Sunday, November 29, 2015

Behind the Scenes at Genealogy Roadshow

It has been a week since Genealogy Roadshow completed the filming of the Houston episode on Sunday, November 22. The air date is yet to be determined, but it will be sometime in May or June of 2016.  I had the good fortune to be behind the scenes as the Genealogy Roadshow was being taped last week.  It gave me the opportunity to meet and interview one of the people that will be featured in this episode.

Sarah Lasater is seen here in the upper left and the lower right.
Her Texas family history was revealed by professional genealogist, Mary Tedesco featured here.
Sarah Lasater became interested in the Genealogy Roadshow after she saw a Facebook posting by a friend from college.  Her friend had submitted a query about her African American family history and Sarah became intrigued by the possibility of submitting her own story.  She had been interested in her family roots for several years.  She built a family tree at and compiled files from her home and family followed by more research.

Sarah's friend put the idea in her mind to submit some of her own family stories.  She went to the Genealogy Roadshow website and  submitted five questions that she had on various ancestors on her family tree in February 2015.  She did not hear anything for a couple months until she was contacted by a researcher from the show who wanted to pursue preliminary research.

Two months ago she was contacted again by the researcher and notified that they wanted her to appear on the show.  Her grandfather told her that there might be a connection to to an illustrious Texas veteran on one of the branches of the family tree.  Her grandfather knew that the family had resided in the vicinity of Eastland County, Texas where he was born.  Her great grandfather had died young so her grandfather was unable to learn much about his father’s family history.  Sarah’s grandfather passed away in 2011. She wanted to verify her ancestral connections.   We will have to wait until the 2016 season of the Genealogy Roadshow to find the answer to Sarah's question.

To complicate matters Sarah got sick and was in the hospital until 3:30 PM Saturday.  The production crew had hoped to do additional filming with Sarah on Saturday.   She had nothing but compliments for the staff of the Genealogy Roadshow and was amazed that they would send a car to Victoria, Texas to pick her up on Saturday night and provide her with a hotel in Houston that night.  She has the highest regard for the whole production team.  The experience was great from the moment she found out that the Roadshow was interested in her story.  All of the Roadshow staff were very kind, generous and approachable.

Visitors swarm the exhibit hall at the Genealogy Roadshow.
This episode was filmed at the historic Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library.

Sarah also found all of the booths in the Exhibit Hall to be very informative.  She is intrigued by the possibility that she might be eligible to join one or more of the lineage societies.  She had fantastic conversations and she is hoping to explore more about her ancestral connections.  She was so excited to be one of few chosen from thousands of applicants.  All in all, she had a great time!  And so did I! I can't wait to see the finished episode when the new season of Genealogy Roadshow debuts in May 2016.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Do You Want to Be a Genealogy TV Star?

The two worlds of reality TV and genealogy collided in Houston yesterday at the filming of the PBS Genealogy Roadshow.  I was there yesterday in the Exhibit Hall in the Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library representing,  the Bay Area Genealogical Society and the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Nick Cimino representing and APG in the Exhibit Hall for the Genealogy Roadshow.  Helen Mooty and her husband, John Dickey were being filmed for her upcoming appearance on the show.
The Bay Area Genealogical Society (BAGS) was well represented at the Genealogy Roadshow with a cadre of members volunteering throughout the Exhibit Hall.  First and foremost was BAGS member, Helen Mooty who will be featured in the Houston episode of the PBS Genealogy Roadshow.
Helen Mooty will learn about her family history in the 2016 season of Genealogy Roadshow.
Genealogist Mary Tedesco is seen here with Helen revealing the results of the family research.

Helen Mooty described the entire Genealogy Roadshow experience as thoroughly enjoyable.  The Roadshow staff was very professional, on-time, and friendly.  The production team spent a half day scouting locations for the episode and another entire day filming Helen before the event on November 22.   They filmed Helen portraying Jane Long, “Mother of Texas.” Helen and John took four members of the production team on a Galveston Bay sailboat trip  to give the television viewers the authentic Gulf Coast experience.

Helen Mooty portraying Jane Long, "Mother of Texas"
SOURCE: Houston Chronicle,
BAGS had an information table in the exhibit hall.  Thanks to all of the BAGS members who worked the table from setup at 8 AM until closing at 6 PM.  In addition to our own table, BAGS members worked at tables provided by Clayton Library Friends, Daughters of the American Revolution and several other genealogy and lineage societies.

Mary Tedesco visited the table yesterday at the Genealogy Roadshow.  Mary is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.  Debbie Parker Wayne and Nick Cimino, fellow APG members, listen attentively as Mary explains some of the inner workings of the Genealogy Roadshow.
The Lonestar Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists had several members on hand to pass out information on hiring and becoming a professional genealogist.  When you work with a professional genealogist, we recommend that you write down what you know about your research challenge.  The more accurate and concise the information provided, the more help a professional genealogist will be able to provide. A written statement describing what you know about your ancestor will maximize the research productivity:

  • Name of focus person:
  • Lifespan (approximate if unknown):
  • Describe each problem to be analyzed  (1-2 sentences)
  • List the resources you have already consulted (for example, 1850 census Washington Co., TX, Civil War pension file, land & probate records, etc.) AND what you found in each.
  • Provide a timeline of the key events in the life of the person of interest to this research question 
Visitors swarm the Exhibit Hall in the Julia Ideson Building
of the Houston Public Library at the Houston Genealogy Roadshow.

Your next opportunity to become a star of the Genealogy Roadshow is in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Old Airport Terminal – Saturday December 12th (9am – 6 pm).  The show is also planning to film another Roadshow event in January 2016 in Los Angeles.  Go here and fill out the casting application. Good Luck!

#Genealogy #Texas #GenealogyPBS @originsitaly #houstonlibrary

Monday, November 16, 2015

Famous Kin: John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

I am a poor cousin to the Rockefeller family!  I never knew about this connection as a child.  My mom had stories about being related to famous people but I never heard my dad tell any of those kinds of stories.  It wasn't until I started working on our family history in 1989 that I was able to find out that we are related to one of the richest families in America.

The Rockefeller name is well known to most Americans.  John D. Rockefeller, Sr. made his fortune in the oil business with Standard Oil Company.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was instrumental in the construction of Rockefeller Center in New York.  The complex is a dining and shopping mecca in Midtown Manhattan. The Art Deco skyscraper in the center of Rockefeller Center known to most people as "30 Rock" houses the studios of NBC television and the plaza plays host to broadcasts of the Today Show every weekday morning.  The Rockefeller Family includes oil tycoons, governors, industrialists, philanthropists and a vice president.

One of the Rockefeller accomplishments that has been closest to my heart is Colonial Williamsburg. This city is a living history museum that provides a snap shot into the lives of our colonial ancestors. Every genealogist and history buff should put Williamsburg on their bucket list.  This historic treasure was preserved thanks to my fourth cousin, three generations removed, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

I found out that I have a lot in common with my Rockefeller cousin.  For example, he had a Social Security number and so do I!

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. applied for a Social Security Number.

I even have one up on Mr. Rockefeller.  He had to sign up for the draft.  The draft ended the year I became eligible.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. signed up for the draft during World War I.

It is definitely good for a laugh to say that I am related to the Rockefellers.  At the Texas State Genealogical Society meeting, we heard fellow professional genealogist, Cari Taplin tell her family story of being related to Roy Rogers.  I won't spoil the surprise ending to her story but I will tip my hat to her for inspiring this blogpost.  Happy trails!  Until we meet again!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Is My Brickwall About to Tumble Down?

The latest discovery in my own family history is an obituary which ties my great grandmother, Mae Blanche Moss to a man named John Lauenstein in 1906.  The obituary states that "May" Moss is the step-daughter of Mr. Lauenstein.  My maternal great grandmother, Mae Moss, was the first wife of my maternal great grandfather, Ernest Coffman, and the mother of Elaine and Vivian Coffman.  Later she married Ernest "Doc" Forbes, a pharmacist for Owl Drug.

Mae Moss is my genealogical mystery woman.  She was placed in the Sacramento Protestant Orphan Asylum by her mother in 1892.  This institution was known to us in Sacramento as the Sacramento Children's Home.

!BIRTH: 1882 Sacramento Children's Home Register; copied by Jill Mayne, Oct 1989 May Moss born Feb 19 1882, American; came to California June 1890, Sacramento; Admitted: 6 Dec 1892 by Mrs. J. Moss; Discharged: 4 Aug 1897 to Mrs. Moss, Father: Nashville, Tenn.; Mother: Richmond, VA; Married: Galveston, Tex.; Parents Death: Waco, Texas; Parents Habits: Intemperate.  Mrs. Moss took May without permission from the Board.

I have never been able to find any records which substantiate any of the vital information provided by Mae's mother to the orphanage.  Between the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1900 Galveston storm, there has been considerable record loss which has affected my search.

Mae stated on her 1936 application for a Social Security account number:  Mae B. Moss Coffman; 885 Aileen Street, Oakland Calif.; Employer: Owl Drug Co. at 14 & Washington Sts., Oakland, Cal.;  age at last birthday: 51; DOB: 19 Feb 1885; POB: Brooklyn, New York; Father: John Moss; Mother: Annie Lanstein; signed Nov. 30, 1936 by Mae B. Coffman.

Lanstein vs. Lauenstein.  This raises the possibility that Lanstein was not the maiden name of Mae's mother, rather it was a married name.  Curiously, however, no wife is mentioned in Mr. Lauenstein's obituary:

The San Francisco Call, Saturday, January 13, 1906, page 13.
LAUENSTEIN---In this city, January 12, 1906, at his residence, 8 Miles court, John Lauenstein, stepfather of May Moss, a native of Hamburg, Germany, aged 46 years, 9 months and 4 days.
  Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral services Sunday, January 14, at 12 o'clock m., at his late residence, 8 Miles court, off California street near Powell. Interment Mount Olivet Cemetery.
  Funeral will take place under the auspices of San Francisco Aerie No. 5, F.O.E., Sunday, January 14, at 1 o'clock p.m., from Eagles Hall, 731 Market street. By order of 
  D. J. CREAMER, Acting President. 
 GUS POHLMAN, Secretary.
Publication Title: San Francisco Call; 13 January 1906, page 13; California Digital Newspaper Collection []

California Digital Newspaper Collection

The address "off California Street" does match with the stories that both Elaine and Vivian told me:

!BIOGRAPHY: 1906 Elaine Coffman Kelly, Interview by Nick Cimino 4 Nov 1989
     Mae and her mother lived in San Francisco on the street below the Fairmont Hotel.  Going up California Street it was the first street before you hit the top.  The rooming house was down there in the middle of the block.  Mae worked on California and Montgomery at a fancy fruit and vegetable market for Mr. Gedding and she apparently knew the family.  She was a cashier.  When the fire broke out after the earthquake in 1906 some of the people went to the Golden Gate Park.  Elaine remembers her mom telling about her father pulling this trunk down California Street one block below the Fairmont all the way down to the ferry boat which went over to Oakland.  They assume that Ernest took Mae and her mother to Aunt Viola Coffman Hughes house at 742 46th Street.

!BIOGRAPHY: 1906 Vivian McGrath, Interview by N. Cimino 10 Nov 1989;  Vivian told me many times that her mother and grandmother were in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake.  Mae Moss was working as a cashier or a bookkeeper for Mr. Gedding who had a wholesale produce company at the foot of California Street.  Mae and her mother were living in a flat on a little narrow street right behind the Fairmont Hotel. They put their possessions in a big trunk, got the trunk down the stairs of the place and pushed it out to California Street but they could not get the trunk up the hill because it was too steep.  Mae smiled at two strong men coming up the hill and they pulled the trunk up the hill for her.  She and her mother then pushed it down the hill.  They got out to Golden Gate Park somehow. Everyone was camping in the park.  Ernest Coffman found them in the park and brought Mae and her mother back to Oakland to the house of Viola Coffman Hughes at 742 46th St.
To corroborate the above stories, I checked the 1920 Census for names that sound like "Gedding".  I found a Mr. Charles L. Goetting, age 52, born in Germany, immigrated 1868 and naturalized 1878.   He was a lodger at 568 California Street and his occupation was produce salesman.   He is also listed with his family at 675 Second Avenue. The story about Mr. Goetting checks out pretty well.  I have found advertisements for his produce business. 

Now I have John Lauenstein as the stepfather of Great Grandma Mae and residing near California Street. His gravestone in Mt. Olivet in Colma says that his wife was Virginia.  That threw me a curve ball.  I cannot find him or a wife named Virginia in the 1900 census of San Francisco.  What happened to Mae's mother, Annie?  Is Virginia the same as Annie?  Why doesn't the obituary mention Virginia?

FindaGrave Memorial #135257484

Grandma Mae has been one step forward and two steps back at every turn in the research journey.  But at least I have a few more names to trace down and hopefully, it will lead to actual records of Mae and her parents.


Here is the complete chronology for John Lauenstein, 1859-1906:

1859- BIRTH • Hamburg, Germany
Per obituary; died January 12, 1906, aged 46 years, 9 months and 4 days. This yields a birthdate of 8 Apr 1859.

1890- NATURALIZATION • San Francisco, California, USA
Naturalized: SF Sup.[Superior Court?], July 31, 1890 per 1890 & 1896 Voter 
Registers  see below.

1890- VOTER REGISTER • San Francisco, California, USA
Name: Lauenstein John; age 30; Nativity: Germany; Occupation: Carpenter; Local Residence: 621 California, Floor 2, Room B; Naturalized: SF Sup. [Superior Court?], July 31, 1890; Date of Registration: Oct., 7, 1890; Publication Title: Voter Register, 10th Precinct, 31st Assembly District, San Francisco County, 1890 []

1896- VOTER REGISTER • San Francisco, California, USA
Name: Lauenstein John; age 36; Height: 5', 5"; Complexion: Light; Color of Eyes: Hazel; Color of Hair: Brown; Occupation: Carpenter; Nativity: Germany; Local Residence: 428 Broadway, Floor 3, Room 9; Naturalized: SF Sup. [Superior Court?], July 31, 1890; Date of Registration: June 3, 1896; Publication Title: Voter Register, 7th Precinct, 45th Assembly District, San Francisco County, 1896 []

1899 RESIDENCE • San Francisco, California, USA
Lauenstein John, porter [resides with?] James W. Boyce; Publication Title: San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1899 []

1900 CENSUS  Presumably San Francisco but have not yet found the census record for John Lauenstein despite a variety of clever search techniques.  If I could find this record it might reveal the mysterious Mrs. Virginia Lauenstein.

1903 RESIDENCE • San Francisco, California, USA
Lauenstein John, bartender, r. 423 Sutter; Publication Title: San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1903 []

Before 1906 he was married to a woman named Virginia [maiden name unknown] per the gravestone. Unfortunately, there do not appear to be marriage records for San Francisco County available prior to the 1906 earthquake.  The Western States Marriage Index  at shows a divorce occurring in Boise, Idaho between a John Lowenstein and wife, Annie.  The index refers to a marriage occurring in San Francisco on 10 Jun 1890.  The date of the divorce is not given.  It seems odd that Annie or John would have gone all the way to Boise to get a divorce.  The original divorce record in Ada County, Idaho may reveal more but the transcript in the Western States Marriage Index has several blanks in the form.

1906- OBITUARY • San Francisco, California, USA
The San Francisco Call, Saturday, January 13, 1906, page 13.
See transcript above in italics.

!BURIAL: January 14, 1906 per obituary.
Name: John Lauenstein
Cemetery: Olivet Memorial Park
Burial or Cremation Place: Colma, San Mateo County, California, USA
Find A Grave Memorial# 135257484

!PROBATE: A reasonably exhaustive search has not revealed a probate record for John Lauenstein.

Monday, November 2, 2015

PBS Genealogy Roadshow - Houston - 22 Nov 2015

PBS Genealogy Roadshow will be filming in Houston, Texas on Sunday, November 22 from 9:00am to 6:00pm. I will be on hand representing the Lonestar Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) at our information table.  If you are curious about genealogy, this is your opportunity to learn more and maybe get a chance to star on TV!

The Genealogy Roadshow is being filmed at  the Julia Ideson Bldg. (a.k.a. Houston Metropolitan Research Center or old Houston Public Library) located at 550 McKinney St., Houston, TX 77002.    

Parking Info: 1100 Smith Garage, 1100 Smith St., Houston, TX 77002; Street parking is free on Sundays.

There are three genealogists that star in this show.  I met Josh Taylor and Kenyatta Berry at the Federation of Genealogical Societies meeting in San Antonio last year.  I am looking forward to meeting Mary Tedesco because we share an interest in Italian genealogy.  The television shows that feature genealogical research are very useful for building excitement and enthusiasm for genealogy among the general public.

This is a great opportunity for the genealogy community of Houston and the State of Texas to offer assistance to the attendess at this free event.  Mark your calendars and plan to be there.

In other developments, I am just returning from the Texas State Genealogical Society (TSGS) meeting in Austin over the weekend.  I was nominated to serve as Vice President of the Lonestar Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.  I was also confirmed as District 4 Representative to TSGS.  I saw some outstanding presentations and made many new friends at the event and look forward to serving the genealogical community throughout the year in my new roles.