Genealogy Mystery: Jane Finally Found

Our family has long known that ancestors Benjamin Booth married Jane Ebrey in 1866 in northern Shropshire, England, and they came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on their honeymoon.  Benjamin’s older brother George, also a carpenter, was already in Milwaukee, a likely reason they came. Ben and Jane stayed to work and raise their family.
 
Benjamin’s parents and birth date and place were known. But when was Jane born and where, and who were her parents? The usual online records did not yield an answer. No International Genealogy Index or IGI record for her and nothing in FreeBMD that matched what we knew from later records.

Following considerable genealogy sleuth work, answers have turned up in a number of records –  including Benjamin and Jane’s marriage certificate ordered from the General Register Office or  GRO in England. It proved to be the key that opened the door to solving the mystery of Jane Ebrey’s family and early life.

An important clue was found on a family tree that a cousin wrote out some years ago, based on his research. It was this:
> In the 1861 Census, Jane Ebrey was recorded as keeping house for her uncle Robert Ebrey and his sons Henry and Frederick in Prees, Shropshire. They lived on on Whitchurch Street. The men all worked as butchers.
 
Benjamin and Jane’s marriage record revealed that:
> Benjamin, a carpenter, age 21, and Jane, age 27, were married in the Prees parish church on 23 April 1866
> Benjamin’s father was Joseph Booth, a builder
> Jane’s father was John Ebrey, a butcher
 
With Jane’s father’s correct name, I at last was able to find Jane’s family and her presence in key records.

John and Robert Ebrey were among the sons of Thomas Ebrey who in 1828 and 1835 was listed in Shropshire Directories as Thomas Aberey & Sons, Butchers, in Prees. Thomas Aberey [also Eberey and Ebrey] had on 31 Dec 1795 married Isabelle Gilchrist, who sometimes was recorded as Elizabeth [Elizabeth is the English version of the name Isabelle].
 
John Ebrey was recorded as John Gilchrist Ebrey when he was baptized on 15 Aug 1802 in Prees. He most likely was named for his maternal grandfather John Gilchrist, Isabelle’s father.
 
On 15 Nov 1827, John Ebrey married Mary Palin, or Paling, in Ightfield, a rural village about 4 miles northeast of Prees and 4 miles southeast of Whitchurch. He and Mary then settled in her home village of Ightfield where John was a butcher while his brother Robert continued the butcher business in Prees. John and Mary had 10 children.
 
So that’s one reason Jane Ebrey was hard to find. It turns out that she was born in Ightfield, not Prees or Hodnet as the family had assumed. Likely born in October 1836, she was baptized in Ightfield on 20 Nov 1836 as shown in the parish records on microfilm. [In the 1900 Census, Jane’s birth was recorded as October 1855. She never liked giving her real age!]

But why no IGI for Jane’s baptism? It turns out that the IGIs for Ightfield are based on a document the ended with 1830.  And the FreeBMD records start with required registration in 1837. Jane’s birth fell in the gap, but the microfilm of Ightfield parish records , ordered through the local Family History Center,  had records of her birth and those of her siblings.
 
So why was Jane not with her parents in the 1841 Census? In fact, I believe she was – but the census taker hearing “Jane who is four” wrote down “James, age 4, son.” There is no birth of a James Ebrey to John and Mary in the microfilm records. So the census error is the likely reason Jane seems to be missing in 1841. In that year, the John Ebrey family lived in Prees but by 1851 they were again in Ightfield.
 
In the 1851 Census, Jane Ebrey, 14, born in Ightfield – surely our Jane – was in service in the household of John Paling in Prees. John, a grazier and butcher, was Jane’s maternal uncle, being her mother Mary Paling’s brother. [It was this record, giving her birthplace in Ightfield, that sent me to the Ightfield microfilm].
 
In this period, it was typical for young women from families of modest means to work as a servant in another household.  In 1861, Jane, as yet unmarried, was recorded as keeping house for her paternal uncle Robert Ebrey in Prees. Robert was a widower with two sons and so in need of someone to run his household.

Then on 23 April 1866, in the Prees parish church, Jane married Benjamin Booth, who had been baptized and confirmed at the church in Hodnet. The Booth family lived in the nearby village of Marchamley at the entrance to Hawkstone where the Booth men were carpenters and builders. Benjamin and Jane came to Milwaukee where he was listed in the 1866 Milwaukee Directory as a carpenter, living with George Booth, carpenter.
 
A fun extra. On 15 May 1866, at the Prees parish church, Sarah Booth, Benjamin’s sister, married Henry Ebrey, Jane’s first cousin and the son of Robert Ebrey mentioned earlier. Sarah had been a witness when Benjamin and Jane married.
 
One last bit gleaned from Shropshire Directories about John and Robert Ebrey. In the 1851 Directory for Shropshre, in the Whitchurch Trades Directory section, both John Ebrey and Robert Ebrey were listed as “country butchers who stand at the market in High Street” in Whitchurch [History, Gazetteer & Directory of Shropshire, 1851, p. 351.] Whitchurch was a market town where on Fridays merchants and tradesmen set up their booths to sell their wares.

Thus a genealogy brickwall – built of various errors and omissions – was finally overcome. Evidence that it can be done!

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://tiny.cc/GWFindingFamilyforFree

Thank you!

Bradley Genealogy Puzzle Solved

On April 2, 2010, on Facebook, Ancestry.com posted this: “For centuries April 1st has been a day when pranksters rule, leading friends on a wild goose chase. Some of our ancestors do that year round. Have you found an elusive ancestor who took you on a path full of twists and turns? How did you finally solve the mystery?”

Several of my ancestors took me on paths of twists and turns to find them.  Here is one of my favorites, with a successful solution to the mystery, as I replied on Facebook:

Definitely! My 2nd great-grandfather Sherman A BRADLEY came to Milwaukee , Wisconsin, from Connecticut about 1857. I was led on a merry chase by the 1900 Census that said his father was born in England, his mother in Scotland. No matches in any immigration records!

So I worked to link him to the right Bradley family in Connecticut – and there are a great many. In Wisconsin marriage records [he married twice], his parents were recorded as Leming H Bradley or L. H. Bradley and Mary Simons. I found a likely match for his father’s birth as Leaming Hawkins Bradley in Litchfield, Connecticut, and a marriage there of Seyming Bradley and Mary Simons, both via the Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records. [Note: Capital L and S are often misread for the other one, and Leaming is often misspelled.] No birth record for Sherman was found there, however.

An 1850 census entry with Leaming’s father Horace Bradley and two brothers John and Clark in Dodge County, Wisconsin, suggested I was on the right track. A genealogy book on Ancestry.com had this Bradley family, but only said Leaming Bradley and Mary Simonds “had several sons.” But I knew then that Seyming [Leyming] WAS Leaming – and he had sons.

The final link? Milwaukee City Directories – on microfilm, borrowed  from the Family History Library –  had entries from 1862 to 1872 for L. H. Bradley or Leming H. Bradley and one spelled correctly as Leaming H Bradley. YES! He had the same occupation as son Sherman A. Bradley, and lived just a few blocks from Sherman, his wife Hannah and their son Jesse, born 1866.

With the link finally made – using many sources and records –  I have my Bradley ancestors all the way back to the arrival of Stephen Bradley in New Haven CT from Yorkshire, England, about 1645.  So yes, English ancestors. And Leaming Hawkins Bradley’s grandfather, Aaron Bradley, married Lorrain Abernethy, and her ancestors were Scottish, of which they were quite proud.

One last confirming clue. A family tree from my uncle showed that there was a Revolutionary War soldier in the Bradley line. In fact, Aaron Bradley, L. H. Bradley’s grandfather, served in the Revolutionary War when a teenager, working in the artificer’s shop and as a guard for prisoners held in Litchfield. And so the many genealogy puzzle pieces finally fit together!

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://tiny.cc/GWFindingFamilyforFree

Thank you!

SNGF – Ahnentafel Roulette No. 2

Note: After reviewing my Ahnentafel with greater care, I found that Jane Ebrey is No. 23 on my ancestor table while Marianna Stocker is No. 19. See Saturday, September 19,  for Ancestor 19.

This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is Ahnentafel Roulette, a game played using your father’s age and a quick formula to find a number in your Ahnentafel or ancestry table.

My father was born in 1919 so would have been 90 this year. The figure 90 divided by 4 is 22.5, rounded up to 23. Ancestor 23 is a second-great grandmother on your paternal side.

My Ancestor 23 is Jane Ebrey, born about October 1839 in Prees, Shropshire, England. I say “about” because the many records I have for her show her birth year ranging from 1837 to 1855!  I suspect the 1837-1839 period is right, as census records give her age as 14 in 1851 and 22 in 1861.

To date I have not found a birth record for her, either through IGI or FreeBMD. I’ve even searched the latter for the name Jane in Shropshire, September 1837 through December 1840, hoping for a unique surname spelling, but no luck.

Research by a cousin showed Jane’s parents were Thomas Ebrey and Anne, and her uncle was Robert Ebrey, a widower for whom she kept house as we know from the 1861 Census in England.  While many records are available about Robert and another uncle, John Gilchrist Ebrey, Jane’s father Thomas Ebrey is illusive in the records. There is enough evidence to know these people are her family, but more research is needed!

The happy and romantic story for Jane Ebrey is her marriage to Benjamin Booth in the second quarter of 1866, perhaps in May or June,  the same time that her cousin Henry [Robert’s son] married Sarah Booth, sister to Benjamin.

Then Benjamin and Jane sailed for America on their honeymoon, according to family lore, coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they established  family and career. They had two sons and four daughters including the oldest daughter, Grace, who is my great-grandmother.

Relative Musings:  Jane and Benjamin arrived in 1866, just 31 years after the building of Milwaukee had begun in the woods and swamps at a harbor on Lake Michigan and just 20 years after incorporation as a city. Benjamin’s carpentry skills played a role in the building of what has become a great city on a Great Lake!

NOTE: What is an Ahnentafel? The word is German for Ancestor table. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahnentafel

Thanks for the SNGF, Randy! http://www.geneamusings.com/

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://tiny.cc/GWFindingFamilyforFree

-o0o-

Published in: on September 20, 2009 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

SNGF – Ahnentafel Roulette

Note: After reviewing my Ahnentafel with greater care, I found that Marianna Stocker is No. 19 on my ancestor table. See the posting for Sunday, September 20, for Ancestor 23.

This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is Ahnentafel Roulette, a game played as follows:
> Determine how old your father is or would be this year
> Divide that number by 4 and round up
> Find the ancestor in your own Ahnentafel chart who fills the slot with that number
> And then tell us three things about that ancestor.

My father Donald Custer Bradley was born in 1919 so would be 90 this year. The figure 90 divided by 4 is 22.5, rounded up to 23. Ancestor 23 is a second-great grandmother on your paternal side.

My ancestor 23 is Marianna Stocker, b. 18 Jun 1826 near Zweisimmen in Canton Bern, Switzerland, one of 11 children of Jacob Stocker and Magdalena Werren.

A family tree notes that Jacob and many of his children came to America, with other evidence showing their arrival about 1852-1854. Marianna settled in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

On 31 March 1857, Marianna married Joachim Speich, who had come in 1847  to Wisconsin from Luchsingen, Glarus, Switzerland, and they had 2 sons and 3 daughters, the youngest being Caroline Belle Speich, my great-grandmother.

Relative Musings:  Both Marianna and Joachim came from German-speaking regions of Switzerland so would have felt at home among the many German immigrants in mid-19th century Milwaukee. On the other hand, they surely missed the beautiful high mountains of Switzerland, their native home, as they lived in a pioneer city on Lake Michigan in the flat Midwest of the USA.

I am grateful for the research done by cousins on these Stocker and Speich ancestors and graciously shared!

NOTE: What is an Ahnentafel? The word is German for Ancestor table. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahnentafel

Thanks for the SNGF, Randy! http://www.geneamusings.com/

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://tiny.cc/GWFindingFamilyforFree

BBPetura on Twitter

Using Twitter is a fun way to meet genealogists, get tips on new family history resources and record research progress.  And also to follow news media, experts on archaeology and gardening, and more! Unique diary! Here are some of my recent tweets:

9/12/2009

Wisconsin 1875 Census on FamilySearch with index & scans is great! Ancestors Benjamin Church & Sherman A. Bradley in Milwaukee!

RT @Palaeogeek Thirty thousand year-old colored twine found in Georgia: http://is.gd/37AYC | Europe that is!

Beautiful day so I enjoyed a visit to Living in the Garden north of #Pullman for fall #flowers, food treats: http://tiny.cc/LvngInGrdn9

RT @Cherryteatime Condense #genealogy w/geography – Suffolk, Shropshire, Yorkshire ENG, Glarus SWISS, Pomerania, Holstein, Trier GER, more!

My http://books.google.com/ search – ancestor Ferdinand Hachez did weather observations 1865, helped found a hail insurance company 1870

#Genealogy tip: At least once a year, search for your ancestors in old books & documents at http://books.google.com/ Great finds possible!

Great idea: search anew for ancestors’ info on their birthday. Thanks @mjnrootdig for #Genealogy tip of the day: http://tinyurl.com/Bdays9

9/9/2009

RT @jefferymartin Skull has been found that rewrites the history of man — http://bit.ly/ypKRY | And woman we presume!

9/7/2009

Try to be a generous genealogy volunteer and help others find their families! See an example at Relative Musings: http://tiny.cc/RMsng939

Labor Day #genealogy – Ancestor Sherman A. Bradley was a carpenter, then pumpmaker, owned Badger Pump, Milwaukee. Pumps then made of wood!

Labor Day #genealogy – Ancestor John Nicholas Luehr was stonemason & farmer in late 1800s. His hard work meant two sons could go to college!

Labor Day #genealogy – Ancestor Benjamin Church, pioneer carpenter in 1835 in Milwaukee, from Ulster County, NY: http://tiny.cc/BnjChurch35

Labor Day #genealogy – Both of my grandmothers, Beatrice and Lucille, were teachers before marrying: one home ec, one elementary school.

Labor Day #genealogy – William Henry Luehr was a newspaper publisher, a school teacher & principal in Wisconsin: http://tiny.cc/WHLuehr

Labor Day #genealogy – Martin Friedrich Bruss came to Milwaukee from Cammin, Pomerania, to continue family tradtion of ship building, 1839.

Labor Day #genealogy fun: tweet about the labors of your ancestors – any of their occupations a suprise? a family tradition? Please RT!

9/6/2009

Amazed at my Hachez ancestors’ migrations: Brugge, Belgium, to Bremen, Germany, to village of New Holstein, Wisconsin, in 1854!

Just finished replying to a distanct cousin in Germany about the Hachez family of 3 who came to Wisconsin in 1854: http://tiny.cc/FHHachez

Note: The hash # tags and at @ tags you see above don’t work outside Twitter! You can find those tweeting by putting their Twitter handle after http://twitter.com/. Mine, for example, is http://twitter.com/BBPetura.  Please follow me!

Google for Genealogy

Whether you are just starting your family history research or are an experienced genealogist, free online resources are always a plus. And “Finding Family for Free” is a key emphasis of this blog, Relative Musings.

In that spirit, here is a helpful article by TJD with one proposed list of the “Top Five Free Genealogy Websites.” Click here to read the details of each one. The 5 that TJD recommended are:
>> FreeBMD for ancestors in England,
>> RootsWeb with user-contributed family info,
>> Google News Archive,
>> Newspaper Archive, and
>> USGenWeb project.

While some of these are not totally free, all have some free resources are are worth using. For example, the Newspaper Archive offers free searches of the the front pages of newspapers in its database. But most of the others are totally free.

Of the five, new to me was the Google News Archive. I tried it out and immediately found a weath of information about my extended Bruce family in Milwaukee. It helps that William George Bruce, older brother of my great-grandfather, was a prominent figure in publishing and civic service in Milwaukee.

Given that success, I offer for your consideration a trio of Google resources for your genealogy research, each useful in its own way.

Google Books:  Many older family genealogy books and histories of US towns, cities and counties have been scanned through the Google Books project. Some are there in full text, others in limited preview and others just indexed with brief snippets of text excerpted in the search results. But you have a good chance of finding ancestors in some of these books, especially earlier generations in New England.

Google Search:  A basic Google search — if well crafted to be specific enough — can lead you to relevant family history Web sites created by other genealogists or other helpful information. Maybe your ancestor was an early settler in an American town and is mentioned in the town’s history online.

Google News Archive: The news archive is a way to find articles about ancestors, as well as obituaries that fill in a gap in your family history.

Make it a habit to use all three Google strategies as you work to break down genealogy brickwalls or fill out the story of an ancestor’s life.  Your family history will benefit!

Other resources on using Google:

> Using Google for Genealogy, by Kathi Reid
> Easy Google Genealogy Searcher, a handy tool
> Using Google Books in Genealogy, a helpful video

There are entire handbooks in PDF format on using Google for genealogy. Just do a Google search on that phrase and you’ll find a treasure trove of helpful resources!

Best wishes in your family history research!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research articles to help you find your family and ancestors, often for modest or no cost.

Misspelled Names in Genealogy

Records used for genealogy research are, unfortunately, riddled with errors, especially the spelling of names. These incorrect names create major challenges for family historians as they search for earlier generations.

Name errors occur for varied reasons. Sometimes names have variations and individuals were not concerned which version was used. Sometimes names were written down incorrectly in the original record. Also, handwriting on old records is often hard to read or in old-fashioned script, leading to errors when the names are transcribed for a census or name index, for example.

Genealogists learn to spot names in the records that might be the ancestors they are seeking — even when outrageously misspelled –and then work to prove or disprove their theory.

My search for my paternal third great-grandparents — parents of Sherman A. Bradley — is an instructive example. To celebrate Father’s Day 2009,  here is a look at my quest for my Bradley forefathers, focusing on the challenges of misspelled names!

When my paternal second great-grandfather Sherman A. Bradley married in Milwaukee on 6 Jan 1859, he was recorded as born in Connecticut “near New Haven” with parents Leman H. Bradley and Mary C. Bradley. When he married for a second time on 11 Jan 1882, the official asked for a maiden name for his mother, so Sherman’s parents were listed as L. H. Bradley and Mary Simons.

An exhaustive review of all Leman, Lemon, Leming and Lyman Bradley men of the right period to have a son born in or about 1835 in Connecticut turned up no relevant results. Nor could an 1850 Census record with Leman, Mary and Sherman be found — anywhere.

Two intriguing records turned up, however, in Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut, a place about 40 miles from New Haven:

> Leaming Hawkins Bradley b. 10 Oct 1808 in Litchfield to Horace Bradley and Hannah Hawkins
> Seyming Bradley m. 18 Sep 1830 in Litchfield to Mary Simons.

The name Leaming could be mistakenly recorded as Leman — and there was a middle name starting with H. And if those who created the Barbour Collection of Vital Records for Connecticut towns misread the capital L as a capital S, then the marriage record could be Leyming Bradley m. Mary Simons.  Leyming is yet another way a clerk might think to write down Leaming, and marriage at age 22 was typical in those days.

This was the closest I had come to a match for the names Sherman gave as his parents. But could I prove this was right? Several records and books kept me focused on this family.

First, Leaming H. Bradley turned up in the 1840 Census in Washington Township, Litchfield County, Connecticut, with two sons in the 5-9 age range. Sherman would fit in that family.

Second, a Pedigree Resource File at FamilySearch.org for Leaming’s younger brother John showed that he, another brother Clark and father Horace were in Dodge County, Wisconsin, not far from Milwaukee, in the 1850 Census. Here was an exciting Wisconsin connection with a date not long before Sherman arrived in 1857-58.

Third, among the books on Ancestry.com I found one with the genealogy of this Bradley family line going back to New Haven in the 1640s. It showed that Leaming Bradley, the first child of Horace Bradley and Hannah Twitchell [her correct surname], had married Mary Simonds and they “had several sons.” Here was good confirmation of the Litchfield marriage record and a match to the two young males in Leaming’s household in the 1840 Census.

[The book is Genealogical and Family History of Central New York, Vol. III, by William Richard Cutter. See page 1224.]

Attempts to find a birth record for Sherman A. Bradley were not successful, even with efforts by the Litchfield Historical Society and the Town Clerk for Washington, Connecticut. Such a record is always the best proof. I was pretty sure I had the right family, but felt I need some added records for confirmation.

I turned to the Milwaukee City Directories for the 1860s and 1870s to see if Sherman’s father or parents might have come to Milwaukee as well. In the microfilms of those directories, on a day not long ago, I found the proof I was looking for: Leaming H. Bradley had come to Milwaukee where his son Sherman was married and working. You can imagine my excitement!

His name was recorded in various ways in the directories, and I share them all to show again the challenge of misspelled names:
> 1862: L. H. Bradley
> 1863: Leming H. Bradley, proprietor of L. H. Bradley & Co.
> 1865: Seamey H. Bradley, same address as Leming H. in 1863.
> 1866: Leaming H. Bradley, his name spelled correctly! 
> 1867: L. H. Bradley
> 1871-1872: Lyman H. Bradley

Leaming’s consistent use of his middle initial H. helped identify him, no matter how his first name was mangled.

The home address for all but one of these entries was on 8th Street, helping show that these are  listings for the same man, just various spellings of of his name.  And the location was about four blocks from the home of Benjamin Church where his daughter Hannah lived with her husband Sherman A. Bradley.

Also, in many of these years his occupation listed was pumpmaker, including the final listing when his name was spelled Lyman. Sherman A. Bradley had the same occupation. [Note: In that era, water pumps were made out of wood, so Sherman’s career move to pumpmaker from carpenter makes sense.]

Two more clues helped confirm that Leaming Hawkins Bradley and Mary Simons were Sherman’s parents. Written on a Bradley family tree were two notes: one, that Sherman had an ancestor in the Revolutionary War and, two, the ancestral name Abernathy, connection unclear. Books showed the parents of Horace Bradley as Aaron Bradley — who served in the Revolution as a youthful blacksmith and guard — and Lorrin Abernethy, daughter of Dr. William Abernethy.

All the pieces of the genealogical puzzle fell into place, at last.

But why was a Bradley male child born in 1808 given the first name Leaming? That name honors his great-grandfather Leaming Bradley who first brought the family to Litchfield from Middletown, Connecticut, and also his third great-grandmother Jane Leaming, daughter of Christopher Leaming and Hester Burnet, who married the first in the line of men named Abraham Bradley. But those are stories for another day.

Using the surname Leaming was a given name did indeed honor our Leaming ancestors, but also created a genealogy brickwall that was very strong, but has finally tumbled down!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research articles to help you find your family and ancestors, often for modest or no cost.

City Directories

Most family history researchers focus their early work on census records. Census records do contain a wealth of information and cover rural areas, small towns and cities.

However, if your ancestors lived in one of America’s cities, there is another resource that deserves your equal attention, namely city directories. Here is a lively example of how they can help you fill in your family’s story and answer puzzling questions.

I recently sent a cousin the family history that I had discovered — building on the great work my sister did when she and and her husband lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and their son was a baby. The cousin emailed a question I too had wondered about:
 
“Why was Beatrice Jane Bruce born in Cambridge, Massachusetts?’
 
I never thought I could find the answer — until Ancestry.com put hundreds and hundreds of city directories from the 1880s and 1890s onto its Web site.  The directories help fill the gap caused by the loss of the 1890 census records in a major fire.

In those days, before people had telephone numbers, city directories included name, address — and occupation. So I wondered, would there be one for Cambridge, Mass., for 1896 and would Bea’s father Martin P. Bruce be in it? Voila! Yes! The entry reads as follows:
 
Bruce, Martin P., Salesman, Fish Bros. Wagon Co., h. 56 Baldwin.
 
Fish Bros. Wagon Company was a very large Racine, Wisconsin, firm that sold their wooden wagons nationwide and overseas. It was controlled by J.I Case of Racine. Fish Bros.  made both work wagons and fancy wagons such as phaetons and trotting buggies. You can read more about the firm and see a sketch of the Racine plant  online.
 
So it seems that Martin, newly married in 1895, took a position that promised better opportunities than his occupation as a clerk or accountant — which he had pursued since 1887 when he was 17 years old. Even if that meant Martin Bruce and his wife Grace Booth Bruce having to move east across the country to a new city.

They were there just one year, with daughter Beatrice Jane Bruce born 22 May 1896. Perhaps Martin did not like the life of a salesman. [He likely was a sales agent for Fish Bros., calling on businesses that sold the wagons to customers]. Or, with a new baby, Martin and Grace wanted to be back in Milwaukee among their families.

In any case, by the time the 1897 Milwaukee Directory was published, Martin, Grace and Bea were back in Milwaukee. Martin was listed that year as:

Bruce Martin P., bkpr. 205 Wells, h 465 Hanover

What company did he work for as a bookkeeper? Based on the address at 205 Wells, it was J. Dorsch & Sons, a company that sold agricultural implements and carriages. Its directory listing says:

J. DORSCH & SONS, agric. Implts and carriages, 195 2d and 205-211 Wells.

Martin had worked there as early as 1892, according to city directories. We surmise that he got to know the sales representatives of Fish Bros. Wagon Company. And there is the likely link to the sales job in Cambridge.

So there is why Bea was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, courtesy of city directories for Cambridge and Milwaukee.

You can find city directories in your local libraries or on microfilm through LDS Family History Centers or via Interlibrary Loan, all at a very low cost. Check them out soon!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research articles to help you find your family and ancestors, often for modest or no cost.

Published in: on January 25, 2009 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Brickwall Overcome

Every one doing genealogy research eventually comes to a brickwall, that spot in the family tree when you can go no further.  This is the story of overcoming a family history brickwall using many and varied resources to succeed, including the help of two generous genealogists. The result was, for me, a remarkable new insight into my heritage.

My paternal uncle had gathered considerable family information and sketches of family trees for various lines of our family.  It was in these notes that I first encountered the name Frederick Bruce, an ancestor who came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from New York with his family in 1842. Those key facts came from the book I Was Born in America: The Memoirs of William George Bruce.

Frederick was the father of Augustus F. Bruce, who in turn was the father of Martin P. Bruce, my great-grandfather. William George Bruce  (1856-1949) — Martin’s oldest brother — wrote and published many books on Milwaukee history and other topics.

Thus I set off with high hopes of finding more about Frederick Bruce in census and other records in Wisconsin and New York. Instead, I immediately hit a brickwall. There was no Frederick Bruce in census records in Wisconsin or New York, nor in the 1848-1849 Milwaukee City Directory. In contrast, I could find many records starting about 1857 for Frederick’s three sons: Augustus Bruce in Milwaukee, Martin F. Bruce near Pensacola, Florida, and John Bruce in San Francisco, California.

So I began collecting all the information I could about the three sons, and garnered additional insights from W. G. Bruce’s Memoirs.  I was delighted to be able to purchase a copy of the book that included portraits of Augustus F. Bruce, his wife Apollonia Becker Bruce and their son William George Bruce.

Pieces of the puzzle emerged. Frederick Bruce, his wife and son August came to America from Prussia in the 1830s. Sons Martin and John appeared to have been born in New York. The traditional male occupations for the family were sailor, ship’s carpenter and ship’s caulker.  And they were Protestants.  Clearly the family came from a port city with shipyards along the northern coast of Prussia, in other words near the Baltic Sea coast. But where?

A vital clue was provided on a copy of the abstract of the will of August Bruce, also called August F. Bruce, alias Bruss. Here was the original spelling of the family name, used until the late 1850s when all three sons began using the anglicized Bruce.

So when I found Frederick Bruss, a ship’s carpenter, in the 1847-1848 Milwaukee City Directory, I was elated — until I realized that he lived in the Second Ward on the west side of Milwaukee River, while our family had lived in the First Ward on the east side of the river, according to W. G. Bruce’s Memoirs.

I continued doing research. I discovered a Bruss family than had arrived from Pomerania in 1839, came to Milwaukee and then moved just north of the city to a new village called Freidstadt or “free city.” They were among the Old Lutherans who emigrated from Prussia to continue practicing their Lutheran faith, when the Prussian Emperor Wilhelm III forced a merger of Lutheran and Calvinist churches into one union church.

That Bruss family came from Cammin, north of Stettin and very near the Baltic Sea. When I read that Cammin was an historic Hanseatic shipbuilding city, I had a “eureka” moment. Could this be where my Bruss family was from? I decided to post a query summarizing all the salient details that I had collected about the family. I noted that the Prussia/Germany Genealogy Forum had an expert shown as Robert T. who helped many family seekers.

In a very short time, he replied and asked if this family from Cammin, Pomerania, Prussia was the one I was seeking: Martin Friedrich Bruss, age 40, journeyman ship’s carpenter; Sophie Bruss, née Stiemke, age 37, w; August Bruss, age 9, s; Martin Bruss, age 6, s; Johann Bruss, age 4, s. [W is wife, S is son]. 

The family sailed,  he wrote, on the ship Echo from Liverpool to New York City, arriving 19 September 1839. The Echo was one of five or six ships that brought about 1,000 Old Lutherans to America, where they settled in and around Buffalo, New York, or Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Note: the Echo’s passenger list has the surname misspelled as Buss, and both ages and occupation wrong, but Martin, Sophia, August, Martin and Johan are clearly shown.]

This certainly looked like my ancestors, except that sons Martin and Johann or John were also born in Cammin, not in New York.

How could I confirm this apparent match? I knew that John Bartelt, the genealogist with the Bruss ancestors in Freistadt, had obtained birth records for his own Bruss ancestors via microfilm. I wrote to him on the chance that he had the Martin Friedrich Bruss family details, and he did. He kindly sent the birth and baptism dates for sons August, Martin and Johann and they matched dates I had collected from other sources.  He also sent the birth and baptism dates for the oldest son, Wilhelm, who died young according to family history. This certainly was my family! And how wonderful to have Sophie’s name!

Now I could find them recorded in the 1943 book about the Old Lutherans, written in German by Wilhelm Iwan and translated into English. Martin Friedrich Bruss, journeyman ship carpenter, and his family from Kammin at shown at the very bottom of this listing of emigrants.

I wrote thank you messages to Robert and John, for their kindness was essential to helping me overcome this brickwall.

And then I remembered that there was a Martin Bruss in the First Ward on the east side of the Milwaukee River listed in the 1847-1848 Milwaukee City Directory — right where William George Bruce said his grandfather settled when he came to Milwaukee.

I was now able to find him in the 1850 Census in Milwaukee’s First Ward, age 51, a ship’s carpenter with $1,500 in real estate, surname recorded as Brass. He had remarried since Sophie had died — apparently in the cholera epidemic, W. G. Bruce had written. Recorded with Martin in the 1850 Census were his sons Martin, a sail maker, and John. All three were recorded as born in Germany. August, the oldest son, likely was away sailing on the Great Lakes.

Overcoming this brickwall took three years of researching on and off, looking again at what I had discovered, trying new approaches, and then taking a chance on a possible solution based on the clues I had accumulated. I am grateful to everyone who helped me find this part of my family who were among the first Germans to settle in Milwaukee when it was still three villages — Juneautown on the eastside, Kilbourntown on the westside and Walker’s Point on the southside — not to be incorporated until 1846.

Benjamin Church House – Milwaukee

benjamin-church-house-front.jpg Photograph by Barbara Bradley Petura

An exceptional way to be in touch with your family history is to visit locations important to your ancestors’ lives.  July 2007 gave me an opportunity to do just that. 

The place was the Benjamin Church House, located since 1938 in Estabrook Park, Shorewood. The house was built about 1844 in an area then known as Kilbourntown. That name came from Bryon Kilbourn, land owner and founder about 1835 of the pioneer town just west of the Milwaukee River.

Kilbourntown was one of three towns that merged in 1846 to create the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The others were Juneautown east of the river and Walker’s Point to the south.

In those days, the Church house was on Fourth Street at the intersection with Court Street, between Cherry and Galena streets. The site in the pioneer era is described as up a hill overlooking a tamarack swamp near the river.

Benjamin Church, my ggg-grandfather, was one of the earliest settlers in Milwaukee. He arrived in November 1835 via Chicago from his birthplace in Ulster County, New York.

A pioneer carpenter and master builder, he brought the Greek Revival style from the East Coast to the young city of Milwaukee — and applied it to construction of his own family home. With its four graceful columns on the front and other distinctive features, the house gives the feeling of a small Greek temple.

That Greek Revival style, combined with the use of hand-hewn lumber and Cream City bricks stamped with the date 1844 and initials of the brick maker, made the house worth saving, restoring and moving to a new location. The house today is an intimate museum of life in Milwaukee in the 1850s, with the furnishings giving a sense of what life was like in those days.

Standing in the cozy house, I imagined Benjamin Church returning home, up the hill to the house, climbing the steps to the porch and enjoying the modest elegance of the Doric columns, then entering the house right into the small living room.  A fire crackling in the fireplace and the sounds of his children would have greeted him at the end of a day’s work.

His wife Permilia would likely have been in the kitchen cooking dinner, helped by oldest daughters Ann Maria and Ann Augusta. I imagine the younger children doing their chores, or their studies, or perhaps playing.

Known to her family as Hannah, Ann Maria married Sherman A. Bradley on January 6, 1859. They too lived in the Church House and their son Jesse Charles Bradley was born there June 22, 1866.

A special treasure awaited me in the back room of the house, where a display board told the history of house and of Benjamin Church himself. There on display was his photograph! See it on the page with his biography.

The Benjamin Church House, also called the Kilbourntown House, is open to the public free during the summer. A docent or guide is on hand to talk about the house, its history and its significance in conveying a vivid snapshot of early Milwaukee history.

Check with the Milwaukee County Historical Society for the hours the house is open. It is worth a visit!

Essay and photograph by Barbara Ann Bradley Petura, July/August 2007.

Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 4:42 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,