Sunday, December 26, 2010

Three Hours

Fannie Duryea and Abraham Lent Brewer were married in the 1840s and had no known children.  They lived in New York City and then Rockland County, New York.  They both died in 1901.  Fannie left her estate to Abraham, but he died before she wrote a new will, so her estate passed intestate to her surviving sister and nieces and nephews.  The disposition of her estate solidified many of these suspected family lines.

I recently discovered that Abraham founded a fire department in Monsey, New York.  (You can read the post here.)  In spite of his local fame because of his contributions, I have yet to find an obituary for Abraham.  I decided to widen my search and found a notice of the deaths of Abraham and Fannie- in Georgia of all places.  They have no connection to Georgia, so I never thought to look there for information.

The Augusta Chronicle, Augusta, Georgia, 1 May 1901, page 4.
Retrieved from

Fannie died at 3 a.m. on 28 April 1901.  If Abraham died before her, but on the same day, he had only a three hour time span.  This quirk enabled me, one hundred years later, to map out her family lines.  Had Abraham died just a few hours later, I may still not have such a clear mapping of Fannie's lines.

Certificate and Record of Death for Fannie M. Brewer,
died 28 April 1901 in Ramapo, Rockland County, New York.

Even on Fannie's death certificate, she is listed as widowed.  I never suspected she was a widow for only a few hours.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Two Deaths on Christmas

A recent study finds that Americans are more likely to die on Christmas Day, December 25th, than any other day of the year.  (You can read an article about the study here.)  This conclusion was based on analysis of death certificates from 1979-2004.

I have uncovered two deaths on December 25th, several years before the deaths studied.  (It would be interesting if someone expanded on this study and included deaths in the 1800s through the present.  Perhaps the commercialization of Christmas and the added stress increases deaths on December 25th.)

Stephen C. Duryea died on December 25, 1893 in Jersey City.  He was 21 years old, unmarried, and died of pneumonia.  He was the 7th of 12 children and the 5th to die.  This must have been a very difficult time for his mother, especially since his father died six years earlier.  I discovered Stephen's death date upon finding the family plot at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, Westchester County, New York.

Jacob Duryea died on December 25, 1899.  His death took a while to uncover.  He appeared in the 1880 census in Hoboken.  His wife appeared without him, widowed, in the 1900 census.  At a local family history center, I searched microfilm rolls of death indexes year by year, starting in 1880.  On the last possible roll was Jacob's death.  He was buried at Hoboken Cemetery.  I visited his grave to find a bunch of family members buried with him.  The stone had fallen, but right side up.

Hoboken Cemetery is not in Hoboken; it is in North Bergen, which is in Hudson County, not Bergen County.  There is a house by the entrance, but it does not contain a caretaker or records.  You may call Epstein Management for records at 201-867-0635.

Friday, December 24, 2010

More unknown photos

These photos aren't of people.  They are of land.  I'm hoping that someone will recognize the roller coaster and let me know where it is.  My grandfather took these photos, so I'm thinking that they are from the Jersey shore, Staten Island, or Long Island.  Thank you for looking.

Can anyone identify this roller coaster?

Where is this?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Family Tree Maker 2011, part two

Following up on my previous post concerning Family Tree Maker 2011 software, I have been alerted by Ancestry that there is a way to upload media from the software on your computer to the website.

With the program on my computer, I can view media for an individual.  Media is of two basic types:  media images merged from Ancestry and images that I have added, usually of gravestones and vital records, such as death certificates.  Uploading the tree as a gedcom file produces a no frills version without any media images, but keeps names, dates, and locations.  I was manually uploading the visual media files.

There is an easy button for this situation.  It is the SHARE icon located in the upper right corner of the Family Tree Maker program.

Family Tree Maker 2011.  The media files viewable in the program do not transfer when exporting the records in creating a gedcom version of the tree.
After pressing the share icon, a few different boxes appear to guide you through sending the tree- along with the media images- to

Here is the result on for a small tree I uploaded to try this out.  This is the Haefeli family, originally from Switzerland, who came to Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, in the 1850s.  They are buried at Woodland Cemetery in Newark.

The picture of the gravestone in the media row is the one picture that I added for Franz.  The listings for residence next to the years are for census entries and tax lists.  Although "add media" appears with each listing, the media that I can view with the software is viewable online with two clicks.  Click on residence and you are brought to a new screen with the link to the media.

Click this source citation to see the media- the family of Francis Hafle in Newark in the 1860 census.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ebay, or What Happens When Photos are Labeled

Ebay has a listing for family photos of Duryea, Bedell, Layton, Mott, and other related names.  We know this because several photos are labeled.  This identification is so rare that the seller is asking an astonishing $1,200.00 for the lot.

The photos and information contained in the brief labels are great.  I'm glad that the photos were posted at all, so I can at least see them and gain some info.  Yet, I'm glad that this is not my direct line because I would not pay $1200 for the photos.

On opposing pages are pictures of two women.  The picture on the left is labeled, "Ella Salt.  Later married David Layton."  The picture on the right is labeled, "David Layton.  First wife.  Phoebe."

The Wives of David Layton
Left: Ella Salt, second wife
Right: Phoebe Davis, first wife

David, Phoebe, and Ella were living together in the 1910 census.  Wonder what melodrama was going on in that household.

1910 federal census, North Hempstead, Nassau County, New York
This group was buried at Westbury Friends Cemetery in Westbury, Nassau County, New York.  Someone has kindly posted pictures of the graves here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Software: Family Tree Maker 2011

To organize my every-multiplying family research information, I use Family Tree Maker software available through  I have the most current version, 2011.  You get good service for the $40 purchase price.  If you do not have an Ancestry subscription, then you will not get the most out of this software.  You enter names, add parents, children, spouses and supplement with dates and photos (and don't forget to cite your sources).  Little leaves appear to indicate that a matching record may have been located within the database.  The software looks at the entire database for matches.  I have a tendency to outline someone's life decade by decade, and then look for additional records only in the location where I think they would be.  This is partly because some names result in too many irrelevant matches.  By filling in the date parameters for you, this software can pick up some important records that you may have missed.

As a method of organization, I name women by their birth name, not a married name.  If I do not know a woman's birth name, I give her a last name of "Unknown."  This indicates to me that I have not uncovered all of her vital information yet.  Family Tree Maker sometimes locates appropriate records based on name changes, sometimes does not.

You can upload your tree to fairly easily by creating a no-frills gedcom.  Your pictures will not travel with your tree.  If you want photos in your online tree, you need to add them one by one.  With the software on your computer, you can view any census page that you have saved.  In the online tree, viewers will see a listing of locations and years, but not the actual census entries.  Any revisions you would like to make after posting your tree must be done step by step.

A fluke that I noted with the 2011 version that was not in the 2010 version is saving media.  My media was not saving in spite of a merge.  I think I figured it out.  When merging records from with an individual, you need to be on the page that lists the potential matches.  The final page of the dialogue box detailing the merge needs to show the actual media image, or the image will not become part of the media in the tree.

Sample page of Family Tree Maker 2011.  The media displayed in the column on the right will not appear if the record is not merged from the records page.

If this (non) image appears in the dialogue box just prior to merging records, the media will not display in your tree.

Other than the media issue, the software is running great so far.  You can create complicated charts to share your research or print family stories- bunches of facts.  I would recommend Family Tree Maker to anyone who is interested in pursuing family roots.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Working with Name Variants

Tracking the Zolders is requires recognizing them in different forms.  A few of them arrived in the United States in the 1880s from Hungary, later Austria.  In 1895 they appeared in their first census in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey.  Below are some of the variations on this last name as depicted in the census, vital records, newspapers, and even etched into a gravestone.  Cousins found some entries.  Others were located after searching tediously, page by page.  Other entries were found after locating other family in the record and then searching nearby.  They tended to stay in the same geographical location year after year, making searching easier.

This is a great example of why you need to be open to alternate spellings and diligent in pursuing all possible avenues.  I have no doubt that the location of additional records will yield more variants for the Zolders.

1895 New Jersey State Census, Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey
Selda or Selder

Federal Census, 1900, Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey

Zolder (mit umlaut) spelling on family birth certificate 1910, Bayonne

Zolder spelling in the 1910 census, Bayonne

From the caption of the photo with the obit for Mary Zolder, wife of Andrew (also spelled Colder in the same article), 1918

Obit for Mary Colder, died 1930 in Bayonne

Gravestone at Bayview Cemetery, Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey.
Note the umlaut above the O.

Friday, December 3, 2010

DNA again

Happy Birthday to me
I ordered another DNA test.  It was on sale (hee hee).  23andme has discounted their genetic testing from $500 to $100, so I ordered a kit.  You also need to subscribe to their update service for one year at $60, but the total is still much cheaper than $500.

If I understand this test correctly, I will possibly find any relation- not just direct maternal lines.

I was alerted to this sale by a post of a distant cousin.  I located her through my aunt's mt-DNA test.  We have a common female ancestor- just no clue who this woman was.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Times were different

I have been searching through the Red Bank Register, the newspaper for Monmouth County, New Jersey, available online for free.  The search engine is great.  I am piecing together a branch of the Duryea and Dwyer family with help from tidbits such as this detailed obituary.

While looking at older newspapers, I take a little time and browse the surrounding articles to get a feel for what was going on in that time and place.  I came across an interesting article that lists the current patients of a nearby hospital, complete with their home address.  Such information sharing is prohibited today and made me smile.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Roadtrip to Catskill: Tracing Cumming and Heiser

I visited the Catskill Village Cemetery yesterday in Catskill, Greene County, New York.
For years, I have been searching for the parentage of Nellie, wife of Abraham Brewer Duryea.  Nellie died in Glen Ridge, Essex County, New Jersey at Mountainside Hospital on 5 December 1965.  (The certificate was acquired in person from Glen Ridge- back when you could just walk in to town hall and do this.  You can’t do this now.)  Her mother was listed as “unknown.”  Her father was listed as “? Commings.”  Her birthdate was 26 January 1879 in “Catskills, N.Y.”  She was cremated but not buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.  The location of her ashes is unknown.  The social security number on her death certificate is not listed in the social security death index.  I wrote to the Social Security Administration for a copy of her application for a number and included a copy of the death certificate.  I received a letter explaining that no such record could be found.
I was not sure if Nellie was born in the Catskills, which covers a vast region, or if she was born in Catksill, a town in Greene County, New York; or if she was born in a completely different location.  I spoke with the town clerk in Catskill, New York, who advised me that birth certificates were sometimes issued in the 1870s and 1880s, but there was no birth certificate matching Nellie.
No matches for baby Nellie in the 1880 census have been found.
Next I obtained the marriage certificate for Nellie to Abraham Brewer Duryea.  They were married in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey on 9 October 1898.  Nellie’s parents on the marriage certificate appear to be Annie Hyser or Hysen and William Henry Cumming.  This was great.  I had names.  Bride and groom were living in Jersey City.  I found several families named Cumming or Cummings, and a few Hysers.  But none seemed to connect with Nellie.  By the 1900 census, Nellie and Abraham were living in Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey, with two babies and no extended relatives.
Following this couple into 1910, they were living in Jersey City with their two children and Beulah Miller, sister-in-law, and Ray Sprague, boarder.  Bingo.  Now following Raymond Sprague, he was in the 1920 census in Orangetown, Rockland County, New York with his wife, Beulah, two children, and the elusive mother of Beulah and Nellie:  Anna B. Brower, age 59, widowed.
Beulah Miller provided more information than Nellie.  Beulah’s birth certificate gives a date of birth of 18 August 1889 at 21 Henry Street in Jersey City; her middle name was Barton; and her parents were James L. Miller and Annie B. Hyser.

Tracking back from Beulah’s birth, I found a marriage certificate for Anna Bell Cumming, with Cumming crossed out and “Hyson” written above, to James Livingstone Miller in Jersey City on 18 June 1886.  His parents were Christopher Miller and Agnes M. Barton.  (Barton was probably the source of Beulah Miller's middle name at birth.  On Beulah's marriage certificate, she uses a middle name of Katherine.)  Anna’s father was Luman and her mother was Catherine Eckler.
Going back to Catskill, in the 1870 census we find Louman Hyser, his wife Catharine E., and their children, Katie, Charles L, Robert D., Hannah, and Nellie M.  I wanted to trace the Hysers back further.  They look German, but keep listing New York as their birthplace.  I also needed to trace Nellie’s father, William Henry Cumming.  I had a timeframe for William’s death:  he died after conceiving Nellie in 1878 but before Anna remarried in 1886.
1870 census, Catskill, Greene County, New York
"Hannah" is Anna Bell

I kept posting inquiries on message boards and was contacted by a Hyser cousin.  He has the last name, but with a variant spelling.  He sent me a compiled genealogy on the Hysers, The Transactions of the Rockefeller Family Association, by Henry Oscar Rockefeller.  This book provides several generations of the Heiser family, starting in the 1780s, when John Heiser married Margaret Rockefeller.  They were the great grandparents of Anna B. Hyser.  According to this book, the elusive Anna B. Hyser married William H. Cummins on 22 November 1877 and then James L. Miller on 18 June 1886.  No mention of another marriage to a man by the last name of Brower.  This particular branch moved to Jersey City in the 1880s or 1890s, but was buried in Catskill.
Sylvia and Reinhard Hasenkopf have transcribed the stones in the Catskill Village Cemetery and posted this information, along with a map, online.  I found potential matches for the Hysers and William Cumming.  So to Catskill Village Cemetery I went.  I don’t know why, but for some very helpful reason, a lot of the women buried in this cemetery have their maiden names on the stones.  I found the family stone for Louman Hyser, his wife Catherine Eckler, and their five children.  The stone to the right is Peter J. Hyser, father of Louman.  (Nellie Hyser, died 1875, is perhaps the source of the name for Nellie Cumming, born 1878.)

Peter J. Hyser, 1796-1877

In a neighboring section, I found a stone for William H. Cumming, 1856-1882.  A death date of 1882 would fit the timeframe for the death of Nellie Cumming’s father.  This stone is next to stones for the Grant family.  The Cumming connection is Annie Cumming, wife of John A. Grant, 1793-1876.  I can find the Grant family in Catskill, as well as possible Cummings families with William.  Are they connected?  Do I have the correct William H. Cumming?  I don’t know.  I must keep researching.
William H. Cumming 1856-1882
Annie Cumming Grant, 1793-1876

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reburying the Ancestors

In researching John Frazee's death, I come across a little discrepancy.  His obituary appeared in the New York Times on 5 March 1852.  His wife sued to collect moneys owed to him for his designs, as detailed in this post, and a date of death of 26 February 1852 was given in the case, Lydia Frazee v. United States.  Some of his papers, now available online through the Smithsonian, provide a beautiful and unusual record of death and burial at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  (I don't know who drew the picture.  Obviously not John Frazee himself.)

The burial records for Green-wood Cemetery are online.  A search for John Frazee turns up some family members in the plot given in the drawing, 19577.  According to this online index, John Frazee was not buried here until 1870.

I found a picture of the grave at  Always check here for graves, even if your person of interest was not famous.  I expected to find John Frazee at findagrave because he is a little famous, though not as famous as the buildings he designed.

So now more questions:  is the John Frazee buried at Green-wood Cemetery in 1870 the same John Frazee who died in 1852?  If so, where was John originally buried, and why was he moved?  More researching needed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

James Kittson, where are you?

I am still trying to track the Kittson family mentioned in the will of Herman Lutter, probated in 1924 and mentioned in a previous post.

Gussie Kittson was a niece of Herman Lutter.  Figuring that Gussie has long passed, I have been attempting to find any living descendants of hers.  In the 1920 census for Harrison, Hudson County, New Jersey, she has one son, James, five months old.  In the 1930 census, she still has only one child, James, aged ten years.  The 1940 census is not available yet.  So what happened to James Kittson, born about 1920?

In the online Social Security Death Index (available from various websites), there are two potential matches for James Kittson, born about 1920.

Social Security Death Index through
I favored the first James Kittson because of the New Jersey location.  I visited the Montclair Public Library for the obit from the local paper, The Montclair Times.  No mention of James Kittson.  (Thank you to the librarians for searching and searching for him- in several places!)  To be extra thorough, I manually searched the microfilm of the Star Ledger at Montclair State University.  No James Kittson.  Whether or not I have the correct James Kittson, I find it strange that I find no obituary.  (And if I am ever under surveillance, my watcher would find it strange that I go in and out of libraries, courthouses, and churches all day.)

Next I visited Trenton and found the birth certificate for James Kittson- under the name Kitzens.
The birth date, 11 August 1919, confirms that the first James Kittson in the death index is the James Kittson that I am looking for.  This person died 21 September 2003.  So where is the obituary?  Did he marry?  Have children?  Will I find living descendants?  The search continues . . .

Fatal Train Ride, part two

Intrigued by the brutal death of Michael J. Preston in the previous post, I went to Trenton and copied his death certificate.

The cause of death is listed as "accidental rail road injuries."  From this description, I would guess that no official and thorough inquiry was made into his death.  He was an employee of the Central Railroad and found on a train trestle severely battered.  From that, the death was concluded as accidental- the train did it.  These things happen.  If he jumped off the train and was hit, then that could have killed him.  But how did anyone know he jumped?  No witnesses existed, either in the newspaper article or in the family story.

I think this could have been a murder.  It's too late now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fatal Destination on the Evening Train

Michael Preston was the grandson of Irish immigrants, Michael Preston and his wife, Catherine Donnell, who arrived in Dutchess County, New York in the 1840s.  The family eventually migrated to Hudson County, New Jersey.  Many are buried at Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City.  The Preston family plot has no headstone, so information concerning their burials is based on the burial cards of the cemetery, available at the cemetery or through the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
Plot card for Holy Name Cemetery, Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey
FHL microfilm #1412638

Michael Preston was buried at Holy Name Cemetery on 20 June 1918.  Like most of his immediate relatives, he had no obituary; however the circumstances of his death caused him to appear in the newspaper.  He was found almost dead on a train trestle at night and died shortly after arriving at Bayonne Hospital.  His injuries were not necessarily consistent with a train injury, but instead were perhaps caused by a physical assault inflicted by a human- not a train.  Further investigations were probably made, so I should have additional resources to consult.
This article may lend credibility to the family story of falling asleep on the train on the way home from work, missing his stop, and jumping out of the window, only to have been killed.  Or maybe that was someone else.  Railroad work was a common profession in the 1800s and 1900s and deaths and injuries were commonplace among the workers as well as the passengers.  This Preston family was no exception.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Researching in Millburn, New Jersey

Mary Drake was last seen in the 1920 census in Millburn, Essex County, New Jersey.  Her husband, John, was a widower in the 1930 census in Millburn.  I sought to find out when Mary and John died and where they were buried.

I visited the Millburn Library and went through the city directories.  The more recent directories sometimes list gems such as a date of death or a new husband.  Such was the case with John Drake.  The Price & Lee Millburn city directory for 1946 gives a listing for John Drake- his death on 2 November 1945.  With this date, I then went to the microfilm rolls for the local paper, The Item.  I located his obituary, which provided me with his place of burial, Saint Stephen's Cemetery, also in Millburn.  I visited the church office and was provided with a listing of the other burials in this plot: John's wife, Mary; and their two children and their spouses.  Sometimes, when you can't trace one family member, turn to a parent or sibling.  They might be buried together, providing you with dates of death for many people.

The Millburn & Short Hills Item
8 November 1845
page 12
In the meantime, The Millburn and Short Hills Item has been published online for certain years.  You may view the issues through the library's website.

After visiting the church, I headed to the cemetery for pictures of the gravestones.  On a confusing note, Edith Drake married John Wesley Bryant.  John Wesley Drake married Edith Knoller.  The use of the same first and middle names could indicate a further relation that must be further investigated.

John Wesley Drake, son of John Drake and Mary Duryea

Edith, wife of John Wesley Drake

Edith, daughter of John Drake and Mary Duryea

John Wesley Bryant, husband of Edith Drake