Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#91--The Eitelbachs at Ellis Island

Ellis Island

When I was in New York City in May, we visited Ellis Island.  There are several different tours.  We took the one the focused on the experience of being an immigrant coming to New York.  I was particularly interested in doing that one because my great grandparents, Louis and Marie (Huelster) Eitelbach came through Ellis Island on May 1895 with four of their children, Walter, Louis, Maximillian and John.  That visit inspired me to further research their experience.

When I thought of them coming to American, I always thought their arrival.  So I decided that my research need to begin with their leaving Germany.  If they followed the typical pattern of immigrants, Louis Eitelbach contracted with a local steamship agent, who made the arrangements for their immigration.  That would have included transportation to the port, a hotel room while waiting for the ship to sail, if necessary, and passage on the steamship.  Many Germans left through Bremerhaven or Cuxhaven (Hamburg).  However, that was not true for the Eitelbachs.  They sailed from Antwerp,
on the Red Star line ship, the Rhylander.  Why Antwerp?  It was the port that was closest to Barmen, where they lived.  Before they were able to board the ship, they would have had to pass a medical examination and answer a series of questions.  That process insured that they were fit to enter the United States.  If the immigration authorities at Ellis Island denied anyone entrance, the steamship company had to take them back to Europe at the steamship company’s expense.

In the family that keeps sentimental things, I have my grandfather’s ticket locked in my safety deposit box. I cannot find when they departed, but I know from the passenger list that they arrived on May 23, 1895.  According to the Red Star Line’s webpage, the voyage took from 7 to 10 days, depending on the weather.  Looking at the passenger list, I learned that they came third class or steerage, their quarters were in the stern of the ship and they brought 5 pieces of luggage with them.  I also saw that Louis described himself as a locksmith.

Passenger List

Once the ship arrived in New York, the Eitelbachs would have been taken by ferry to Ellis Island. The ferry was divided into sections and the letter they were given, told them which section to stand in.  Once at Ellis Island, they would have been directed to the main building.  Right inside the door was the baggage room, where they would have had to have left their five bags.  They, then, proceeded up the stairs to the Registration Room, also known as the Great Hall.  The Hall was divided into lines by railings.  Given the size of the room—200 feet long and 102 feet wide—and the very large number of people in it, all speaking different languages, the noise may have been overwhelming, especially for the two youngest boys, Max and John.

In the Great Hall, the Eitelbachs would have been quickly been examined by a doctor to determine if they were healthy enough to enter the United States.  Had the doctor had any suspicions that they
Great Hall
were not, they would have been sent for a more in-depth exam.

Next was the legal inspection.  A registration clerk, who had the ship’s manifest in front of him, would ask the same questions of each person e.g. name, age, occupation, destination, amount of money, the name of a friend or relative, etc. that they were asked when leaving Antwerp,  That was to determine if any answers were different.   I am pretty sure my great grandfather and great grandmother each answered the questions.  I do not know whether or not the children were questioned.  Since they entered the United States, I can assume that their answers were satisfactory. Once cleared, they would have gone back downstairs, claimed their baggage and probably met by a relative.  I do not believe that Louis Eitelbach had any relatives in New York.  However, Maria’s two brothers, Frank and Joseph, had both emigrated in 1893 and well could have been there to meet them.

I regret that I never talked with my grandfather about his coming to the United States.  I would love to know why they came, what the trip was like, what was their experience in going through Ellis Island, and who met them.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

#90--Gertrude Richards Would Like a Few More Autographs

Lots of folks liked the drawing and the couple of poems that were in last week’s blog about my grandmother’s autograph book.  So for this week, I thought I would post a couple of more pages from that book.

I believe that most of the young women who signed this book were her classmates at Packer Collegiate Institute.  When I read the curriculum for the school at that time, the catalog stated that there were classes in line drawing.  Evidently some girls were really good at that as witnessed by this two pictures that were drawn.

I liked the girl standing by the fence, but I think the fan with the instruction to “Keep Cool” was really quite clever.

Several of the little poems provided advice for life.

This last one confused me so I googled it and found that it is very similar to a quotation from Mark Twain.  

And of course, there is always one which is just amusing.

I would so love to know more about who these girls were and how they knew my grandmother.  Classmate?  Neighbor?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

#89--Gertrude Richards Would Like Your Autograph

When I was cleaning out my parents’ house, in a drawer wrapped in cloth and tied with pink ribbon, I found three old books—one of those books was Gertrude Richards, my grandmother’s, autograph book from the 1880’s. After looking though the book, I decided that I need to do a little research on autograph books in general.  I found that they were common in the 1700’s in Europe among students to collect signatures and information about their friends and teachers.  Autograph books were introduced in the United States in the 1800's by immigrants and became particularly popular during and after the Civil War. The owners of the book gave them to their friends, relatives and schoolmates, who in turn might only sign their name, write a poem, or draw a picture.

I went back then and looked more closely at Granny’s book.  The first thing I discovered was that it was given to her by her Aunt Emily for Christmas in 1884.  I also found that the contents of the book were pretty typical of what I had read about.  There were several pages of drawing—a girl by a fence, a fan with the message to stay cool, and this my favorite—a dog and cat.  You can see that it was drawn in 1885 by Florence Marvin.

There were also pages that came with pictures already on them.  Granny’s cousin, Walter, signed this one.  By the way, he was the only male to sign the autograph book.

I am not sure that Agnes Nightingale picked this page because of the bird on it or not, but I thought it was a rather appropriate choice.

There were many poems—which in my research I discovered were available from books, magazines, etc.  Here are two.

Other people just signed their names with the date.

As I looked through the pages, I found two pages signed by women who I knew.  They were my Granny's friends her entire life.  In fact, I can remember visiting both of them, when I was a little girl. Lillie wrote a very brief poem,  

while her sister, Floyd, signed one of the pages with a picture on it.

While I never really thought about autograph books as a source of information for genealogy, this one definitely was.  First, I found that Granny's friends and family called her Gertie.  There were several pages where the person not only signed her name and the date, but also the place.  From that information, I was able to begin to pinpoint when Granny went to Packer. It was also possible to learn relationships.  Katherine Mallory indicated she was her "devoted cousin" and the giver of the book was Gertrude Richards's aunt,  Emily Cochrane.  I also was pleased to be able to see their handwriting and signatures.  

Of course, I would have a lot of questions for Granny.  Starting with who were all these girls, how did she know them, what did they do together and did she also sign their autograph books?  I think I might also ask her why Walter Cochrane was the only boy who signed.  Was that because she was going to an all girls school?  Was it just not something you asked boys to do?  

If you are wondering what happened to autograph books, they were replaced by school yearbooks. Remember signing the yearbooks of your friends?  I do.  That reminds me, maybe I should get them out and read what my friends and teachers wrote.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

#88--Eva Cochrane Goes to School in the 1860's

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my grandmother, Gertrude Richards, and her experiences as a student at Packer Collegiate Institute in the late 1880’s.  When I finished reading the catalogs that covered her years at Packer, I had a little more time left at the Brooklyn Historic Society.  My cousin, Mary, had told me that she thought that one of Granny Hannah’s aunt may also have gone to Packer.  Packer officially opened in 1854, after the Brooklyn Female Academy was destroyed in a fire. From looking at her aunts in my tree, I thought that  Evalina Blanche Cochrane would be the most likely one.  She was born in 1853, probably in Rochester, New York.  By 1855 her father, William Cochrane, had moved his family to Brooklyn, New York.  So it was entirely possible that my great Aunt Eva was a student at Packer.

To try and find her, I used the same technique that I used to find my grandmother.  Fortunately, those early catalog listed all the students as well as the teachers and Board of Trustees.  So I was able to look at each catalog to see if she was listed as a student.  I was so excited to find her in the 1864, 1865, and 1866 catalogs.  As luck would have it, I ran out of time so I am not sure how long Aunt Eva remained at Packer. 

The catalogs provided a very complete description of the school and the education that the students received.  The structure was simpler than it was in the 1890’s when Gertrude Richards was there. .The school was divided into three departments:  Collegiate, Academic, and Preparatory.  At that time, there was no Primary Department.  The Academic Department was further split into three divisions:  first, second, and third, while the Collegiate Department had two:  Junior and Senior.  The students were not listed by department except in 1886, when Eva was in the Preparatory Department.  However, given her age of about 10 to 12, my best guess is that for all the years that I could locate Eva she was in the Preparatory Department.  So I decided to look more closely at what the Preparatory Department was like.  The catalog described that department like this:

To me, the curriculum looked pretty much what you would expect for what we now would call an elementary school child—reading, spelling, arithmetic, history, etc.   I was interested in their listing the books that were used so I decided to see if I could find them on the internet.  I was able to find all of them and they were fascinating.  Cornell’sPrimary Geography and Cornell’s Intermediate Geography, turned out to be the first two of a series of three geography books.  If you look at them, you will see that they are arranged primarily into a question and answer format and also indicates what the teacher could or should say.   Stoddard’s Mental Arithmetic has some suggestions for teachers.  I was really surprised to read that questions should be asked promiscuously!  The least common definitions for that word is irregularly—which makes a lot more sense that the current more common definition.  Perhaps the most interesting was Peterson’s Familiar Science, which was written to explain science in everyday life.  If you have a minute, you may want to look at the science experiments at the end of the book—some reminded me of the science fairs of today.

I would so like to talk to Aunt Eva, and ask her about being a Packer student.  It would be nice to know how long she went there, what the building was like inside, what she thought of her studies, . what she and her friends did during their free time at school, and whether any of her sisters also went to Packer?  Since she attended school during the Civil War, I also would like to know whether or not, that affected her experiences.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

#87--Traveling with Chester Ingersol Richards

I have blogged before (#14--Mail for you--Chester Richards) about my collection of old postcards.  Some of them are over 100 years old, they have been sent to my great grandmother, grandmother, parents, and me.  Others have been purchased; before the days of digital photography, you were never knew whether or not the pictures you took would come out.  So those postcards were a backup to the photographs. 

Since it is summer and people are traveling, I thought I would blog again about some of my old postcards.  I never realized the amount of  genealogical information that you could get from a
postcard.  Not only do you know when and where the sender was and what the sender was doing, you also learn where the receiver lived and perhaps their relationship to the sender.  If you have those cards over time, you may be able to see when and where the receiver moved. 

My great uncle Chester (Chet)  Ingersol Richards was a great traveler and sender of postcards.  I have cards that he to his mother, Mary Jane Cochrane Richards, his brother, William F. Richards,his sister, Gertrude Richards Hannah and other relatives.   From city directories I knew where they lived, but the postcards gave me additional information.  For example I found that in 1905 Mary Jane Richards was visiting her daughter, Gertrude, in Auburn, because the card was sent to Gertrude’s husband’s office.  Chet and his brother, Will, were business partners.  I learned the address of that business because he always wrote his brother at their business address— 59-61 Reade Street, NYC.

Unfortunately, Chet was not a great correspondent.  All of the postcards below have pretty much the same message.  "Leave tomorrow....Much love, Chet."

This card he sent to his aunt, Emily Cochrane in March of 1908

This one from Constantinople was sent to his sister, Gertrude Richards Hannah in 1909.

His brother, William Fisher Richards received this card from Switzerland.  Unfortunately the date is not readable.  

Now I love to travel so I would really like to have a long conversation with Uncle Chet.  I would want to know where his favorite places were, what he liked to do on his travels, what steamships he took, and what advice he would give me about traveling.  I would also be interested in his reaction to learning that now we can fly to Europe from the United States in less than 7 hours.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#86--Gertrude Richards Goes to Packer Collegiate Institute

Packer Collegiate Institutue
The women in my family have a long history of attending Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  My grandmother, mother, and assorted aunts and cousins all went to Packer.  I also went there.  I recently was at the Brooklyn Historic Society and was able to look at some very early Packer catalogs.  I was anxious to see what I could learn about my grandmother, Gertrude Richards’s education at Packer.  The catalogs contained a wealth of information:  the names of all students, teachers, and trustees; the curriculum for each grade; admissions and attendance requirements; and tuition rates.  At the time she was there, Packer was divided into 4 departments:  Primary, Preparatory, Academic, and Collegiate.  Each was divided into grades, the number of which changed over the years. The highest grade in each department was called the first grade with the lowest either the fourth or third.

Based on her date of birth and some information I had from her autograph book, I guessed that Gertrude Richards was a student there in 1886.  I started by looking at that 1886 catalog and found Gertrude Richards in the Primary Department in Grade 1.  I went back and found her in 2nd grade in
Gertrude Richards
1885 and in the 3 grade in 1884.  I did not find her in any earlier.  I then went forward and found that she was at Packer until 1889, when she completed Grade 1 in the Preparatory Department.

The curriculum looks very similar to what students study today.  The Primary Department described the curriculum as follows:  “In addition to instruction in arithmetic, geography, and reading, careful attention is given from the first to writing and outline drawing.  There is daily use of “Elementary Lessons in English” and a lesson in French or in German is given at least three times a week.”   The Preparatory Department’s curriculum was as follows:  “Pupils are required to pass searching examinations in Arithmetic, Grammar and Geography.  The history of the United States is studied.  Two lessons a week are given in a modern language.  The students of this department have regular excises in reading and writing.  They also have lessons twice a week in drawing.  Special attention is given to spelling and composition, and there are oral lessons in literature. “

The school year, which was divided into four terms, began in mid-September and ended in early June.  There were vacations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Washington’s Birthday.  School began at 9 a.m. and ended at 2 with a half hour recess at noon.  Tuition per term in 1885 ranged from $16 for the Primary Department to $35 for the Collegiate Department.

Some of the things in the catalog seemed very familiar to me as a Packer student.   One was the
The Library
library: I remember spending study hall in that library.  At that time the library contained about 5000 volumes, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, classics, sciences, and literature.   Then, the library looked like this and it looked very much the same when I was at Packer.

When I was a Packer student, there were many different sports teams and great rivalry between the classes to win various physical education awards which they called calisthenics.
So I was interested to see that that emphasis had much earlier roots.  All students were given daily instruction in physical exercises, which the catalog stated improved the health of the student body.

One of my fondest memories of Packer was the daily chapel service, which brought together the entire student body.  The catalogs do not refer to a chapel service but rather to daily opening
The Chapel
exercises, where the 600 voice chorus (that would be the entire student body) sang.  Not only did they sing from what I read, they practiced for 30 minutes during Term I and 15 minutes for the other terms.  That was a far cry from our choir, which sung once a week.  However, the student body did sing several hymns during each chapel service.

I do not remember talking with Granny about her years at Packer, but I wish I could.  I would like to know where she went to school before she entered Packer and if she received any other education after she left.  I also would like to know how she got there as it was a very long walk from her house.  I would like to know what she liked the best and least about her education.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

#86--Genealogy on the Road--Part 2

Last week I blogged about the research part of my genealogy tour with the New England Historic and Genealogy Society.  However, it was not all research; we also went to several places that fit nicely into genealogy.  So this week, I will blog about those.

Late Wednesday afternoon, we went to the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  The Museum has several different tour, focusing on various aspects of the immigrant experience in New York.  We did the Shop Life tour, and learned about the saloon run in
Lower East Side
the 1870’s by John and Caroline Schneider.  I was surprised to learn that at that time there were about 129 saloons in the neighborhood.  It was not that the German immigrants drank too much, the saloons served as gathering places for the residents.  The apartments were so small and cramped that one could not invited people over, rather they met in the local saloon.  I was particularly interested in seeing the tenement Museum because my immigrant ancestors the Wendels and the Minarciks settled on the lower East Side when they came over from Germany.  I also realized that the Wendels lived on the block, Allen Street, behind Orchard Street

The next day we got up early and took our bus to Brooklyn to visit Green-Wood Cemetery.  That is a place I am very familiar with.
Main Gate of Green-Wood Cemetery
Minerva Saluting the
Statue of Liberty
 My parents, grandparents, great grandparents and assorted cousins are all buried there.  It is also where I am planning on spending eternity.  Green-Wood goes back to the mid-1800’s and the rural cemetery movement.  It is 478 acres of rolling hills, winding roads, grass and trees.  We stopped at several places:  the memorial to the Civil War Soldiers, the Statue of Minerva, who is saluting the Statue of Liberty, and several interesting tombs and mausoleums.  I was particularly surprised that one mausoleum has both light and heat!

Saturday was devoted to going to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island.  I am embarrassed to admit that as a native New Yorker I had never visited Lady Liberty.   The views of
Statue of Liberty
the Statue from the boat were wonderful.  She just got bigger and bigger.   After going though security for the second time after arriving that the statue, we took the elevator to the top viewing platform.  We could see lower Manhattan with the new World Trade Center, Brooklyn and its bridge, Staten Island, and New
Lady Liberty from below
Jersey.  We walked down to the other viewing platforms and eventually reached the bottom.  I was fascinated by the different views of the Statue when seen from below rather than straight on.

Then, it was on to Ellis Island.  Now I had been to Ellis Island, right after it opened; since then it has expanded a great deal.  There are several options:  We did the audio tour of the immigrant experience.
Ellis Island
 In other words, we followed the path an arriving immigrant would take as she or he tried to enter the United States.  My great grandmother and father, Maria and Louis Eitelbach, came through Ellis Island in 1896 along with their 3 oldest sons.  One of those sons was my grandfather.  I thought a lot about how that experience must have been for them.

If I could talk to my ancestors, I would have several questions.  I would like to ask the Wendels and Minarciks what their life was like on the Lower East Side.  How many people lived in their tenement?  Did they often go to a saloon?  For my great grandmother, Maria Eitelbach, I would ask how long their voyage lasted?   How did she manage her three small children on the ship?  How long did it take for them to get through Ellis Island?  Were there any delays?  If so, what?