Sunday, July 27, 2014


The probate file of Jacob Saylor -- or Sailor, as written in the file -- arrived earlier this week.  It's that 74-page file I ordered a few weeks ago from the Courthouse in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  Jacob died in 1870.

I don't know what I expected.  I open it to the first pages and find nearly-impossible-to-read handwriting on documents with and without printed sections.  The print and handwriting fade in and out, disappear, blur, clear.  There is invisible ink on some of the pages.  Perhaps the originals were faded when microfiche images were made; perhaps the microfiche images  faded over time; perhaps the microfiche was moved before the photocopy was finished.  It doesn't matter because it's what I have to work with.  The dates are barely legible.  I don't want to transcribe it.  I just finished wading through and transcribing John Froman's 1872 file that had fewer pages.  I'm not ready to delve into another handwritten, nearly illegible file.  I feel disheartened by this file's condition.

But I browse through the pages, glance at some of the clearer writing, find that some things are legible.  I see
->    ". . . my share $900 dollars and John Froman is 1200 dollars . . ." and
->    ". . . Catharine Sailor intermarried with John Froman . . ."

I realize that this is my family.  I am somewhat encouraged.  I know I should want to discover all I can about these ancestors of mine, and I do, but I want it to be easy. 

Browsing through the file again I find that it's a complicated one (and there's another part to it which I did not order).  Jacob Sailor died testate but the file was processed in the Orphans Court (I assume) because he had minor children by his second wife and was guardian of a female named "Elizabeth Dehl now Stahl."  The file was opened in 1870 and continued into 1873.  It was laid to rest for 18 years and reopened  in 1891 when Jacob's youngest son, Otto, was at least 21 years of age.

During the intervening years, in 1883, Mary E. Sailor, Jacob's second wife and administratrix, died.  Peter Sailor, Jacob's oldest son by his second wife, became the administrator.

I see that the children are named in several places and that the females' spouses are also named, along with living locations.  I see that some of the later pages are typewritten and there's a typewritten transcription of Jacob's will.

I know I will not be able to read and/or transcribe every page but there is enough in the file that I can claim Jacob Saylor as my great-great-great-grandfather.  I believe, if I give careful attention to detail, that I will be able to determine the names of many of Jacob's children by his first wife, their married names, and therefore may find death records for them.  The death records may/should/could give me his first wife's name.

I hope that after scanning and manipulating the images for lightness, darkness, and/or contrast I may be able to decipher more of the writing that is faded and disappearing and learn more about the life of my ancestor, Jacob Sailor.

I am encouraged.  The adventure continues.


© 2014, Copyright Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lee Doyle, Jeweler

about 1948
My father took a correspondence course to learn watch and clock repair.  Then he hung out his shingle and took in business.

He set up shop at a desk in a small room adjoining both our living room and kitchen.  People came with their watches and clocks in hand, knocked on our front door, and were invited in.  When Dad was home and working at the desk, they were ushered into that room.  Otherwise, we wrote a tag with their name and phone number, attached it to the watch or clock, and Dad took care of it later.

Sometimes people called to make appointments or to be sure we were home; other times they took a chance, possibly on their way to other errands, and just appeared at our door.

The sign I most remember (above) hung on the side of our porch.  It was easy to see during the day and electric bulbs inside made it easy to see at night, too.  The switch to turn it on was inside our house. 

Dad added this second sign, left and below, later.  It was fixed to the top of a pole at the corner of our street and Main Street directing people eastward down Furnace Street.  Because our first house was the first on the street  it was easy to see the second sign on the side of our porch.

My father must have taken this sign down shortly before this photo was taken in the summer of 1964.  Dad continued to work on watches and clocks for another 15 years or so but eventually stopped taking in repair work.

These signs were certainly painted by hand because they were one of a kind.  I don't know what happened to them but I wish one or both had been saved.  You know how it is with large items, time, and space, though.  There are things we think would be wonderful to have in 50 years but who has space to store them, and who wants to transport them through several moves, especially when 50 years seems such a very long time and we don't have an immediate use for them or place to store them.  I wonder how many wonderful, old family items went by the wayside for those very reasons.

Observations about the photos
As I was typing this post I was thinking how awful it would be to have misspellings on a sign.  Then the spelling of "jewelery" in the top photo caught my eye.  I suppose I've looked at that photo dozens of times but now is the first time I realized that "jewelery" is misspelled.  The American spelling is "jewelry;" the British is "jewellery."  I'll never know if Dad wrote out the words and gave them to the sign painter or if he dictated the words and the sign painter wrote them.  (Was it possible to have an illiterate sign painter?)  I wonder how many people noticed the misspelling through the years.

In the top photo I see the handlebars of the trike that's next to my sister.  It would have been a hard pedal to get it there since there was only grass and no sidewalk.  On the far right I noticed the car parked on the street.  It almost looks like a convertible.

The porch on our house faced south with two maples standing in front.  It was a wonderful refuge during a thunderstorm.  We could sit on the porch, dry and safe, and watch the clouds, rain, and lightening.  It was one of my favorite places in our house in the summer.

Looking at the second photo reminds me of the double doors that opened out.  We propped them to stay open and padlocked them to stay closed.  The garage had had an addition, before my time, I think, because I don't remember it being built.  The garage may have been built when cars were shorter and needed more length for modern cars.  Or it's possible that my dad wanted to add some workspace and extended the garage so he could put a workbench at the closed end.  This garage was torn down not too long after this photo was taken and a two-and-a-half-car garage was built in its place.

To see more signs head over to Sepia Saturday 238.


© 2014, Copyright Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 25, 2014

BOOK:  New Technology - Friday Funny

Announcing the new Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device (BOOK).  The BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology:  no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on.  It's so easy to use even a child can operate it.  Just lift its cover!

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere -- even sitting in an armchair by the fire -- yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.   Here's how it works....

Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information.  These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binding which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs in half.  Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now BOOKs with more information simply use more pages.  This makes them thicker and harder to carry, and has drawn some criticism from the mobile computing crowd.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly to your brain.  A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.  The BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it.  The BOOK never crashes and never needs rebooting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if dropped overboard.  The "browse" features allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish.  Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open the BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session -- even if the BOOK has been closed.  BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers.   Conversely, numerous bookmarks can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once.  The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS).

Portable, durable, and affordable, the BOOK is being hailed as the entertainment wave of the future.  The BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform.

Look for a flood of new titles soon.

I have been unable to discover who wrote this announcement but it came to me via email at least 15 years ago.  BOOKs have become my favorite reading device since my early discovery of them.  I use them for leisure reading and for research and study, especially for family history.  I'm especially fond of PENCILS for making notes in less permanent BOOKs such as noteBOOKs and journals.

How about you?  Are you a BOOKs fan or do you favor some other form of reading device?

Image courtesy of kshelton at Pixabay.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Penna Obituaries for the Worldwide Indexing Event

The five obituaries that came my way for the FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event this past Sunday and Monday were the most complicated indexing I've done to date.  I chose the intermediate level Pennsylvania Obituaries because they were noted as highest priority.

Since my daughters and two grand-babies were visiting, I decided to index while they napped on Sunday evening.  An hour passed and I hadn't finished my batch.  Naps were over and there were some interruptions.  More time and a few more interruptions and I hadn't finished.  More interruptions, more time....  You get the idea.  My batch was not the half-hour commitment I'd told so many people it would be when I encouraged them to participate in the event.  (I hope their batches took just half an hour, especially the beginners and those who don't index often.) 

The obituaries were modern obituaries which named spouses; siblings and spouses; children and spouses; grandchildren and spouses; great-grandchildren; an occasional great-great-grandchild and, several times, parents.  It seemed that every living family member, and some deceased family members, were mentioned in this group of obituaries.  Nothing was straightforward about any of them except the names of the deceased.  One of the hardest things was deciding how to classify individuals who were identified only as "in-laws."  Would that be brother- and sister-in-law, parents-in-law, or . . . ?  It was such a complicated group of obituaries that I may treat myself to one or two beginning level batches.  Ha!

All told, I indexed 5 obituaries which yielded the names of 166 individuals.

Intermediate level?  Definitely.  Confusing?  Often.  Worth doing it?  Absolutely!


© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Consider the Possibilities

When an ancestor disappears after any particular record and I've come to the end of the line of obvious searches I stop and imagine the possibilities of that ancestor's life.  What might have happened next?  Where might he/she have gone?  Thinking about the possible next steps of a person's life may help me find more information about him/her.

For example, I have only two records for my potential ancestor, Werner Frommann.  They are a ship's manifest and an 1860 census record.  (I've already searched for him in the 1870 U.S. Census but did not find him.)

From the manifest I learned
  • his country of origin (Hessen)
  • from where he sailed and ship name (Bremen, "Julius")
  • his age (54)
  • his previous occupation (weaver)
  • with whom he travelled and their ages (Maria, 21; Johannes, 16; Anna, 12; Elisabeth, 7; Heinrich, 5; Caspar, 4; and Christianne, 23)
  • his port of arrival (Baltimore)
  • his arrival date in the U.S. (August 4, 1856)
  • his intended destination (Greenville)

From the 1860 census record I learned
  • where he was living (Hickory Township, Mercer County, Penna)
  • his age (58)
  • his occupation (miner)
  • his country of origin (Germany)
  • with whom he was living and their ages (John, 20; Henry, 10; Casper, 7)
  • who his neighbors were (but have not yet compiled a list)

Imagining the possible next steps an ancestor may have taken will give me ideas about other possible sources of evidence.  I may not find him in any of the places I search but my search will have been deeper, broader, and more extensive.

Below are possibilities about what happened to Werner Frommann and search ideas.

He may have died.  Search
-> probate records in the county and state where he last lived
-> probate records in neighboring counties
-> orphan's court records because he may have died without a will
-> local newspapers for accounts of his death
-> local newspapers for announcements regarding his estate
-> for a gravestone at Find-A-Grave or Billion Graves
-> for his name in cemetery indexes

He may have returned to Germany.
-> Are there emigration records for the U.S. in the 1860s?

He may have moved from the county and/or state.
-> perform a broad search in any of the major search engines

He may have changed his name or the spelling may have altered because of pronunciation.
-> search with broader name variations

This is my initial list of possibilities for this ancestor.  I will choose what I think is the most likely possibility and begin those searches.  If he's not found after those, I'll continue through the list.

Do you do this when searching for an ancestor, too?  What other places and possibilities do you consider for a  ancestor whose trail disappeared?  What possibilities have I missed for Werner?


© 2014 Copyright Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Written on Paper - Book of Me

We practiced form by making capital-sized, continuous ovals across the width of the paper, first in a clockwise direction, then counter-clockwise.  We were not to raise our
pencils as we formed those as-perfect-as-possible ovals.  We practiced lower case ovals in a similar manner.  Then each letter had its turn for practice, each repeated across the page, each separately formed.  I competed with myself each time we practiced handwriting, hoping to improve each letter and make it look just like the example.

None of my grade school papers survive.  The only evidence of my early handwriting abilities is this Elementary Certificate from The Peterson System of Directed Handwriting.  My mother loved saving certificates, bless her heart.   

During my senior year of college while working on a B.S. in Education, I was required to take a handwriting test.  I was shocked to learn that I'd failed.  At left is handwriting of about the same time.  You can see that my letters wouldn't have matched the standard:  the tall letters and capitals were too short.  I thought the writing was fine then but looking at it more objectively now I can see why it failed.

These days my handwriting is usually a combination of writing and printing, especially if I'm in a hurry or making a note just for me.   I can write more attractively and usually do when sending a note or letter with a greeting card, but most of my writing consists of notes to myself so I write for speed and ease.  I find it takes more effort and some extra time to write beautifully. 

One recurring thought as I was compiling this post was this:  if I had been a census taker I would have printed everything and all words would have been legible.  At least I like to think that's what I would have done.  But maybe I would have just put the information down as quickly as possible.

A year ago I shared a post showing signatures of some of my literate ancestors and x's of some of my illiterate ancestors.  Times have changed since the mid-1800s when many of my ancestors were illiterate.

Times are changing again.  I have heard the rumor that handwriting is currently not being taught to public school children.  I was discussing this with an acquaintance and he commented that there wasn't really a need for children to learn to write since most everything was typed.  I objected and he asked me why children should learn handwriting.  I told him my thoughts:
  • Learning to control a pencil and form letters helps improve manual dexterity and fine motor skills.  
  • It teaches patience and the success that comes after effort.
  • Learning to write and read handwriting will allow children to read writing written decades ago, such as handwritten family history documents (which turned out to be an important point for him).
  • Those who know how to write will be able to sign their names.
Another thought came to mind later:  I think being able to write by holding a pen or pencil in hand and manipulating it to form letters into words written on paper is half the requirement of being literate.  I don't think it's enough to be able to type letters and words on a computer.  (But then I'm a little -- okay, maybe a lot -- old-fashioned.)

Perhaps handwriting is outmoded and an anachronism but I don't want to believe it and I hope it's not true.

This is another post in The Book of Me series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.  Thank you, Julie.


© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Who Is Werner Frommann - Mystery Monday & 52 Ancestors

Werner Frommann is my mystery man of the moment.  Who is he?  Where is he?  But he's not the only mystery man:  several other Frommanns travelled with Werner from Hessen on board the ship, "Julius," destined for Greenville, arriving in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 4, 1856.

Werner and the other Frommanns who appear on the ship's manifest are 
  • Werner Frommann, 54, male, weaver
  • Maria Frommann, 21, female
  • Johannes Frommann, 16, male, weaver
  • Anna Frommann, 12, female
  • Elisabeth Frommann, 7, female
  • Heinrich Frommann, 5, male
  • Caspar Frommann, 4, male
  • Christiane Frommann, 23, female

I believe my John Froman (of the intestate court file) is the Johannes on this passenger list.  I was ready to claim Werner as his father -- because certainly the age was within range for him to be John's father -- but realized that doing so would be assuming too much:  no relationships are stated on the manifest.  However, I do assume these individuals knew each other since they are grouped together on the manifest, and I think they are probably related.

Based on the ages on the manifest, the birth years of the individuals would be:
  • Werner, born ~1802
  • Maria, born  ~1835
  • Johannes, born ~1840
  • Anna,  born ~1844
  • Elisabeth, born ~1849
  • Heinrich, born ~1851
  • Caspar, born ~1852
  • Christiane, born ~1833

To which Greenville were they headed?  There are Greenvilles in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Alabama.  I'm certain they were headed to Greenville, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Several of the travelling companions, the males, with Americanized given names, appear in the 1860 U.S. Census in Pennsylvania.  Werner, John, Henry, and Casper Fromann, all the appropriate age, are there.  They are living in Hickory Township, Mercer County, rather than Greenville.  Hickory Township is south and slightly west of Greenville.

But where are the females from the ship's manifest?  I've been unable to locate them.  Little 7-year-old Elisabeth would not yet have been married in 1860 at the age of 11.  Young Anna, 12 in 1856, could possibly have married at 16.  But what about Maria and Christiane?  It was too early for marriage records in Pennsylvania.  They could appear in a church marriage record.  Or one of their children could appear in a death certificate which identifies their mother by her maiden name. 

After the 1860 U.S. Census only John, Henry, and Casper can be found in other records.  What happened to Werner, Maria, Anna, Elisabeth, and Christiane?  Will I ever find them? 

The search for the surname Froman in newspaper archives does not return "clean" results when searched with OCR.  It finds "from an island in Greece" or "from an early age" or "from an" followed by any number and variety of words.  The results for Frommann searched with OCR are not much better.

Search results on FamilySearch and Ancestry are interesting.
  • Frommann yields these variations:  Friedman, Freeman, Freyman, Freedman, Fremont, Frauhman, Freemount, Frieman, Freiman, Freeseman, and Fruman.
  • Fromann variations include Frontz, Vroman, Vronn, Fromm, Vroom, Vrooman, Fromme, Froman, Frohm, and Frum.
  • Froman returns Fromann, Froemke, Fromm, Fromme, Frum, From, and Frohm. 

It's possible I'll eventually find some document to support the relationship between John and the others on this ship's manifest.  I return to Werner Frommann every once in a while, always with hope. 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This post is in response to Amy Johnson Crow's call to her readers to write about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  Thank you, Amy.


© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Bowl of Peaches and Two Memories - Sentimental Sunday

When I was very young our family took annual travelling vacations.  I remember being carried through the Smithsonian Institution when I was between two and three years old, looking down at big glass cases seeing unfamiliar objects.  And when I was between three and four, my parents forgot my Teddy on a trip to Niagara Falls.  I was inconsolable.  A new, larger-than-Teddy panda came home with us, but he did not console and he never took the place of Teddy.

I think travel in my toddler and pre-school years was too much for my family.  For the next several vacations, until I was six or seven, they rented a cottage on Lake Milton where we spent a week or two each summer.  To my young heart, those summer vacations were perfect.  When we resumed travelling vacations every August, we visited places like Amana Colonies, Iowa; Greenfield Village, Michigan; and Mammoth Caves, Kentucky. 

In those days there were no credit cards -- at least not in our family -- and checks weren't widely accepted outside the area where the writer lived.  That left my father with the need to carry cash for all expenses:  gas, hotel/motel, meals, souvenirs, and any possible emergencies.  To know how much to take he probably estimated the amount of each necessity per day and then multiplied it by the number of days we would be gone, then added an extra sum.  (My parents were very, very private about money and financial situations so it's always a guess how they managed finances.)

On one vacation I remember the pleasant surprise of having sliced peaches for breakfast at a roadside rest stop.  It was a beautiful, fresh, crisp, dewy morning.  My mom sliced peaches into a bowl, added a little sugar, and I ate.  Delicious! 

The memory goes just that far and no further.  My dad probably bought a bag or a basket of peaches at a roadside stand earlier that morning.  It's possible that my mom, frugal and prepared as she usually was, had packed a few plates or bowls and some forks and spoons.  Other options for breakfast may have also included cereal or bread and peanut butter, but I don't know.  My memory stops at the bowl of peaches eaten at the picnic table.  I have no memory of my age, the year, or where we were. 

A few years before my mom passed away we were talking about vacations and I recalled and shared this memory.  Her response surprised me.  In effect, she said, "Oh, that was an awful time.  Your dad felt so horrible.  We were running low on money and there wasn't enough to buy breakfast at a restaurant." I felt sad that my father felt horrible about a breakfast picnic of peaches and that my mom remembered it as an awful time.

My mom's response reminded me that each participant has a different perspective -- and memory -- of the same experience, and probably different responses, feelings, and thoughts about the experience.  My brother and sister were probably on this vacation, too.  They may have no memory of peaches for breakfast, or they may remember even more than I do. 

When possible, I think it can be helpful to find someone else who participated in the same event and learn what they remember.  It could be especially helpful when talking with parents and grandparents to talk with their siblings also.  Who knows what other interesting information might surface and how much fuller the story of the event can be when compiled from several different perspectives.

How about you?  Have you ever discussed an event with a sibling or parent who, you found, had a very different perspective and memory of the event?

Photo credit:  Courtesy of Sarah R., Creative Commons at Flickr, jazzijava via photopin, license here.


© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.
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