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Showing posts from July, 2014

A Perfect Moment

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Continuing the practice of interspersing my own memories with tales of my ancestors -- this serves the purposes of both The Book of Me and Throwback Thursday:

With every passing year, my memory grows ever more frail.  While I was teaching, I would regularly reach for a word that was obviously nowhere near the tip of my tongue . . . and it would be gone.  Old friends will say, "Remember when we . . . " or "It was so funny when . . . " and I'll have no idea of what they're talking about.  I will say to my Loved One, "Did I ask you whether you put the garbage out, or did I just think it?" and half the time I've only thought it.  (The other half, I have said it but have no memory of it whatsoever.)

At the same time, some memories are so wonderful that they persist forever, memories of an absolutely perfect moment in your life.  This comes from about 1971 (of course I have no exact memory of the year).  I was visiting the Berkshires -- my …

Wordless Wednesday: Costume Party!

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1.  My grandfather, Gustav Berneburg, and his first girlfriend.
2.  My mom and dad, Walli and Bill Ortman.  Doesn't my dad look a little like John Travolta in Shampoo?
3.  Not sure who are under the top hats, but one may be Dad.
4.  My sister, Deb Dill, as the Queen of Hearts at one of her daughter's epic Halloween parties.

Was This Grandpa's Other Wife? Maritime Monday

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My grandfather, Gustav Berneburg, went to sea, starting at the latest in 1907 when he was 22 years old.  Before that, he had been a stone-setter and a machinist and probably other things as well.  But somewhere around 1907 he went to work for Norddeutcher-Lloyd (North German Lloyd) and began his first of many trips across the ocean.



Poster stamps from the time my Grandfather worked for NDL

North German Lloyd was the largest shipping company in the world.  They started out with three steamers in 1857 and by 1898 they had 259 ships traveling around the world.  I know that early on he went between Germany and the Far East; I have a postcard sent to him on the S.S. Buelow by my grandmother.  He first shows up in New York ships' manifests over the years 1923 to 1927, we see Gustav coming in and out of New York many times:

1923      Nov.111924      Jan. 11925      April 9, May 8, Sept. 3, Oct. 2, Nov. 6, Dec. 21926      Jan. 8, April 2, June 4, July 30, August 271927      March 24, July 7…

The Slapdash Genealogist: Getting Organized

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Following my post of the other day, I promised myself I would start getting my research more organized.  I think I'll take stock of where I am and where I need to go to keep filling my tree out.  So let's start at the left or top, depending on which view I'm looking at, and work my way across.

Joseph Ortmann:  This is my great-grandfather's line, and I'm doing pretty well on it.  I have the direct male line from my father now going back 7 generations, to 1690, which is remarkable because only a short while ago, I had nothing past the level of Joseph.  I need to be sure I've entered this most distant ancestor in places like Family Tree DNA, which has my brother's Y-DNA.  I haven't really followed Joseph's mother's family back more than two generations before him.

ClipartBest.com
Joseph's wife, Anna Christina Schwietering, is someone I have to work more on.  I have the Schwieterings going back six generations, to the early 1700s, but it's no…

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ahnentafel Roulette

Every Saturday night, Genea-Musings hosts "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" for those of us whose lives are so boring that we're not out on Saturday night :)  ; tonight's topic is "Ahnentafel Roulette" (what is that??)   I've copied the questions below -- I'll take a shot at answering them.

1.   My great-grandfather Maximilian Langer was born in 1840.  I divide by 80 and round to the nearest whole number, and I get:   23

2.  It took me a while on Family Tree Maker to figure out how to do an Ahnentafel report, but I found it, and the person I get is Matilda Hug Siegler, my great-grandmother.  She was born in New York City in 1878, and she died in Brooklyn, New York on April 8, 1932.  

3.  Here are four facts about her:
She was the youngest of the eight children of William and Sophia Hug; her siblings were Adolph, Henry, Lena, Charles, Minnie, Mary, and Amiel.  She was married to George Siegler in 1894; he was 25 and she was 16.  I suppose her parents were t…

Surname Saturday: Siegler

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The Sieglers are a relatively short branch on our family tree, but we're hoping to extend it soon.  Here's their history so far:


So Mary/Maria/May/Mae Siegler was Grandpa Bill Ortman's mother.  Her father was George Siegler, who was the first one to come to the United States; his birthplace was in Lohr, Bavaria, Germany.  His father was Nikolaus Siegler, who was born in 1825, and his father was Balthasar Siegler, birth date unknown but likely in the 1700's.

What does the name "Siegler" mean?  According to the Dictionary of Family Names, it means "occupational name for a maker of seals and signet rings, or for an official keeper of a seal, from an agent derivative of Middle High German sigel ‘seal’."  So the name "Siegler" is an occupational one; originally, the "Siegelbeampter" in Germany was a person attached to a royal house who was responsible for having papers signed and then giving them the official seal.

Our Sieglers origin…

Confessions of a Slapdash Genealogist

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I'm going to out myself.  I'm a slapdash genealogist.

I know I should have an organized genealogy research plan, but I don't.  I flit from one branch of the tree to another, stopping here, stopping there.  I am easily distracted, and I find myself thinking, "Oh, I was going to look up X" or "Did I ever order that death certificate for Y?"  and I leave what I'm doing and go chase that other bit of information for a while.  Maybe I get back to where I was . . . maybe not.

I also don't write down what I've done, and this can have consequences in that sometimes I find myself re-researching in a particular source, duplicating the energy I've already expended in that area. 

I haven't found a good way to record what I'm doing.  Lorine McGinnis Schulze over at Olive Tree Genealogy has written a number of informative posts on using Evernote; I've tried Evernote, really I have, but for some reason I just can't get into using it. …

Wordless Wednesday: Ancestral Homes

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A few of the ancestral homes I've been able to find --

My mother's birthplace -- on the 5th floor
 90-42 DeSarc Road, Queens, where Gustav, Sophie, Eric and Wally Berneburg lived

An artistic depiction of where the Sieglers lived, early in Jamaica, New York

Following one trail

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In a recent post, I asked about the strategies others use for creating a story from a small number of facts you have for a particular ancestor or ancestral line.  A number of people recommended making a timeline, which is something I haven't done.  So to get a running start with my 39 new ancestors, I'll start with the earliest one and go down his particular line.  (Feel free to skip down to the table at the bottom.)

"um 1598" or about 1598, Gerdt von Glaan is born, no birthplace recorded.

In about 1630, his son, Christoffer von Glaan, is born in Vollersode, Kirchspiel Hambergen.  No mother is recorded, and a note says Gerdt von Glaan (age32) was not married or his marriage was unknown.

Around 1630, Anna Fincken is born.

June 10,1673, Christoffer von Glaan (age 33) and Anna Fincken (age 43) are married.   Little is known about Anna other than the year of her death.

1677, Christoffer (age 37) and Anna's (age 47) daughter, Anna von Glaan is born.

About 1677, Harm Ja…

A Short Update

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You never know what you'll learn from a birth certificate or death certificate.  Today I got the death certificate of my great-grandfather, George Siegler, from New York City.  Amidst all for information was a little tidbit that made me stop and think.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a post about "Grandma's House," which in our case was an apartment at 19 Cox Place in Brooklyn.  I included in the post my out of proportion drawing of the apartment, which was of the type called "railroad" or "shotgun," in the sense that you could stand in the living room and fire a shotgun and it would go out the window in the kitchen, at the other end of the apartment.  Here's the drawing:


I think my grandparents occupied the first bedroom, and my dad, as a young man, the second bedroom.
So what was the tidbit I got from Great-Grandpa's death certificate?  At the time of his death in 1944, his home address was recorded as "19 Cox Place, Brooklyn.&…

Help, Please: And Then There Were Thirty-Nine!

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When I poked a hole in the brick wall that had been keeping me from ancestors of my great-grandmother Wilhelmine Schulze, I suddenly wound up with 39 new members of my family tree!  And that's not including all the siblings, just the direct line of parents and children.  It seems that they were mostly farming families that stayed in the same place for centuries, so there's a long history of these ancestors in the Ortsfamilienbuch for Bremen-Lesum.  Here's my question now:

What do I do with all these people??
What I have is a very complicated and extensive pedigree for this branch of the family, but genealogy is meaningless to me unless it is held together by stories.  I'm not the kind of genealogist who is happy with a long line of names and dates that ultimately prove I'm descended from Charlemagne (I'm not); I want to get to know the living, breathing people and be able to show what their lives were like.  I don't need a lot in terms of facts or clues to …

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun! 19.7.1914

Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings has posed some questions tonight about where your ancestors were 100 years ago:


19th January, 1914
Interesting question!  Let's see where the "Ortburgs" were at that point.  We'll start with the Ortmanns and go from left to right on the family tree. 
Great-grandmother Anna Schwietering Ortmann was living in Queens at 1807 Catalpa Ave., having moved there from New Jersey when Great-grandfather Joseph Ortmann passed away in 1911.  She shared her apartment with daughter Anna M. Ortmann, who was 39 at the time.  The census says that Anna M. was an "operator" -- a telephone operator, maybe?  

Grandfather William J. Ortman, Sr., was 20 years old, and I'm not sure where he was living.  Maybe in New Jersey, which didn't have a 1915 census, as New York did.  In 1910, he had been a clerk in the automobile industry; perhaps in 1914 he still had that job.

Great-grandfather George Siegler lived at 920 Yarmouth St. in Woodhaven, Quee…

Sorting Saturday: Rage against the mother!

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My mother (God love her, I loved her, etc. etc.) was *this* close to being a hoarder, except everything she kept had a logic to it, and nothing overflowed onto the floor or took over a room or left you with only a tiny path to walk.  Nevertheless.  She had lots of storage space in her home, and she made use of every inch of it.

My mother was Martha Stewart before Martha was Martha Stewart.  She sewed beautifully (she taught sewing at Singer in New York City), she knitted and crocheted, and whatever craft came down the pike, she did it:  macrame, sandcasting, bargello, Ukranian Easter eggs, batik, tie dye, weaving baskets out of pine needles (seriously), decoupage -- you name it, she did it.  And she did it beautifully.  Our home was full of beautiful things she made, along with paintings, so many Christmas decorations, appliqued beach cover-ups . . . I could go on forever.  She was creativity embodied.

Our mom.  She *loved* to laugh.
My mother was ill for some time before she succumbed…

Family Recipe Friday: Grandma Cooks

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My grandma Sophie wasn't the kind that bakes pies and is all warm and fuzzy; my grandma Sophie was a tough old gal who lived with us from the time I was three or so and my sister was a new baby.  She was never the type to say "I love you" (I believe she never said that to her daughter, my mother, not once in her lifetime), but she would show us in various ways.  One way we loved:  she cooked.


Sophie Langer as a young woman
She didn't cook every day, though; we had to wait until our Dad was out of town on business, which he often was.  Why didn't she cook when my dad was home?  Well, my dad had a vexed relationship with both his mother-in-law and his German heritage.

When I think about it, I get it -- from the time my folks were 26 and 27, they had a mother/mother-in-law living in the house.  I try to imagine that myself, as a newlywed or new mother, and I just can't.  My dad would have never said a bad word about or to my grandmother; that just wasn't his …

Once you open the closet door (a mystery solved)

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. . . the skeletons will come marching out, whether you like it or not.

I've solved the mystery of my great-grandfather, Maximilian Joseph Langer's illness and death.  To read up on the history of the mystery, go here, here, here, here, here, and here.  (Or search for Langer and read up from the bottom.  Or just read this.)

If you want to dig into your family history, you should be prepared to shovel up a few things that don't smell so nice.  When I was a girl, I used to fantasize about my great-grandfather, Maximilian Langer, thinking that because of his name alone, there must have been something grand about him.  Also, the fact that he was a chimney sweep enchanted me -- I clearly had no idea of what a chimney sweep's life was like, other than what I saw in Mary Poppins (it involved a lot of dancing and not all that much soot).  I imagined him big, but he must have been small, otherwise he wouldn't have succeeded in that line of work.

Well, the reality of my grea…

Oh no! My ancestor was illegitimate!

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What should I make of this?

In yesterday's post, I revealed that at least three generations in my matrilineal line were illegitimate:  Wilhelmine Bellmer/Schulze (b. 1859), her mother Sophie Bellmer (b. 1835), and her mother Anna Margrete Otten (b. 1800).  Since yesterday, I've had messages from a few people with knowledge in this area and I've read a few things myself.  We can imagine some of the historically known circumstances may have applied in these families, but first let's see what the particular situation was in each generation.



My great-great-great grandmother, Adelheit Anna Wellbrock was not married to her daughter Anna''s father, Johann Harm Otten, a "cottage farmer."  Adelheit, who was around 33 at the time of Anna's birth, seemed to have continued for some years in a relationship with Anna's father, Johann, who was around about 32 at the time of Anna's birth.  They went on to have two more children together, Hedwig and Be…