Long before the Consumer Product Safety Commission, people were on their own to make decisions about items they choose to bring into their homes and left to their own devices on how to operate them properly. Some did, some didn’t. Just as we do today, we read the instructions, maybe even the warnings, but we don’t always follow them as well as we should.

Such was the case in October of 1933 at the DAVIS home in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Writing to her daughter Inez at college, Inez Catherine CONNELLY DAVIS related a story of a modern convenience the family had purchased.

“We bought one of those dry-cleaning machines from Macy’s
and the chemicals to go with it. They are like a little washer only
you turn it by hand. The directions told us plainly to raise the
windows if used in the house and to be careful not to inhale the fumes.”
dry cleaning machine

So we know the directions warned about the noxious nature of the dry-cleaning solvent. Do you see where this is going?

   “We tried it in the house the first night  we got it and didn’t open the windows. The odor was quite heavy, like ether, but it didn’t bother us a whole lot. When we went to uncover the bird in the morning, he was dead in the bottom of the cage. So that was the end of Billy.”

RIP Billy the Bird


The monthly meeting of the Delaware and Lehigh Valley Genealogy Club will be held on Monday, February 11, 7 pm at the Grace Lutheran Church in Phillipsburg. There will be a presentation by representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Whitehall, PA. They will be discussing what is available at the Family History Center. Hope to see you there!

I am very fortunate to have a number of old family pictures that were shared with me by cousins. Even better, most of them are identified. I am currently working to identify three photos of unknown ladiess. I am using two labeled photos to compare them to.

The first pair of photos below are sisters Catherine and Mary Jane “Jennie” Glynn.  The lower three photos are unindentified. One of the possible idenities is Catherine and Mary Jane’s sister Julia Anna. I have no known photos of Julia Anna to compare.

Kate and MJ

unknown ladies

All photos except the last one are cabinet cards, I believe to be from the late 1880’s. Catherine’s was taken by Headley and Reed, located at 5 Purchase Street in New Bedford, Mass. The one of Mary Jane and the unknown one on the bottom left were taken by a photographer by the name of Hastings at 143 Tremont Street in Boston. The bottom center photo was from Henry F. Hatch of New Bedford.

The bottom right is a copy. I believe the original was on glossy-type paper with scalloped edges.

The Glynn girls were born in Bangor Maine; Jennie in 1863; Catherine in 1864 and Julia Anna in 1874. Jennie was married in Woods Hole Mass in 1886 ( the photo is said to be her in her wedding dress.) All three eventually moved to Carteret, New Jersey. Julia Anna died there in 1893.

Any thoughts on whether any of the three unidentified ladies could be  Catherine or Jennie? Do they look enough like them to be a sister?

Jennie Glynn Connelly

Cabinet card photograph said to be Mary Jane Glynn Connelly in her wedding dress.

I imagine the first thing most people did when discovering satellite images on Google maps was to check out their own house. They might have been surprised that such a clear aerial picture of their homestead is available, or bit freaked out by it. For most genealogists, I think the second thing they did was look for an ancestral home; I know I did. Did you? If not, what are you waiting for?!

Google maps – or one of the several other similiar sites – is a great way to “visit” your relatives’ homes without leaving your kitchen. With just a few clicks, you can peruse the old village and zoom right in on the house. You might also be lucky enough to have a “Street View” of the area, which brings you right down to street level, and allows you to take a simulated sight-seeing drive through the neighborhood.

To find these satellite images, go to Google Maps and type in the address. When the map appears, click on the icon in the upper right corner that says “Satellite.” Continue to zoom in for a street view. It takes very little practice to learn how to move the image around the way you want it and to travel down the street.

I have personally visited and taken pictures of many of these homes, but for the sake of demonstrating the current topic, here are a few examples of my relatives’ homes as shown on Google maps:

The DAVIS Family home where my father and his siblings grew up.

The DAVIS Family home at 96 Lord Ave in Bayonne NJ, where my father and his siblings grew up.

24 Carroll Street, Bangor Maine. Home of the Patrick and Catherine CONNELLY family from 1862 through 1932.

24 Carroll Street, Bangor Maine. Home of Patrick and Catherine CONNELLY and family from 1862 through the 1930’s.

Once the location of Thomas DAVIS' home in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton, now Naho Mama's Mexican Restaurant and Elvis Lounge.

Once the location of Thomas DAVIS’ home in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton, now Nacho Mama’s Mexican Restaurant and Elvis Lounge.

It’s not only domestic addresses that are available. You can tour villages throughout Europe just as easily. Here is one example from Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England; the approximate location of the 1861 home of my Fourth Great-Grandparents Thomas and Maryann (GRUBY) HARTLAND. Their daughter Hannah married James PHELPS in NYC in 1872.

Green Lane, Wolverhampton, England

Green Lane, Wolverhampton, England

Of course there are a couple of caveats to searching your family’s past addresses. First, house numbers do change over the years. What was #6 and 23 Carroll Street previously is now #24. The best way to determine the current address is to do a house history/ deed search on the property. If you haven’t done that, I’ll have a blog post with instructions soon.

Also, addresses are not always in the exact location that the mapping system places it in. Similar to your GPS device, it will take you close, but might be a couple of houses off.

There is certainly the possibility that your ancestor’s home no longer exists. In the photo above of O’Donnell Street, you can tell by looking at neighboring buildings, that this is not the original structure. (But my cousin Mona and I still stop in during our research trips to Baltimore for some seafood quesadillas.) My great-grandparents home in Carteret was the victim of “Urban Renewal” in the 1960’s. And in many cases, the entire area might yield little if any resemblance to the neighborhood that once was.

Even if the house you are looking for is not there, or if you can’t pinpoint the exact location, these satelitte images are a great way to get the lay of the land. You can see the topography of the area, how close it is to natural features like rivers or lakes, or far it is from a city center.

If you are getting cabin fever from being in the house this winter, take this opportunity to do some touring right on your laptop. And just imagine how much you are saving on airfare!


This week in my family’s history we celebrate my paternal Great Grandfather’s birthday and the wedding anniversary of my maternal Great-Great Grandparents.

My great grandparents Mary Jane and John Henry Connelly, sitting on the porch of their home on Essex Street in Carteret, New Jersey

January 22nd would have been John Henry CONNELLY’s  157th birthday.  John Henry was born in Bangor Maine to parents Patrick and Catherine Connelly. Although I do not have an official record of his birth, the records at St. John’s Church indicates he was baptized by Rev. John Bapst on the same day as his birth. His sponsors were Thomas and Eleanora Burke.John’s siblings were Margaret (1857,) Michael (1860,) and Andrew (1862.) The family lived on Carroll Street in Bangor.

In 1886, John Henry and Mary Jane “Jennie” Glynn (who was a neighbor on Carroll Street) were married in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Their daughters Inez Catherine (my grandmother)  and Edith Ann were born in Falmouth and New Bedford.  Ruth was born shortly after the family moved to Carteret New Jersey.

During their time in Massachusetts, and reportedly during Jennie’s first pregnancy, John Henry was involved in an accident that resulted in the loss of his right hand.

John Henry died at his home in Carteret on 7 March 1932 and his buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Perth Amboy.

sam malvina gunderman mc

January 24 marks the anniversary of Samuel J. GUNDERMAN and Malvina SPRAGUE.

The couple was married in 1894 in Vernon Township, Sussex County, New Jersey by Thomas M. Grenelle of the Glenwood Baptist Church. The witnesses to the union were Rev. Grenelle’s wife and daughter, which makes me wonder about the circumstances of the marriage. Why would family members not be the witnesses? Samuel and Malvina were both of age (21 and 18) and their first child was not born until a full year after the wedding.

Samuel and Malvina had 9 children between 1895 and 1922: Neva, Ora, Lottie, Mollie, Hazel, William, Chester (my great grandfather,) Helen and Gladys.

Historical and genealogical research in Bucks County could become a lot easier if a proposal by the Register of Wills comes to fruition. Don Petrille, Jr. was the guest speaker at this month’s meeting of the Delaware and Lehigh Valley Genealogy Club. He gave those in attendance a thorough overview of the records available and his idea for a centralized Records Center.

The county is currently in the process of constructing a new Judicial Complex, which would free up the majority of space in the current courthouse. When meeting with the consultants to plan future use of the existing building, he proposed a central records archives to bring together the older records that are currently spread out between several different departments and off-site locations. He envisions the center would be staffed by both county personnel and volunteers, have work space and internet accessibility for researchers and house a wide range of historical records and resources.

Mr. Petrille is not a genealogist, but clearly understands the value and historical significance of the records that he and other departments are responsible for. There is one employee in his office who specializes in the historic records and is always willing to help those in search of genealogical information.

The records available in Mr. Petrille’s office (which also serves as the Orphans’ Court) include original wills from 1684, will books from 1713, estate records and proceedings, marriage records from 1885, birth and death records from 1893 to 1906, inheritance tax records and adoption records (sealed.)

Additionally, the Bucks County Recorder of Deeds Office has the following records dating from 1684: deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, public official commissions, Notary commissions, trust commissions, UCC filings, land development plans and honorable discharges. The Clerk of the Courts has criminal courts records from the early 1700’s. The Prothonotary has records of civil and family courts matters as early as 1733, as well as naturalization files from 1802 to 1906.

Due to the fact that the records are currently stored in several different offices, as well as in an off-site storage facility, researches are strongly encouraged to make arrangements in advance of a visit to the courthouse. The Register of Wills and Orphan’s Court office can be reached at (215) 348-6261 or registerofwills@co.bucks.pa.us

Yakab Ziwerts and Berta Ermanson on their wedding day, 2 June 1913 in Dubrava, Russia

Yakab Ziwerts and Berta Ermanson
on their wedding day, 2 June 1913
in Dubrava, Russia

Like millions of Americans descended from 20th century immigrants, my husband’s family has heard the story of their great-grandparents’ arrival through Ellis Island. It is a romantic recollection of two young Latvian-Russians, Yakab and Berta ERHMANSON ZIVERTS.

As the story goes, they had inadvertantly purchased different types of tickets for their trip from Liverpool to the United States; one was as a tourist and one as an immigrant, which required them to be processed separately. But they refused to leave each other and eventually convinced the officials to let them stay together through the process. From Jersey City, they took a train to Philadelphia to meet Berta’s brother, who had previously settled in Bucks County.

When I started researching this family line, one of the first things I did was look for their immigration records. I searched long and hard, with many name variants and date ranges, with no success. Upon a visit to the National Archives in Philadelphia, I located the naturalization records for Yakab and Berta Ziwerts, who were now James and Bertha SIWERT. The records indicated that they arrived through the Port of Boston, not New York. There is a discrepancy with the dates, that I am not sure to make of, if anything. The Certificate of Arrival states they arrived on April 5, 1914, the Declaration of Intent states April 23, and family records say July 10.

Naturalization papers of James Siwert (aka Yakab Ziverts)

Naturalization papers of James Siwert (aka Yakab Ziverts)

I relayed this information to my husband’s grandmother Violet, the Siwert’s oldest daughter, and years later to her younger siblings. They all maintained the Ellis Island story.

“They went to Boston first because the weather was bad, but then went to Ellis Island,” said her sister Lillie.

Diverting to Boston due to weather made sense. But why then get back on a boat to New York and go through processing again at Ellis? Acting on a recommendation from a vastly more experienced genealogist (Megan Smolenyak,) I went to work checking ship arrivals in the Boston and New York newspapers, to see if the same ship was reported as arriving in both ports several days apart. She suggested that the passengers were processed in Boston, then brought to New York where the ship was probably going to be picking up other passengers or cargo for the return to Liverpool. They wouldn’t need to be re-processed, but there should be record of the ship’s arrival.

A news clip in the Boston Journal confirmed part of the story. The weather was indeed a factor. It delayed the arrival of the Cymric into Boston, which was its original destination on this trip.

Several questions remain: Why would they have traveled to Boston, when their family was in Philadelphia? According to advertisements, the Cymric made trips to both New York and Boston from Liverpool. Did they make a mistake when purchasing their tickets? Did they get back on a boat in Boston to New York and go through Ellis Island? I hesitate to write off the memories of Nana and her siblings, as they would have heard this directly from their parents. Any suggestions on ways to confirm or disprove?


Today we said Good-bye to a wonderful lady; my husband’s grandmother, Violet SIWERT WOLFINGER.

Violet was the first born child of Bertha HERMANSON and James SIWERT (aka Berta and Jakob Ziwert.) Her parents were Latvian-Russian immigrants, who came to the US in 1914 and settled on a farm in Bucks County Pennsylvania.

Nana was a genealogist’s dream, for several reasons. She was still very active and mentally astute into her 90’s. She told wonderful stories to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, about growing upon the farm and raising her family in Belvidere. In 1998, she put these stories in print, in the family history book titled, “This Day.” In it, she included pictures of the Hermanson and Ziwert families from Russia at the turn of the century through modern day cousins in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

 A few years ago, her daughters found another treasure – Nana’s personal diary from 1933 to 1937. Deep in the pages, long protected by the worn brown leather cover, we read of her daily routine; going to church at the Latvian Baptist Church in Applebachsville PA, walking to high school and catching rides home with the older neighborhood boys, and frequent trips to the movies to see double features with James Cagney and Errol Flynn. She tells us of the marriage proposal she received from Harvey “Red” WOLFINGER on December 11, 1936. “I still think he was only kidding.” He wasn’t. They were married in March of 1937.


 To celebrate Violet’s 95th birthday last year, several family members transcribed the diary; nearly 100 typed pages of memories to share with generations to come.

Despite the bitter cold and impending snow, the last two of Violet’s siblings were able to attend the memorial service today. We thank the families of Lilly SIWERT ORMAN and Arnold SIWERT for making the trip and look forward to keeping in touch.
God Bless You Nana.

There is an aspect of genealogy research beyond the traditional building of one’s family tree that many people might not be aware of. It’s not always about finding ancestors; sometimes it’s about finding descendants.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, a nationally-known and well-respected genealogist here in New Jersey,  works with the Defense Department to confirm identities of servicemen killed in action by locating living family members. In many cases, the remains are returned home more than 50 years later. The latest case involved Staff Sgt Zoltan Dobovich, who died November 1, 1946 in the French-Italian Alps. Through the use of genealogical sleuthing and DNA testing, his remains were positively confirmed and current family members were identified. He will be laid to rest at a veteran’s cemetery in South Jersey later this week.

Noble work, Megan.



Are these census records available anywhere?

Luke 2:1-7scroll

2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.