Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Senior I Sinners

As a city-kid in Chicago, my dad was fortunate to be able to escape to New England in the summers. His parents sent him to Camp Pemigewassett (Camp Pemi) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It just sounds relaxing and rejuvenating doesn't it?

Last weekend I found a little treasure tucked in the newsletters that the camp sent home to its campers in the winter, a poem of sorts, apparently written by a tent or cabin mate of Dad's. I thought it would be fun to share for Halloween although I realize that there are people who might find this offensive, with references to Satan and Hell. But please keep in mind that it was written by a teenager at summer camp 60 years ago.

Seniors at Camp Pemi would have been 15 or 16 years old. I have changed all the names except Dad's.

"The Senior I Sinners"

When I was in Heaven, I heard the Lord tell
How early one morning he went down to Hell.
The devil was sitting in a big yellow chair,
With a whole group of sinners from Senior I there.

MacAfee and Jones were dancing about,
and they drank from a bottle that never ran out.
The girls from Camp Ogontz danced through the door,
and panting behind them trotted Dan Moore.

The hell-fires were burning with a fierce glowing heat,
And on them was cooking the barbecue meat.
Roast venison, duckling, chicken and ham,
and the breasts of 2 peacocks for our Charlie Chan.

Brown, Smith and Evans were dealing the deck,
Said the devil, "I'll teach them some new tricks, by heck."
When the third hand was over, his pile was bare,
Said the devil, "I'm quitting, you're not playing fair."

Dan Taylor and Satan then drank a long spree
Until the poor devil could no longer see,
Said the devil, "I'm dizzy and cannot see far,
Won't Thompson please put out that big black cigar."

"I need some new gut for my racket," said Green,
So they grabbed the poor devil and cut out his spleen.
And as they were laughing poor Satan did wail,
For Matthews was tying large knots in his tail.

"Get out," said the devil, "you're driving me mad,
Such a wild bunch of rowdies I never have had.
Go back to Camp Pemi from where you have come!"
And if you may want them, they haunt Senior I.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Little Break

Work has been a little busier than usual and we have been distracted this week by the odd behavior of our Basenji, DJ.

He was diagnosed yesterday with a renal disease common to Basenjis called Fanconi syndrome. It is no longer fatal, but also not curable and we are working on a protocol with our vet while also dealing with some worrying symptoms.

I hope to be back in a week or so when I can give my blogging and research my full attention.

Happy researching!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Week 2 - Setting Research Goals & Conducting Interviews

Back side of my grandfather's visitors card
for Chicago Lying-In Hospital
from the birth of my father.
If you've read any of my blog posts in the last week you know that I have been very busy experiencing my family history rather than documenting it. Last Thursday we went into Manhattan to visit Castle Garden and Saturday we were on a walking tour of the Cheney Historic District in Manchester, CT where my great-grandfather was a velvet weaver and my great-uncle was a silk dyer.

In spite of having some time off last week I still found myself a bit behind on do-over posts.  As I've said before, I'm participating in the do-over again because I find myself equal parts distracted and overwhelmed by the recent finds at my step-mother's house and have done very little research in the past few months.

Theoretically I could just pick up where I left off at the end of the last do-over, but it's much more fun to do it with the group, and also keeps me motivated to get things done.

Conducting Interviews

My self-interview was completed in Cylce 2, although I'm sure there will be memories and other finds to document from time-to-time.

I am still interviewing my mother. As I said the last time, she can be difficult to pin down. I have gotten away from trying to have a few questions in mind for her when we shop together, etc. I'll have to get that list out in the next few days and get it ready for Saturday.

I'm also very lucky to have some recorded interviews with a great-grandfather - recorded by his son - and my mother's father - recorded by my parents. I recently had them digitized and now they just need to be transcribed, something to add to my research goals.

Setting Research Goals

This is something that I did in Cycle 2 but my primary short-term goal has changed a bit, although it will help with some of the goals I set in that cycle.

My new short-term research goal is to go through each photo, document and keepsake that came from Dad's secret stash and review it for every possible bit of genealogical information it holds before scanning or photographing and storing. I've already had a couple of little breakthroughs from information contained on the backs of photos and inside one of my father's bibles.

It will be time consuming, but I think it is best for my own sanity that I deal with all of these boxes before I try to get anything else of substance completed.

I'll be back later today or tomorrow to talk about tracking and conducting research and sharing some of my research log with you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson - Born October 21, 1905

This is my paternal grandmother, Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson (Matthews). She was the daughter of Carl Johan Anderson about whom I have been posting so much lately.  Except for the first, which my step-mother found and mailed to me last December, these photos are all new to me, having been found in Dad's secret stash last month.

Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson

Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson

Elmer Ragnar, Axel Heinrich and
Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson

Dagmar Alice Viola &
Mathilda Alfina Johnson Anderson

Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson

Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Castle Garden - The Forgotten Immigration Point

In a post last Friday about our visit to Castle Garden, I alluded to the fact that this important National Monument no longer stands as a symbol of our ancestors' struggles, hopes and dreams in the way that Ellis Island does.

It is run down, in need of maintenance and repair. It holds construction materials, a bookstore with mainly Liberty Island and Ellis Island souvenirs and the ticket booth for Liberty and Ellis Island boats and tours. It is a shell of the original fort it housed from 1811 - 1821, it is such a shame.

I may be getting ahead of myself, listening to Canadian Federal election projections as I type, so let me tell you a bit about this monument for those who are not familiar. (You can also visit the national park service site to get more detail.)

Originally known as Southern Battery, this was a fort constructed between 1808 and 1811. In 1817 it was renamed Castle Clinton for the Mayor and later Governor of New York, Dewitt Clinton. In 1823 it was deeded to New York City and became an entertainment center for the next 31 years, renamed Castle Garden. After a roof was added in 1840 it hosted the American premieres of such stars as Jenny Lind and Lola Montez.

In 1855 Castle Garden became the New York State immigration point, America's first. Too many new arrivals to New York were ending up homeless and destitute when unable to find housing or employment or because they were parted from what little they had in the world by con artists as soon as they arrived. Castle Garden provided services and certified merchants and service providers to avoid such mistreatment. You can read about that here in more detail, from an 1871 immigration pamphlet.

More than eight million immigrants were processed here between 1855 and 1890 when the national government took over the immigration process and eventually opened Ellis Island in 1892. By one count 1 in 6 Americans can trace their lineage to an immigrant who was processed at Castle Garden.

And yet, how many people even know the name Castle Garden? And how many who are not dedicated family historians, researchers and genealogists know that it still stands today under a different name?

After the transfer of immigration processing to the Federal Government, Castle Garden was transformed once again, this time to an aquarium, which you can see here in some old postcards available for sale, and read about on the National Parks website. And then in the 40s came Robert Moses and construction of the Battery Tunnel which almost wiped-out this historic site altogether but did spell the end of the aquarium and doom the building to its fate today; one of the most visited national parks in the country but only because it houses the ticket office for the Statue of Liberty. Demolition of the aquarium had begun before public outcry saved the main structure. It stood empty until the National Park Service took it over in the 70s but was only restored to its condition as a fort. Entering the Castle today in search of Liberty or Ellis Island tickets, you would have no idea that this uninspiring building is one of the most historic in lower Manhattan.

When I was taking photos on Thursday I was actually trying to show the building in a positive light, to take away for myself something of what it was like when Carl Anderson, my great-grandfather, passed through here in 1888. I wish I had taken more photos to show what it really looks like now and unfortunately the photos I was able to find on Flickr and by doing a Google image search were very similar to mine.

When you walk in through these doors (this photo was actually taken from the inside) there is a room to the right which I was at first excited to see as it houses an exhibit. Then I saw the exhibit and I was aghast. It consists of three dioramas that show what the building looked like in 1812, 1886 and 1941.

Across the small room was a pretty sad reminder that this building also housed the country's premier aquarium. A small shadowbox table containing shells and an old program. That's it, three dioramas and a display table. The one remaining cannon is far more impressive than this exhibit.

Walking through the now open air building we decided to take in the harbor, to hopefully get an idea of what Carl saw when his ship arrived in the harbor. This also was a disappointing experience. Yes, we could see Lady Liberty and Ellis Island but our view was partially blocked by the tourist boats and the huge shed that now houses airport-level security checks for those traveling to the islands.


Finally, we had hoped to take a Ranger-guided tour of the Castle. Times were not available online. We arrived at 12:07, too late for the 12:00 p.m. tour and two hours early for the 2:00 p.m. After purchasing the only book available at the bookstore about Castle Clinton and touring the site on our own for an hour, we decided that the book probably held more information than we would get on a tour. A tour, by the way, that is only given if people show up and make it known to a Ranger that they are there for more than just Liberty Island tickets.

I have never been to Ellis Island but even their website is more inspiring than this visit was to me. But there is hope. Searching out information for myself and this blog post took me to the website for the Battery Conservancy and its page about rebuilding Castle Clinton. Also available is a free website where you can search for ancestors who were processed through Castle Garden (though I understand that not all records survive). How much more funding is needed before the redesign is presented to the public? Will that design truly embody the Castle's dynamic past uses? Will it properly pay homage to those who came to America through this building and made our country what she is today?

Adding to my to-do list is to reach out to someone at the Conservancy and see if I can find out where this all stands. And when I do, I will share it here.

Tomorrow I will have a simple pictorial post in honor of the 110th anniversary of my grandmother's (Carl Anderson's daughter) birth. And then, I will get back to the do-over and what I've been doing with that.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Carl Johan Anderson & The Cheney Brothers Historic District Walking Tour

Earlier this year while I was doing one of those down-the-rabbit hole, random, undocumented internet searches for information about my great-grandfather, Carl Johan Anderson, I stumbled on the fact that Manchester, Connecticut, his home after coming to America, has a great respect for its history and has done an incredible job of preserving its historic sites.

Cheney Hall - Once a gathering place for Cheney workers and their families.

I knew that Carl had been a velvet weaver and that one of his sons had been a silk dyer and I thought they worked for the same employer, but that was the extent of my knowledge. That day I discovered that the building that once housed the velvet mill was still standing and was now apartments. As I kept going I learned more about Manchester, the Cheney family who owned the silk and velvet mills, the ribbon factory, and so much more. I learned that almost their whole complex of mills, factories, storage facilities, halls, stables, etc. had been preserved, at least the exteriors, and now housed apartment complexes, businesses and museums. It was a very exciting find.

Cheney Brothers first substantial Silk Mill.

Storage for one box car of raw silk.
Constructed after an attempted heist in 1919.

Locked storage units also constructed after the attempted heist.

In May I visited Manchester for the first time since my childhood when the Town Hall hosted a Family History Day.  We spent time viewing indexes of vital records, had a half hour with a genealogist who turned out to be a cousin, visited the cemetery, and drove around town a bit.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church, the Anderson family church.
Taken during our May visit.

Once the site of Manchester High School, now a senior residence.
Taken during our May visit.

The tour we attended yesterday, co-sponsored by the Manchester Historical Society and Manchester Community College was lead by Dr. Chris Paulin of the college. He is a labor history researcher and has other qualifications but I cannot remember the name of the local institute of which he is Director. (He gave us his history at the beginning of the walk, and there was just too much information after that.) It is an annual event, sometimes drawing 100 people, though not this year, and this was the 39th year.

An entrance to the Velvet Mill building.
One of the most interesting things that we learned was that there was a strike in 1902 only at the Velvet Mill, where Carl was a weaver. One of the Cheney brothers was a seemingly prolific inventor who invented machinery and processes that allowed Cheney Brothers to make money where others were not and to save money as well. Once of these improvements was to the velvet looms.

Carl Johan Anderson standing at his looms, date unknown.
Velvet weavers at this time were paid by the yard of fabric they produced weaving on one machine. The new process would allow/require them to work two machines at a time.  The weavers were also told that they would be paid less per yard, but that by working two machines at once, they would still make more money overall. The workers could not see how this would be possible and were so disbelieving that they decided to take action in the form of a strike, even without the protections of unionization.

The long and short of it is that they went back to work after a few weeks but they staged two additional walkouts before the matter was settled. Many of the weavers left Cheney Brothers; some voluntarily and some after being fired, others like Carl stayed on.  The entire community took sides in this battle. Ultimately Cheney Brothers won. The weavers returned, working two looms at a time, and did in fact make more money. No unionization was attempted at the Cheney mills for 30 years.

More views of the Velvet Mill building.

Towards the end of the walk, before we toured an area of homes built by the Cheneys and rented to their workers, Dr. Paulin pulled out his index cards and gave us some statistics on the length of time most workers stayed with Cheney Brothers. He also mentioned that these statistics came from payroll records. Now you know my ears stood at attention when I heard that. It turns out that all of these records are available to the public at the University of Connecticut's library. YES!! Add that to the to-do list right now!!

This also gave me the opportunity to show off the pins I had been wearing that day; my great-grandfather's 40- and 50-years of service pins. And the photo of him at this loom as well.

Click on the photo to see the detail. I was wearing these pins
yesterday and carrying this photo.
I learned so much and will definitely go again next year for the 40th anniversary of the walk. It was an absolutely fantastic day. Absolutely worth getting up the crack of dawn on a Saturday!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Carl Johan Anderson - He Came with Nothing

Carl Johan Anderson was just 21 when he arrived at Castle Garden in New York City on April 6, 1888. He came without family as the only unmarried sibling out of five. He came without friends because they had all borrowed money to secure his passage to America. He came without any formal education to speak of and no knowledge of the English language after being forced into work at the age of seven or eight after the death of his father. He came with enough money to get to his destination in Connecticut and then one dollar more.

Castle Garden from the NYC side.

Looking into the city from inside.

It was a powerful moment to pass through these same doors that brought my great-grandfather to America after three nights sleeping on the floor waiting to be processed. I thought of his determination to give himself and his future family a better life than the years of grinding poverty he had endured in Sweden. I thought of how homesick he must have been, how dazzlingly different New York City and all the cities he passed through on his way to Manchester, Connecticut must have been from the farm country where he was raised. I though of how daunting it must have seemed to have so little money left when he arrived.

Diorama of the Battery as it appeared in 1886.

I thought of all of these things in a matter of seconds standing inside what was once Castle Garden, but the moment was fleeting in this National Monument that no longer represents the struggle so many went through to come here. But that is for another post, this post is about one part of Carl Johan Anderson's journey from his hardships in Sweden to a full and rewarding life in America. He came with nothing but the strength of character and hope for a better life that so many millions of immigrants have brought to to America for hundreds of years, and with that he gave his family everything.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Where are those Yearbooks?

Stephen D Matthews, Wesleyan University '58

I realized this morning that it has been a week since my last post. Blogging is not on my to-do list today but I am trying not to let more than a week go by between posts so I was thinking about possible topics while doing other things and then I passed by this caricature of my father that hangs in our back hall.

My father and grandfather both received their bachelors degrees at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Both of them worked on their yearbooks at Wesleyan and before that at prep school. My father hoarded books, a great deal of my last visit at my step-mother's was spent going through Dad's books and resisting the urge to bring them all home with me. But we could not find any yearbooks, none of Dad's, none of my grandfather's! I know my parents had a leak in our home in Rockville Centre when I was little that damaged many things beyond saving, but that wouldn't explain what has become of my grandfather's yearbooks since they wouldn't have been in our home then.

Luckily I have been able to find the Olla Podrida (Wesleyan's yearbook) on Ancestry from 1958, the year my father graduated and it is quite the find. I knew that my father was very involved as a student and I knew some of the clubs to which he belonged, but some were a complete surprise.

Major: English; High Distinction; Eclectic, Coragus; Olla Podrida; WESU; Glee Club, 3, 4; Jibers, leader 4; Fire Chief; C.A.; Canterbury Club; Pre Ministerial Club; French Club; C.B. Elections Committee.

He was busy! I do check ebay and some other sites from time to time for copies of their other yearbooks but hadn't ordered any until now because they weren't from graduating years, which tend to have the most information about a specific person and I was holding out hope of finding their copies.

Now that it seems that won't happen, I just now ordered a 1923 yearbook from Wyoming Seminary. That was my grandfather's first and junior year at the prep school in Kingston, PA so I may not find too much, but it was only $9.99 so what the heck. If I find anything interesting, I'll be sure to share it here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Week One: Research Practicies

I decided last week that I was going to participate in Cycle 4 of the Genealogy Do-Over as a way to get back to my research after two months.

Since this is kind of a Do-Over Go-Over for me, I'm focusing on just my research practices for this week. I've reviewed what I did last time, which you can find in the "Best Practices and Guidelines" tab above, and I'm still happy with it.

I want my research to be fun and enjoyable, but I also want it to be intentional. I want to have goals and approach each one with all of the tools and practices I have learned and remember to follow these practices until they become habit. So I have taken eleven of these practices, printed them and framed them to hang above my computer desk for easy reference each time I sit down to research.

Popping down the occasional rabbit-hole chasing a BSO (Bright Shiny Object) without a definite goal in mind can be fun and has its place in my research I think, but if I'm going to do that once in a while, I still want to do it on purpose or intentionally so that I don't end up frustrated because I sat down with a solid goal in mind that I didn't come close to accomplishing.

I believe that these practices will keep me focused and help me make the most of the time, and let's not forget money, that I spend on my family research.

EDIT: Here is the link to my previous post for Week 1 of the Do-over. There you can find links to the sources for my practices, which I adapted from other Geneabloggers, including Thomas MacEntee.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Military Monday - Military Service in Sweden

A big thank you to the Swedish American Genealogy Group on Facebook.

One of my unexpected finds in Dad's secret stash was this photo of my great-grandfather, Carl Johan Anderson, in military uniform.

Carl Johan Anderson - Back row, center.

Also in one of these envelopes was a rudimentary will and letter that included a bit about his early life including the fact that when he "was 21 years old I was taken for Military Service to "Frista Hed" in year 1887. Service lasted 21 days."

Wikipedia told me that compulsory military service in Sweden didn't start until 1901 and 21 days seemed a bit of a short stint to me, so I went to the Swedish American Genealogy Group and they were able to help. It seems that at this time men 21-25 years old were required to do 42 days over two years.  My grandfather never did the second 21 days, it appears, because he left for America in late March of the following year.

One of the members of the Facebook group also helped me with a little research. And found me a link to a blog (in Swedish) with photos from the camp where Carl Johan trained.  I love that group. If you are ever in need of assistance with Swedish research, you will more than likely find it there!