Monday, February 5, 2018

The Flatz Family of Wolfurt, Vorarlberg, Austria, and their journey to Ohio

One of my maternal 2nd great-grandparents was Mary Flatz who was only 4 years old when her family immigrated to Ohio. Mary, the daughter of Franz Xaver Flatz and Maria Anna Geminder, was born at no. 3 Weidach in the village of Wolfurt at 8 o’clock in the evening on 17 June 1848. She was baptized with the name Anna Maria the next day in the local Catholic church. Her father was a village baker and she had two older brothers and one older sister.

Wolfurt, in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, is located in the far western corner of Austria near the current borders of Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany.

This area, near Lake Constance, is mountainous and hemmed in by the Silvretta Alps which are topped by glaciers. In the early 1800s there was only subsistence farming and little industry or other work available.

The Flatz family were like others in the area who had to produce all they needed to live on. They may have had milk from a single cow, meat from pigs and eggs from chickens. Wheat and bread were sometimes hard to come by and they would have grown vegetables including beets, corn and potatoes. Even the children worked by weaving flax or spinning wool.

Their hard life and the lure of better opportunities in America enticed the family to emigrate. In late winter of 1853 the family began their two-month journey from Austria to Ohio. They left on 18 February 1853 and travelled for five days through Switzerland and part of Germany to Antwerp, Belgium.

Besides Mary’s family, including a new sister only 10 months old, the travelling party also included her uncle Gebhard Flatz and aunt Johanna Flatz, a cousin named John Gephart Sneider, and three other Wolfurt families. It was John Gephart Sneider’s autobiography that provided many of the details for this story.

After reaching Antwerp they purchased tickets on the ship Peter Hattrick and began to buy supplies they were unable to bring with them from Wolfurt. They needed to provide all their own food and bedding on board the ship as well as items they might need in their new life. The ship’s manifest shows the Flatz family brought on board 8 chests, 6 beds and 6 guns. Their Wolfurt travelling companions also brought a 6 chests, 3 beds and 4 guns.

They set sail from Antwerp on 28 February 1853 and were at sea for forty-eight days before finally landing in New York City on 16 April 1853. It is hard to imagine what the eight weeks at sea were like for the 263 passengers. One adult and three very young children died during the voyage.

Once the family disembarked in New York City they immediately set off for Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio, and arrived there on 24 April 1853. It is likely they were following a route that previous Wolfurt natives had taken before them and knew about the opportunities for good farmland in the Fremont area. Franz and Gebhard bought 40-acres of land east of Lindsey and began farming it that summer.

The Flatz family thrived in Ohio and Franz and his wife, now going by Mary Ann, soon had three more children. Mary Ann (Geminder) Flatz died on 14 January 1878 and was buried in a local Catholic cemetery. Franz Flatz later became Lutheran and died on 13 March 1908. Mary Flatz met James Michael Yeagle, who was living in nearby Rice Township, and they married on 1 January 1871. After having 6 children, Mary (Flatz) Yeagle died on 12 February 1921 in Clyde in Sandusky County.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Four generations of the Blackett family from Leeds, Yorkshire, England

My 5th great-grandfather was John Blackett. He was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, in 1767 and evidence suggests he was the son of William Blackett and Jane Lodge. He married Elizabeth Whitely in nearby St. Peter’s Cathedral in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1786. He and Elizabeth were required to marry in the Church of England, to make their marriage legal, but they were non-conformist Methodists. They were members of the Ebenezer Street, New Connexion Methodist church in Leeds. New Connexion Methodists felt Wesleyan Methodists gave too much authority to ministers over laity and split off in 1797.

John was a cloth presser and worked in the woolen textile industry which was thriving in the Leeds area. This was before the industrial revolution and the age of factories. Instead, he worked in a domestic household, often a cottage, and was probably employed by a local clothier merchant. For years, the family lived in the rural area of Quarry Hill in what was then the outskirts of Leeds. Today this area is an inner-city neighborhood.

In Leeds between 1787 and 1801, John and Elizabeth (Whitely) Blackett had eight children. However, two died in infancy.  About 1805, John and Elizabeth, along with their six children, immigrated to Albany, Albany County, New York. John died in Albany about 1812 and Elizabeth later married William Galloway. She did not have any children from this second marriage and died in 1828.

John and Elizabeth’s youngest sons, John and William, moved to New York City about 1830 and ran a successful hardware and locksmith business for over 30 years. They also employed other family members who moved from Albany to New York City as well. William eventually sold his business share to his brother and moved his family to Clermont, Fayette County, Iowa, where he died in 1879. John died in 1868 and his contested will has provided many pages of interesting details on the New York area Blacketts.

My 4th great-grandfather was James Whitely Blackett, son of John and Elizabeth (Whitely) Blackett. He was born in Leeds in 1787 and remained in Albany after his family immigrated there. He married Mary Colling in Albany in 1810. James began his career as a German flute teacher. Maybe he could not make a living teaching the flute as he later ran a cloth dying business on the corner of Hudson and Green street for many years. James and Mary (Colling) Blackett had five children between 1811 and 1818 but it appeared only two survived to adulthood. James and Mary died before 1868 but I am still searching for information on the exact dates and places of their deaths.

William Colling Blackett, son of James and Mary (Colling) Blackett, was my 3rd great-grandfather. He was born in Albany in 1812. He moved to New York City about 1835, possibly to work for his uncle in the hardware store. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy by 1845 and served as an Ordinary Seaman. In 1849 he was discharged and later worked as a clerk in the Brooklyn Navy yard. In New York City about 1836 William married Emma Withington. Emma, the daughter of Thomas and Susannah (Bratt) Withington, was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, in 1819. She immigrated to New York City with her parents and siblings in 1827.

William Colling and Emma (Withington) Blackett had four children in the New York City area between 1837 and 1849. Their youngest child, Catherine Louise Blackett, is my 2nd great-grandmother. Sadly, soon after Catherine’s birth, Emma (Withington) Blackett died from consumption [tuberculosis] in 1851. William then moved himself and his children into his brother’s household in a new suburb of New York City. Tremont, a village in West Farms, Westchester County, was a recently developed area where many moved to escape the congestion of New York City. William lived in Tremont with his brother, John Blackett, until John died in 1863. William later lived with his daughter and died in New York City in 1872. West Farms was annexed by New York City in 1874 and is now part of the Bronx. William was buried, along with his wife Emma, in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and was buried in the I.O.O.F. section of the cemetery.

While living in Tremont, Catherine Louise Blackett met William Crook Ritter. William’s parents, Washington and Eliza (Johnson) Ritter had also recently moved out of New York City and built a house in Tremont about 1856. William Ritter and Catherine Blackett were married in 1867. They had four children in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio between 1867 and 1889 and eventually settled and remained in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In 1876 they had a fateful month in Boston which I wrote about in "It Started with a Cough: A Month of Mourning for the Ritter and Blackett Families Living in Boston Highlands, Massachusetts."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reconstructing your ancestor’s daily life

Where did someone life?

For the most part our ancestors had ordinary lives. But what was life like for our ancestors? What was a typical day like? What did one eat or wear? How did events impact them?

Traditional sources, such as names and dates, can be a bit dry but social history can put “meat on the bones” so to speak. In a sense we are trying to reconstruct our ancestors' world. One way is to think about their daily life.

Where did an ancestor live? Where someone lived can tell you a lot about what their life was like. Did they live in the country on a small Irish Farm where they made their clothes from thread they spun and wove themselves?
Wikimedia Commons; Irish farm circa 1898.
Or did they live in the city and buy their clothes from a tailor?
Flickr; NLI; Dublin circa 1902.
If they lived on a farm they probably ate the food they grew themselves.
It they lived in the city they probably bought their food from a grocer.

One of my family's ancestors was William Holland. His family tree was the subject of a previous blogpost. However, that family tree has only rudimentary birth, marriage and death information for him. The only interesting information is that he "grew up working on the family farm in Lissycrimeen," County Cork, Ireland. What else is there to learn about where he lived?

Lissycrimeen is on the Seven Heads peninsula between Clonakilty and Courtmacsherry. Lissycrimeen can be seen in green below and the nearby village of Butlerstown is in blue.
National Library of Scotland; Ireland; GSGS 1941; zoomed into Seven Heads.
The 1901 Census of Ireland enumerates William living on his father-in-law's farm in the townland of Butlerstown which borders Lissycrimeen. William, his wife Kate (Sheehy) Holland and their son John were living with Kate's parents, Patrick and Mary (Riordan) Sheehy, on a small farm. It was described in the census as having stone walls, a slate roof, 4 windows in front and 5 rooms. There were 5 outbuildings including a stable, cow house, calf house, dairy and piggery.

William and his family, which now included 3 children, lived on the same farm on the 1911 Census of Ireland as well. However, now the family only occupied 3 rooms of the house but it still had 4 windows in front.  The 5 farm buildings also included a fowl house instead of the calf house. It might have looked like the farm below but with one less window.
Flickr; NLI; Clonmel circa 1906.
Even though I started out with only a few facts I now have a better idea of where William Holland lived. I even know what his farm might have looked like. Next I'll look at William's occupation.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Finding Historical Online Images

How and where do you find genealogy images that are free of copyright or in the public domain? James Tanner also has an interesting blog post called How to find genealogy images that are free of copyright and a follow up called More about "free" images -- be careful. They both provide good information with details on how to find attribution information.

The following are a variety of resources and examples of what you can find.

Google Image in the public domain.
Google Images. Enter a search term, then select "Tools" and limit "Usage Rights" to "Labeled for reuse." You will still need to check the image for any licensing attribution, etc. This can be done by selecting an image and clicking on “Visit Page.” Scroll down to look at "Licensing" as many will say “Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike.” If so, select “Use this file on the web” and copy the "Attribution" to use in your citation.

Wikimedia Commons. Search for an image then click on more details to see licensing. More information is available for reusing content.   

Getty Images. They may have usable images for blogs and sharing on social media. Enter a search term, on the search results page, click an image. On the details page you will see information on embedding or a social media icon if the image can be shared.

 Jean Henri Marlet Wellcome Library, London
Library of Congress. Search for item and then check item's "Rights & Access." Generally items are out of copyright but "rights assessment is your responsibility."

Wellcome Images. "Thousands of images and centuries of medicine, science, society and culture." Some "images are available to download from this site free of charge, for use both commercially and non-commercially under a Creative Commons Attribution Only – CC-BY 4.0 licence."

Flickr Commons. Shares the "world's public photography archives." Search for images with "Any License" option set to "No known copyright restrictions."

  Smithsonian photographPostcard of the Delaware and Hudson train wreck

Or look for some of the following institutions on Flickr and use the search bar under their name.
U.S. National Archives’ 1886-model bicycle for two.

Smithsonian Institution.

The British Library.

National Library of Ireland.

Internet Archive Book images.

The New York Public Library.

U.S. National Archives.

You might also like my Pinterest Board with more examples.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Behnke Family

Hannah Behnke Dauber about 1891
My grandfather was Clarence Dauber of Cleveland, Ohio. His mother Hannah Behnke married Henry Dauber in 1891. But Hannah died when Clarence was two years old in 1906. Two years later his father married Adelaide Behnke from Detroit, Michigan, who took over raising Clarence and his siblings. Adelaide was described as Hannah’s cousin but information passed down in our family neglected to say how they were related. Adelaide lived well into her 80s and from her our family knew a good bit about her parents and siblings in Detroit. But we knew almost nothing about Hannah or her life in Cleveland. We didn’t even know her parents’ names. However, Hannah and her family have become one of my most rewarding families to research. In the last few years I have discovered how Hannah and Adelaide were related, have been in touch with cousins I never knew existed and have traced Hannah’s family back through multiple generations into the 1700’s.

South Side of Rehberg's Church
Born on 26 November 1870 in the village of Rehberg, Hannah was baptized Johanna Caroline Wilhelmine Behnke. Today Rehberg is a part of the town of Woldegk, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is located about 50 miles south of the Baltic Sea in northeast Germany. Woldegk is known as the “City of Windmills” and windmills still dot the surrounding landscape. Hannah was baptized in Rehberg’s simple, half-timbered, Lutheran church on 18 December 1870.

When Hannah was nine years old her family emigrated from Rehberg to Cleveland. After traveling to Hamburg the family sailed on the ship Westphalia for 14 days to New York City before continuing on to Cleveland.

Hannah’s parents were Johann Carl August Behnke and Christiane Dorothea Caroline Beier. Her father went by the name Carl and later in Cleveland was called Charles. Her mother used the name Christiane and then the more Americanized Christina. Hannah had an older brother, Carl Friedrich Heinrich, and two older sisters, Wilhelmine Dorothea Friederike and Caroline Johanna Friederike. They went by the names Charles, Minnie and Lena.

Christina Beier, Hannah’s mother, only lived a few more years after the family settled in Cleveland and died when she was 46 years old. She was buried on 22 July 1884 in Woodland Cemetery. Carl Behnke, Hannah’s father, was an Arbeitsmann or workman in Rehberg and followed the same profession of laborer in Cleveland. He became a U.S. citizen on 25 October 1890 and lived to be 75 years old. He died on 23 July 1907 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery as well.

Hannah’s siblings lived out the remainder of their lives in Cleveland too. Charles married Hannah Kulow in 1885 and they had 10 children. He died in 1945. Minnie married Fred Wilk in 1885 and they had 7 children. She died in 1939. Lena married Fred Bohnsack in 1886 and they had 1 child. After he died she married William Funk in 1890 and they had 7 children. Lena died in 1949.

Carl Behnke, Hannah’s father, was the son of Johann Friederich Behnke and Sophie Christiane Kopperschmidt. Carl had three brothers and the youngest Ludwig who later called himself Louis emigrated to Detroit about 1866. He married Amelia Wurtzel in 1867 and they had 10 children. Their second child Adelaide Behnke became Clarence Dauber’s step-mother in 1908. So Hannah and Adelaide were indeed first cousins although Hannah was born in Rebherg and Adelaide was born in Detroit.
Clarence and Adelaide (Behnke) Dauber about 1914
Through DNA tests I have found some distant Behnke cousins too. I've been in touch with my 3rd cousin who is a great-granddaughter of Lena Behnke, my 3rd cousin once removed who is Ludwig Behnke’s great-granddaughter and a 4th cousin who is Ludwig Behnke’s 2nd great-grandson. It has been fun to trade emails with them and learn a bit more about my different Behnke lines.

Using German church records on microfilm I have also traced my family's Behnke line back into the 1700s. I had to learn to read old Gothic German handwriting but it was exciting to move back through the generations.

For more pictures of Hannah you can also check out my Pinterest page for her.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Worshiping with an Ancestor

Today I got to do something unique. I attended church with the congregation of an ancestor.  

Over two hundred years ago my 4th great-grandfather Adam Kreiligh immigrated to America. Eventually he ended up buying land in Upper Mahanoy Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.[1] Because Adam and his family were Lutherans they began attending Himmel Church which was about 5 miles away.[2] The church was just an old log building built along the banks of Scwaben Creek and served both the Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed congregations of German-speaking immigrants in the area.[3] Adam was an active member and participated in a resolution to build a new stone church. On 14 June 1817 he contributed $16 along with other members who gave what they could.[4] The new church was completed in 1818 and stood until 1903.[5]

Himmel Stone Church and Cemetery[6]

This stone church was “built in the old Pennsylvania style, with a one-story main room and gallery, an old-fashioned pigeon-box pulpit, and a seating capacity of four hundred.”[7] When $800 was left over it was used to purchase a pipe organ which became the only one for miles around.[8] Eighty years later the congregation outgrew the building. It was replaced in 1903 and then had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1959.[9]

When I found myself in the area I decided to attend a service at Himmel Church. It still serves both Lutheran and United Church of Christ (formerly Reformed) congregations. I thought I was visiting on a whim but as I sat in the pews I discovered my ancestor had brought me there for a reason. 198 years, almost to the day, after the historic congregation decided to build a more permanent church the current congregation was contemplating disbanding. With an aging and dwindling congregation, lack of member participation and an ever-increasing deficit the church was in crisis.

During the worship service a special congregational meeting was held to vote on closing. I knew there were many descendants of the founding congregation sitting around me as their families had stayed in the area. But I was the only Kreiligh descendant. Adam and his children moved to Rice Township, Sandusky County, Ohio, in 1834.[10] I think my 4th great-grandfather wanted one of his descendants to be in his church today. It certainly felt fitting that I was there. And it seemed like he was there with me during the emotional but tender service.

I was proud to be in my ancestor's church today. Especially when the congregation voted unanimously to continue and keep the church alive for future generations.

[1] Northumberland, Pennsylvania, Deeds, V: 359, Kreitigh to Kreitigh, 1 September 1823; Northumberland County Courthouse, Sunbury.  He bought the land on 31 May 1815 and in 1823 sold it to his son. Adam’s name is spelled three different ways in the deed: Kreitigh, Kreiligh and Kreider.
[2] “Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1774-1846: Schwaben Creek,” ( : accessed 27 Jun 2015), Adam Grehlich, communicant, 11 May 1816. Ibid, Ann Maria Kreiligh, baptism, 28 March 1819.
[3] Jack L. Pensyl, The Baptismal Records of Himmel’s Union Church, Rebuck, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1774-1846 (Northumberland County Historical Society, 1996), i.
[4] John H. Carter, “The Himmel Church” in The Northumberland County Historical Society Proceedings and Addresses VIII (1936): 97.
[5] Pensyl, The Baptismal Records of Himmel’s Union Church, i.
[6] Carter, “The Himmel Church” in The Northumberland County Historical Society Proceedings  VIII (1936): 66.
[7] Ibid, 82.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Pensyl, The Baptismal Records of Himmel’s Union Church, i.
[10] Sandusky, Ohio, Chancery Court, 6: 86, Michael Yeagley vs Jacob Krielich, 8 Jun 1847.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Remembering Five Family Members who Served in Four Wars

Pictured (left to right) are Rodney J. Guye, Grady F. Guye, Louis Guye Jr., 
James K. Ferguson and Louis R. Guye

This Memorial Day I was reminded of my father Grady Guye's military service. So I dug out this old photo and accompanying newspaper article.
This unusual photograph belongs to Elkins resident Grady Guye. It was taken during the summer of 1952 and shows five members of his family that severed in four different wars.
“My brother Rodney was home on leave that summer,” Guye said. “We were all sitting around talking when someone suggested we dig out our uniforms, put them on and have a picture taken while we were all home. The uniforms needed to be pressed because they were all in boxes at the time, but we put them on anyway.
“I’m glad we did because this is one of my most prized pictures. Rodney and I are the only ones left now. Dad, my uncle and my brothers were all proud to have served our country, as millions of others have over the years.
“My prayers are with our servicemen now serving in the Middle East and with their families, as well,” Guye said.
Rodney Guye, youngest brother in the family, served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War from October 1950 to August 1954. He was a fire controlman, third class, on the destroyer escort, the USS Blackwood.
Grady Guye, the oldest of the brothers, served with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II from December 1942 until February 1946. At his time of discharge, he was a post sgt./maj.
Louis Guye Jr. served in the U.S. Navy for four years during World War II, He served in the Armed Guard as a signalman and gunner on the USS Lewis L. Dysche, one of several ships under kamikaze attack for several days as they delivered troops to the Philippines.
James K. Ferguson, an uncle, served in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. He was a corporal in Troup I of the 11th Calvary. Troop I later participated in the funeral services for President William McKinley at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 17, 1901 as part of the honor guard. Troop I and Troop L were the only mounted troops that participated in the marching column.
Louis Guye served in France with the U.S. Army 113th Engineers, Company E, during World War I (1917-1918).

Source: "Five Members of Same Family Serve in Four Different Wars," The Inter-Mountain, Elkins, W.Va., 2 March 1991, p. 11.