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 14, 2018

#140--Catherine.Hannah--Youngest Sister

This week’s theme is youngest.  I decided that I would blog about my great grandfather’s youngest sister, Catherine, as I knew very little about her.

Catherine was born on October 2, 1836 to John M. and Charity (Mears) Hannah.  Catherine was their youngest child and their sixth daughter.  Catherine had three older brothers—George Newell Hannah, Oliver Hannah, and John Wesley Hannah, and five sisters--Sarah Ann, Nancy, Elizabeth, Albertine, and Mary Sayres.  When Catherine was six, her mother died.  Since her father did not remarry, I suspect that she was raised by her older sisters.

On July 25, 1855 Catherine married William S. O’Hair.  In the 1860 census William is described as a farmer with real estate valued at $8000.00 and person property valued at $2000.00.  Living with them was a 7 year old girl, named Margaret E. Devers.  I cannot determine why she was there.  There are indeed Devers in Edgar County, but could not figure out what her relationship was to the O'Hairs and none is listed in the census.  Ten years later, in 1870, William S. O’Hair was described as a stock dealer with real estate valued at $2500.00 and property valued at $6475.00.  William also served as the sheriff as Edgar County.  Catherine died in 1870.  She is buried in the Hannah Family Plot in the Edgar
Cemetery in Paris Illinois.

I still do not know much about Catherine.  I would like to know if she went to school, how her brothers and sisters treated her, what it was like to be married to the sheriff, and who Margaret Devers was.  I also am curious about why she is buried in the Hannah cemetery plot and not her husband's family lot.

Monday, August 6, 2018

#139 William Fisher Richards--Oldest Picture

Tintype Camera

Oldest?  Oldest ancestor?  Oldest document?  Oldest brick wall?  Oldest picture?  All were possibilities for this week’s theme, but the one I liked the most was my oldest picture.  I inherited some very old tintypes of my ancestors.

If you have seen tintypes, you may know that the people look very stiff and formal and no one ever smiles.  That is because it took about a minute to get the image onto the iron plate (Yes, they are called tin types, but they are actually on sheets of iron.) and no one can smile for that length of time and not move their mouth.  Any movement will lead to a blurry image.  That is why they are stiff and unsmiling.

This is  William Fisher Richards, my great great uncle. He was born in 1879 so I am guessing he is about 6 or 7 in this picture.  There are many things I like about his picture.  The way his hair is parted, his big eyes, the hat that he is holding in this hands, and the fact that only one of his feet is on the floor.  The chair he is sitting in is pretty impressive, too.  That is a whole lot of fringe on the bottom!

I would love to know where it was taken, what if anything, he remembers about going to the "tintypists," how hard it was not to move, and if he ever wore that hat.

Monday, July 30, 2018

#138--Come Join the Circus--James Willey

When I think about people who are colorful, I think of circus performers.  All those brightly colored costumes, the lights, the loud and happy music contribute to the colorfulness of the entire circus.

I was certainly surprised to learn that James Willey, my great great uncle, was involved in the circus.  James was born in in Kankakee Illinois in 1850.  He married Josephine Greenwald.  James and  Josephine had four children:  Harry (1877-1947), James “Perry” (1880-1952), Minnie E. (1887-1950) and Charlotte M. (1889-1949).

In the articles about his life in the circus, you will not find him often listed as James Willey.  He changed his stage name to Signor  Montanio, which  sounds much more exotic.  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.  From the newspaper articles, it looks like James and his family were involved in the circus world until 1898.

Harry and Perry Montanio

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.

I would love to know about his life in the circus?  Why and how did he become a performer?  What was the favorite act that he performed?  What was it like to travel from town to town?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

# 137 New York, New York

Music, the theme for this week, had me stumped for a long time, until I read Amy Johnson Crow’s suggestion that a song might be appropriate.  That made me think of the lyrics from On the Town,   which begins as follows:

New York, New York
New York, New York
New York, New York
It's a wonderful town!

Evidently many of my ancestors thought that New York was a wonderful town because that is where they settled.

Willett Street
The first to come to New York were my great great grandparents, Joseph Munarzik, his wife Regina Wendel, and his children.  They arrived in New York in 1854.  As far as I can tell, they lived on the lower east side of Manhattan in the 17th District.  Interestingly, Regina Wendel’s parents came on the same ship and also lived on the lower east side.  After Joseph and his wife died, their children lived in the same house as the Wendels, 67 Willett Street, Manhattan,  New York.

Next to arrive from Europe were my great grandparents, Louis and Marie (Huelster) Eitelbach with four of their children.  They came in 1896 and originally lived at 1287 Greene Street, Brooklyn, New York, USA.  By 1912 they had moved to Queens, New York at 141 Napier.  Later on, the family lived in Hempstead and Richmond Hill, both in Queens

I have other ancestors, who originally lived somewhere else, and moved to Brooklyn.  William Cochrane, my great great grandfather, and his wife, Emma Merrett originally came from London, England in about 1835, settled in Buffalo, New York, and then in about 1840 moved to Brooklyn with their five children. They always lived at 124 Fort Greene Place.

Park Slope Brooklyn
The last to arrive in New York was my great great grandfather, Abiathar Richards.  He was born in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1837, lived while a boy with his Aunt Lavinia Richards and her husband, Seth Richards, in Newport, New Hampshire, and by 1860 he had moved to Brookklyn, New York to live with this brother, Abner Richards. In 1866 he married Mary Jane Cochrane, daughter of William Cochrane.  They moved into 124 Fort Greene Place and lived there until Abiathar’s death in 1905.  At that time his wife, Mary Jane, moved in with her daughter Gertrude, and her son-in-law, William D. Hannah.  Gertrude and William D. Hannah met in Auburn, New York while she was visiting her cousin, Lucy Pingree, fell in love, married in 1902 and shortly thereafter moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn.

I would like to be able to ask each of these families why they settled where they did and what their lives were like there.  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

#136--Traveling with Cousin Jean

This week’s theme is travel.  I have blogged about Chet Richards’s trips and the postcards , he sent to his family in the early 1900’s.  So when I saw the theme, I immediately thought of my postcards.  When I looked through them, I realized I had a number of them that my mother’s cousin, Jean Roberts had sent to her.

Cousin Jean was born 21 Sep 1906 Kings, New York, USA  Her parents were William Alexander and Christina (Minarcik) Roberts.  For her entire life, she was a Broklynite, until her death in May of 1977.


Cousin Jean loved to travel through New England.  In the Spring, she liked to see the flowers and in the Fall, the leaves turning different colors.  A dedicated “birder,” any time she traveled she looked for birds.  Cousin Jean had a novel way of deciding when to take her trips through New York so she would not miss what she wanted to see.  She worked in Brooklyn in one of the probation offices.  In that office, newly released prisoners needed to check in.  She always asked those coming from upstate New York about the condition of the trees and flowers!

Here are a couple of the postcards, she sent to my mother.

This is one from Bangall, New York:  She wrote:  

"Hi—I lived up to my reputation as being a drought-breaker—much rain and snow flurries predicted for today.  Have been getting good food and rest.  On Wednesday drove through an apple orchard on the way to Germantown.  I doubt I will continue to New Hampshire as I think there will be little in bloom up there with this weather."

Jean also liked to go to New Hampshire;  here is a card from Clarksville, where it seems all did not go well in the car department:

"This is one of my favorite views at or back at the White Mountains…Leaves just appearing and was like winter when I arrived.  Right now the proprietor is changing a flat tire for me."

And another from Connecticut Lake, New Hampshire:

"Finally reached my favorite birding spot near the Canadian Border.  Very crowded with fisherman for Memorial Weekend.  I was fortunate to get a cottage.  Was very cold until Saturday and much snow still in the woods and on shady roads.  I will probably take a slow route home via Maine.  From my cottage I can see Maine Mountains."

I wish I had asked Cousin Jean more about her trips.  It would be fun to know what was the most exciting things that happened, what places she did not like, if she was anxious about traveling along and if she had any experiences that could be considered dangerous.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

#135--Independence Day

It is July and the theme for this week is Independence.  That reminded me of Independence Day and the Fourth of July.  When I was little, Fourth of July was a big celebration.  There were parades with floats, bands playing patriotic music, dignitaries riding in cars and different groups marching.  Also there would always be flags flying, picnics, perhaps a fair with carnival rides, and of course, at night fireworks.

I have a virtual collection of Fourth of July postcards and decided I should some of them to illustrate this holiday.

Fighting for Liberty

Lady Liberty

Parade Time


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

#134--Andrew Cochrane-Johnstone and the Great Stock Market Fraud

London Stock Exchange

Practically all of my ancestors were law-abiding citizens.  They farmed, worked in various businesses, were good citizens, and did not get into much trouble.  So when I come across one who did not do that, I really like it.  My great times 3 grandfather, Andrew Cochrane Johnstone, certainly fits that later category.

 Andrew James Cochrane was born on May 24, 1767, in Scotland to Thomas Cochrane, the 8th Earal of Dundonald and Jean Stuart.  In 1793, he married Georgianna Johnstone, and took on her last name.  He served in the army, as a member of Parliament, and as governor of Domenica.  These posts were not without controversy, accusations, and trials.

However, of all the activities he engaged in, the most famous is known as the “Great Stock Exchange Fraud.”  In 1814 England was at war with France.  The English believed that shortly Napoleon would be defeated and the Bourbons would be restored to the throne of France.

On February 21, a Colonel du Bourg, who said he was the aide to the British Ambassador to Russia, landed in Dover.  He claimed that Napoleon was dead and the Bourbons were back on the throne.  After arranging for the information to be sent to the Admiralty in London by semaphore, he then set off for London himself, spreading the work of Napoleon’s death as he traveled.

Such welcome news was believed and had a very positive effect on the London Stock Market.  It rose dramatically.  While stock values briefly fell with no confirmation of the death, prices again rose, when three men dressed as French Offices rode through London, distributing flyers proclaiming “"Vive le Roi! Vivent les Bourbons!"  However, in the afternoon, when the British government could not confirm Colonel du Bourg’s announcement, it declared Napoleon’s death a hoax, and stock prices immediately fell to their former level.

Lord Thomas Cochrane
Fraud was suspected so the Committee of the Stock Exchange investigated.  It found that the previous week £1.1 million of government based stocks had been purchased and sold on February 21, when the price was high.   Andrew Cochrane Johnstone, Lord Thomas Cochrane, and Richard Butt, Lord Cochrane’s financial advisor and several others  were the ones that bought that stock and sold it at greatly inflated prices.  Also charged was Random De Berenger, who played the part of du Bourg. 

Andrew Cochrane Johnstone, who is believed to be the one who conceived this fraud, immediately proclaimed his innocence both in the newspapers and in Parliament.

The men were tried on June 8, 1814 and two days later a verdict of guilty was handed down.  Andrew Cochrane Johnstone was sentenced to a year in prison, a fine of one thousand pounds and an hour in the pillory.  However, before his sentence could be served, he fled England, never returned, and left several children with their mothers.

Andrew Cochrane-Johnstone died in Paris, France in May of 1833.

In a conversation, I would definitely have a few questions for Andrew.  First, were you the primary person who made up this story?  Did you really think it would succeed?  What about those children?  Did you provide for them after you left?  Did you ever have any contact with them?  Where did you go after you left England?  Any regrets?