14. Agnes V. Tolle – “The Singing Harpist”

This past week, I was enjoying browsing through Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank.com finding old newspaper articles about various ancestors. That is when I stumbled on to this distant cousin, and immediately knew that she would be this week’s post for the 52 Ancestors challenge.

Advertisement from The Springfield Republican, Springfield, MA. March 17, 1946.

Agnes V. Tolle is my 1st cousin, 2xs removed. Her mother, Agnes Donnelly, was a sister to my great, grandmother, Elizabeth Donnelly. Their eldest sister was Mary Ann Donnelly, who was the grandmother of comedienne, Imogene Coca. So, I had always known there was a little bit of showbiz on that branch of the family tree.

She was born on February 1, 1905 in Philadelphia, the daughter of Albert and Agnes (nee Donnelly) Tolle. Agnes began playing the harp at the age of seven.

“Well, my mother decided that I should play the harp, and after all, it’s an Irish harp.” Agnes was quoted as saying in the February 20, 1939 Harrisburg Telegraph.

Agnes and her 2 brothers, Albert and William and her sister, Mildred grew up on Glenwood Avenue in Philadelphia. Their father, sadly, had taken his own life in 1914, leaving their mother to raise them on her own. However, the arts must have been a huge influence in their life. Sometime before 1930, Agnes and her mother and sister moved to Manhattan where she began pursuing a career as a musician. They were located there in the 1930 census on West 170th Street, Agnes’ occupation listed as a musician at the theatre and her sister, Mildred was working as a dancer in a night club.

I found many advertisements and articles on Agnes, spanning from 1928 to 1950. She performed with Victor Borge’s orchestra and performed all over the country. And she performed at several cocktail rooms and restaurants in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Advertisement from TheSheboygan Press, Sheboygan, Wisconsin., November 14, 1947.

Advertisement from TheSheboygan Press, Sheboygan, Wisconsin., November 14, 1947.

Advertisement from The Springfield Union, Springfield, MA., May 1, 1948.

Advertisement from The Springfield Union, Springfield, MA., May 1, 1948.

 

Advertisement from The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA. March 30, 1928

Advertisement from The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA. March 30, 1928

However, I discovered that playing the harp was not Agnes’ only passion. I found her name in the book, Bums No More: The 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers, World Champions of Baseball by Brian M. Endsley. On page 25, in a chapter talking about when the team last played as the Brooklyn Dodgers I found:

” ‘Died – Sept. 24, 1957′ That was the text on the hand-written cardboard epitaph placed in the rotunda at Ebbets Field that same evening in Brooklyn, New York by two distraught Brooklyn Dodger fans, Rosemarie Keegan and Agnes Tolle, after a night game with the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

Could it be that Agnes was a die-hard Brooklyn Dodger fan?

And then I discovered that this beautiful, sophisticated harpist also enjoyed BOWLING! In an article from the Reading Eagle on April 24, 1942:

“Agnes Tolle, harpist de luxe at the Abe Lincoln, bowls in the wee hours at Cole Watson’s… the harp hasn’t taken up the game as of yet.”

As an avid bowler myself, I really enjoyed finding that last article. I never would have guessed that I would have found another ancestor that enjoyed bowling.

Before searching the newspaper sites above, Agnes would have been just another name sitting in my family tree. Thanks to performing a few searches, I was able to find out that she was actually a fascinating person.

13. Augustus and Sarah Jane (Keiper) Hettig

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Monday will be the 144th wedding anniversary of my great great grandparents, Augustus and Sarah Jane Hettig. Both have somewhat unique family stories, and are both somewhat challenging to research. So I decided to honor them in this week’s 52 Ancestors blog post.

The story handed down was that Augustus wanted to escape military service in Germany and stowed away on a ship bound to America. He met a family on board that sympathized with him, so they basically “adopted” him while on board, and young Augustus took on their last name of “Hettig.” It was also said that his real last name was “Leppard.” One of my Mom’s aunts had given me a newspaper clipping of his obituary. It said that he was born in Leipsic, Germany on May 27, 1850 and that his parents were Valentine and Sofia (Manderling) Hettig.

So was this all true? I had heard that the “stowaway” story was quite common and to not completely trust it. I began by finding Augustus in the census records, living with Valentine and Sofie in White Haven, PA as Augustus Hettig. He was listed as a son at age 20, along with his younger “brothers,” Alven, age 12; Lewis, age 10; and Otto, age 7. I had also found Valentine’s naturalization papers which led me to the date Valentine arrived in America.

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I had found Valentine and Sofie easily enough in ship passenger records. They arrived June 5, 1867 in New York on the S.S. Baltic. The ship left Germany at the port of Bremen. Valentine, Sofie, Alven, Lewis and Otto are all listed, but no Augustus Hettig, who would have been 17 at the time of arrival. However, listed immediately under the Hettig family was “Schnabel, Aug, 17.” Could the story be true and could this “Aug Schnabel” possibly be my great, great grandfather? However, I could not be sure and have not figured out if I could prove or disprove it. Thus, this is where I had hit my brick wall with my great great grandfather.

At this time, in nearby Kidder Township, Carbon County Pennsylvania, my great great grandmother, Sarah Jane Keiper was growing up. And Sarah Jane also had an interesting story handed down about her. It was said that she was actually a “full-blooded Indian that was adopted by German parents as an infant.” According to Sarah’s death record and census records, her parents were Reuben and Elizabeth (Prutzman) Keiper. She was born April 16, 1853. I have never been able to find proof of Sarah’s “adoption” and it’s possible such a document does not exist, since there probably were not adoptions recorded back in the 1850s. She was never listed as being Native American in any other her records, so I am unable to prove the Native American story. So, I hit my brick wall with Sarah Jane as well.

However, you can tell she kind of looked Native American in her photo. With her obvious dark coloring, she must have looked exotic to a young man who had just arrived to this land from Germany. And he must have intrigued her with his German accent and probably wild tales of stowing away on a boat. I imagine it did not take the two long at all to fall in love. Augustus and Sarah were married on April 14, 1870 in White Haven, PA and lived with the Hettig family after their marriage. Their first child, Reuben Oliver, was born a year later on April 16, 1871.

Augustus and Sarah eventually moved to the picturesque village of Noxon, PA in nearby Wyoming County. Augustus found employment as a lumberman, most likely at the Trexler & Turrel Lumber Company. Sarah took care of the home and their 9 children. Business was good in the town of Noxon, and the Lehigh Valley Railroad built and extension through there so that the lumber could be transported to other areas throughout the state. As Hettig brood got older, Augustus’ and Sarah’s sons; Reuben, Stewart, Stephen, Charles, and Wilson; all found employment through the railroad.

In 1927, Augustus and Sarah Jane left Pennsylvania to live in upstate New York, with their youngest daughter, Jessie May Hathaway. Both were now elderly and Sarah Jane was now an invalid with heart trouble. Sarah passed away on November 12, 1931. Augustus followed 2 years later on October 28, 1933. Both are buried in the Schnevus Cemetery in Schnevus, New York.

So, happy anniversary to my great great grandparents. Someday, I hope to break through at least one of your brick walls as an anniversary gift.

 

 

12. William McDonald Wolfe

It is so hard to focus on this week’s 52 Ancestors post. I am much too excited for tonight’s season premier of Game of Thrones instead. I had read all the books long before the series had started, and to say I’m a huge fan is an understatement.

Alas, there are no Starks, Lannisters or Baratheons in my family tree. No bastard sons brought home from war nor any Red Weddings. What in Seven Hells am I going to write about?

So using Game of Thrones as inspiration I have decided to write about my husband’s 3rd Great Grandfather, William McDonald Wolfe. The direwolf afterall, is the sigil of House Stark.

ImageWilliam was born March 18, 1842, not in chilly Winterfell, but near Esteville in Scott County, Virginia. His parents were Emanuel Wolfe and Sarah Curr. He grew up on his parents’ farm with his 3 brothers and a sister.

The United States found itself in the Civil War in 1861 and many young men went off to war. Young William was one of these and enlisted with the Confederate Army on May 20, 1861. He was a private for Company D, 37th Virginia Regiment. His company participated in the first Battle of Kernstown, Virginia on March 23, 1862. In this battle, a group of 3000 soldiers, under the command of General Stonewall Jackson confronted a Union Army of 7000 under the command General James Shields. At the end of the day, the Confederates were forced to retreat. William was among the many wounded from this battle.

William returned to Scott County after the war, took up farming and married Amanda Moran on March 17, 1864. They had 7 children. In 1896 William received a land patent and packed up his family and headed west to settle in Upton, Missouri. William lived there until his death on April 14, 1914. He and his wife, Amanda, are buried in the Liberty Cemetery in Turley, Missouri.

Of course, now my husband is pleased to find that he has Wolfe blood in him. He says it is only proof that he is “King of the North.”

11. Emma Weaver – My mysterious great grandmother

I was looking over my family tree last week, pondering on who to write about in my 52 Ancestors blog post. While looking at my pedigree in my Ancestry.com online tree, I realized that I had only one great grandparent that I had no photo of: my great grandmother, Emma Weaver.

I had realized that I had just gathered the basic information about her: birth, marriage, death, her parents, and then just moved on. I had remembered my Mom telling me that her grandparents were separated and that she had never met her grandmother. She had seen her once in town, and someone pointed her out and told my Mom, “That lady is your grandmother.” Perhaps that was why I had just moved on from her and didn’t bother finding out more.

Emma Ursne Weaver was born on February 4, 1879 in the Mahoning Valley in Carbon County, Pennsylvania to Wilson and Henrietta (Gombert) Weaver. She was baptized by the Reverend Abraham Bartholomew on April 5,1879. Her sponsors were Nathan Gerber and Maria Seidel.

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It had been hard to locate when and where she had married my great grandfather, Erastus Serfass at first. However, through Ancestry, one of my Mom’s cousins connected with me, and he actually had their marriage certificate! Erastus and Emma had both been living in Lehighton, Carbon County. However, they were married in the small village of Andreas, which was several miles away in neighboring Schuylkill County in the parsonage of the Rev. Thomas Reber. And on top of that, the marriage record was filed in Northampton County. Indeed a good lesson that perhaps the record you are looking for may be actually located in a county where your ancestors did not live.

Erastus and Emma had 4 children: Arlington, Calvin, Harold (my grandfather) and Ellen. At some point after the birth of Ellen in 1912 and in 1920, Emma had separated from Erastus and left her children as well. Why would someone leave their children behind?

I decided to ask my Mom, once again about her. I guess my Mom really wanted to know more too, because she called her cousin that very evening to learn more too. This cousin was the daughter of Emma’s eldest son, Arlington. Emma had been to their home for family holidays. No one knew exactly why Emma moved out and left her children. There was talk that Erastus did not think she was a good mother to the children. My Mom’s cousin thought she had heard that she had “some kind of addiction” but was not an alcoholic. She recalled that Emma used to live at the Exchange Hotel on First Street, Lehighton. She would see her sitting outside of the hotel and would wave to her as she walked by.

My Mom had also recalled speaking to the wife of another cousin. This woman’s mother-in-law was a sister to Emma. She said that they had all called her “Stella Dallas” because she “liked to dress up and wore make-up.” It was also said that Erastus had been supporting her financially.

ImageErastus and Emma never divorced. However, Erastus eventually had a long-standing relationship with another woman and had even moved in with her. He had died in her home in 1942 and was buried in Lehighton Cemetery. When Emma died on January 14, 1952, her children made the decision to bury her next to their father in the family plot. This decision did not sit well with the woman who had been Erastus’ companion.

Although the family gossip does not seem to favor Emma, I still would like to find out more about her. And I hope I might be able to find someone that may have a photo of her.

 

 

10. Bridget Walsh Murray

It’s National Women’s Month AND it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. So, I have decided to write about one of my many female ancestor’s from Ireland for this week’s 52 Ancestors Challenge.

Bridget is actually a very distant relative for me: my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. But I thought her story was the most interesting.

Bridget was born around 1821 in County  Galway, Ireland. She was the daughter of Michael Walsh and Mary Caveney. In 1840, she married Peter Murray of County Sligo. Peter and Bridget lived on a farm and had 5 children, including sons Anthony Joseph and Michael.

In 1850 Peter left his family and sailed to America to establish a new home and life for his family. He settled in Dunmore, Pennsylvania and began working for the Pennsylvania Coal Company. He sent his earnings to Bridget, back in Ireland, so she could save up so she and their children could join him.

In 1853, Bridget and her young children were ready to sail to America. They boarded the ship, “Western World” in Liverpool and endured the six week trip across the Atlantic to their new home with 300 other passengers.

However, on the morning of October 26th, the “Western World” sailed into thick fog as it was nearing its final destination in New York. The ship ran aground outside of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and was nearly torn apart. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been for the young Bridget and her children. For three days, she had to be strong and reassuring for her children as they and the rest of the passengers remained on board until another ship could come rescue them. Finally, they taken on rowboats to that other ship, and then taken safely to New York. No lives were lost.

Bridget lived in Dunmore until her death in 1892. She was blessed to have been able to see two of her sons, Anthony and Michael, start their own coal company in Dunmore and become successful businessmen. No doubt, her strength from that harrowing ship voyage, was a contributing factor in their success.

9. Catherine Logue – WWI Army nurse

This week’s 52 Ancestors Challenge, blog post, I have decided to focus on a female relative in honor of Women’s History Month. My great grand aunt, Catherine A. Logue seemed like the ideal candidate to write about within this theme.

Catherine was born on February 27, 1880 in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Manus and Ann Logue. She was the youngest child out of seven. She was baptized on March 7, 1880 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Her sponsors were Francis Hynes and his wife, Mary Shields.

I did not know very much about Catherine, until one day while browsing GenealogyBank. While trying to search for an obituary for another uncle, I came across this article in the Harrisburg Patriot in which told the story of Catherine, who served in the Army nurse corp in France and her attempts to see her nephew, Francis Logue, while he was stationed in the same area.

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This little article was such a goldmine for me! I had known nothing of either Catherine, nor of Francis before this. I really wanted to learn more of Catherine. I immediately Googled “Base Hospital, no. 38, France” and learned that it had been organized under Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Upon further investigation, I had found Catherine’s name (spelled as Katherine) in the Appendix that included a list of officers, nurses, civilians and enlisted men that served with the Base Hospital no. 38.

Catherine took an oath and began active duty on April 2, 1918. She along with the rest of the Nursing Corp, sailed from New York to France on May 18th. The hospital was set up in Nantes, France in June and began receiving patients 11 days later. Nurses and doctors treated almost 2400 cases at one time while in operation. Catherine served in France for almost a year. She returned back to New York City around March 20, 1919. She was honorably discharged on April 25, 1919.

Catherine remained in New York City for the remainder of her life, working as a nurse. She died, unmarried, on February 8, 1957. Her niece filed to have a military headstone installed on her grave.

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This is about all I know of Catherine Logue. I would like to find out more about her time in France, but not really sure where to look next. I am also still awaiting for someone to upload a picture of her headstone on Findagrave.com. I would love to hear from anyone that has also had an ancestor who served in the Army Nurse Corps.

8. Jean Remy Jambois – Man of Many Names

This week’s ancestor for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Days challenge is my husband’s 4th great grandfather, Jean Remy Jambois.

It has been a challenge researching this particular ancestor, because of the many various spellings of his name. I have seen it as “Jean Remy,” “Jean Reme,” “Jean Remequois,” and just plain “Remy.” His offspring would prove to be confusing as well. For example, one of his daughters, (my husband’s 3rd great grandmother) could be found as “Mary Florentia,” “Florentine,” “Flora,” or “Mary”. However, some of her sisters also had “Mary” or “Marie” before their names: Marie Rose, Marie Victorine, Mary Euphemie.

However, I did manage to find out much about this family. Remy was born 1814 in the region of Lorraine, France. He married Margaret Diehdonne about 1836 in France.  In 1847, Remy and Margaret packed up their children and boarded the ship “Michigan” in the port of La Havre, France and sailed to America. They arrived at the port of New Orleans on May 21, 1847.

The Jambois family resided in New Orleans for several years. Remy found work building for the levee. Two children were born in New Orleans: Marie Victorine in 1848 and a son, Amedia, in 1853.

The Jambois family moved north to Galena, Illinois for a a few years. In 1870, Remy acquired 80 acres from the Land Patent office near LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The family moved and settled in what is now present day Genoa, in Vernon County, Wisconsin. According to “Memoirs of Vernon County” by Earl M. Rogers, Remy helped to build the first Catholic church in the county.

Margaret died in 1871 followed by Remy on September 27, 1884. To date, I still have not found their resting place. However, most of their children are buried at St. Charles Catholic church cemetery in Genoa.

7. Aaron Serfass

This week’s story for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is my 3rd great grandfather, Aaron Serfass.

Aaron was born on February 22, 1817 to successful farmer and shoemaker, Adam Serfass and his wife Christina (nee Berger) in Polk Township, Pennsylvania. He was baptized at the Salem Church Union Church in the village of Gilbert, PA. Sponsors were Jacob Serfass and Mary Bargen.

The Serfass family were well known and long established in Polk Township. Aaron’s great- grandfather, Philip Serfass, had arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in 1739, eventually buying land in Polk Township. His grandfather, Johannes “John” Serfass, served in the Revolutionary War as a soldier and a clerk under Captain John Gregory.

Aaron married Elizabeth Hawk, also from Polk Township, sometime around 1840. Aaron also took up farming and also did some blacksmithing. Aaron and Elizabeth had 8 children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Hannah, Adam, Christiana, Peter, Catherine and Mary Jane.

Aaron died at his home on March 26, 1893 at the age of 76, after being stricken with sudden paralysis. He is buried in the Jerusalem Church Cemetery in Trachsville, PA.

6. Christian Peter Meltesen

I have been sitting here watching the Olympics while looking for inspiration for this week’s 52 Ancestors blog. Although there are no Olympians in our family trees, I’d like to think that perhaps some of my husband’s Wisconsin ancestors may have at least tried curling back in the day. Perhaps his great-great grandfather, Christian Peter Meltesen may have slid some stones during the cold Wisconsin winters during his lifetime.

Chris was born August 12, 1864 to Niels Thomson Meltesen and Caroline Christensen in Højer, Denmark which was located in the Duchy of Schleswig which is located in the southern coast of Denmark. There was much political unrest in this area, and many of the residents left to avoid military service. Chris was one of these and he boarded the ship Thingvalla at Copenhagen and arrived in the port of New York, United States on April 30, 1886.

Chris made his way to what is present day Kenosha, Wisconsin and took up farming. On August 12, 1887, he married Annie Dorothea Christensen in Kenosha.

Around 1897, Chris was a landowner near Shennington, Monroe County, Wisconsin. His brother, Laurits “Louis” Meltesen had a plot of land nearby. Louis later owned and operated a general store in Shennington.

Chris and Annie had at least 13 children who helped run the family farm. On October 4, 1921, Chris and his family spent an evening with their family, playing the phonograph and singing songs. Chris seemed fine. However, the next morning, his wife, Annie woke up and thought he was still asleep. After some time, she thought he was sleeping unusually long and discovered that he had passed away peacefully sometime during the night. He was buried in the St. Peter’s Danish Church cemetery in Byron, Wisconsin.

 

5. Aaron Gombert – What I learned from Civil War pension files

This week in my post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, I have decided to focus on my 3rd great grandfather, Aaron Gombert, who was a Civil War veteran. He was also a classic example of how much you can learn just from Civil War pension papers.

One day I logged into my online tree on Ancestry.com and saw a leaf shaking above his name. Up until this point, I knew very little about Aaron. Only that he was about 1832 in Pennsylvania, he was a farmer in the Mahoning Valley in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, living there with wife, Lucy and their 5 children. It turned out to be a hint that Aaron was listed in the 1890 Veterans Schedule. From this document I learned that Aaron had served as a Private with the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment from August 18, 1862 until May 24, 1863. It also stated that he had contracted typhoid fever during that time.

Civil War Pension papers of Aaron H. Gombert

Physical description of Aaron H. Gombert.

Some more searching on Ancestry, yielded his name in the Civil War Pension Index. From there, I was able to request his papers from the National Archives. A thick packet showed up a few weeks later. It was filled with a wealth of facts. I was able to get his birth date, and his date of death. It also gave a physical description of him: 5′ 8″, light complexion and red hair. Yes, it turns out my 3rd great grandfather was a ginger!

I was also able to get documentation of his marriage to my 3rd great-grandmother, Lucy Hontz. This was very difficult information to obtain, since the nearby church did not have the record. It turned out they were married on February 5, 1854 by the Rev. C.G. Eichenberg,  a pastor, who served several churches in the area.

Verfication of marriage between Aaron Gombert and Lucy Ann Hontz.

Verfication of marriage between Aaron Gombert and Lucy Ann Hontz.

There were also some details about his service. Aaron had fought with his regiment in the Battle of Antietam, Maryland on September 17, 1862. After that battle was won, they arrived in Harper’s Ferry and camped there. Around October 1, 1862, Aaron became sick with typhoid fever and was sent first to the regiment hospital in Harper’s Ferry, then to Frederick City Hospital, Maryland where he remained for 2 months. When he recovered he was sent back to fight with is regiment until he was mustered out in May 1863.

GOMBERTAaron_pension5

Aaron seemed to have been plagued with the after effects of the typhoid fever for years after his discharge. His back pain eventually led him to become totally incapacitated and he could no longer farm his land. Aaron died August 9, 1900 and is buried in the Saint John’s Church cemetery in the Mahoning Valley.

His wife, Lucy, kept collecting his pension until her death on September 26, 1903. Another date that I had verified from the pension files.

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