Tag Archives: Genealogy

Did Grandpa Darling ride the first Ferris Wheel?

In 1893 Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. There were many inventors and exhibits. Among them was engineer George Ferris who introduced the world to his soon-to-be iconic Ferris Wheel.

The Wheel stood 264 feet high and had a diameter of 250 feet. Each of the structure’s 36 cars could hold 60 to 65 people. Folks stood in long lines to pay 50 cents each to ride on the slowly spinning marvel.

My great-great grandfather was living in the city, in Little Italy. He was studying to become a dentist. My great grandmother was a toddler.

Oh, how I wish I could sit with them both and talk about their memories of this time.

ajh

I’ve been wondering about the name August, the Germanic form of Augustus. It is prominent among my maternal grandfather’s family.

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Augustus II the Strong (German: August II. der Starke) | His great physical strength earned him the nicknames the Strong, the Saxon Hercules and Iron-Hand.

My great grandfather was Albert August Fromke. His younger brother was August L. Fromke. Albert’s wife was Augusta Wilhelmina Lentz.

I am hoping to learn about why this was such a strong tradition in Germany. There is many a German prince with the name and a few princesses too.

There’s Augustus the Strong, born in Dresden and elected King of Poland. There’s Augustus the Third, son of Augustus the Strong who also became King of Poland.

Then, there’s Augustus the Younger. He had the largest collection of books and manuscripts north of the Alps. There is Augustus d’Este, a grandson of King George III of Great Britain.

It all goes back to Augustus, Elector of Saxony. And, of course, before him, there was Rome. The first Roman emperor is known as Augustus.

ajh

The Children’s Blizzard is “the gripping story of an epic prairie snowstorm…”

TheChildrensBlizzardsmall

The Children’s Blizzard, a book by a man named David Laskin, is “the gripping story of an epic prairie snowstorm that killed hundreds of newly arrived settlers and cast a shadow on the promise of the American frontier.”

My mother’s grandparents had arrived the year before, in 1887, from Germany with two of their children, Emil and Otillie, who was named after an aunt. What happened to these two no one knows. I’ve been looking and looking for years.

Obviously, death must have taken them away, since besides the immigration paperwork, they are never mentioned again. Did they get caught up in the blizzard like so many others? I will keep hunting for details. They deserve to be remembered and their stories told.

ajh

Lightning has been an occasional recurring theme in the family tree

LIGHTIN’ UP THE HOUSE

I have been tying branches of my grandmother’s family together and in so doing came upon this account of lightning striking a house.

The house of Rev. Israel Hay, on Mechanic street, Fredericksburg, on Sunday afternoon was struck by lightning. The bolt struck the east gable end and for some distance tore up the ——–, and then descended down to the kitchen, playing sad havoc with the glass and chinaware.”

Israel, perhaps the son of David Hay and Nancy Miller, was pastor at the Church of God in Fredericksburg in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.

Lightning has been a recurring occasional theme in the family tree. One of my ancestors was struck by it, making for a brief peculiar historical highlight.

ajh

The origins of my grandmother’s paternal line has been lost to later generations — until now.

The German Connection

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Using a multidisciplinary approach, including DNA and a family religious artifact, helped me confirm that my grandmother’s paternal line had its origins in Germany.

The artifact is a book, printed in Philadelphia in 1814 with text in German. This alone is significant. The language is not American English. This is German.

When I first saw this, after a copy of it was reproduced in a book on the family history called Michael Hay and His Descendants, I knew that I had to pursue this. I had to unravel this story.

One of the compiler’s of the book, Lucy Bayley, lived in Oregon. And one day years ago my grandmother, her brother Everett, and I made the short road trip to her home. She was welcoming, but when I began asking questions about the family, she was reticent to give much information.

She was publishing a book and did not want to share, as if I was a competitor. It was a strange experience. I certainly had no intentions of publishing a book. But she treated me like a spy. So I was frustrated. Grandma said that I should just let her handle it.

Funnily, when the book was finally released, many in our branch of the family were disappointed. It was a typical genealogical book, with a bunch of names and dates, but little else. And there were some errors. I much prefer a narrative format, rather than the routine one.

This is not to say that the book is without merit. The first few pages are worthwhile and quite informative. These include maps and photographs, of land where our ancestors farmed and the long-neglected cemetery on private land where many were buried, more than a century ago.

Lucy was convinced of a Scottish connection, that the family had been in Scotland, part of the Hay clan apparently, but had then relocated to Germany. She was obsessed with this theory. To this day I have no idea if there is one. But I have seen no evidence of it.

However, the link with Germany is solid. I convinced my great uncle, the same one who made the journey to visit Lucy, to submit his DNA, and the results proved a link to a man named Kettering, who had traced his line back to a particular place in Germany.

So now I am working on a translation of this catechism book. I don’t know if I can do it on my own, using online translators such as Google Translate. But I am gonna try.

ajh

Ezra’s Farm in 1860

By the Numbers

Statistics from Ezra Darwin Darling's farm in Lime Creek Township, Washington County, Iowa in 1860 provide insight into daily life of an ancestor just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Six bushels of Irish potatoes. Are Russet potatoes Irish potatoes? That’s what I am assuming.

Two hundred pounds of butter! He and Caroline, who I am sure did most, if not all of the churning, had 200 lbs. of butter on hand?!

Ten tons of hay. That’s a lotta hay. And their granddaughter Geneva, my great grandmother, would go on to marry a man named Hay.

Forty gallons of molasses. What’s that for, cooking & baking?

Eight pounds of beeswax. Candles? Soap?

Ezra had 180 acres of land, 40 of which were deemed “improved” and 140 considered “unimproved.” What these mean beyond the basic, fundamental understandings I don’t know. The cash value of the farm was recorded as $1440.

Eight milch cows. Gonna have to look up the word milch.

One working ox. Or given that it reads oxen, is that two?

And one “other cattle.” What’s the purpose of this one? Why a separate listing?

No sheep.

Twelve pigs. Or swine. Man, how I love bacon.

The value of the livestock was listed at $238.

There were 60 bushels of wheat and 300 bushels of Indian corn on hand.

It’s quite the list. Everything was tabulated on June 12, 1860 on his farm in Lime Creek Township, Washington County, Iowa.

There is a precipitous decline in these numbers on the 1870 ag census. Why? It is unclear. But did Ezra focus on other endeavors, such as the post office?

ajh

I’ve been wondering. I’ve been trying to learn more about the Jews in my ancestors’ neighborhood. ✡

A photograph of a street with the surrounding shops and homes in the town where my great grandparents married in 1880 before emigrating to the United States. The German name is Bütow. It is now within Poland and the Polish name is Bytów. In America it is often known as Buetow.I just learned that the town in Germany where my great-great grandparents married in 1880 did indeed have a synagogue, which was destroyed in 1938 during Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, when the Nazis encouraged people to target the Jews after the assassination of the German ambassador in Paris. I am hoping to learn some of the names of these people, the Jews of Bütow.

ajh