Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In my last entry here five years ago, I posited that Charles Leon Schmitt was the son of Anna Soulliere, but not of Robert Schmitt, listed on his death certificate as his father. Since then, I have looked at the probate records for Robert’s father John Schmitt. John was a wealthy liquor merchant who owned a lot of land, although based on the probate records, maybe not really all that wealthy; he was mortgaged up to the hilt. His probate records go into a lot of detail about his family. He had several children, a number of whom had died before John did in 1900 (and, interestingly, some of his children even show up in the probate records without having died, the result of their wives petitioning the probate court to take over the family finances due to their spouse’s alcoholism, perhaps an occupational hazard of being a liquor dealer). So for any sons who had died but had children, there was a list of those children as John’s heirs.

There was no listing for children of Robert. Given how thorough the listing was for the children of other sons and daughters of John Schmitt, I believe that the children listed elsewhere as children of Robert and Anna were not Robert’s natural-born children. They weren’t seen by the Schmitt family as Schmitts. John Schmitt was thorough about noting his heirs, and it seems to me that there was no break with Robert during Robert’s lifetime; he died working on his father’s farm, after all. Not to say that Robert wasn’t a father to them, but it seems to me that, given the timelines, it is far more likely that Charles, Minnie, and Stella were Anna’s children. Robert may have adopted them; I have not found any record of that, and given that adoptions before the 20th century were often informal, I don’t expect to.

So now I was faced with trying to figure out which Soulliere family Anna belonged to. There were several in the Detroit/Windsor area at the time, some of whom had a child named Anna/Annie, none of whom seemed correct. The marriage record for Ferdinand R. (Robert) Schmitt and Anna Sutheir (Soulliere) Kleiber in 1891 lists her father as Leon. Their marriage affadavit gives her mother’s maiden name as Girardin, which seems to be an Anglicization of Desjardin (I’ve seen the name Gardner used for some Desjardins in the Detroit River region, too). The marriage record in Ontario for Annie Smith and Joseph Stanley gives her parents’ names as Leo Soulliere and Ang followed by something unclear that might be Desjardins. Leon Soulliere and Archange Desjardins were listed in the 1861 Census in Canada with children James (age 15), Mary (age 11), Leon (age 9), Alex (age 3), and Frederick (age 2). By 1880, 19 years later, they had moved to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where they are living with their children Frederick (age 20), Agnes (age 16), Josephine (age 14), Gilbert (age 13), Edmund (age 11), William (age 8), Louisa (age 6), and Ida (age 3). No Anna. I have been unable to find the family of Leon Soulliere in the 1870 US Census or 1871 Canada Census. Anna appears to have been born in about 1862, just after the 1861 Canada Census; she would have been 18 by the time of the 1880 Census, and based on the birth date of Charles Leon Schmitt from his death certificate, was probably living with her husband and newborn child at that point, not with her parents. I have not been able to find them in the 1880 Census.

Father Christian Dennison wrote a book, Genealogy of the French Families of the Detroit River Region, which was published by the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research in 1976, and revised and republished in 1987. The index to the book is freely available on the DSGR web site, and the entire contents of the book is on the web site for members of the society. I am a member, so I looked through the book. They have the family of Leon Chrisostome Soulliere listed, but again, no Anna.

I finally found a document that tied Anna definitively to the Leon Soulliere family of Grosse Pointe in the probate records of Wayne County. Leon died on November 6, 1899, and on November 13, his will was submitted for probate. The first page of the probate petition lists all of his heirs:

Bingo! We know from the marriage record of Annie and Joseph Stanley on December 21, 1899, little over a month after this petition was submitted, that Anna was going by the name Annie Smith after the death of her husband Robert Schmitt. The list of Leon and Archange’s children appears to be in order of age, based on the censuses. She would appear to have been born between 1861, when she is not present in the Canada census, and 1864, when her sister Agnes was born. That fits right in with the derived date of about 1862.

Anna and Charles Leon didn’t leave a lot of footprints in the records. It has been a real challenge to tease this out. It’s possible that something may show up that throws a monkey wrench into this, since I have not been able to find anything connecting Charles Leon to Annie while he was a child; the best I have is Charles’s death certificate and the connection via city directories around 1900. But I am reasonably confident at this point of my conclusions here.

Leon Chrisostome Soulliere, as mentioned, shows up in Father Dennison’s book. The book isn’t perfect; it is known to have some mistakes, and everything there should be verified. But based on what I see there, it appears that my French-Canadian ancestors have been in the Detroit-Windsor area for a very long time, back to maybe the 1750s, and possibly earlier, and in Québec going back into the 1600s.

Leon Soulliere

John Schmitt

Posted at 11:43:34 AM || Link to this entry


Thursday, December 22, 2011

I've been digging into my great-great grandfather Charles Leon Schmitt's ancestry, as I promised. I haven't made any firm conclusions yet. As they say on Facebook, it's complicated. This has been a brick wall for several years now.

Charles' death certificate gives his parents' names as Robert Schmitt and Anna Souliere, as I noted back in 2004. I now think that this information, provided by his wife Daley, is partially wrong.

Charles' death certificate and burial record both give his birth date at March 29, 1880. Robert and Anna appear not to have married until 1891, and it was not the first marriage for either of them.

The only Robert Schmitt I've found in the Census in Michigan was the son of John Schmitt, a grocer/liquor merchant and politician (he was a Detroit alderman in the 1880s according to my research). John was quite wealthy as a result of his business activities, and owned farmland out in Grosse Pointe in addition to his house at 379 St. Aubin and his grocery/liquor store at 37 Michigan Grand Ave., later renamed Cadillac Square. Robert was the sixth of eight children. His older brothers eventually took ownership of the liquor business (and later became alcohlics and died, except for the brother who became a doctor and moved to California, but that's another story), but Robert wasn't an owner; he worked as a clerk there in the late 1870s, then went on to take care of his father's farm in Grosse Pointe. Robert married his first wife, Emma Pfiefle, on May 8, 1879. In the 1880 census, he shows up in Grosse Pointe as Robert F. Schmitt, with Emma and her brother Adam Pfiefle. The 1884 Michigan Census of Grosse Pointe, as transcribed by the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, shows Robert and Emma still living in Grosse Pointe, and John now living next door to them. I found an paragraph in the Detroit Free Press in 1887 saying that Robert had filed for divorce from his wife Emma on the grounds of alleged cruelty, desertion and improper conduct.

On February 3, 1891, I found a marriage record for Ferdinand R. Schmitt and Anna Kleiber, nee Soulliere. I've found that Germans in Detroit often switched between their first and middle names, so I believe this is Robert. Both are shown as having been married once before. Anna's maiden name is shown as Suthier, but on the marriage affadvit I found that she was illiterate and signed with an X, and given that the pastor who married them, Otto Haass, was German and may not have understood the French pronounciation properly, I don't find it hard to believe that the name was mis-transcribed. So Robert and Anna were married in 1891, almost 11 years after Charles was born. They're unlikely to both be Charles' parents.

I note that the 1880 Census was taken on June 1st of that year. Charles is not living in the house with Robert and Emma then, when he would have been two months old, and he is not living with them in the 1884 Census transcribed by the DSGR. I think it's more likely that Charles is the son of Anne than of Robert.

So I went looking for records involving Anne and her first husband. I found a birth record for Stella Cliebare, parents Charles (born in Detroit) and Anna (born in Canada), born 14 August 1883, and a birth record for Minnie Cliber, parents Charles and Annie, born 29 November 1881.

One last note about Robert. I found an article about his death on June 18, 1895, in the Detroit Free Press. It was front page news. He was working on his father's farm, chasing after a colt who was a little wild, trying to get his attention with a handful of bran. In doing so, he didn't notice a mound in the field. He tripped on the mound, fell down into a hole, and broke his neck. He was 38 years old. One of his sons was there with him when the accident happened. The article and the associated obituaries mention that he was survived by his wife Annie and three children. The article specifically says “one of his sons”. I've found no record of him having any children either with Emma or Annie, and Annie appears to have had either two or three children, two of whom were girls, so I wonder if the son mentioned here is my great-great grandfather Charles. Robert's funeral was held at St. Leo's Church, according to the death notice in the Free Press on June 20, 1895. Neither the state of Michigan nor Wayne County have a record of his death, so this is the only proof I have of it happening, plus a mention in the 1895 Detroit city directory.

Incidentally, family legend has it that our family used to have a farm on Belle Isle, before it became a park. I suspect that the farm in Grosse Pointe is actually that farm, and that we never had a farm on Belle Isle. According to the city of Detroit, owners of Belle Isle had names like Campau and Macomb, some of the oldest families in Detroit. The city bought the island in 1879.

I found mention of Annie in a tree on It mentioned that she married one Joseph Stanley in December, 1899. Armed with this, I went looking for them. I found their marriage record in Watford, Ontario, where Joseph Stanley was born, on December 21, 1899. Her name is given as Annie Smith, an Americanization of Schmitt. Her father's name is given as Leo(n) Soulliere. Her mother's name is given as Ang something. In the 1900 Census, Joseph and Annie are living at 74 Beech, with Joseph's step-daughter Estelle Smith, born in August 1883. That tells me that Stella Klieber/Cliebare, born in 1883, took Robert Schmitt's last name when Robert and Anna married. Maybe Charles did too. The 1900 Census shows that Annie has had two children, both of whom are still living. I don't know what that means, given that I found birth records for Stella and Minnie. Incidentally, Stella also shows up with Joseph and Annie in the 1910 census, this time as Stella Marsh, with an 8 year old daughter. Note that at Census time, Charles was not living with them. Stella worked as an actor, and later married Walter Fishter of Dayton, Ohio, another actor. I found the marriage record for Stella and Walter in 1911, and that record shows Stella's parents as Robert Schmitt and Anne Soulliere. Again, not likely since Stella was born in 1883 and Robert and Anna weren't married until 1891.

So I started looking through Detroit city directories. Robert is shown as having died in the 1895 directory, and Annie (wid Robert F) is living at their old house, 1103 3rd Ave. In 1896, Annie is not in the directory. In 1897, she's back, listed as Anna (wid Robert), living at 671 17th Ave. In 1898, she's at 243 2nd Ave as Annie (wid Robert), and this year, for the first time, Charles shows up, listed at the same address as a ship clerk. She's at the same address in 1899, and Charles is working as a molder, again boarding at the same address. Interestingly, in 1899, Joseph Stanley shows up boarding a few houses away at 249 2nd Ave. In 1900, there are two Joseph Stanleys listed, one at 74 Beech as in the Census, and a second at 628 Michigan, both working as linemen. I'm not sure if this is the same Joseph counted twice, but the one at 74 Beech matches up with the Census. No Charles or Annie that year. Annie disappears from the city directories at this point, now being secondary to Joseph Stanley. In 1901, Charles is working as a lineman and boarding at 996 Baldwin; Stella Schmitt is working as a seamstress and is also boarding at 996 Baldwin, an indication that maybe Stella and Charles are related (brother and sister?) Joseph, a lineman, is shown as being the head of household at, you guessed it, 996 Baldwin. Joseph stays at 996 Baldwin for several years, working as a lineman, wireman, and eventually inspector. Charles moves out, rooming at 200 Randolph in 1902, but 1901 has established the connection. I wonder if maybe Joseph got Charles his job as a lineman for the phone company.

Charles' death record and burial record both listed his birth date as March 28, 1880. They're both secondary sources, so they could both be wrong, but there's a primary source where Charles himself gives his birth date as March 28, 1880, his World War I draft registration. So that's presumably his birth date. Or is it?

I went trawling through the first birth records again. I found a record for a Charles Kliber, born to Charles and Mary Kliber on March 13, 1880, 15 days before the date Charles Schmitt gave as his birth date in World War I. Charles the father was a machinist, which is the same occupation given for him on Stella's birth record in 1883. Is this Charles Leon Schmitt? I don't know. And who is Mary? Charles Kleiber remarried on 11 August 1891, to Augusta Tegge, nee Kolaski. That record shows he was married once before, not twice before. Is Mary an incorrect name? Maybe it was Anne's middle name? Hard to tell at this point.

I got a film from the Family History Library of probate record indexes for the name Schmitt in Detroit up to 1901. I don't see any mention of Robert Schmitt in there. I was really hoping for one so that I could get some clarity on his family relations, particularly since he died unexpectedly and so young. There's a probate packet for Robert's father John, who died in February, 1900. The index for that had a lot of Schmitts in it, but no Robert Schmitt and no Charles Schmitt. I've ordered the film with the full packet so I can read it for myself, but given the apparent thoroughness of the indexing, I don't hold out a lot of hope there. There's another interesting packet in there that I've also ordered for Rosalia Marie Davenport, nee Schmitt, who married Henry Davenport in 1878. She was declared insane and placed in an asylum in Pontiac, where she shows up in the 1900 Census. Among the people listed in the proceeding is Annie Schmitt, who is listed as the guardian for Rosalia's daughter Myrtle. That may not be Annie Soulliere, though; John Schmitt remarried after his wife Rosalia passed away in the 1870s to a woman named Anna. One thing that may have caused poor Rosalia to go insane is that two of her children died within a couple of days of each other. Her daughter Rosalia Davenport, age 5 years and 2 months, died on March 3, 1886, and her son Henry Davenport, age 7 years and 10 months, died on March 5, 1886, both of diptheria.

I've also ordered a film of records for St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church. I had gotten a number of records from this church for Schmitts in the 1900s from their archivist several years ago. I need to look through the records to see if I can find anything about Charles and Robert here. I'm running out of places to look for them. Robert was pretty good at hiding himself. So was Charles. I feel like I'm so close on this one, but maybe not.

Charles Schmitt

Charles Kliber (Schmitt?) b. 1880

Stella Klieber(Cliebare) Schmitt Marsh Fishter

Minnie Cliber

Robert Schmitt

Anna Soulliere Klieber Schmitt Stanley

Posted at 10:34:04 PM || Link to this entry


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I've recently picked up where I left off on my genealogy work after a break of a few years. I work in New York City now and have a pretty long commute, so I don't have time for a lot of on site research the way I used to, but there's a lot of stuff online now that didn't used to be. I've been trying to find Robert Schmitt, Charles Lean Schmitt's father. I found a record of a Robert Schmitt on the Mt. Elliott Cemetery web site, but I haven't yet connected him to Charles. The cemetery sent me some records that showed that the Robert they have died June 18, 1895 of a broken neck. It would be interesting to find that this was Charles' father, as Robert appears to have been part of a family that owned a bunch of liquor stores. The burial record shows him living (and presumably dying) in Grosse Pointe, so I've sent to Wayne County to see if I can get a death record. That might clear some things up. I hope to have that in a few weeks.

I've also done some looking into the Hertels. The LDS site Family Search has a lot of records from Michigan on their site, including a marriage record for Carl H. F. Haertel and Wilhelmine Oertel, or as I think they would be rendered in German, Härtel and Örtel. They were married in Detroit on April 7, 1874. Carl is shown as a carpenter, which matches his profession throughout his life.

The Seeking Michigan site has death records from 1897-1920 for Michigan among its many treasures. Sure enough, they have a death certificate for Wilhelmine. It's not the gold mine of information that her burial record was, but it's good to have.

Posted at 10:46:51 PM || Link to this entry


Saturday, September 15, 2007

I suppose it's been a while since I posted here. When we bought our house four years ago, I knew that I would have to put genealogy on the back burner for a while. I didn't expect it to be this long.

Susan Kitchens has prevailed on me to post after this long absence. She's curating this month's Carnival of Genealogy. In conjunction with the upcoming release of Ken Burns' new documentary The War, the topic this time around is family stories about war. There aren't many war stories in my family. My grandfather enlisted in the Marines in 1944 and fought in the Pacific and was part of the force that occupied Japan, but he didn't talk about it much. I have one ancestor who fought in the Civil War and two in the Revolution, but I don't know much about them yet. But here's a story for you, Susan.

My grandmother was born in Austria-Hungary in 1912, right on the border between Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire in modern-day Ukraine. She was a small girl when World War I broke out, and given their location right on the border, there was a lot of back and forth, to and fro. It was not a great place to be. My grandmother told me that it was a difficult time. They grew their own food, and had a few animals. But the soldiers in the area weren't always well provisioned, and foraged for food as best they could. My grandmother's family, already at the ragged edge of survival as most peasant families in the area were at the time, had only one cow, and they couldn't afford to "donate" it to the cause. So, in order to hide the cow and keep the soldiers from taking it, they moved it inside. As in, inside their house. To the second floor.

Two adults, five kids, and a cow. I can't even imagine....

Posted at 3:05:15 PM || Link to this entry


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm digging through my files now, figuring out what has come in in the past year or so since I last posted anything substantive here. One small thing I got was a copy of the Social Security application (SS-5) of my great-great grandmother Daley (Hertel) Schmitt.

I had gotten her death record a while back. She died in 1955, before the death records for Social Security were computerized, so she didn't show up in the Social Security Death Index, the easy way to get a copy of an SS-5. So I hadn't before. But the death certificate had her Social Security Number on it. That made it possible to send away for the SS-5 form.

There's not a lot of new information there. I already knew that her birthday was June 16, 1884, from her death record. I knew the parents' names, although it's interesting to see her list her mother Wilhelmina's first name as Minnie; now I know what my 3G grandmother went by in her daily life. And the SS-5 contains the best rendering of Daley's given name yet: Thecla Anna Hertel. So it was useful for that. Also, it's got her signature, which I didn't have before.

Social Security Application (SS-5)

Posted at 10:17:39 AM || Link to this entry


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Welcome to anyone visiting this site after hearing about it on The Genealogy Guys Podcast. I was doing some ego surfing earlier tonight when I came across their podcast that mentions this blog (largely dormant since we bought the house). One of the podcast's hosts, Drew Smith, wrote a nice column about this blog (and how to start your own) for Genealogical Computing magazine a few years ago. He says some very nice things about me and this site in the podcast. The rest of the podcast (the parts that aren't about me) is pretty interesting, too. :-) The stuff about me me me begins about 13:30 into the show.

I haven't been completely inactive with my genealogy in the past couple of years, but most of my genealogy files are still in boxes, and the few things that aren't in boxes are not as organized as they should be. But I've got a couple of interesting stories I haven't told on the site yet, so I should be able to add them, hopefully in the next couple of weeks. And the house is really starting to come together lately, so I'm hopeful that I'll be getting the genealogy files in shape in the coming weeks and can restart my research.

In the meantime, I've added The Genealogy Guys Podcast to my subscription list in iTunes.

Posted at 1:31:56 AM || Link to this entry


Saturday, June 26, 2004

The archivist at St. John's - St. Luke Evangelical United Church of Christ in Detroit came through again. She had promised photographs of Charles (Herman) and Wilhelmine Hertel's grave in her last letter when she sent the records. About a week ago, I got another envelope from her. This one contained three photographs, all of that gravestone.

Charles F. H. Hertel 1847-1913; Wilhelmine Hertel 1850-1920

They're buried in Mt. Elliott Lutheran Cemetery in Detroit, on Mt. Elliott near E. Warren. According to the note on the back of one of the photos, this cemetery was known first as Trinity Cemetery, then as St. Charles before finally acquiring the name it's currently known by. The gravestone says that Charles F. H. Hertel (I've usually seen his name given as Charles H. F., so the stone may be wrong) lived from 1847 to 1913. So now I have a year for Charles' death, which means I can send away to the state of Michigan for a copy of his death record. I'm also going to write to the archivist to thank her for her help and to see if maybe there's a death record for Charles/Herman buried in her books.

Posted at 10:53:44 PM || Link to this entry


Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Charles Schmitt's death certificate says that his father, Robert Schmitt, was born in Detroit. Charles was born in 1880, so his father would likely have been born before 1860, and definitely by 1870. The state of Michigan has placed the Census for 1870 online in PDF format with a head-of-household index. So I searched for Robert. There were no heads of household named Robert Schmitt (or any variations) in the state of Michigan in 1870. So I looked at the PDFs of the census pages for every Schmitt, Schmit, Schmidt, and Schmid in Wayne County in 1870. There was only one Robert Schmitt in Wayne County in 1870 (at least in the census, near as I can tell). He was 13 years old and living in the house of his parents, John and Rosalinda (I think that's her name; it's hard to read, and might be Rosalia) Schmitt. Robert was the sixth of eight children listed. He was born in Michigan, presumably around 1857. His father John was a grocer, and clearly a prosperous one. He is listed as having real estate assets worth $50,000, quite a sum in 1870. John was 49 in 1870, which would place his birthdate around 1821. His birth place looks like Hessen Germany. There are three or four countries from back then with "Hessen" as part of their names, but the blob after "Hessen" doesn't look like any of them. It looks like Germany. I don't think Germany unified until 1871 or thereabouts, though. Go figure.

Anyway, I haven't been able to find Robert in the 1880 census on the Mormons' site. So I figured I would look for John, thinking that maybe Robert and his wife and newborn baby would be living in his father's house in 1880. Sure enough, there is a John Schmitt listed, living in Detroit, 59 years old in 1880, born in Hesse and a retired grocer (good for him!). He's living with his new wife, Anna, age 22, and his son, Francis J. Schmitt, age 14, who was 4 on the 1870 census, so this is apparently the same John Schmitt. And there's nobody else in the house. (Boo hiss!) In fact, I can find hardly anyone who was in the household in 1870 when I look at the 1880 census. Some of these names would be pretty hard not to find. There are only fourteen Cornelius Schmitts in the entire United States in 1880, for example (counting possible alternate spellings). There are only three Leander Schmitts. Unfortunately, none of them match other characteristics from the 1870 census, like age or parents' nationalities. The only possible match I found was a Charles Schmitt, born in about 1848 and with a father from Hessen and a mother from Baden, living in Detroit with his wife Mary and son Walter.

I'm not ready to claim this family as mine yet; I need proof that the Robert in this family is my Robert. But there's something interesting in the names of the children from 1870 that makes me wonder if this might not be them. I've seen the name of my 2G grandfather rendered as Charles Lean Schmitt. Until now, I thought that middle name might be Leon; it wasn't clear in my great-grandmother's handwriting. But looking at this family in the 1870 census, the two oldest sons of John and Rosalinda were Charles and Leander.

Posted at 11:11:32 PM || Link to this entry


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I guess it's been a while since I posted anything here. Buying and owning a house has proven to be a bit more time consuming than I expected. We're unpacking things slowly, because there's work to do on parts of the house and it's easier to move stuff around when it's still in boxes. So my genealogy files are still in a couple of boxes. At least I know where they are. In addition, we're down to one car at the moment, because Laura's was totalled in an accident a couple of days after Christmas. That means that if one of us needs to go somewhere in the evening, the other one stays home. So my usual routine of going to the local LDS facility to look at films on evenings when Laura is out dancing just hasn't been possible. But that doesn't mean I've been totally inactive.

In late February, I sent mail to the archivist at St. John's - St. Luke Evangelical United Church of Christ in Detroit seeking information on my relatives, who attended St. Luke a century ago. I had found a marriage record in the files of Wayne County showing a Daily Hertle (sic) marrying a John Smith, something which confused me mightily, as I have a birth certificate for my great-grandmother showing her parents as Daley Hertel and Charles Schmitt. At least Schmitt and Smith are reasonably close. That marriage record showed that the officiator at the wedding was Charles Haass. Haass had been a clergyman at St. John's. I received a reply from the archivist a few weeks later with a number of documents. Not among them was a marriage record for Daley and Charles, though. The archivist tells me that Charles (Carl) Haass was retired by 1902, and that his son Otto was pastor at St. Luke's at that time. She checked the records of St. John's and St. Luke and the marriage wasn't in either. She suggests that perhaps the marriage took place at St. Luke but wasn't noted in the records for some reason. Very strange.

So there were a bunch of records, and among them was a burial record for Charles Schmitt. It says that he was born March 29, 1880, died July 19, 1935, and was buried July 22, 1935 in White Chapel Cemetery out in Troy, Michigan. That rang a bell for me. My grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in the same cemetery, so it makes sense that my great-great-grandparents might be there as well. There was no record provided for Daley (Hertel) Schmitt. I called White Chapel to see if I could find a death date for her. They were very kind and looked it up over the phone for me. Sure enough, she's there as well, and died on July 16, 1955. I had asked my dad if he remembered Grandma Schmitt, but he said he didn't; that's kind of odd, since he was almost twelve years old when she died. I tried contacting my aunt, who has a better memory, but her e-mail address appears to have changed. In any case, now that I had definite death dates for both Charles and Daley, I sent off to the State of Michigan for their death certificates, hoping that they would include their parents' names.

They did.

So now I know that Daley (Hertel) Schmitt's parents were Herman Hertel and his wife Wilhelmine, maiden name unknown at the moment. I had come across them as a family in both the 1880 and 1900 censuses as I was searching for Daley. But since I knew Daley was married by 1902, I didn't look at 1910, 1920, or 1930 yet. Now that I know the names of her parents, I'll have to look at those and revisit the earlier ones. Now I also know that Daley was born on June 16, 1884, in Detroit, where she spent her entire life. She worked as a cleaning woman according to the death certificate. The informant was her son Marshall.

Charles Schmitt's death certificate didn't tell me anything new about dates (which I had gotten from his burial record, above), but again, it gave me a couple of names. Charles' father, my 3G grandfather, was named Robert Schmitt, who was born in Detroit. His mother's name was Anna Souliere, my 3G grandmother, also born in Detroit. That's interesting; I had heard there was potentially some French Canadian ancestry in my tree, and this may be the beginning of it. I noted on Rootsweb that the surname Souliere was present in Quebec as early as the 1750s. So now I have to revisit censuses looking for Robert and Anna Schmitt in Detroit. My next step on this is to send away to the state of Michigan for Charles and Daley's birth certificates.

Now that I knew who Daley's parents were, I revisited the records I had received from St. Luke's. Among them was a burial record for Wilhelmine Hertel, my 3G grandmother, who died on August 12, 1920 and was buried at Mt. Elliott cemetery in Detroit on August 14, 1920. Wilhelmine is listed as either the wife or the widow (it's hard to tell) of Chas. H. F. Hertel. Possibly he went by the name of Herman? This will take some research. Most interestingly, this record shows the name of the town in Germany where Wilhelmine was born, Elsterberg, Sachsen (Saxony). Wow! So now I've crossed the Atlantic on this line! There's even a web site devoted to Elsterberg. Nothing about genealogy there that I can tell, but then again, my German is limited to knowing how to order a pepperoni pizza and a beer.

There was no burial record sent for Herman/Charles Hertel. It may pay to contact Mt. Elliott and enquire if they have a death date for him so I can ask the state for his death certificate, and also to ask the archivist at St. John's - St. Luke to see if she can find a burial record, which might also show his birthplace with any luck. I'll also have to look through the Germans to America series of books to see if I can find a record of them coming to America.

The Hertels were definitely here by about 1877. They're listed in the 1880 census with two children, Robert, age 3 and born in Michigan, and Emma, age 1 and born in Michigan.

There were some other interesting finds in the information from St. Luke. Immediately following the burial record for Wilhelmine Hertel was a burial record for Florence Minnie Miller, born to Russell and Evelyn (Schmitt) Miller. My grandmother had another sister! Unfortunately, she didn't live long; she was born on April 9, 1920, died on August 24, 1920, and was buried on August 26, 1920. I had never heard about Florence. I wonder if my grandmother knew, or if my Great Aunt Betty knows.

There was a baptismal record for my great grandmother, Evelyn Clara Schmitt. She was baptized on September 7, 1902. Her parents are shown as Charles Schmitt and Thekla Schmitt. I've seen Daley's middle name rendered as Theola or as Thekla, so this seems to be her.

There was a baptismal record for a child of Daley and Charles', William Hertel Schmitt, born April 17, 1923, and baptized May 5, 1923. Interestingly, immediately above that is a baptismal record for my great uncle Charles Warren Miller, son of Russell Miller and Evelyn (Schmitt) Miller, born April 23, 1923, and baptized May 4, 1923. So that means that my great-grandmother and her mother were pregnant at the same time and gave birth less than a week apart. Sadly, William Hertel Schmitt did not live long; there is a burial record for him stating that he died on November 25, 1923 of cholera, and was buried on November 27, 1923, in St. Charles Cemetery. I'm not familiar with that one.

The last record was a burial record for Arnold Hertel, the son of Chas. and Wilhelmine Hertel. He was born on April 7, 1889, died on December 27, 1911, and was buried on December 29, 1911. Again, there's the name Charles as married to Wilhelmine. That will take some investigation.

I think the next step is probably to contact Mt. Elliott Cemetery to see if I can get a death date for Herman/Charles Hertel. Then I can send away to the state for death certificates for Herman and Wilhelmine. I'm also going to ask for birth certificates for Charles Schmitt and Daley Hertel now that I have their birth dates. I'll probably also contact the archivist for St. Luke to see if she can find a burial record for Herman in the hopes that it, like the one for Wilhelmine, will list the town in Germany that he's from. The 1880 census shows he was born in Sachsen (Saxony), so I suspect he's probably also from Elsterberg, but I'll need to investigate that. Plus I'll need to look up censuses for the Hertels up to 1930 and revisit the 1880 and 1900 censuses.

Baptism Records

Burial Records

Death Certificates

Posted at 6:25:48 PM || Link to this entry


Monday, September 15, 2003

Unfortunately, genealogy has had to take a back seat for a second time this year. Fortunately, it's for another good reason. My wife and I are buying a house. My father got a job in Florida, so my parents' house became available just as the lease on our current house was coming up. Perfect timing, that. We've been so busy with packing, throwing things out, filling out paperwork, talking to lawyers and bankers, documenting our finances and the like that there's been no time for research to speak of. I have three films sitting at the local Family History Center that are getting lonely; I ordered them when I was unemployed and had lots of free time, but now I have a job and an impending move, and I have no free time. Anyway, that explains the recent lack of postings here, not anything like lack of interest. I'm looking forward to having some time to pore over records and solve puzzles again, hopefully in a month or two once we're settled into the new place. The move happens in a little over a week.

Posted at 3:24:16 AM || Link to this entry


Sunday, June 8, 2003

[ Ralph Brandi, Jr., age 2 or thereabouts ]

I got e-mail from a cousin of mine today. He mentioned that the photograph of my grandfather on the front page of this site reminded him tremendously of his own grandfather, my grandfather's half-brother. That prompted me to match what I did for my grandmother who passed away in 2000 and post a page of photographs of him, something that I didn't have at the time.

Posted at 5:57:36 PM || Link to this entry


Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I've been thinking about going in to the National Archives in NYC for the day for a while now, but wedding preparations kept me busy. Now it's over, and we're back from the honeymoon, but I'm starting a new job on Monday, so if I want to go, I better do it in the next couple of days. So I was going through my notes to figure out what I wanted to look up. One of the things I was thinking of going for was a copy of the shipping record from 1909 for Atillio Maracci, Laura's great-grandfather on her father's side. The last time I looked on the Ellis Island site, they didn't have that page available, so I figured I'd need to look at the microfilm.

Good thing I looked again, because now it's there. As I mentioned before, he arrived in New York on the Regina d'Italia on 6 May 1909. The record shows that he came from Arcola, rather than Oriola as transcribed, and it shows that he left behind his wife, Casimira Peri, whose name we already had, so I know this is him. He's listed as going to Hibbing, Minnesota, which matches the stories Laura's family told us, and which is right near Chisholm. Most interestingly, the manifest tells me that Atillio was indeed born in Fivizzano. So given that I know roughly when he was born (1867-8) and now where he was born, I can get the records from the Family History Center (when I can find some time what with the new job) and push this line back at least one generation. The records that the FHC has for Fivizzano start in 1866, so hopefully he's in there.

Other items on the manifest include the fact that Atillio was joined by another person from Arcola, Eduardo Mosconi, who was the same age as Atillio and was going to the same location (same person, even), and that Atillio had been in the US before, from what looks to maybe be 1901-1905, in Albany, Minnesota. I haven't been able to find a record of that trip yet.

Posted at 9:14:52 PM || Link to this entry


Wednesday, April 23, 2003

I've been busy in recent months working on an addition to our chart: our wedding. So, not much time for genealogy. But since I'm not working at the moment, I may have more time for genealogy once the wedding is done.

We got a neat package in the mail today. It's large-format printed charts of our genealogy. Heartland Family Graphics out in North Dakota is run by a gentleman named Tim Lundin who is a big fan of the genealogy program I use, Reunion for Macintosh, and he's got a business that does a great job of printing out the huge charts that Reunion can generate. They do nice work. Highly recommended. I got the charts made for the wedding. I think they'll go over well.

Posted at 6:25:37 PM || Link to this entry


Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Back in June, I mentioned that I hadn't proven to my own satisfaction yet that Francesco di Rosa, Laura's 4G grandfather, was the son of Giovanni di Rosa and Sebastiana Irace and the widower of Maria Nicolais.

Now I have.

I ordered the film of marriage records from Cairano, a town near Calitri and the place where Francesco's wife Colomba Frieri was from. I hadn't found a marriage record for them in Calitri, so I figured they probably married in the home town of the bride. I was right.

Francesco and Colomba married in Cairano on 5 Jan 1811, after having banns posted in both Cairano and Calitri on 23 and 30 Dec 1810. The marriage record shows that Francesco, age 27 and a native of Praiano, on the coast south of Naples if I recall correctly, was the widower of Maria Nicolais, and the son of Giovanni di Rosa, a 55 year old trader living in Calitri and his wife Sebastiana d'Irace, age 50. Colomba, age 21, was the daughter of the late Carlo Frieri and his wife Rosa Frieri, still living at the time of the marriage and 55 years old.

I hit the jackpot here. Francesco would have likely been born about 1783, and Colomba about 1789. Giovanni di Rosa and Rosa Frieri would have both been born around 1755, and Sebastiana Irace about 1760.

As I mentioned in June, Jason has a copy of a document about this branch of the family that fills in some of the details. I haven't seen that yet, but hope to eventually.

Marriage Records

Posted at 7:54:34 PM || Link to this entry


Sunday, January 19, 2003

Laura and I visited her parents' house tonight and pumped them for more information on her dad's family. We drew up a tree of everyone we knew, including siblings. Good thing we did, because I think that's led to a breakthrough.

One interesting thing we learned was that Laura's great-grandfather, Atillio Maracci, came to America at one point. He went to Chisholm, Minnesota, and we were told he brought his daughter Emma, Laura's great aunt, to Minnesota to marry. So I searched on the Ellis Island site, and I found both of them. When I first found Atillio, I wasn't sure it was the right man, even though there was nobody else with that name, but now I am. He came to America on the Regina d'Italia, arriving in New York on 6 May 1909. He was 41 at the time. This would place his birthdate at about 1867-8, which is new information. Unfortunately, the image of the shipping manifest appears to be missing on the Ellis Island site, and I wasn't able to find it using Stephen Morse's alternate search interface, either, so I'll have to get this from the microfilm. The transcript shows his place of origin as Oriola, Genoa; there are a number of Oriolas in Italy, but none of them appear to be in Genoa province. I believe this is a mistranscription.

Emma, age 16, came to America on The America, arriving in New York on 5 Sep 1910. She was travelling with her cousin, 31 year old Paolo Tognoli, at her father's behest. Atillio paid for both their passages, and they were listed going to join him in Chisholm. The manifest says they were both from Arcola. Arcola could easily be misread as Oriola, particularly if it's written the way it's written in Paolo's entry. When I looked up Arcola on Multimap, it turned out to be right next to Pitelli, the village that Laura's grandmother listed as her hometown on her Social Security application. Even more interestingly, Emma and Paolo both have a different town listed as their birthplaces. I wasn't sure what the manifest said, so I entered the first few letters I could puzzle out into the search engine on Multimap and came up with Fivizzano, which is some few miles inland from Pitelli, Arcola, and La Spezia. It's also apparently the only town in Italy that starts with the letters "Fiv". Rereading the manifest with that knowledge, the birthplace definitely appears to be Fivizzano. And when I search for Maracci on the Ellis Island site, there are a number of other Maraccis who come from Fivizzano. Also, the Labo surname map shows one of the larger concentrations of the name Maracci today right in the area of Fivizzano. And Maracci isn't a common name, appearing in only 55 places, many of which are in the area around La Spezia. One other thing; the manifest lists Emma's mother as Catarina Peri. We have her name as Casimira Peri from other sources, including Laura's baby book and Albana's Social Security application. Since everything else checks out, I believe this is a mistake on the original manifest.

Posted at 10:33:12 PM || Link to this entry


Glutton for punishment?

Well there's more where that came from:

The Backstory

For Christmas, 1995, my Great Aunt Betty sent my father a family history that had been compiled by her cousin Hugh. It was a fascinating document, one that traced my father's mother's family in this country back to 1632, and before that in England to the mid 1500s.

But because of where the history came from, it necessarily didn't cover large segments of my genealogy.

I made fits and starts over the next five years trying to do more research, but didn't really put much effort into it or make much progress. I taped and interview with my grandmother on my mom's side, and my dad asked his father where Ralph Brandi Sr. had been born, but that was about it.

Forward to January, 2000. Both of my surviving grandparents passed away within eight days of each other (opposite sides of the family). My grandmother didn't exactly surprise us, but my grandfather's passing came totally out of the blue. I had been planning to call him and ask more questions, but first I wanted to finish some work I was doing on some photos of gravestones of ancestors mentioned in the history Aunt Betty had sent so I could send it to them.

I miss my grandparents very much. Working on this has been a way to keep them in my minds while doing something that helps me deal with their passings in a constructive way.

I've done much of my research on the Internet, but I've also gained more than a passing familiarity with microfilm readers. This is a record of what I've found, and pointers to where I found it.

Ralph Brandi
March 1, 2000 (updated July 13, 2005)



It's a bad visual pun. Don't try to pronounce it, you'll just hurt your tongue.

Explain, please

This is a weblog (or "blog" for short). A weblog is basically a page or set of pages of links to items of interest on the web, updated regularly or semi-regularly, usually with some sort of commentary. It's kind of the web equivalent of the e-mail you get from friends pointing you to neat pages. They're very hot on the net right now. Geneablogy was the first genealogy weblog, started on March 1, 2000. There are others that cover more general topics within the field, but this one is narrowly focused on my own search and research. This blog has been the subject of columns in The Detroit Free Press (March 24, 2001), Personal Journaling magazine (June 2002), Genealogical Computing magazine (October, 2002), and Family Tree Magazine (February, 2005). I also have another weblog that is not focused on genealogy, but covers a wide range of topics, There Is No Cat.

So why are you doing this?

Mainly as a personal diary of my research for myself, and also so that friends and family can keep up-to-date with the neat stuff I'm finding out if they're so inclined. If you're not family or a good friend, you'll probably be bored stiff by this. And if you are family or a good friend, you may still be bored stiff by this. :-) (If you are family and you're not bored stiff and want to contact me, a good way to do so is e-mail to an address made up of my first name at this domain name. Please forgive me for not spelling it out; I get enough spam as it is.)

And way back in third place, if I find some useful resources, I'll link to them (but usually only in the context of what I found there).

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