Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What day were you born?

Randy at Genea-Musings recently asked two questions of his readers:

1. What day of the week were you born? Tell us how you found out.

2. What has happened in recorded history on your birth date (day and month)? Tell us how you found out, and list five events.

I had honestly never thought of this before, but I knew that my parents had to skip the wedding of my mom's brother because I was born that day. So chances were that it was on a weekend. And it was: Saturday.

Unlike others who have commented at Genea-Musings, I figured this out using the internal date calculator in my genealogy software, Ancestral Quest. Easy enough.

As for what happened in history on that day, like most everyone else I headed to Wikipedia. I also took a look at IMDB (one of my favorite sites), which keeps track of entertainment-related births, deaths and marriages.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

Oh, well.

So much for the anticipated St. Louis County deed search. The records only go back 25 years.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More About the Online St. Louis County Records

As I mentioned at Transylvanian Dutch, the index to St. Louis County marriages is on microfilm and is available at three, if not more, different libraries in the area. I've never been to the County offices — I don't have much reason to go — but I'm sure they have a copy for public use, too. So the big deal is access to the index from home, or wherever you happen to be online, as well as ordering copies without having to go to Clayton.

My County research is rather limited because most of my St. Louis ancestors stayed within the City limits, but I have used the County marriage index on microfilm several times (though it's been a while). I'm certain the index covers the 1960s, but I think it probably goes even further: late '70s if not early '80s.

About the price ... if this system is what I hope it will be, $5.95 seems to me to be the perfect fee for online access.

Putting aside my personal needs, which are plenty in the City of St. Louis, the City should be doing this kind of project ASAP. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but the original City marriage records (pre-1900) are in horrible shape and need to be digitized if for no other reason than preservation. There are a couple versions of microfilm available (one once described as a "bootleg" by a City staffer due to its inferior quality and apparently unauthorized filming), but they're not easy to use. The easiest version to read is the original books. But these are no longer available to the public. Yes, an archivist will do lookups, but I'd rather do it myself. What I've seen on microfilm is illegible (laughably bad) in some sections.

The City should partner with the StL Genealogical Society (for volunteers) and the Mo. State Archives to digitize the complete index and records (applications and licenses). Then the City could put these online and charge a fee. The City is always complaining about money ... here you go.

And while they're at it, someone needs to rescue the "unknown" or "lost" naturalization records from wherever those are hidden away. If the condition of the records is the main concern for not having these available to the public for years (decades?), one would think time passing by is not helping the situation.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Coming Soon: St. Louis County Online Records

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis County to let users access documents online.

If the City of St. Louis ever offers something similar, my credit card will get quite a workout.

(Note: The article makes reference to the City of St. Louis actually having some records online. As far as I can tell, though, the only available records are deeds from 1982 to at least 2000, and the fees for searching are far from being genealogy-friendly.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One of "those" genealogies

While using the book search at HeritageQuest Online for a surname in a sister-in-law's and nephew's ancestry, I came across a succinct little treasure of names and dates for several generations in a book that, from the title, appears to be something you'd find in a library and think, "This looks legit." So, I went to the beginning of the chapter to see whose ancestry was being written about. The first sentence read:

"**** ******** ***** is of Swiss, German, Dutch, French, Scotch, Irish, Welsh and English ancestry, which has been traced back several centuries on many different lines, and on one line back to Adam and Eve, naming the direct ancestor in every generation back to the Garden of Eden."

I was relieved to find that the surname of my interest is not connected to the supposed Adam and Eve line — which wasn't even listed in detail, by the way — but I'm still going to use what I found as a road map. Thankfully, the info for the family I'm researching appears to be plausible.

Yeah, about that idea ...

Ding, dong, the checklist is dead ... at least in paper form or as a spreadsheet. What I'm going to do instead is create a new page on for each individual with the same template as my checklist. I've been doing this for a few weeks. It's going to be a long process, but no longer than doing it as I had originally planned.

I'll still be able to print out the web page to see what I've done and still need to do and take that hard copy on the road, but I felt that having my database(s) (still working on the eternal plan to combine them), a web site and a paper trail was too much redundancy. And, hopefully, this will attract others to share their research on the site by filling in the holes I don't have time to research.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Cook Co. records online; let's see how long the server holds up

John at Transylvanian Dutch has found that the Cook County Vital Records site is now live.

I just purchased and downloaded a marriage certificate a few minutes ago. The site is fairly easy to use. One minor complaint: wild card searches aren't an option. Instead, soundex is supported. (Why? The Missouri State Archives has shown how to make an effective search tool that isn't overly complicated.) Not a big deal, though. This site will likely become hugely popular and, hopefully, this shows other counties that digitization projects can and should be done.

Great find, John!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I think I'll buy lottery tickets tomorrow...

Like Apple, I also won a prize in The Buick Heritage Sweepstakes. And like Apple, I don't win prizes...ever. But that's probably because I rarely enter these types of contests. (I actually shocked myself in that I apparently used one of my primary email addresses for this, rather than one of my spam dumps. This was months ago and I had completely forgotten about it.)

Despite what the email stated, I did not receive "a hardcover copy of 'In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past.'" Instead, the package contained a book about Oprah Winfrey's ancestry, written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I'll probably give that book, and the DVD, to my library. Oh wait, they're still closed. Only six months to go...

I will be keeping the Family Tree Maker software because I've never given that a test run. On the other hand, I'm so entrenched with Ancestral Quest that it's highly unlikely I'll switch, meaning the software will either be given away to a family member (one sister-in-law has shown somewhat of an interest in genealogy) or I'll let a society have it for a raffle.

Thanks, Buick!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Impressive Stats

Missouri State Genealogical Association: MISSOURI DEATH CERTIFICATES DATABASE (1910-1957).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gas and Genealogy

Earlier today, Jasia asked whether the high cost of gas was affecting our research. Answer: sort of. Work at this time of the year is very busy, so my ability to research is severely hamstrung to begin with. Couple that with the price of gas, and heading to a cemetery a few counties away or a repository a few hours away just doesn't make a lot of sense.

To get around this situation, I've found myself using a lot recently, despite my initial (and continuing) reservations about the site. I've also been using Google Books to find tidbits of interest and then ordering photocopies from libraries in Ohio and Georgia. And I've been meaning to write about this, but if you can find someone with reasonable rates, by all means enlist their help in obtaining documents.

Columbia, Missouri, and Springfield, Illinois, are both less than two hours for me. While Columbia is primarily known as the home of the University of Missouri (Mizzou), there is a fabulous state-wide collection of newspapers on microfilm at The State Historical Society of Missouri whose facility is on the campus. And in Springfield you can find death certificates, obits, military records, etc., at the State Archives and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

I once read a message board post that indicated an individual would get Missouri obituaries from Columbia for (at the time) a few dollars per copy. Lacking time, I tried him out and was very happy with the results. As soon as I put together another list, I'll be using this person's services again. (If you need Mo. obits, contact me and send you his email address.)

Armed with a "to get" list of death certificates, obituaries and other assorted records of interest, a trip to Springfield has yielded big results multiple times in the past. Now, gas for that 4-hour round trip costs more than I want to spend, especially with the bulk of my research there having been completed. And can you put a price on the aggravation of three to four hours on a four-lane highway with many others who think 75 or 80 mph is a good starting point? (Yes, I often drive like my grandpa used to.)

I've been aware of a Springfield-based researcher for a few years, but decided now was the time to try her. Hiring out research takes away some of the fun, but her fees are very reasonable, she doesn't screw around (like someone I almost hired on the East Coast last winter) and she's very fast. Molly has a website, so I don't think there's any harm in giving her some free advertising: Illinois Genealogical Research by Mollx. Again, highly recommended.

And of course, there's always

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Germans in America" on local PBS station, 4/6

A few minutes ago I received an email from G-SIG (German Special Interest Group, a cooperative effort of the St. Louis Genealogical Society and the German American Heritage Society of St. Louis) with news that "Germans in America" will be airing on the local PBS affiliate next Sunday at noon. It looks like the series will air over the next month.

It was mentioned that in Part One the MUENKS family is mentioned. One of the MUENKS girls married an EBERT, so I may see some cousins on TV next week.

Goethe-Institut USA

KETC, Channel 9

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Haunted Place

From The Razor.

My "Midland Accent"

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

This test doesn't go far enough. Those from St. Louis have some peculiar pronunciations. I know I do. So, I don't think it's entirely accurate to state I don't have an accent. In fact, I probably tend to sound more country than I really am.

While I'm not as exaggerated as some, when describing Highway 44 I do tend to say it as "farty-far." And I'm pretty typical for around here when I say "warsh your hands" rather than the way it should be.

(As seen on Genea-Musings.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Research checklist

Finally. After putting this off for too long, the research checklist I've had in my head is finished and on paper. This isn't necessarily a finished version, though. Depending on the era and location(s) that someone lived, the checklist may have to be altered. And I will eliminate many of the items for collaterals who I cannot devote hours to.

Here's an example with the type of information I look for on my ancestors.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

FamilySearch Record Search

Yesterday was a good day for online resources. Not only did I find out that the Missouri Archives got caught with death certificates through 1957, I read via The Ancestry Insider that FamilySearch Labs had uploaded images for "Illinois, Diocese of Belleville, Catholic Parish Records 1729-1956." My RICK ancestors spent a few years in this area, so off I went to log in.

This is probably the first time I spent more than about 30 seconds looking at Record Search. Before, none of the available records really interested me. I mean, I'm subscribed to Ancestry so the census records were redundant, though the clarity of the images I did look at were nice. So I was essentially new to the Record Search experience, and I've got to say I really liked it. The area for the image is nice and large, images loaded fast and the controls and navigation were easy to use. My only complaint or suggestion: when going from page to page, I wish the image would load at the top left (as if reading a book) and not remember where the user was on the screen for the previous image. Admittedly this may not be much of an issue once everything is indexed, but it probably wouldn't hurt to make this an option left up to the user's discretion.

Several of August and Magdalena (MÜLLER) RICK's children were baptized while they lived in St. Clair County, Illinois, and though I had already found all of this information on local microfilm, I hadn't previously printed out every record. Now I have these records from St. Joseph and St. Pancratius in digital form, which I now strongly prefer.

This is going to be the resource five or ten years from now.

And 1957!?

I overlooked an important aspect of the update to the Missouri death certificate database: the Archives and volunteers not only filled in the gap between 1940 and 1944, they also added 1957's deaths (following the 50 year rule).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

MO Deaths: Done!

A few days ago I was at the Missouri Secretary of State's web site, just checking to see if another year of death certificates had been finished. It had seemed to me that there was a delay in getting the next batch online, as the last update (1939) had been in November/December of 2007.

Well, I got home tonight and Craig had blogged that the project is done. For those not keeping score, the Archives just uploaded the final five or six years worth of certificates that had been missing. Amazing.

Not to take away from this big news, but I'm actually kind of curious to see if the Archives decides to introduce another big, high profile project that could again utilize the energy and devotion of an army of volunteers. Maybe something like a statewide index to wills and probates, or deeds. Those kinds of resources exist on a local or county level, but they're not always published and rarely online. Having an index up to, say 1910 or 1920, would be extremely helpful.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Carnahan Announces Online African-American Genealogy Series

Carnahan Announces Online African-American Genealogy Series

New Videos Can Help Families Trace Their Roots

Jefferson City, Missouri — Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced today that her office has placed online a five-part video series highlighting African-American genealogy. African-American Genealogy: Putting Together the Pieces of Your Past was created by the Missouri State Archives, a division of the Secretary of State's office.

"I am pleased that we made this series available to assist researchers in overcoming many of the common obstacles encountered in tracing African-American roots," said Carnahan. "Finding genealogical records for ancestors can be challenging, so these videos are designed to help people track their family tree."

In the five-part series, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, a Family History Research Consultant, provides helpful tips on accessing the best websites, which records are most beneficial, and how to get the most out of original records. Together, "What's Out There?;" "What's Your Story?: Finding It on the Web;" "How Do I Find Out More?;" "What Happened During the Wars?;" and "How Do I Put All the Information Together?" teach researchers to use all the pieces they find to gain a better understanding of those who came before them.

Wilson-Kleekamp guides researchers through the process of identifying ancestors from the era of slavery through a variety of records and documents. The series provides a solid background in conducting slavery-era research and reviews specific books, databases and online resources that contain vital information for African-American genealogical study.

The new website is part of Secretary Carnahan's long-term commitment to the African-American History Initiative, a program that aims to create a broad public awareness of the rich contributions of African-Americans to the state. The initiative also strives to offer new resources to historians, genealogists and to others studying Missouri's culturally diverse history.

The series is available online at

Monday, February 25, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hosting issues

A comment was recently posted here about my move from RootsWeb to my own domain. I've read similar sentiments elsewhere and wanted to quickly run down why I'm not very concerned about these issues.

#1 A successful site will be charged more by the hosting company.

I know this happens. I was once co-admin of a site that while not widely known, was one of the top sites for a specific interest. I didn't pay the bill or deal with a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff, but I knew what was going on with my buddy's web hosting nightmares. The differences between the site I'm building and this moderately successful site (in terms of traffic) are plentiful.

That was then (2000) and this is now. Hosting plans are different, and this is an entirely different hosting company. I'm in charge of my work's website and we've used this same host for over a year and a half without any problems.

If I decide to install forums, the number of users will be a drop in the bucket compared to what I used to oversee. So, forums will not be a resource hog.

Most of the content I will create has a limited audience. That's the nature of a personal genealogy site. It's true that I will go behind that a little, but I am not looking to create any sort of regional resource.

Most importantly, my hosting plans allows for 15,000 GB per month of transfer. For a genealogy site that is going to be family-specific, for the most part, that would be a lot of traffic. And should the site become wildly popular (why would it?), I do have some wiggle room in terms of the price. What I'm paying now (less than $7 per month) is locked in for a couple of years and I consider it a very reasonable price.

#2 If something happens to me, the site withers and dies.

My site is essentially nothing more than an advertisement for attracting distant cousins. I see message boards and mailing lists in the same light. After I'm gone, making contact people won't really be a concern, now will it?

As far as someone continuing my work, I hope that happens, but I realize that at the moment there is no such person.

In other words, I'm very content with the package I bought and where this is headed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I changed the template recently and see some things that need work, but for now I've updated the list of genealogy/history blogs I subscribe to. If you have any suggestions, post a comment. I have some room in my reader for new additions after weeding out several that didn't have a new post in some time.

Index to the 1850 Agricultural Census of St. Charles County, Missouri

Agricultural census records are probably one of the most interesting records one can find for their ancestors. I like them so much that a few years back I intended to release a series of transcriptions and indexes for the records from a variety of counties that my ancestors lived in between 1850 and 1880. Those big plans were essentially scrapped, though at some point I will release what I had been working on. I believe these records are (or should be) going to show up on a site like Ancestry or Footnote long before I could finish my project, so I'll just make this quick and painless.

The first ag census I looked at was from 1850 in St. Charles County, Missouri. The index has been done for some time now; I actually printed this out and gave a copy to the St. Charles County Genealogical Society. This is something I've been wanting to put online and now is the time.

Index to the 1850 Agricultural Census of St. Charles County, Missouri


The other night when I found August LANKAU in a new database, the next thing I did was check an old database, one of the most useful for St. Louis researchers: St. Louis City Death Records, 1850-1908. Sure enough, there was August LANKAN. If there's one thing I've learned from research of this family, it's that LANKAN is the first alternate spelling that should be searched. That this entry got by me is a little embarrassing, but that's why it never hurts to look again. This general principle was covered by Craig and others several weeks ago, but I think it needs a name — shampoo. Think about it.

And if I'm not the first to suggest that Ancestry digitize the St. Louis death records, add my name to the list of supporters. These records seem to be a little misunderstood by those that have never viewed them and they are probably one of the top lookup requests on message boards and mailing lists for the area.

Here's an example of the information Ancestry provides:
Name: August Lankan
Death Date: 16 Jun 1890
Address: 314 Marion
Volume: 24
Page: 476
County Library: RDSL 33
Missouri Archive: C 10389
SLGS Rolls: 323

What you don't see is the cause of death, place of birth (very generalized, e.g., Germany rather than a town name), approximate age, cemetery, undertaker and physician. (The cemetery is often listed in Ancestry's database, but some entries lack this info.) I may be leaving out a couple of headings but that's basically it. While these are somewhat primitive death records and not the most useful for connecting the dots (the deceased to another family member via an informant or the names of parents), I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to have this information. At the very least, it can be used as a jumping off point to look for an obit, family plot at the cemetery or used with directories to see who was living at an address at that time.

As I mentioned, these would be fantastic records to digitize. Actually, so would the St. Louis burial certificates, a document used starting in about 1881 or 1882 that has a lot of the same information. To me, those two record sets would be just about as valuable to me as the census records, which is the main reason I have an Ancestry subscription.

The burial certificate is a single document, while the death records are actually a register or log of entries that spanned two pages on a single line. Personally, I prefer to have a copy of the burial certificate just because it's easier to file and they often print better from microfilm than the death register. Over the years, the burial certificates started to become more and more like death certificates. Some of the forms even say so at the top. But if you go to a local library and look for pre-1910 death certificates, you're looking under the wrong heading.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Waiting for the GEDCOM...

China View: Updated Confucius family tree has two million members.

I'd hate to be at the family reunion and get guilted appointed as a proofreader or to "family tech support" for this kind of project just because I know more about computers than most other family members.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Come on down, August LANKAU

Here's the beauty of digital indexes: it's so much easier to find things you may miss in a paper or microfilm index. The relevant results are right before your eyes. And this may give a name new life under the eyes of a different transcriber.

While running a few names through the Missouri Birth Records, 1805-1980 database, I came across Augustin LANKAU. Guess what? I never came across this child when I looked at these records years ago at the City Library, nor in any searches of Catholic church records. I knew there was a gap or four years between births in this family, but no more. Now I need to find out what happened to this boy. He did not live to 1900.

New Ancestry Content

Ancestry has recently added two new databases useful to those with a local connection. The first is the Missouri State Census Collection, 1844-1881. These census records are a helpful way to fill in the gaps of the federal census records. Prior to this release, the records were not widely available though the indexes were. Actually, microfilm of at least some of these records is at two or three places in the St. Louis area.

But there is more. While it's true that many of the state census records have not survived the years, the Ancestry collection is not complete. For example, I believe census records for St. Charles County (1852, 1868 and 1876) have been indexed within the last couple of decades, suggesting that the originals are somewhere waiting to be filmed or digitized.

The other database is Missouri Birth Records, 1805-1980. I've used the index and microfilm to the St. Louis records in the past and had very little success with my families. As Ancestry notes, only about 60% of the St. Louis births were recorded between 1870 and 1910.

The inclusion of births past 1910 must be the result of miscellaneous records happening to have been filmed. I can't see the number of those records growing, what with those records not being open in Missouri. The database title is accurate, but don't get excited hoping to find a treasure trove of post-1910 birth records.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I Need a Tivo...

...because African American Lives 2 will begin this week on PBS and chances are I'll miss at least part of it, if not an entire two-hour episode. Yes, I have a VCR, but I just think a Tivo would be cooler, haha.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Free Content at Footnote

Footnote now has 1,062,687 free images and documents from the National Archives.

I tried Footnote for a month last year and liked the site. They just don't have the content I need, so there was not point in continuing the subscription. Maybe in the future.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Unburied Veterans

KSDK: America's Legacy Of Ashes (text/video).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Video: Shrine of St. Joseph Catholic Church

St. Joseph was the church that generations of EBERTs and HOLTERMANNs attended on the north side of downtown St. Louis.


Early St. Louis Probate Records Found

KTVI (Fox 2): St. Louis' Earliest Probate Records.

Video: Kentucky Pioneers

If they don't make kids in school these days watch this stuff, something is wrong.

"This film shows representative aspects of the early pioneering movement into the kentucky territory. This is the life of our country in the 1780's picturing travel along the wilderness road, the role of the frontier forts, and the settler's establishment of new homes. Weaving, soap-making, cooking, candle molding, carpentry, cabin construction, schooling, and square dancing are among the activities of the time."

Encyclopedia Britannica Films, Inc., 1941.

Video: Immigration in America

I'm a sucker for old educational shorts like the one below. Sadly, though, this film lacks two key ingredients: a chipper announcer whose life must have been swell and a catchy soundtrack.

"Origins and number of immigrants entering the USA from colonial times until 1920, reasons for immigration, adjustment of immigrants to life in the USA, drastic reduction of immigration caused by the Act of 1924."

Encyclopedia Britannica Films, Inc., 1946.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Prairie in St. Louis cemetery

Well, here's another excuse to get back down to Calvary Catholic Cemetery:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Life springs anew in Calvary Cemetery.

Calvary is in northern downtown St. Louis, north of the downtown most people are familiar with (e.g., Busch Stadium, the Arch, etc.). Calvary is a huge cemetery right next to another large cemetery, Bellefontaine Cemetery. Quite a few notables are buried in these cemeteries, most importantly some of my ancestors and distant relatives, haha. I'd guess that this section of prairie is unknown to locals. Or it was until Sunday's paper came out. I'll have to check this out next time down there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lutheran Churches in St. Louis

The Special Collections (SC) Department at the St. Louis County Library's Main Branch is, in my mind, the best place to research St. Louis ancestry. This is old news to regular readers, as I've regularly praised their resources. For me, their best assets come in little yellow and white cardboard boxes that hold hundreds of rolls of local Lutheran, Evangelical and Catholic parish records.

SC staff has made it easy to use that microfilm by creating guides similar to what one would find on the FamilySearch site. Being able to refer to a guide and see what section of the roll, and sometimes even what page range, records can be found on saves a lot of time.

I guess it was a few years ago that I asked the librarian who created the Guide to St. Louis Catholic Archdiocesan Parish Records if I could take her information about church locations and plot them to a map. I wanted to do this because I'm not familiar with every street or neighborhood in St. Louis and was having trouble trying to figure out which church to check next once family records ceased at one church. (The library has a map of St. Louis with each church highlighted, but it was a little difficult getting the 6' x 6' laminated poster on the copier.) And the great thing about these guides is that they list not only the current address, but where the churches were previously located. Some churches have had two or three locations in their history.

After I put together the Catholic map, I did the same for Lutheran and UCC/Evangelical churches. At the time, I had problems getting the pages to work as intended with RootsWeb hosting them on my Freepages site. Until this week, the files sat neglected in folder on my hard drive. I have retooled the Lutheran map and it's now ready for its relaunch. If anyone has additions or corrections, don't hesitate to contact me. My email is at the bottom of the home page.

Map of churches in the St. Louis, Missouri area.

Goodbye, RootsWeb

It's been a long time since I last updated my genealogy pages on the Freepages site I have at RootsWeb. With less time for research, less time to edit and create pages, and a desire to make a new site, working on those pages simply was not a priority. I'm going to try and jump-start myself, though, and get more done.

The first step is to make a new site; not just a new layout, but a different way of managing the site. So, I bought a domain with a plan to take advantage of the packaged Wiki software and its image gallery. I think that if I can simplify the process to just managing data without messing with the layout — something I am easily addicted to — it will become easier to stay on top of finds and getting the news out. And with a Wiki-based system, I will be able to invite others to collaborate on research.

Having my own domain will also allow me more freedom in what I'm able to publish. I once created Google maps that showed where current and past churches in St. Louis were located. The problem was, I could never get the pages to work perfectly with RootsWeb as the host. That issue has been resolved, but I've changed the function of the page so only one is currently online. (See next blog entry.)

My domain package also comes with a few different blogging options, but I have not decided what to do on the that front. Since my feed goes through Feedburner, I believe I'd be able change the source and no feed subscribers would be affected.

Before I mention the new site, let me make one thing clear: picking a domain name is not easy. I wanted something that was easy to remember (catchy and not too long), conveyed a little about myself and since genealogy was the focus it also had to describe my ancestry. I also wanted a domain name that would lend itself to other projects, that I may or may not ever finish.

So, I chose Show Me Ancestors. Missouri's nickname is the Show Me State and that's an attitude you'll find in a lot of us here, myself included. This is (so far) where most of my American and immigrant ancestors lived, and it's where I was born and have lived almost my whole life. Were I to write about sports or news/politics, I'd go on and on about the Cardinals, Blues, Rams, Mizzou and SLU or how one group of locals made my city a local joke with their antics. This is why the vast majority of my posts here have been about St. Louis research, the Missouri death certificates project and so on. I can't help it.

Finally, I would like to state that what RootsWeb does by offering free web space to genealogists and societies is a great asset to the community. For those unable or not wanting to invest much in a site, I cannot recommend a better option.

The Genealogue

Chris is back and in form: Top Ten Worst Ways to Begin a Family History.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

St. Louis Genealogical Society Open House

From another St. Charles mailing list post on RootsWeb: The St. Louis Genealogical Society will have an open house on Sunday, January 27th, from 1-3 p.m.

Beginner Genealogy Class in St. Charles, Mo.

Beginning in late February and running through March, the St. Charles County Genealogical Society will be conducting a series of genealogy classes for beginners. Details were posted on the RootsWeb St. Charles mailing list.

From personal experience, I can attest that the SCCGS staffers are very, very helpful. And if your ancestors were Germans who settled in the county, it would be pretty hard not to find a lot information with the Society's assistance.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is there a Hallmark card for 165 years?

I forgot to post yesterday that it was the 165th anniversary of my family coming to America. By "my family," I mean those whose surname I share.

It's hard to imagine being so desperate to leave northwestern Germany that they left in October and didn't disembark until January. Late fall and early winter at sea must be brutal. (I would guess they waited to leave after the harvest, but then why did several of my other farming ancestors leave in the summer when the weather was surely more pleasant?) Oh, and they had a small child with them. That had to be fun. (Let's be real, folks.)

After arriving at New Orleans, the family is reported to have taken a boat up the Mississippi River to the St. Louis/St. Charles area. One account mentions the father, Johann Friedrich BENNE, having less than fifty cents in his pocket at the time. Things would get better. Within ten years, he had his own farm, was a church's founding member, and was able to buy a portion of a city block where he had his retirement home built.

Used headstones free in St. Louis: Update #2

KTVI has posted video of tonight's report.

Used headstones free in St. Louis: Update #1

All of the headstones that were on a St. Louis City sidewalk yesterday are now gone. According to KTVI, the stones were removed overnight. A funeral home may be in possession of the stones.


Via Miriam and Apple, and subsequently others, came a post from 100 Years in America: Where was your family in 1908? Well, let's take a look...

I wasn't born yet. My parents weren't born yet. My grandparents weren't born yet. The end.

Just kidding.

In 1908, all eight of my great-grandparents were alive and mostly single.
  • William BENNE, Jr.: He was only 19, living on the family farm northeast of St. Charles helping his father, and five years from getting married.
  • Eleanor SCHUMPE: Her 20th birthday took place at the end of year. She was living with her parents on the farm northeast of St. Charles.
  • Carl BURGER: The BURGERs had been in Missouri for about five years at this point, and 25-year-old Carl was working on the family farm. He was still five years from getting married. (It wasn't until 1909 that the BURGERs moved closer to Carrollton.)
  • Clara KOCH: Five years younger than her future husband, Clara was also living with her parents near Carrollton.
  • Mark HEATON: Just 13 in 1908, Mark was living at home south of Vandalia. He was ten years from joining the Navy and 11 years from getting married.
  • Vera LANKAU: The youngest of my great-grandparents, she would have been in elementary school at the time. I believe that Vera, three at the time, and her family had attended the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.
  • August EBERT: I haven't finished researching city directories, but by this time 25-year-old August had likely began as a butcher, which he was for many years after. August and Theresa had been married for a couple of years and had one son.
  • Theresa MEYER: Married two years and mother of one, Theresa was keeping house in downtown St. Louis, the area in which she and her husband grew up. She was nine days younger than her husband.
3rd great-grandparents:
  • William BENNE, Sr.: Several years from retiring in his mid-50s and moving into town, William was farming land a cousin still owns.
  • Minnie BULL: Married for 31 years at this point, 48-year-old Minnie was keeping house on the farm outside St. Charles where she raised five children, ages 11 to 27. Her oldest son would be married in 1908. Minnie was ten years from death.
  • Henry SCHUMPE: 47 years old and farming northeast of St. Charles, 1908 was about the time that Henry bought land that was the first piece of a larger farm my grandpa farmed. A bit of this property is still in the family.
  • Emilie VOSSIEK: She was 48 and a mother of three, ages 14 to 22.
  • George Jacob BURGER: Farming in Carroll Co., he was 48. Some of this land may still be owned by cousins.
  • Elisabeth REINMILLER: She was 43 and a mother of four. Two of her sons died after the family moved to Missouri, one the year before in 1907.
  • William KOCH, Sr.: A German immigrant, he had been in America for just over 40 years at this point. He was 59 years old and still farming in Carroll Co.
  • Caroline SCHOLLE: Like her husband, she was also a native German, immigrating five years later. She was 49 and six of her children, ages 6 to 27, were alive, the eldest having already married.
  • James HEATON: The oldest of my 3rds, he was 69 and farming near Vandalia. Around this time, he would have also been serving as a judge (county commissioner) in eastern Audrain Co. He was tough, but respected in the community.
  • Mahalia HALL: Twenty years younger than her second husband, she was the mother of seven or eight children at this point. (I haven't figured when her oldest son from a previous marriage died.) Her youngest children were 9-year-old twins.
  • Emil LANKAU: The last of my German immigrant ancestors, 49-year-old Emil had been in America for 27 years at this point and married for 22 years. He held a variety of jobs, most involving iron works in Soulard.
  • Alvina RICK: She turned 50 in 1908 and would have been keeping house in the Soulard area of south St. Louis with at least five of her six kids still at home.
  • Martin EBERT: 60 in 1908, Martin was a porter in northern downtown St. Louis. He was also a widower, having lost his wife Friederike HOLTERMANN 25 years prior. All of his kids were married by this time.
  • Gustave MEYER: A German immigrant in the early 1870s, Gustave moved his young family from St. Louis to the County in the 1880s. In 1908, at the age of 51, he was still farming and would have been a few years from moving back into the City, where he would live the rest of his life.
  • Mary POHL: 48 and mother of six. 1908 would have been about the time Mary was in an undated photo we have of her, her mother, daughter and a grandson.
4th great-grandparents:
  • Clara UHLMANNSIEK: 72 years old, this German immigrant (1858) was now living in St. Charles with her retired second husband. The house was still owned by distant cousins as of a few years ago. Clara would live another 13 years, at which point her obit would have the frank title, "OLD LADY PASSED AWAY."
  • Margaret FUCHS: She was a 62-year-old Bavarian immigrant (1851) living on the family farm near Staplehurst, Nebraska. Her husband, Conrad REINMÖLLER, had died in 1901 and she would die in 1919.
  • Adeline SHIPMAN: She was 66 and had been a widow for 11 years (Matthew HALL). She was living with a son in central Missouri. She died in 1925.
  • Carl LANKAU: I'll list him, but I do not know if he was still alive in 1908. Carl would have been about 87 in 1908 and, if alive, would have been my only ancestor still in Germany at the time.
  • August RICK: 78 years old and still working as a team driver in south St. Louis. August was a native of Baden (1851) and lost his wife, Magdalena, in 1908. August died in 1915.
  • Magdalena MÜLLER: 1908 would be the year she died (Sept. 17th). She was 71 years old and had emmigrated from Baden in 1851. All of her adult children were alive. (Three boys died young.)
  • Helena HUHN: She was 76, a widow (Henry POHL, d. 1900) and living in northern downtown St. Louis. She had been in America for 54 years at this point. We have a couple of pictures of her, at least one from right around 1908. She died in 1920.
None of my 5th great-parents were alive in 1908, though two did make it past 1900: Cordelia HOWARD (1822-1902) and Adam FUCHS (1819-1906).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Used headstones free in St. Louis

While briefly channel surfing tonight I caught this report on the local Fox affiliate's (KTVI) 9 p.m. newscast about 24 headstones sitting on a downtown St. Louis sidewalk. The stones have been sitting there for weeks.

Unless I missed him listing people or agencies he contacted, there was an apparent lack of research exhibited by this reporter. Why were the City or State (for death records), the St. Louis Genealogical Society (who could offer help in various ways), the City Library (for obits) or the Post-Dispatch (again, for obits) not contacted? (And did no one think to wonder why the City has allowed 24 stones to be on a public sidewalk for three weeks? I'm sure the code enforcement division has their hands full downtown, but...)

I don't expect that most people know that old Missouri death certificates are online, but in a matter of minutes I found all but one of the available records (1910-1939 and 1945-1956) online. A pattern developed immediately while viewing the death certificates:
  • All of the deceased were black.
  • Of the records found, all but one of the deceased died at or en route to Homer G. Phillips Hospital.* (One certificate cites Easton Avenue as the place of death. Homer G. Phillips Hospital was bounded by what used to be Easton on the south. The mailing address was on Whittier Street.) This hospital was founded to serve blacks in the City of St. Louis and closed in the 1970s.
  • All of the available certificates listed Washington Park Cemetery as the place of interment.** (This cemetery is well known in the area, even if not by name. Just ask someone about the cemetery across from Lambert Airport along I-70 that didn't appear to have an overly ambitious maintenance program. They'll know it. Everyone taking 70 downtown to work or a Cardinals game has seen it.)
I believe the key is that these folks were buried at Washington Park Cemetery. I think the cemetery actually straddled I-70 and when the airport expanded — a brilliant decision, by the way — remains in that section were moved. That's probably where these stones came from. But I also recall from past news reports that this cemetery had a reputation for poor records management. Who knows where these stones belong?

The other troublesome part of the story was this statement:
"We'd give them away," Wiegraffe said. "If someone wants these stones they can have them. They're here for the taking."
They are in fact for the taking, out in the open on a public sidewalk and anyone watching the news now knows where to find them. From what I could tell, the stones looked to be in good shape. In the news report (the online article is not a complete transcript), it was mentioned that people are already eyeing these stones for their gardens. Great.

If these were discarded after unsuccessful attempts to track down descendants, that's one thing. But if they can be placed where remains were moved to, that should be done.

Here are the names, with links to death certificates. An asterisk denotes death at the aforementioned hospital; two asterisks denotes burial at the aforementioned cemetery. Not all of the dates and spellings match, but based on the pattern described above, I believe all of the certificates linked to are for these folks.
  • Edward Mitchell (2 Jul 1950) * **
  • William Malone (26 Oct 1950) * **
  • Ruth Oldham (4 Oct 1951) * **
  • Hattie Shelley (20 May 1963)
  • Elzonia Scott (15 Jun 1961)
  • Elmer Perry (1963)
  • Aaron Smart (21 Aug 1973)
  • Evie Lee Miller (7 Jul 1962)
  • Kardiga Simms (6 May 1960)
  • West Richardson (16 Jun 1969)
  • Martha Lee Morgan (16 Apr 1964)
  • Baby Wavie Knuckles (23 Nov 1948) * **
  • Willie Dudley (1950) * **
  • Travis Berryman (1962)
  • Minnie Busch (4 Nov 1948) * **
  • Estelle Edward (19 Oct 1960)
  • Green Moore (7 Jun 1950) * **
  • Florence Mitchell Thomas (1955)
  • Elmer Clemmons, Sr. (13 May 1960)
  • Mary Boyd (1948) * **
  • John David Patrick (1961)
  • Williams Clemmons (26 May 1949) **
  • Archie Martin (3 Mar 1960)
  • Edward Drummond (13 Apr 1948) * **
Further reading:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Greatest Genealogical Find Ever?

Craig asked this question at GeneaBlogie and wrote about his recent find. There are some breakthroughs I'm proud of and happy about: finding the HOLTERMANNs and LANKAUs in Germany. In both cases, there was a little guesswork and luck after a few years of step-by-step research. The results were very satisfying, even if I wasn't able to go back several generations.

As great as I felt at the moment of finding that information, I have five as of yet undiscovered finds that would equal or exceed the HOLTERMANN and LANKAU breakthroughs (with apologies to those and all other ancestors).
  • Magdalena Maria "Helena" (HUHN) POHL (1832-1920): She is just one of a handful of German immigrant ancestors from the 19th century I cannot trace back to a specific village. I have a lot of German ancestry and to be so close to completing the immigrant stage of research is both exciting and frustrating.
  • Adam FUCHS (1819-1906) and family: Another family without a home (in my records).
  • Ferdinand Friedrich HOLZ (1805-?): This family came to America as a group in 1854, and a son and daughter settled in St. Louis. But what happened to Ferdinand, his wife and other daughters? There are two ways this research could go. Part of me feels the answers are literally right under my nose considering I live in area. The names must be recorded illegibly, right? If so, it's just a matter of time before I stumble upon something that leads to their local church and cemetery records. On the other hand, what if Ferdinand took the rest of the family elsewhere, bucking the trend of my other Missouri Germans? It may be time to search again like Craig suggested in another post.
And of course, this list wouldn't be complete without these two cases:
  • Ferdinand EBERT (1813?-1856?) and his wife Agatha ALLENBRANDT (sp?) (1815?-1895): I've written about this family several times. I would tell family members to reserve a date for a party if I found out where they came from. OK, so no one would come due to lack of interest, but still.
  • John HEATON (1810?-1844): Another ancestor whose roots I'm a little obsessed with. I have found out that there is a HEATON DNA project underway, but there is so far just one submitter.
And I'm sure I'd find enormous satisfaction in finding British roots, but I just can't seem to really get into Colonial research even though I should.