Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where DID they come from?

Where did my great great grandparents Charles and Catherine Ball come from? What city, what country? (I believe they came from Germany but I am not sure of the city!) There have been a number of times when I am searching for one particular family name and seem to be getting no where, when I switch courses and try another family name and actually get a "hit". I find it is so exciting to find an ancestor completely by accident!
There are two really easy to use immigration sites for searching for those relatives who came over from the "other side of the pond". Castle Garden was the first official immigration center in the United States. It operated between 1855 and 1890. Over eight million immigrants came through Castle Garden. If you believe your ancestors came to the United States during that time period check out their free search database.
I have been lucky to find several of my family members who did indeed come through Castle Garden. When you find a family member's name on a ship manifest it will also usually indicate what port/country they departed from. That information may provide you with another location to search for information and vital records of those family members.
Most of us have heard of Ellis Island. Ellis Island opened in 1892 and processed approximately 12 million immigrants before it closed in 1954. Their website also offers a free database search.
Don't get discourage if you do not find your relatives. Many of my Boudreau and Deneau family relatives came from Canada. Other family members came through Baltimore and other ports. Keep looking, don't give up and happy hunting!

Friday, March 14, 2008

With a little help from friends...

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my great grandmother must have had a lot of "stories" to tell about her life. I discovered through vital records that she married her first husband Philip in St. James, Minnesota. Having contacted the Buffalo Bill Historical Center I was informed that Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was NOT in Minnesota in 1906, thereby eliminating the possibility that Alma was a performer in that show. I also contacted the Watonwan County Historical Society where I was extremely lucky in having an associate help me with my research. She was the best! She searched the microfilm and found the marriage announcement of Alma and Philip published in the St. James Journal Gazette on June 1, 1906. Coincidentally, the same day Alma and Philip were married, there was an advertisement for the Gollmar Brothers Circus giving a performance in St. James! Fact: Alma could not have been a performer in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in 1906 when the show was on the "other side of the pond". I will now move in a somewhat different direction. I will be looking into the history of the Gollmar Brothers Circus and see if perhaps Alma was a performer with that show. There is evidence that Philip was a theactrical agent at one time. Perhaps they worked for the same circus or show. I have that feeling again......that "itch" that I may be getting close to getting another clue here in my family history...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Here's the story, of a lovely lady......

In order to be "fair", I will share another story about a different ancestor. This time the story will be about my great grandmother Alma Guinee. I have no recollection of Great Grandmother Alma, she died when I was about eight years old. However, my grandmother Lucy shared the following story with my family when we asked questions about her. Here's how I remember the story....
Sometime after the turn of the 20th century, most likely between 1900-1906, Alma joined a circus, or a vaudeville show, or even perhaps Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show! (This story is very sketchy). She was only a teenager at the time. She may have traveled around the Midwest area with whatever show she was involved with. My grandmother Lucy told me Alma used the stage name of "Beatrice Arnold", which other relatives have also indicated to be true. In fact, people referred to her as "Bea". The story goes on to say that she performed song/dance routines and may have ridden a horse in whatever show she was in. According to my grandmother Lucy, Alma was actually a very good bareback rider. Apparently Alma very much enjoyed working as a performer and may have even had her picture on the cover of a playbill! (In the late 1930's or early 1940's, one of my cousins recalls her performing a song/dance routine for him to the song of "Shuffle off to Buffalo")
That's it. That's all I have of the story passed down to me. What parts are fact and fiction I do not know. How exciting as a child to think you might actually be related to someone in the circus or who may have really known Buffalo Bill! There are rumors that one of my cousins may actually have a copy of that playbill that Alma was privileged to be on the cover. I have yet to discover who may have it. As time goes by, my chances of getting a copy of that "playbill" may get smaller and smaller. My hope doesn't die though and my itch to find out more continues to grow.
I have been in contact with the Circus Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, unfortunately they have no record of a "Beatrice Arnold" working for the circus. Recently I have written to the Buffalo Bill Historical Society in the hope that perhaps they have copies of the shows' playbills. I do not have any personal pictures of Alma and I together. The few pictures I have however, do show a very lovely lady!

There's the story, of a man named ......

Every family has at least one story to tell about their ancestors. Fact or fiction, the story has probably changed over time. People have added their interpretations or eliminated unsavory details, not intentionally of course, that is just the way human nature works. There are a few good stories in my family, some wonderful "yarns" and one or two I would love to completely take out of our family history book.
These stories may actually provide a starting place or a time in history for us to research our family history. For instance, as a young child I had heard one pretty unsavory story about a particular great uncle I never knew. After connecting with a distant cousin, my cousin provided me with a newspaper picture of this uncle. I had had very little information on this uncle except the name of his parents and the date of his birth. I had no idea what happened to him. The picture provided me with the date, the name of the newspaper, the city where the picture was taken and the detail of why he was in the newspaper. He had won a fishing contest! The picture was taken in Florida. I hit the jackpot! That one newspaper picture and short article lead me in a few directions that I was eager (and a bit impatient) to explore. Being the type of person that has a bit of genealogy intuition once in a great while, (I swear, my mother could "smell" a Dairy Queen 50 miles away!) I felt on was on the verge of discovering more information about my uncle if I kept looking in Florida. I sure did too. I searched Florida's vital records and discovered his death certificate. After I received a genealogical copy of his death certificate, I continued to be curious because a large portion was blocked out. So, I did what any normal, persistent amateur genealogist would do- I requested the local newspaper for the specific time frame of his death (on microfilm, via inter library loan) and again searched. I found a number of articles about my uncle and copied all. The stories were of two tragedies and my uncle's unfortunate involvement. Based on those newspaper articles of the time, I can now provide a more factual story about my great uncle in our family history book.
I didn't really think about what I would discover when I started looking at that picture of my great uncle. I simply had an idea and I went with it. People say that a picture provides a thousand words, in this case it surely did! So, take another look at those pictures and see what you can find out with a little research and a lot of patience!

The Family

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck

Genealogy Pox, author unknown


SYMPTOMS: Continual complaint as to need for names, dates and places. Patient has a blank expressions, sometimes deaf to spouse and children. Has no taste for work of any kind, except feverishly looking through records at libraries and courthouses.
Has a compulsion to write letters. Swears at mailman when he doesn't leave mail. Frequents strange places such as cemeteries, ruins, and remote desolate country areas. Makes secret night calls and hides phone bills from spouse. Mumbles to self. Has strange, faraway look in eyes.


TREATMENT: Medication is useless. This disease is not fatal, but gets progressively worse. Patient should attend genealogy workshops, subscribe to genealogical magazines and be given a quiet corner in the house where he/she can be alone.

REMARKS: The unusual nature of this disease is that the sicker the patient gets, the more he or she enjoys it!