Friday, December 27, 2013

Chestnut Hill Park

Freshly polished, a sugar bowl engraved with CH Park,
Chestnut Hill Park.
Among our many family heirlooms is a silverware set and sugar bowl engraved with C H Park, which is short for Chestnut Hill Park, an amusement park also known as White City Park which existed in the early 20th century. It was located in Springfield Township near Chestnut Hill where Bethlehem Pike and Paper Mill Road meet. We have these anitiques because my 3rd great grand uncle, Clinton Rorer, was one of the founders and briefly president of the park before he died in December of 1899. While doing research on the park, I was surprised to find no Wikipedia page for it and so I created one myself. After Clinton's death, the park was purchased by White City in 1906, a chain of amusement parks across the nation and even international. There was a pre-existing Wikpedia page for White City with a list of locations, most of them without their own individual pages so if anyone has enough information about the other parks, please consider creating a page for them as well.

Silver plated forks engraved with CH Park
As I have mentioned before, Clinton Rorer never married or had children so everything of his was given to his two nieces, Mary Ann (Rorer) Fallows and Emma G. (Rorer) Aiman. Mary Ann was my 2nd great grandmother and the C H Park merchandise was passed down to her daughter, Emma Sarah Fallows, and then to my grandfather, Chester Harold Godshall Jr. The fact that my grandfather shared the initials C.H. is pure coincidence, although it did lead to some confusion when my mom was a small child and thought her father once owned a park.

Sadly, Chestnut Hill Park did not exist for very long. In February of 1898, the Chestnut Hill Casino Company purchased 25 acres of land for it's development and it was ready to open by May but due to heavy rains, the opening had to be pushed back until June. Over the years, it featured many attractions including a large lake with row boats and electric launches, 50,000 fragrant plants, a carousel, a live brass band, and later, a rollarcoaster, pony track, and roller skating rink. It also hosted events and entertainment such as athletic meets, vaudeville performances, acrobats and gymnasts, and the presentation of a baby elephant named Little Hip.

Close up of the engraving
The park was intended to provide a more affordable option to Willow Grove Park for the middle to lower class of Norristown and Philadelphia. Although both parks offered free admittance, the trolly fare to Willow Grove was 30c whereas Chestnut Hill was only 5c. Unfortunately, the upper class residents of Chestnut Hill resented the crowds of lower class vistors to the area and in February of 1912, despite the previous year being the park's most successful, several wealthy locals pooled their money, bought the park, and immediately shut it down before the seasonal opening in the spring. After demolishing it, the land remained unused until 1927 when Erdenheim High School was built on part of it, which now operates as the Philadelphia Montgomery Christian Academy. Just north of Montgomery Ave, also on what would have been the park's land, is Antonelli Institute, a photography and graphic design school I coincidentally graduated from! Also north of Montgomery Ave is a small street named after Clinton Rorer called Rorer Street. There is also an Auchy Road, named after one of the other owners.

It's a shame the park only existed for 13 years and it's also a shame Clinton only lived long enough to see it operate for two years. However, I may not have been able to attend my photography school had it not been shut down and I am grateful these beautiful memorabilia have survived. Unfortunately, I can't share any of the surviving images of Chestnut Hill Park because I don't know what the rights situation on them is but if you google it, you can find some postcard images. And I can, of course, share images of the Chestnut Hill Park antiques.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I'll Miss About England (And What I Won't)

After about 8 years here in Manchester, UK, my English husband and I are moving back stateside in one week after the months-long process of obtaining his visa. I can't wait to be able to see my friends and family in Pennsylvania on a regular basis again but there's a lot of things I'm going to miss about living here . . . and a lot of things I won't.

I will really miss this kind of history in the UK.
Thing's I'll miss:
  • The history. I love history. Don't all genealogists? I love it whether it's my own family history or not. And the UK is so rich in history. The castles, the halls and manors, the roman ruins, viking towns, etc. It's all so beautiful and romantic and it's been practically on my doorstep for eight years.
  • The countryside. Drive a mere half hour out of the city and all you'll see for miles are lusciously green rolling hills dotted with fluffy sheep and lined with stone walls and fences. The UK does not really have the "suburban" culture so common in America.
  • The accents. I loved getting to know all the different accents across the nation and I'll miss them all (well, most of them). At least my husband will be bringing his with us.
  • The music! This is essentially what brought my husband and I together in the first place, our mutual love for British music. Of course we'll still be able to listen to British music but we'll miss the live music scene and our favorite radio station, XFM Manchester. I honestly don't know what we're going to listen to in the car without it.
  • The chocolate. So smooth and creamy. Need I say more?
  • The pubs/Sunday roast. How would you like to have a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner every sunday? Roast turkey, beef, chicken, ham, or lamb, with gravy, roasted vegetables, perhaps even mashed potatoes, and my personal favorite, Yorkshire pudding. And you get to eat all this in a beautiful, historical, cozy gastro-pub with a roaring fireplace. Sounds great, right? My husband and I have vowed to maintain a Sunday roast tradition but it will be at home, not in our favorite pubs.
  • No tipping necessary. In the UK, tipping is not commonplace and only done for exceptional service, which is the way it should be. By definition, gratuity is optional, not expected.
  • Fewer bugs. I'm the kind of person who, for some inexplicable reason, attracts mosquitoes like a moth to a flame. I go to the Caribbean and come back with 30+ bug bites. England thankfully has so few bugs that most homes don't even have screened windows. I will miss itch-free summers.
  • The plumbing. This might seem like a strange topic but it's time the truth was told! In the UK, toilets don't get clogged. That's right, you read it correctly, they don't clog. When my English husband clogged his first toilet in America, he had no idea what was wrong and I amusingly had to show him how to use a plunger. I couldn't understand how someone could reach the age he was without having clogged a toilet before! After living in the UK, I now understand. British toilets, instead of merely releasing water into the bowl to flush it, have a mechanism which pushes the water out forcefully, flushing it more effectively. Apparently, it is something which can be installed into American toilets, called a "flush assist" and for the life of me, I don't know why it isn't the norm like it is in the UK.

Thing's I won't miss:
  • The WEATHER. I don't think words can fully express how much I hate the weather here but I'll try. It's cold, it's damp, it's rainy, it's cloudy, it's windy. I never minded the rain until I moved here, I even rather enjoyed a good thunderstorm. But in eight years, I've never seen a real thunderstorm here, it's just a dull, dreary drizzle. Maybe once or twice a year I'll hear a low murmur of thunder and my husband will excitedly exclaim "Whoa, did you hear that?!" That's not thunder, thunder is getting snapped awake from a dead sleep by what can only be described as God himself smacking his whip against the skies. But it's not just the rain which depresses me, the average highs in the summer are in the low to mid 60s. The rare days when it gets above 70, the warmth is quickly countered by 20-30 mph gusts of winds. And the winters aren't much different. Snow? Fat chance. Just more rain and wind, with average temperatures only about 20 degrees lower. The one big snowstorm we had while I lived here was not dissimilar to the snowstorms that usually hit the Philly region at least once a winter, except everyone in the UK kept declaring that they hadn't seen snow like this in 20 years and no one knew how to drive in it, though in their defense the city is ill-equipped to handle it since they're not used to it. They salt and grit the roads but there are no plows. 
  • Having to do 90% of my genealogy research online. I have two, possible three English branches which originated from England and one of which were coincidentally from an area just outside where I live now in Manchester. But otherwise, the research that requires going to cemeteries and such in the U.S. could only be done in short bursts when I was visiting family back home. I can't wait to be able to go places for my research whenever I want!
  • People looking at me like I've got two heads because they're not expecting me to have an American accent. Really. You'd think they'd never heard an American accent before. I can't wait until I no longer feel like I don't completely belong or fit in where I live. I realize it means my English husband might feel this way in America but he's much more adaptable and laid back than I am.
  • Not being able to drive. Okay, I could have driven but it would have required learning to drive manual and on the left side of the road at the same time. I'll be so glad to be back in a situation where I am actually comfortable driving.
  • The spoons! Another strange topic but seriously, the spoons here are either too big or too small, like some kind of weird Goldilocks universe. The big ones look more like mixing or serving spoons and the small ones have a very shallow scoop. My husband didn't understand what I was complaining about until my mom sent me a normal American spoon and while he was using it with his cereal exclaimed, "This is a good spoon, I like it." Yeah, I know! 

I'm sure I'm forgetting some things but that's the bulk of my personal pros and cons of living in England. While it looks like there's more things I'll miss about it than those I'll be grateful to get away from, ultimately being near my friends and family again trumps everything. Also exciting about the move is that we'll we taking a ship instead of flying. I'd like to say it will be like taking the journey my immigrant ancestors did across the Atlantic but I'm pretty sure my trip will be much more luxurious!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Go Beyond the Search Engine

When records are digitally indexed so they can be found with a search engine, it makes research a lot easier. But not all digital documents are transcribed. If you've only ever typed your ancestor's details into a search engine to find records, you may be missing out. Both and have certain collections which can only be manually browsed, much like a microfilm.'s Card Catalog allows you to browse all the collections on their database, both indexed and not and you can narrow collections down by location, date range, language and record type. Unfortunately, they aren't great about indicating which collections have been transcribed and which haven't so I find it best to merely browse the collection titles by location and see what looks promising whether transcribed or not. For example, I found some records for my Italian ancestors by manually browsing the images in the Siracusa, Sicily, Italy, Civil Registration Records, 1900-1929 collection.

Though not transcribed, you can find
PA Wills in this Probate Records collection. All Published Records Collection is like's card catalog, allowing you to browse their entire digital database and narrow collections down by location, data range or collection type. But FamilySearch indicate when a collection hasn't been digitally indexed under the "Records" column - if it says "Browse Images", that means it hasn't been indexed. I recently found a bunch of Last Wills & Testaments by browsing the Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994.

I know that manually flipping through hundreds of images may seen impossibly time consuming but often, you can narrow it down by date or name and sometimes, there are scanned indices. For example, the Pachino records in the Siracusa collection where I found my ancestors have a separate "Indice" book. Also, in the Pennsylvania Probate Records, sometimes there is a direct Will Index but in other counties, you need to first look in the Estate Index, which will point you to where you can find the right reference in the Proceedings Index, which will then finally tell you what volume and page in the Will Books you're looking for.

Also noteworthy is the fact that have thousands more records available on microfilm which haven't been digitally scanned yet. These can be found and ordered from the Catalog section and the microfilm will be delivered to your nearest Family History Center. Just pop in the location you're searching within and see what microfilm collections they have available.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Happy German-American Day!

Germantown Seal
Today is officially German-American Day. I love this day because I have so many German ancestors, just as many other Americans do. One only needs to stop and consider the surnames of the people around them to see how many are German in origin. Even those that may not sound German have often been Anglicized from a German name. The day is used to observe and celebrate the date that the first significant group of Germans arrived in Philadelphia in 1683 and founded Germantown, 330 years ago today. Conveniently, it also usually coincides with Oktoberfest, often falling in it's final days or just after.

German heritage is so strong in America that myths have been created about it, such as the one that our official language was nearly German. This is false because for starters, America has no official language to begin with. What actually inspired this myth was when the U.S. Government considered making it a requirement that all government documents be translated into German. It didn't happen but if it had, it would have just meant that all government documents would be available in German as well as English, not that German would replace English. However, even the truth of the matter shows just how prominent the German language was in our culture.

Old Germantown, Philadelphia
When did this change? Mostly during World War I when there was a lot of anti-Germany sentiment in America. Germany were our enemies and speaking German was felt to be unpatriotic so there was a drastic decline in the language at this point. And if that wasn't enough, certainly the second world war put the nail in the coffin for the language. During this time, posters discouraging the use of languages like German and also Italian and Japanese were distributed. Only communities like the Amish and Mennonites retrained the language, further isolating them from the rest of society. For a long time after WWI and particularly WWII, we were unable to take much pride in our German heritage, even if our ancestors had come to the country well before the first world war, it was felt to be in bad taste to celebrate German culture or history at all. German-American Day had been informally observed up until WWI and it wasn't until 1983, on the 300 year anniversary of the first group of German's arrival in Pennsylvania, that it was revived by law as an official day of observance. Unfortunately, it's not enough to get a day off work/school though and even today, after 30 years as an official, national day of observance, it goes significantly overlooked. Though many cities across the U.S. host a Steuben Parade, it usually takes place in September, well before German-American Day.

German-American Day is significant to me not only because I have many German ancestors but because some of them were a part of the early Germantown community. My ancestor Jacob C. Gottschalk, arrived in Philadelphia in 1701 or 1702 and became a preacher in the Germantown Mennonite community alongside William Rittenhouse. After Rittenhouse's death, Jacob became the first Mennonite Bishop in America.

Why is German-American Day important to you? Should it receive more attention? Who were your German ancestors?

Eat a pretzel today, they're German!
Here's some good reasons to celebrate German-American Day:

  • The Christmas tree originated in Germany.
  • Food! Hot dogs (Frankfurters), hamburgers, bratwurst, sauerkraut, strudels, pretzels - all German influences. And foods like shoofly pie and funnel cake have their origins with the Pennsylvania "Dutch".
  • Beer! German-Americans played a large role in beer production in America.
  • Religion. Most Lutheran and Anabaptist churches in America were founded by Germans and let's not forget the leader of the Reformation was Martin Luther, a German.
  • Farming and craftsmanship. Palatines in particular were revered as the among the best farmers in the world and helped make Pennsylvania's agricultural history as important as it was.
  • Classical music. Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, etc. It may not be your favorite style but they undoubtedly created iconic music that will last forever.
  • The public school system in America was heavily influenced by the German concept of free common schools.
  • Folklore and fairy tales. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc... Disney got them all from the Brother's Grimm, who had collected them from oral story telling in Germany.
  • The first anti-slavery protest was published in Germantown, PA in 1688, a mere 5 years after the area was founded, and some, if not all of the signees were German. Quakers and Mennonites of the area strongly opposed slavery and wasted no time making that clear to the world. Though the Quaker movement began in England, many German Mennonites had converted to the Quaker faith when William Penn and others preached their beliefs in the Rhine valley.
Have I missed anything obvious? Feel free to comment below.

Images thanks to Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Captured by Native Americans

I recently discovered my 7th great grandparents Noah Frederick and Margaretha Becker were attacked and killed by Native Americans and that their son, my 6th great grandfather Thomas Frederick, was abducted by them. This was in 1756 in an area of Pennsylvania near Jonestown, not too far northeast of Harrisburg, in what was then Earl Township, Lancaster County (now Lebenon County, Earl Township defunct). Thomas would have only been four years old so it's difficult to say if he even remembered the event. By one account, two of his siblings were also taken captive, though I have yet to discover their names (if anyone knows them, please leave a comment!). They could not have been with the Natives for more than two years though, since records say they were released to the French Fort Duquesne, which was destroyed and replaced by Fort Pitt in 1758 and later developed into the city of Pittsburgh.

Thomas, now an orphan, apparently grew up under unknown guardianship in Philadelphia where there was no longer threat of Indian attacks. He later returned to the area of his tragic youth where he married Ann Margaret Tibbens in Bethel, Lancaster County in 1774. Two years later, the Revolutionary War broke out and Thomas joined up, fighting for his nation's independence.

An 1860 map of Centre Township, Columbiana County,
Ohio with Frederick lands outlined in red. J. Frederick was
Thomas' son, John. Thomas may have own all three lots.
Later in life, Thomas made a somewhat surprising move out to Lisbon, Centre Township, Columbiana County, Ohio in 1804. This area was only just beginning to be settled, Ohio had been admitted as a state merely one year prior, and so it was still very much the frontier at the time, still susceptible to Indian attacks. For this reason, land was often cheaply or even freely available as an incentive to settle the land. It seems surprising that Thomas, who had been a victim of such attacks as a child, would uproot his settled family and take up this particular risk. However, as a orphan, Thomas probably inherited nothing and had to make his own way in life. We don't know what his situation in Pennsylvania was like, perhaps his family did not have much to live on and maybe the opportunity to freely or cheaply acquire a lot of land was too good to pass up. He and Margaret had a grand total of 12 children together so they had a lot of mouths to feed. Obviously, Thomas' experience as a child did not stop him from taking a chance and moving out to the frontier. It is this kind of courage and initiative on which America is founded.

To read more and view sources, check out my Frederick Family History.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Interesting Clippings #19: Great Train Wreck of 1856

On July 17, 1856, two trains travelling towards each other on the same line collided between the railway stations of Camp Hill and Fort Washington in Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. At the time, it was the deadliest train accident to have ever occurred and the death count was likely over 60.

This caught my eye because I had several ancestors near Whitemarsh Township at the time, mostly in nearby townships of Cheltenham, Springfield, and Upper Dublin. I often wonder what my ancestors made of such national news happening practically at their doorstep. Later, in 1901, one of my own relatives would die in a train accident around the same area.

The partial article to the left is a clipping from the New York Daily Tribune on July 18, 1856, which had been printed in the Philadelphia Bulletin the day before. You can read the full article for free from the Library of Congress and you can read more about the Great Train Wreck of 1856 on Wikipedia.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Interesting Clippings #18: Leprosy

When we think of leper colonies, we tend to think of medieval times but actually, there was no effective treatment for Leprosy until the 1940s and leper colonies were still in use well into the 20th century. The clipping to the right is from March 15, 1925 in which a woman who was infected with Mycobacterium leprae moved from Reading, PA to a federal leper colony in Carville, LA. Though the article says she remains hopeful of a cure, she probably didn't recover for another 20 years, if she lived that long. Though leprosy isn't fatal, we don't know how old she was at the time.

Although leprosy is very treatable today and only effects about 5% of people who come into contact with it anyway, much like many diseases, it can still be found untreated in underdeveloped countries.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

What's The Point?

I get asked this by a lot of people, what is the point of genealogy? Of learning about people I never even knew? Do my colonial ancestors really have anything to do with me, besides some DNA? I've even seen genealogy enthusiasts question it themselves. What is it about this that we enjoy so much? For me, there are many reasons, among them are uncovering mysteries, upholding family tradition, finding parts of my self identity, personalizing history, and honoring the memories of my ancestors.

My grandmother, who would have loved
to learn about all my discoveries
of our tree.
Quite simply, I enjoy the research and detective-like work. It's exciting to spend hours, weeks, months, even years looking for something and then finally find it. It provides such a sense of accomplishment, as though connecting the dots and uncovering a mystery. Sure, the information I've uncovered may seem mundane to some, not exactly a great mystery that will change the world, and the task of getting there will be tedious to others, but we all have our hobbies and who is to say which hobby is more worthy than another?

But more importantly, for me, it's also about family tradition. I had picked up my family tree where my maternal grandmother had left off, with lots of information and photos that my mother had held on to and lovingly passed on to me. I had grown up surrounded by photographs of my ancestors on first my grandmother's walls and then my mom's and I'm sure someday, they'll be on mine. So immediately, this was something that was a part of my family, and therefore a part of me. It was important to me because it meant something to my mom and grandmother. When I work on my tree and make new discoveries, I can't wait to share them with my mom and we frequently agree that her mother would have loved to hear about them too. Working on our tree has become a family tradition in itself.

I know some people struggle to understand how the lives of people I never met (or anyone else that I knew had ever met) could be a part of my self identity so I'll attempt to explain. I started researching my ancestry not long after I moved to the UK to live with my English husband. I discovered that I had an English branch of my tree which came from an area only about a 45 minute drive from where I was living in England! There are many things about England (especially the north of England) which I have fallen in love with (not in the least of all, my husband) and so I started to feel an emotional tie to my English ancestors because I feel I understand and love their culture. Of course it's changed a lot since they lived here but after living here for 7 years myself, England has become a part of my self identity and that allows me to identify with English ancestors.

Old Mennonite Meeting House
in Germantown, Philadelphia.
Part of my family history, part of
my home.
At the same time, being so far from my native Pennsylvania, my heart really did grow fonder for it and so I was thrilled to discover that many of my tree branches have a long, strong history in Pennsylvania, particularly the Philadelphia region. I never realized until I left how this area has been a huge part of my self identity and so when I found out that I have some very early colonial ancestry in Philadelphia, it only strengthened the emotional ties I have to the area. They say that home is where the heart is and my heart is in Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, it can be easier to identify with more recent immigrants. My paternal grandmother, known to our family as Nan, though born in America, was 100% Italian with six siblings. For me, growing up in this family with so many Italian-American aunts, uncles, and cousins was a large part of my life. Nan's father had immigrated in the early 20th century when he was a teenager and though I never met him (he died before I was born), I grew up hearing stories about him and it was obvious how much my big-fat-Italian-family had respected and admired him. I wish I could have known him but the more I learn about him through my research, the more I feel like I did know him. Genealogy doesn't have to be about going back to the 17th century and learning about people who are so far removed from your world that it doesn't feel like there's any connection. Genealogy can be about your parents, your grandparents, or your great grandparents. It can be about the people who, if not a part of your immediate world, were probably a big part of the lives of the people who you do know and love. They are a part of your self identity, if not directly, then through the influences of others. Each generation is like a bridge, linking the generations on either side of them together, even if they were never linked in life.

My Italian great grandparents, who I never met but almost feel
I have, through family stories and research.
Does one have to know their heritage to complete their self identity? Of course not, but personally, it has become a part of mine.

The third reason I enjoy genealogy is because this is history, personalized. I have always had an interest in history and when I'm not researching my tree (or blogging about it), I'm usually reading a historical novel or history book. Genealogy takes this to a personal level, like when I discovered my ancestor's street was flooded in the 1907 Pittsburgh flood, or when I found a headstone of my ancestor's that says "A Soldier of 1812". These are historic events that are now a part of my own family history. I never had much of an interest in learning about the American Civil War but now that I know I had relatives who fought it in, I do want to know more.

The final reason I research my family tree is to honor the memories of my ancestors. Again, one might ask "why bother, if you never knew them?" Well, that's exactly why I do it. It really depresses me to consider that when I'm gone, and when everyone who knew and loved me is gone too, I will be completely forgotten to history, as though my life meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. I am an average person, I accept that I am probably not going to wind up doing anything so important as to get my name in a history book, but what I have difficulty accepting is that eventually I will be entirely forgotten, even to my descendants. And most of my ancestors were the same, they were average people just like me - but they laughed, they cried, they loved, they got angry. That is perhaps the biggest reason I do this, so that the lives of my ancestors won't be forgotten this way. Just because they may not have been famous doesn't mean their lives were meaningless because if they were, then mine is too and I don't believe that.

Perhaps some people still just don't get why I love it so much, maybe it's just different strokes for different folks, but those are my reasons. What are yours? Why do you spend all this time, energy, and money on this particular hobby?

Interesting Clippings #17: Historical Uses of Cod Liver Oil

Ambler Gazette
Nov 3, 1898, p8
Cod liver oil is high in omega-3 as well as vitamin A and D. The health benefits of omega-3 are a relatively modern discovery, it's popularity skyrocketing only in the last couple decades. But historically, the vitamin content of cod liver oil was understood and it's for this reason that cod liver oil was often marketed as cures and treatment for a number of different ailments with varied results.

Today, cod liver oil is still used to aid in the treatment of arthritis and multiple sclerosis and one study has even suggested that it may also aid in the treatment of cancer, though this is not to say these diseases can be treated with cod liver oil alone! Cod liver oil is also recommended to be taken during pregnancy as it's believed to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Ambler Gazette
July 30, 1896
page 4
Historically, it was marketed to treat or cure anything from the common cold and poor digestion to tuberculosis and pulmonary problems but how effective it was is really open to debate. We know today that tuberculosis is a bacteria that is easily treatable with antibiotics and therefore has been nearly eradicated from the developed world. So could omega-3 and vitamins really cure a bacterial disease? Probably not but they could have helped boost one's general health and immune system, which may have aided in one's natural recovery.

Granted, I'm certainly no medical expert but I recently read Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today which talks a lot about how our resistance to certain infectious diseases grew over centuries and in addition, how infectious diseases were forced to become weaker so that they might spread more easily and survive. Because of both of these natural occurrences, many diseases which were once extremely fatal had a relatively low mortality rate later in history, despite a lack of effective medical treatment. Therefore, it's somewhat understandable how and why people of the past believed in treatments which we now know probably did little to nothing. Over time, it could have been said "since the use of cod liver oil, mortality rates for tuberculosis have dropped by x%" when in reality, they were just seeing a natural decline over time. This is why we still shouldn't jump to conclusions when we see all these statistics about modern medical treatments too - it's difficult to know for sure when we're seeing a direct cause and effect rather than there being other influences at work.

Scott's Emulsion, as seen advertised in these historical newspaper clippings, is actually still in production, although I imagine they no longer market it as a cure for tuberculosis!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Newspaper Search Engine

I came across a new resource to keep an eye on, it's a search engine for newspaper archives called Unfortunately, at the moment, there's not much on it. While they have over 1000 newspaper titles, there are only 12 archives it's searching among:
  • Boston College
  • California Digital Newspaper Collection (UC Riverside)
  • Cambridge Public Library, Massachusetts (sadly, they've spelled this wrong as well)
  • Chronicling America (US Library of Congress)
  • Door County Library (Illinois?)
  • Papers Past (National Library of New Zealand)
  • Singapore National Library Board
  • Trove (National Library of Australia)
  • University of California, San Francisco
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Missouri School of Journalism (Missouri Digital Heritage)
  • Kent State University (Ohio)
This is a great resource for someone to use if they are doing research in any of these specific locations but unfortunately there are no sources for many parts of the US or most other nations. For example, there are no UK newspapers and there's nothing from Pennsylvania, apart from what the Library of Congress covers, so for PA researches, you'd be better off just searching Chronicling America. Another good free PA newspaper archive is the Access Pennsylvania Digital Repository. They also missed out on a big national free source with Google's Newspaper Archive. And while it's not a search engine, there is an very comprehensive reference list of free and pay-for newspaper archive databases on Wikipedia where you will find many more sources from a vast array of locations. So Elephind is not very comprehensive yet but of course, this is a new search engine as far as I know so it may take time for them to build up their database and that's why it might be worth keeping an eye on.

Friday, August 9, 2013

August 9, On This Day in My Family Tree

164 years ago in 1849 my 4th great grandmother Ædel Bergitte Hansdatter Friis died of typhoid and cholera in Norway, Racine County, Wisconsin at the age of 66. Her husband followed her a mere six days later of the same diseases. They had only been in America for just over a year before their deaths, having emigrated from the parish of Herad in Vest-Agder County, Norway. It's sad to think that came to America for a better life but had they not, they might have lived longer. They are both buried in Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery.

Ædel's name is spelled with a letter called "ash" which was common in Old English and is still found in alphabets of certain languages today, including Norwegian.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The 'Not-So-Once-in-a-Lifetime' Immigration Trip

When we think of our ancestors stepping on a boat and taking an enduring trip across the Atlantic that could take weeks or even months before stepping off again in a new land, a place of unparalleled opportunity, we tend to assume that this was a one-way journey, leaving behind their home country, culture, and sometimes even family. But actually, by around the turn of the century, it was not unusual for people from certain cultures to make several trips back and forth between their home land and America. For Italians, this was especially true.

The Lahn, the ship which Angelo returned to the U.S. on
in 1903.
Over two million Italians immigrated to America during the 1910s, with a total of 5.3 million between the years 1880 and 1920 but about a third of them actually returned to Italy after an average of about five years of working in the United States. They went to America for the work and would return to Italy, sometimes briefly, sometimes permanently, for various reasons. One reason was for marriage. Many Italian males who were working in the US would return to Italy to find a bride who would later follow him back to America. This was probably because many Italian immigrants were males looking for work and although some of them were in the process of moving their family, including unmarried daughters or sisters, over to the U.S. with them, many had not. Many were young, unmarried males and the "dating pool" of unmarried, young Italian females was probably much bigger back home in Italy. My 19 year old Italian 2nd great grandfather Angelo Scioli found himself in this situation when he traveled from Philadelphia to Monteroduni where he married Josephine Biello in January of 1903. Angelo quickly returned to Philadelphia and Josephine joined him there later in the year.

So it's important to remember that our ancestor's immigration was not necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime trip and that by this period of time, it was not unusual to see a few back and forth travels, especially among Italians. Keep this in mind during your research so you're not overlooking passenger lists and immigration records or looking for a marriage record in the wrong country.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Philadelphia Historic Street Name Index

Philadelphia researchers might find a useful research tool in the city's Department of Records Historic Street Name Index which details street name changes and their locations:
This index was compiled from the original road records, docket books, jury decisions, and surveys held by the Philadelphia City Archives. From these sources the Philadelphia Department of Streets developed and maintains its comprehensive survey of official road records for the City. Changes to the names of certain streets, alleys, and courts were first effected by an ordinance dated September 1, 1858. A provision of this ordinance was an alphabetical index of former names, together with the location of the street and the new name given to it. By an ordinance of February 23, 1897 names of intermediate streets were indexed by old name, location and new name. Both indexes are held by the Philadelphia City Archives under Record Group 90.47.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August 3, On This Day in My Family Tree

130 years ago in 1883, my great grandfather Chester Harold Godshall (Senior) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the third child of five and the first born son of William Henry Godshall and Idella Williams.

There's a number of surviving photos of Chester, who went by Harold. But I chose an informal snapshot, with a woman I think might be one of his sisters, because he looks like he's goofing around and enjoying himself. His formal portraits always make him look bored or annoyed (perhaps he was).

  • "Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906," index and images, FamilySearch (, Chester H. Godshall, 1883.
  • U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005. Chester Harold Godshall.
  • U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Chester Harold Godshall.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1, On This Day in my Family Tree

Originally the Fever Ward of Oldham
Union Workhouse.
144 years ago in 1861, my 4th great grandfather John Fallows Sr. died at the age of 73 in Oldham, England. A farmer and laborer his whole life, he died penniless in the Oldham Union Workhouse, a place where people who could not support themselves due to poverty, age, or incompetence could find shelter, food, and work. Many workhouses later became hospitals and in particular, Oldham Union Workhouse is now Royal Oldham Hospital.

To the left is a Google Street image of what was originally the Fever Ward of Oldham Union Workhouse, now the Breast Care Unit of Royal Oldham Hospital. Though John Fallows may not have resided in the Fever Ward, it's an example of the architecture at the time.

  • Death Certificate of: John Fallows. Filed 31 August 1896. General Register Office. Oldham, Lancashire, Vol 8d, p395. Informant: George Milne, Master of Union Workhouse.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Interesting Clippings #16: When Men Were Sold

Philadelphia was the birthplace of the anti-slavery movement and there was a lot of controversy and conflict during the early and mid 19th century as to different state laws regarding slavery. It was not uncommon for black people in the north to be kidnapped and taken south where they were sold into slavery. They claimed to be capturing escaped slaves but Pennsylvania had a law that the burden of proof lay with the alleged slaved owner/kidnappers. Notably, there was the case that reached the Supreme Court, Prigg v. Pennsylvania, in which Edward Prigg had kidnapped a black woman named Margaret Morgan from Pennsylvania and sold her into slavery in the south.

This story from the Ambler Gazette, just outside Philly, holds echoes of Margaret Morgan's story and the Prigg v. Pennsylvania case. Click the link below to read the full article on page 7.

Source: The Ambler Gazette, February 17, 1898, Page 7. Access Pennsylvania Digital Repository.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 27, On This Day in My Family Tree...

253 years ago in 1760, my 6th great grandparents Jeremias Friis and Karina Nielsdatter were married in Herad, Vest-Agder County, Norway. Karina was 30 years old and Jeremias was 46. They had only one known child before Jeremias, a sailor, was lost at sea. To the right is the current church in Herad.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 21, On This Day in My Family Tree

140 years ago in 1873, my second great grandfather, Edward William Bauer, was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. Allegheny was later annexed into Pittsburgh. Edward death date is unknown. It was originally thought he died in 1921 but this turned out to be a different Edward William Bauer who was born in 1867 and never married. "My" Edward can be found on the 1940 census living in West Virginia with his daughter and her husband so he probably died here. Though he can't be found on the West Virginia death index, it only goes up to 1969 for the county he was living in which suggests he died sometime after 1969. This would have made him at least 96 when he died.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 20, On This Day in My Family Tree

Marriage record for my 4th great
grandparents from the parish of
Herad in Norway.
253 years ago in 1805, my fourth great grandparents Jeremias Frederick Hanson Friis and Ædel Bergitte Hansdatter were married in the parish of Herad, Vest-Agder County, Norway. He was 20 years old and she was 23. They resided on the Fulland farm until they moved to America in 1848 and both died a year later within a week of each other in Norway Township, Racine County, Wisconsin of Cholera.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Understanding Records

It's really important to understand what a record is and where it's come from before attaching it to your tree. Take, for example,'s collection called "U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900". We all know that information from other genealogist's tree can be inaccurate and that is essentially where this collection comes from. Always be sure to read the collection's description, in this case it says the following:
Original data: This unique collection of records was extracted from a variety of sources including family group sheets and electronic databases. Originally, the information was derived from an array of materials including pedigree charts, family history articles, querie.
All of these sources must be taken with a grain of salt because they are not actual historical records, despite the title of the collection. If you wouldn't trust data from someone else's tree unless it had the records to support it, you shouldn't trust this collection either.

Case in point, the following marriage listing for William H. Wood from this collection:
Name: William H Wood
Gender: Male
Birth Place: AL
Spouse Name: Jane D Bradley
Spouse Birth Year: 1822
Marriage Year: 1853
Number Pages: 1
This is incorrect because William's marriage record from is dated to January 3, 1839, which makes much more sense considering the 1850 census shows him already married to Jane and with several children, all born after 1839. Note that the description of this record collection from details that it's an index of church records and civil registrations, both reliable sources, although potential indexing errors must be taken into consideration, it is more reliable than a record collected from pedigrees and family group sheets. You'll also note that the indexing batch number on the record refers to an IGI batch number which also tells you about the source of the collection by what letter/number it begins with and provides instructions on how to find the original document.

William's death, confused with his marriage year in another
I believe the incorrect marriage year as 1853 has gotten mixed up with William's death year, since his death record has him dying August 23, 1853 of a congestive chill (shown right). Obviously, somewhere in the process of compiling the data for this "U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900" collection, William's death year has been confused with his marriage year. This is a prime example of why I stopped adding "records" from this collection to my tree, I don't consider it an reliable source. And this is why it's so important to understand what a record is and where it's come from. Before you add it to your tree, always read the description of the collection and judge it's reliability.

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, On This Day in My Family Tree

199 years ago in 1814, my 5th great grandfather John Johnson Godshalk died at the age of 76 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He was buried in Doylestown Mennonite Cemetery. He was a Revolutionary War Veteran despite being a Mennonite, a pacifist religion. Entering the militia went against the traditional beliefs of his religion but some Mennonites joined anyway while others supported the cause by donating money, food and other supplies. Others still entirely refused to support either side.


  • (1856). John Johnson Godshalk (1737 - 1814) - Find A Grave Memorial. [online] Retrieved from: [Accessed: 13 Jul 2013].
  • U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Image 140 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10, On This Day in My Family Tree

207 years ago in 1806, my 4th great grandfather William G. McBride was born in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. 


  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates Index, 1803-1915 about William Mc Bride.
  • "Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 09 Jul 2013), William Mcbride, 1876.
  • Headstone: William G. McBride. Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Monday, July 8, 2013

July 8, On This Day in My Family Tree

On this day in my family tree . . .

229 years ago in 1784, my fourth great grandfather Charles Gilbert (Sr.) was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

And . . .

122 years ago in 1891, my fourth great grandmother Mary Ann Rorer died in Montgomery County at the age of 98. She was buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery in Mount Airy. Her maiden name is unknown, her husband was George Rorer II.


  • Headstone: Charles Gilbert. First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, Flourtown, Pennsylvania. 
  • Headstone: Mary Ann Rorer. Ivy Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates Index, 1803-1915 about Mary A 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 7, On This Day in My Family Tree

William Henry Mills
On this day in my family tree . . .

158 years ago in 1855 my third great grandparents William Henry Mills and Emma Elizabeth Sherwood were married in Wyandot County, Ohio. He was 22 years old and she was 17, though she claimed to be over 18. They were married in a state which neither of them were born in and which they were not living in 5 years later in 1860. Between that and Emma lying about her age, is it possible they eloped? Perhaps because one or both of their parents disapproved of the marriage?

And . . .

Emma Elizabeth
159 years ago in 1854, my 2nd great grand uncle Jeremias Frederick Friis was born in Racine County, Wisconsin. He was actually the second son to be given this name, the first died only a few months old. It was quite common among Norwegian families such as the Friis' to name a child after a deceased one, especially considering it was a family name as it was also name of Jeremias' grandfather.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4, On This Day in My Family Tree

Happy Independence Day! What were your ancestors doing during the Revolutionary War? My Godshall and allied families branch were Mennonites who, as pacifists, did not support the war and took a nonresistant stance, which basically meant they did not support either side. When states began mandating “militia duty”, numerous nonresistant Christians, including Mennonites, Quakers, Moravians and German Baptists, refused involvement and so Pennsylvania applied a war tax on them. Many still refused to pay stating that they “find no freedom in giving, or doing, or assisting in anything by which men's lives are destroyed or hurt.” In some cases their property was confiscated to pay the tax.

However, not all Mennonites took this position and some who supported the cause in one way or another were excommunicated, such as Christian Funk and his followers. Funk was a Reverend who preached that Mennonites should be donating to the cause because he felt independence from British rule would allow them more religious freedom. He is my 1st cousin, 7 times removed so I am not descended from him but I am descended from his uncle, Christian Moyer (or Meyer) II. Christian was one of the founders of the Salford Mennonite Meetinghouse in Harleysville, PA and served there as a Deacon. He was involved in the decision to excommunicate his nephew and it must have put great strain on the Moyer and Funk families, who had formerly been very close.

My grandparents sharing a
romantic kiss for the camera
To read more on this (and view citations), see my history of Moyer/Meyer family.

I told this all to my husband but he burst out laughing when he heard "Christian Funk" because it sounded like a genre of music to him. His exact words were "All I heard in that was WW FM 103, home of the Christian Funk." Har har.

And more specifically to the date, happy anniversary to my late maternal grandparents, who were married on this day 68 years ago at Grace Lutheran Church in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. My grandfather was 29 years old and my grandmother was 27, although it was a first marriage for both.

I thought the photograph of them to the left was an appropriate one for their wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2, On This Day in My Family Tree

On this day in my family tree . . .

Death/burial record of Inger Simonsdatter Bomen (later Narum)
from the parish in Gjerpen, Norway.
119 years ago in 1894, my 4th great grandfather James Frantz died in Lisbon, Columbiana County, Ohio at the age of 77.

And . . .

92 years ago in 1921, my great grand aunt Ruth Springer Pike was born in Columbiana County, Ohio. 

And . . .

182 years ago in 1831, my 5th great grandmother Inger Simonsdatter Bomen died in Gjerpen, Telemark County, Norway at the age of 58. (Document shown adove). Gjerpen has since been annexed into Skien.


  • "Ohio, Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 Jun 2013), James Frantz, 02 Jul 1894.
  • (1894). James Frantz (1816 - 1894) - Find A Grave Memorial. [online] Retrieved from: [Accessed: 29 Jun 2013].
  • U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2011. Ruth S. John.
  • and Ohio Department of Health. Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Ruth S John.
  • U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 1 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Ruth S John.
  • Norwegian Digital Archives. Death and burial records 1829 - 1834, Gjerpen Parish, Telemark. Inger Simonsdatter Narum, Page 238.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27, On This Day in My Family Tree...

I know I have been remiss in posting so I've come up with another feature which will detail events from my family tree that occurred on the same day as the post, however many years ago. I got this idea when it dawned on me that on December 7th of this year, my 2nd great grandmother died exactly 100 years ago. I don't think there's enough events in my tree to have each one be a milestone anniversary, like precisely 100 years, but I thought it'd be interesting nonetheless.

If you're interested in doing something like this yourself, I used FTM 2012 to create a calendar, including everyone in my tree. Just go to the "publish" tab and under "other" there will be the option for a calendar. On the right, under the options, choose "All Individuals". Also be sure to click the first icon in the toolbar row, shown to the left. Here you can customize what gets included (shown below) but I was a little disappoint that I didn't get the option to include any fact like I can with other reports. Only BMD gets included, I guess because they think those are the common anniversaries that people celebrate or mark. It's a shame they couldn't think of any other use one might have for a calendar, like this one! I would have liked to include facts like military enlistment, baptism, burials, immigration, etc. I wish FTM would add a feature that would basically be like a timeline of all the events in my tree. It's worth noting there is a Timeline Report but it's under "Person Reports" and is therefore only a timeline for one person. I realize a timeline of every event from every individual in a tree would be a lot of data but what use is a genealogy management program if it can't process a lot of data, right?

But I digress. The options you do have are things like how many months to include, whether to list people's ages or how many years it's been since that event, whether to use married names for females, etc. These are all up to you. The important ones that you make sure are UNticked are "Include births and marriages only if still living" and "Exclude marriage anniversaries if relationship status is "deceased". If you leave these ticked, you'll only get results for people still living.

You may wind up with a calendar full of names you can't remember, which is why I'll be looking up each person and getting more details of the event - but the calendar provides a quick and easy reference for finding what happened "on this day in my family tree".

So, on this day in my family tree . . .

118 years ago in 1872, my 3rd great grandfather Wilson S. Ramsey married his third wife Laura S. Vincent in Columbiana County, Ohio. His first wife, Susan Frantz, was my 3rd great grandmother.

And . . .

53 years ago in 1960, my 2nd great grand aunt (the sister of my 2nd great grandfather) Mary Louise Pike died in Ohio. She had never married.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

I want to say a few things about my dad on Father's Day, much like I did for my mom on Mother's Day.

I never considered myself a "daddy's girl". When other women talk about how they had their dad wrapped around their little finger, this is like a foreign concept to me. Out of my two parents, my dad was always the stricter one, the disciplinarian. He could also have been considered a workaholic during a certain period of my childhood when he was frequently away on business and working what seemed like 12 hour days so there were times when he felt somewhat absent. But perhaps because of this he was also sure to make quality time for his family and we always had a lot of fun together. In fact, just like my mom was the reason we did creative stuff like make jewelry out of puzzle pieces, my dad was the reason we did stuff like buy a go-kart and drive it around his office parking lot after hours. Just like my mom, my dad never does things by halves. Some of my favorite family memories are a result my dad throwing himself into his hobbies and interests, such as when he got his pilot's license and leased a private plane. For a time, it felt like every weekend we would go for a leisurely fly in the Cessna, and perhaps practice some touch-and-go's (landing and quickly taking off again), sometimes all four of us, sometimes just me and my dad. Apparently, I used to critique and rate my dad's landings and much to my dad's amusement, I could be quite harsh on a particularly bumpy landing!

My dad and me.
One of the activities that I never took to was camping. Both my parents have always been the outdoorsy type but I obviously didn't inherit this from them. After taking me camping for the first time, my dad asked me what I thought of it and I firmly gave him a negative response, which amused him because I apparently reminded him of his sister. He still marvels that someone so young could have been so decisive and felt so strongly about camping.

We also played a lot of card and board games as a family but the two which are sentimental to me and my dad were Uno and Backgammon. Uno, for some reason, became a never ending game for me and my dad. We would play round after round, a tablet of scores getting longer and longer, keeping tabs so we could leave it for days and return to it whenever we could. We didn't play Backgammon very often and to be honest, I'm not even entirely sure I remember how to play it. But I remember my dad teaching me how to play it and I think the reason that sticks out in my memory is because it was the first "grown up" game I learned (as opposed to kiddie games like Connect-Four) and yet my dad never second guessed that I would be able to understand it.

That's how I always remember my dad from my childhood, he was always encouraging me to pursue the things the interested me, regardless of whether I was good at it or not. I had always had an interest in art but sadly, I never developed a talent for it. However, that didn't stop my dad from taking me to art museums, hanging Monet posters on my wall, introducing me to pastels, buying me a huge art supply box and filling it with colored pencils, brushes and paints, etc. I may have never become a painter but as I got older, my interest in art developed into an interest in photography, a medium that I did seem to have an aptitude for, and thanks again to my dad's encouragement, I am now a professional photographer. Both my parents have always been incredibly supportive but unsurprisingly (with all his hobbies over the years) my dad had a pre-existing interest in photography and was more than willing to hand over all his photography equipment for my use.

Life with my dad was also fun because of his great sense of humor. It may come as a surprise to him that I have fond memories of our family dinners, sitting around the table as my dad told us jokes or funny stories from his past. I say it may come as a surprise to him because as a child, I was a "picky eater" and the dinner table often became a battlefield, the scene of a battle of wills. So it's a true testament to his sense of humor that I have good memories at the dinner table.

He was also always good-natured about an on-going prank that I used to pull on him. This is unusual because I'm not normally a big fan of pranks but in fairness, my dad would pull the same prank on me in return. I don't know how it got started but it became a game of stealth, attempting to slap a sticker (usually from a banana or apple) on the other's back without them noticing. I think my mom typically intervened before either one of us went off to work or school with a sticker on our back, which would have been like a step away from a "kick me" sign. However, one day when I was obviously getting a little older and a little more deceptive, I managed to elude both of them. Apparently my dad got half way through the day before someone at work asked him "Why do you have a Dole sticker on your back?" But he came home in smiles, looking almost proud of me that I had bested both him and my mom.

There is so much more I could have written about both my parents, we just did so much together as a family and I have so many good memories; what's amazing is that my dad managed to do so much with us despite how demanding his job was for most of my childhood. He would go on so many business trips that we had a rule - if he was gone for a week or longer, he had to come back with a gift for me and my brother each. And given that many of his trips were to Europe and Asia, that meant we had many exotic gifts brought back from far-flung parts of the world. My favorites were the ones from Asia, particularly the silver jingle bell anklets which I was devastated when I grew out of.

Father's Day has always been rather special as well because it tends to fall on or around my birthday. This is one of the years that it landed on my birthday but sadly, we can't spend this day together like we used to (which was often at the airshow) because I'm living in another country. Hopefully that won't be a problem in the future since my husband and I have plans to move back soon but for now, I want to say thanks, Dad, for all the hard work you did so that our family had the means to do all the fun stuff we did. Thanks for always thinking of us even when we were so far away, for always making the time for us despite how stressed and tired you were from work. Thanks for always supporting my interests and hobbies as much as your own, for never complaining when I was sick and accidentally threw up on you, and for always holding me tightly when mom was digging a splinter out of my foot with a needle. I am so lucky to have both the parents I do.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Glimpse of the Past: Federal and Robinson Streets, Pittsburgh

Federal Street looking south from Robinson Street with
Sixth Street Bridge in background. July 28, 1911.
Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections

Federal Street today, looking south from Robinson Street with the
Roberto Clemente Bridge in the background. Google Maps Street View.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seeking Margaret Ann McCracken Mills Bentley

New discovers in my own tree are fewer and farther between so to fill the gaps, I have also been periodically researching my husband's tree (as well as my sister-in-law's tree). This has been difficult because my husband has zero interest in genealogy - he doesn't mind me working on it but he doesn't know much about his family beyond his parents and doesn't see why he should. I've tried to tell him about my discoveries in his family tree but he just shrugs his shoulders. Sometimes, he pretends to be interested for my sake but I know he's just indulging me.

1901 Census of Bentley
Click to enlarge
Anyway, I hit a roadblock rather quickly when looking for my mother-in-law's paternal grandparents, Francis (Frank) William and Margaret Ann Bentley. I quickly traced Frank's lineage back several generations but I didn't even know Margaret's maiden name, just that she was born in Salford, England around 1868.

In the 1901 census (left), I found them living in Salford with several children, three of whom were listed as Frank's stepchildren, Thomas, Sarah and Albert Mills. I also found an 1897 marriage index for Francis William Bentley to Margaret Ann Mills.

So is Margaret's maiden name Mills or is it her name from her first marriage? I don't know why I didn't just order the marriage record to see if her father's name was on it. Trying to cut corners, I guess. But Margaret married Frank in Salford when she was 29 and I couldn't find any earlier census records of an unmarried Margaret Mills born in Salford about 1868, even though she should theoretically be on the 1871, 1881, and 1891 censuses. So I was thinking it was more likely Margaret was married previously to a man by the name of Mills, given the names of Frank's stepchildren. There's also no record of Frank being married before Margaret so it's unlikely the Mills children are his orphaned stepchildren from a previous marriage of his own. Unfortunately, the children are too young to be found on the 1891 census so trying to trace Margaret through them is not possible.

1891 Census of Mills family
In the 1891 census, there are two married Margaret Mills who were born in the right area around the right time, one of them was married to Richard Mills and the other to Albert Mills in Oldham (just outside Manchester/Salford). Already, I am leaning towards Albert because we know Frank's stepson's name was the same. Sure enough, later census records confirm Richard Mills and his wife still living together when Margaret had married Frank so that rules out Richard. To further support the idea that Albert Mills from Oldham is the guy I'm looking for, I can't find him in the censuses after 1891 and there is a death index of what looks like him in 1895, two years before Margaret married Frank Bentley (but not before Albert Jr. was born the same year).

Another tree suggested that Margaret's maiden name was Warburton so I then found an 1889 marriage in the England & Wales FreeBMD Index suggesting Albert Mills had married Margaret Ann Warburton in Manchester. But the way the index works is by listing everyone on the same page without telling you who married who. However, the fact that they were on the same page (below, right) must not be a coincidence, right? The date fits, the names fit, the location fits.

Incorrect marriage index of Margaret Ann Warburton
Wrong! I tried to order the record under Margaret's name only to be told the record didn't exist. What? So I ordered it under Albert's name and it turns out, Albert had married the other woman on the list: Sarah Ann Weedle. Who did Margaret Ann Warburton marry? You may notice on the index listing to the left, there are five names listed, which is unusual because it's uneven amount and marriages come in couples, polygamy being illegal. As it turns out, Margaret Ann Warburton was transcribed on the incorrect page. If you view the original document, it says Vol. 8d, Page 358 but it was transcribed as Page 858, thus incorrectly listing her along with Albert Mills! So this Margaret Ann Warburton has NO connection to Albert Mills and this is why it's so important to look at the original document, not just the index. Looking at the index for Page 358, it looks like Warburton married either Daniel Silk or Christopher Harland. This is also why it's so important to be careful about what is added to other trees! I should really know better on both counts but everything did seem to add up at first.

Hopefully correct marriage index of Margaret Ann.
It still seems likely to me that Mills was Margaret's name from a first marriage since Frank has stepchildren with that name. And maybe it was the Albert Mills in Oldham she was married to - after all, the census of them in 1891 does list his wife as Margaret A. Mills, not Sarah. So where is the record for the correct Albert Mills marrying Margaret Ann? I don't know why but finding the likely candidate took some digging. I had to search only within the England & Wales Free BMD Index and restrict all the fields to "exact", then entered Albert Mills, married between 1887 and 1891 in Oldham. Then I did another one for Salford and finally found the record to the right. This makes sense because even though Albert was born in Oldham and he and Margaret lived in Oldham, Margaret was born in Salford. Additionally, I knew I'd seen the name McCracken somewhere else. Take a look at who is listed with Albert and Margaret Mills in the 1891 census above: a "visitor" Sarah McCracken.

I have since ordered Margaret's marriage record to Frank, which is what I should have just done in the first place but I thought finding her first marriage record would be more likely to give me her maiden name. I'm hoping that the full record for her marriage to Frank names her father, thus finally confirming her maiden name. Hopefully, it is McCracken and I will have redeemed myself in the eyes of the genealogy gods who had apparently forsaken me and taken me down a wayward path called Warburton.

In the mean time, I did some more research on McCracken and found Margaret's father was from Scotland. Excited, I told my husband that his mother may have had a Scottish ancestor and what does he tell me? "I already knew that." I must have looked aghast because he laughed and said "Oh, sorry, I meant to say 'Oh my God, that's brand new information!'" (Kudos to anyone who gets the 'Friends' reference).

On one hand, I'm glad because it confirms that I am on the right path with McCracken. On the other hand, I feel like strangling my husband for not telling me sooner.