Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Letter to Germany - 1891

Here is another of the "Boomerang Letters" from Philadelphia to Drackenstein, Germany (above) that found their way back here via my 3rd cousins. This one is maybe from my great-great grandfather Joseph Enz' sister Christine (Enz) Wagner to her mother. There's a reference to a different surname, but she mentions 5 names that are Christine's siblings. The more I look at it, I think the name is Tochtermann, of which there were some in Phila in this period. Perhaps a cousin of our Enz family. 

{Page 1}                                                                                                      Philadelphia, Decb 8, 1891
Dear mother a. siblings,
We received your last letter a. we were very happy that we received a letter from you again. My dear mother how are you doing, how I read in your letter, you do not see much anymore a. you have been sick, too, but I hope with God’s help we still will have a mother for many years. Dear mother you must not worry a. cry, your children in America have it nice a. everyone is in good health thank God. Dear mother, brother Storr’s son is in America again but he did not come to Philadephia[sic] he probably is in Broklin[sic], did you give him pills, it is better if you refrain from it, we
{Page 2} 
do not get any anyway like you never received the watch from Joseph a. the half dollar, he has both the watch a. the money a. at Joseph’s, where he was most recently, he said goodbye and took the train right away. That is a Wiesensteiger episode, it looks like them. Dear mother, when you send Sophie the money, so send it directly to her. She will put it in the bank under her name. You should have sent him a quite rough letter the Lemmek a. Brusbuben when he does not know the people a. write official on it you do not have anything in writing if it is really your Tahtermann[1], and besides you can keep it as long as you want. His mother must be angry, too, she does not write him anymore. We did not know anything of this until you told us in your letter.
{Page 3}
Dear mother I will soon send you my family portrait I meant to send it for Christmas. But it is too late now, maybe until New Year’s or Epiphany[2]. Dear mother Gertrud bought a house it only cost 1300 Thaler[3] it has 4 rooms it is not far away from Mina’s. The notes of the five rosaries delighted us but most of the prayers we knew already. The children prayed for the poor souls the whole month. Please greet the little boy warmly a. anybody who asks for us. Dear mother a. siblings it is always nice weather here no snow, we have nice fall days. We have must in the basement 4 barrels, one barrel has 50 gallons, 1 gallon has 4 liter according to German measure.   
{Page 4}
The gallon cost 10 cents we also have apples in the basement and potatoes the potatoes a. the apples cost 50 to 60 cents per bushel a little more than in the summer. Dear mother now I want to tell you about my business. On Mondays I do laundry for someone else, already for three years, I receive ¾ Thaler or 5 cents a. good food a. drink a. I am done at 2. Tuesdays I do the laundry for ourselves, Wednesdays I iron, Thursdays a. Fridays I sow, there is always something to mend a. new clothes for the children all the time. On Saturdays I clean. My dear mother a. siblings I wish you a merry Christmas a. and a happy New Year God’s blessing a. that you will live in peace for many years to come. Greetings a. kisses, your loving daughter Christine Tahtermann a. the children. 

How is Marie, is she better again. Engelbert are you in good health a. your family, too, farewell goodbye.

Side sentence: Write as soon as you have my picture. Farewell.

[1] The surname Christine uses at the end of the letter after her name.
[2] January 6
[3] The Thaler is an old German currency, which was used until ca 1907. 

How interesting to find out the cost of her sister Gertrude's home .

I looked up Weisensteig and it is famous for witch trials that took place from 1562-3. Apparently, the head of the town blamed a severe hailstorm & epidemic on witches, burning 63 women he accused. Nice.

The "must" she refers to is a homemade grape wine. It includes the skins etc for flavor.

This is a photo of German & Austrian Thalers.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brick Walls of Philadelphia

I must admit to disliking research in Pennsylvania...records are everywhere and it's hard to figure out what to look for where. I blame it on it being a commonwealth, so much is still kept at the county or township level...Grrrr!  Maybe I'm just spoiled by Maryland. Go to the state archives and BINGO!! It's all there! County records, Baltimore City records, churches, criminal, courts, land, etc etc.

So my mom's danged Philadelphians drive me nuts, not only for their chosen city, but these were not close-knit families in recent generations. Lots of mysteries, lots of brick walls. (Thank goodness for the Philly records on the LDS website - found a lot of death & marriage records there.)

One brick wall was my great great grandmother's parents. Her name was Pauline Phillips, she was born in 1851, married Melvin Hopkins in 1872 in Philadelphia, and died in 1949. Her death certificate said her father was named Joseph, and back when I started this search, I looked everywhere for him to no avail. Census, city directories, cemeteries, no luck. I even went to Philly.

This past year, I renewed my search, using online records and starting with the census. The earliest census I found her in was 1860 living with a Margaret & Richard Phillips both 60, his occupation listed as perfumer, a Mary, age 25, Pauline age 9, Charles age 6 and Joseph age 5. No relationships are given, but it seemed unlikely the Mary would be the mother of a 9 year old, so I figured she was Richard's daughter and the younger ones, his grandchildren. (Never found Richard or Margaret in the 1850 Census, which is weird, since their kids were all born in PA.)

After 1860, Richard was gone from the census and gone from the city directory after 1861. Margaret was in 1870 Census with Pauline, 18 and Joseph, age 16. In 1880, Margaret 84, grandmother, with Joseph, 23,  as her grandson. (He is listed as an umbrella maker, so if he worked in my other great great grandfather's business, that may be how my great grandmother met my great grandfather, the business owner's son!)

I searched newspapers for obits and found a legal notice for Richard's estate and a death notice for a William, son of Richard & Margaret, both in 1861. I found all three death certificates at LDS too, with burial sites, cause of death, age and address, which all jived with what else I had. Sweet!

Richard Death Cert

Margaret Death Cert

BUT, I still didn't know who or where Pauline's parents were! I assumed they died before 1860, and since Richard died in '61, hoped to locate a family plot where he was buried.His death certificate said he was  buried 6th Street Union Cemetery, which subsequently closed and the bodies relocated. (I've tried all the possibilities and have yet to find him.)  His son William was buried at New Philadelphia Cemetery, another tough one to track down. Margaret was buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery, but died so much later I don't hold out much hope when I finally receive their records.

I even ordered Joseph's death certificate hoping that his father's name would be listed on it. But apparently his wife did not know his parents names when she filled out the death certificate. He was buried at Mount Peace cemetery, for which I am also awaiting records.

Seeing how I had hit a dead end, I decided to send away to the Register of Wills in Philadelphia for Richards estate records. He was a man of some means, as the 1860 census lists his real estate property value at $20,000. I was hoping against hope that he had a will or at least an administration on record.


About a month later I got a response from the register of wills with an amount due for copies and I quickly sent off the $12 check, very excited to get the results! Within a week I had the copy of Richard's will in my hands! And what a gold mine of information it was! You can see the whole file HERE. Both his and his wife's signatures are on it, plus a cool inventory of one of his properties.

He listed not only all of his properties, but also his sons' and daughter's names. His daughter was Mary Jane Carpenter, wife of J. C. Carpenter, his son William B. Phillips, another  son J. Wills Phillips and the best news of all, the grandchildren of his deceased son Charles R. Phillips!!! Woo hoo !!

What is really amazing is that Richard wrote this will in such detail just one day before he died.

I ran right to the census looking for Mary Jane, .J. Wills and Charles to see what info I could dig up. (I already knew where William was). I found Charles age 20,  in the  1852 & 1854 city directory and the 1850 census with the occupation of plasterer with his wife Mary, 17!  (I also found quite a bit about the Carpenters, and have tracked them up to the 1940s. Still haven't found anything about J. Wills.)

Charles' death record

Mary's death certificate

 I looked up death certificates for Charles and Mary,  and found them. He died in 1857, of tuberculosis, at the age of 28. Death records were not required before 1860, but his doctor had filed this little scrap of paper with his info on it… how lucky was that? Mary died in 1865, also of TB, leaving her children to be raised by their grandmother. Her death certificate showed her being buried at the Ebenezer Vault (an ME Churchyard) and you can see Charles' little note says vault as well. I will be trying to  locate those records you can be sure.

So a couple of mysteries solved, and a few more created, I'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Life and Liberty...

Happy Independence Day!

Today's post is appropriately about my ancestors who participated in the Revolutionary War. I have 3 that I  have found records for: Benjamin Dows (1716-1793), Ebenezer Newman (1756-1839) and James Masterman (1759-1842). All were living in Massachusetts at the time.

Benjamin Dows, my 6X great-grandfather,  was the father-in-law of Newman and Masterman, as his 2 daughters Sarah and Hannah were married to them. His son Joseph also had a courageous record of service for his country.

The Lexington Alarm

Benjamin  was one of 54 men that served under Capt. Jonathan Stickney in Col. Ebenezer Bridge's Regiment. This group marched from their hometown of Billerica early in the morning of April 19, 1775 when they received the alarm from Lexington. Most likely he was one of the men being trained as a Minuteman. At that time he served six days. He next served for eight months during the siege of Boston, May to December 1775. In 1776 he became a corporal serving under Capt. Solomon Kidder in Col. Brooks' Regiment, having enlisted at White Plains, New York. (Col. Kidder died in action there.)

Siege of Boston

He again enlisted September 29, 1777, one of 32 men from Billerica serving under Capt. Edward Farmer of Col. Jonathan Reed's Regiment. Their job was to reinforce the northern army which was engaged in fighting Gen. Burgoyne at Bennington and Saratoga, New York. He was discharged November 8, 1777.

Battle of Saratoga

His son-in-law, my 5X great-grandfather Ebenezer Newman, enlisted in his hometown of Woburn, Massachusetts on June 1, 1775. He served under Capt. John Wood, Col. Baldwin's Regiment during the siege of Boston for eight months. He immediately reenlisted for a year in January, 1776 before marching to New York City. During the retreat from New York, he was wounded in the leg and furloughed on September 15, 1776. His furlough was extended and he was sent home in November, which took him three months due to his physical condition. He later served three additional months during 1777 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His pension file is HERE.

Brig "Hazard"

My 5X Great grandfather, James Masterman also enlisted. He served in the infantry as a cook for 8 months starting in June, 1775 under Major Montague. this would mean he was likely present for the Battle of Bunker Hill!  In summer 1776, he was drafted for 3 more months. In spring of 1777, he entered service as a sailor on board the brig “Hazard.” After cruising the West Indies for 3 months, they returned to Boston, resupplied and he rejoined for another three month term. During his service under Capt. John Foster Williams, “Hazard” captured 2 British vessels. I have his pension application with all the details and signed by him HERE.