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), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Concert for Amy

Amy Cohen, who writes Brotmanblog: A Family Journey, recently wrote a post entitled My Grandfather's Notebook: More than Names, Dates, and Addresses. Having posted a few of my grandmother's notebooks here at Before My Time, I found her post particularly interesting. One page that caught my attention was a list of musical pieces which seemingly were particular favorites of her grandfather.

I staged a few YouTube concerts here awhile back based on some newspaper articles I'd researched. The concerts were great fun to do and added considerable interest to my research, so I've decided to surprise Amy with a concert of her grandfather's favorites.

First up is a piece called Dolly's Dream, by Berliner Theodore Oesten. It appears to be a teaching piece.

Second on the list is Brahms' Hungarian Dance. Amy's grandfather didn't indicate which one he meant. I think we'll go with No. 5 here, which is easily recognized even if you're not a classical music buff:

German composer Heinrich Lichner is best known for his teaching pieces. His Opus 169, Die vier Jahreszeiten (The Four Seasons) for violin and piano may have been such. Third on his list, Amy's grandfather listed Winter, which was Op. 169, No. 4. I couldn't find a recording of that, but we'll enjoy some other Lichner compositions shortly.

Fourth, we have Spanish Dance by F. Williams, but... we actually don't have it. There are many pieces called Spanish Dance, but I was unable to locate any by a composer named F. Williams. Since we have no conclusive results on this tune, we'll move along.

The next title appears to be La Ninita, by W. Jhonson. I'm guessing this one might have been a Spanish-influenced tune also, maybe actually entitled La Niñita. I couldn't find out anything about this one either, even if I spelled Jhonson the other way!

I promised you some Heinrich Lichner, and here it is. It's called Gypsy Dance. You won't be sleeping through this one:

Little Minuet in G by Beethoven is seventh on the list:

Edvard Grieg's Elfin Dance is next:

Our ninth piece is called At Home, another by Heinrich Lichner:

German composer Franz Behr wrote this one, called Gypsy Camp:

Belgian composer Henri Van Gael (1860-1918) is best known for Voice of the Heart, our eleventh selection:

The Lazy Man by Angela Diller, like others on this list, appears to be a student piece. I'm sorry I was unable to find a recording of this song. I'm wondering, at this point, whether Amy's grandfather might have been either a student or a teacher of music.

I couldn't find a recording of Happy Hours by Hans Engelmann, another German composer, but I did find his Frolic of the Fairies, and I suppose they were happy enough!

The French composer Georges Bizet gave us The Pearl Fishers, so we'll end our concert operatically!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Obituary: Louise Hinz Buss

The Sheldon Progress - Thursday, April 21, 1932:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Obituary: Joseph H. Hauer

From Detroiter Abend-Post ~ 7 June 1893 ~ page 5, column 5, item 2:

   Allen Verwandten, Freunden und Bekannten hiermit
die traurige Nachricht, dass gestern Nachmittag um 1/4 nach
4 Uhr mein geliebter Gatte
                                 Jos. H. Hauer
im Alter von 54 Jahren nach siebenmonatlichen schweren
Leiden sanst entichlafen ist.
   Das Leichenbegängnitz findet statt am Samstag, den 10.
Juni, Morgens um ½8 Uhr, vom Trauerhause aus,
No. 341 Bradystrasse und um 9 Uhr von der Herz Jesu
   Um stille Theilnahme bitten
                Die trauernden Hinterbliebenen
                                     Therese Hauer, geb. Wolfslayer, Gattin,
                                                        nebst Verwandten
Detroit, den 7. Juni 1893.


    All relatives, friends and acquaintances herewith 

the sad news that yesterday afternoon at quarter after 
4 o'clock my beloved husband  
                                Jos. H. Hauer  
at the age of 54 years, after seven months of severe 
suffering, is sleeping peacefully.
    The funeral rites take place on Saturday, the 10th of

June in the morning at half eight o'clock (7:30), from the house of mourning, 
No. 341 Brady Street and at 9 o'clock from the Sacred Heart Church.
Please mourn with us.
The mourners
Therese Hauer, born Wolfslayer, his wife,
together with relatives

Monday, March 30, 2015

1924: Classical Music on the Montana Frontier

Classically trained in Vienna, violinist / music teacher Gustave Foret attempted to start a music club in Baker, Montana, in 1924. It was announced in The Fallon County Times on January 10th:

But on January 31st, this unfortunate announcement was made:

Nevertheless, as Gustave stated, the show must go on. The program for an upcoming classical concert featuring Baker's own talent was published in The Fallon County Times on February 14, 1924:

Reader, have you met me? I'm not a big fan of classical music. In college, I met my Humanities requirement with a 3-credit class called History of Rock & Roll. In my 40s, I once dumped a well-educated, well-employed professional guy I was dating because he said anyone who liked rock & roll was immature. Yeah? So be it, then! I rock on! Never too old to rock & roll!

But, sadly for the folks who dwelt in the 1920s, I hear there was some roaring, but there was no rockin' and rollin' goin' on yet. And in any case, Gustave Foret would not have had R&R in his musical kit-bag, coming as he did from the Conservatory of Vienna. So, classical it is, I guess, if opera is considered classical. Is it? Well, whatever. We're droppin' some culture on you this evening!

After an unidentified selection by the Forde Orchestra, the Baker School Girls were first up with Street Boys Chorus from the opera Carmen. I hope they had as much fun with it as this group obviously did:

I suspect Gustave of being more staid, though. If he was, the Baker performance probably resembled this one, where there was really only one girl having fun with it. See if you can spot her:

Next we have the Duett of Micaela and Don Jose from Act I of Carmen. If you'd like to know the backstory, click through to this synopsis of Carmen, and if you're still not sure about that Don Jose guy, Dr. Opera will tell you a thing or two about his dubious charms. In any case, be reminded we're in Baker at a concert, not a fully-staged opera, and our dear Mel Schneider is merely singing the part.

Would there be any point in coming to a concert staged by a violin virtuoso if he wasn't going to fiddle us a tune? Mr. Foret selected a piece originally written especially for the violin, Charles de Beriot's Scene de Ballet. Reader, this is as close as we'll ever get to that Baker concert, because surely Gustave Foret's performance, accompanied by Lucille Wolters on the piano, was just like this one:

Are we having fun yet? Well, this party is just beginning. With apologies to Mrs. Leon LaCross--I'm pretty sure the Lake Theatre didn't have a fake ficus--I chose this from several possible versions of My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice in the interest of keeping in the small-theatre-on-the-frontier spirit. And because it was the most fun you can have with Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix.

Our choices for a live performance of Krakovienne Fantastique were considerably more limited, i.e., to this one, which is very nicely performed in any case.

I couldn't find a live performance of James Carroll Bartlett's A Dream, but I had two good recorded choices. The first, made in 1920 by heartthrob Enrico Caruso, sounds pretty good despite his supposedly having a head cold at the time, and if nothing else, is in keeping timewise with the era of our concert tonight.

As an alternative, this 1950 recording by Jan Peerce has much better sound, and besides, what a charming sheet music cover to gaze at:

Musetta's Waltz from La Boheme, it turns out, is much more fun with the lyrics translated! And don't be distracted by the gorgeous dress! After all, Mrs. Jesse Hayes was probably wearing something a little more frontiersy... or maybe not!

I don't know why we wouldn't end on that happy, humble note, but Mrs. LaCross is up again with  Habanera from Carmen, and since Puccini has increased my previously low interest in opera with something I can sink my teeth into (Thank you, translator!), I'm going to give Bizet another chance... or two, as it happens, since I'm not sure how Mrs. LaCross would have envisioned playing this. Reader, have you ever had Habanero Pepper Jelly? So hot! So sweet! So hot! But I digress. On the one hand, concertwise, we have:

I must admit, I have a little case of the giggles going, although I am now given to understand that Carmen is apparently not a comedy. Misogynist meets sociopath, according to Dr. Opera, and it doesn't end well. But again I digress. We are considering how Mrs. Leon LaCross might have imagined herself in the role of the sociopath... um, I mean Carmen. Do you suppose we nailed it the first time or shall we consider our on-the-other-hand version? Let me just hasten to say that any possible nipple-sightings are not my fault! Cleavage lovers, this one's for you!

Well, either way, I'm sure Mrs. LaCross brought the house down, and whatever the Forde Orchestra played after that was, without a doubt, anticlimactic!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

April 28, 1922: Treble Clef Concert

I expect to finish my current book project, News: A Krentz & Buss Family Album, within the next few days. The book is a collection of news stories about family members from the old weeklies of three places where my dad's side of the family had a strong presence in the early decades of the 1900s. I've been proofreading, a laborious chore which requires me to stop getting sucked into the news stories and keep my eye on spelling and punctuation while still paying enough attention to the content to know whether words have been accidentally omitted or in some other way messed up enough to reduce a sentence to gibberish. Maintaining that kind of focus is particularly difficult in the third section of the book because stories from The Fallon County Times were elaborately detailed and thus very entertaining and/or informative. I keep pausing to pat myself on the back for how great this book has turned out, and to wish I could step back in time to thank Karl Pleissner, then owner of The Fallon County Times, and its editor, Frank J. Mains, for the richness of the micro-history they preserved.

I really enjoyed researching the music performed at some meetings and events of the Baker Woman's Club--hence my last few posts--and today I'm going to do my best to stage a whole concert, the program of which appeared in the newspaper and is reproduced on this page in the News book:

In some cases, YouTube has several versions of a song. My intention is to select a version that seems like it might be the best representation of a 1922 performance.

The first selection is actually Where (not When) My Caravan Has Rested. I chose Rosa Ponselle's recording because the Treble Clef choir consisted of female voices, and all other recordings on YouTube were male performances. According to Wikipedia, Rosa Ponselle was an American operatic soprano with a large, opulent voice. She sang mainly at the New York Metropolitan Opera and is generally considered by music critics to have been one of the greatest sopranos of the past 100 years.

Modern-day listeners might prefer this later 1940s version by the silky-voiced Bing Crosby and Jascha Heifetz. I admit the sound is better and the lyrics much clearer:

There was only one version of De Coppah Moon available, but it's quite nice. The crickets are from 2009, but the original recording of the song was from 1922, and thus very timely:

Tally Ho!, described as a hunting song, is listed in the program with the name Petrie, and I was unable to learn anything about anyone named Petrie. It appears the song was actually written by Italian opera composer Franco Leoni. It's possible there was a different song of the same name written by someone named Petrie, or perhaps this song was recorded or arranged by someone named Petrie. In any case, we're going to enjoy this version, and because you'll once again have a hard time understanding the words, the lyrics follow. Happily, our songster abets the fox!

And the lyrics:

I was unable to learn anything at all about I'd Like to Go Down South except that, at some point, it seems to have been recorded by the Vaughan Quartet, according to Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942 by Tony Russell and Bob Pinson (Oxford University Press, 2004).

In the spirit of our concert, which was held in the Congregational Church, I like this performance of A Spirit Flower:

Wikipedia has these interesting remarks about Campbell-Tipton:
Louis Campbell-Tipton (1877–1921) was an American composer; a native of Chicago, Illinois, he was resident in Paris from 1901. He felt that the prospects for performance of large-scale American works in the United States were bleak, and claimed that he had never wished to sacrifice the energy needed to complete a large work. Even so, at his death a number of pieces for orchestra were found among his manuscripts, as were two operas. During his life he was known mainly for his chamber music; he also taught theory for a time in Chicago. One of his songs, "A Spirit Flower", was recorded by the Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling.
I was unable to find either sheet music or a recording of Indian Mountain Song by Charles Wakefield Cadman. Wikipedia has this, in part, to say about him:
     In 1908 Cadman was appointed the music editor and critic of the Pittsburgh Dispatch. He was greatly influenced by American Indian music and went to Nebraska to make cylinder recordings of tribal melodies for the Smithsonian Institution. He lived with the Omaha and Winnebago tribes on their reservations, learning to play their instruments. He used elements of traditional music in the form of his compositions of 19th-century romantic music.
     Publishing several articles on American Indian music, Cadman was regarded as one of the foremost experts on the subject. He toured both the States and Europe giving his then-celebrated "Indian Talk". But his involvement with the so-called Indianist movement in American music contributed to some critics failing to judge his works on their own merits.
You'll find other music by Cadman on YouTube if you're interested. Meanwhile, let's move on.

Love's Benediction seems to be a closely guarded secret as far as the interwebs are concerned. I can tell you that it was an old Irish tune, the sheet music for which was published in 1916 by J. Fischer and Brother of New York. Transcription of the tune was by James P. Dunn, with lyrics by Philip Edwards. The arrangement was by Alfred J. Silver. If you simply must have it, you can snag the single used copy that's for sale at for $14 plus $4.50 shipping. There seems to be no performance of it on YouTube.

Next up in our concert are Messrs. Johnson and Forde, whose first selection, according to the program, is Duet from Norma. I was unable to find a performance by two gentlemen and, as I'm neither an expert on Bellini nor a fan of opera, I'm not going to make an idiot of myself by guessing whether any of the Norma duets on YouTube would be appropriate for our purposes.

Their second selection, Paul de Ville's Swiss Boy, doesn't seem to be on YouTube at all, although I did find a music book by Paul de Ville online. It's an instruction book about how to play the concertina, and it includes this Swiss Boy sheet music which I hereby present in its entirety:

Mrs. Leon LaCross sang at many functions in Baker. I'm sure her performance was every bit as charming as this one, even though she was playing to a much smaller house!

The lyrics for Il Bacio appear here in both Italian and English.

From Musical America, September 16, 1916, page 16:
     Four melodious songs, written with facility and naturalness, are Ralph Cox's Down in Derry, The End of Day, Peggy, and If You Knew. Mr. Cox is one of those composers who interest themselves in the song, built of a melody with a pure accompaniment for the piano. He does not delve into the intricacies of modern art-song.
     If You Knew, dedicated to Evan Williams, is a straightforward melody over an arpegiated accompaniment in sixteenth notes, 4/4 time; Down in Derry, a successful essay in the old English manner; Peggy, a rollicking song in the Irish style, dedicated to Reinald Werrenrath, and The End of Day, a sustained effort in the ballad style. These are songs that singers will find useful and effective and they will also prove worth while in teaching, as they are not difficult.
I'm sorry I couldn't find a version of Down in Derry for us to hear--I think I would have liked it.

Our concert ends with the Treble Clef choir singing Annie Laurie. I couldn't find a version sung by a women's choir. However, I found this incredibly lovely and irresistible performance by Jean Redpath from the April 26, 1986 broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. It's a perfect finale.


Friday, March 27, 2015

11 January 1923: Woman's Club Gives Party

From The Fallon County Times, page 1:

     The Baker Woman's Club gave the annual entertainment of husbands last Tuesday evening at a combined card and dancing party at the Hubbard's Hall. About one hundred people were present and twenty tables of Bridge and Five Hundred were played. Mesdames Yokley and McArthur superintended the card playing. High score prizes for bridge were awarded to Mrs. Comstock and H. S. Proctor, low score prizes were awarded to Mrs. Al Hansen and Chas. LaCross. High score prizes for 500 were awarded to Mrs. L. Wilson and Ped Akers, low score prizes were awarded to Mrs. Lee Biffle and O. Christopher. After the prizes were awarded a lunch of appetizing chicken sandwiches, delicious rocks, pickles and coffee was served by the hostesses, Mesdames Kelling, Neveux, Hough, Ravey, Car  Hanson and Ladwig. Mr. Hough held the seat of honor at a table with the three best looking young ladies. It must be said, however, he had to hold the place with the aid of two wicked looking knives. None but the brave deserve the fair.
     After lunch Mrs. Leon LaCross delighted every one with the solo "The Sunshine of Your Smile." She was repeatedly encored until she responded with the refrain.
     Dancing followed until 1:30, Ped Akers furnished the music. Everyone had a real good time and the husbands are satisfied to let the Woman's Club go on for another year.


     The Sunshine of Your Smile was recorded by John McCormack in 1916, and it sounded just like this:

     As sung by Mrs. Leon LaCross at the Baker Woman's Club party, I imagine it sounded a lot more like this version by June Bronhill:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Another Meeting of the Woman's Club

My great aunt Emma McArthur was a participant in the program at the Baker Woman's Club meeting on March 29, 1924. The program was reportedly "much enjoyed by all" and was well detailed in the weekly paper so, dear reader, step into my time machine and let us get in on some of that Woman's Club action.

Dateline: Baker, Montana — 3 April 1924
The Fallon County Times, p. 8:

I believe "Tarantelle Mignon" was actually this very lovely piece by French composer Paul Taffanel, Grande Fantaisie sur Mignon, and I do hope the ladies of Baker enjoyed a performance much like this one: 

Maybe Emma McArthur's talk on Modern Kitchen Conveniences included a few words about the Hoosier:

Or the table stove which, sitting on that tablecloth, looks to me like an accident fixin' to happen:

Betty Lentz performed a piece by Beethoven. Rather than "Fuerelife" as stated in the news article, I'm sure it was Fur Elise. If I've found the correct Betty Lentz in the 1920 census of Baker, Montana, she was born about 1912, so she would have been three years older than this young pianist:

I was unable to find anything at all about The Pigmies Parade, not even the first name of composer Preston, but it was also performed at a student recital in Indianapolis in the fall of 1923.

Women's Dress, the subject of Mrs. Blakemore's talk, would probably have been a fun topic in 1924. The ad below was from The Ladies' Home Journal, September 1922 issue:

(But, reader, don't fall for that ad! That is NOT a "PHOTOGRAPH OF HAMILTON CLOTHES ON LIVING FIGURES" as it claims to be! Such blatant baloney casts doubt upon everything I've ever read in The Ladies' Home Journal! Cancel my subscription!)

Musician and composer Dorothy Gaynor Blake published music instruction books for young children. Mary Christopher would have been about nine years old at the time of her performance of In Venice at the Woman's Club meeting. I didn't find In Venice online, but I did find a performance of Blake's Forest Voices by nine-year-old Madeline H. You'll have to use your imagination, but Mary's performance may have gone something like this:

There was nothing at all to be found online about A Perfect Little Lady by Frances Wilson. The search was complicated by the fact that there is a present-day pianist-teacher-writer of the same name. Reader, if you are able to shed any light on A Perfect Little Lady, please do so in the Comments section.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

8 March 1921, Baker, Montana: Judge Dousman Predicts the Past... er, the Future

Dateline: Baker, Montana — 10 March 1921
The Fallon County Times, p. 1, col. 1, below the fold:
     The Baker Woman's Club met Tuesday at 3 P. M., March 8th, Mrs. Marks presiding.
     Plans were reported by committee for serving the dinner for the Farmers' Institute, Monday noon, March 14th, and also for the afternoon's entertainment by the Club.
     After attending to other matters of business the Club enjoyed a good program.
     Mrs. Zook gave interesting current events, especially mentioning the important problems to be met by the new administration at Washington.
     Judge C. J. Dousman then gave an excellent talk on Americanization. He dwelt on the broader aspects of real Americanization, not simply naturalization of aliens.
     One duty of true American citizens is not to shun international obligations such as the promotion of world peace. He predicts that within 50 years, there will be an effective world organization* with power to enforce peace and prevent the depredations of one nation upon another.
     He related some of his experiences in admitting aliens to citizenship which was interesting.
     The club members enjoyed Judge Dousman's talk regardless of politics.
     Miss Beatrice Daugherty then delighted the audience with two well-played piano solos. The first number was "I dreamt that I dwelt in Marble Halls" from Balfe's "Bohemian Girl" and gave opportunity for the hearers to appreciate the delicate touch of the pianist shown, especially in the variations effecting rippling waters. The encore was also pleasing, entitled "Valse Caprice" by Spindler.
     The last number on the program was a fine paper on "Dietics" by Mrs. Ed Carey. Much valuable information was given as to food combinations with an appeal for balanced rations—which would enable one to eat less, thus adding to the feeling of well-being and subtracting from the H. C. of L.
     Good coffee and chicken sandwiches served by Mesdames Ladwig, Neveux, Leo Burns and Miss Scott added to the afternoon's program.

Having transcribed the above for my current book project**, I had a sudden craving for Enya's Marble Halls, so off to YouTube I went. I found instead this very lovely piano version of Balfe's composition--a much better fit for our context.

I'm sorry about Spindler's Valse Caprice. There seems to be neither audio nor video version available online. You'll have to do it yourself. The sheet music is in the public domain and is downloadable at the very good price of $Free from several websites. BYO piano.


*The League of Nations was founded in January 1920, a year before Judge Dousman's talk. WWII happened anyway, so it wasn't as effective as it could have been, after which the United Nations was established in 1945 for the same purpose. The UN doesn't seem to have reached that pinnacle of effectiveness either. Apparently there are always some who just don't want to play nice.


**My current book project, News: A Krentz & Buss Family Album was, for all intents and purposes, done. Just a few clippings about my Montana-homesteading Great-Aunt Emma, I thought, a simple two-page spread ought to do it. One of those clippings, however, reminded me that she was not alone in Montana... there were cousins. And spouses of cousins, and cousins of spouses. Stuff like that. Well, I realize this is a project that could easily go on ad infinitum, but at the moment I'm hoping I can wrap it up in maybe another fifty pages... seventy-five, tops.

You may have noticed, Great-Aunt Emma isn't even mentioned in the clipping above. I know from other clippings, though, that she was a member of the Woman's Club. She would have been at the meeting. Besides, in just a couple of months, Miss Beatrice Daugherty is going to marry the brother of the soon-to-be second wife of Emma's widower cousin George. And George is my first cousin, twice removed. Really, how can I ignore that?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Something in this book could kill you!

Here's a very handy list for genealogists:

Old Names for Illnesses and Causes of Death

A little over a hundred years ago, it occurred to someone that it would be useful to have a good set of standardized terms for these things. Thus a book was produced containing all the various sorts of deadly maladies. The link below will take you to a Google e-book. In the sidebar to the left of the book, there's a "search in this book" box where you can enter the cause of death from a death certificate. You'll see where that particular cause of death fits within the classification system. Fun with nosology!

Manual of the International List of Causes of Death: Based on the Second Decennial Revision by the International Commission, Paris, July 1 to 3, 1909 (Google eBook)
  • Author:     Cressy Livingston Wilbur; United States. Bureau of the Census.; International Commission for the Decennial Revision of Nosological Nomenclature.
  • Publisher:     Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1913.
Another old book I happened upon was interesting for its instructions to doctors on how to fill out birth and death certificates. It also has nosology, 1939 style.

Physicians' Handbook on Birth and Death Registration Containing International List of Causes of Death (Google eBook)
  • United States. Bureau of the Census
  • U.S. Government Printing Office, 1939

Monday, February 16, 2015

What if...?

When I bought The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday by Daniel Bellware and Richard Gardiner, I expected nothing more than to learn where our Memorial Day holiday came from and maybe impress friends and family with my ability to slip some fresh historical facts into my line of party chatter. Okay, I'm kidding about the party chatter. I'm lousy at party chatter and I avoid parties like the plague.

I did, however, learn more than I would have thought possible about the origins of our Memorial Day holiday. It was only made an official U. S. holiday in 1971, for example, although its history goes back more than a hundred years from that point. In fact, as the 150th anniversary of our Memorial Day custom approaches, it's appropriate that the controversy about its origins be resolved. You didn't know there was a controversy? Neither did I! But I know quite a bit about it now!

To my surprise, though, that's not all I got from this book. For example, I was startled to discover that our elected representatives in Washington can be totally clueless about a subject but still pass legislation about it. Okay, maybe "startled" was too strong a word. Should I have said "reassured in my suspicions"? Either way, I'd barely begun reading the Introduction when I was inspired to take up cartooning:

No, dear reader, I'm sure that's not how our Independence Day holiday came to be... or was it? But as for Memorial Day... well, if I said any more, I'd have to issue a spoiler alert.

Also, in the reading of this book, it occurred to me that I'd never really thought about the emotional climate of this country following the end of the Civil War, and what individual people in the north and the south did with their feelings about the other side. With several Civil War era veterans in my family tree, I've looked at a few pension files and regimental histories, so I have a pretty good idea of where my people served and the cost they paid in physical suffering. But I'm surprised it hadn't occurred to me to wonder more about the social aftermath. I found some interesting insights in this text.

Written in scholarly tone, the detailed explication of extensive research in contemporaneous source materials builds an excellent case for the true story behind our Memorial Day holiday. My most important takeway, as an amateur family historian, is the way this study will inform and inspire my own research in the future.

Besides... some myths debunked, some fibbers called out, a little family rivalry, a nose or two out of joint... what's not to like?

But what if...

This book brought up one more line of thought for me, one which is not related to the subject itself but to the research. Much of the evidence used to prove the true origin of the Memorial Day holiday came from newspapers published all over the country at the time the events unfolded. And as I saw how this gathered evidence was used to show what really happened and when, I began to wonder... what if something happened now, in the present, and a hundred years from now someone needed to find contemporaneous news reports to prove the true course of events. Will a paper trail exist? Is there a future for print newspapers? Pew Research Center's State of the News Media 2013 raises some disturbing questions.

Many of my readers are genealogy bloggers themselves; others are obviously computer-savvy and used to getting information from online sources. It's easy for any of us to say that news via the computer is quicker to obtain, easy to find via search engines, and easily bookmarked or linked-to for future reference. But who among us has not clicked a link only to find it's broken? In my experience, news stories in particular are prone to disappearing in short order, as stories evolve and are replaced or updated, or as other news becomes more click-worthy. I've learned the hard way to copy and paste any online story I may want to return to in the future, rather than simply bookmarking it.

Even so, what about my digital copy? There is then the problem of how to store it so it's obtainable in the future. Like my 8-track tapes, the email I saved from my Mac Classic to some floppy disks is no longer accessible to me. I failed to archive the Mac along with the floppies. I use a PC now, and it doesn't even have a floppy drive. Changing technology will doubtless render other digital files useless to me in the future. "Historians will be facing a black hole when it comes to studying the 20th and 21st centuries because much of our digital history is stored on technology that no longer have devices to read them, experts claim," wrote Claire Connelly of News Corp Australia Network in 2012.

Last week the BBC ran an article entitled Google's Vint Cerf warns of 'digital Dark Age' about this same concern. Besides changes in hardware, there are changes in software as well which can also render data unreadable. The solution to this problem is complex, but at least there are people working on it. Still, as a family historian with a quarter-century of computer experience behind me, I assure you I will not make the mistake of discarding my paper files after scanning them!

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I was not paid to write this review, nor to write any other review appearing at Before My Time.

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Cartoon art from ClipArt ETC

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Beginning with a Bang! My 2015 Genealogy Reading List

I'm the kind of person who can spend whole days sitting at the computer doing research (more or less!) of a genealogical or family history nature. And although my interest began more than a quarter of a century ago, I've never run out of things to look up. I'm pretty sure I never will. But sometimes I just feel the need to step away from the computer and stretch out on the couch for awhile, so I'm always on the lookout for some good reading material with a genealogical theme. The recently-released Seeking John Campbell: Finding pioneers and patriots in the pampas by John Daffurn was a great choice in that vein.

John Daffurn began researching his family history many years ago and discovered, as many of us do, that the really interesting stuff is somewhere beyond the names and dates that fill the blanks on your ancestor chart. And when you get to that point, you may find the research process so enjoyable and so stimulating that it ceases to be all about you and your chart. You realize that you've learned some skills that are fun to use, and one day--reader, has this happened to you?--you begin to research someone who's not even related to you.

Daffurn did this when he found Britain's Bona Vacantia list, a list of deceased persons whose estates had gone unclaimed. Knowing he'd acquired some useful research skills, he decided to try his hand at heir-hunting. He rather randomly selected a name from the list--that of a woman who had died more than a decade before--and set out to discover her family connections and perhaps locate someone who was entitled to inherit her estate.

An illegitimate child, Maria Isabel Pemberton Greig was, Daffurn learned, the daughter of one John Campbell. One, if you think about it, among many! But eventually, Daffurn was able to narrow the field down to three John Campbells. From that point, he researched all three of them in great detail and, reader, from there springs Seeking John Campbell, a fascinating nonfiction page-turner.

I did not expect to learn so much about world history, I did not expect to bump into names I would recognize, and I did not expect to find a John Campbell injured in battle on the west coast of Italy in World War II, where he might have ended up in a hospital bed next to my dad. The world, I learned from this book, is much smaller than I had ever imagined.

I'm sure John Daffurn could not have foreseen the rich and colorful story that would come to him in this project. Maria Isabel Pemberton Greig was just a name on a list--a name with a date of death. There was so much more to be found! Seeking John Campbell is a spectacular example of what might lie beyond the names and dates, and Daffurn's story is an inspiration for researchers.

I really enjoyed this book! Can you tell?


And in case you are wondering, no, I am not being paid to write this review, nor to write any other review appearing at Before My Time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Hey, don't blame me! They're not my cousins!

At least I haven't proven yet that they're my cousins... although it looks like they might be...

I'm talking about George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm, skeletons that were rattling in The Guardian's closet awhile back. Apparently the speed of sound is a little slow, bouncing across the briny sea and all, but I heard the rattling yesterday.

Honestly, is there anything more intriguing than a multifaceted international family scandal? As a family historian, I was lured in, but what really hooked me was Miranda Carter's apparent enjoyment in telling tales on those royal badboys. For someone who hates to read as much as I do, you'd think The Guardian's eighteen paragraphs would have been more than enough, but as it happens, all that did was whet my appetite. Off I went to Amazon, where I nailed a used copy of George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter for a penny plus postage. Looks like I'll be booking some couch time in a week or so.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Handy Tools for German Research

German script alphabet chart ~ printable ~ This one is my favorite, showing Fractur (that cryptic-looking German typeface) and three different handwriting styles. 

Larry O. Jensen's A Genealogical Handbook of German Research ~ All kinds of useful foundation information. For example, help with names and naming practices ~ see pages 19-21 and 39-43.

German genealogical word list from FamilySearch

German illness word list

Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms ~ useful not only for German but also English terms ~ To access the German lists, just type "german" into the search box. Besides definitions, there are examples of the handwritten words so you can see what they look like.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Did you hear about Hank's car?

I've been working on a topical index for my current book project. Car stuff was newsworthy enough to make the local stringer's gossip column a century ago, and more than a dozen news bits in News: A Krentz & Buss Family Album are listed under the CARS topic. I got a little curious about this one from 1929:

"Hank Buss was at the county capital last Thursday having some garage work done on his Blitzen Benz."

What the heck is a Blitzen Benz?, I wondered, so of course I Googled it, thinking a picture might be a helpful addition to the book. After all, I'm from the Motor City, and if that was a car, it was news to me and maybe also to anyone else who might read the book.

I did find some pictures--kind of a funny-looking car it was, and probably not the most practical vehicle for a small farm town in North Dakota. I clicked on the Blitzen Benz Wikipedia article about it, which was unusually short. There were only six of them made, it said, and one of the references cited below the article called it "the fastest car in the world."

Really? And Hank Buss had one in rural North Dakota? Was this Hank guy rich and eccentric? He was my second cousin, twice removed... how come I'd never heard of him? More information, please!

Next I found a video on YouTube--eight minutes long, it was--in which it took two guys that entire length of time to get their Blitzen Benz started. It was a long process involving a lot of cranking and choking. For a minute there, I imagined Cousin Hank going out to crank up the Benz on some January North Dakota morning, Mrs. Cousin Hank coming with him in her chenille bathrobe and rubber boots because it takes two to get it going, and in my mind, she wasn't at all happy with the Blitzen Benz.

Well, dear reader, I am nothing if not a quick study, and I am so, so proud to say it only took me two or three more Google-clicks to get the joke! This interesting history of the Blitzen Benz brought me up to speed, so to speak, with the Sheldon Progress readers of 1929, and also jiggled Cousin Hank back into his more appropriate socio-economic niche. And it was good to imagine Mrs. Cousin Hank* staying in bed for another forty winks instead of cranking and choking in the sub-zero prairie windchill.

As for me, I was glad to find a shorter and more informative video to bring you up to speed in case anyone ever asks you about the Blitzen Benz.

*In fact, I don't think there was a Mrs. Cousin Hank until 1939, although that chenille bathrobe was pretty vivid in my mind.

Update: I've just reread the Blitzen Benz history with a little more attention to the fine points. It seems there actually were two of the six cars which, at some point, escaped the ongoing surveillance of the historians and disappeared into the public void (the part with money to burn) during the 1910s. That being the case, I must admit to the possibility that one of them, by 1929, could certainly have been lying low in a barn in Venlo, North Dakota, escaping the notice of the big boys, but not the watchful eye of the local Progress stringer. Still, at 10 gallons/mile, Cousin Hank would have had to humongify his tank to get around Ransom County. You suppose that's what he went to the garage for?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Coffee What?

No doubt you've heard of a coffee klatsch. It's a social gathering wherein the guests partake of coffee and gossip... um, I mean, you know, conversation. The term comes from the German Kaffeeklatsch: Kaffee--yes, you're right, that part means coffee--see? you know some German already--plus Klatsch, which means slap, smack, pop, crack of a whip, or gossip. (Oh, did you think gossip was harmless?) Klatsch can also be used to refer to the person who gossips: a fly-flap or babbler.

See, I did not make that up! It came directly from The Classic Series German-English Dictionary published in 1926 by Follett Publishing Company of Chicago. I don't remember how I came by this dictionary. The name written inside the front cover means nothing to me, so I suppose I bought it at a garage sale. It's in rather worn condition, but of the three or four German-English dictionaries I own, I've found it the most useful by far.

I've been working on a book project for several weeks, and in the course of creating an index, I happened again upon another interesting term which, I've always thought, meant essentially the same thing as coffee klatsch. The term Coffee Krentzgen was used in a couple of short news clips from The Sheldon Progress in 1908. I find the term particularly interesting because one of my family surnames is Krentz, and I've wondered if I might have some sort of ancestral connection to this odd term.

A Google search for Coffee Krentzgen turned up nothing but my previous blog post of the 1908 news clips, and neither Bing's nor Google's translation tools had any translation for Krentzgen. But as I started to look for it in my German-English dictionary, I stumbled rather accidentally upon the meaning of the word. It seems Krentzgen may have been a phonetic spelling by a news stringer who didn't know the German word Kränzchen , for which one of the definitions is small circle, society, or club. Essentially, then, the Coffee Kränzchen is about the same thing as the coffee klatsch... maybe with a little less gossip... or maybe not!

Either way, this dictionary is one of my favorite books. But now I can't help wondering whether somebody will give me some Krapf for this post.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Anemoia: Nostalgia For A Time You’ve Never Known

I am a huge fan of John Koenig, who invents words for things there should be words for. My genealogically-inclined friends are sure to recognize the need for this one:

On his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows Facebook page, John comments on the roots of his words. This one, for example, he explains thus:
ETYMOLOGY: From Greek anemos, "wind" + noos "mind." It's a psychological corollary to anemosis, which is a condition in the wood of some trees in which the wood is warped and the rings are separated by the action of high winds upon the trunk. In anemoia, the sheer force of time warps something in your mind, until you find yourself beginning to bend backward, leaning into the wind.
 His readers often leave interesting comments as well.

Blog Archive


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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