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.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Erysipelas, and Some Other Useful Knowledge

According to Joseph Hauer's Civil War pension file, he suffered from erysipelas. I found this explanation of the malady, written in 1856:
Subsect. 3.—Erysipelas.
7147. This is also a febrile disease; but one of its essential characters is an inflammation of the skin. The skin is red, and this redness rapidly spreads; it is accompanied with swelling, of a variable amount, often very considerable. When it attacks the face, the appearance of the patient is totally altered by the swelling; all the features are confused, the eyes are concealed, the expression distorted; the person would not be recognised by his nearest friends. With all this there is high fever, with quick, full pulse, thirst, vomiting, violent shivering, constipation, and, at a later stage, and in certain forms of the complaint, sinking and exhaustion. The chief domestic treatment is to obey implicitly the medical directions, particularly as to the constant application of warm or cold lotions, as may be recommended. The rags with which such lotions are applied must be constantly wetted; if they are suffered every now and then to become dry, they not only lose their effect, but become positively hurtful. If erysipelas attack the head and face, it is a dangerous disease. Any approach to delirium or stupor, any anxiety as evidenced in the expressions, or any giddiness or faintness, should be looked out for, and should be instantly communicated to the medical man, as inflammation of certain parts within the scull may come on, and be wiih difficulty restrained. One of the best topical applications in erysipelas is an acidulated solution of nitrate of silver, as employed by Dr. A. T. Thomson. The solution is made with a drachm of nitrate of silver, ten drops of nitric acid, and an ounce of distilled water. This is pencilled over the inflamed parts, extending to a little beyond them, and leaving it to dry. It blackens the skin at the time, but the cuticle exfoliates and leaves the surface health in a few days.
Readers who are interested in the daily aspects of our mid-1800s ancestors might enjoy taking a look at The American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge, or Book of 7223 Receipts and Facts: A Whole Library of Subjects Useful to Every Individual. The Table of Contents alone is ten pages and worth browsing to see what you might find useful.


Webster, Thomas, William Parkes, and David Meredith Reese. The American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge, or Book of 7223 Receipts and Facts: A Whole Library of Subjects Useful to Every Individual. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856.

Henry Joseph Hauer: Civil War Era Pension File

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Detroit's Tribulations, 1945-Style

My earliest Detroit ancestors, great-great-great grandparents Johann and Maria Wolfschlager and their family, arrived at the Port of New York on August 16, 1845. Consequently, they were not listed in James H. Wellings' 1845 Directory of the City of Detroit.  Nevertheless, the front matter in this directory--Wellings says it was only the second ever published--provides an interesting contemporary picture of the city they would soon arrive in.

My tenth grade history teacher, Mr. Oglesby, posted a Santayana quotation on our classroom door: "Those who learn nothing from history are doomed to repeat it." And while I must admit I really didn't learn a whole lot of history, Santayana's piece of advice (along with the Oglesby concept of a double entendre) has certainly stuck with me though the years. It came to mind as I read Wellings' Preface, in which he also shared a quotation: "They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare." Apparently Detroit was not without its share of troubles even in the early days.

Really, it's too bad Kwame Kilpatrick didn't have Mr. Oglesby for history class.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mapping Detroit Ancestors

I spent yesterday afternoon mapping my Detroit ancestors. This was my process:
  1. I first created a legend for the map. I determined which surnames I wanted to map and chose a color for each one. Under each surname, I listed the addresses chronologically. I used a city directory street guide to determine which cross-streets an address was between.
  2. Working from the legend, I marked each address on the map with a dot. For this job, I thought it would be pretty easy to use a period from large heavy font (I chose Bauhaus 93) at the 72-point size. I changed the color of the font as needed to match the dots to the surnames on my legend. (If I had put each color, i.e. each surname, on a separate layer, I could later drop out unnecessary dots if I want to feature, say, only the Hauer addresses, by making a layer temporarily invisible. I forgot to do it that way, though, so all my dots are on the same layer, darn it.)
  3. I saved the map as a Paint Shop Pro file, thus maintaining the ability to make adjustments to the map later if I so desire. I also saved a separate copy as a JPG file. Below is a detail from the map, along with a quick-&-dirty screen shot of the legend. It's a work in progress!

My map may not be perfect. I encountered a few problems. For one, in addition to the change in street numbering which took effect 1 Jan 1921, Detroit had some earlier changes also, not only to address numbers but in some cases even the street name was changed. I used an 1898 map which I pieced together from the 1898 city directory online. There were changes to the map over the years which, of course, are not reflected on the map. For example, when I marked the location of George Corneilson's ice cream parlor on Jefferson near Lycaste, I had to estimate its placement because Lycaste did not exist on the 1898 map. And I need to make some adjustments to my legend. All in good time!

Meanwhile, here's the map I used. It's a fairly large file (7.1MB) and measures 6563 x 5033 pixels. I looked into getting it printed and it would be in the $50-60 price range for a size about 3' x 4'. The printer wasn't sure it would print clearly, nor was he sure the street names would be large enough to read. However, I tried printing a section blown up to about the right size and found that the street names were legible, albeit tiny. My original idea was to tack the enlarged map to a bulletin board and mark all my significant places with little flags, but I couldn't bear the thought of poking holes in a $60 map, so I told the printer I'd reconsider printing after I've marked my significant places right on the map. (I do hope his estimate was for a color print!)

To download the map for your own use, right-click and select View Image, then right-click again and choose Save Image As and navigate to the folder where you want to save it. (No, my ancestors' homes are not marked on this copy!)

 You may also find it helpful to have this explanation of Detroit's house-numbering system:

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Detroit City Directory Research Aid

As a family history researcher with Detroit roots, I'm really happy to have access to the very extensive set of Detroit city directories available at And I'm sorry to add a but, but it's not comprehensive. I've spent way too much time waiting for a directory to load, only to discover the pages I need are missing, and it's happened often enough that I finally decided to make a reference list to post on the bulletin board next to my desk. The list is a single page PDF. You can download it below.

I've already started to add personal time-savers to my list. For example, under the 1920 entry, I've noted "Hauer 727" so I can go straight to that image in the H surname section next time. It also gives me a clue about what image number to try when I start looking for another surname. Further, by comparing the total number of images for the next year's directory, I can estimate what image number to start searching there.

I wish I'd thought of this years ago!


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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