Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: My Genealogy Life

Uh-oh, this could get scary.  This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver asked how much of your time is spent on genealogy:

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you to:

1)  Tell us about your "genealogy life."  How much genealogy and family history work do you do, on average, each week?  What tasks do you routinely perform every day, every month, every year?

2)  Share your genealogy life in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.

Ok, here's mine:

On a weekly basis, I probably spend between 60+ hours on genealogy in some form.  An average week with no other obligations:

• Doing research averages between four to six hours every day.  This encompasses research for clients, volunteer work, and my own family and extended family when I can fit it in.  This time includes data entry, report writing, and information sharing.

• Reading the blogs I follow on a regular basis takes about one to two hours every day.

• Social media suck up a lot of my time, even when I try to restrain myself.  I check genealogy-related content on Facebook daily and two to three times a week on Google+ and LinkedIn.  This runs to about 10 hours a week.

• I wish I wrote faster.  As it is, writing for my blog takes me at least 5–8 hours a week.  When I'm working on Who Do You Think You Are? posts, it can go as high as 15+ hours, because I spend so much time looking for the sources used on the programs so that everyone can see them.

• I usually watch three to four Webinars each week, for another 3–6 hours.

• Volunteer work is my other big time sink.  I'm on the boards of three organizations and the editor of three publications, I have a regular volunteer shift at the Family History Center, and the last time someone asked me to write down everything I do the list had more than 20 commitments.  Volunteer work easily takes at least 10–15 hours every week.

Monthly and yearly stuff:

• Attending meetings of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society and African American Genealogical Society of Northern California averages about 7 hours each month.

• I attend meetings of other genealogical societies as often as topics and time allow.  This is probably another 6–9 hours each month.

• I give on average two presentations each month.  Creating and updating the files and handouts and giving the talks comes to about 10–20 hours each month.

• I would like to attend more institutes and conferences, but I have neither the money nor the time to do so.  I usually manage to travel to two or three conferences out of state each year, and three or four local events.  This year I went to SLIG and I'll be attending Jamboree, the IAJGS Jewish genealogy conference, and the International Black Genealogy Summit.  Locally, I was at San Francisco History Days, the Sacramento annual African American Family History Seminar, and the CSGA spring seminar in Fresno, and I will be going to the local Ancestry Day in June, the CSGA fall seminar in Oakland, and the Contra Costa County Genealogical Society's October seminar featuring John Philip Colletta.  And as Randy said, these are in addition to my regular commitments.

Yes, genealogy is my life.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Yet One More Recommendation for Jean La Forêt

The third document I have relating to Jean La Forêt is another recommendation for him.  It is similar to the first and second recommendations which I have previously written about.  This is the largest, at 8 3/4" x 11".  Like the first letter, this appears to be two pieces of paper layered together down the middle to create a larger sheet.  This looks like letterhead, with the coat of arms of Dieuze in the upper left corner and a date line in the upper right corner.  The page is spotted and aged, as the others are, and is backed with the same type of material.  This backing looks even more like fabric than the others, as the edges are frayed.  The page has two heavily creased folds, and the paper is cracked along the folds.  This sheet has a torn lower left corner and looks as though it was attached to the other two by the grommet but somehow became separated over the past 130 years.  The document is again entirely handwritten, but this time the main letter is in French and the verification of the signature is in German.  Two rubber-stamped circular seals are by the signatures.

Here's the transcription of the document:

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Main body:

Bürgermeisteramt                                                              Dieuze, le ......................... 188


Nous soussigné, Charles Massenes, Maire de la ville de Dieuze, arondissement de Château Salins Département de la Lorraine, certifions que Monseiur La Forêt Jean Léon était principal employé de l'Hotel de ville de cette ville à titre de secrétaire de la Mairie, secrétaire des Hospices et du bureau de bien[faisance] et bibliothécaire de la ville, du premier Janvier mil huit cent quatre-vingt au premier Juillet mil huit cent quatre vingt-deux.

M. La forêt a rempli ces fonctions diverses à la satisfaction générale et les autorités de la ville, le conseil municipal et la population ont regretté la perte de cet employé.

Il a quitté l'Hotel de ville pour prendre un cabinet d'affaires et il a continue à habiter cette ville comme agent d'affaires et traducteur juré en ce qui concerne les langues française et allemande jusqu'au mois de Mai mil huit cent quatre vingt-quatre.

En foi de quoi le présent certificat.

Donné à Dieuze le 10 Décembre 1884.

Le Maire

Dieuze * Bezirk Lothringen * Buergermeisteramt [seal]


Writing at bottom [I apologize for massacring the German]:

Zür Buglüligüng (?) I–r (?) Unterschrift I–n (?) Bürgermeister Massenes, h–r (?).

Dieuze, Im 12 Dezember 1884.

D. (?) Amt–g–ift.

Koening . (?)

Kaiserliches Amts * Gericht zu Dieuze [seal]

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And now my translations:

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Main body:

Mayor's Office                                                                Dieuze, the .......................... 188


We the undersigned, Charles Massenes, Mayor of the city of Dieuze, precinct of Château Salins Department of Lorraine, certify that Mr. Jean Léon La Forêt was a senior employee of City Hall with the title of administrator of the Town Hall, administrator of the home for the aged and charity office, and city librarian, from January 1, 1880 to July 1, 1882.

Mr. La Forêt fulfilled his diverse responsibilities in a satisfactory manner, and the city leaders, the municipal council, and the public regretted the loss of him as an employee.

He left City Hall to work for a business firm and continued to live in the city as a business agent and a licensed translator in French and German, up to the month of May 1884.

In witness whereof the present certificate.

Signed at Dieuze December 10, 1844.

The Mayor

Dieuze * Lorraine District * Mayor's Office [seal]


Writing at bottom (I'm guessing this is similar to the previous items written in French):

To approve the signature of Mayor Massenes, (?).

Dieuze, December 12, 1884.


Koening . (?)

Imperial County Court * Court of Dieuze [seal]

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This is another recommendation letter for Jean, but instead of a teaching position, he was the City Hall administrator (probably a similar position to that of Stéphanie Fischer, whom we saw on the J. K. Rowling episode of Who Do You Think You Are?), in addition to taking care of the home for the aged, the charity office, and the library.  Then he worked as a business agent and a translator.  The second recommendation letter mentioned that Jean was going to work for the Dieuze city and library, so it's nice to see it confirmed.

This time both the mayor and the person verifying his signature were in the same city.  Dieuze was close to the other locations associated with Jean.

With the three letters of recommendation, we now have a timeline of Jean's employment for several years:

1/1/1873–10/1/1875, instructor, Salonnes
4/1/1876–1/1/1880, senior instructor, Villers-aux-Oies
1/1/1880–7/1/1882, city administrator and librarian, Dieuze
7/1/1882–5/1884, business agent and translator, living in Dieuze

According to the information Emma La Forêt mailed to the pension office, Jean was born December 4, 1853, meaning he started working as a teacher when he was 19, which sounds reasonable.  In her application for an emergency passport, Emma wrote that Jean immigrated to the United States about May 1884, which apparently is where he went after leaving Dieuze.  The dates are fitting together nicely.

All three letters of recommendation were written by the various mayors on December 10, 1884 and approved/witnessed on December 12 by the appropriate authorities.  Again according to the information Emma sent when she was trying to get a pension based on Jean's service, he enlisted on August 11, 1884.  I wonder what purpose the recommendations served four months later.  Maybe they helped Jean get a promotion?

Speaking of the mayors, this third man also wrote that he was in Lorraine, not Lothringen.  Fourteen years later, and those Germans still weren't very welcome.

If anyone can help with the German that I've so horribly mangled above, please post a comment with what it should be!  Though I am very proud that I was able to read Unterschrift and Bürgermeister.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Chris Noth

I am still wondering why Who Do You Think You Are? did back-to-back episodes to end this "season."  I looked at the TLC schedule the next Sunday and didn't see anything I considered particularly special, but I do realize I am not the station's intended market, so I may have overlooked something.  All I know is that I was already behind, and airing two episodes on the same night just made it worse.  I've been telling myself, "Only two to go . . . ."

All of that notwithstanding, the first episode of the double header was Chris Noth, who at least is roughly my generation even if I hadn't heard of him previously.  The teaser told us that Noth would trace his father's family back to a devastating catastrophe.  He would find an Irish ancestor who suffered severe oppression before going to fight in Spain in one of the fiercest battles of all time and then becoming a war hero.

The introduction to the episode tells us that Chris Noth has enjoyed a long, distinguished career in television, film, and stage.  His first major role was as Mike Logan on Law & Order (which I used to watch, but only for Jerry Orbach), and he portrayed Mr. Big (that's a character name?) on Sex and the City (which I've still never seen, but at least I recognized Kim Cattrall's name).  He currently stars on the CBS show The Good Wife.  (I think the definition of "distinguished" is being stretched a little here.)  In 2012 he married his long-time girlfriend, Tara Wilson, and they are raising their son in Los Angeles (Noth's Wikipedia page says that Orion was born in 2008, before the marriage).

Noth's first comments are about his son.  He has come to fatherhood late but it's great.  He is always learning something new through Orion's eyes.

Thinking about his own childhood, Noth says he was born November 13, 1954 in Madison, Wisconsin to Jeanne Parr and Charles James Noth.  His father was a military man and was in the Navy in World War II, which is where he met Parr.  He served during the entire Korean War on the carrier Antietam and earned medals for his bravery.  After his military service he and Jeanne worked on raising a family.

Noth is the youngest of three boys.  His father worked for an insurance company.  He didn't love the job but did it for his family.  His mother had a successful career in broadcasting and was a popular news correspondent for CBS.  His parents separated when he was about 9–10 years old, and his father died in a car accident in 1966.

Noth wishes his father would have lived so he could have known and talked to him as an adult.  Because of his father's early death, it was like a complete separation from his father's side of the family, and he has few details on his paternal grandparents.  His grandmother was Nonna Mae, and his grandfather George was apparently a millionaire who belonged to a country club.  George died before Noth was born, but he has dim memories of Nonna Mae, whom he liked.  He saw her for two weeks once in Chicago on a family trip.  He thinks her maiden name might have been McGuire, which might make her Irish.

Noth wants to do his family history now before it's too late for himself and his son.  It's a great thing to know your roots, and it's better to learn at a young age, instead of having gaps as Noth does.

With no family members to talk to beforehand, Noth starts by going directly to Chicago, where his father's family lived.  He says he is meeting genealogist Kyle Betit (one of the stalwarts of's ProGenealogists arm) at the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD), which therefore means he must be at Northeastern Illinois University.  They start by looking for information about Noth's father.  Betit suggests they might be able to find his birth certificate on the Cook County Genealogy site (wow!  how much did that product placement cost?  no comment about it being a pay site, however).  Noth thinks his father was born about 1924–1925, but somehow they manage to find him, even though he was born January 16, 1922 in the Presbyterian Hospital.  (It's nice that Charles Noth was findable in the index.  That index has tons of problems, and I often have to write to Cook County for records because I can't find someone on the site.)  Charles Noth's parents were George Joseph Noth and Mary McGuire.  Noth figures Mae easily could have come from Mary.  The birth certificate also says that George was born in Davenport, Iowa; Mary was born in Chicago; and they were living at 200 South Ellwood Avenue, Oak Park.

Emboldened by this easy success, Noth asks what else they can find.  Betit disingenuously suggests that since George was supposed to have been a prominent person, they can try looking at newspapers for a marriage announcement.  (Seriously?  This is what you propose as a logical next step?)  And then he suggests they go to an Ancestry site,  Noth searches for "George J. Noth" (gee, Betit doesn't know something's there, does he?), and of course finds an article, "The Whirl of Society."  They do not state the date or the name of the newspaper (Chicago Inter Ocean, September 21, 1910), but we are told that Mae was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. J. McGuire and the marriage took place in the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows", about which Noth says, "What a name for a church."  (Not mentioned was that Mae's brother had died recently.)

"The Whirl of Society", Chicago Inter Ocean, September 21, 1910, page 9 (edited image)
Noth isn't subtle:  Can they find more on the McGuires?  Betit says they can look in the census.  Noth:  How?  Betit responds that "the one to use for censuses is Ancestry" (which I actually agree with; it has the most robust search pages, which sort of makes up for the lackluster transcriptions).  Of course, they don't first try looking for Mae as an adult with Charles, so they know for sure it's her and can get an idea of her age and where she and her parents were born; they just dive in and search on the general U.S. census form for C. J. McGuire in Chicago with a child named Mae.  (Do not do this at thome!)  From that they manage to bring up the 1900 census, showing Charles and Jennie McGuire with their daughter May and other children, living on South Homan Avenue (116 South Homan, to be exact, which might have been an apartment building, because three families were enumerated there; Charles McGuire is listed as the owner of the building, but that isn't mentioned).  Both Charles and Jennie are shown to have been born in 1855, Charles in Canada.  This prompts a comment from Noth about how his wife, who is from Canada, will love that he has Canadian ancestors.

United Staters 1900 Federal Census, West Town, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois,
June 5, 1900, Enumeration District 345, page 5A, lines 18–28
They now show one of the floating-in-air family trees (sorry, Mr. Noth, no fancy calligraphy for you).  It's pretty basic, starting with Noth and going to his parents, Charles Noth and Jeanne Parr; then to Charles' parents, George Noth and Mary "Mae" McGuire; and ending at Mary's parents, Charles McGuire and Jennie McGuire (I wish they would just leave the woman's surname blank if they don't know, instead of using the married name).

Noth wants to know if they can go back further, and just how far they can go.  Betit says (incorrectly) that the 1890 census was completely destroyed (most of it was destroyed, but more than 6,000 names survived, and at least some of those 6,000+ individuals must be related to people living today, so don't discount that census so readily!), so they can jump back 20 years and look at 1880.  This time he has Noth search on the 1880 census page (much better).  Noth finds Charles, who is only 25 years old, in Chicago, living with his sister Agnes and brother John.  Noth asks why the three are living alone without their parents and says, "I have a bad feeling about those kids," in a tone heavy with foreboding before the cut to a commercial.  When the program returns, the two men look at some of the details on the census:  Charles was working as a teamster, and the "street" given for the homes on that census page is "Scattered houses on Prairie", which Betit has no explanation for; he's never seen an address like that.  (I don't see what the problem is here.  The enumeration district, 118, is given on the census page.  The description of that enumeration district, per, is "North by the south side of Barry Point road, Van Buren sts, and Jackson, East by West side of Western Avenue, south by the north side of 12th Street, west by the east side of Crawford Ave (City limits)."  It specifically says the ED was within the city limits.  There was a Prairie Avenue in Chicago in 1880.  Couldn't the notation simply mean not many houses were on that street?  But maybe he was told to feign ignorance because it wasn't his job in the episode to talk about why there weren't many houses on the street.)

United States 1880 Federal Census, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois,
June 16, 1880, Enumeration District 118, page 57 (written)/236A (printed), lines 6–8
When Noth wants to know how long Charles and the others were in that location, Betit suggests they check the 1870 census.  Noth again searches on that specific census page.  In 1870 Charles, Agnes, and John were living with their parents, Dennis and Ann, and two more siblings.  Dennis was 40 years old and born in Ireland; Ann was 33 and born in Canada.  Noth is happy to have found an ancestor born in Ireland.  He then mulls over the names of his 2x-great-grandparents and thinks about the fact that in 1880 they were not in the census with Charles.  His theory "is that they both died."

United States 1870 Federal Census, 20th Ward, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois,
June 28, 1870, page 101 (written)/376 (printed), lines 16–22
Betit points out that in 1870 the family was living in the 20th Ward, which was in the city proper, as opposed to the location in the 1880 census, where they were "in scattered houses on the prairie" (which is not what the 1880 census said; according to the enumeration district, they were in the city proper, and I don't see any reason to discount that).  Noth feels as though a tragedy happened and that Charles stepped up and acted as the parent for his younger siblings.  He asks how they can find out what happened to Dennis and Ann.  Betit says that to learn about what happened betwen 1870 and 1880 he should go see a colleague at the Chicago History Museum and ask what local records there might fill in the gaps.  (And I hoped they would actually look at records in the museum, because all they did at IRAD was use the computer.  What was the point of being there?)

Before he leaves, Noth asks, "Can I ask you something?"  Of course Betit says yes, and Noth follows up with, "Do you think we can find out who the original McGuire was from Ireland?"  Betit says he'll do some more digging and let him know if he finds anything.  Even though Noth really did ask this, I'm surprised it wasn't edited out, because we had just seen in the 1870 census that Dennis McGuire was born in Ireland.  Doesn't that make him the original McGuire Noth is asking about?  It could be that what Noth meant was if they could find from where he came in Ireland, but that's not the question he asked, or maybe that question was edited out.

On his way toward the Chicago History Museum, Noth says he feels like something dramatic happened to the family between 1870 and 1880.  He really wants to solve the mystery.  At the museum, John Russick, the museum's Vice President of Interpretation and Education, is waiting to greet him.  He says he has pulled some relevant material and begins by showing Noth an image of Chicago as a bustling city from an 1871 issue of Harper's Weekly (to be specific, pages 984–985 in the October 21, 1871 issue).  A search in Chicago city directories had shown that the McGuire family lived on North La Salle Street in the 20th Ward, which lay along the north side of the main branch of the Chicago River in a residential area, and Russick indicates the approximate area on the image (on the right side of the river in the illustration; the perspective is from the east).  It makes sense that the McGuires would have lived there, as Dennis might have worked nearby at a warehouse, offloading items from boats.

Harper's Weekly, Volume 15, October 21, 1871, pages 984–985
Dennis McGuire was listed as a day laborer in the 1870 census, and Noth wonders if that job paid him enough to raise his family of five.  Russick explains it would have been a hard life, but lots of work was available, so it could be done.  Returning to the 1880 census, Noth asks again where Charles' parents and other two sisters were.  He says they were living in "scattered homes on the prairie", which is again not what the census says (see my comments above) and kind of illustrates the game of Telephone, where a phrase changes a little each time it is repeated.

Russick has Noth look at page 1008 in the book he is holding, which depicts the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (this was from the Harper's Weekly of October 28, 1871).  It affected the entire city, much of which was burnt to the ground.  The center of the city was gone.  And the 20th Ward was right in the middle of it.  La Salle Street was utterly destroyed.  (The program cut to a commercial after this, and when it returned, we got to see a lovely shot of the La Salle Street Bridge.)

Harper's Weekly, Volume 15, October 28, 1871, pages 1008–1009
Noth noticed something a few pages back and says, "There's another picture here."  This one is a depiction of people fleeing from Chicago over the Randolph Street Bridge.  (Currier & Ives printed similar image a similar image in color.)  Noth's ancestors probably ran for their lives, along with the rest of the city's residents.  The fire department was helpless, because buildings, streets, sidewalks, and bridges were all made of wood and went up in flames.  Everything burned.  The fire started on October 8 and continued through October 10.  Rain on the 10th helped put out the fire.

Harper's Weekly, Volume 15, October 28, 1871, page 1004
So were Noth's 2x-great-grandparents killed?  After all, the family was not together in the 1880 census.  Russick has another document which he says will help explain a little (but it really doesn't).  He hands Noth a printout of the funeral notice for Ann M'Guire, which appeared in the Chicago Daily Inter Ocean of March 14, 1892.  (It is also on, by the way.)  So she lived through the fire!  (As did the other two sisters, who are listed in the obituary with their married names as surviving her, but they're not brought up at all.)

Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, March 14, 1892, page 7
Ann's survival, however, brings new questions.  If she was alive in 1880, why weren't her children with her?  Why did Charles have his two younger siblings living with him?  Noth doesn't get it; she was a mother, so she should have been there.  Russick suggests that she might have been injured or couldn't take care of them.  (Maybe she was living with one of her two older daughters, who were probably married by then, and that daughter was taking care of her?)  And then, of course, where did Dennis go?  Did he die in the fire?  Russick admits he couldn't find any record of Dennis, either his death or his movements after the fire.  Noth figures they'll never know what happened to him.  (So the museum was also disappointing, because all the documents we saw are available online.  Apparently nothing unique in their collection was relevant to the research?)

As he leaves the museum, Noth focuses first on the fact that they don't know what happened to Dennis.  He also didn't learn why Ann split off.  This is a haunting side of his family.  He didn't have conversations about family history growing up (maybe this history is part of the reason why?).  Before he gets too depressed about it, though, he receives an e-mail message from Betit, who has "just discovered" that Dennis' father, John McGuire (Noth's 3x-great-grandfather), was Irish but served in the British army.

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I continued researching your McGuire family's Irish roots and found that the McGuires left Ireland for Canada in 1847, —— [I am missing a few words, which did not appear on screen] Dennis and Ann moving on to Chicago around 1864.  Like so many other Irish immigrants, the McGuires likely left Ireland to escape the Potato Famine.  Their immigration story is very typical of Irish families of the time.

During my search, I was also able to identify Dennis' father — your 3x great-grandfather — John McGuire in combing through Canadian records.  I located an 1880 record from the Ottawa area that may be helpful to you.

[John McGuire death record, page 393, Schedule C, County of Carleton, Division of Cloucester,
Registrations of Deaths, 1869-1938; Archives of Ontario (edited image)]
Unfortunately, John's death record doesn't give a location in Ireland where the McGuire family originates.  However, you may have noticed that his profession was "Pensioner."  That means John McGuire was collecting a government pension, very likely a Military Pension, at the time of his death.  In that era, Ireland and Canada were part of the United Kingdom.  So if John McGuire was collecting a pension — military of otherwise — it would have come from the British government.

To learn more about your 3x great-grandfather, John McGuire, you should go to the National Archives in London, to delve into the original British pension records.  Because the British government keeps detailed records, there's a goot possibility you can find out quite a bit about the McGuire family.  This is a rare opportunity given the patchy records one usually encounters when researching Irish immigrants!

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The information about McGuire's death is shown only briefly on screen, and Noth does not read any of it aloud.  Noth is happy to read about McGuire being a soldier, because that makes him military like his father.  Then he says it runs in the family, which is stretching it a little (ok, a lot, with more than 150 years between their service).  Since Betit says that to learn more he should visit The National Archives (yes, the Brits really do insist on that capital "T"; Betit didn't type it correctly according to their preferences) in London, that's where Noth goes next.

London is the only location where Noth does not drive himself around.  (I drove a car in London; it wasn't that bad.)  Heading to his meeting, Noth says he wants to know what John did in the army — whether he was a common soldier, where he lived, any wars he fought in.  He heads to a basement archive at TNA (in Kew, a suburban district of London), where Captain Graham Bandy, a military historian and genealogist, greets him.  Bandy has a book of pension records ready for Noth to look at.  He comments that, notwithstanding the proverb about an army marching on its stomach, "the British Army marches on paperwork."  Noth looks at a pension document for Private John McGuire, who was a foot soldier.  Noth is surprised that he is handling the actual original documents.  McGuire was born in County Cavan and enlisted in County Limerick.  His enlisted first in the 96th Infantry, on May 1, 1808, and finished with that unit on December 9, 1818.  He then went to the 44th Infantry, enlisting on December 10, 1818 and leaving on September 24, 1822.  He served for more than 14 years; the image is not shown in its entirety, but I saw "14 years one hundred."  (According to, it was 14 years, 147 days.)  From this small amount of information, Noth decides that McGuire must have been a tough SOB (except he didn't use the initials).

first page of John McGuire's pension
Noth asks whether it was common for men to stay in the army as long as McGuire did.  Bandy points out that being in the army meant the men were fed and clothed and saw the world.  Noth, who apparently remembers some of his high-school history, recognizes the years as being around the time of Napoleon and wonders if McGuire might have fought during the Napoleonic Wars.  Bandy tells him to look at the other side of the document, but Noth is afraid to turn the page because of the age of the paper.  (Neither man is wearing conservator gloves.  Hooray!)  Bandy turns it over for him and then also has to read the writing, which is very small.  It mentions McGuire's Peninsula War service and that a medal was sent on May 15, 1874.  The medal was sent to Ottawa (presumably to McGuire, since he didn't die until 1880, even though that was not discussed on air).  McGuire served in the Peninsular War on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).  It was indeed part of the Napoleonic Wars.

The narrator explains that in 1799 Napoleon seized power in France and set out on a series of military conquests to gain control over continental Europe.  Due to the strength of the British naval forces, Napoleon didn't think he could invade the British Isles.  Instead he decided to hurt the British economy by trying to blocking trade through controlling access to the Mediterranean and to ports in Spain and Portugal.  In 1870 he invaded Portugal, thus beginning the Peninsular War.  To protect its allies and its economy, Britain sent thousands of troops, including McGuire, to fight.

Bandy now has an old book which turns out to be quarterly pay lists.  (Sometime around this point the producers of the program decided that Bandy was unintelligible and needed to be subtitled for the American viewing public to understand him.  That seems to say worlds about what the producers think of their audience.  I had no trouble understanding him.)  Noth has to use a magnifying glass to read the handwriting (the reading glasses he has been using off and on when looking at computer screens apparently were not up to the task).  A page titled "Infantry Abroad" indicates that McGuire was in the 97th Queen's Own, 10th Company, which Bandy says would have been a "light" company, with skirmishers and marksmen.  Bandy adds that the 97th and the 96th were really the same unit, the 96th having been renumbered.  McGuire was in a "camp near Elvas", in eastern Portugal, from March 25 to June 24, 1811.  Noth wants to know if there was a battle there and whether McGuire was involved in fighting.  Bandy tells him that to find out more, he should go to Portugal, where he can meet a military historian.  In one of those rare totally honest comments we sometimes hear on the program, Noth grins and says cheerfully, "I don't mind going to Portugal!"

As he departs TNA, Noth says McGuire was quite a soldier, spending 14 years in the army.  (Ha!  In the Sellers line, one man was in the U.S. Army 40 years, and his son was in the Navy even longer.)  In Portugal he'll find out what kind of soldier McGuire was.

Driving to meet his new expert, Noth muses that if someone had told him he would be going to Portugal to find out about his ancestry, he would have said, "You're nuts!"  Looking around at the scenery, he wonders if the olive trees were part of what McGuire saw.  Being in the army would have carried a certain amount of excitement but also included hardships.  It has become clear to Noth that if John McGuire had not survived, Noth would not be there.  He says that Peninsula War expert Mark Crathorne has looked up information on McGuire and has set up a meeting with him at La Albuera, a town about 25 miles from Elvas, just over the Spanish border.

In the middle of an open field, Noth meets military historian Crathorne of the British Historical Society of Portugal.  (Crathorne was also at one point the British Consul in Lisbon.)  Crathorne explains that where the two men are standing was where the Battle of Albuera, known as Bloody Albuera, took place.  He talks Noth through the battle sequence.  The British army here, which included McGuire, was ready to chase the French out of the Iberian Peninsula.  Everyone was involved in the battle.

The narrator pops in again, this time to say that Albuera was one of the bloodiest battles of the Peninsula War.  It involved 34,000 European allies versus 24,000 French troops  An early French assault was devastating and caused a lot of bloodshed.  Two full French regiments conducted a sneak attack and butchered a brigade of British soldiers.  After several hours the British brought in one last division, which included McGuire's company.

So McGuire was in the action, and the battle was not going well.  To the right of where Noth and Crathorne are standing, from across the crest of the hill, 200 French dragoons were coming at a full gallop.  Noth asks what a French dragoon is, and Crathorne obligingly tells him they were soldiers with heavy sabers riding on horses.  They would have been coming straight toward McGuire and his company.  Noth says that the men probably shot and ran to a different position, but Crathorne corrects him — they would have held their positions, near their companions, shoulder to shoulder, with their muskets primed and their bayonets fixed and ready.

As if that weren't bad enough, worse was to come.  Crathorne describes the sounds of battle in detail.  As the two sides moved toward each other, the question was who could fire more often.  The British could fire three volleys per minute, while the French could only manage two to two and a half in a minute.  The British had the advantage.

Crathorne says the two sides were only 20 yards away, and Noth calls out, "Hold on," and runs about that distance to get a better understanding of how close that really was.  The British lines would have been firing and moving backward, while the French fired and advanced toward them.  He feels it was almost Medieval, to see the faces of the men you were killing.  This particular engagement was the turning point of the battle.  If McGuire's division had not stood firm, the battle would have gone the other way.  But they did, and the French retreated.  The British had won, but at a cost — 10,000 men were dead.  Death was everywhere, with blood on the fields and the groans of the dying.  The Battle of Albuera was the beginning of the end for Napoleon's troops.  Noth feels this is sacred ground and takes some small stones for his son.

Map of the Battle of Albuera, from William Francis Patrick Napier,
History of the War in the Peninsula and in the
South of France: From A.D. 1807 to A.D. 1814
, Volume 3, page 93
Noth is philosophical as he leaves La Albuera, talking about how the men who fought there were all brave.  McGuire appears to him to have been a very brave and talented soldier (hmm, I don't think we have enough information to make that assessment).  He had to be as tough as nails to survive.  He must have told war stories to his son Dennis.  Noth's father died young; you only get to hear the stories if the person lives long enough to share them, so Noth is getting his stories here, and "it's a whopper."  Now that he has stood on the land where McGuire fought, he wants to know who McGuire was before he was a soldier.  And so he is going to County Cavan.

In County Cavan Noth goes to the Johnston Central Library, where he meets military historian David Murphy of Maynooth University.  (Murphy is subtitled for all of his dialog.  I again had no trouble understanding him.  Maybe the producers were the one who had problems.)  Murphy has the Cavan Regiment of Militia Adjutant's Roll to April 24, 1809.  The militia was somewhat similar to the U.S. National Guard.  It was a unit raised from local men.  Its main purpose was to protect against French invasion and rebellion (somehow I suspect they were more worried about the latter than the former).  Ireland did not have a national police force, so the militia also took care of things such as civil unrest.  Murphy says that McGuire joined the Cavan militia in November 1807.  Then he signed up for the Cavan regiment in the regular army and headed to Spain.  (But earlier we saw McGuire's pension form, which showed that he enlisted on May 1, 1808.  I don't know why there is a discrepancy in the dates.)  When the army needed manpower, recruiters would come to town and sell young men on enlisting; not much has changed during the past 200 years.

Looking down the list of men on the Adjutant's roll, Noth says, "I'm pretty good at finding his name, usually," and then does find McGuire.  His occupation had been linen weaver, which Murphy explains would have been weaving flax into linen, probably to make garments and blankets.  The work would not have been in a factory but was a small operation, likely a workshop with two or three men.  When England and Belfast started building big mills, in the early years of industrialization, small operators would have been squeezed out.  Then McGuire's options would have been few.  As a Catholic, he was not eligible for government jobs because of the Penal Laws.  These regulations also prevented Catholics (and Protestant dissenters) from owning land (they could only lease), going to university — such as Protestant-owned Trinity University in Dublin (from which Murphy received his Ph.D.) — and working as doctors and lawyers.  At first Catholics were banned from the army, but when the Crown needed soldiers, suddenly recruiters fell all over them.

Noth is Catholic (even if he's never heard of Our Lady of Sorrows) and is disturbed to hear about the laws.  He asks if McGuire would at least have had a church to go to, but no, that was restricted also.  (What Murphy doesn't say is that existing Catholic churches were taken over by the Church of Ireland, the Irish equivalent of the Church of England.)  Noth is very upset:  "They can't even have a church to go to — it makes me mad."

So McGuire went from unbelievable oppression to fighting for the British, who were the oppressors.  Murphy admits it's complicated.  He explains it was probably the first proper clothes and boots McGuire had owned.  This was the reality of the time; the only choice was to work with the status quo.  When he returned from his service in the army, things would still have been tough.  But in the 1840's McGuire left for Canada, probably influenced at least in part by the potato famine.  He had a military pension, which gave him more flexibility than most.  It also was an opportunity for him to get his family and children out of Ireland.

The researchers were unable to find any information about McGuire's parents.  There are no surviving records, and it's impossible to learn more.  (This is not uncommon with Irish research.)  Murphy tells Noth that McGuire was from just down the road in Knockbride, a "subarea" of the county of Cavan.  Noth asks if there's a graveyard, and Murphy replies that it has only one.  Noth wonders if maybe there's a McGuire in it, but Murphy says there are no markers.  Many of the ones there have worn away and are now just rocks.  It's possible that McGuire's parents and grandparents are buried in the graveyard, as it has been serving Knockbride since the 1400's.  Tombstones or not, Noth will go to the cemetery:  "That local graveyard, I think I'm gonna wanna see that."

Leaving the library, Noth says his only disappointment is that he was hoping for more personal details about John McGuire's family.  (Unfortunately, the Canadian death record didn't include parents' names.  Apparently they didn't find anything in the Drouin records?  McGuire was Catholic, after all.)  McGuire's circumstances were pretty rough; he was repressed by the political situation of the time and did what he had to do.

Noth calls the cemetery a "quintessential, quiet graveyard."  There is moss on the stones, most of which are really nothing but rock at this point.  McGuire knew this place and possibly buried his grandparents and parents here.  There's a primitive but strong bond between the people and the place; the place defined them.

Noth looked at these old tombstones in Knockbride Cemetery.
Image ©Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.
McGuire had to be tough to leave his homeland.  Noth thinks that opportunity knocked, and McGuire took advantage and left.  He was a pragmatic man with an inbred toughness to get through situations.  Noth's father was military; Noth believes that McGuire's story would have fascinated him.  He's bringing Orion stones from the battlefield where Orion's 4x-great-grandfather fought.  It's been a revelation to learn he is in a direct line to a man who overcame such things.

While I was rewatching this episode I thought about logistics from the perspective of the celebrity.  I'm guessing they're told to have an approximate number of days open.  They're probably asked to make sure their passports are up-to-date, even though the occasional celeb doesn't travel outside the U.S., such as Lea Michele.  Are they told that all the research has been done beforehand?  Or do they figure it out?  Does someone believe it when a researcher, such as Betit on this episode, says he'll continue to research and let Noth know if he finds anything else?  Is that just part of the acting?  I've done enough movie and TV gigs to know that not every shot can be accomplished in one take, so I'm sure that occasionally they have to redo a scene; that's one of the circumstances where acting will come into play, as the celebrity still pretends to be surprised/amazed/horrified/whatever emotion is appropriate.  I don't think that the celebrity is told everything up front and then just acts through the entire episode, though.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your "Other" Life

This week Randy Seaver has gone off the deep end and is just talking crazy stuff.  Look what he came up with for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge:

1)  Tell us about your "other" hobbies or interests outside of genealogy and family history research, writing, speaking, etc.  Be mindful of your family's privacy, though!

2) Write a blog post of your own, respond with a comment to this post, or write a Facebook status post or a Google+ Stream post.

What?!  A life outside of genealogy?  Hmm, I think I kind of remember that . . . .

Actually, I used to have quite an active life in addition to my genealogy.  But for the past two years I've been on disability, and the two years before that I was working with an injury, so that changed a lot of things for me.

I love to cook.  For about 15 years I hosted a big seder for Passover with several friends.  I sometimes cooked for other occasions also.  I volunteered at a couple of places that provided meals for different groups.  I need to get my energy back up before I can do any of this again.  I haven't cooked a seder dinner for four years.  But I still find cookbooks that I just have to own, and I love reading recipes for inspiration.

I enjoy many types of needlework, particularly cross stitch and embroidery.  I have made several samplers for family members for births and marriages.  One year I did a special Christmas piece for my brother.  I'd like to be able to do that again sometime.  First on my list is finishing the Passover afikomen cover I started . . . um . . . seven, maybe more, years ago?

I have done historical reenactment events for several years.  For about ten years I was a drummer at a few Elizabethan-era and other Renaissance faires.  I also do events with the local costumers society.  I still manage to do one or two events a year.  A really special event was a dinner held in 2012 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  Everyone was dressed to the nines in early Teens formal wear.  That was also the year I turned 50, and a friend of mine coordinated a surprise "Happy Birthday" performed by the orchestra at the event, and all the attendees sang.  My eras of interest run from Elizabethan to the 1920's.  Later than that, and I usually don't participate.  I've made some of my period clothing and have also bought pieces from other people.

I absolutely love to travel.  Between working at BART and then surgery for my injury, I wasn't able to go much of anywhere for a few years, but last year I was able to go places again, and I even went to Cuba.  One of my favorite trips is when I get to see my stepsons and grandchildren.  Like Randy, when I go to genealogy conferences, I always check to see what relatives are in the area (I think I have relatives in just about every state) and try to visit them, and sometimes I manage to get in some sightseeing.  But that's getting back to family history again, isn't it?  I visited my stepsons and grandchildren earlier this year, and I hope to be able to make another trip this summer and then again for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  In addition to that, I'm going to Jamboree, the IAJGS Jewish genealogy conference, and the International Black Genealogy Summit — yup, all genealogy-related!

So genealogy is the main thing I do with my life, but it's kept me sane during all this time I haven't been able to do other things, so I can't complain too much.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Another Recommendation for Jean La Forêt's Work as a Teacher

The second document for Jean La Forêt is similar in many ways to the first, which I wrote about last week.  This sheet is larger, 8 1/4" x 10 7/8", and is only one piece of paper.  But it is also spotted and aged, and backed with the same type of material as the first.  The backing has separated from the paper on the right side, and it looks as though the texture might be from threads (there's a loose thread near the top), so it might be some kind of treated fabric?  It is attached to the first sheet by the grommet I described, which is why the bottom left corner is folded under in the scan.  As with the first document, this one is entirely handwritten in French except for two rubber stamped circular seals, both of which have German and French words.

This is the transcription of the document:

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Main body:

Le Soussigné, Maire et officier de L'Etat civil de la commune de Villers-aux-Oies, Département de la Lorraine, certifie que M. [?] La Foret Jean Léon a exercé dans cette commune les fonctions d'Instituteur principal du premier Avril mil huit cent soixante seize au premier Janvier mil huit cent quatre vingt.

Directeur zèle de l'école communale confiée à ses soins, il a su se faire aimer de ses éleves et de toute la population, et il a quitté la commune, regretté de tous, surtout les autorités réligieuses, civiles et scolaires, pour entrer comme secrétaire de la Mairie et biblio officaire [sic] de la ville de Dieuze.

En foi de quoi le présent certificat

Fait à Villers-aux-Oies le dix Décembre mil huit cent quatre-vingt-quatre

Le Maire:


Villers-aux-Oies * Bezirk Lothringen * Buergermeisteramt [seal]


Writing on left side:

Vu pour légalisation de la Signature de M. Benoit maire de la Commune de Villers-aux-oies, apposée ci-contre [?].  Delme le 12 décembre 1884

Le Juge Cantonal


Kaiserliches Amts * Gericht zu Delme [seal]

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

And now the translations:

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Main body:

The undersigned, mayor and official of the civil state of the town of Villers-aux-Oies, Department of Lorraine, certifies that Mr. Jean Léon La Foret fulfilled the functions of senior instructor in this town from April 1, 1876 to January 1, 1880.

Enthusiastic director of the town school entrusted to his care, his students and the entire population liked him, and he left the town missed by everyone, above all the religious, civil, and school authorities, for his work as the administrator of the town hall and official library of the city of Dieuze.

In witness whereof the present certificate

Done at Villers-aux-Oies December 10, 1884

The Mayor:


Villers-aux-Oies * Lorraine District * Mayor's Office [seal]


Writing on left side:

Viewed to witness the signature of Mr. Benoit mayor of the town of Villers-aux-Oies, signed below.  Delme December 12, 1884

Canton Judge


Imperial County Court * Court of Delme [seal]

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Like the first letter, this is a recommendation for Jean's time as a teacher.  This position followed very closely his earlier one, which he left October 1, 1875.  Again, everyone loved him and his work (or are these stock phrases used in the 19th century for reference letters in Alsace-Lorraine?).

Villers-aux-Oies was mentioned in the first letter.  I am a little confused about where each school was, however.  The first letter was from the mayor of Salonnes, who wrote about Jean's work at the school in Villers-aux-Oies, but he said "in this town."  This letter was from the mayor of Villers-aux-Oies, apparently writing about Jean's work at a school in the same town.  Are the two men referring to different schools?  I plan to ask a colleague from France if he can clarify this for me.

According to this letter, Jean also worked in Dieuze, which is about 16 miles from Villers-sur-Nied, the current name of Villers-aux-Oies.  The judge who verified Mr. Benoit's signature was in Delme, about 18 miles from Dieuze but less than 8 miles from Villers-sur-Nied.  So all of these towns are close to each other, and all are in Lorraine.

Germany still controlled Lorraine in 1884, as evidenced by the German in the official seals.  Again, however, we see the small act of defiance:  Mayor Benoit writes that Villers-aux-Oies is in the Department of Lorraine, not Lothringen.

I may watch too much NCIS.  When I saw the mayor's name of Benoit, I immediately thought of Jeanne Benoit.

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Molly Ringwald

I was looking forward to the Molly Ringwald episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, not only because I actually knew who she was, but also because the commercials said that she was going to work on her Swedish ancestry.  I've done enough Swedish research to know that vast numbers of records are online.  I was looking forward to seeing whether they had her travel to Sweden (which I fully expected) and how many records she would be shown that are available online, where you can look at them at 2:00 in the morning in your pajamas (but that wouldn't be as exciting as foreign travel, would it?).

The advertising teaser told us that Molly Ringwald would follow her ancestors back to Sweden and learn the truth about their harrowing lives.  She would discover generations who suffered unspeakable tragedies and a brave relative who forever changed the family's fate.  (A little more melodramatic than usual, perhaps?)

In the introduction to the episode itself, the narrator says that Ringwald is a celebrated actress who started at an early age.  Her breakout role was as Samantha Baker in Sixteen Candles, which made her a Hollywood icon.  She has had success on stage and screen and recently on television also, in The Secret Life of the American Teenager.  She has authored two bestselling books and is an accomplished jazz singer.  She lives in New York with her husband and their three children.

Ringwald says that was born in Roseville, California, a suburb of Sacramento.  She always knew she wanted to be creative.  According to her parents, when she was 6 she announced to the family she would be a famous movie star or "something like that."  Now that she is, however, she has learned that being a performer gives you a false sense of self.  So family is very important to her, and she doesn't know how she could survive without it.  Her family is close; she grew up with big family dinners, and holidays were a big deal.  She realizes she was dealt a good hand.

Ringwald's mother, Adele, was a stay-at-home mom.  She is personable and a storyteller.  Her father, Bob, is a blind musician.  He inspires respect, and people love him.  She and her father complement each other.  Ringwald's relationship with her father is a precious gift to her.  She would love to know more about his side of the family and share that with him.  In the family, he is the most excited about her genealogy journey.  She knows she's German on both sides, except for her father's maernal grandfather, who was Swedish.  She's never felt connected to her Swedish side and is curious to learn anything about it.  She doesn't know her ancestor's name, only that her father said he was called "the Swede."  She figures her father must know his name, but all she knows is "the Swede."

To begin her journey to learn about her Swedish great-grandfather, Ringwald visits her father in Brooklyn Heights.  When she walks in, her father is playing piano.  She gets him up, saying, "C'mon, let's go" (that camera crew can't wait forever, dad!).  After sitting down with him on the couch, she says, "I'm on this journey to discover more about our family," and asks what the Swede's name was.  Her father does know and tells her it was Edwin Gustav Jenson.  Bob's grandmother told him Edwin had come from Sweden when he was 3 years old.  He later worked as a bricklayer in California.

Bob's knowledge only goes so far, however.  He doesn't know where in Sweden Edwin came from.  He was probably told by his grandmother but doesn't remember.  Both of Bob's grandparents died before Molly was born, Emma about 1958 or so and Edwin at the end of the 1960's.  He never asked any questions so doesn't know why the family came to the United States.  Bob says that Edwin had a sense of humor and was full of BS; you never knew if the stories he was telling were true.  One story was that if he had stayed in Sweden, he would have to become the king.  Bob believed that story for years.

That's the extent of Ringwald's visit with her father.  She hugs him and says, "Good to see you."  Outside, she says to learn that little was both exciting and frustrating.  She wants to know where her great-grandfather came from and why the family moved to America.

index entry on
for Edwin Jenson's death
Her first research stop is close by:  the Brooklyn Central Library, where professional genealogist Brian Béla Schellenberg is waiting for her. (We saw him on the Ginnifer Goodwin episode.)  She admits she has already sent him what little information she had.  Schellenberg tells her that he took the information and searched death records, and now he has a copy of Jenson's death certificate (suitably redacted by the state of California to protect everyone's privacy, even though the man died more than 50 years ago).  Ringwald says that Edwin Jenson died October 20, 1965 (but the California death index says 1963; I wonder if that was deliberate misdirection or if the index is wrong).  He was born February 28, 1885 in Sweden; his parents were Gustav Jenson and Carolina Grip.  The death certificate also has that he was dead on arrival in the Roseville Hospital in Placer County, his usual residence was 7201 Mariposa Avenue (probably in Roseville), and his occupation was self-employed brick mason.

Ringwald tells Schellenberg that Edwin immigrated to the United States when he was about 3 years old.  He suggests they look for him in the census, which is conducted every ten years.  She says that probably the first census he would be in was 1890 (she knows the years of the census?), but Schellenberg tells her it was completely destroyed by fire (no, it wasn't; about 25% of it was, but the bulk of it was left to rot in the water used to put out the fire, and the moldy mess it became was tossed out more than ten years later).  He says, "Let's go on Ancestry" (9 minutes into the episode) and look at the 1900 census, the next one available.

They do find Edwin, living with his family in Washington County, Nebraska, listed with the last name of Jensen.  The census says he was born in July 1885 in Sweden.  His parents are Gustav (indexed by Ancestry as George), a farmer born in April 1855, and Carolina, born July 1757, both in Sweden.  They lived on a farm that was rented.  Schellenberg discusses the 1862 Homestead Act, which allowed settlers to go west, claim land, prove that they had developed it for five years, and then gain the title for free.  This brought many Swedes and other Europeans to the United States for the opportunity to own land.  Some speculators bought multiple lots and rented them to others, which was probably the case with Gustav.  (Did only homestead speculators rent land?  What about the family two up on the census page:  Peter Johnson, born in 1847 in Sweden, arrived in the U.S. 1870; he could be Gustav's brother.  Maybe it's his land Gustav is renting.)  The camera zooms in for a close-up of the birthplaces on the census page, and Ringwald says, "Sweden, Sweden, Sweden", but only the parents and Edwin were born there; the other children were born in Nebraska.  (A curious piece of information to be gleaned from the census is that Gustav said he had immigrated in 1877, while Carolina arrived in 1887.  So I'm wondering how Gustav, if he had been in the U.S. since 1877, could have fathered Edwin, who was born in 1885 in Sweden.  Just a thought.)

United States 1900 Census, Fontenelle Township, Washington County, Nebraska,
June 8, 1900, Enumeration District 130, Sheet 4A, lines 12–19

Curiosity appropriately piqued, Ringwald says that she wants to learn more.  Of course, Schellenberg says the best place to do that is to go to Sweden, because the Swedish are amazing record keepers.  (One point to Janice:  Yes, they send her to Sweden.)

Leaving the library, Ringwald says that yesterday she felt no connection to her Swedish ancestors, but now that has changed.  Just having their names has made a difference.  Knowing that her great-great-grandparents were Gustav and Carolina has made them more real.  Next she wants to learn where they lived in Sweden and what they did.

Ringwald goes to southern Sweden, apparently to the Regional State Archives in Lund.  As she goes through the city she is curious whether her relatives walked the streets of a city like this or if they lived in a rural area.  She also wonders about her great-great-grandmother Carolina's family.

In the archives, Ringwald meets with archivist Petra Nyberg (who has no on-screen credit, the first time I've seen that), who explains that a law was passed in 1686 requiring that annual household surveys be conducted by the clergy.  They collected information about births, marriages, and more.  The first book Nyberg brings out has Lysnings och Vigselbok ("Banns and Marriages") 1880–1893 on the spine.  The records are for Helsingborgs parish.  Nyberg has Ringwald put on conservator gloves, and she puts on a pair herself.  The relevant pages in the book are marked, so they're not just flipping through everything.  Nyberg suggests Ringwald look for the marriage of Gustav and Carolina before 1885, because Edwin was born in 1885 (for which they have shown no proof, of course, so as far as we've seen they're taking the census' word on it).  Ringwald asks whether the record is in Swedish, which of course it is.  That notwithstanding, she somehow manages to find the marriage record:  Gustaf Jönsson (pronounced "Yenson") and Carolina Grip were married on May 3, 1884.

Helsingborgs Banns and Marriages 1880–1893, page 55 (edited image)

The marriage record lists Gustav's occupation as a mine laborer from Höganäs.  The record also includes both of their birthdates:  Gustav was born April 23, 1855, and Carolina was born July 18, 1857.  (Second point to Janice:  I got this record online here in the U.S.) The record doesn't include much information, but Nyberg says that Höganäs had been a coal mining town since about 1800.

The next book brought out is Höganäs Kyrkobok, which has births from 1854–1861.  Carolina's birth is confirmed as July 18, 1857:

Höganäs Births 1854–1861, page 37

Nyberg provides a translation of this record:

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

July 18 born deceased mine-laborer No. 303 Carl Grip and his surviving widow Kjersti Johnson's daughter, baptized 26 July - Carolina.  Saddle maker Lars Johnson's wife Johanna Hörstidz of Gr carried the child; Miss Bothilda Gustafsdr of the mine and Miss Christina Grip of No. 13 Väsby were witnesses.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

The record says that Carolina's parents were Carl Grip and Kjersti (pronounced "sher-stee") Johnssonsdotter, that she was baptized on July 26 — and that her father was deceased.  Ringwald asks if he died in a coal mine, but the record doesn't give that information.  (Third point to Janice:  This record is online also.)  Something Nyberg does not mention is that normally in Sweden, if the father died before the child was born, the child was considered illegitimate.  Carolina's birth record does not indicate she is illegitimate, however.

Ringwald is happy to learn the names of her 3x-great-grandparents and wants to know if Carl Grip chose to work in the mines or if it was simply the type of work his family did.  Nyberg says no one would choose to do that work, as it was very hard.  It could be that he was from a family where his father worked in the mines, so he did the same work because he had no other option.  If his parents didn't own land or a farm, it was difficult to find agricultural work.  Mining was dangerous industrial work.  Nyberg ends by suggesting that Ringwald go to Höganäs if she wants to know more about the family.  It is north of Lund.

Leaving the archives, Ringwald is intrigued by what she has learned so far and wants to know how Carolina's father died.  She is close to her father, so she feels sorry that Carolina didn't have a father.  She wonders what happened and how the family survived.

In Höganäs, Ringwald notes that it's cold and dark, without much daylight for the time of year (I guess she was there in late fall or winter).  She finds it beautiful but thinks it would be hard to live there.  She is meeting historian Erik Thomson (from the University of Manitoba; we saw him in the Tom Bergeron episode; his Web page says his special interests are French and Swedish history, an interesting combination) at an address he gave her.  It turns out to be the entrance to a mine.  It is the last open mine in Höganäs; there used to be 50.  It's still dangerous enough that they both put on helmets with lights, before they even go past the fence.  Ringwald comments that her ancestors worked in mines like these because they had no other opportunities.  Thomson explains that Sweden had primarily an agrarian society until the 1870's to 1880's.  Ringwald adds that her ancestors probably did not wear hats like they're wearing; Thomson agrees and adds, "If they even had hats."

The narrator tells us that late in the 18th century Sweden began mining coal because it was cut off from its previous coal suppliers, who were in a war with France.  The mines in Höganäs at first used Russian prisoners of war and children from orphanages because it was difficult to find locals who would do the work.  Later, when young men were more desperate for work, they finally went to the mines.  The narrator, by the way, makes no attempt to pronounce Höganäs correctly, whereas Ringwald does a pretty good job.

Thomson points out the limestone and coal to Ringwald and tells her that the coal usually lay within a narrow band between two to three feet wide.  The miners often crouched on their sides in standing water, hacking away at the wall of the shaft to get at the coal.  He then goes to the entrance of the mine, and Ringwald says, "And I'm supposed to go in there?" in a slighty panicked voice that made me think she might be claustrophobic.  She eventually does go in, of course.

The two discuss how the work was fairly dangerous, and Ringwald wonders how her great-great-grandfather died.  Conveniently, Thomson has a translation of Carl's death record with him.  (All this window dressing just to show a translation of a death record?  Sheesh.)  Ringwald reads the entire short translation.

Died in 1857
January 26 - Died coal-cutter No. 303 Carl Grip as a result of being hit in the head by a fock fall in the Royal Shaft, buried 1 February.

Ringwald is quiet and contemplative for a moment, then notices that the rock is soft and asks if it was always like that.  Thomson says it was and that rock falls were common; people died regularly in the mines.  He points out the water dripping nearby and says that in mines close to the coast sometimes shafts flooded to waist level.  The men used candles for light and kept up their morale by drinking alcohol provided by the mine company.  The two agree that the drinking could have made for less-than-clear minds, which would not improve the danger inherent in the work.

Thomson comments about Carl being only 26 years old when he died.  Ringwald adds that Kjersti had a baby on the way.  It was unbelievable that people worked under these horrible conditions, and it must have been hellish.  She takes a small chunk of rock, apparently as a souvenir, and admits to Thomson, "I'm a little claustrophobic."  They then head for the exit.

Outside of the mine, Ringwald looks happier to be in the open air.  She thinks more about her 3x-great-grandfather dying at 26, when his life was just beginning.  He didn't get to see his daughter, which is very sad.  It also must have been frightening for Kjersti, who was pregnant and then a widow.  How would she support herself and the baby?

The next day Ringwald meets with Thomson again, this time in the Höganäs parish church.  He had said they would find out what happened after Carl died in the mine.  He tells her that this is her ancestors' church.  She says it's beautiful and then asks, "You have some documents for me?"  They move to a round card table which looks horribly tacky in the church sanctuary.

First Thomson has the household exam from 1857.  It shows Carl, Kjersti, and Ida, who was Carolina's older sister, but they have been crossed out.  Being crossed out means that the person died or moved.  Carl was deleted because he was dead, but Kjersti and Ida were deleted because household #303 was designated as a miner's family residence.  As Kjersti was a widow, she had to move out of the miner housing.  Thomson says that the G.E. before the 42 on the record is "Gruva Enka" (or something like that; I have no idea how badly I've spelled it), or "mine widow."  Ringwald thinks it's dehumanizing that everyone is designated by residence numbers, but Thomson points out it was a useful way to identify people when they were underground, with rocks falling on their heads.  (Does that mean the men carried their household numbers somewhere on them?  From a modern perspective, those numbers are also incredibly helpful when you're doing Swedish research, because you can follow the family from one residence to the next.)

Höganäs Household Exams 1854–1861, Household 303, page 164

The record for household #303 shows that Carl Grip was born July 19, 1830 and that Kjersti Johnsson was born January 17, 1834.  It also shows the child in the household, Ida, was born February 20, 1855.  (Another point to Janice for another online record.)

Ringwald wonders how old Kjersti was.  Thomson points out the record shows she was born in 1834, so when Carl died in 1857 she was 23 years old.  Ringwald is struck by the fact that she was a widow with one child and another on the way.  She then is hit by a sobering thought:  "I was moving to Paris when I was 23."  She has "definitely [had] a different life."  Returning to Kjersti, she asks where she would have moved.  There was housing set aside for widows.

The narrator elaborates.  Kjersti and Ida would have moved into widows' housing, probably owned by the Höganäs coal company.  From the early 1800's to the 20th century, widows and children of deceased miners lived in this type of housing if they had no other options.  Some spent the rest of their lives there.

Ringwald wonders if her ancestor Carolina was born in the widows' home.  Thomson says she was and hands her a translation of an oral history recorded in the 1940's about what the widows' housing was like.  Ringwald reads portions of the text.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

South of Brorsbacke-farm, toward Tivoli Bowl, lay a long wooden building called the Widows' House.  It was just one meter wide, which separated it from Brorsbacke-farm.  In the Widows' House resided the Höganäs Company's poorest widows, 8–10 of them (According to Albin Hamberg's depiction of his childhood, there lived 20 widows there along with children).  The widows each had their own little room with a floor space of 2 x 3 meters.  Through the whole building went a long hall or corridor, in which two fireplaces were placed.  They consisted of a large brick stove with iron slabs, shared by all the widows.  There the widows could cook their food and boil their chicory coffee.  Moreover, these fireplaces were for heating all the rooms.  One would just open the door to their room so that the heat would penetrate it.  During the winter it was kept going day and night, which the widows had to provide for themselves, although the mining company provided free tinder which comprised of coal No. 3, so-called coal chips.

There were no head mistresses or nurses available other than the widows helping themselves the best they could if they became ill or bedridden.  They had 2–3 crowns [a denomination of money] a month poor-relief, but it did not reach far.  Local neighbors often brought them food or a treat.  But this had to be done in secret, otherwise there would be jealousy from those without means.  Most of them were fed and mobile and therefore went to the country to beg.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Ringwald stops reading and asks whether the widows had any money or insurance.  Thomson says that they had something but not much.  He doesn't mention the housing but says if the widow had children, the same allowance (a section which Ringwald did not read aloud, so it was a non sequitur when he said it) simply had to stretch further.  (Personally, I was struck by the irony of the widows having to heat their rooms with coal, the mining of which caused their husbands' deaths.)  Ringwald then picks up reading the translation again.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

It was the worst for the widows during the winter when it was cold.  Albin Hamberg tells us about an event in the beginning of the 1880's.  One of the widows, "Hultin's Ingrid," was found one morning frozen to death beside a fence in Längaröd.  But as the weather was bad, she did not have the strength enough to reach all the way home, though she was quite close.

It was all quite poor and miserable in the widow house.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Ringwald is somewhat angry that the mining company didn't take care of the widows and that they were forgotten and forsaken.  (That was the way of the industrial revolution, unfortunately.)  She asks if Kjersti stayed in the widow's home.  Thomson says they can look at the widow's home records (which is the household exam for those residences).  He has a record showing Kjersti, Ida, Carolina, and another daughter, Johanna, crossed out from another household.

Höganäs Household Exams, Household 42, 1854–1861, page 282

This is the residence to which Kjersti moved after Carl Grip died.  On Kjersti's line (the second name), it has 303 in the fifth column and 57 in the sixth column, indicating she moved to this residence from #303 in 1857.  The seventh column shows that she moved to residence #207, and the eighth column shows it was in 1861, which is why the four names have been crossed out.  (One more point to me for a record found online.)

(What Thomson does not discuss is that the mark to the left of Johanna'a name indicates she was illegitimate.  The page shows that Johanna was born June 18, 1861.  What you can't see on this page is that Kjersti did not marry Johanna's father until after her birth.  Johanna's baptismal record lists only her mother's name as a parent and identifies her as a widow.  Since Ringwald's first child was born before she and her husband married, you'd think they might have brought up the subject, because she could identify with it.  By the way, I found the baptismal and marriage records online also.)

Kjersti married another miner (Johannes Andersson) in 1861 (on December 11), so she was able to move back into a miner residence.  These were larger, and the family had more income.  So Kjersti spent four long years in the widows' house with her children.  Thomson tells Ringwald to imagine being in a 2 x 3 meter room with children all winter.  Ringwald responds that she has three children, and she can't imagine spending even one day with them in a room that small.

Thomson then lets Ringwald know that Kjersti's second husband also died, so she had to return to the widows' house.  (No details about that were discussed on screen, but yes, I found those records online.  Johannes Andersson died March 20, 1864, and Kjersti and three children — she had another child with Johannes, a son, in 1863, but Ida died in 1862 — moved to household #46 the same day.  Maybe that was too much harshness for Ringwald.  Oh, and I think I'm up to 9 points.)

Ringwald says that Carolina left and had moved to Nebraska by 1900.  (Thomson does not bring up the fact that the date of Carolina's departure from Sweden should be documented in the household exams also.  I did not follow Carolina past 1866, when she was living with her mother and siblings in household #46 in the widows' house, but I easily could have done so.)  Ringwald asks if she can keep the documents before she leaves the church.

Ringwald is still angry that more was not done for the widows, whom she feels were badly mistreated.  Carolina knew only poverty growing up and couldn't have had much hope for more.  Ringwald doesn't know how she found the strength to go on, but she obviously did.  Now Ringwald is leaving Sweden to head to Washington County, Nebraska, where Carolina went when she left.

In Washington County Ringwald drives to the courthouse (which is in Blair).  She knows from the census that Gustav and Carolina had been renting land.  Now she wants to find out what kind of life they had and whether they were happy.  She has contacted someone and asked that person to look for any records about Carolina (Gustav has obviously been totally forgotten by this point).

At the courthouse Ringwald meets Tonia Compton, an assistant professor of the history of women and the American West at Columbia College (and a specialist in women's property rights in the west).  The first item she hands Ringwald is a warranty deed for property dated March 13, 1905.  Carolina Jenson had paid $200 to purchase two lots in the city of Arlington from Herbert and Helene Jayne.  The lots were 7 and 8 in block 22.  Surprisingly, Gustav's name does not appear on the deed, which prompts a question from Ringwald.  Compton admits it was unusual for a married woman to own property in her own name at the time but has found no clear reason in the property records for why it happened in Carolina's case.  Ringwald is happy to see that after the poverty and the widows' home, Carolina got a piece of land.  She tells Compton, "I think she was tough."

Ringwald asks if there's any way to find out exactly where the lots are that Carolina purchased.  Of course there is!  Compton takes out a 1908 book of plat maps (perhaps this book, digitized by the Library of Congress) and goes to the page with a map of Arlington.  Ringwald easily finds block 22 and lots 7 and 8.

1908 plat map of Arlington, Washington County, Nebraska, showing Block 22 at top

The next question, of course, is whether it's still there.  Compton says it is and that it is only about 15 miles from the courthouse, but she has one more document.  Ringwald immediately recognizes it as an obituary.  Compton states the date it was published, February 21, 1935, but does not mention the newspaper name.  (Luckily, the Washington County Genealogy Society transcribed it in 2015 and put it online; it appeared in the Arlington Review Herald.  Before finding it online I went back and forth rewatching the scenes to get the text.)  Ringwald is tearing up by the time she is at the end of the obituary.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Mrs. Gust Jenson

Pneumonia was fatal Wednesday morning when it claimed Mrs. Gust Jenson, 78, a resident of Arlington for thirty years.

Caroline Griep was born in Sweden, July 16, 1857.  She was united in marriage to Gust Jenson on May 3, 1883 in Sweden and to this union was born seven children, all living and as follows:  Edwin G. of Roseville, California, John G. of Herman, Fred W. of Loveland, Ohio, Mrs. Jess Laughlin of Tekamah, Carl G. of Arlington, Mrs. Oscar Anderson of Arlington, and Albert J. of Oakland.  Twenty grandchildren also survive the deceased.  Her husband passed away on August 18, 1930.

She was confirmed in the Swedish Lutheran Church at the age of 16 years.  Mrs. Jenson came with her husband to Washington County, Nebraska, on July 25, 1888, and engaged in farming until in March, 1904, when they moved to Arlington and made their home til the end.

Mrs. Jenson had always stood for the right and taught her family the meaning of truth, justice and mercy.  A kind and loving wife and mother who will be greatly missed and mourned by her children.

Some day, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west
My blessed Lord will say, Well done!
And I shall enter into rest.  — Fanny Crosby

Funeral services will be held at the Methodist Church Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock. Rev. Rasmussen will be in charge assisted by Rev. McClannahan of Tekamah Union Church.  Pall bearers chosen are J. A. Peterson, Roy R. Peterson, W. E. Autrim, Wm. Kruger, Louis Sorensen and Chet Menking.  Mrs. Cora Hammang, Mrs. Chet Menking and Josephine Swihart in charge of the flowers.  Mrs. Alvin Anderson and Miss Lucy Lawson will sing a duet.  A quartette composed of W. A. Reckmeyer, J. Q. Wallingford, Mrs. Alvin Anderson and Miss Lucy Lawson will sing “Saved by Grace,” and “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.”

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

I suspect that the spelling of "Griep" is due to the pronunciation of "Grip" in Swedish, which would be "greep."  Carolina's birth is off by two days, and her marriage is off by one year.  This is a great example of how information in obituaries is great as clues, but original records should always be sought.

Ringwald is happy to see the property deed in Carolina's name and thinks it must have felt like a miracle to her.  Being born in the widows' house, not knowing her father, and growing up in such poverty, she couldn't have imagined that one day she would own land.  It must have been very meaningful to her.  Now Ringwald is curious to see where Carolina (not Gustav!) lived and raised her family.

As she drives to the location of the two lots, she mentions that she has been updating her father by e-mail, but she's going to try calling him to tell him the final pieces of the story.  She thinks he has been curious also.

The last few minutes of the episode go back and forth between Ringwald walking around the property and talking to her father on the phone, and her talking to the camera about her impressions.  She walks around a small white house.  Neither the address nor the street name is shown, but the location is easy to determine based on the plat map, because the street names in Arlington have not changed since 1908.  This is another occasion when the producers either did not seek or did not receive permission to see the interior of the home.

The two lots at the corner of 1st Street and Elm Street, Arlington, Nebraska, facing on Elm Street.
Neither house really looks like the one around which Ringwald walked.

Ringwald tells her father that she is in Arlington standing on the land his great-grandmother bought with her own money, and that the deed was in her name.  He asks whether the house is still standing.  She responds that it is but that it looks like it's had additions put on it and probably looks different from when Carolina lived in it, but that an old shed might be from the right period.  (Carolina bought two lots, and both have houses on them now, so someone must have told Ringwald which one to visit.)  She says that Carolina got out of the mines and owned land, which was remarkable.  Her father asks, "So there was no royalty in our family, huh?"  Ringwald tells him that the family couldn't be further away from royalty, but that they came for the American dream and succeeded.

To the camera, Ringwald says she is grateful for her life because her ancestor persevered and didn't give up.  She feels as though she inherited fortitude from her great-great-grandparents.  Now that she has walked in the same places her ancestors lived, she feels a real connection to them.  Carolina changed the family narrative (what about Gustav?!).  With her final look around the property, she says, "Well done, Carolina."