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Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. Hope that 2013 brings joy and good wishes to all!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Favorite Photo #3


This c. 1919 photo is of my great-grandfather, Robert Martin Wombacher, and his six sons.
Front row: Henry, Robert Martin, Bob, and George.
Back row: Clarence (my grandfather), Lester, and Elmer.

Favorite Photo #2


This 1905 photo of my great-grandparents, Robert M. and Louisa Wombacher, and their family.
Front row: Robert, Margaret, Elmer, Lester, Clarence (my grandfather, age 5), and Louisa.
Back row: Henry, Katie, Bob, Tutse, and George.

Favorite Photo #1


This 19th century photo is of my great-great grandfather John P. Wombacher (1st row, 2nd from the right) and his family. My great-great grandmother, Clara Dolowitz Wombacher, is in the back row, third from the right. She worked as a midwife. My great-grandfather, Robert Martin Wombacher, is in the back row, 2nd from the right.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Genealogy Tip

Genealogical tip of the day: when searching for your immigrant ancestors, always consider various ways of spelling the last name.  Spelling changes are a common occurrence and for good (and perhaps not so good) reasons. For instance, many of our ancestors may have been illiterate and were not able to spell their name to anyone who were recording their names on passenger lists and port-of-entry registers. We need to consider language barriers--thick accents are sometimes misunderstood, especially when port-of-entry workers only spoke English and not accustomed to speaking with non-English speakers. And not every immigrant spoke English!  Such awkward conversations lead to a variety of translations and spellings (and misspellings) of names.

We should also consider ethnic or cultural situations. Many immigrants understood that if their name sounded too "ethnic", they might face discrimination. Consider names like O'Brian, MacDougall, or McShane.  All three can be translated as "son of Brian", "son of Dougell", or "son of Shane" back home. But here in the U.S., it's very Irish or Scottish, isn't it? Many immigrants chose to anglicize their names in order to fully assimilate into the American culture, therefore, the O, Mc and Mac were dropped. It often became an advantage when looking for work and housing in the 18th and 19th centuries.

 However, there's another consideration: Brian can be spelled as Brien, or Brion. Dougell can be spelled Dougel. And Shane may be spelled Shain, or Shaine. One of my ancesters spelled his name "Kane".  But it also can be spelled Kain, Cane, Caine, Cayne, or Kayne.  Doubling the consonents is also a common practice--Kanne, Briann, etc.

Why so many different possibilities? We already know about anglicization, but we may consider other possibilities. For instance, if there is a family fued, one branch may wish to change the spelling in order to disassociate themselves from other branches of the family. Or for the sake of vanity--we know that entertainers change their names to appear more attractive and memorable to their fans and audiences. Or, if a family member became a criminal and wished to avoid the law--and in that case, may change the name completely!

So, when searching census records and passenger lists, please consider spelling variations. Knowing your variations can speed up your search and make your search more successful.

So, how many different ways can you spell your ancestors' names?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Quack's Daughter

Greta Nettleton has written an interesting book about her great-great grandmother, a women clearly ahead of her time. Greta can be contacted at: gretan@optonline.net or at
Here's what Greta wrote to me...
Through artifacts I found in some family trunks, I discovered that my great-great grandmother was a self-made patent medicine millionaire named Mrs. Dr. Rebecca J. Keck in Davenport Iowa from 1873-1900; becuase of the controversy & scandal attached to her achievement, her career has been more or less wiped out of the historical record, but she may have been one of the most successful female entrepreneurs of the 19th century, right in there with Lydia Pinkham and Hetty Green. (Then her kids lost most of the money with bad investments in Chicago real estate…unfortunately!) So Mrs. Dr. Keck is coming back to life in my current book, which I just published, which tells why she sent her fourth daughter to Vassar in 1884:
The Quack’s Daughter:
A True Story About the Private Life of a Victorian College Girl
by Greta Nettleton
Raised in the gritty Mississippi River city of Davenport, Iowa, 19-year old Cora Keck was sent east to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1884 to salvage her family's scandalous social reputation. Cora could have walked straight out of a Susan Glaspell story; her mother, Mrs. Dr. Rebecca J. Keck, made herself into the Midwest’s most notorious businesswoman by defying the medical establishment in four states during a lucrative career that lasted from 1873-1900. Cora’s great-granddaughter, Greta Nettleton, rescued a 19th century trunk on its way to the landfill 125 years later and discovered a trove of diaries and scrapbooks preserved inside. Set in an era of surging wealth torn by political controversy over inequality, women’s rights, and widespread panic about domestic terrorists, The Quack’s Daughterilluminates the life of a spirited and charming heroine who ultimately faced a stark life and death crisis that would force her to re-examine her doubts about her mother’s medical integrity.




Sunday, December 2, 2012

Online Websites

Online genealogy websites are incredibly popular these days. In just a few clicks, one can find a lot! However, it can be pricey--it usually takes a subscription to access digitized information. An annual subscription to Ancesty.com can cost upwards to $300 dollars a year. It's worth it, if you plan on using Ancesty on a regular, frequent basis, like I do.

Even so, there are ways to access the information without having to spend a ton of money. Check out the LDS (Mormon) Church's Family Search website (www.familysearch.org) or simply visit your local Family History Center, free of charge.  They also have an Ancestry.com subscription.
Many other records are available online--just check out the webiste Cyndi's List-- (www.cyndislist.com) for a full listing of historical societies and other organizations that have posted information online, and for free. Check out the US GenWeb site and Fold3, via Cyndi's List.

It's also worth checking out your local library--they may provide access to Ancestry.com, Heritage Quest and ProQuest websites.  All you may need is a library card to access those sites. And you may be able to access those site from your own computer!

Or, you can ask a professional to search the subscription sites, without having to pay the subscription prices.  A professional's fees are much more affordable than most subscription fees.  And because you're working with a professional, you'll may get a bigger bang for your buck.