Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Saturday, April 20, 2019

In my post a couple of days ago, I used the archives posted by the Polish State Archive, AGAD, to push my ancestry back a generation. I had known that my grandmother’s parents were Anton Zurbyk and Maria Sobol. I had known that Anton’s parents were Mykola Zurbyk and Varvara Oryszczak. I had known that Maria Sobol’s parents were Bartolomiy / Bartłomiej Sobol and Katarzyna Mikuś. I knew very little about Bartolomiy and Katarzyna, but I at least had their names.

AGAD has the records from 1872-1906, with a few years missing, like 1880. To go back further than that, you need to access the records available through the Mormon church’s site. They have records for the Roman Catholic church in Liczkowce / Lychkivtsi / Личківці from 1816 to 1865, so it matches up reasonably well with AGAD’s archives. Obviously, there’s a gap from 1886 to 1871, but it’s close enough that in most cases, we can bridge the gap.

You need to have a login to see the records on, so I’ll post links to locally mirrored images here first, with links to their site second.

I wasn’t able to find a marriage record for Bartolomiy and Katarzyna. Maybe it fell into that gap. But they both show up in the birth records of the Roman Catholic church.

Katarzyna Mikuś was born and baptized on 17 May 1862 in Liczkowce in house number 176. Her father is shown as Alexander / Aleksander Mikuś, and grandparents as Blasii / Błażej Mikuś and Brigida Rużyło. Those names are new, and they’re my fourth great grandparents. Katarzyna’s mother is shown as Maria Kwiatkowska, and grandparents as Petri / Piotr Kwiatkowski and Margarita / Małgorzata Grabas. Again, newly identified fourth great grandparents.

Bartolomiy Sobol was born and baptized on 25 August 1856 in house number 48 in Samołuskowce, a village near Liczkowce. His father is shown as Vincentius / Wincenty Sobol, and grandparents as Gabrielis / Gabriel Sobol and Agnetis / Agnieszka Kielba. Again, newly identified fourth great grandparents. Bartolomiy’s mother is shown as Salomia / Salomea Rybak, and her parents (his grandparents) as Valentini / Walenty Rybak and Anna Kruk, newly identified as my fourth great grandparents.

Katarzyna’s parents, Aleksander Mikuś and Maria Kwiatkowska, were married on 9 November 1858 in Liczkowce. Much of the information is the same as shown on Katarzyna’s birth record, but the marriage record adds that Alexander was born on 25 May 1836, and Maria was born on 25 August 1839. The house numbers for each are the same as on their birth records.

Bartolomiy’s parents, Wincenty Sobol and Salomea Rybak, were married in Samołuskowce on 26 November 1848. Again, same information as on Bartolomiy’s birth record. No listing of birthdates here.

Finally, I found a death record for Brigida Rużyło, wife of Blasii (Błażej) Mikuś. She died on 13 January 1857 in Liczkowce and was buried two days later. The record gives the marriage date of Brigida and Błażej as 17 July 1831.

Birth records

Marriage records

Death records

Posted at 4:28:30 AM || Link to this entry


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Genetic genealogy has been a kick in the pants to get me working on stuff again. I see all these pretty close (third or fourth cousin level) matches show up on the sites, and in a lot of cases either I know immediately how we’re connected, or am able to figure out pretty quickly. In other cases, it“s more of a challenge as the records in countries like Poland and Ukraine have not been easily available. Or have they?

One of the sites I test on recently offered a 50% off package for MyHeritage. I had heard that MyHeritage was popular in eastern Europe, a place I’ve had much difficulty tracing beyond the personal memory of my relatives I’ve known and interviewed. So I signed up. Within a week, I had found a mention of my grandmother Jozefa Zurbyk’s parents, Anton Zurbyk and Maria Sobol. Turns out the mention there was linked to a tree on (owned by MyHeritage and also popular in eastern Europe) put together by a gentleman in Poland with roots in the area my grandmother came from, Liczkowce / Lychkivtsi / Личківці and surrounding towns. Not only did he have a marriage date for Anton and Maria, he had a birth date for grandma’s sister Katerina / Katarzyna / Катерина. Nothing about any of the other children, but enough to know that this was my family. There weren’t any citations associated, but this was enough to convince me that the records of this are out there and start looking for them. And I found them.

Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie / The Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw, a.k.a AGAD, has an extensive collection of records from the parts of Ukraine that used to belong to Poland between World War I and World War II. They got them because they’re the ancestral records of many ethnic Poles who for generations lived in a part of Poland (and previously Austria) that was now Ukraine, and with the mutual ethnic cleansing that happened when Poland and Ukraine’s borders were redrawn in 1946, most of the ethnic Poles who lived in what was now Ukraine were expelled and resettled in Poland, but had a need to have access to the records of the towns they left behind. Turns out, AGAD has scanned them and placed them online. No charge. Gratis. Free. Now, there are a lot of world records available online for free, primarily through the site of the Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons), You have to log in to see them, but they’re free. But the records for Grandma’s village and surrounding villages only go up to 1865, not recent enough to make connections. The records for her village on the AGAD site go from 1872 to 1906. Katerina was born in 1906, and her parents were married in 1905, so the records are there and available. The records are in Latin, as they were kept by the church. In this case, the Roman Catholic church in Liczkowce.

The record of Katerina’s birth (last item on the second page on this link) first says that she was born on 14 September 1906 and baptized the same day, in the house numbered 152 in Liczkowce. It gives her name in Latin, Catherina, then lists her parents. Her father was Antonius Żurbyk, farmer (“agricola”), legitimate son of Nicolaus (Latin version of Mykola / Микола) and Barbara Oryszczak. Her mother was Maria Sobol, legitimate daughter of Bartholomeus and Catherina Mikus. There’s also some stuff about the midwife who delivered her, the priest who baptized her, and her godparents.

The record of Anton and Maria’s marriage (second item, second page) says that they got married on 21 February 1905, at the house numbered 152 in Liczkowce. It repeats the information from Katerina’s birth record, but goes into a bit more detail, saying that Anton was born in and lives in Liczkowce, and that Maria was born in and lives in a nearby village, Samołuskowce. Then there’s something really interesting and a bit unusual. There’s a column in the records for each person to denote whether they’re Catholic or not. Typically, there’s no distinction shown between Roman Catholics (typically, but not exclusively, ethnically Polish) and Greek Catholics (typically, but not exclusively, ethnically Ukrainian). The Ukrainian Catholic Church, known colloquially as “Greek Catholic” was the product of a set of churches that practiced Orthodox rituals accepting the Pope as their spiritual leader in the late 16th century while maintaining their practices. In pretty much all the records I’ve seen, there’s just a line in this column, but in this town in this year, the priest thought it was important to note that Anton was “greco-cath.” and Maria was “rom-cath.”. They got married in the Roman Catholic Church, which is why this record is available from AGAD. Anton is listed as being 23 years old, which puts his birth around 1881. Maria is listed as being 21 years old, which suggests that she was born around 1883 or maybe early 1884. Then it shows the witnesses, and there’s text about where the banns were published and some other stuff that’s in Latin that I haven’t fed to Google Translate yet.

Given that Maria Sobol was Roman Catholic and these are Roman Catholic records, you might suspect that her birth record would be in here as well. And so it is. Samołuskowce was a sub-parish associated with the church in Liczkowce, and its records are in the same book. Maria’s birth record is found as the fourth entry on the second page in this scan, right under the heading for Samołuskowce, starting off the births there on 17 January 1884. Her parents and grandparents are listed, taking us back another generation. Her father was again listed as Bartholomeus Sobol, whose parents were Vincenti (Wincenty) Sobol and Salomea Rybak. Her mother was again listed as Catherina Mikus, whose parents were Alexii (Aleksander) Mikus and Maria Kwiatkowska. Her Godparents were Joannes (Jan) Pieniuta and Anna Solima.

I knew Maria’s brother. He was my grandmother’s uncle, Vincent Sobol, about whom I never miss an opportunity to say that you can’t spell Sobol without the S.O.B. But he did bring my grandmother to the US, so I have to be grateful for that, even if he was not a good person in every other sense. I knew his birth date because he wrote it in a letter he wrote detailing his life that I have a copy of, but might as well check to see if he lied about it or not. He didn’t (fifth item down on the first page). He was born in Samołuskowce on 29 September 1892, baptized the same day, with the same parents listed (they missed his father’s mother) as Maria.

There is more to write up, but this is enough for one post. If you want to look for records in western Ukraine for relatives, AGAD has a very good explanation in English, with links, in PDF format on their web site. The Roman Catholic records for western Ukraine that they have posted are listed in their list for Series 301 (Zespół nr 301), but you may find other records elsewhere in links in that PDF.

Birth records

Marriage record

Posted at 3:45:08 AM || Link to this entry


Monday, December 24, 2018

Last month, I went to a Ukrainian genealogy conference in Somerset, New Jersey (so quite close to home). During one of the sessions, the speaker mentioned a web site where you could find out how many people of a given surname live in Ukraine. I was looking through my notes yesterday and noticed I hadn’t checked it out. Now I have.

There are 44 people in Ukraine with the surname Журбик, which we know as Zurbyk (and which more accurately transliterates into English now as Zhurbik or Zhurbyk). 15 of them are in Личківці (Lychkivtsi), the town my grandmother grew up in. 13 are in Целіїв (Tseliiv), which is a short distance from Lychkivtsi, 6 in Тернопіль (Ternopil), the capital city of the oblast (state) that Lychkivtsi is in, a couple in the next raion (county) over from the raion Lychkivtsi is in, and then one or two each in a few other places scattered around the country. There really aren’t many; it’s quite an uncommon surname. I suspect I’m related to all of them.

Posted at 4:38:55 PM || Link to this entry


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Just a quick followup on the posts regarding my conclusion that Charles Leon Schmitt was the son of Marie Archange Soulliere, not Robert Schmitt. Laura and I have had DNA testing done at 23andme and Ancestry in the past year. Both of them have features where they show you people who you share genes with and are presumably related to (more likely the more DNA you share). In looking at the family trees posted by some of my genetic cousins, I note that some of them are related to descendents of Leon Chrysostome Soulliere and Archange Desjardins. So if I had any doubt that my conclusion was correct, I believe it is dispelled by these connections. Yay science!

Posted at 10:47:21 PM || Link to this entry


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I found her.

Anna Soulliere did a great job of hiding in the records, but I finally found her baptism record. A couple of days ago, while looking at a marriage record for her sister Ida from 1896, I found that one of the witnesses to the marriage was “Mary Smith”. Mary? That was the name on the 1880 birth record for Charles Kliber, who I thought might be my great-great grandfather, Charles Leon Schmitt. I went looking through the Drouin Collection records (Roman Catholic records from French North America collected by a company that sold genealogies) on Ancestry again, using “Marie Anne Soulliere” as a search term. Still no luck. So I kept searching for records on for her siblings. In the search results for one of her siblings, one odd listing came up for “Marie Bech”, baptised in 1852 in Sandwich, Ontario (now part of Windsor). When I looked at the record, it was clear that the name and date had been incorrectly transcribed, and that what I was looking for was my missing 3G grandmother.

The record reads as follows:

Marie Arch. Souliere. Le cinq Octobre mil huit cent soixante un Nous Prêtre soussigné arons baptisé Marie Archange née le Deux du même mois du legitime mariage de Leon Souliere et de Archange Desjardins

Then there’s some less readable stuff about the Godparents.

Translated with my best grade school French:

Marie Arch. Souliere. The 5 of October One Thousand Eight Hundred Sixty-One (1861) the undersigned priest baptized Marie Archange, born the 2 of the same month of the legitimate marriage of Leon Souliere and of Archange Desjardins

Being born on 2 October 1861 was a couple of months too late to show up on the 1861 Census of the Leon Souliere family in Sandwich East, Canada West (the name of Ontario before Canada became a country in 1867). And by the time the family showed up in the 1880 Census in Grosse Pointe, she had moved out and was presumably living with her husband and newborn son. I’ve never found the Soullieres in the 1870 or 1871 Censuses. So Marie Archange “Anna” didn’t show up as part of the family in a lot of the standard references like the book from Father Dennison I mentioned in my previous post. But there she was in the church records.

The fact that she apparently also used Mary as her name at points in her life, as evidenced by her name as a witness on her sister Ida’s marriage record, leads me to conclude that Charles Kliber, born on March 13, 1880 to Charles Kliber, machinist (the same profession ascribed to him in records for Minnie and Stella with Anna listed as mother), and Mary Kliber, is in fact my great-great grandfather Charles Leon Schmitt.

I don’t know when and where she died. The last record I have of her is when she’s listed as a still-living spouse on the death certificate of her third husband, Joseph Stanley, in 1929.

It’s taken me twelve years to untangle the story of Marie Archange “Anna” Soulliere.

Marie Archange Soulliere

Posted at 8:22:22 AM || Link to this entry


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


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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