Thursday, December 6, 2012

The pot of gold in Funeral Home records .

                   Funeral Home cardLast week, I read an article about finding records in a funeral home at Cassie Sanford's blog  : Yopp Funeral Home .The week before, I attended a local genealogical society meeting where the older members talked about the laws (in my particular city) about the preservation of funeral home records. I was taking notes furiously as the 90-year-old-plus-some-years members cited where some of the local funeral records were stored. No one has actually categorized where all the records are located so obviously, this is another genealogical project to be done in our community. Most people do not know that when funeral homes close or merge, there are state laws that require the new owners to keep the records. However, many states do not enforce or follow it up. Many funeral homes forget to transfer them over or lose them in transfer. This is a form of record preservation that should be stepped up, especially as the funeral homes go out of business .
Unlike records of a church or the civil records of the locality, funeral homes are a business, and like all businesses, subject to the whims and whereabouts and particular methodology of their owners. Luckily, many mortuary offices stayed in many generations of a family and hopefully, kept up sound archival treatment of their records. I really enjoyed reading in Cassie's blog that someone had the sense to donate funeral home records to her library so she could access them.

Today, Valerie Beaudrault reported in the THE WEEKLY GENEALOGIST [1], that two funeral homes had their records online .One in Tennessee ; the other in Pennsylvania. I think this is a step in the right direction as many people in our society prefer no church involvement in their death preparations so the funeral home could hold a net of genealogical information that might, otherwise, slip away.   

My Toledo, Ohio family was a melting pot of religious inclinations so by the time my Hungarian immigrant grandparents died, their children forsake any institutionalized religion and preferred the " funeral home " for the final goodbyes .Like Cassie, I was lucky that the funeral home photocopied everything from their files of my family. There were clippings of the obituaries taped on to index cards. On my great - grandmother's index card, there was an itemization of the funeral bill listing the accouterments on the deceased, the amount of flowers, even down to their colors and the endearing ribbons adorning strips with the words  " Sister " or " Mother ". There was a mention of the organist and the play set of the hymns. On my grandfather's funeral home card, they listed his social security number and with those numbers, I  was eventually able to secure a copy of his Social Security application which documented his place of birth in Hungary.
[1]"^top"Spotlight: Funeral Home Records — Tennessee and Pennsylvania.Valerie Beaudrault.December 5 , 2012•Vol. 15, No. 49 Whole #612.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: The Immigrants Fougerons


I visited the Old German & French Cemetery on Pine Ridge Road in Cheektowaga, New York with my father when I was a kid with a new camera around 1979. This is the resting place of our French immigrant ancestors, Joseph Simon Nicholas Fougeron, and his wife, Marianne Augustina Marchal. Details of the grave markers in LOT # 22, Section C :

1) at left :

JOSEPH SIMON FOUGERON                                                                                                                       

   Born Oct 27 1787
             Died April 12 1858

  " Undecipherable below, probably religious epitaph "

2) at right :


        Born  MAY 1  1796         
              Died   DEC 14 1865

These stones are lost forever. When I finally got back there 20 years later, all I found was this one. The vandalism was rampant as well as the weather on the limestone grave markers but the many old trees have roots that grow bigger and topple them over which happened in this particular lot :

Maria Anna Augustina Marchal Fougeron

I almost lost these pictures when my cat decided she liked the flavor of Kodachrome color pictures ! You can see her TEETH MARK on the first one !

Research or Hungarian nut rolls ?

                Hungarian Cookbook                        

Last year, our oven decided to kick out right when I brought out the old cookbooks from the cupboard to start baking the Christmas baked goods.

 It's lovely timing which, of course, gave me more time to do research and take on additional research jobs over Christmas vacation and not feel guilty about not doing the baking for my children. Although, there are threats that Szent Mikolas will be bringing a new stove in time to make the Hungarian nut rolls.
      The cookbook I treasure, now that my Mom is gone, is a dog-eared, folksy collection of Hungarian and some American recipes. It was collated together by the St. Stephen's Mother Club in Birmingham of East Toledo, Ohio.  Birmingham is not an actual place you can google map ; it's an old historic district that began in the 1890's in East Toledo . The boundaries started at the Maumee river and spread out as more immigrants came to work in the smoky, industrial factories that provided jobs. It was coined "Birmingham" because of it's resemblance to the English industrial city in the West Midlands that was a center of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.  By 1900, Toledo's Birmingham had many factories,  a large Hungarian population and sprouted many churches to hold the numerous religious beliefs among their workers - mostly Greek Catholic, Reformed and Catholic. St. Stephen's on Genesee Street was a Catholic church .
     My Mom did not bake. Her mother did, and then skipped a generation to her daughter, who does roll out this Hungarian nut bread every year with her daughter !
  1. 1 envelope or cake yeast, 1/4 Cup warm milk , pinch of sugar
  2. Dissolve above and let raise in a warm place
  3. 1/2 lb. Butter, 4 egg yolks , 1 Cup half and half , 4 cups unsifted flour ,1 tsp . salf , 3 tablesp. of sugar
  4. Sift flour, salt and sugar;beat yolks, add cream.Melt butter and combine all ingredients of yeast mixture , flour mixture , eggs and cream .
  5. Work together until mixture is well combined. Divide into 3 equal balls and set in fridge for several hours.
  6. Roll each ball as thin ( but not too thin ) as pie crust . Spread with nut filling .
1 1/2 lbs. walnuts, ground 4 eggs whites , beaten stiff 1 cup sugar grated rind of lemon
  • After spreading the dough with filling , roll like you would jelly roll , not too tight . Place three rolls side by side in a pan about 13 1/2 inches long, 9 1/2 inches wide. Set in warm place. Let rise about two hours , brush with beaten egg and bake 40 - 40 45 minutes at 350 degrees . NOTE : My daughter & I never did the egg whites or lemon rind- we either made the filling like a simple boiled sugar syrup with water and sugar and ground walnuts , also have done it with a teeny bit of milk heated with the nuts , sugar  & cinnamon to make a paste.

Technorati Tags: 

Monday, December 3, 2012

How I started on my French research

        The family that is responsible for my very first plunge into genealogy are from France. I was a teenager, bored shelving books in a library. No one knew where in France. The older relatives always claimed Alsace - Lorraine because Buffalo, New York had a large community of French-speaking Alsatians that settled there starting in the 1820's. They traveled up the Erie Canal from the New York port when the Niagara Frontier was the " gateway " to the West.

       I never had any evidence of their origins in my American research. I studied the cluster of Alsatian families that lived and attended church with the Fougerons. In studying collateral relatives and their Alsatian neighbors, even the spouses of their children,  I could not pinpoint the origins of my immigrant group. Finally, I got a tip from a few obituaries and an old newspaper article that was found taped in a local library scrapbook collection about the history of streets in Buffalo. It was a secondary source but the article reported that Fougeron Street was named after a family from Belfort. But Belfort was a city, and the Fougerons were farmers.

    I did a weekly trek to the Family History library to crank the " Registres de l'etat civil "  microfilms in the the ' ville de Belfort ' for any mention of the name Fougeron.  Belfort was a military post in the 1790's when my ancestor, Joseph Simon Fougeron, was born. I exhausted all American records for him, his wife and the children that immigrated with them. Census, civil, church records all simply said " France " so I kept cranking the films until I landed on his baptismal. I had his birth date from his tombstone so I knew this was him. I then spiraled on to matching his wife and children's birth dates so I knew I had my group.
Fougeron Street

    Twenty years later, I now know that they hail from a very tiny rural village in the Franche-Comté region. I also have collected the beautifully handwritten French and Latin records documenting my French immigrant family and all their ancestors .

    Now a new interest springs up in my Fougerons research back. In Ellis Island records, I discovered that there were Fougerons in Massachusetts but they were definitely not from my immigrant group. The name is unique enough here where I feel in my heart that they are related. So I will follow this Massachusetts group of Fougerons to see if there are any family connections.

Update : There were related to my Fougeron group through Joseph Simon Fougeron's Great-Uncle from Petitmagny .

Sunday, September 30, 2012


"...Each age is a dream that is dying or one that is coming to birth..." Arthur O'Shaughnessy

           My husband's side is almost 100 percent Irish. His little mother passed away at the grand age of almost 94 and thought genealogy was a bit silly. However, she did like the fact that she could be a member of the DAR for all practical purposes.

         I decided to conquer the impossible in the known dearth of access to the church records of Ireland. Doing my own Grandmother's Kerry folks took almost centuries - or felt like centuries - and still hitting fort walls in my O'Mahonys and Jones. So I was pleasantly surprised when church records showed up for Sligo at FamilySearch and Ancestry website. Unfortunately, they are only indexes but confirmation will be solid when I can order the microfilms to connect the families.

        The Cleveland, Ohio family of Downs was found in a courthouse search of US records in the Cleveland courthouse before I investigated the church records online. They hailed from Ballinfada. I was lucky she had (at least) three sisters that immigrated to Cleveland. The records had their parents' full names and full townland names on their death records.

        Then I came upon the passenger record for " Ma Butler " who was the Grandmother that immigrated to Cleveland. She is even traveling with the cousin named Riley who lived with the family in Cleveland so that cinched it. For Irish genealogy , I feel very lucky indeed .

Some things I learned about Mary Jane Down's Sligo : (Sligeach in Gaelic) sligeach means "full of shells".
  • According to the Census returns, a staggering 75,660 emigrated from Sligo in the half-century from 1851-1901.
  • Her village named Ballinafad in Irish: Béal an Átha Fada, means "Mouth of the long ford"
  • Aghanagh is the Downs' actual town land situated in the civil parish of Tirerrill
  • Family Search wiki has a great page about working genealogy in tiny, tough Sligo
  • And lastly, that William Butler Yeats wrote ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ there in 1888.
Image below of Mary Jane Downs immigration to Ohio , August 25 1862 on the Ship Cultwater . 3rd line down from the top .
 NewYorkPassengerLists1862 August 25 Cultwater of New York MJ Downs
Source: NY Passenger's List  at Family Search

Monday, September 17, 2012


A Post from my Original Site 

Hungary Exchange & Nick Gombash

One day while on the Hungary-L mailing list, a serious, young man popped in named Nick Gombash . It was this link to his website HUNGARY EXCHANGE that opened my eyes to realize that we have a great organizer amongst us :
I was so grateful that someone actually took the time to gather all the digital books about Hungary in one spot and share them with us. Generosity in it's finest moment. That's just the beginning of how much Nick has shared with us along the way .
In the early days of internet genealogy, we have had so many knowledgeable contributors helping the newbies out at Hungary-L as we scrolled through the microfilms at the LDS centers for our Hungarian genealogy . There were even a few Hungarian genealogical societies in the USA or helpful assistants at the Hungarian Churches in Detroit, Chicago , Toledo and many other old enclaves of Hungarian - American roots. There is a need for helping people with their Hungarian records. I delved into it and never looked back. I think this is what seized Nick Gombash when he started out. He never looked back and to see all that he has accomplished on his websites is amazing. He is, no doubt, a knowledgeable and major contributor for anyone discovering their Hungarian ancestry.
Nick began his genealogy research journey in 2001 on all his family lines, from Yankee to the European. He started up a database for a collections of records called the "Hungarian Marriage Project". It now holds over 45,500 marriages. Marriage records are a favorite of mine as you can get up to 3, 4 new surnames to work on if the clerk or priest wrote in the maiden names of the grooms' and brides' mothers .
HUNGARY EXCHANGE also has a surname database and databases particular for certain regions of Hungary. I just discovered that he is indexing the civil records in Hidvég-Ardó in Abauj .
I hope Nick never quits !
I recently landed on his facebook community page named Hungary Exchange for those of us who likes a little dose of social networking with genealogists of the same interests. It is a forum where one can ask for help with records, maps, history and all matters of Hungarian research. 
Like Nick, I did not want to " blog ". Rather stay holed up in a library and research than blog but to keep the flame going, we have to fan it, spread it out so others may catch it and keep it going for the next generation .
That last link I bulleted is the one Nick web page I consult regularly. It is one of the great pages of links. Thank you , Nick !

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hungarian Records and Twins

         When researching old records from Hungary, one will come upon the mention of twins in the Latin words of Gemelli (could mean male, or male and female), Gemellae (girl twins) or Gemini. In Hungarian, ikrek (twin), két (as in two infants), kett, kettos or ketts gyermek.

   In this record, on July 9th 1756, we see fraternal twins - GEMINI - as it is written in Latin. Although not in this particular example, I always wondered about the popularity of naming fraternal twins, "Adam and Eve" for a boy and girl births or "Peter and Paul" for male twins. I see this naming occurrence in Hungarian and German records, even in baptismal records of twins born to immigrants in America. 

   There must have been something in the water in this town, Morvaszentjános, in upper Poszony. In this one particular record, in the span of one week, there are THREE more sets of twins born between the 22 Oct and 31 Oct, 1756 week ~ “Catherina & Elisabeth“ on 29 Oct; “Barbara & Dorothy“ on 31 Oct  and  “Andreas & ??”.  

     Here is an example of an "Adam and Eve" naming for twins. I frequently wonder about the survival rates for twins so always check ahead in the death records in the same time frame.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cholera took three dear ones

 (dedicated to Joan Sambrotto, Genealogist Extraordinaire)  

    I will never forget how my hand stopped turning the pages when I read the death records of Francesca Müller Neiderlander’s husband and their two children. I could not go on. Thinking the priest made a mistake in recording these deaths, I wrote the information down dryly and put my books away. I paid the babysitter and took a vacation from genealogy when I got home by spending the summer with my kids.             

That is, until my colleague, Joan, asked me to finish the job. What happened is that Franceska Müller lost her husband and two children as victims to an outbreak of cholera in Buffalo on the 7th of August in 1852.
               The large obelisk monument to her dearly beloveds still sits in the old part of the United German & French Cemetery, all written in German, and the etchings fading fast.
              During a horrific summer of cholera which decimated Buffalo families, eight years old Isabella Neiderlander was stricken and died at home on the 7th of August 1852. Hours later, she was followed by the death of her two years old little brother, Frederich Neiderlander. Later, that evening, their father, Frederich Neiderlander Sr., a thirty-one years old cabinetmaker from Alsace, passed away as well.
     Francesca Müller Neiderlander lost three family members in one day. The two other daughters, Emma & Caroline Neiderlander, may have been stricken and recovered. Emma remained an invalid all her life with a live-in nurse. Francesca remarried four years later, to Carl Gruner,of Saxony, who was a portrait painter and proprietor of a hotel in Buffalo . They had one daughter that was named after her departed daughter, Isabella Gruner. However, on a visit to his home country, Her second husband, Carl Gruner took ill and died in Germany suddenly, leaving Francesca to manage his hotel business. Yet, Francesca somehow lived to a healthy old age, with a happy second marriage, financial success & raised another family.
      In Franceska’s obituary, she was described as a woman who knew loss and hardship but had faith. She read and wrote in German and she helped her second  husband with the business of his hotel, The OLD GRUNER HOTEL, on Washington Street in Buffalo. She did well for herself  after she sold the old family property which became desirable downtown real estate (where the Niagara Mohawk Tower stands now). She died in her home at 156 Norwood Avenue, Buffalo at the old age of ninety .
Old German & French 2011 027
 Muller & Neiderlander Family Plot

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hungarian and Slovakian Record Searchers Update

        For those of us who have been diligently ordering our films and reading them when the library is open or patiently scrolling through the mostly unindexed records online for the past two years when Family Search started uploading the records digitally, you are in for a real surprise !

On June 15th , the LDS people did something nice! They indexed many records. Of course, as a volunteer indexer for these records, the spelling can vary so use wildcards in your queries. Also remember that not records have been indexed but it's a start.

If you go to the Continental Europe collections , scroll on down to the Slovakia, Churches and Synagogue Books, 1598 - 1910 link , it will give you two options :

You can go direct to your usual marked spot in  "View Images in this Collection" and browse through1,853,592 images ( at last report ) in this collection .In my case , I am in the middle of the early 18th century in Kobyly and always praying that I properly cited my last location to resume my searches .

Or you can search through these images in an indexed search fields .

                                       Here's the link :