Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 10 Genealogical Finds of 2013

photo by Pierce Place

As 2013 comes to a close, I’d like to step back and reflect on what I’ve learned over the past year.  So in my best David Letterman voice, I bring you my third annual Top 10 genealogical finds of 2013.

Number 10:  I finally subscribed to  I don’t know why I’d hesitated all this time but I finally signed up for an annual subscription.  I decided that since I’d think nothing of paying $40 for a sweater and since this was going to provide me with an entire year of fun, I’d forego one sweater and see what I could find.  And boy am I happy I pulled the trigger as many of my top 10 finds are a direct result of

Number 9:  Louis Schwartz had siblings!  Louis has been a bit of a brick wall for me but this year I learned that Louis, indeed, was not alone in the world and had at least a brother and a sister.  Here’s what I found (thanks to in the Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel:

Schwartz K brother Santa Cruz Sentinel 19 Feb 1881
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 19 Feb 1881
Schwartz Louis Estate Santa Cruz Sentinel 2 Jun 1893
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2 June 1893
Jackpot!  Not just one sibling but two!  I’ve yet to learn more about them but at least that’s giving me a start.

Number 8:  I learned Dena Steen’s cause of death!   About 18 months ago I connected with a Steen descendent, thanks to my blog, and we’ve kept in touch since.  Earlier this year, I wrote about Dena Steen, who was the younger sister of my 2nd great grandmother, Rebecca Steen Schwartz, wondering what caused her death at the age of 28.  I thought maybe her death was due to an accident but wasn’t quite sure how to find out more but my new Steen connection was able to learn that her death was caused by pericarditis.  Once again, blogging solved a mystery!  Thanks again, Ben.

Steen Dena
Hills of Eternity Cemetery, Colma, California

Number 7:  This is late breaking news!  I finally got up my nerve and sent a letter to the current owners of the Louis Schwartz house in Santa Cruz, which I wrote a little about here.  I mailed the letter a few days before Christmas and quickly forgot about it with all of the activities.  Imagine my surprise when I opened my e-mail the day after Christmas to find a message from the owner!  I’ve given him some digital photos of the house from the 1880’s and he, in turn, shared an album with me of the home’s exterior being painted this past summer.  He also told me that the little art studio that was built for Birdie is no longer there.  I’m thrilled to have this new connection.

Number 6:  Thanks to my new subscription at, I was able to learn more about Louis Schwartz’ death in 1893.  I knew he died in Byron Springs but had been unable to get a death certificate to help me learn more about the cause of death.  But after finding some articles in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I learned that Louis died from Bright’s Disease, which is now known as kidney disease.  I knew Louis was quite influential but what a gift to learn so much about him at his death.

Schwartz Louis Obituary Santa Cruz Sentinel 24 May 1893 Part 1

Santa Cruz Sentinel 24 May 1893
Schwartz Louis Obituary Santa Cruz Sentinel 24 May 1893 Part 2

The flags were at half staff!

Schwartz Louis Laid to Rest Santa Cruz Sentinel 27 May 1893
Santa Cruz Sentinel 27 May 1893
I was even able to read the words the Rabbi said – who knew they printed this stuff in the newspapers?  But I’m confused because the article talks about the procession moving towards the Jewish Cemetery in Santa Cruz when I’ve seen his grave at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.  Perhaps Louis was buried in Santa Cruz and later moved to Oakland to be with Rebecca?

Number 5:  I wrote last year about finding Joseph Steen’s grave in the same cemetery where my dad, and now mom, are interred.  I was so happy to know where he was.  But imagine my surprise when I found, again in, a record of his death.

Steen Joseph Obituary Santa Cruz Sentinel 4 Aug 1866
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 4 Aug 1866

Number 4:  I found another cousin - this time it was through a connection on  Her grandfather, Joseph Fitzgerald, was the younger brother of my great grandfather, Edward Fitzgerald.  We’ve had fun sharing information and photos and I’ve learned so much from her.  For someone with such a small family, it is a thrill to add new members to the mix.  Welcome to my family, Patti!

Number 3:  Back to Louis Schwartz.  I knew that Louis had been a neighbor of his future wife (and my 2nd great grandmother), Rebecca Steen, and I knew that they were married in 1865.  But what fun to read all about their 25th wedding anniversary celebration in the 16 October 1890 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Schwartz 25 Anniversary Part 1 Schwartz 25 Anniversary Part 2
What makes it even more interesting is that I think I ran across a few of the gifts they were given!  I found this random fork at my mother’s house and when I looked closely, I could see LRS engraved on the front and 1865-1890 on the back.  So this must have been one of the forks given to Louis and Rebecca by their children as described in the article.

And I think I also have the sugar bowl and cream pitcher given to them by Mr. and Mrs. H. Loobliner from San Luis Obispo.  I’ve read about Louis’ many business adventures and there is reference to a business he sold to Henry Loobliner, “a cousin”.  I’ve spent a little time trying to connect the dots between Henry and Louis but I haven’t run across anything that truly connects them together.  Yet.  But I do have the silver sugar and creamer set engraved with LS, 1865-1890, October 15. 

Number 2:  Finding the death notice for one of my favorite ancestors, Emery Waller, was worth the cost of the annual subscription I purchased to  I’ve written a lot about my quest to find Emery’s final resting place and, ultimately, getting his grave marked (click here to read the final installment) but through all of that, I was never 100% certain of his date of death.  But when I found his death notice in the Hutchison (Kansas) News from 23 December 1890, I now know that Emery’s died on 21 December 1890 from heart disease.  Somewhere early in my research I found that death date but stupidly never sourced where I’d seen the information so finally – FINALLY – I know his date of death.  RIP, Emery.

Waller Emery Obituary Hutchinson News 23 Dec 1890

Number 1:  Losing my mother this year has been tough and cleaning out the home she and my dad shared for over 55 years was something we’d always dreaded.  But now that it’s over and I’ve had some time to sort through the boxes of things I brought home, I’m thankful that they were such packrats.  Pictures, slides, movies, and just about everything else imaginable was tucked away in that house.  I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to catalog everything but I’ll give it a try.  I have coveted one very special family heirloom for as many years as I can remember and now that it is hanging proudly in my home, I’ve named it my Number 1 genealogical find for 2013.

My parents found this pencil drawing of my paternal grandfather, Sigmund Levy, and his two older brothers, Herbert and Leon, in the basement of my grandparents’ home as they were cleaning out their home of over 50 years in 1982 after my grandmother passed away.  It was rolled up and left as trash.  But, thankfully, my parents picked it up, had it straightened out, put it in a beautiful frame, and hung it proudly over their living room couch where it remained for 30 years.  And here it is!

L-R: Sigmund(1888-1968), Herbert(1884-1952), Leon(1886-1962)

A special thanks to my brother and sister for allowing me to have this beautiful heirloom for my very own – I love it! 

And that’s my annual list of top genealogical finds.  I can’t wait to see what I’ll discover in 2014.


  1. What a wonderful way to summarize your 2013 finds - I love it. Best of luck in 2014!

  2. Debi, I'd say that historic newspaper subscription was well worth the cost of giving up one sweater! Just think of all the articles you've yet to find...

    Don't you wish, though, that they had included the name of that sister in Prussia?!?!

    1. Oh boy, isn't that the truth? Even a first name would give me something to go on but for now, I'm happy to know he wasn't alone.

  3. What a fantastic genealogical year you've had! Such wonderful finds!!


  4. You've put me to shame. But I have been inspired to examine my year too. Here's to more blogging and discoveries in 2014!

  5. What a wonderful post! You made my day!