52 Ancestors: A Memorable Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted on February 16, 2018 in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors









I originally found this card in the box of photos that I inherited from my parents after the death of my father in 1989. It is a card that my father, William Condy Furlani, sent to my mother, Marguerite “Mickey” Noble Furlani for Valentine’s Day, the 14th of February 1944.

The card reads as follows:

Every person in the Service
Has a favorite Valentine,
And, of course, I’m no exception
For the NICEST one is mine;
And although today we’re parted
As I wish we need not be,
You’re my Valentine as always

He wrote:

Yes, Darling, you and
Eileen are very dear to me
Your husband,

My father, at that time, was serving with the military during WWII. He, with 87 other draftees from his area, enlisted in the Army on 20 December 1943 in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. He was 32 years old with a pregnant wife and a child.

On 14 February 1944, my father was still in basic training at Camp Croft in South Carolina. Some Valentine’s Day!

During his service, my mother, my younger sister and I were living in Philadelphia with my grandparents (my mother’s parents) on Torresdale Avenue. On 14 February 1944, my mother would have still been pregnant with my sister, who was born in May. He was discharged on 7 December 1945 at the Separation Center in [Fort] Indiantown Gap, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.

According to a newspaper article in the Mount Carmel Item, my father stepped on a landmine on 18 December 1944 in Belgium and was hospitalized in a U.S. Army hospital in England.

I have a postcard from U.S.A.H.P. 4167, APO 118, c/o Postmaster New York that states on 9 March 1945, he was convalescing from a wound of the left leg. This postcard does not say where he is convalescing. According to his pension application, he was in Foreign Service until 1 December 1945. His Foreign Service period began on 11 August 1944.

The wound left shrapnel in his leg, which caused him to walk with a slight limp the rest of his life.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Valentine.

Posted in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors | 2 Comments

52 Ancestors: The Genealogy of a Name

Posted on February 6, 2018 in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors

I think I’ll have some fun with this week’s theme, Favorite Name, and use my name. My complete name is Eileen Ann Elizabeth Rachel Furlani Wunder Birkmeier Santiago Shorter Souza. Gosh, I have so many names I feel like Albus Dumbledore!

How did I arrive at this name game?

I was baptized Eileen Ann Furlani. Eileen was for my maternal grandmother, Lorraine (Ilene) Gunther Noble. Ann was for my paternal grandmother, Anna Bianchi Furlani. For more on the Lorraine/Ilene naming, please see 52 Ancestors 2015 Edition: #12 – Eileen Anna Lorraine Gunther Noble (1897 – 1977), The Name’s the Same!

Elizabeth was added with my confirmation at St. Margaret Mary’s RC Church in Essington, Delaware County, Pennsylvania in 1952.

In 1978 I converted to Judaism. The conversion included a naming ceremony, and I chose Rachel as my name.

Both Elizabeth and Rachel are ceremonial names and were never legally used. I’ve covered all my given names so let’s proceed to my surnames.

Furlani is my birth and maiden name. I am the daughter of William Condy Furlani (1912 – 1989) and Marguerite (Mickey) Noble (1918 – 1985).

I married George Elmer Wunder on 2 February 1963 at St. Margaret Mary’s RC Church in Essington. By the way, they closed this church many years ago. Recently, they sold the property and, as we speak, the church is being torn down. George and I divorced 20 February 1968.

On 11 May 1968, I married Robert Louis Birkmeier at Aldersgate Methodist church in New Castle County, Delaware. We divorced 16 October 1971.

Then I married by a Justice of the Peace to Arturo Rafael Santiago on 10 December 1971 in Ridley Park, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We divorced 22 November 1974 in New Castle County, Delaware.

On 24 July 1977, I was married by a rabbi to Richard Lee Shorter, Jr. in Howard County, Maryland. We received a civil divorce on 24 April 1982 from the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, Maryland.

A Justice of the Peace married Paul Anthony Souza and me on 12 June 1982. It must be true what they say about June weddings. This year we will be celebrating our 36th anniversary.

I hope this helps future descendants who may be researching me, although there are records for all of these events.

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Favorite Name.

Posted in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors | Leave a comment

Another Brick in the Wall Smashed

Posted on February 4, 2018 in Family History

This week I am doing the genealogy happy dance because a Tynesider in England discovered my blog. You are probably wondering why this makes me so happy. Mary, who is possibly a distant cousin, is researching the Devine family, her direct ancestors and her collaterals. Best of all, she lives near Newbottle, County Durham (now Tyne and Wear), England. I’ll know more about this relationship once I can plow through all the new information and enter it into my database. 

Historic Front Street in Newbottle with Dial House on the right

Historic Front Street in Newbottle with Dial House, I think, on the right

According to the GRO, Mary Devine married Edward Noble in Newbottle 2 August 1852, and they were enumerated in the 1861 UK census residing in the Pottery Yard in Newbottle. They are my 2nd great-grandparents. Mary has been sending me reams of information and photos that she has gleaned from onsite research in local repositories and locations.

The first thing I learned is that the Pottery Yard in Newbottle does not exist anymore. Google Street View misled me. It turns out there is also a Pottery Yard in Houghton-Le-Spring, which was the enumeration district for Newbottle. That Pottery Yard still exists, and this is the view Google gave me, so the photo I used in the post “52 Ancestors: #18 Mary Devine Noble”, published in 2014, is not the correct Pottery Yard for my ancestors.

The Sun Inn, Newbottle, Tyne and Wear (prev. Durham), England. In the 19th century, the Harle Pottery was situated behind this location.

The Sun Inn, Newbottle, Tyne and Wear (prev. Durham), England. In the 19th century, the Harle Pottery was situated behind this location.

Since then, I have been sent many emails with detailed information on the Devine and Noble families living in Newbottle, with photos of the various sites in Newbottle itself. These photos add to my visualization of Edward and Mary’s life in Newbottle. Maybe someday I will be able to see for myself, preferably combined with a trip to their residence(s) in Ireland.

While I have the GRO marriage and birth records for the Noble family, I just received a package from her containing copies of the parish registers. The package includes registers for the marriages of Edward and Mary, the baptisms of their children, Edward and Mary, the death of their son, James, and the marriage of Catherine Devine, who might be Mary’s sister.

I am currently awaiting receipt of the burial records for James Noble, son of Edward and Mary. Mary has also sent me links to various local sites that provide more background.

In 1861, the census listed the Pottery Yard as a single location. In 1871, the census listed an Upper Pottery Yard and a Lower Pottery Yard. Apparently, these locations loosely tied into the locations of the two potteries. Mary and I are now analyzing these records to see if we can possibly identify the pottery where Edward may have worked. Of course, there is no reason to suppose that only those who worked in one of the potteries could rent these abodes; maybe anyone could and they were just inexpensive housing.

The parish register entry for Edward and Mary’s marriage reveals that Edward’s parents, John and Mary Noble, were living in Newbottle and that Mary’s parents, John and Rose Devine, were living in Liverpool. The fact that both sets of parents were residing in England at this time strongly suggests that Edward and Mary emigrated from Ireland to England with their parents.

Although the wall isn’t gone, it should now be missing one of its bricks.

Time for the genealogy happy dance!!!!

Photos courtesy of Mary, my favorite Tynesider

Posted in Family History | 2 Comments

Genealogy Mysteries 2018 – What’s New?

Posted on February 3, 2018 in Genealogy Mysteries


Nathan Dylan Goodwin is tentatively scheduled to release his latest Morton Farrier mystery, The Wicked Trade, on February 7, 2018. From the author:

“When Morton Farrier is presented with a case revolving around a mysterious letter written by disreputable criminal, Ann Fothergill in 1827, he quickly finds himself delving into a shadowy Georgian underworld of smuggling and murder on the Kent and Sussex border. Morton must use his skills as a forensic genealogist to untangle Ann’s association with the notorious Aldington Gang and also with the brutal killing of Quartermaster Richard Morgan. As his research continues, Morton suspects that his client’s family might have more troubling and dangerous expectations of his findings.

This is the seventh book in the Morton Farrier genealogical crime mystery series, although it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.”

Since initial posts on this topic over the years, I have been accumulating and reading new books, authors, and series in this sub-genre, which is really taking off. For those of you who also enjoy genealogy and reading mysteries, this is my comprehensive list of all genealogy mysteries that I have discovered to date and contains any new books I have discovered since I published my last post in March 2017.

The Latest Discoveries and Other New Releases

We may see the 7th Jefferson Tayte mystery from author Steve Robinson later this year. More on this later.

Two new additions, The American Candidate and The Vanished Child, to the series starring genealogical investigator Jayne Sinclair by M J Lee takes us into the family history of a potential presidential candidate and into a missing child investigation. The Vanishing Child is scheduled for release February 23, 2108. See below for other books in this series.

M. K. Jones’ supernatural genealogy detective, Maggie Gilbert, is appearing again in Line of Descent. This second Maze Investigations story finds Maggie and Zelah feuding, pursuing their own separate quests. Will the agency survive? See below for other books in this series.

Drawing on the Past is Cynthia Raleigh’s third Perri Seamore mystery. In her current position as a home health nurse, Perri becomes interested in a double murder of the owners of a historic house. See below for other books in this series.

The second book, Blood Atonement, in the Nigel Barnes series by Dan Waddell is now available in Kindle format. See below for other books in this series.

The initial book in Lorine Schulze’s new Janie Riley series, Death Finds a Way, is set in Salt Lake City, Utah. Researching at the Family History Library, Janie stumbles onto murder and a dark secret that may place her in danger.

The recently discovered series written by Gerelyn Hollingsworth, features Janet Burney, a retired private investigator and amateur genealogist. The first two novellas are Death of a Headmistress and Separated at Birth. In the first, Janet and a friend solve the death of a headmistress; in the second, she reminisces about a twins’ adoption case that she worked on in the past for a recently deceased friend.

In case you missed any, following is the complete list of all genealogy mysteries that I’ve found to-date.

Series Family History Mysteries

The Nick Herald series by Jimmy Fox features a professional genealogist in New Orleans, Louisiana

• Deadly Pedigree (2001) – Kindle
• Lineages and Lies (2002) – Kindle
• Jackpot Blood (2014) – Kindle

The Danny O’Flaherty series by Jonathan Harrington stars an American teacher researching his family’s roots in Ireland and New York City.

• The Death of Cousin Rose (1996) – Paperback
• The Second Sorrowful Mystery (1999) – Paperback
• A Great Day for Dying (2001) – Paperback

The Lottie Albright series by Charlotte Hinger features a historian and editor for the county historical society in a small town in Western Kansas.

• Deadly Descent (2009) – Kindle
• Lethal Lineage (2011) – Kindle
• Hidden Heritage (2013) – Kindle

The Demary Jones series by E. L. Larkin (deceased) is set in Seattle, Washington, with Demary as the owner of Confidential Research, specializing in genealogy and historical research.

• Hear My Cry (1997) – Hardcover
• Hear Me Die (1998) – Hardcover
• Die and Die (1998) – Paperback
• Dead Men Die (1999) – Hardcover
• The Swallow Murders (1999) – Hardcover
• Die in Texas (2002) – Hardcover

Victory (Torie) O’Shea, a genealogist in New Kassel, Missouri, is ably portrayed in a series by Rett MacPherson. Now all available in Kindle editions.

• Family Skeletons (2014) – Kindle
• A Veiled Antiquity (2013) – Kindle
• A Comedy of Heirs (2014) – Kindle
• A Misty Mourning (2000) – Kindle
• Killing Cousins (2002) – Kindle
• Blood Relations (2014) – Kindle
• In Sheep’s Clothing (2014) – Kindle
• Thicker Than Water (2005) – Kindle
• Dead Man Running (2006) – Kindle
• Died in the Wool (2014) – Kindle
• The Blood Ballad (2014) – Kindle

Natasha Blake, a genealogist in the Cotswolds in England appears in the series by Fiona Mountain.

• Pale as the Dead (2004) – Kindle
• Bloodline (2015) – Kindle

Fay Sampson is the author of the Suzie Fewings books a series about a genealogist discovering interesting secrets in her family history in England.

• In the Blood (2009) – Paperback
• A Malignant House (2010) – Paperback
• Those in Peril (2010) – Paperback
• Father Unknown (2011) – Kindle
• The Overlooker (2012) – Kindle
• Beneath the Soil (2014) – Kindle

The Family Tree mysteries by Patricia Sprinkle feature Katherine Murray as an amateur genealogist who finds strange events in the past.

• Death on the Family Tree (2007) – Kindle
• Sins of the Fathers (2007) – Paperback
• Daughter of Deceit (2008) – Kindle

Mort Sinclair, a respected genealogist and lawyer on Fogge Island off the New England coast, stars in a series by Gene Stratton. Gene Stratton, a much-traveled former CIA case officer, is a well-known genealogist who has had two prior books published: Plymouth Colony and Applied Genealogy.

• Killing Cousins (1999) – Hardcover
• Cornish Conundrum (2000) – Kindle

The Nigel Barnes series by Dan Waddell concerns a professional genealogist who assists the police, mainly Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster in London, England. These books have now been released in the Kindle format.

• The Blood Detective (2017) – Kindle
• Blood Atonement (2017) – Kindle

Patrick Day’s series starring Anna Fitzgerald, a career detective with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Division, who becomes entangled with genealogy to trace old coins in this first book of the series.

• Murders and Genealogy in Hennepin County (2012) – Kindle

Simon Shaw, professor of history and “forensic historian” in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a series by Sarah R. Shaber, uses his expertise in historical and genealogical research to help solve murders that have their roots in the past.

• Simon Said (1997) – Kindle
• Snipe Hunt (2000) – Kindle
• The Fugitive King (2002) – Kindle
• The Bug Funeral (2004) – Kindle
• Shell Game (2007) – Kindle

The Alex & Briggie mysteries by G. G. Vandagriff, team up a spunky young widow and her rifle-toting grandmother, who run a genealogy research business called RootSearch, Inc. that seems to specialize in solving murders.

• Cankered Roots (2011) – Kindle
• Of Deadly Descent (2011) – Kindle
• Tangled Roots (2011) – Kindle
• Poisoned Pedigree (2012) – Kindle
• The Hidden Branch (2011) – Kindle

The Jefferson Tayte mysteries by Steve Robinson feature a professional genealogist who ferrets out family secrets and old mysteries using genealogy research primarily in the UK. Highly recommended.

• In the Blood (2011) – Kindle
• To the Grave (2012) – Kindle
• The Last Queen of England (2012) – Kindle
• The Lost Empress (2014) – Kindle
• Kindred (2016) – Kindle
• Dying Games (May 4, 2017) – Kindle

In the Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist series by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, we discover a stubborn, determined man who uses whatever means necessary to uncover the past. Highly recommended.

• Hiding the Past (2013) – Kindle
• The Lost Ancestor (2014) – Kindle
• The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier novella (2014) – Kindle
• The America Ground (2015) – Kindle
• The Spyglass File (2016) – Kindle
• The Missing Man: A Morton Farrier novella (2017) – Kindle
• The Suffragette’s Secret: A Morton Farrier short story (2017) – Kindle
• The Wicked Trade (February 7, 2018) – Kindle

These books by John Nixon star family historian, Madeleine Porter. While not mysteries as we think of them, they both take us through the experiences of our amateur “detectives” unraveling the “mysteries” that surround them.

• Family Shadows (2014) – Kindle
• The Cuckoo Clock (2014) – Kindle
• Stolen Futures (2014) – Kindle
• Another Summer (2014) – Kindle
• The Cost of Silence (2015) – Kindle
• Unearthed (2017) – Kindle

The Museum Mysteries by Sheila Connolly star Nell Pratt, president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society (think Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia) who spends much of her time solving murders through research in their collections. These books are fascinating for their mysteries, their history, and our glimpses into the lives of the archivists. Highly recommended.

• Fundraising the Dead (2010) – Kindle
• Let’s Play Dead (2011) – Kindle
• Fire Engine Dead (2012) – Kindle
• Monument to the Dead (2013) – Kindle
• Razing the Dead (2014) – Kindle
• Privy to the Dead (2015) – Kindle
• Dead End Street (2016) – Kindle

In the Family History Mysteries by Brynn Bonner, genealogist Sophreena McClure is an expert at unearthing other people’s secrets. Using old documents and photographs, Soph and her business partner, Esme Sabatier—also a gifted medium—trace family histories and create heritage scrapbooks.

• Paging the Dead (2013) – Kindle
• Death in Reel Time (2014) – Kindle
• Picture Them Dead (2015) – Kindle
• Dead in a Flash (2016) – Kindle

Geraldine Wall writes about probate researcher Anna Ames in this trilogy. These are mystery thrillers and we are drawn in to Anna’s family, life and work.

• File Under Fear (2014) – Kindle
• File Under Family (2014) – Kindle
• File Under Fidelity (2015) – Kindle

This is a supernatural genealogy detective series called Maze Investigations by M.K. Jones featuring Maggie Gilbert. Set in Newport, South Wales, the books draw on real historical details.

• Three Times Removed (2015) – Kindle
• Line of Descent (2017) – Kindle

If you like your genealogy mysteries with a little humor, see the series starring Ben Bones, Genealogical Consultant and self-described Articulator of Family Skeletons written by Michael Havelin.

• Ben Bones and The Galleon of Gold (2013) – Kindle
• Ben Bones and the Search for Paneta’s Crown (2012) – Kindle
• Ben Bones and the Deadly Descendants (2013) – Kindle
• Ben Bones and the Conventional Murders (2015) – Kindle

Esme Quentin solves mysteries using genealogy in the West Midlands and in Devon in the books by Wendy Percival.

• Blood-Tied (2013) – Kindle
• The Indelible Stain (2014) – Kindle
• Death of a Cuckoo: An Esme Quentin Short Read – Kindle

In the series by Cynthia Raleigh, we follow travel nurse and amateur genealogist, Perri Seamore, as she researches her family and solves murders.

• Poison Branches (2016) – Kindle
• Buried Roots (2016) – Kindle
• Drawing on the Past (2017) – Kindle

The Jayne Sinclair series by M J Lee, starring former police detective now genealogical investigator. This interesting series takes us first through the Easter Uprising of 2016 and Ireland’s War of Independence, followed by the trenches of World War I in the Battle of the Somme and other historical events.

• The Irish Inheritance (2016) – Kindle
• The Somme Legacy (2017) – Kindle
• The American Candidate (2017) – Kindle
• The Vanished Child (February 23, 2018) – Kindle

Another series by Karin Kaufman features a family tree full of witches, some ghosts, and the occult, with Anna Denning, a professional genealogist determined to find the truth.

• The Witch Tree (2011) – Kindle
• Sparrow House (2012) – Kindle
• The Sacrifice (2014) – Kindle
• The Club (2015) – Kindle

A new entry in the genealogy mysteries sub-genre is a new series featuring Janie Riley, written by Lorine Schulze. Prior to entering the fiction world, Lorine authored many non-fiction genealogy books designed for improving your genealogy skills.

• Death Finds a Way (2016) – Kindle

This series is written by Gerelyn Hollingsworth and features Janet Burney, a retired private investigator and amateur genealogist. The books are novellas and can also be read for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

• Death of a Headmistress (2012) – Kindle
• Separated at Birth (2012) – Kindle

Another recent find stars historian Rob Tyler in the Wynderbury Mysteries series authored by Victoria Prescott.

• The Plantagenet Mystery (2014) – Kindle
• The Hawthorne Villa Secret (2016) – Kindle

Non-Series Family History Mysteries

Thomas McKerley and Ingrid Schippers, in their first genealogy mystery, Bloodlines – Touch Not the Cat (2012), introduce Cathy Macpherson, who uncovers her own and her husband’s past. Hope this becomes a series. Kindle edition.

The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molineux (2013) stars Peter Sefton, amateur family historian. Not quite a mystery but certainly a detective story. Kindle edition.

In Silent Legacy: Discovering Family Secrets by Diana Church (2014) some German immigration history with new finds from a research trip helps Ellen O’Donnell solve a long-standing family mystery. Kindle edition.

In Finding Eliza by Stephanie Pitcher Fishman (2014), an old diary leads Lizzie Clydell down a dusty road of lies, hidden family secrets, and a lynching that nearly destroyed her family. I loved the quote “It’s just a little family history. What could go wrong?” Kindle edition.

Where’s Merrill? a genealogical thriller by Gearoid O’Neary (2013) is based upon real life historical events. The story unravels as Irish genealogist, Jed, researches his client’s mysterious maternal ancestry. Kindle edition.

Benjamin’s Ghosts: An Enid Gilchrist Mystery by Sylvia A. Nash (2014) is a cozy genealogy murder mystery set in West Tennessee. This is the start of a promising series. I hope we hear more from this author. Kindle edition.

In the Tainted Tree by Jacquelynn Luben (2013), Addie Russell inherits a house in Surrey and begins researching her English family Her research takes her back three generations to the First World War.

A century-old key may unlock the ancestral secrets of four families in The Fourth Descendant by Allison Maruska (2015).

While not a series, these genealogical mysteries by Norma Elizabeth Rawlings focus on how researching their ancestors became a life changing experience for each central character.

• Sleeping Dogs (2012) – Kindle
• Sleeping Dogs II (2013) – Kindle
• Malvern Murders (2013) – Kindle
• In the Genes (2013) – Kindle

Package from The Past by Jacqueline Opresnik is a search for a missing heir and family fortune set against the historical events of the Boer War and World War II.

Of course, for non-fiction fans there is Only A Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath by John Philip Colletta. This is an outstanding read.

All the books mentioned here are available in the editions specified and can be found at Amazon. Many of the Kindle editions are also available in paperback and/or hardcover.

If I’ve missed any of your favorites, please let me know in the comments. I am trying to make this list as complete as possible.

Posted in Genealogy Mysteries | 4 Comments

52 Ancestors: Who Are Mary Catherine’s Parents?

Posted on January 31, 2018 in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors

While this research and analysis used other records, the primary stimulus were the census records. This post will illustrate (I hope) how I used census records as indirect evidence to support my inference that Mary C. Meisberger was Mary C. Strausser and the daughter of Peter and Sarah Strausser.

I was searching for my 2nd great-grandfather, Theobald Meisberger in the 1860 US census. I found him at the age of 22 in dwelling 1102. In the same residence was a Mary C. Meisberger, age 17. Although no relationships were shown in this census, it made sense that Mary C. may be his spouse.

Year: 1860; Census Place: Coal, Northumberland, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1149; Page: 87; Family History Library Film: 805149

Year: 1860; Census Place: Coal, Northumberland, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1149; Page: 87; Family History Library Film: 805149

I sent away to the Diocese of Harrisburg for the church records and I received a copy of the marriage register attesting that Theobald Meisberger married a Mary Catherine Strasser on 15 April 1860, which was two months before this census was taken. Common variants of her maiden name are Strauser, Strausser, Strasser, Strawser, Strosser.

Back to the 1860 US census… Taking another look I discovered that a Peter Strawser, age 41, and a Sarah Ann Strawser, age 42, lived in dwelling 1103, right next door to the newlyweds. Of course, I then wondered if Theobald had married the girl next door. So, I set out trying to prove or disprove my conjecture.

I searched for Peter and Sarah in the 1850 US census and found them in Norwegian Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. In their household was a Mary C Straser, age 7, and an Angeline Straser, age 5. I engaged the late John T. Humphrey, CG to research the Pennsylvania tax records. His research showed that Peter left Norwegian Township around 1855, appearing in Coal Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania in the 1860 US census and in the tax records in 1862 (when they began in this township).

Returning to the 1860 US census, I notice that an Angeline, age 15, is a resident of this household. The ages of both Mary C. and Angeline are consistent with their ages in the 1850 US census.

In the 1870 census, the two families still live next door to each other, but in the 1880 US census, the two families are living in the dwelling of Theobald and Mary Meisberger. This living arrangement reinforces my speculation that Mary is their daughter. The following year, Theobald sells Sarah Meisberger one of his lots. He repurchases it mere days before the death of Peter Strausser.

This is a work in progress. More about my pursuit of the parentage and birth of Mary C. Strausser can be found in the following posts:


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is In the Census.

Posted in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors | Leave a comment

52 Ancestors: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Posted on January 25, 2018 in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors

I can see the table now set with my best china and silverware, surrounded by eight empty chairs, waiting for the arrival of my nominated ancestors. Of course, two of the chairs are reserved for my husband and me.

I could not narrow down the list of ancestors to one couple, so I settled on three couples, who are my most difficult brick walls.

First, I’ve invited Peter Strausser and his wife, Sarah Mumma Strausser. I am very sure that Peter and Sarah are my maternal 3rd great grandparents via my mother’s mother. They are most likely the parents of Mary Catherine Strausser, who is my 2nd great grandmother. You can read about this relationship in the two posts listed below.

My object in inviting them is to ask Peter and Sarah a very important question of about their parentage, “Who are they?” It would also be nice to discuss their lives. In the 1880 US census, both Peter and Sarah entries show their parents as being born in Pennsylvania.

A will left by Johannes [John] Strauser of Windsor Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, makes a bequest to his grandson, Peter Strauser, son of his late son, Johannes Strauser. I have tracked Peter and Sarah back to 1847 Norwegian Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania via tax records and believe he migrated there from Berks County possibly Windsor Township. He may be the Peter in John’s will.

Peter and Sarah are both of German origin, so on our dinner menu will be my Wienerschnitzel with spaetzle.

The two posts I’ve listed below contain all the information I have on Peter and Sarah, at this time.


Next, I’ve invited Bonaventura Bianchi and his wife, Mary [Maria] Bunt. Bonaventura and Maria are my paternal great-grandparents via my father’s mother.

I have the passenger list that shows them arriving in the US in 1888. Please read the second post below for more information on their journey. I have found many documents concerning this family but very little to get me back to their birthplaces. I have just “Italy” for Bonaventura and “Bohemia” for Maria.

Bonaventura only left four records in this country: his appearance in the 1900 census, a photo, his obituary, and his tombstone, as he died in 1906. Maria left several photos, including the one in my earlier post “52 Ancestors – The Bianchi Women”.

I invited Bonaventura and Maria as I would be thrilled to be able to ask them where they came from, and about all the places they’ve lived, both individually and together. I have children recorded born in Austria, Prussia, Germany, Luxembourg, New York, Hazleton, PA, and Mount Carmel, PA. This couple didn’t just pass through.

Since Bonaventura and Maria spoke Italian in their household, I assume they enjoyed the food as well. I plan to place my homemade gnocchi with my homemade red sauce and meatballs on our dinner menu. I would guess that my grandmother learned how to make her sauce from Maria. She then taught my mother who taught me. The best compliment I ever received is when my grandmother told me that I made the sauce better than she did and I always loved her sauce.

The two posts I’ve listed below contain all the information I have on Bonaventura and Maria, at this time.


Edward Noble b. 1827 d. 1872, photo courtesy of RoadRunner at findagrave.com

Finally, I’ve invited Edward Noble and his wife, Mary Devine Noble. Edward and Mary are my maternal 2nd great grandparents via my mother’s father.

It appears that they emigrated separately from Ireland to England before 1851 when my great-grandfather was born. According to their marriage record from the GRO, they were married in 1852, having five more children before emigrating to the US around 1864.

I’ve invited Edward and Mary to learn more about their birthplaces in Ireland and about their family. Did any of their family emigrate to England with them? Where is their young son, James, buried? Edward’s tombstone states that he came from County Mayo, Ireland. I have a possible baptism record for Mary showing that she was baptized in County Longford, Ireland.

For Edward and Mary, who are of Irish birth, I have added potato pancakes, roast pork, and applesauce.  These dishes complete my ancestor dinner menu.

The two posts I’ve listed below contain all the information I have on Edward and Mary, at this time.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Invite to Dinner.

NOTE: Please ignore the photo that presumably represents the Pottery Yard in Newbottle, County Durham, England. I found out last week that Google Street View led me astray. There were Pottery Yards in both Newbottle and Houghton Le Spring back in the 1860s. Today the one in the photo is the only one that survived, and it is in Houghton Le Spring and not in Newbottle.

DISCLOSURE: None of the individuals in the black and white photo are related to me.


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52 Ancestors: Long-Lived and Not So Long-Lived

Posted on January 19, 2018 in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors, Family History

For this theme, I decided to write first about my oldest living relative and finally about a group of my relatives who, by our norms today, did not get to live very long.

Footstone of Mildred I Bianchi, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Mt. Carmel, Northumberland, Pennsylvania (photo courtesy of Robert David Miller)

Footstone of Mildred I Bianchi, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Mt. Carmel, Northumberland, Pennsylvania (photo courtesy of Robert David Miller)

I was very happy to be able to find a blood relative that lived to be 88 years of age and is the oldest in my tree. Mildred Irene Bianchi, my first cousin once removed is the daughter of Peter Paul Bianchi and Catherine Veronica [Gower] Bianchi. Born 18 March 1913, in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, she died on either 24 February 2001 or 11 March 2001.


To read more about this wonderful woman who served her country as an Army nurse, please read my earlier post from 2014, which is available at 52 Ancestors: #52 Mildred Bianchi (Tombstone Tuesday).


Death certificate of Peter Adam Strausser showing his cause of death in 1916 as heart failure caused by Miners Asthma.

Death certificate of Peter Adam Strausser showing his cause of death in 1916 as heart failure caused by Miners Asthma.

Many dictionaries define longevity as long life, with an added definition of lifespan or length of life. As a group, the longevity of coal miners is much shorter than average due to the occupational disease we now know as black lung or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). Black lung was a set of conditions, and until the 1950s its dangers were not well understood. Asthma, miners asthma, coal miners asthma, pulmonary tuberculosis or lobar pneumonia recorded black lung deaths before the mid-twentieth century.

All my male ancestors mined anthracite (hard) coal in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Based on the death records of those who died of black lung, the average lifespan of my male ancestors and male collateral relatives spanned 39 to 63 years of age. My paternal grandfather, Candido (Condy) Furlani died at the age of 50.   My paternal great-grandfather, Bonaventura Bianchi, died at the age of 51. As you can see from the death certificate above, my maternal 3rd great uncle died at the age of 63. My maternal 2nd great uncle, Wm. T. Meisberger, died at the age of 59. And while Mildred Bianchi died at the age of 88, her father, my great-uncle Peter Bianchi, died at the age of 39.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Longevity.


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52 Ancestors: The Bianchi Women

Posted on January 13, 2018 in 52 Ancestors, 52Ancestors
Photo taken of Mary Bunt Bianchi and her seven living daughters circa 1917

Photo taken of Mary Bunt Bianchi and her seven living daughters circa 1917


I can’t explain why but this photo, of all the photos I have of my family, draws me to it time and time again–it’s my favorite photo. It was in the box of photos that my sisters and I inherited from our parents. The only person we ever really knew in this photo was my grandmother, Anna Bianchi Furlani.

Mary Bunt Bianchi (1865 – 1944), my great-grandmother, had fourteen children, of which eleven lived. Her husband, Bonaventura Bianchi, died in 1906. There were four surviving sons. The seven surviving daughters were from oldest to youngest:

  • Christine Theresa Bianchi Concini, (1883 – 1940)
  • Violet Josephine Bianchi Bridi, (1889 – 1965)
  • Mary Bianchi Pieri, (1893 – 1958)
  • Anna Bianchi Furlani (1894 – 1973)
  • Lucy Bianchi Bailoni (1897 – 1978)
  • Helen Bianchi Ficca (1900 – 1939)
  • Margaret Bianchi Socoloski (1902 – 1975)

I do not have any information as to the occasion of this photo. It was still pasted into its frame but there was no photographer name or any writing on either side of the photo. My guess is that the photo was taken some time between 1912 and 1917. My grandmother married in 1911, when she was seventeen. I have her wedding photo, and she might be a bit older in this photo.

I have spent a lot of time trying to match a name to the face. Here is my best guess so far:

Front row, left to right are Anna Bianchi Furlani, Mary Bunt Bianchi, Helen Bianchi Ficca and Margaret Bianchi Socoloski.

Back row, left to right are Christine Teresa Bianchi Concini, Violet Josephine Bianchi Bridi, Mary Bianchi Pieri and Lucy Bianchi Bailoni.

If anyone can confirm or correct any of my guesses, please leave a comment.

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Favorite Photo.

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Funeral Card Friday – Kim L. Miller (1958 – 2001)

Posted on January 12, 2018 in Funeral Card Friday

I received this funeral card from my husband, Paul Souza, and I am posting it here with his permission. The images displayed in this post are from a Roman Catholic funeral card, issued by the funeral home. The card provides Kim’s date of birth, date of death and a prayer. I really love the vibrant colors in this card.

Kim is my husband’s first cousin. She is the daughter of the late Herbert A. Ainsworth and the late Elvita “Bunny” (Lombard) Ainsworth. Kim and her family lived in Georgia, possibly in Peachtree City, Fayette County, GA. Kim’s death was very sudden due to a stroke at the young age of forty-three. She was survived by her husband and children.

The Carmichael-Hemperley Funeral Home in Peachtree City, Georgia handled the funeral services.


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52 Ancestors: Starting My Family Research

Posted on January 11, 2018 in 52 Ancestors

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. The first theme is Start.

This image is taken from a photo from the 1915 News-Item of all married men from Vigolo Vattaro, Austria with my grandfather, Candido Furlani on the left.

This image is taken from a photo from the 1915 News-Item of all married men from Vigolo Vattaro, Austria with my grandfather, Candido Furlani on the left.

Candido Furlani was known as Condy Furlani and he is my paternal grandfather. I never got to know him as he died in 1938 of pulmonary tuberculosis or black lung at the age of 49. When I began researching my family, I started with him. This was in the mid-nineties and early days for the world wide web.

When I started this research, there was no one alive able to answer my questions and growing up my parents would never speak about their family. My father’s middle name was Condy. Once I asked him about it and he explained that it was his father’s name. So I knew that Condy was my grandfather; that he was Tyrolean and that he had lived in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Then, I quickly ran into the proverbial brick wall.

It was time for a research trip to Mount Carmel. While searching the internet for a place to stay in or near Mount Carmel, I stumbled on a site dedicated to the Tyroleans who emigrated from Vigolo Vattaro, Tyrol, Austria and there was a photo of my grandfather–my first genea-miracle. I thought, “OMG, my grandfather is on the Internet.” It was from this web site that I learned how all these men and women came from this town in Austria to Mount Carmel. Many of them were coal miners, including my grandfather.

My second genea-miracle occurred with my discovery of the Family History Centers via Cyndi’s List. I found my nearest center and paid a visit. The staff was very knowledgeable and helpful getting me started. They were able to discover that the Family History Library had microfilmed all the baptisms and marriages for Vigolo Vattaro back to the 16th century. I ordered my microfilms and became a regular visitor to the center. I was able to find my grandfather’s baptismal record in the church register. I have traced his family back to about 1750, but there is still much more on the microfilm–a work in progress.

Vigolo Vattaro is now in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy. About fifty residents of Vigolo Vattaro, Tyrol, which prior to WWI was part of the Austrian-Hungary Empire, immigrated to the US from about 1880 through 1915 and settled in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania to mine for anthracite coal. At the end of WWI, the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain divided the Tyrol, with two parts remaining in Austria and the south-western portion being absorbed by Italy as Trentino and South Tyrol provinces.


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