Friday, September 12, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Confessions of a Facebook Stalker

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt can send Homo Sepians into a variety of directions including groups of three, posing, drinking, or even lurking in the doorway – although this last bit of inspiration was cropped out in the display tag. 

John Jr and Bob New York 1920
John Jr. and Bob and the family poodle
New York 1920

The photo of these children looking back at the faceless torso lurking at the door is a microcosm of my world as a family historian.  My ancestors – honestly, sometimes I think they’re all nameless lurkers.  The champion lurkers are the Sheehan families of New York City, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Richmond Hill.  That’s where my great-grandmother’s sisters and maybe a brother lived in the late 1800s and early-mid 1900s following their emigration from Ireland, at least according to the clues left behind in a couple of photo albums.

I have written about photos in these albums before, complaining loud and long about how most are unlabeled except for one thin album dedicated to these children, John Jr. and Bob.  (I wrote about how I discovered Bob was a girl HERE.)   Unfortunately, none of the adults are labeled, just nameless lurkers waiting to be discovered. 

Available sources online produced nothing conclusive for my great-grandmother’s brother and sisters.  If I’m going to learn anything about them, it is time to get serious, and by “serious,” I mean creative.

Sadie Burns Aug 1969
Sadie Burns
August 1969
I started with this photo of cousin Sadie Burns, daughter of Sarah Sheehan Burns.  It’s shocking how many Sarah Burns with a daughter Sarah or Sadie lived in New York City as if purposely confounding my search.  Sadie’s habit is that of the Dominican Order of Preachers.  Fellow blogger Marti Kerkhoff Wallace has made herself an expert on Catholic research, so I turned to her for advice.  While Marti gave me several people to contact, I was hampered by not knowing Sadie’s religious name or where she might have served. 
Facebook ended up being my most productive research tool.  I joined the New York City Genealogy Group.  My photos and questions led nowhere, but in reading other posts I learned about a website called Italiangen.

Naturally, because my family isn’t Italian, I ignored it at first until a knowledgeable member of the group said that it isn’t just for Italians.  That’s where I learned that my great grandmother’s sister Josephine Sheehan Burns wasn’t Burns at all – she was Krause (confirmed by a marriage record at FamilySearch).

Snip from the database of marriage records on Italiangen

John Jr, Josie, and Bob 1920
John Jr., Josie, Bob
the back says "Bob sucks her thumm"
My speculation that Josie was grandmother to John Jr. and Bob so far has proved to be wrong.  She had no son John to father a John Jr., and the Krause daughters either didn’t marry or married long after John Jr. and Bob entered the picture.

It was through this same NYC Facebook group that I learned about the Brooklyn Genealogy Group, so I joined that one too.  Some lovely member posted a link to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle where I found an obituary for my great grandaunt Delia Sheehan Christian. 

from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Aha – a married name for her daughter Elmira/Elmyra!  Zarek.  She was single in the 1940 census but married by 1942 when her mother died.  I began calculating – if she had children, they might be a bit older than me but definitely still living.

Julia Walsh and Elmyra Christian
Left - My grandmother Julia Walsh (Slade)
Right - Elmyra Christian
probably about 1920

Those children could be on Facebook!

And that’s when I crossed over to the dark side and became a Facebook Stalker.  I used the SEARCH box and looked for ZAREK.  There are Zareks on Facebook.  And in New York, to boot. 

Even though these Zareks have heeded the warnings about privacy settings, they still allowed me to see their list of FRIENDS.  One of the friends bears the maiden name “Christian.”  Eureka! I found them – my second cousins once removed. 

I quickly dashed off private messages, but since they weren’t my Facebook friends, the messages fell into that mysterious “OTHER FOLDER.”  However, there is a way to get around the need for FRIEND status in order to send a message.  Facebook will send those messages directly for $1.00.  Yes, $1.00. 

Why, of course, I gave Facebook my credit card on that secure site.  I’m a desperate lurker-turned-stalker. 

In no time, I heard back from both of them.  They’re glad to hear from me.  No surprise there – what can I say?  However, I confess to being a bit discouraged when one of my new-found cousins did not know of anyone in the family with children John Jr. and Bob.  Now I must face the possibility that these cousins are likewise too far removed from their grandaunts to solve the mystery of the faceless woman lurking in the doorway.

For more stories of posers, drinkers, and lurkers, please visit Sepia Saturday

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Dog Days of Summer #9

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

Lucille and Orvin Davis in Harrisonburg, VA
my maternal grandparents Lucille and Orvin Davis with Fritz
front steps of home of Violetta Davis Ryan, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Counting down the number of photos of dogs in my collection

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

52 Ancestors: #36 - Balthus EBERT

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Balthus EBERT was my 7X great grandfather.  He was born in Germany in 1663 and died there just a short forty-one years later.  While he never made it to America, he and his wife Catarina Sophia STEINBACH had two sons who did:  Hans Michael Ebert and Hans Jerg/George Ebert, from whom my line descends.

It is likely that my Eppards were part of the great migration of Germans from the Rhineland Provinces.  Queen Anne of England offered refuge to over 7000 Palatines seeking relief from religious persecution.  They traveled by barge and flat boats down the Rhine into Holland, specifically to Rotterdam where the Rhine flowed into the sea.  Queen Anne sent some of the Germans to Ireland to build up the Protestant population and then some to America, mostly to the colonies along the east coast.

Painting by Isaac Sailmaker
"The First Britannia"
(possibly but not likely the one my ancestors arrived on)
image from labeled for noncommercial use
Most of the Germans arrived in Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, the new colony chartered by William Penn.  The Quakers were open to the idea of religious tolerance, making this colony very attractive to the large numbers of Lutherans, Swiss Mennonites, Baptist Dunkers/Dunkards, Moravians, Amish and other small German religious groups. 

Of course, at that time, the colonies were under the rule of the British crown.  William Penn’s agents were Englishmen, and English was the official language.  The leaders in Pennsylvania became concerned about the number of Continentals arriving who were used to a different language and different form of government.  As a result, in 1727 the Provincial Council passed a law requiring all male Continentals age sixteen and older to sign an “Oath of Allegiance” to the King of England.  In 1729, they also began requiring them to take the “Oath of Abjuration and Fidelity to the Proprietor,” in other words to disavow any previous allegiance to the Pope.   

These two laws were in effect when the Ebert brothers arrived in Philadelphia.  In fact, the Minutes of the Provincial Council dated September 21, 1731 lists the names of 106 Palatines plus their families who arrived on the Ship Britannia of London.  The two names appear together, indicating they traveled together:
York County is in the southeastern part of the State,
not very far from Philadelphia.
image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Hans Jerg (George) Ebert Age 30 Born 1701
Hans Michael Ebert Age 35 Born 1696

The Eberts settled in York County, Pennsylvania, on a farm of between 600 and 700 acres along Codorus Creek.  Michael and his descendants remained in Pennsylvania at least for several generations.  His brother George, on the other hand, joined a number of Germans who went in search of land in Maryland and eventually settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.   


Balthus EBERT ( 1663 Jagst, Wyttemberg, Germany – 1704 Germany) & Catarina Sophia STEINBACK (1669 Germany – 1717 Germany)
1. Hans Michael EBERT ( 1696 Wallersheim, Germany – 1785 York, PA) & Eva Margaret DIEHL (1718 Germany – 1788 York, PA)  1741 Pennsylvania
  •  Michael EBERT ( 28 Dec 1742 Pennsylvania – Apr 1790 Manchester, York, PA) & Elizabeth RUDISELL (1741 – 01 Sep 1838 York, PA) 07 Aug 1764 Pennsylvania
  • Jacob EBERT ( 02 Oct 1746 York, PA – Mar 1786 York, PA)
  • John Martin EBERT ( 09 Jan 1751 York, PA – 19 Apr 1814 York, PA) & Anna Maria SMYSER (10 Nov 1756 York, PA – 29 Mar 1833 York, PA)   1777 York, PA
  • Philip EBERT ( 1755 York, PA – 06 Dec 1803 St Louis, MO) & Anna Margaret KNAUSS
  • Anna Maria EBERT (1765 York, PA – 1820)
  • Eva EBERT
  • Susanna EBERT
  • Jonas EBERT
  • Martin EBERT 
2. Hans Jerg (George) EBERT (1701 Germany – 1762 Virginia) & m1) Johannata Charlotte HUNERMANN (1695 Germany – Abt 1730 Germany ) 1724 Germany ; & m2) Margaret Christina STARKE  ( 1698 Pennsylvania – 1778 Rockingham Co, VA )  1732 Pennsylvania

Hans Jerg EBERT and Johannata Charlotte HUNERMANN had the following children:
  • Philip EBERT 1725 Germany
  • John EBERT 1726 Germany – 1804) & Maria RICHM 1750 Pennsylvania
  • Catherine Sybella EBERT ( 1727 Germany –  ) & John SCHAUT  1748
  • Andrew EBERT (1728 Germany –1804 Rockingham Co, VA) & Mary Elizabeth UNKNOWN  1761
Hans Jerg EBERT and Margaret Christina STARKE had the following children:
  • Jacob EBERT ( 1733 Philadelphia, PA – 1807 Rockingham Co, VA)
  • Windle EBERT ( 1736 Pennsylvania – 1810 Rockingham Co, VA) & Christina MOYLE ( ? –1810 Rockingham Co, VA)  1769
  • George EBERT ( 1737 Pennsylvania – 1804) & Catherine BAKER  1760
  • Margaret Christina EBERT ( 02 Feb 1738 Philadelphia, PA – 19 Dec 1818 Rockingham Co, VA) & George Jacob MOYER  (06 Jan 1727/28 Germany – 19 Feb 1796 Naked Creek, Rockingham Co, VA)   1757
  • Eva Christina EBERT ( 08 Oct 1739 Lancaster, PA – 1740 Pennsylvania)
  • James EBERT ( 1740 – 1815 Rockingham Co, VA) & Elizabeth OLDHAM 1761

"Germans in America, The."  European Reading Room.  Library of Congress.   Accessed 5 Sep 2014.
“Hans Michael Ebert.” Public Member Story posted by pschreck 150.  Accessed 23 Aug 2014.
“History of Ebert/Eppards/Etc. in America.”  Genforum Genealogy.  Accessed 23 Aug 2014.
"Oaths of Fidelity and Abjuration."  Pennsylvania & Historical Museum Commission.  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Accessed 7 Sep 2014.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Helen and Bandit

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is an engaging photo of a hurdy gurdy man with his trained monkey.  The suggestion of “unusual pets” makes this challenge an easy one to meet.

My mother-in-law Helen was a fan of raccoons.  Loved ‘em.  She had pictures of raccoons hanging on the wall.  She had raccoon nick-nacks.  She even had a stuffed toy raccoon.  People sent her greeting cards with raccoons featured, such was her reputation as a lover of this masked creature.

Hattie, Hildred, Russell Kohne
Helen's mother Hattie; sister Hildred,
father Russ "Kohnie" Kohne
probably mid-late 1930s

Helen must have felt a kinship with raccoons because of her maiden name:  Kohne.  I say it like “cone,”  but she said it like “coon.”  Apparently all her people in West Virginia pronounced it that way too.  In fact, her dad was known to everyone as “Kohnie” (pronounced “coonie”).

It’s no wonder then that Helen adopted the raccoon as sort of a family mascot. 

It was sometime in the 1980s when Barry’s brother Jeff was helping some friends trim trees near Endless Caverns around New Market, Virginia.  They found a nest of four baby raccoons, but no mother.  Each of the guys took one.  When Jeff brought that baby raccoon home, Helen was thrilled to become its surrogate mother.   She named him Bandit. 

Helen fed Bandit with a little bottle.  After a few days, she noticed that Bandit had a swollen belly and that it had not – um, how to put this? – “answered the call of nature,” if you know what I mean.  My sister-in-law Linda reminded Helen that mother animals lick their young’s hind parts to spur nature along. 

Oh, the howling and joking that went on after that as all the brothers and sisters egged Helen on to do what mothers do!  But Helen was a resourceful woman.  She used a warm cotton ball and accomplished what she needed, or more precisely, what Bandit needed.

Helen Mathias and Bandit 1970s
Helen and Bandit

For quite a while, Bandit was a cute little pet.  He would climb up the back of Helen’s favorite chair and sit on her shoulder. 

When Bandit got bigger, he became a bother.  Jeff built him a little house out by the tree in the front yard.  Bandit would go outside and roam around.  In the morning the yard would be a mess.  He got into my father-in-law’s garden and ate the corn.  Ervin lost all respect for Bandit after that, especially after that Sunday when people passing by on their way to the church next door stared at all the corn husks strewn around the yard. 

Eventually as those raccoon hormones began to rage, Bandit just wandered off and stayed away for a long time.  Then one day when a storm was brewing, Helen and Ervin heard scratching at the screen door.  It was Bandit coming home.  But he was no longer welcome. 

And that, Boys and Girls, is why you should never try to make a pet out of a wild animal.

For more stories of unusual pets and maybe even hurdy gurdy men, visit Sepia Saturday

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Dog Days of Summer #8

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

John Jr. Unknown New York 1918
from album of Lillie Killeen
John Jr. (last name unknown) and family poodle New York City 1918

Counting down the number of photos of dogs in my collection

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

52 Ancestors: #35 - The JARRELLS

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My 3X great grandmother Mary P. JARRELL managed to accomplish something few of my oldest ancestors couldn’t:  she had family who provided a tombstone that could survive the trampling of cattle and loss of cemeteries. 

Mary P. RUCKER 1791 - 1871 Rockingham County, VA
Mary P. Jarrell 1791-1871
photo courtesy Jan Hensley

She was the wife of John Frank RUCKER and mother to five children.  Other than some dates, I know little about Mary since my research has thus far been limited to online sources.  At, many Rucker researchers claim Mary was the daughter of Daniel and Mary Terry Jarrell.  However, there is no supporting evidence.

In fact, there is significant supporting evidence that those researchers are just wrong.  A website dedicated to the Jarrells and related families provides thorough research as well as documentation.  

Here is where that research differs from the common view on Ancestry:
  • Daniel Jarrell was not married to Mary Terry.  He was married to Mary DAVIS, as proved by the wills of James Davis and Benjamin Davis II as well as a number of records that support this close Jarrell and Davis connection.
  • MY Mary Jarrell was not the daughter of Daniel and Mary.  Their daughter Mary married William Humphreys.

Searching through the siblings of Daniel Jarrell leads to the conclusion that MY Mary wasn’t a niece either.  All the Mary Jarrells and their husbands were present and accounted for.

The fact that Mary and John Frank were married in Madison County puts them in the neighborhood of this family of Jarrells.  After all, the Jarrells and Ruckers shared property lines, served together in the Revolutionary War, intermarried, bought land from one another, and supplied witnesses for countless records.

So who was Mary’s family if not Daniel’s or his brothers'?

One possibility is that she was part of the Fitzgerald family who also lived in Madison County.  They were a totally separate family unrelated to the Jarrells.  However, a number of proven Fitzgeralds used the name Jarrell or Garrell interchangeably with or instead of Fitzgerald.  The often-used spelling “Fitzjarrell” and “Fitzgarrell” makes it easy to see how that could happen. 

This quirky name game was evident in my 4X great grandmother’s experience.  Mary “Polly” SELF was married to Eason Fitzgerald in 1801 in Orange County.  What became of Fitzgerald is unknown – he might have died or Polly might have left him (or him her).  Being legally unavailable might explain why during her time with Jacob Shiflett she was a common-law wife known as Polly Garrell/Jarrell. 

Fitzgerald names that need investigating include James, Thomas, William, Stephen and Lewis.   

Horsley, Joan. The Jarrell Family of Early Virginia with focus on Daniel Jarrell and his wife Mary Davis: Their Family, Relatives, & Neighbors. Raleigh, NC: J. Horsley, 2009. Available online at

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Well-Suited for the Beach

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt suggests many possibilities ranging from beaches to trains to aquariums to running away.  The image of the well-dressed gentleman making his way across the dunes made me recall this photo:

Unknown men in suits Ocean View, VA 1919-21
from photo album of Helen Killeen Parker
Ocean View, Virginia about 1919-21

As one who can’t tolerate sand in her shoes, I am perplexed that these men would trudge out toward the water in their Sunday best. 

Since I have no story to accompany this photo, I’ll do like Agnes Whoever and wave good-bye for this week.

Agnes Unknown Ocean View, VA 1919-21
Agnes Unknown
friend of Helen Killeen Parker
about 1919-21

Please visit Sepia Saturday for more stories and photos of beaches and escapes.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.