Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fearless Females: What happened to…..Part 2

Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist launched a series of 31 blogging prompts for celebrating and honoring the "fearless females" in our family trees in March, 2010. This year the series is being revisited in honor of National Women’s History Month and the purpose is to focus on the women in our lives and to make sure their stories are told.

Today’s prompt is from March 11, part 2: Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

One of my favorite subjects has been my 3rd great grandfather, Emery Waller.  Besides being a favorite, Emery has brought me several new cousins and for someone who comes from a very small family, getting to know these cousins has been a lot of fun (Sarah, we MUST meet in real life soon!).  Emery also brings me a Fearless Female – his first wife, Rebecca Parker.

Based on the age shown on Rebecca’s gravestone, she was born on 10 Oct 1814.  I don’t know much about Rebecca except that she was married to Emery in Hamilton County, Ohio on 31 Jan 1833 by F.N. Skillman, Justice of the Peace.


Emery and Rebecca’s first child, Mary Ann, was born shortly thereafter, sometime in 1833.  By 1838, another daughter, Caroline, would join the family.  The 1840 census shows them in Liberty, Butler County, Ohio.  It appears that another daughter, Sarah, was born in 1842 and then things changed for this family. 

On 7 Feb 1845, Rebecca gave birth to her fourth daughter, my second great grandmother, and what should have been a happy occasion was anything but.  Six days later, on 13 Feb 1845, Rebecca Parker Waller was dead.  At 30 years, 4 months, and 5 days she was gone, leaving Emery alone with four daughters.  The fourth daughter was named Rebecca Moriah, most likely in memory of her mother.  Rebecca Parker Waller is buried in Plum Run Cemetery, Warren County, Ohio.

Rebecca Parker Waller
Memory of Rebecca
Consort of E L Waller.
She departed this Life
February 13, 1845; Aged 30 Years, 4 months, and 5 days
Look at this as you pas by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now so you must be. For death and follow me.
Life for Emery and the girls was about to change dramatically.  How would he care for these young children?  What would he do?  Why, he would remarry and his new wife would care for them.  And that’s just what he did.  On either 22 Jul or 23 Jul 1845, Emery and Clarinda Meeker were married.  I’ve found reference to several different names for Clarinda so it could be that Meeker was Clarinda’s married name.




By 1850 the family had moved to Clinton, Illinois, and the two oldest girls, Mary Ann and Caroline, were living with Emery’s parents, Salmon and Amelia Waller, just two doors from Emery and Clarinda.  Emery and Clarinda had added two more daughters, Elizabeth (b. 1846) and Nancy Hannah (b. 1848) to the family.

The 1860 census finds the family in Santa Ana, Illinois and while more children had joined the family, some had left.  Living in the household were Rebecca, Elizabeth, Nancy Hannah, George (b. 1855), and Minnie (b. 1857).  Mary Ann and Caroline were now married and living nearby.  But Sarah was gone, and daughter Alice, who was born in 1851, was also gone.  And somewhere along the line, “Sons Waller”, the sons of Rev. E.L. Waller and C. Waller, were born and died as they are buried in McGraw Cemetery in Clinton, Illinois.  Emery and Clarinda had been married for 40 years when Clarinda died in 1885 and, once again, Emery buried his wife.

The family was forever changed on 13 Feb 1845 when Rebecca Parker Waller, wife of Emery Waller, the mother of four young daughters, and my 3rd great grandmother, died.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fearless Females: What happened to Dena?

Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist launched a series of 31 blogging prompts for celebrating and honoring the "fearless females" in our family trees in March, 2010. This year the series is being revisited in honor of National Women’s History Month and the purpose is to focus on the women in our lives and to make sure their stories are told.

Today’s prompt is from March 11: Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances?  Describe and how did this affect the family?

I actually have two females that fit into this category so today I will highlight the first and the second will come later.

I’ve written quite a bit about my 2nd great grandmother, Rebecca Steen Schwartz, and her daughter (my great grandmother), Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer.  Rebecca had many siblings but one of them has been a mystery to me that I would love to know more about.  But her life was too short and, thus, there are very few records.

Dena Steen was born in 1866 in California and was the youngest child of Joseph Steen and Hannah Plotzky.  While this date does make sense, a few details confuse me.  I found a reference to the birth of a daughter to Joseph and Hannah on 10 Feb 1864 in the Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 26, Number 4027, 17 Feb 1864.  While this could be Dena, I’m not certain that it is because when Dena died in 1894, she was 28 years old and this date of birth would have made her 30 years old.  Did Joseph and Hannah, perhaps, have a child in 1864 who died in infancy?  Or at least before 1870 when the next census was enumerated?  Joseph died 27 Jul 1866 so no matter when Dena was born, Hannah was left alone with some very young children.

I first found Dena, enumerated as Dinah, in the 1870 census in San Francisco.  She was 4 years old (so the 1866 date works) and was living with Hannah and her siblings – Solomon (really Samuel), Meyer, Lillie, and Julius. 

I next found Dena, enumerated as Lennie, in Oakland in the 1880 census.  She was living at 628 17th Street with Hannah, Samuel, and Lillie.  Julius was no longer with the family due to his death in 1876.

Next we find Dena in the 1883 U.S. City Directory in San Francisco.  She was living at 506 Hyde Street with Hannah and Samuel and was working as a saleslady with Martin J. Aguirre.  The only reference I find to Martin Aguirre is a confectioner at 429 Kearny, about 1 mile from Dena’s home on Hyde Street.  This Martin was born in 1856 – could Martin and Dena have been linked romantically or was she merely working there? 

The next reference I have for Dena is on 9 Sep 1894 when my great grandparents, Abraham Gunzendorfer and Bertha Schwartz, were married.  This reference to the wedding was noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Sep 1894, page 5:

The bridal procession was headed by the small niece and nephew of the bride, the former bearing the ring upon a pillow of white satin.  The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Dr. Nieto of San Francisco.  Following the ceremony a wedding collation was served on the lawn, which had been canopied for the occasion.  The bride, a stately and handsome brunette, appeared lovely in a court gown of white faille silk and ornaments of diamonds, gifts from the groom.  The bridesmaids were the Misses Dena, Bella and Jennie Steen, and the groomsmen were Charles Berg, Meyer Steen and A. Gunzendorfer of San Francisco.

What a happy occasion that must have been!

And less than a month later, Dena’s life ended suddenly.  This from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 3 Oct 1894.

Dena Steen 1866 – Oct 2, 1894

Mis [sic] Dena Steen died suddenly in San Francisco Tuesday morning.  The news of her untimely taking off was a shock to her friends in this city.  She was recently here, and was one of the bridesmaids at the marriage of her niece, Miss Bertha Schwartz, to A.B. Gunzendorfer.  Miss Steen was born in Santa Cruz and spent her childhood here.  Her home latterly has been in San Francisco.  She was a young lady of pleasant disposition, and she endeared herself to all who had the pleasure of meeting her.  In consequence of her death, the reception to Mr. and Mrs. Gunzendorfer at the residence of Miss Steen’s sister, Mrs. L. Schwartz, which was to have taken place this afternoon, has been indefinitely postponed.

And this from the San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Oct 1894, page 10.

STEEN – In this city, October 2, Dena, beloved daughter of Mrs. Hannah Steen and sister of Mrs. R. Schwartz of Santa Cruz, Samuel and Meyer A. Steen and Mrs. G. Samuels of Oakland, a native of San Francisco, aged 28 years.

Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral this day (Wednesday) at 1:30 o’clock from her late residence 407 Eddy Street.  Interment, Hills of Eternity Cemetery, by 3:30 o’clock train from Third and Townsend streets.

And that’s it – Dena’s short life was over.  What caused her sudden death?  Was she in some sort of accident?  Was she ill?  Did she commit suicide?  Of course I’d like nothing more than a copy of her death certificate but since she died in San Francisco prior to the earthquake in 1906, the record was almost certainly destroyed.  So now what?  If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

Steen Dena

Dena is buried with her mother, Hannah, in Hills of Eternity in Colma, California.  And next to them (to the right in the picture below) is her brother, Julius.

Steen Hills of Eternity

Dena, you have not been forgotten!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And now I’m 2!

2 years old
Photo by Markus Reinhardt

I can’t believe it – 2 years ago today I started this blog.  Thanks once again to my friend, Kerry Scott, for pushing me to get started.  I’ve had a lot of fun, learned a lot, documented my discoveries for future generations, and found a few cousins along the way.  What a great experience this has been.

And in honor of my 2nd blogiversary, here’s a photo of my REAL 2nd birthday.

2nd Birthday

My sister looks so excited to be celebrating her little sister’s birthday – wonder if that was one of my gifts she was holding up or just what she’s so happy about.  That’s Shauna Powell on the left, my sister, and Tim Jackson, our next door neighbor.  And little ole me with the curly hair.

And now I’m on my way to 3!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fearless Females: What I treasure!

Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist launched a series of 31 blogging prompts for celebrating and honoring the "fearless females" in our family trees in March, 2010. This year the series is being revisited in honor of National Women’s History Month and the purpose is to focus on the women in our lives and to make sure their stories are told.

Today’s prompt is from March 6: Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)

Bertha's bracelet

This is one of my most treasured items – the bracelet from my great grandmother, Bertha “Birdie” Schwartz.  Engraved on the bracelet is B S Graduated June, 1890 so this was a gift she received upon her high school graduation in 1890. 

Another item I treasure is the silver tea set that belonged to my grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer.  I remember when she passed away – we were going through her things and this tea set was shoved off into a corner since, apparently, no one cared about it or wanted it.  I asked about it and was told “take it – it doesn’t even match”.  So I did and I love it!

And who could forget the famous spoons that Grandma Loraine had.  These double as a spoon and a straw as the handle part is hollow so you could sip out of the spoon.

I’m sure these were intended for iced tea, but Grandma wouldn’t think of serving iced tea to two little girls.  So what did she serve to us?  Milkshakes!  We’d arrive at her house and the first thing she’d do is mix ice cream and milk for us and served the shakes with these spoons.  Of course, the concoction was way too thick to fit through the straw part but we’d try our best to get it out.  Finally we just gave up and used it as a spoon!   I’m sure my sister and I were the only ones with any memories of these spoons so we were happy to be able to share them after she passed away.

I have so many things from my ancestors that I love but these are items I’ve treasured and had in my home for 30 years.  I hope my kids and grandkids will treasure them, too.

Fearless Females: Working Girl

Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist launched a series of 31 blogging prompts for celebrating and honoring the "fearless females" in our family trees in March, 2010. This year the series is being revisited in honor of National Women’s History Month and the purpose is to focus on the women in our lives and to make sure their stories are told.

Today’s prompt is from March 12:  Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

I know that my grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer, worked as a secretary as a young woman but from what I know, she didn’t really care about the job or occupation all that much.  My mother didn’t work as we were growing up but after we all moved out, she found her niche working part time in a book store.  Mom is a voracious reader to this day and I’m quite sure she spent her entire paycheck each week on new books!

But Mom’s mother, Clara Fitzgerald Martin Hunter, was a working girl as we were growing up.  Sure, she’d worked as a young woman as my mom was growing up – after all, she was divorced (not too common in the 1940’s) and raising a daughter on her own.  But it was her occupation while she was a grandma that always fascinated me – she was a chicken farmer!  She and her second husband, our step-grandfather, Shell (appropriate name for a chicken farmer) Hunter, raised hundreds or thousands of chickens and sold the eggs to local restaurants, grocery stores, and anyone else who would come along.

I really don’t know exactly how many chickens they had but I would guess it was over a thousand and maybe closer to two thousand.  There were chickens and eggs everywhere!  And boy did we love visiting so we could help with collecting the eggs, cleaning them, weighing them, and putting them into the boxes.  Then after they were put into a huge refrigerator, Grandpa would pile them in the car and off he’d go to deliver them.  I also have memories of people coming by to pick up dozens and dozens of eggs.

Boy this was a lot of work!  Grandma would spend hours “candling” the eggs to ensure there was no blood inside – it wouldn’t be too appetizing to have the restaurant serve an egg with a spot of blood on it.  Here’s Grandma at work in the candling room.

Clara candling eggs

The lights were turned down as Grandma put each egg in to the lit container in order to see shadows of what was inside.  Then she’d turned it over and put the other end in and repeat the process.  This was a very delicate procedure and one we weren’t allowed to help with.  But while she was doing that, we’d sit at a table with baskets of eggs and one by one we’d clean them, careful not to break them.  And after they were candled, we'd weigh them and put them into batches of small, medium, large, extra large, and jumbo.  Our favorites were the “pee wees” – little ones about the size of a fifty cent piece.  We’d carefully take them home and share them at Show & Tell.

Here’s Grandpa Shell with his hens.  Looking at them now it doesn’t look too humane to have them all shoved in those cages but it was handy when they’d lay an egg and it would roll down into the trough.  We could walk by with a big egg basket and quickly collect lots of eggs.

Shell with chickens

There were also areas that were like a big stall where the hens would all run loose.  I don’t remember collecting eggs in there so they must have been the young chickens who weren’t producing yet.  I didn’t really like going in there as those birds would run around and sometimes even fly at you.

I know these chickens were a lot of work.  When we’d be visiting, Grandma and Grandpa would have someone come to the house to “chicken sit” if they wanted to go out to dinner with us.  And traveling even overnight was next to impossible for them.   I will always remember Grandma sitting in the warm Fresno sunshine, cleaning eggs while listening to her beloved San Francisco Giants on the radio.

I think Grandma and Grandpa must have rubbed off on me because we’ve raised chickens in the past.  It wasn’t a business for us but we did enjoy watching them interact with each other and our kids loved them, too.  And now that we’re grandparents, we’re passing the tradition on to our grandchildren as we’ll once again raise chickens so they can learn more about them.  10 days ago we became the proud owners of new chicks, all of whom have been claimed and named by the grandchildren.  It’s amazing how fast they grow as these chickens aren’t even two weeks old yet.

Some great memories with Grandma and Grandpa, chicken farmers!

Fearless Females: Photo time!

Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist launched a series of 31 blogging prompts for celebrating and honoring the "fearless females" in our family trees in March, 2010. This year the series is being revisited in honor of National Women’s History Month and the purpose is to focus on the women in our lives and to make sure their stories are told.

Today I will use the prompt from March 2: Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

4 Generations cropped

I’ve posted this photo before but it is so special that I have to post it again.  How often are you able to get a photo of four generations of women together?

The baby is my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer.  Loraine was born 20 Jan 1896 so judging from her size, I’d say this photo was taken in March or April, 1896. 

Holding Loraine is her mother, Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer (21 Jan 1872 – 1 Aug 1950).  “Birdie” was a beautiful young woman and I can pick her out of a photo anywhere! 

To Birdie’s right is her mother, Rebecca Steen Schwartz (8 Feb 1848 – 7 Jan 1918). 

The oldest woman is Rebecca’s mother, Hannah Plotzky Steen (20 Dec 1828 – 11 Apr 1909).  Hannah was widowed very early (1866) and lived the rest of her life alone.

I’m fortunate to have another photo of four generations of women – this time on my mother’s side!

Mabel Clara Gerry Cary

The baby is my sister, Carolyn, who was born in 1952 so this photo would have to be from early May, 1952.

My mother, Geraldine Martin Levy, is holding her.  Mom looks so happy to have that little baby in her arms!

To her right is her mother, Clara Fitzgerald Martin Hunter (22 Jan 1903 – 27 Feb 1987).  Stay tuned for more on Grandma in another Fearless Females post!

The oldest woman is Clara’s mother, Mabel McAboy Fitzgerald (6 Jun 1883 – 12 Nov 1966).  I’m so fortunate that I had the opportunity to know my great grandmother!  Mabel was the granddaughter of one of my favorite subjects, Emery Waller

So I couldn’t just pick one female ancestor – I picked eight of them!  How’s that for hitting the jackpot?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fearless Females: Is there a diary?

Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist launched a series of 31 blogging prompts for celebrating and honoring the "fearless females" in our family trees in March, 2010.  This year the series is being revisited in honor of National Women’s History Month and the purpose is to focus on the women in our lives and to make sure their stories are told.  I’ll participate as I can, even though I’m a week behind. 

Today’s prompt: Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.

My paternal grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, has left me a boatload of information and I’ve recently been concentrating on blogging about the scrapbook she kept as a young woman.  But she, along with her beau and my grandfather, spent nearly three years apart and actually ‘courted’ through letters.  They weren’t that far apart geographically (he in Fresno, she in either Monterey or Oakland) so they were able to see each other occasionally but the letters flowed in the days they weren’t able to be together.  And after nearly 100 years in either a basement or storage unit, I have the honor of transcribing these letters which are in absolutely amazing condition.  At the rate I’m going, though, I’ll be hard pressed to complete the project in my lifetime but I’ll give it a try.

Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer
Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer
20 Jan 1896 - 8 May 1982

Several of the letters hold special significance so I’ll share some excerpts here:

January 7, 1918
Monday eve

My very own Sweetheart,
We are a house of mourning here at 1933 tonight, my Grandmother passed away at 15 minutes to six tonight, poor soul, she is much better off, but, of course, we all shall miss her terribly. She is to be buried Wednesday. 

Enough about sorrow, sweetheart. You can see how much I think of you to be writing tonight, all the folks are in the front room and I am in the dining room trying to collect my thoughts for you only.

Loraine lived with her her grandmother’s brother, Samuel Steen, and his wife, Rachel Letter Steen, at 1933 Harrison in Oakland, hence the reference to 1933.  Her grandmother was Rebecca Steen Schwartz, someone I’ve written about before. 

Rebecca Steen
Rebecca Steen Schwartz
8 Feb 1848 - 7 Jan 1918

Not even two months later, another tragedy struck the couple – my great grandfather, Herman Levy, died. 

March 6, 1918 – 10 pm 
Wednesday night 

My own sweetheart  

If there are tear drops mingled with the ink in this letter tonight forgive me, as I am thinking so much of you that the tears won’t stay away. Ever since I heard your voice I have wanted you so badly, the message was all too short though. Why didn’t you let me talk longer, dear? I wanted to talk to you so badly but was afraid that it might be disturbing. I hope it wasn’t.  

You surely have all my sympathy in your bereavement, sweetheart, and if I could only have been with you now when you really need to one who loves you and whom you love, I would be happy. Instead, though, I’ll be with you in spirit every minute to help you overcome your sorrow. You and your family probably realize that it is all for the best but knowing your temperament like I do, I know how badly your father’s passing will affect you. But make the best of it all, sweetheart, and remember that you still have me and I’ll never fail you, if I can help it.

Please, sweetheart, extend my condolence to your family and I do hope your mother will hold up all right after the severe strain that she has been under.
Oh, yes, when I found your telegram today, before I opened it I said, as usual, “now what is the matter”. I rather had an idea that it was pertaining to your father, though, knowing that he was so ill.  

Just talked to Aunt Charlotte, told her that I phoned to you. She felt badly to hear of your sorrow. She surely is an admirer of yours, dearest.  

As much as I want to hear from you Friday I don’t want you to write to me tomorrow if it will inconvenience you. At this time all your time should be for your family and not for me even though I am one of your family.  

It is fine that your business will be so nicely taken care of. You’ll probably be worn out, though, by the time you are finished reorganizing. Don’t forget that we still have our lives to live and you must take care of yourself. The above sentence reminds me of you – always wanting me to be so careful, but never thinking of yourself.  

I’m not going to take up any more of your time this time so I’ll stop now.  My very own, please don’t forget for a moment that all my love is for you and these next few days you’ll, doubtless, not be out of my thoughts a minute.

I truly love you with all my heart and tonight of all nights I feel that we are very close to each other, even though miles separate us. I realize what a poor letter of sympathy this has been – I’m not a composer so in my few words I’ve merely tried to tellk you how much I love you and long to be with you to comfort.  

All the love possible, my love, to you tonight. Thanks for the kisses, I’ll have to imagine them.  

Your very own Loraine

Herman Levy Obit with photo

It is so wonderful to be able to know the “real” words that were spoken (or written) in response to something I’ve otherwise only known through records, obituaries, etc.  Sadly, Loraine never met the father of her future husband.  

And then World War finally came to an end – I can’t imagine the excitement!

November 11, 1918 – 9 PM 
My dearest Boy

I was so overjoyed this morn at the wonderful news that I just had to telegraph you and hope you received my telegram O.K. At 4:20 A.M. I was awakened by whistles blowing and bells ringing out the joyous news of peace. They kept the racket up for two hours and started it again at nine this morn. Then at two this aft all the automobiles who could paraded and everyone was so happy. Everything was closed up so we went for a lovely ride around the 17 mile drive and just returned. 

My, but I was busy this afternoon down town receiving congratulations from friends I met, dear. It was rather hard to recognize people in their masks but I managed to. 

And to think that my boy is really flying. Received your letter this morn and was so happy to get it and to learn that your first flight was so successful and I hope the rest have been likewise. And now that the war is a thing of the past, love, am so anxious to know what they are going to do about discharging you. Guess now that you have had a start at flying you would like to continue but I’d rather have you safe on terra firma. And I hope my wishes will have some weight. But it must have been a wonderful sensation – flying 2000 ft and I am so proud to think of my boy being so brave and fearless. If conditions hadn’t changed you would have probably been driving alone in a very short time. I am wondering and wondering if they will still continue to train you. Hope not. So please, let me know, sweetheart, about it as soon as you can.  

Those were lovely letters from your cousins and I want to answer them but don’t know their last names or addresses. Please send them.  

Am so sorry that the food is miserable. Hope it improves. Want to send you something but don’t know what will keep for so long a journey as to Riverside. Will try to send a cake.

Oh, Wilt phoned at 8:30 this morn to rejoice with us. Said they got word at 1 A.M. and everyone dresses and paraded over the campus and there were several bands out to[sic]. I can just imagine how immense the noise was in S.F. 
I am sending you the clipping from the S.F. Chronicle. They didn’t put it in the way I gave it but we should worry.

My girl friend and I are going to see a young married couple for awhile tonight. Shall I try to get some pointers, love? I don’t think we need any, though.
Believe me, dearest, I am so happy tonight and am just bubbling over and how I’d like to see you so we could be happy together. Your love is so wonderful and I love you so very much and now we can really plan for the future and our hopes will be realisms quite soon.  

I hear the whistle of the evening train and I wonder if the train could be bringing me a letter from you. Possibly I won’t hear until tomorrow.  

All for tonight, love. Be the best boy in the world and be careful. All the love that my heart possesses for you dear and a whole lot of kisses from  

Your very own

Sig Levy, my grandfather, was a Flying Cadet stationed at March Field in Riverside, California on November 11, 1918.  Thankfully, he hadn’t been there long when the war was over and he never saw active combat.  Wilt Gunzendorfer was Loraine’s younger brother.

Sig Military
Sigmund Levy
31 Jul 1888 - 16 Aug 1968

As I transcribe the hundreds of letters I have, I often wonder what Grandma would think to know that her granddaughter was reading them 100 years later.  But somewhere in my gut I know that she saved them hoping that someone would one day read them and love them like she obviously did.  Thanks for thinking ahead, Grandma!