfather who is out for a walk today with his wife Mary Ann and fifteen year old son Joseph.

Today is going to be a great day! We are heading down Cherry Street towards Broadway and the Capitol building which you can see in the distance. On our way we passed Market Square where there are many vendors selling their wares.  
Normally, I would be working at my job as a shoemaker, but most of Nashville is not working  because it is a very special day for our city. Our neighborhood consists mostly of family homes or rentals. We do own our home which is a real blessing. We moved here after the Civil War from Paducah, Kentucky. I actually fought on the Union Side.
The sun is shining brightly and there are horses and carriages and people walking briskly toward the Capitol. We also have the Centennial Exhibition going on, so the city is more busy than usual. Our plan is to meet our daughter Annie and her husband George Bailey as well as our son William and his wife Mary Hurt. The plan is to meet at 10 am and spend the day at the Exposition after the unveiling. Unveiling of what you ask? Well, they are putting a statue of Andrew Jackson in front of the Capitol! Most of our neighbors are heading down Broadway now as well. There is a real push to find a place to sit or stand to watch and I see some men and boys are actually climbing on top of the Capitol building to get a better view! Can you see them in the photo above? The plaque, I have heard, says "Commander of Victorious Forces at Battle of New Orleans January 8, 1815."
 We decide to stop at a street vendor for a cool glass of lemonade before we find a place for ourselves on the lawn. I am excited to have my children here so they can understand what an incredible man Andrew Jackson was - he was a great soldier , a great statesman and a good president. All should be honored to be here for this day.
At the exposition afterward, they will have an orator give an account of the Battle of New Orleans which should be very stirring to the soul.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day 9 - Describe and Ancestor's City

                                                          Nashville 1880  

The challenge for today is to pick an ancestor's home town and do some research on how it was during your ancestor's time. Use historical pictures, post cards and city directories to learn about the town, then write a brief tourism ad for the locale highlighting the town's attractions.  
I picked Nashville, Tennessee in the year 1880 when my 2 and 3X great grandfather's lived there. The centennial means a lot to me personally as it was the celebration of the signing of the Cumberland Compact. My Wray/Ray ancestors signed it and were among the first to settle Nashville in 1780.

    In 1880 the Tennessee Centennial Exposition was in full swing. It marked the hundred years of progress since the founding of Nashville and thousands of people flocked to the centennial grounds for the festivities.

Come to Nashville for the Centennial Exposition! Starting April 23 and running until May 29, it is the place to be! There will be parades, orators, music, historical art and commercial exhibits. You will enjoy theatrical performances and the grandest display of fireworks ever seen in Nashville! The exposition is at Broadway and 8th Avenue North, right in the center of our bustling city. In addition to the centennial there is much to see and do here. We have some wonderful buildings including the state capital, city hall and the court house. You can shop and find a little bit of everything in the Market Square, and enjoy a spring evening walk along the Cumberland River!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Day 8 Genealogy Challenge - Voting

                                                 A Woman's Right to Vote

The challenge today is to write a letter as if you were your ancestor telling about the first time you voted. I am choosing someone from my dad's side this time. His grandmother Amelia Karolina Barie came to America in the late 1800's and married August Joseph Miller in 1896 in New York City. I will be writing as Amelia to her younger sister Pauline who was still in Germany at that time.

Dear Pauline,
                     I just had to write to you to tell you about a wonderful experience I had today. If you remember, earlier this year I told you that America passed  the 19th amendment to their constitution which gave us women the right to vote in elections. I have been so excited since it passed in August thinking about who I would cast my precious vote for. I  have been reading the papers daily and talking with August about the candidates. I don't want to vote for frivolous reasons, this is too important to be blasé about. I don't want other men laughing at me because I am uneducated in the way elections are run and am grateful August agrees with me in this. We have two parties to choose from, each one picks the candidate they think will best run this country. This year it was Warren G. Harding on the Republican side and James M. Cox on the Democrat side.
     The Republicans met in Chicago, Illinois for a convention to elect who would be their candidate. There were several men vying for the position and the people at the convention brought it down to one candidate; the same happened for the democrats only they met in San Francisco, California. After that, both men traveled around the country telling people what they intended to do if they became president. Many people felt things had been too progressive in the country and didn't like the foreign policy of the current president. I think that made it difficult for Mr. Cox to get support. On the day we were to vote, we had to go to a local polling place to cast our ballots. It was interesting to see who was in line there. I think a lot of the men were still a little irked that we women could vote, but there were no problems, just maybe a few men staring at me! August and I voted for Mr. Harding and do you know what? He won by a landslide - 37 of the states voted for him. I must admit, that made me quite proud, to think I voted for the man who actually became president of this great nation I live in.

     Well, I think that is the biggest news I have right now. I will write again soon. I am looking forward to hearing from you again soon!
With love and affection

Monday, November 7, 2016

Day 7 Genealogy Challenge - Across the Centuries

SO, the idea today is to select two ancestors who lived in different centuries and describe a scene of the two interacting with each other. What did they talk about, how are they different from one another?

     I have chosen Caleb W. Lemons born 1819 and Robert Lemons born 1926. Caleb was the first in his family to be born in Tennessee and Robert was the last born there.

     I don't know a lot about Caleb other than what I find in the census and some court records. He was a farmer, very involved in his community of Gainesville in Jackson County, TN. Robert was born in Nashville, Davidson County, TN: I know a lot about him as he was my father-in-law and I have done a lot of research about his life.

     Caleb would tell Robert that his great grandfather came to America from Dover, England as an indentured servant looking for a better life. Life was hard for the poor in England and making this trip was the only way his great grandfather could get a leg up in the world. He would tell him that he was the first born in Tennessee and that life was never easy. He would tell him to always be honest and forthright, to be a good neighbor, love the Lord and always dream big no matter the circumstances.

   Robert would say, "But my life has been so difficult, sometimes I can't even figure how I will make my way in the world. My dad is in jail and my mother doesn't take good care of me. Half the time I live on the streets until Child Welfare catches up with me and makes me go to the Tennessee Industrial School. I hate it there! I don't have any friends and they work us like slaves. I don't understand why I had to be born into this family; why couldn't I have been born into a good family that cares about me!" "Oh, Robert, when I was young, the family was just that.We were a good family and my son Samuel was a good man. His son John was also a good man and well loved in his community, but he died from a cold he caught that turned into pneumonia. Drugs weren't easily gotten in those days and he died. He was only 36 years old. He and his wife MaryBeth (Bowen)  had several children - James Blanchard 11, Mary Jane 6, your father Albert Lee 5 and Mattie Valentine who was only 2 months old when it happened. Life became twice as hard for MaryBeth who worked as a laundress and she fell apart and wasn't taking care of her children. The state stepped in when he was 13 and took Mary Jane and Albert and put them into the same school you hate so much. It made your dad an angry young man and instead of drawing strength from God to get through the difficult times, he fell into a life of crime. Your mom was a girl who didn't like rules, so he appealed to her. They never should have married, but still, because they did, you are here and you have some choices to make. Choose good over evil, find a way to live on your own - maybe join the service, it will give you discipline which you need. Make something of yourself, the world is yours to conquer - go out and do just that!' These are the best things I can tell you Robert. No one is born a thief, no parent ever looks at his or her baby and says ,"Oh! I hope they grow up to be criminals!" It is all about choices, please make the right ones."
     "Wow! I had no idea about any of these things! So much of it makes sense to me now. Thank you so much for giving me clear words of direction. I promise to take them to heart and make you proud. I will be like my grandfather John and make something of myself."

     As a side note, Robert did eventually find a home in his teens with a caring family who took him in to help with farm work. He joined the Navy in World War II and when he came back, worked until he put enough money by to start his own business. He was a successful painter and decorator, very involved in his church and Lion's  Club and was well loved by his community. When he died, his family heard many stories of his helping people who fell on hard times. He used his own hard times to learn to care for others.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Day 6 Genealogy Challenge - Favorite Photo

The Cousins

This photo has always been my favorite. When my mother was young, she and her cousins were her and her sister's ages. There are many pictures of them together, but I think this one just shows the joy they had being together. The  clothing they wore was made by their mothers who were talented seamstresses and often made them matching outfits. They must have been quite a sight walking down the street - all tow heads with big blue eyes. I can only imagine what it was like getting the series of photos they took this particular day. I am guessing there was a lot of laughter, maybe a little jockeying for postition and moms telling them to behave and pull their socks up. They were all descendants of Peter and Ernestine Riess who I wrote about a few days ago - Phyllis, Dolly, Sonny, Eleanor and Dolly's twin  Doris. I think this was Easter morning - if my godfather Sonny sees this, he can clue me in!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Day 5 Challenge -An Italian Block Party

     My great grandparents emigrated to New York in 1903 and settled on East 117th Street in New York City. The area back then was called Italian Harlem and each of the different streets between East 97th and East 117th were settled by people from the same area of Italy. You might have Neopolitans on E. 112th, people from Calabrese on E. 113th and people from Sicily on East 117th. My family was from Messina in Sicily, so I have to figure at least some of the people in their neighborhood were also Sicilian. This was the first area to be called Little Italy rather than the lower east side which is known by that name today. It was filled with tenements and newly arrived people who were trying to eke out a living while working toward the American dream.
     By 1920, my great grandfather Pasquale Rotante and his wife Grazia were well settled and still had their three children at home, Dominick who was 19, Agatha who was 18 and Anthony who was 11. The census lists them by their nicknames - Pasquale is listed as Patsy, Grazia as Gracie, Agatha as Ida and Anthony as Tony. They also misspell their name as Rotanti.(On a side note, my grandmother's name was Agatha Marie, but she was called Ida. When she met my grandfather, his family started calling her Ada and it stuck).
     I think a block party would not have been uncommon there. They lived around the corner from Our Lady of Carmel and there is still a huge festival celebrated there called the Dance of the Gigilio and even back in the 1920's thousands attended it. Celebrating outdoors was a welcome relief from the stale atmosphere inside the tenements.
There were eleven families in their tenement that are listed on the 1920 census. It is fascinating to note there is one family from Austria who were Hungarian; it must have been interesting for them to be immersed into the Italian culture. Half the people were born in Italy, the rest mostly in New York. The parents other than the Hungarian family, all came from Italy. Children ranged from one year of age to my great uncle who was the oldest still at home at the age of 19. Most of the heads of families were in their late 30's to early 40's. Quite a few ladies worked in their home make braid loops, braiding, crocheting and beading, the rest were homemakers. The men worked at a variety of jobs. My great grandfather was a cutter in a shoe factory, his son Dominick worked there also as a machine operator. My great grandmother was a milliner. The other men had jobs as a cigarette maker, milk porter, piano maker, sidewalk mender, optical machine operator and coat operator. Samuel Giutton was a muscian by trade and I imagine he could have provided entertainment as they partied. Tony Communale was an ice man and perhaps was able to supply ice for Italian ices to cool everyone down.
     Ladies would have made braciole, sausage and peppers, caponata, calzones and maybe some fried calamari. Other women would have added desserts of zeppoles, ricotta cookies, cannoli and cream cake. Maybe one of them would have run over to Marrone Bakery for some fresh bread to serve alongside Spaghetti and meatballs - no one could celebrate without their "gravy" (spaghetti sauce for the uninitiated). While the mothers chatted on the stoops about their children and the 19th amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage, men were probably discussing how Babe Ruth was doing with the Boston Red Sox, The Yankees and current events about the Russian Army.
     The children would be having so much fun - if it was hot, you can be sure someone opened a fire hydrant to cool themselves off, but they also would have played traditional games. There was Lupo Della Ore where one player is the "lupo" ("wolf"), and stands with his back to the others who form a line at a designated distance from him. They players call out "Lupo che ore sono?" ("Wolf, what time is it?"), and the wolf answers with a number. The players can then take that many steps toward him, and ask again. If, instead of a number, the wolf responds with "Ho fame!" ("I'm hungry!"), he can turn around and try to tag as many of the children as he can before they make it safely back home. line. Regina, Regina Bella was fairly similar to the game Mother May I which I played as a child. One person was the queen and the others called out to her
Regina Regina bella, quanti passi devo
fare per arrivare al tuo castello
con la fede, con l’anello,
con la punta del coltello?"
("Beautiful, beautiful Queen,
 how many steps
do I have to take to get to your castle
with the faith, with the ring,
with the tip of the knife?")
The queen then calls out both a number and the name of an animal. The children must take that many steps toward her, walking in imitation of the animal named. The first child to reach the queen wins. Another popular game was Fazzoletto peo peo which is basically duck, duck goose!

     At last the sun would set and all would return to their apartments, ready for another day in the big city

Friday, November 4, 2016

Day 4 Challenge - Write an Obit for an Ancestor

                                                     An Obituary for Ernestine Riess

Riess, Ernestine Charlotte (Liedke)
Ernestine (Liedke) Riess, 83, beloved wife of the late Peter U. Riess died on Thursday, March 20, 1969. Ernestine was born in Witoszyn, Prussia on February 22, 1886. Around 1906 she emigrated to the United States and settled in the Bronx, New York. She found work in a fur dyeing factory and November 11,1907 married the owner.

 Together they had three daughters, Hertha Frieda (Albert Friess,Walter Dietz), Eleanor Ernestine (Robert Haindl) and Florence Anastasia (Anthony Gondola). Ernestine was well read and spoke several languages. She enjoyed making blackberry jam and cooking. During the depression she helped manage the apartment building they owned and spent time with her grandchildren. In her later years, she lived with her daughter Florry until the time of her death. Being one of the oldest in a large family, she never met some of her siblings who were born after her emigration to the US. She was a devout Lutheran and could be seen praying every night as she brushed out her hair. She is survived by her three daughters and their husbands all of whom live in the Bronx, siblings Emma Tessmann (Edmund), Bertha Muller (Emile), and Gustav Lidke (Augusta); 12 grandchildren, Eleanor Miller (Ken), Phyllis Wingate (Jim), Robert Haindl, Ethel Singer (George), Al Friess (Ginny), Doris Thompson (Richard), Dolly Telfer (Richard), John, Joan, Rita, Susan and Anne Marie Gondola; 20 great grandchildren, Linda, Merry, Kenneth and Christa Miller, Robin, James, Kristin and Wayne Wingate, Corrie, Debra and Scott Singer, Erich and Allison Friess, Richard, Laura and Ginger Thompson, and Richard, Nancy, Kathy and Toni Telfer.
She will be buried alongside her husband Peter at Ferncliffe Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Keys to the Kingdom - Day 3

     How did you feel the day you got the keys to your first car? It was pretty amazing wasn't it? I sure remember mine - my grandparents bought me a 1961 Chevy Saratoga for my graduation in 1968. They had it fixed up and painted and it was a great old car. However, today is not about me, but the first person in my family to own a car, my great grandfather Peter Riess. My challenge is to write this as if I were Peter.

I moved to America as a young man and was lucky enough to find for me the streets were indeed paved with gold. I learned to be a furrier in Prussia and took my chances to start my own business in New York in 1882.  I had a beautiful house built on Newell Avenue bordering on the Bronx River with a factory in back and hired several people to help with the operation.

As time went on, I had more and more business
and became quite wealthy. When most people think of motor cars, they think of Henry Ford, but there was a man named Alexander Winton who started working on single cylinder engines in 1896. In 1897 he incorporated his company. The first cars were made by hand, had fancy painted sides, padded seats, a leather roof, and gas lamps.B. F. Goodrich made the tires for Winton. In 1898 he started selling them and I was determined to have one. They were so very expensive, but I was able to come up with the cash and bought the first car in the Bronx in 1899. The only other car in New York was owned by Rockefeller! I couldn't wait for delivery. It was such a beautiful car.
I couldn't wait to drive it around for all my friends and neighbors to see. I was amazed it could go over 33mph! It was difficult to drive sometimes due to all the horse drawn carriages in the road, but it was worth it! So much so, that a few years later I upgraded to a newer model. This one was made around 1900 and you can see my wife and children enjoyed it as well!

I had many cars over my lifetime, but I will never forget my first car!

Elsie Behrens - Ziegfeld Girl

                              Elsie Behrens - Ziegfeld Girl

My great grandfather Haindl's niece was a Ziegfeld girl. Her name was Elsie Behrens and she came to the US from Germany in the early years of the twentieth century. She was a beautiful girl with dark blonde hair and blue eyes. She studied dance in Germany under Albertina Rasch and must have caught the theatrical bug as she worked to break into show business here in the US. She never made it big, but she did work with a cavalcade of stars -
 Eddie Cantor in Whoopie!
 Fred Astaire, Marilyn Miller, Buddy Ebsen, Bob Hope, Rudy Vallee, Ethel Merman, Bing Crosby, Sydney Greenstreet, Fred MacMurray - what a list! I imagine she must have been thrilled to be working with these people even though they were in the beginnings of their own careers.

I think once she was clearly ensconced as a Ziegfeld girl, she must have been to many parties and soirees which would mean she would have been up to date on all the latest in fashion - one could not be one of the girls and not dress the part at all times. She was close to Ziegfeld and one day when they were out riding in his car, she mentioned being born in Germany. Well, Flo was shocked as the girls were the "great American beauties". He immediately drove her to the courthouse to start the process of her becoming a citizen!

There are a few newspaper articles about her, the above story is one of them and she is mentioned as attending a wedding of a Ziegfeld girl as well. She herself married an up and coming businessman named LeRoy Franck and her wedding was covered in the papers. After she retired from dancing in 1935, she still appeared at many places for fund raisers. Sadly she and LeRoy split up after having 2 children and she died in obscurity in Florida. I wrote to her grandson to see if he was willing to share anything with me, but he never replied.

I think it would have been interesting to know her - having been drawn to theater in my  younger years I like to think we would have had something in common!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Family Tree Magazine History Writing Challenge

     SO, similar to November's National Writing Month challenge for writers, Family Tree Magazine is kicking off the 30 day family history writing challenge - now most of you know what a procrastinator I am, but I am going to give it a go.
The first challenge is to write a letter to an ancestor you have never met. Include questions you've always wanted to ask him or her, plus some that reflect what you've already learned about your ancestor (for example, "Do you enjoy your new job?" or "How are you coping with your father's death?"), so here goes.

Dear Andrew Cotter,
                                I am your 4X great granddaughter and I have so many questions about you. I know you came from Ireland and settled in Missouri, but so much is a mystery! I have looked long and hard for your place of birth and I think I am closing in. Were you born in County Cork around Skibbereen or Schull? The reason I ask is you married your wife Johanna Stanton within a very short time after she "appeared" in St. Louis. My digging has found she is from that area and was married to a Denis Driscoll when she left Ireland during the Potato Famine in 1847. He died either on the way over or shortly after which means they were on a coffin ship which went to New Brunswick, Canada. I found her in the lost friends ads in Boston newspapers stating she was widowed and had run off from Duckville, MA with her two younger brothers Denis and James. Her arrival was in New Brunswick in 1847 and she ran away in April of 1849. Now her parents who placed the ad, were in Sandusky, Ohio, so why did she flee with her brothers and then marry so quickly to you? Did you know her in Skibbereen? There are Cotter families there though I have not found you there yet.

I have not found your immigration date yet, but have found two possibilities with a date Jan 28, 1848 and another of Nov 30, 1848 and I am hoping to figure which one was you.

After you two married, you moved to Linn, Missouri. It took me several years to find you as I kept looking in St. Louis. It was a real surprise to find you had 2 children besides my 3X great grandmother Hannah Mariah Cotter. Again I kept looking for you in the census and your little family with no luck. I did find Hannah working as a maid in Linn, but could not find her mother or siblings. Where did they go?
Recently I found you had died in 1855. My gosh you were so young! How difficult it must have been for your wife and children to be left alone. I found your probate records and noticed you bought a LOT of whiskey before you died -

April 20, 1855 1 gallon whiskey
May 1 - half gallon of whiskey
June 9 - 1 gallon of whiskey
June 18 - soap
June 25 - half gallon of whiskey
June 28 - half gallon of whiskey
July 2 - half gallon of whiskey
July 3 - 1 gallon of whiskey
July 7 - 1 gallon of whiskey
July 10 - 1 gallon of whiskey
July 12 - 1/4 gallon of brandy
July 17 - half gallon of whiskey
               1 hand saw
One would think your liver might have exploded, but in reality, since you was a farmer, it could have been a farming accident as well.

What a short life. You had enough gumption to leave Ireland when people were starving to try to make a living in America. That in itself took great courage. Did you come alone or with family? I did see some Cotters living in Linn, but haven't found a connection yet. What happened to your children
James Andrew and Ellen Jane? Where did they go? I would love to know so much more about your family both here in America and in Ireland as well. I hope this year will give me some more clues to your life.
With Love