Monday, September 29, 2008

Cowboys from West of the Potomac

This month's topic for the 57th Carnival or Genealogy was "I read it in the newspapers". My family has a large stake in the newspaper business not as readers or reporters, but as printers, Linotype operators, composing room foreman, and as newspaper carriers. You might say that printers ink is in our blood- at least until recently.

My father grew up in Ramey, Clearfield Co, Pennsylvania, and many of the men up there worked in the coal mines. But my father's step mom did not want Robert to work in the dangerous mines. So when Dad's biological brother, Russell Stryke, offered to take him from Ramey to Alexandria, Virginia, and start him as an apprentice in the Linotype operator trade, a deal was made. Russell was a composing room Foreman at the Alexandria Gazette, which is still the oldest newspaper in America still in circulation. However, the name has been changed to the Alexandria Packet.

My father worked at the Gazette until he finished his apprenticeship but then struck out on his own. He worked years for the Washington Evening Star in the District of Columbia. Later he switched his employ to the Government Printing Office, Patent Section.

One day in June, 1948, my mother dressed me and my brother and took us down town to the Washington's Star Company dentist, Dr. Shea. Now, our dentist still used the string and pulley system to turn the drill bit in our mouths and we were not exactly thrilled to sit in the dentist's chair for what seemed like hours. Perhaps mom thought she would dress us in our cowboy outfits we got for Christmas to keep our minds off the dentist's drill. I don't believe that idea worked too well. Nevertheless, after a tour of Dad's workplace at the Star, we did get our pictures in the newspaper. And we did indeed love to wear those cowboy outfits.

Caption for newspaper article on left: "Two cowboys straight from the west- west of the Potomac, that is. They're Billy, 4, (left) and Bobby, 6, of No. 7 Auburn Garden Apartments, Alexandria (See "Just Between Ourselves"). Junior Star Photo."

And here is what Philip H. Love wrote about us for his column, "Just Between Ourselves" for this edition of the Junior Star:

"Like every other boy, Billy and Bobby Kramp wanted cowboy suits. I can remember the times when I expected to find a cowboy suit under my Christmas tree every year. Usually I got what I wanted, but occasionally Santa Claus crossed me up, as the saying be, and brought me an Indian suit instead. I wasn't very happy about the substitution. A cowboy suit is one thing, as every boy, say between 4 and 10 will understand and that an Indian Suit is something else again. But whether I stepped out at Christmas as a cowboy or an Indian, the suit was of such flimsy material that it lasted about two days and then with the suddenness of a war hoop, fell apart."

"The situation is different with Bobby and Billy. Their mother, Mrs. Robert C. [Mary Margaret] Kramp, wanted them to have suits that would last until they outgrew them. And that's the kind of suits she made for them."

And here is a live action shot of me getting the point across to my brother. Billy looks like he's really wondering if I was going to pull the trigger. Boy, that was the BIGGEST Christmas tree I ever saw or even remember.

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you will see red-colored stars and other embellishments on the shoulder patches. These were all hand-embroidered. Something even Gene Autry would be proud to wear. You will also NOT see any dirt or grime on the suit- sort of unusual for boys. Well, my mother would not allow us to spoil or get the suits dirty. Consequently, we only wore them a few times. And when I donned the suit again, the ends of the sleeves were half way up to my elbows. Oh well, Billy got the hand-me-down.


A history of the Washington Evening Star and a picture of the building, by Wikipedia.

See previous blog entry: Linotype Operators, a dead occupation

Here is what other Genealogy bloggers had to say about their families in the newspapers (57th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pictures from the Gailliot front porch, 1930s

A couple of entries ago, I mentioned the house that my maternal grandfather, Charles Anthony Gailliot, built from a Sears kit in the mid-1920s. My mother believes she was about 4 or 5 years old when they moved from her grandfather's farm south of Alexandria City to the community of Del Ray in Alexandria. Charles Gailliot and his wife, Margaret, nee. Austel, had 4 children: Helen, Charles, and Mary Margaret (my mother), were born in 1918, 1919, and 1920, respectively. Nine years after my mother was born (at the farm), the youngest son, Edward Austel Gailliot was born. Uncle Eddie, as I called him, built a model of the Gailliot home which I recently posted at this blog. I mentioned that many pictures were taken on the front porch and stoop of the home. Well, here is an page from that album (click to enlarge):

In the upper left frame is my mother, Mary Margaret (MM) Gailliot, and her friend Helen Pesiznak who lived across the street. Helen was validictorian of their 1938 graduation class at George Washington High School. Upper right is mom's older sister, Helen Rose Gailliot, and the family pet fox terrior mix named, "Buddy". Lower left, is mom and a friend and also her brother, Eddie. Everybody who remembers Eddie as a child remembers that he was usually dressed in some kind of costume- usually a soldier. Here he looks like a policeman, complete with a Billy club (or is it called a night stick)- before the days of the "tazer". My dad and I appear in the middle, lower frame and a picture of my brother and I finish up the bottom row.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Uncle Eddie appears on Early TV and Gerber Baby Food Jar. (25 Sep 2008)

Uncle Eddie Gailliot had a few other distinctions besides creating models of airplanes and a model of the house of his childhood (see last entry).

Soon after he graduated from George Washington High School in Alexandria, VA, he lined up at the Recruitment Center to enlist in the post World War II Navy. However, he was pulled out of line and asked to pose voluntarily for a recruitment poster. Up till this time, most posters used painted figures or characterizations. Recall the "Uncle Sam Wants You" poster. This recruitment poster was the first to use an actual photograph (see image below):

IMAGE: Uncle Eddie Gailliot poses for a Navy Recruitment poster and recites the oath: “… that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies whomsoever …”

Eddie told me that the photographer allow him to wear a bracelet but requested him to remove his high school ring. I guess they thought viewers would think, "Geez, right out of high school".

Later on, Eddie appeared on the Classic TV game show “What’s My Line”, which ran on CBS, from 1950 to 1967. Panelists had to guess the "line of work" of the guests who would then respond yes or no to twenty questions posed by the panelists. John Daly, a journalist, was the show's host. Eddie’s “Line” of course was that he was the subject in the Navy’s recruitment poster. So, about 1952, Eddie took a train from Union Station in DC to Grand Central in NY and spent the day as a guest of CBS. Eddie told me he survived about half way through the panelist’s twenty questions. For every question asked, Eddie received 5 or 10 dollars which was donated to a cancer fund for Damon Runyon, writer and newspaperman. Uncle Eddie had the opportuny to meet some famous celebrities that were on the panel, such as: Steve Allen, Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Arlene Francis- and a NY cab driver who promised he’d watch Eddie on the show. Incidentally, the show was revived as a syndicated show in mid-1970s. The show was very popular and probably inspired many hosts and hostesses of house parties to invite their guests to play “20 Questions”. The first question was always, "Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral". I guess Eddie's reply to that one was "animal".

Eddie was also chosen to be another poster child. He won a contest in which a local grocery store invited customers to submit photos for the “Gerber Baby”. Gerber is still a favorite baby food. Eddie’s reward was a month’s supply of baby food packed in the famous Gerber jars with a baby’s face on the brand logo.

IMAGE: Little Eddie Gailliot was chosen as the Gerber (food) Baby of the month.

One more distinction? Uncle Eddie was a drummer in the band for the Washington Redskins professional football team. I think he was a better drummer that the Redskins were a football team- but that was years ago, in the early 1950s.


War Time posters including recruitment posters available at University of MN:

Web site concerning classic TV shows, particularly "What's My Line":

Damon Runyon (1884-1946): gambler, drinker, heavy smoker, writer of short stories of Manhattan NY characters (source of Broadway's "Guys and Dolls"), sports writer, newspaperman; died of throat cancer. His ashes were strewn over Manhattan, NY

Uncle Eddie Gailliot was a model builder. (25 Sep 2008)

Uncle Eddie has always enjoyed building models since he was a kid, especially model airplanes. Eddie is about 13 years older than I; so when I was about 5 years old; and he, about 18, he was really getting good at his hobby. I recall that he used fishing line to string his model airplanes all over the ceiling in his bedroom. That was a smart move because a 5 year old could only look at the ceiling mounts, but never touch or play with the delicate models. During and immediately after WW II, Eddie concentrated on the war planes of that era, painting them with vivid colors and pasting them with military logos.

Eddie continued to make models after he retired from the Bell Atlantic Telephone Company (the old “Ma Bell”). He became a docent for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, giving lectures on various airplanes and illustrating his talks with the models he created. He also gave talks at local schools in Alexandria City and Fairfax County, Virginia. It is remarkable to compare his models of the Goodyear Blimp and the Hindenburg Airship (see below). One can really perceive the difference in sizes of these two lighter-than-air aeroplanes. You might remember the dramatic newsreel of the Hindenburg when is exploded into a fireball because it was filled with highly explosive Hydrogen gas.

Image: Uncle Eddie compares the different sizes of models of the Goodyear Blimp and the huge airship, The Hindenburg.

Recently, Eddie turned his talents to making a model of the house he grew up in. His father, Charles Anthony Gailliot, built the original, life-size house from a Sears kit for $2,941- no mortgage nor bank bail-out problems then. It still stands today in Del Ray, Virginia, but no longer in the hands of the Gailliot family. Fortunately, the present owners allowed Eddie to take pictures for his scale model. The model can be taken apart by sections to show “break-away” views of the first and second floors, and the basement. The model brings back vivid memories for me of the real house and its former inhabitants. In the corner of the basement was the coal cellar. Every so often a dump truck would back up to the small outside window and pour coal through a chute into the cellar. The older coal burning stove has since been replaced by an electric one. Perhaps in these energy-crunching days, the cheaper coal burner will return. For years I had nightmares about the dark opening in one wall of the basement that went under the front porch- sort of like a cave. If my Uncle hadn’t told me there was an old man who lived in there, I probably would not have paid it much attention in my youthful dreams. Be careful what you say to a kid.

Image (above): Eddie Gailliot displays a scale model of the house that his father built from a Sears kit. Also on the table is a 1926 Sears and Roebuck Catalogue listing the original building kits.

Many family pictures were taken on the front porch and stoop of this house which was sold by our family in the late 1950s.
Image above: First floor and Basement (coal bin in upper right corner). Some of you might remember the old wringer washing machines. Didn’t you just love squeezing the water out of your handkerchief … and then handing the rest of the job over to Grandma? You may NOT remember the electric clothes dryer … ahem … because there was none.
Several books on the subject of writing your family history suggest that you sketch a floor plan of the house in which you were raised. I have done that for the house where my family lived during my growing-up years, 1949-1963, in Bethesda, MD. But the 3-dimensional model of my grandparent’s house that Uncle Eddie built goes a few steps further. I could write many paragraphs on the activities which surrounded my grandparents house when I visited there as a child. But, the same things are not happening in my generation, and I feel sort of sorry about that. Can you tell I’m getting a little old and sentimental and longing for the old fashioned ways?

  • Holiday dinners in the dining room; children ate at their own table in the kitchen.
  • My grandmother’s stepmother, Mrs. Rosa Poeschl, spending her last days dying of cancer in the dining room.
  • Playing with my plastic toy cowboys and Indians on the living room floor, while listening to the roar of airplane propellers as they landed at nearby National Airport, now, Reagan International.
  • The blowing of steam whistles from locomotives at nearby Potomac Yards, “Gateway to the South”.
  • The ladies in the kitchen making Fussnachtkirchle (Swiss pastry fried in lard).
  • Posing for THE Christmas picture by the Xmas tree in the “front” room. All the grandchildren gathering around grandma for that traditional picture.
  • Grandma Gailliot, standing at the fireplace mantel with her head on her crossed arms, weeping over the early death of her husband.
  • The big oval glass door leading to the front porch.

References and Links:

The City of Alexandria initiated an oral history project a few years ago. School children went into the community and inteviewed some of the senior citizens who spent most of their lives in the area and are essentially walking history books. I am very thankful that a group came to the home of Uncle Eddie and his wife Shirley and took their oral history on audio tape which was then transcribed on put on the city government's web site. I learned some history and stories of my mom's brother and sister-in-law which I had never known before.

Oral History project: Alexandria

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bicycling Thru History on the W and OD Rail Trail

On Tuesday, I started out on the 400 mile trip from Monroe, NC, to Wheaton, MD, not on my bicycle, but in my car. I am on my way to visit Mom in Hanover and hopefully gather more family history. But first, I made a stop at Duke University Medical Clinics to see my prostate cancer specialist. Also, I wanted to take a few pictures of Duke University's grand architecture, but it was pouring rain- perhaps on the way home it will be better picture-taking weather.

In any case, I wanted to celebrate the good news that my hormonal therapy continues to hold my blood levels of Prostate Specific Antigen in check, from 3.7 two months ago to 3.4 today. The details are boring but very important to me of course. So, when I arrived in the Washington, DC, area, I hopped on my bicycle at the Washington and Old Dominion Rail Trail and rode about 18 miles total, to and fro. At my starting point in Vienna, Virginia, I took this picture of my bike leaning against a mural painted on a nearby building.

The rail trail runs from the Potomac river, crossing the I-495 beltway, fortunately on a pedestrian bridge, and then continues on through never ending suburbia to Purcellville, VA. However, today, I rode from Vienna to the renovated railroad station at Herndon, VA. The trail is a regional state park, 100 feet wide and 45 miles long. That's a skinny park. The trail touches several other regional parks on the way.

The trail has been paved and now follows the Virginia Power Company's right of way. Thus, any tall trees have been cleared leaving the trail open to constant sun. Thus, you can be exposed to electromagnetic radiation on a pretty wide spectrum- not that it makes much difference heath wise- at least on today's knowledge. I guess the opportunity for good exercise overrides any negative impacts.

The trail follows the old railroad bed that was layed out about 1857. There is a quite a bit of Civil War history along the trail. During the War, the rails were removed by both Federal and Confederate troops to disrupt supply lines. Therefore, the Herndon Rail Station (image above) fell out of the railroad business for awhile. It was then used as a residence and store. After the War, the station was re-established and expanded. Rail transportation came to a dribble in the 1960s and eventually shut down all together. The Herndon Station was again threatened for demolition to be replaced by a parking lot. However, the townspeople came to the rescue and preserved the building making it into the Herndon Historical Society headquarters and store.

I sat on one of several benches in the restored town square; soaking in the sun, taking pictures and enjoying the final petunia blooms of Summer. Across the street, I noticed a new store, named "So Addictive Dessert and Internet Lounge". Just what could a store with a name like that offer a person like me? Only, HEAVEN.

Inside the station, one can find old records, pictures, and a collection of vintage items that continues to grow by donations. Each of the loose-leaf photograph albums layed open on a table inside the station contains numerous 8x10 inch reproductions of historical interest. A computer in the corner of the room will contain an index of surnames and a list of preserved items. The curator told me it was almost ready for use. So, if you have family that lived in Fairfax County, in particular, Herndon, VA, you have a treasure trove of historical information awaiting you.

And, now I can end this entry on a genealogical note. Along the trail, I took a break and sat on a bench which had a dedication plaque- a nice and practical way to memorialize the Razick Family- whoever they were. Makes me want to do an Ancestrydotcom investigation. Wonder what YEAR they came to America.


Friends of the W&OD Trail: History, maps, and lots of trail pictures.

Washingtonpost dot com article by reporter, Francine Uenuma, appearing in Fairfax Extra section of newspaper on 19 June 2008. Interview and video about Paul McCray who managed the WOD Trail for 20 years and knows its history better than anybody. Permalink (I believe this is a never changing link to the Post article)

For visitors or residents, this site provides a great summary of all the trails in Washington, DC, area. Which ones are your favorites?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Representatives of Essential Books in my Genealogical Library

The image below shows a baker's dozen of some of what I consider essential books in my genealogical and family history library. I should say REPRESENTATIVE images of these kinds of books in my library, because there are a lot more titles than shown here.

I will give a little more detail concerning each representative book starting, generally, from the top, left corner and going clockwise. In 1996, I had the privilege of touring County Durham, England, and several places in Scotland, including my great grandfather's place of birth- Thomas William Russell in Holytown, near Glasgow. Oh-h-h, I drool even now when I recall the book stores in the old city of Durham. I can even remember the smell of the old buildings and book shelves. I went wild with my visa card purchases not even thinking at first how I was going to get them into the plane going home. I had pounds of books- and I'm not talking about British currency; I'm talking about tons. I thought I would mail them home, but when I discovered how much that was going to cost, I decided to buy another suitcase and squeeze them under my passenger seat. The wonderful couple at the B&B on Claypath Street where I lodged in Durham City were sympathetic and stored my books for me when I took the train farther north. They also shared their own library containing a number books on regional history and geography.

So, in the image: "Coal Mining in Co. Durham" by The County Durham Environmental Education Curriculum in coop. with The Northern Echo (newspaper); here are lots of pictures, maps, and stories of coal mining. "Churches of the Diocese of Durham" published by the Millennium Committee, 1994, and purchased at store in Durham Cathedral was just that- with a picture, description, and history of every church in each parish.

Next, are a couple of my German genealogy and history references: "The German Research Companion" by Shirley J. Riemer, 2000, pp 663 is a virtual Bible of information, including history and language tips. A smaller book(75 pp), "The German Researcher, How to get most out of LDS FHC", by Dearden, 1992, is indispensable for translating German parish records.

I said before I love maps. I am so delighted with the mapping feature for images in my Picasa albums. The Stadte-Atlas of Pommern (Pomerania), by Fritz Barran has detailed maps of the Kries (=counties) and large cities. And, my Polen, Hinterpommern map Strassen Karte (1:200 000) by Hofer Verlag (not shown) has both Polish and German spellings for villages.

Books about a specific region or town lend so much to a knowledge and view of our own family history. Thus, I have accumulated books such as, "Zauberhafter Niederrhein, Eine Farbbildreise durch Landschaft und Geschichte" (Magical Lower Rhein valley, picture trips through landscape and history), by Rose M. Lehnhof and Ruth Kaiser, a gift from Rudolf Kerbitz. My Gailliot ancestors were from here. I own one-of-kind pamphlets: "Oscola Mills" and "100 Years in Brisbin and Houtzdale", in Clearfield Co., PA, and "75th Anniversary of Barnesboro" (now called Northern Cambria since 2000). "A View From ..." are two volumes of reprinted columns from the Clearfield (County, PA) Progress newspaper, which describe histories of all villages in the County, including the "Ghost town" of Peale, where my own immigrant ancestors first settled.

I value the McCutchen Family Trace Newsletter, especially since I drew the old log cabin on one of its covers.

And finally, I enjoy reading books about the former occupations and localities of my ancestors: "When Coal was King", by Louis Poliniak, and "Out of this Furnace", by Thomas Bell, an historical novel about an immigrant family working in the former steel mills of Pittsburgh. My Gailliot Family once lived in Braddock and worked at the Edger Thompson Steel Mill.

Of course, I have to mention the book that started it all for me, "If You Want to Write- A Book about Art, Independence, and Spirit", by Brenda Ueland, which I read from cover to cover one Fall night in a rented motel room in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

This was an important exercise for me, because I realize that many of the books in my library are out-of-print or one-of-a-kind. What will happen to the books after I'm gone? I'm not being moribund- just practical. Judging from my immediate family's lack of interest in our family history now (perhaps it will be more important in the future, like mine was), the fate of these books might be in jeopardy. Maybe I could donate them to our local library in Monroe, NC, in particular the Dickinson Room for genealogy and local history. But, my ancestors were from Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the Clearfield County (PA) Historical Society is open only 2 days, 12 hours per week- almost as inconvenient as the Pommershen Verein in Milwaukee, WI. Researchers at these libraries would have minimal access. Are the bigger genealogical libraries more practical? I think I should choose the library with free parking.

This entry was submitted to the 56th Carnival of Genealogy topic, "Ten Essential books in my genealogy library". Sorry, I ran a little over. For a summary of what other Genealogy bloggers find essential in their libraries, link here.

1. An unfinished photo journal of my trip to England and Scotland in 1996.

2. Detailed map of Stolp, Pommern (Pomerania) showing the names of villages of Kramp and Tuschling families in both Polish and German. Image from an unposted blog entry still in rough draft.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Interests and Activities of my Maternal branch, Part II.

I sat down with my mother a few days ago and talked about her interests in porcelain and china painting. I posted some images of her work in an earlier blog entry. One of Mom’s favorite topics to paint were flowers, in particular, roses and daisies. I occasionally visited my grandmother before she passed away in 1963, about 45 years ago; so I had a little difficulty in immediately remembering what were some of her life-long interests. I asked mom.

“Oh no, she didn’t have much time for hobbies and interests like that- she was too busy raising us four kids- doing laundry, cleaning house, mopping floors” I persisted, “She must have had some kind of pastime besides housework ... at least to take her mind off the drudgery of keeping up the house.” Mom always seems to pick the negative side of these type discussions.

Later on, it came to my mind- Flowers. Of course. Grandma had a grand and memorable flower garden. It began at the corner of the neighbor’s garage in the backyard and ran along the property boundary all the way out to the road in front of the house. The whole length of the garden was lined with a flagstone walkway. When I drove by the old house a few years ago, there was no such garden. I believe most people are too busy today to take the trouble to have a garden like Grandma’s. My friend, Ben, who breeds roses for nurseries to sell, told me that sales of Roses are not as strong as they used to be when his father was a rosarian.

In any case, the desire for a beautiful garden has always been strong in our family- and not just by the women. The picture below shows my grandmother walking her stepmother, Grossmom Rosa Friedrich, beside the garden. Unfortunately, the picture was printed in black and white as were most prints at that time in the early 1950s. Rosa was leaning on Grandma’s arm as she was very weak from cancer. She had refused what little therapy there was at the time for fighting the disease. And I believe there was a staunch acceptance of the inevitable in Rosa’s case. However, she must have really enjoyed these walks along the garden as I know it reminded her of her own expansive rock garden back home in Edgewood, near Pittsburgh, PA.

Image: My grandmother, Margaret, walks her step-mom, Grossmom Rosa Friedrich, beside the garden. Taken in early 1950s, in Del Ray, VA, near Alexandria. Sure wish it was in color.

While I have my grandmother’s interests and passions in mind, I must mention the interests of her husband, Charles Gailliot, my maternal grandfather. He worked as a pattern maker at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington, DC. He built their house from a Sears Kit. All the wood and materials needed for the structure were delivered in the kit, but my grandpap put in a lot of extras like the brick-a-brac around the eaves of the house. He could do any kind of woodwork with his hands and he had large toolbox full of augers, chisels and other wood turning tools. He made a kiddy car for me and painted it a bright red and blue- even the wheels were made of wood. But the pastime I believe he liked best was the canaries he raised in the garage- dozens of the birds. My aunt Helen told me that the family didn’t have much money to spend on hobbies like this. So, when she took her first job as a typist, she gave her father $100 to spend on building bird cages. He couldn’t say anything she said, something swelled up in his throat, and then he let a tear fall.

As family historians, we are always looking out for traits which are passed from one generation to the next- perhaps looking for examples of "What is Past is Prologue". Well, my mother, like her father, raised canaries on a smaller scale and kept a couple of cages of canaries for several years. I remember the tiny, fragile, cream-colored eggs that would one day show up in a canary's feather-lined nest. Now, for eggs to happen, one must have at least one male and one female in the same cage. So how does one determine the sex of a canary. Mom told me we had to wait until one of the birds matured and started to sing. The ones that sang the most eloquently were the males. The proof was in the pudding, er ... rather the nest.

Image: a PARTIAL glimpse of my mother's garden in Westminster, MD, Aug 2004. Click to enlarge. The Black Eyed Susan is the state flower of Maryland. Don't let anyone kid you, they ONLY grow in Maryland. Because, I've transplanted many bunches of the flower in my garden in Monroe, NC, just to have them whither and die before the next season.

My mother always had a flower garden wherever she lived. Her garden at our house on Nelson Road in Bethesda, Maryland, was the envy of the neighborhood. It was the most beautiful garden in the area and I ought to know because I traveled the neighborhood for years on my newspaper route. In those days, one did not purchase bags of soil at Walmart or K-Mart. So, my father made many trips up to the woods at the end of our block with his wheel barrow. He dug up and transported several loads of top soil and then he filled up his barrow with marble rock which were used to line the border of the garden. In the Spring, the deep pick Creeping Flocks would crawl over the rocks and the deep purple Grape Hyacinthes would form a swath of color about a foot wide and growing the length of the garden.

Image: I go for perennials myself- less work. These Day Lillies are doing well this year. In the rear are purple Spider Wort, roses, and an overgrown Carolina Jessamine (delicate yellow flowers are past blooming).


1. As soon as my Mother recently moved into a cottage in her community, she had to start another heritage garden as noted in this earlier entry.

2. Archived photos from my garden in Monroe, NC (Picasa album)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Kiepenkerl- Keepers of news and history

I went on a family history search to middle Europe in September, 2001. As I walked around Munster, Germany, I looked for sculptures and statues around city parks or squares that might depict the clothing styles and culture of the past. Three quarters of my ancestors on my pedigree were German-born before they immigrated to America in the 1880's.

I was sitting in an outdoor cafe having a Tass der Kaffee (sometimes I mix my weak French with my weak German). Across from my table was a statue or sculpture honoring the "Kiepenkerl". Asking around in my weak German, I learned that these men were traveling salesman of sorts who sold housewares. While traveling around the country, they also picked up local news and stories and passed them on to eager listeners in the next village. So, the Kiepenkerls were news reporters and story tellers as well as salesmen. I guess this was the old-fashioned equivalent of TV or the Internet.

I mused that genealogists and family historians are sort of like the Kiepenkerls. We collect family history and news and pass it on from one generation to the next. What an honor. What a privilege. What responsibility! And so, when I saw a representation of a Kiepenkerl painted on a small dish, I bought it as a souvenir for my genealogical curio cabinet.

As far as clothing styles go, the next image shows two views of an outdoor fountain in Lambert Square, Munster, Germany. The fountain was a sculpture depicting a family of Germans dressed in the styles of the 19th century, at least that's my presumption. First I noticed that they were carrying canes or walking sticks. The canes I surmise helped arthritic individuals to walk around. But, I am not sure of the purpose of the walking stick on a casual stroll to town. Perhaps it was used to keep stray dogs away. The women wore bonnets and bows and long dresses and aprons. The men had beards and smoked long-necked, curved pipes. They also wore three-quarter length coats which look like smocks. Their hats were what I would call captain hats with a brim. The shoes look like wooden clogs, like I imagine the Dutchman wore.

Later in the day in Munster, I found myself in the middle of a parade. I do not know what was the specific occasion for the parade. But in my experience, Germans don't need any particular reason for a celebration. They always seem to be celebrating and having a good time.

In any case, these "farmers" are wearing hats similar to that worn by the man at the fountain. Apparently bandannas and scarves were popularly worn around the neck. And if you look closely (click on image), the little slip-thingy on the twisted ends of the bandanna holding it in place is in the shape of little wooden clogs- which of course are like the ones worn on the feet, if you could see them.

Thus, you can see what your German ancestors might have worn in the 19th century if, on a trip to that country, you keep your eyes open and your camera ready.


My Pedigree presented in earlier blog entry.

My Family history trip to Gemany, Alsace, Switzerland, 2001

Two of the slides in this entry were created with Microsoft's Powerpoint application. I just came across a genealogy blogger who also uses the program for making genealogical slides and images and posts an instructional blog. Go to:

A panoramic view of the park (square) and Kiepenkerl in Muenster, Germany. Scroll down on left margin to "Kiepenkerl".

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fantastic Interests of our senior citizen's

You know there is a lot of emphasis on youth these days. Perhaps too much. Of course we want the best for our children and our grandchildren. And, we are genuinely interested in their interests and activities. Thus, we attend their soccer games, their swim meets, there dance recitals, look at their paintings on the classroom walls at PTA meetings, and on and on. However, I think we are over doing it here. What about the older persons- the grandparents. They have wonderous stories and fantastic things to show and tell. They also have wide fields of interests- maybe not so many interests and activities as when they were young and more energetic. But nonetheless, they have a whole life time of interests to talk about.

I was a little disappointed on "Grandparents day" last Spring at my granddaughter's Elementary School, that is Ron McNair, in Germantown, Maryland. We, the grandparents, sat at the back of the room and OBSERVED. They took us to the school's library and we were told what the children were reading. Very nice. But not once did the teacher ask us to stand up (even if it would be somewhat slowly) to talk about what it was like when WE were in school. What WE read as kids. What WE did after school and so forth. These young kids are missing so much I thought quietly to myself.

So, what is this entry about really? I believe we get so hung up on the kid's activities or busy ourselves so much with our own interests that we don't take an interest in what other people around us are doing. Especially those in our own families. Thus, I went to my 88 year old mother and talked a long while about some of her interests that she is or was involved in.

My mother is a wonderful artist. She painted on porcelain plates, cups, vases, and all kinds of items. And so with just minutes away from the deadline for submitting an entry on "Show and Tell" to the Carnival of Genealogy, 55th Edition, I want to show and tell of some the things which were created by the real artist in our family. God Bless her.

Mom gave me this pair of ceramic plates that she painted in 1975.

Image above: Details of Mom's painted plate- plums, apples and cherries. So good you could easily lift them off the plate and eat them.

Mom kept a book shelf in one room filled with porcelain items that she painted. And she would often say, "pick something out and take it home with you".

Genealogy anybody??


Read the other entries in the 55th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, "Show and Tell".

Heirlooms the Austel family brought to America

Well, I've worked up sufficient background information on the Austel family that I can tell a story about some of our family heirlooms. The Austel Family brought a few household treasures with them when they immigrated to America. They embarked from Antwerp, Belgium, on Oct 24, 1903, in hte steerage compartment of the S.S. Finland of the Red Star Line. Eleven days later, on Nov 4, 1903, they arrived at the Immigrant Processing Station on Ellis Island. All their clothes and personal items were what they could carry in their hands. So, any "extra" or luxury items they carried on board must have been very dear.

I already mentioned the necklace and locket which contained a miniture portrait of the young Joseph Austel. One of my aunts, the late Mrs. Martha Schuster, nee. Imfang, told me about a watch fob that Joseph Austel carried with him all the time. It was made from the braided, auburn hair of his first wife, Maria, nee. Gutgsell. So, listen up all you auburn-haired descendants of Maria Gutgsell.

Another item is the cup shown below. It might have been a cup to hold tea or milk. The handle had broken off sometime in the past. The German expression, "Dein Wohl" (To your health) was painted on the side. My aunt told me that Joseph Austel liked to dip his Brot (bread) in his coffee before he slurped it down. This is the same person who remembers that her grandfather used to take the train from Braddock out to Evergreen Road, Ross Township in northern Pittsburgh, to visit her mother, Anna. Once he listened to his grandchildren singing and playing on the piano "twinkle, twinkle Little Star". He took out his hankerchief and wiped away a tear.

Another item that I actually have in my possession is also a ceramic cup. It is smaller than the one above, and I believe it might have been good for holding a small bouquet of flowers. This cup apparently belonged to Frieda Austel because "Freda" is painted on the cup. That makes this cup very special. Frieda was 20 years old when the family arrived in America. She was an epilectic and died in 1922, a month shy of her 39th birthday. Grandma Margaret wrote down in her little black book. "Frieda, died from "epileptischer anfall" (epilepsy). Mrs. Martha (Imfang) Schuster told me that she recalls visiting Frieda in a hospital run by nuns. She was dressed in black and her hands were tied to her bed. There is always a grain of truth in family tradition.

I was going to submit this blog entry to the 55th Carnival of Genealogy, "Show and Tell", but I have another special entry that I want to write about next- only 80 minutes before the submission deadline.


Earlier blog entry on Austel Family Line- First Geneation, with a picture of young Frieda Austel and the rest of the immigrant family, including a picture of the father, Joseph Austel, found in a small locket.

Austel daughters who remained in Europe

Coming on the heels of my last entry in which I described the First Generation Austel-Gutgsell Family Lines, I would like to turn now to two daughters who did NOT emigrate with the family to America in 1903. The daughters were the oldest: Marie and Ida. Fortunately, I have pictures of these Austel sisters and you can compare these images with those of the girls at a much younger age in the previous entry.

Marie Austel, 1877-1951, stands by her husband, Heinrich Schlumpf. The two children are Fritz and Therese. As already mentioned, contact with this family was lost sometime after WW II. There are a few old letters floating around in the attics of our family at large and I continue to search them out. My maternal grandmother, Mrs. Margaret (Gretl) Gailliot, nee. Austel, kept a "little black book", in which she wrote down her siblings names along with their birthday and the day on which they died. Grandma Margaret was the youngest of the first geneation and the last to pass away, born 1894 and died 1964.
Image above: The couple on the right are Ida, nee. Austel, 1882-1934, and her husband, Fidelius RINK, 1878-1966. The couple on left are unidentified. On reverse is hand-written caption:

"Im Frühling 1935. Flemberg (or Hemburg?) St. Gallen- Oberland"

Translated: "Spring, 1935, in Flemberg (or Hemburg), St. Gallen- in the Alps".

Image above: Mrs. Ida Rink, nee. Austel, is being helped to her feet after apparently slipping on the snow. I don't see any skiis and she is smiling, so I don't think she was seriously hurt. Others in the photo have not been identified. On Reverse: "Rulshssorh auf dem Weg Z. Noanlichen, 28 Jul 1935. Erst ich mach her alle andern warum haben sie gelacht".

Translation: ? Anybody give it a try ? Please post in comments below.

Fidelius Rink and Ida, nee. Austel, had two surviving children, Martina and Paul. Martina never married nor had children. Paul married a lady named Isabelle and they had one son, Wolfgang Rink. In 2001, I heard from a third party that Wolfgang Rink and his widowed mother moved to Berlin, Germany, after Paul died in the mid 1990s. They had resided in Lauterach, Austria, on the eastern shores of the Bodensee.


I googled "Wolfgang Rink" and found a match at this web site. Could this be OUR Wolfgang Rink? I believe he looks too young. I wish I could get in touch with him and refer him to this blog entry.

Austel and Gutgsell Family Lines- Introduction to First Generation

This is another in a series of entries in which I describe the first or earliest generation for each of my family lines. The present entry concerns my Austel and Gutgsell Lines, specifically the married couple, Joseph Austel and Maria Gutgsell. They were my maternal great grandparents (Mom’s grandparents). It might be helpful if you go to a graphical representation of my pedigree to orient yourself as to which pair of great grandparents are being considered.

Image: Joseph Austel and his first wife, Maria, nee. Gutgsell (who is sitting and holding baby Franz); Maria’s mother, Mrs. Margaret Gutgsell, nee. Kessler, stands in the rear; and 7 of the 10 children born to Joseph and Maria. Maria’s first child, named Joseph, died within a month of birth. Two other daughters, Rosa and Margaret, were not yet born when this family portrait was taken at Jacque Studer Studio, Weinfelden, Canton Thurgau, Switzerland, circa 1888.

The following image is the three youngest children of Joseph Austel and Maria, nee. Gutgsell: Frank Joseph, now a young man, the sisters Rosa and Margaret (or Gretl, my grandmother), about 1915.

My aunt, who was the late Mrs. Helen R. Bailey, nee. Gailliot, possessed a necklace and tiny locket which contained a miniature portrait of Joseph as a young man. Since the portrait measured only 1 x 3/4 inches, and since Helen was a talented artist, I asked her to sketch a larger bust of Joseph so I could frame and hang it on the wall of my home. She did a wonderful job and I joined the two images together for this entry (see below) using Adobe Photoshop Elements:
Later on, I enlarged the original several times in a photocopier and digitally scanned it. But in the meantime Helen almost went blind drawing from the tiny miniature which she had clipped to the corner of her easel. Ahhh, the wonders of technology!

Joseph Austel was born 1851 in Haindorf, Bohmen, (Bohemia in English) which is in the Czech Republic today. The village name has since been changed to Hejnice in the Czech language. Joseph was a Roman Catholic, as were most of the Austrians at the time he was born. The only Catholic Church in the village was Panna Maria. It is an ancient church and was used for centuries as a site for pilgrimages. According to the Internet, the church is known as, “The Temple of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary”. Today, it is a retreat for spiritual rehabilitation. I imagine that all the parish records have been removed.

However, I was fortunate to find parish records of the family after Joseph was married and after the Austel family migrated to Burglen, Canton Thurgau, Switzerland. I have a copy of an affidavit concerning Joseph Austel which I believe was some sort of character reference, titled in German, "Leumunds-Zeugnis". It confirmed that Joseph was originally from Haindorf and that he lived in Burglen between 1875 and the year the document was created, 1900. Over that 25 year period, 10 children were born to Joseph and Maria and are recorded in both Catholic and civil records in Canton Thurgau, Switzerland. In Sep 2001, I visited Saints Peter and Paul Catholic church in Sulgen, near Burglen, I was able to copy baptismal entries from the parish record. I wanted to take a picture inside the closet archives of the church which contained shelves of old parish records, but strangely, the parish priest turned down my request. However, he did allow me to take at least one picture of the record book which contained the data of the Austel family.

Also from the Parish Records, I discovered that the mother of the family, Mrs. Maria Gutgsell, daughter of Ludwig GUTGSELL and Margaret, nee. KESSLER, died in 1895. Fortunately, the parents of the deceased were also listed in the record. The CIVIL records were even more helpful; they gave vital statistics for the deceased and the parents. Maria Gutgsell was born 1857 in Wintzenheim, Alsace (France at the time) and her mother, Margaret, was born 1820, Ammerschwihr, Alsace. The record went even further to give the parents of Margaret Kessler as Marc KESSLER and Magdalena ZUSCHMITT. How Joseph Austel from Haindorf, Bohemia, on the east side of Germany, met his bride from Alsace, on the far west side of Germany, is a mystery. What was going on in history in 1875 in middle europe which might give a clue regarding their rendezvous?

Two years after his first wife died, Joseph Austel, married a Protestant convert to Catholicism, Rosa Friedrich, who was 25 years younger that he was. Actually, Joseph gave Rosa an ultimatum to convert if she wanted to marry him. They had one son, Paul (b. 1898), who later died as an infant.

Again, the records of the civil authorities, or what I came to know as the Zivilstandesampt Haushaltungs (Household Registers) came through with welcome genealogical data. The marriage record for Joseph and Rosa listed their parents. Joseph’s parents were Franz AUSTEL and Veronika NEISSER (no vital statistics) and Rosa’s were Johann FRIEDRICH and Josephina, geboren (born) ODERMOTT.

In Nov 1903, Joseph and his second wife, Rosa, and Joseph’s mother-in-law from his FIRST wife, and the youngest six children immigrated to America and settled in Braddock (a borough of Pittsburg) Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Braddock was already home to the mother-in-law’s only other child, Louis Gutgsell, and Joseph Austel’s oldest son, Ludwig Austel. Joseph's son had come to America the year before in 1902 at the request of his uncle. Two daughters in the first generation, Maria and Ida, remained in Switzerland and never emigrated. They were already married by 1903: Maria to Heinrich SCHLUMPF and Ida to Fidelius RINK. There were descendants from these families, but unfortunately, communication diminished to a point where contact was lost.

Austel home in N. Braddock, near Pittsburgh. Address plate on house reads "562" [Stokes Ave]. Probate of Joseph's estate in 1924 confirmed the same address. Joseph and Rosa, on left. Margaret Frances Gailliot and Margaret Austel on porch swing; about 1915. The girls were school mates and close friends. Mary introduced her older brother, Charles A. Gailliot, to Margaret, who he eventually married in 1917.


For other First Generation Family Lines at this blog, click on the tag, SurnameLine-Intro. And replace "Surname" with Gailliot, Russell, etc.

Hejnice, the parish church and pilgrimage of the Visitation of our Holy Lady. Also, check out the many Czech tourism sites.

My blog entry on the two oldest daughters, Maria and Ida Austel, who remained behind in Europe.

Five Days since my "Birthday" on FaceBook

I finally became socially "networkable" and joined on 26 Aug 2008, or thereabouts. On the very next day, just as I was getting comfortable with the site's interface, the powers that be changed the face of FB. I can click on the very top, right, of the site's front page and go "back to the old Facebook". But who wants to go backwards? So, I'll just have to get used to the updated, new look.

I chose Facebook rather than say, MySpace, because over 150 people who write genealogy blogs on the Internet have chosen this particular social network to group together for mutual learning and understanding and to chat as virtual friends. There is also much back-slapping. Indeed, the group calls itself "Genea-bloggers", or "GBers" for short. The group began recently during the first week of July, 2008, and has grown rapidly. One of the GBers, Terry Thornton, and some of his colleagues, have gathered and indexed the blogs of all the other Genea-bloggers and posted it here. I jumped on the list of course (at least I thought I did). And Terry has become one of my FB friends.

Incidentally, in the next few days after joining Facebook, I did a search for my relatively unique surnames of Gailliot, Austel, and Kramp, and lo and behold, came up with several matches. I invited them to become my virtual friends and be participants in my virtual family reunion. It's virtually unbelievable. Though most of these new-found cousins were young and savvy regarding the Internet, I do hope someday to be introduced to their parents and grandparents and discover new history to add to OUR family history and genealogy.

I am looking forward to seeing where the facebook web site takes me- after I learn how to use all of its features. It even has an add-on application called "We're Related". Oh no-o-o-o-o, not another Internet family tree application. Trees, trees, and more trees.

REFS: A bootcamp for genealogy bloggers who have joined