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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

#84--William Cochrane--Help Me Decide What to Do with this Sofa






When working on my family tree, I am always so delighted when I find something out purely by accident, and even more delighted when it clarified or adds to what I know. I had that happen last week.  I was searching on the Brooklyn Historic Society’s webpage and noticed that online they had a newspaper entitled the Brooklyn Evening Star, a paper I had never heard of. Since it was searchable, I tried a couple of names from my Richards line with no results.  Then I switched to my Cochrane line, using William Cochrane.

William Cochrane is my great great grandfather. He was born in London England in 1810 and came to the United States about 1833 or 34. Originally he and his family settled in Buffalo, New York, and then Rochester, New York. Sometime in the 1850’s, he moved his family to Brooklyn. The census for 1840 and 1850 listed his occupation as upholster. So I thought I understood what he did—he put material on furniture.  That is, until I saw the search results from the Brooklyn Evening Star.  I found  two different ads.

The one from 1855 states that he and John Willens were in business together at 106 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.  They offered a variety of services:  upholstery, rug cutting, paper hanging, curtain and drapery making as well as mattresses. The second ad from 1857 shows that William Cochrane was now in business for himself. He offered the same services, but indicated that all the work was done under his supervision.  So I assume that he had men working for him.

Being a curious person, I googled the word upholsterer and learned that in England in the 1700 and 1800’s, upholsterers often were in charge of decorating entire rooms, not covering the furniture. That certainly fits with his advertisements I found.

Several years ago, my cousin, Alice, gave me pictures of William Cochrane’s living room on Fort Greene Place, in Brooklyn.  Thanks to Photoshop Elements, I was able to lighted them up and was better able to see all the details.




If I were able to talk to William Cochrane about his work, I would want to ask how he learned to be an interior decorator, what was his favorite decorating style, and why decided to move his business to Brooklyn.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

# 83--"The Daring Young Man on the Trapeze"




I  am always interested in what my ancestors did during their lives.  When it comes to making a living, typically men were farming or running a businesses, and women were housewives.  So when I find someone who is not doing one of those things, it is a real surprise.  That was the case with my great, great uncle, James Willey,  at least that was the way he was in the census records when he was a child.  In the documents that I have from my great aunt, his name is James Montania Singuior Willey.  I always thought that was a pretty unusual name to give a child, particularly since his siblings did not have such long or fancy names.

One of the joys of genealogy is to work with other people who are related to you.  In May two of my cousins, Anna and Pam, and I decided it was time to research the men in the Willey family, specifically, James, George, Richard and Samuel.  We had no trouble finding documented facts about George, Richard, and Samuel, but James disappeared.  There was no information that we could find about him.  One of our hypotheses was that he had died or moved to a foreign county.  So imagine my delight to get an e-mail from Anna with the Heading “I have found James Willey.”  While looking at the census for the nephew of James Willey, listed was the name Sig.  Montanio.  That sounded rather like our James Willey so Anna checked the person’s birth information and that of the parents and they matched our James Willey exactly.  Most interesting was his occupation—he definitely was more than a farmer—his occupation was listed as “farmer and showman.“

So once we had a lead about James Willey new name, we went to work.  Collectively, we look at various records on Ancestry and Family Search, searched the newspapers in Chronicling America and newpapers.com, and googled Sig. Montanio.

So what did we find?  First of all, he married Josephine Greenwald (aka Greenwalt or Greenwaldt or Grunwald or Greenevault), in Sheridan, Huron, Michigan in May 1877. James and Josephine had four children:  Harry (1877-1947), James “Perry” (1880-1952), Minnie E. (1887-1950) and Charlotte M. (1889-1949). Most surprising was his profession listed on their marriage license:  “circus performer.”

  So we assumed that for performing he changed his name.  I do think that Sig.  Montanio sounds much more exotic than James Willey.  According to the newspaper articles, James or Sig. Montanio performed as an acrobat, trapeze artist and high wire walker.  And from looking at the newspaper articles, he was very good.  Performing was a family affair.  His wife had a musical act and played the banjo while his two sons also performed, sometimes as clowns and other times as acrobats.  His two daughter, Minnie and Lottie do not seem to have ever performed in the circus.

In addition to performing, over the years, James ran several circuses - Montanio's Great New York Show; Montanio's Mexican Show, etc - To see more information on the Montanio circus act, you can go to   Circus History   and search under "M."  From a timeline that Anna put together from newspaper articles about the shows, it appears that James and his family were involved in the circus world until 1898.

We have not been able to find James “Sig. Montanio” in the 1900 census. However, he does appear in the 1910 census in Crook National Forest, Gila, Arizona.  He is listed as a widow and as a rancher.  James died on November 8, 1918 in Pinal County, Arizona.  According to the local newspaper, he was camping, became sick and froze to death while returning to town, probably to seek treatment for his illness.

While I always have questions, I would like to ask my ancestors, but in this case I would have lots of questions.  First, I would like to know when, why and how he joined the circus.  Then I would like to find out when and why he left.  I also would like some clarification about what he did after he left the circus—did he always ranch or have another occupation.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Brooklyn: History and Ancestors

Current View of Brooklyn

I have not blogged in a while for a couple of reasons.  First, I was visiting some long-time friends and once I returned home, I needed to complete a presentation for my Learning in Retirement group.  In that group we take a topic and then each one of us does a presentation on some part of the topic that appeals to us.  The topic for the winter was Cities.  After some thought and with the urging of some members, I decided to focus on Brooklyn, New York.  My family had roots there, I grew up there, and I realized I knew very little about the history of Brooklyn.  As I did my research, I was amazed at how I could connect the history of Brooklyn with the activities of some of my ancestors.

During the 1800’s Brooklyn’s population increased greatly and it moved from being a farming community to an industrial city.  The population increase was due to people moving in both from New England and from Europe, particularly Germany and Ireland.  That fit with what I knew about my family’s Brooklyn roots.  My father’s family, the Richards, settled in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1634.  Edward Richards, the immigrant ancestor, acquired a great deal of land that for many
Early Downtown Brooklyn
generations was subdivided and left to various heirs for farms.  However, by the mid 1800’s the amount of land that would be inherited was not enough to sustain a farm.  That led to individuals moving to other locations.  I had always wondered why the Richards came to Brooklyn, so I was interested to learn that many New Englanders resettled in Brooklyn.  My great uncle, Abner Richards moved to Brooklyn in the 1850’s and my great grandfather, Abiathar Richards, moved there by 1860 to live with his brother and remained in Brooklyn for the rest of his life.  My mother’s family, the Eitelbachs came to Brooklyn in a second wave of immigration from Germany in the 1890’s.  They too settled in Brooklyn where there was a large Germany population, and probably more importantly where my great grandmother’s brother, Franz (Frank) Huelster had already settled.

You cannot talk about Brooklyn without talking about the Brooklyn Bridge.  One of the reasons the bridge was built was to make it much easier for the people in Brooklyn, who worked in Manhattan, to get to work.  If the river was rough or frozen, the ferries that took them across the East River did not run.  My great grandfather, Abiathar Richards, lived in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn and
Fireworks Over Brooklyn Bridge
worked in Manhattan, but I never gave much thought to how he got there.  In fact, until I read about the reasons for building the bridge, I never thought about it at all.  So after 1883, when the bridge opened, he no longer needed to take the ferry, he could go across the bridge in a horse-drawn vehicle.  What I do remember is my grandmother telling me that she walked over the bridge on the first day it was opened.  She would have joined the more than 150,000 who also walked across the first day.  I wonder if she also was able to see the fireworks that were displayed that night.

When I was young, it was a treat to go to Coney Island and ride on the carousel or when I was older to go to Steeplechase.  My mother, however, said that when she was young, they went to Luna Park.  Luna Park opened in 1903 and was illuminated with over 1 million lights, quite an achievement at a time when public light was not common.  Included in the original park were rides, like trips to the moon or under the sea, replicas of different counties like Switzerland, and re-creations of events like the destruction of Pompeii.
Luna Park
As time went on, newer rides were added, e.g. a roller coaster, bumper cars, Tilt a Whirl, etc.  Luna Park burned down in the 1940’’s.

If I could talk to these ancestors, I would like to ask the Richards and Eitelbachs, why they moved and more specifically, why they moved to Brooklyn.  I would like to ask my grandmother about her experiences when the Brooklyn Bridge opened, and my mother about exactly what she did when she went to Luna Park.

Friday, February 12, 2016

#81 Happy Valentine's Day


Esther Howland Card














With Valentine’s Day this coming weekend, I was reminded that I had some wonderful old Valentine postcards that were sent to my father in the early 1900’s.   I wondered about the history of Valentine’s Day cards, so it was off to the internet to do some research.   What did I find?  Briefly, beginning in the 1600’s it was not uncommon to give small gifts, poems, and notes expressing affection.   In the early 1800’s printed cards gained in popularity.  In England, cards were made out embossed paper and lace.  Having received one of those cards, Esther Howland in Worcester Massachusetts began printing similar cards in the United States.

While very fancy Valentine Day cards replete with real bird feathers, glass tokens, and dried flowers were popular during the Victorian Era, by 1900 printed Valentine postcards became popular. While the format may have changed the messages pretty much remained the same—sentimental expressions of affection.  I was interested to learn that recipients typically kept their cards, often putting them in albums.  I do have an album of cards collected by my mother, but the cards from my father’s family were kept in a box in the basement!

Here are a couple of the postcards that I particularly like:


The verse reads "My heart is small, but it true,
And I will offer it to you"

It was send in 1911, when my father was 7 years old.  It came from Auburn, New York so I think it may have been sent by his cousins, the Rosses, who in their message ask if he has reached the stage of having a girl friend yet.

This next one came from Manchester, New Hampshire in 1910 from Nellie.  I have no idea who Nellie was, but she asked if he remembered her helping him send out Valentines last year and hopes he gets lots of them this year.



This last one was send without a message, but by the handwriting I am betting that it was send by his mother,  The message is 
"When looking for someone to love you a lot,
I am hoping that you will forget me not"

If you like old postcards, you might want to look at my Pinterest Board:  Vintage Postcards.  I have lots of Valentine cards as well as card for most other holidays.  

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

#80 Chronicling John Wesley Hannah Part II

Last week I blogged about how I searched the newspapers in Chronicling America and the information I found about the Palace Hotel and John Wesley Hannah.  However, as I noted there were 86 other articles in the Butler Missouri papers about John Wesley Hannah, which did not involve the hotel.  As I read them, I learned that he was much more than a hotel owner and manager.

John Wesley Hannah with daughters
The Palace Hotel was not his only building.  He also owned the building on the north east corner of the town square.  I believe that is the building he used for the mercantile store that he ran when he first moved to Butler.  According to an article on March 7, 1888, the building was destroyed by fire; however, John Wesley Hannah had it insured for $1000 and that covered the cost of the loss.  In addition, in November of 1891 he in partnership with J. J. McKissick bought the new building on the south side of the town square.

In the late 1880’s John Wesley was involved in the politics of Butler and Bates County.  In 1888 he was nominated by the Republican Party to run for representative for the 12th election district.  He lost that election to a Mr. Stone.  However, he was not through with politics.  In 1889 in a local convention called by four of the leading citizens of Butler, he was nominated for mayor.  He seemed to be a somewhat reluctant candidate as he said he would accept the nomination only if the others, e.g. aldermen, also accepted their nominations.  Since two of the men declined to run, it appears that John Wesley did not run either.  It also seems that John Wesley traveled for political reasons.  In August of 1888 he travel to New York to welcome James G, Blaine home (Blaine was a candidate for president as far as I can tell.) and in 1889 John Wesley traveled to Washington, D. C.

Community affairs also took up time.  Beginning in 1884 until 1887, he was the chairperson of the committee that raised the money and negotiated for a railroad to come to Butler.  It does not appear that the committee was successful. In April of 1889 he and Representative Wade settle a dispute over who would become the next postmaster in Butler.  In that same year he was elected chairperson of the Gas and Water Committee.  In 1890 he was on a committee to beautify the nearby lake and land surrounding it.

I also found more personal information about him.  I learned that he was a founding member of the Butler Masonic Lodge, was involved in a physical dispute with another gentlemen, and was quite sick in March of 1888.  However, what surprised me the most was a small article from 1886 that read as follows:  “Capt. Hannah has brought quite a herd of cattle up from his ranch in Indian Territory and will stall feed them for the markets.”  While one of the censuses describes him as a cattle rancher, I had no idea that the cattle were on a ranch that he ran in Indian Territory.

While it took me a long time to get these articles organized, it was well worth it.  I now have a much greater understand of John Wesley Hannah.  However, there is more to learn.  The newspapers also have articles about his children.  In addition, I have finally figured out how to read the articles from the Butler Bates County Record, 1868-1878 on the State Historical Society of Missouri so there is more to search.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

#79 Chronicling John Wesley Hannah in Chronicling America



When researching my ancestors, one of the things I like is to find out more about them than when they were born, married, and died.  Know how they earned a living, where they lived, if they traveled, etc. makes them come alive for me.

Last winter I was introduced to a wonderful source for adding other information.  The Library of Congress in Chronicling America has local newspapers on line.  Now if you are thinking they have newspapers from only big cities on line, you are wrong.  They focused on papers from small towns and cities all over the United States.  In fact they have 1967 papers which were published from 1836 to 1932.  As far as I can tell, they have papers from all the states with the exception of Hawaii and Alaska.

I love to read these local papers.  They give me a pictures of life in America at a simpler time.  Also they report all kinds of events that would never make it into the papers today.  I was pleased to find out that one of the papers on line was the
Butler Weekly Times and  the Butler Daily Democrat.  My great grandfather, John Wesley Hannah, moved to Butler in 1866.  Now I could search and see what the paper reported about him and his family.

There are several ways to search.  I think that the advanced search options are the best as you can narrow down the hits to those you are most interested in.  I learned that it is important to know how the paper referred to the person you are interested in.  When I tried John W. Hannah or J. W. Hannah, I got very little.  By reading what I did get, I discovered that the paper often referred to him as Capt. Hannah.  When I used that in the phrase box, I got numerous and appropriate hits.  It is also possible to combine two key words.  Because John Wesley Hannah was the proprietor of the Palace Hotel and I wanted to know more about the hotel, I put Palace Hotel into the search box and check the Butler
papers.  That gave me a very large number of hit.  When I looked, all the stores that were located on the first floor of the hotel and who advertised came up.  That was interesting, but not what I wanted. I narrow the hits down by adding Capt. Hannah.  I still got a large number of hits but they were all appropriate.

It is possible to save the entire page of the paper that has the article you are interested in or to use the snipping tool and just save the article.  The problem with the first strategy is that you will not know where on the page the article is and the problem with the second strategy is that you will not know the date of the article.  I ended up saving just the article, but putting the date into the file name.

There are 36 articles that focused on the Palace Hotel and John Wesley Hannah and 81 articles on John Wesley Hannah.  I have downloaded the articles on the Palace Hotel.  Some of them report on events that happened at the hotel.  There were parties, marriages and conventions.  Other articles described the improvements that John Wesley Hannah was making to the hotel—redecorating rooms, painting the outside of the hotel or adding a billiard table.

My next task is to read the 81 articles on John Wesley Hannah.  I know that there will be some overlap with the articles on the Palace Hotel but I expect to find out more about his life apart from the hotel.   Stay tuned.  Next week I will blog about what I found on John W. Hannah.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

#78--Organizing the Minarciks, Eitelbachs, Cochranes, and Richards




Over the years I have collected an awful lot of papers pertaining to various ancestors.  Some of them are organized into folders, others are in notebooks and still others are loose.  So my resolution for this year in terms of genealogy was to get those papers organized.

 I looked at a variety of different methods for organizing them:    How to Organize Your Files;   Organizing your Records. You can use file folders, notebooks, and numbering systems.  I decided that the notebook scheme would work best for me.  I used loose leaf notebooks to organize my courses when I taught, so this seemed comfortable for me.

Not wanting to get totally overwhelmed, I decided to begin with the lines of my grandparents—Richards, Hannah, Eitelbach and Minarcik.  So the first step was to buy four notebooks, each a different color.  That way each line is a different color and I can tell at a glance what the line is.  I also bought clear plastic page protectors, and section dividers.  Now I had no excuse.  I decided to start with the shortest line, the Minarciks,  as it would be the easiest and would give me some sense of accomplishment as well as find out if this was really going to work for me.

I began by sorting the pages into categories by person—Regina, Charles Jr., Charles Sr. and Joseph.  For each person then put the pages in order—I wanted each person’s section to begin with the basic information--a family group sheet and if it was available:  birth, marriage and death records.
 Then, I wanted to put in the census information, followed by whatever other information I had.  For example, Charles, Sr. Pension File from the Indian War would go after the census.

At the beginning of each notebook, I put a pedigree chart.  Then, for each person, beginning with the most recent one, I put each page into its page protector and then into the notebook—maroon for the Minarciks.  Each person separated by a page divider.

There is one thing missing—a list of what I have for each person.  I looked at some checklists on line, but I want to come up with my own checklist for each person that will tell me exactly what I have in terms of documentation as well as what I do not have.  There is one other loose end.  I have not decided what to do with the pictures I have of people.  They are generally of odd sizes so typical picture pages will not work and I think they could end up in a heap in the bottom of a page protector.
So what is my reaction to this method of organizing?  So far, I am pleased with it.  All the information for the Minarcik line is in one place.  I can easily find what I am looking for.  It would be easy to add additional documents.  On the negative side, it took me a good deal of time to organize a rather short line.