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A while back I was contacted by Lisa M. DeChano-Cook, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Western Michigan University about my antique photographs. She said that she and her colleague, Mary L. Brooks, were writing a book about the Kalamazoo River and were interested in photos of that subject.

The book is now published, and Lisa sent me an autographed copy. It’s a gorgeous collection of photos and information about the history of the river. If you are interested, just click through the following image of the book to order from Amazon.

They used several of my photographs. And they also found photographs in the archives at Western that were taken by grandpa’s uncle, Joseph DeKorn. In the 70s or 80s, my grandfather donated a lot of photographs and glass negatives to the archives. Notice that the one at the archives is the same photograph that I use for the header of my blog–the flood at the Water Works Bridge in 1904.

***

The above is another one from the archives. I also have a copy of this one. In fact, I posted it a year and a half ago, wondering if it was it, in fact, the Monarch Paper Mill. According to DeChano-Cook and Brooks, it is the Monarch Mill. I guess I can go back and revise that blog post. (How many times have I said that–and then how often do I do it? I need a blog assistant–any offers? haha)

This is one of the photos I sent to Lisa:

The book states:

Many farmers tried to fence in their property because they knew that the river flow would change and they could not use it as a stable boundary. In the photograph, a wire fence spans a shallow part of the Kalamazoo River. The reflection of the fence in the water makes it appear as though it is a wire pedestrian bridge.

So thrilled when blog readers relate to what they find on this blog. I always end up learning a lot!

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Can we talk DNA for a minute today? As you may or may not know, Ancestry has updated their DNA Story. They have revised their ethnicity estimates based upon a larger pool of test results than was used in their prior estimates. That sounds good, right?

So why does it seem not any more accurate? I’ll qualify that by saying that is no way to be “accurate” with this stuff as it’s just a hint. Since my ancestors were all European, and there was so much movement in Europe over time, my DNA result should look like a bit of a blended cocktail–and it does.

I might share DNA with this woman, but I don’t know her name

Great hat though!

One of the biggest problems with my own DNA is the Dutch portion. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I have a lot of Dutch ancestors. But Ancestry doesn’t locate “Dutch DNA.” I don’t think any of the DNA companies do. It might show up as British and/or Scandinavian, for instance. It’s pretty annoying. Then there’s that Prussian thread. They probably lived close to Sweden, in what is now Poland. Is that Polish, German, Swedish DNA? Finally, the Alsatian portion of my DNA. What is that? Is it French or German? Well, it’s a little difficult either way because Alsace is currently in France and, in general, French people don’t get their DNA tested! That came as a shock to me, but it is illegal to do DNA testing in France where it is possible for paternity to be established. (I hope that sentence makes sense!) So there isn’t a big enough database of French and Alsatian people to help with ethnicity estimates.

Back to Ancestry’s update. I’m only going to discuss some minor findings in my new estimates as a way to show how screwed up they are. Previously, Ancestry predicted that I had 10% Eastern European DNA. I thought that must be the Prussians making a strange appearance (after all, these were Germans who lived in Poland). Now Ancestry has reduced the Eastern Eurpean DNA (nevermind that 23andme shows me with an actual specific gene that is considered Polish) to 2%.

Now my “Scandinavian” genes are no longer 6%, but I have 11% Swedish. This makes sense to me because the Prussians lived so close to Sweden that I figure there was a lot of mixing in. But then this could be Dutch DNA since that often shows up as Scandinavian. Wherever it came from, I thought it explained why my grandfather had a congenital illness that can be traced to Swedish or Italian heritage: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

For kicks, I looked at my parents’ ethnicity estimates for the Swedish components. Well, gee whiz.  Mom only has 2% Swedish! I wondered if and how I could get the rest of the Swedish from my dad, but while I was checking out Mom’s I saw that she has  15% Eastern European now! and 7% Norwegian! and 3% Baltic states! She’s the Dutch and the Prussian connection, by the way. But see how different her results are from mine.

Let’s look at Dad’s. He’s got 3% Norwegian and 2% Swedish! Even if I add up both their Swedish, it only comes to 4%, and I have 10%. And wouldn’t the average be that I would get 1% from each, totalling 2%? (hahaha)

I’m going to let it lie there because I think the Swedish part alone shows that Ancestry has a LONG way to go.

So I went over to my 23andme results. 3.6% Polish. Hah. 3.1% Scandinavian! That’s a far cry from 11% Swedish. And, weirdly, 1% Balkan. I will note that Ancestry did show me with some southern European and even Iberian DNA before, but they have taken that off the table now.

It makes me mad when I hear stuff like how My Heritage tells almost everybody they have Nigerian DNA. Oh yeah? Hah, I highly doubt it. (Mine shows .9% Nigerian). It’s because the company is new, and a lot of work needs to be done before the results of our tests really should be analyzed. I think I’ll ignore the fact that they believe I have 26.5% Balkan ancestry. Geesh.

Maybe the DNA companies should explain that these estimates are just for FUN and you shouldn’t put much stock in them.

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Before my 3x great-grandparents Boudewijn and Johanna Remynse DeKorn immigrated to the United States, they had three children, Geertruit (1848), Dirk or Richard (1851), and Maria or Mary (1855). Then a fourth child, Adriana (Jennie), was born in 1859 in the United States (Ottawa, Michigan).

Sadly, little Geertruit passed away before she was nine months old–and before the other children were born.


Artist: Hendrik Valkenburg 1826-1896

This is the record of her death–second entry on the left side.

 

TRANSCRIPTION, thanks to a kind Facebook group member

Soort akte: Overlijdensakte Death Record
Aktenummer: 15 record number
Aktedatum:1849 year
Gemeente: Kapelle city
Overlijdensdatum: 6-5-1849 death date May 6 1849
Overlijdensplaats: Kapelle death place
Overledene: Geertruit de Korne person who died
Geboorteplaats: Kapelle birth place
Geslacht: Vrouwelijk gender female
Leeftijd: 8 maanden age 8 month
Vader: Boudewijn de Korne father
Leeftijd: 32 age
Beroep: Arbeider Job
Moeder: Janna Remijnsen mother
Toegangsnummer: 25 Burgerlijke Stand Zeeland (1796) 1811-1980, (1796) 1811-1980
Inventarisnummer: KAP-O-1849

 

TRANSLATION, thanks to Google:

Type of certificate: death certificate Death Record

Act number: 15 record number

Action date: 1849 year

Municipality: Kapelle city

Date of death: 6-5-1849 death date May 6 1849

Death place: Kapelle death place

The deceased: Geertruit de Korne person who died

Place of birth: Kapelle birth place

Gender: Female gender female

Age: 8 months age 8 month

Father: Boudewijn de Korne father

Age: 32 age

Occupation: Worker Job

Mother: Janna Remijnsen mother

Access number: 25 Civil Registry Zeeland (1796) 1811-1980, (1796) 1811-1980

Inventory number: KAP-O-1849

 

As with most of the European records of this time period, there is no mention of the cause of death. It’s perhaps particularly sad that the first child that my great-great-great grandparents had passed away. They wouldn’t have known that they would have three healthy children who would live long lives and have their own children.

RIP, little Geertruit

Geertruit’s family (missing her photo and that of her mother)

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This will be my last post until September. I am taking off the month of August. I hope to catch up a little on my research (and my sleep). See you in a month!

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Here is a great pic of my dad and his twin brother Frank that Val at Colouring the Past colorized for me. Dad is the one with lighter hair.

And Val colored it with blue coats and hats, too, because I wasn’t sure whether they would have been brown or blue, although felt sure they would have been one of those two colors. Which version do you prefer?

A Story of Chicago and My Uncle

I recently spent time with my uncle, and he told me a story about something that happened to him. Or rather, it didn’t happen to him.

In the sixties, Uncle Frank worked in Chicago at Fohrman Motors as a car salesman. Today, the dealership is gone and only the vacant lot is left. It’s in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood and is nearly 2/3 of the 2700 block of West Madison Street. This post takes a personal look at an event that changed the world for some Chicagoans.

On 7 January 1966, when he was 37 years old, my uncle was working at the dealership and had to use the restroom. He went there, only to find the facilities in use by a man making a racket with something or other. Uncle Frank couldn’t wait so he ran across the street to the body shop, but that bathroom was closed for maintenance. Used to being able to drive a car from the lot, my uncle grabbed the keys of a nearby vehicle and told one of his bosses that he had to run down the street to use the washroom.

Uncle Frank had several bosses, in a way, because Fohrman Motors was owned by Benjamin Fohrman and his four sons. An Illinois blogger, John Ruberry, says this about the company:

Forhman Motors was founded by Benjamin Fohrman, who was viewed as an innovative and pioneering car dealer. . . . . Older relatives of mine tell me that Forhman’s folksy television ads were common fare on local television.

The history of Benjamin Fohrman’s auto business is well-described in his obituary:

Mr. Fohrman, a native of Austria, founded Fohrman Motors near Michigan Avenue and 22d Street in 1912. He sold such cars as the Stoddard-Dayton, manufactured between 1905 and 1913, and the Rickenbacker, made in the early 1920s.

His strong influence on merchandising methods was felt in Chicago and elsewhere in the country. Before World War I, he was among the first to “import“ cars over dirt and often muddy roads from locations then considered far-off such as Lafayette, Ind.; Davenport, Ia.; and Kenosha.

He offered new cars on payment plans as early as 1914, and he was among the first to see that a secondhand car dealership could be successful. He bought used cars in small towns in the Midwest and sold them in Chicago.

At various times, he owned new-car dealerships that sold Chryslers and later Packards, and for many years Mr. Fohrman was a television advertiser.

Beginning in 1963, his agency at 2700 W. Madison St. sold used cars exclusively. Among its 80 employees were his four sons, Sidney, Edward, Sherwood and Cary.

My uncle worked for this family business, and he was pretty happy there. The neighborhood the dealership was in was primarily African-American. Uncle Frank tells me that that at least one of the Fohrmans went to bat in court often times for customers who lived in the area.

In other words, the family wouldn’t have minded that my uncle took off in a company-owned vehicle to use a bathroom down the street. And they seemed to have a decent relationship with the community.

When he got to his destination, a call came in for Uncle Frank. It was a woman employee at the dealership. All she said over and over was, “They’re all dead. They’re all dead.”

Imagine the shock he felt at her words. And then to discover that the man in the first bathroom had been making that noise by loading his gun! If my uncle hadn’t had to go so badly he would have waited for the bathroom instead of running across the street and then taking off in the car. He would have been the first person shot and killed. That day, Robert Jackson killed brothers Sid and Ed Fohrman and salesman Albert Sizer.

The Fohrmans were important in their community. In a 21 January 1966 article about their deaths in The National Jewish Post and Opinion, Sidney had been president of Niles Township Congregation, and Edward was vice president of the Park Synagogue.

I was ten-years-old when this occurred, but I don’t remember hearing about it. Quite probably my parents didn’t let me know. This is what happened as I can piece it together from accounts found online–and it all dovetails with my uncle’s account. What is different is how differently people perceived what had happened.

This is the account from the Chicago Crime Commission:

In this account there is no mention of possible motivation, and the murders serve as prelude for the Richard Speck case. He killed eight student nurses just a few months after the Fohrman massacre.

On the other hand, the article from Jet magazine blames the victims and builds sympathy for the murderer by calling him a “dying cancer patient.”

 

The difference between those two accounts points out for me the intensifying race relations.

Caught between these two views are the Jewish owners of Fohrman Motors, both Sid and Ed who had been killed and their father and other brothers (co-owners). The idea of businesses (sometimes Jewish-owned) preying upon the poor people of the inner city was starting to be noticed. The way people talked after this crime and the resulting focus on high interest brought out a lot of anti-Semitism.

Ebony took a more nuanced approach to the murders than Jet did. I am posting their photo of the dealership so you can see what it looked like, but please use it as a link to the Ebony article. In this piece by Alex Poinsett, credit is seen as a hidden “pitfall” to consumers.

The Fohrmans had the last word on this subject by addressing their truth about the issue of Jackson’s car in Benjamin’s obituary. This shows me how hurt they were by the blaming of the victims.

Rumors spread throughout Chicago that the man had been cheated on the car and had been paying an exorbitant 51 percent interest rate. Documents showed, however, that the interest rate was 15 1/2 percent, the price he paid was average and the problems with the car resulted from a major accident.

Even then, the car was insured through the agency, and the firm had agreed to pay most of the damages. Chicago`s American columnist Jack Mabley, noted for exposing shady auto dealers, wrote: “I`ve worked on most of the schlocky auto dealers in Chicago and never heard a whisper about Fohrman Motors.“

What a tragic story. I am so glad that my uncle really had to go to the bathroom. He’s almost 90 now, and we’re lucky to still have him. The Fohrman and Sizer families were not so lucky.

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BENJAMIN FOHRMAN OBITUARY:

 

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I wrote about the death certificates of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Now it’s time for the men. This is part of my project of cross-cutting through my genealogy research to look at things from a different angle to find out what I am missing. Once again, I discovered I had very few death certificates and had to order some!

The grandfather I knew and loved was my mother’s father. He owned a gas station most of his working life. He was passionate about his vegetable garden and loved math and accounting. Most importantly, I learned most of my family stories from him, was given most of the antique family photos from him, and inherited his great long-term memory. He’s the grandparent (whose branch) I physically resemble the most, as well. The trait that I share with him that is very unusual is that we have/had amazing early childhood memories. He remembered so much about his eye injury and the afterwards, although it happened when he was three. I have two memories that go back to before age two, as well as a vivid slightly longish memory that happened when I was 2 3/4. Those are for sure, but there are others that I believe were very very early. My memories from before I was four (say 3 1/2 and 3 3/4) are quite complex.

I’ve actually written a lot about Grandpa on this blog, including sharing a series of posts based on an interview of my grandfather by a social worker (including the above link about my grandfather’s eye injury). He was born in Kalamazoo 31 October 1908. He died 13 April 2000, also in Kalamazoo.

Notice that his death certificate states the cause of death as cirrhosis. But, whoa. He never drank alcohol, so why does it say this? He had a rare hereditary disease, it turned out, that causes a form of cirrhosis. I believe it is called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (family: correct me if I’m wrong, please). Luckily, although he didn’t know about the disease, he lived a very healthy lifestyle and lived to be 91.5 years old!

I never knew my other grandfather, but I do have his death certificate. He lived to be 90 (we’re on a roll here!) and died of arteriosclerotic heart disease. I am not posting his death certificate, although I do have it.

Then, of my four great-grandfathers, I have the death certificates of three. The one I don’t have is my paternal grandfather’s father because I don’t even know if he immigrated from Alsace to the United States or not–and have not found a death record of any kind as of yet. (I have confidence that eventually I will find it).

Adrian’s father, also called Adrian, died at age 58 in Kalamazoo on 19 December 1929 of “uremia, Chr. Inst. Nephritis.” Chronic Interstitial, I would guess. He was born in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands on 3 January 1871. My grandparents used to tell me he died of kidney disease (yes), and that they believed it was exacerbated by the way he ate. He used to starve himself during the day (while at his store working) and then come home and eat a dinner plate-sized steak. Who knows if that is what really caused his kidney disease.

Next up is Charles Mulder. This is the man I knew and loved as my Great-Grandpa. He died at age 82 of a “Cerebral Vascular Accident” or Stroke on 27 April 1967. He was born 6 March 1885 in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands.

Then I can thank Ann Donnelly from Found Cousins Genealogy Service  for noticing my frustration in a Facebook group and helping me out with my great-grandfather Frank Klein’s death certificate. I was having the hardest time because his record was on Family Search, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to the actual document that way. I even visited the local Family History Center, and the assistant director told me I would have to order it by mail (and a fee). But Ann found it online using her amazing talents and sent it to me.

Frank is another one who died of Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease. With those two and a stroke, that’s 3 out of 5 died of heart disease, I guess. Frank passed away on 30 August 1944 in the nursing home where he was living. He was born Franz Klein in Budesheim, Landkreis Mainz-Bingen, Germany on 31 July 1861. The death certificate reads Bingen because Budesheim was a village so close to Bingen that the family used to just say “Bingen.”

I am working on the 2x and 3x greats, but I think the Budesheim ancestors are going to be tough, just as they are with the women. The records do not seem to be available online at this point.

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While Cathy Meder-Dempsey (Opening Doors in Brick Walls) gave me a tutorial in obtaining death records from Alsace, we incidentally found a marriage record from my ancestors. Cathy’s generosity in teaching me, as well as her translations of records, was so above and beyond. Cathy, thank you so much!

This marriage record is for my 2nd great-grandparents, Anne Riehr and Antoine Schirmer on 10 January 1842 in Steinbrunn-le-Bas, Haut Rhin, France. 

What follows is Cathy’s translation of this record.

Here is the translation of the French marriage record. You will notice at the very end that the witnesses and likely the couple and their parents may have spoken German.

 

In the year 1842, the 10 January at 9 o’clock in

the morning, before us Antoine Schweichler, mayor and civil officer

of the commune of Steinbrunn le Bas, canton of Landser, arrondissement

of Altkirch, department of Haut Rhin

 

appeared Schirmer Antoine, famer, age 28 years,

born and resident in this commune, of age legitimate son of Laurent

Schirmer, farmer, age 70 years and Anne Marie

Legibel, without a profession, age 71 years, married couple residing

in this commune, present and consulting in the projected marriage – of one part

 

and the damsel Riehr Anne, without a profession, age 24 years, born and

resident of Luemschwiller, legitimate of age daughter of Jean Thiebaud

Riehr, farmer, age 55 years et of Françoise Sutter,

without a profession, age 58 years, married couple and residents of the said

Luemschwiller, here present and consenting to the marriage – of the other part

 

who required of us to procede in the celebration of marriage

projected between them and of which the publication was made before the

door of our town hall and before the door of the town hall

of the commune of Luemschwiller, the first time on 26 December

1841 and the second time on 2 January 1842

at noon and there being no opposition to the said marriage

having been signified we granted their requisition after having

 

read 1. the extracts of the birth records, 2. the

two publications, 3. a certificate delivered by the mayor of Luemschwiller

on the date of 9 January of the current month constituting that

no opposition to the projected marriage was made, 4. chapter 6 of the

civil code concerning marriage, we asked the future husband

and the future wife if they wanted to take each other for husband and wife

each of them responded separately and affirmatively, and we declared

by law that Antoine Schirmer and Anne Riehr are united in marriage.

 

of all that we have draw up this record in the presence of Joseph Kauffmann,
farmer, age 46 years, Jean Kauffmann, farmer, age
38 years, the two brothers-in-law of the bride, Morand Richard

 

farmer, age 32 years, and Leger Zarsinger(?), farmer, age

38 years, the two residents of Luemschwiller, all

four witnesses, who after we read and

gave an interpretation in German, all signed with us and

the parties of the contractants.

signatures….

***

OK, German. We know that Alsace was pulled between Germany and France, but I’d love to know what the day-to-day lives of these people was like. How did they negotiate the language situation? Did they stubbornly cling to German even when they lived in France? I do believe that my grandfather who immigrated from Alsace was a German speaker. Did he know French? Do you know any novels that might show me a glimpse of what it was like to live in Alsace in the 1800s or the 1700s?

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This is Richard and Mary (Paak) Remine and their daughter Therese (1895-1980).

Mary or Maaike Paak was born in Lexmond, Netherlands on 29 July 1859. She is my 3rd great-aunt. Her sister Alice was my great-great-grandmother.

Richard Remine was the son of Gerrit Remine (Remijnse) who was born in Kapelle, Netherlands. Gerrit was my 4th great-uncle. Richard or Dick was born in Kalamazoo on 10 May 1857. 

How can that be? Does it make your head burst? OK, follow this.

Mary is the sister of my 2xgreat Alice.

Gerrit is the brother of Johanna Remine DeKorn. Johanna is my 3x great-grandmother, the mother of Richard DeKorn, grandmother of Cora DeKorn Zuidweg, great-grandmother of Adrian Zuidweg, and great-great-grandmother of my mother Janet.

So Mary was connected to Alice who married Richard DeKorn who was connected to Richard Remine!

I am related to both Mary and Richard, so I am related twice to their daughter Therese, as well as their two other children, Genevieve Tazelaar and Harold Remine.

Do you have double cousins like this in your family?

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