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Birth, marriage and death records are now available on Information has been posted for births 1878 – 1909, Marriages 1866 – 1937 and Deaths 1862 – 1948. Scans of the actual certificates are not available, but rather the extracted information from the forms and the ability to order a copy of the certificate.

Despite having a lengthy “To Do” list, guess what I will be doing today?

NYC marriage


New York City is home to many sites of interest to genealogists or anyone who appreciates and enjoys learning about our area’s past. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting one of them, The Tenement Museum.

The Tenement Museum is a 5-story building at 97 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, built in the 1860’s by German tailor and businessman Lucas Glockner. By the time the building ceased being used for residences in 1935, it had housed an estimated 7,000 individuals from more than 20 countries.  I won’t get too much into the museum itself or the building’s history, as you can read that directly from their website.

Tenement Museum 97 Orchard Street Lower East Side

Tenement Museum
97 Orchard Street
Lower East Side

Tours of the museum start at the bookstore/gift shop located at 103 Orchard, at the corner of Delancy.  I strongly recommend purchasing tickets on-line in advance, as they do sell out and each tour is limited to about 12 participants.

There are several tours offered, focusing on different aspects of the immigrants’ experience, both inside the building and in the surrounding neighborhood. Most of the tours last one hour; one is 90 minutes.  All require a good amount of walking.  Special accommodations can be made if needed.

We took the “Irish Outsiders” tour.  It started around the back of the building and went up to the fourth floor. It included two apartments that have been left in virtually the same state they were found in when the building was purchased in the late 1980s, after 50 years of neglect. It appears to be “authentic neglect” and not staged to look old.  The other apartments have been restored to whatever time period being represented.

I have to say I was surprised that the apartment of the Moore family in 1870 was much nicer than what I expected it to be. The lower east side was certainly a step up from the Five Points, where the family previously lived and where they returned to several years later.

I was impressed that as part of the research into the building, they also located hundreds of descendants of former residents. Using records such as census and vital records, as well as personal recollections from the family members, the organization is able to present the stories of real people who lived here. Their efforts are to be applauded.

Three of the things I learned on our visit:
1. Catholic funeral customs include the covering of mirrors. I thought that was only a Jewish thing.

2.  Building codes updated in 1901 required the installation of windows on interior walls to allow light to come in from the only exterior wall and to increase airflow between rooms.  These “tuberculosis  windows” didn’t work for preventing the spread of that disease.

3. There was a 10-day heat wave in 1896 that claimed the lives of 1500 New Yorkers. (That was from a book in the gift shop, not on the tour.)

I was somewhat disappointed that taking photographs is prohibited. I understand the need and can imagine that it would be distracting from the information being presented. They do hold a special photography event, which was last week. We’ll be sure to keep an eye for the next one.

Our tour guide, referred to as an educator, was extremely knowledgeable and very pleasant. They are not allowed to accept tips, so I made a contribution in the donation box instead. The wide selection of books covering every topic of New York history and immigration also makes it very easy to contribute to the cause! I wanted one of each.

I am looking forward to my next visit and already planning one for next month. If you have visited the museum, please comment; I’d love to hear what you thought of it!


I would love to say that my lack of posting here in the past several months is due to being busy with fantastic genealogical and historical endeavors. But no, I have not been attending national conferences or institutes, or spending endless hours at the state archives.

I have been busy with life; a job, family, house, etc.  I don’t resent doing these other things, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish for my time to myself to pursue other activities.

This is not to say that I did not have a good summer. We attended a family wedding in Clemson, South Carolina and visited an old friend in DC along the way. We spent some time at the camp in Maine and finally met a couple of Connelly cousins whom I have been stalking researching for some time. I got in touch with other cousins from the Hug-Lankish line whom I would like to meet in the future.

I have just started a new research project, which you are sure to hear more about soon, and there are a few genealogical-historical events coming up that I am looking forward to. The Harmony Township Historical Society and Historical Commission is hosting an Open House at the Hoff-Vannatta Farmstead on Route 519 on October 26 . There will be tours of the house and barns, Civil War re-enactors and a quilt show. I am particularly looking forward to seeing how they disassembled two buildings that were dangerously close to the road and reconstructed them a little ways back on the property.

The other upcoming event is The Genealogy Event on November 2 in New York City. I found last year’s one-day conference to be informative and came home with many new avenues of research.

Please feel free to share any other events that I can add to my “Hope to Get To” calendar!


New Jersey will not become a modern day Gretna Green. Governor Christie has vetoed legislation that would have eliminated the 72-hour waiting period for marriage licenses issued in the state, saving us from the possibility of tacky 24 hour drive-thru wedding chapels.

The current 72 hours required between the application and issuance of a marriage license in New Jersey is a cooling off period to prevent impromptu nuptials that might be regretted when the blinding light of a new love or the rush of spontaneity dims. When I served as a Municipal Clerk, there were a few instances when the couple was not aware of or misunderstood the waiting period.  A visit to a Superior Court Judge always saved the day.

Senate bill, S2399, would have allowed for the immediate issuance of marriage licenses. It  was designed in part to attract destination weddings to the state, particularly Atlantic City. As the once popular seaside resort struggles to find its place between a shore town and a casino/entertainment venue, it was thought that this could draw betrothed east-coasters away from Las Vegas.

“Gretna Green” is a term used for a town that is a popular wedding destination, usually due to its less-restrictive marriage regulations. These regulations could be a waiting period or a minimum age requirement. Its origination comes from a town in Suothern Scotland where many young couples were married after England set the minimum marriage age at 21.

If your search for a marriage record has been unsuccessful, try looking for a “Gretna Green” near the couple’s usual place of residence. Very often it is a town just over the county or state border. A list of popular wedding destinations can be found here on Family Search.

Should you find a couple who did go outside of their hometown to marry, it does not necessarily mean that they were trying to avoid a regulation. It could be that they wanted to keep the union private, had friends or family members in the other town, or they simply liked that location better.

When all else fails, try looking in Vegas.


I love the rush of receiving new information on a line that had been stalled!

Last week, I connected with a cousin from my Maternal Grandfather’s PHELPS line. Our common ancestor is my 3rd great-grandfather James Phelps. James was born about 1844 in England. He married Hannah HARTLAND in New York City in 1872 and they raised their family in Bergen and Essex Counties, New Jersey.

The “new” cousins reported that James’ parents were Joseph and Hannah Tyler Phelps, who settled in Philadelphia upon their arrival from England with their many children. I am most appreciative of this new information, as I know nothing of his family other than his father’s name was Joseph. However, without seeing what records my cousins used to ascertain this information, how could I be confident that our James belonged to this Philadelphia family?

Patience might be a virtue, but it certainly is not one of mine. I (literally) could not wait to renew my research on this line and have been working enthusiastically on trying to prove this relation.

I reviewed all my previous research on James to see if there was anything that would link him to this family. The earliest record I have for James is his 1872 marriage record which does not state his parents’ names. Census records show the family in New Jersey, with James working in a lock factory and as a metal pattern maker (this is a “key” piece of information!) James’ death certificate only lists his birthplace as England, his father’s name as Joseph and his mother’s name as Unknown. His obituary contains the same limited information, and does not mention any siblings.Advertisement from the 1867-68 Philadelphia City Directory.

Conflicting census records state James’ year of immigration as 1847 and 1865. My earlier attempts at locating his arrival (focusing on New York ports) were unsuccessful. By extending the search to Philadelphia, I located an 1852 arrival of a James PHILLIPS, age 6, with his mother Hannah and siblings. The father Joseph Phelps had arrived in 1851. Census records show this group in Suffolk, England in 1841; Warwickshire in 1851 and Philadelphia in 1860. But is this “my” James?

The Philadelphia City Directories for 1861 through 1868 lists both Joseph and James Phelps at the same address and with the same occupation of Lock Smith. Advertisements in the same publications extends their scope of work to Silver Plater. By 1870, Joseph is still listed in the city directories, but James is not.  During the same time frame that this James Phelps leaves Philadelphia,  my James Phelps is getting married in New York City. I think this is looking good!

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.

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?


There was a piece in the news recently about unusual children’s names for 2012. It got my thinking about a few odd names in my family.

Does anyone else have an Acturus in their tree? How about Zeruzia, Bowdewine or Landoline? Melvina, Neva, Ora and Verdella are a few of the other uncommon names of my relatives.

I reviewed the approximately 700 individuals in my main family file, to find more 60 different male names. I stopped counting at 100 for the females.

One of the misspellings/variants of Bowdewine Gunderman.
He sometimes went by Barrry or more often Roy.

We have our share of the more common nomenclature. John is far away the most popular name for the men with over 50; followed by about 20 James’ and a fair amount of Francis’, Georges and Williams.The ladies list is filled with more Marys than anything else. Catherine and Ann (and its variants) make a good showing, as do Elizabeth and Ellen/Helen.

Of course, the list also includes many “old-fashioned” names that we don’t see much of today: Ethel, Irma, Estelle, Percy and Julius. Some are names one would expect to find of ancestors from Ireland; Patrick, Bridget and Kathleen, and those that might have come from Biblical inspiration; Jacob, Ruth, Isaac and Abraham.

When we were thinking of names for our children, there was no question that I wanted them to have names from the family. My husband, his father and great-grandfather are all John, so I didn’t want to add another to the bunch. We settled on Russell, which is from my husband’s family. There are only two in the immediate group.

The choice we had in mind for a girl was used for our second child, Katherine. She joins 15 others in the group, including my sister, several great-grandmothers and aunts; some with a K, some with a C. It is good thing she was a girl, because I was stumped on what to name another boy. In a moment of child-birth delirium that I thought was hysterical, the only thing I could come up with Elmer Owen Inscho. Like I said, good thing she was a girl!

What unusual names have you come across in your family research?