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, September 24, 2019


This week’s theme is cousins.  While doing genealogy, I have met several new cousins.    I am going to blog about the two I have worked with the most.  I met Anna when we were both working on our Hannah lines.  One of the first things we did was figure out how we were related.  As it turned out, we were both descended from John Wesley Hannah and his wife, Jennie Sophia Willey.  He was my great grandfather, and Anna’s great great grandfather.  But there was more.  Her  grandfather’s family was in the military and was often stationed overseas.  When that happened, her grandfather stayed with my father’s family. 

The real fun began when Anna and I started to post Hannah family pictures and we tried to figure out who the people were.  Some we knew right off the bat--others were a puzzle--Like the picture to the left.  We know that the man is John Wesley Hannah , we think the woman in the back on the right is his daughter, Marinda--the other two are a mystery, perhaps friends of Marinda.  We sent pictures  back and forth, comparing the faces with those we knew were correct or until we decided we just did not know.  Eventually Anna and I met when I went to Washington D. C. on a New England Historic and Genealogy Tour.

Harry and Perry Willey
Then along came Pam.  Pam is a granddaughter of Jennie Willey and was able to fill in a great deal of information about that branch of our tree.  Jennie had  8 brothers and sisters.  The one that was most confusing was James Willey, whose name was once in a while written as James "Sig Montanio "Willey.  Then one day, Anna was looking at a census of the Willeys and founds a Sig Montanio.  The age, birth location etc. all matched James Willey.  So the three of us started in to figure out this little puzzle.   We were able to figure out the genealogy and why the name change.  It turned out that James joined a circus as an acrobat, wire walker and later running a traveling circus.  We found pictures of his two sons, who worked as clowns and acrobats, information about the circuses he ran and numerous newspaper  articles about the performances.

I love to work with others on a family line and am happy to share what I know.   I know only certain information and often they know different information. 


Monday, September 16, 2019

#196 So Many John Hannahs

This week’s theme is mistakes.  Errors are easy to make in genealogy, particularly when you do not have a lot of information or when a number of people have the same name.

I have 11 John Hannah’s in my tree.  I also have several with a different first name, but John as their middle name, e.g. John Hannah Turner. In some way or another they are all related, often lived in the same area and farmed.  The ones I am most interested in are John M. Hannah and John Wesley Hannah, my great great and great grandfathers.

It was easy for me to mix them up.  So I had to come up with ways to separate them. 
John Wesley Hannah with his daughters, Tim and Toots

One way to keep them straight is to use their middle names, if they have them.  So John Gates Hannah, John Gray Lawrence Hannah,  and John Bayard Hannah are easy to keep straight as long as they are referred to  with their middle names.  If not, dates of birth can distinguish them.  The dates of birth range from 1799 (John M. Hannah) to John Clifford Hannah (1919).  Location also helps.  The earlier John Hannahs tended to live in Brown County, Ohio or Edgar County, Illinois.  As time passed, some moved to places like Missouri or Colorado.  So if a John Hannah turns up in California, I will check him out, but can be pretty sure he is not one of mine.

The lesson I learned from all these John Hannah’s is be careful and check to make sure you have the correct one.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

#195-- Richards Hannah Goes Back to School

Poly Prep

This week’s theme is schools.  How appropriate as most students are now back at school.  I have previous blogged about my grandfather attending Wentworth Academy and Dickinson College as well as my great Aunt going to Baird.  So I decided I would blog about Poly Prep County Day School (Poly), where my father was a student.

Poly was started in 1854 at 99 Livingston Street, Brooklyn.  The academic program was very strong and equal to the programs at elite boarding schools. A variety of extracurricular activities evolved:  a newspaper, drama society, debate. Students wanted more athletic opportunities.  In 1916 part of the Dyker Meadows Golf Course was purchased and the school was incorporated as the Polytechnic Preparatory Country Day School.  350 students arrived in 1917.  Students stayed after school to engaged in after school activities, typically sports.  Poly was all boys until 1979, when girls were admitted.

Richards Hannah in Lacrosse Sweater
In the family that does not throw out anything of sentimental value, I have the yearbook, The Polyglot, from my father’s senior year.  It is a pretty typical yearbook—pictures of students by class, pictures of the faculty,  pictures of various athletic teams, clubs, etc.

I knew that my father played hockey and lacrosse at Poly, but I learned that he was also on the soccer team, and was its captain.

He was  Vice President of the Oasis Society.  According to the Poly website, the Oasis Society “recognizes leadership and accomplishment that benefit our school, aiming to promote school spirit and service to the school community.” In addition, he was in charge of refreshments for the Senior Dance.

Oasis Society--R.W. Hannah--Second Row Second from Left

When talking about his time at Poly, my father tended to talk about the sports he was involved in and his friends.  I wish I had asked him more about the academic side of his experiences there.

Lacrosse Team  R. W. Hannah-First row third from left.

Monday, September 2, 2019

#194--Shoes and More Shoes

My grandfather, William D. Hannah was in the shoe business.  He had a shoe factory in 
W.D. Hannah Shoe Factory--Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Newburyport, Massachusetts and another in Dobbs Ferry, New York in the early 20th century.  He also had a showroom on Duane Street in New York City.

 At that time, the way to advertise was to send catalogs or flyers to businesses.  I am fortunate to have  several of his catalogs.  Some were fairly simple and others were rather elaborate.

 Here are a couple of my favorites:

I love to look at the shoes in the catalogs. There are shoes for women as
well as boots. I would love to wear either of these pink shoes.

Just look at all the colors those shoes come in.

I am not sure whether this is a shoe or a boot.  I love the buttons, but think it would take me a long
time to get them buttoned up.  Want to know how much they cost?  See that number at the button.  That is the price, but you have to read it backward.  The shoe/boot costs $1.60.