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.


  1. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  2. Wonderful story and marvelous pictures! I can only image how special it must feel to own that bracelet! Such a great write up in the newspaper about the wedding too!

  3. I should also thank you for your support and comments on my blog posts! They are very much appreciated! Thank you!

  4. Great post and a lovely bracelet. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Yep, once again I am jealous of another genealogist's cool stuff. You are very lucky to have so much information on Birdie!

  6. Wonderful story and especially great photos. I really enjoyed reading your tale,

  7. Oh, the bracelet. That is awesome!