Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Genealogy Field Trip

Planning a trip to Washington Cemetery, Brooklyn, to look for great-grandfather's grave.  Keeping links and info here for easy reference.

Apparently, this cemetery is big and difficult to navigate.  I'm trying to reach office in advance to confirm hours and everything.  Can't reach them so far.  Details:

Washington Cemetery
Address: 5400 Bay Parkway, New York, NY 11230
Phone: (718) 377-8690
Charles Gordon
Death: May 9, 1918
Burial: May 18, 1918
Visit: Saturday, Oct 6

Washington Cemetery (Jewish) McDonald Avenue and Bay Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230, Washington (Brooklyn) Founded 1867 County: Kings/Brooklyn 5400 Bay Parkway at MacDonald Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11230 718-377-8690 Records can be retrieved alphabetically by deceased's last name, chronologically by date of burial, and by burial society. They have excellent maps of each burial society plot area.

Apparently, sections of the cemetery were managed by "Associations" that could represent county of origin.  So I did a search for "Washington Cemetery" and "Association" and found this:
Not useful yet, though.  My great-grandparents' marriage certificate cites "Horodischer Bros" as performing the ceremony, but I don't see that group listed.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Connecting via the Past

One fun side benefit of doing genealogy work publicly (making your information available to others) is the possibility of making connections with actual living people! Because our family tree is public on, other people can make use of the information I have or contact me with offers to provide answers to missing pieces in my tree.  I've had this experience a few times with people on Ancestry.  Sometimes the connections are tentative - I'll see people copy some of my content to their trees, but they won't actually contact me directly.  In those cases, I usually snoop at their content, if it is also public.  Occasionally I have reached out, but not often.  Sometimes I see errors in their trees and I really should probably contact them, but I'm not always 100% certain of my info, and plus I'm still a little shy about all this stuff...

Sometimes, Ancestry will show me a connection to a "Private" tree.  So the details are not available to me to view, but Ancestry has identified something that is a match.  So sometimes in those cases, I will contact the person and ask if they want to share information.  Usually people are very helpful.  Many are probably like me - thrilled to pieces that someone else actually gives a shit about the little details I've dug up!

Well, I've just made contact with a distant cousin in Norway.  My grandfather was his father's second cousin.  We've only just made contact, but he's already filled in a number of holes.  Also mentioned that one of my grandfather's brothers was something of a renowned criminal in Norway, so now I'm digging into old Norwegian newspapers.  This cousin and I have now connected on Facebook, which is pretty cool.  And I found that he and another contact I'd made on Ancestry had actually posted some of my questions to a Norwegian forum hosted on the Norway Digital Archives site.  I was doing a Google search on my criminal relative, and pulled up a post with my name in it!

One post even included a picture of a gravestone that my daughter took on her trip to Norway!  Really wild.  And I was actually having trouble finding links to searchable historic Norwegian newspapers, but this forum pointed me to - exactly what I was looking for!

So now I've subscribed to the forum and - using the invaluable Google Translate! - have posted my own "thank you" to the group.  When I have a little more time, I'll go through the other information people had posted and see if anything there fills in other holes in my tree.

Genealogy in the digital age!  Woo-hoo!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More Death Certificates

I ordered two more death certificates recently, and they just arrived!

Lottie McCabe:

And Domenico Rizzo:

(Click on both images to make them bigger.)  I wanted each of these certificates to confirm the parent names.  That's the best use for me of death certificates:  they list the parents of the deceased, including maiden name of the mother.

Lottie McCabe was my great-grandmother.  This certificate confirmed the names I had of her parents, William H. McCabe and Mary Sheridan.  I was pretty certain of those names, but not 100%.  Through, I had found a 1900 census record that had been my initial clue as to the parent names, but that was the only record I had that listed both parents and Lottie, and of course it did not have Mary's last name.  I'm not certain, but I think I have found references to William McCabe in publications from the time period that indicate he was somewhat prominent in Staten Island.  Here's a link to one.  The significance of Mary Sheridan's name is that it is a potential connection to both Philip Henry Sheridan and the pixilated Sheridan sisters!  (I did find them referenced in another book, "Staten Island and Its People" under an entry about their father George Sheridan.  It didn't mention the pixilated part, which comes from historical family snarkiness, but did mention twin sisters born in 1900 and living on Forest Ave in Staten Island.)  Not sure yet how or if Mary Sheridan is related to either the sisters or the general.

Domenico Rizzo was Lottie's father-in-law.  I wanted to get his death certificate to confirm his parents, too.  In this case, it turned out that the names I had were incorrect.  So certainly that is helpful to update the tree!  His parents were Santo Rizzo and Joanna Spadaro. So now I have new names on the Italian side to start working on.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Death Certificate Arrives

A death certificate for Charles Gordon (my great grandfather) arrived today.  Here's a PDF of the document.  This document confirmed several things:  The home address I'd been finding in city directories and other resources, the date of death, and the names of his parents.  The spelling of his mother's name is different from what was in the marriage certificate, unless I'm just reading the handwriting wrong. (How do people read these things?)  The new bits of info relate to the burial including the name of the cemetery, which I didn't have until now.  I'm not sure I can read it though - Washington Cemetery?  Looks like the burial date is Mar 19, 1918.  The undertaker is Abe Friedman(?) and the address is 113 something... 

I found a Washington Jewish Cemetery in Brooklyn - I'm assuming that is the place.  Here's a picture:

Image from Flickr user basheem
I can't find information online about accessing records, but this site gives some information about what you can find if you visit the cemetery:
At the office in Washington Cemetery, there is a set of ledgers that list births in chronological order, giving the decedent's address and the cause of death, the name of the burial society and possibly additional facts. That may provide information now missing from an old, eroded gravestone. 
I'd like to visit the next time I'm in the area! For one thing, I'm wondering if his wife would be buried in the same cemetery.  She re-married twice after his death, and I'm not sure of the spelling of the last name of her last husband. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marriage Certificate!

Got my great-grandparents' marriage certificate in the mail!  Here's a link to the PDF.

From the marriage certificate, I (supposedly) now have the names of all four great-great grandparents, but the handwriting is really tough.  Here are all the details from this doc, according to my initial attempt to figure it out:

    Name:  Charles Gordon
    Address:  137 Suffolk St, NY, NY
    Occupation: Painter
    Birthplace: Russia (Was hoping for a town, but no such luck)
    Father's name:  Israel (no last name given, so do I assume "Gordon" is original?
    Mother's maiden name:  Esther Ossofsky ? Or something like that...

    Name:  Annie Cohn
    Address:  127 hindlow st. (almost certain I'm reading that wrong)
    Birthplace: Russia
    Father's name:  Tevew (Probably reading that wrong, too)
    Mother's maiden name:  Chaie Clursky ???

Ceremony performed by:  Mendel Sampro??
Horodisclie??? Bros Ben??? As???
109 Cudlow St??

Witnesses:  Mosel Kaplan and Sam Meir?

The next thing I'll do is focus on trying to track down Israel Gordon.  If the family stuck with Jewish tradition, my grandfather would have been named Israel, too, rather than Isadore.  And I did find a NYC birth certificate for an Israel Gordon for his correct birthdate.  Nothing for Isadore.  Would they have named hims Israel and then changed it for some reason?  Not sure.

The name "Gordon" is original to parts of Russia, especially an area called Grodno in what is or was Belarus.  So I'll start focusing there.

Also ordered Charles Gordon's death certificate, which hasn't arrived yet.  But comparing the handwriting on his parents' names may help figure out some of the spelling.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Norway Branch

So while waiting for death certificates to arrive in the mail, I've been spending time focusing on the Norway branch of the family. has not been terribly helpful with that, although they do have some birth and death databases from Norway available.  But the best resources have been from a few great sites in Norway.  The Norwegian Historical Data Centre has searchable census records from 1865, 1875, 1900 and 1910.  These census records are also available from the National Archives of Norway.  Both searches are a little clunky - I'd love to be able to combine terms differently.  And the National Archives site has a habit of flipping you from the English to the Norwegian in the middle of your search.  So I've also been employing Google Translation a lot. Both these resources also have parish records available, including baptism, marriage and death records and more. 

Interesting tidbits about genealogical searching in Norway:
  • The "farm" name is important.  Families tended to stay put, I guess.  If the census record includes a farm name, you can use that to search older census records.
  • Once you get past a certain time period, surnames are based on your gender and your father's first name.  So you don't have the same last name within families, which can be confusing but the rules are understandable.  E.g., we have a Peder Hansen in our family and his son Hans is not Hans Hansen but Hans Pedersen. And his daughter is Inger Pedersdatter.  
I was getting pretty confused about place names, since I don't have the same understanding of towns, counties, "states" and equivalents in Norway, so I set up a Google Map to see where people were born, hoping that would help know things like which parish record collection might be relevant to someone. I've added a few family members even outside Norway, just because it's cool.  So zoom out to see those.  If you click on a pin, you'll see some limited info about the relatives, including a few links to census records and other things. 

View Beth's Genealogy Test Map in a larger map

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Charles Gordon

So one of the goals of my genealogy research is to try to find out what my Great Grandfather's last name was.  He was born in Russia in the late 1800s and emigrated to New York City.  We don't know if "Gordon" is an Americanized version of his last name or original.  Also don't know if Charles was his real first name, actually.  From family oral history, we know he married another Russian emigre named "Anna Cohen" and died fairly young in an accident.  He had 4 kids: Isadore (my grandfather), Lee, Henrietta and George.

So I've been working on this for a while now, and one thing I've found is that my grandmother's last name was actually Cohn and she usually went by Annie rather than Anna.  Using the wonderful Italian Genealogy group website, I've searched for death and marriage records.  I ordered what I thought was Charles Gordon's death record, but when I received it I realized it was definitely not him based on all the other information on the document.  So that was a learning experience.  But now I've found (and ordered) both a marriage record and a death record that I believe are correct!  Here's the marriage info from the Italian Gen site:

Cohn Annie Dec 21 1907 Manhattan 32926 C500
Gordon Charles Dec 21 1907 Manhattan 32926 G635

And the death info:

Gordon Charles 29 y May 9 1918 15819 Manhattan G635 

I'm more confident this time because of a lot of little bits of information.  But one big bit is that I think I found a couple of newspaper articles about the accident.  Here's a link to the main one from the Chronicling America site.  The article is in the upper right of the page:    

Here's a bit of the OCR'd text from the article, describing the death of Charles Gordon:

Just before it reached Convent A**
nue an automobile owned and drhrei
by Charles Gordon, of 2641 Jeromi
Avenue, turned into 145th Street
ahead of it. Nolan'3 wild clang*?uj of
the gong and the shrieks of the pas
sengers did not reach him in time for
him to pull out of the tracks.
Autoist Is Killed
The car crashed into the auto, de?
molishing it and continued on its way,
pushing a part of the wrecked machine
along ahead of it. The impact threw
Gordon backward from his seat He
burst through the glass of the for?
ward platform of the car, narrowly
missing Nolan, and his body finally
came to rest halfway down the aisle.
He died fifteen minutes after at
reached Harlem Hospital.

The date on the article matches the date on the death certificate, and the address is in the Bronx where I know they lived.  So I'm pretty anxious to get the death certificate in the mail, because it should include his parents names and may include more information about where exactly in Russia he was from.  These docs should arrive in the next couple of weeks.