Friday, December 31, 2010

Countdown to 2011

This year was a pretty slow year for me genealogy-wise. While I had a few really big breakthroughs, I didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped. (Isn't that always the case though?) I have a whole list of genealogy goals for 2011, so hopefully I'll accomplish far more than I did this year. Maybe one of these days I'll even finish scanning in all those old photographs. ;)

Friday, November 26, 2010

A "Surprise" Document

Two weeks ago, my husband brought the mail in and handed an envelope to me. I looked at the return address, "New York State Department of Health? Huh. I wonder what this is?" My mind goes to to the usual answer "junk mail", but my husband, without missing a beat, says, "Hey, I bet it's that death certificate you ordered a few months ago!"

And he was right. Inside was the death certificate of Frederick Eckam. I ordered the certificate back in August, so it took just under three months to get here. I've heard stories of certificates taking up to six months or even longer, so I was very, very pleased to get it so quickly.

I forgot that I had ordered a death certificate (one that finally - FINALLY - links two huge portions of my research together) - does that make me a bad genealogist or the most forgetful person on the planet?

As much as I enjoy the holiday season, I can't wait for everything to be over and January to come around so it's quiet again and I can finally start organizing my desk and filing these new discoveries the correct way.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Yikes! October was a busy month for me, but unfortunately none of it was genealogy-related. Here's hoping November will be more productive.

Be sure to watch out for zombies if you happen to visit any cemeteries today. ;)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - Past Meets Present

I am very lucky to have so many family treasures. The one I'd like to share today isn't necessarily a treasure as far as genealogical information goes, but it is one I love nonetheless. It is a copy of The Odyssey of Homer that was owned by my great-aunt Viola Rose (Lempke) Dobstaff.

I'm not exactly sure when she owned it, but the date on the first page is 1923, and inside the front cover is written in her own handwriting:

Miss Viola Lempke
Technical High School
Buffalo, N.Y.

I've been reading Ulysses this week for Banned Books Week and since it echoes Homer's Odyssey, I've been thinking about this book. I do plan on reading Odyssey as well, but in a slightly different way than my great-aunt read it.

In case you've been wondering why I haven't been around, it's because I bought a Kindle a few weeks ago and have been madly in love ever since. (My husband approves. I have enough love for both of them.) Nothing will ever replace a "real" book, the feel of the pages, that old-book smell - but there's something to be said for being able to carry around your ENTIRE library in your pocket. And not having to get out of bed to fetch another book to read. And having access to thousands of free books, right from your couch. And... okay, I'll stop now.

Most of the treasures I have are because of my Auntie Vi (as we always called her). She kept everything. Because of her, I have books, photographs, scraps of papers with names and dates, funeral cards, funeral books, obituaries, old letters (English and German), bibles, and so much more. Long after her death, she is still helping me fill in the blanks on that branch of the family tree.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Surname Saturday: Kirchberger

I had a nice surprise waiting for me in my mailbox this morning: my great-great-grandfather Erhard Kirchberger's death certificate! I ordered it earlier this week from Buffalo, New York. This is the second time in two weeks I've been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I've received a document.

Erhard Kirchberger was born in Germany on 6 June 1857, and died in Buffalo, NY on 25 June 1913. The cause of death listed on the certificate is listed as "Lobar pneumonia; contributory cause: acute alcoholism." That last bit shouldn't have surprised me so much - after all, he was a saloon-keeper. The most exciting part of the certificate is finally having his parents' names: Conrad Kirchberger, and Anna Kirchberger. (No maiden name, curses!)

This is one of the few pictures I have of Erhard and his family. Erhard is sitting in the front row with his wife Sophia (Beck) Kirchberger (1863-1937), and their son Arthur (1899-1955). The back row from left to right: Anna (1882-1954), Hertha (1883-1918), Erhard (1885-1973), and Rose (1886-1920). Anna, Erhard, and Arthur never married or had any children (that I know of!), and both Hertha (Lempke) and Rose (Schenk) died relatively young (35 and 33, respectively).

Out of all the families I research, this one is probably my favorite. I am lucky enough to have several letters written by members of this family, so I've really been able to get a glimpse of their everyday life and feel like I "know" them. Of course, I don't feel like I know nearly enough - isn't that how it always is with genealogists? ;)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

It has been a particularly wonderful Friday the 13th for me! In my last entry, I said that I sent away for the death certificate of a woman I hoped was my great-grandmother. Well, I received the DC in the mail today - AND IT IS!!

I'd like to introduce you to Mary C. (Lothringer) Eckam, widow of Fred Eckam, who died 12 November 1941 in Aurora, Erie County, NY. She was born in Buffalo, NY to Charles Lothringer and Barbara Martz on 23 September 1874. (DC actually says 1864, but lists age as 67. I have multiple other sources that also confirm 1874.) The death certificate lists the place of burial as Mount Hope Cemetery in Ebenezer, NY. I've been to that cemetery countless times and I've never seen a stone for her (or her husband!). I've heard my dad mention they may not have had a headstone. Next steps - contacting the cemetery, and finding her obituary. I can't believe all the times I've been to that cemetery -- and may have walked right over her head! How frustrating!

I am absolutely blown away by how quickly I received the death certificate! I received the date of death on Tuesday (August 10th!), mailed a check and request for the certificate to the town clerk the next morning, and received it today! It's amazing.

I hope your Friday the 13th has been as exciting as mine!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two Happy Dances for Tuesday

I had a pretty exciting day today, genealogy-wise. A couple of weeks ago I emailed a volunteer over at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness for a look-up of a death date in the NYS vital records index for my great-grandmother. This woman has been my brick wall for *years*, so I didn't have an exact date of death. The best guess I could give the volunteer was "sometime between 1938 and 1944", which I know is horribly vague. I said I'd completely understand if she couldn't do the look-up. She said it wouldn't be a problem. Apparently it wasn't - today she emailed me with the date of death! Genealogy Happy Dance commenced.

At this point I immediately emailed the town clerk where the death occurred to request a genealogical copy of the death certificate. The town clerk responded in FIVE MINUTES. And it was after office hours! She said the record was on file and gave me the address where to send the check. I may just have that death certificate in my hands by the end of the week! Genealogy Happy Dance part two!

Now, if this isn't the right person? I am going to be absolutely crushed. It's not a very common name, and the place of death and age sound right, but I've been tricked before! (Part of the reason she's still my brick wall!) If this IS the right person, I am going to be so thrilled and probably will not stop dancing for at least one week. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Follow Friday -

I'm sure just about everyone in the genealogical community knows and loves Find A Grave, but I'd like to take a moment to talk about it.

Two weeks ago a tornado came through Randolph, New York here in Cattaraugus County. While there were no fatalities (that I've heard), there was an outstanding amount of damage. One of those places damaged was the Randolph Cemetery. Trees were uprooted, snapped in half like twigs, and headstones were broken. Some of these stones date back to the Revolutionary War. The Painted Hills Genealogy Society has posted several photographs of the damage in the cemetery. It is absolutely heartbreaking. This article from the Buffalo News states that an estimated 65 headstones were damaged during the storm.

(Photograph from

This is why I think websites like are so very important to the genealogical community. Who knows how long we'll have access to these cemeteries? The genealogical societies in my county have been wonderful about transcribing cemetery records on their websites, but there are so many cemeteries that are being lost to time, erosion, natural disasters, and graffiti each and every year.

So why not get out there this weekend and take a couple of pictures in your local cemetery? Fill a request or two, or set up a memorial page for a loved one who has passed on. Help preserve our cemeteries for the future.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - German Bible

This bible was given to my great-grandfather, John G. Lempke (23 February 1880 - 14 February 1961), on the day of his confirmation in 1895, at age 15, in Buffalo, New York. It is written entirely in German, and it has several names and dates written on the Family Chronicles pages at the front of the book.

For 115 years old, I'd say it's still in pretty good shape. The outer spine looks pretty bad, but no pages are missing or loose. I need to find a proper place to store it though. I'd like it to look as nice 115 years from now. DearMYRTLE has a wonderful post about caring for old family bibles here. I will definitely put that information to good use as this is one of three family bibles I am lucky enough to have.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Herman Shipman

23 July 1909 - 8 January 1982
Fivemile Cemetery - Allegany, Cattaraugus County, New York

I am not actually related to Herman Shipman, but I wanted to share a picture of this tombstone because I've never seen one like it before. My husband took this photo a couple of weeks ago, just hours before a strong storm came through our area which also brought a few tornadoes in the surrounding towns.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Madness - I Don't Remember

Last week I was looking through an old family tree file that I haven't updated recently. I clicked on one of the names and realized I had a date of birth entered for that person, but I had not sourced it. I froze. Where did I get it? A birth certificate? Obituary? Marriage license?

And then it happened. The words no genealogist wants to hear, much less utter, came out of my mouth: "I don't remember."

I sat there for a few minutes, staring off into space, desperately trying to remember WHERE I had gotten that piece of information. After all, I just found this out within the last year... or two... or was it three? Oh no.

While I am usually pretty good about citing my sources and doing things properly the first time, I admit I get pretty lazy about it sometimes. Usually this happens because "I know" where the information came from and "I'll write it down later." Uh-huh. Where have I heard that before?

And so begins my journey of reorganizing all of my genealogical files, making sure to cite ALL of my sources, and properly document and keep track of everything. My husband and I bought our first home a couple of months ago and we are finally settled in enough to where I can start working on my genealogy projects again. (We even have an office! A room that is JUST for the computers, filing cabinets, bookshelves, etc.) This is the perfect time for me to go through every single file I own and organize everything.

I was lucky enough to find out where I had found the date of birth (it was from a death certificate after all), but I never want that to happen again. I may not be so lucky next time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

On Beginnings

I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't interested in genealogy, cemeteries, or history in one way or another. Instead of bedtime stories, I would ask my parents to tell me stories about when they were little. Whenever we passed a cemetery I would ask to stop and look at the gravestones. I loved looking through old photographs - the older the better. The summer I discovered old newspapers on microfilm I barely left the local library. And the first time I held my great-grandfather's brittle, 100-year-old family bible in my hands I was completely and totally awestruck. There was no turning back. I was hooked.

In addition to genealogical research (and knitting, my other obsession), I index and arbitrate for both FamilySearch Indexing and the World Archives Project. I've also recently signed up for Find A Grave. My husband enjoys the "field trip" parts of genealogical research: taking cemetery photos, looking up obituaries in a distant city, etc. I do most of the computer-type research and he does most of the legwork. We make a pretty good team.

I decided to start this blog because I wanted to interact with other genealogists; share my discoveries, crazy stories, and pictures; and hopefully connect with a distant relative or two. I'm not exactly sure what path this blog will take, but you're more than welcome to come along for the ride.