Sunday, July 13, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #24 Adopted "Uncles"

Adopted "Uncles"

Everyone probably has someone they called aunt or uncle who isn't actually a relative. There have been many of them in my life. A few of them were associated with my maternal grandparents.
“Uncle” Harold had an unusual and sad life. Harold’s family had a farm in Western New York State. One day while his father was working in the fields his mother had a mental breakdown. She sliced Harold’s hands, feet and stomach. She then put his younger brother in a trunk and lastly killed herself. Harold’s father saved him but his injuries left him a little slow witted. His brother died before he was found. The father remarried and when another child came along Harold’s stepmother lived up to the wicked stepmother character found in children’s literature. My grandparents were kind to him and when they moved to NJ and then to Florida, Harold followed them. We grandchildren were in awe of him due to his immense size. Unfortunately Harold must have inherited his mother’s mental problem because he spent a number of times in Florida’s mental institution. I never remember him being unkind or anything but gentle.
“Uncle” Jim was another unusual character. He had been in a high wire act in the circus. He had a fall and his legs were pushed up into his pelvis so he was left with an odd walk. My grandparents had met him when they lived in a trailer camp in Florida that had quite a few circus people living there. “Uncle” Jim was down on his luck up in his 80s and my grandparents took him into the family when they bought a nineteenth century Florida house. With very high ceilings the staircase was huge. They were so big that there was a small room under the stairs in the foyer. That was Jim’s room. Whenever I see the movie with Harry Potter in his little room under the stairs of his uncle’s house I think of “Uncle” Jim. Another unusual fact about Jim, he used to put a rolled up pair of socks in his pants in hopes of attracting the ladies.
While we may not be able to pick our relatives we sometimes wish we had some say in who gets to be an adopted relative.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #23 John Grossmick

John Grossmick

John was born on 22 July 1870 in Stockton Twp., Camden Co.,  New Jersey to Frederick and Maria Grossmick.  The 1880 census still lists their residence in Stockton. Gopsill's Philadelphia City Directory showed John and his brother Henry running a wine business in Philadelphia. They reportedly ran a bar on John or Johnson St. in Philadelphia, PA. On 27 Sept 1893 John married Stella M Van Doren in Camden, NJ. In 1900 they lived on Main St. in Cramer Hill, Camden City, Camden Co., NJ. At this time John was a day laborer. They had several children by this time, Lester, Clara, and Florence.  In 1910 he was an oil wagon driver for the Electric Light Oil Co. and they lived at 924 N. 26th St., in Camden. There had been a fire at the oil company on 1 May 1901. John was seriously burned about the head, face and hands and was taken to Cooper Hospital when he tried to stop the progress of the fire. They had moved to 1032 N. 25th St. by 1930. At this time he was a laborer in the ship yard. John died on 15 Mar 1926 in Cooper Hospital, Camden. He was buried in New Camden Cemetery.

Monday, June 16, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #22 Peter Praa, Jr.

Peter Praa, Jr.

My husband’s 9th great grandfather was Peter (Pieter) Praa. He was born in Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands around 1655. He was Christened in the Wallon church in Leiden on 17 March 1658. His parents had immigrated to Holland from France and from there to America in 1659. The family settled in Bushwick (Brooklyn). He was known as Captain Peter Praa since he was in Col. Stephen Courtland’s militia regiment.
Peter owned a large tract of land in Bushwick. He married Maria Hay on 15 May between the years 1682-4 in Flatbush, NY. Maria came from a wealthy family. Her father owned large tracts of land in Bushwick and Manhattan. Peter and Maria led the life of the wealthy and had 7 children. A census in 1738 lists the couple as living in Bushwick with a large tract of land and nine slaves.
He died on 5 Sept 1740 in Bushwick. The following is his will:
In the name of God, Amen. I, PETER PRAA, of Bushwick, in Kings County, "being in pretty good health."
I leave to my wife Maria, the use of all my estate while she remains my widow, "for her better support and maintainance."
I leave to my two grand-sons, Peter Praa Van Zandt and Johanes Van Zandt, my 2 dwelling houses and ground on (???) street, in the north ward of New York.
I leave to my daughter, Elizabeth Meseroll, all that tract of land and meadow which I purchased of Dirck Volkertse, adjoining the land I now live on, upon the west side, and east by the land of John Meseroll, and to run north, as the fence stands, and on the south, east, and west by ditches to the river.
After my wife's decease, then to my children.
I leave to my daughter Annettie, wife of Daniel Bodee, a piece of land and meadow on the east side of Maspeth Kill or creek, commonly called Dominie's Hook (except the little island in the piece, which I will that my old negro Jacob shall have so long as he lives to maintain himself). 
I give to my daughter, Christiana Provoost, the dwelling house and ground she now lives in; Also two houses and ground I now have by lease from Mr. John Harperdinck, for life, and then to her children.
Of the rest of my estate I leave 1/4 to my two grand-sons, 1/4 to my
daughter, Elizabeth Meseroll, 1/4 to my daughter, Anattie Bodee, and 1/4 to Christiana Provoost.
I make my two grand-sons, and John Colier and Isaac Bergen and Johanes
Albertse, executors. 
Dated August 6, 1739. Witnesses, John Vanderspiegel, Abraham Lodge, 
Bartholomew Cornell. Proved, September 5, 1740.

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s
New Jersey, Abstract of Wills, 1670-1817
Family Data Collection – Deaths-
Millennium File -
Public Member Trees -

Sunday, June 15, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #21 Margaret Elizabeth Ditman

Margaret Elizabeth Ditman Wiedrich

My second great grandmother, Margaret Elizabeth Ditman is one of those ancestors that remains something of a mystery. She was born on 11 Dec 1827. One mystery is where. Whether it was France or Prussia or Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany is not clear. More than likely it was not France. Census records show her birthplace as Germany, Prussia and Hessen-Darmstadt. Her parents are unknown. Also unknown is whether she came to America alone or with her parents.
She married Henry Wiedrich, also an immigrant but from Alsace. The date was 21 Sept. 1852. They lived in Elba, Genesee Co., NY until sometime after 1870. The 1880 census has them living in Pembroke, NY as does the 1900 census. At the time of her death on 11 Jun 1907 she was living in Indian Falls, Genesee Co., NY which was probably the home of her daughter. She was buried in the Maple Lawn Cemetery, Elba, Genesee Co., NY.

The only other facts known are that she had a connection to the Methodist-Episcopal Church. Also according the census she was not able to read or write English but could speak it. Whether or not she could read or write her native language is not known. She may have been called Elizabets. Such a few small things are known about her to us today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #20 John Wiedrich

John Wiedrich

I have a picture of my great grandparents John H. and Sarah Wiedrich on the wall in my living room. I
John and Sarah Wiedrich
love that picture because they look like such a cute couple and full of mischievous fun. I was fortunate that I knew Sarah since she lived to be 100-yrs-old, but John died before I was born.
He was born 14 Sept 1857 in Stafford, Genesee Co., NY to Henry and Margaret Elizabeth (Ditman) Wiedrich. HIs parents were born in Alsace and Prussia making him a first generation American. By 1860 the family lived in Elba where he attended school. By 1875 he had moved to Pembroke and back to Elba by the 1880 census.
On 8 Mar 1896 he married Sarah Angeline (Corsett) Walworth, a widow who had a farm in Pembroke. In 1910 they left the farm and went to live in Batavia, NY. There he worked as a fireman and woodworker for the Wiand Plow farm implement factory. At times he served as a constable and inspector of elections.
During the difficult 1930s depression years he would often cut firewood with his son Edward, my grandfather. I often heard the story of how my grandfather would often tell him to stop wearing a baggy old sweater when they cut but he wouldn’t listen. Then one day when they were out in the woods his sweater caught in the chain saw and it cut his arm almost entirely off. My grandfather used a belt to make a tourniquet to stop the bleeding and get him to the hospital. The arm couldn’t be saved. After that he was very resourceful strapping whatever tool he needed to use to his arm stump and completing the task.

He died on 2 Jun 1942 and was buried in Maple Lawn Cemetery in Elba, NY. He and Sarah had seven children, Edward, Lydia, Helen, Chester, Bertha, James and John. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #19 Ernestine Wiedrich - More than a Cookie

Ernestine Wiedrich – More Than a Cookie

Ernestine Wiedrich was a women who would have been one of those pioneer women who settled the West if she had been born in the 1800s. But Aunt Ernie was a woman of the twentieth century. She was born June 30, 1910 in New York City to Emma (Krieger) and John Schramm who were German immigrants. At 4-yrs-old her family moved to Elba, Genesee County, NY and then to then to Batavia, Genesee County a few years later. Around 1927 she married Chester (Chuck) Wiedrich. Later they moved to Oakfield, NY. Life would not
Chuck and Ernestine
be easy. They had six children, three boys and three girls. My great grandmother, Sarah, loved to go to their house because she had such a good time. Aunt Ernie was fun to be around and was a good cook. On my family’s yearly vacation we would be sure to visit and spend the night. Their house was a humble dwelling and quite different than our house in the city. They had running water in the kitchen but the bathroom was an outhouse in the back yard. At night there was a murphy pot under the bed. I was just 13 when she passed away in 1964 but she is still with us in the form of her cookies. Her sour cream cookies and soft molasses cookies were delicious. I still use her recipe. My children would never try the sour cream cookies. You know how kids are – just hearing the word sour cream turned them off. So I started to call them Aunt Ernie cookies. Now even though they are grown and have their own families they still ask when I’m making Aunt Ernie’s cookies again. I wish they could have known her as more than a cookie.
Ernestine and Sarah

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #18 Samuel Norton - Early Goshen, CT Resident

Samuel Norton

Samuel Norton was the oldest child of Samuel and Dinah Birdseye. He was born on March 6, 1718 (although some sources list the year as between 1712 and 1719) in Durham, Connecticut. Durham was first settled in 1699 and had one of the first (1733) public libraries in America. His father was one of the original proprietors of this town. In 1737 he was living in Litchfield, Connecticut.  On November 27, 1740 he married Mary (Molly) Lucas. The wedding took place in either Goshen or Middletown, Connecticut. After the marriage they lived on East Street in Goshen, Connecticut and had nine children. Goshen was a small town just beginning to be a real settlement. The Congregational Church was formed the year Samuel and Mary were married.  Different sources list him living at various times in his life in Goshen, Litchfield and Torrington, Connecticut. He died on September 19, 1801 at the age of 83 and was buried in the East Street Cemetery.