A recent announcement by FamilySearch heralded a new era in research technology:
“FamilySearch … plans to discontinue its 80-year-old microfilm distribution service. The transition is the result of significant progress made in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. … Online access to digital images of the world’s historic records allows FamilySearch to service more people around the globe, faster and more efficiently.”
I read the announcement with some trepidation. I’d researched our Scottish ancestors for a number of years using microfilm at the local Family History Center (FHC) and I wasn’t sure how the transition to digital imagery would impact that research.
It turns out the new technology is a quantum leap forward.
Microfilm wasn’t cheap to use, costing $7.50 per roll to borrow. And since our ancestors came from a number of parishes, there were several rolls involved. Once delivered to the local FHC, the rolls had to be threaded into microfilm viewers in a darkened room and the reels turned by hand to look at the pages sequentially. Copying down the information, or printing or photographing it, was time consuming. The copies were of poor quality. And the loans were for about a month, putting time constraints on the research.
With digital technology all those problems went away. There is no fee. You’re not confined to looking at only one parish at a time. It’s faster and easier to skip through the images. And the quality of downloaded images is superb compared to their analog predecessors.
Yes, you can still only find the parish records at a Family History Center. But all in all, it’s goodbye (and good riddance) to microfilm technology, and a welcome hello to digitization. In the near future I’ll post the family’s parish records to the DAEDALUS feature on our web site.
Old soldiers never die … they just come back to haunt you.
That was the case with Barney Anthony, my great-great grandfather. When my wife and I took a road trip to Michigan this year I wanted to stop at the Michigan Soldiers’ Home in Grand Rapids where this Civil War soldier was one of the inaugural patients when it opened in 1886. As mentioned in a previous blog, Barney joined the Union Army when he was 52 — likely just to collect the signing bonus — and only spent 3-1/2 months in training before being released for “old age,” thereby avoiding deployment.
In his senior years he applied for admission to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home with a laundry list of disabilities he attributed to his military “service,” and in my humble opinion stiffed the state for room and board and medical care. Admittedly, that kind of attitude may be a little judgmental on my part.
The visit to the Home was both sobering and uplifting. My friend Lenny and I walked the halls and visited some of the common areas where former servicemen — many missing limbs — gathered in wheelchairs to socialize. Some were on the covered patio smoking cigarettes or just taking in the early evening air. The servicemen were stoic; the staff was kind and caring. The long-term effects of war were quietly suffered within the walls of the Home and it was a jolting reminder of what we owe people who risked and sacrificed so much.
Well, apparently Barney thought I needed a little attitude adjustment concerning his own service. He wasn’t about to let me leave without a little sacrifice of my own. I’m sure it was his guiding spirit that steered some yokel into backing his pickup truck into the front of my automobile. I could almost hear Barney’s rheumy laugh as the grill on my car caved in and began to look like what I imagined was his gap-toothed grin. Touche, Barney. I’m not likely to forget this little visit into your past. Apparently you still have a few tricks left up the sleeve of that uniform.
But the ghostly lure of Barney and his wife Jane also got us up to the Traverse City area, and that was a good experience. We ate at fish restaurants on the bay, spent a day tasting wines on the Mission peninsula, climbed into an old lighthouse tower, and shopped for Michigan cherry products. It was beautiful. And the people were great: the owner of the cherry store kept her shop open for our late arrival, and a researcher at the public library gave me tips on finding the family in the library’s on-line archives of the Traverse City newspapers.
The newspaper archives yielded an obituary on Jane (nee Hannah) Anthony which answered some long-standing questions. Some of the details in the biography were inaccurate, but it gave a good overview of her life. And, yes, it turned out the obit was hiding on the internet like a ghost hiding in the attic.
We visited the location near Grawn, Michigan, where Barney and Jane lived with their son in their waning years and we stopped by their graves. It was touching that next to them their infant granddaughter was laid to rest. Grandparents would like that sort of thing.
And finally, the ghost of families past was resurrected at a reunion in my sister Sarah’s back yard.
Generations ago the Schutze and Schrotzberger families were closely linked by marriage, blood, and friendship. Over time those relationships faded. A couple of years back, however, one member of the Schrotzberger clan got in touch with me through our mutual interest in family history, and she came to see the family while we were back in Michigan. If there is a heaven, I’m quite sure there would have been smiles on the faces of our great-great grandparents who were the common ancestors of the Schutze and Schrotzberger attendees of the reunion. I know there were plenty of smiles among the current-day clans.
Some pens are easy to name — a Montegrappa pen with ‘1912’ embossed on it screams my father’s name ‘Leonard’ as he was born that year. An oversized Pelikan pen can easily be tagged as the ‘Big Mac’ to honor a McCrie great-grandfather.
The pen I’m naming after my mother, though, doesn’t visually bring her to mind. The Edison Collier in my collection is brown, whereas my mother was fair skinned with blue eyes. It is a large pen, and my mom was short. It has a blunt stub nib, not at all reflective of my mother’s well-rounded, easy-flowing friendliness.
But in the hand the pen’s resin is silky soft and the pen’s shape is exceptionally comfortable, and that tactile feel is what reminds me of my mom, a presence so warm and natural that it whispers her name. And so my Edison Collier pen has been named ‘Jean.’
Admittedly I wanted a better hook to tie her to the pen. And there is one, though it’s a bit of a stretch. The Collier is made in Milan, Ohio, the birthplace of Thomas Edison. The Edison Pen Company was named after the town’s legendary inventor, who was born on February 11, 1847. My mom’s birthday was also February 11th. Not exactly a slam dunk match, but a strong enough link to validate the connection between Jean and this pen.
The pen feels so good in the hand I use it every day, often to fill in a crossword puzzle or make the day’s to-do list over breakfast. But like my mom, the baby of her family, it can be temperamental. First, a stub nib is not quite as easy to write with as a rounded point nib, though it is by no means difficult. Offsetting the stub nib’s impishness, though, is the sass and personality it gives to one’s handwriting, which assets my mom had in abundance and would have appreciated.
However, an annoying trait was the pen’s ink flow problems, which caused difficulties in starting after uncapping and in running dry while writing. I tried wetter inks to no avail. I initially had a medium point nib and I replaced it with a stub, again to no avail. I flushed it several times with water and a cleansing solution and it still ran dry. Finally, I pulled out the converter and inked the barrel with an eyedropper, and that did the trick. It writes marvelously now, and with the barrel’s large capacity, it shouldn’t have to be re-inked any time soon. Admittedly, the ink flows so well now it tends to leak a bit into the cap, giving me ink-stained fingers when writing with the pen.
As a nod to my mother, I typically use blue ink in the pen to mirror the color of her eyes. I’m currently using Pelikan’s Edelstein Topaz which is a nicely saturated light blue.
The Collier boasts a classic design in a light-weight, reasonably priced (around $150) steel nib pen. The brown swirl in the resin is eye-catching, and the light bulb etched on the nib is a nice nod to its place of origin. More impressive than looks, though, is how its resin feels so smooth, how its considerable girth rests nicely in the crook of the hand, and how its perfectly shaped grip section combine to make this instrument a pleasure to hold. The best pens are the ones you pick up often, and this pen will tempt you to do just that.
If you’re searching for information on ancestors who lived in Michigan, as did mine, there are a few free web sites that should prove helpful.
• Seeking Michigan: Death certificates or registrations from 1897 through 1952 are searchable by name, location, and/or date. Digital images of death certificates are available in many cases. State censuses from 1827-1874 and from 1884-1894 are also available.
• Michigan County Histories and Atlases, a project of the University of Michigan Library: Useful for finding family farms from the last quarter of the 1800s into the early 1900s via the county township maps annotated with landowner names.
• Michigan Online Historical Newspapers, a Google resource: Some newspaper archives are available for searching and reading. The selection is limited, but was a rich resource for the Owosso area, where many of my wife’s family members lived.
• Obtaining Street Name Changes: A reference guide for finding current house numbers and street names for addresses which changed over the years. Though the resource is for various locations around the nation, there are links to Michigan-specific towns such as Grand Rapids and Detroit. The latter was particularly useful for finding current locations of addresses prior to 1921, when Detroit changed it’s house numbering system.
• FamilySearch.org: The web’s best free resource for finding information on ancestors in Michigan, or anywhere else.
Two new features on our family history website — ICARUSand DAEDALUS, the ImageCatalog And Retrieval User System and the DocumentAnd Evidential Data Archive and Look Up System — allow searching and retrieval of pictures and documents related to our ancestors. Typing a name in a search box retrieves a list of related images sorted in chronological order. Clicking on one of the image names retrieves the selected image along with notes on its source.
Some of the pics and docs are not available elsewhere on the internet.
You’re invited to try ICARUS and DAEDALUS on our family history site. We still have a ways to go to fully populate the databases but will be working on them over the coming months. If you have any suggestions or observations please let me know what you think in the comments below.
I’ve used the free version of Ipswitch WS_FTP LE for several years to transfer files from my home computer to my web site. It easily and quickly uploaded html pages, images, and videos, providing a side-by-side view of the files at home and on the web server and making the transfer between them simple.
But the company has “retired” the free version and requires users to purchase their professional version for $49.95. That’s a reasonable investment for businesses. For personal use, less so. So I looked around for a free FTP file transfer program and decided on FileZilla. I downloaded, installed, and began using it today.
The verdict: I like it. It has all the features I used in FTP LE, including
• Side by side file views by directory
• Status window to show the current and past transfers
• Easy navigation among directories on home computer and web server
• Bookmarks to instantly jump to frequently used directories
The program gets a 4-½ star editor review on CNET and a four star average user rating. So far I would rate it a five.
Caveat: Some reviewers complain of malware being installed along with the program. I downloaded my version from the FileZilla site and had no malware problem. However, I don’t recommend downloading from a third-party site, which could bundle malware along with the program.
The eldest sons of four generations — from my dad to my grandchild — have Thomas as a middle name.
I suspect my grandmother Bessie (nee Estall) Schutze gave my dad his middle name in honor of her brother Thomas. Since there were no other Thomases on either side of the family, that appears to be a safe bet. Somehow the name stuck, and we continue to use it as a middle name in the family.
It seems like a good idea to know a bit about the man whose name survived despite never having had children of his own.
Thomas was the third illegitimate child of Sarah Hutchings, a ‘fur sewer’ living in Bethnal Green in London’s notoriously poor, overcrowded, and crime-ridden East End. An Estall family historian believes Thomas’s mother Sarah — in light of her frequent visits to the workhouse to deliver children without a father — was a prostitute. If so, she wasn’t alone: up to one in eight women of the East End turned to the trade to make a living or supplement their meager wages.
Thomas was born in the Bethnal Green Workhouse in July of 1889. He had a brother (or more likely a half-brother) Alfred, who was five years older; and a sister (or half-sister) Harriett who was three years older.
A couple of years after Thomas’s birth his mother married a laborer, William Estall, who was working the shipping docks. And a month after that his mother delivered Thomas’s half-sister Bessie, my grandmother.
[As an aside, with Sarah Hutchings’s possible occupation as a prostitute and Bessie being born only a month after Sarah’s marriage to William Estall, one may wonder whether Bessie was really his daughter. However William was living with Sarah at least ten months prior to Bessie’s birth, and Bessie needed an operation for the same condition that killed her father (an aortic aneurysm), so her claim on the Estall name appears solid.]
The Estall family lived in multi-story brick tenements around Bethnal Green. At first they lived behind a lunatic asylum on Cornwell Road. Their next home, where Bessie was born, was across the street from the other side of the asylum on Green Street. (The building, Museum House, still stands at the present-day corner of Roman Road and Burnham Street.) Within a couple of years they were living at a place on Russia Lane a police inspector described as among those where ‘there are no worse places to be found.’
Thomas lost his older brother Alfred in early 1894 to diphtheria (though Bessie, then 3 years old, thought he’d been killed on the street by a horse). Thomas, at four years of age, became the eldest son in the family. The streets were the playgrounds of the families in the East End. Thomas and his friend William Morris got lost on the streets when Thomas was just shy of five years old, and a police constable delivered the two boys to the Mile End Workhouse . The children were later returned to their parents.
Thomas and his younger sister Bessie were enrolled in the Globe Road primary school when he was six. He likely was protective of his four-year-old sister, as older siblings tend to be. Bessie would have looked to her half-brother as both a playmate and role model.
More children followed in the Estall family: Lily came after Bessie, then Rosie, then James, and Robert. Seven children and two parents would have strained the tiny living space available in tenement quarters.
Things went from bad to worse. Their mother Sarah took ill after delivering Robert, and she died of acute meningitis on Christmas Eve of 1899 at the age of 39. The family was now motherless. Thomas’s step-father William, who had a history of physical ailments, reported to the Bethnal Green Workhouse infirmary with his family, and the children — less Bessie who was also kept in the infirmary; Robert, who died in his first year; and James, who was adopted out — were sent to the Leytonstone Workhouse School a few miles away. Thomas was ten years old.
Thomas, as the oldest of the siblings at the Leytonstone School, likely would have felt responsible for watching over his sisters Lily and Rosie and keeping the family together, such as it was.
After a year and a half at the school Thomas’s step-father William was released from the workhouse infirmary and the family was reunited. With no mother to watch the children, however, William was incapable of making a living while raising the family alone.
William’s solution seems questionable. He had ten siblings, at least one of which was living in Bethnal Green. But rather than turning to them — the children’s aunts and uncles — William decided to drop off the children with a former “wife’s” family in Lewisham in southeast London.
The term ‘wife’ is used loosely. William had moved in with a married woman, Sarah French, a decade before marrying Sarah Hutchings. He had two children by her but moved on when her husband returned.
Perhaps William wanted all of his children to be together under one roof. But nobody in Lewisham was buying it, and when William abandoned them there, they were promptly dropped off at the Lewisham Workhouse.
Thomas was motherless, abandoned, and the head of the remaining Estall family. He was twelve years old.
His sisters were admitted to the Workhouse school, and Thomas was sent off for boarding and instruction on the London Asylum Board’s training ship Exmouth moored in the Thames. He spent 2-1/2 years learning seaman’s duties, then was hired as a deck boy on the coal cargo ship S.S. Turkistan at age 14.
After a couple of years at sea he seems to have become a photographer for a short stint before joining the British army in southwest England in 1907 at age 18. His enlistment papers showed him to be 5’8,” 125 pounds, blue-eyed, and brown-haired.
He was assigned to a rifle company and spent his first two years training and on duty in England. In October of 1909 he was assigned to the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Alexandria, Egypt.
While there, he was admitted three times to the Army hospital in Cairo. An accident on duty resulted in contusion of his right foot that exacerbated an old injury and left him hospitalized for three months and caused him pain thereafter. In August of 1910 he spent two weeks in the hospital for dysphoria — a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction, which can accompany depression, anxiety, or agitation.
His physical and mental pain seem to have overwhelmed him, and in September, at age 21, while sitting on his barracks bed, he propped a rifle between his legs and committed suicide. He was buried in the English cemetery in Cairo the next day.
At the inquest into his death his acting corporal said “he was very quiet, very careful about money mattters. He did not drink at all. I had not noticed anything unusual about him lately. [Did his corporal not know about his recent hospitalization for dysphoria?] He used to complain about his foot especially after marching. He said he was expecting to purchase his discharge and go to Canada. He was on good terms with the others but was quiet and did not mix much with others.”
So ended the hard and short life of Thomas Hutchings. Though a Hutchings, he went by the Estall surname of his step-father. He apparently had dreams of emigrating to Canada, probably to be with his sisters Bessie and Lily who’d emigrated there in 1906 under the aegis of an orphanage.
My grandmother once mentioned to me that she had a brother who’d died while serving with the British Army and there was a great deal of pride in her voice when she said it. When she had her first son in April, 1912, she gave him the middle name of Thomas, and I’m quite sure it was to honor the recently deceased lad who had accompanied her to primary school, shared the family’s shabby lodgings, and was the closest thing she had to a father figure after her dad abandoned the family.
The Pelikan M1000 fountain pen is large, the largest in Pelikan’s Souverän line. In my tradition of naming pens for my ancestors, this pen is being dubbed the Big Mac.
It’s named after James Miller McCrie, my great-grandfather. With a name like McCrie, someone must have called him Mac at some point in life.
James McCrie worked as a foreman at grain elevators in Grand Haven and Detroit, Michigan. These elevators were large, like the pen, looming over their surrounding landscapes and visible for miles around. The Grand Haven elevator’s sharply angled roof line reminds one a bit of the shoulders of a fountain pen nib. And the elevators were filled with the product of waving rows of grain from farms throughout the mid-west, echoed in the green stripes of the pen.
James McCrie was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1839, the son of a farmer/teacher. He emigrated with his parent’s and siblings to Canada when he was starting his teenage years in 1852. Under the aegis of his oldest brother he learned carpentry and worked for the railroad in western Michigan. Upon marriage to Anna Anthony in 1872 he began raising a family in Grand Haven on Lake Michigan and started a career as a grain elevator operator for the railroad.
When his children were young the family moved to Detroit where James worked as a weigh master and foreman at the railroad’s grain elevators on the Detroit River. The grain dust eventually affected his lungs, forcing him into retirement in his 60s.
According to his granddaughter, “although James worked twelve or more hours a day on the job, he spent his time at home building cabinets, window seats, shirt boxes, etc. He enjoyed woodworking and used his carpentry skills to add conveniences to the household. He often read aloud to the family. His favorite physical activity was walking.” In short, he seemed to lead a pretty quiet life. He passed away at age 72 in Detroit.
This summer I plan on visiting Grand Haven and following James’s footsteps from his home on Lake Avenue to the nearby dunes and Lake Michigan shoreline. If he loved to walk, I’m sure he went this way on many an evening and weekend. There’s also an ice cream shop on the Grand River where the elevator once stood a hundred or so years ago; I’ll pay a cooling visit there too.
The Pelikan I’ve named in his honor is not as quiet as was James, and that’s a shame. The nib has an annoying habit of “singing” when I write in cursive. Beyond the screech, however, the pen is a joy to hold and pleasurably springy to write with, given the nib’s gold content and its massive size — the nib is the size of the last joint on my pinky finger.
I generally ink up the pen with a dark green ink to mirror its green barrel; currently I’m using Diamine’s Sherwood Forest ink. They work well together, but the pen also worked well with an antique Scrip Washable Blue ink so it appears the pen is easy to get along with.
Leonard Paul Schutze was my father’s uncle and the man my dad was named after.
That got me to wondering who Leonard — I’ll call him LP for short — was.
His is a rather sad story, it turns out.
LP was conceived in Hamburg, Germany, and born in Detroit, Michigan. His mother Friederike (nee Schrotzberger) was four months pregnant when she emigrated to America to join her husband in Detroit; she delivered LP on a winter’s day early in 1881.
LP would be the oldest of four children in the Hermann and Frederika home. He had two younger sisters who died in youth, and a brother (my grandfather Herman) who was ten years his junior. His mom died when LP was eleven; his father married Frederike’s sister Hannah and had another pair of children by her.
LP hewed closely to his father’s example. His dad was a butcher; LP became one too. His dad joined the Masons and was insured by the International Order of Foresters; LP became a Mason as well, and spent his last twenty years in a hospital run by the IOF.
When LP was 21 the family moved to Stratford, Ontario, but he sensed it was time to spread his wings, and three years later moved to California, joining his uncle Fred Schrotzberger in Pomona, 25 miles east of Los Angeles, working as a butcher. The slim, gray-eyed, brown-haired young man married an 18-year-old girl in 1908, when he was 27. The free-spirited Mildred “Pearl” Lloyd lost her mother at age 9 and was farmed out to be raised by various older half-siblings. “It seems Pearl was pretty much left on her own throughout the years and probably more so once she reached age 18; maybe that’s why she married so young, apparently not ready or able to settle down,” according to a Lloyd family historian.
When LP’s father died in Stratford in 1909, his step-mother moved the family back to Detroit, where LP and Pearl joined them from California. In a year or two the entire family, including my grandfather, moved to Los Angeles, which explains why my dad was born there.
LP and Pearl seemed to have a rocky relationship. City directories and censuses show there were years when they lived together, but there were just as many when they didn’t. She rarely lived long in one place. She worked as a dressmaker and filled in her idle hours as a movie extra in the fledgling years of the industry. She enjoyed riding motorcycles. And she had an affair with a married man — a police detective with a wife and two daughters — that ended in 1924 on the corner of Pasadena and 35th avenues in Los Angeles where she shot him dead and then took her own life in the back bedroom of LP’s home a couple of blocks away. She died painfully of strychninepoisoning, leaving a note that read“Daddy and I decided to end everything. Life without each other was unbearable.” The story made it into the Los Angeles Times and on the front page of the Madera Tribune.
According to the Lloyd historian, “Leonard loved her very much and buried her as if nothing happened.” Whether that’s a sign of great love and forgiveness or a character flaw is open to speculation.
After losing his wife, LP moved in with his step-mother Hannah and half siblings Hattie and Hugo who were living in a house on Halldale Avenue in Los Angeles. He stayed there for six years, working as a store butcher, but in 1931, at the age of 50, contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to the IOF sanatorium north of L.A. and remained there the rest of his life, dying in 1951 at the age of 70. He never remarried and never had children.
His remains were buried in the San Gabriel foothills in a cemetery close to the sanatorium.
Though my father was named after him, LP apparently wasn’t a presence in my dad’s life. My dad grew up and lived in Detroit; LP was on the west coast. My grandfather Herman probably looked up to his older brother LP as a role model when growing up, but after Herman started a family of his own he moved back to Detroit from L.A. and I don’t know if they stayed in touch.
Though LP didn’t have descendants, his name lived on through my father, and because of that he hasn’t been forgotten by his great-nieces and nephew. Visiting his grave this year, I was struck by how peaceful and scenic his final resting place is in the steeply rolling hills. It’s a fitting end to a man who seemed imperturbable in the face of a harsh life.
An earlier post mentioned that I’m naming my best pens — the ones I’ll pass down to my children and grandchildren — after people important in my life.
First pen up is the “Leonard,” named for my father. It’s a Montegrappa Copper Mule fountain pen, and with it’s cap embossed with 1912 — the year of the Italian company’s founding — it seems only natural that it be named after my father, who was also born in 1912.
My father, Leonard Thomas Paul Schutze (let’s call him LT), was named after his uncle Leonard Paul Schutze (let’s call him LP so we don’t get them confused). LP was LT’s father’s older brother. (Okay, so I’m confused already.)
LP, in turn, was probably named for his grandfather, Johann Leonhard Schrotzberger, picking up his middle name. LP had a rather tragic life that merits a story all its own, but that’s for another post.
My dad’s birth certificate only shows one middle name, Thomas. I’m not sure when he was given the second middle name or if it was even official. But my speculation on the name Thomas is that it came from LT’s uncle Thomas Hutchings. Thomas was LT’s mother’s older half-brother, and he, too, merits a story of his own. He died about a year-and-a-half before my dad’s birth, and was a hero to LT’s mom, so I’m quite sure that’s where the middle name came from.
Parenthetically, my middle name is Thomas, as is my oldest son’s and my grandson’s. I’m definitely going to have to do a post on Thomas Hutchings in the future.
So, what about the pen? I bought it in 2016 and use it every day for journaling. It’s a metal pen, copper obviously, and has more weight than most fountain pens, but it’s well balanced in the hand and extremely comfortable to write with.
Being copper, the pen develops a patina over time, turning a dull brown. It can be polished to bring back the original brilliance, but that’s a bit more work than I’m willing to do, and it has a nice rustic look when left to age naturally.
The nib is steel, with an attractive crosshatch design. It writes with a good deal of scratchiness, rather like writing with a pencil. The brushed steel grip doesn’t slip in the fingers, and the nib’s fine tip delivers a clean line, something Leonard, a draftsman and engineer, would have appreciated.
The ink delivery system is either an ink cartridge or converter. I use the converter because I prefer bottled inks. The pen is currently filled with Pelikan’s 4001 Brilliant Brown whose color compliments that of the pen. I originally tried Diamine Ancient Copper ink, but the pen writes rather dryly, and the Diamine didn’t flow well enough.
Naming the pen Leonardprovides a reminder of my dad every time I pick it up. If he were still alive, I would give him the pen as a gift, and I think he would have enjoyed using it. The next best thing will be passing it down to my son. My hope, of course, is that every time he picks it up he’ll be reminded of his grandfather Leonard Thomas.