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, 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?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#85 Genealogy on the Road

I spent last week in New York City on a genealogy research tour with the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS).  Since I grew up in Brooklyn, this was a tour that was just perfect for me.  I liked that the tour combined genealogical research with visiting places that involved immigrants coming to New York City.  I have relatives who lived in New York City since the mid 1850’s so this was an opportunity for me to find out more about them, particularly about how they lived and what they did.  This is the first of several blog posts that will focus on my research tour.  This one will just highlight where we went and what I found without going into any findings in depth.

We spent the major of our research time at the New York Public Library (NYPL).  While you may be familiar with the outside of the building with its magnificent lions, Patience and Endurance, what you may not know is that the inside is absolutely gorgeous. The marble interior is filled with artwork, sculpture, and polished wood.  It was amazing to be able to work there.  I requested a number of
Lion outside New York Public Library
books on Brown County, Ohio and used newspaper data bases that I were never available to me before.  My main focus for the NYPL was to expand my information about the Hannah’s in Brown County Ohio and to dig into the newspapers in Dedham Massachusetts and in the Caribbean. I was delighted to find that my great, great, great grandfather, James Hannah’s, will had been filed in Brown County, not Hamilton County where he died and where I had been looking for it and  find out more about the businesses that, Reuben Newell, my great, great grandfather, ran in Dedham.

We spent an all-to-brief afternoon at the Brooklyn Historic Society.  In their catalog I found the the archives for Packer Collegiate Institute, a school that my grandmother, mother, aunt and cousin had attended.  I also went there.  While I knew that my grandmother was a “Packer-Girl”, I was never exactly sure when she attended so I requested all the catalogs from 1865 to 1900.
Packer Collegiate Institute about 1890
At the library, I started to go through them year by year and it was not long before I found Gertrude Richards in the catalogs from the late 1880’s and early 1890’s along with curriculum.  I had a little more time at the Historical Society, which I used to find out whether or not any of my grandmother’s Cochrane aunts had also gone to Packer. And indeed one had; there in the in the 1865 and 1866 catalogs was Evalina Cochrane along with the curriculum for young women during the Civil War.  It is going to take me a while to figure out what kind of education each of them received.  The school was not divided into high and elementary school, but into various departments with several grades in each.

We also spent an afternoon at the New York City Municipal archives.  Several years ago, I had ordered death certificates for a number of my ancestors, so this was my opportunity to look at several more.  I knew exactly what I wanted there—death certificates for my Minarcik grandparents.  Despite
Ceiling Mosaic NY Municipal Archives
the fact that I have a love-hate relationship with microfilm machines, I did find both their certificates. By the way, the ceilings on the first floor of the archive building are covered with beautiful mosaics.

I am so pleased with all the information I found, and I will blog more about it later.  However, it is important to point out that I would not have been so successful had it not been for the very helpful librarians at each location and the genealogists from the NEHGS.

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.