Sunday, November 25, 2012

Interesting Clippings #6

I noticed that all my interesting clippings so far have been advertisements and while historical ads can be fascinating, I didn't want this feature to go that direction entirely so I'll do my best to be sure the next few installments will not be ads. Just keep in mind that these are meant to be interesting tidbits and there is usually much more to read on the subject matters (and I do try to provide links to additional reading) since I am, by no means, an expert on these topics!

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An article (left) from the Ambler Gazette in 1895 (page 4) relays the story told at a Women's Suffrage meeting in Des Moines, Iowa of a woman who had to buy her own beloved set of silver spoons three times in order to keep it as her own since a woman's property became her husband's once she married. It's probably not an entirely true story but the purpose of it will have been to highlight the plausibility of it.

The date of the article illustrates how far back the Women's Suffrage Movement began. In fact, it actually began decades earlier in the mid 19th century (though the Ambler Gazette only goes back to 1894), as evident with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, but I think when most of us think of the movement, we think of it's peak in the early 20th century and perhaps forget that it took nearly a century of pushing for women's rights to finally obtain the vote in 1920 in the United States.

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It's also important to note that at the time of this article, some U.S. states did indeed have laws protecting the property rights of married women but I guess Iowa was not one of them. Apparently neither was Pennsylvania, based on the article to the right dated two years later (Ambler Gazette, Feb 25, 1897, Page 3) which reports how the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage association presented a bill which aimed "to place men and women on a perfect equality in regard to individual property when either a husband or wife die without making a will." It mentions an act of 1848 and 1873 but I believe these are laws from other states or nations; New York had a Married Women's Property Act of 1848 and both Ontario and the UK enacted property or real estate laws regarding married women in 1873.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interesting Clippings #4

Ambler Gazette
August 24, 1916 - Page 8
Snellenburg's, once the largest clothing manufacturer in the world, was a wholesale clothing manufacturer and later, a middle class department store based in Philadelphia. The company was founded in 1869 on South Street until it moved to Market Street, the shopping hub, in 1889 and developed into a true department store. It eventually closed in 1962. I'd never heard of it until I spotted the ad in the Ambler Gazette to the right; having been born in the early 1980s myself, why would I have heard of it? But it saddens me to think the next generations will equally never have heard of Strawbridge's (below), another long running Philadelphia based department store. Founded in the 1860's as a dry goods store, it closed only 6 years ago in 2006. I was personally very disappointed as Strawbridge's was one of my favorite department stores. So let's not forget Snellenburg's either.

The buildings that had been Snellenburg's factory and warehouse in Philly are now on the National Register of Historic Places but the flagship store building had since been torn down. Snellenburg's suburban locations were sold to Lit Brothers, yet another Philly department store which was founded a little later in 1893 and closed in 1977.

Ambler Gazette
May 14, 1896
Page 2
Also noteworthy is Wanamaker's (left), the very first department store in Philadelphia and one of the earliest in the United States. It originally opened as a men's clothing store in 1876 in time for Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition, the first world fair in America. However, in 1877, it was expanded to include additional departments, making it the first true "modern-day" department store in Philadelphia and possibly America, though the term "department store" did not come into use until the mid-1880's. Wanamaker's ambition was to create a "Grand Depot" similar to London's Royal Exchange. It was eventually taken over by Hecht's, now Macy's, in 1995. The building was the former Pennsylvania Railroad Station and is still in use today as Macy's so if you'd like to see a little piece of history, just go for a bit of shopping! 

Department stores fascinate me from a historical point of view, since many of those still in business today were founded in the mid to late 19th century. It's a shame to see such long running businesses close down. 

For more information on the history of department stores, particularly in Philadelphia, check out this excellent and much more detailed article from Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. I mostly just wanted to share these clippings, the second of which is particularly interesting because of how large and detailed it is.

It's interesting to note that the BBC are currently running a historical drama called "The Paradise", which is centered on a fictional early department store in northern England, in an undisclosed fictional town, though it's filmed at Lambton Castle. For those interested in the development of the department store, this is definitely a fun show to watch, though I don't know if it's being aired in the US yet.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interesting Clipping #3

Having trouble deciding what to get people for Christmas? Here's some ideas - if you lived in 1914, of course:

How much things have changed. "Rubbers" now mean something entirely different and I had to Google "gum boots" (rain boots, better known in England as "Wellies"). I assume "arctics" are like snow boots.

Note: It's purely coincidental the last two posts have been about shoes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Interesting Clipping #2

I know throughout various periods of history, the high heel has not been foreign to men's fashion. But I would have thought that heels were well out of fashion for men by the early 20th century so this ad from the Ambler Gazette June 6, 1912, page 5 surprised me:

It seems a bit high for the 20th century. It does say "A 'vanity' style for young men who delight in wearing 'something different'." Hmm, maybe a little too different! Or was this a subtle way of marketing to short men? Anyone know more about this topic?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Interesting Clipping #1

I spend a lot of time browsing the Ambler Gazette, a weekly newspaper for an area of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, for any mention of or relation to some of my ancestors who are indeed frequently mentioned in it. In the process of this, I also wind up coming across interesting articles and ads that I feel like sharing, even though they have nothing to do with my ancestors, so I decided to start posting them here.

Here's an ad from January 21, 1904, page 6:

"Every woman should have a Savings Account. Many women need a Checking Account. Special attention to the comfort and convenience of women here.
The Albertson Trust and Safe Deposit Co. Norristown, PA."
This certainly reflects the first-wave feminism that was occurring around this time, in the push for woman's rights, particularly the right to vote. It's fascinating to see a contemporary example of the growing shift in society's attitude towards women.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Norwegian Ancestry Online

A typical parish record from the Norwegian Digital Archives
Anyone with Norwegian ancestry should be aware of the biggest free Norwegian online database of records: The Digital Archives. Here you will find a wealth of information: censuses, parish records, property and tax lists, etc. The trick is finding the ones specific to your ancestors, which can be difficult because many of the records aren't indexed so you may have to manually go browsing through the scanned images. There are some ways to avoid this though.

But the easiest starting point is with the Norwegian National Censuses, since several of them are indeed indexed. You'll notice that they only have indexed censuses for 1801, 1865, 1875, 1900, and 1910. And given that most Norwegian immigration to the US occurred pre 20th century, you'll be lucky if you can make use of three of them. For me personally, all my Norwegian ancestors had left or died by 1865 so I can only benefit from the 1801 census. There are digitized records for earlier censuses but since the latest one is 1701, your research may not reach back that far just yet. There are also more censuses for local areas, which I'll cover below.

The other tricky thing about searching Norwegian records is their names. As I have described before, Norwegians were big on patronymic surnames for each generation, which meant that each individual had a different surname from their parents. For example, Ole Tronsen is the son of Tron Gundersen and his father was Gunder Leegsen. Not always knowing what an individual's parent's surnames were makes searching difficult sometimes but keep in mind that namesakes within families were popular. Also be aware that it was not an uncommon practice to name a child after their deceased sibling. This may seem insensitive, as though merely trying to replace a deceased child with another, but in the past, it was probably viewed as honoring and remembering the deceased. Lastly, some Scandinavian given names can be difficult to read, because they are unfamiliar to the rest of the world. Often, they do not appear on my given names reference source,, so a good reference for this can be found from's wiki: Scandinavian Given Names.

After you have found census records, the parish records will probably be your next and biggest source. Be aware that some of them are indexed over on another free source, I believe these are the same records which have been indexed by volunteers in what's called The Digital Inn which can also be searched on the Digital Archives website here. Though I find FamilySearch much easier to use, they only have the BMD parish records, whereas the Digital Inn has all kinds of other documents including local censuses, another source not to miss.

With both FamilySearch and The Digital Inn, it's important to try alternate spellings. For example, one of my branches called Narum was alternately spelled Nærum and Norum. This brings me to another point about the Norwegian alphabet having extra letters: æ, ø, å - so that's another thing to watch out for.

One thing to know about parish records is that an individual was often identified by the farm name they lived on. This often makes up for the lack of a consistent surname but of course individuals would move around, especially from generation to generation. But if you know a family lived on the farm named "Fladen", you can often more easily find siblings of ancestor by looking for the farm name.

But once you know what name, parish and date you're looking for, you can usually find the original document pretty easily. Keep in mind, of course, varying spellings can mean you might miss some indexes and sometimes it's good to browse through the images to see what you can find. This is not easy since they are hand written and in Norwegian. That's why I like to keep a "cheat sheet" of regularly used words in documents. Here's a few:
  • Fødte og døpte - Born and baptized 
  • Konfirmerte - Confirmations
  • Ekteviede - Wedded
  • Døde og begravede - Dead and buried
  • Trolovede - Betrothed 
  • Introduserte kvinner - Introduced women
  • tittel- og registersider m.m. - title and index pages etc
  • Kronologisk liste - Chronological list
  • Vaksinerte - Vaccinated
  • Enkemand - Widower
  • Ungkarl - Bachelor
  • Vigd - Marriage/wedding
  • Forl/Forlove - Engagement
  • år - years
  • måneder - months
  • uker - weeks
  • dager - days
  • alder / alderen - age / aged
If you need more translations, I always use Google Translate. Be aware that spellings have changed since some of these records were written and sometimes, abbreviations were used. Occasionally, I find that the translate app offers a slightly different spelling or that the original spelling is has other origins, like Danish.

Once you've got your census and BMD parish records, and therefore adequate vital data of your ancestors going back as far as possible, see if you can find any other records such as lax lists, land property documents, emigration parish records, etc.

I find the Digital Archives website is not super easy to navigate, in part because the English version doesn't always seem to "stick" when searching the indexes. This combined with the fact that many of the records aren't indexed at all, I think a lot of people don't use the website to it's full potential. Hopefully, this will help point you in the right direction but if not, just ask in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer.