Saturday, December 31, 2011

From Here to There and Back Again!

Another installment of the "boomerang letters" from Philadelphia to Drackenstein and back.

These two are from my great-great grandfather Joseph Enz to his family in Germany, written in 1921.

Philadelphia Feb 2, 1921
Dear sister-in-law and brother,
I received your nice letter today and I am writing to you right away. We are all in good health, thank God. My family is small now; I only have a girl of 14 years at home, Florenze. The others are all married. One [daughter] died, Josephine, 23 years old. Business is not going well; millions are out of work and everything is very expensive. We, too, have to be frugal; I am the sole breadwinner now. I was making 35 dollars per week before, as of now only 25 dollars.  
Dear sister-in-law, I was looking for dresses. I should have known it earlier. Every week somebody is coming by and collecting clothes, shoes anything that you can spare for the big cities, orphanages and for people hurt in the war - everything for Germany. I myself do not have much anymore. But now I received some [clothes] from our niece Rose Schneider, formerly Herbster; a daughter of my deceased sister, Wilhelmine, from Wiesensteig. Sebastian Kener probably still knows her. She is [from] Vineland, N.J., 50 miles from Philadelphia. They have a big steam bakery; they are rich people but good people.  Dear sister-in-law, this week a box with still very good clothes has been sent
to your address, you will see what is in there, it is paid for until your house, in case you have to pay anything it is not my fault. It should not happen, though. I do have a favor to ask you, my niece Mary Höhl, your stepdaughter, shall receive one third of the items since she is related to us. Dear sister-in-law, sometime later there will be another box arriving with shoes and miscellaneous stuff, you will put it to good use, I suppose. Please do not forget what I wrote you here, be nice and immediately write as soon as you receive this letter. This letter will arrive before the box in any case, because the cargo takes a long time.
Last year I sent something to my wife’s relatives; it took 3 months until they got it. Hopefully you will receive everything and nothing will be stolen like it has happened often. I do not want to send anything for those blackguards. Dear sister-in-law, please say hello the minister and I would like to [greet] his nuns and [illegible]. I have something to finish for him. It should not be to his detriment. Dear sister-in-law, my wife is offended by the fact that you are writing only Brother-in-law and not Sister-in-law, too. She was wondering whether she upset you when she was visiting. She told me she was very content with you. I will finish now, greetings to all, cordially Joseph Enz and family.
Sentence from page 2: Greetings to Bastian and wife.     
Sentence from page 4: Gertrud and Christine are in good health, but you never know.

This one is an April follow-up.

Philadelphia Apr. 7, 1921
Dear sister-in-law and children,
We received your last letter and we saw that you received the clothes, which made me very happy. However, you are not writing whether everything arrived, how can we know here whether you got everything or whether half of it was stolen? I believe because writing is not your pleasure: you have children, could not one of them write? Dear sister-in-law, I send you an envelope with the address of our relatives so that you only have to put the letter in there and send it. It is only fair that you and your children say thank you. I did not receive a response from Mary either. She, too, does not seem to like writing.
Dear Georg, I want to address you, too now I want to write to you, too. You want to come to America on secret paths - consider yourself. That does not work anymore, though it did in the past. You wanted to go via Switzerland to Canada or via Mexico; this would cost you a bunch of money, 30.000 to 40.000 Marks, which you probably do not have. And you have to have a very good head. In New York, thousands arrive with false passports and everyone is sent back. It is very strict. I am not sure why you want to go away; your mother does not have anybody else than you two children. When I was your age there was not enough space anymore, therefore I had to go into the wide world to make space for your deceased father. And you have to work very hard here to make it.   
Dear Georg, stay there where you are for the time being. We will see how things go when America made peace. Then it will be better for Germans again. They are looking for girls for kitchen and house work. They earn a good wage, 12 to 15 Dollars a week. There are almost 90.000 men unemployed in Philadelphia. The husbands of my daughters do not have much to do, either. The machine business is slow, too. I am still working and I do not have difficulties (electric lights factory). Dear sister-in-law, many greetings from Rose Kneer to Baste and Kunigunde; she says she can neither write nor see well, her corns hurt badly. She visited us last Sunday. You do not write any news; it would be nice to know who is still alive or deceased of the old friends. I probably will not know many anymore since I have been gone for 37 years.                     
Sisters Gertrud and Christine send many greetings to as well as to Baste and Kunigunde. They could write something, too. They do not have the time, I guess. I wrote to the pastor, too, but I did not get an answer yet. Maybe he is not happy with what I had to tell. Maybe he did not even receive my writing? I will close now with cordial greetings from us all: your brother-in-law, sister-in-law and children. I hope that it (my writing) finds you as well as it leaves us.
Joseph Enz and family
I am sending a small picture of us; we took it ourselves in the garden behind our house.
Side: Please let Georg and Elise know that they ought to write to John Schneider in Vineland

Fascinating stuff about the economy and immigration. Here is an analysis of cost-of-living for that year: READ

Thanks again to my Enz cousins for the letters and Nora Grosser for translating! It has been a great year for my family history :-)

Only 4 months til the 1940 Census! 

Oh, and less than 12 months til the end of the world. Get busy!

A Little Follow Up

Another addition to the previous post of the Best Christmas Gift:

The above family photo from Germany features my great-great-grandmother's uncle Michael Knab (center) with his children taken in 1890. Beautiful! Michael was the Mayor of Bollingen. His son Konstantin on the far left also served in that capacity starting in 1913. The soldier on the right died in action in 1918.

I hope to find out more from the relative in Germany that descends from Michael Knab through Konstantin (his grandfather).

Ironically, this week I found another box of files I hadn't seen in years. While sorting through it, I found LDS IGI records for the Knab family, including my great-great-great grandfather's christening and a microfilm order receipt for the church records for that town! All from back in 1991, just about when my research went on the back burner.

Close, but that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Best Christmas Present EVER!

Krescentia Knab

What is the best gift for a genealogist?? Book? Subscription to a research site? They are great, but the BEST thing is KNOCKING DOWN A BRICK WALL!! 

Yup, that's the Holy Grail of family history...

Thanks to a wonderful man, Hagen Kuhn, in Germany, my oldest brick wall went kablooie yesterday! This mystery was born in 1988 when I started researching my family history. My great-great grandmother, Krescentia Knab Enz, came to Philadelphia in 1883. No one knew from where in Germany.  Her death certificate said her father was Georg Knab and birthplace Germany.

Krescentia had a daughter still living in the 80s and she had no idea either. She told me that Kressie's mother had died when she was young, and she had one sister plus  a couple of half-sisters she was fond of from her stepmother. She also told me that Krescentia had sailed back to Germany in 1916 to visit family, so I sent to NARA for a passport application and crossed my fingers.

After a long wait, it arrived, and there was her place of birth: Bottingen! I ran to the LDS and ordered the church records for there. More waiting, then it came in. I read through it with no luck - I was so bummed! Now what? I tried "Bossingen" in case the writing on her app was misread, but again nada.

I put her photo on my nightstand for a long time, asking her "Where ARE you?!" every night.

Fast forward to a year ago...newly back into genealogy and having been found by a bunch of descendants of Krescentia's husband's sister, and 2 descended from Krescentia too. We put our heads together and decided the Archdiocese was our next step. Although they had no record of their marriage, their childrens' baptism records listed her maiden name and birthplace as "Bollingen." I thought that it must be a transcription error with "ll" instead of "tt." So, my last hope was dashed. Krescentia was going to remain a mystery dammit.

About a month ago, a man from Germany (the wonderful Hagen Kuhn) wrote me about one of my ex-husband's family lines that came to Baltimore in the mid-1800s. I hadn't really dug into them in Germany, but did some looking for descendants here for him. He filled me in on several generations in the old country as well!


I mentioned my mysterious gg-grandmother to him, he asked for info on her and was off to the races!! He found out that there were not one but FOUR towns called Bottingen! Not only that, but one of the Bottingens had an area within it called BOLLINGEN!! Holy crap, what are the chances of THAT!?

He contacted a researcher over there named Karl Knab, but Karl didn't seem to have info on a Krescentia, especially from a father Georg. Well, Hagen kept at it, and again asked Karl to check his records for our girl, forgetting the name Georg.

I got an email yesterday saying "HOORAY HOORAY!" Hagen & Karl had found her! Same birthdate, a note of being married in America, father Johannes married twice with 2 girls from first wife and ten from 2nd wife (wow). Karl is descended from Johannes' brother Michael, so he is a distant cousin to me.

Krescentia's (2) birth record in parish family register

Karl has the family back to Krescentia's great-grandfather Knab, but there is more to explore on the female lines. I hope to find out if any others emigrated to America at some point and find descendants here and there.

BEST PRESENT EVER! Thank you Hagen, I'm indebted to you!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 28, 2011

More Letters from here to there

I have been remiss in posting letters that I've had translated, so here are 2 for the price of one!

The first is from John & Gertrude (Enz) Pulvermiller, sister of my g-g-grandfather Joseph Enz.
The Joseph they refer to is John's brother.

Philadelphia, May 21st, 89
Dear mother a. mother-in-law, we received your letter a. we are glad to hear that you are in good health; thank God we are healthy, too. Joseph is married now to a Swiss woman, he has a good wife, she is about the same age as me, a. he says she has a fortune of 3000 dollars, they came to visit us on March 19th a. they stayed a whole week, we had a lot of fun, they probably wrote you already, so you already knew this.
Inset (children’s handwriting at top of page): Dear grandmothers, I want to say hello to you your granddaughter Katharina Pulvermüller {this child's note is shown at the top of this post}

Whether she [the new wife] is Catholic I do not know, I asked Joseph, he did not tell me a. I did not like to ask her, he told my neighbor she is Protestant. We did not have a chance to tell him anything, we did not know of his wedding until the day before the celebration. He probably would not have listened; it is a matter of taste. Dear mother there are not many news, Mina moved to her own house, business is slowly growing, a. our children are quite well. Many cordial greetings from us all a. from my siblings, farewell, greetings from your grateful son Joh. Pulvermüller
 [illegible] how things are going? Are you in good health? How are you?  I have been waiting for an answer for a long time, but nothing has happened. We are quite well a. the children are well, too. Business is going well again. Dear mother since your birthday is coming up I wish you good luck with all my heart for your 73rd birthday, may God give you long, joyful a. happy days, a. your
[illegible] was visited by many people, but the least by our countrymen. Dear mother a. siblings, if everything goes well and we stay in good health, I might visit you at the end of next month or the beginning of July, you do not need to tell anyone yet they will see if I come, I will write whether I can come or not. Thousand greetings to everybody from my husband a. the children, yours, Gertrud. Congratulations a. greetings from your other children. Farewell, so long, if God willing. 


The second is a little letter from my g-g-grandfather Joseph Enz to his brother Englebert written December, 1896.

Page 1
Phila Dec 20, 1896
Dear brother a. sister-in-law!
We received your last letter and we are glad to hear that you are in good health. We are too, thank
God. Dear brother I am very pleased that you are happily remarried, I received one of your pictures,
you really got a pretty wife.
Page 2
Dear brother you are not a big fan of writing, or you would not leave the writing to your wife, it is
difficult to hear the news about outside from you1. Next time I will send you my vacation passport
you can keep it outside a. you can send it in whenever it is necessary. Karl Enderle from Gosbach has
his [passport]always outside, too, his brother is providing it for him.
Page 3
I think you could do the same a. I would not always have the trouble. I send you one dollar bill One
Mark for Engelbert Kener one for you a. two for your wife. No news otherwise Joseph Duerner2 still
lives with me. Anno 1900 we will be outside for the Paris World Fair. To close I wish you Merry
Christmas a Happy New Year
Page 4
Many thousand regards to you all a. to those who ask for me
Your brother a brother-in-law Joseph Enz
Joseph Derner says when you have so pretty sister-in-laws you should send him one he has no wife,
This time you will write soon
Blue ink: E [not legible] s many thousand regard to you all [not legible]
Outside = overseas
2 Joseph Duerner is probably the same person as Joseph Derner.

Interesting he mentions the World's Fair, pictured above. I wonder if they went.

Here is a link to the Philadelphia Inquirer's front page the day this letter was written. It's fun to see what was happening in their world that day.

I'll post a few more in a day or so.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I ♥ Cemeteries

Sounds crazy to normal people, I know. They are so beautiful (most of the time), dignified, peaceful, historic and educational. I have had my share of frustration over them too, mostly dealing with the people running them. (Mt. Moriah comes to mind....grrrr!)

But, oh, the cool things I have learned while digging through cemetery records! Never underestimate their importance!

Just recently, I decided to send for a bunch of records for 2 Philadelphia cemeteries - Odd Fellows and Mt. Peace - both run by Lawnview now (Odd Fellows was removed and reinterred at Lawnview in the 1950's).

I had quite a list of people, mostly not direct ancestors, but knew that these indirect people could very well open doors to the others. Two I was sure had been taken to Odd Fellows were the twin baby girls of Rebecca & Samuel Hopkins that died a few days apart in August, 1870. The parents were both buried in Fernwood later, so I was curious about these babies and who may be buried with them.

The record showed the plot belonged to a Delia McCullough, no one I knew. There were 4 McCulloughs buried there, then a "Mrs. Hopkins infant - stillborn" in February, 1869. Then came the twins, then a Kate S. Hopkins in March, 1871. After them were 4 more folks I didn't know.

Curious about the other 2 Hopkins, I searched the LDS site for their death certificates. Much to my surprise, the baby's parents were listed as Melvin & Catherine Hopkins. Melvin was my great-great-grandfather whom I never knew was married before he married my great-great-grandmother! Oddly, the undertaker's name was Samuel G. Hopkins, Melvin's dad, and had his address as well. Weird.


I then found Kate, 23 years old, died of anasarca (general edema usually caused by liver or renal failure). Her death notice confirmed their marriage and that her parents were the late John & Delia McCullough. Her funeral was held at her father-in-law's.

I went to the 1870 Census to find Kate and did find her in the (crazy) 2nd Enumeration living in the same house as Melvin and his parents, but is shown under her maiden name. 1st Enumeration she's not there at all. Weird, but that 2nd census is whack.

The other folks buried there are Kate's brother, grandmother, sister and 2 of her sister's children.

So, there you have it. A marriage and a child I would never have known about thanks to a cemetery.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

129 years ago today, the first big Labor Day was celebrated in New York in Union Square. Twelve years later, it became a federal holiday. The idea was to show appreciation for the contributions made by workers in this country. In honor of this holiday, I thought I'd write about what my ancestors did for a living.

Slave ship

Marmaduke Masterman (1731-1759) was a sea captain, and died on his ship, the snow "Caesar." His ship was owned by a Boston merchant and used in the slave trade. (I promise to write about this one day soon.)

Marmaduke's son James (1759-1842) never met his father, but also felt the draw of the sea. After the Revolution started, he joined the army, served as a cook and then as a sailor. After the war, he continued in that vein, traveling the world and even surviving as a castaway adrift at sea for over 2 weeks! After starting a family, he moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maine and lived out his days farming there.

Bringing in wheat

His son, James Jr. (1783-1865) was a farmer as was his son, James Jr. 2nd (1807-1888). Their wives were from farming families as well. My great-great grandfather, Chesman (1849-1924), son of James Jr. 2nd, worked on the family farm until becoming a miller in Weld, ME after his marriage. (In the early 1800's, wheat brought $2 a bushel and flour $6 per 100 lbs.)

Wheat threshing

By 1900, Chesman had moved his family to Framingham, Mass. where he founded the C. Masterman and Son Market. It was a butcher shop and grocery store. His son Filmore also worked there and eventually took over until his retirement, when he sold it.

Masterman Market

Filmore's son, Vernon (1904-1993) was my grandfather. His mother was a teacher and gave him the incentive to go to college, without support from his father. With the help of relatives, Vernon graduated with honors from MIT as a mechanical engineer. He travelled the world, working on refrigeration, climate control and nuclear test facilities, including the then-secret Manhattan Project.

Jennie the teacher

Vernon's mother, Jennie McMonagle (1879-1920) was a Canadian native, and descended from prominent farmers and teachers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Her mother's father was a carpenter.

Typical interior of Swedish farmhouse

My Swedish & Danish roots on my paternal grandmother's side were mostly farmers, the Danish ones quite well-to-do dairy farmers whose daughter married a farm hand, much to their chagrin! The happy couple were set up on their own place 3 times, and each time the husband gambled it away. They later moved to Sweden, where he worked at a paper mill (and suffered a horrendous burn) before moving to the US and supervising a paint factory. 

Swedish farm

My great-grandfather, Frederick Peterson (1877-1931),  came with his parents and siblings to the US in 1894 and was a career fireman for the town of Everett, Mass. and pictured below.

The Swedes were farmers and/or farm hands with a few soldiers thrown in. One was listed as a "rusthållare" - land owner that is obligated to provide for soldiers.


Antique canes (left) and my great-grandparents (right)

My mother's paternal side had a few self-made businessmen. The first to arrive in Philadelphia from Ireland was James Caterson (1821-1876), a laborer, and his wife and 2 sons, in 1866. His son I am descended from was James S. Caterson, Sr. (1845-1916) who is listed as a wood turner. With his brother, he founded a very successful umbrella stick & cane manufacturing company. His son, James, Jr. (1881-1950) was a real estate and stock market speculator - making and sometimes losing tons of money. My grandfather, James 3rd, (1904-1996) attended the Wharton School, was an executive with Gulf Oil and played the stock market.

Sailmaker's vise

Victorian perfume bottles

James Jr's  wife was the daughter of a modest sail and tent maker whose father served jail time for counterfeiting while working as an auction house clerk. Her mother was the daughter of a plasterer whose father was first a constable, then a wealthy perfumer and property owner, all in Philadelphia.

Cousin in Germany with his oxcart - his son is still farming ancestral lands

Beer Wagon

On my mother's maternal side, we have farmers going back to the 1600's in Wuerttemberg, Germany. The first to come to the US, Joseph Enz (1860-1941), was my great-great grandfather. He worked for Schmidt's Brewery driving a beer delivery wagon. After retirement, he worked as a night watchman. His daughter Mae, my great-grandmother, married an insurance clerk from London first, then a police detective. 

Typical WW1 British Sgt. Major uniform

The clerk Arthur Cousins (1882-1949) was descended from grandparents that were a stone mason, tobaccinist, china & glass dealer and company clerk. Arthur also served in Paris as a translator with the rank of Sgt. Major during the first World War for the British Army.

I'll try to find time for the Ingles side of the family soon :-)

Visit my website for more info:

(Read website how-to HERE)

Subscribe via email in upper right margin of this page.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Special Names

Yesterday was my son's 28th birthday. Besides making me feel old, it also makes me nostalgic. (I'm such a sap!)

I named my son James Culotta Ingles after his father's maternal grandfather, who's name in Italian is something like Giovanmario Guglielmo Culotta.( I think his mother's surname  de Liberto was in there somewhere too.) We called him "Nano."

The photo above is his wedding day, pictured with his parents.

I haven't ventured very much into Italian research yet, but I know a few generations of Nano's family.

So this James Culotta was born Sept. 10, 1907 in Baltimore, the son of Ferdinando "Frank" Culotta and Concetta Teresa Liberto, photo abovee. Frank had emigrated from Sicily in 1890, she in 1896 and were married in Baltimore in 1898.

They had 7 children, but lost a son, Joseph, in May of 1908 when he was hit by a streetcar, pictured above. At the time, Frank owned a saloon and was very active in local politics.

In 1914, Nano and his family returned to Cefalu, Italy for a short time, I believe to handle some family business there. I remember Nano telling a story about swimming in the ocean and drowning, only to awake on the beach in the arms of a man he had never seen, and never saw again.


They came back from Italy around 1920 and continued to run a saloon/lunchroom. Nano later worked there with his brother for many years on the lunchroom side while his brother worked the bar side. They were the only place in town that served blacks and whites side by side. It was located at Pratt & Light.

Nano married Marie Kohlerman on October 19, 1930, they had five girls and just one son, Jimmy. When Jimmy was 19, he was hit by a bus and killed in Baltimore City. So tragic. That's why I named my son James Culotta, to carry on the name in a way.

Nano died in January, 1988, two years after his wife. He was a really special man and I miss him.

Easter 1957

I'm looking forward to getting this Italian side more fleshed out, but am more concentrating on US for now. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

St. Michael's

I spent a day last week in the historic town of St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As a kid, my family sailed there many times. During the 70's, this town was nothing like it is today....the big attraction then was The Crab Claw Restaurant and the little Maritime Museum.

Today, the town is full of beautifully restored houses lined neatly along the streets, dotted with antique stores, B&Bs, and cute shops. And the Maritime Museum is huge, taking up several large buildings. Dick Cheney & Donald Rumsfeld both own large estates there.

Founded in the mid 1660s, it was a trading post for tobacco farmers and fur trappers. It was laid out as a town in 1778, many of the houses date from this period. From the 1800s through early 1900s, it was a seafood processing/packing and shipbuilding town.

During the War of 1812, St. Michaels became known as "the town that fooled the British." Notified of an impending attack, they hung lanterns high in the trees, causing the Brits to aim their cannons over the rooftops thereby missing their homes!

St. Michaels figures prominently in my kids' family history as the home of the Marshall/Coffin/McMahan families. Their great- great-great-grandmother, Caroline T. Marshall, was born there in 1826. She was the daughter of Greenbury and Hester Ann (Cockey) Marshall, both born in that same county and married in 1817.

Caroline married Obed M. Coffin of Nantucket and had 7 children, including one set of twin boys. Obed died in 1865, leaving Caroline a widow. You can read the story of his death HERE.

The Marshall/Coffin families were sailors, shipbuilders and oystermen for the most part, as were most of the men of St Michaels. Caroline & Obed's son, Greenbury Marshall Coffin (1854-1932) made quite a name for himself as the builder of competitive racing log canoes, including the "Belle M. Crane," the canoe to beat for many, many years at the races. HERE is an article about a model made of the famous canoe.

Belle M. Crane

There are some Baltimore Sun articles from the 1890's about Greenbury's boats HERE  - click on the "+" sign to enlarge. The Belle raced into the 1920's.

We hunted through the Museum to find the model pictured in that magazine article, but didn't see it. But we did come across a silver cup trophy, won by Greenbury Marshall Jr. (uncle of Greenbury Coffin) that he won at the first canoe boat race on the Miles River ever held in 1859!

From what we saw in the canoe displays there, these races were wild! And highly competitive.

I had visited there last in 1989 or so, finding Caroline and a few of her children's graves at St. Lukes Church, formerly known as Sardis Chapel, located on the square in St. Michaels. We perused the church records there, finding an entry where, in 1869 Green Coffin was dropped from the rolls for "walking disorderly." (What??!)  They also showed us a subscription quilt, used for fundraising, that included William Coffin's signature (one of Caroline's sons) in addition to hundreds of other signatures of members.

Sardis Chapel 1813

St. Lukes today, formerly Sardis

Subscription Quilt

William Coffin's signature (just above crease to left of flower)