As researchers, we all hit brick walls when doing genealogy. In my search, there’s a part of my family that just doesn’t want to be found! It can be very discouraging – and, if you’re like me, you become obsessed with uncovering the hidden family members and all the secrets they possess.
My grandmother was born Ada Angel Seguin in 1915 in Rhode Island to George Seguin and Nora Caron. Ada’s father, George, had a well-documented life and his family search was a breeze. But George’s wife Nora Caron is where my research started to unravel. Nora has always been a bit of a mystery for my family. The stories that have been passed down from my aunt say that Nora read tea leaves and had an ‘open-door policy’ in Rhode Island for all that were “lost” or needed a place to stay overnight. What a wonderful individual to have in your family! Continue reading A circus family→
One of my perennial and poignant brick walls is the story behind my wife Nancy’s maternal grandmother Anna Barkassy Pouget (1883–1921). Annie, as she is often called, arrived from Hungary with her father Andràs, an attorney, and passed through Ellis Island on 30 January 1906.[i] Annie’s story is like that of many other turn-of-the-twentieth-century Ellis Island immigrants in that her family name offers only a limited sense of her identity.[ii] Annie and her father traveled together; the passenger manifest reflects scant clues as to who or what they might be leaving behind in the old country – and negligible information regarding their business here on arrival. Continue reading Once an heiress→
Whenever I am working in records or sites from another country – and thus not in the English language – I do my best to leave them in that language, especially if my only option for translation is that which is built into the browser software. A recent consultation request brought this issue front and center.
When I first started researching my family I found an antique cross-stitch sampler that was passed down through my maternal grandmother’s family. I was eager to discover which of my ancestors had made it and I thought it should be easy to figure out. After all, it spelled out the stitcher’s name and age.
First, I examined the sampler. It was faded but still legible and was sewn with Roman and Gothic alphabets, as well as floral and animal motifs. It also contained the words “Magaretha Schmitt 16 Jahre alt 1855.” The German “Jahre alt” translated to “years old.” This would make Magaretha 16 years old when she finished the sampler in 1855. I concluded she was probably born about 1839 and likely of German descent because of the German language and alphabets. Continue reading Who was Magaretha Schmitt?→
May is Jewish Heritage Month, so in its honor I decided to look into my own Jewish heritage.
Even though I work at a genealogical society, I always felt that it was a worthless pursuit to try to trace my genealogy back many generations. My great-grandparents and some of my great-great-grandparents were the ones who immigrated to the United States in the 1910s and 1920s. Due to language differences, various names, changing borders, and not even knowing exactly where they were from (“somewhere in Russia” or “maybe Bialystock,” my grandparents would say), I never really gave it a shot. Continue reading A worthwhile pursuit→
Recently, I’ve started visiting the cemeteries of my ancestors. Fortunately, most of my maternal ancestors stayed in the Boston area after immigrating, so it hasn’t been too difficult.
A few months ago, I visited St. Joseph’s Cemetery in West Roxbury in search of the headstone of my great-great-grandparents, John Henry and Anna K. (Ulrich) Hampe. After searching for some time, I finally came to the Hampe plot. Listed on the headstone are John and Anna, as well as their children Joseph M., Bernard J., Anna M., and B. Ernestine Hampe. Though I was happy to take a few pictures, I couldn’t help but feel a flicker of disappointment. With the exception of Joseph, the other Hampes buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery only list their birth and death year, rather than the full dates of those events. Continue reading Correcting an error→
When I first started working at NEHGS in November 2015 and was introduced to Gary Boyd Roberts, he shook my hand and said, “Tell me about your family.” I told him my mother was half Cape Breton Scottish and Yorkshire English, and half Croatian (see my previous posts). His eyes glazed over. When I said my maiden name was Buzzell and my paternal grandmother was an Ordway from Medford, I could tell that little wheels started turning in Gary’s head: Yankees!
When my father was alive, I often asked him where his family was from. His response was usually “nowhere,” but sometimes he filled this void of information with a romantic genealogical fantasy: perhaps they were Huguenots banished from France? Continue reading The man from nowhere→
Between 2 March 1907 and 22 September 1922, the Expatriation Act of 1907 required a woman who married a foreigner to take the nationality of her husband, and therefore she lost her own citizenship. The Cable Act (also known as the “Married Women’s Independent Nationality Act” or the “Married Women’s Act”) passed on 22 September 1922; it repealed the 1907 law and thus severed a woman’s marital status from her husband’s nationality. Continue reading A woman’s nationality→
We family historians can never get enough of a good thing, right? So in the fall of 2012 when my son and his fiancée tied the knot I was thrilled for two very different reasons: a) my new daughter in-law was going to be an awesome addition to the family, and b) with it she was bringing an entirely new family history for exploring – a welcome relief after staring at my own brick walls for too long.
Before long, I was in the thick of researching her family tree, especially those lines that would lead (where else but?) to New England. Soon enough I could see a possible Mayflower line in her grandmother’s Martell family. There seemed to be a clear path to Mayflower passenger Henry Samson. And while I wasn’t intent on signing up my new daughter-in-law for the GSMD, I knew I had to be able to prove this for my own benefit – and for any future grandchildren (wink). Continue reading Birth marks→
Following up on a post by David Allen Lambert on the question of identity, a semi-related topic involves the generation in the United States to which someone belongs. In my experience, this might mean something different for a genealogist belonging to a family long resident in America, as opposed to the child or grandchild of a recent immigrant.
My most recent immigrant ancestors were my great-great-great-grandparents Joseph Kelly and Rebecca Nelson, who came over from Ireland to Philadelphia in the 1840s and married there in 1850. Through that part of my ancestry, I would call myself sixth generation. I count Joseph and Rebecca as the first generation, and would describe it in a genealogy as follows: Continue reading What generation am I?→