Monday, November 16, 2009

Finding Freddie...

Way back when I started playing this silly game called "genealogy", I found my great-grandfather's Naturalization papers at the archives of Cuyahoga County. To my confusion, it said that he came to America for the first time, in 1886 or somewhere there-abouts...

After searching and searching and searching, I finally came upon him and my great-grandmother and two children, all arriving in 1889. Well, gee, Germans to America can't be wrong, so he must have lied on his papers. But folks from the "old country" never lied. I was confused.

Mind you, this was about fifteen years ago. I had given up trying to find any other record of his arrival... That was until last weekend.

I was home, "under the weather" and bored to tears. I hadn't worked on any of my genealogy stuff for the last year and a half. I had no desire, after a terrible event in my life. Genealogy was the last thing I was interested in.

Wellllllllllllllll.... There was absolutely nothing on TV. I was having some problems with my hands, and decided to sit with my laptop and play around on Ancestry.

I had searched before, but after playing around, I tried using the wildcard in the middle of the name this time. Not that I really think that's what did it, but I found him! I found him from Hamburg to Liverpool. Now to find him from Liverpool to America, that's another thing... but I have proof that he at least went that far.

Next step is from Liverpool to the States... Hope that doesn't take another 15 years!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Madness Monday... "There was a murder in the family..."


My mother, bless her silly soul, once told me that. I said "really?!?!" with great anticipation of some juicy scandql. Well, I was sadly disappointed.

"Where?" asked I, hoping I could get all the gorey details. "Near Scranton and Castle avenues (in Cleveland, Ohio). Ok, I know exactly where that is!! Great! Next question...

"When?" asked I, expecting more information. "Before I was born" was all she could tell me. Well, Mom was born in 1930. Next question...

"Who was it??" asked I, sure Mom had the answer that would narrow down the year of the murder.

"I don't know. Some girl in the family." Hmmmm... female murder... should be either a Krueger or a Schell, or a Schittkowski... or so I thought...

What my mother basically told me was "there was a murder in the family, before I was born, at the corner of Scranton and Castle Avenues." Nothing else...

So I put my thinking cap on...

Ok.. great-grandparents on both sides of Mom's family arrived in Ohio after 1880. So that gave me a span of 50 years to look through. I found an index to the coroner's files up to 1900 or so for Cuyahoga County. Nothing there for anyone I had knowledge of in either family.

I searched death notices, and all kinds of other goodies... What did I find?? Nothing, Nothing and more nothing... So I put that unsolved issue on a back burner. I decided to start putting the limited information I did have online in the form of my own personal webpages.

After a few years, I'm not really sure how long it actually took, but I got an email from a gal in Canada. She was the step-cousin to one of my maternal grandfather's brother's in-laws.

She told me she had done extensive research on the Raddatz family and that part of that family had been in Cleveland and stayed there, while the rest of the family went to Canada.

Guess what... She had the name of the murder victim!!! I hit the jackpot!! Of course, all the info that mom had passed down was incorrect, as family stories without any actual knowledge go. But! Now I had her name, where she was killed, the date of the murder, and all the other base information that helped me find *all* the information...

I got the death certificate for Florence Raddatz. On it, it stated there was an autopsy preformed. I proceeded to obtain a copy of the coroner's report (which was not listed on the index as it happened in 1921). It was all very interesting. She turned out to be the half-sister to my grandfather's sister-in-law. All very complicated, and very anti-climatic.

I have re-created a copy of the newspaper article I found here: The Murder of Florence Raddatz.

I did get a ton of information on that collateral line, including another death that I have my own "suspicious mind" on, but that's for another time...

What's the point of this story?? Well, I guess it's just that if you get your information out on the internet someplace, it will be seen. It may very well get you some information that you didn't have. May not be the breakthrough you have been hoping for, but it could be something like the answer to a simple statement like the one above.

I was lucky enough to get this information before my mother's passing, so she finally knew the actual information.

By the way, that murder was never solved...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Me, My Mom, & I ; Part Three


Ok... I'm back to Mom and myself again. Seems she's been a bigger influence than I thought!

As I sit here, bouncing back and forth between two computers, digitizing her albums, I realize she's also responsible for most of my musical tastes. Notice, I say "most". She can't be blamed for the heavy metal stuff or hard rock. That blame goes entirely to my sons!

My mother was working in a record shop when she and my father met. So music was there all along. She loved music. So did Dad, but not the same stuff. Since he was "first generation" born here in his family, he liked the old world German stuff. Polkas and the good old "beer drinking" German music. And of course, just to keep things interesting, he also liked Hank Williams (Sr, of course), and other "hillbilly" music artists.

In listening to "Rhapsody In Blue" played by Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops Orchestra, I miss her more than ever. You see, she won this set of 10 albums (she always was so lucky, it made me sick!) and because their record player died, and they never got another because of the new technology of cd's, she never heard them. So, now I'm making them into cds for Dad. And I'm sure she's listening to them, here with me right now.

I know she was listening when I digitized one album my father got for her. It was titled "How to Belly Dance for Your Husband". No, it's not a typo. Really, that's the title. It came with a little booklet and all. But that's a story for another time...

Going back to the music thing... She liked swing, jazz, Bobby Darin, Robert Goulet and Jack Jones, not to mention Ragtime! I could mention songs, and a lot of folks my own age wouldn't know what they were! All because of my mother. And, then there were Dad's favorites... Not everyone out there can sing "Mack the Knife" in German, can they? I can!

So as my boys were growing up, the poor kids were subjected to not only the Beatles, Tomy James & the Shondells, The Knack, and countless others, they also had to tollerate my mother's influence with things like "Rhapsody in Blue", and the like. And they really ran, when I pulled out Caterina Valente's German songs!!

To add insult to injury, I was left an Edison record player. Not too many folks know what those are, either. It was probably made about 1911 or so. My grandmother's brother bought it. (Another story for another time...) But he had opera, and if I remember correctly, there even may be some Caruso platters in the mix. (Those puppies are almost a quarter inch thick and weigh a lot for a record!) But I used to play some of those, too. My poor boys...

What this all boils down to, is when you really, and I mean really start thinking about things like music, it's amazing how much influence your parents have on you.

I'm not complaining... As a matter of fact, I'm proud of my music collection. I have cds sitting next to each other that if the artists knew, they'd have fits!! Can you imagine polka recordings next to hard rock recordings?? Well, they are in my house!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Name Change

Do you know, that not knowing the name your ancestors came over to the new country with makes it very difficult to find them?

I was 36 when I found out that Schell was not my grandmother's original maiden name!! Imagine that!! And, of course, I found this out after she died. Guess that explains why I could not find anything for her prior to 1920, doesn't it?!


Once I found out about the name change, which even my dear old mother never mentioned to me, it was all kinds of fun. NOT!! The name signed on my great-grandfather's naturalization papers was spelled "Shittkowski". Do you know what people can do to a name like that???

I have a listing, on my website, of about 14 or so spellings including Schell, and it makes life so hard! Sometimes I think they did it on purpose!

I could find no birth records, of course, Ohio didn't start requring them until about 1910 or so. Maybe a bit earlier, I don't honestly remember. Anyway, they didn't require them in 1893 when Gram was born. And it's a darn good thing I've got "nose trouble" or I wouldn't have found the paperwork on the name change!

You see, my grandmother was one of 7 living children. And when I was coming up empty on any further information on her and my grandfather, I started digging around with her siblings. And their children... That's when I struck gold!!

Seems that grandma's brother, Herman, had children when they were going through the name change. And on one of the birth certificates, BINGO!! There was the case number for the name change!! You never saw a "fluffy" gal move so fast in a county building as I did that day!!

I beat feet to the probate department, and lo and behold, once we found the film, and I had more information, I was actually holding the original documents in my grubby little paws!! You have no idea how hard it was for me to turn those papers back over to the folks in the file department after I got my copies!!! (My mother told me that my grandmother burned most of my great grandparents papers in the old coal furnace, because she didn't want it to get out or some such.)

But, not only did my grandmother and the rest that were of age, change their last name, but my grandmother and great grandmother, who had both been Wilhelmina, changed, legally, their first names to Minnie. Not only that, but I realized that at that time, in 1918 when they did the name change, my great grandmother could not write. She signed with "her mark" on the papers.

As it turns out, I have found all these variations on this name, but I'm still no further. Sure, I found census records, and all that good stuff, but I still haven't had enough time to check out LDS records for Prussia. That will come in time. But with a surname like this, it's so unusual, it might as well be Smith. Why? With Smith, you have a zillion different ones, and it's almost impossible to figure out which is yours. With Schittkowski (which is the one used most, and yes, I've tried soundex and all the variations), it's so unusual, I can't find anything on it.

Guess ya win some, lose some, but with me, most are rained out...

Friday, March 13, 2009

What My Mother Taught Me...


When I had my children, I swore I would never "sound" like my mother. You know what I mean, all those little tidbits of knowledge that have been passed down since the beginning of time... "Keep making that face, and your face will freeze like that!" And the ever popular: "You're just like your father!" Boy oh boy, if I only had a nickle for every time I heard those things... (You see, I didn't listen any better then than I do now!)


Well, as it turned out, I did sound like my mother. My boys will testify to that! I know we all say we will "never, ever" sound like our mothers, but we do. It's a sad fact of life. There is no way around it...


One year, for Mother's Day, I decided to let her know that I really did appreciate all these little gems, and had this creation made up for her. You would have thought I gave her the sun, the moon and the stars!! she was so happy with it!! If I would have known it was that easy, I would have done it years ago, and given her one each year with new gems on it!! To make it just a bit more personal, I found a picture of her and myself about the same ages, in close poses. She's on top, of course, and I'm at the bottom. She set that framed thing in her living room, and it sits there still.


I almost put that with her when she passed. I'm kind of glad I didn't. I hope that when it's time, I'll be able to put that in my living room, where-ever I end up.


Miss ya, Mom.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Me, My Mom, & I; Part Two


Ok, so now you want to know how I blame my mother for this...

It's really rather easy. She made me watch all the detective-type shows. I learned about sneaking around things, hunting up information, and having "nose trouble" made it much easier and much more fun!

From all those shows, I learned how to nose around, get ideas, and just be persistant in my hunt. Paul Drake on "Perry Mason", he guys from "77 Sunset Strip", "Hawiian Eye", and don't forget "Burke's Law"... I watched them with great envy, wishing I could snoop like they did!

Through my quest for knowledge of my ancestors, I've found out things that my mother never knew about her father. (Boy, is *that* a story!!) My father's parents had some secrets, too, and those are goodies, also!!

So keep in mind, "nose trouble" is not *always* trouble. It can be fun, interesting, and very, very enlightening! Guess there are worse things I could have gotten into!

Doesn't Mom look "ever so innocent" in this photo? I'll share "What I Learned From My Mother" in the next installment. I'm sure you'll enjoy that!

Me, My Mom, & I; Part One

I guess my mother is partially to blame for this...

Why? Well... I guess it goes back to the old TV show, "77 Sunset Strip" (snap, snap! Remember those finger snaps?) My mother loved murder mysteries... Books, movies, radio shows. (Yes, I remember those.) Any type of detective show, lawyer show, horror show. We watched them all. And I think the only reason for that was that Dad worked nights, and wasn't there to protest!

She and I watched them together. And when I was punished and sent to my room, I cheated... I had a "really cool" clock radio. It got FM channels! And if I moved the wire that served as an antenna, and clipped one of my hair clips to it, I got in the local TV channel that aired "Perry Mason" and I could listen to it on the radio! I thought I was so slick.

Anyway, I guess that's what started the "nosey" nature I have. And who knows, if I had done things differently, I might have just become a private eye for real, instead of a genealogist. Although I don't know which might have become more frustrating.

Yep, Mom always told me I had "nose trouble". I guess with my research, it's paid off. Not all the time, but some time. And I guess some is better than none.

I hope to put here, in this "blog creature" I've created, items I've "nosed out" of different places, my take on some of them, and of course, the always present "brick wall" that we all run into. Maybe some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and maybe even, some will make you say "Why didn't I think of that!", or the more plausable "Boy, she must be blonde!"

But, as I started thinking about this puppy last night just before midnight, and tried to go to sleep, and could only think about doing this, I'm half asleep, and don't even know if this makes any sense.

So as Alfred would say, Good Evening.