Showing posts from June, 2014

When a bough breaks . . .

Well, it's official; we're no longer the descendents of the Hugs of Freiburg and Heiligenzell, Baden Wuerttemburg.  Yesterday I got Great-Great-Grandfather William Hug's death record from New York City Vital Records, and his father was not Benedict Hug of Heiligenzell -- his father's name was Adolph, and we figured out the other day that they were from Hanover, not Baden.

 Google Maps
I knew I felt frustrated about all the time I spent on that branch (my most developed one!) -- hours online, hours in the Family History Center in Santa Cruz, hours writing posts about them, and so on.  All that time down the drain.  But what I didn't realize is how sad I would feel, saying goodbye to those people, because I had come to care so much about them and their lives.

I know, I know, it sounds lame and maybe weird -- how could I get attached to people who lived hundreds of years ago?  It's not like they lived in the house with us when we were growing up, like Grandma Sophi…

What's Coming Up --

I've been sick for the past few days, so I haven't updated, but I've still been busy.  In a short while, we should have:

1)  Death certificate of Gustav Berneburg

2)  Death certificate of George Siegler (Bill Ortman's grandpa)

3)  Marriage and death records of Christiane Wilhelmine Luisa Schulze  (Grandma B's mother)

4)  Grandma B's birth and marriage records.

I'm hoping that these records will have lots of interesting information for us, and that we'll be off and running again!

Talent Tuesday: Follow the Bouncing Ball

It's interesting how certain talents get passed down through a family; music was a very important part of life in my family, and I can trace the progression at least back through my grandmother, my father, my siblings and me, and my son and his cousins.

Though she didn't do it often, my Grandmother Ortman played the piano beautifully, in that kind of old-timey, Scott Joplin kind of way.  I guess she must have felt unfulfilled as a musician/performer, because I'm positive that she was the "stage mother" that got my dad into show biz when he was just a little child.

Grandma had clearly had a lot of training in her youth --  you didn't just sit down and start playing that kind of music -- but as far as my father was concerned, he was completely untrained and couldn't even read music.  When he had to sing in church or at a wedding or other affair, he'd have my mother or the church organist play the part for him and learn it that way.  He played the piano…

Please Stand By --

I'm in the process of transferring over to a new design, so things may be a bit wonky for a couple of days as I work it out. 

Let me know what you think of the new design in the comments!

Surnames Saturday --

Since I'm now a member of Geneabloggers, I'm going to try to use some of the suggested topics that they post every day.  So today they have "Surnames Saturday," when you talk about your family's surnames.

Okay.  The first thing that immediately leaps to mind is a whole name:  Waltraud Marianne Sophie Berneburg.  That was my mother's name, and it seems very big and strange, especially when she was a little girl.  She had a hard time during WWII, when she was maybe 15-19, because her name was so very very obviously German -- and there was nothing she could do about it.  She was "Wally" her whole life, then "Walli" later, as she became an artist.

My father was 100% German too, but he liked to downplay it, maybe for some of the same reasons.  His family's name had been "Ortmann" when his grandfather arrived in the US in 1860, but his father dropped the extra "n", so that "Ortman" wouldn't be quite so obvio…

A Major Goof . . . a Rookie Genealogist Lives and Learns.

Oh dear.  I found out yesterday that my work on a whole line of ancestors is wrong.  The Hug ancestors are not from Baden-Wuerttemburg but rather from Hanover (the former Kingdom of Hanover, not necessarily the city of Hannover).  Goodbye to Blasius and Landolin, Salome and Maria Euphrosina -- it's been nice thinking about you, but we're not related after all.  The puzzle falls apart (that section of it, anyway).

Image from Microsoft clipart
How did this happen?  Well, in following up on hints on, I communicated with a woman who was very experienced and who had the Hugs as a minor branch of her family tree, joined by marriage to her ancestors.  The key person is Wilhelm/William Hug, who came to the US from Germany some time prior to 1860 (when he shows up in the US census).  She had a great deal of information, both from Germany and from the US, but there were two problems:  1)  she had documentation of  Wilhelm Hug from Baden Wuerttemburg in the right time frame, …

. . . and another line busts wide open!!!

The German Genealogy facebook page member that offered to look up historical records in Würzburg found a record of George Siegler's birth, and much more!

George Siegler was Grandma Ortman's father.  He came to the U.S. when he was in his teens, somewhere around 1884 or 1885 it seems (though I haven't quite nailed down the record), became a citizen in 1891, married Mathilda Hug in 1894, and had three children -- Mary (Grandma O), Nicholas (who died early), and Dorothy, many years later.  He worked as a barber, worked into his 60's, and lived to the ripe old age of 74.

But where did he come from?  The only information I had was that he was from Lohr, Germany, but I couldn't find any further records.

Well, our angel found several important records and has sent me translations (copies of the documents will follow).
The information is probably way more interesting to me than to everyone else, so I'll show you a pedigree:

So here…

Official Records . . . and the Kindness of Strangers

What's frustrating and sort of amazing about genealogy is that you can search and search and come up with nothing, and then suddenly an avenue opens up and you find yourself breaking through to wonderful new information.  I think the trick, in this internet age, is to use every single resource available to you, including email lists, forums, and Facebook pages.  The wider net you cast, the more likely you are to come up with something or someone that can help you.

Official records are very important, of course -- one line of our ancestors broke wide open when I ordered the death certificate of Maximilian Langer (Grandma B's father), because it gave me so much information; the same with Joseph Ortmann's New Jersey death certificate.  So this week I've ordered Grandpa Berneburg's, just to see what it has to say in terms of his parents, and Great-grandpa George Siegler's (Grandpa Bill's grandfather), to see if it has his parents' names as well, because I h…

Happy Father's Day

I've been wanting to write about my dad for a while, and I won't be able to write as long a post as I'd like to today, but I want to write something.

My dad was a talented little kid who by the time he was five years old was performing in vaudeville in New York City, as "Little Billy Ortman."  He performed in a top hat and tails, and my grandmother said he would sit on a box backstage and as the chorus girls were going by, tap each one on the behind with his cane.  He went on to perform on the radio in programs like "Let's Pretend," and a soap opera called "Dusty" (he was Dusty).  At the height of the Depression, I'm sure he was bringing a significant amount of income to his blue-collar family.

By the time he was in junior high, he was only going to school half-days because he was working so much (and he was smart enough to do well only going half-time).  He continued his theatrical life until he joined the Army at age 17 to serve in W…

Mysterious information

I've gotten quite a bit of information recently on CDE's Grandpa Gustav Berneburg, but in the end it seems quite confusing.  I've had several wonderful people helping me, including a lady who is the secretary at the Reformed Church (Calvinist) in Linden-Hannover, Germany, who has done quite a bit of searching through the files for me.  In addition, I've done a lot of searching this and that database, and finally reactivated my "World Explorer" membership at so that I can get into their German databases.  That's helped me a little in our progression.

The caption says "Heartfelt greetings from your true square-head(bolts)-turner, G."
This is a picture of Gustav Berneburg (Grandma Walli's father), maybe in a ship, otherwise in a machine shop somewhere in Germany.  He traveled on ocean-going ships as a machinist, fixing things and fabricating things, I guess.
Our information has it -- from Grandma Walli's sister-in-law, who wrote …

Good news!

My blog has been accepted to GeneaBloggers, a "blogger central" for genealogy.  I hope to get some new readers through this site, and to be able to expand the blog in ways that will be fun and interesting.  Thanks, Thomas MacEntee, for letting me join in!  If you're interested in that site, the button on the left will take you to it.

Saturday at the Jamboree

Well, so far I haven't won a raffle prize, which I'm a little disgruntled about.  :(  But anyway --

This morning I went to a session on the new Family Tree feature on Family Search.  They're going for a "human family" tree -- that is, there are no private trees but rather each tree joins to every other tree.  It was an interesting session on how to use all the new features.

Then I went to a session on blogging, a panel discussion by some pretty prominent bloggers.  I found it inspiring and immediately when I got to the hotel made some changes to my blog :)

I also had a meeting with Bennett Greenspan, the president of Family Tree DNA.  I had several little ancestry charts and wondered whether having more distant cousins tested would add anything, or whether I should increase Chris' Y-DNA test to 67 . . . happily, he talked me out of almost everything, pointing out how much money he saved me lol.  I will upgrade one test, but not more than that.  The problem is…

It's a Jamboree!

Well, here I am at the Genealogical Jamboree in Burbank, put on by the Southern California Genealogical Society.  It's a huge extravaganza -- four days of all kinds of presentations, an exhibtion hall, special events, on and on.

Yesterday was "DNA Day," a whole day on genetic genealogy.  I learned quite a bit at the various presentations, but the one at the end of the day was so intense that I just couldn't follow it (and found out later I wasn't the only one).

At the end of the day, I spent two hours with a team from in a focus group, discussing a new product they are developing.  I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can't say what it was, but the six of us who were there pretty much trashed the idea, to the point where I felt kind of bad for the Ancestry folks, who clearly had high expectations for this project.  Oh well.

Today I went to a few sessions, wandered around the exhibition hall, and spent some time with a researcher who helped m…