Old Time Newspaper Wankery

Newspapers didn’t always have pretensions to be objective. In the 1800s, they were often small operations. They printed mostly gossip. They were explicitly Democratic or Republican and received support from their party. In smaller cities, they were extensions of the publisher, who also served as editor and reporter as well. A newspaper was much like a blog today as far as its personality, including feuding.

In the 1880s, Springfield Illinois had two main newspapers, the Illinois State Journal and the Illinois State Register, as well as Sangamo Monitor. They were not friends.

From the Illinois State Journal, 11 July 1881, page 6:

Scooped, Illinois State Journal


With fiendish glee the Register and Monitor yesterday morning announced the death of Coleman Woods, the colored man who was sun-struck Wednesday. — Journal.

Just so: and the lazy Journal reporters would have made the same announcement, if they had been abroad, in search of news. They were safely housed, however, compiling from an old almanac the “best methods of preventing sun-stroke” and did not encounter the report of Wood’s death, which was prevalent throughout the city, and which was generally believe until the next day. Indolence is not always without its compensations, as is manifested in this case — Register.

“Just so” and if the over-enterprising reporters for the Register, who fiendishly declared that live men are dead, “had been abroad in search of news,” instead of remaining “housed up” in the effort to frame the above lame defense of an utterly indefensible action, they might have announced the three cases of sunstroke which occurred on Friday; the fact that two men were overcome by poisonous gases in the Court House well on the same day, and they also might have given a history of the operations of the counterfeiters, sentenced to the penitentiary by Judge Treat. Or if they had not been “housed up” Saturday, they might have been able to announce the interesting decision given by Judge Zane in the German American Savings, Loan & Building Association litigation, which the Journal presents this morning. “They were safely housed up, however,” and were consequently “scooped” by “the lazy Journal reporters,” just as they are again this morning. The fact of the matter is that the Journal is continually “scooping” its cotempories. The Journal is not afflicted with toadyism; it does not deal in “Personal and other Reflections,” but eschews personalities for the sake of legitimate news.

3 Ways to Tell if Your Distaste For Hillary Clinton is Sexist

3 Ways to Tell if Your Distaste For Hillary Clinton is Sexist

Implicit messages are more insidious because they are consumed and deployed beyond the realm of consciousness. We need not think deeply to identify the racism in Donald Trump’s depiction of Mexican immigrants as rapists or the sexism of his asking if Megyn Kelly’s tough questions were due to her being on her period. Identifying subtler racist and sexist cues is more challenging, however, because no one is immune to these subtleties, even those among us who have engaged in personal and public anti-racist and anti-sexist work.

Source: msmagazine.com/blog/2016/03/17/3-ways-to-tell-if-your-distaste-for-hillary-clinton-is-sexist/

Philip Helfer is Phil Hartman

Recently, while tracking down the family of my great great grandmother, Maria Hein (Mrs. William Solle), I looked into her sister, Mrs. Anna Helfer.

On 9 Sep 1887, a Philip Halfer committed suicide in Springfield. The next day, both the Illinois State Journal and the Illinois State Register ran lengthy news reports on his death. I’ll write another post later about the circumstances of the suicide. However, there were two pieces of information in the Journal’s report that compel me to write before I’ve completed much additional work.

The Journal’s report does not give Mrs. Halfer’s name. She is merely referred to as Mrs. Halfer. But it does say she is a sister of Mr. Charles Warner of East Springfield. Emilia Kibele’s obituary lists her siblings, including Mrs. William Solle, Mr. Charles Werner, and Mrs. Anna Helfer. It appears that suicidal Philip Halfer is the husband of my 3rd great aunt, Anna Hein. I love it when I can piece things together and make a connection.

The second intriguing things was the item title: “Philip Hartman Finds Rest”. Throughout the article, the text refers to Philip Halfer. Philip Hartman sounded odd, but sometimes Springfield newspapers of the time were sloppy with spelling. Indeed, every other record gives the surname Helfer rather than Halfer, and his grave marker spells his first name as Philipp. Perhaps the paper was even sloppier than I thought. However, I didn’t completely read the article because the quality of the microfilm scan degrades toward unreadable the further down the page one goes. But it isn’t all unreadable:

Philip Hartman Finds Rest
While contemplating suicide the day before his death he told Mr. John T Rhodes that his real name was Hartman and not Halfer.

Now that’s an intriguing tidbit! I’ve already got my great grandfather’s unexplained name from Öman to Hallin and the mystery switch of Mary Evelyn Sorenson to Frances Marie Newton. Now I can add the mystery of Philip Hartman to Philip Halfer. (More on the spellings later…)

Charles Teasdale and Mae Vonasek in travel records

In my Voigt family tree, I have a second cousin twice removed named Charles William Teasdale. He was born in 1896 in Cassville, Wisconsin, the town my great great grandfather Anton Weiss lived in, and grew up there until the early 1910s. In 1913 his mother Clara Voigt died, and in 1914 his father Alonzo B. Teasdale died. Charles and his brother Harold made their way to the Chicago area, where Charles married Mae Alice Vonasek in 1920, whose father had also died while she was young.

Charles became involved in an evangelical church as well, and this is where the genealogy gets interesting. In 1924, Charles and Mae went to Kijabe in the British Kenya Colony and became missionaries. The key records for many of my relatives are census records. Not so with the Teasdales. Their missionary work kept them out of the U.S. during the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Censuses. However, they left a long trail of migration records with frequent exits from the U.S., transit through the United Kingdom, returns to the U.S., and even one stop in Brazil.

In 1924, the first left Oak Park, Illinois for Kenya, traveling via New York and Southampton, England. They returned in 1931 with one child, traveling through Bremen, Germany and re-entering the U.S. at New York.

1924 Southampton passenger arrival manifest
1924 Southampton passenger arrival manifest

In 1933, they again left Oak Park for Kenya. They also traveled through Southampton, England on their way to British East Africa. The family returned in 1938 via Le Havre, France, this time with two additional children.

They only stayed until 1940, when they again went to Kenya. This time they traveled via Rio de Janero, I assume in part because World War II made travel through Europe too dangerous. The Brazilian records for their 6 day stay in Rio included the passport photos used at the top of this post.

In 1947, they came back to the U.S. again. This time they embarked in Mombasa, British East Africa and sailed directly to New York City on the Great Falls Victory cargo ship.

Great Falls Victory
Great Falls Victory

The pair left again in 1949, this time traveling back to Kijabe through Southampton, England back. They returned in 1955, flyinf Pan American Airlines from London.

And in 1957 they left the U.S. for Kenya for at least the 5th time.

U.S. and U.K. passenger manifests after about 1960 are not public, so I don’t know how many more times they passed through our borders. Nowadays international travel is much more common, but back then it was rare. This currently the largest amount of travel records I’ve got for one couple in my family tree.

Mae Vonasek Teasdale died in Kijabe in 1970 and is buried in the cemetery nearby. Charles remarried in 1972 before retiring to a retired missionaries community in Florida where he died in 1985. I haven’t read up on the Africa Inland Mission in Kijabe, so I don’t know how integral the Teasdale’s were to their work, but they obviously spent a lot of time there. At least two of Charles children became missionaries, and there are several more generations after them. As some of them are alive, I’ve not written any identifying information about them.

Teasdale travel map

Citations for photos on Find A Grave

When I first started recording sources, I didn’t understand the citation/source/repository model that is the basis for a lot of genealogy programs. I struggled to record a marker as the source for dates of birth and death. I sometimes recorded the marker itself as an individual source, but that quickly results in many entries in the source list. I also tried using myself as the source, when I personally canvassed the cemetery and recorded the grave markers. But logically, that’s incorrect because I am not the entity with the knowledge. I am a secondary source, and the original is available.

Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained has been invaluable. She writes:

When citing cemetery records you will greatly reduce the length of
your Source List if you cite the facility as the author (creator) of the
records, rather than use the gravestone or the record book as the lead
element in a Source List Entry.

That paragraph was a revelation to me. Now I have a series of sources such as “Washington, Seattle, Calvary Cemetery grave markers” in my Gramps database. This works great. For each citation linked to the source, it’s clear that the source(s) are the grave markers themselves. As a practical matter, I’ll rarely know who the informant was for the grave markers, so this is going to be as far as I can go in the chain.

However, when Ms. Shown Mills gets to online databases of burials, her recommendation changes. In that case, she recommends using the creator and web site as the source list entry.

I don’t think that always works so well for my database, and I’m experimenting with switching my database to her recommendation in the paragraph above. When an online source has photographs of the grave markers, I’m still using the grave markers as my source, not the web site.

In fact, what the web site says could be completely wrong while the photo included is correct. On Find a Grave, it’s common for people to add additional information not found on the marker. It’s common for memorial managers to change the listed information when they think they have better source. Older grave markers often have incorrect dates of birth, and memorial managers sometimes put the correct date rather than the date on the marker. I think I want to have separate citations for the information in the memorial and the information drawn from the markers.

For the information on the markers themselves, what I am trying now are citations to the cemeteries, attaching the images of markers to those citations, and sourcing each image to the Find a Grave memorial (or whatever web site/database it came from). Basically, creating a chain of citations. Anyone using my database can trace the information to the web site; that is not lost.

Some side thoughts to this experiment:

  • This is for recording in my database, not for publication. For a published article, I would cite as Evidence Explained recommends. If someone wanted me to write an article for them. Which no one does, at least not yet.
  • I use Gramps as my genealogy database. In Gramps, citations are first class objects, meaning they can be used multiple times in support of multiple facts. In GEDCOM and many other genealogy database programs, one citation supports a single fact. To support another fact, a second citation with exactly the same information is created. My model above may not fit the data models provided by programs other than Gramps.
  • This makes me wish Gramps and other programs had support for chains of citations. The only reason this works at all in Gramps is that media can have source citations. If I don’t have separate media, I cannot cleanly model this in Gramps.
  • I checked Tony Proctor’s experimental STEMMA genealogy model to see if he thought of this. Unsurprisingly, STEMMA provides for chains of citations. I hope Mr. Proctor can get some of this into FHISO standards and those are actually adopted by software vendors.
  • I’m still mulling over some thoughts on using Find A Grave and the photos there as sources for the burial location itself. Expect another post on that… sometime. I need to try some things out.

Mary Evelyn Sorenson ≉ Frances Marie Newton

A few weeks ago I found a record in an Ancestry database that indicated my relative Mary Evelyn Sorenson may have gone by Frances Marie Newton after moving to California from Wisconsin. (Mary Evelyn Sorenson, part 2)

I requested Frances Newton’s death certificate and got my copy recently.

Frances Marie Newton death certificate
Frances Marie Newton death certificate

Sadly, the record held almost no useful information for me.

Name of father: unknown
Birth place of father: unknown
Name of mother: unknown
Birth place of mother: unknown
Social Security Number: unknown
Name of surviving spouse:
Usual occupation: unknown
Usual kind of business: unknown
Usual employer: unknown
Years in occupation: unknown

I hoped mostly to find a husband’s name for further research, or parent’s names to definitely connect Frances Newton with Mary Sorenson.

The death certificate may yet prove useful, but it didn’t provide much useful right off the bat.

Mrs. Bertha Hein

I came across a very intriguing obituary today. On 12 Mar 1880 in the Daily Journal of Springfield Illinois, this appeared:

1880-03-12 - page 4 col 2 - Mrs. Bertha Hein

Mrs. Bertha Hein, an estimable lady, who had resided in this city over twenty years died Wednesday night at her residence on Capitol Avenue between Tenth and Eleventh streets. She was born in Prussia and would have been 73 years old on April 14. Mrs. Hein came to America 25 years ago, residing for four years in Connecticut.

The funeral will take place from the German Catholic Church at two p.m. today.

This is intriguing because I am looking for the parents of my 2nd great grandmother, Maria Hein Solle. I’ve previously found a number of siblings, but I hadn’t found any information on their parents. I believe it is likely that Bertha Hein is my 3rd great grandmother.

William Solle and his wife Maria Hein lived at 1017 Capitol Ave. In an obituary for their daughter Carrie that appeared on 13 Dec 1880, their home is described as being on Capital Avenue between 10th and 11th streets, exactly the same wording as that used 9 months earlier for Bertha Hein.

A woman with the same surname as Maria living at the same home in the same year is extremely likely to be a relative. Because Bertha’s date of birth is in 1807 and Maria’s is in 1843, Bertha is from Maria’s parents’ generation rather than her grandparents or her own. Bertha could be an aunt by blood or marriage, or a cousin of some sort of her parents, but the obvious relationship to start with is mother.

The Pitfalls of Ethnicity Testing

Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum

Given the increase in testing for ethnicity alone, I’m seeing a huge increase in people who are both confused by and disappointed in their results. And of course, there are a few who are thrilled, trading their lederhosen for a kilt because of their new discovery. To put it gently, they might be a little premature in their celebration.

Source: dna-explained.com/2016/02/10/ethnicity-testing-a-conundrum/

Ernie Sundberg, featherweight champion

Last night I watched the retirement of Washington product Daniel Bryan on WWE’s Raw. At the same time, I was researching Ernst Sundberg, the son of Nils Johan Sundberg, subject of my previous post. He emigrated from Sweden to Canada. Because he lived most of his life in Canada, I don’t have as many resources I can use to research him. The easy sources are the Canadian censuses, where Ernest Sundberg appeared in the 1911, 1916, and 1921 Canadian censuses, and his details matched up with what I knew about Ernst Sundberg.

I also have a couple of Manitoba newspapers I can view at newpapers.com and newspaperarchive.com. I found nothing about an Ernest Sundberg. However, there were a couple of references to Ernie Sundberg, featherweight wrestling champion. Going on gut, I searched online for him using Google. What appeared near the top of the results was a history theses by Charles Hatton, “Grappling on the Grain Belt: Wrestling in Manitoba to 1931”. It’s the story of early catch-as-catch-can wrestling in Winnipeg, featuring numerous bouts starring Ernie Sundberg, the hero of the local Swedish community.

Mr. Hatton’s thesis gives Ernie Sundberg’s date of birth as 2 Mar 1884 in Luleo, Sweden. And what do you know that matches up exactly with Ernst Sundberg’s entry in the Luleå birth register. We have a match!

At the end of the thesis, Mr. Hatton has images of many of the wrestlers mentioned. Two of them are of Ernie Sundberg. So not only do I now have a relative who was involved in wrestling, a form of spectacle I find very entertaining, I have photos of him!

Without further ado…

Ernie Sundberg

Ernie Sundberg

Nils Johan Sundberg’s date of birth

A few days ago I got an email from someone asking about a mutual ancestor, Joseph Tornander. She sent me a portion of her pedigree chart showing her connection to him and his wife. Naturally, I wanted to add those relations to my own tree, so I started doing so. Two of them are Anna Amalia Almqvist, granddaughter of Joseph Tornander, and her husband Nils Johan Sundberg.

But I quickly came on a discrepancy. On his death record, the date of birth for Nils Johan Sundberg is listed as 14 Aug 1848. But I could find no record of his birth that matched that. Most of the online trees that include Nils Johan indicate he was born in Nederluleå parish or Överluleå parish. Neither of those has a record for a Nils Johan born on that date. Now, Sweden is a big country, so there are lots of places he could be from and possibly one of them has a matching record. But it is pretty likely that Nils Johan was born somewhere in Norrbotten. So I dug a little deeper.

There was a birth record for 21 Feb 1948 in Överluleå for a Nils Johan, born to an unmarried Greta Stina Johansdotter. And one person had an online tree that matched that. My gut feeling was this was the correct date of birth, but I need evidence for it.

To find the truth, I started with the marriage record for Nils Johan and Anna Amalia, the one record I knew referred to both people correctly. It only listed the year of birth for each. Nils Johan’s was 1848. Then I looked at the husförhör record for Nils and Anna immediately after their marriage. It also gave a birth date for Nils Johan of 14 Aug 1848. Each husförhör record includes a reference to the previous record for that person. So I created a table, and started tracing backward in time, record by record.

As an unmarried farmhand, Nils Johan moved quite frequently, but it only took going back a few years. The record for him from 1 Nov 1871 to 5 Oct 1872 has his date of birth as 21 Feb 1848, which matches up with the birth record in Överluleå. Still not solid enough to call it good, but enough to know I was on the right track. Continuing to trace back, Nils Johan appears in a record covering 1855 to 1869, with a birth date of 21 Feb 1848, in a family with parents Olof Gustaf Nordström and Margareta Christina Johansdotter. Greta Stina Johansdotter. There is a strong likelihood this is the same Nils Johan Sundberg, now living in a family with his mother and step-father.

I continued tracing backward. The first appearance of Nils Johan Sundberg in Piteå parish is in 1855 in the family with Olof Gustaf and Greta Stina. He’s listed as having joined the household in 1855. His mother joined the household in 1853. Both from Nederluleå parish. It doesn’t say where in Nederluleå for either, and there are many places they could have lived in Nederluleå.

In addition to tracing backward, I also traced Nils Johan forward from the birth record. However, shortly after his birth, Nils Johan and his mother are listed as moving from Överluleå to Piteå parish. It doesn’t say where, and there are a lot of villages they could have moved to.

Date Date End Place Birth date Record Citation
1848-02-21 Harads Överluleå 1848-02-21 Födelsebok Överluleå C:1 (1831-1855) Image 178 / page 174
1848-02-21 1849 Harads Överluleå 1848-02-21 Husförhör Överluleå AI:2a (1841-1848) Image 218 / page 206
1849 1850 Harads Överluleå 1848-02-21 Husförhör Överluleå AI:3a (1849-1858) Image 222 / page 208
The record in the next row is for Greta Stina Johansdotter; Nils Johan does not appear.
1853-09-17 Rosvik Piteå lfs. Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:8a (1844-1853) Image 58 / page 54
1855-11-25 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:9a (1854-1861) Image 66 / page 60
1869-11-15 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:10a (1862-1870) Image 72 / page 63
1869-11-15 Hälleström Piteå lfs 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:10e (1862-1870) Image 199 / page 1378
1871-11-01 Hälleström Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11e (1871-1879) Image 247 / page 1328
1871-11-01 1872-10-05 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 39 / page 30
1872-10-05 1873-10-04 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-08-14 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 28 / page 19
1873-10-04 1874-10-03 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-08-14 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 47 / page 38
1874-10 Piteå lfs 1848 Vigselbok Piteå landsförsamling EI:6 (1861-1879) Image 66
1874-10-03 1877-12-02 Rosvik Piteå lfs 1848-08-14 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11f (1871-1879) Image 13 / page 1372
1907-01-18 Luleå 1848-08-14 Dödbok Luleå domkyrkoförsamling F:4 (1901-1923) Image 1170 / page 113

So I have a gap of 5 years for Nils Johan and a 3 year hole for his mother that I should account for in order to complete something that withstands the Genealogical Proof Standard. It’s possible that my Nils Johan son of Margareta Christina Johansdotter is a different person than the one born in Överluleå. I haven’t yet performed a reasonably exhaustive search. Both their names are common enough there could be others.

But I have enough to satisfy me for now. And I absolutely can answer the question as to what Nils Johan’s date of birth is. It is 21 Feb 1848.

Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 39 / page 30
Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 39 / page 30

And I even have a pretty good idea how the change in date happened. If you look at the attached image for the record that shows him living in Rosvik from 1871 to 1872, you will see the person listed below has a date of birth of 14 Aug 1842. When Nils Johan moved and a new record was created, the religious official who created the new record looked to the old one to fill out the information properly. It looks likely to me that he transcribed the day and month from the person listed below. Every record created after that copied the same, incorrect, birth date until the day he died.

At least, that’s what I suspect happened.