Monday, December 22, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 10: my paternal Great Grandfather.

Thomas William Russell, born 1847, in the village of Holytown, Bothwell Parish, Lanarkshire, Scotland; died 1928, West Barnesboro (now Northern Cambria), Cambria County, Pennsylvania; buried International Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery (no marker), Brisbin, Clearfield Co., PA.

Pictured above is the former National Bank of Barnesboro (red-brick), in Cambria County, PA. But, you know how banks are these days. National Bank became Laurel Bank, and the latest is the Bank of Northern Cambria. Photo was taken in 1992, by Bob Kramp.

My father’s maternal grandfather, Thomas William Russell, spent his last couple of decades, 1900-1925, as a janitor at the National Bank of Barnesboro. He lived in an apartment in the basement of the bank. My uncle Russell Stryke remembers visiting his grandfather, Thomas. He said that Thomas spoke with a Scottish Brogue, and used the pronouns “thy and thee”.

Thomas was born in Scotland, but within a year, his family migrated to the coal fields of County Durham in northern England. Here, he met his English-born (Yorkshire) wife, Eleanor Hartley, and they had their first five children in County Durham. Unfortunately they also witnessed the death of their first two children who were girls. Thomas and all of his male siblings were coal miners. They immigrated to Pennsylvania about 1881, and Thomas in particular was joined by some of his in-laws, the HARTLEY and HESELTINE families.

Thomas and his kin first settled in Clearfield County, PA, and continued to mine coal. Although the mining industry was a dangerous place to work and labor strife occurred regularly, I believe the Russell families were somewhat better off than in England. There is some evidence that they bought land in Houtzdale and the materials to build their own houses. Thomas wanted his two sons not to become coal miners. Apparently they never did. Sons in the next generation were proprietors of grocery stores and movie theaters, laborers, and at least one of Thomas’ nephews became a Primitive Methodist Minister.

Unfortunately, Thomas' wife was relatively young, about 48 years, when she died. There were five children left in the household, aged 6 to 16 years. Thus, Thomas was an elderly widow during the times he spend living in the small apartment at the bank.

Being a coal miner and a bank janitor seem to be pretty humble occupations in my opinion. But I believe he did those jobs well and without complaint. There were activities of bygone days by which men judged their fellow man. For example, Thomas was one of the oldest members of the local Lodge of the Scottish Rite Masons. When I read Thomas Russell’s obituary, I can see why Robert Burns, Scotland’s favorite son, who is also known as the Ploughman Poet, was Thomas’ hero. Burns was born about 50 years before Thomas. As I read, I had a changed and respectful vision of the person who was my great grandfather though I never heard much about him from my close relatives. Below is an excerpt from Thomas’ obituary. In those days, in a small town, some obituaries of an honored citizen took up quite a bit of newsprint, thank goodness.

From The Barnesboro Star, Thursday, 10 Jan 1929, page 7:

"Death of Thomas Russell, Sr. He was a great student and lover of Bobby Burns, memorizing many of his poems.’ 'The Cotters Saturday Night', 'The Two Dogs', 'Man was Made to Mourn’, ‘The Wee Mouse’, and Burns' ‘Letters to his young friend’ were always at his tongue's end. He often said that when a small boy, his father who was somewhat of a poet himself, used to gather him, and the other children around his knee, and recite to them Burns' poems. All through his life, Burns was his constant friend and companion. Another of his favorites was the poem often quoted by Abraham Lincoln: ‘Why should the Spirits of the Mortals be Proud’ [by Robert Burns] and only a short time before he went to his bed, he surprised his friends by reciting this entire poem. Coming from a man of his years, a typical Scotchman (sic) with hoary head and of venerable appearance it created an impression on the minds of his hearers that they will never forget."

Thomas W. Russell, “with hoary head and of venerable appearance” sits to the left of his brother, Robert Russell, and their brother-in-law, Alexander Forsyth (m. Alma Emma, nee. Russell). The man on far left has not yet been identified. Photo was taken in Syracuse, New York, 1920. Thomas was about 73 years old; Robert, about 70 years.

Pedigree Ornament No. 9, my Paternal Great grandmother.

Henrietta Hohnke, born 1842, probably in West Posen, Prussia (now Wielkopolska, Poland); died 1922, West Houtzdale (also known as West Moshannon or Cross Keys), Clearfield County, Pennsylvania; buried International Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, Brisbin, PA.

Today’s Pedigree Ornament features an image of the former Saint John’s German Lutheran Church of Houtzdale, Pennsylvania. Like other “ornaments” is this series, I am choosing an image which is unique to a particular ancestor. Though not entirely unique to Henrietta, this image does characterize the religious community for several of my German ancestors and their neighbors who settled in Houtzdale, PA, in the early days. They included the STREICH, WAGNER, HOHNKE, TUSCHLING, KRAMP, and SROCK families among others. The early days actually began in 1870s when the area was a fertile resource for timber. Then coal was discovered on the lands by Dr. BRISBIN, and soon the Berwind and White Coal Company opened up mines into the Moshannon vein of the surrounding mountains as well as in the town itself. The soft coal was the perfect grade of mineral for powering the Steamships which were bringing hoards of immigrants to the New World. A system of railroads was built linking Houtzdale to New York to haul the coal.

In the 1990s, I visited the church office and discovered the Kirchenbuch (parish record book) which listed the baptisms and vital statistics for the congregation. Also recorded were early lists of communicants. The latter were helpful for grouping individual members together as family units. The marriage of Karl (Charles) Wagner to his third wife, Witwer (widow) Henrietta Streich, was recorded as shown below (click on image to enlarge):

I included this image to show why genealogists can go nearly blind during their research. The Wohnen (residence) of Karl is stated as “auf Pommern, jetzt Houtzdale” (“from Pomerania, now Houtzdale”) indicating Karl’s former and current residences. The column heads are not shown here in order to present a closer look at the individual entry. Karl’s birth date (Geborn) was 29 Sept 1849. The location and date of Henrietta’s birth is not stated. Oh well, she’s a female; it doesn’t matter. But, the female in this case was MY Great Grandmother. The opposing page 251 (not shown), listed the witnesses: “Rudolf Srock and Wilhelmine SROCK”. I have deduced that Wilhelmine was Henrietta’s sister who was married to Fredrick SCHROCK and Rudolf Srock was Fredrick's brother. HOHNKE was the maiden surnames of the sisters. The pastor was Detlef Ph. EBERT.

In St. John’s Kirchenbuch, in the section subtitled Gestorbenen (deaths), Henrietta’s vital statistics came to light, sort of. She was born 30 Aug 1842, (her tombstone was inscribed, 1841) at “P. Posen, W. Prussia”, Germany. She died 27 Jan 1922, at the age of 80 years, 4 months, 27 days, of cancer, and buried 31 Jan 1922, at Brisbin cemetery. John T. JENNINGS, pastor. Unfortunately, the birthplace is not too specific. “P. Posen” probably means the Province of Posen which was one of the largest provinces in Prussia at the time of Henrietta’s birth. The location “W. Prussia” is probably West Prussia which further confuses the issue because West Prussia was a Province just east of Posen. Incidentally, both West and East Prussia were far east of Berlin.

Since the church was only open on Thursday afternoons, I spent many hours on those days recording data from the Kirchenbuch. Fortunately, I discovered that the LDS church microfilmed the same Kirchenbuch many years ago. What luck, even if it was discovered a little too late. At least I could obtain photocopies to study the German writing.

The congregations of the former Bethel Swedish Lutheran and the St. John’s German Lutheran were merged in the 1970s and services were held at the Bethel Church whose name was changed to Faith United Lutheran to reflect the merger. However, when there was a fifth Sunday in a month, services were held at the old Gothic style, white clapboard, St. John’s. Unfortunately, in 1997, the water pipes froze and the cost of repairs was too much for the congregation to handle. St. John’s Lutheran Church was demolished. An outdoor gazebo and garden now stands on the former church’s foundation. The old church bell is mounted inside (see below):


1. A memorial plaque for the former St. John’s German Lutheran church, Houtzdale, PA, has been added to the gazebo and was shown in an earlier blog entry.

2. The Latter Day Saints library at Salt Lake City, has microfilmed the Kirchenbuch of St. John’s German Lutheran Church, Houtzdale, Clearfield Co., PA: Microfilm no. 1671236.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 8, my Paternal Great Grandfather.

Karl Streich, born unknown date, probably in Prussia; died 1885, probably in Peale, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania; buried in unknown location.

It is quite difficult to create a unique Christmas Ornament for a person who seems to have been invisible, which is the case for my great grandfather, Mr. Strike. To compound the issue, his descendants used various spellings of the surname which in some cases have been documented, for example, on marriage records and at least one tombstone- his grandson used the “Stryke” version on his inscription. But never mind, the surname has disappeared from this particular descendant line of our family tree. Of course, we know Mr. Streich existed, because four of his children survived- Amalie, Otto, Julius, and Martha- though one of those children, Julius, seems to have also become invisible many years ago. But not before he fathered a daughter who was “found” not so long ago. With some persistence, even Julius’ abandoned wife was located. I believe Mr. Strike’s first name was Karl based primarily on naming patterns and a process of elimination. One of his two sons and a grandson both have the middle name of Karl.

Karl Streich probably resided in Pennsylvania over the 3 years period between 1883 and 1885. The youngest of his children, Martha Streich, was born in June 1883 in Peale, Clearfield Co, PA, and his widow’s marriage application to her second husband states her first husband died in October, 1885. Unfortunately, the town where the Streich family first settled after immigrating to America was completely removed lock, stock and barrel, to various locations around the turn of the twentieth century. After the mines were exhausted, the stores, company houses, and churches, were loaded onto rail cars and transported elsewhere, like a tent circus. The only landmark of the town that remained was the cemetery. But care of the cemetery was abandoned and the tombstones, whether made of wood or stone, have crumbled to the earth and then covered with the succession of a new forest. Only one tombstone survived for many years, but the last time I tried to visit the cemetery, I could not ascertain the outline of the cemetery or the last known tombstone.

Nevertheless, I will still hang Karl Strike’s Pedigree Ornament on my blog just in case someone ever comes around to claim it.


1. The Ghost Company Town of Peale, PA, an informative web site maintained by John Krygier

2. Web site of the Peale Research Foundation organized by a couple of local residents (Wagner family) of nearby Grassflats.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Three genealogical presents I would like to see under my Christmas Tree

The topic for the 62nd edition Carnival of Genealogy is “Three Wishes”. We bloggers of genealogy were given the challenge to write a letter to Santa asking him to grant us three gifts from our ancestors. We all know that Santa has been around for a very long time and must therefore know a lot of history and would certainly sympathize with us and grant us our wishes. All we have to do is ask, right?

The first gift on my list would be the Brooch that was worn my paternal grandmother, Mrs. Emily Strike, born Russell, in at least three pictures which I have seen of her as a young woman. I noticed that there seems to be a miniature portrait on the face of the brooch. Emily’s mother died about 1892 in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania, and left five young children, two boys and three girls, on the hands of the father, Thomas W. Russell. Emily the third-born child who survived (the first two children died early) was about 12 years old. The oldest girl in the family, Jane Ann, was not much older. Nevertheless, the three girls in the family took the mother's place and kept the house clean and their father and brothers well fed. The only existing picture of the mother, who was the former Eleanor Hartley, might be the image on Emily’s brooch. Unfortunately, the brooch has not been seen for years. I hope that it may still be in the hands of one of Emily’s descendants. Actually, writing up this wish list has given me renewed motivation to ask around for it.

The picture below shows Emily on the left wearing the brooch and on the right, Emily’s younger sister, Janet Russell.

I have been over this picture, particularly the brooch with a magnifying glass, but the resolution does not allow me to indentify the image with certainty. I can not even make out the person's gender. Recently, I have thought the image might be Emily’s husband, Otto Strike, rather than her mother. I overlayed a close-up scan of the broach with a scan of Otto as a young man (see picture below). The picture of Otto was actually cropped from what I presume is a wedding picture of Emily and Otto. Is that Otto in the brooch? Was it customary to have a picture of a woman's husband, or perhaps her betrothed, on a brooch?

My Second Gift Wish:

I lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two years (1973-1974) on a research fellowship. While there, I bought this carving of a man blowing the Alphorn. My maternal grandmother was born in Canton Thurgau, Switzerland in 1894.

I am thinking big here. I do not know where I would store such an instrument. So, my practical wish would be to have someone show me how to make just one long, sweet sound from the alphorn. Christmas morning, around 6 am, would be a good time.
Third Gift Wish (is that all?):

The image above shows my mother visiting her first cousin, Martina Rink, in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, in the Spring of 1974. Martina died the next year after this picture was taken. Martina was never married, and she had one brother with whom we have lost touch. My third wish is to take a second look at the photo album which lies under Martina’s hand- if it still exists. The ultimate gift would be to have the album on my shelf. Too bad personal scanners were not common in 1974.
1. My mother was the daughter of Margaret Austel; and Martina, the daughter of Ida Austel. To undestand more of this relationship, see previous entry, "Austel Line ... Introduction to the first generation".
2. See what gifts other Genealogy Bloogers wished from their ancestors; sorry, only 3 gift requests allowed.

Pedigree Ornament No. 7, My Maternal Grandmother

Margaret Austel, born 1894, Bürglen, Canton Thurgau, Switzerland; died 1963, Alexandria, VA; buried St. Mary’s Cemetery, Alexandria, VA.

The Pedigree ornament above shows the German-printed Himmelsleiter which once belonged to my maternal grandmother. Literally, it translates “Heaven guide” but essentially, it is a prayer book, with prayers about Holy Communion, Stations of the Cross, and certain other litanies of the Catholic Mass. The picture is captioned, “Der Liebe Jesusknabe” which even I can translate, “the dear child Jesus”. But that’s about as far as I can go. My grandmother was born Margaret Austel, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, in Canton Thurgau, in the village of Burglen. The village is named after a small castle (Burg) which dominates the hill overlooking the town. Margaret immigrated to America with her family when she was about eight years old; thus, German was her native language. Undoubtedly, a mixture of German and English was spoken in their home in Braddock in the early days. In any case, Grandma could speak German when she wanted to, even though I rarely heard anything around her house other that an occasional “Gesundheit”. Apparently, she could also read the Gothic German quite well as evidenced by the Himmelsleiter which she often brought to mass.

Let me interject a biographical note here. Grandma was fortunate to be able to bring a little black book to Mass which she could read and understand. However, when I was brought up in the Catholic Church, parishioners brought little black books (missals) which were printed in Latin. And the priest prayed in Latin. I don’t think I ever understood what was really going on. I guess that all changed later on when the liturgical vernacular was changed to English.

Margaret Austel married Charles A. Gailliot in Braddock, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1917. Unfortunately, she lost her husband in 1948, when he was only 54, and she was the same age, as they shared the same birth year. I was six years old when grandpap died; so, Grandma was a widow for most of the time I knew her. Grandma Gailliot was the grandparent I spent the most time with as a youngster, especially when our family lived within walking distance of her house. We continued to visit Grandma on most holidays, even after we moved further away and had to drive the car. When I went to high school and college, my visits to grandma became far and few between. Now that I am a grandparent myself, I can see I missed a lot. As they say, wisdom is wasted on the old.

A Remembrance Card

I was leafing through the Himmelsleiter in preparation for this blog entry, when I came upon a remembrance (Andenken) card wedged between a couple of pages. It had a picture (see below) of a priest (Hochw. Herrn Pfarrer) named Josef Zündt. The text mentioned that he was a Kaplan in Bruggen, Appenzell and Gonten, between the years, 1880-1920. Appenzell was a town also located in Canton Thurgau. I wonder what the relationship of this priest was to Grandma. Was he the family’s priest, a friend, or maybe a relative? I will leave it here for the Google surfer to find, and hopefully, provide a comment.

The Pedigree ornaments for my grandparents have now been posted. Tomorrow, I will begin posting Pedigree ornaments for my eight great, great grandparents. To see all the Pedigree ornament in this series, click on the tag "Xmas-2008" in the far right-hand column of this web site.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Tour of Blogs

For this season, I have been creating Xmas ornaments for each ancestor on my pedigree starting from the principal (me) and going back through my great grandparents- 15 persons in all. Each ornament displays an image, not necessarily of the ancestor's face or bust, but rather, some characteristic which is unique to that individual. The ornaments are being blogged about one per day during the month of December.

Today, I was invited by the Genealogy Bloggers Group (Geneabloggers) to participate in the Christmas Tour of Blogs. I decided to present a slide show of my Pedigree Ornaments up to date. Of course, the visitor will have to scroll back to the individual blog entries to read more on what I described for each ornament. To bring up the project quickly, go to the right-hand column of this blog and click on the tag "Xmas-2008".

Every few days I will have to update the slide show to reflect the addition of new ornaments. I have posted 6 ornaments so far, plus a couple of extras for my adopted grandparents. I plan to post about nine more ornaments. Then, after Xmas, like all Tours, this slide show will be deleted, but the Xmas ornaments will remain on the blog- hopefully for years?

The following slide show was created in Picasa Albums, and currently contains about 13 individual images.

To see what other Genealogy Bloggers have posted on the tour, go to "2008 Christmas Tour of Blogs" at the Moultrie Creek web site, hosted by Denise Olson.

Pedigree Ornament No. 6, My Maternal Grandfather.

Charles Anthony Gailliot, born 1894, Braddock borough, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; died 1948, Alexandria, VA; buried St. Mary’s Cemetery, Alexandria, VA.

My maternal grandfather worked as a pattern maker, as did several others in the early Gailliot Line. He married the former Margaret Austel at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Braddock, PA, in August 1917, and within a few days, received his induction notice to be drafted into the Army in the Great War, also known as WW I. At the same time, he also received notice that he was approved by the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, to work in the Pattern Maker Department. Since the job was part of the War effort, Charles was not drafted into the Army. Thus, in short order, Charles married; moved to the City of Washington; and began his career in the Navy Yard. Charles and Margaret’s first child, Helen Rose, was born in 1918.

Since my grandfather died when I was only 6 years old, I did not have an opportunity to talk much about what he actually did as a pattern maker. From what I gather, a pattern maker is sort of like a draftsman and they design and make molds for machine parts. I imagine some of the parts which Charles drafted were used in weaponry for the War or for building the Navy’s battleships. On the other hand, I had a hunch of what Charles was able to do by looking at the bookends he made during his “spare time” at the Navy Yard. They were made out of solid brass and one design in particular was the bust of an Indian (see image above). He also made a few brass doorstops which were in the shape of dogs- German Shepherds. Grandpap’s house had two large double doors that separated the living room from the foyer. The brass Shepherds were used to prop these doors open.

One of my favorite activities as a kid was to place the Indian on a sheet of typing paper and trace the outline of the figure’s head. Then I would use different colors of crayons to draw and color in the feathers. By the way, I keep a folder in my file drawer in which I place the scribbles and art work of my grandkids. I sure wish I could see some of these colorings that I made when I was so young.

Shown below is a vintage picture of my grandfather with some of his fellow pattern makers at the Navy Yard. They are grouped together on the steps of the Nation’s Capital. I hope that someone, somewhere, someday, might comment below that, yes, that is probably my grandfather in the group. Similar things have happened in the past. Charles Anthony Gailliot is the third man from the right, standing in the back row (click to enlarge).


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Extra Pedigree Ornament No. 5A, My Paternal Adopted Grandmother (My Grand Aunt)

Martha Strike (Streich), born 1880, at Peale, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania; died 1933, Ramey, Clearfield Co., PA; buried International Order of Odd Fellows, Brisbin, PA.

This book of Bible stories (excerpts) was given to Martha Strike on her 15th birthday, 10 June 1895. It is a relatively small book, 5 x 8 inches, and 290 pages. The first five pages are missing, so I have no information on the publisher or date of publication. However, the text was printed in German. The pair of images shown on the ornament include the card stock cover of the book and the book open to page number 219. It is the beginning of Chapter 24 which is subtitled, “Jesus, der Kinderfreund -- Der Blinde -- Zacchaeus”.

Regarding the children in this chapter:

Jesus’ followers ask Him, “Wer ist doch der Größte im Himmelreich?” (Who is now the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?).

Jesus called a child to stand in their midst and then said, “Wahrlich, ich sage euch, es sei denn, daß ihr euch umkehret und werdet wie die Kinder, so werdet ihr nicht ins Himmelreich kommen.” (Truly, I say to you, unless you change yourselves to be as like as the children, so you will never come into the Kingdom of Heaven.)

The Chapter goes on to describe the healing of a blind man near Jericho, and then deals with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, who promises to give his belongings to the poor and undergo salvation.

The book did not contain any genealogical data.

Martha attended St. John’s German Lutheran Church in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania, as did other German immigrants in the community. Martha was the sister of Otto Strike. Martha married Robert William Kramp in December 1902, and later in 1918, became the foster parents of Martha’s nephew, Robert Karl Strike (son of Otto). Martha and her husband eventually adopted her nephew who changed his name to Robert Carl Kramp. He was my father.

There is another Bible in the hands of this Kramp family. In contrast to Martha's small book of Bible excerpts, which was given to her as a child, her husband obtained a very large Bible also printed in German which was passed down to their grandson, Robert Melvin Kramp. Several years ago, I took a picture of Robert holding the Book in his kitchen. Again, there was no genealogical data, such as vital statististics, written within the Book. Unfortunately, I did not obain any information on the Publisher of the Book on this first visit. I called Robert tonight to get more information about the book. He said the book was stored away. So, there you go. There are other dead ends besides brick walls.

Image: Robert M. Kramp holds an old Bible printed in German which once belonged to Robert W. "Pop" Kramp and Martha, nee. Strike.
Thanks to Herr Rudolf Kerbitz for translating portions of Martha's book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bringing Family History Through the Back Door

Be honest now. When you gather the children or grandkids around the Christmas tree this year to tell them a story about their family history, will they roll back their eyes and say, “Ohhhh nooo, not again. Or worse, will they stop and ask you to pass the Wii controls.

We have a lot of competition out there vying for the attention of our young people. And they will tell you they just don’t have enough time to listen to- another story. One of these days I will make up a longer list of excuses. But I still feel it is our responsibility as family historians, not only to gather genealogical data, but also, to present our history in interesting ways to our children. Of course, this effort is in addition to having our genealogy books printed in a standard format and distributed. Nothing, even an Internet Tree, will ever replace a book. However, while that book is on hold for the addition of one more genealogical fact, we need to get something passed on before it’s too late. I have posted over 150 blogs here, primarily on genealogy and family history. But I have not seen or heard any comments by my two daughters yet. I thought about not writing that last sentence, but what the heck. Let’s see where it goes.

On the other hand, I must admit that I did not really have an interest in researching my own roots until I was over 50 years old. And yes, it was too late in some cases. And let’s just face it, Genealogy is not everybody’s cup of tea- What?! It’s not?

In any case, sometimes you have to bring family history through the back door, so to speak. That is the experiment of today's blog.

About 85 years ago, my mother joined her father’s cousin and his family for a tour of Mount Vernon in Alexandria, VA. It is the home and plantation of our first President, George Washington. The first cousin was Harry Joseph Gailliot, who was married to the former Mary Krekeler, and they had traveled from Pittsburgh, PA, down to Alexandria, VA, with their three children. Below, the group stands in front of George Washington’s mausoleum:

I estimate my mother is about 3 years old and is standing far left, next to the gate. Next to her, are her second cousins, Mercedes, Clarissa, and on the far right, Joseph. Harry J. Gailliot and Mary brought along Mary’s sister, Antonia “Tante Tia” Krekeler, who is the tall woman standing behind my mother. After my mother graduated from High School, she returned to Mount Vernon and worked in the gift shop. However, she told me she couldn’t take standing on her feet all day. So, she went to comptometry school. I believe a comptometer was an accounting machine which at one time, was used to grind out numbers and calculations. After this training, she got a job in Old Town Alexandria for a real estate broker but she hardly used her accounting skills.

The following is a vintage postcard showing Washington’s tomb. The women are wearing Victorian dresses. The site looks pretty much like it did when our group visited there in 1923.

In September, I visited George Washington’s tomb myself and had my picture taken to compare it with the same site 85 years ago:

Every time I go back “Home” (Germans call it one’s Heimat), I re-visit places my ancestors visited years ago- sort of like standing in the footsteps of one’s ancestors. The tomb looked a little different than it did when Mom was a toddler. In particular, the mass of Ivy had been cleared from the top of the Mausoleum. Incidentally, Washington never had any children of his own, but his wife had children by a previous marriage. Washington treated the children as his own. The arched gate in front of the Tomb, leads to a mausoleum which contains 25 persons related to Washington in some way but most were related to his wife’s DNA- didn’t we used to say “by blood”. For example one of the tall white columns in front of the mausoleum is inscribed with the name of General Washington’s nephew, Judge Washington, son of John Augustine Washington. Also a plaque inside the gate is inscribed with a passage from the Gospels, John IX.25.
So, now we introduce family history to the younger generation. At the gift shop, I purchased a coloring book which pictured various sites around Mount Vernon, including one of George Washington’s Mausoleum.
“OK. Get out the crayon kids, and start coloring. And by the way, did you know your great grandmother once visited the … and worked in the … “
It was so much fun; I had to do a page by myself. I will leave it to you to figure out which one.
The following pages had to be mailed to me. On the right, note the sun and its rays rising (or setting) behind the mausoleum and a "welcome" mat in front of the tomb. Ahhh, the innocense of childhood.

There are several other pages remaining to be colored. We saved them for Christmas vacation.
1. Harry Joseph Gailliot was the son of KARL GAILLIOT and Mary Jund; and his cousin (my mother’s father), Charles Gailliot was the son of HEINRICH CASPAR GAILLIOT and Franceska Dumoulin. Read more about the parents in a previous entry, “The Gailliot Line, Introduction to First Generation”.

2. Mount Vernon is not run by the National Park Service. The Mansion and its grounds have been preserved by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. Go to their web site for more information including a virtual tour of the mansion.
3. Janet Horvaka recently wrote on her blog, “The Chart Chick” regarding some great ideas on how to share one’s family history particularly around a family holiday.

The Father of Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer smiles for the Camera

Please click (pick) on my banjo strings:

I'm assuming you know who Burl Ives is and what he looks like. And if you are a fan of his then you know he is the father of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or at least the Classic TV Version of it- not to be confused by the Rudolf fathered by Gene Autry in 1949. Anybody ever sing "Big Rock Candy Mountain"? The Carolina Panther's football is a significant extra. Then they shouted out with glee, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Actually, they shouted, "You'll go down in his-tor-y". Family history?

I wish to stuff this guy into the stockings of all old time musicians, especially that Banjo guy on the West Coast. And I pass the football "The Ball" onto all those wonderful genealogy bloggers who keep throwing out those challenges and carnivals which inspire us to keep blogging our family history and genealogy. Thanks to all.

Submitted for the eighth edition (my first) of "I Smile for the Camera". The topic was stocking stuffers. To see other submissions for the 8th edition, go here

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 5, My Paternal Grandmother

Emily Russell, born 1880 Thornley, County Durham, England; died 1918 at Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, buried Barnesboro (now Northern Cambria) Cambria Co., Pennsylvania.

These are the real “granny glasses”. They belonged to my paternal grandmother, Emily Russell. She died during the world-wide Spanish Flu Epidemic and probably as a consequence of it. Her death certificate states she died of septic peritonitis following child birth with a secondary complication of pneumonia. Emily was only 37 years and 5 months old. It was estimated that one out of every ten persons in the world died of the Flu. The rapid spread of the disease was partially attributed to American Soldiers of the Great War (WW I) who were exposed while fighting in Europe and then brought it home after the war. Even children were aware of what was going on. A ditty chanted by girls while playing "jump rope" went:
"I once had a bird
whose name was "Inza"
I opened the window
And in flew Inza"
The “child birth” was my father who was born just 7 days before his mother died. The family had gone to Detroit so that the father, Otto Strike, could use his skills as a machinist at the American Car and Foundry according to his WW I draft registration. The company was the primary manufacturer of electric street cars in America at the time. Otto’s family had been in Detroit only about 3 years when the tragedy of Emily’s death occurred. There were now five children under the age of 13 years, a week old baby, and no mother. Otto brought Emily’s body back from Detroit on a train and buried her in Northend Cemetery in Barnesboro, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. The older children were taken to Otto’s mother, Mrs. Henrietta Strike-Wagner, nee. Hohnke, and the baby was given to Otto’s married sister, Mrs. Martha (Strike) Kramp to foster. Otto took about a year to recover from his wife’s death and to regain employment. The 1920 census indicates he had gone back to coal mining. After a year or so, the children returned to their father in Barnesboro, but the baby remained with Otto’s sister in the neighboring county of Clearfield, in the village of Ramey. The Kramp family eventually adopted the boy. The boy grew up, married, and became my father. Incidentally, at the Millennium, Barnesboro, the town in which the Strike children were raised, was merged with the adjacent town of Spangler, and the name was changed to Northern Cambria.
Emily’s eyeglasses were essentially the only thing that was passed down to my father. Furthermore, he had only one or two pictures of the mother he never layed eyes on. Indeed, it was thought that most of the pictures of Emily had been destroyed. As I started to research my roots in the 1990s which is about 20 years after my father passed away, I was given several pictures of Emily by the late Mrs. Alice Wagner and the late, Mrs. Eleanor Grove. The women were related to the Kramp and Wagner families, respectively. None of the pictures ever showed Emily actually wearing eyeglasses.
The eyeglasses are currently in the hands of my sister. She put them up to her eyes the other day and told me they were definitely not magnifying lenses. Indeed, she said everything either close-up or far-away looked fuzzy. So, I guess the lenses were prescribed. I will have to do a little more research on the optometry of 1918. But I do know this, Emily never saw her children go through their teen-aged years, never saw them get married (which they did), and of course, never read The Christmas Story to any of her seventeen grandchildren. Never take for granted reading a book to your grandchildren. And you grandchildren, always appreciate being able to ask one of your grandparents to read you a story.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Adventskalender 2008 with a Family History

This is going to be an absolutely delicious blog entry. About a week ago, my good friend and fellow genealogist, Rudolf Kerbitz, and his family sent me an Adventskalender 2008. But this gift is very special for my family history.

The relatively large, 14 x 10 inch, Adventskalender features a winter scene of the Gross Markt in Wesel, Germany. One can see the Willibrordi Dom (Cathedral) in the center and the Rathaus on the left which is currently undergoing reconstruction. My (2x) great great grandfather, Anton Gailliot, and his first and second wives lived in Wesel. Anton and his first wife, Maria Dissel, lived right on the Gross Markt (Main Market Square) according to an 1843 Zivil Einwohner (city directory). Their apartment was located to the left and just off the edge of this picture. They most certainly would have looked upon a similar scene over 150 years ago. Anton Gailliot and his second wife, Helen Schlebusch baptized their son and my great grandfather, Heinrich Caspar Gailliot, at St. Maria Himmelfahrt Katholic Church, which is just around the corner from the Gross Markt. The year was 1862, and 20 years later, Henry emigrated to American sailing on the S.S. City of New York. Unfortunately, during the last days of WW II, over 90 percent of the town of Wesel was destroyed by Allied bombs. The Dom, the Gross Markt, the Rathaus and even the Catholic churches were completely demolished. However, it is a miracle that the surviving residents did not abandon the town after the war and have rebuilt the Dom, the churches, and the Rathaus. Indeed, the Rathaus is being restored to its original Gothic architecture.

The people of Wesel are proud of their town and their heritage and are reminding everyone by creating this beautiful Weseler Adventskalender. My Gailliot ancestors would have been very pleased. Their descendants are definitely pleased and grateful.

Oh yes, the delicious part: I have seen what lies behind the doors numbered one through eight. If you like chocolate then you will see my delight below:

In order of the door opened: a boot, French horn, Kris Kringle on a sleigh, an airplane (guess the reindeer got tired). Number 5 is a Tannenbaum, then a truck, and a sleigh with presents, and finally a house (probably a candy house don’t you think). We still have 17 more days to go in Advent season. I wonder what I will uncover. Whatever, I’ll post it here.

Actually, I am refrigerating the chocolate morsels until I see my grandchildren, then we will all share them together.

Froehlich Weihnacht, Rudolf, Ria, and family.

Late Entry, 8 Jan 2009: Well, I snacked my way to Christmas eve on chocolate morsels of our Advent calender. But I paused long enough to take a picture of the treats during the remaining days of Advent season. Well, most of them anyway:

1. Read my previous entry regarding the laying of the foundation stone for the reconstruction of Wesel's Rathaus.2. Previous entry: Introduction to the Gailliot Line, including Anton Gailliot, and his second family.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Extra Pedigree Ornament No. 4A, My Adopted Grandfather

Robert William Kramp, born 1873 in Papritzfeldt, Kreis Stolp, Hinterpommern (Pomerania Province, Prussia), now Pomorskie Wojewodztwo, Poland; died 1963, Edinburg, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.

Image: My little brother and I pay a summer visit to our adopted grandfather, Robert William “Pop” Kramp, near Ramey, Pennslyvania, about 1948. (scanned 35 mm Ektachrome)

No, this is not a major deviation from my plan to include just my direct pedigree in this ornament project. My previous entry in this series presented my biological grandfather, Otto Streich (Ornament No. 4). However, I feel the need to also include my father’s adopted parents, Robert William Kramp, and his wife, the former Martha Strike. Actually, Martha was my father’s aunt (Otto Strike’s younger sister); so, there is in fact a biological connection. Robert W. Kramp and Martha, born Strike, had five children before they became foster parents of my father. These children were really my father’s first cousins, since Martha and Otto shared the same surviving parent, Mrs. Henrietta Streich-Wagner, born Hohnke. But Dad never knew the Kramp children by anything other than his brothers and sisters, at least while he was growing up in Ramey, Clearfield County, PA. There were two boys in the Kramp family, one of whom died of diabetes in 1925 when Dad was about six years old. The other step-brother was 15 years older than my Dad and the others were girls. So, Dad turned to the neighborhood boys for companionship. And I heard that between home chores, they had a great time playing sand-lot baseball, hitching a ride on the “Pennsy”, steam-driven train, into Houtzdale to see cowboy movies. Then when they returned home, they brought out the guitars and sang cowboy songs.

Mrs. Martha Kramp, born Strike, died in 1933, when Dad was only 15 years old. So, my brother and I never got to see our adopted grandmother (actually our biological grand aunt). But we did get to know Pop Kramp. He lived to the age of 90 years. Our family would usually make the trip from Bethesda, Maryland, up to the mountains of PA, to see Pop in the summer when school was out.

Pop Kramp sold his homestead in 1941 and then lived with his children for months at a time until the 1950s. He did not live with us however, mainly because we lived too far from his “home” area in Pennsylvania. But when he did come to our house to visit for a few days, my brother and I knew exactly what to do. We brought out our piggy banks, sat on the floor in front of his chair, and started to slowly count our hundred or so pennies. Then with a chuckle, Pop would throw out a couple of dollar bills on top of the pile pennies- to our immense delight.

Pop eventually settled down with his oldest daughter, Florence, for the remainder of his life. I recall that aunt Florence made the best home-made apple pies and bread. As I got into High school and beyond, I did not travel up to see Pop and Florence very often. Pop died the year before I graduated from college. Unfortunately, Aunt Florence died only four months before I decided to take almost a year off in 1992 to research my roots. Most of us have probably gone through the same loss of an elderly relative and with that the loss of a precious source of our family history.

Thus, in 1992, I returned by myself to the old homestead and blacksmith shop where Pop Kramp once lived and worked and where my father spent his childhood. I knocked on the door and told the present owner, an aged man, who turned out to be the late Mr. Shunkwiler, that I once knew the former inhabitants. He invited me in to look around the old house. He told me that he used to come down to Pop Kramp’s blacksmith shop behind the house to have his picks re-sharpened. Coal miners were responsible for keeping their own tools maintained. One day, Pop surprised him by offering to sell the house if he was interested. Shunkwiler responded that he didn’t have much money. He wound up buying the house for $900 (that’s nine Hundred dollars) and Pop Kramp went off to live with his children.

Image: The late Mr. Shunkwiler tells me how he came to own the house my adopted grandfather once owned. I asked Mr. Shunkwiler If he hunted with the shotgun standing by his bedside. “Not much”, he said, “I just keep it around to run off prying family historians”.

Believe that and I’ll tell you another one. The gun WAS real though.

They Overcame Their Handicaps: Keller and Roosevelt

Have you ever felt that a number of events were pulling you in a certain direction? Genealogists have had these feelings probably a number of times. In September of this year, I seemed to be pulled in the direction of the well-known deaf and blind activist, Helen Keller. First, I should say that Helen and her teacher and companion, Anne Sullivan, were known to have visited the place of employment of my grandfather, Otto Strike. He was the ice plant operator at Cresson Tuberculosis Sanitarium in the 1930s and 1940s. Also in September, I was visiting my mother for a few weeks in the DC area. In a local book store, my genealogist's eyes alighted on a copy of “Milestones into Headstones. Mini Biographies of Fifty Fascinating Americans Buried in Washington, DC", by Peter Exton and Dorsey Kleitz. I bought the book and a couple more on the way out of the store. Books are my downfall because I often put myself into the book. It has gotten me into trouble several times in the past, like the time I built a cabin in the woods, but that’s a long story. In any case, this time I thought it would be a neat project if could tour as many of the Headstones referenced in this book as possible. Then take pictures for my blog. I already had a head start- I located and took a picture of the tombstone for F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of the Great Gatsby. He was buried in my hometown of Rockville, MD, a fact that was previously unbeknownst to me. I was so impressed that I took a picture and blogged it.

Thus, I used my recently purchased book as a guide. I took the official tour of Arlington National Cemetery. Indeed, I ticked off 7 of the 27 Famous persons mentioned in the book who are buried at Arlington. For the record, these were Richard Byrd, Abner Doubleday (the “inventor”of baseball), Medgar Evers, John and Robert Kennedy, Robert Taft and The Unknown Soldier.

What interested me most, however, was that Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan were interred at Washington’s National Cathedral. So, I took a pilgrimage to the Cathedral and I was not disappointed. I arrived in time to take the official tour. Below, a fellow tourist tactically observes the inscription which is written, interestingly, in Braille.

The duplicate inscription above the Braille, reads, “Helen Keller and her lifelong companion Anne Sullivan Macey are interred in the columbarium behind this Chapel".

Incidentally, since The Cathedral might be featured during the Holiday Season, such as in a Christmas service, I will tell you that the only former President who is buried in Washington, DC, is Woodrow Wilson, and his sarcophagus is in the Cathedral.

What were the other events which seemed to make me particularly aware of Helen Keller? I came home from my tour of the Cathedral and spontaneously turned on the TV. Believe it or not, “The Miracle Worker”, the story of Helen Keller’s life, was on Turner Classic Movies. It starred Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft- who received the 1962 Academy Award for her portrayal of Anne Sullivan. Actually, I had seen the movie once before, many years ago. But, when the scene came up in which Patty Duke, as Helen Keller, groaned out the words, “wah wah” while Anne pumped cold well-water over Helen’s outstretched arms and “signing” the word “water” in her hands , I got such a lump in my throat I could hardly swallow or breath.

A few days later, it hit me again. On Roots Television, Dick Eastman was interviewing Judith Lacey of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. Judith was describing the holdings of their library. Quite fortunately, the library recently received some family papers, and it just so happens that a previously unknown photograph of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan surfaced among the papers. What was striking about this photograph was that the eight year old Helen was holding a doll in her hands. D-O-L-L was the first word that Anne signed into the palm and fingers of Helen’s hand.

Helen Keller went on to be the first deaf-blind person to graduate from College (Radcliffe). Realize, that when Helen was born in 1880, society had dictated that the blind and deaf were idiots.

Franklin D. Roosevelt realistically depicted in his memorial

While I was in Washington, DC, I rode my bicycle around many of the monuments and memorials in the city. Another historic person who was able to rise high above his handicap was former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. I toured his memorial which is spread over about 7 acres near the Capital Mall. Several statues, sculptures, and inscriptions depict the era of Roosevelt's’ presidency. He led the nation through two of the greatest crises of the twentieth century, the Great Depression and World War II. The centerpiece of the monument was a large statue of the mature President and his Scottish Terrier. However, many were disappointed that the figure did not display his disability. Roosevelt had been stricken with polio and was not able to stand by himself. It is ironic that FDR was able to get the Nation back on its feet after the Depression, but was unable to stand on his own two feet. In any case, a protest was planned for the dedication of the Memorial by activists for the handicapped. However, Congress quickly passed an act, signed by President Clinton, which approved the addition of another statue. It shows FDR, full-sized, sitting strong and determined- in a wheel chair. The protest was cancelled. Behind the wheel chair, one can barely see an inscription on the wall. Beneath the inscription is a line of Braille. See below:

Image: Two statues of Franklin D. Roosevelt at his memorial in Washington, DC.


1. Previous entry on the experiences of my grandfather, Otto Strike, at Cresson TB Sanitarium, Cambria County, Pennsylvania.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tombstone at St. Mary’s, Rockville, MD.

3. Dick Eastman of Roots Television interviews Judith Lacey of The New England Historic Genealogical Society regarding a heretofore never seen, vintage photograph of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. Try this link first which was labeled “get link” on their Web site, or if that does not work try this link which was copy/pasted directly from the URL. The second link leads to National media coverage of the event (NBC, Fox, etc.).

4. At Home in the Woods, by Vena and Bradford Angier. Collier Books, Div. of Macmillan, NY, copyright 1951. Do NOT read this book if you tend to live vicariously in what you read. Fortunately, the book is probably out of print. Uh oh, Vena and Brad Angier are on Google Search.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 4, Paternal Grandfather

Otto Karl Strike, born 1877 in Prussia; died 1946 at Cresson Sanitarium, Cambria Co., Pennsylvania.

Click ornament to enlarge. This is a vintage photograph of the kitchen at the Cresson Tuberculosis Sanitarium, which was located on the outskirts of Cresson, in Cambria Co, Pennsylvania. I have studied it closely with a magnifying class. Though most of the persons are women, there appears to be two men toward the back of the room, and the man on the far right pushing a cart may be none other than my Dad’s biological father, Otto K. Strike. I say “biological”, because my father, after the sudden death of his mother, was fostered by Otto’s sister, Martha, who was married to Robert William Kramp. Mr. Kramp, who we called “Pop”, legally adopted my father shortly after his sixteenth birthday. Thus, I consider Otto Strike as my biological grandfather; and Pop Kramp, my adopted grandfather.

Otto Strike’s Death Certificate states he was an "ice plant operator" at Cresson Sanatarium and an employee of Pennsylvania Department of Health. I never met Otto in person (I was 4 years old when he died), but my older cousin, who was raised in Akron, OH, told me she and her mother would visit Otto at Cresson. She remembers Otto treating them to ice cream cones. Perhaps one of Otto’s duties at the ice plant was making or storing the frozen dessert.

Cresson Sanitarium, or the “San” as it was called locally, was built on land originally owned by the mogul of the steel industry and a millionaire, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was going to build a large mansion on the site for his mother who suffered from Tuberculosis. The refreshing mountainous air around Cresson was ideally suited for the health and recovery of TB patients; however, Mrs. Carnegie died before the house was built. Carnegie agreed to sell the land to the state for one dollar if they would build a Sanitarium and hospital on the property.

After tuberculosis was essentially eradicated in America by the mid-1950s, the Sanitarium and its buildings were converted into a state prison. In 1993, I drove out to the prison hoping to take pictures of the institution which was once my grandfather’s place of employment. Unfortunately, the site was surrounded by a high fence topped with razor wire and large signs warning, “No Pictures”. One day as I was searching though vintage postcards at an antique store far removed from Cresson, I was fortunate to find a series of vintage post cards which depicted the old TB Sanitarium. I bought the whole lot (see below)

The individual postcards are captioned starting from the top row, left: Grace Chapel, Administration Building, Children’s Gymnasium and Swimming Pool. Middle row: Unit No. 3, West Wing, East Wing. Bottom row: Surgery Building, Unit No. 1, and East Wing and corridor.

According to Otto’s Death Certificate, he died on his birthday, 20 May 1946, in “Cresson Sanitarium No. 2”. I did not make the connection between that number and the San until I posted these post cards. There are images of Unit No. 1 and No. 3, but not No. 2. Was there ever a postcard perhaps showing the specific building in which my grandfather died? Please, you antique hunters, keep an eye out.

Only a few years ago, I traced down a distant cousin with the help of a fellow researcher, Lyn. Our mutual relation, Bill Albright, got out his shoe box of pictures and pulled out a realistic view of the old Cresson Sanitarium as show below:

Children and their parents would sometimes board at the San. The Historical Society of Cambria County in Ebensburg, PA, has a file on the San, and I noted the following item of interest from a booklet:

"A great interest was taken in the Sanitarium by Mrs. Mary Thaw of Pittsburgh who had a summer home near Cresson. She gave generously in a financial way, particularly in the building of the chapel, and she visited the Sanitarium frequently familiarizing herself with its needs."

"On her visits she several times brought with her HELEN KELLER, her friend and protégé and Mrs. Keller's teacher, Mrs. ANN SULIVAN MACEY. On one occasion Mrs. Keller gave a short talk to the sanitarium children who were gathered in the assembly room."

I would like to imagine that my grandfather had a chance to meet and hear Helen Keller in person.

I posted a couple of my vintage postcards on a genealogical web site I maintain for my father’s branch of our tree. I was amazed that out of the hundreds of people who went through the San, there was one former patient who stumbled upon my web site about two years ago and contacted me. He was an eye witness. Ron emailed me from London, UK:

“Thank you so much for displaying the photos ... I was a patient there in 1953 and 1954, and at seventeen years old, I was one of the youngest. I lived in Unit 1 for about five months prior to my discharge in December 1954. I made occasional appearances at the chapel but I remember it well. I have several photos of other patients taken in the sanitarium and a couple taken on the roof of one of the buildings but while there I didn't take any of the grounds and other buildings”.

“The orderlies and male nurses had rooms in the attic of the west wing or else they lived in the town of Cresson. There is one building I don't recognize- it might be the dreaded surgery building.”

“Once you were well enough but not ready for discharge, you were moved into a dormitory. One dorm for men, one for women, situated to the rear of the admissions building. Behind the men's dorm there was an abandoned mine entrance. … As part of my therapy I was given a job in the San's post office and I delivered the mail from one end to the other, quite a trek. Aside from a few doctors I was the only male allowed into the women's wards. The kitchen girls, all from local towns, such as Lilly and Holidaysburg, did not wear long dresses and black stockings. Instead, their dresses were a bit shorter and they never wore stockings. And they were terrible flirts.”

“From Cresson I went directly to Penn State on a rehabilitation scholarship. After graduating in 1960, I lived at times in New York City, in Florida and in San Francisco for the next 20 years …”

1. The vintage photograph of the kitchen at Cresson Sanitarium is taken from “Images of America. Around Cresson” by Sister Anne Frances Pulling, 2000. Published by Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC.

2. Two of the Vintage postcards of Cresson Sanitarium mentioned in the text were also posted to an album at my Father’s genealogical web site.

3. Chuck Felton, a former patient at Cresson Sanitarium, has collected much information on the historic Sanitarium and has posted it on his web site "Cresson Sanitarium Remembered"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 3, My Mom

Image: Mrs. Mary Margaret Kramp-Franck, born Mary M. Gailliot (still living)

Here is my mother sitting at her old Singer sewing machine with a smiling face in the mid-1950s. She sewed many of her own dresses and skirts. Mom said she took a class in high school which taught her how to sew. The same type of class which was taught at my middle school in the 1950s was called Home Economics. I don’t think it was offered to the guys, or if it was, I do not know of any who took it. Nowadays, however, I believe these predominantly female classes have changed their curricula so that they are more relevant to modern times. My step daughter, who is a Media Specialist in middle school, told me she has not seen a sewing machine in her school in the last dozen years or so. Moreover, the “Home Ec” classes are more likely to be called Family Living or Consumer Science. Another daughter said that one of her electives was called “Child Development”, which included several boys in her class. Glad I will never have to go back to high school; I would certainly be lost.

My mother said she also learned to sew from her mother. I particularly remember the sewing machine Grandma used. It was powered by a foot pedal or tray which one could rock back and forth which then turned a belt and pulley system which made the needle arm go up and down. I was mesmerized by its mechanics. They were called Treadle sewing machines. After sewing machines were electrified, many of the Treadles, especially the bottom part with the foot pedal, were made into small tables- perfect for holding house plants.

My mother grew up during the Great Depression when many materials were scarce. Grandma took in old clothes and coats from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Franceska Gailliot, and ripped the seams apart. Then, she cut patterns from the non-worn out parts and sewed them together to make “new” dresses.

Mom said she also took a millinery class one time and learned how to make hats. All I remember was the form she had in the “sewing room”. It was shaped just like a human head and made out of wood. Sort of like mine. I wish I could find one of those forms now; it would make a great hat rack and many other things that I can imagine.

Shown below is one of my mother’s sewing projects modeled by my sister. Mom even had material left over to sew a similar dress for Beverly’s doll. Judging by the looks of the TV and knowing when Beverly was born, I believe the picture was taken about 1955.

Another one of Mom’s dresses which she made is shown in a previous entry. And one of her most complex and difficult projects by her own admission was the cowboy suits she made one Christmas for me and my brother.
A little while ago, I received a gift of some leisure pants in which the pant legs were about a foot too long. I cut off the extra material, but now I need them hemmed so they won’t unravel. H-e-e-e-e-y Mom!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 2, My Father

I am numbering my Pedigree Ornaments according to the Ahnentafel System. Each ancestor has a number based on their relationship to the Principal who is number 1 (that's me). I posted Pedigree Ornament No. 1 yesterday. If you are really interested in the details of an Ahnentefel: each father has a number twice that of his child, and each mother has a number twice that of her child, plus one. For example, my father is Number 2; and my mother, Number 3. My paternal grandfather would be 2 x 2, or Number 4. My maternal grandmother would be (2 x 3) + 1, or Number 7. Now that you know the details, forget the math and enjoy the images and stories of the ornaments. Click on any ornament to enlarge it.

Image: Robert Carl Kramp, born Robert C. Strike, 1918-1974.

As I described this series of blogs yesterday, I am posting images of my ancestors which depict something unique about their life. Here, Dad is playing his guitar. He played by himself most of the time, in the quiet corners of the house. But when he was growing up in Ramey, Clearfield County, PA, he told me he had a grand old time jamming with the other boys and young men in the neighborhood. Several years ago, I talked to one of Dad’s neighborhood chums, Cecil Lloyd, about these musical get-togethers occurring in the late 1920s and 1930s. By the time I saw Cecil, all the boys had grown up, moved away from Ramey, and started their own families. Cecil was now a grandfather, and Dad had already passed away.

“What kind of songs did you used to play”, I asked.

“Oh, that was the time of the Cowboy movies, y’know. We would play cowboy songs. ‘I’m an old cow hand’ … and stuff like that. There was one that Albert [Johnson] liked. I don’t remember the name of it, but it went something like [Cecil begins to sing] … the riders of perdition are posted in every … [starts to laugh]. We’d harmonize y’know.”

“I remember one time Albert and I sang at a Major Bowes contest down in Houtzdale. Sort of like the old ‘Skip O’Day’s Amateur Hour’ on the radio. You probably don’t remember anything like that. Anyway we took second place. Albert’s father got right up there with us and played the fiddle”

“Did Pop Kramp ever join your jam sessions?”

“No, he was more to himself. Although he was never mean to us kids, or anything like that.”

“I remember he’d mumble to Bob all the time. I don’t recall that he was a good talker. Maybe because he was from Germany. He seemed to have an accent; he didn’t talk much. He’d tell Bob to do this or that. I remember how he used to talk. And I was a devil to mimic people. He’d say something to Bob, and when we’d get away, I’d say Bobdo-wob-di-bob-dobob-way. I couldn’t understand what he’d said, and we’d laugh about it.”

“I recall Bob had to do chores around the farm. He used to grind up chicken bones to feed the chickens. I always thought that was something- feeding chickens their own bones.”

Cecil Lloyd lived in Altoona , PA, when I interviewed him. I always wanted to return and reminisce with him some more. But on my last trip to Altoona, I discovered that Cecil died in August 2004. I ran across his obituary while researching at the library. It read in part, “was a member of Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church for more than 40 years, where he sang in the Chancel Choir. … Mr. Lloyd was a longtime salesman, who enjoyed SINGING, hunting, fishing and golfing.”

One day I saw Dad had modified his guitar. Some of you may know of the hands-free harmonica holder that the 1970s singer, Bob Dylan, hung around his neck. That device was a little uncomfortable and could slip when you played it. So, Dad improved on the device by mounting the harmonica with two pieces of bent wire attached to his Martin guitar with screws (cringe). He would have to sit in a chair to play both instruments together.

Though Dad was quite modest about playing guitar in front of anybody, we used to force him to sing “Edelweiss” while playing the guitar-harmonica combination. Very Sweet.

The best legacy and gift Dad left me was he taught me to play the guitar. The banjo came later.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hanging the First Pedigree Ornament on my Blog

I am initiating a new tradition this Christmas, but first, I want to mention a few of our family’s traditions that seem to have run the course. Our family members, like many others in America, reside at relatively long distances from each other. My brother lives in Florida; my Sister, in Maryland; I’m residing in North Carolina. One of my daughters and her family lives in Maryland; the other, fortunately, resides in my current home state of North Carolina. Some of my cousins have children scattered all over the country from coast to coast. Sad to say, like many families since the 1980s, there have been several break-ups and estrangements because of divorce. Depending on which branch of the family being considered, I have recently calculated that 40 to 50 percent of the cousins in my generation have gone through a divorce. Most have remarried, resulting in what we call EXTENDED families. Nevertheless, there are some who are still alone. What I’m saying is that it is often difficult to get the family, or what’s left of it, to come together in one place to carry on any kind of family tradition- to share in the camaraderie and excitement of the Thanksgiving or Xmas holidays. There are fewer and fewer of us sitting around the table for the “traditional” meal or the hand to hand exchange of gifts. Yes, we could take a plane flight or pack into our car and drive, but that’s getting truly expensive these days. Furthermore, it drains our energy resources and puts a strain on the environment. And, is it really safe to be driving on ever more crowded highways perhaps during dangerous weather conditions? Back me up you people who drove home for Thanksgiving.

The situation was not always so. Back in the 1950’s, when I was a pre-teenager, my family would drive over the Potomac River to Alexandria, Virginia, to Grandma’s house. There, I would play and run around with my ten cousins- all of them. Actually, a few cousins were born a little later, as I was the oldest. My cousins and their families all lived within a 20 mile radius of Grandma’s home.

We were so excited to find out what each other had received from Santa Claus. Indeed, it was here we discovered the real story about Santa, but we didn’t have the heart to tell our parents. We exchanged gifts and had a good old time. Grandma spent several days beforehand making up bushel baskets of Fastnachtskuchele, a traditional Swiss pastry that grandma learned to make from her stepmom, Rosa Frederick, who grew up in Canton Thurgau, Switzerland. Then after dinner, after the gifts were unwrapped, after the toys were broken and mended, and after I won the “war” card game, we would all gather around Grandma to take the “traditional” cousins picture (see below). I was able to date the pictures, taken in 1953 and 1956, from the birth dates of the infants on Grandma’s lap.

Image: Grandma Margaret (Austel) Gailliot is surrounded by seven of her grandchildren in this 1953 Christmas picture. (Two of my younger cousins have since passed away).

Image: Grandma Gailliot is surrounded by nine of her grandchildren in this 1956 traditional Christmas picture. One last grandchild, the tenth, was born in 1960. Four years later, that is about eight years after this picture was taken, Grandma passed away. By the way, you would not believe how difficult it is today to get a similar photo of the grandkids together with a grandparent. I am the mean, camera guy at Christmas for trying to force everybody to gather together for a picture.
Christmas Cards and Photo Cards
So you see, these pictures are reminders of some of our family traditions. Perhaps another way to bridge our scattered brethren is to send Christmas cards. I hardly ever sent Cards until about 15 years ago. Actually, it was a means to gather family history and share it with members of my family. I created Xmas letters and cards that featured portraits of my relatives or of places in which they grew up. Recently, one of the more interesting evolutions in Xmas cards is the creation of Photo cards. Now, you can not only send and receive Xmas greetings, but also, you can see how the faces have changed of friends, relatives, and particularly, the children. For several years now, I have archived the photo cards I received, and also, scanned and inserted them into my genealogical computer database. Below is a collage of a few examples:
But even here, forces are working against the tradition of sending cards. A first class letter or Xmas card cost three cents to mail in Grandma’s time in the 1950’s. This week, it costs 43 cents. Maybe we can get around these obstacles by using the computer for sending photos and greetings, though I believe there are some who think this is too impersonal.
A Series of Christmas Ornaments
Now it is time to introduce perhaps a new tradition- a project that can be uploaded by my computer to a public site to be enjoyed by relatives afar, or even by We Three Kings of Orient Are. They would otherwise probably never remember all those user names and passwords at private sites.

Every day, from now until Xmas week, my goal is to hang (OK, post) a Xmas ornament on this blog. However, these ornaments are not going to be like the ones you usually see. I will be creating Xmas ornaments with images that characterize each one of my ancestors in my lineal PEDIGREE back through my great grandparents. This calculates to be 15 ornaments including myself. I might throw in a few extra ornaments, such as those for my father’s adopted parents. Elsewhere on this blog, I have posted pedigree charts containing thumbnail images of my ancestors. However, for this project, instead of facial images, I am going to choose an image which depicts something unique about that individual’s life. It might be related to their occupation, avocation, place of birth or residence, or other things of which you and I will eventually learn.
Shown below is the first ornament on my Pedigree. The first person in a pedigree chart is called the principal. That would be me, Robert C. Kramp, and I am on the left in the red shirt; I stand next to my sister, Beverly, and my brother, Russell. We are standing behind my mother, the former Mary Margaret Gailliot. We are all living and the only ones in my pedigree who still survive, so I won’t go into too much detail for now. I will divulge this: the picture was taken within the last three years.

I am going to try an experiment here, if you are a subscriber you should be able to link here and go to the same image posted at my personal Facebook site.
Incidentally, Webster’s dictionary emphasizes that a tradition is not written down. Rather, it is an oral transmission of information, beliefs, and customs from ancestors to posterity. So, ask somebody to read this blog entry out loud to your children, preferably an older person who can embellish the written story. And after that, read what other genealogists have written about their family traditions in the Carnival of Genealogist, 61st Edition (see link at end of this entry).
Actually, this blog is becoming a type of tradition in itself. About a year ago, I wrote about the animal stable my father constructed out of wooden packing crates and placed under our Christmas tree in a Nativity scene. I will always remember it, and hopefully, it will also be impressed upon my grandchildren.
To the right of this page, I placed a tag, “Xmas-2008”, so that you can pull out the complete series of these particular blog entries, as I also plan to post entries on other topics during December.
2. Read what other Geneabloggers (people who blog genealogy) had to say about their Holiday Traditions, all linked from Jasia's Creative Gene.