Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Joe, Mimi and Mary (G-mom) Cousins, ca 1915

This heading has a dual meaning for me this time. Not only is it G-mom Caterson’s maiden name,  but also one of the benefits of doing family history research, hence the name of this blog.

G-mom’s father’s name was Arthur Basil Cousins.   He married the original Mimi (Mary Ann Enz) back in 1906. I got very little information about him from G-mom, first because he and Mimi divorced in the 19-teens and secondly as he was a British citizen, he returned to England to stay.

From everything we've heard about Arthur, he was a classic ne’er-do-well. I found references to him being an insurance agent, but it seems as though he’d never really worked hard at anything. Apparently he was quite spoiled being the baby of the family.

One of the few things that G-mom told me was about when he took her and her brother Joe to England to visit his family in 1914. They went on the Mauretania, sister ship to the doomed Lusitania. (Read about the ship HERE

While they were in England, apparently he decided that he wasn’t bringing them back to the US. When Mimi found out, she set out to earn enough money to travel to England and bring the kids home. Unfortunately World War I had broken out so travel to England was difficult., if not downright dangerous.

Just imagine poor Mimi working so hard back here in Philadelphia to get her children back during a time of war. It must’ve been heartbreaking.

G-mom also told me that he served in France as a translator from 1914 through 1916 and had achieved the rank of sergeant major.  I wrote to the military records department in London 20 years ago and never received any information about him. (I do have his brother's military/pension record.)

After she did retrieve little Joe and Mary, they never really saw Arthur again. Mimi’s sister told me a story about Arthur coming here in 1935, knocking on Mimi ‘s door and asking her mother, who happened to be there, if he could wait. Arthur asked Mimi if they could get back together - she told him to get lost ha ha! He then went to Joe’s place of work and waited outside for him. Joe saw him, said “Hello, Dad.” Arthur said “You know me? “And Joe said “Yeah, I want nothing to do with you.”

No one ever really knew what happened to him after that.  I found the passenger lists from when he  left the US that time. It seems he traveled to the Canadian border, wanting to go to Quebec. He was turned away for some reason, and not allowed to enter the country. Some interesting information was on this passenger record such as the amount of money he was carrying ($110), what he was planning to do in the country (singer), and that he was traveling with a musician. I wonder what was up with that?!

Canada Border Report

G-mom told me she thought he died in 1938 or 1939. Again I have never confirmed that. (I think I found a death recorded in 1951 that may be him.

So last week, I’m hunting around on trying to find something about our Arthur. It really bugged me that I knew so little about my great-grandfather. I know G-mom wasn’t very comfortable talking about him for obvious reasons. Anywho, has just added some UK vital records to their database and who should pop up but our wayward Arthur Basil Cousins.  It was a baptism record from a church in  London and showed his parents names! (G mom had said they were Frederick and Hazel, but that was incorrect. He did have a brother Frederick though.) I had found an index listing to his baptism years ago, wrote to the UK for it and got nothing.

Arthur's Baptism Record, 1882

I kept digging through  UK  Census & church records and soon discovered his siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents! YIPPEE!

Here is what I now know: Arthur was born in London in 1881 or 1882, his baptism was 16 April 1882 at St Paul Lorrimore Church, which was bombed in WW2 and later rebuilt. His father was Charles, his mother  Martha (Hassell) – see the whole line (so far) HERE.

St Paul's, Lorrimore ca 1860

He had two sisters, Florence & Kate and 2 brothers, Frederick & Henry. The sisters never married, both were teachers, Florence was the headmistress for a girl’s boarding school. I found a marriage record for Frederick in 1913. The most recent full Census available is 1901, where his siblings are all living in someone else's homes, as visitors or boarders. Very odd.

(SIDEBAR: G-mom told my mother that they stayed with those sisters while in England, and received some things after they died, including a pearl necklace my mother stlll has!)

Arthur’s father was Charles, Jr. and he had 1 brother and 2 sisters. The family were all residents of Frome, Somerset, England, as was their mother, Louisa. Frome was big in the textile industry at the time – both families were weavers.

The town of Frome

The family moved to London after Charles’ father, Charles, Sr. died in 1863. He owned a China and glass shop, which they apparently sold before moving (you can read his will HERE).

I also discovered a third cousin researching the same family that is still living in the UK. Her name is Adrienne and she descends from Arthur’s father’s brother Robert Payne Cousins. Her grandfather and Arthur were first cousins. Her grandfather met a sad end as a merchant marine…read the story HERE.

Adrienne thought that Charles Jr. & Martha had emigrated to the US or Canada, as she can’t find their death records in England. But I found Martha traveling to NY_in 1912 and back. Her destination was New Jersey (where Mimi & Arthur lived at the time) and listed her as a widow. Frederick’s marriage record in 1913 listed his father as deceased too. We’ll have to keep looking – a lot of stuff  in the UK was destroyed by bombing.

AND I need to find Arthur’s gravestone…I love that stuff !

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Germans, Beer and Philadelphia

Jim attended Extreme Beer Fest in Boston this past weekend, and it got me thinking about our German roots and how beer played a role in our family history.

Schmidt's in the 1880's

When Joseph Enz left the farmland of Drackenstein via Bremen for Philadelphia in 1882, he sailed on the SS General Blucher. Passage cost about $10 (about $250 today) and took about 2 weeks. Steerage passengers slept in bunks stacked 3 high with 2' of width. Small tables and chairs were between each bunk, and that was where most people spent the voyage. Diseases were rampant.

Beer is recorded in Germany since 800 BC, and was made by the women until it became the domain of men, namely monks. In Revolution-era Philadelphia, there was a tavern for every 25 men, and it tied with Boston for the most taverns of anywhere in the English speaking world!

Schmidt's of Philadelphia, founded in 1860 by Christian Schmidt (also from Wurttemburg) was family owned for it's first 116 years. When it closed in 1986, it left Philly without a brewery for the first time in 300 years! (Sadly, the brewery was demolished in 2000 and has since become "The Piazza at Schmidt's, " an open-air plaza with boutiques, condos, etc.)

Back to Joseph Enz, he spent most of his young working life driving a horse-drawn beer wagon for Schmidt's, delivering the popular beer to taverns all day. This was likely how he met his wife Krescentia (Kressie for short, which then morphed into Grace). 

She was working from the time of her arrival in Phila in one of the German restaurants, a common practice back then. She worked for $5 a month plus bread and board. Kressie told her kids how much she liked Joe back then, because he was so nice. They were married in 1885, and had 8 daughters, plus one son that didn't survive.

At some point after they married, Joseph and Kressie lived over top of the horse stables and had to jump out of their window during a fire. She limped for the rest of her life from that leap!

One hundred years ago,  Philadelphia was known as the greatest brewing city in the Western Hemisphere. Today,  Philadelphia-area microbreweries are reclaiming the region’s reputation by brewing some of the world’s best beer.

Beer Drivers Union Mug 1913

Joseph & Kressie - so happy!

I am getting a letter from Joseph to his hometown in Drackenstein written in 1893 translated - hopefully it will tell us more about their lives!

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Land of "Bruna Bönor" (or as we called it Bruna Burna!)

Bruna Bönor - Swedish Brown Beans

G-mom Masterman used to make this tangy/sweet dish on holidays....we called it Bruna Burna, but now I see we were WRONG! I remember Scott as a toddler just LOVED this dish, and screamed for more! Wonder if they still make this in Vreta Kloster :-)  RECIPE

Vreta Kloster is a town in southern Sweden, in the Östergötland province that G-mom Masterman’s mother’s family came from. The town is named for an ancient cloister or abbey that was built in 1100 and was the first nunnery in Sweden.

Ruins unearthed in early 1900s

Östergötland contains the second largest lake in Sweden, Vattern, and the 118 mile long Gota Canal, built in the early 1800’s to join the Baltic Sea with the largest lake, Vanern. Mostly agricultural land, the residents of Östergötland were tenant farmers, or crofters. Some wealthy landowners lived in Renaissance castles that are present today.

VK has been restored for the most part and is quite beautiful!

Interior and exterior


Front view of church, and handle on front door.

Our furthest back ancestors to reside there were Nils Johanson & Maja Matthedotter who were married at VK 1/31/1800. Their marriage record states: Tailor bachelor Nils Johanson of Perstorp on South  _?_ and maid Maria Matthesdotter of Skogstorp.

Their daughter Anna married Gustaf Nilsson and they had Nils Gustaf Gustafsson who married another VK native, Anna Sofia  Persdotter. They married there in June, 1868 and had 11 children, 5 of which died very young. They are the family in the below photograph, Jenny’s parents and three of her siblings.

Anna’s parents were from near VK; her father was a farmer and juryman, so a man of some dignity. Her mother died at 49, and her father married again the next year and fathered 3 more children. (Their great great grandson in Sweden has contacted me for more info.)

Nils & Anna were tenant farmers at several farms in the area, but finally purchased their own farm in partnership with a teacher. This partner apparently cheated them and they had to sell the farm, after which they bought a small cottage they named Tomtebo, near Mjolorp.

Their son Hjalmar graduated from the Swedish equivalent of West Point. He married twice and had 2 sons, Stig & Hans Torn (they took their mother’s maiden name when Hjalmar remarried) and a daughter from his 2nd wife, Anna Maria. (I corresponded with Anna Maria back when I started my research. She is G-mom’s first cousin, but much closer to my age.)
G-mom’s sister Helen visited Sweden twice and couldn’t say enough about what a wonderful person Hjalmar was.

Their daughter Gertrude graduated from the hospital university in Lonkoping. Not sure what happened to their other daughters.

Jenny Margreta Gustafsson

Jenny, G-mom's mother, came to the US in the mid 1890's and married Fred Peterson in Everett, Mass in 1901. They were married by a Justice of the Peace.

Interestingly, Jenny’s sister Annie came to the US and married George Peterson, Fred Peterson's brother! They had 2 children, Ethel Lillian and Henry W. Ethel was married 3 times, not sure of children. Henry had 3 children, but not sure where they wound up.

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