Wednesday, August 27, 2014

African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia

I was notified recently of a new book detailing the cultural importance of preserving African-American cemeteries. This book focuses on cemeteries in Central Virginia, but promises to be an interesting read for those interested in the importance of preserving cemeteries. Below is the write-up sent to me:

Lynn Rainville’s book is Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia (University of Virginia Press) is now available. In addition to preserving African-American cemeteries for future generations, funerary traditions, gravestones, and cemetery landscapes illustrate past attitudes towards death and community. Because of the historical importance of mortuary landscapes, cemeteries provide a window into past family networks, gender relations, religious beliefs, and local neighborhoods. In this project we take an interdisciplinary approach, combing anthropological, archaeological, historical, oral historical, sociological, geological, and environmental techniques and theories. These combined perspectives are necessary to understand the cultural and environmental context of historic black cemeteries and uncover the rich cultural and religious traditions that produced these sacred sites.

Lynn Rainville received her PhD in Near Eastern Archaeology in 2001. After a decade of work in Turkey, she returned to an earlier research interest, historic cemeteries. She has taught anthropology and archaeology courses at the University of Michigan, Dartmouth College, University of Virginia, and Sweet Briar College. Her research interests range from slave cemeteries to war memorials, from segregated schools to historic architecture, from enslaved communities on antebellum plantations to rural neighborhoods, and from town poor farms to urban life in the 19th-century. Her work has been supported by numerous grants, from the National Science Foundation to the National Endowment for the Humanities, from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to the Wenner Gren Foundation, and from various private donors. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Women’s Suffrage Day

One of my favorite blogs is The New York History Blog.  I try to check it each week to see what’s new in New York State.  This morning I found of particular interest their article on The Spirit of 1776: A New Suffragette Anthem.  On this day in 1920 the 19th amendment was passed giving American women the right to vote.  What I had forgotten was that there were a number of states in which women already had the right to vote.

The western states of Wyoming (1890), Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), Idaho (1896) Washington (1910), California, Arizona, Montana, Nevada and Oregon lead the way. New York’s centennial of Women’s Suffrage is scheduled for 2017.  For a more comprehensive list see the timeline at Womens History at

I think this is an interesting piece of information when writing about ancestors who traveled west in the late 1800s.  Did those women, your ancestors, take advantage of the state laws allowing them that freedom? 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Progress Report – Mohrman and Doolittle

The cold call I made to someone I hoped to be a relative of Beldon Mohrman was returned. That is the good news. The bad news is this person is not a relation, though he took the time to check with his brothers to see if they knew anything about a Beldon Mohrman of San Diego, and he would also keep looking. 

On a more positive note, as I turned my attention back to the Tucker line, I had a note from a descendant who gave me the married name of Evalina Doolittle b: 1875; d: June 1930. Lena, as she is later referred to married Frank Leishear and with that information I was able to find her obituary as well as the obituary for her mother, Mary Jane (Tucker) Doolittle Dickens.  I also now have the name of her daughter who married Harry G. Lanterman.  The Leishears lived in Elmira, New York. I can now learn more about the story of Lena and her husband Frank.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

This month has tested my comfort zone.  The subtitle for this blog post could be, “Doctors, Dentists and Genealogy.”

I am someone who practices natural medicine, so I have a difficult time with western doctors who have little training/understanding in diet, nutrition, exercise, and natural forms of keeping well. I think I have finally come upon a woman doctor who at least respects my beliefs.  But it is always nerve wracking to make that call to schedule an appointment.

Then there was dental work to be done. Putting that off as long as I could, August was the month to get it done. I am happy to report everything went well!

On to genealogy - the Nunn family line continues to frustrate me.  With each step forward I am faced with another roadblock to circumvent.  This week I stepped outside my comfort zone and made a cold call to a gentleman age 65+ with the surname of Mohrman in the San Diego, CA vicinity. There was no answer - was he at home but didn't recognize the 540 area code? Is he away on vacation? Is he skeptical of a caller asking about family - his or maybe not his. Does he know this family but has no interest in genealogy research? Ba humbug!!

A shy person by nature, cold calling is very difficult for me do. If I want to learn about Beldon Mohrman's wife Mildred, I have to go outside my comfort zone. From Beldon's obit, I learned his sister was Nellie Entwhistle.  Searching Entwhistles in the San Diego area, I find they all have unlisted phone numbers.  So to the keyboard I went writing to the oldest on the list explaining my research with the goal of ascertaining whether Mildred Nunn Mohrman was our Emilie Nunn born 1897.   

And so my genealogy journey has provided yet another life experience and I suspect there will be many more before I'm done.  Will keep everyone posted as to any progress on finding Mildred Mohrman. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Still Searching Beldon and Mildred Mohrman

Thanks to the diligent searching of a San Diego, CA Genealogical Society volunteer I received this death notice for Beldon Mohrman.  There was no obituary, nor was there an obituary for his wife Mildred. I wish to find out if Mildred (Nunn) Mohrman is our “Aunt Millie” aka Emilie Nunn born 1897 in Manhattan, New York.

The obit does provide some clues giving me names of Beldon’s siblings.  The volunteer also told me I can request an “informational” copy of the death certificate from the San Diego County Recorder’s Office, which will provide parents name, funeral home, burial place and name of informant.

I wonder why this man who served in the military and held public office in San Diego did not have an obituary.  That is a clue as well.  And so the search continues.

Monday, August 11, 2014

St. Joseph’s Home/Peekskill – Searching Eddie and Kathy Brown

The March 2011 blog post on St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill, New York continues to receive the most views and comments. Although my grandfather and his siblings were there in the early 1900s, many residents of that home in the mid 1900s are now searching for friends made at that home.

A recent comment posted was directed at Carmen Velez, who had commented earlier.  The request was for information on Eddie and Kathy Brown.  I passed the request to Carmen followed by an informative phone conversation with her last evening.

Carmen explained that when children got to the eighth grade, the nuns tried to place the children with local families so they could attend public school in Peekskill, or the children were sent to the Kennedy Home in the Bronx, St. Vincent’s, or group homes in the city until their schooling was finished. 

“Volunteer” families were also enlisted to take St. Joseph Home children over weekends.  Sometimes this created a strong bond between the children that to today, as in Carmen’s case, still remains.

In 1995 Carman organized the first alumni reunion for St. Joseph’s and Kennedy Home residents. That reunion was held in New Rochelle, New York. In 1996, 250 people, residents of those two homes from 1929-1979 were in attendance.  Her database of alumni continues to grow and now each year the first Saturday in April, the reunion is held on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill.  If you want to keep apprised of the alumni events, join their Yahoo! group.

To answer the question on Eddie and Kathy Brown, they are not part of the alumni network, though not due to lack of Carmen’s dauntless search for them.  Carmen remembers there were four Brown children, and she has a photo of herself with Eileen, Patrick, Eddie and Kathy Brown.  Carmen doesn’t know what happened to them, though wonders if they went to a family that could take the four children.  If anyone would like to speak with Carmen I can forward her phone number if you send me an email.  You can also connect with her at the Yahoo! group website.

Actress Rosie Perez was a resident of St. Joseph’s Home and she has recently written a book about her growing up years that includes her time in Peekskill.

I applaud Carman and her brother Fran for their work on keeping the St. Joseph's Home alumni group growing. This should indicate to the Sisters that their archives are valuable and should be kept for future family researchers. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Conlon Family

The San Diego Genealogical Society provides random acts of genealogical kindness and for a small donation will do lookups for those searching in their geographic area. So while I wait for the obituaries of Belden and Mildred Mohrman, I did some work on the Conlon family.

The Mohrmans and the Conlons are not related. But they are part of the monograph I am ready to publish on my grandfather Harry J. Nunn.  Or at least I hope the Mohrmans are!  I hope these obituaries will lead me to descendants who will know enough about Mildred to ascertain whether she was our “Aunt Millie” aka Emilie Nunn b: 1897 and Harry’s sister.

The Conlons are cousins of Harry’s wife, Mary Agnes Doyle.  The cousins are Edward, George, Lawrence and Mae Conlon.  I have found this family difficult to research.  I do not know the parents’ names or what happened to them. To find the answer to that question I wrote to the New York City Department of Records for Edward’s birth certificate and received the dreaded “Not Found” letter.  I may have to break down ($$) and request Mae’s birth certificate.

Something happened between Mae’s birth in 1902 and 1909 as in 1910 Edward and George are shown living in the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum for Boys, Sedgewick and Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx. 

I cannot find Mae or Lawrence during this time. By 1920 Edward, George, Lawrence and Mae lived with the Doyles in their Manhattan apartment. 

In 1940 Mae is married to John Harrington, Lawrence lived in an apartment on East 101st Street and Lexington, working for the Sanitation Department. Edward married Elizabeth E. [Unknown] b: 1894. Edward worked as a civilian clerk for the police department, and George lived with Edward and Elizabeth working for a delivery company as a helper on their trucks.

And so while waiting for my obits I was able to add a little more detail to the story of the Conlon family even if many questions are yet to be answered.

I guess that is what genealogy is all about – there is always more to be done.