For those who don’t know me, let me take a minute to introduce myself. Professionally, I’ve been working as an orchestral violinist for more than thirty years. But for even longer, I’ve been pursuing my family history. Having seen printed genealogies for my mother’s side of the family, I was inspired while I was still in college to record what information my father’s relatives could tell me. Before I knew it, I was hooked. Although I’ve researched with varying intensity over the years, the pursuit of family stories and the angle genealogical research brings to learning history have continued to be my passion.

Why the Website and Blog?

More than twenty years ago, I created my first genealogy website. It was part of my foray into HTML coding and website creation back in the early days of such things. I kept it going for several years, and in fact have it to thank for making a connection with Thal family relatives living in Latvia and Israel. But as I began raising two children, I let the website slide and eventually disappear.

Why bring it back now? Most of my data is now available through my Thal-Gephart Family tree on Ancestry.com. In fact, that’s still probably going to be the most up-to-date version of my research. But I have more to share than just facts. I hope to include stories, documents, photographs, and more here. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and research in a longer format than is available on commercial websites. And I hope to connect with others who can help me solve some of our family puzzles. In the future I plan to add links to several of the books I’ve written for my children. That will be another post for another day. And I’m also intrigued by the idea of using GIS mapping software to help illustrate and analyze family history.

Another thing that intrigues me about this “new” format – compared to twenty years ago – is the ability to receive comments about posts, photographs and more. Of course there’s a risk, but I look forward to hearing from more people this way, and perhaps enhancing my genealogy community! Don’t hesitate to let me hear from you!

A Few Words About Organization

With so many families to track, it was a challenge to arrange things in a usable fashion. In my research in general, I’ve set the generation of my g-g-g-grandparents as the limit for tracing descendants. Beyond that, I’ve followed a few – mainly to establish connections with other relatives – but for the most part that generation is where I’ve drawn the line. With more than 15,000 relatives in my database already, there has to be a limit somewhere!

So that’s the reasoning behind the trees I have displayed here. They are the descendants – and ancestors when I have information – of my and my husband’s g-g-g-grandparents. And in case you’re wondering about the colors, I’ve kept a color scheme from one of my earlier books, making my family pages blue and my husband’s green.

Each of these branches has its own page, with “People,” “Places” and “Photographs” for most branches. Reports of descendants and ancestors are included in “People,” along with the occasional link to websites of related individuals and published genealogies. I have intentionally not included living relatives anywhere, to my knowledge.

“Places” includes links to locations where these families resided, and published histories of those locations. I’ve included a select few photographs for most families as well. In some cases, I have so many that I can’t possibly share them all, and in others, I don’t have any pictures in my collection! More individual pictures are available through my tree on Ancestry, but I’ve picked some of my favorites to share here.

I’d Love Your Help

On many of my family pages, there are links to “mystery photos” that I’d love to get identified. And I plan to use the Blog feature to occasionally put questions out there about some of my “brick walls.” If you can help with either of these, I’d love to hear from you! Of course, I’m always looking for photographs and additional information and documents as well.

That should do it for an introduction. Now that you know about me, let’s see how this thing goes!

Remembering the Holocaust

The photo above is Shlomo Thal, born in 1904 in Valdemarpils, Latvia. This photo is particularly powerful for me as it looks so much like my own grandfather, born the same year. Shlomo and my grandfather were second cousins. Shlomo was killed in Riga, Latvia, in 1941. He was 37.

On this Yom HaShoah, I’d like to start a memorial to those relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust. It’s a small thing, but there are so many that should be remembered, just in the branches of my family. This is a partial list, as more branches and unfortunately victims are gradually being discovered. In all families, there are so many families for whom we have little or no information.

I’ll organize this by branch, just like the website is organized, and as with the website, I’m limiting this to descendants of my third great-grandparents. Some branches, particularly the Thal family, I have much more information than for others.

Descendants of Moses and Sara Thal

  • Heyman Thal, s/o Ephraim, s/o Moses – killed on August 7, 1941 near Valdemarpils, Latvia, age 66, bookshop owner and member of community council
  • Hirsh Jacob Kramer, s/o Scheine Thal Kramer, d/o Moses – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 73, merchant
  • Feiga Lea Fiskin, wife of Hirsh Kramer – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, about age 71
  • Hasse Lea Kramer Fiskin, d/o Scheine Thal Kramer – killed on October 20, 1941 in Mariupol, Donetsk, Ukraine, age 71
  • Haim Kramer, s/o Scheine Thal Kramer – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 68
  • Israel Kramer, s/o Scheine Thal Kramer – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 66, merchant
  • Musse Karp, wife of Israel Kramer – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 39
  • Hinde Thal Schalit, d/o Shimon Thal, s/o Moses – killed in 1941 in Riga, Latvia, age 66
  • Haim Hirsch Schalit, husband of Hinde Thal – killed in 1941 in Riga, Latvia, age 71
  • Jacob Thal, s/o Shimon, s/o Moses – died after October 16, 1941 in Latvia, age 63. merchant
  • Minna Blumberg Thal, wife of Jacob Thal – died after October 16, 1941 in Latvia, age 61
  • Schorre Lenhoff Thal, widow of Laser Thal, s/o Shimon – killed on August 7, 1941 near Valdemarpils, Latvia, age 43, druggist
  • Leopold Schatz, s/o Rosa Thal Schatz, d/o Moses – killed in November 1941 in Rumbula, Riga, Latvia, age 64, dentist, druggist
  • Judith Aminoff Schatz, wife of Leopold Schatz – killed in November 1941 in Rumbula, Riga, Latvia, age 62.
  • Zanno Schatz, s/o Rosa Thal Schatz, d/o Moses – killed in 1943 in Lodz, Poland, age 64, dentist, textile factory
  • Sara Schatz Schoen, d/o Rosa Thal Schatz, d/o Moses – killed in 1941 in Rumbula, Riga, Latvia, age 50, pianist and piano teacher.
  • Rochel Rebecca Thal Hasen, d/o Hirsh Jankel Thal, s/o Levin Thal, s/o Moses – killed about 1941 in Liepaja, Latvia, age 64.
  • Hirsh Hasen, husband of Rochel Rebecca Thal – killed about 1941 in Liepaja, Latvia, age 72, bank director.
  • Lea Thal Hirshberg, d/o Hirsh Jankel Thal, s/o Levin Thal, s/o Moses – died about July 1, 1942 in Liepaja, Latvia, committing suicide in the Liepaja ghetto, age 59.
  • Moses Hirshberg, husband of Lea Thal – died on June 24, 1942 in Liepaja, Latvia, committing suicide in the Liepaja ghetto, age 63, druggist, merchant.
  • Sheine Rivke Thal, d/o Hirsh Jankel Thal, s/o Levin Thal, s/o Moses – died about 1941 in Liepaja, Latvia, age 55.
  • Shay Shimen Thal, s/o Hirsh Jankel Thal, s/o Levin Thal, s/o Moses – killed July 23, 1941 in Liepaja, Latvia, age 50, engineer.
  • Erna Lieberman Thal, wife of Shay Shimen Thal – died about 1941 in Liepaja, Latvia, age 46, teacher.
  • Leo Thal, s/o Itzig Hillel Thal, s/o Levin Thal s/o Moses – died after October 9, 1941, in Latvia, about age 38, clothes manufacturing.
  • Shlomo Thal, s/o Itzig Hillel Thal, s/o Levin Thal, s/o Moses – killed in 1941 in Riga, Latvia, age 37, cork workshop.
  • Harriet Himmelhoch Thal, wife of Shlomo Thal – died after October 9, 1941 in the Riga ghetto, Riga, Latvia, age 36.
  • Sheine Shore Kramer, d/o Hirsh Jacob Kramer, s/o Scheine Thal Kramer, d/o Moses Thal – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 34, clothing saleswoman.
  • Sholem Ber Kramer, s/o Israel Kramer, s/o Scheine Thal Kramer, d/o Moses Thal – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 7.
  • Scheine Leah Kramer, d/o Israel Kramer, s/o Scheine Thal Kramer, d/o Moses Thal – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 5.
  • Janke Kramer, s/o Israel Kramer, s/o Scheine Thal Kramer, d/o Moses Thal – killed in 1941 near Talsi, Latvia, age 3.
  • Moses Thal, s/o Jacob, s/o Shimon, s/o Moses – killed about 1941, age 29, studied medicine in Switzerland before returning to Latvia.
  • Michels Tals, s/o Laser Thal, s/o Shimon, s/o Moses – killed on August 1941 near Valdemarpils, Latvia, age 14.
  • Sara-Aka Schatz Richter, d/o Leopold Schatz, s/o Rosa Thal Schatz, d/o Moses Thal – killed in November 1941 in Rumbula, Riga, Latvia, age 41, doctor.
  • Fanya Schatz Rogozinski, d/o Nochum Schatz, s/o Rosa Thal Schatz, d/o Moses Thal – died on January 31, 1943, in Treblinka extermination camp, near Poniatowa, Poland, age 34, engineer in chemistry, Pasteur Institute.
  • Shimon Schatz, s/o Zanno Schatz, s/o Rosa Thal Schatz, d/o Moses Thal – died about 1943 in either Lodz or Warsaw, Poland, age 33.
  • Wanda Imas Schatz, wife of Shimon Schatz – died about 1943 in Lodz, Poland, age 33.
  • Uri Schatz, s/o Zanno Schatz, s/o Rosa Thal Schatz, d/o Moses Thal – died about 1943 in Lodz or Warsaw, Poland, age 30.
  • Alex Thal, s/o Shay Shimen Thal, s/o Hirsh Jankel Thal, s/o Levin Thal, s/o Moses Thal – killed on July 23, 1941 in Liepaja, Latvia, age 16.

Descendants of Behr and Beile Blumberg

  • Sarah Hellmann Herzenberg, d/o Frieda Blumberg Hellmann, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed about 1941, age 61.
  • Willy Gabriel Herzenberg, husband of Sarah Hellmann – killed on February 17, 1942, age 53, iron dealer, hardware store.
  • Betty Glueck Plungiansky, d/o Fanny Blumberg Glueck, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed, details unknown
  • Hansy Glueck, d/o Fanny Blumberg Glueck, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed, details unknown
  • Moshe Glueck, s/o Fanny Blumberg Glueck, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed, details unknown
  • Isaac Glueck, s/o Fanny Blumberg Glueck, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed, details unknown
  • Frieda Herzenberg Rosenberg, d/o Sarah Hellmann Herzenberg, d/o Frieda Blumberg Hellmann, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed on February 17, 1942, age 29, office worker.
  • Pinchas Rosenberg, husband of Frieda Herzenberg – killed on February 17, 1942, age 29, dental technician and cabinet maker.
  • Ella Rosenberg, d/o Frieda Herzenberg Rosenberg, d/o Sarah Hellmann Herzenberg, d/o Frieda Blumberg Hellmann, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed on February 17, 1942, age 8 months
  • Joseph Herzenberg, s/o Sarah Hellmann Herzenberg, d/o Frieda Blumberg Hellmann, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed in July 1941, age 24, accountant.
  • Harry Herzenberg, s/o Sarah Hellmann Herzenberg, d/o Frieda Blumberg Hellmann, d/o Behr Blumberg – killed in July 1941, age 21, locksmith.
Willy Herzenberg, photo from Yad Vashem

Descendants of Nehemiah Gettleson and Hanna Rubinstein

I have not found Holocaust victims among this family yet, but I have not fully traced all the branches of their descendants.

Descendants of Samuel and Jette Hosiasson

  • Adolph Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed about 1941, probably in Latvia, age 70, industrialist.
  • Josef Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed about 1941, probably in Latvia, age 60, merchant.
  • Karl Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed about 1941, probably in Latvia, age 69, merchant.
  • Auguste Jakubson Hosiasson, wife of Herman Hosiasson, s/o of Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed in 1941 in the Riga ghetto, Riga, Latvia, age 65.
  • Jekaterina Olga “Katya” Hosiasson Tals, d/o Herman Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed in 1941 at Rumbula, Riga, Latvia, age 30.
  • Edgar Tals, husband of Jekaterina Hosiasson – killed in Riga Central Prison, ca. 1941, age 31, drugstore owner.
  • Herman Tals, s/o Jekaterina Hosiasson Tals, d/o Herman Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed in 1941 at Rumbula, Riga, Latvia, age 4.
  • Sofie Elizabeth Tals, d/o Jekaterina Hosiasson Tals, d/o Herman Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed in 1941 at Rumbula, Riga, Latvia, age about 2.
  • Samuel Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed on August 6, 1941 near Sabile, Latvia, age 61.
  • Olga Ketty Hosiasson, d/o Adolph Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed in 1941 in Latvia, age 20.
  • Julius Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed on August 6, 1941 near Sabile, Latvia, age 20.
  • Golde Hosiasson, d/o Samuel Hosiasson, s/o Jacob Hosiasson, s/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed on August 6, 1941 near Sabile, Latvia, age 15.
  • Gita Fain Govsovics, d/o Feige Blumenthal Fain, d/o Chasse Hosiasson Blumenthal, d/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed in 1941 in Latvia, age 38.
  • Leon Jacob Govsovics, s/o Gita Fain Govsovics, d/o Feige Blumenthal Fain, d/o Chasse Hosiasson Blumenthal, d/o Samuel Hosiasson – killed in 1941, probably in Rumbula, age 4.
  • Mozus Govsovics, husband of Gita Fain – killed in 1941 in the Riga ghetto, Riga, Latvia, age 56, bookkeeper.

Descendants of Simon Schwartz and Hannah Newman

I have yet to do research on this family among Slovakian records, so have not yet found descendants that remained in Europe.

Descendants of Samuel Reichman and Hani Atlasz

  • Serena Josefovits Zopf, d/o Dwora Reichman Josefovits, d/o Kalman Reichman, s/o Samuel Reichman – deported from Bardejov, Slovakia on May 16, 1942, via Naleczow, Poland, to an extermination camp, likely either Belzec or Sobibor, and presumed killed, age 38.
  • Viliam Zopf, husband of Serena Josefovitz – died at Auschwitz about 1942, age 38.
  • Koloman Zopf, s/o Serena Josefovits Zopf, d/o Dwora Reichman Josefovits, d/o Kalman Reichman, s/o Samuel Reichman – deported from Bardejov, Slovakia on May 16, 1942, via Naleczow, Poland, to an extermination camp, likely either Belzec or Sobibor, and presumed killed, age 10.
  • Hedwiga Zopf, d/o Serena Josefovits Zopf, d/o Dwora Reichman Josefovits, d/o Kalman Reichman, s/o Samuel Reichman – deported from Bardejov, Slovakia on May 16, 1942, via Naleczow, Poland, to an extermination camp, likely either Belzec or Sobibor, and presumed killed, age 6.

Descendants of Samuel Zobel and Laja Safran

I have not yet done enough research on this branch to find any Holocaust victims.

If you have further information about any of these victims or others, please contact me.

Linking Up the Blumenthals

Thirty-six years ago, in the winter of 1986, I took my very first genealogy “field trip.” I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and I found a wintry day to drive an hour-and-a-half or so north to Bay City. My destination was the Bay City Jewish Cemetery, to find the headstone of my great-great-grandmother, Theresa (Taube) Hosiason Gettleson. I vividly remember trudging around in the snow looking through the cemetery, and my excitement at discovering it was actually there! I seem to have only kept a later, better photo of the stone.

Photo from Bay City Jewish Cemetery, spring 1986, by Betsy Thal Gephart

Since that first trip, I’ve discovered quite a bit about Taube/Theresa and her family. I’ve identified her parents, grandparents and great-grandfather, and have found records for her family in Latvia going back to 1835. I even have a copy of her marriage record to Joseph Gettleson in Sabile, Latvia in 1877. But of her brief life in the United States, I really have nothing.

Marriage record for Joseph Gitelson and Taube Hosiason, 1877, Jewish Community of Zabeln (now Sabile, Latvia). From the Latvian Historical Archives in Riga.

From records in Latvia, I know she was born between 1853 – she was listed as 24 in her marriage record – and the September 1855 listed on her headstone. Chances are she was born in Zabeln, now Sabile, since that is where she was married and a younger brother was born in 1861. Birth records have not survived for years prior to 1859.

Thus began the post I was writing more than a month ago when I got sidetracked by what I’m about to share. I planned to elaborate on the lack of records about Taube and her time in Michigan, which still is completely baffling to me. But in the process of searching for more information, I remembered the Blumenthals.

In 1994, when I was still publishing a family newsletter, The Thal Gazette, I wrote a short blurb about this family that I only had small bits of information about. Here is a portion of what I wrote:


While visiting Thalia Fine in Florida in January, I found a postcard written to Millie Hirshberg in Toledo from "Adolf" in Standish, Michigan, ca.1909-1910.  It consists of copies of family photographs from Clara and someone else.  Another postcard I have from Europe in 1910 mentions an Adolph Blumenthal, and a note on it is signed "Adolph and Hanna".  

Information from Thalia and Stuart Gettleson indicates that the Blumenthal's were sponsors of the Gettleson's when they first came to the United States, and that they were probably related to Joseph Gettleson's wife, Taube Hoseason.  This makes sense, as the cards from Europe that mention him are from Hoseason cousins.  

I have searched on and off over the years for the connection to these Blumenthals with no success, but while writing my post a few weeks ago, I decided to try again. This time, thanks to a cousin, Thomas C. Spear, who is very active on FindaGrave.com, I found Chasse Hosiason, Taube’s sister! It’s her picture, preserved by another cousin, Mark Blumenthal, that’s at the top of the post. Though I had culled through the records available in Latvia with the help of a researcher, Chasse had not shown up. Synagogue records don’t survive from the time she was born or married, and the birth records of her children don’t include her maiden name. However, from records for her children in Latvia and the United States, it’s clear that she was Taube’s sister.

Chasse Hosiason, born around 1842, the daughter of Samuel and Jette, married Chaim Shmuel Blumenthal around 1859 in Latvia. The couple had fourteen children, all born in Sabile (then Zabeln), Latvia, at least nine of whom survived to adulthood. It’s not yet clear when either Chasse or Chaim died, though we believe it was between 1890 and 1900. Full details of her descendants are available here. I’ll focus on a few highlights.

The oldest seven children of Jacob Blumenthal, ca. 1905. Photo from Mark Blumenthal. Back row (L to R): Paul (who died in Russia in 1916), Morris, Harry, and Max. Front row: Leo, Mollie, and Irvin, far right.

Their eldest son, Jacob Saul Blumenthal, did not make it to the United States. He died in Russia in 1917 when the Jews were expelled from Latvia. One of his sons died in Russia as well. His widow and younger children emigrated to the US in 1920, joining those children who had already made the trip. Most of this family settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

The next son, Marcus Blumenthal, is of interest because he was one of the earlier immigrants and settled first in Michigan. In 1889, he was living in Standish, Michigan, when he married Harriet Baumgart. This family remained connected to the Gettlesons, as Stuart remembered Harriet and her two sons, Harold and Joseph, who moved to California and changed the name Blumenthal to Blue. Marcus himself moved to Detroit by 1900, and then to Cleveland, settling finally in Los Angeles by 1930.

Marcus and Harriet Blumenthal, with two of their daughters, ca. 1894.
Isaac and Rose Mandelstam, 1934.

Daughter, Rose Blumenthal, married Isaac Mandelstam, and emigrated from Latvia to Boston in the 1890s. Her seven children were all born in Boston and the family remained in that area.

William, Wulf, or Bill Blumenthal, another one remembered by Stuart Gettleson, also arrived early in Michigan. By 1895, he was operating a general store in Howell, Michigan, where he remained until he moved to Detroit before 1925. He had no children.

Raisa Blumenthal, and her husband, Meyer Jaffe, remained in Latvia until their deaths prior to World War II. Their five children all left Latvia after World War I. Four of them were in Cleveland by the 1920s, though Irvin likely stayed with his mother until she died in Riga in 1936. The Jaffes generally settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

Harry Blumenthal is another son with a Michigan connection, and is buried in the Bay City Jewish Cemetery along with Taube Hosiason Gettleson. He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in 1891, headed to Michigan. He remained in Standish, operating a dry goods store, until his death in 1951. He had no children. It is from the settlement of his will that so much is confirmed about the descendants of his siblings.

Raisa Jaffe (Left), with Gita, Feige and Cipora Fain, and Irvin Jaffe, in Riga, early 1930s.

Feige Blumenthal, and her husband, Jankel Fain, remained in Latvia. Jankel may have died before 1941, but it is not completely clear what happened to Feige. Some records indicate she fled to Dagestan during the war. Her daughter, Gita, son-in-law, Mozus Govsovics, and grandson, Leon, were all killed in Riga in 1941. Cipora her younger daughter, married a lawyer, Georgy Joelsohn, and somehow survived. The couple had two sons, and Cipora was living in Riga in 1952.

Julius Blumenthal arrived in New York in 1900, also headed to Standish, Michigan. He married Olga Mark in Bay City in 1903, and seems to have moved around Michigan a bit – Sebewaing, Saginaw and Gaylord, at least – before settling in the Detroit area by 1920, where he remained until his death in 1947. His three children were all born in Michigan.

Julius Blumenthal
Adolf and Hannah (Hantze) Blumenthal, 1941. Photo from Thomas C. Spear.

Finally, Adolf Blumenthal, the one who wrote the postcards, was the youngest surviving son of Chasse and Chaim. He arrived in New York in 1903, headed to Michigan. In 1910, Adolf appeared in the 1910 census in Standish with his brother, Harry. I believe he returned to Latvia in the fall of 1910, when he wrote a postcard to his cousin, Clara Gettleson, my great-grandmother. He probably married Hannah Bagg in Latvia, and returned with her in March of 1911. At that point, they settled in Winthrop, Massachusetts, near Boston and his sister, Rose Mandelstam’s family, where they ran a general store. Also in the Boston area was another Hosiason cousin, Jacob Hirshson. Adolf and Hannah had no children.

There are birth records in Latvia for four other children of Chaim and Chasse. Hana (born and died in 1872), an infant son (born and died in 1873), and Meishe (born and died in 1881), all died as babies. The fate of the fourth, Abram Blumenthal, born in November 1876, is unknown. It’s possible a death record for him does not survive. It’s also remotely possible that Abram might be Julius or Adolf, as birth records for them don’t exist in the Latvian archives, but the dates don’t match. At this time, it’s assumed that Abram did not survive to adulthood.

So after almost thirty years, the Blumenthal mystery is now solved! Though there are no records yet to prove it, it’s likely that Marcus Blumenthal helped Taube and her husband, Joseph Gettleson, settle in Michigan in the late 1880s. It’s exciting to have discovered an entirely new branch of the Hosiason – sometimes spelled Hosiasson or Hosiassohn – family! And it has also increased my interest in the town of Sabile, Latvia, where they lived. Expect to hear more about that in the coming months.

The Blizzards of 1912

We’re digging out from a heavy snowstorm in Indiana this week, and I’m so thankful that I can enjoy the comforts of home and enjoy the beauty of the snow outside. But I’m reminded of a letter in my collection from my great-grandfather, Jacob H. Long, to his brother, Sam Long. Written in March of 1912, it references a blizzard that apparently covered most of Kansas. In fact, it seems multiple storms that winter left the area struggling.

Quinter, Kan., Mar 24, 1912

Mr. & Ms. S.S. Long

Dunlap, Kan.

Dear brother & sister:  We got a telegram Thursday evening that Jemima’s sister Mary died that morning.  Jemima left the same evening on train three hours late.  We got a letter since she left said she had pneumonia just sick one week. 

            This is a nice day and the most of the snow that it snowed yesterday will melt.  We had a blizzard yesterday.  Four weeks ago last night our second winter began and snowed and blowed nearly every day, except a few days about a week ago.  We had no train for 8 days.  Vernie got home on last train on the 9th.  No train till 17th.  No coal, feed in town.  I let Henry & Joe have some of my hay thinking it would get nice every day.  I have only a couple days feed.  Thought the trains would run and bring in more.  Grandma Mohler was buried last Tuesday.  Mr. Mohler died a few months ago.  Mrs. Hiddleson’s mother died the 9th they took her to Chapman on the morning of the 18th.  On the evening of the 18th her father died so they kept here there till her father got there and both buried in same grave.  The letter from Iowa stated that one of Mary’s girls had the pneumonia very bad at same time Mary was sick but was getting better.

            We had snow banks 15 ft. high and am bothered now with the horses walking over the fences the snow has got hard.  I got in two loads of straw yesterday morning before the storm got so bad had not got any for four weeks was snowed in could not get the wagon out yesterday went over the banks as high as the fence. 

            I suppose this is the worst ever known in this country and feed so awful scarce and high.  Bert has had a bad spell with his back for several weeks, lumbago.

            Your bro,


To add to the picture, here are a couple of clippings from the Gove County Republican-Gazette, the local newspaper:

From the Gove County Republican-Gazette, February 29, 1912, p.1, via Newspapers.com

This second little blurb references D.A. Crist, one of J.H. Long’s best friends and the minister of the local Brethren Church.

Gove County Republican-Gazette, February 29, 1912, p.5

I wish I had pictures. The one above is from our recent snowstorm in Indiana. Kansas Memory does have some pictures from other Kansas counties, but I could find nothing in my collection from Gove County or nearby. If you know of any photographs from Quinter at this time, please contact me. Meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful snow!

Finding Rose

The story in my husband’s family is that his great-grandmother, Rose Main (married to Orpheus), was a foundling. It was passed along that she was left on someone’s doorstep as a baby. A 2002 e-mail from a cousin puts it this way:

The story my mother told me about Gran was that she was a foundling, having been placed on somebody’s doorstep, and that it was believed her mother was a maid and that her father was a wealthy man in some well-to-do family which employed that maid. I had always heard that Gran had no idea who her parents were. However, Aunt Mildred (Worley) once told me that Gran did know her father’s name — he was an Irishman named Garragus.

The records for Rose are inconsistent. Most give her name as Rose or Edna Rose Torrence, and her parents as Davis or David Torrence and Martha Blanton. But in a few instances, she is listed as Rose or Edna Rose Garrigus.

She is a bit elusive in the census records as well. Because of her marriage history and tendency to move around later in life, I haven’t located her between 1900 and 1930, but as a young child in 1880, she is listed with the Torrence family.

Rose “Rosetta” Torrence, in the 1880 Census for Grant County, Indiana. Family 159 at the bottom of the page.

To be honest, with this information, I let the “foundling” story lie for a while and traced the history of the Torrence family. But thanks to my husband’s cousin, Mary, a few years ago, an eye-popping newspaper article shed more light on this history.

The Noblesville Ledger, Noblesville, Indiana, July 25, 1879, p.3, from Newspapers.com.

Now what? This would seem to be a job for DNA testing, to be honest. Certainly in the case of the mother of the child. It is possible to follow one lead, though. Searching for Garrigus in Howard County, Indiana, produces a J. M. Garrigus in the 1870 U.S. Census. In that year, and in 1880, there are Garrigus families in Clay, Parke, Vigo, Dearborn, and Jay counties in addition to Howard, but none of those are near the north central part of the state that we’re interested in. In 1870, J.M. Garrigus appears to be a wealthy farmer, with land valued at more than most of his neighbors.

1870 U.S. Census for Howard County, Indiana. J.M. Garrigus heads family no.165.

Through multiple records, Mary has confirmed his name to be John, that his first wife, listed here, died in 1872, and that he was married a second time in 1873 to Emma R.A. S. Pyles. She has traced several generations back, but no Irish ancestry for Mr. Garrigus is evident. In fact, the Garrigus family claims to be of French Huguenot descent. There does, however, seem to be DNA evidence confirming a connection to John S. Garrigus. At least one additional descendant of John’s father, Timothy Garrigus, is a DNA match to Rose’s descendants.

So with this information, we’ll assume that John S. Garrigus was Rose’s father. He and two of his brothers, Milton and Flavius, served in the Civil War from Indiana. Following a third marriage to Guley Bailey, John moved to North Dakota, where he died prior to 1890.

And Rose’s mother? That will be more difficult. Based on the marriage record, we’re working on the hypothesis that it’s Emma Pyles, but DNA evidence will definitely be necessary here. Unfortunately, the marriage record only gives her name and no additional information. So far, the only other interesting find for Emma is a census record from 1900 for Plymouth, Indiana, where the above newspaper article was originally printed. It lists an Emma A.R. Pyles, born in 1837, living with a daughter and son-in-law. Is this the same woman? Stay tuned. If you have any additional information, please contact me.

School Christmas Play, 1914

I was looking for a holiday story to share, and thought I’d share one from my grandfather’s childhood at Jewell Hill School, outside of Quinter, Kansas. Ten years ago, I was working on a “fictionalized” biography of my grandfather, Chester Long, for my eldest child’s birthday,. I tried to find as many details as possible about his childhood in western Kansas to make the book as realistic as possible. As luck would have it, I had a wonderful letter from 2002 from Rose Long Hurd, his first cousin, in which she shared a few details she remembered. She wrote in third-person for much of the letter:

It seemed that Chester favored Rose Long, his cousin, in many of the games we played at noon and recess time. This one time stays in my memory when Chester’s sister Verna Long was our teacher. Always a Christmas program and all pupils had a part to play.  In this little dialogue Verna asked Chester to play the part of Santa Claus that came to fill a stocking for Effie Ashworth.  Chester said he wouldn’t do it, but Verna insisted and yet Chester said, “No I won’t.”  Verna asked him if he would play it with anyone else, and Chester said, “I’ll play the part with Rose.”  All I remember of it was, I hung my stocking and said something about it for Santa, but I forgot my part, but I remember what Chester said as he filled the stocking.  “Look at that sock, look at that boot!  Look at that tiny little foot.  But I don’t blame the little dear for Christmas comes but one a year.”  And Chester stuffed something in the sock.

For whatever reason, it occurred to me, even then, to type the dialog she remembered into Google. I was amazed and delighted when the search engine provided the teachers’ magazine, Primary Plans, from which the actual play had been taken! Subscriptions to the magazine at the time were one dollar per year, and included ten monthly issues filled with ideas for primary school teachers. The December 1906 issue included arts and crafts, stories, blackboard calendars, and several pages of plays. And on page 24, the play, “Waiting Up for Santa Claus” was printed in full:

I found it particularly amusing that the play referenced an “Uncle Jake.” To Rose Long, Chester’s father, Jacob H. Long, was “Uncle Jake,” so it worked out perfectly!

With this, we can imagine a Christmas program in the old one-room schoolhouse. From other recollections, we know it was a community affair, with families arriving by sled if there was enough snow. My great aunt recalls the program being in the evening, with the moon shining on the snow. Indoors, there was a Christmas tree, decorated by the students with popcorn and cranberry strands and paper chains. Lots of candles lit up the tree.

All of the students performed, so there was much more to the program than one skit. After the performances, there would be a gift exchange – a cousin remembers Santa distributing the presents – and treats from the teacher. Although I haven’t seen it mentioned, I would guess cookies and other treats brought by the families rounded out the evening, and perhaps some carol-singing. These were fondly remembered programs, and are fun to imagine in this high-tech era.

Jewell Hill School, 1914-1915

The above photograph was taken of the 1914-1915 Jewell Hill students, my best guess of the class that performed this play, as Chester’s older sister, Verna, is the teacher here. She is in the back row, second from the left. In the fall of 1914, she would have just turned 21. Chester, almost 12, is on the other side of the picture, second from the right, and Rose is to the right of him, almost 10. Chester’s younger sister, Allene, 7, is second from the left in the front row, with the checkered dress. Beyond that, I have not identified any more of the class. If you can help, please contact me. The picture below of the two cousins was taken around that same time. Rose’s younger sister, Elva, is on the left, and Rose is in the middle.

Elva, Rose and Chester Long, ca. 1914.

Finally, I’d like to share some old Christmas postcards that were saved from my grandfather’s childhood, so long ago. The picture at the top of the post is from one of them.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Leaving Courland

Among my collection of interviews is this story, told by Paula Thal Aminoff in 1974, of her brother Jacob and his efforts to leave Courland (now Latvia) before being drafted into the Russian Army.

Paula Thal Aminoff, Marge Adinoff, Ted Thal and Larry Thal, September 8, 1974

Ted: You know about Abraham Blumberg.. well, I’ll tell you. His father, Abraham’s father [Jacob Blumberg] was fairly well‑to‑do, he was the one who helped all of the boys get across the line.  He paid, that’s why..

Paula: He helped them get money if they didn’t have money enough.

Marge: But Grandpa [Jacob Thal] didn’t use him though.

Paula: What?

Marge: Grandpa didn’t use him.  Tell them about how..

Paula: No, Grandpa didn’t.  Grandpa went with Mr. Lowenstein.

Marge: How many times did it take him to get back and forth?

Paula: And you know, when they got to the border, Mr. Lowenstein used to like to take a drink.  And he decided he’d like to have one more Russian drink before he goes across. And to cross the border, they had paid the guy to take them across, but you had to be there at a certain minute to get across when they were changing the guards, you know.  Now Mr. Lowenstein decided he wanted another Russian drink.  So they went in for another Russian drink.  Jake didn’t drink but Mr. Lowenstein did.  Well the guards changed, and when they came out, the next guard got them.  There was no going across. And then when they get you, they don’t just send you back, they’re sent from one prison to the next prison, walking. So, Jake sent a telegram to mother, what happened, you know.  So, Grandma just got on a train and went right down and got him off.  Got him out of jail.  I don’t know how much she had to pay, a lot.  And she got him out and took him home.  And then the next time he went by himself.

Marge: How much longer was it?

Paula: What?

Marge: How much time elapsed between the first time and the second?

Paula: Not very much.  Because they had to do it in a hurry because he was eighteen, and after eighteen, you couldn’t leave…

Larry: Who was Mr. Lowenstein?

Paula: He was a cousin of my mother’s.

It’s a wonderful story, but how much of it is true? With many digitized passenger lists available, it’s easy to confirm that Jacob Thal did leave Courland and immigrate to the United States with Louis Lowenstein. “Mr. Lowenstein” was the husband of Jacob’s first cousin, Johanna Blumberg. Married in 1885, the couple had just had their first child, Ella, in January of 1886, when Louis decided to emigrate. Two passenger lists are available that begin to tell us about their trip.

On June 26, 1886, Louis (Levin) Lowenstein and Jacob Thal were among about thirty passengers on the cargo ship, S.S. Kaffraria, sailing from Hamburg to Liverpool. Jacob was 18, as mentioned in the story. Though the handwriting is difficult to read, they appear to have come from Sassmacken, where Louis was born in 1859, and were probably traveling salesmen. From Liverpool, they boarded the S.S. England, which took them to New York, arriving on July 14, 1886.

But what about the rest of the story? How did they get from Courland to Hamburg to get on the ship?

Once they crossed into Prussia, emigrants from Courland could travel fairly easily by train through Berlin to Hamburg. At the time, East Prussia reached quite far north along the Baltic Sea, almost to Libau, in Courland. Travel into Kovno Province of Lithuania was not difficult. It was still the Russian Empire, though Kovno was part of the Pale of Settlement and Courland was not. The closest Prussian border was near the city of Memel (now Klaipeda, Lithuania), a seaport about 100 km south of Libau (Liepaja), on the Baltic Sea. The nearest official crossing point was at the city of Tilsit, another 100 km southeast of Memel, but reachable by train from Libau.

“Russland, Westliche Gouvernements,” Leipzig, 1882.

Jacob Thal’s uncle – Jacob Blumberg (Abraham’s father as mentioned in the excerpt) – may have lived in the town of Salanty (Salantai, near Shateik Grove), in the northwest part of Kovno province, quite near the border with Courland. He may have been part of a large network of Jews who worked as smugglers, helping emigrants to bribe corrupt Russian officials and make contact with the steamship companies. Slipping over the border at night by using bribes was quite common at that time.

In the late 1800’s, immigration between Russia and Prussia grew increasingly complex. Without Russian passports, which were difficult and expensive for Jews to obtain at that time, leaving Russia and crossing into Prussia was illegal. Before 1890, the Russian government only guarded a few major crossings, and the guards there were definitely susceptible to bribes. The government didn’t care if a few Jews left the country as they weren’t particularly wanted in the first place. In later years, when the numbers of emigrants increased dramatically, it became more difficult to get out of Russia.

The Prussian government was stricter, though faced with conflicting pressures. On the one hand, they didn’t want these Jewish immigrants in their country any more than the Russians did. And they were already getting pressure from the United States to stem the tide of Eastern European immigrants through the German ports. On the other hand, the German shipping companies were eager for more customers since the number of German emigrants to America had tapered off. In 1885, the Prussian government began requiring everyone coming across their border to have enough cash to pay for a ticket home, and occasionally used this as an excuse to deport travelers they didn’t want. In later years, health inspection stations were set up and quarantines required. Emigration from Russia through Prussia to America became big business, in large part due to the shipping companies. But in 1886, it was not yet so intense.

So how much truth is there to this story? Slipping over the border and bribing the officials were fairly common and well-documented. But in my reading to this point, I have yet to find anything about jails or detention of emigrants by the Russian government. Deportations and shootings are mentioned, but I have no information corroborating this part of the story. Were they held in Tilsit? What sort of prisons would these be? If you know more about this, please contact me. Any links to further information would be helpful.

In the end, Jacob and Louis obviously tried a second time and succeeded in getting on a ship in Hamburg. Jacob married Amelia Bernard in 1893 – the picture above is his wedding picture – and settled in Saginaw, Michigan. Louis eventually settled in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and two children. These two men, originally illegal immigrants, became the heads of large and prosperous American Jewish families.

Some Sources Consulted:

Discovering Aunt Belle

My grandmother, Evelyn Schwartz Thal, used to visit her “Aunt Belle” every time she vacationed in New York City. My father even remembers stopping in to say “hello” to her at Bergdorf’s. But years ago, when I was asking questions, it was unclear to my grandmother whether her Aunt was her mother’s sister or sister-in-law. In fact, I have recorded from that time that Evelyn’s mother, Dora or Dorothy Richman, had a sister named Belle.

Fast forward to this past week, and I’ve been working through my grandfather’s travel diaries from his trips to New York in the late 1940s and early 50s. Norman and Evelyn visited the city seemingly every year for a week of shows, clubs, shopping and more with various friends. The diaries mention these brief visits with Aunt Belle, though without much detail.

Then, completely coincidentally, I got a message through Ancestry from someone asking if the Morris Richman in my database was married to “her” great-great-aunt Bella Haupt. I haven’t researched this particular branch much at all recently, so this prompted me to go back and look at my records again.

According to synagogue records from Bardejov, Slovakia, now available online through FamilySearch, Samuel Reichman and Esther Szobel had at least three children: Chaim, later known as Harold, born in 1876; Dora or Dorothy, born in 1879; and Moses Leiser, later known as Maurice/Morris, born in 1882. Actually, I haven’t found the Slovakian birth record for Dora, but I do have the records for Chaim and Moses. My grandmother recalled an uncle John as well, but I have found no record of him.

By the time Moses/Maurice was born, the family was living about 10 km northwest of Bardejov in Aranypataka (now Zlate), where Esther was born and her parents, Samuel and Laja Safran Zobel, had lived for many years. Maurice’s birth was recorded in Bardejov, then Bartfeld, Hungary. Four years later, in January of 1886, Esther died of a stroke, also in Aranypataka. Her death is recorded as Esther Szobel, so she may not have been officially married, like many other Jews of the time.

In August of 1888, Samuel Reichman boarded the ship, S.S. Gellert in Hamburg, Germany, and sailed for New York, leaving his young children behind. His parents and his mother-in-law was still living, so they could have cared for their grandchildren.

Passenger list from the S.S. Gellert, August 28, 1888, obtained from Ancestry.com. “S. Reichmann” is on line 784, a clerk traveling from Barthfeld, Hungary.

By 1889, Samuel was living in Cleveland, Ohio, and operating a saloon. And by 1892, he had remarried, to Mary Frankel. They had a daughter, Rose Richman, born in Cleveland in October of 1893. A few months before Rose was born, Dora and her brother, Moses, arrived in New York on the S.S. Havel, traveling to Cleveland to join their father and his new wife.

Passenger list from the S.S. Havel, August 23, 1893, obtained from Ancestry.com. Dora and Moses Reichman are on lines 301 and 302.

Although I just now located Samuel’s passenger list, I had this much of the story when I got the message about Bella Haupt. I even had found Morris Richman in a 1910 Census record in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, based, presumably on a hint from my grandmother years back. By 1910, Morris was married to “Bella,” but I also had a “Belle Richman” among Dora’s siblings based on my grandmother’s recollections.

Prompted by the question, I did a bit more digging around. Maurice H. Richman married Bella Haupt in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 9, 1904. I don’t know how or when he ended up in Pittsburgh, but by then he was working as a dry goods merchant. In 1900, he had already left his family in Cleveland, but I haven’t tracked him down in the 1900 census. His new wife, Bella, was born in Hungary in 1882, the daughter of Harry and Rosa Haupt. Maurice and Bella remained in Pittsburgh, where a stillborn infant was born to them in 1913. As far as I know, they had no other children.

By 1918, Maurice and Belle had moved to New York, where he completed his Registration Card for the military draft for World War I. He was apparently trying his hand at the finance industry on Wall Street, and he and Belle were living on West 107th.

World War I Draft Registration Card for Maurice A. Richman, September 1918

One month later, on October 13, 1918, Maurice died, possibly of influenza during the Spanish flu epidemic. He was 36. With all of this information about Maurice Richman, how could I be sure this was the right man? His headstone in the Homestead Hebrew Cemetery outside Pittsburgh confirms his Hebrew name from his birth record, “Moses Leiser son of Samuel.”

It’s no wonder my grandmother was unclear about the relationship of Aunt Belle. She couldn’t have known her uncle much at all, since she was twelve when he died, and she grew up in Cleveland. But Belle apparently remained in touch with the Richman family. By 1920, she was working as a secretary in a corset house in New York, and through the years, she remained connected to the clothing business. In 1930, she’s listed as a “ladies wear executive” in the census records, and by 1940, working in a dress shop. She never remarried, and lived to be 101 years old, passing away in November of 1983.

Thanks to my Ancestry contact, I now have the photo of Belle, above, probably taken around the time she and Maurice were married in 1904. I have no other photographs. If you have photos or any further information about Maurice or Belle, please contact me.

Letter from Ireland, 1870

In my collection of documents is a copy of this wonderful letter, written to my great-great-grandfather, John (or William John) Miller, by his father, Peter. Peter and his wife, Margaret, were still living in Broughdone, near Cullybackey, in Northern Ireland at the time, and John and his family had settled in Scott County, Iowa.

Broughdone, Cullybackey
Co. Antrim, Ireland
18th July, 1870

Dear Son,
We received your letter on the 12th July and to tell you the truth we were agreeably surprised. We had well nigh given up all hopes of receiving any more letters from you, and were about to set you down as one of those ungrateful children, who have as their motto “out of sight — out of mind”. But we are glad to find that you have not altogether forgotten us, and now when you have begun we hope your letters will not be like angels’ visits: few and far between, but that you will write often. We are happy to inform you that, we are, thank God, in our usual health. Your mother and I however, are fast declining and it is surprising how much we have failed during the last few years. A few years more, and the places which know us now will know us no more for ever.
We were exceedingly glad to hear from you, your wife and family, and there was a great demand on the part of your own friends, and those of your wife’s to hear your letter. Your letter was very satisfactory in all points; however I would like you to mention in your next letter what you have to pay yearly for your farm in the shape of rent and taxes. You also neglected to inform us whether your two younger children were boys or girls; and what is their names. Your mother was very glad to see little James’ likeness, and she maintains it very much resembles yourself. She also thanks you for your kind remembrance of her, and hopes you will not neglect to write soon and often. The rest of your brothers and sisters with their families are well and in much the same position as when I last wrote. Mathew has 5 children alive, Jenny 7, Peter 5, Margaret 3. Nancy Ann’s friends are all in their usual good health. William was in our house yesterday and had a letter from Australia from James. He was in good health, and Samuel, Thomas’ son was living with his Mother as yet. John Megaw and family are also well. In fact both your friends, and your wife’s are much in the same condition as when you left. Brother James is still in Teeshan School and succeeded very well at teaching a Science Class, for which he will be well paid.  As regards the crops this year they look very well. Some parties have tried their new potatoes, and they are generally well spoken of — the only drawback being the wetness of the weather, for some times past, which may injure the otherwise abundant harvest.  Trade has been pretty fair for some time, food cheap, and pretty fair wages for working men, compared with what formerly prevailed. There is a prospect of a great depression in trade, and a rise in the price of provisions, owing to a frightful war which is commencing between France and Prussia, and in which all the nations of Europe may eventually be engaged. We were glad to hear that Old Samuel is in good health, and hope he may long continue so. All your old neighbours and friends are in good health. Mathew Calderwood and family are well, but William John Calderwood has long been in a delicate state of health, and is but little better. Robert Lavender and family are well. Alexander and William John with their families are still living at Broughshane, and are doing prosperously. Hugh Crilly and family are well, and all your other neighbours having friends in America.   In conclusion we have only to request that you will answer this as soon as it reaches you and that you will not again be guilty of being so long of writing, so that no apologies will be required, and may God bless you, your wife and family is the earnest prayer and desire of
Your father
Peter Millar
Mr. Peter Millar
Co Antrim

P.S. We would wish that in your next letter you would send us your own address that we may send your letters direct. J.M.

There are several questions that arise from the letter, some of which can be answered, and some that will probably be unknown forever. To begin with, we can answer Peter’s questions with the 1870 U.S. Census record from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa.

Image from 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Scott County, Iowa, from Ancestry.com.

In this record, John and Nancy were listed with six children and Nancy’s father, Samuel Megaw, or “Old Samuel,” as Peter refers to him in the letter. “Jinny” would be Jemima, and “Harriet” would refer to Henrietta. The other names are clear in the record. John apparently neglected to mention the names of Henrietta and Mary in his letter, and enclosed a nice picture of James, which would be nice to see. The census also partially answers Peter’s question about rents and taxes. According to this, John owned land worth $8000, though I don’t know what his taxes would have been at that time. An online inflation calculator would value that at over $160,000 in todays dollars.

Of the family Peter mentions in Ireland, the facts are not so clear. We know that John had an older brother named Mathew, born around 1827. He was still living in Broughdone at the time of the 1901 Census, married to Jannie Simpson, with four children:

1901 Census Record, Broughdone, from the National Archives of Ireland

Unfortunately, the ages of his children do not match up with Peter’s account in his letter, though all would have been alive in 1870. So either Peter is a bit mistaken, the census record is wrong, or he’s reporting on a different Mathew. Since the family names are frequently repeated – and this is an understatement – the latter is certainly a possibility.

Nancy Ann Megaw, John’s wife, had several brothers, including William, James, Thomas and John. According to a descendant, William was a schoolteacher. James had moved to Australia by 1865, and had at least one son, David, who wrote back to Ireland. I’m unsure who “Brother James” refers to, but Teeshan is a nearby town.

Interestingly enough, a second look at the 1870 Census record for Iowa will bring up James Calderwood, who is listed with his family next door to John. No doubt there is a connection to the Calderwoods mentioned in the letter.

And what about Peter and Margaret? From Griffiths Valuation of Property in Ireland, 1862, we have the following from Broughdone:

Because of the common nature of the name, we can’t be 100% certain that this is our Peter Millar, but on line 16A and B under Broughdone, there is a Peter Millar listed. We can also find Robert Lavender mentioned in the letter. The first column of numbers indicates the size of the land parcel in acres, roods and perches, the latter two being smaller units. So Peter would have owned a little over 13 acres of land. The third column of numbers is the amount of tax collected from the buildings on the tenement, i.e. a house or office. In Peter’s case, 1 pound is a small amount of tax, indicating a small cottage with 2-3 rooms. The photo at the top of the page was taken in 1927 of the “birthplace of John Miller,” and at least by appearances, bears out the tax report.

Peter wrote this letter the day before Napoleon III of France declared war on Prussia. The Franco-Prussian War lasted for a little less than a year, concluding with the Treaty of Frankfurt on May 10, 1871. Without going into too much detail, Peter is inadvertently correct in his prediction. Prussia’s success in the conflict is generally credited with consolidating German power in Europe and contributing, eventually, to two World Wars.

From Civil registration records, it appears Peter died in March of 1879, though again, the name is very common, so this needs to be confirmed. At this time, I have not yet found a death record for Peter’s wife, Margaret.

Can You Help?

The letter I have in my archives is a copy of the original. I received the copy from my great-aunt, Allen Huxman, many years ago, but I have no idea where the original is and if there are more letters. And I’d love to see the picture of James that is referred to. If you know of these documents or have any other information relating to the Miller or Megaw families, please contact me. Descendants charts and more information for these families can be reached through the buttons below.

Traffic in Los Angeles, 1926

I have two teenagers – one with a brand-new driver’s license and one just about to get a learner’s permit, so I’ve been thinking quite a bit about driving lately. I recently remembered my grandfather’s account of his trip to California in 1926 in his old Hudson car. Chester Long spent about six weeks in Los Angeles before going up to San Francisco with the goal of finding a boat to South America. Things didn’t quite work out as planned, as he met my grandmother in Modesto and was distracted from traveling further.

The story comes from a conversation in the summer of 1988:

Chester Long, summer 1988

Transcript: We had quite a time in Los Angeles.  At that time, they didn’t have traffic lights, but they had a traffic cop out directing traffic, you know.  And I was the first one up and the cop looked at me.  I noticed him looking at me.  I didn’t have any tag on the front end of my car.  Most states, you know, even today they have two.  And he come over and he says, “Where’s your other tag?”  And I says, “Don’t need it.  I’m from Kansas.”  And he went back to look.  He thought I was lying to him, but he didn’t think strong enough to take me in.  And you had to get a permit within so many hours after you got there, and I’d been there for oh a month or better.  And of course if they’d ask me, I just got there the day before.  And one time, I didn’t have nothing to do and I’d go to shows in the afternoon.  Park the car and come out and there’d be a ticket on it.  And, oh there was a fellow there I knew.  Well, there was a girl there that taught school with Wava down in Montezuma.  And her sister’s husband was a traffic cop, and he says, “If you ever get a ticket in this town,” he says, “keep your car locked up and make ‘em put it under your windshield wiper and then you can throw it away.  If they get it on the inside,” he says, “don’t never do it.  They’ll look for you.”  But if they put it under the windshield wiper, they’ll never look for you.  Something could happen to it, see.  So I come out of a show one afternoon and there’s my car and there’s a cop standing right in front of it with a ticket on the windshield.  And I thought, “Well, I can outwait you.”  So I went up as far as I could see back and just watched him.  I thought he’d be going to supper after a while.  But he left and I went and got the car and throwed the ticket away.   Then I was waiting up there, this girl went to, down to take lessons at night, some art lessons at night.  So rather than drive downtown, why I told her I’d meet her at the end of that streetcar line.  So I was sitting there after dark and a cop come up, jumped on the fender and said, “Let’s go.”  I says, “Where you going?”  “Down to the police station.”  He says, “You’re the guy we’re looking for.  We had a hit and run with a car like this.”  And I said, “Mister, I won’t go with you now.  I’m gonna meet a girl when she gets off that streetcar and take her home.  Then I’ll spend the night with you.”  But, “No,” I says, “You’ll have to knock me in the head or call your riot squad.  That’s the only way you’re gonna take me.”  And finally that streetcar come in, and I took her off and put her in the car and I said, “Now I’ll spend the night with you.”  And he said, “Well I guess you’re not the guy we’re looking for.” 

So, what was it like in Los Angeles in 1926? The photo above is the best picture I can find of the car he probably had. It’s a picture of Chester and his bride, Margaret Sollinger, I think taken just after returning to Kansas in 1927. Presumably the car behind them is the same one he had a year earlier.

Chester’s story mentions permits and traffic signals, and I was curious to find out more about their history. It’s not completely clear whether he’s referring to his car registration or a driver’s license in the first part of the story. If he considered himself to have moved to California, he would have needed new plates, and that’s probably why he told the story. But what interests me even more is the driver’s license. Not surprisingly, licenses weren’t required in Kansas in 1926. The population was fairly sparse, and there were probably not that many cars on the road. And after all, farmers were already used to operating machinery. According to a table from the Federal Highway Administration, Kansas didn’t require a license until 1931, and exams weren’t instigated there until 1949.

But Los Angeles was a different story. The population was booming at the time, more than doubling during the 1920s according to Smithsonian Magazine. In 1920, the population was about 600,000, with 161, 846 registered cars. By ten years later, L.A. County had more than 800,000 registered cars. No wonder permits became an issue! California was one of the first states to require a driver’s license in 1913, though an exam wasn’t necessary until 1927.

Chester did, presumably, get a driver’s permit, because I have a copy of his application.

Chester Long’s Operator’s Application, Los Angeles, California, November 29, 1926.

Though the entries are faint, I think the questions are actually the most interesting. The back includes a stamp and signature.

I don’t know if this stamped application served as a license or whether he held another document that I don’t have. But in the end he must have figured he was staying around long enough to make it worth the trouble. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know whether he ended up getting California plates!

As for traffic signals, according to Los Angeles Magazine, they started appearing in the city in the 1920s as well. Early signals first appeared in October of 1920, using semaphore arms, small red and green lights, and bells for warnings. By 1923, 31 of these devices had been installed. In 1924, a different style of signal, with larger lights but installed on a post in the middle of the intersection, was placed in the busiest intersections. The style we know today – first used in Detroit in 1920 – didn’t appear in L.A. until 1931. Considering the number of roads at that time, there must have been a lot of traffic cops!

Did They Really Bring a Chair?

Finding the Truth in a Richartz Family Story

There is a much loved story, often repeated in my husband’s family, of a Richartz ancestor bringing a small rocking chair onboard the ship from Germany to rock the baby in. According to the story, the baby died on the trip and was buried at sea. Here is the first part of the story, told by Pauline Wilson Hughes around 1994, interviewed by her daughter, Joyce Hughes Gephart.

Pauline Wilson Hughes, interviewed by Joyce Hughes Gephart, ca. 1994.

The transcript is as follows:

Joyce: She had how many children? Your grandmother had how many children?

Pauline: My mother’s mother, [Anna Katherine Hammerman] in Germany, had seven children, and I don’t know whether Mother [Mary Katherine Richartz] was the oldest of the seven, but she was the oldest living of the seven.  Then she died in childbirth…

Joyce: Your grandmother.

Pauline: Grandmother died in childbirth and Grandpa [Peter Richartz] decided to come to America, and besides Mother there was a younger sister and a younger brother and the baby that he brought with him, but he left Mother in Germany.  They were Catholic, and she was ready to make her First Communion.  So he left her there with some of the family and she was to come over the next year by herself, which she did at the age of thirteen. 

Joyce: Okay, now back up and tell about the trip over with Grandpa.

Pauline:  The trip over, Grandpa brought a little rocking chair so that he could rock the baby.  He brought the baby with him too.  And the baby then died on the way over and was buried at sea.  So there was just Aunt Julia and Uncle Leo that came with him then.  And the reason he came over to America, two of his sisters and a brother had already come to America.  And the brother’s name was Will Richartz, which they spelled R-I-C-H-A-R-T-Z in German, and he owned a brickyard in Memphis, Tennessee at that time.  And Aunt Christina, his other sister, was married to a German man named Faust and they owned a brewery in Terre Haute.  And they were all Catholics.

Pauline continued with more of the story later in the interview.

Pauline Wilson Hughes, interviewed by Joyce Hughes Gephart, ca. 1994.

Pauline:  Grandpa settled in Terre Haute with Aunt Julia and Uncle Leo.  I don’t know their ages, but they were younger than Mother.  And Mother came over a year later, because they had left her there.  He had left her there when he came over with the children and the baby because they were Catholic and she was ready to make her First Communion.  So she came over a year later in care of the …

Joyce:  Someone on the ship?

Pauline: In care of the captain of the ship, and then he saw that she got on the train at Maryland to come to Terre Haute and came by herself, not knowing a word of English.  Thirteen-year-old child.  I don’t know whether she entered school in Terre Haute.  I have never heard her speak of anything like that, about her schooling or anything.  The only thing I know is that she worked in an overall factory in Terre Haute.  And I have no idea when she came to Muncie or why she came to Muncie.  But she had a friend here who was going with a cousin of Pop’s, that’s how she met him.  And when she was in Muncie before she was married, she worked for people as their maid.  And one of them was Mrs. Heeney [?], the Jewish lady that owned a store, a shoe store I think it was, in Muncie. 

So how much of this story is true? Turns out, the documents may describe an even more powerful narrative. Rather than traveling in two groups, the family took three trips to get to the United States. Peter’s sister, Christina, was indeed married and living in Terre Haute, Indiana, with her husband, by 1880. Frederick Faust was a grocer, according to the census and the History of Vigo County by H.C. Bradsby, 1891. Peter’s brother, William Richartz, was also living in Terre Haute in 1880 with his sister, Louisa, and three children. Probably the first sibling to emigrate, William had been in Terre Haute since at least 1860 and worked as a brick mason. Death records indicate that he died there in 1896. There is definitely more to pursue in terms of the order of immigration and earlier records for these siblings. In any event, they were all well settled in Terre Haute and had probably encouraged Peter to come to the United States. He arrived in New York on June 28, 1889, on the S.S. Lahn from Bremen, Germany, carrying two bags.

Passenger list of the S.S. Lahn, June 28, 1889. Peter Richartz is on line 500.

The list that makes the story most powerful is from a year later. Departing Bremen, Germany in May of 1890 were three young children.

Passenger list of the S.S. Dresden, arriving in Baltimore, Maryland, May 29, 1890.
Julie Richartz is on the bottom line of the top list, and Leo and Franz are on the top of the lower list.

All three were in steerage, and Julie, the oldest at reportedly 15, was listed as being in the “B” section with the single women. Was she really 15? Pauline says Mary Katherine was the oldest, which would mean Julie couldn’t be that old. Later census records list her as much younger, but I have yet to find any further records. On Leo’s entry there is a note, “disregard steerage comp.,” and Franz, the baby, is listed in compartment “A” with the families. According to the manifest, the ship was carrying over 1100 passengers in steerage. We have no way of knowing, at this point, whether these three children were traveling with anyone else they knew, or whether they, like their sister mentioned in the family story, found someone on the ship that helped them out. Interestingly, there is no indication anywhere on the list that Franz died aboard the ship. Since this list was used in Baltimore, presumably for checking people in, it’s curious there is no mention of that. Though there is a column to indicate deaths, none were reported.

Franz was reportedly 8 months old. If that age is accurate, he was born about six months after his father left Germany. The mother, Anna Katherine, would have died in the fall of 1889 when he was born, after her husband left for America. I have not found either a birth or a death record at this point. Some records have survived, but most are not online at this time.

Finally, a year later, Pauline’s mother, Mary Katherine, arrived in Baltimore on her own.

Passenger list from the S.S. America, arriving in Baltimore, Maryland on May 13, 1891. Marie Richartz is on line 447.

“Marie Richartz, servant,” is listed as 17 on the passenger list. From birth and death records that indicate she was born in November of 1875, I believe she was more likely 15. Once again, the manifest shows more than 1000 steerage passengers on the ship. As yet, we have no record of a communion or other event that would have kept her in Germany. Many Catholic church records survive for Dusseldorf, but they are mostly deaths and marriages, and not available online. In any case, she did arrive in Maryland and she was headed to Indiana.

As for the rest of the story, I haven’t yet located the family with the shoe store in Muncie, but Marie married Archie Wilson there on October 18, 1899. The photograph above was taken while she was still in Terre Haute, probably around 1897.

So did a rocker come over from Germany? Would it have come with the three children in 1890 for the baby to rock in? It seems unlikely, honestly, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever really know. Regardless, the story of these children and their voyage to America is a powerful narrative.