Sunday, November 29, 2015

Railroad Records - Found!

WOW!! I used the Genealogy Quick Look service to find my grandfather's railroad records.  He worked for the Chicago North Western Railroad in the 1940-50s.

Genealogy Quick Look provides an index to a portion of resources available through the Midwest Genealogy Center as well as inactive pension claims from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board. Search the index by name and/or date. If you locate a resource, you will have an opportunity to request it from the source organization. 

First I reviewed the index using the Quick Look form (shown here).  Then I sent an email to the address indicated in the instructions. I received a reply within 2 days from Desiree an Archives Technician at NARA in Atlanta.   She gave me an option to receive the full file which was over 200 pages or an abbreviated version of each file and copy the 25 pages most relevant to genealogical research for $20.00 apiece. 

I chose the $20 file, and received it electronically 30 minutes after I called in my credit card info! (They also allow you to mail in a check and receive paper copies.)

I was amazed at the information that was supplied in the file.  Copies of death and birth records, medical reports, and other family related details. 

Thank you Mid-Continent Public Library and NARA!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Samuel Peyton Clay

A few years ago a “cousin” of mine found this photo on eBay and sent me the link.  I bid on it to keep it in the family.   This is a family portrait of four generations. The family members and their ages are all inscribed on the reverse in ink.   

Four generations of Samuel P Clay Family

The older couple in question is my third great-granduncle Samuel Peyton Clay (brother to my great-grandmother Henrietta Clay) and my third great-grandaunt, his wife Emily Kell (sister to my great-grandfather William Trego Kell).  William T Kell and Henrietta Clay were married three years after Samuel and Emily.  

Based on my research of the family and the information on the back of the photo, it appears that this picture was taken in 1914, shortly before Samuel died.

The notes on the reverse side of the picture indicate that the gentleman in the center is “Mr. Samuel Patton Clay, age 80 yrs,” and the seated woman is “Mrs. Emily Kell Clay, age 76 yrs.” The woman between them is “Mrs. Ella Clay Selby, age 51 yrs."  Mrs. Selby's daughter and her two children are, “Mrs. Emma Selby Funk, 26 yrs, “Pauline Funk, 2 1/2 yrs,” and “Elbert Eugene Funk, 15 mos.”    By researching Emma Clay Selby I learned that I was eligible to join the DAR, which I did! 

I posted the original picture with my contact information on various web sites hoping to find a direct descendant cousin from this family that will cherish it. And I did!  It is now with a descendant of that family.

 Samuel Peyton Clay

Samuel P Clay

Samuel Peyton Clay was the fifth child and third son, born on 11 March 1834, in Bourbon County, Kentucky, to John Ingram Clay (1790-1873) and his second wife, Martha "Patsy" Alice Eldridge (c. 1800-1853).  His parents moved to Clark County, Missouri in 1834, shortly after his birth.  At that time Clark County was uncharted territory. 

Samuel and Emily Kell

He married Emily Kell, daughter of Benjamin Kell and Rhuema Beckner, on 01 Nov 1858 in Clark County, Missouri. Emily was born on 12 Nov 1837 in Indiana. She died on 30 Dec 1916 in Kahoka, Clark, Missouri.

Marriage Record

Samuel and Emily had 9 known children – 7 girls and 2 boys – and one adopted son.
Laura Clay was born in Sep 1858 in Missouri. She died on 03 Dec 1944. She married William P Dow on 07 Mar 1875 in Clark, Missouri.

Ruhama Jean Clay was born on 28 Oct 1860 in Clark County, Missouri. She died on 25 Apr 1923 in Clark County, Missouri. She married Roy Sharts on 25 May 1884 in Clark County, Missouri.

Ella Jackson Clay was born on 24 Jun 1863 in Clark County, Missouri. She died on 18 Oct 1947 in Kirksville, Adair County, Missouri. She married Hiram Selby on 30 Aug 1885 in Clark County, Missouri.

Effie Clay was born on 05 Dec 1865 in Missouri. She died on 09 Jan 1950 in Madison, Clark County, Missouri. She married James Murphy on 23 Sep 1889 in Clark County, Missouri.

Martha Clay was born on 13 Dec 1869 in Missouri. She died on 01 Aug 1896 in Clark County, Missouri.  She married Peter T Briggs on 02 Mar 1892 in Kahoka, Clark County, Missouri.

Marion L Clay was born on 28 Jan 1872 in Clark County, Missouri. He died on 03 Dec 1944 in Kahoka, Clark County, Missouri. He married Adaline V Woodruff on 28 Jun 1900.

Emma Clay was born in December 1875 in Clark County, Missouri. She married Henry Raleigh Fleming on 28 Dec 1898 in Clark County, Missouri.

George C Clay, unknown birth and death dates probably between 1880 and 1900, believed to have died in childhood.

Mary Clay, unknown birth and death dates probably between 1880 and 1900, believed to have died in childhood.

John Shannon was listed as adopted in the household of Samuel Clay in the 1900 US Census for Jackson Township, Clark County, Missouri.  His birth is listed as May 1885 in Missouri. The records show there may be two John Shannons in Clark County in 1900, so as this is the only record of his relationship with Samuel, I cannot make further comment.

Samuel is found on the Civil War Draft Registration Record for Clark County, Missouri.  He is listed as living in Union Township, a 30 year old, white, farmer, married, and born in Kentucky with no previous military service.

Civil War Draft Registration

During the Civil War, Samuel supported the Southern cause and served under Confederate Major General Sterling Price. According to a 1890 Missouri Veterans Schedule as part of the U.S. Census for Jackson Township, Clark County, Missouri it was claimed that Samuel served as a private for 10 months from Sep 1862 until Jun 1863 in Company B of the 16th Missouri Cavalry (6th Provisional Regiment) of the Confederate Army.

1890 Veterans Schedule

In the 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900 US Censuses for Jackson Township, Clark County, Missouri, he is listed as Head of Household and a farmer.   In 1896 a land plat of the county showed he had several land holdings on the west side of the county.  Nearby are related family farms.

Samuel Clay properties

He died at the age of 81 of cancer of the stomach in 26 Nov 1914 in Kahoka, Clark County, Missouri.  He is buried in Kahoka Cemetery in Kahoka, Clark County, Missouri.  His wife Emily survived him by two years.

Death Certificate

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Follow up on Stephen Brennan

In a previous post on Stephen Brennan I mentioned he was one of my “brick walls”.  I am happy to report that there is now a chink in the wall. 

Recently released its indexed collection U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 which has Social Security Applications and Claims from 1936-2007.  I looked up Stephen Francis Brennan to see what I might find.  I found Steve Frances Brennan.

So I sent for the original document.  It only took about two weeks to receive it.  It confirms everything I have on Stephen to date with the only new information being his parents’ names.  Interesting to see his actual signature.

Of course, ever since I found this clue, I have been looking for William and Margaret Brennan with the known children.  I have searched every known combination with and without surnames.   Marion had mentioned that there were Brennan relatives near West Chicago, Illinois.  I found a William and Margaret in the US Census in Winfield which is near West Chicago, but am not able to confirm they are “my” William and Margaret Brennan. Another brick wall to chip away at… 

According to Marion (Stephen’s daughter) this picture is of Margaret (perhaps know as Maggie?) and her daughter Mary.

Anyone recognize them?  Please let me know!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Benjamin Petrich and Pauline Stroech

Will the real Benjamin Petrich please come forward?

I have a 3rd great uncle named Benjamin Petrich (sometimes found as Gottlieb Benjamin) who is the brother to my 2nd great-grandmother Susanna Petrich Stroschein.  He was also married to my 3rd great-aunt Julianna (sister to my 2nd great-grandfather Friedrich Primas).  Are you confused yet? He and I are related two different ways.

Benjamin has been easy to find in on-line research as he left many children and grandchildren in the USA.  The descendants’ story was that he had been married twice in Prussia before coming to the USA and marrying a third time.  My 3rd Great-Aunt Julianna (Primas) was his first wife.

Pauline Stroech was married to Benjamin Petrich and had several children with him before they immigrated to the USA.  For many years, I thought she was the second wife to Benjamin.  Working with a Petrich cousin in Germany caused me to re-evaluate this relationship.

When my great-grandfather Paul Primas came to the US in 1883 he arrived with a Benjamin Petrich, aged 40.  I assumed this was his uncle – his father’s sister’s husband (Gottlieb Benjamin from above).  Now I believe it was his uncle – his mother’s brother (Johann Benjamin Petrich).

Ship Manifest showing Benjamin Petrich and Paul Primas

I have noticed in my German ancestors they re-use names a lot as well as being called by their “middle names” in daily use.  Hence Johann Benjamin was called Benjamin and that is how I find him in the records.  Johann is only found in his baptismal record.

Based on the records I had found, I created this comparison chart:

Comparing the Benjamins

Upon further investigation I found more information to convince me that Johann Benjamin was the man married to Pauline Stroech. 

Johann Benjamin Petrich was born in Pidda (Posen Province, Prussia) on 5 July 1844, the fourth child and first son of Gottlieb Petrich (born 1812 in Turostowo Hauland, died 18 May 1853 in Pidda, Posen) and Johanna Wilhelmine Petrich (born 13 June 1818 in Pidda, Posen, death date unknown but after 1855 when she married her second husband Johann Michael Weidner).  Yes, Wilhelmine (as she is found) was born a Petrich.  I do not know how close the relationship was for the two.  The Petrich families of Posen are a topic for another time.

Benjamin had seven sisters and one brother that I can find records on.  The brother died shortly after birth.  The only sibling known to grow to adulthood is Amalie (married to Friedrich Primas). Several of the girls died as infants or children, the rest I have not found information on yet. 

Benjamin was baptized Johann Benjamin Petrich on 21 July 1844 in Schokken.

Benjamin married Pauline Stroech (also found as Ströch) probably about 1873 or early 1874.  I am still looking for Pauline’s parents and the marriage record.  I also still need to find Pauline’s baptismal/birth record.  There are many Stroech families in the area and they inter-connect with Petrich, Primas and other related families.

The couple had eight children I can find records on:
  1. Hulda born 3 Oct 1874 in Nekla; died 27 Jan 1959 in Los Angeles, California; married Henry Rausch.
  2. Wilhelm Traugott born 12 Feb 1877 in Tischdorf, baptized the same day and probably did not survive.
  3. Ludwig born 11 Aug 1879 in Tischdorf, died 11 Jan 1880 at age 5 months.
  4. Bertha Amalie (found as Mollie in USA records) born 3 Feb 1882 in Nekla, died after 1966 probably in Florida; married Otto Krueger then Richardson.
  5. Pauline Wilhelmine born 27 April 1884, baptized 3 May 1884 in Nekla – note on her baptismal record states father Benjamin Petrich went to America in Nov 1883; died 27 Sep 1966 in Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois; married William H Struwing.
  6. Emily born 16 Oct 1886 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; died 13 Sep 1964 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; married Wiseman then William J Talbot.
  7. Edith Martha born 25 Nov 1888 in Cook, Illinois, died 7 May 1962 in Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois; never married.
  8. Helen C born 18 Dec 1894 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, died 13 Feb 1919 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; never married.

As mentioned earlier, Benjamin left for America on the ship Kaiser with his nephew Paul Primas, leaving Hamburg on 20 Nov 1883 with stop in Glasgow.  He left his wife in Nekla with two small children and he may or may not have known about the child on the way.

Ship departure detail

Note in Pauline's birth record that father Benjamin has gone to Amerika

Pauline left Hamburg 5 Sep 1885 on the ship California with children Emilie (Bertha), Hulda and Pauline who was 9 months old.  They arrived in 21 Sep 1885 arriving in New York, stated destination is Chicago. 

Pauline departure details

Arrival details

Looking at the Chicago City Directories, it shows that Benjamin and his nephew Paul Primas are living on the same street for a time.  Benjamin is at 815 Hinman in 1888 and at 767 Hinman from 1890 to 1893.  Paul Primas is at 753 and 788 Hinman in 1890 and 1891.  After the street re-naming and re-numbering in Chicago in 1909/1911, these addresses are now on the 1700-1800 block of W 21rst Place.  It appears the original houses are still there.

Center house is probably same as when Petrich family lived there

House where Primas family rented down the block from Petrich

I believe that Pauline and Benjamin reunited in the US because they had three more daughters in Chicago – Emily, Edith and Helen.

Benjamin died in Chicago on 24 April 1899.  He is buried in Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois.  Because he arrived after 1880 and died before 1900, there are no census or other records I have found for Benjamin.

1899 Chicago City Directory

Pauline died in Chicago on 17 May 1906.  She is also buried in Concordia Cemetery, as is their daughter Helen who died 13 Feb 1919. 

I cannot find Pauline and the girls in the 1900 census.  There would have been Pauline and 5 daughters as only Hulda was married at that time.  In the Chicago City Directory, Pauline is listed as widow of Benjamin in 1899, but disappears in 1900.  Perhaps they went to stay with relatives or the older girls found jobs working in homes (although I do not find them listed either).  In the 1910 census, the three youngest girls (Emily, Edith and Helen) are living with their older sister Pauline now married to William Struwing.

Benjamin and Amalie, his sister were three years different in age.  If they were the only children of the family to survive to adulthood, it would be reasonable to think that they remained close.  When Amalie was a young widow with a son, she might look to her brother to develop a relationship with him, since her father is already gone.   Amalie (now married to Reiter) is mentioned on the baptismal / birth record of Benjamin’s son Wilhelm Traugott.  There is a special note clipped to the record.  Because it is in German, I haven’t been able to understand what the note says at this point.

Note mentioning Amalie Reiter on Wilhelm Traugott baptismal record

Baptismal record of Wilhelm Traugott Petrich

I have requested death certificates for the members of this Petrich family that I can find documentation on.  I can also go to Concordia and find their grave markers, it is not far. I will keep chipping away to find the secrets until I find another branch of the tree to follow.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

2014 Road Trip to Poland

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been looking for my great-grandfather Paul Primas for a long time.  When I started my family history research for a school project in 6th grade, he had already been gone for over 50 years.   As a teenager I wrote to the German Consulate to ask how to find records I was looking for and was told all the records were lost in the war (World War II) and any that did survive were now behind the Iron Curtain and unavailable.  I kept looking and asking.

Paul Primas Death Certificate

In 2012 I decided I needed to go to Poland and try to find out more information about my elusive great-grandfather Paul.  I still had many questions.   Having previously used his services for obtaining documents, I contacted Dr. Lukasz Bielecki of Discovering Roots in the fall of 2013.  I engaged his services to help me plan the trip as well as conduct some research prior to our arrival.   My sister Donna and I bought our tickets in January 2014, but probably would have had a better selection of seats if we had bought them sooner.  Because of some other touring we wanted to do, we chose to fly in and out of Berlin, Germany.  From Berlin, our destination, Poznan, is a 3 hour train ride through beautiful country.

Caron at the Poznan train station

In April 2014, we traveled to Poznan, Poland to see sights related to our family history and to conduct additional research at the local archives.  We stayed at Hotel Włoski Poznań as Lukasz recommended and found it to be well-located, clean, reliable and reasonably priced.  While Donna is fluent in German (which was the language of our ancestors who lived in the Posen area during the Prussian Empire) and I can read “genealogy German” neither of us speak nor understand Polish.  Having Lukasz to interpret during our visit was very helpful!

Planning the day with Lukasz in the hotel lobby

During our three day visit Lukasz guided and chauffeured us as we made daily trips to the ArchiwumPaństwowe w Poznaniu (State Archive in Poznań) in the city and the surrounding areas specific to our ancestors. 

State Archive building in Poznań

At the Archive, he assisted us to complete the necessary paperwork to access the Archive’s materials and used his knowledge of the local geography to determine which records to access.   It was obvious that Lukasz is well known at the Archives as well as knowing his way around the resources!  The Archive’s rules are that only a limited amount of items can be accessed and at restricted times.  We were able to triple the numbers with three of us there.  Donna and I took many pictures of pages of old church records of our known ancestors and “suspect” ancestors. 

Lukasz and the records at the Archive  

Caron looking at a church record book 

Church record book with Paul Primas baptismal record

Page with Paul Primas baptismal record
Paul Primas baptismal record

During the afternoons, Lukasz used his excellent knowledge of the area and its history to take us down mostly unmarked roads to access the rural areas where our ancestors had lived.  He also used some maps from the 1980s Communist military.  He told us they were very detailed and accurate. Had we been on our own, we never would have been able to navigate the area.

Map used by Lukasz

We visited the churches where our family baptisms and weddings were performed, family cemeteries and the areas where our ancestors worked or owned mills and had their homes.   The Lutheran churches no longer exist; they have been converted to Catholic churches, community or art centers or torn down, usually with a park in its place.

Circles indicate all the places we visited

Church in Rejowiec, formerly Revier, where Friedrich Primas and Amalie Petrich
 (my 2nd great-grandparents) were married in 1857, still in use as Catholic Church

Picture of inside of the Rejowiec church

Church at Murowana Goslina, currently abandoned


Church at Nekielka, formerly Nekla Hauland, being remodeled as a music arts center

Inside view church at Nekielka (Nekla Hauland)

Church at Pobiedziska, formerly Pudewitz

Inside of the church in Pobiedziska

Church in Skoki, formerly Schokken.  It is now a community center.
It looks like they play basketball inside.

While we drove through the beautiful countryside, Lukasz related information about the general history of the villages and area. He also took us to charming local restaurants each day where we were able to taste the local cuisine.

Lunch stop in Skoki – wonderful pirogi!

Typical view from the car when there were no farms, this near Nekielka

Farm land near Glinka Panska

One road we went down did not look like a real road.  It looked like a track through a farm field.  Lukasz assured us it was a real road, it was on the map!

This is a real road!  On our way to Czerniejewo, formerly Schwarzenau

Site of Gottfried Primas’ (my 3rd great-grandfather’s) water mill at Borowo Mɫyn

There was something spiritually moving and a bit mysterious about walking on the same land that my ancestors walked on.  There was a feeling of comfort and familiarity. 

We knew many of our great-grandparents had been millers – we have “wind millers” and “water millers” in the family.  We did not see any water mills, but we did see a “wind mill” that looked like one our family might have worked.

Old windmill building in Czerniejewo on the road to Nekla

This is what it might look like new or in use

We were very pleased with our visit and would highly recommend Lukasz and DiscoveringRoots in Poland for local or long distance research and on-site guided tours in Poland.   We thought his fees were very reasonable for the flexible and personal services he offers. 

Here are my tips for a successful research trip, based on this and other excursions:
  • Plan well in advance.  For overseas, at least 3 months in advance.  Check if a visa or other special permission is needed.  None were needed for Poland, but when I checked for Russia, you needed to request a visa at least 3 months prior to travel.  Know Before You Go.
  • Travel during off-season if you can.  Because we traveled in April, we missed the summer crowds and prices.
  • Check the weather in the location you are traveling to before you pack!
  • Note any holidays in the location you will visit.  The Monday after Easter is a holiday in Germany and all the stores were closed.  We had planned to shop that day!
  • Check ahead on sites you want to visit for any special events or other changes in availability.  When we visited Wittenberg, the Luther related churches were shrouded and one was closed in preparation for the 500th Anniversary in 2017.  The only picture of the churches we got were on a postcard!
  • If you will be in a country where you do not know the language, seriously consider hiring a guide.  It will be worth the money!
  • Do advance research for the location you are going.  Know the hours and rules of any repositories you want to visit.   Can you take pictures?  Scan?  State Archive of Poznan only pulls records three times per day and only 5 records per person per pull.  No scanning or copies, but you can take pictures.
  • Have a research plan before you go.  Take any reference materials you may need.  Do NOT assume you will have an internet connection available.  I printed out family trees and family groups sheets of the families I was looking for and had them spiral bound into a book at Office Max.  I made 3 copies (me, Lukasz and Donna).  We used them!  I also had my netbook with FamilyTreeMaker loaded in case we had questions not answerable by the print outs.  We used it!!
  • Have a scanner and/or camera with you.  In our case, we could not use a scanner, but I used a camera for the records.  Donna and I both had cameras and took over 3,000 pictures between us – scenery and records.
  • Pack light.  Donna and I each took a 22-inch carry-on suitcase and a fully-loaded backpack.  That was all for 14 days!! 
    • Lay out all the clothes that you think you will need and leave half of them home.  We had a few basics in solid colors and changed it up with shirts, scarves and such.  Hotels had laundry services or equipment.
    • Dress in layers.  April in Poland/Germany was rainy and 45-55 F.  We layered turtlenecks under fleece jackets/sweaters and those under raincoats.  When we went inside or it warmed up, we could peel off a layer.  Also, remember that buildings and hotels outside of the US do not always have the same temperature control availability.  PS: I appreciated my gloves!
    • Have two pair of good walking shoes.  Wear one, pack one.
    • Unless you know you will be attending an official dress up affair, leave the fancy clothes and jewelry home.
  • Keep a daily journal of where you went and what you did.  Write it up each night before bed.  If you wait to write it up on the plane or at home, you will forget most of it!  In my case, I also noted the weather each day, as it was pertinent to our tours.

It is hard to believe it has been over a year since our trip!  I would go back tomorrow if I had the chance.

PS:  I have been writing this post since March 2015.  I keep thinking I will add more or perfect it.  I keep thinking of more items to add.  However, I have decided to address some of the other aspects of the trip in individual posts and just get this one posted!