Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Construction Zone

 

Many of you know that blogger is discontinuing the Feedburner service at the end of the month which will require us to find a different tool so that we can share our blogs via e-mail.  I've been researching other ways to communicate and think I've settled on follow.it.  (Thanks, Wendy and Marian, for all of your help with this).  For those of you who already follow me via e-mail, your address will be input automatically so you shouldn't need to do anything else.  For those of you who follow me in some other way, if you'd like to follow me by e-mail there is a new "button" on my blog where you can input your e-mail address, prove that you're not a robot, and you should be good.

Unfortunately, there may be some hiccups along the way.  I hope this isn't the case but due to the timing of turning one on and the other off, you may receive my blog twice - if this is the case, I apologize in advance.  The Feedburner e-mail comes from Who Knew? while the new e-mail will come from follow.it.  

In other news, I am also working on putting my blog into book format.  The first two years of blogging, I used Blurb to slurp my blog into a book so I could share my blog with my mother who didn't use a computer.  What I liked about the Blurb book is that once I downloaded it into the book format, I was able to format things - add or delete spaces, size the photos, etc.  It worked well so that after every post it automatically put a page break in order to keep the photos, captions, etc. together.  Unfortunately, Blurb no longer offers blog slurping so I am looking for another way to slurp my blog so I can always have a hard copy backup.  I've explored BlogBooker, Lulu (thanks, Amy!), and Blog2Print but it seems that any revisions must be made in the actual blog rather than after it has been downloaded.  If anyone else has suggestions for what I can use to replace Blurb, I'm all ears.

I'm also working on publishing the letters my dad wrote home to his parents during his 18 months in the military.  Thanks again to Amy who has given me some pointers about self-publishing through Amazon.  I'll be adding his photos where I can so I have some work ahead of me.  Stay tuned for that.

Thanks for being a faithful reader and for your patience as I work through these things.  

Sunday, June 13, 2021

52 Ancestors: Bridge - Let's play!

My parents and both sets of grandparents loved to play bridge.  I mean, seriously LOVED it!  In fact, with how important it was in their lives and how my dad obsessively took photos, I can't believe there aren't more photos of their bridge groups.  But I did find one!


My mom, in the cute checkered dress, appears to be pregnant so this would have been 1961 when little brother was born.  I have no idea who the lady to her right is but the other couple are Bob and Joey J., our neighbors who lived next door in their first home on Cheryl Way.  Bob and Joey and my parents were life long friends and I've found several pictures of them in the slides we've scanned.  

At one point, my parents tried to teach my sister and me how to play bridge - they must have been desperate to find someone to play with them because we weren't very good.  But we tried.  And after I was married, they tried again to teach my husband and me to play with similar results.

They played in a couple of groups that would meet regularly - monthly? - and would rotate houses so everyone took a turn hosting.  When it was held at our house, my sister and I would be put to work helping with preparations - setting up the card tables and chairs, filling the little silver dishes with candy and nuts, and if they were playing contract bridge (more on that in a minute), getting the cards into the holders.  And then, of course, we helped with clean up the following day - although maybe we didn't but I like to think that we did.

Contract bridge was a game where each group of 4 played the same hands as another table.  The cards would be sorted into holders and it was our job to count the cards out (no peeking) and getting them in the holders, which looked like this.


So, one table would play the game based on these hands and then when they were finished with that game, they'd put all of the original hands back into the board and the next table would play a game with the same hands.  I don't know if there was some sort of scoring based on how each table scored but they sure seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.

After both of my grandfathers passed away, my grandmothers would play as partners in 'ladies only' bridge games.  For all I know they didn't always play as partners but I always thought it was cool that they played in the same group together.  And after my dad passed away, my mom continued to play with other groups and sometimes would play with a widower.  One night when I called her, she told me she'd had the best day ever because she was out at the country club spending the day (yes, the day) playing bridge.

It seems like bridge isn't as popular as it once was but whenever I think of bridge, I think of my parents and grandparents.

And just because I don't have many pictures in this post, I thought I'd throw in some random pictures of bridges from my collection.

Munich, from my dad's photo album from his time in Germany in 1946

Natural Bridge
From my Grandmother's scrapbook, that might be her on the left



Sunday, June 6, 2021

52 Ancestors: Military - Furstenfeldbruck

 

Gordon Levy,  Photo by Army & Navy Photographic Bureau, Baton Rouge, LA., 1945

My dad, Gordon Levy, entered into active service with the US Army on June 16, 1945.  He had just completed his first year of college at Stanford University and off he went.  He was just 19 years old.

I've written about my dad's service several times but the one piece of information that was cloudy for me was his time in Germany where he found himself at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.  Although I didn't know the details of how or why he found himself there, I wrote about it HERE.

A few weeks ago I wrote about being immersed in letters from 1945 and I can now report that I have completed the transcription project of all of the letters my dad wrote (or at least the ones that were saved) to his parents during his 18 months of military service.  Oh boy, do I wish my dad were here so we could talk about this - what a history lesson I've had!

His basic training began on June 16, 1945 at Keesler Field in Mississippi and he then transferred to Scott Field in Illinois a few months later.  He described his training like this:

Once in the Army, I learned that flight training, navigator school and gunnery training, were out because the war was ending, and I was going to be a cryptographer.  The school lasted one day.  That was fortunate because I did not really know what a cryptographer was.  We were slated to be in the invasion of the Empire of Japan, but the atom bomb terminated that plan, for which I was eternally grateful.  

As a result, the military took me to the Army of Occupation in Germany, barely six months after the end of hostilities, and my prior training as a journalist landed me a position on the staff of an Army newspaper - where I covered sports, war crimes trials, and put the paper to bed in a German printing shop -- Buchdrukerei -- and couldn't wait to get home -- just in time for the Big Game of 1946, which Stanford won, naturally.  And as I look back, the experience in Germany, of seeing in person the Nazi leaders on trial, of watching the Bitch of Buchenwald in testimony -- this year was a highlight of my life.

He was then transferred via New York to Furstenfeldbruck, AKA Furstey (located in Bavaria, near Munich), in January, 1946 and faithfully wrote to his parents for the year he was stationed there.  As luck (mine) would have it, he had the scrapbook gene so he also put together an album of photos - and he even labeled them!


Furstenfeldbruck from the top of Sighart's roof


A few of his letters really moved me - the thoughts of what my young Jewish father witnessed was almost too much and I will never forget his words.  I don't remember him ever talking about this, although my sister has memories of the two of them discussing it.

Furstenfeldbruck, Germany

20 April, 1946

Dearest Mom and Pop: -

During the last two days I have really been seeing Germany, in all manners, means and conventions.  But I’ve gotten a lot of good experiences out of it – some that I won’t ever forget.  Thursday we travelled some 80 miles by truck to a town called Landshut (by truck, at that) where the ball club played the 16th Infantry Regiment.  On the way we passed through Freising, where Maj. Boney is located, but it was impossible to stop, which I would have liked to do.  We won the ball game, 8-4, and spent a beautiful evening journeying back by truck. 

Yesterday was even better – the War Crimes Trials at Dachau.  We went up there (only about 12 miles) yesterday morning and stayed till 4 in the afternoon, and I must say it was the most interesting day I’ve ever spent in Europe.  The trials concerned the Camp Mauthausen Concentration Center (Austria) and some 61 men are on trial for their lives.  The tribunal consists of eight full colonels and one major general…quite a bit of brass for the ill-deserving Krauts.  I was extremely surprised at the defense the US is giving them – they have a major and several captains representing their case, and although they put little heart in the cause, I think they should be praised for making American justice work.  Prosecuting attorney for the US is a crafty, witty Lt Col Denson, who is working the case in his own manner.  Naturally the entire proceedings must be spoken in German and English, with an expert interpreter translating every German statement to English and vice versa.  Nevertheless, the trial moves on at a fairly speedy rate.

On the stand yesterday was a certain Karl Struller, 1st Sgt. Of the Hq. Co., at Mauthausen.  For seven years he said he was at the Camp and never saw a prisoner mistreated or beaten.  But the prosecution sort of tied him up in loop-holes and made him look pretty silly trying to say he walked past an iron gate for seven years and never saw a chain with a person hanging there everyday.  But he did admit that he “had heard about it.”  It only takes one day at trials such as those to see that all Germans, regardless of how they look or how peaceful they act, are just as responsible as the next one.  But the testimony you hear all day is that “they heard about such things, but that was all.”  American justice is being given to men who don’t rightly deserve it – and they can all start counting their last days now.

During the noon hour we looked at the “points of interest” of the Dachau Camp, which are all located in an area of about an acre where the Germans committed their scientific murder of upwards of 300,000 people.  You should see it, that’s all there is to it.  The crematory looks like a simple little place of business, inside are seven brick ovens where people met their final fate.  But that wasn’t their first visit.  Once they went inside the brick wall, they never left it…but sometimes they were tortured in that little wooded area for weeks at a time.  On one side of the building are three roomy gas chambers – the prisoners were told to go in and take a shower.  They never breathed fresh air again.  Offset from the building a little was a number of dog kennels where prisoners were sent as the victims of the hungry mongrels, who slowly chewed them to bits.  In the basement, with a convenient slide for bodies from the first floor, they stacked the bodies – just like stacking fire wood.  Still visible on some of the walls are fingernail marks where half-dead bodies tried to claw.  Over on the other side of the yard is a little hill where prisoners were ordered to kneel before shot in the back of the head.  One of the oddities is that the Germans even thought of wooden gratings over a small trench, so that manpower wouldn’t be wasted cleaning up the blood.  Yes, they were fine supermen – and we still fall for their line.

Just told you these few things so that you would know that the Germans committed all those atrocities you heard about.  I can verify them – although I didn’t see the bodies, I saw the equipment – that was enough to convince me.  I received the camera package and the two rolls of film – thanx a lot.  All for now,

Love, Gord

PS – Here are my accumulated savings.  Invest it as you see fit, Pop.  I’ll be able to go to college on my own before long.

DPs living in sided freight cars near Dachau Camp
 

I always laugh when he changes the name of Furstenfeldbruck to something else - in the letter below he changes it to Furstandthirdbase.

Furstenfeldbruck, Germany

1 May, 1946

Dearest Mom and Pop: -

Well, we’re back from our excursion around Germany – and much more seasoned than before.  We did a lot of travelling in those three days – to Nurnberg, then down to Regensburg and back to Furstandthirdbase.  The ball club lost their first game, 6-5, to the 26th Infantry, tied at 2-2 in a second game called because of rain, and beat the famous First Division yesterday, 4-3.  So, we got a share of victories out of the deal.

Naturally the high point of the trip was visiting the Nurnberg War Crimes Trials, which all the players did, but it was something I never expected to see when I saw those first newsreels last November…I never had any idea that I would be in that exact courtroom seeing those exact scenes.  We got in around 10 AM Monday and only stayed about two hours, but it was worth it.  There aren’t too many spectators, and you have to get a pocketful of passes before they let you in.  But we saw it all – Hermann Goergin sitting in his first row seat, Hess, Ribbentrop, Jodl, Rosenberg, Doenitz, Raeder, - and our own famous personages, Justice Jackson and Francis Biddle. 

The entire proceedings are heard over earphones, in any of four different languages, for the benefit of Russians, French, German and English personnel both as spectators and as active participants.  There is very little delay that way, and you hear the interpretation right with the speaking.  The court room itself is not nearly so large as pictures suggest – in fact it is surprisingly small.  And I would venture to say that some 200 people are inside the railing participating – a great number of recorders, defense counsels, prosecuting assistants etc.  They give out a type of program with all the info to all spectators, which I shall send to you with some pictures I got through the press men – they should be invaluable. 

On the stand the other day was Julius Streicher, famed, notorious Jew-baiter, who denied, quite naturally, that he had ever given orders to exterminate Jews, smash their windows or burn their synagogues.  He blamed it all on Hitler, and that he only carried out the Fuhrer’s orders – silly, but he claimed as much.  He treated all the Jews very fairly except when Hitler ordered him to do otherwise.  It is all the same story – blame it on the guy who is dead or say you just “heard about such things.”  It not only was exempletory [sic] at Dachau, where they are trying the small cogs, but also at Nurnberg, where they are listening to the big “wheels” themselves.  It is the only defense they have, but I doubt if that will stop the ropes from tightening – they should all see the gallows.

The stadium where we played ball was formerly Hitler’s famed pageant place – seating way over 200,000 people.  You’ve seen pictures of the giant marble stands with the high podium where Hitler used to reel off his lectures.  Instead of the swastika, the place is decorated with the big red, white and blue A of the Third Army now.  And appropriate enough in one corner is the beautiful ball park, a tribute to America’s ability to change something very bad into something very good.  The marble pillars are a fitting background for the great American pastime – it’s sort of an oddity.

On our arrival back at the home base, we find that Gen. McNarney’s orders are being carried out to prevent a GI from having any spare time…it’s all the Regular Army now.  6 AM reveille, roll calls, drill, guard duty, bed checks, taps etc.  But regardless of how I feel not being RA and being subject to their regulations, I must take what they call “chicken” with all the rest.  But they shall not take advantage of me, especially when I work off hours as it is.  One drastic measure which hampers our work, and I may still consider going to Stars and Stripes.  The proposal was aimed at the bad soldiers, and it’s hitting everybody.  That’s what hurts – we who do our job as best we can get the same punishment as those who do nothing.  Mamma, I wanna cum home.

Das ist alles for now – more very soon.

All my love, Gord

PS – These are scenes of Munich

He did send the program home and my brother is keeping it safe and promises to scan and send it to me SOON!

Bombed out rubble of Munich

Munich, April, 1946

Munich Church

Art gallery in Munich's Koenigsplatz

And a snippet from another letter:

Furstenfeldbruck, Germany

6 August 1946

Dearest Mom and Pop: -

Just got back a few hours ago from Nurnberg, where we spent a very enjoyable three days as official correspondents.  Our plans to fly didn’t pan out (as usual) but we were fortunate enough to requisition a command car and drove up and around Nurnberg.  Our place of stop-over was with the “big time” at the International Military Tribunal Press Camp, where we finagled our way in since we are official newspapermen.  After rubbing shoulders with such correspondents as Hoddenfield of the AP (who the hell is he?) and men from all the Allied countries, I feel like a man whose been around.  We spent Sunday at the ET swim championships, which the Air Force won its first major athletic title over here.  About seven fellows from our base were on the AAF team, so we were justly proud of them.  They literally outclassed everybody, and gave the enemy-Infantry boys something to wonder about.

Monday (yesterday) we spent the entire day at the trials, in which the organizations such as the SS and SA are now under examination.  They had some big SS leaders on the stand, which got to be both boring and dry.  But the presence of all the “boys” such as Goering Ribbentrop et all made this second visit just as interesting.  Thru our press affiliations, we sat in on a press conference by Leslie Hore-Belisha, former British Minister of War, who was visiting the IMT for a day or so.  It was the same room in which La Guardia had his press meeting two days previously – too bad we missed that.  It was an interesting day, needless to say.  And today we rode back.

Nurnberg, 1946

I have loved reading and transcribing these letters and feel like I have a bit of history at my fingertips.  I'm considering putting the letters and photos together into a book and my brain is pondering just how to do this and what a fitting title might be. 

 The American GI at heart is a generous creature

My dad really was a generous creature.  Well, he was!

 



Sunday, May 23, 2021

52 Ancestors: Cousin Bait - Mrs. Gunzendorfer's Nut Cake

One of the best things about having the name Gunzendorfer in my tree is that the name is cousin bait all by itself.  My first blog post told about my start with genealogy when my mom exclaimed "there are no more Gunzendorfers in the United States", which you can read about HERE.  Here's a post from early this year talking about the Beginnings of my blog where I can finally admit that she just might have been right.    

Early in my research I connected with George Fogelson, the author of a book that was my #1 Top 10 Genealogical Find of 2017 - you can read it HERE.  Over the years we've kept in touch and shared information and photos - it's so great to talk with someone who "knows" my family.  A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from George with the subject line Gunzendorfer.  Boy did that pique my interest and I immediately opened it up to see this:


Mrs. Gunzendorfer's Nut Cake?  What the heck?  George was with a friend, Ann, cleaning out some things and this was in her mother's cookbook.  Where and how did her mother get this?

The three of us talked on the phone and it turns out that her grandmother lived in Monterey which is where my Gunzendorfer's lived from about 1860 until 1944.  While my grandmother wasn't born in Monterey, she was raised there and two generations of the family owned/operated the mercantile The White House.  You can read some posts HERE and HERE.

The White House, Monterey, California
Ferdinand Gunzendorfer on top step

Since I had two Mrs. Gunzedorfer's who lived in Monterey - my 2x great grandmother, Fannie, and my great grandmother, Bertha - I didn't know which one made such a delicious Nut Cake that someone would hang on to the recipe all these years.  But her grandmother and mother did!

I don't know too much about censuses but I did determine that in 1900 Ann's great grandparents lived at 422 Franklin Street and my 2x great grandparents lived nearby on Webster Street.  Both families can be found in District 0009, her family on page 18 and my family on page 10.  I'm sure Monterey wasn't that large in 1910 but they were almost neighbors.  Since they weren't too far apart in age, my guess is that the two ladies 'hung out' together and maybe made Nut Cake!

So while not really a cousin, the name Gunzendorfer (who can forget that name, anyway?) "baited" me a new recipe.  Thanks for the introduction, George!


Sunday, May 16, 2021

52 Ancestors: Mother's Day - Mabel Viola McAboy

This week's blog prompt is Mother's Day.  I've written a lot about the mothers in my life - you can read some of them at Memorial Tributes  The Mothers in My Life  Meet My Grandparents  Memories of Mom - but this time I'm going to focus on my maternal great grandmother, Mabel Viola McAboy.

Mabel was the sixth (and youngest) child of William Warren McAboy and Rebecca Waller.  Years and years ago I sent away for Mabel's birth record and once I received it, I stuck it in a file for "later" (you've done the same thing, right?) and today is finally "later".  Back in 1883, the birth was hand noted in a "register" that seemed much like the old financial ledgers we used 50 years ago.  







Yep, that's her - born 6 June 1883 in Clinton, Illinois to Maria Rebecca (I've always seen it Rebecca Moriah) Waller McAboy and Wm. W. McAboy.  Interesting to see that she was the sixth child.  I have record of all six children, although the oldest, William L., died in 1881 at the age of 17.

I recently was given a photo of Mabel from a cousin I connected with - it is so wonderful to see her as a young woman because, of course, I only knew her as an older woman.  I think she's beautiful!


Sometime around Mabel's 4th birthday, the family moved from Clinton, Illinois to Fresno, California.  I can't imagine what it was like to move halfway across the country with five children.  Did they take a train?  What took them there?

The first time Mabel shows in the census is 1900 (darn that missing 1890 census!) where she is living in Fresno with her parents and brother, John.

November 18, 1901 marked the marriage of Mabel and my great grandfather, Edward Francis Fitzgerald.  One interesting note is that the two honeymooned at a cottage at Copper King Mine - you can read about it HERE  - but I've added the photo of the honeymoon cottage below.  Quite the spot!

Fresno Bee Republican, December 3, 1961

Their first child, my grandmother, was born 22 January, 1903 and two children followed within the next few years.

By 1910, the family was complete and living in Fresno on Butler Avenue, although the census shows Butter Avenue.  And in 1920, they were all still together on Dwight Way.

One thing I've learned about this family is that they moved around - a lot.  In 1924 they were at 3844 Liberty, in 1930 they were at 3833 Lyell, 1932 back to Liberty, 1934 at 338 Michigan, and by 1940 at 1023 Thorne Avenue.  Some of those addresses found their youngest child, Stanley, with them so I can't be sure if he was living with them or they were living with him.

I loved Mabel dearly but I do recall that she always looked a little stern as evidenced here with her first great grandchild, my sister.

Mabel (McAboy) Fitzgerald and my big sister

And in the blink of an eye, Mabel died on 12 November, 1966.  She was the first person close to me who died - I remember that I didn't know what to say or do.  There was a nice service for her but I don't even remember if we attended or not.  You can read about it at the Memorial Tribute link above.


Interesting to see that her mother is listed as Rebekah M. - the spelling is something I've not seen before.

RIP, Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald, my great grandmother.



Sunday, May 2, 2021

52 Ancestors: Favorite Place - 1945

My Favorite Place seems to depend on my mood and what I'm doing at the moment.  And right now I'm immersed in transcribing letters that my mom wrote to my dad while he was in basic training in 1945 so I'll say this is currently my Favorite Place in Time.

Gordon Levy, 1945

I have so many of the letters Mom wrote to Dad starting in the summer of 1944 when he went away to college at Stanford University.  She was about to enter her junior year in high school and even though I don't have the letters that he wrote back to her (she, apparently, didn't have the pack rat gene), I can tell that their priorities were a little different.  

From his Army records, I've learned that he entered into active service on June 16, 1945 and separated on December 1, 1946 - more on that in later entries.

After nearly a one year gap in letters (did he lose the packrat gene for awhile?), she's back at it in September, 1945 when Dad was at Keesler Field, Mississippi.  I've surmised that he didn't like it so much there but I'm sure he was happy to hear from her every day.  She talked about what was going on at school - this person went out with that person, I made the square dance team, the football team won 7-0 - and added every. single. detail. about every one of her classes every day.  I've learned that she nearly failed Physics the first quarter of her senior year (she ended up with a B!), loved Trig, and also took Civics, English, and P.E.  She "scolded" Dad when she didn't receive a letter from him and longed for him to come home.  She shared her feelings about her friends, some of whom were boys, and I'll just leave it at that - some things are best left unshared.  At one point she talked about a dog named Butch who sat at her feet while she typed - could this be him?

Geraldine Martin, 1945

As I was preparing for this post, I pulled out the letters I'd stashed away that Dad wrote to my grandparents (remember, they are the King and Queen of packratting) while he was away at school and then in the military.  In just a few short minutes I've learned a lot more about his experiences so now that I'm finished transcribing Mom's letters, it's time to get started on his parents' letters.  

A few things stick out from the first few letters.

Upon his arrival at Keesler Field on June 28, 1945, he wrote to his parents:

Dearest Mom & Pop:

Well, well, well!!  Outside of the heat, this place isn’t as bad as everyone said.  But of course we just got here last night and haven’t seen anymore than our own barracks.  They don’t seem to know what to do with us yet so we just sit and wait.  Out of my two weeks of “battle” service, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said we’ve sat & waited 13 of them.  Now I see why they call it a standing army.

From what I can gather, by listening to a million different guys who don’t know a thing but think they know it all, I think we’ll be in basic training for 35 days and have to stay on the post the first month.  After that almost everyone becomes an aviation mechanic.  But with something like 40,000 men here, there’ll have to be some other jobs open.  No one knows the actual story.

And then on July 1, he wrote:

We get up at the bright hour of 5 in the morning (3 o’clock your time) and get off about 5:30 at nite.  Our basic consists of from 30 to 60 phases of training (30-60 days) and we begin #1 tomorrow.  A five day bivouac in the hills comes in the twenties.  Then you either get classified or continue in advanced basic.  Nobody knows how we’ll be classified, but I do know that some will be sent to OCS (I think) and some are made pre-aviation cadets.  Others are made gunners, mechanics, etc.  Um-m how I would like OCS – now I see why everyone wants to be an officer.  We will be temporarily classified within two weeks after we take more tests.

Our class is still scattered through a bunch of barracks waiting to be put together.  Some of us are with a bunch of draftees from NY (over 30 yrs. old) who have the same training we have and will probably get pretty good jobs.  They are the “work or fight” bunch – mostly married and fathers.  I’d rather be with young fellows – I think we will.  A pre-aviation cadet is in charge of us, a private, so it’s not like being bossed by a sergeant.  There are about 60 in a class – two classes go through together.

This is going to be an interesting project so I'm off to tackle those now.  I'll report back when I've come up for air!

 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

52 Ancestors: Great - Hannah Plotzky?

I was lucky enough to have known two of my great grandparents, Edward and Mabel (McAboy) Fitzgerald.  I was nearly 12 when Mabel died and 14 when Edward died so I do have some clear memories of them.

As I was preparing for this blog prompt, I thought about my other great grandparents whom I never knew and then thought about my ancestors' great grandparents.  I know for sure that my paternal grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, knew her great grandmother because I have a picture of them together!

L to R: Rebecca Steen (grandmother), Bertha Schwartz (mother), Loraine Gunzendorfer, Hannah Plotzky? (great grandmother)

I'm not 100% sure that Hannah's birth surname was, in fact, Plotzky.  Or for that matter, was her first name at birth really Hannah?  Someone on the Jewish Ancestry in Poland Facebook page suggested that her name might have been Chana and then Americanized to Hannah.

Her death certificate shows that her father was Morris Plotzky of Poland and that her mother was unknown.  The same Facebook member stated that Morris might have been Moshe, Moszko, or Moszek.  And as we know, often times the informant had incorrect information.  So the jury is still out on her surname, first name, and father's name.  I also have the death certificate for two of her children - Rebecca and Samuel.  Rebecca's shows her mother's name is unknown, Samuel's shows his mother's name as Hannah Plotzky.  

What I know about Hannah is that she was born on 20 December, 1828 in "Poland" - but where, exactly, I don't know.

It appears that she came to America via New York in 1851 with her husband, Joseph Steen, and their daughter (my great grandmother), Rebecca and an infant named Dina.  But the records I've found show their surname as Stain so is it the correct family?  Maybe, maybe not.  If this is them, infant Dina must not have survived because there is never another mention of her.  

I found a family enumerated in New York on June 29, 1855, which makes sense since I believe they arrived in New York in 1851 and son Samuel was born in New York on May 4, 1855.  But this family is Joseph Stein, Hanagh Stein, Rebecka Stein, Solomon Stein, Julius Stein, and David Morrison.  Ages don't add up for Joseph and Hannah but I've seen a few references to Samuel as Solomon so this could be them.  Joseph was a barber and had several brothers so that could add up.  I'll chalk this up to "probably".

New York, State Census, 1855

Somewhere between 1855 and 1857, the family must have moved to Santa Cruz as the next child, Meyer, was born in California in 1857.

I'm about 100% sure that this is them in 1860 in Santa Cruz.

1860 United States Census NARA mircofilm publication M653, 1438 rolls, Washington, D.C., National Archives Records

It's hard to see but next door to the family is Louis Schwartz, who would later marry Rebecca and the two of them would become my 2x great grandparents.

Joseph died in 1866 (you can read a bit about me discovering his grave in the #2 top 10 find of 2012 HERE) and Hannah was on her own.  By 1870 she had moved to San Francisco with children Solomon/Samuel, Meyer, Lillie, Julius, and Dena.

1870 United States Federal Census, San Francisco Ward 10, San Francisco, California, Roll: M593

That checks out.  But by 1876, Julius was gone.  

Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, Colma, California

1880 found the family at 626 17th Street, Oakland, California.

1880 United States Census, Oakland, Alameda, California; Roll: T9_61, Family History Film: 1354061, Page: 183.2000, Enumeration District: 9, Image: 0369


Dena is often referred to as Lennie but I know she was, in fact, Dena, when she died from pericarditis in 1894.  Hannah had endured so much sadness.

Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, Colma, California

I've been unable to find Hannah in the 1900 census but I haven't given up trying.  What I've taken away from this blog post is that I have A LOT to learn about Hannah.  I'm thankful for the suggestions I've received on the Jewish Ancestry in Poland Facebook Group page and will be following up on those.

Hannah died on 11 April, 1909 and as you can see above, she is buried with Dena at Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in Colma.

You can see the family here - Julius next to Hannah/Dena, Rosalind (Samuel's daughter) and Meyer (Hannah's brother) in front.

Steen family, Hills of Eternity, Colma, California

Hannah was my 3x great grandmother and my grandmother's GREAT grandmother.  I hope to learn more about her.