Saturday, August 31, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Day Two

After another quick breakfast, we headed out to the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society where Roseann Kebles was waiting for us.  Housed in what looked like an old caretakers house adjoining a cemetery, the NEPGS is a white shingled structure that is now devoted to housing a large collection of genealogical and historical documents.  They also have a Facebook page which is how I learned about them.

Today, we were on the hunt for Naturalization records.  On microfiche, Emily and I, with the help of Roseann  learned how to thread the film into the microfilm readers and started scrolling.  You can get dizzy from scrolling thru the hundreds of records on this film and it is easy to scroll right past the very one you are looking for.  Luckily, each record is numbered and I located records for not just my great grandfather, William Lentz, but also for my great great grandfather, Jacob Stoebener and several of the Strauch men.  The Strauch's were the family that provided room and board to my grandfather and his two brothers when they first arrived in the United States in 1905.

I learned that my great great grandfather Jacob, immigrated at the age of 31 in 1851 and applied for citizenship in 1855.

We spent several hours at the NEPGS.  One of the staff genealogists, Alan Durst, even fed us hotdogs to help keep our strength up!

Since we were on the far side of town, it made sense to run by the Oaklawn Cemetery which was nearby just to see if there were any ancestral graves located there.  It was not surprising to find familiar names and dates among the stones there and the caretakers were delightfully helpful!  Oaklawn is a beautiful cemetery, newer than the others and very well maintained.

On our return to town, it seemed a good time to drive thru the "old neighborhoods".  It is hard to believe that these houses are still standing 200 years after my ancestors occupied them.  They are old now and this end of town is run down, the houses occupied mostly by large Hispanic families unable to afford their upkeep.

We started at:   254 Kidder Street, the home of the Strauch's - the "landing pad" for my grandfather and his brothers.  Then we drove and found 145 Park Ave. where my grandmother Mary lived with her parents; William and Elizabeth and 7 siblings.  We continued to explore the area and realized that this had been a small community where all of the homes had been within walking distance of each other so it is not surprising that they knew each other, became friends, dated and even married!

It wasn't until I returned home and was doing some additional research that I learned that the Baltimore Mine ran directly underneath some of these homes and that in 1863, much of the area collapsed and was flooded in what was known as "The Great Mine Disaster of 1863".  Subsequent mining disasters in this area compromised the desireability of this area.  This would partly explain the large fenced off park like area not far from Hancock Street.  Several of the homes there had been lost never to be built back again.  Streets were re-named, re-aligned or just eliminated.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

After a light breakfast, we drove to the Good Shepherd Church in downtown Wilkes Barre.  Good Shepherd had once been St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church, evident by the wording carved in stone still over the front door.  Adrienne French, the church historian, was ready for us and took us to a small room filled with filing cabinets and a large table on which she had already stacked old church record books for our perusal.  She left us alone but only after presenting each of us with a brick from the original wall of the church now undergoing renovation.  We each pulled on a pair of gloves (to protect the paper from body oils, etc.) and selected a book to begin examining.  Page after crumbling yellow page, we scanned the faded ink for familiar German names.  We had a hand scanning wand, an IPAD and two cameras on which to take photos of whatever records we could find - and WOW - did we find them!
My paternal grandmother, Mary Lentz, attended this church as did her mother, Elizabeth and her grandparents, Jacob and Anna Marie Stoebener before her.  Mary was baptized here, sang in the choir, was married here and had one of her babies baptized here.  Her siblings were also baptized and married here.  So much history!  The sermons were delivered in German by the Reverand Louis Lindenstruth and the congregation was a large and active one.

After several hours of record combing, we walked upstairs to see the sanctuary which still boasts stained glass windows from the early 1900's.  The original silver
communion vessels are in a locked viewing cabinet as is a quilt with the names of choir members, vestry and other officers of the church embroidered on it.  Looking at the underside of the quilt, we could see the name "Mrs. Lentz" emboidered next to many others.  The quilt was given by the church members as a gift to the Rev. Lindenstruth in the late 1800's  the time of my grandmothers service there.  His daughter donated the quilt to the church in  1976. 
We were in dire need of some food by now and so stopped in at a little outdoor eatery in the middle of downtown Wilkes Barre on the campus of Wilkes College. 
Then - on to some cemetery work!
Our next stop was Hollenback Cemetery....the offices here were a lot older and more deteriorated than I expected, but after all, they are over 200 years old!  We had been warned about the the grounds keeper here so we did not stop in the office but drove round and round trying to make sense of the map that had been sent to me previously by Joan Cavanaugh.  Joan is a wonderful and generous volunteer with Find a Grave and had gotten some headstone photographs for me previously.  We finally located the stones we wanted to find and others that we were surprised to find.  Unfortunately, we never located the gravesite of Anna Lentz, the first born of Wilhelm and Elizabeth Lentz.  Anna died of diptheria in 1885 at the age of nine.  Perhaps the family could not afford a marker for the young girl.
We had made arrangements to take Joan Cavanaugh to dinner to thank her for all of her hard work on our behalf and met her at 4:00pm across the street from Hollenback at a little bar and grill named "Patti's".  After ordering burgers and onion soup, we chatted as if we'd known each other forever.  Joan offered to take us grave hunting at the cemetery next to Hollenback, the Wilkes Barre City Cemetery, where Jacob and Anna Marie Stoebener found "eternal rest".  As Joan had taken their photo, she was able to quickly locate the gravestone which is in amazing condition for its' age.  She graciously took a photo of Em and I at the stone.  As far as I am aware, Jacob and Anna Marie were the first of our ancestors to arrive in the United States, having immigrated in 1851 from the Rhine Province in Bavaria.  Jacob, born in 1820 was 31 years of age.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Day One

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
On Monday, Emily drove to South Carolina from Alabama where her daughter, Taylor Ann is attending camp.  Emily has been working as a counselor there but had planned on spending this week with me on our second "genealogical journey".  After doing some camp laundry, she re-packed and got prepared for our trip.  On this next day, Tuesday, Em and I drove to the Greenville/Spartensburg Airport where we boarded a US Airways flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Upon arrival, we picked up our rental car, a White Toyota Camry, and drove the two hours to Wilkes Barre, Pa., where we checked in at the Mountain View Best Western Hotel and Conference Center.  We were pretty tired, but we unpacked and made our way downstairs where we had a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant.  Once back in our room, we reviewed the agenda for the next few days and then I went down to the indoor pool for some badly needed stretching in the warm water while Emily rested and watched some television.  We both fell asleep quickly and slept peacefully through the night.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

On The Road Again

I haven't given up on my blog, no, it's just that sometimes life interferes.  The past year has been a difficult one for reasons I don't feel comfortable going into right now.  There have been changes, the loss of a grandchild, the addition of a new daughter in law.  God gives but He just as easily takes away.  My husband, Allen and I just watched the movie, "The Life of Pi" in which Pi said that is in times of tremendous stress that your faith is strengthened.  I would agree.  A fine movie if you haven't seen it.  

Well, here it is, 2013 and having done a lot more work on my paternal ancestral roots, Emily and I are preparing to travel to the town of Wilkes Barre, Pa.   I have made some wonderful contacts there - thanks to Facebook, the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, the Luzerne Historical Society, the Good Shepherd Church and Find a Grave.  Now we are ready to visit the home of Jacob Stoebener, my GGGrandfather, the home of his daughter, Elisabeth Stoebener Lentz, and her daughter, Mary Lentz fathers mother.  Wilkes Barre was the town to which my fathers father  immigrated from Bremen, Germany in 1905.  He met and married Mary there at St. Paul's German Evangelical Church where Rev. Louis Lindenstruth preached his sermons in German and Mary and several of her siblings sang in the choir.   The old church still stands at the corner of North and Main only it has been re-named Good Shepherd Lutheran.  The archivist there, Adrienne French, preserves the old records.  The records are also at the NEPGS where Roseann Kebles keeps watch and Joan Cavanaugh armed with her new camera hovers angelically over the Hollenback Cemetery taking headstone photographs for Find a Grave.  I can hardly wait to meet these wonderful women who have contributed so much to the discovery and preservation of my families history.

How does one prepare for a genealogical journey?  Well, having taken one already, I can say that we learned some things to help us with this next one.  First, my research documents are in a binder and I have a list of documents that are missing.  Documents most likely to be uncovered on our trip are highlighted along with notes on the places most likely to give us access.  Next, a good street map of the wasn't easy locating such a map.  The Internet maps had only small sections and Triple A sent a driving map but it was not detailed enough.  It was the Chamber of Commerce that sent me a decent street map of the area and I immediately highlighted the streets and roads we would be looking for.   Unfortunately, there seems to be more than one of every street so I'm not sure how we will figure out which of the streets apply to us.  The next item on my agenda was to write everyone there that has helped me to tell them when I would be arriving and to set up luncheon dates, etc.  I particularly want to thank, in person, people who have gotten documents for me or taken photos.  I also asked for recommendations on a hotel as not knowing the area, I want to make sure we stay in a reasonably safe location that is still close in proximity to areas we want to tour.  All that done, I ordered a few books about the town and have been reading to gain knowledge of the towns historical significance.  I have sketched out a rough schedule that covers our trip from arrival in Philadelphia on the 25th to our departure from the same airport on the 30th.
Before leaving South Carolina, I will message people I've connected with living in the W/B area and ask them to give me some idea of the weather they are expecting that week.  That will help me decide what to pack besides an umbrella and some good walking shoes.  My camera, my IPAD, my sunglasses and the re-charger cords I will need will be put into my carry-on bag so they are readily available.
The rooms are booked, the car is rented, the maps are marked.....let's go to Wilkes Barre!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Driving Force

Like most new drivers, I volunteered to do any and all errands that involved driving.  One of my favorite drives was to the Miracle Mile in Manhasset.   Every Christmas Eve, my parents hosted a buffet dinner at which one of the dishes served was "beef tartar".  This was raw filet mignon ground like hamburger and served with crackers.  It was delicious.  Available only in Manhasset at a deli I no longer remember, I would drive the twenty miles or so, pick up the beef which had been ordered well in advance and was tenderly wrapped in brown butcher paper, and head home.  I could never resist sampling it as I drove back.

I loved the drive to Manhasset and made it frequently.  Garden City girls shopped at Altmans, Peck and Peck, Lord and Taylor, Bonwit Teller and A&S...all solid retailers on the mile.  Lord and Taylor sold the most beautiful leather wallets imported from France.  They came in gorgeous colors like; turquoise, daffodil, navy or scarlet.  Each wallet was embossed with a gold fleur de lis and sold for $5.00.  I bought a new one every year.
Another favorite destination was on the south side of the island.  The Pappagallo shoe outlet was in a downstairs "hole in the wall" that I went to frequently with my round the block friend, Gail.  Pappagallo made the most beautiful leather flats in a rainbow of colors and styles.  Marked down to $5 or $8 a pair because of some tiny and usually invisible flaw, by the time I went to college, I had over 24 pairs of these beauties, each in their distinctive black box with "Pappagallos" written in turquoise across the box top.  Some had lattice tops, others had floppy blossoms, some had shiny reptile-like vamps.  Pappagallo flats, pearls and Bermuda Bags were the uniform of the day in the 60's to be accompanied by Revlon's Naked Pink or Barely Beige lipstick.  Another popular lipstick was the fragrant Tangee - orange in the tube, it turned a different shade on your lips.

The Bermuda Bag was nothing more than a muslin bag with a wooden handle and several small buttons on each side.  We would collect "covers" in colors and prints to match our outfits and usually received the monogrammed covers as gifts on special occasions.  One bag - many was all in the Bermuda Bag!

We wore our flats with tan hose and I can clearly remember making the transition from the old garter belt and seamed stocking of the 40's and 50's to the first pantyhose sold in white plastic eggs appropriately named "L'eggs".  We girls were moving into a modern age!


Mustang Sally? NOT!

By the time I was sixteen, I was driving.  Since daddy worked in Manhatten (the city) he and thousands of other men like him commuted in on the Long Island Railroad.  As the car didn't need to sit in a parking lot all day, I often took him to the train station in the morning and then drove on to school.  The first car I drove was a little white Pontiac LeMans convertible.  It was a sweet car but didn't touch how I felt about the next one, an absolutely gorgeous rusty orange Firebird Convertible the color of autumn leaves.  It had a black top.  It has always been, by far, my favorite ride.

I took it to college after graduation and depended on it to ferry me back and forth from Hackettstown, NJ to the North Fork of Long Island.  I got two tickets in that for driving faster than was posted on a four lane out of Jersey and the other for "drifting" thru a stop sign on Shelter Island.  It was the car I drove from the island, across the ferry and over to Westhampton for classes in the summer of 68.  It even became the sanctuary for some illegal stuff when a friend I had offered a ride to hid his "pot" in the glove compartment.  I very rarely, if ever, drove that car without the top down and a wide brimmed white hat on my head.  While I didn't even resemble "Twiggy", the hat became my "signature look". 

Unfortunately, driving that car from New York to Dallas and back again a couple of times, wore out the transmission and my father wanted to replace it.   Knowing how much I hated to give it up,  he told me that I could pick out whatever I wanted.  Hmmm....well, I asked for and got a royal blue GTO with a baby blue racing stripe.

My, my!  That car was the envy of a lot of guys.  While not a snappy convertible, that car could move but it never did replace my beloved Firebird.  My dad and my brother, Steve, drove it down to Dallas for me in the summer of 1970.  It took me on to Atlanta where I went to graduate school in 1971 but I don't remember it lasting too long either because I ended up with my mothers yellow Buick with the brown vinyl top which my husband Allen and I drove until we wore a hole in the floor board and could see the lines in the roads beneath us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Downton Abbey - A Genealogical Comparison

I don't know what year you'll be reading this but I'm writing it in 2012.  Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has recently shown its' most popular television series ever.  Downton Abbey is a fictional account of the Grantham family who are the owners of a large estate in Britain during the late 1800's.  Filmed at the real Highclere Castle, the story is loosely based on the Carnarvon family who continue to inhabit and care for Highclere.  Now you might ask; "What does this have to do with a genealogy blog?"  Well, watching Downton Abbey transported me back to a time when my great grandparents were alive and while not British, and certainly not occupants of Highclere Castle, I can draw a number of parallels.

King Edward VII reigned over Britain and was said to be a dignified and charming emperor.  The Edwardian era became famous for its high glamour and easy elegance and fast became the new reality.   Wilhelm II reigned over Germany.  Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States.  Queen Victoria, Edwards' mother, left a lasting impression on England, if not the world and with her death in 1901, the Victorian Era came to a close but it did not happen overnight.*  Even in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, birthplace of Mary Elizabeth Lentz and also temporary home to the three Protz brothers, the houses of the era were decorated with "gingerbread" trim, turrets and etched glass windows.  Feather dusters and feather beds remained popular.  Chandeliers were made of crystal, food was served in silver service pieces to families who dressed for dinner, gas lamps and/or candles were slowly being replaced with electricity and the telephone was replacing handwritten notes and telegraphs.  (Note: pieces of my great-grandmothers chandelier (pendalogues)were re-cycled for use as Christmas tree ornaments and distributed to her great great grandchildren at Christmas 2011).

Did we have any relatives that would have been living "upstairs" at Highclere?  I don't know but I do know that we had a few living "downstairs".  Grandma Auer (maiden name Maria A. Boehm) was said to have been a cook in the kitchen of Kaiser Wilhelm.  As such, she would have lived comparably to Mrs. Patmore, the cook to Downton Abbey.  Amazingly, her personal recipe book, handwritten in German, is in the family chest whose possession at the time of this writing remains unclear.  Maria's sister, Elizabeth, is listed as a servant in both the 1900 and the 1910 census.

Although already in America, Grandma Elsie (maiden name Elsa Spatz Haegeman Kerner) became a registered nurse and worked at a hospital.  Her pillbox and two of the thermometers from her nurses bag are preserved in the family box.  She is listed as nursing in the 1930 and the 1940 census.
When Lord Alfred de Rothschild died, his bequeth to his illegitimate but beloved daughter, Almina was a tax-free 50,000 pounds.  Lord Carnarvon, Porchy and Lady Evelyn received bequests of 25,000 pounds.  This was "wealth on a staggering scale given that a gardener at Highclere was paid 24 pounds a year in 1918 and the top salary, for the chef, was 150 pounds." *  This mentioned in an effort to demonstrate some price differential between the castle owners and the workers.  Today, an English pound is worth 1.57  American dollars.   Fifty thousand pound sterling in todays numbers equates to about $78,424.87.  Hardly enough to keep an estate such as Highclere going today.  The cook's salary of 150 pounds a year equates to about $235.27 for a years work.*  Of course, housing and meals were included gratis as part of their living and working on the castle grounds. 

As war approached in 1914, men across Europe, of both up and downstairs life, registered for the draft that saw the loss of some 6.8 million potential husbands, fathers and grandfathers.  The United States was not to become involved until early 1918, a few months short of the end of the war on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 am. 

In the meantime, Mary Elizabeth Lentz,  married in January of 1917, departed for a New York City honeymoon in a "motor car" most likely built in Detroit by the Ford Motor Company and driven by her new husband, the successful business man, William C. Protz.  After a brief honeymoon, the two set out to build their lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  W.C registered for the draft in June of 1917.

Earlier in 1900, some 1.7 million women were employed as domestic servants but when war came the need for women to be pressed into other types of servitude like nursing (Downtons' youngest daughter, Sybil) or farm work ( middle daughter, Edith) emerged.  Young women who once considered domestic servitude to be an honor and often followed their own mothers into positions in the same homes, now fancied secretarial and office work.  Our Mary was known to have worked in a Lace Mill where she became a "forewoman".  Her older brother, William Frederick Lentz, worked in sales at S.S.Kresge which was a forerunner and later competitor to the Woolworth chain.  Most likely, it was William Frederick who introduced his sister, Mary to W. C. as he also worked in sales and as a buyer for the Kresge chain. 

It was not until 1918, that women over 30 who met certain restrictions were allowed to vote.  By 1928, the right to vote for women was expanded to include all women over the age of 21.  Our Mary didn't need "the vote" however to exercise her personal independence.  She filed for divorce from W. C. a few short years after their marriage.  The divorce was granted in January of 1921, leaving Mary with two small children and $19,000 in settlement funds.  The divorce was scandalous enough to make the front page news of the Manitowoc Herald.  Mary, who by now was living in Detroit, Michigan, bought a home and moved in making room for her own mother, Elizabeth and much younger brother, Walter. 

*Lady Fiona Carnarvon:  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey;  The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle,   Broadway Paperbacks 2011