Thursday, November 27, 2014

An Irish Thanksgiving


     So just how do the Irish celebrate Thanksgiving?  They don't -- it's a North American holiday.  It could be argued however, that first Thanksgiving would not have occurred without the intervention of an Irishman. Times were getting desperate for the Pilgrims in America, they had foolishly set sail from England in September of 1620 and never made landfall in Massachusetts until November; they didn't arrive in Plymouth until late December.  New England winters being what they are, and were, it's somewhat amazing they survived at all, in fact more than half of them did die that first winter, but all was not lost.

     As it happened, one of the Pilgrims was the daughter of a Dublin merchant.  Like any good father he was probably worried about his child in a strange new land, especially in the winter months, and he determined to do something to assist her and her fellow travelers. That assistance arrived in February of 1621 aboard The Lyon, in the form of food and drink and other supplies.  Without that shipment, there would have been more deaths, and most likely the abandonment of Plymouth Colony, and no "first Thanksgiving".  Hence the claim, the Irish saved Thanksgiving, not to mention civilization as we know it, but that's a story for another day.

    I wish you all a happy, safe day, and thank you for reading.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not Just Anyone Could Get Married In Ohio

     Yesterday I was running some searches for my Ryan/Maher relatives who settled in Lexington, Ohio in the latter half of the 19th century.  At Family Search I found some Ohio records, and among them was the marriage of  Margaret Maher, daughter of Edward Maher and my 3rd great-aunt Ellen Ryan to William H. Zehner.  I also found the marriage of Margaret's daughter and only child, Helen A. Zehner to Walter R. Muth.  I had long ago discerned this information, but it was gratifying to see it confirmed in official records. What was surprising though was the forms themselves.

     Above is Margaret's marriage license from July of 1897, in it we see that in 1897 Ohio, the groom was required to be 21 years of age, but the bride only 18.  I was not aware a man had to be that old to marry in the 19th century.  In Ohio Territory back in 1788, 14 was the age a husband was required to have attained before tying the knot. There was no minimum age for the bride.  OK, next part--not more closely related than 2nd cousins-- that makes sense; next, the couple had to be of "the same color".  That one raised my eyebrows a bit, interracial marriages were not very common back then, but I had no idea Ohio outlawed them.

Helen Zehner and Walter Muth's License Application
           By 1915 when Helen was married, it appears things had loosened up a bit race-wise, but some new restrictions had been added.  Now the form asked if either of the couple were, "an habitual drunkard, epileptic, imbecile or insane, or if they were under the influence of any intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug".  Because we all know an habitual drunkard never lies???  Maybe it was to make any future divorce proceedings easier as in, "He never told me he was such a freaking imbecile."  Yes, I know, when they said "imbecile" they meant mentally impaired in some way, and I guess it's better than the formerly used term "idiot", but not much.  And epileptic?  That one really surprised me, so I Googled it and discovered that around the turn of the century many states had similar laws.  In the UK a law forbidding people with epilepsy to marry was on the books until 1970!

     Also uncommon in bygone days were divorces, but Helen had at least one.  Sometime before 1929 she and Walter Muth split, as in that year "Helen Grader" of Cleveland appeared as the informant on her mother Margaret's death certificate.  I cannot find Helen after the 1920 census, or her son Walter Jr. either until he resurfaces in 1940 living with his father Walter Sr.  The elder Walter was then proprietor of a beauty salon where he worked as a beautician, and his son managed a retail variety store.  Walter Jr. says in this census he was living with his father in 1935, so perhaps Helen had passed away by then?  And really, why do I care so much about these peripheral relatives?  

     Because it totally ticks me off that I can't figure out what happened to Helen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday's Photo/Joseph Krebsbach & Mary Noll Wedding Day And Unlikely Death

     This attractive young couple are Joseph Krebsbach and his wife the former Mary Noll.  Joseph and Mary were both born in Wisconsin to German immigrant parents in 1869, and were married November 9 in 1892 when this picture was snapped.  I love these old photos that show the fashions of their day.  The Krebsbach's lived in Sheboygan after their marriage, and became parents to two children, Edward, born in 1894 and Irene, born in 1899.  Joseph died as a result of a freak accident at his place of employment in 1923, his obituary is below...

Sheboygan Press Telegram - May 21, 1923 
    The serious injury suffered by Joseph Krebsbach, 1701 N. Eleventh street, last week at the Sheboygan Novelty Company when struck by a flying wood splinter in the abdomen, resulted fatally when he died at 3 o'clock in St. Nicholas hospital Sunday afternoon. A splinter five inches long had pierced the abdominal wall to a depth of about four inches when Mr. Krebsbach was working at a machine where lumber was being sawed. He had pulled the splinter out himself and was rushed to the hospital immediately.
    Mr. Krebsbach had worked at the Sheboygan Novelty company for a period of 30 years and was a foreman at the plant. He was born at Charlesburg September 4, 1869 and came to Sheboygan in 1891. In 1892 he was married to Miss Mary Noll, their union being blessed by two children, Miss Irene and Edward Krebsbach living at home. He is also survived by his wife.
    A member of the Catholic Order of Foresters and of the Arbeiter Verein, Mr. Krebsbach was well known and a highly respected citizen of Sheboygan. A large circle of friends and acquaintances mourn his sudden demise.
    Funeral services will be held from Holy Name church. Rt. Rev. Msgr Thill will officiate and interment will be made in the North Side Catholic Cemetery.

     Events like this are so sobering.  One second all is right, and just that fast, an accident occurs that will cost a man his life and forever change three others.  The 1940 census shows a 70 year old Mary and her children Edward, aged 48 and Irene, aged 39 still living together in Sheboygan.  Mary passed away in December of 1943 and is buried next to Joseph in Calvary Cemetery, formerly known as North Side Catholic, in Sheboygan.  Their two children also rest there.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Wasn't Even Looking For That! In Which I Try The New Roots Ireland

      I finally took the plunge and purchased a one month subscription to Roots Ireland, the site with all the church records.  RI recently changed from pay per view to subscription, and I hadn't taken a real look since the switch.  I've read some negative comments about how the search function has changed also, so I wanted to see if it was as bad as I'd heard.  I have to say, it's not.  You can no longer search on a 20 year span, but 10 seems sufficient for most searches, and if not, just re-do the search with a different start year.  I do wish the search engine wasn't so fussy about combinations of surnames and parishes, and it's still pretty touchy about spelling, searching for the name Honora does not bring up Honor for example, and  it would be nice to see the computerized index each heritage center works from since some spellings are quite bizarre.  I discovered there is a link for name variations, but you really have to look for it.  When a search has been done, take a look at the name in red over the generated hits, in between the first and last name you will see (plus variants)  this is a link even though it doesn't look like one.  Clicking it brings up the different spellings of the name you entered that the search engine will check for.

     Lately I've been looking at my Power relatives in the Tramore area, so I started with them.  Seeing as a large section of the Catholic records no longer exist for Tramore I wasn't expecting any breakthroughs when I typed "Mary Power" and her parent's names, "Edmond Power & Honora Crotty" of Tramore Parish in the baptism search.  As I expected--nothing.  I then decided to try to find her parent's marriage, so I clicked the box to switch to the marriage search form.  This particular search engine auto-fills the name and other data of the previous search to the new search for you, and before I could change the name in the search to Edmond Power, up popped several marriages for Mary Power.  I knew from US census and church records that Mary's husband was Thomas Ryan and I'd always assumed they married in the USA, but when I looked at the record, there he was!  They hadn't married in New York after all, but right in Mary's home parish; and I know it's them because unlike most old marriage records, this one gave the names of the happy couple's parents.  It also gave their address, Picardstown, and named Edmond Power as a witness, quite possibly Mary's brother.  I've always known there were other Power siblings I was missing, there are huge gaps between the ages of the three I've found so I'm always excited to get a lead on more Power's.

     One word of advice, when doing a marriage search try it first without the parent's names, even though there is a space for them.  In most old Irish records the parent's names were not recorded and if your search terms include them, your results will come up negative even if the marriage (sans parents) is in the database.

     Since Mary and Thomas were married in1860 and didn't show up in US census records until 1870 I figured it was worthwhile to look for the baptisms of some children in Ireland.  I found Patrick Ryan born 1861 in Picardstown, and John Ryan born in Tramore in 1863.  His godfather was Edmond Power, (I'll just bet he's Mary's brother).  Neither of these boys are in the 1870 US census with Thomas and Mary, only daughters Catherine and Ella, both born in New York.  Oddly, in both the 1900 and 1910 censuses Mary says she gave birth to only two children.  

     All in all I was pleased with the subscription.  I'd been tinkering with the old site's free searches for awhile and keeping a list of records I wanted to buy once a sale was announced, (they used to have them occasionally), so I had enough to keep me busy for several days, and of course new things pop up--like that marriage  and the baptism records.  It's very nice to be able to view the records of interest without stopping to wonder if they are really worth purchasing, I feel like I've gotten my money's worth on this one.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Delinquent In Tramore


     Anyone who spends time pursuing their ancestors very quickly comes to the realization that for every question answered, several (or more) questions arise from that answer, in some cases radically changing the way you perceive the lives of your forebears.  That is exactly what has happened since I discovered my great-great-grandfather Philip Power in 19th century arrest records in Tramore, Waterford, Ireland.

     I used to believe the Power family led a quiet life in rural Cullen Castle, (the address on Philip's baptism record), a couple miles north of Tramore, until at some point after Philip's conception his father Edmond Power passed away, spurring the remaining family members to emigrate to America.  I suppose I thought that because I had found nothing to suggest otherwise -- until those court records became available that is.  Philip's first arrest was in May of 1868 when he was ten and a half years old. He and two other boys were accused of  destroying several small trees on the property of John Kelly of Tramore.  The outcome was "no appearance" I don't know if that means they failed to appear, or if the charges were dismissed and they were not required to appear.  It is interesting that one of the other boys charged was Thomas Mahoney; years later and an ocean away in New York State, a man named Thomas Mahoney would marry Ellen Power, Philip's older sister.

     Philip's second arrest came three years later in July of 1871 when he was thirteen years old.  This time the charge was stealing fruit from the garden of a farmer in Crobally, near Tramore.  The sentence was one month at hard labor, which seems a little harsh, but the paperwork generated by this arrest is fascinating.  Since Philip was a minor, he appeared in the Registry of Male Juveniles.  This was a trove of information, along with name, age, offense, and sentence, there were questions about education and religion, past criminal activity and residence.  Philip was asked if he had ever been in the workhouse, if his parents were in the workhouse or incarcerated, if they had absconded or had he absconded from them?  His answers were all "no" until asked if he was without a father, he answered affirmatively to that one.  I knew Edmond had passed away before the family came to America, but was unsure exactly when so it was helpful to learn he was gone by 1871.

     Another record generated by this arrest was that of the Waterford City Gaol where Philip served his month of hard labor.  This one included a physical description!  Great-great-grandfather had grey eyes and a freckled nose.  There was also an address, Convent Hill Tramore.  More questions--what was Convent Hill?  There was indeed a convent there and some charities but my internet searches were largely unsuccessful. I wonder, was there a home for troubled boys there?  Did Philip and his mother Honora live there together in a charitable institution after Edmond's death?  Did she move into town to find work as a servant after losing her husband?

     The records themselves are real eye openers.  On the same page with Philip were two twelve year olds charged with larceny and given five year terms in the reformatory.  One of them had a mother in jail and a father who had been transported; the youngest on the page was a six year old who along with several older children had broken into St. Patrick's Church, his father was in jail at the time.  Someone bailed the child out thank goodness. 

      Philip left Ireland in 1874, boarding the ship Helvetia in Queenstown, now Cobh, and sailing to America to join his two older sisters.  His mother Honora followed shortly after.  This sounds like the classic tale of a mother finding it difficult to keep her fatherless son on the right path.  At least in America there were no more arrests.  Philip married, raised a family, and owned a farm of his own.  Of course, how he got it is another interesting tale...


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Deadly Kitchens Of Yesteryear

     A while ago I wrote about how difficult it can be to fully understand our ancestors who lived in the centuries before us.  I thought about that today while searching the "Canadaigua Daily Messenger" at, and an ad placed by my great-grandmother in 1939 came up.  Now 1939 really isn't all that long ago, my Dad was born in the early 30's, but things were very different even then.

     The ad in question read, "FOR SALE- cook stove with Silent Glow burners".  What on earth is a silent glow burner?  I had no idea.  After much searching I found first of all, you need to use the search term "silent glow OIL burner" to get any worthwhile results, and secondly, this invention was an add on to one's present coal or wood burning stove designed to make the housewife's life a little easier, and the Silent Glow people a little richer.  By the 1930's gas stoves had come into wide use, in fact twice as many were in American homes as coal or wood stoves, so the Silent Glow must have been the option for people living in rural areas with no gas lines, or too cheap frugal to buy a new stove.


Old Silent Glow kerosene bottle.
     Why be a stoker indeed!  I'm certainly no fan of "dirt and toil in the kitchen", and undoubtedly great-grandma wasn't either.  See the little inset on the right in the ad above?  That is what the contraption looked like when in use.  A large glass bottle full of fuel oil hanging upside down on an unstable looking stand with a hose running to your stove.  Actually, the "oil" is kerosene--one article about the burners mentioned homes smelling strongly of it.  How inviting.  And I'm not sure I buy the "absolutely safe" bit.  Even modern kerosene heaters caution you to provide adequate ventilation lest you accidentally asphyxiate yourself.  The US Consumer Product Safety Commission goes ever further stating, "Improper use can cause uncontrolled fire", and many communities near me have banned the use of kerosene heaters altogether.  Call me a Nervous Nellie, but the whole thing makes me a little uneasy.

     Early refrigerators weren't any better.  The GE Monitor Top which came out in 1927 used sulpher-dioxide or methyl formate as a refrigerant.  Those chemicals are so dangerous that if you have one of these babies laying around today, you can't even legally recharge it using the original refrigerant.

     Aside from wondering what my ancestor's day to day lives were like, I sometimes have to wonder how they survived long enough to become my ancestors in the first place?