Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rebecca Steen

Rebecca Steen Schwartz

I should carry on in some organized fashion by staying with the 'Rebecca' theme and getting back to my paternal California ancestors by focusing on Rebecca Steen.  I want so badly to believe that the photo above is Rebecca but I will admit that I'm not 100% sure that it is.  I found this photo in some belongings given to my dad that Rebecca's grandson had when he passed away in 1989.  Wilton Gunzendorfer was my dad's uncle and since he had no children of his own, my dad and his brother were the only 'family' he had once his sister died. 

Last year my sister found some things tucked away at my mom's home and sent them to me (thank you, sis!).  In the envelope was a wallet with Wilton's card in it and a few itsy bitsy photos.  I could identify all but one of the photos - there was my dad and his brother when they were young boys/men, Wilton's parents (Bertha and Abe Gunzendorfer), Bertha's father (Louis), and this unidentified woman.  So my best guess is that this is Rebecca Steen, wife of Louis Schwartz and my great great grandmother.  I will, however, admit I've made a mistake if I find something in the stash of old photos at my mom's house that proves otherwise.

Rebecca was the daughter of Joseph Steen and Hannah Plotzky.  She was born February 8, 1848 (whoa, I just realized that my other 2nd great grandmother, Rebecca Waller, was born on February 7) in Poland.  The first record I found for Rebecca was in Liverpool in March, 1851 where she shows up on the census as Rebecca STAIN with her parents Joseph, Anna (Hannah), and a 6 month old sibling, Dina (a female born in Liverpool).

Since the next record I found was arrival in New York from Liverpool in 1851, I'm guessing they were just temporarily in Liverpool while they waited to make their way to America.  I found a passenger list with arrival October 15, 1851 and it shows Joseph, Hannah, Emily Stam (or Stein, hard to read) with Joseph and Hannah's ages correct.  I'm not sure who Emily might be, though.  And with them are Robina (age 2, which would be about right for Rebecca) and a son Denis (age 9 months).  I'm guessing this is them but there's still a few questions, although the 1910 census shows that Rebecca did arrive in 1851.

After arrival in New York another child, Samuel, was born in 1855 and then the family must have moved to California as the next child, Meyer, was born in about 1856 in California.  The 1860 census shows them in Santa Cruz, next door to Louis Schwartz, Rebecca's future husband (and my 2nd great grandfather).

The 1910 census shows that Rebecca had 8 children, 4 of whom were living in 1910.  I can account for those alive in 1910 but have only found mention of two other children.  So I'll have to keep my eyes and ears peeled for two more children.  Maybe Dina or Denis is one of those?

I don't know too many details about Rebecca's life as Mrs. Schwartz but I know they lived together in Santa Cruz until shortly before Louis' death in 1893 (more on Louis in a future post - he was quite a guy).  The balance of her life was spent in Oakland where she lived with either her brother, Samuel, or one of her children until her death on January 7, 1918.  Rebecca's Memorial

Wait - the story doesn't end there.  I did find another jewel in the package my sister sent to me!  In the package was this little book.

Since this was with my great uncle's things and I know nothing about fraternal organizations, I assumed this was from some organization he'd been a member of.  Hmm, I thought, must have been Eastern Star based on the ES on the front.  

So after a few days, I finally opened the book and found a paper folded up inside.  I took it to work to show my genealogy pal and when I opened it up (expecting it to say Wilton Gunzendorfer on it), I found something else altogether. 

Tune in next time to see what I found!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I found a new great great great grandmother

One of the problems I have with researching my family is jumping around from ancestor to ancestor.  I'll start the day with my father's side of the family at the turn of the 20th century and by the end the day of the day, I'm working on my mother's side during the Revolutionary War.  And then when I throw in my husband's family, there's a real hodge podge of ancestors running through my brain!

So before I go back to the Gunzendorfers, I must stay with my Civil War guy, Emery Waller.  As I mentioned earlier, Emery was my 3rd great grandfather.  Emery's daughter, Rebecca, was my great great grandmother and her daughter, Mabel, was the only great grandmother I had the pleasure of knowing.

Mabel McAboy Fitzgerald

Mabel and her husband, Edward Fitzgerald, lived in Fresno near both sets of grandparents so we were fortunate to have them both in our lives until I was about 12 years old.  Plus my grandmother, Mabel and Edward's daughter, told me that her grandmother was named Rebecca the day she learned that our daughter had been given the middle name of Rebecca.  Who knew that almost 36 years later that name would become so important to my story?

Over the last year I've been researching Emery's clan and everything has pointed to his wife, Clarinda Meeker (or Epesson) as the mother of my 2nd great grandmother, Rebecca.  Every public tree I'd seen on, every census, every THING pointed to Clarinda as Rebecca's mother.  But was she born Meeker or Epesson?

As I continued with my search, I was able to locate a marriage record for Emery and Clarinda from July, 1845.  That was a bit confusing, though, as their daughter, Rebecca, was born February 7, 1845.  While I know it's possible that Rebecca was born prior to their marriage, it just wasn't adding up.

Until I went back to Family Search and found this.....

Yes, that's right.  Emery Waller married Rebecca Parker on January 31, 1833 in Hamilton County, Ohio!

What happened to that marriage?  Was this Rebecca the mother and namesake of "my" Rebecca?  What about Clarinda?  I had so many questions I didn't know where to start.

Which led me to the Warren County Historical Society in Ohio.  "My" Rebecca was born in Warren County and the marriage record for Emery and Clarinda was there.  A very nice researcher answered my call and quickly agreed to do some research for me for a nominal fee.  And this is what he told me the other day:

Hi Debi-

Well I have, what I feel, is some very good news. I have found the burial site of "Rebecca Waller consort of E.L." she died on Feb. 13 1845 at the age of 30 years 4 months and 3 days. The date of her death has her die 6 days after your great great grandmother was born on Feb. 7 1845. She, in all probability, died as a result of the complicated birth of your great great grandmother who was named Rebecca in honor of her mother.

I am prepared to send you the cemetery records and copies of modern and historic maps of of the cemetery's location. I also have the marriage record of Emery and Clarinda five months after Rebecca's death.

WOW!  Rebecca Parker was my 3rd great grandmother!  This woman lost her life because she gave life.  So now the name Rebecca has even more meaning for me.

Poor Emery must have been devastated.  Here he was left with an infant (and, perhaps, a toddler as there may have been an older child) and he turned to Clarinda.  Together they had five more children and Clarinda must have cared for all of them by herself while Emery was away at war. 

It's amazing how a little detail like this changes everything.  My mind can't stop thinking about those fateful days in February, 1845.  The complete joy of bringing a new life into the world followed almost immediately by the grief of losing a wife/mother/daughter/sister.  And then the new chapter that began just five months later with the marriage of Emery and Clarinda.

While I've not received the cemetery information from Warren County yet, I did find Rebecca's memorial at Findagrave and have contacted the memorial manager in order to update the information.  I hope there's not a lot of drama with that :-(

And that's how I found a new great great great grandmother!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I got my first fun with search terms!

Someone found me by searching!  I can't believe I've been found!

Okay, so it was someone who was apparently looking for some training in Klamath Falls, Oregon but it doesn't matter, they found me!  I wonder if they read the story about Birdie Gunzendorfer dying on the train. 

Who knew someone would find my blog by searching mortician training Klamath Falls, Oregon?

And now I wait.....

I took the plunge and ordered my first military pension file. 

As mentioned in my previous post here, my 3rd great grandfather, Emery Waller, served in the Civil War.  But as if that isn't enough, he is also my first step in punching a ticket into Daughters of the American Revolution as his grandfather, Ashbel Waller, served in the Revolutionary War.  As I'm sure you know, in order to join DAR you must "prove" that you are a descendant of the Revolutionary War patriot.  I'm 99% sure I've got the details right but until I can prove it, I'm out of luck.

After a few days of mulling it over and figuring out what I needed to do in order to request the pension file, I needed a little shove.  I put a status update on facebook asking if anyone who had ordered and received a pension file would answer some questions.  As luck would have it, Amy Coffin answered the call.  I learned about Amy's blog last fall when she was blogging about the Anatomy of a Civil War Record and as I read those blog entries, I knew that someday I would have a pension file of my very own.  So a special thanks to Amy for answering my questions and pushing me over the edge!

I will add that it took awhile to find the pension card in footnote but Amy helped me change my search so that I was able to find him by searching by the 107th Illinois Regiment rather than by his name.  Which made all the difference in the world because he was listed as Emery WELLERS even though it clearly (at least to me) said Waller.

Emery Waller's Pension Card
 I hit the submit button on the National Archives order form late in the day on April 14.  So I figure it really didn't get to them until Friday, April 15 (tax day!) and now I wait my 40-120 days for the record to arrive.  I hope I got all of the information in the right place and that they find the record easily and send it on the way quickly.  I want it now!  I've already checked the status a couple of times and the status has changed from received  to servicing so it's moving along.

I'm dreaming of a treasure chest of information from Emery's file.  My hope is that I'll learn his date and place of death, his wife's maiden name, and if I'm really lucky I'll find out something about his parents.  While I do know their names, I'd love to have something to confirm it.  And if I'm really, really lucky I'll get the file before we leave for a visit to central Illinois in June as we'll be traveling through Emery's hometown and probable place of death.

So who wants to help me with some patience? 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Civil War Break

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, I bring you my 3rd great grandfather on my mother's side, Emery Waller.

Emery, the first child of Solomon Waller and Amelia Steel, was born December 11, 1813 in Princeton, Butler County, Ohio.  I don't know much about Emery's early years except that he moved from Ohio to DeWitt County, Illinois sometime between 1846 and 1848.

April 12, 1861 brought the start of the Civil War which found men of all ages throughout the country joining the cause.  On September 4, 1861, at the age of 48, Emery Waller joined the 39th Illinois Infantry, Company I, as First Lieutenant.  He mustered out on October 11, 1861.

Less than one year later (June 14, 1862), Emery resigned and re-enlisted on August 2, 1862 as Captain in the 107th Illinois Infantry, Company I.  The 107th Illinois mustered into service on September 4, 1862 at Camp Butler, Illinois and was composed of six companies from DeWitt County and four from Piatt County.  From Camp Butler they left for Jeffersonville, Indiana on September 30.  There they remained until October 12 preparing for active field service.  They then moved on to Kentucky - Louisville, Elizabethtown, Mumfordsville, and finally on to Glasgow.  Emery resigned on December 15, 1863.

I'm getting ready to request Emery's military records so I can learn more about his time in the war.  Any helpful hints about obtaining records are appreciated.

Thank you for your service, Emery. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Murder on the Orient Express

Okay, so it wasn't really the Murder on the Orient Express but it was a death and it was on a train.

As I mentioned earlier, when I first started on this journey I used Gunzendorfer as my first search.  I joined and away I went, looking at those little green leafs on each one of my Gunzendorfer family.  Why was there no death record for Bertha in California?  I knew she was alive in 1944 when Abraham died yet I couldn't find a California death record for her in later years.  Since I was new to ancestry, I hadn't really figured things out yet and it never occurred to me that she might not have died in California.  Lo and behold, there she was listed in the Oregon death records!  Klamath Falls, Oregon to be exact.  What was up with that?

After some internet searching, I found the Random Acts of Genalogical Kindness (RAOGK) organization and contacted someone in Klamath Falls to ask for some help.  A few days later the kind woman gave me my answer - Bertha had, in fact, died in Oregon on August 1, 1950 and she forwarded a copy of the obituary from the Herald and News.  While the obituary didn't have a lot of information, it did tell me that the remains were forwarded via Southern Pacific to Halstead and Company in San Francisco for burial at a later date.  What was she doing in Klamath Falls, Oregon?

I searched some more and stumbled across Halstead's mortuary records from that time frame - there she was!  Once again I read that she died in Klamath Falls, Oregon but there were no clues as to the cause of death or why she was in Klamath Falls.  The records showed that Bertha's residence was the Maryland Hotel in San Francisco.  She lived in a hotel?

I also learned that the grand total to prepare Bertha for interment was $220.98!  That was broken down as:
  • Preservation and preparation of remains and professional services - $75
  • Casket coach and limousine  - $36
  • Flower car - $15
  • Cremation - $60
  • Examiner, Newspaper, Call to out of town papers - $32.98
  • County taxes - $2
There were so many familiar things on this record.  The limo was used to pick up my grandparents at the Clift Hotel, which I remember fondly as their favorite hotel in San Francisco.  The bill was sent to my great uncle, Wilton Gunzendorfer.  And interment would take place at Hills of Eternity in San Francisco where I'd already found Bertha and Abe.  But what was she doing in Klamath Falls?

The next time I talked to my mom on the phone, I told her about my findings and about my curiosity as to what Bertha was doing in Klamath Falls.  "That's easy" she said.  WHAT?  You know?  In retrospect it was stupid of me not to ask her in the first place because Bertha died about a month before my parents were married so, of course, she would have known what happened.  Here's the story.....

Bertha was living at the Maryland Hotel in San Francisco after Abe died.  She and my grandparents (Bertha's daughter, Loraine, and her husband, Sig Levy) set out by train from San Francisco headed toward Victoria, Canada for vacation.  The first night on the train, Bertha died of an apparent heart attack.  The train conductor wanted to stop the train in the middle of nowhere and let my grandparents out with the body.  Thankfully, my grandfather convinced them to get them to the next town which was, in fact, Klamath Falls.  Even though all the records show that Bertha died in Klamath Falls, she may have actually died in California.  After a brief stay in Klamath Falls, Loraine and Sig got Bertha's body back on a train and headed south to San Francisco for interment at Hills of Eternity.

My mother remembers visiting with Birdie a few days before their vacation and Birdie was insistent that my mother take some little dessert forks she had as a wedding gift.  Mom suggested that she wait and get the forks after they returned and when they were all together for her wedding.  After Birdie's death she was given the forks and, I believe, she still has them today.  But she's convinced that Birdie had a premonition that they would never be together again and that she wanted to ensure my parents had the forks that were, obviously, so special to her.

This story has taught me to always ask questions and then when you think you can't ask anymore, ask again.  You never know when the question you ask will jog a new memory.

Bertha is interred with Abe in Hills of Eternity Cemetery.    Bertha's Memorial

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bertha Schwartz

Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer
date unknown

There is so much to say about Bertha Schwartz that I'll have to put it in two posts.  Let's start at the beginning.

Bertha, or Birdie as her friends and family lovingly called her, was born in January, 1872 (exact date unknown) in California.  Her parents, Louis Schwartz and Rebecca Steen Schwartz, lived in Santa Cruz prior to and after her birth so my best guess is that she was born there.  In fact, Louis had a home built at 222 Mission Street in 1867 so Bertha may have entered the world in this home.  She was the third of six children and it appears she was the only daughter to live into adulthood. 

222 Mission Street, Santa Cruz
Photo by Eugene Zelenko
I'd love to know more about Birdie's early years but I do know that she graduated from high school in June, 1890.  I know this because I am the proud owner of her bracelet which is engraved with the inscription B S Graduated June, 1890.  Birdie passed this bracelet on to her daugher (my grandmother Loraine) and when Loraine died, it was passed on to me.  What a treasure!  I remember receiving the bracelet in 1982 and thinking about the young girl who received it as a gift almost 100 years before.  And here it is!  (not a great picture but you get the idea). 

My mother recalls that Birdie was an artist of some kind because at the back of the home on Mission Street was a small studio that Louis built for her to use.  The house still stands today - next time I'm anywhere near Santa Cruz I'm going to try to get to that house and if I'm brave, I'll even knock on the door!

Bertha and Abe Gunzendorfer were married on September 9, 1894 at the home on Mission Street.  The San Francisco Chronicle described it as "one of the prettiest weddings of the season" and went on to say
"The residence and adjacent grounds were bedecked with Chinese lanterns and myriads of incandescent lights, which shone beautifully among clusters of flowers and palms.  The nuptial knot was tied beneath a huge floral bell, which was suspended from the alcove of the parlors, the decorations of which were potted palms ferns and floral pieces, intermingled with numerous bulbs of electric lights, which cast a softening glow upon the bridal party, whose silken robes of white formed a pleasing contrast to the bright-hued decorations." 

The procession was led by Birdie's "small" niece and nephew and the bridesmaids were Dena, Bella, and Jennie Steen, sister and cousins of her mother.  The newspaper described the bride as "a stately and  handsome brunette who appeared lovely in a court gown of white faille silk and ornaments of diamonds, gifts from the groom".  Someday I'd love to stumble upon a photo of this beautiful bride.

Note:  Dena Steen, Birdie's aunt, died less than one month later on October 2, 1894 in San Francisco.  I have been unsuccessful in locating any death records, other than the obituary from the San Francisco Chronicle, since most San Francisco vital records were destroyed in the earthquake/fire.  It saddens me to think that this 28 year old woman participated in such a beautiful wedding and just a few weeks later was gone.  I wonder what happened.  If anyone has any suggestions on locating records, I'd love your suggestions.

Birdie and Abe honeymooned in Southern California and Mexico for four weeks and then settled in Monterey.  Once in Monterey, Birdie joined the rest of the Gunzendorfers as one of the prominent citizens of the town.  When I contacted the Monterey County Historical Society, the gentleman knew instantly of the Gunzendorfer family and was happy to share material with me.  The photo below is of Birdie and Abe, date unknown, in the front seat of the buggy.

Courtesy of Montery County Historical Society

 Birdie and Abe were the proud parents of my grandmother, Mildred Loraine, and her brother, Wilton.  I just love all old family photos but one of my absolute favorites is this photo of Birdie and Loraine which was taken some time in 1896.

Birdie & Loraine

During her residence in Monterey, Birdie was a popular member of the community.  She was active in many clubs including the Monterey Civic Club as a charter member, Monday Afternoon Club, Native Daughters and the Pythian Sisters.

Next up - Murder on the Orient Express.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The White House

No, not that White House :-)  Who knew there would be a store in Monterey called The White House?  Okay, my Dad knew because I remember hearing about it as a kid but honestly, I never, ever thought I'd care about that place.

In 1884, when Ferdinand returned to Monterey after several years in San Francisco and Gilroy, the White House mercantile was established.  It was known as one of the finest stores south of San Francisco.  The store was a model of neatness, very roomy, and contained everything imaginable in the way of mens and ladies goods, notions, hats, caps, boots, and shoes.  In 1889, Ferdinand purchased part of Lot 6 from the David Spence heirs for the store.  Alvarado Street was a bustling place! 

Sketch of Alvarado Street
("Resources of Monterey County, California" by Salinas Daily Journal and the Salinas Democrat, 1890, page 34).

In about 1891, Ferdinand, in connection with Mariano Malarin, erected an immense 2-story brick building on Alvarado Street where The White House moved.

The White House
Photo courtesy of Montery County Historical Society

I try to imagine what it would have been like to shop here.  I'm guessing it was like the store in Little House on the Prairie - everyone knew you and everyone had an account.  The patrons strolled in, visited for a bit, picked up what they needed, and out they went.  Hopefully, they paid their bills on time.  My bet is they did since this establishment was successful for many, many years.

The White House advertised, too.  In 1915, this ad was in the back of the yearbook for Monterey High School.  I wasn't surprised to see it there since my grandmother was the assistant editor of the yearbook (more on that in a future post).

Monterey High School Yearbook, 1915
What's puzzling is the establishment year which shows here as 1854 yet the biographies and information I've read state the mercantile became known as The White House in 1884.  I'm thinking the confusion stems from Ferdinand being away from Monterey from 1872 - 1884 and upon his return, the "White House" was born.  I'll need to do more research on this to confirm the dates.