Monday, December 3, 2012

Land Ho!

I admit it. Until recently, I didn't really utilize Land Records much in my research. What a mistake! Property records are RICH with genealogical information.

No matter what happened to church, civil, census and other mainstream records, you can count on the property transactions to be reconstructed first. Land was, and is, important. And many are available on the Net.

Look at the above deed's (from MD State Archives) first paragraph: It says so much! It tells us that Richard & Nicholas Hopkins are brothers; that their father is Gerrard, and that his will in which he left them this property was written in 1741. It also tells us where they lived at the time, although you must take old boundaries into account.

I recently found, just by dumb luck, that Philadelphia's property records are on line, and have been for 5 years! No mention is made on the City Archives website of the free indexes or the subscription-based deed books. They also have "Parcel Explorer" on which you can trace the chain of ownership of an address from 1865 forward to the present. (You do need to be aware of street name changes.)

Detail of Parcel Map for 531 Wharton. Green highlight is the exact lot with lot number.

Entry in land register books of lot #177, owner in 1869 and previous owner Margaret Phillips

These very documents lead to me finding the brother of my 3x great grandfather and his family. Charles R. Phillips (my 3XGG) died in 1857 while his children were young. His wife and kids lived with his parents, Richard & Margaret Phillips. When Richard died in 1861, he had a will written just one day before his death, leaving property to his wife, sons William B. & J. Wills Phillips, his daughter Mary Jane Carpenter, and the children of his deceased son Charles R. Phillips. (read this story HERE.)

Until last month, I could not find J. Wills Phillips, and I had been looking for a year! I found a likely death certificate for a John W. in Philly in 1864 (it showed his residence as the same address his sister lived at one time). But really nothing else. No census, no city directories. The other siblings were easy - not J. Wills darn it.

So when I found the deed indexes, I located several for Margaret Phillips, who was executrix of her husband's will, along with John Kinsley. I looked up each deed and to my delight, found this:

In 1866, Angelina D. Mackenbur, widow of John Wills Phillips, is asking for the sale of the property left by Richard Phillips to his son and therefore to her 2 minor children, John H. & Enos P. Phillips of Washington, DC! (She had subsequently married a Joseph Mackenbur in DC.)

Now I was off to the races! Found John in the Census in DC (I remembered seeing the 1860 one, but had no proof it was him.) Tracked his descendants forward and got in touch with some of them. All because of one deed! Still don't know why he was in Philly when he died, but oh well.

Property records also helped me knock down a brick wall in New Brunswick, Canada. Family Search has the indexes and deed books online for free and I was able to track back 2 generations on one line, thanks to the inheritance by sons of their father's property.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Our Own Swedish House Mafia

No, not the musical act, but actual cousins of my father's from Sweden, here in the US for a visit!

Twenty-something years ago, my grandmother had given me the addresses of two of her first cousins in Sweden, from where both of her parents had emigrated. Her mother, Jenny Margreta Gustafsson, and her sisters had left behind their parents, a sister and one brother, Gustaf Hjalmer, who was much younger.

Hjalmer married and had 2 sons before losing his first wife. He married again and had a daughter, Anna Maria. My grandmother had stayed in touch will all 3 of them over the years. She and her sisters had travelled there several times.

I started corresponding with Anna Maria in the 80's while our children were very young. We shared information back & forth, but eventually lost touch.

This spring, someone had copied some info from my Ancestry tree from this family and I wrote them to say I had lots more not on there. She wrote back to say that her cousin, Anna  Maria, would be more interested in that! She was referring to my grandmother's cousin  - I was so excited to be put back in touch with her!!

Well, we emailed back & forth a bit, then she told me her son, EG, would be in the US for 3 months working. As he was only going to be 1.5 hours from me, I offered to have him meet his many American cousins! We Skyped ahead of time; they both speak English really, really well!

Needless to say, we've had a blast this summer! He attended a few family gatherings before finding out that his mother had decided to hop on a plane to meet us all too! (I guess we hadn't overwhelmed him too much) Anna Maria came for a week that was chock full of family and fun!

My dad with Anna Maria (note the Swedish Flag!)

We held a luncheon at my parents' and invited my grandmother's sister's granddaughters whom I had never met. They brought photos and stories and were thrilled to be all together. That was also the first time I met Anna Maria, which was fabulous. My face hurt from smiling so much!


She brought with her some incredible family treasures for us as well. Wonderful photos of ancestors (scroll down to bottom), some original paintings by a local artist of their town, a hand-painted Swedish horse, a book written about the town (Vreta Kloster)  the family lived in written by a grandson of my 3x great grandfather. It even features a whole chapter on him - -  of course the book is in Swedish. I will be working on translating that, you can bet!

But the pièce de résistance was a linen towel. Not just any towel. This one is very special. My 2x great-grandfather, Nils Gustaf Gustafsson planted and harvested the flax, extracted the fiber, spun it into thread and wove the fabric. And his wife, Anna Sofie,  embroidered her initials on it. Wow. What an extraordinary gift!

We took them on a tour of Washington DC, which they found amazing; tasted the best craft beers and local cuisine there. They then headed to spend 2 days with my parents at their house on the Wye River, where they boated, crabbed, took a tour of the Eastern Shore (and my fave town, St. Michaels) and just got to know each other.

Anna Maria & EG headed to Philly for a walkabout, then to the airport the next day as she headed home to Sweden. After that, we had a farewell party for EG, and went to an Orioles game. EG leaves tomorrow and we will miss them both. They had a wonderful time here and said they will be back!

In the meantime, we have an open invitation to Sweden :-)

Getting to meet and spend time with these relatives from so far away truly enriched my life and I am so grateful for it.

Some family photos:

The Gustafssons - Nils Gustaf & Anna Sofia seated, (l to r) Signe, Hjalmer & Gertrude

Visiting "Tomtebo," the family home

My 2x great grandfather, Nils Gustaf, at Tomtebo

Per Danielsson, my 3x great-grandfather

Per's grave

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Bad Apple

So, the last time I wrote about Samuel G. Hopkins, my 3x great-grandfather, I was pretty much just waiting and hoping for a chance to go to the Nat'l Archives #2 in College Park to search the Secret Service's files. He was a five-time convicted counterfeiter in Baltimore and Philadelphia. As such, the Secret Service, at that time part of the Treasury Department, would hold the records of counterfeit investigations. The listings at the National Archives show not only investigative files but photos as well. I was hoping against hope to at least find some information on his family as this was a major brick wall. (See previous posts HERE and HERE.)

As I wrote before, the Hopkins name was so common in Baltimore in the 1800s that you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting one! I had found a brother Benjamin listed as brother-in-law in a death notice for Samuel's wife Rebecca, but could never locate his death certificate. I traced his family forward to the present but no one alive could help.

I noticed an Ann E. Hopkins living with Samuel in Baltimore in 1850 who was the right age to be his sister. In later census records she is living with a Charlotte and a Sophia Hopkins and listed as their niece. When looking into their deaths and probate records, the name Richard H Hopkins showed up as administrator. When I searched for him in the census, it showed him as a  bailiff in a Baltimore City Court. I also found his death notice from 1917 at age 90, but I had no idea if he was related.

Ann Hopkin's  death certificate showed her as being buried at the Friends Cemetery on Harford Road in Baltimore. There is a book published that lists most of the burials there and it showed hers along with the notation of "daughter of Richard Hopkins and Mary Ann Gover." But again I had no proof that she was related and had had no luck in finding out anything about this couple except a marriage in 1817 in Baltimore.

Fast-forward to this month. Through the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness  Facebook page I found a volunteer to go to the National Archives and look up Samuel's Secret Service records. Much to my delight, he found the following two ledger entries containing information on my little criminal. It also contained a reference to a photograph in their files as well. This RAOGK volunteer went back a second time to locate the photograph but had no luck as the index and the actual photo files did not jive. On the second trip though he hit a gold mine in another ledger entry about Samuel!

This entry listed family information as follows:

One brother a crier in Judge Dobbin's Court, another employed at a DC post office, a third in business in Baltimore! Woo hoo! (You can see the ledgers HERE.)

The second ledger also included a reference to another photograph different from the first one. (The next day I called the Archives to speak to the woman that helped the volunteer with locating photos. She was able to locate the photo listed on this new ledger page!)

I started looking at the Census, having been reminded of the bailiff listed above, and searched GenealogyBank newspapers for Judge Dobbins. Who pops up but Richard Hall Hopkins,  second cousin to Johns Hopkins died 1917 and worked for Judge Dobbins! Because he died in 1917 I stood a very good chance of finding his death certificate containing his parents' information! (His obit said he was born in Carroll County, but now I know differently.)

I also searched the census in Washington DC for a Hopkins with a similar job to that mentioned at the post office. The only one I found that came close was a Philip G. Hopkins who worked at, of all things, the Treasury Department! How in the heck does the brother of a counterfeiter get a job as a clerk at the Treasury Department!? He previously lived in Baltimore, working as a clerk in a counting house.

Through another RAOGK volunteer, I just received Richard Hopkins death certificate, listing his parents as Richard Hopkins and Mary Gover, both born in Harford County Maryland! Family Search had a record of Philip Hopkins' and his wife's deaths in DC that also listed his place of birth as Harford County and his middle name as Gover!

So now I just need a one generation bridge from Richard and Mary Ann back to their parents to complete the connection to the  famous Hopkins family that started out in Anne Arundel County. (Gerrard Hopkins and the Gover family both left Anne Arundel County for Harford County in the 1700s)

UPDATE 9/1/12 - Found the link I needed! In the book Colonial Families of Maryland, it lists Richard, married to Mary Ann Gover was the son of Joseph (b. 1761), son of Richard (1715 - 1785), son of Gerrard (1683 - 1734), son of Gerrard b. ca. 1650 in Canterbury, England and came to America with his brothers & perhaps parents. (The older Richard was the brother of Johns, grandfather of the well-known philanthropist Johns Hopkins.)

Then for the last surprise of this whole mission, when looking through newspapers I found an article in 1848 Baltimore Sun, showing that a Philip Hopkins and Richard Hopkins Jr. had been arrested for -- you guessed it -- counterfeiting! They were found not guilty as the victim could not i.d. them.

These bad apples didn't fall far from the tree, but it looks like the other 2 learned their lessons!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Miracles never cease...

Flipping through some new Pennsylvania records on Family Search today yielded me a document that took my breath away.

My ex-husband's  paternal grandfather, Percy Ingles,  was a twin who's mother died when he was 2 and father died when he was 3. He and his brother were raised by their maternal grandmother and maiden aunts. Since this couple died so young, there isn't much about them to find. (Read a previous blog post about them HERE.)

Just for fun, I was looking at Family Search under Pennsylvania records and thought, "What the heck, I'll search these marriage records for Ingles, see who pops up."

I figured Homer Ingles and Annie Jukes had been married at her church in WV or MD. But to my utter surprise and delight, here was their marriage license from his hometown, Uniontown, PA!

As if that wasn't cool enough, it bore their signatures. I was VERKLEMPT!  (I love finding sigs)

Homer and Annie are one of my favorites, due to the challenges I faced finding their records and graves back 25 years ago when I embarked on this obsession hobby.

[Keep in mind that I admit that I have a really bad attitude about records in Pennsyltucky, because they are all over the darned place in that state, making it really tough to find stuff! Just when you think you know where to find something, SURPRISE! "Sorry ma'am, I think they keep those down at the old barn behind where Doc Brown's outhouse used to be..."]**

Thanks to Family Search, genealogy research there is moving into the 21st century. Almost.

**Don't send me hate mail, this frustration has built up in me for years!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Enz Family Reunion!

Well, maybe "union" is a better word!

Saturday, in the city of brotherly love, over 50 descendants of the Enz family gathered to meet, learn and share information about the original Enz immigrants that came to America from Drackenstein, Germany.

People came from as far away as Oregon. The oldest person there just turned 89. There are only 8 living grandchildren of the immigrants and we had 4 with us. Incredible living treasures.

I had only talked on the phone to most of them, having dialed them up to say "I think we are related!" Surprisingly, no one hung up on me!

This family represents a small branch of my mother's family, but what a force they are! The 6 immigrants produced over 50 children, although not all survived to adulthood. This family's surname in America died out in 1941 when my 2x great grandfather passed away, but it still going strong in Germany. (He had 8 daughters and his brother's only son had daughters.)

All of this came about because of a gift from the past...letters written from our immigrant ancestors to their families back home in Germany. Letters so precious, they were kept safe for well over a hundred years! The clues in these letters piqued my curiosity about the people who wrote and were written about, and I started digging with earnest. I have written many blog entries about these letters and the letters themselves (with translations) are all posted on

I showed a video about the family's beginnings as an overview for attendees. (It is on YouTube HERE.) I also made a booklet for each attendee to take home with photos, documents and info on the early family history.Then a cousin who traveled to Drackenstein showed photos and videos of his two trips there. It was incredible to see the churches, homes, fields and towns they walked. 

I had hung a descendant chart starting with the parents of the first immigrants up to present day that measured 24 feet long! It was fascinating watching people find themselves on it! I had smaller charts beginning with each immigrant hanging up and pedigree charts for both parents as well, reaching back to the 1590s. 

After a delicious lunch, we Skyped with the Enz cousin still living in Drackenstein. What a thrill! We showed him all around the room to see his American family. He talked about a relative that visited his home in the 1930s and to his surprise, her 2 sons were at the reunion and were able to chat with him.

I talked to him briefly (his grandson was translating) to thank him for saving those letters and photos. I have tons of questions for him, but will do that later.

I can't explain how generous my new cousins all were with their time and knowledge. They brought photos and other family treasures to share. I could have sat with each for hours, but time didn't allow.

There were 2nd cousins that had never heard of each other, seeing photos of a parent or grandparent the other had never seen. Similarities in appearance and personalities being compared, memories being shared. I got to see the faces of people long dead that I had obsessed over finding in order to track their children forward. In a word - AMAZING!

I can never top this!

More photos at

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wedding Bells

Since my son James was married earlier this month, I wanted to look back at wedding photos that I have of our ancestors (his and mine). His was a very intimate ceremony, I was 2 feet from him and his beautiful wife as they gazed into each other's hearts. I get choked up even thinking about it!

I will start with his paternal great-grandfather for whom he is named, James Culotta, and his bride Marie Kohlerman. They were married on October 19, 1930 in Baltimore. Huge Italian & German families!

James with his parents Ferdinand Culotta and Concetta Liberto, and sisters and brother on his wedding day.

My father's parents, Vernon Masterman and Hazel Peterson, were married on February 12, 1933 in Everett, Massachusetts. There was a blizzard that day that threatened to postpone the festivities, but Yankee determination won out!

Here is a photo of Vernon's parents, Filmore "Hunter" Masterman and Jennie McMonagle on their wedding trip to his birthplace, Weld, Maine. They were married on June 10, 1903 in Framingham, Mass. She was born in Nova Scotia and emigrated in ???? I'd sleep with one eye open if I were married to a woman that good with a rifle!

I also have their wedding book, complete with tips for a successful marriage, such as "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as unto the Lord." Oh my. It includes signatures of guests too. See it HERE.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Writing

These are a few odd letters in the group from Germany, but rather than coming from America, they are from family members that never left the country.

These first two are from the eldest of the Enz children, my 2x great grandfather's brother Sebastian. They are from 1862 and 1863. The first must have been to August Enz, who came to America in 1868. He was the first in his family to do so.

Weinheim, October 3rd 1862

Dear brother!

I received your letter of [September] 29th. I am glad to hear that you are well. I did not leave my position yet because the new assistant has to learn the business. I had to promise my supervisor to stay for the length of this purpose. For that he promised me to undertake the necessary steps to help me to enter the public service. Until now nothing in that regard has happened and I am still without gainful employment.

Within the next days I will do everything necessary myself. I have to go to Heidelberg for this purpose. I do not know the date yet, that is why it will be difficult to meet each other. However, I am hoping to visit [you] within the next few days. I am well otherwise.  I will enclose the letter that I recently received from home.

Kind regards to you, your loving brother Sebastian

Eberbach, December 10th 1863

Dear parents,

I received your letter of November 30th together with the packages. I am very happy that you are all well.
I was very delighted about the gift from Engelbert. I can just imagine how much he liked the book that mother brought from Einsiedeln and how much brotherly love it took to give it to me. I was so pleased with it that I kissed it. The wool socks were very much needed, too. I have some unpleasant news: I will leave Eberbach on the 15th of this month.

I was fired on October 2nd, after a small exchange of words. I was told that I was not needed anymore and that I could go whenever I please. I did not receive the money that I saved up this year yet; I would have sent it otherwise.

I have not heard anything from August all summer long. I sent him the letter I took from home. Since I did not receive an answer I did not write a second letter. In my letter I did not say anything else than what I recommended before, that is why I consider his silence naughty. If I will get the position I have in prospect I will send several unnecessary things home; mostly extra books which are too heavy to carry. Please keep those until I need them again.

I will find a place in my old or my new home. It is getting serious with Schleswig-Holstein. There will be no positive results for Germany, however, least of all for the Holsteins. The Prussians and the Austrians will shoot each other just like in ’48 and then go home again.

Kind regards to you and to my siblings, especially affectionate to sweet Engelbert. Always your grateful son and brother Sebastian

Interesting to hear his take on the second Schleswig-Holstein wars! I don't know what became of Sebastian, just that he married in Stuttgart and died there in 1874.

This next is from Elise Enz, I think she is a daughter of George Enz. There were a few girlish postcards to her from friends in the 1920's. This is only 2 pages of a larger letter, but all I have. She sounds very homesick!

And in the meantime [I] want to learn sewing. But please do not tell anyone, I want to do everything verbally. Otherwise I would not even be able to start. However, I have valid reasons to leave Kirchheim. I made arrangements with my employer, too, which she reluctantly agreed to. It really does not work out.  It is clear to me that it would kill my heart and my soul. If I would write down everything that I have experienced within the last 14 days, dear mother, you would throw your hands up in horror. I am thinking fleeing and I would do it right away, but my embarrassment and my pride prevent me from it. With 1 month you could say she was not ready to be gone longer than for one month. My resolution is to learn cooking and sewing this winter, so that I can find further employment. Anyway, I learned to cherish my home. I never want to go away again. I want to further my studies in cooking close by, but everything [agreements] verbally. I hope you will not say anything to each other.

It will be to your and to my comfort. Goodbye until New Year’s! Please inquire regarding learning to sew, and please get the eggs and the butter. And please press the dresses I sent to my cousin. I am and always will be your grateful daughter Elis, and affectionate regards to all of you.

t was worth to explore a faraway place and home, too. From now on, I could go away anytime. You just do not see it as long as you are staying home. 

This last one is a postcard from my 2x great grandfather, written while visiting his daughter, Emma Duelfer. Emma's daughter Mae is still alive at 94, and she remembers this visit!

Frau Barbara Enz in Drakenstein
Municipal association Geislingen

Allentown Aug 27, 23.

Dear sister-in-law,

I received your letter and I learned that you saw after my business, thank you for that. In case Josephine, my childhood friend, needs anything, you can sell her something, but at a reasonable price. It’s just that they are poor people.  Poverty is not a crime. Although many people who are poor now were rather arrogant before the war. I am visiting my daughter in a place called Allentown in the mountains. I am here for recreation because I have been ill for three weeks. I am better already.

Regards to you,

Your uncle and brother-in-law Joseph

More soon