Friday, November 2, 2012

Thomas A. Kirby - Photoshopped History

The above is an original portrait of Thomas A. Kirby, Esq., a well noted and nearly famous attorney from Orleans County. Although being a local attorney and 1st Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus didn't make him a nationally famous man, his participation on the side of the prosecution during the famed Charles Stielow Case made he and District Attorney John Cole Knickerbocker national celebrities (though not in the best of light).
The picture below is the same portrait of Thomas A. Kirby as above, but with a little added color. When you look into the eyes of a man in a black and white photograph, it becomes difficult to place yourself in historical context. The difference in photography styles and technology is enough to create that sense of difficulty, but thanks to Photoshop we can look into the eyes of Thomas Kirby and get a better sense of the man he was.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ann Osborne McOmber's Ancestry - A Sample

Otis & Rosetta Stangland McOmber

         The exact date of publication for the obituary above could not be ascertained from the online copy as it was poorly scanned and cropped, but this portion reveals some of the family connections which were hinted to in the Army Pension for Charles McOmber. This obituary for Ann’s step-mother, Chloe Campbell Otis Osborne shows Ann’s brothers, sisters, half-siblings and step-siblings, all rooted in Ohio and Cuba, New York.

          The obituary reveals that Ann’s father was Levi Osborne, her mother’s name not being revealed but it is noted that Levi was a widower at the time of his marriage to Chloe Campbell Otis. Chloe and Levi were wed at Marcellus, Onondaga, New York, where all of the children were born. It would then be inferred that Ann’s birth mother died in that area and is buried in the same locale. Chloe was also a widow at the time she married Levi Osborne. According to the obituary, she was previously married to Windsor Otis, a native of Massachusetts who was born on July 6, 1790. A Genealogical Memoir of the Family of Richard Otis by Horatio Nelson Otis states that Windsor Otis died sometime in 1815 in Ohio. His place of death is highly unlikely as Levi and Chloe’s children were born in Onondaga County, New York.

            Chloe and Windsor Otis’s children are as follows:


1.)    Aremisia Otis, born approximately 1811, married Dr. Enos Palmer on October 28, 1825 at Barre, Orleans, New York. She later married to Unknown Sears and lived in Cuba, Allegany, New York.

2.)    Desdemona Otis, born approximately 1813, did not marry and lived in the Cuba, Allegany, New York area.

3.)    Calvin Nicholas Otis, born June 23, 1814 at Spafford, Onondaga, New York, was engaged in the architecture business, became extremely wealthy while living in Buffalo, Erie, New York. Designed numerous churches across the country and designed the courthouse for Cayuga County, New York. During the Civil War, he was appointed Major with the 100th New York Volunteer Infantry where he rose through the ranks to Colonel and finally to Brevet Brigadier General in March of 1865. When he retired from his career as an architect, he returned to Cuba, Allegany, New York where he died on January 22, 1883. He is buried at the Cuba Cemetery in that location.

Levi Osborne and Unknown’s children are as follows:

1.)    Ann Osborne, born approximately 1817 at Onondaga County, New York. Married Van Rensselaer McOmber approximately 1833/4 at Orleans County, New York. Separated from Van Rensselaer McOmber between 1850 and 1855, removed to Hudson, Summit, Ohio from Carlton, Orleans, New York. Remained in that area until her death on November 8, 1874 at Warren, Trumbull, Ohio, and the death was recorded as Ann M. Comber.

2.)    Dr. Levi D. Osborne, born August 16, 1820 at Marcellus, Onondaga, New York, attended Lake Erie Medical College, practiced medicine at Willoughby, Lake, Ohio and Warsaw, Wyoming, New York before settling at Hudson, Summit, Ohio. Married Mary Eleanor Johnson on August 22, 1848. He was a respected physician and died September 17, 1902 at Hudson, Summit, Ohio and was buried in Markillie Cemetery in that same locale.

3.)    Mary Oborne, born approximately 1821, married W. P. Stevens of Cuba, Allegany, New York, lived in that area until her death at an unknown date.


Levi Osborne and Chloe Campbell Otis’s children are as follows:


1.)    Olive F. Osborne, born May 26, 1823 at Marcellus, Onondaga, New York, married Edwin W. Park on December 28, 1843 and lived at Cuba, Allegany, New York for most of her life. She was a member of the Christ Church in that vicinity and had her children baptized through the church. Her husband, E. W. Park was a very wealthy and respected farmer/grocer in Allegany County. She died March 9, 1894 at Cuba, Allegany, New York and was buried March 22, 1894 through the Christ Church at that vicinity. Burial was likely in the Cuba Cemetery. Her children were:

a.       George Park born approximately 1845.

b.      Emma Park born approximately 1847, married Unknown Palmer.

c.       William Nehemiah Park born approximately 1855, married Katherine Hazin, died February 5, 1924 at Cuba, Allegany, New York.

2.)    Windsor Otis Osborne, born approximately 1825 and married Ellen J. Unknown, employed as a druggist at Cuba, Allegany, New York for most of his life. Engaged in the business with his half-sister Artemisia Otis Palmer who worked with her husband prior to his death. W. Otis remained in the Cuba area and died at an unknown date.

3.)    Philena Osborne, born July 3, 1827, married Edwin G. Benedict who was the son of noted fur trader Levi Benedict who started a business in Schenectady, New York before settling in Hudson, Summit, Ohio. Edwin died September 1, 1868 at Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio and is buried at Lake View Cemetery in that vicinity. His early passing left his brother S. H. Benedict to care for the business which was later run by S. H.’s son George W. Benedict. Philena died May 1, 1909 at Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio and was buried on May 3, 1909 at Lake View Cemetery in that vicinity.

The full copy can be read here - The McOmbers of Orleans County

Ann Osborne McOmber & Van Rensselaer McOmber

New information relating to the ancestory of Ann Osborne McOmber can be found here: The McOmber Family of Orleans County

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Demise of Van Rensselaer McOmber

For roughly 12 years now, I have been working on my genealogy, starting with my paternal grandmother's Polish ancestry and working into the well documented (and sometimes not so well documented) lines of my maternal grandparents. However, in those 12 years, I have never experienced the amount of contact from extended family and cousins as I have over the course of the last two months; that contact coming from my maternal grandfather's line. The wealth of information and photographs that I have received recently is astounding, and of course, greatly appreciated.

I believe I can contribute the recent volume of communication to a post I made on this blog a while back regarding my maternal 5th Great-Grandfather, Van Rensselaer McOmber. That story relayed his rough life as a hard drinker and a soldier with the 8th N.Y. Cavalry who enlisted at an age well past his prime. There are still many questions which have yet to be answered, but even though the progress is slow, it is still progress.

The ultimate question which remained was regarding the death of Van Rensselaer, inscribed on his headstone as "6 May 1864" an noting that he was a member of the 8th N.Y. Cavalry. At first glance, it might be assumed that Van Rensselaer died while serving during the Civil War. His attempts to gain an invalid's pension in 1863 and 1864 show that he had been discharged due to disabilities acquired in early autumn of 1862.

The laundry list of disabilities and physical ailments that plagued Van Rensselaer following his service in the cavalry became another hypothesized cause of death. Factoring in the servere case of rheumatism throughout his hips, legs, knees, ankles and into his back and shoulders combined with kidney disease and other ailments would lead one to believe that these issues could have caused his untimely death. Unfortunately, there is no death record or certificate in existance to show us whether or not these conditions were even the slightest bit of a factor in his death.

Instead, one vital piece of information exists to give us some insight into what caused Van Rensselaer's unfortunate death. A death which came days after his oldest son was taken prisoner by Confederate forces at the Wilderness; a death, according to his headstone, which occured only the following day. Meanwhile, his "only" other son, serving with the "Orleans Battery" at Washington, D.C. (only to die himself in early August of that same year); his wife having left him, returning to Ohio with atleast one of the other sons (Elbridge Gerry) and their daughter, Ellen.

This "obituary" reveals the cause of Van Rensselaer's demise:

DROWNED - On Friday afternoon last, Mr. Rensselaer M'Comber of Carlton was drowned in Oak Orchard Creek, at the Two Bridges. Deceased went out in a boat between 5 and 6 o'clock after a log which was drifting down the creek, fastened a rope to the log, while in some way his boat swung round and capsized. The affair was witnessed by persons on the shore, but before assistance could reach him, he was drowned. He was about 50 years of age. His family consists of two sons, both in the army.

This article appeared on May 18, 1864 in the Orleans Republican on page 3 in column 2 of the newspaper. The newspaper incorrectly lists his age as "about 50" when he was actually 56, having been born on September 2, 1807 in Saratoga County, New York. Van Rensselaer had been a resident of Carlton since 1833, when he and his brother Richard purchased 61 acres from Section 7, Lot 1 of the Holland Land Company's tract within Township 16 on October 3 of that year. The following January 6, 1834, the brothers purchased 100 more acres from Lot 2. It's likely that this property was located in the vicinity of Two Bridges in Carlton, south of Point Breeze and near what is now the Brown Farm. It's difficult to say, but it's possible that the land owned by Van Rensselaer was passed to his son Otis upon his return from the war, being the only local, surviving son.

This newspaper article, appearing on Wednesday, May 18, 1864, states that he drowned "Friday afternoon last" making his date of death actually May 13, 1864. However, one week prior would have been May 6, 1864, the date on his stone. Perhaps the story of his death ran a week late, or maybe his stone is incorrect.

No known photograph exists of Van Rensselaer and very little information exists to paint an accurate picture of his life prior to 1861.

Otis McOmber - Photo appearing in newspaper for his 65th Wedding Anniversary

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Murder of Cpl. Stanley Zyglarski

Cpl. Stanley Paul Zeglarski

1894 – 18 May 1898
6th Machine Gun Battalion – U.S. Marine Corps – World War One
Stanislaus Paul Zeglarski was born on __ ___ 1894 in Albion, New York and was the youngest of five siblings born to Paweł and Marianna. Little is known about his mother and father’s ancestry, who they were, where they are buried and where they came from. As with most Polish men at the time, Paweł Żeglarski toiled as a laborer in the sandstone quarries of Orleans County and his mother, a housewife. As with most immigrant families, Stanley came from humble beginnings and was raised as the only son at 71 Moore Street, now the address 621. Very little is known of his childhood, but it is clear that Stanley was not drafted into service with the Marine Corps during The Great War, as most men were, but instead entered into the service as a young man at the age of 21. His date of entry into the service would have been around the year 1915.

Without his military service record, it would be hard to say what this young man saw throughout his time in the armed forces, but what is known is that his life was cut short in the line of duty. However, the term “line of duty” meant something far more tragic than “killed in action.” It is important to tell the story of a young Polish-Albionite whose death was much more than his family was led to believe.

On June 2, 1918, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Cpl. Stanley P. Zyglarski, aged 24 years, was wounded while serving with the 77th Company of the U.S. Marine Corps. The final stages of the German Spring Offensive were coming to a conclusion in Belgium. His mother, Mary, received a telegram from the Commanding General of the American Expeditionary Forces announcing that her son died on the 18th of May in the year 1918 as a result of gunshot wounds. According to the telegram, his body was to be interred abroad until the conclusion of the war.

At home, Cpl. Zyglarski left his widowed mother and four sisters, Mrs. Frances McCabe, Mrs. Antonina Avino, Mrs. Anastasia Furmanski and Miss Martha Zyglarski all to mourn his death. According to all reports, he was only the second man from Orleans County to be killed during the war. Upon the time of his death, it had been nearly 7 months since Mary had last heard from her son.

On the 5th of June, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported a memorial service which was held for Stanley Zyglarski at his home parish of St. Mary’s Assumption. Rev. John Szmytkowski presided over the service in which a decorated catafalque was draped with an American flag and adorned with floral arrangements to represent a casket in the absence of Cpl. Zyglarski’s body. Company N of the New York State National Guard was present to conduct the ceremony and the company’s Captain, John Beckwith, was present to speak words of sympathy to the family.

At that point, the church had displayed a service flag containing forty-one blue stars, each one representing a young man who was currently serving the nation. Following the service, one star was changed to a gold star, denoting Cpl. Zyglarski’s death in the service.

The death of Stanley Zyglarski would have been extremely difficult for the Polish population of Albion, especially for those who has sons, brothers, uncles, nephews and fathers serving. The saddest element of Cpl. Zyglarski’s death was the set of circumstances which led to the gunshot wound he received while on duty.

A published book entitled At Belleau Wood with Rifle and Sketch Pad highlights briefly the death of Cpl. Zyglarski, or “Cpl. Burk” as he was referred to. According to this book, Zyglarski was never mentioned in the battalion’s Roll of Honor, which would be contributed to the fact that Zyglarski was not killed or wounded in combat. In a diary written by Sgt. Peter Wood of the 81st Company of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion, he writes that “Sgt. Massa of 23rd Company shot and killed a corporal of 77th Company.”

Luckily, the 77th Company muster rolls provide an accurate account of Cpl. Zyglarski’s gunshot wound and subsequent death. The rolls tell this story;

“On the 17th [May], he was shot and fatally wounded (while in the execution of his office as Cpl. Of the guar and [affecting] the arrest of an enlisted man for creating a disturbance) by an enlisted man of the 23rd Co. 6 MGB, died in Field Hospital at Ravignay France at 12:00 noon, May 18, 1918, death in line of duty. Personal effects forwarded to Effects Depot A.E.F., place of burial not given by medical authorities. Recommended for Character Excellent on decease.”

The muster rolls of the 23rd Company tell us a similar story but from the end of the alleged shooter, Sgt. Clarence L. Massey:

“…tried by General Court Martial. Found guilty…To be reduced to ranks, to be dishonorably discharged the service, to forfeit all pay and allowances due or to become due, and to be confined at hard labor at such place as the reviewing authorities may direct for the term of his natural life. The sentence is applied and will be duly executed, U.S. Penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is designated as the place of confinement to which place the prisoner will be sent under proper guard. Character given on discharge “Bad.” Court published 7 Sep 1918.”

 The company’s muster rolls from May state that Sgt. Massey was confined prior to his Court Martial due to the crime committed, in violation of the 92nd A.W. Sgt. Massey was charged with the willful murder of Cpl. Zyglarski, in which Sgt. Massey shot Zyglarski in the chest with his .45 service pistol. Sgt. Massey appears on the 1920 Census at Fort Leavenworth as a prisoner but not on subsequent census records. According to a 1924 Rochester Democrat & Chronicle article, the case of Sgt. Massey was being reviewed by an Army Grand Jury as it was believed that Massey was not properly represented with a defense attorney at the Court Martial. More research will be needed to determine the fate of Sgt. Massey.

Cpl. Stanley Zyglarski’s body was laid to rest at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in France, Plot D, Row 27, Grave 15; it was never returned home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Veel Geluk: An Introduction to Dutch Death Records

It's been a while since I have posted anything about anything on this blog, I believe the end of October was the last time. As I near the completion of my MLS degree from the University at Buffalo, my time has been a little scarce. However, I hope that I will be able to continue with posting as I near closer to summer.

For the last month, I have been working on my family tree file, linking citations to the different people, something I didn't do in the past. I want to say that it's been a pain in the arse, however it's opened the door to new information, new sources and new family members. One particular line that I have been able to expand upon is the family of my Great Grandmother, Frances Amelia Bowen. On the 31st of October 1914, she married my Great Grandfather George H. Ballard in Brockport, NY. The most interesting bit of information regarding Frances, in my opinion, lies with her mother and father.

Frances was the product of a couple who were both in their second marriage. Her father was Isaac Bowen, as I was introduced to him, a Dutch immigrant who first married a woman by the name Lucy Green. Lucy fancied needlepoint, a hobby which led to her eventual death in 1895. How, you may ask? Having pricked her finger, she developed gangrene which required the removal of part of her finger. As the condition progressed, more of the finger, hand and arm required removal. Frances' mother, Mary Simpson, was married to a Canadian cobbler of German descent by the name of Stephen Stoneburg, who died from consumption in the early 1890s. Mary immigrated to the United States with her children in 1895, met Isaac and married in 1896. Even more interesting are their roots. Isaac was a new Dutch immigrant, Mary's family was not. However, my previous thoughts of Mary as an Irish or English immigrant to Canada were wrong. In fact, Mary's ancestors were Loyalist during the American Revolution who sought asylum and received land grants along the northern shore of Lake Ontario for their service to the crown. Mary's mother's family was Dutch; New Amsterdam Dutch.

It turns out that Isaac Bowen was not Isaac Bowen at all, instead he was Isaac Bowens. Before that, he was Isaac Bouwens and before that, he was Izaak Bouwens. Following the traditions of Americanization and simple misspellings, Izaak became Isaac; American. Izaak, as I will now refer to him, arrived in the United States on the 2nd of June 1857 aboard the Arnold Boninger of Prussia with his father Adriaan Bouwens, his mother Abigail, brother Morris and sister Frances. However, Izaak was not Izaak but instead Adriaan as well. This reason behind this became apparent later in my research.

Izaak and his family all had records which were produced at Castle Garden upon their entrance into the United States, all stating that Groede was their last known residence. As with my Polish research, Groede is a rather easy search in Google compared to those of Polish towns. Groede is located in Zeeland, Netherlands. As I later found out, the Netherlands has made many of their records, specifically Civil Registers, available through online database that can be searched in English and Dutch. To make things even better, has those same registers in digital form, AND FREE!!!

Now, I am a beginner and the farthest thing from an expert, but I wasn't able to locate much help for records outside of Family Search's Dutch language articles. I am at the point where I can afford to do some research but not to pay someone to locate and transcribe these records. I know from experience that many records contain fluff for bureaucratic reasons and I am a fond believe that the most important information can be pulled from these records by someone with absolutely no experience with the language. Of course having that experience does make things easier :) When typical transcribers/translators charge upwards of $50-$100 per hour, these sorts of services are financially feasible for someone on a budget like mine.

Because Family Search has not had any large scale indexers to cover the Dutch Civil Registers, you have to search the images yourself, the old fashioned way. Don't fret though! The Genlias Database website, produced by the Archives of the Netherlands will allow you to search for names and records, which also list the record number for the even. You can cross reference these and sift for the records which ends up being rather easy, and I'll show you why in a second.

So, the topic of this post was to cover Death Registers. As with any other foreign records, the further you progress through time, the more standard the records become and typically the more information they contain. This isn't an exact science, results do vary. However, I was sifting through death records for the Town of Nieuwvliet in Oostburg, Netherlands for records relating to the death of my 5th Great Grandparents. Much to my delight, I located this record:

This particular record is for my 5th Great Grandmother, Magdalena Cagnet Smoor, who has also been found under the name Magdalena Caiquet. The records appear very daunting, but combined with a common words list through Family Search, the task becomes a little easier. So I draw your attention to the following image which highlights a few key points. You'll likely have to click to enlarge the image in order to see the highlighted points.

The area in red shows the name. In many of the records, the person for whom the record is created is located along the left side of the record. The far left column denotes the month in which the event occured. Typically, either at the beginning or end of the year, there is an alphabetical list of names for that year. Often they are at the end of the year, which I have found helpful to comb over after sifting through the year to ensure I didn't miss a name.

The area in green shows the date and time of the event. The date is recorded as Day-Month-Year, almost always. One key point to watch for are roman numerals and numeral values that don't make sense as a four digit year. This particular record has "achtste" as the year, which means "8th" in Dutch. You'd also notice that "Ventose" is not a month. Due to the heightened French involvement in Dutch affairs following the French Revolution, there is the implementation of the French Republican Calendar, which is typically seen in Dutch records from approximately 1790 to 1805/6. The shift from the Republican Calendar to the Gregorian is sudden; you'll notice it. So, for the purpose of conversion, try There, on the bottom line, you can plug in (from left to right) the year, month and day in the Republican form and the Gregorian date will appear in the middle. Give it a shot, if you plug in the date from the record which is "17th Ventrose 8th Year of the French Republic" on the bottom line as "8 Ventrose 17" you should retrieve the date 08 March 1800 on the middle line. Search Google for the French Republic Calendar, you'll find a better explanation of the calendar than I could ever provide.

Finally, the orange area shows the "informant" for the event. Typically the records contain two additional people who report the event to the municipal official. It lists their name, occupation, residence, age and relation to the deceased (if any). In this case, the first informant is Adriaan Bouwens, my 4th Great Grandfather, who is listed as a "zoon" or son of the deceased (he was in fact the son-in-law). Below that, the record will list other relations as fit. This record also lists Marinus Smoor, "Bakker" or Baker as Magdalena's "vrouw," or wife. This also helps to indicate that her husband is still living at the time of her death as widow or widower would be in place of wife or husband in the case of a predeceased spouse.

So there's a little bit on Dutch death records. Again, I'm not an expert, but I hope that every little bit helps, especially a beginner's perspective.