Genealogy Research


Henritze Christmas 1906

Categories // Genealogy Research

Thomas Lynch Henritze and Louise Noble Fairchild Henritze

My dad's cousin, Dave, sent me some photographs in 1991 of various parts of the T. L. Henritze family, his first four sons, some of his in-laws and a Christmas shot taken in 1906 in Welch, West Va.


Adoption and Genealogy

Categories // Genealogy Research

Cousins are Cousins

My father was an only child and only one of my mom's siblings was married with children. I have very few first cousins. Second cousins abound, including two on my maternal grandmother's side who are adopted. Because my great Aunt Mary's daughter was lucky enough to have two children, adoption has always been in my life. I am not sure when they were adopted, probably when I was three, (hmmm, why have I never asked that or was it an open or a closed adoption? Don't know, didn't ask, it was a non-issue.) They are younger than I am, so they haven't always been in my life, but for sure have always in my memory. When I read the Scholastic Book version of The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss, her adopted family seemed very exotic compared to my cousins, who were run of the mill relatives, just like all my other cousins. I look back on it and it was truly no big deal. Another of my mother's first cousins, adopted a son and then had three more children. Again on my mom's paternal side, one of my second cousins adopted a little girl from Guatemala. Still no big deal.


Memorabilia With a Story

Categories // Genealogy Research

Ephemera with a Story

Family stories,  amazing or amusing? My maternal grandmother passed away in 2000. Amongst a box of her papers, I found a fifty-year-old uncancelled check. On the face of it, no big mystery, a little absurd perhaps to have a check for 24 cents, but still, knowing the background made it even more curious.

Harlan National Bank check Harlan, Kentucky


How to Date a Snapshot

Categories // Genealogy Research

Steinmetz Sisters Snapshot

Finding an old labeled snapshot is so rewarding, because there are hundreds of unlabed specimens in drawers, boxes and albums everywhere.


Antique Touring Car ca. 1909 or 1910

Categories // Genealogy Research

Keep Trying to Date Those Photographs

Like many families, we have studio photographs, snapshots, and now digital photographs galore. Way too many of them are not labeled. However, those that are known might be able to help someone else identify someone or something.


Prestonia P.T.A. Jefferson Co., Kentucky, 1950

Categories // Genealogy Research

Flora A. Breitenstein, a.k.a. Mrs. Emil R. Breitenstein, was the president of the Prestonia P.T.A. in Jefferson Co., Kentucky in 1950. She saved memorabilia from her term in office minutes, photographs, thank you letters, ephemera, PTA annuals, programs, name tags, things important to her, to remember this fairly significant time in her life.

Prestonia PTA



Categories // Genealogy Research

America - A Nation Of Immigrants

If, as I have long suspected, Temperence (Baley) Cocke was the daughter of Cecely (?) Jordan Farrar, she and her mother are my earlier known ancestors on this side of the Atlantic. Temperence was born in Virgnina ca. 1617 and her supposed and presumed mother Cecely arrived here ca. 1610 or 1611. My latest known immigrant ancestors were Jacob Breitenstein and Margaret Gerber who arrived in Louisiana 24 December 1846.

In the nearly two hundred and fifty intervening years, the rest of my ancestors arrived. by the luck of the law, I will never know if one or more of them would have come as an illegal immigrant. The odds are probably for it. The concept didn't exist then. It does now. America is still a nation of immigrants. In the 1900s, laws clearly divided immigrants into legal and illegal categories. The first quota system for specific immigrants began in 1921.

In the last thirty-five years my friends, Rajiv, Bina, Yrina, Gerd, Gabi, Marisol, Chas and Andy have immigrated, obtained green cards and citizenship. I admire them for making hard personal choices, and doing this immigration legally, through the incredibly convoluted existing maze of regulations. My gut feeling is that by offering amnesties, as a country we are encouraging behavior we don't want, illegical entry and thereby discouraging the candidates we do want, those who came according to the rules. However, the rules and regulations have grown like topsy and may be approaching the tax code in density and lack of logic.

There ought to be a better way.


What's in a Name?

Categories // Genealogy Research

Unusual Names are Fun and Informative and Clues

A friend told me her grandfather's grandfather's name was Rensselaer Holmes. I wanted to know more, how nice to research Rensselaer instead of George, William, John or Thomas. I also wondered if the name was Van Rensselaer. It brought up immediate connections with the Hudson River Valley, early Dutch settlers, the university, etc. Of course Rensselaer can be misspelled in so many ways. Her grandfather was from Nebraska, so I started pushing back East in my mind to upstate New York.

Another friend told me her grandmother's maiden name was Enyedi from the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Yes, they spoke German as did some of my ancestors, but mine were from Bavaria, the Palatinate and/or some of the minor city states. Again this surname, may have been convoluted with multiple spellings. The family spelling may have been very stable, but imagining other people's interpretations of that spelling, may be never ending adventure.

If you are lucky enough to have some level of unique in the names you search, embrace it. Those names may bring some great discoveries.


Semantics - Are You From Here?

Categories // Genealogy Research

Where are you from? Where were you born? Not the Same Question!

Native, Born, Bred, Reared, Raised, or Just From Somewhere

Recently, Reinette Jones, a staff librarian at University of Kentucky Libraries, asked a provocative question, if I was from Kentucky. Technically I am, I lived there about fifty years ago. Emotionally, I am, my parents were from Kentucky, my grandparents were from Kentucky. Intellectually, I am, I have been polishing the soon to-be-published, History and Descendants of Jacob and Margaret (Gerber) Breintenstein of Louisville. That's not what she meant. She was asking if I was a native, and I am not. I was not born in Kentucky, though tons of relatives and ancestors were. Like my mother, my father was raised in Kentucky. He lived in Kentucky for most of the first twenty years of his life. He was born in Tennessee, bred in Kentucky, raised there, graduated from U. K., served in the Army, worked out west for a bit and even returned to U.K. for his Master's Degree. My sister on the other hand is a Kentucky native, left, returned, left again, lived there for a total of not quite two years. My father's book Assessment of Virginia Coalfield Region Capability to Support an Electric Power Generation Industry, the University of Kentucky Libraries might not feel it necessary to include him as a Kentuckian in their collection policies. If my sister publishes a book, she would qualify.


Who is the Little Girl in the Front Row?

Categories // Genealogy Research

Breitenstein - Hughes Wedding Photographs

My second cousin, Mara, has been sending me various Breitenstein family photographs she unearths them. I love this, pieces of my history I haven't seen before falling into my lap, unbidden. The last bunch included one with my mom, her mom, and Mara herself who resembles her first cousin once removed, my mom, amazingly.

Carol Breitenstein and Coleman Hughess wedding.jpg


Eight of the Nine Breitenstein Brothers

Categories // Genealogy Research

Michael Henry Breitenstein and Elizabeth Ann Steinmetz Breitenstein had nine sons between 1888 and 1908. In 1955 eight of the nine brothers had a family reunion at the farm in Okolona, Jefferson Co., Kentucky. In order from left to right and by descending by age are: Edward Lawrence Breitenstein, Michael Henry Breitenstein Jr., Theodore Peter Breitenstein, John Louis Breitenstein, Herman Joseph Breitenstein Sr., Carl Ernst Breitenstein Sr., Emil Raymond Breitenstein Sr. and Julius Clarence Breitenstein. Lawerence Jacob Breitenstein, the fifth brother who would have been in the exact middle, the only one I never met, passed away in 1952.

image.EdMikeTheoJohnHermCarlEmilJule Breitenstein 1955



Dating Reunion Photographs

Categories // Genealogy Research

Who is Missing from This Breitenstein Reunion?

Locate the family groups, identify the babies, check for death dates of grandparents, get a fashion time estimate and reunion photographs will be a cinch to date.

Break it down, who is missing from the photograph. Who ought to be there and isn't because he died and who would have been there, but wasn't born yet.

My cousin Mara sent me a photograph of a Breitenstein Reunion in Okolona, Jefferson Co., Kentucky with an estimated date ca. 1958. My guess is either after Easter 1955 or May 1955 from the children involved, marriages which had taken place, and some second guessing with Carl, a cousin who is in the photograph. Easter was April 10th in 1955, if it had been taken on Easter Sunday, the dress code would have been even fancier and there would have been corsages, at least for my grandmother and mother.

1955 Breitenstein Reunion Okolona


Pacifists or Conscientious Objectors

Categories // Genealogy Research

Military Service and the Flip Side on World War I Draft Registration Cards and More

All the while searching for and in military records, remember some men did not serve, did not want to serve, and in fact because of very strong religious scruples many Mennonite, Quaker and Amish family members could not serve. If they registered it was under protest, if they were enrolled, it was under protest and if they served it was under protest with the threat of Leavenworth hanging over them at all times. Check the blog entry Research the Source for several examples of registering under protest.

The Swarthmore Peace Collection website has a nice general discussion. Chris. H. Zoss born 17 August 1895 is a specific example. The website database was begun in 2002 and last updated in 2013.

The National Archives  has the records of the Judge Advocate General for the Army including court martials, see microfilm files M592, M1002, M1105, T1027 and T1103. Some of these have been digitized and are available online through fold3 or in the regional national archives and presidential libraries.


Plat Maps - Land Ownership Maps

Categories // Genealogy Research

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Land Ownership Maps are like photographs, a snapshot of a specific time and place. Sometimes land ownership maps can solve genealogical questions and others times they pose the questions themselves. The county courthouse should have the most up-to-date maps available anywhere. They need to for tax reasons. Historical maps were printed from the courthouse maps or from title company maps and have specific years attached to their printings.


Research the Source

Categories // Genealogy Research

Researching in the Source is Good, So is Researching the Source

Do not stop at the index, go to the source. Research in the source, read it page by page.  See how the book, journal, card file, however it was kept, and then, read about the source, why was this record created, why was it kept, who needed it, who used it, where was it kept, when was it created and how was it used? Examine the handwriting to get used to it and increase legibility, check the organization to see who should be included or excluded from any subset of the data. Use the who, what, where, when, why and how questions to understand the "life and times of the source." Knowing that certain census books were copied in triplicate helps understand how and why the ditto marks are off.

I listened to my grandpa tell stories about his childhood and his brothers all the time, but never heard any military stories. He was twelve in 1917 and thirty-six in 1941 with a wife, family and farm, he was just not in the age group. Before publishing the story of the Breitensteins in Louisville, I searched for my great-uncles in the World War I Draft Registration cards. My grandfather and his eight brothers were born between 1888 and 1908. I can not imagine my great-grandmother Elizabeth Ann (Steinmetz) Breitenstein, mother of nine boys, sending her six eldest sons off to war much less to register. Technically she might have only sent off four, as Ed and Mike were married with homes, wives and children of their own at the time. Could all the parades and patriotic songs in the world cover that angst?

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Ida Sherwood Bettis is my paternal grand mother. Aunt Clara is my great aunt. I can remember every nooks and crany of that house and yard...

Eric Bettis Eric Bettis 25. July, 2017 |

I would be happy to forward your name, connection, and email if you wish.

Barbara K. Henritze Barbara K. Henritze 06. November, 2016 |

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