Tuesday, October 31, 2023

And For my Next Trip


Research is sometimes a process involving many iterations of the same type of step. In the case of my discovery of record transcriptions online for Aunt Rose's ancestors, I did indeed find many records for her Zegarski grandfather and his family. All I needed do after that point was to repeat the same process at the same website for her other three grandparents.

For some, I fared better with progress. While I couldn't push back any further in the generations for Rose's paternal grandfather, his wife—Susanna Radomska—appeared in transcriptions of birth records, revealing her own parents' names, and thus her siblings, as well. Likewise, for Rose's maternal grandfather Jan Zegarski, I could repeat the same process with welcome results, though not for his wife, unfortunately.

While the indexed transcriptions at the PTG website were a big help, they clearly pointed out the need to find a record set containing the original documents. Fortunately, I did indeed find just that, but brace yourself: this record set won't have a name which rolls right off your tongue (well, if you're not Polish, that is). Known as "Księgi metrykalne," or "Record Books," the collection dates from 1770 to 1896 and covers the parish of Pączewo—that source of earlier records I mentioned yesterday—as well as the place known back then as Schwarzwald, currently Czarnylas. Included are four microfilms of Catholic parish registers in Latin, German, and Polish, plus an index.

In my explorations, I also realized that the paternal side of the family was more likely to show up in records in a different nearby town named Lubichowo. This town, situated to the west of Czarnylas while   Pączewo was to the east, was roughly twice the distance as that between the two towns I mentioned yesterday—certainly a short distance quite easily traveled. While I was also able to access helpful transcriptions at the PTG website for Lubichowo, I also found a microfilm version of the actual documents available, again called "Księgi metrykalne." Though the dates for this three microfilm set were not as early as the one for the other parishes—from 1803—the record set continues through 1925.

There is one drawback to finding these microfilmed record sets. While I'm grateful they are out there, preserved on microfilm, their accessibility at FamilySearch.org is currently limited to viewing at a local FamilySearch center, or at the FamilySearch library in Salt Lake City. (Although, oddly, I discovered that one record set was indeed viewable despite the key icon displayed.)

Hence, as the month has drawn to a close and we'll be moving toward a new research project for November, I'll be putting these two microfilmed record collections on my to-do list for my next trip to Salt Lake City. Though I've been grateful for finding the website which provided the transcriptions for these record sets, I'm glad to know I can access a copy of the actual records for myself. Hopefully, there will be more information included in the actual records—baptismal sponsors, wedding witnesses—to help me piece together Aunt Rose's Polish ancestry more completely on that next trip to the library.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Which Came First?


...and no, I don't mean the chicken or the egg.

What I am wondering about is the record repository for the Polish town in which Aunt Rose—and thus, my paternal grandfather as well—was born. If I was able to find records for Rose's mother—back home in Czarnylas, known as Anastasia Zegarska—then it would be possible to construct her entire family constellation, possibly extending to a few more generations. If.

As I poked around the transcriptions for baptisms, marriages, and deaths for related surnames, I realized that some records were attributed to the church in Czarnylas, while others credited their source as another town called Pączewo. Looking on a map of the region in Pomerania, I noticed the two towns were barely three kilometers distance from each other—in today's vernacular, a five minute drive, but even back then, accessible by foot within ninety minutes or so.

These two towns were neighboring jurisdictions. If anyone lived in the countryside between the two, the choice of where to register information might come down to a moment's decision of convenience. What decision points might these ancestors consider when making that choice?

Looking further at my source for record transcriptions, the website of the Pomeranian Genealogical Association (PTG), I discovered a page which lists each jurisdiction in Pomerania and the available dates for each record kept in each jurisdiction. Quickly scrolling through the list to the entry for Czarnylas, I saw that birth, marriage, and death records were available, but only from 1840 for marriage and death, and 1820 for baptisms. Thus, if I wanted to find any records for Aunt Rose's maternal grandparents, I was out of luck.

There was, however, better news if I moved to the entry for the other jurisdiction in which I had found some recordsPączewo. According to the list at PTG, the record sets there far predated those at Czarnylas. There were some baptisms transcribed in the collection dating back to 1688, and marriages could be found there as early as 1772.

Why the difference in time frames? Did record keeping tasks get foiled by fires, wars or other tragedies at the one location, but not the other? Perhaps it was simply a matter of when each church was established—thus my question regarding which one came first.

This also may be the explanation for why I was seeing some family records listed at the one church, then also seeing subsequent births at the other—or marriages in one town for one sibling, but in the other town for a younger family member.

Having discovered this earlier stash of church records, I wasted no time examining all the entries for Aunt Rose's Zegarski grandfather. I have now located the names of his siblings by following the listing of all children born to his own parents. Of course, I'll be checking these discoveries further, in case I run across name twins, but it is encouraging to locate at least a possibility for the next generation in this line.

By that same technique—and before time runs out for this month's research project—I will examine related surnames in this family to see what records might show up for the other family members whose names I already know.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

B O L O : Cousins


As we close in on the end of a month—a transition time here at A Family Tapestry as I move toward the eleventh of my Twelve Most Wanted ancestors for 2023—it becomes time to wrap up one research project and move toward another. With the final quarter of the year focusing on my father's Polish heritage, that means next week will see a move from Aunt Rose's story to that of another branch of his family. No matter what is yet ahead of us, though, one thing is sure as I discover new resources in Polish websites: I'll be on the lookout for more cousins. Those third and fourth cousins may well be my key to finding the rest of the story for my paternal grandparents.

I devoted a good chunk of time this weekend to doing just that: reviewing what I had, as far as paternal cousins go, in my family tree. I checked all the ThruLines results for Aunt Rose's side of the family, and finally completed that list of distant relatives among my DNA matches at Ancestry.com. There are more at other DNA companies, which I'll take a look at in the coming last days of October, but now I'm on the search for cousins descending from the side of Aunt Rose's in-laws—her brother's wife's family—too.

Though I thought the last two weeks would show slow progress, due to the difficulty in finding Polish records, I did indeed have a remarkable time span for adding family members to my father's tree. This past biweekly count included additions of 304 verified individuals—most all of them descendants of Aunt Rose's Polish ancestry. With that increase, the tree now includes information on 35,150 relatives.

I couldn't help myself, though. After completing the review of all my ThruLines results for Rose's ancestors, I went looking for more of those elusive Polish cousins. It's been a while since I last passed through this research way, so there were more hints to address—linking the 1950 census results for each American family, for instance—so the work did take time. In addition, as time moved on, families lost loved ones and their obituaries revealed names of the next generation, marriages of grandchildren, and other key details genealogists watch for. Beyond that, my final step was to move to my grandfather's wife's side of the family and look for cousins in that branch of the family.

As far as my own in-laws' tree goes, traveling to a wedding on that side of the family this month prompted me to add several other names, update some missing information like birthdays of cousins' children, and add other details discovered by visiting with relatives. While I was only able to add ten more names to that tree, it now contains 34,031 relatives of both of my in-laws. Next spring, I will return to working on that side of the family's story, just in time for another cousin's wedding.

Bit by bit, those trees expand, and my ability to pinpoint where DNA matches belong on those trees' various branches will increase. For now, the key is to focus on cousins, no matter how distant. And in the case of my Polish ancestry, those cousinly DNA matches seem to be rather close, indeed.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

It's All Relative


It seems odd, now that I've switched tracks to research my paternal Polish roots this month, to compare what I can find on DNA matches for both sides of my family. Still carrying forward that earlier goal of checking all my ThruLines matches for my maternal Tilson line, I am now running that task side by side with the race to wrap up Aunt Rose's story of her parents from Poland. Talk about a contrast: examining colonial American ancestors alongside descendants of immigrant ancestors here merely since the last few years of the nineteenth century.

The Tilson project led me to DNA relatives who were at least fourth cousins, and more likely to be fifth cousins or even more distantly related. The challenge in tracing that paper trail was to find mentions of familial connection in documents such as old wills from the 1700s. The challenge in finding Aunt Rose's relatives, once I discovered her origin in Pomerania, is to locate any actual documents—though I'm happy to at least have transcriptions for a start.

On the far-removed Polish side of the relative equation, my DNA matches are more along the lines of third cousins. Think about it: our family just returned from an out of state trip in which my daughter helped her second cousin once removed prepare for her wedding. If my daughter has children of her own, they will become this bride's third cousins. While the number may make that seem like a distant relationship, in our family's world, a third cousin can be quite close. Such would be the relationship with these DNA matches who are both mine and Aunt Rose's relatives—if only our family had kept up the connections.

A relationship can seem so close, and yet it can also be a calculation which makes it seem so distant, so far removed. One third cousin might be no more than a name on paper at a DNA testing company, while another could be the next guest at a family celebration. It's all relative—in more ways than one.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Research, Rinse, Repeat


If finding Aunt Rose's mother Anna in a website containing transcriptions of marriage records for the region of Pomerania was a research breakthrough, why not keep looking further? Once I found Anna—listed as Anastasia Zegarska, as Polish tradition would have it—in those marriage records, it was an easy step to search for all Zegarska weddings in Anna's hometown of Czarnylas.

That was the process which helped me connect to several mystery DNA matches in my ThruLines suggestions at Ancestry.com. But why stop there? It was so rewarding to break through that brick wall that I was ready for another research success story. So I kept going with that same research process: look in the website of the Pomeranian Genealogical Association, only this time, look for all the children born to a father with the surname Zegarski. Then note his wife's name, and look for children from a previous generation with a parent claiming that surname. Rinse. Repeat.

Anastasia's father—the Zegarski whose surname we were using as our lead search term—was identified as Johann in the records. This would likely be his designation in church records, which used Latin for such documents. I am quite sure his given name would actually be Jan, according to the vernacular. Still, that is a straightforward assumption; it is when we notice Anastasia's mother's name that variations can't be quite as easily explained.

Anastasia's mother was named Marianna. In transcriptions of her children's baptismal records, I've seen Marianna's maiden name given as Woitaś but I've seen it elsewhere written as Wojtaś. And at other times, the transcriptions include no diacritical marks at all. But why let that be a limiting factor? May as well repeat the process for yet another generation. And in the neighboring village of Pączewo, nowadays a mere five minute drive from Czarnylas, I was able to find the 1833 marriage record of Johann Zegarski and Marianna Woitas.

This provides valuable information, if the custom of marrying in the bride's village holds for that time and place. Thus, the Wojtaś family could possibly have been from Pączewo, with the Zegarskis calling Czarnylas their home. If records are available going back even farther in time for these two towns, I could theoretically piece together the Zegarski and Wojtaś family trees for even more generations...if....

As it turns out, I did find another woman with that Woitaś surname, who married a man with the unpronounceable surname (well, if you don't understand Polish phonics) of Krzewinski. While this couple did not emigrate, themselves, at least four of their children made the journey to Milwaukee in the American state of Wisconsin. How do I know this? Their descendants are among the DNA matches I found at Ancestry's ThruLines when I pushed the generation back just one step beyond the parents of Aunt Rose's mother Anastasia.

Discovering the descendants of Anna Woitaś and Jan Krzewinski in my DNA matches allowed me to add another fourteen new DNA cousins to my own tree, building out the branches that reached from that generation to my own—and beyond. For the most part, these matches are related to me as fourth cousins, while the matches I worked on yesterday were mostly third cousins, descending from Marianna and Jan Zegarski.

It is quite possible that, repeating this process, I can push back another generation as well—as long as there are records available to support such a move. And that could provide a big benefit to me, not because of the brick wall I've been struggling to dismantle for my tree at Ancestry, but because there are other mystery DNA cousins out there who also need to be connected to the right place in this family tree. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Uncorking the Information Bottleneck


Sometimes, all it takes to convert a brick wall into a mere information bottleneck is one clue enabling us to reach beyond the blockade. In the case of Aunt Rose's mother—Anna Krauss in New York, but apparently Anastasia Zegarska in Pomerania—that bottleneck became uncorked in the form of DNA matches.

While Anna had reported, according to the 1910 U.S. Census, that she had given birth to eight children, only two had survived to adulthood: Rose and her brother, my tight-lipped grandfather who refused to divulge his true heritage to anyone. Rose, though married three times, had no children of her own. This left my grandfather as the only one to give his mother grandchildren. Thus it was no surprise, once I submitted DNA test samples of my own, to discover there weren't any close cousin matches in my test results except for the few family members whom I already knew personally.

There were, however, nearly twenty unidentified third cousins with an obvious Polish heritage who did show up in my matches. Almost all of them had roots in Wisconsin. And eventually, I discovered that these unknown cousins also connected to me through one particular surname: Zegarski.

Why one set of Zegarski relatives chose to go this-a-way while my own great-grandmother ended up going that-a-way, I can't explain. I often wonder whether my great-grandmother knew that her siblings had also emigrated from the Pomeranian village of Czarnylas which they once called home. From what little I know about my great-grandmother, there seems to be no sign that she had kept in touch with these other immigrant family members.

Regardless of what the true story might have been—and I may never know the full explanation—there are details which I now can figure out. Because we all can now take a DNA test, I can find relatives who may be able to reveal the part of the family story which was once a mystery to me. And because now a worldwide fascination with genealogy has led to accelerated digitized provision of useful documents, I can discover information I would have been hard-pressed to locate in a previous era.

Simply because we can, I can now tap into a website in Poland in which volunteers have transcribed baptismal, marriage, and death records for the region historically known as Pomerania, home of my paternal grandfather's ancestors. That website, home of the Pomeranian Genealogical Association—Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, or PTG for short—provided me an opportunity to discover all the Zegarska sisters who married in Czarnylas at about the same time as our Anna. All I needed to do was search for the bride's surname of Zegarska and limit the search years from 1850 through 1880.

Once I gathered the names of the other Zegarska women who married in Czarnylas, I then needed to research just who they were. Because I had DNA matches claiming some of these same women, I could sketch out a quick tree for each of these ancestral women, starting from the DNA matches themselves. This gave me the rest of their stories—as well as inferring my Anna's own story, as well.

True, if it weren't for developments like the ability to submit a DNA test and connect with matching cousins, I couldn't have found the rest of that story. My grandfather's carefully guarded secret—for whatever reason he felt compelled to do so—would never have been uncovered, if it hadn't been for tools like DNA testing. But now, thanks to these innovations, I now know that Anna—Anastasia back in Poland—had sisters named Paulina Czechowski and Anna Gracz who either migrated to Milwaukee themselves or saw their children make that move.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

To -ski, to -ska . . . or Not at All


It may seem odd, jumping through the litany of possible family names for Aunt Rose, to be so convinced that her mother was a Zegarska and her father a Puchała. After all, in the few documents in which I've been able to pin down the family identity, Rose's mother was identified as Anna Zegars—with no "-ski" and no "-ska"—and her father as Puchałski. Which one to believe?

Years ago, when it was still possible to do so, I had sent away—the snail mail way—for my grandfather's death certificate. He, being Rose's brother, would have had the same information on his death record as she would have in hers—if, at this point, I still could send away for hers in a timely manner. While we have to remember that, at the point of a loved one's death, the farthest thing on the bereaved's mind would be to recall the deceased's mother's maiden name, genealogists typically look to this record to provide such information.

In my grandfather's death certificate, the answer to that question of mother's maiden name was: Zegars. Note here the absence of any sign of the typical suffix "-ski" which was normally attributed—at least in English-speaking countries—to surnames of Polish origin. Nor was the proper Polish designation of "-ska" for women included. His mother's maiden name was given simply as Zegars.

It took a DNA test, years later, to discover that Zegars was not entirely correct. That name was indeed missing a few letters. When I stumbled upon match after match with people who descended from women named Zegarska, that was an indication that my Anna must have also been part of that family. There was no other possible relationship. But why would the reporting party on my grandfather's death certificate eliminate those three final letters to his mother's name?

Let's look at the other side of this family: Rose's possible father. If, forgetting about those false leads about someone named Julius, we go back to Rose's likely baptismal record in her Polish homeland, we find the surname listed as Puchałła. Double-checking with her parents' own marriage record, her father was listed as Puchała.

And yet, once the family arrived in New York, the only records in which I could find my grandfather listed presented the name as Puchalski or Puhalski. Where did the -ski come from?

My confusion only became amplified when I looked at the history of the evolution of Polish surnames. In a Wikipedia overview of Polish surnames, the suffix "-ski" was used to define affiliation to something, such as a place of origin or a possession of territory. This, of course, was generally reserved for use by nobility. By the 1800s, though, the merchant and even peasant classes began adopting use of the "-ski" suffix—something which occurred during the lifetime of both Anna and the man who eventually became her Polish husband. 

Their two surviving children, Rose and Theodore, born in the 1870s, would have been eyewitnesses to that change. Whether they were aware in their childhood of the significance of that change—or even the fact that it was happening at all—I can't say. That Theodore represented himself, once arriving in America, as Puchalski rather than simply Puchała, as he had been documented in his native land, pummels me with many questions. Yet if he consciously changed his name by adding the "-ski" suffix once in New York, how is it that his family removed that same status symbol from his mother's maiden name at his death? 

Perhaps by that generation, the family had no idea what that change meant.


Image above: Transcription of the 1868 marriage record for Anastasia Zegarska and Thomas Puchała courtesy of the Pomeranian Genealogical Association, which can be searched here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Seeking Julius


If Aunt Rose stated that her father's given name was Julius, and if Rose's mother Anna was married to someone named Krauss, it would stand to reason that the man Rose referred to in her marriage records was named Julius Krauss. That's a reasonable guess, but the real question is: can we find anyone by that name in New York City who was married to our Anna?

I've never spotted Anna in documents which included the name of her husband. In the 1920 census, she was listed as the widow Anna Krouse in her son-in-law's Queens, New York, household. Earlier, in the New York State census for 1915, she appeared alongside her daughter as Anna Krausse. Before that point, the only place where I can find Anna was in the 1910 census, where her name was mangled into the incomprehensible spelling "Kusfkr." What became of Anna's husband? Could his name have been Julius? And can we find any sign of their household in New York City?

Looking for Julius and Anna was not as easy as it sounds. First, the search had to include all spelling variations for the surname Krauss. Then, I limited the age possibilities for Julius to a range similar to Anna's own age. And since none of my own family members had ever mentioned children resulting from Anna's marriage to the mysterious Mr. Krauss, I had to presume that the couple did not have children.

Right away, I spotted a couple with the requisite names, Julius and Anna, in the 1900 census. Manhattan bookbinder Julius, born in 1858, was on the young side for our candidate, but that wasn't the key to his rejection; it was a much younger Anna in the household, along with their three children—none of whom was named either Rose or Theodore—who tipped me off that this was not the Julius I was seeking.

A more promising candidate in that 1900 census was the Manhattan jeweler Julius Krauss, who was born in 1850. Yet his was a marriage lasting for nearly thirty years--a narrative which wouldn't have matched our Anna's story. And though some people have trouble correctly understanding and answering census questions, the fact that the couple reported having no children—and certainly no children still alive at that time—gave me pause.

Trying a different approach, I looked in passenger records for anyone named Julius Krauss or any of the other spelling permutations which could possibly have been used. For each Julius found, I checked to see whether he was traveling with someone named Anna. The only possibility I found was again a man with a family of several children—all except for our Rose and Theodore.

Deciding to take Anna's enumeration information seriously, I wondered whether I could find a death record for a Julius Krauss which would justify her reports of widowhood. The earliest date in which I found Anna Krauss calling herself a widow was in the 1920 census. The 1915 New York State census did not ask for marital status, but even then, Anna's household did not list a husband. Could I locate a death record for the missing Julius? Not really: the one record I found, in which a Julius Krauss died in New York City, the date was in 1900. Besides, the man was forty two at the time, somewhat young for a husband of a then-fifty year old woman.

Thinking that over further, I realized the enigmatic 1910 census—the one with the strange Kusfkr surname—was telling me that Anna was not married to anyone named Krauss until after that point in 1910. And yet, when Anna died in 1921, her name was once again reported as something similar to that Kusfkr name: Kusharvska. Could the Julius Rose had named in her wedding documents have actually been a man named Julius Kusharvski?

Another key to unraveling this mystery: in the 1920 census, Rose reported that she was a United States citizen, giving 1915—the year of her marriage to George Kober—as the date of her naturalization. On the other hand, Anna gave her status as alien, despite what appeared to be two marriages since her children were born in Poland. If either of those husbands were United States citizens, she should also have been able to claim she was a naturalized citizen. Thus, we can infer that Anna, even if she married after arriving in New York, could only have married another alien.

For now, I'll set aside my quest to find the identity of the father named Julius in Rose's marriage license applications. While I've certainly not exhausted all possible routes to learning more about Anna's two possible husbands, it's clear I'll need to try a different approach to finding more information on these immigrant family members.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Just Double Checking


Sometimes in family history research, so much time has passed since the last time a detail was fact checked that doubt makes me do a double take. That's where I am with my search for Aunt Rose right now. If she was my paternal grandfather's sister, why did she enter a different father's name on her marriage records than what I thought I had found for my grandfather?

As confusing as the name changes for my immigrant grandfather may have been, I was certain I never saw the name Julius listed on any of my grandfather's documents. Yet, that is what Aunt Rose gave—twice—on her applications for marriage license. Where did that name Julius come from?

Just to make sure, I pulled up the records I have found on my grandfather. For that task, I first needed to look far back in his timeline, since the name he used once his children were old enough to spot any changes was apparently not the name given when he was born. 

Working my way backwards through time, I found my grandfather in the 1910 U.S. Census, living with his wife, their two children, and her parents, "Antone" and Mary Laskowski, in Brooklyn, New York. For that record, my grandfather's name was listed as Theodore J. Puhalski. Five years earlier, though, while living in the same household, the man's surname stretched out to be written "Puhalaski" and his given name morphed to Thomas for the 1905 New York State census. Birth records for each of his two children, which I have long since sent for, fashioned the surname as either Puhalski or Puchalski.

Yet, when a fortunate DNA match led me to a family researcher in Wisconsin—where, apparently, all the rest of Aunt Rose's maternal relatives had immigrated—she pointed me to a resource for transcribed records from Aunt Rose's homeland: the Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, or Pomeranian Genealogical Association, PTG for short. While these were not the actual written records I would eventually need to consult, those transcriptions provided some helpful information.

In Rose's case, her 1872 baptismal record gave her name as Rosalia. Her mother, always listed as Anna in all the New York records where she appeared in Rose's household, was recorded as Anastasia. And Rose's father? His surname was given as Puchałła. Most important, though, was the absence of any appearance of the name of Julius. Rose's father's name was given as Thomas.

Cross checking to find the baptismal record for Rose's brother, I located a promising entry. In the same town, in 1876, there was an entry for a son named Theodor. Curiously, there was no entry for the father's name, but the mother was listed as Anastazya "Puchała ur. Zegarska." With "ur" being the Polish abbreviation for "urodzony" meaning "born," that entry seemed to suggest that the father was no longer present. Did he die? Or had he simply left, doubting he was the father of that child?

While I haven't been able to find any record of the man's death, I did confirm the couple's 1868 marriage in the bride's hometown of Czarnylas in Pomerania. The baptismal records for their children were filed in the nearby administrative district known as Lubichowo, and it is quite possible that, after their wedding, that is where the couple had settled.

Whether Rose's father had died or somehow separated himself from the family, it is apparent that Rose's mother Anna remarried, for in New York, she was listed in census records under the surname Krauss—at least, until the newspaper report of her suicide surfaced the entirely different surname of Kusharvski. If Rose's report of a father named Julius were correct, its source would have to be owing to the name of a step-father. And that leads to another question: were there any Krauss households in New York City which included a husband and wife duo named Julius and Anna?

Image above: Transcription of 1872 baptismal entry for Rosalia Puchałła courtesy of the Pomeranian Genealogical Association, and can be searched here.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

The Complications of Pedigree Collapse


When constructing a family tree, perhaps we expect a diagram with lines stretching straight back into the past, never giving a thought to the possibility of tangled lines crossing and recrossing each other. However, when a family settles in a limiting area—whether the proverbial desert island or a small valley enclosed by impassible mountains—their children's choice of mates becomes limited, as well.

I never thought of southwest Virginia or the neighboring land in northeastern Tennessee as being land-locked in any limiting way. Apparently, when searching for a prospective spouse, some of my forebears may not have looked as far away as they could have done, for one DNA match found on my Tilson ThruLines results pulled me up short this weekend. I totally forgot about the possibility of pedigree collapse in this longstanding family settlement.

Working my way through the matches sharing my fourth great-grandfather, Peleg Tilson, I had just advanced to another of his daughters, someone with the rather common given name of Mary. To make matters worse, Mary happened to marry someone with a name designed to create an even more challenging research prospect: John Brown.

I didn't have much detail on this couple, other than the information I had gleaned from an old Tilson genealogy published in 1911, but supposedly, the first DNA match I had for this ThruLines entry shared far more genetic material with me than I had come to expect.

Most of the matches connected to me through Peleg Tilson's descendants are at least my fifth cousins, sometimes even fifth cousins once removed. If a cousin at that distant level of relationship shows up in my matches at all, the centiMorgan count is generally very low. True, according to Blaine Bettinger's Shared centiMorgan Project at DNA Painter, a fifth cousin once removed could share up to eighty centiMorgans with me—but could also approach zero. An expected average is likely to be around twenty one centiMorgans, but in many cases of my Tilson cousins, the numbers dwindle precipitously lower than most people consider reliable.

Contrary to those minuscule matches, though, the DNA match with the highest count under Peleg's daughter Mary came in at fifty eight cMs, which surprised me with its stark difference. Taking a closer look, I realized this match was already tagged in my records as a match—for a different ancestor. That other ancestor came from my maternal grandmother's Broyles side of the family, while the Tilson line reaches down to her husband's line.

While I already knew this DNA cousin was connected through my grandmother's Broyles aunt, in seeing this result, I recalled that the aunt had married someone who came from a family with a long history of calling that corner of Tennessee home. With yet another unhelpful name to research—this family was named Jones—rather than taking the usual approach to checking ThruLines results from the ancient ancestor forward in time to the current generation, I worked my way backwards on the ThruLines results. I wanted to see just how this Broyles cousin was connected to my Tilson line.

Thus, I worked my way through documentation from this Jones cousin, backwards in time until the Jones surname gave way to that other research challenge, the Brown surname. Along the way, I spotted collateral lines with names too familiar to be coincidental name twins, and my head ached with thoughts of how much this tree may call for cleaning up duplicate entries. Cousins marrying cousins and other near misses make for many déjà vu moments in family history. Time to warm up that "merge with duplicate" button on my family tree.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Celebrating Mile Markers


A memory from childhood surfaced last week while driving through Kansas for a cousin's wedding: watching mile markers fly by on the side of the road. As the never-changing landscape tricked me into thinking we weren't gaining any distance whatsoever, the changing numbers on the mile markers reassured me that we were, indeed, making progress.

Now that I'm back home and finally attending to my current weekend project of sorting through DNA matches, I realize it would help to celebrate passing those significant mile markers here, too.

I've been using Ancestry.com's ThruLines tool to sort through my many mystery cousins and place them in my family tree. I've felt like I am still stuck in the same place as I was, almost a year ago, in working on the ThruLines suggestions for my Tilson ancestors. Granted, my current target is Peleg Tilson, my fourth great-grandfather, so any cousin matches I find would be very distant cousins, indeed. Taking the time to trace each of seventy three DNA matches' line of descent from Peleg to the present is time consuming—at least, if that effort includes locating supporting documentation for each step through the generations.

For instance, in the way ThruLines organizes their readout for a given most recent common ancestor, the cousins are separated into subsets based on the respective child of the ancestor from whom they descend. So, in Peleg's case, I started at the top of the list with his oldest daughter Jennet. That meant tackling a list of twenty five matches, just from Jennet's line.

Clue: that took lots of time. It is not simply a matter of taking Ancestry's word for it that a line of descent is just how the majority of their subscribers said it was. I needed to find documentation before adding anyone into this collateral line.

I don't remember when I began the process, but when I finally closed out the last of Jennet's descendants in my match list, it occurred to me that it might be more encouraging to take time to celebrate passing that mile marker. After all, vetting twenty five cousin matches was worth celebrating—and I'll certainly need the encouragement to tackle the other nine of Peleg's children represented among my remaining DNA matches in the Tilson line.

Starting this weekend, I finally began the first of my DNA matches linked to Peleg's second daughter, Ruth Tilson. While this second iteration will certainly not be as taxing as the effort to complete the list for her sister Jennet's descendants, there are at least five DNA matches descended from Ruth's line. By the time I complete that list, albeit a far shorter one than my first challenge, I will take a bit of time to pat myself on the back for having completed that series, as well. We all need some encouragement along the way.

While some of the other Tilson lines descending from Peleg have only a few matches to confirm, there are two more which include at least ten DNA matches apiece. Working through each of these lines will help add to the records I've amassed concerning the collateral lines in this extended family. While that is encouraging in itself—it helps me meet one of my overarching research goals—it also occurred to me that if we don't celebrate our own research progress, perhaps there might not be much progress to follow. The whole tedious process reminds me that sometimes we need to be our own best cheerleaders.  

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Story Behind the Story


It may seem strange, reading through all the research contortions I've twisted myself into, that I am having so much difficulty figuring out the maiden name of my grandfather's sister. And yes, generally, that answer  would be self-evident. But not in Aunt Rose's case. Here's why: there's a story behind that story.

My first problem was that I didn't even know I had an Aunt Rose until just after the last relative from my father's generation had died. Fortunately, on that relative's last birthday celebration, my brother had made a big to-do about interviewing her to capture some of her remembrances of days long past—and taping the conversation. Among other memories, this woman shared stories about a relative she called Aunt Rose.

At about the same time, my oldest cousin sent me a few old family photographs, including some from my father's boyhood days. Family photographs being what they are, they were seldom solo affairs. One picture captured my father and his sister—the birthday honoree—as children, along with their mother and a fanciful woman my cousin called Aunt Rose. Back then, neither of us could be sure this was a blood relative; we thought perhaps the woman had been called "Aunt" as a token of respect accorded to a close family friend.

It took quite a bit of research to locate the true Aunt Rose—mostly after my brother's interview with our own aunt produced some married names—and realize she was, indeed, a family member and not simply a close friend. By then, I had long since sent for my grandfather's death certificate and gleaned the names listed for his parents. The only problem was: I already knew half of that information was flat out wrong.

According to my grandfather's death certificate, he was son of a man named John. The surname for both father and son matched. The trouble was: that surname was fabricated. It was not the true name of either son or father—in which case, it couldn't be the maiden name of my newly-discovered Aunt Rose, either.

Although Aunt Rose lived with her mother in all the records in which I've been able to find her, for me to rely on her mother Anna's documentation wouldn't have helped, either. For the census records, Anna was always listed with a surname appearing with various spelling permutations, generally being something like Krauss. And yet, while the newspaper report of her tragic death listed her surname as Kraus, the actual police report gave an entirely different surname: something like Kusharvska.

Don't think that either Krauss or Kusharvski were Rose's maiden name, though. At least, that is not according to what I've found on my grandfather's own records from his homeland, something I only discovered, thanks to a very helpful DNA match (and diligent researcher). According to what I subsequently found at a Polish genealogy website, my grandfather's name at birth was actually Puchała. And my grandfather's own father had the Polish equivalent of the given name Thomas.

Problem: that name was obviously not Julius, the name given twice for the two marriage records we've found for Aunt Rose. Where did Julius come from? Could that have been the name of Anna's subsequent husband, the source of the unusual Kusharvski surname? Or was Rose not my grandfather's full sibling?

While I may never be able to determine the source for that strange double entry of Julius, it's about time we take a step backwards—much farther backwards—to review what I found on the birth records of both Rose and her brother.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Knowing Now What Was Needed Then


Sometimes, I wish I had thought of things sooner—like when I had first sent away for my paternal grandfather's death certificate. If I knew at that time what I know now, I could have had Aunt Rose's death record on hand to help answer the questions I'm struggling with this month.

But that was then; this is now, when I finally discovered the actual date of Rose Hassinger's death. For that detail, my thanks go to that bulldog nonprofit, Reclaim the Records, for their wrestling match with the New York State Department of Health. As they put it, "It took us seventeen months of fighting with the government just to get a list of the names of dead people."

It was that death index, recently obtained for all by Reclaim the Records, which provided me with the exact date of death of Rose Hassinger. More than that, it also identified the location of her death: "N. Hempstead"—or, more specifically, the Town of North Hempstead, where Julius Hassinger still lived at the time of the 1940 census, three years after his wife's death.

If I had known about that date of Rose's death decades ago, when I first sent for my grandfather's own death certificate, I might have actually obtained a copy of it. As it stands now, my chances of actually obtaining a copy of Rose's death record—and thus, the names of her parents if that was provided at the time of her death—are virtually nil. And there's a spiraling descent of a story to explain why my chances are so limited.

Here's my tale of woe, set to the tune of apparent legal changes in New York State. According to their website, I now can only order a copy of a death certificate if I am the spouse, parent, child, or sibling of the deceased. Problem #1: Rose Hassinger was none of these; she was my grandaunt. Worse, she had no children, and her only brother has long since died, so I have no one to ask to order the record on my behalf.

Just when my hopes were dashed by this restriction, a ray of hope appeared on the horizon: the New York State Department of Health will provide an uncertified copy of a death record, as long as the date of death was "on file" for at least fifty years. The good news is Rose's date of death in 1937 certainly qualifies me on that count. The bad news? "Processing a genealogy request may take eight (8) months or longer."

Instead, the New York State website recommendation for the impatient: submit requests to the municipal clerk where the death actually occurred. Next step: look for the county, right? Wrong. In New York, death records were generally kept by the township. In Rose's case, that would be the Town of North Hempstead.

Clicking through their menu to, first, the Town Clerk's office, then being redirected to their webpage on Vital Records—nothing is ever easy—I discovered a listing again of the same limitations provided by the state's website. In addition, the site rattled off a list of places of death, mostly hospitals, for which they would not provide death certificates. Problem #2: from that caveat, I now enter my own personal Catch 22. How am I to know where Rose might have died? Without an obituary, the only way I could know her precise location of death within the township would be to view it on her death certificate.

The faint glimmer at the end of this tunnel of genealogical doom was the township's provision of a "fee for genealogical searches." Of course, I don't need a search; thanks to Reclaim the Records, I finally have the precise date of death. Nothing on the webpage indicates that the fee would result in receiving a copy of the actual document desired. But the entry offered a phone number to call "for further information."

After all that wandering in circles, I decided to double check what I had found. I looked up the FamilySearch.org wiki for researching genealogy in Nassau County, New York, location of Rose's final home in North Hempstead. There, the section on Vital Records mentioned that records in New York, contrary to the sense I had gathered from all that reading, could actually be ordered online.

Genealogy could come with instant gratification, after all? I clicked on the link in the FamilySearch wiki article, which brought me to an order form for Archives.com. I hesitated. This seemed a bit too easy, after all the warnings I had consumed from the New York State website. Another clickable link in that same paragraph on the wiki offered an alternate: a New York State Records Research Guide at the website Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. There, too, the option of ordering online led to the Archives.com order form.

Receiving my answer within "two to five days" seems tempting, until I realize it comes at a price—a price I would likely not have had to pay, if only I had known all those years ago to order Aunt Rose's document along with the death record for my own grandfather. Were things easier back then? Perhaps I am just conveniently forgetting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Found my Voice Again


I can finally talk again! It took lots of googling for answers, reviewing and testing information—which in this case hadn't seemed to work—but now it appears I can finally talk back to everyone again in comments you've left on A Family Tapestry. Seems it was a function of some default settings on Safari, the browser I've been using since switching from my old clunker PC to a new Apple laptop. While my first—and second, and third—foray into problem solving didn't seem to do the trick, that option to try, try again worked in my favor, and by last night, I was able to pipe up and leave a reply to the comment by "kdduncan."

What Kathy had suggested was to go to FamilySearch.org to look up the marriage record for my Aunt Rose and her third husband, Julius Hassinger. I did just that, and quickly located an entry for the 1933 New York City marriage.

The record provided, however, was only a transcription, not a digitized copy of the actual document. Still, as Kathy had mentioned, it divulged information on the parents of the couple.

Well, let me amend that: Julius Hassinger's father and mother were explicitly named. From that transcription—assuming it was correctly copied—we can now say that Julius' father was named John, and his mother was identified as Agathe Geisen.

For Rose, however, reading an entry for her father which included only a first name did not follow a pattern as helpful as that for her husband-to-be. The bride's name was listed as Rose Kober, a name which we already have learned was her married name from her by-then-deceased second husband, George W. Kober. Having her father identified only by his given name told us very little, as we simply can't assume the missing surname was Kober; to eliminate that possibility, though, would have required us to trace Rose's history back past the first two marriages. In other words, the blank for the bride's father's surname leaves us in the same position in which we had started: with no usable information at all.

On the other hand, the name provided for the bride's mother did help somewhat. According to the transcription, Rose's mother was named Anna Segar. That entry at least resonates with one I had found on the death certificate for my own paternal grandfather, Rose's brother. On that record, which I had sent away for years ago, his mother's name had been listed as Anna Zegar—close enough to have been, perhaps, a matter of writing down, slightly incorrectly, what had been heard.

But reading "Julius" for the bride's father's name on the transcription of a document detailing her marriage to a man also going by the same name? There is room for doubt here, in my opinion.

Still, the suggestion was well taken, and one good turn—around a records resource, that is—deserves another. So I looked up Rose's previous marriage to George Kober to see what the reported parents' names might have been. There was no surprise regarding George's parents. He was a junior, and sure enough, the transcription for his 1915 marriage to Aunt Rose indicated his father's name was also George, although his mother Pauline's maiden name was mangled as "Heutton" (it was Hutton). But the main point of this search showed a confirming detail: again, Rose's father's first name was given as Julius.

Once again, no surname was given for Rose's father, the presumption being that her own surname must have been her maiden name. This, of course, was incorrect, for her marriage to George Kober listed her under her first married name, Miller. Looking for Rose's connection to a father named Julius Miller would have produced as many helpful leads as our previous assumption of a surname of Kober for Julius in the Hassinger marriage license. Yet looking for a record of Rose's first marriage would have produced quite a challenge, seeking an unnamed Miller coupled with a bride of unknown surname.

There is, of course, another approach to untangling this research dilemma. Now that I've discovered Rose's date of death in New York, I can try to obtain a copy of her own death certificate, which should also contain the names of her parents. That would be a prudent step in a sound research plan, but in the case of researching New York ancestors, it is a plan which brings up some roadblocks of its own.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Fast-Forward to the Past


When we can't find the more recent records for our ancestors, genealogists can still turn around and look deeper into the past. While I am stuck in pursuit of Aunt Rose, my paternal grandfather's sister, it is indeed in locating a death certificate and burial information on the woman who, as far as I can determine, finished life known as Rose Hassinger, where my research hits a roadblock. But that doesn't mean we can't do an about-face and look for further details on her younger years.

Granted, I've only been able to pursue Aunt Rose over her years in New York City back to the time of the 1910 census. Then, she was listed as married, but was not living with a husband. Instead, Rose "Muller" was living with her mother Anna. Both of them were listed as aliens arriving in the United States in 1884. While their native tongue was listed as Polish, their nationality had been given as German—a factor of the politically correct designation of that time period.

If the two women had arrived in New York back in 1884, of course the question becomes, "Where were they for the 1900 census?" That, I still can't locate—although seeing Rose's mother's name spelled "K-u-s-f-k-r" in the 1910 census makes me wonder how much worse the rendition might have looked, ten years earlier in their learning curve to acquire a new language in a foreign land.

Still, thanks to several DNA matches for the descendants of Rose's mother's siblings, I've been able to combine that strange error in the 1920 census, revealing Anna's origin in "Schwartzwald," with baptismal and marriage records from the region around a tiny village called Czarnylas near the Polish region known as Pomerania. Coupling that with a copy of a death certificate revealing Anna's maiden name—whether correct or incorrect—as Zegarska, I have been able to find some useful transcriptions of old Polish records.

The online resource where I found those records, and what information I'd still like to locate, will be this week's topic, as we review what needs to be done next to move further into Rose's past—and that of her ancestors, as well. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Finding a Final Resting Place


While I've finally discovered that Aunt Rose died toward the end of 1937, that certainly doesn't mean that is the end of her story—not, at least, for family history research purposes. There are far too many gaps left in her story. Among them is that tiny detail of finding her final resting place.

There is nothing I've found online that confirms where that resting place might have been. Now that I've finally located the date of her death—not to mention, that key detail of what surname her burial records might have listed—I can begin that next research process.

Not finding any obituary for Aunt Rose, though she was survived not only by her third husband, Julius Hassinger, but by her younger brother, I had some searching still to do. While a copy of a New York State death index revealed the date of her death, I'm curious to see what was recorded for the names of Rose's parents—not to mention, discovering who the reporting party might have been. I doubt her third husband, to whom she was married for only three years, would have been able to correctly answer such questions—though her brother, my secretive paternal grandfather, might have been, if he'd be willing to break silence on his origins just this once.

Discovering what was surely the mangled married name of Rose's mother led me to one cemetery where Rose might have been buried, if she didn't have plans to be buried with Julius Hassinger, her current husband. That cemetery was the beautiful and historic Woodlawn Cemetery located in the northern portion of the Bronx, part of New York City. That was the cemetery, according to death records, where Rose laid her mother to rest after Anna's tragic demise in 1921, although searches through Find a Grave with several spelling variations yielded no results from the memorials posted there.

The Find a Grave memorials do include an entry—however, without any headstone photograph—for Rose's second husband, George Kober, and note an inscription stating "Husband of Rose." I can click a handy button at Find a Grave and request that a photo be taken, but I will first need to provide a burial location before sending that request. Since the only map of the cemetery I can find online dates back to 1912, that hardly helps. I will need to call the cemetery on a nice, quiet day midweek, when the office isn't quite so busy.

Still, though I can't find any mention of Rose herself in the Woodlawn entries at Find a Grave, I did notice that George's father, the senior George W. Kober, was also buried at Woodlawn. I'm hoping this detail indicates a family burial plot, in which case, I will ask for the names of everyone buried at that location, including Rose's mother Anna. Who knows what additional ways Anna's Polish surname might have been mangled in American records.

Finding this final resting place for both Rose and her mother Anna will help me gather those last few details I've been lacking. Perhaps that will provide a key to open the door for future searches. After all, this may be the last stop in the story of the end of their lives, but in genealogy, we are always working backwards in time. The answers from the end of the story may well be the information I need to unlock doors on the details of their life prior to their arrival in New York City.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Extending Family


This past week, our family has been in Kansas, where my daughter was able to help with wedding preparations for her second cousin once removed. Only a genealogist's child could relate to a label like that. Perhaps more than the average family historian, I've had to reach even farther than that to place my DNA matches in their right position in the family tree. It's no surprise, then, to see how large my family trees have become, over nine years since sending the original DNA test away for lab results.

Right now, that means my parents' combined family tree has grown to 34,846 documented individuals. In the last two weeks alone, I've added 323 more names to that tree, mostly by reviewing the ThruLines results linked to my mother's Tilson line. And I've hardly scratched the surface with the results yet to review just in that Tilson family.

Because this month's Twelve Most Wanted research project focuses on a relative in my father's ancestry, most of my work has involved my own family tree, but I did check out a couple details on my in-laws' tree, mainly because the bride-to-be relates to us through my father-in-law's family. While that tree grew by a modest two additional names, the total number of individuals in that tree also reaches far and wide at 34,021 names. Lots of distant cousins documented there.

While new additions to our DNA accounts at all of the five companies where my husband and I have tested have grown ever so slowly—only two more matches for me in the past two weeks, and a miserly one match for my husband at Ancestry, for instance—there are still plenty of unidentified DNA cousins yet to place in their proper place in the family tree. I'd say I've still got my work cut out for me in making sense of that ever-extending family.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Double-Checking Details


Though I groan and complain when I uncover confusion about double identities in my family tree, if I work through the details thoroughly, there usually is a way to spot the telltale differences. Thankfully, spending some time last week in double-checking details did exactly that for two men, both sporting the name Anderson McMahan, who had become conflated into one person in my tree. That has led to reworking the clues laid out in ThruLines suggestions for several DNA matches, all of whom supposedly were descended from my Tilson line, a line reaching back to Mayflower connections. 

It certainly pays to rework the research on a specific ancestor. If you'll recall, last week I had the nagging feeling that I was not working with records for one man named Anderson McMahan, but two. Though the two both lived in Cocke County, Tennessee, and were born within nineteen months of each other, they definitely had different genealogies.

While working step by step, gathering every document I could find to support the facts about each man, I ran across something which helped me ascertain the real DNA nexus between the one man's descendants and myself. It was through his wife, not his own line, as ThruLines had indicated, that there was a connection reaching back to my Tilson ancestor. For all those DNA matches, Ancestry.com's ThruLines had picked up a much-copied error from other subscribers' family trees. But none of them made sense.

Now that I've spotted the correct path to our most recent common ancestor—it was through one Anderson McMahan's wife—I'm in the process of placing all those DNA matches in their correct spot in my family tree. The connection turned out to be through Anderson's wife, Echo Ford, daughter of Fletcher White Ford and Marena Coggins. 

It was through a volunteer's entry at Find a Grave for Anderson's wife Echo's own memorial that I spotted the surname Coggins. Since I had made a practice for years of adding into my family tree all the descendants of collateral lines, I had run into many branches of the Coggins line, intermarried into my own Tennessee kin, so thankfully the name stood out.

Unfortunately, I had selected the wrong set of parents for my Anderson McMahan, Echo's husband, so back to the beginning I went, ripping out all the names attached to Anderson in my tree, and entering all the correct individuals. Since, contrary to what ThruLines had asserted, Anderson was not my direct line back to my Tilson forebears—the key to this whole ThruLines exercise—I needed to add the correct identity for his parents, then follow the line of descent to link nearly ten more DNA matches to my family tree.

The exercise was worth the effort—at least, that's what I'd say for any family historians using ThruLines to help connect DNA matches to their tree. But it also reminds me of the value of going step by step through confirming documentation—as many as can be found, not just accepting one or two records as confirmation that we've identified the correct person. As Miss Merry pointed out last week, a lot of us have name twins out there in our family's past, some of them more challenging to untangle than others.

Friday, October 13, 2023

"K-u-s-f-k-r . . . Say, What?!"


It was Mrs. Emma Jones, the eminently patient census enumerator tasked in 1910 with documenting the many foreigners resident in Brooklyn's district number 885, who may finally have had her patience tried by the responses from the household of one Rose Muller. Rose, my paternal grandfather's sister, was married at the time but living solely with her mother Anna.

It was Anna's surname, given to the enumerator, which stumped her. I can just hear the conversation now: bilingual Polish immigrant Rose speaking on behalf of her aging mother Anna, trying to re-size a Polish surname to fit an English-speaker's ears.

"K-u-s-f-k-r...say what, now?" the enumerator Mrs. Jones might have repeated, as she wrote those letters on the census record. Unfamiliar with the workings of Polish phonics, the government worker may simply have resorted to asking Anna's daughter to spell the name. But with a target answer sounding something like Kusharvski, I can understand why the resultant entry ended up being the clearly-written but hopelessly inaccurate entry that it was.

Since I have yet to find any confirmation of my great-grandmother Anna's arrival in the United States, I've needed to decode that surname just as much as that 1910 enumerator might have wanted to do. I still am lacking significant sections of the immigration story of my great-grandmother and her two children, Aunt Rose and her brother, my paternal grandfather. Even the surnames I've found don't seem to line up with other records on file for Anna. And I've since found more versions to complicate matters.

Step one was to see if I could locate an actual correct spelling for what surely was an English speaker's rendition of Polish phonics. Though I had already learned about the differences in pronouncing consonants "w" and "v" in both Polish and German, a few years ago I made it a point to learn the basics of Polish phonics. For a name which might have sounded like Kusharvski, for instance, I now know that the sound we write in English as "sh" would have been rendered as "sz" in Polish. The "v" might actually have been written in Polish as a "w." And for the version of the surname used to refer to women, the ending would most definitely have been changed from "-ski" to "-ska."

But would that "Kuszarwska" have been the actual appearance of Anna's name in American records? Likely not—unless, of course, the English-speaking official writing the record understood the particulars of the Polish language. In between the proper Polish rendering of the name and the American transcription of what they thought they heard could lie a multitude of guesses.

To find those possible versions of Anna's surname, then, I resorted to testing out a wildcard key. On Ancestry.com, using an asterisk to represent the letters I was unsure of, I entered the query as "Kus*ski" and its feminine version, "Kus*ska."

One alternative spelling suggested from this search was "Kuszajewski," a possibility from a Buffalo city directory which I will keep in mind as I continue my search for Anna and her children—although I'm sure there will be other suggestions. The goal is to find alternate possibilities to see if I can use those suggestions to then move on to find Anna in passenger records. Up until this point, I've been unsuccessful in this, using the name Anna Krauss which had been listed in census records after her arrival. There has got to be some way to connect Anna to her past—and, following that trail, to discover the documents for her two immigrant children, as well.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Taking a Few Steps Backwards


Ever so gradually, we take a few steps backwards in time, trying to coax history into revealing the story of our ancestors. In the case of Aunt Rose, my paternal grandfather's sister, I'd like to follow her immigrant story from the end of her life in the metropolitan New York City area to the beginning of her days, somewhere across the ocean in central Europe.

Once I found resources to look up articles mentioning her name in the lesser-known newspapers of the city, it was fairly easy to trace Aunt Rose's life from her marriage to post office supervisor George Kober, to his death and her subsequent—albeit brief—marriage to Julius Hassinger. But what about taking that life story's journey backwards? That was my next step. I wanted to see how far back I could go, while gleaning information I might have missed in previous visits to her saga.

There are a few reasons I need to retrace those research steps once again. For one thing, I have yet to locate any document of Rose's first marriage. Then, more importantly, I am lacking any record of her arrival in this country—an event which she, supposedly, shared with her mother and, hopefully, my grandfather. Furthermore, Rose's mother's own story is hidden behind a series of married surnames which come with little to no documentation of their own. Any clues I can find to point me in the right direction to find confirmation of those details would be so appreciated.

In review before launching out to discover the missing information, here's what I've already found. From Rose's appearance in the 1920 census along with her second husband George Kober and her ever-present mother Anna "Krouse," their date of arrival was reported to be 1883. This was the census which included the gift of an enumerator error showing Rose's origin in "Schwartzwald"—a designation which, interpreted, seemed to be "Black Forest," but turned out, to my delight, to actually refer to a place in Poland known also as Czarnylas

Moving backwards in time, I could also find Rose and her mother in the 1915 New York State census in neighboring Brooklyn. At that time, Rose was listed by her previous married name, Miller, though no husband was present in the household. Instead, there she was with her mother, this time listed as Anna Krausse. At that point, the mother and daughter had declared they had been in the country for the past thirty years—in other words, since 1885.

At long last, I finally was able to push back to the 1910 federal census and find Rose and Anna one last time. In this enumeration, the mother and daughter stated their arrival in New York was in 1884—yet another close but different year. Then, too, Rose, listing this as her first marriage—and yet with no husband present in the household—had her name given as Rose Muller, not Miller.

That, however, was not what concerned me. It was fairly easy to shift that one letter in subsequent searches to find Rose in previous records—though to no avail. It was the listing for her mother which totally threw me off. Gone was the surname Krausse, or Krouse, or any other of multiple spelling permutations. Surely a case of enumerator misspelling, rather than transcription error, this one bid me try searching once again for Anna—this time, using a wildcard approach. If I couldn't find either Rose or Anna in immigration documentation or passenger records with the more common names of Miller or Krauss, perhaps this new search option for a very different surname would lead me to a connection.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Doubling Up


Running into possible double identities when researching an ancestor can be frustrating, as I mentioned just this past weekend. Today, I'm doubly at it with the same problem, only this time, I'm focusing on another branch of the family: my paternal grandfather's sister Rose.

Aunt Rose had supposedly been married three times. I've located records identifying her first married name—the unhelpful surname Miller—and her second marriage in 1915 to George W. Kober. George's 1932 death left Rose a widow, but not for long. According to newspaper reports, the widowed Rose Kober married a man by the name of Julius Hassinger.

My only problem: every time I tried searching for a New York City resident by that man's name, I kept finding a married man whose wife was named Helen. That's a problem. Whatever became of the new Rose Hassinger?

Not being able to locate a death record or even a burial for anyone by Rose's most recent married name, I thought I'd try a different tack: research this other Julius Hassinger to see where the information led. After all, many subsequent marriages turned out not quite the way the parties had hoped, and divorce could have been the result. If that was followed by yet another marriage for Rose, she could be lost to any researcher not aware of any new married name.

Since the original newspaper announcement of the wedding of Julius and Rose mentioned two scant details about the groom—that he had been a confirmed bachelor up to the point of their 1933 nuptials, and that he worked for the Post Office—there wasn't much upon which to base a search. Worse, since the couple lived in the greater New York City region, the chances of there being more than one man by the name of Julius Hassinger were high. After all, New York City in 1930 had a population pushing toward seven million people, providing numbers almost certain to produce name doubles.

When I looked for Julius in the 1930 census, I found information on one man with that name. The details provided in that census seemed to support what little had been mentioned about him in the announcement of his 1933 wedding. Renting a room in the household of Andrew and Sophie Siebert at 141 Whitehall Boulevard in Garden City—just outside the New York City limits—Julius, like his landlord Andrew, was reported to be a clerk in the Post Office. His reported age of forty seven at the time would have made him somewhat younger than his future bride, but I'm not yet sure of Rose's own age, only going by what the newspaper report had divulged.

Julius had reported his place of birth as New York, and his parents' origin to be Germany. The most important detail—at least, for our purposes here—was that he claimed to be a single man.

Looking further for confirmation of this Julius Hassinger—whether he was our man or not—I searched for records predating that census. A World War I draft registration card produced a birth date for one New York City man named Julius: March 3, 1883. At the time he signed the form, Julius was living in downtown Manhattan, working as a postal clerk at "Penn Terminal Station"—or Penn Station, as it is called today.

At the time, Julius gave a contact person named Ernest Hassinger, whom he identified as his brother, and who was living at the same address as Julius. However, looking for a Hassinger household in the earlier 1910 census did not produce those two names paired together. Instead, I found Julius living alone with his widowed father John. Again, Julius was listed as a clerk in the Post Office. But this time, the entry showed that Julius' father had arrived in the United States in 1872, shortly before the then-twenty seven year old Julius would have been born.

If we turned the search in the opposite direction, time wise, there would be no sign of Julius' supposed wife, Rose. Despite their marriage in 1933, by the time of the 1940 census, Julius—with an estimated birth year of 1883, agreeing with the data from the earlier enumerations—was sporting a considerably younger wife by the name of Helen. 

Yet, looking more closely at that actual document, there are a few loose threads which invite us to tug at them and see if we can unravel this illusion of double identities. The first detail was the fact that the 1940 census asked where residents lived five years prior to that date. Unfortunately, the entry for Julius was overwritten, making it hard to decipher the true answer. Transcribers at Ancestry.com took his answer to read, "New Haven." I think the answer might have been something different: Woodhaven.

You might recall that, when Rose had been married to her second husband, George Kober, her address had been a home in part of Queens borough called Woodhaven. When Rose remarried, could the Hassinger couple simply have retained the old Kober residence as their own? More telling was the five-year-prior answer for Julius' 1940s wife Helen: she stated her home, five years before that, was not in Woodhaven, but in Manhattan.

Bingo: Julius and Helen weren't married to each other, five years before 1940. In fact, that led me to locate information on when Julius and Helen might have wed: 1939.

So, this detail makes me feel more positive that we have the right Julius and not, as I had previously thought, his name twin. Something must have happened to Rose between their 1933 wedding and Julius' subsequent marriage to Helen. Whether it was a divorce or a death, there should be a record. But where was it?

Just to make sure, and to follow Julius' trail to the end, I located his Find a Grave memorial in Florida—a customary destination for many retired New York City residents. Julius died on February 3, 1964, according to his obituary, and was buried in Fort Lauderdale. His only survivor mentioned in the obituary was his wife Helen. No children—and no mention of any previous marriage to someone named Rose.

Since the 1940 census led me to believe that Rose and Julius had established their residence at the former Kober home in Woodhaven—part of Queens within New York City limits—it was puzzling that there was no documentation to help find what became of Rose. Clearly she was out of the picture between 1935 and 1939.

However, I remembered that Julius had previously lived and worked in Garden City, which lies outside the border for New York City. Thinking any records of Rose's demise might instead be listed in Nassau County records, I checked the broader digitized collections for New York State. There, in a 1937 New York State death index, was a mention of one Rose Hassinger, who died on November 14 in North Hempstead, the same town where we had found Julius living in the 1940 census.

I still haven't found an obituary for Rose—if there was any—nor have I located any indication of her burial, other than a volunteer's note on George Kober's Find a Grave memorial that he was "husband of Rose." This will require a call to the cemetery where George was buried to see whether I can find any details on Rose's final resting place. But it at least brings some closure to the pursuit of the mysterious Aunt Rose of the few family photographs passed along to me by older relatives.

True, that only answers the question of what became of Rose. Where she came from is an entirely different question. While I'll review what I already know about this issue tomorrow, there is far more I still need to learn about the part of the family which connects Rose and her brother—my tight-lipped grandfather—to their forebears.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

When Rose Met Julius


It was on a vacation in 1933 that Rose met Julius. She, the recently widowed Mrs. George W. Kober, had made arrangements that summer to visit friends in nearby Garden City—twenty miles from her home in Woodhaven, less than an hour's journey by train. Perhaps her friends, sensing she needed to get out of the house where she and her husband had lived in New York City since their 1915 wedding, had suggested she come to visit them. After all, it had been well over a year since George's 1932 death. Perhaps a change of scenery and some fun activities with friends would do her good.

That, at least, was the story told in two New York newspapers which announced her wedding. "Vacation Romance Leads to Wedding," announced the Society page of the Long Island Daily Press on December 13, 1933, noting that the Saturday, December 9, wedding was held in Long Island City. The article, while providing Rose's age—fifty eight at the time—and address in Woodhaven, said little about the groom. That he was "with the post office" in Garden City, and that this was his first marriage, was all the paper gave of the man's identity, while details of Rose's previous marriage filled a paragraph.

To have captured a pertinent detail such as Julius' age might have helped me find what became of the couple after their marriage celebration. At least the names of the witnesses had been provided in the article, though Mrs. Emily Kollshdorf and Charles Peters are not names which I had seen before in family circles—details to add to Aunt Rose's "F.A.N." Club.

A second article in The Richmond Hill Record seemed merely to repeat the details I gleaned from the first newspaper. I found no other search results for Julius Hassinger, though that is not to say there aren't others out there. However, seeing mention of the wedding taking place further east on the island, plus the groom's residence in Garden City, seem to indicate the couple may have set up residence outside New York City limits. Perhaps I should widen the scope of my searches. And test out some "what if" scenarios. Nothing else has divulged whatever became of Aunt Rose.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Life Changes


One of the challenges of chasing our ancestors is to find the women who have changed their name. In the case of Aunt Rose, my research project for this month and sister of my paternal grandfather, the challenge was that she married three times. The record showing her 1915 wedding to George W. Kober indicated that he had married someone by the name of Rose Miller. Had it not been for her ever-present mother in the several documents in which I located her, I wouldn't have been sure I had located the right Rose.

Eventually, though, Rose's second husband George Kober—the one I had been able to locate in several newspaper articles—predeceased her, and I was left needing to search for her identity once again.

George's April 11, 1932, obituary in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle was plain and to the point. Giving his full name—he was George Washington Kober, same as his father—the obituary indicated that he was survived only by his beloved wife Rose and a sister, Mrs. Pauline K. Thomas. There were no other family members mentioned, notably children. An evening funeral was to be held at the Kober home in Woodhaven on Long Island, part of the New York City borough of Queens. His obituary announced that burial was to follow the next morning at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Though George's memorial at Find a Grave does not include a photograph of any headstone, I would presume he was buried in a family plot. There are a couple reasons for that assumption. First is the fact that his mother-in-law, Rose's mother, was reported to have been buried at that same cemetery after her tragic demise in 1921, though I have found no sign of her yet, using any of the various names I've located for her identity. 

Then there was the comment, added by an unnamed Find a Grave volunteer to George's memorial, that he was "husband of Rose." That would certainly lead to the assumption that the volunteer gleaned the name of George's wife from some detail on a headstone in that same burial plot. But where was Rose? I couldn't find any memorial for her at Find a Grave.

When George left Rose a widow, he had not quite yet reached sixty years of age. Rose was, I assume, approximately the same age. While for some, being widowed at that age might only accentuate the sense of aging, for energetic others, they might hope to expect more out of life. Apparently, Rose's attitude fell in the latter camp, for I eventually stumbled upon some newspaper clippings showing Rose's third marriage, this time to another Post Office employee by the name of Julius Hassinger.

The problem with Julius was that, despite the distinctive name, I could find no further record on anyone by that name—with the exception of a New York City resident by the same name who was married to someone else. That couldn't have been Rose's new husband—or could it? I still haven't been able to find any death or burial records for Rose, making it seem as if she had disappeared into the ether. And the search results conjuring up a different Julius led nowhere. Perhaps Rose had moved out of the New York area. Or could she have divorced and married yet another man?

Revisiting a research mystery after laying it to rest for a while can be helpful. Sometimes, returning to the research question with fresh eyes helps us spot instantly the key we missed the last time we had passed this way. Over time, more documents become digitized and available online. We'll take a closer look at Julius and Rose tomorrow to see if we can discover any fresh hints about what became of the couple.  

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