Sunday, October 14, 2018

It’s week 41 and the topic is sports.

Many families have a strong history of sports participation, in our family it’s more sports appreciation.

There is a photo of my dad playing basketball for his school and it has been said that he was playing in the state championship game. I did see that my mother had a ribbon with a gold basketball attached to it but haven’t been able to corroborate the state championship story.

                                                            Dad (center) as a Cardinal

Dad went to Central YMCA High School in downtown Chicago at 19 LaSalle St. A private prep school it was a member of the Midwest Prep Conference in 1927 when dad likely was a senior. The team name was the Cardinals and their colors were red and white. Whether he played on a state championship team or not, dad loved basketball!

Growing up in the 1950s there weren’t many chances to participate in sports if you weren’t good enough to make the school team. I do remember playing basketball on a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) team in 7th  or 8th grade. These were intra-mural games played locally on Saturday mornings.

Our house was a block from a large community park which hosted a variety of winter sports along with tennis lessons in the summer. In the winter there was ice skating and sledding. The ice rink was lighted at night and it was where the teens hung out after dinner. I loved ice skating and would imagine that I was Sonja Henie, the Norwegian Olympic Skater. Probably due to my Norwegian heritage. In the summers I would take the free tennis lessons offered by the Park District.

In High School, I played girls basketball (1/2 court at that time) and vollyball as intra-mural sports again since I went to a small all girls school. I college my PE classes were lifesaving and golf. In lifesaving and to pass the class I had to rescue the PE teacher. Golf was taught in the gym using wiffle balls.

Our children had more exposure to sports and we had the obligatory basketball hoop on our garage but neither made the team. Since their school was heavily invested into basketball we were big team supporters and went to the state finals with both the girls and boys teams one year.

My daughter chose running as her sport and joined the cross country team.She stayed with it all four years and lettered in her Junior year.

The current generation has turned more to music than sports as all three have been members of the marching band. Their school band travels with the football team so they have developed an appreciation of football. Anybody who doesn’t think that members of a marching band are not athletes hasn’t watched a high school or college half time show lately.

The youngest granddaughter is a competative diver and a definate athlete. She competes both for the high school and her club. She is also hoping to dive in college.

Although our family hasn’t developed any all star or all state athletes, we are very appreciative of the value sports add to our lives. Besides you can’t grow up in the Chicago area without being a sports fan!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 40 "10"

This week’s prompt is “10”. 10 whatever and coincidentally this month I stumbled across the 10th child of my maternal grandparents.

It had always been said that my mother was one of ten children but finding all the documentation has proven difficult. It shouldn’t have been, they didn’t move around, I knew where they went to church, it was a time when good recordkeeping was happening, but it was difficult.

He was the ninth child born to Alice Fleming and Michael Connery in late November of 1910. He would have been the child closest in age to my mother.

One of the complicating factors was that there were two men named Michael Connery living in the same area of Chicago in the relevant time period. They both belonged to the same parish where their children were being baptized during  the same time frame.

As I was doing other research on the family, there it was, the record of the death of “Baby Boy” Connery who was both born and died on 28 November 1910.[i]

Page in list of burials 1910 Archdiocese of Chicago.

Cemetery records from the Archdiocese of Chicago tell us that the premature Infant Connery is buried in lot 10, block 2 of Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. The baby had died and was buried on 28 Nov 1910 and the associated address was 4140 Washington Blvd.. The service was officiated by Fr J P McDonnell.[ii]

A search of the baptism records for St Mel Parish on Washington Blvd in Chicago does not yield a record of the Infant Connery being baptized on 28 Nov 1910, so he was probably baptized at birth by the doctor or a nurse which is commonly done if a baby born to Catholic parents is in danger of death. 

This child would have been the fourth son born to Alice Fleming and Michael Connery and without finding the death record, he would have remained unknown to us since he never appeared in a birth record or census.

[i] "Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915," database, FamilySearch ( : 11 March 2018), Connery, 28 Nov 1910; citing p. 58, Ln 2840, , Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,315,049.
[ii] "Illinois, Archdiocese of Chicago, Cemetery Records, 1864-1989," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 March 2018), Connery, 28 Nov 1910; citing Hillside, Cook, Illinois, United States, Mount Carmel, Archidiocese of Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,763,394.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 38: Unusual Source

The topic for this week is “unusual source”. In my ancestry, there are several members who have joined the religious life. Because of this it can be difficult to record a descriptive picture of their lives. Censuses only capture a moment in time on a specific day every ten years.

Sister Marie Camilla, OP aka Alice Connery

My grandmother Alice Fleming Connery had a brother and a nephew who became Catholic priests and a sister in addition to two of her daughters became nuns.

In seeking more information about Alice’s nephew, Fr Thomas Fleming a Jesuit priest who taught extensively in New Zealand, Australia, and China during the 30s, 40s, and 50s, I contacted the Jesuit priory. I was directed to contact the Dublin province where Fr Tom had joined.

That is when I learned that most religious communities (I can’t say all because I only have experience with four of them) require that those entering the community write an autobiography for their records. Usually this includes anything they know of their parents.  What a treasure to read about a family in the words of a grown child of that family!

Not only did I receive the autobiography of Fr Tom which included the names of his parents and siblings, I received the list of all the places he taught in the southern hemisphere. It was a complete record of his service to the Jesuits that he served until his death in Melbourne in 1988. I have even been able to obtain a copy of his book “Of Faith and Morals”, which served as a text for the college classes he taught in theology.

Encouraged by this response, I have since contacted the motherhouse of the Adrian Dominican Sisters for the records of my two aunts who joined this order. For both of them I have received the autobiography and complete record of their assignments including their position, but I also received the homily from their memorial service. This includes quotes from the sisters who knew them from the time they first entered the order.

Alice’s brother, Fr Michael Fleming, became a priest attached to the Diocese of Detroit and was mostly based in Adrian at St Joseph Academy although he did serve several parishes in the Detroit area. I received those records also including the details of his being moved from a cemetery in Detroit to the cemetery on the grounds of St Joseph Academy in Adrian, MI.

Alice had an older sister Hannah, who immigrated before 1880 and joined the Sisters of Providence in Terre Haute, Indiana, taking her first vows as Sr Mary Regina in 1885. I have also received a record of Sr Mary Regina’s assignments and know that she was buried at St Mary-of-the-Woods in Vigo County, Indiana after her death 15 August 1933.

Not everyone will be able to take advantage of this kind of records but it is an unusual source and if you have ancestors who were members of a religious community, I urge you to try to get the records.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 37 - Closest to Your Birthday

This week’s prompt is: Closest to Your Birthday”. So I made a list of all the birthdays in my Roots Magic database. And the winner is: Johannes Hansen, my paternal great-grandfather. My birthday is Oct 6 and he was born Oct 11.

Johannes Adolf Waldemar Hansen was born 11 October 1852 and christened on 26 December 1852 at Garnisonsmenighet, Oslo, Akershus, Norway. The name was a rather imposing one for the illegitimate son of a soldier and a woman who sold vegetables on the street for a living. As it’s name implies Garnisonsmenighet was the military church which served the solders based at the Akershus fortress in Oslo.

Birthplace of Adolf Hansen 11 Oct 1852, Oslo, Norway

Martin Hansen was a soldier from the village of Nittedal in the county of Akershus, while Sophie was from Aker in Akershus.  Aker is a geographic area within today's Oslo and a former independent municipality in Akershus, Norway. The name originally belonged to a farm which was located near the current Old Aker Church. The church in turn became the source of the name of the parish, the Akershus Fortress, the municipality and the entire county of Akershus, as well as numerous institutions within this area. The name remains in use in two districts of Oslo, Vestre Aker and Nordre Aker.[i] Nittedal lies northeast of Oslo and is named after the river Nitelva.

Martin Hansen had most likely finished his military service and returned to Nittedal before the birth of Johannes since the 1865 census records him as a married man with a son, Johan, born in 1853. By 1865 he had several children and had returned to life as a farmer. Martin’s name appears as the father of Johannes on his christening record and both of his marriage so Johannes definitely knew who his father was.

Johannes’ mother Sophie Johanesdotter was from rural Aker and about 23 when her only son was born. In spite of living in poverty, Sophie did her best to raise her son and later one of her grandsons.

The 1865 census for Oslo records Johannes as living with his mother Sophie (now using the surname Hansen) in a tenement in Oslo and a music student. Johannes, now calling himself Adolf was accepted into a local band and helped provide music in the Tivoli Gardens among other venues. As his talent became more recognized, Adolf was included in other bands and by 1875 had joined the Norwegian Army as a band member.

In 1876, Adolf married Dorette Cristensen and they became the parents of five surviving children before Dorette’s death in 1887.

Adolf Hansen and wife Nathalie and family shortly before the immigration of Artur, Adolph andc Dagny in 1894

Shortly after Dorette’s death Adolf realized that he needed to marry again if he was to continue conducting and composing for his band. In 1889 Adolf married seventeen-year-old Nathalie Bull Edgberg and by 1890 he moved his family to Bergen.

In Bergen, Adolf continued his work in the world of music as his family grew. In 1894 three of Adolf’s older children left Norway for the United States where they would be welcomed by their deceased mother’s sisters and a brother who had already made the journey to America.

During their marriage Adolf and Nathalie would have five children before the music world claimed Nathalie’s attention.

Adolf made one trip to New York City in 1909 where he was able to meet his daughter Dagny and her husband Charlie Tripp and their children Dorette and Gordon along with his son Adolph and his wife Henriette.

Adolf lived at Sigurdsgate 4 in Bergen at the time of his death on 24 Jan 1911 and was buried on 31 Jan 1911 in Bergen.

Adolf left a rich musical inventory which is appreciated by the military bands in Norway in addition to the survivors of the ten children he fathered. Five of his children remained in Norway and five immigrated to the United States.

As a footnote to Adolf’s story, I recently had a DNA match to a descendant of Adolf’s father Martin Hansen. This descendant still lives in Norway and is my third connection to my Norwegian ancestors.

[i] Wikipedia

Sunday, September 9, 2018

52 Ancestors in 51 Weeks - Week 36 "Work"

In honor of Labor Day, the theme for this week is work. As I look at the occupations that have been documented within my family history. There have been musicians, teachers, butchers, grocers, iron workers, sellers of real estate, travel, insurance, spirits, and grain. There have also been fishermen, soldiers, telephone workers, and jewelers. One occupation that seems to run through several lines is railroaders.

The first in the line of railroad workers was Leopold Peterson, a Swedish immigrant who settled in Boston, MA in 1869-70.[i]

Leopold lived and worked in Boston as a cabinet maker, suggesting some kind of training or apprenticeship in woodworking. In 1873 Leopold married Caroline Neilsson and they began their family with the birth of Anne L in 1874 and John William in 1876.

                                             PULLMAN CAR INTERIOR
Photo credit: Chicago Historical Society

Shortly after Leopold received his citizenship papers in Boston, the family moved to Chicago. IL. The Chicago voter’s registration shows that Leopold had lived in Chicago for 10 years and had been naturalized in Boston in 1877.[ii] 

Census records for 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 all record Leopold as a carpenter or cabinet maker, with the 1900 census showing that his two sons Frank and Edwin were also working at a “car shop”. Frank was a machinist while Edwin was a 17-year-old car painter. While there is no specific mention that Leopold worked for the Pullman Company in Chicago, the fact that the family lived in the Hyde Park area of the city and the Pullman Co used carpenters/cabinet makers and car painters indicates to me that he did, indeed, work for the Pullman Co.  A query to the South Suburban Genealogists, who hold the Pullman records did not yield results.

Leopold’s son Edwin left the Pullman Co to join the Chicago Park Police, but his son Harold would return to railroad work and co-incidentally Harold’s father-in-law Murl Ferguson also worked for the railroad. Murl and his brother had left farming in southern Illinois for Chicago and work on the railroad  sometime during the 1920’s. Another of Leopold’s grandsons, Earl Gibney Peterson, also worked for the railroad joining the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad on 13 Oct 1947 as a trainman.[iii]

The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad was a major employer in the Chicago area and like the telephone company often hired the children and siblings of their employees.

Over time the industry has changed with automation playing a large role in the changes. Currently my son-in-law is working for the railroad as a conductor. Today freight trains only use a two man crew but the crew is limited to working twelve hours or less. Other safety measures control rest time and training.

The railroad has been a steady employer and many families can count themselves as recipients of the benefits of “Working on the Railroad”.

[i] US Circuit Court -Boston, Massachusetts. 1791-1992 M1299. Naturalization Records. , Boston, MA.
[ii] Chicago, Illinois, Voter Registration, 1888 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2001.
[iii] Chicago and North Western Railroad Employee Records. Chicago & North Western Historical Society, Berwyn, Illinois.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Back to School

It’s week 35 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks and it’s back to school time!

My maternal grandparents observed a family tradition that their children would attend boarding school from an early age. Their oldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth was in boarding school at the age of 6 as indicated by the 1900 census.[i] Her uncle Fr Michael Fleming appeared on the next line of the census as a chaplain at the school. Was this why Michael and Alice choose to send their first born child on the long journey from Chicago to Adrian, Michigan? Did the fact that their local parish did not have an elementary school factor into the decision? We will never know but that is when a tradition was born. Mary’s sisters Kathleen, Alice, Pauline and Eleanor followed in her footsteps while baby sister Elizabeth attended another school but still a boarding school. Brothers Thomas and John also attended boarding school but in Wisconsin. Campion High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin was a parochial run by the Jesuit priests. The boarding school tradition extended to the Walsh family of Port Huron, Michigan, cousins of the Connerys.

Getting ready for school then meant having enough clothing for most likely two weeks of wear, depending on the laundry schedule of the school. Each child would have a small trunk or foot locker to take their clothes to school in. 
Google images
 As clothing was purchased and prepared for packing it was placed in the trunk. Each item had to be marked with the student’s name. The name had to be permanent and legible. Most likely it was painstakingly embroidered. The trunk also needed to hold personal care items, towels, shoes, and anything else the student might need.

Fast forward to the 1940s and 1950s when my siblings and I were getting ready to “Go Back to School”. We got new shoes in the fall at the beginning of the school year. It was also when we got a new outfit or two. To preserve our new clothes, it was our habit to come home from school and change into “play clothes and shoes”. 

Beginning kindergarten meant you had to get special things for school! You needed a “nap rug” and a “paint smock”. Mom was usually able to provide these from within her home inventory. A bath mat from in front of the tub was the right size and could easily be washed and one or dad’s shirts was a paint smock when worn backwards with the sleeves rolled up.

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As we joined the older grades we “needed” a cigar box to decorate to hold pencils, scissors, and crayons so they didn’t get lost in our desks. Books brought home from school needed covers to protect them. The large grocery bags mom brought home from the store were perfect for any size book and we could color a design on the front along with printing our name at the top right corner. About 7th or 8th grade we would acquire the ubiquitous blue canvas binder. The blue canvas cover was perfect for personalizing with doodles and initials.

School for us, usually began the day after Labor Day and we  would excitedly dress in our new clothes and shoes for the walk to school. We might have used a “school bag” at some point but we never carried a lunch bag since we lived only a block from school and came home for lunch. Since we had an hour for lunch, if we hurried home we could watch “Lunchtime Little Theater” while we ate our PB&Js. 

Customs have evolved over time and “First Day of School” pictures weren’t a thing then like they are now but then cameras then were bulky and flash bulbs and film were expensive. You also had to wait for pictures to be developed which meant a trip to the drugstore with the film and usually about a week later you could go back to get your pictures, hoping they had turned out. Social media did not exist for sharing either!

“Back to School” has changed over time, school supply lists are longer, now including things like hand sanitizer and Kleenex, but they reflect our greater awareness of the needs local community and the fact that school funding has been reduced. I see less emphasis on new school clothes and shoes, much to the chagrin of the stores advertising “Back to School” sales. High schools no longer require that students have a slide ruler, now it’s a scientific calculator.  High school students taking advanced classes now need their own computers since their college level texts are on line. These are good changes and we need to take advantage of the advances science has made.

[i] Year: 1900; Census Place: Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0039; FHL microfilm: 1240725

Sunday, August 26, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 34 Non-Population

This week's topic is “Non-population Schedules of the U S Census”.  There are several of these available from 1850 through 1880, mortality, agriculture, industry, and slave among them. For my husband’s farming families, the agricultural schedule will reveal a lot of information to fill out the lives of these people who lived in Willow Hill, Jasper County, Illinois. Willow Hill is a very small farming community south and west of Terra Haute, Indiana. It's main claim to fame is as the home of folksinger Burl Ives, the voice of Frosty the Snowman.

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In 1870, Fred Simpsrod (41) and his wife Annie (38) were the parents of seven children from thirteen to one year of age.[i] Fred and Annie were both German immigrants and living in southern Illinois. A look at the non-population agricultural schedule for the 1870 census will give a glimpse into their lives.

In 1870 Fred Sempsrott was the owner, manager, or agent of 85 acres of improved land of which 45 acres was wooded showing a land valued at $1200.00. The family had 3 horses, 3 milk cows and 3 other cattle. The other cattle were not asses, mules, or working oxen as they were listed separately. There were also 13 sheep on the farm. Including 5 swine, the value of all livestock was listed as $520.00.

Fred’s land produced 158 bushels of winter wheat, 400 bushels of Indian corn and 45 bushels of barley. Although called Indian Corn, it was just corn. Other crops that were itemized on the 1870 Agricultural Schedule were spring wheat, oats, buckwheat, rice and tobacco. These were all known as cash crops as they were grown to be sold. Fred also grew 12 bushels of Irish potatoes and 60 bushels of grass in 1870. 

The last entry on the census relates to the “Estimated Value of all farm production including betterments and additions to stock” Fred’s estimated value was $600.00 which is $11,227.00 today, not a lot to support a family of nine.

By the time of the 1880 Census, F A Simpsrott and Anna Sampsrott were still in Willow Hill, Jasper County, Illinois with six children living on the farm. On the 1880 Agricultural Schedule Fred recorded as F A Simpson and is the owner of 63 acres of fallow and grass in rotation, whether pasture or meadow, 17 acres of meadows. pastures, orchards, vineyards, and 40 acres of woodland and forest. The value of the farm, including land, fences, and buildings was $1500.00 with a total of $135.00 in implements and machinery and $350.00 invested in livestock. Fred had paid $49.00 in building and repair costs in 1879. The estimated value of all farm production (sold, consumed, or on hand) was $400.00. 

The farm encompassed 17 acres of mown grasslands and 16 tons of hay had been harvested to help feed the four horses. There were three milk cows and four animals on the farm that were classified as other than working oxen or milk cows. Fred had two calves born and sold three living cattle.

The farm made 150 pounds of butter in 1879, one lamb was born, and one fleece weighing 20 pounds was clipped or shorn in the spring of 1880. There were 35 swine on hand June 1, 1880 and 24 poultry on hand in the barn yard which had produced $50.00 worth of eggs in 1879.
Under the heading of Cereals, the farm produced 11 acres of Indian corn equaling 30 bushels, 28 acres of land had produced 317 bushels of wheat, and 4 bushels of dry beans were produced in 1879. Four acres produced 30 bushels of Irish potatoes, and Fred also grew 30 pounds of tobacco. In the orchard there were 25 fruit bearing apple trees and 12 bearing peach trees. The bee hives yielded 50 pounds of honey and Fred cut 15 cords of wood in 1879. The value of all forest products sold or consumed in 1879 was $30.00.[ii]

It is interesting to observe the changes in both the questions asked and the answers to the Agricultural Schedule and the changes in farming in ten years. It is impossible to guess whether the family’s fortunes improved with the passing of time but, since the farm remained in the family into the 20th century I would guess that Frederick Albert Sempsrott and his family prospered no matter how their last name was spelled! (Did you find all five versions of their last name?)

[i] 1870 US Federal Census, database on line; Willow Hill, Jasper, Illinois; Roll M593_232; page 3866A; Family History Library Film 545731
[ii] 1880 U S Federal Census; database online,; Willow Hill, Jasper County, Illinois; Archive Collection Number: T1133; Roll: 41; Page: 13; Line: 8; Schedule Type: Agriculture; NARA microfilm publication T1133, rolls 1-11, 13-56