Monday, August 29, 2016

"It Takes A Village"... in German Genealogy

German genealogy can be extremely fascinating and rewarding.  The importance of finding the name of the place of origin of your German ancestors must be repeated many times.  It is interesting how certain phrases enter the American lexicon such as: "It takes a village..."

According to Wikipedia: It takes a village is a proverb that leverages the cultural context and belief that it takes an entire community to raise a child: A child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child.

I wrote before at this linked phrase about the importance of finding the hometown of our German immigrants. American genealogical sources must be thoroughly researched before attempting to delve into the German church records. It takes the name of a village to find the name of the church.

It also takes a village of genealogists and historians to figure out the name of the village of origin. Case in point is one of my current projects involving a Houston couple, Henry Brenner 1827-1911 and Fredericka Eggert 1828-1901.  The historians at the Washington and Glenwood cemeteries in Houston have been integral residents of this village.  The tangled web of family trees on has also provided a number of persons that have this couple in their family trees. Fortunately, one of those trees had a document attached that was prepared by the cemetery historians. This report on the Brenner family was a jump start to the process of sorting out the tangled web.

The full German name for Henry Brenner is thought to be Heinrich August Brenner.  The full German name for Fredericka Eggert was originally thought to be Marie Friedericke Eggert.  After further examination of the family trees that had that full name, it appears that they have provided that name based on a record for a person with a similar name as follows:

name:  Marie Friedericke Eggert [possible, but not a strong match;]
gender:               Female
baptism/christening date:    29 Jul 1836
father's name:     Franz Heinrich Eggert
mother's name:   Henriette Cathrine Fincke
indexing project (batch) number:        K98332-5
system origin:     Germany-ODM
source film number:           1050756
reference number:              

The church burial record[1] is translated as follows:
Burial July 22, 1901; Frau Fredericka Brenner nee Egert born 6 Sep 1828 in Steink, Sachsen [Saxony]; died 21 Jul 1901 from Diarrhea; buried in the German Cemetery, Houston [Now Washington Cemetery]

1901 Church Burial Record from German Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

Based on the birth date in this burial record it appears that many family trees have erred in selecting the name Marie Fredericke and the birth date from 1836.  The record above is from Westphalia.  Fredericka Eggert was born in the vicinity of the state of Saxony from the burial record or Mecklenburg from the 1870 census.

The place of birth given in the 1870 census for Fredericka Eggert Brenner is Mecklenburg, Germany.

1870 Census show Fredericka Eggert with her husband Henry Brenner, children Mina and William and other possible relatives in adjacent households.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is a federated state in northern Germany today. The capital city is Schwerin. The state was formed through the merger of the historic regions of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern after the German reunification in 1990.  The states of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz became Grand Duchies in 1815, and in 1870 they voluntarily joined the new German Empire, while retaining their own internal autonomy.

Google Map showing the current state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommen in area highlighted in pink

The 1901 burial record says that Fredericka Eggert was born in Steink, Saxony.  A review of an online German gazetteer[2] found no match for Steink.  However a wildcard search yields the following possible matches for Steink as a prefix for a place name.  All of these place names are in Niedersachsen, Bundesrepublik Deutschland:

Format: -place name -type -Superordinate objects -postal code –GOVId

·         Steinkamp settlement Seesen, Goslar, D38723; STEAMP_W3370
·         Steinkamp place Groß Oesingen, Gifhorn, D29393; STEAMP_W3121
·         Steinkimmen place; Ganderkesee, Oldenburg, D27777; STEMEN_W2871
·         Steinkirchen municipality; Grünendeich, Stade, D21720; STEHENJO43TN
·         Steinkrug place Wennigsen (Deister), Region Hannover, D30974; STERUG_W3001
·         Steinkrug settlement Boffzen, Boffzen, Holzminden, [no postal code] STERUGJO41QS
·         Steinkuhle settlement Sehnde, Region Hannover, [no postal code]STEHLEJO42XH
·         Steinkuhle settlement Northeim, Northeim, D37154; STEHLE_W3410
·         Steinkuhle settlement Bad Münder, HamelnPyrmont,

Steinkirchen is a municipality near Hamburg as shown on the following map:

Steinkirchen is a municipality near Hamburg in Niedersachsen Bundesrepublik Deutschland.  Note the proximity to Bremen where Henry Brenner was born per 1870 census and Schwerin which is the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
If you would like to join my village of German genealogy researchers or if you need any help with your immigrant ancestors, please contact me.

[1] Title: GERMAN LUTHERAN CHURCH (FIRST EVANGELICAL, LATER KNOWN AS CENTRAL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH) RECORDS, 1851-1966; Church Located in Houston, TX. Records Include: Marriages From 1874-1966, Baptisms From 1851-1959; 1961-1966, Burial/Death Registers From 1881-1966, Communion Register From 1851-1948; 1951, Rosters, Constitution, and Financial. Early Years Records are in German. Different Types of Records are Separated on Various Places on Roll and are Arranged by Date. Roll Filmed Upside Down; Microfilm at Clayton Library, Cabinet 92, Drawer 2; the historians at Glenwood & Washington Cemeteries have a printed version of this record for ready reference.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Genealogy in Your Back Yard- Family History Centers

I started my genealogical research in 1989 while living in Reno, Nevada.  We were fortunate to have a Family History Center in Reno.  I owe much of my early success in genealogy to the use of the FHC that was operated by volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  The director of the center, Tom Sawtelle had retired from the University of Nevada.  He became a mentor to me and I will forever be indebted to him for his encouragement.  Tom also helped me to organize a genealogy class that was offered through the community college.  He allowed me to offer my class at the FHC.

Family History Center, Reno, Nevada

Family History Centers (FHCs) are branches of FamilySearch and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, located all over the world. Their goal is to provide resources to assist you in the research and study of your genealogy and family history by:

  • Giving personal one-on-one assistance to patrons
  • Providing access to genealogical records through the Internet or microfilm loan program
  • Offering free how-to classes (varies by location)

There are more than 4,700 FHCs in 134 countries. There is no cost to visit a Family History Center or FamilySearch Library. They are open to anyone with an interest in genealogical research. They are operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).  I have always found the volunteers in these centers to be very knowledgeable.  They share your passion for genealogy and are extremely helpful.

Family History Centers provide free access to many subscription genealogy websites, including:

  • 19th Century British Newspapers
  • Newspaper Archives
  • Alexander Street Press (American Civil War Collections)
  • (Family History Library Edition)
  • ArkivDigital Online
  • findmypast
  • HeritageQuest Online
  • Historic Map Works (Library Edition)
  • Paper Trail, A Guide to Overland Pioneer Names and Documents

You should take the time to visit a Family History Center.  You can search for the nearest facility at this link: 

I am fortunate to have two Family History Centers close to me: Friendswood and League City.  In addition, the Clayton Library is also a Family Search partner facility that can receive microfilm from Salt Lake City.  Much of the information that we need to fill in the gaps on our family trees is on microfilm and not yet available online.

I was pleased to learn that the League City facility is hosting a special event on September 17, 2016 from 9 am to 3 pm called Rootstech Family Discovery Day.  The details of the event are here:

 This is a free educational event that I encourage you to attend.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Digging Deeper in Cemetery Research

Cemetery research is often similar to an archaeological excavation both literally and figuratively. The events of the past week have helped to crystallize my thinking about the "digging deeper" metaphor.

This is the cover page of the book that I purchased on Saturday.
On Saturday, I attended a presentation about a new Images of America book entitled: Galveston's Broadway Cemeteries.  The author of the book, Kathleen Shanahan Maca has been researching genealogies and cemeteries for over 40 years.  The cemetery on Broadway in Galveston is actually seven separate cemeteries that date back to 1839.  The stories Kathleen told and the images shown were both poignant and amazing.

Most of us have heard about the seawall in Galveston that was constructed after the 1900 hurricane to protect the island from future storms. Many structures that were previously five to six feet above sea level were also raised after the 1900 storm to heights of eight to 22 feet.  Kathleen surprised me when she said that the Galveston burial grounds were also elevated three times between 1918 and 1925. If cemetery lot owners declined the opportunity to assist in these cemetery raising projects, then their cemetery lots could be resold leading to as many as three levels of interments in the Galveston cemeteries. Many of the early cemetery markers were buried and many of the mausoleums were left with only their roofs exposed.

Only an estimated 25 percent of the markers in the Broadway cemeteries have been raised.

Volunteer "digs" at Galveston cemeteries reveal wrought iron fences and original markers that were buried in the process of raising the grade level of the cemeteries.

Some of the plots in the Broadway cemeteries may appear to be an archaeological dig.

Another opportunity to hear Kathleen Shanahan Maca speak is coming up on Friday, September 30, 2016 at the meeting of the Bay Area Genealogical Society. She will discuss her genealogical research process and resources used to uncover the personal stories behind the gravestones.  Meet in the Chapel on the 1st Floor of the University Baptist Church at 6:30 pm for coffee and socializing.  I encourage you to come and pick up an autographed copy of Galveston's Broadway Cemeteries.  The meeting and educational program begins at 7 pm. UBC is located at 16106 Middlebrook Drive,
Houston, TX 77059 (Clear Lake City).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bootlegger: Cimino Family Legend

Were your ancestors making more than juice and jelly?
"Finding the Roots of Your Family Legends" was one of the presentations by D. Joshua Taylor that I attended on Saturday at Rice University.  Josh is one of the hosts of the popular Genealogy Roadshow reality series on PBS.  The end of his seminar was greeted with a standing ovation from the Houston genealogy community.  He recommended that we develop historical context for family legends through newspapers and local history publications.

I am wondering if South Sioux City, Nebraska had a newspaper in the late 1920s or early 1930s.  I am trying to verify a family legend about bootleg wine.  For a few facts about prohibition, check out this link:

My dad told me a story about his grandfather, Tony Cimino making wine during Prohibition. Enacted in January 1919, the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors. Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933.

My great grandfather, Tony Cimino had been making his own wine since he had come to the United States and settled in Omaha, Nebraska in 1909. Tony moved his family to Sioux City, Iowa in 1912 and then across the river to South Sioux City, Nebraska in 1920. According to the story my dad told, Tony decided that it would be wiser not to store the wine in the house any more.  He went out to the field near his house and buried his gallon jugs of wine. Apparently a neighbor must have reported him.  The Sheriff arrived at the house with a team of horses and a plow. 

This event occurred after my Grandpa Dick started working in Sioux City at the packing plant in 1926. In 1930 the Cimino families lived on West Frederick Street in South Sioux City.  My great grandfather's home address changed to  618 West 17th Street but they never moved.  The street name was changed sometime between 1930 and 1940.

The streetcar line from Sioux City, Iowa to South Sioux City, Nebraska was about 5 or 6 blocks from the house.  Tony had apparently buried a lot of jugs because Dick could smell the wine as soon as he got off the streetcar.

According to some sources, home wine making was legal during prohibition but apparently not in Nebraska:

" 1916 Nebraska voters approved a statewide prohibition amendment. Prohibition passed in Nebraska almost simultaneously with limited woman suffrage, and with the full support of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association. By law, there would be no more booze when the law formally went into effect in 1917."  SOURCE:

I sent an inquiry to the South Sioux City Library asking if it is possible to borrow their newspaper microfilm through interlibrary loan.  

I also asked if they have any local history books or manuscripts that might include stories about the prohibition period in South Sioux City.

It would really be fun if I could verify this story.

Apparently his bootlegging was not serious enough to prevent him from becoming a citizen in 1930.

1930 Certificate of Citizenship for Tony Cimino, South Sioux City, Nebraska

The Cimino Family first settled in Omaha, Nebraska with other immigrants from Carlentini and Lentini in the Siracusa province of Sicily.  The Omaha newspapers at provide us with this wonderful story of an Omaha winemaker in 1970.

Source:; Date: Sunday, October 18, 1970 Paper: Omaha WorldHerald (Omaha, Nebraska) Page: 30

If you would like help researching your family legends, please contact me.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monumental Genealogy at San Jacinto Battleground

San Jacinto Monument.jpg
A 2006 view of the San Jacinto Monument with the Fred Hartman-Baytown Bridge in the background. This is the view of the monument as it appears from the Battleship Texas which is another attraction of the San Jacinto Battleground State Park
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons

The battleground that gave birth to the Republic of Texas has been surrounded by an army of refineries and chemical plants.  The monument in the center of the battlefield is a bastion defending genealogical and historical treasures.

View of refineries and chemical plants from the observation deck of the San Jacinto Monument
SOURCE: Nicole Hall
My birthday celebration last Friday seemed like the perfect occasion to visit the monument, the museum and the library in the center of the San Jacinto Battleground State Park.

This aerial captures the beauty of the San Jacinto Battleground State Park
SOURCE: Texas Department of  Parks and Wildlife

A visit to the library requires an advance appointment but it is a simple matter to use the contact information on the website to make arrangements for your visit.  There is only one table available for research. The library floorspace is devoted to bookshelves and file cabinets.

The top of the Library page includes a virtual tour of the Library.
The ceilings of the library are at least fifteen feet high and the walls are packed to the rafters with books. Only one or two researchers can be accommodated at the same time.  The library webpage includes a 360 degree virtual tour that shows the small room and the stacks of books.

The bottom of the Library page
This shows the links to the manuscripts, research procedures and the veterans biographies.

Please examine the website thoroughly before your visit as it contains a wealth of information about the library and includes online biographies of battle veterans.

HISTORICAL EVENT: A mural depicting General Sam Houston and a squad of men during the Battle of San Jacinto has been painted onto an oil storage tank near Beltway 8 along Hwy 225.
This mural depicts General Sam Houston at San Jacinto Battleground on a most unusual canvas. SOURCE:
I am not sure how we missed them on the way in but a collection of murals can be seen on oil tanks on Independence Parkway and Highway 225.  The murals are most visible as you exit the park.  I found a vast array of oil tank images and articles using the following search terms:  "san jacinto oil tank murals".  These murals are quite impressive and have garnered attention from journalists across the country.

Genealogy Roadshow host, Mary Tedesco revealed a San Jacinto battle veteran to Sarah Lasater on the Houston Episode.

The Houston episode of Genealogy Roadshow includes the discovery of a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto. I interviewed Sarah Lasater after the filming of the Houston episode and wrote a blog about it here.  The biography for her ancestor, Francis Laster is found here.

For more information on visiting this state historic site visit the website of the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

View of the Battleship Texas from the observation deck of the San Jacinto Monument
SOURCE: Nicole Hall

For more information on the museum and library and to view some of the genealogical treasures go to their website: