Monday, June 25, 2012

Almost Lost in Translation

I have said for some time that I need to learn German. My grandfather spoke French and I took it in high school, so I can manage pretty well when it comes to searching French documents. However, the other half of the family is German and when it comes to understanding German.... it is Greek to me.

 Recently I attended a webinar about  German research. It was really great, especially when he said how easy German was to learn. Sure I thought, I can do this. He gave several examples and I wrote them down enthusiastically, thinking, I am going to remember all these clues and when I search my German ancestors it is going to be so much easier. I even looked into learning German on tape, I mean this was serious business. I was determined to do this thing! Then yesterday happened to show me I really should pay more attention to phonetics......

The presenter of the webinar gave some phonetic clues and suggestions about how many German words are the same or nearly the same in English. Such as:  paar for pair; ost for east; neun for nine; vater for father, and so on. If only I would have headed these clues, I would have saved myself a whole day of research and a terrible headache. When I realized my simple phonetic mistake it was like a window opening to a whole new world of research opportunities.

The German surname I was researching was Baker. My great great grandmother was Augusta Baker, born in New Orleans, La to German immigrants, Jacob Baker and Magdalena Kisner. I knew this because I have Magdalena's birth certificate. I also have the date of immigration for Jacob Baker, 1859. I found them in the 1870 census all listed as Baker, with children Frank, Anna, Peter, Augusta, Lena, and John. I have Augusta's marriage record to  Phillip Roth in which she is listed as Baker. Magdalena Kisner died between 1873 and 1874 because in the 1880 census, we now have Martha as the wife of Jacob. In searching the marriage records, it lists a Jacob Becker and Martha Theis as marrying in 1874. Yet, in the 1880 census it says Jacob and Martha Baker with children Eva, Rosa, and Jacob. All following census also say Baker. So, I was at a loss, and could no longer find anything outside the census records and I decided to walk away for awhile and work on another line.

Then yesterday, I decide to work on my great grandmother, daughter of Augusta Baker. I came across a little news clipping from 1937. It says that Mrs. Eva Ladner entertained guests from New Orleans this week, and goes on to name them. Her aunt, Mrs. K. Becker, and son Jacob, and granddaughter Thais and Nick Noriea, Mrs. F. Becker and daughter Doris, Mr. and Mrs. W. Muhl, and sons George and Billy, Mrs. L. Muhl all of New Orleans.
This gave me pause, because first I thought, "Yay, new names to look up for clues" then I realized it said Becker as her Aunt. I knew Eva's sister had married a Becker, could they have mixed that up? I decided to just look into all these names and see what may happen.

  1. Mrs. K Becker- listed as Aunt of Eva Roth, father's side not an option since they are already well documented by myself. This means it had to be her mother Augusta's sister or a sister in law. 
  2. Jacob Becker- there are so many Jacob Becker's listed in New Orleans during this time it was a headache going throuh them all to find one that had a mother or father with a K name or a daughter with the name Thais. 
  3. Thais Becker-this was an unusual name and it would be my starting point as it would stand out. A thought was nagging me about the name since this was the surname of Jacob Baker's second wife, Martha Theis and they had a son named Jacob. Could the paper have meant Baker, not Becker? 
  4. Nicholas Noriea- a quick search found him married to Thais Becker in 1938
  5. Mrs. F. Becker- Jacob Baker and Magdalena had a son named Frank could this be his wife, surname possibly mistaken?
  6. Doris Becker- quick search showed a Doris Becker Wenker's obit as the daughter of Frank Becker and Harriet White. 
  7. Mrs. W Muhl- another good starting point as it is an unusual name, search came up with William Muhl as well as George and Billy
  8. Mrs. L. Muhl- this search along with the above came up with a family tree on ancestry for Magdalena Becker aka Lena Becker married to George Muhl. Augusta Baker also had a sister named Lena. However the owner of this tree had as parents of Lena Becker, Conrad Becker and Elizabeth Fresch. 
  9. Conrad Becker and Elizabeth- search for their family shows a daughter named Magdalena, two  sons Jacob and John by another spouse, Catherine Ellerman. Dates off from birth index and census records for the two Magdalena Becker. Not the same Magdelena.
So with these nine points to go from, I found an obit for Thais Becker Noriea, it listed her parents as Jacob Becker and Eulalie Saucier.  From here, I found the obit for Eulaie Saucier Becker. Not long after I found the obit for Jacob Becker with parents Frank Becker, and Catherine Koch. This alerted me to the fact that I already had Catherine Koch in my tree as the wife of Frank Jacob Baker, brother of Augusta Baker. Something is really wrong with my tree and I pride myself on documentation. I can not believe I have gotten this far off.

  • The Aunt K. Becker could very well be Catherine spelled with a K.

  • Mrs. F. Becker and daughter Doris: in Harriet White Becker's obit it says her husband was Frank J. Becker.

Now, I start going back through the birth index for New Orleans, I take note at how many children are born Baker and Becker to Jacob and his two spouses. Years ago I would have never thought there was anything to this because, I knew Augusta's birth record said Baker, and thought the Becker was a typo. Now, I start thinking Baker is not very Germanic sounding, and Google Baker/Becker in German surnames. Here I see, that the name Becker means baker, and generally this was the persons profession. Guess what Frank Becker's profession was listed as in the census, yes he was a baker. Then I think, oh my gosh the phonetic sound of Baker, Becker!! ARGGGHHH I have been working on this all afternoon trying to figure it all out and it was the same name just a different translation.

So, now with the right searches for Becker, instead of Baker, produced so many hits and took out many chunks in that brick wall.

Hopefully this will also help with the research for finding Jacob Becker and his family before his immigration to Louisiana.

I still want to learn German for fun and to help with research, but for now I will pay closer attention to the phonetic soundings of the German words.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Strange and Unusual

I have come across many strange things throughout my years of searching, but this article really caught my eye.
Two Boys Reared as Girls Want Sex Declared by Court
Pair Presented by Family as Feminine
Seek End of Masquerade
This was in the Times Picayune on November 22, 1931. I was looking for an article on a family member on  the same page and saw this as I was scanning the page. The title jumped right out at me and I just had to read this intriguing story. While not relevant to my family nor my research, I still found it quite interesting and had to wonder if a parent could get by with doing such a thing today.

The article went on to state how two grown brothers claimed that they had been reared from birth as girls. They wanted an official decree designating them men. Their names were Nola and Genevieve and they wished to be renamed as Noel and Gene.
Their mother, they said had given birth to to six sons and desperately wanted a girl, so she masqueraded them as girls always  making sure they were dressed in feminine clothing, until her death. Upon her death seven years ago, they had never worn masculine clothing. They said some close friends and family members were aware that they were actually boys, but most believed they were really girls, and were shocked when the secret came out.
I can well imagine their shock.  It also leads me to wonder how the family members that knew of this could carry on with such a charade? Wow, talk about skeletons in the closet! Can you imagine your grandad having to tell this secret? Kind of a strange nature verses nurture experiment back in the olden days.



Cousin Meta and the Cats

I have told of the two twin cousins Maude and Meta before, this is just one of the many memories of those two wonderful women.
Meta Grimshaw had always loved cats, she was even photographed by the local paper with one of her cats. When we would visit with the cousins, my brother and I would often go sit out on the front porch where there was a swing. We would always encounter another resident of St. Anna's there, generally of the feline kind. So, the two of us would swing with a cat upon our laps in the cool shade of the porch. Once I can remember another lady who resided there came out and asked to sit with us, my brother and I schooched on over. She asked us many questions, one of which was, "Who are you here to visit?" We told her our Cousin's Maude and Meta Grimshaw, she laughed and said "Well, that is Meta's cat you are petting there, she is crazy over cats you know. She feeds all these cats out here and worries over them like they are her babies." I can remember feeling quite pleased that we were alike that way, because I was a cat person as well. I dashed back up the stairs to ask about the cats, and was told their names, and Cousin Meta was sure glad to know that we had seen a certain one, because she had been worried about him as she had not seen him for awhile.
After I had written about Cousin Maude and Meta the first time, my mother said to me, "Did you tell about the cats? How about the time Cousin Meta was sitting there with a cat on her lap and missed her dinner because she didn't want to disturb the cat?" We laughed together over that thinking back on the stories of Cousin Meta and her cats.

Meta Grimshaw and cat as featured in local paper




Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Tribute

My father and myself circa 1970
I can not say enough about the man who is my father. He like me, is a genealogist and loves history. He was the quiet kind of father who worked hard, came home, read his paper, ate his dinner and was off to bed at an early hour to do it all over again the next day. He was and is someone I can depend on, he has your back. He and my mother supported me through the many tough times in my life and I do not know what I would have done without either one of them. "Here," he would say slipping me twenty dollars when my kids were young, "I know you need this."
How many weekends did he set up his film projector and large projection screen in the backyard, type up little movie tickets on construction paper and let me hand them to my friends for admittance to a free back yard matinee? He patiently popped popcorn and sat through the evening manning the reels, showing us first a cartoon and then the main event just like the theater. How many kids did he introduce to the old time films? Today when I see someone from the old neighborhood they always say, "I remember your dad and those movies!" When we were in the old Chevy truck together, it had no radio and I would say "Why don't you sing Dad?" He would sing Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah. I never got tired of hearing it.
I never heard my dad say, I love you. He was quiet that way, he showed you he loved you by the things he did. However, when I was having my first child, I had toxemia and things were very bad for me and they thought I was not going to live. I will in my entire life never forget the anguish I saw in my father's eyes as he held my hand and tried to comfort me. I knew then that he loved me and when he had to leave me he said, the words. That was like a shell breaking around him, he never once since then has not told me he loves me before leaving. He may have his foibles like any human, but I love him and is my father and I am so proud to be his daughter.


Monday, June 11, 2012

A Few Good Men

In honor of Father's Day I thought  I would write about a few of the men who have influenced my life.
Vic Ladner
My paternal grandfather William Victor Ladner, known by family and friends as Vic. He was what anyone that knew him will agree, a good man. I just have to say his name and someone will say, "That was your grandfather? He sure was a good man I tell you!"

Born in Waveland, Ms on September 29, 1906, the eldest of 11 children born to Etienne Ladner and Eva Roth. He was born and raised on the family property right on the beach front in Waveland where his ancestors had lived for several hundred years. He was called Guillaume by his family as a small boy. His family spoke French, which was the language of their heritage, being descendants of the first families to the Gulf Coast region.

My grandfather with two of his sisters
When my grandfather was 19 years old his whole life changed. He had gone out with some cousins to a dance having first stopped by where his father was working and had invited him to come on over to the dance after work. When Etienne was walking to the dance, he was struck by a car and died shortly afterwards. My grandfather was now the man of the house. He promised his mother he would stay until all the children were able to care for themselves. The youngest child was only 3months old at this time.

He worked hard! His mother, sisters and two brothers respected and loved him for it. He often said that he raised two sets of children, his sisters and brothers and later his own four children. Ten years after his father died he married my grandmother, Lucille Irma Wiese who was from New Orleans, La. They met through mutual friends.

William Victor Ladner
He loved his family.  To him family was everything. Not just those that were living, but those that had passed as well. He remembered and honored them by passing their life stories on to us. From him I learned what life was like back in the olden days. That bread was an expensive commodity, and his family did not often make white bread, and when it was made it was made all at once and baked outside in a clay oven. How his father hauled shells to sell to the county who used them to make the roads. They had to go to the marshes in Louisiana to get those shells in their schooner.

From him I learned to revere those laying beneath the stones in the family cemetery. I used to watch him dutifully paint and clean the graves of his ancestors. I will always remember him saying, "But who will care for them when I am gone?" I then took the burden upon my young shoulders by saying back to him, "I will Poppy. I will never forget them or you, I promise you." So, this promise has fallen to me, and I dutifully and gladly take it on, each time thinking of him.

Etienne Ladner
So, if I couldn't go anywhere when I was growing up without anyone recognizing my grandfather's name, the same has to be said about his father. When I said my great grandpa was Etienne Ladner, oh boy, the old people's eyes would light up. "That was your great grandaddy?" they would say, "Well I tell you, he sure was a good man, they don't make 'em like him no more. Sure was a shame he died so young, he could have been something." My own husband's grandfather insisted that I name my son after Etienne.

The men of those times were what my grandfather called "Real Men". I suppose they were. They built our coast. My great grandfather built the first commercial building on the beach in Gulfport, and during WWI he built huge schooners for the Navy. These men were strong, tough and resilient.

Etienne Ladner and son Vic Ladner
Etienne, french for Stephen, was born in Waveland, Ms on January 12, 1885. His mother died when he was only 7 years old, with his father passing away just 3 years after. He was raised by his sisters who adored him. A strong, strapping man with black hair, dark skin and flashing grey eyes, he must have been a ladies man once upon a time. Well, until he caught the eye of a young girl named Eva Roth vacationing from New Orleans with her family.

Although I never knew him personally, I knew him. My grandfather adored his father, and often talked about him. He used to say to us, "I don't think anyone ever loved their father like I did mine. I mean he was IT to me." This man raised my grandfather to be the same kind of man he was, and I think my grandfather tried daily to be that man.

So often in my youth did I say, "Oh I can't do that!" When asked to do something daring by some of my friends, "I mean what if we were caught? My grandfather would be so disappointed in me." Even now that he is long gone, I still say to my children, "Oh, wouldn't he have been proud to know," or "Oh gee, I just can't help but think what would PaPaw say if he knew. He would be so ashamed." I can't help it. It defines my life and who I am.

I just hope that I am raising two boys who will one day be able to have people look back and say, "I knew him, he sure was a good man!"


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Message Boards

I have noticed that a majority of people do not utilize the message boards in their genealogy research any more. Many years ago this was one of the most used tools in our genealogical tool box. I couldn't keep up with the request for help added daily. Now I check the boards and see the same sad lonely message from a year or two ago sitting unanswered.

This leads me to wonder why? I know there are more people than ever out there searching, so why aren't they using the boards? If I had to guess, I would say it was due to the use of new technology, such as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.  Where you would once post such questions as, "Could someone help me translate this record into English from German?" on a message board, now you see such posts on Ancestry's Facebook page. 

The only problem I see with posting your question's online in this format would be that the page often moves so quickly that there are many out there who may not see your question. I would suggest trying it this way as well as going to the boards and posting your question there as well.

I myself still use the message boards and will remain faithful to them as long as they are out there. I try to answer as many questions as I can that pertain to something I have knowledge in or have access to records regarding their question. The reason I do this is because I found some of my greatest genealogical treasures through  message board posts.

Many years ago, I was contacted by a  relative who told me about a message board post they had read that I may be interested in. There was a woman in Louisiana who had posted that she had an old photo and in that photo was Louise Delherbe and she was looking for the family of this person to give the photo to. I was ecstatic! I quickly replied and told her that this was my grandmother's first cousin and I would very much love a copy of the photo.

She replied back saying she would scan it and email it asap to me. She then told me the story of how her mother and Louise were friends as young girls. She said there were two photos, and one had three young girls acting silly for the camera. She did not know who the third girl was.

Imagine my great surprise when I receive this photo and discover the third girl was my grandmother's sister Edith Wiese whom we call DeDe.  One look and I knew it was her. Of course I made a copy and brought it to my great aunt so she could confirm that it was indeed her. This brought tears to her eyes and she said in her broad New Orleans accent, "Oh Yeah hun, that's me." My grandmother had passed away and my great aunt was now living with my aunt and uncle. She was well into her 90's when I showed her this photo from the 1920's. I will always treasure the woman who took the time to share this photo of her mother and two cousins enjoying a day at City Park.

Message board activity may have slowed down, but I still creep them occasionally just to see what may be waiting there for me. You just never know what you may find.

The photo with Edith Wiese on left and Louise Delherbe in middle





Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hormonal Genealogist

Being married to a genealogist, it is a never ending array of going to graveyards, being lied to about whose graves your cleaning. Finding out you're married to your cousin.(Insert Jeff Foxworthy joke here) Finding out at every family reunion how much your wife looks like your great aunt. (Who is kin to her and you) How she can not pronounce the word mayonnaise, or as she says maneeeeeese. (So embarrassing) Having her kick me off of the Call of Duty server so she can find a dead relative from the early 1800s. Claiming one day to make tons of money doing what she calls a Hobby. (I say obsession) Getting so busy searching dead relatives she forgets important things like Cooking, and spending quality time with her now living family.(Maybe after we are dead we will get the respect we deserve!) Learning that the first cast iron pot was made in 1797, mason jars were invented in 1858, these things I could not have gone through life just not knowing.
So, the above writings would of course not be from yours truly, but from a much disgruntled husband who happened to find his wife's blog open and apparently inviting! I could of course have just deleted this post, but in all good fun, I decided to go ahead and leave it. After all he was sort of dead on about most of it!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bootleggers and Back Door Gambling



There are things our ancestors chose to do in the past that we can decide to see in a negative light or we can choose to reflect on the fact that some choices were made to simply survive during a different time. 

The Daily Herald January 22, 1903

Bootleggers
Shine, hooch, white lightning, or whichever you prefer to call it, was once a big business in the south. Mississippi did not repel prohibition until 1966, and until that day operating an illegal still was very profitable. That is if you could out run the revenuers.
So, pretty much everyone can tell a tale of someone in their family either making, selling, buying, or drinking their fair share of moonshine. Of course not every person in the family wants to be reminded that grandpa once went before the judge on charges of operating an illegal still, possession of mash and several tons of non- taxed whiskey. Fined and let go only to appear once again a few months later.
The way I look at it is that this is a part of Americana. It’s a big part of the history of who we are and where we came from. It should not be a shameful thing to be whispered about, or denied completely.
So, when I started to hear the stories about all the relatives who were involved in this risky business I thought, this has to be written down. We don’t need to forget that Papa once had a still back in the woods behind our house and that he had a trained mule that would detour from his route if he heard someone following him.
One of the jugs found
One day recently a cousin said, “Come see what I have found, you won’t believe it.” There right down from our house near the creek bed was a bevy of bottles sticking up here and there. Large glass jugs that once held moonshine some forty odd years ago. Unfortunately, they were quite empty, the corks long ago rotted away. Now filled with dirt mud and moss, they were beautiful to me. I brought one home to display and say, here is a part of our history, an American story. 
I began to look in old newspapers now, not for obituaries and birth announcements but for tales and names of those who were running illegal outfits. This brought up many, many names. It also got me in trouble with a family member who thought I was digging dirt up on her brother.  However, all the old men of the family were thrilled to read about and remember the stories about the past. They sat and told me so many things. Laughing about a great uncle who was running from the revenuers and got his feet shot full of buckshot, but they never got him. Then I was told the tale of some people who were selling directly to Al Capone. One fellow was told by the judge that his fine was $600 dollars and the man said, “Well judge, I got that right here in my back pocket.” The judge leaned down and said, “Well, tell me do you also have 6 months in that pocket too?” Before I left the men requested copies of the papers to keep for themselves, their eyes bright with the memories of the past. 

The Daily Herald August 16, 1920
 A neighbor recently said that he found the remains of an old still while clearing some land behind where we live. Imagine that. Must be one of the ones that made the stash of jugs we had found. Then just today, my son comes in from his walk in the woods and hands me two old pieces of an old broken pot which once held the mash for a still. Just a few little souvenirs of life past but, they are the things that will always keep the past and the history of those wild young men daring the law to make a buck, alive. 




Times Picayune November 13, 1928




Times Picayune August 31, 1903

Gambling Houses
So, ahem, yes, my family owned an establishment in New Orleans. No, big family secret there. My great grandfather owned several grocery stores in New Orleans in the late 19th century and into the 20th century. The thing about his grocery business was that there was a room in the back for gambling. This was quite common and as long as the politicians received their fair share they were open for business. 
Handbooks, this was an outside the track operation for betting on the horse races. People could hear the races being called up and down the streets from such establishments. The allure of doing a little betting while getting some shopping must have been quite profitable to the owner of the establishment. Lotteries were also big money makers in these back door establishments. 

Times Picayune November 13, 1928
By 1919 several groups began to protest against the illegal operations, and while raids were conducted, the operations usually continued after paying a fine. Then in 1928 along came Huey Long. He took a strong stand against the operators of these businesses. Sending men out to raid and close them down for good.

But, by this time my great grandfather had already given up his illicit pursuits due to a pretty young girl who walked barefoot into his store one day in 1910. "Young lady, where are your shoes?" Led to a marriage and three beautiful daughters, one who was my grandmother.