Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan). Archives, Labels (tags), and other links appear at the bottom of the page.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Book Notes: Alfred Street by Russell McLauchlin (and now, an index!)

Alfred Street (Burton Historical Collection)

The other day I was talking with a cousin about someone in our family tree who lived on Arndt Street in Detroit. I thought I'd read a book about life on Arndt Street, but when I tried to look it up, I couldn't find it. Thinking it might have been another street, I looked at a map and realized, yes, it was Alfred Street, not Arndt. I'd enjoyed the book, so yesterday I walked my dog to the library to check it out again.

The author, Russell McLauchlin, was a music and drama critic for The Detroit News, and many of the essays in the book originally appeared in the Town Talk column therein. His career spanned more than three decades in the first half of the twentieth century.

Born in Detroit in 1894, McLauchlin wrote these essays about the community where he spent his childhood in the very early 1900s. My grandma Evelyn Hauer was also born in Detroit in 1894, so for me, McLauchlin's stories provide a sense of what life would have been like when she was a kid. Also, Alfred Street is pleasantly inspirational for any reader who aspires to write up some of his own childhood memories.

Written in 1946, the Preface of Alfred Street begins with this disorienting description:
     Alfred Street still exists. It runs at right angles to Woodward Avenue, less than a mile from the center of Detroit, just as it always did. It is now in what city-planners call a blighted area. The elms were long ago torn down. No representative of the old neighbor-families remains. The houses, mostly standing as they stood a half-century ago, are dismal structures. Some have night-blooming grocery stores in their front yards. Some have boarded windows. All stand in bitter need of paint and repair.
     It is a desolate street; a scene of poverty and chop-fallen gloom; possibly of worse things.
Wait a sec... when was that written? Sixty-eight years ago? Seriously? Well, here's the current state of things on the McLauchlin boy's block of Alfred Street:

View Larger Map

Only four of the twelve houses remain standing. In the foreground is 63 Alfred (point A), home of Alanson & Cornelia Fox and Cornelia's sister Mary Stebbins. Next was 69 Alfred (Ransom Gillis), 77 (McLauchlin family and Mary Doyle), 81 (Thomas McGraw), 83 (McFarland), 85 (Prosser), 91 (Machen, Burn, and boarders--the boxy house still standing), 97 (Zengerle), 99 (Abrey), 105 (Lhommedien--still standing), 113 (Vail--still standing), and 115 (Ling). [Names taken from the 1900 census.] All houses on the even-numbered side of Alfred Street are gone now. 

Update: The image above is supposed to be a street-view of the McLauchlin family's block of Alfred Street, not a map. If it's showing up as a map for you, you'll have to click through for the street view. And in a bizarre coincidence, I've just gotten a link in my Facebook feed to this article about the filming of Batman v. Superman on Alfred Street--in fact, in the same house shown above! Speaking of which, this house is referred to as the Ransom Gillis house, not the Alanson Fox house. I believe that's because Ransom Gillis lived here first. The house at 63 Alfred was built in 1876-1878 according to the Deadline Detroit article, and Ransom Gillis was enumerated at that address in the 1880 census (at which time, it appears, the house at 69 Alfred had not been built yet).

Maurice Greenia, Jr. has written a perfectly good post about Alfred Street in Detroit and has included links to some other interesting related items, so I see no need to reinvent that wheel. But as far as I know, the book Alfred Street has not been name-indexed. So, to help Google-searchers find the references to Detroiters mentioned in McLauchlin's stories, here ya go:

Index of People Mentioned in Alfred Street by Russell McLauchlin

Allen, Sylvia and Julia - 95

Barclay, Miss (taught First Presbyterian Sunday school primary class) - 74-76
Blessed, John (grocer- 59
Brenton, Dr. (veterinarian) - 82
Brudel, George - 29-30
Burke, Maggie - 33

Dixon, Percy - 62-63
Doyle, Mary (77 Alfred Street, with the McLauchlin family)- 45-47, 89

Foster, Frank (milkman) - 59
Fox, Alanson & Cornelia - 95 (not mentioned by name, sister & brother-in-law of Mary Stebbins, 63 Alfred Street)
Freer, Charles L. - 49-50

Goebbels, Dr. - 43

Hanley, Mr. - 82
Hastrup, Frank (38 Frank Street) - 23
Hawkins, Rebecca (nurse) - 85-86
Henning, Miss (possibly Marie, a teacher per 1900 census) - 44

Imrie, Dr. (Andrew W., per 1900 census) - 59, 84-85
Imrie, Walter - 85

Jennings, Dr. (pastor, First Presbyterian) - 36, 76

----, Minnie (possibly Kief, per 1900 census, 76 Alfred Street) - 68

Lyons, Mrs. (First Presbyterian organist) - 74-76

Marshall, Ethel - 61-63
McGraw, Tom and Minnie (Maria L. in census, 81 Alfred Street) - 33-35
McGregor, Mr. (superintendent of First Presbyterian Sunday school) - 74-76
McHenry, James Galbraith - 85
McLauchlin, Hannah (nee McDonald, 77 Alfred Street) - 36-38
McLauchlin, Isabella Flora (77 Alfred Street) - 95-97
Morris, Emily (66 Alfred Street) - 83
Morris, Frederick Lambert (66 Alfred Street) - Preface, 24, 30, 54, 95
Morris, Marion (female) (66 Alfred Street) - 66
Muir, (James & Isabel per 1900 census, 76 Alfred Street) - 67-68

Robinson, Cass (First Presbyterian Sunday school teacher) - 75-76

Schwartz, Miss (German teacher) - 61-63
Scott, Jim (he of the Belle Isle fountain) - 64-65
Skinner, Jack - 62
Slater, Dick - 53-54
Standish family (James, Jennie, Jane and James per 1900/1910 census, 74 Alfred Street) - 65
Stark, George W. - Foreword, Preface
Stebbins, Mary - 95

Taylor, Elisha - 31-33
Templeton, Miss (probably Kathrine, dry goods merchant per 1900 census, 777 Woodward) - 39-40

Van Horn, Miss (probably Hattie, dressmaker on High Street off Woodward per 1900 census) - 40-41

Walker, Mr., of Walker's Drug Store - 85-86
Watt, Mr. & Mrs. (possibly Henry & Martha, who owned a candy & cigar store at 731 Woodward,
          a few doors from Kathrine Templeton's dry goods store, per 1900 census) - 52-53
White (possibly Albert & Nellie at 61 Alfred Street--only their barn is mentioned) - 23
Wood, D. (David?) - 27

Crazy Mary, an ancient Negro laundress - 26
Pee-Wee Ben, an elderly imbecile, short, bearded, and lame - 27-28
Forsyth's grocery store - 43
Clark, Mrs. (there were several, all laundresses) - 87-89
Singer, Mrs. Fred (laundress) - 87-89

actors/performers mentioned on pp. 90-94:
William Gillette, Herbert Kelcey, Thomas E. Shea, Hanlon, Harry Kellar (magic), Mantell, David Higgins

McLauchlin, Russell Jachne. Alfred Street. Detroit: Conjure House, 1946. 


The McLauchlin family in the 1900 census

1897 Sanborn map of Alfred Street ~ In this block, 
only 63, 91, 105 and 113 were still standing when Google made their 2013 street view images.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Detroit: The Arnold Home for the Aged and Hospital for Incurables

Detroit Society for Genealogical Research recently posted to their Facebook page the link to a finding aid for the records of the Arnold Home for the Aged and Hospital for Incurables. Knowing that my great-grandmother Kate Pettis Kerr died there, I went to Detroit Public Library the other day to have a look at the records, which are part of the Burton Historical Collection.

To use the records, you must request them at the desk (Burton). At first, the librarians had trouble locating the records. I had printed out a copy of the finding aid to take with me, which may have helped. Eventually the records were found. 

The four record books were wrapped individually in brown paper which was secured with with soft cotton tying tape. The two smaller volumes cover 1904-1920 and 1920-1925. Knowing that Kate Pettis Kerr died in 1937, I did not look at or even unwrap these early volumes.

Two larger volumes cover overlapping timespans. I began my search in the slightly larger third volume, covering 1925-1944. I was pleasantly surprised to find the search very easy, as the book has alphabetic tabs and the handwriting was good. I quickly found the page with the record I wanted. 

The column headings are as follows:

Name -- Kate E. Kerr is the second entry on this page.

Rate -- I'm not sure whether this is daily, weekly, or monthly, nor do I know how the rate was settled upon (financial status, accommodations, extent of medical assistance needed?). If you know how the rate was determined, please leave a comment. In any case, Kate was paying $35.00, five or ten dollars less than anyone else on this page.

Place of Birth -- The amount of information in this column varies. Kate was born in Minnesota. Some records name the town; one on this page even gives the resident's birthdate.

Last Residence -- On this page, it appears that Detroit area residents have their street address listed. Kate's record lists only the state, Indiana. (Her elder son, Milton E. Kerr, lived in Crown Point, IN.)

Date of Entrance -- Kate moved into the Arnold Home on 24 October 1936.

Age -- Kate was 72 (her birthday was about three weeks before she was admitted).

Signature Person Responsible -- In some cases, this includes not only the name of the person, but also their address and phone number. For Kate, it's just the signature of my grandfather, R. P. Kerr.

Remarks -- I can't speak for the whole book (my research time was limited so I didn't go through the book page by page), but on this page, this last column is used to note the end-date of a resident, and whether that person left or died. The date given for Kate is 20 May 1937. Because I already know she died June 11th, I suspect she may have been moved to a hospital on May 20th. Unlike the other records on this page, the notation Died appears to have been added later, as it appears below the date, not in line with it as in the other entries. 

(How is it possible that I still don't have Kate Pettis Kerr's death certificate? Must get on that!)

For the benefit of Google search, the other Arnold Home residents listed on this page are Mathea Kolstad, Mary E. Kettlewell, Sarah Komray, Jessie Keller, Anna C. Kishline, Francina S. Kenneweg, Anna Kelmel, and Fred Kniffel. Fred is the only male listed on this page. I can't tell you for sure whether his record was entered in this volume by mistake, but I can tell you that I did take a quick look at the other volume (1928-1943) which also covered the time during which Kate lived at the Arnold Home, and the K pages I glanced at listed only men, so it's possible that these two volumes with overlapping years may be more-or-less divided by gender. Still, there was Fred with the ladies, so if you don't find your person in the one, look in the other! 

Detroiturbex has a good history of the Arnold Home, which was located at 18520 West Seven Mile Road in Detroit from 1931 until it closed in 2004. In 2013, it was torn down.

Search "Arnold Home Detroit" at YouTube and you'll find several "ruin porn" videos. 

The New York Times ran a story in 1912 about the founder of the Arnold Home, Rev. Arnold, and a robber he'd tried to help

There's an Arnold Home thread in the Detroit YES! Forum.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Translating an 1821 Luxembourg Militia Record

Below is a militia record pertaining to Nicolas Petit (1802-1869), husband of Anne Maria Hauer (1804-1877) who was, according to calculations made by my Legacy database, my 3rd great grand-aunt. I've been working on the translation of this document and have used two colors to add what I have to the image below.

I'm fairly certain about the lines which appear in turquoise, but would appreciate corrections if I'm wrong. Also, I don't understand what is meant by "Sr." in the second line of text where it says "Sr. Petit, Nicolas."

I need help with the red items from someone who is familiar with the French language. I've included my guesses in brackets, but again, would appreciate corrections from anyone who knows better!

Update: I've adjusted the translation of this document to the best of my ability. To translate the physical description terms for Bouche (mouth) and Menton (chin), I used Google Translate in the English-to-French mode. I typed in a variety of English descriptive terms one might use until I hit upon terms for which the French translation appeared to be written or abbreviated on the document. For the mouth, my English word average translated to the French moyenne (abbreviated moy on the document). For the chin, when I tried the English word strong, Google gave me the French word fort, obviously not what is written on the document, but Google also provided a list of alternatives, one of which was raide. Used here, it seems to mean strong, sharp, or steep.

Using that method for the hair and eyebrows, I didn't come up with anything appropriate, so I got out my French-English dictionary and looked up my best guess about what the handwriting appeared to be, chat. Working through the list of French words that begin with chat-, I found the word chatain, for which the English translation was (chestnut-) brown; brown-haired (pers).  Below is the document as it stands now:

Please leave a comment if you are able to correct or improve my translation.

Note: I belong to a Facebook group called Genealogy Translations. Member Mike Hilton explained this to me: Sr. is the abbreviation for Sieur, which is basically the equivalent of "Sir" and which is often left untranslated. Good to know! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Family Entertainments of the Mid-1900s

Before TV made entertainment a passive thing, people used to sing and play musical instruments. My grandmother Evelyn Hauer Kerr, I'm told, was quite the piano player when friends gathered at her home in Detroit.

On my dad's side, my grandparents John and Gertie Krentz also had a piano in the living room at their farm in North Dakota. Although this photo is a little blurry, I can make out sheet music for Mockin' Bird Hill and something by Hank Snow.

I asked my cousin Mary, who grew up near my grandparents, what she remembered about that piano. "I used to play around on that piano on a Sunday afternoon," she said.  "I remember they had How Much is That Doggie in the Window? and The Tennessee Waltz."

Then she went on to tell me, "They had an old record player.  One of the songs on that was about a box that people opened and then tried to throw away.  You never learned what was in the box, that I remember.  Can't remember the name of it, but would sure recognize it if I heard it or heard the name.  Maybe it was called The Thing.  I used to play it over and over.  Probably drove everybody nuts as it was right inside the double doorway of the dining area."

Being the first-born grandchild, she probably got away with quite a bit. I think so anyway, because as it turns out, she's right about the title of the song, and I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide how many playings it would take to drive the whole family right over the edge into the abyss!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ask your mother!

Today I did a Google search to find out what kinds of birds besides robins lay blue eggs. I clicked on Images in hopes of quickly finding a comparison chart. For whatever inexplicable net-surfer reason, I then clicked on a charming little picture of a nest with three blue eggs in it, and ... voilĂ ! ... serendipity happened! As family historians, we've all seen some great lists of questions to ask our relatives about the past. This list has some fresh questions that might result in some really interesting answers from your closest relative:
10 Questions to Ask Your Mother Now


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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