Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

Although I have not been posting much lately, I have been doing some research via Ancestry, some learning via DearMYRTLE, and some planning for the year ahead, including participating in Thomas MacEntees full year Genealogy Do-Over.

Although I will have more on my plate in 2016, I am hopeful that I will still find time to indulge in my favorite pastime and share the results of my research here with you.

All the best for 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Wishes

I'm not strictly following Thomas MacEntee's description of today's theme. Instead of my own Christmas wishes, I thought this would be a great opportunity to show off one of my favorite genealogy finds.

In December of 1909, when my grandfather was eight, the Pittson Gazette of Pittston, PA reprinted childrens' letters to Santa., including his:

Pittston Gazette, 22nd December 1909, Wed, Page 14

Dear Santa,
I heard that you were coming to Pittston. I would like to have a pair of kid gloves and a work shop and a flexible flyer sled and a box of handkerchiefs and a box of writing paper. I guess this will be all for this time.
Your friend.
Howard Matthews
13 Nafus St.
Pittston Pa

I had never seen any photos of my grandfather as a child until very recently. This came from Dad's basement stash
Howard B Matthews - date unk.

Isn't he adorable? This photo is now one of my most prized possessions. And that basement stash feels like many years worth of Christmas wishes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday's Tip - Look Again!

Look at those records again. Something you've probably heard before if you've been a geneablogger or geneablog-reader for any length of time, but this came up for me recently, so I thought I would add my voice.

I was typing up the names of the identified people in this photo during scanning and decided to dig a little bit regarding the unfamiliar names and unidentified people. (I also wrote this post to see if anyone out there could find a connection in this photo.)

Based on my estimate of the ages of the children, I decided to take another look at the 1900 U.S. census. 1900 was the first U.S. census after my great-grandparents' marriage in 1893 and was also the year that they moved into their own home after seven years of renting. I knew that my great-grandparents had boarders, so I was curious to see if any of the unfamiliar names could be found as boarders or neighbors.

Really, it is just classic F.A.N. (Friends And Neighbors) research, but I was surprised to find just how many familiar names were found on that one page of the census. I had learned so much about the F.A.N. club and my great-grandmother's siblings through other research (and good fortune) that all of a sudden the census record became a little window for me to see into the lives of my ancestors.

The census lists my great-grandmother's brother, Albin Johnson, among her boarders, which actually doesn't surprise me as he never married. Also their sister Anna Olivia and her family are living right next door, and they too have boarders. Their good friend Selma, who immigrated with them to the United States, is living on the same block with her family and, you guessed it, they have boarders as well. Anna Olivia's boarders may be Selma's brother and his family, actually. They may also be in the photo above and buried in the Carlin/Olson plot in East Cemetery. That will have to be added to my research to-do list, though. I'll need to have another look to be sure.

I love this discovery, it was definitely worth another look at the census to see it. All of these adult ancestors were immigrants so they did not have deep roots here. But they created their own community here in Manchester to make up for that, and spread their roots wide to give themselves and their families the stability to make a good life.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Arthur William Matthews - d. December 6, 1915 - Turned None Away

My great-grandfather, Arthur William Matthews, died 100 years ago today.  Until recently all I had or knew of him was one photograph and some of my grandfather's written memories. And that is a lot, more than a lot of people have, but I was very happy to find more about him when I subscribed to last year and again this past September in Dad's secret stash.
Arthur William Matthews
b. 1844 Coleford, Somersetshire, England
d. Dec. 6, 1915, Pittston, PA

From the Pittston Gazette, Wed Dec 8, 1915
If you have read any of my grandfather's autobiography which I transcribed over many weeks for Amanuensis Monday, you might remember that Arthur came to the United States as a member of an orchestra in 1865. Once settled in Pittston, he led the choir at the Methodist Episcopal Church for many years and owned a music store. He also composed music, including for this hymn, "I Left it All with Jesus, Long Ago."

I was over the moon to find this in September, I had read that my grandfather had it, but had never seen it.

Also, among a literal stack of Bibles and prayer books, I found this.

The embossing is almost completely gone on the cover. It reads A W Matthews.

It's nice to have these physical connections to my great-grandfather, but even more than this, and especially in this Advent Season, I remember most proudly one thing that my grandfather wrote in his autobiography, "The visitor was there by virtue of my father's rule that no one ever be turned away from the Matthews house hungry." Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Music

Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers started the holiday blogging prompt, Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, about six years ago. Today's prompt is Christmas Music.

Christmas carols, church music and even more modern novelty songs are all a big part of our Christmas memories. What songs were your favorites as a child and are they still your favorites or do you have new ones? What about your parents or family members – were there certain songs or types of Christmas music played during the season? And how would you describe the type of Christmas music you like?

Write about anything related to Christmas music and your memories of Christmases past.

My fondest memories of Christmas music are definitely out of the norm. It isn't Dean Martin or Bing Crosby that first come to mind when I think Christmas music, it's Marlena Dietrich, Odetta and Stan Freberg.

My parents loved many kinds of music, folk among them. When they lived in the Chicago suburbs, they listed to a radio show called "The Midnight Special" on WFMT on Saturday nights from 9pm - Midnight. One year my dad recorded their Christmas show on his reel-to-reel player. We listened to that recording every Christmas Day and over the years it became my holiday soundtrack.

Unfortunately, that reel-to-reel tape snapped one day as have the few cassette tapes Dad made from it and I haven't been able to find any recordings around my step-mother's house. But I have my memories of the songs, like Win Stracke's "Christmas in Clout City," that don't exist anywhere else and some of them were popular enough to make it to iTunes and YouTube. I'm sharing some of those below.

I believe that the Odetta spirituals are the same recordings that were played that night long ago on WFMT. They are lovely, uplifting songs. Marlene Dietrich's recording of Der Trommelmann (The Little Drummer Boy) is very different from most other recordings of the song, but lovely in its own way.

The other selections are more comedic and misanthropic and a little bit cynical. But they are snapshots of their time as well.

Yes, of course, I do listen to classic Christmas songs and carols. I always listen to the Nutcracker through at least once each season and I have Christmas albums on iTunes like Canadian Brass and the Westminster Boys' Choir and the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, but it wouldn't be Christmas for me without a little Midnight Special.

 Odetta - Shout for Joy

 Odetta - Children, Go Where I Send Thee

Marlene Dietrich - Der Trommelmann

 Stan Freberg - Green Christmas

Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol

Mike Nichols & Elaine May - Merry Christmas, Doctor.