Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tire tracks

Now and again a little tidbit is thrown my way and my mysterious paternal grandfather, Alva Elwood MacLaughlan, becomes slightly less mysterious.

Polk’s 1925 city directory for Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda City provides the first resource showing that Alva and his family lived in Oakland, California for a time. It also clears up what I thought was a mistake in a 1925 article in the Oakland Tribune describing a cross-country auto trip that the family took that same year.

They were referred to as residents of Oakland during a period where I presumed they lived in Chicago, the city of  Alva’s birth and the location where he’s usually seen in Chicago directories and census records. But for a short  time I guess they really were Oaklanders. On his 1942 World War II registration Alva claimed to have been born in neighboring Berkeley. The region must’ve made quite an impression on him.

He was partners with an I.W. Anderson, a vulcanizer (tire repairman), which makes sense when considering an old family story that he sold tires at some point in his career. More likely he was the accounting side of the business, basing this on his usual career as bookkeeper for a variety of offices from the 1920s through the 1940s.

Alva and his wife Marie became real Californians in 1946, when they relocated to the Los Angeles area.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's about time

The Southern Business Directory and General Commercial Advertiser, Volume 1, was published in 1854. Looks like my great-great-grandfather G.W. Jatho took out an advertisement for his business. Google Books often has nice surprises like this and is a surprisingly useful tool for the genealogist. Browse the entire directory here: http://tinyurl.com/aybx467 .
This advertisement tells me that G.W. had at least two shops on Meeting Street. I knew about a place at 121 Meeting Street, from which he was unceremoniously removed in 1858 due to losing a lawsuit against his landlord (the nature of the lawsuit remains nebulous). But I was surprised to see him earlier in this location between Pickney and Hayne Streets during a more prosperous time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Here a Dresel, there a Dressel

A long time ago when I was young and foolish I was  researching Dressels from Hesse-Darmstadt and not doing a very good job of it. There are lots of Dressels, but I didn't quite grasp the fact that you can't just assume things about them, you have to prove who's related to whom.
Searching for a father for my 4x great-grandfather Heinrich Philipp Dressel was a case in point. I grabbed a random microfilm for the region and duly scrolled through the pages, and having found a fellow called Johann Philipp Dresssel and his wife Sophia Friderica Gengebach I assumed he must be my guy's father. Who else could it be? There weren't any other Dressels on that film.
Except it wasn't correct. I was in the wrong village. I learned to visually scour the films with more aplomb and realized to my horror that I had linked a fellow to our Dressels who had no actual connection to us, i.e., I couldn't prove that they'd ever had a son called Heinrich Philipp.
Eventually I found the right father, working backwards from Heinrich Philipp's death date and age, and the great genealogical crisis of 2007 was averted. I deleted Johann Phillip and his wife Sophia Friderica from our database and thought no more of them.
Until now. They're back. And I have to find out how they fit in to the family this time.
Sophia Friderica Dressel, wife of the "fürste Hof-metzger Dressel" or royal court butcher Dressel, appears in the record above as godmother to Sophia Friderica Künzel, who was the sister of yet-to-be-born Catharina Elisabetha Künzel. Catharina would one day be Heinrich Philipp Dressel's wife.
The royal court butcher was apparently Johann Philipp Dressel, whom Sophia Friderica Gengebach married in 1751. Their connection to the Künzel clan at this earlier point is not clear. But it's likely to get interesting if I can prove how this interconnection works.
Germans loved to invite  folks connected to them in some significant way to be witnesses at a marriage or godparents at a baptism. It's one of the best lessons I ever learned in genealogy. And there's a reason here why Sophia Friderica shows up as a godmother to this child...and perhaps a more complete explanation why my Künzel ancestor married a Dressel one generation later!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Silver threads and golden needles

James E. Spear was a Charleston jeweler, silversmith, and watchmaker of some renown. Even today pieces made at his shop on King Street between 1845-1871 sell at auction for prices that are quite beyond most budgets.
This pocket watch is one example of the lovely engraving and finishing that was Spear's hallmark. It was priced between $4,000 and $7,000 at a recent sale.
I knew that my great-great-grandfather G.W. Jatho had worked for J.E. Spear for a time in the 1850s, but the Civil War, or the "late unpleasantness" as some still call it, forced G.W. and his family to a remote part of Charleston up on Cannon Street, far away from the guns and conflict of downtown. Until yesterday I didn't realize he went back to work for Spear in the late 1860s.
The Library of Congress has been digitizing newspapers for some time but new material must have been added recently. Many states are represented at this helpful database, Chronicling America. Newspapers are viewable in the website's browser or can be downloaded as PDF copies.

I found this clipping from the May 10, 1869 issue of the Charleston Daily News, which indicates that G.W. had lately returned to the store to be in charge of the watch department. 
The question remains: returned from where? From G.W.'s own shop on Cannon Street?
It's entirely possible that he was directly responsible for the engraved decoration on the specimen above, and there's no question that other watches he repaired may be roaming around collectibility circles today, a nice legacy for a German immigrant watchmaker who found his niche in the welcoming South.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stormy weather

This ship arrival notice has nothing to do with my family but it's an excellent reminder of what difficulties our ancestors endured on their passage. I was doing a look-up for someone whose ancestor arrived in New York on December 24, 1858 and found this description in the New York Times the next day. Sounds like a challenging crossing! 
It reminds me that, for those folks in my own family whose New York arrival dates are known, it might be of value to check the Times for details like this. Any out-of-the-ordinary details of the journey are sure to add context to what might other be a dry recital of emigration statistics. Sounds like the poor folks on the Saxonia weren't any too dry by the end of their crossing....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

They must have had good corsets in those days

I knew that my grandmother looked nervous in this photo. Weddings can be nerve-wracking, particularly when all your sisters were married before you were.
But there's something else going on here. George Henry Bruns looks like he borrowed his suit. Hertha Alvina Louisa Gohr (later Bertha, a name she liked much better) looks a picture in her tulle and lace. Is the fabric a bit more generous than needed?
I didn't notice all those details at first. Then I looked at the date on their Chicago marriage license: August 3rd, 1911...one hundred years ago today. But my mother told me the marriage year was 1910. Documents can lie but not in this case.
Three and a half months later George and Bertha's first son, Bernard George, was born. We have the document that proves it: Cook County Return of Birth #1958. So now we understand the reason for the slight obfuscation of the marriage year...and it almost worked.