Sunday, May 4, 2014

Step by Step

Don’t you just love it when you stumble across something that is not only cool but also chips away at your research?  That’s just what happened to me today!

Since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about I decided to go into my treasure chest of “stuff” and see what caught my eye.  And this is what I found.

High School Graduation

Standing on the right is my great grandmother, Bertha “Birdie” Schwartz.  I’d seen this photo a number of times but because it is fairly large, I’d put it into a larger box with some old newspapers and various other things and didn’t get back to it.

So I drug it out and showed it to my husband who promptly noticed the scrolls that each young person was holding and we wondered if it was some sort of graduation or something.  That could be since there were two older people (teachers?) sitting with the young people.  And that’s when he noticed Birdie’s left wrist and a bracelet she was sporting.  “Is that your bracelet?” he asked.  Oh my, I think he could be right!

One of my earliest blog posts was about Birdie where I showed a picture of the bracelet she was given at her high school graduation.  You can read it here but here is the bracelet again.

Bertha's bracelet

Not a great photo and the bracelet is safely housed in the safe deposit box so I couldn’t take another one but compare it to this close up of Birdie’s wrist.

Bracelet on wrist

Yep, that’s it!  This must be a photo of Birdie’s high school graduation!

On the back of the photo was this.

Back of Grad Photo
Property of Loraine Levy
To be given her after my demise

Loraine Levy was Birdie’s oldest child, only daughter and my paternal grandmother.  I’m glad to know the picture ended up with not just Loraine but her granddaughter many, many years later. 

Since Birdie grew up in Santa Cruz, California and the Santa Cruz Sentinel is included in the collection, I decided to peruse the site in the 1890 time period to see if I could find out anything about the graduation.  And look what I found!

Bertha Schwartz Graduation
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Saturday, 7 June, 1890
Page 3

There it is – Bertha graduated from Santa Cruz High School on Friday, 6 June, 1890!  Now if that’s not enough, it gives the list of graduates – 8 girls and 1 boy.  Take a look at the photo – 8 girls and 1 boy!  So this is the 1890 graduating class from Santa Cruz High School! 

But that’s not all - one of the graduates was Bella Steen who just so happens to have been the first cousin of Birdie’s mother, Rebecca Steen Schwartz.  Rebecca’s father, Joseph, was the brother of Bella’s father, Jacob.

I had also noted in the photo that the young lady sitting on the left looked familiar and I knew I’d seen her somewhere before.  Which got me thinking – could the familiar looking girl be Bella Steen?

A quick look at some of my photos and I found this.

Bertha and friend

Could this unidentified woman be the same as the graduate who looked familiar to me?

Bella Steen cropped Bella Steen Graduation cropped

I think they might be one and the same!  Maybe my Steen cousin can confirm for me but I think it’s the same person. 

I need to research Bella more thoroughly.  I do know that she married Morris Benas who just happened to be a brother of Goldie Benas.  That name probably doesn’t mean much to too many people but one of Goldie’s sons was Sigmund Levy, my paternal grandfather who married Bertha’s daughter, Loraine.  I would be willing to bet that Bella and Morris were the connection to introducing my grandparents!

Just when you hit a slump a little nugget appears – so now I’m going to follow the headline of the newspaper and take it step by step.


  1. Go Debi! See, it always pays to go back and look again. There must be a word that describes that moment when you see something you didn't see before which then leads to clearer thinking and a new discovery. Wonderful story!

  2. Very cool - I love this! I think that those two pictures ARE of the same woman. Good luck following up on her.

  3. Debi,

    What a lovely and special heirloom that bracelet is! And these photos are beautiful.

    I want you to know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks for the mention in your Fab Finds post, Jana!