Friday, May 25, 2012

Looking at my mother's German family ties

I got an email this morning from Find A Grave notifying me I had a message pending. What a surprise to find out Alfred Decker was a descendent of my great aunt Helena (Voigt) Kaiser. So unexpected to hear from someone on my mother's German side.

My genealogy friends know I've been concentrating on my English ancestors. Not so many of them know I have German ancestors, too. My father is half English – half German, and my mom is mostly German with some English peppered around just to make it interesting. 

I have done some entries on mom's ancestors into my family tree program from what I already know from mom and aunt Florence. I haven't gone as far back in Germany as I have for my dad's English ancestors. One of the reasons is... I had no idea where in Germany they came from! Her ancestors came to America before the unification of the German states as Germany, yet most of the documents I have all say "Germany" instead of the particular State they were from. 

Although, the enumerator for the 1870 census in the 16th ward of Chicago, Illinois did put "Baden" for Henry's place of birth and "Darmstadt" for Anna's, it was unusual since the unification was in the 1850s. I never thought much of it until today. 

I have only touched the surface of this family history which lies mainly in Chicago. I haven't done any research in GermanyMaybe one of these days I will know just where they lived in Darmstadt and Baden. I've been in and around both places on trips to Germany, but that was before I even got interested in family history. If I had only known...

Anyway, Alfred is a Find A Grave contributor – as am I. He must have spotted Henry Voigt and Anna (Arnold) memorial I submitted to the site. His message said he was connected through his great aunt Louisa Decker who married Edmund Voigt. What luck! Edmund is one of eight children I knew nothing about, other than his name that is. I was able to fill in a few more blanks with birth dates, death dates, and a marriage date.

Edmund is the son of Henry (Find A Grave 57866200) and Anna Arnold (Find A Grave 57867366). He was born 24MAY1873 at Chicago, Cook, IL and died 03SEP1931 at DuPage Co., IL. On 05APR1902 at Chicago, Cook, IL he married my great aunt Louisa Decker. The marriage lasted long enough for them to have one child, Arthur O. Voigt, b. 1903 at Chicago, Cook, IL. Arthur died 1968 at St Louis Co., IL. I suspect Arthur's middle name is Oscar after Louisa's brother.

It pays to be a contributor on Find A Grave! <>


Henry and Anna are my great grandparents. The above pictures were identified in the family photo album as Anna Arnold Voigt and Henry Voigt by my mom's sister Florence. Henry and Anna's daughter Laura (married Edwin Luther Buschick) is my grandmother. Henry and Anna are buried in Wunders Cemetery in Chicago on the southeast corner of Irving Park Rd. and Clark St. Graceland Cemetery is on the Northeast corner. 

A nice history of the cemetery is given on Find A Grave's website <>

Henry Voigt 1824-1879
Anna Voigt 1835-1915
I have a copy of Anna's death record, but not Henry's. He is on my "ToDo" list.

The headstone shows 1835 as her birth date, but her death record has Nov 1, 1834 which is not an unusual occurrence. She died on September 4, 1915 at 11 p.m. at age 80. There is a lot of information contained in this record. I will refer back to it when I start again on this family. H(elena) Kaiser the informant is her daughter. Great grandma was living at the same address as Helena at the time of her death. I didn't know who her father and mother were, but there they are – Fredrick Arnold and Gertrude Schmidt. The length of time in the US was 67 years. She was 13 when Anna and her family immigrated, but 17 when she came to Chicago. I'll have to check for a passenger list for 1848 arrival. I have some answers and have more questions, too! This is a great document!

With my poking around this morning, I found on the 1910 census, that Anna had 12 children total, but only eight were still living at the time. I had listed in my program: Helena, Emma, Bertha, Laura, Henry (Jr.), Edmund, Frederick, and Ida.What are the names of the other four and where are they buried? 

So little by little, I am filling in more information on the Voigts. I'm thrilled Alfred contacted me. I love looking and learning!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Just a thought from a great aunt

Today I went to my great niece Shannon's high school graduation party. She is the oldest of my brother John's grandchildren. Isn't she lucky? What I mean is – lucky she has a great aunt? My brother's grandchildren have a couple other great aunts besides me. What luck!

I never met my great aunts. I only heard one or two of them mentioned, but don't remember any stories about them. My parents were older when my brother and I were born. Both my parents were born in 1904. My grandparents were born in 1860s. My brother and I are both war babies. All my great aunts had died by 1940 five years before I was born.

I wonder if my brother's children have any thoughts about how lucky they are...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hunting and Gathering in the Family History Library

Back now from Salt Lake City. I spent six days in the family history library and didn't find the baptism or burial of my 5x great grandparents, my brick wall. There were a few loose bricks in that wall and now I have several new names to build on.

My Portas folks are mostly from the northeastern part of Lincs, mainly the marshes and wolds with some located around the northern part of the fens.

The time period I'm mainly interested in is 1695-1780 – more or less. I have found a nice concentration of early Portas families up in the marsh towns – Marshchapel and North Coates, and edge of the wolds – Wyham cum Cadeby. This is the area 5x great grandparents Joseph and Elizabeth are from.

It is beautiful in northeast Lincs, with rolling hills that look like a billowing patchwork quilt of fields and forests. As we drove up and down the hills, occasionally a pheasant would cross the road and scurry into the hedge row. On the rise above Wyham cum Cadeby parish church, in the distance you can see the marshes meeting the North Sea.

I hunt and gather PORTAS families in (and from) Lincolnshire, England. My style of research is a little unorthodox, but it can be exhilarating and rewarding. I harvest all I find, hoping to connect them with my lineage. I've made many connections and I've produced as many mysteries and questions to boot.

A few years ago on a trip to Salt Lake City, I found the marriage record for Joseph PORTAS and Elizabeth MOOR. They were married in 1740 in All Saints parish church of Wyham cum Cadeby. Now I know when and where they were married, but that's it! I don't know their baptism or burial dates or places! That is my quest. If I could find these places and dates, I would have their parents' names and could move backward. Currently I'm stuck!

"A Copy of the Regester for the Parish of Wyham cum Cadeby from Lady Day 1740 to Lady Day 1741 Joseph Portas & Elizabeth Moor married May 6" (Lady Day is March 25) [Image: parish record Wyham cum Cadeby, Lincolnshire, England]

The parish church is still next to the parsonage and manor house but there is no village. There is a parish history at <>. When Bob and I drove to the church to get a picture, it was hard to find because the road leading to the church looks like a private driveway. We originally found ourselves on that gravel farmer's road in the picture above; we asked directions from the farmer how to get to the church and he said we should drive down the hill, turn left on the drive, go through the farm buildings until you see the church.

The church is small and ancient. I would love to have gone inside, but the church was locked. Next time we are there, I'll get in, I want a picture of the baptismal font, too.

Finding Joseph and Elizabeth has been a challenge. Sometimes I think I am close only to have my hopes dashed after sending for high resolutions of one document or another. I have looked at Settlements, Parish Records, and Wills. I have two lists of parishes, one that is within five miles and to other 10 miles of Wyham cum Cadeby. I am whittling down those lists each time I go to the Family History Library. This current trip, I believe I have the strongest possibility of where Elizabeth was baptized and buried, but I'm not yet sure.

The last couple trips to the Family History Library have been fruitful. My harvest of Portas families has yielded a bumper crop of names and connections. Yet none have moved me closer to Joseph and Elizabeth. I have hope. Their information will come to me when I least expect it.

In the meanwhile, I will continue to hunt and gather Portas families. With all my information on Lincolnshire Portas families, I may be able to help others find their connections, too. I won't give up on my 5x great grandparents B & Ds... I will seek different avenues to search. There has to be something I haven't searched through yet.
Now I have to get going on entering all that I found during this trip. Maybe something will light up the lightbulb in my head and I will get closer than I was before the trip. One can only hope!

Maybe I'll work on my mother's FOWLER family...hmmm.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I'm in a Cloud!

A trip to Salt Lake City Family History Library is exciting. I don't usually go in May, but had the chance and didn't pass it up. I've been planning for awhile now and think I'm ready to go. 

Getting ready doesn't mean pack my bags and grab my plane ticket. I'm researching out there so that means I need to know what I want to harvest once I'm there. I need to make sure my "ToDo" list up to date. I have to bring my microfilm and book call numbers list up to date also. I want to be prepared so I don't waste my time. I have a brick wall to break down. I need to further my family history story experience.

Every year I go, I take less than the year before. It is almost like packing the diaper bag for the first trip to grandma's with that new baby. My, my. Did we really need all those diapers, bibs, one-zies, bottles, etc.? Each trip after, less and less gets packed.

The first year I went, I packed a giant suitcase with enough room to pack for every scenario I could think of – in went sweatshirts, several pairs of slacks and jeans, t-shirts, coat, gloves, scarf, rain gear, etc. Whew! I didn't want to be without what I might need. It was October – need layers. And then there's the roller bag to carry my laptop, camera, device accessories, files folders stuffed with printouts, censuses, gedcoms, notebooks, enough stationery supplies to restock Staples. Any overflow went into the big suitcase.

This Sunday - seven trips later, my suitcase and carry-on will look a quite different. I'm packing a considerably smaller suitcase for the week; I have learned to do without. It's only a week and I'm not going camping!

My carry-on has been reduced to a large computer bag. It looks like an over-sized purse, but will be big enough to hold my MacBook, iPad, digital camera, and a few folders and a notebook, but small enough to fit under the seat.

I'm excited to have an option of taking very little paper with me. I'm embracing technology. I do use my digital camera instead of making photo copies and have memory sticks incase I want to copy something from one of the library's computers.

This trip, I'm also taking the "Cloud" with me. Fantastic! Files accessible from my computer, iPad, and iPhone! I've spent several weeks digitizing notebook pages from past trips, sorting out images of censuses I have marked up with notes and questions. I don't need all that paper. Whatever I think I need to reference, I uploaded to Dropbox and I'm using iCloud (for Mac), too. I've been playing with Dropbox for a couple weeks now so I kind of know how much "free" space 2 gig can hold and how I want to use it. Right now I do believe that amount of space is enough and it is FREE. As I increase my usage, I will have to pay for more space.

I think I have pushed what I need to the cloud. If I didn't? Well, the Family History Library should have enough material to keep me busy. I probably won't miss much left behind anyway. 

The best thing is I won't be dragging around all that ephemera!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day! I'm not calling for help

May 1 didn't mean International Worker's Day to me when I was a very young girl. I didn't know it was celebrated in places around the world to mark the coming of summer. I didn't know about the may poles or about traditions that started as pagan rituals.

All I knew was going out into the orchard next to our house; picking a small nosegay of violets to bring in to grandma. Her smile said thank you to me. She would ask for a big safety pin so she could wear the little bouquet for the rest of the day. And she did, proudly even though by the afternoon those flowers would be drooping and drying out in a sad state of affairs. Yet, she wore them through supper.

Carrie I. (Snyder) & William D. Porteous
Wedding picture 1895.
I lived with grandma, dad, mom, and brother. The house was big and old. It was built in 1895 by grandpa William D. Porteous, as a wedding present to grandma, Carrie I. Snyder. He died in 1927 of a heart attack while lifting a ladder to the eave of the house. The house was on fire and he was attempting to put it out. I remember hearing that story a lot. On the south attic wall, inside, and above where the first and second floor bayed out was the evidence of charred wood.

Grandma lived until I was in high school. She was almost 94 years old. I never knew my grandpa, but loved to hear the stories grandma would tell about her growing up and about my grandpa coming from England. I became interested in family history very young, but didn't get serious until about 20 years ago.

The Porteous house on Maple Ave., Mundelein, Ill., ca. 1910
(next to Lincoln School)
In this house picture, the orchard wasn't mature like it was sometime in the 1950s when I could stand about where my aunt Violet is. It must be spring, maybe even early May, when this picture was taken. The apple, pear, and cherry trees are blooming, the other trees look like they are starting to leaf out and my aunt is coat less. The garden in front of her has been cleared and plowed ready for planting. I can imagine the violets blooming under those fruit trees. We did have chickens in the '50s, but they didn't roam around the yard.

May Day is a day of fond memories.