Monday, January 29, 2018

52 Ancestors – In the Census

1900 Population Schedule for Manhattan, NY
When beginning genealogy research, we are told to start with ourselves. And then the next step is to go to the census—a most important tool. By following the census back every ten years, we learn different things about our ancestors. The census wasn’t taken with genealogy research in mind. It was taken for congressional representation. Over time added to that was information the government wanted to know about its citizens, i.e. where our ancestors lived, how their families grew, if they rented or owned their dwelling, if they had a radio, their month and date of birth, whether they were naturalized or not, when they entered the country, and on and on. All good information for genealogists.

There are other less known census that I admit I have not taken advantage of—Agriculture, Defective, Dependent, Delinquent classes, Mortality Schedules, Veterans Schedules, Social Statistics Schedules to name a few.

We are also instructed to put on our creativity hat when searching the census. Census takers were human. They did the best they could in their best handwriting, which often left a lot to be desired. When coming upon a name that was foreign to them, and if the person being asked couldn’t spell it for them, they wrote down what they heard. Remember that the person providing the information might be a neighbor or a child who didn’t know information about the family.

And that brings me to my census dilemma. My maiden name was Nunn. When the census taker in 1900 Manhattan asked for the last name – they heard “none.” “Well, you gotta have a name.”

For years I could not find the Joseph Nunn family in the 1900 census. Not until I learned the name of one of their neighbors. In checking that name, I finally found my family. When the census taker gave up getting a last name, he must have asked for the husband’s name. (Joseph was deceased at this point). The informant said, “Joseph.” So the Nunn family in the 1900 NYC census is listed in a scribbled over so it can barely be read is – Joseph Catherine. (Last name is indexed as Joseph). Listed below was my grandfather and his siblings. Yes!!

I ran into the same problem in the 1940 census when my grandfather’s sibling, Joseph Nunn was listed with the last name of “Joseph.” So he is listed as Joseph Joseph. Not much progress, right? But a reminder to think outside the box when doing census research.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Kate (Nunn) Preiss (21 December 1893 – 29 April 1928)

The next step in the story of Kate (Nunn) Preiss was to verify her date of death. My second cousin Nicholas said she was married in 1927 and died in childbirth in April 1928. His memory is like a steel vault, but I had to verify that information for myself. Thanks to Reclaim the Records, I verified that Kate married Carl Preiss on 17 September 1927.

Several weeks ago I checked the public trees on There was a tree for the Preiss family and Carl was listed with spouses, but not Kate. I contacted the person who had put up the Preiss tree. She replied with information on Carl, but she didn’t know about his first marriage to Kate Nunn.

She wrote again to say she found a Jersey Journal headline from 30 April 1928 that read: Mrs. Preiss and Babe Die in Hospital.

I contacted the Jersey City Free Public Library and asked if they could locate this article for me. In early evening I received a nice note from a librarian there with a scan of the page I needed.

The article was short, but it told me what I needed to know. Kate and her baby did indeed die in childbirth at the North Hudson Hospital in Weehawen, New Jersey on 29 April 1928. The article also told me she and Carl were living in West New York, New Jersey.

This information saved me from paying someone to visit the New York City Municipal Archives for a death certificate. She didn’t die in New York; she died in New Jersey. Kate is buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery, Queens, New York alongside her sister, Elizabeth.

Although there was no charge for this information from the library, I plan on sending a donation in support of their digitization project.

I love librarians!  And Nicholas was correct once again!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

52 Ancestors - Invite to Dinner

Appetizers and programs in place for a dinner meeting in the Gold Room of TFI
I spent my growing up years at our family restaurant, Taughannock Farms Inn. Consequently, this prompt takes on a different meaning for me.

Between Good Friday to the end of Thanksgiving Day, my parents and grandparents each worked six days a week—my parents had Wednesday off—and we, as kids, were expected to help out as well.

But it wasn’t all work. I had a lot of time to play, and considered Taughannock Falls State Park my personal playground. This was especially true before Memorial Day and after Labor Day when fewer people were at the park and I was able to ride my bike over the paved pathways, along the water’s edge, over the humpback bridge to the playground.

Back at the Inn, the building’s unfinished third floor held remnants left by the 19th century owners. Beds with large wooden frames and headboards, dressers with marble surfaces, lovely long gowns, and framed photos of people I didn’t know.
Top: Gathered around the table waiting for table assignments; bottom, waitresses ready to serve customers on the porch.
In the top photo: Back Left: Agnes Walk, Millie Hardenbrook, Ellen Vesley, Mary Backner; From front right: Audrey Hoagland, Maude Agard, Carol Nunn.
Each day employees were in the building, cooking, cleaning, and preparing for the arrival of customers. So the best part of growing up for me was that these folks were considered part of our family, and we of theirs. Even though they were out of work all winter when the restaurant was closed, most all returned to work in the spring. 

I dedicate this blog to that part of my “family” that I have not written about before—the waitresses and kitchen staff that helped make Taughannock Farms Inn a wonderful place for me to grow up.

Monday, January 15, 2018

52 Ancestors – Week 3 – Longevity

Enos, Laura, Maude Emma and Kenneth Hardenbrook abt 1910
Laura Alice (Wortman) Hardenbrook was born 14 April 1886 in the Town of Ulysses, Tompkins County, New York to Menzo and Mary (Taylor) Wortman.

On the evening of June 8, 1905, at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, New York Laura married Enos Hardenbrook. She and Enos had two children, Maude Emma (Hardenbrook) Agard (my grandmother) and Kenneth Hardenbrook.

Enos and Laura lived in a small farmhouse near Jacksonville on Swamp College Road.  The house had two bedrooms; a very small bedroom that they occupied and a small living room and a medium sized kitchen.

The Hardenbrooks moved to Ithaca, New York in the early 1930s. In 1936 they lived at 108 West State Street; in 1937 they lived at 708 N.Aurora Street; in 1938 they moved to 115 Prospect Street where they lived until moving back to Jacksonville some time in the early 1940s.
Kenneth and Laura (Wortman) Hardenbrook
I remember great-grandma Hardenbrook as a tall, slim, and serious woman. I don’t know if she ever had formal training, but in her later years she worked as a type of visiting nurse.

Laura (Wortman) Hardenbrook died 28 February 1978 at Ithacacare on Quarry Street, Ithaca, New York at the age of 92. This challenge has brought to my attention that although I knew great-grandma for many years, I didn’t really know her. That will be my next challenge.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

52 Ancestors – Week 2 – Favorite Photo

Jessie (Tucker) Agard and Arthur Agard
This prompt was much harder. As many favorite photos popped into my head, I realized I had already posted them on this blog. But I knew the person I wanted to honor. That person is my great-grandmother Jessie (Tucker) Agard. I have written a few posts about Jessie, so readers may remember that she was Ulysses (NY) Town Historian for over twenty years. That was before my time of understanding what that meant. I now realize my desire to preserve history and to document my ancestors probably comes from her genetic influence.

I am the lucky recipient of Jessie’s diaries, started in 1944 up to her death in 1973, as well as her handwritten history of the Jacksonville Community Church, listing its pastors, boards, and members, and a copy of the handwritten and transcribed journal of her grandmother, Adeline Cleveland Hosner who was born in Jacksonville, NY in 1809. Adeline’s journals were edited and published as The Pioneer Clevelands. Jessie’s family can be traced back to the Rev. John Lowthropp. The Rev Lowthropp arrived Boston 18 September 1634, and eventually moved his congregation to Barnstable, MA.

The photo is of Jessie and her husband Arthur Agard on her 90th birthday, January 2, 1966. The photo was taken at a family dinner at her son, Merritt's home on Route 89, Trumansburg, New York, overlooking Cayuga Lake. Merritt and Maude returned from their winter in Florida just for this occasion.

In Jessie’s own words, here is what she wrote in her diary for January 2, 1966:

“This is my Birthday [90 years] Snowing. We are invited to Merritt’s for 5 o’clock dinner, Bill’s family too, and we went with them. Ethel, Margaret, Ken, Millie, Skip, Dianne, Nancy, Martha and Laura H. Merritt and Maude came from Florida to be here for my 90th Birthday.”

The hutch shown in the background of this photo now resides in our home, as does the dishes that are displayed. This photo and Jessie's journal entry brings a lot of memories. Only two of those listed are still alive.

Friday, January 5, 2018

52 Ancestors – Week 1 – Start

Harry J. Nunn and Mary (Doyle) Nunn
It was not difficult to decide how I would start my 52 Ancestors challenge. It was in 1997 that I felt I had to learn more about my grandfather, Harry J. Nunn.  Little did I know at that time what an incredible journey he would take me on.

I first wrote the New York City Municipal Archives for my grandparent’s marriage certificate. He stated his father was Joseph Nunn, his mother Katherine “Stiebert.” I then spent years looking for a Nunn-Stiebert connection. It wasn’t until the 1910 census came online, and I had a little more experience under my belt, that I noticed there were “Nunn” children living with their brother-in-law, Louis "Seibert." This was my aha moment. My grandfather had stated on his marriage license that his mother’s maiden name was actually the married name (spelled wrong) of his oldest sister, Elizabeth! But his doing that, although it wasted years of my research time, provided the crucial piece of information to tie my grandfather to his siblings.

My research took me to the streets of Manhattan in the year 1900, when eleven children had been born to Joseph Nunn and Catherine (Kurtz) Nunn, then to St. Josephs Home in Peekskill, New York where my grandfather and his siblings were sent after their father died, and their mother was sent to the Manhattan Psychiatric Institution in June 1900.

I wrote againt to the NYC Municipal Archives for his birth certificate to confirm his parent’s names. I sent another request for one of his siblings, Emma, to make sure they were siblings. And they were, even with the same midwife.

My grandfather received a good education at St. Joseph’s Home, and he did well in his life. He passed his civil service test with flying colors (NYT article), and worked his whole career as a City of New York auto engine man. He had also driven trucks, and so I believe the family lore is true that he was a chauffeur for Mayor LaGuardia—I think that at least on one occasion my grandfather drove the mayor somewhere during my grandfather's twenty-plus career with the City of New York. What bragging rights that would be for a poor family from the Bronx.

I have written a monograph on Harry Nunn and His Family, so there is much, much more to this story. One fact is that his birth name was not Harry, but Ignortz. By 1900 he was listed as “Henry.” But we knew him as Harry, and better known as our “Pop.”

Love you, Pop. Thank you for taking me on this incredible journey.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Through the Manatee Genealogical Society Facebook page I learned about Amy Johnson Crow’s genealogy challenge of honoring an ancestor each week during the year. You can do that in any number of ways. You can blog, twitter (#52ancestors), write a journal entry, send an email or family photo to a cousin, make a video, scrapbook, or however you want to honor an ancestor.

I decided this would be a great way for me to get back into my genealogy research. The prompts run Monday through Sunday, but there is no right or wrong way. The goal is to get you into the habit.

Amy’s schedule for January is:
Week 1 – Start
Week 2 – Favorite Photo
Week 3 – Longevity
Week 4 – Invite to Dinner
Week 5 – In the Census

I encourage anyone interested in this fun genealogy challenge to sign up at her website.