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.

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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-ComtĂ© 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 .