Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Top 5 Brick Walls



I was thinking today about the trouble I’m having with some of my ancestors – some of them surprisingly so. I’m not talking just about those way back ancestors; some of the ones I’m having problems with are relatively close in time.

5. Rosina Maier Bernhardt – my great grandmother. She was born about October 1873 in Germany. Census data indicates she immigrated to Philadelphia in 1890 and married my great grandfather, Franz Bernhardt, Jr., in 1893. I haven’t seen her death certificate yet – Philadelphia City records are slow to move through the system – but I’m hoping they will offer up the name of a parent. I can’t find any records on her outside of her census records and death certificate. She died in 1929, before any of her grandchildren were even born.

4. Jonathan Russ – My great great great grandfather died during the Civil War.  Unfortunately, his wife had two children after his death without being remarried, so many Russ family historians are reluctant to agree with my assessment. However, they do all agree he was about 35 years old and a Confederate soldier – and records shows that Jonathan Russ, 35, of Bladen County, North Carolina died a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware. To date no records of his parents have been found, however most researchers claim he was the son of  Jonathan Russ.

3. Evan Cain, Sr. – my great great great great grandfather. He was born in North Carolina circa 1790, likely in Bladen County. There were two recorded Cain families that came to Bladen County around 1750, so he is likely a descendant of one of those. My great Uncle Edison has kindly agreed to have his DNA tested so maybe that will help at least put us in the right line.

2. Peter Hilliard Christian Pound – The first known documentation for Peter Pound, my great great grandfather, was probably the 1860 Federal Census in Lexington County, South Carolina – and that record is hazy. Thirteen year old Peter Pound was living with a Goodwin/Godwin family – however my Peter Pound was born in 1850. Family lore has it that his mother died shortly after he was born, but before the census taker came to call; if this is true it’s possible that he had already been taken in by another family. In any case, no one really knows for sure who his father is, although there was really only one Pound family in South Carolina he could belong to.

And my number one brick wall is:

Wilson “Tuke” Carter, b: 7 April 1861 d: 7 November 1921, Georgia

Apparently my great great great grandmother, Julia Ann “Annie” Carter, was an unmarried woman in South Central Georgia in the mid 1800s. She was born a Carter, died a Carter, and was the mother of eight Carter children. She was enumerated as the head of household on the 1860-1900 US Federal Censuses, never with a husband, and had different children residing with her at different times – some recorded as white, some as mulatto.

Many people list her husband as “Gus Carter”, but no record of any sort exists for a “Gus Carter” in that part of Georgia.  Others claim she was married to a man named James Nathaniel “Samp” Dyal, and that two of her children were fathered by him – while the latter part may certainly be true, James Dyal was married to someone else at the time and there is no indication that they were ever married either.

It’s interesting to note that two of Annie’s sisters led  similar lives. One can’t help but wonder what series of events lead up to this unusual choice in lifestyle.

In any case, I think the only thing that will help in giving any kind of lead to Wilson Carter’s father will be a DNA test. Unfortunately, his family was in Georgia, while my family returned to North Carolina in 1940 – my Cain family knows very few, if any, living descendants of Wilson Carter. They are out there, though, and I hope to find them and convince one of his direct male descendants to take a DNA test to help us get to the bottom of things.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Ultimate Family Tree


Recently +Dick Eastman reported that Family Tree by familysearch.org is now live and available to all users.

As you likely know, FamilySearch is a free website that is packed full of genealogical information. Now they offer us something new.

Usher in the Family Tree. Previously only available to members of the LDS Church, this project will result in one tree – for free! Any given person should only be found on the tree once (ideally, where they belong).

After taking a look at the Family Tree, it is clear that this is going to be an enormous undertaking. At this time there is no way to upload data to the Tree – all information must be input manually. But the interface isn’t complicated – it’s simply a matter of inputting the vital information of your ancestor; a quick search is then performed to see if they already exist; if they do, you select them, if not you add them – and presto! There you have it. A search can then be conducted to check for duplicates, which are reviewed and merged by the user.

The one thing that does concern me is a seemingly utter lack of control. Anyone can manipulate and change the data. There is an option to view a history of changes, so the information is still there. There’s also a place to cite sources, but those can easily be deleted as well.

Take, for example, the case of my great great grandfather, Jonathan Russ. He died in 1863 at Fort Delaware after being taken prisoner at the Battle of Gettysburg. This has been verified by the Veteran’s Administration and the National Cemetery Administration; there was only one Confederate soldier matching his statistics. The 1870 census shows his wife as having five children – two of whom were born after his death. So, his death date on Family Tree has been set to a date that would fit with these births – even though the evidence is clearly indicates otherwise. Will sources be enough for someone who doesn't want to believe them?

With no control, will this situation be what we can expect? Only time will tell. A unified family tree certainly seems to be a lofty goal – but it’s likely one that the LDS, with their years of experience – can reach.

FamilySearch.org is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fearless Females: Day 5–How did they meet?

March is National Women’s History Month and +Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist has presented the genealogical community with 31-derful writing prompts to encourage us to share our female ancestors.

No one knows for sure how Albert and Myrtie met – he was from Philadelphia, she from rural South Carolina – but it’s likely they they met after both making a big move to Charlotte, North Carolina.

In the early 1920s Myrtie Pound worked for telegraph service Western Union, in Columbia, South Carolina. Sometime between 1922 and 1925 Myrtie moved to Charlotte – since she was still with Western Union it’s possible that she moved as a part of a job transfer. In 1925 she lived at 301 E. Morehead along with her brother and sister.
It’s not clear when Grandpop first came to Charlotte; he was listed in the Philadelphia City Directory as an electrician in 1925 – however, there were no further listings for him after that, so it’s possible that he came to Charlotte around 1926. Grandmother isn’t found in the directory for 1929 although the rest of her family is – it’s likely she and Grandpop lived in Philadelphia that year.

Grandpop eventually became a television and radio repairman – considering Grandmother worked as a telegraph operator, I’ve often wondered if that was somehow what brought them together.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fearless Females: Day 4–Marriage Records

March is National Women’s History Month and +Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist has presented the genealogical community with 31-derful writing prompts to encourage us to share our female ancestors.

Albert and Myrtie were married in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 24, 1929. The service was likely performed at Bethany Reformed Church and was conducted by the Rev. Gustaf A. Hauck.

Al had been a member of the church since his baptism there in 1918; Myrtie was raised in South Carolina and attended a Methodist church there. Bethany’s congregation was primarily German, and since services were performed in German it’s likely that their wedding was as well. Grandpop’s family spoke German and English in the home but it’s likely that Grandmother didn’t know any German at all – her family was composed of primarily German-Swiss immigrants, but they had been in America for nearly 200 years – old timers compared to the immigration of Grandpop’s family in the 1850s.

My family doesn’t have any photographs of Grandpop and Grandmother’s wedding but we do have pictures from their 50th wedding anniversary in 1979.
Bernhardt, Albert and Myrtie 1979 50 Wedding AnniversaryBernhardt, Albert and Myrtie and grandchildren 1979

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fearless Females Day 3 - Names

March is National Women’s History Month and +Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist has presented the genealogical community with 31-derful writing prompts to encourage us to share our female ancestors.

(I’m being fearless myself for posting this – love you, mom!)

I was named after my mother, and it’s something I always hated – well, that and the fact that I actually go by my middle name. Those two things have always been an inconvenience. If they phone rang and it was for “Linda” I always had to ask “Which one?” I never felt like I was “me” – I even had her department store credit card show up on my credit report (a card she opened the year I was born). Then there was the picture she had taken of me as an infant with this cute little hat on to see how much I looked like her.

But years have passed and I am decidedly my own person now. And I don’t mind the name so much anymore – in fact I named my own daughter “Melinda” in honor of my mother (and kind of in a humorous way because she is “Me, Linda”). Melinda also shares my maternal grandmother’s first name (she went by her middle name also) – Anne (well, grandmama’s first name was Annie, but close enough!).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fearless Females: Day 2–Photo of a female


March is National Women’s History Month and +Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist has presented the genealogical community with 31-derful writing prompts to encourage us to share our female ancestors.


I am blessed to have so many wonderful old photos that it was hard to choose just the right one. I finally decided on this one.

Russ, Minnie Mae and Orpie (2)

This is a picture of my great aunt Minnie Mae (right) and ER aunt (my great great aunt, left), Orpie. I picked this picture because I feel like it really reflects the dichotomy and dynamics of a large family. When you have ten plus children it’s not at all unlikely to have a child and a grandchild close in age.

Orpie was born in 1904; Minnie Mae in 1913. While they were nine years apart, they were still close enough in age to have been sisters as opposed to aunt and niece. This picture makes me wonder about their relationship. But here’s the even better part – I have a picture of them taken together over 50 years later:

Russ, Minnie Mae and Orpie

There they are, decades later, sitting side by side, Orpie still serious and Minnie Mae looking mischievous.

I didn’t get to know these women – I don’t know if ever met my great great aunt Orpie even though she lived to be 96 years old; I only remember seeing great aunt Minnie Mae a couple of times.  For all I know theirs wasn’t a lifelong relationship – perhaps they, too, only met a couple of times. But I like to think that they were lifelong friends, and sometimes I wonder what their lives were like in rural Southeast North Carolina where they lived, and the good and bad times they likely shared.

In honor of:

Minnie Mae Russ Averitt – March 17, 1913 to June 28, 2001


Orpie Flowers Kinlaw Steele – October 6, 1904 to October 19, 2000

Friday, March 1, 2013

Amos and...Amos?

Hmm. Are these the same fellow?

A quick and messy merge job makes me think so:

I'd love to know what YOU think!

Fearless Females: Day 1 Favorite Female Ancestor

March is National Women’s History Month and +Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist has presented the genealogical community with 31-derful writing prompts to encourage us to share our female ancestors.

Anna Catharina

Born around 1836, Catherine’s story is the most intriguing of all my female ancestors. I’ve found nothing on her before her marriage to Franz Bernhardt of Philadelphia. Records claim she was from Hanover, Germany but it’s not clear when she immigrated to America, although I suspect it was before she married. The only indication of her maiden name is on a 1910 death certificate for her son. The name is recorded as “Smidt” but I suspect it might actually have been the more common Schmidt.

What speaks to me about Catherine? She had ten children – five of them died before they were five – and most of those died in infancy. In 1857, she had another daughter die at the age of 21. Just over a year after the death of this daughter, Catherine herself died – of uterine cancer (the “irony” is not lost on me).

I can’t even begin to fathom the toll all this death had on Catherine and her family.

I hope to one day trace her back to her family in Germany. For now I will continue my work in Philadelphia hoping to tie her to family there.

Bernhardt, Anna Catharina dc