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?