Saturday, March 9, 2019

Another Family History Hardcover Book Completed

Time is rushing by and my projects have been plenty!  Without much time to post here, I am posting a link to a book I recently published for a client, but have altered to protect the family's privacy.  Hope it inspires you to do some work on your own family!

Click on the image to view a preview of this project.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

     I haven't had much free time to create any blogposts over the past year or so.  I've been busy working on a major project for a client who delivered 36 boxes from his mother's attic!  The boxes contained thousands of photos, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, documents and other treasures that had previously belonged to his parents and grandparents on both his mother and father's sides.  A treasure trove for sure!

Phase 1 of this project included cataloging each and every item in the collection and sorting the items by person.  At the same time, I used the information contained in those items to build the client's family tree, which has now grown nine generations back!

Phase 2, which is underway now, involves scanning every item and then preserving the originals worth keeping and organizing the digital files to distribute to all family members.  It has been a fabulous project, perfect for my skill set and one that will provide this family with priceless memories to pass on to future generations.  Here's an example of a short video I created for one of the family members from their box of photos.  Click on the caption/link below the image to view the video.
An example of a video I created for client

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Resolve to organize your photos this year!

Being able to take and store amazing photos on our smartphones is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it's GREAT to be able to capture all those memories.  On the other hand, it is STRESSFUL knowing that you've accumulated some wonderful shots but that they're unorganized, at risk without backup and no one is enjoying them while they're sitting on your phone.

Put it on your Calendar!

The key to reducing that stress is to schedule some time to organize your photos on a regular basis.  Starting this month will help you feel relief right off the bat.

First, you'll need to determine where you'll back up your photos.  
Sites such as Shutterfly offer unlimited free storage space and can be accessed from your computer, phone or tablet. 
Apple users can utilize seamless integration for a fee with the Apple icloud service.  

My personal preference is Heritage Makers, ( to sign up) where Club HM members can store up to 10GB for free and have them at  hand to create cards, photo gifts and photobooks.  For tips on organizing your photos in your Heritage Makers account, see my previous post from November 2011.

Google Photos provides free unlimited storage space with the ability to auto upload from all your devices.  You can also edit and share your photos and search by person or subject with their smart recognition search feature.  This is a GREAT and super easy option I recommend you explore, especially if you're already using a google/gmail account.  You'll probably be surprised to see your photos are already stored in your Google Photos ready to enjoy!


I spent some time over the holidays taking classes to become a Certified Photo Organizer.  If you don't want to take the time to organize your photos monthly, contact me to get on my schedule.  For a small fee, I'll remind you to upload your favorite photos into your Heritage Makers account and at the end of the year I can even put them into a Yearbook for you and your family members to enjoy.  Now, that is what I call stress FREE!  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In search of the mysterious Gertrude Helena Brown Smith

The Mysterious Gertrude Helena Brown Smith   
Gertrude Brown, c. 1905

When I started doing research on my ancestors for the first time in 1993, my mother assured me that her side had already been “done” by a friend of hers who was a hobbyist genealogist, so I should concentrate on my dad’s line.  In 2001, when I took a closer look at what my mother had, however, I realized that my mom’s friend, while meaning well, had attached our Gertrude Helena Brown to the wrong Brown family.  My search began to find Gertrude’s true family and the search still continues today, twelve years and literally hundreds of research hours later.

I.  What I know about Gertrude
            The family story about Gertrude:
1.      She was orphaned at an early age (around 9 years old)
2.      She had one “much older” sister who survived – all other siblings and her parents died in an epidemic of some sort (cholera?  Diphtheria?)
3.      The older sister married, but the husband did not agree to take in Gertrude (couldn’t afford to care for her), so Gertrude was taken into the home of a family where she worked for her keep.
4.      She grew up in New York city according to the family story
5.      She was born October 25, 1875 (her own handwriting in a Bible register)
6.      Some family members seem to think she may have been born a triplet but the others did not survive long.
7.      She married David Harp Smith, of Missouri, in North Dakota on March 7, 1905 (have marriage record).  He was homesteading there (have homestead file).
8.      They had a child born December 8, 1905 in North Dakota.  This child died the day he was born (have birth/death record).
9.      She and David moved to Carterville, Jasper County, Missouri sometime around 1906 or 1907.  David was suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, which they believed he contracted because of the terrible North Dakota winters.
10.  Their second child was born April 17, 1907 in Carterville, Missouri (no birth record available due to courthouse fire).  She was named Minnie Annie Smith, but changed her name to Mary Frances when she became Catholic in 1917.
11.  Around 1910, Gertrude received a postcard, which she saved from “loving Niece and Nephew Gus & Helen”  It is not postmarked and has no return address.  It is addressed to Mrs. D. Smith, Carterville, Mo.  Box 56 and to “Dear Aunt, Uncle & Cousin”.
12.  David Smith died November 18, 1913 “from” Rheumatoid Arthritis (have death certificate and probate file).
13.  Gertrude and Mary Frances may have moved back to New York for a short time after David’s death, but did not stay.
14.  Gertrude attended a Babies’ Hospital nursing school in New York in 1895 and lived with and cared for other people’s children the rest of her adult life.  Gertrude went to work for the Schaeffer family in Joplin, Missouri after David’s death.  (There is some connection to the McConomy family and therefore the Schaeffer’s from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but not sure what that is.)
15.  Gertrude and her daughter moved to Kansas City, Missouri c. 1919.
16.  Gertrude died in Kansas City, Missouri on January 10, 1934 (have death record and cemetery records).

II.                Looking for Gertrude on the census records
1920 – Kansas City, Missouri –Gertrude Smith appears on the 1920 census at age 44 (1875 birth year assumed), born in Ohio (father born in French speaking France and mother born in Germany).  She is a widow and a Servant to the family whose home she is living.  Gertrude’s daughter appears with her as Mary Frances Smith, boarder, age 12, born in Missouri (parents both born in Ohio), attending school.  They are in the home of Ernest Schreiber, who has a wife and four children under the age of 7!  Gertrude's job was to care for the children.  (FHL 1820929)

1910  Joplin Twp., Carterville, Jasper County, Missouri -  Gertrude H. Smith appears on the 1910 census at age 33 (1876 birth year assumed), born in Ohio (Father born in French speaking France and mother born in Ohio).  She has been married one time for five years and has had two children with one still living.  She is living with her husband, David H. Smith, age 25 [believed to be incorrectly recorded and should say 35], born in Kentucky (both parents born in KY as well).  He has been married one time for five years (1905 assumed) and has no occupation.  Their daughter appears as Minnie A. Smith, age 3, born in Missouri (parents born in Kentucky and Ohio).  They are living in the home of David’s parents: Andrew and Mary Ann Smith and David’s brother, Willis Wheat, age 31 is also living there.  His occupation is Water Wagon driver.  A boarder is also listed - Loyd Ruder, age 16.  He is also a water wagon driver.
The address is 606 N. Tennessee Ave.    (FHL 1374804)

1900 – Newark City, Essex County, New Jersey - Gertrude H. Brown appears on the 1900 census at age 23, born October 1876 in New York (parents both born in New York), living as a Boarder with William J. and Minnie B. Brewer at 439 4th Avenue.  The Brewers have two sons:  Charles H. and Harold W. ages 9 and 11 and a servant girl, Mary Billings, age 31, born in Pennsylvania is living with them.  Gertrude is listed as a Salvation Army officer, as is William.   (FHL #1240965)
On Christmas 2001, Gin found the proof that this was indeed our GHB by locating a photograph in Liz Soetaert's archives in Placerville, CA.  The photo was of two young boys playing football.  On the back, it was signed "To dear Gertie, Herbert" and "To my sunchine Gertie, Harold Brewer xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx."  Upon contacting the Salvation Army in  Alexandria, VA, they told me that Minnie Brewer was the National Secretary for Slum work, so she would have been Gertrude’s supervisor.  She also sent a photograph from the 1899 “Harbor Lights” Salvation Army newsletter showing Mrs. Lieut. Col., Brewer and New York Slum Officers.  I think Gertrude is shown there.

Brewer boys card to Gertrude

Which one is Gertrude Brown?

1880 – There are 5 Gertrude Brown’s on the 1880 census who were born between 1874 and 1876 in New York.  Several of the families and eliminated some of them simply because both parents were born in the U.S. or other reasons (see spreadsheet)
One family may still be a viable option: Valentine Braun, age 37, b. Frankfort on Main and wife Martha Braun, age 27, b. PA.  They are living in Manhattan, NYC, New York in 1880 with Gertrude Braun, age 5, born NYC, Lizzie, age 7, Valentine, age 2 and Natalia, age 2 months (all born in NYC).

If the birth year of Gertrude is expanded, another family looks like a possibility:  Samuel Brown, age 37, born in Germany with wife Anna Brown, age 35, born in Germany with children: Jane, age 13, b. NY, Gertrude Brown, age 7, b. NY, Jacob, age 6, b. NY, Falk, age 4, b. NY.  They are living in Brooklyn, Kings Co., NY in 1880.  I have done quite a bit of research in this family (see spreadsheet) and Samuel and Anna disappear around 1882.  Perhaps they died?

If we assume Gertrude was born in Ohio between 1874 and 1876, there are 8 possibilities (see spreadsheet), but all can be eliminated because both parents were born in the U.S. 
One family remains:  Henry Bruns, age 46 born in Prussia and wife Karolena Bruns, age 31, born in Ohio have Dora, age 10, Ida, age 7, Gertrude, age 3 as well as Elisabeth, age 18, and Minna, age 16 from a previous marriage.  Karolena’s mother, Dorothea Meyers is also living with them.  She is 69, born in Prussia and her daughter, Anna Meyers, age 28 is also in the home.  We eliminated this family because we located the birth record for Alisa Gertruth Bruns and she was born 21 August 1876 (not in October).

III.  The Problem:  Not sure if Gertrude was born in NY or Ohio (our family had no knowledge of her ever living in Ohio).  Have not been able to determine how to prove or disprove Samuel Brown family or Valentine Braun family of New York City.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On October 4, 2013, I met with "Photo Detective" and genealogist Maureen Taylor to get her thoughts on several mystery photographs from our family collection.  Here's what I knew about this postcard photo:  This postcard was owned by my Great Grandmother, Gertrude Helena Brown Smith.  It was (presumably) mailed to her in an envelope (postcard not canceled or stamped) sometime around 1910 (based on the date of the car).  This is the ONLY link we have of Gertrude to any of her relatives.  The writing on the back says:
Mrs. D. Smith, Carterville, Mo., Box 56
Dear Aunt, Uncle & Cousin - How would You all like to go Automobile riding?  Hope to hear from You all soon. Write Soon as You can.  Loving Niece & Nephew Gus & Helen
It is also stamped with the words Post-Card and says: Printed in the U.S. and there is a Serie # stamped as well.

Maureen quickly dismissed the notion that the people in the photograph are related to me or are Gus & Helen or that the sole male in the photo is the mystery man from the posting below (distinguished man in the very conservative clothing and pinky rings)..  She says that the photo is too goofy and that it was simply purchased in a drug store like we can purchase pre-printed postcards today.  She says that the Serie # indicates that the card was a European design, but she couldn't read the copy I had well enough to identify the number for a google search.

I did not believe her until I google-d "We Are Having a Great Joy Ride" postcard and found another identical card that sold on Etsy.  It was stamped and postmarked from Massachusetts in 1910.
and another one postmarked 1911 from Ohio 
and another on a French website![]=788&searchOptionForm[searchMode]=all&searchOptionForm[termsToExclude]=&searchOptionForm[searchTldCountry]=fr&searchOptionForm[searchInDescription]=N

This is a big disappointment but really good to know!  Wish I'd thought to google that caption sooner!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gertrude Brown's Mystery Man

On October 4, 2013, I had this photograph analyzed by "Photo Detective" and genealogist, Maureen Taylor in hopes of discovering something I hadn't that would lead me to finding out who this distinguished gentleman is and if he is related to me through my Great Grandmother, Gertrude Helena Brown Smith, who I believe owned this photograph.  Unfortunately, the photograph does not have a photographer's mark on it, which would help us pinpoint the location the photo was taken, but it does have the following writing on the back: 91903, which she confirmed may be a date (September 1903).  That does match the age of the photograph, at least.  It appears this photograph was taken in a Studio.
The first thing she pointed out was the "silvering" that is present on this photo.  When turned at an angle to the light, the edges have a silvery shadow to them.  She said that this was due to the way photographs were processed before 1920.  That silvering will destroy the photograph over time, so she warned that we should have a good scan of it before this happens further.
She mentioned the following:  He is a young man, maybe in his 30's.  He has a tie pin.  He has rings on both pinky fingers and no other rings (not married).  He has very conservative shoes, which she repeated several times.  She found these to be quite distinctive.  He has a pocket watch, which is tucked into his lapel and dropped into his breast pocket.
This man's pose exudes confidence and importance.
That's it.  :(  I am posting it here and at Dead Fred and Ancient Faces, in hopes someone will see it and recognize him or have the same photo in their possession.  Also, praying to Saint Anthony, who always helps me find lost things and this man's identity is definitely lost, at least to me.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Combining Past and Present

My daughter was cast in the school musical as Salvation Army Officer, Sarah Brown in Guys & Dolls.  It was a role that mirrored that of her Great, Great Grandmother, Gertrude Brown who actually was a Salvation Army officer in the New York slums around 1900.  Here's the book I created to combine them. 
Click here to view the contents