Thankful Thanksgiving Day Thursday

As I sit here in my home this Thanksgiving, I want to thank my ancestors.  I have been exploring backwards for several years now and every time I discover a new gem or connect with a distant cousin, I am thankful for those that have gone before me.  I just wanted to write a short bit about a few.

 

I am thankful for my great-grandfather Peter Kersten for embarking across the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life here in America.  He was 21-year-old, and in his native country of Germany, it was not the familial custom to acquire land from his parents, so he was left with little options.  He chose to come to the new land, America.  The year was 1893, it was known as the Progressive Era, a period of widespread social activism and political reform in the United States.  Support for prohibition was growing as was woman’s suffrage (source:  The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project).  The irony is Peter was a brewer by trade until Prohibition (1920-1933).  According to the 1930 US Census, he was an Elevator Operator.  The effect of prohibition was so profound that he had to change occupations.

Kersten Family

Kersten Family

I am also thankful for my grandfather, Lacy Luke Sublett, he was born in 1909, he was too young for World War I, but when the Second World War came along, he had incurred an injury to his leg that would keep him home.  This had to be difficult to see your other friends and neighbors go off to fight the Axis powers.  I consider him the family chameleon.  He was born in the country on a tobacco farm but made his way to the city of Lynchburg at a young age.  He started out on his own living in Lynchburg as a shipping clerk in 1921.  He married his first wife in 1931.  By 1934 he was working as a Life Insurance Agent for Provident Relief Association of Washington D.C.  He met and married my grandmother, Odelle.  They went on to have two children, my mom and my Aunt Carol.  He worked for a couple different Insurance Agencies until he went to work for Conner Produce Company.  He continued to work for them throughout the war.

Lacy and his daughters

Lacy and his daughters

Lastly, I am thankful for Margaret Agnes Kersten, my paternal grandmother, whom I have never had a chance to meet.  She was a first generation German-American growing up on the south side of Chicago.  Her and her brother during prohibition and she came of age during the roaring 1920’s.  I often wonder how she introduced Fred Whitehead to her parents.  He was a Georgia born, Army man who was working in Chicago at the Army Recruiting Offices when they met.  He had been born and raised Baptist and Margaret was a devout Catholic.  They married and went on to have three children.

Margaret and her Parents

Margaret and her Parents

Although I often write about dead people, I am most thankful for my family that is living in my life today.  My parents are both so warm and loving.  I am so very blessed to have the best siblings and sibling in-laws, nieces and nephews.  So, take the time today to let the “family” in your life how thankful you are for them.  I am thankful for mine.

 

Source:

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, retrieved 11/24/19 from https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/progressive-era.cfm

 

 

 

Follow Up Friday DNA revisited

I know I haven’t written in some time.  A lot has been going on.  I was teaching a couple of online classes.  My dog, Junie passed away about 7 weeks ago after a long illness.  My niece got married.  So, a great number of factors have been keeping me away.  The biggest, is probably writers block.  I feel that I have done most of the stories that came easy.  I have to dig deeper as a writer and genealogist to get to some new ones.  I am working towards that.  But, that also means more researching and less writing.

While in Kentucky for the wedding, my mother surprised me by getting her DNA tested through Ancestry.  This was a wonderful surprise and led to many discussions during the wedding weekend with the family.  I had tested my own DNA with Ancestry several months prior.  Trying to explain the different DNA processes to others when I barely knew it myself was a challenge.  So, I came back from the trip and did some reading.  This is what I have learned as it pertains to my family.

 

First, the test that I did on my father is called a YDNA test (Family Tree DNA).  This test traces the Y-chromosome through the direct paternal line.  The reason for this was due to the fact that I have my major brick wall at the 6th great-grandfather of Samuel Whitehead.  This test only tests the Y chromosome, that is passed on through the males (in our case, Larry, Fred, Walter, George, etc.).  As a result it does not test the autosomal DNA like the Ancestry test.  The YDNA test investigates deep ancestry.  It is good for surname studies and looking at migration patterns of various Haplogroups.  It has not produced the smoking gun that I had hoped.  But, I have not given up on it yet.

Second, I tested myself with an autosomal DNA test.  This is the test that Ancestry does.  This is the test of the 22 pairs of autosomes.  These tests are used for recent ancestry, determining genetic cousins.  This test provides an admixture analysis also known as Biogeographical ancestry.  “An admixture analysis is a method of inferring someone’s geographical origins based on an analysis of their genetic ancestry (ISOGG Wiki).”  This is also the test that my mother had done.  The benefits of this genetic testing is that it tries to provide an estimate of one’s ethnicity.  This is very fun for the average person.  It is not as important for the dedicated genealogist, who is more concerned in validating connections.

Lastly, one needs to take these results with the grain of salt.  These tests are still new and the companies responsible for making these estimates are not as accurate as they will be.  By thinking of them as stepping-stones for future inquiries, you will not be unsatisfied.

 

As far as my family goes; this is what I know.

Paternally, I know I have German roots.  My father’s mother was 100% German.  The Whitehead name however has been thought to be English.  But, since I have not made a connection to Europe, it still alludes me.

Maternally, I know I have French roots.  My mother’s father’s name Sublett derives from a well-known Huguenot family, Soblet.  However, on the Moss side, I have not been able to get a connection to Europe.  The name however, lends itself to English and Welsh.

Krista   Betty  
Europe West 41% Europe West 36%
Ireland 13% Ireland 26%
Scandinavia 13% Scandinavia 22%
Great Britain 10% Great Britain 10%
Iberian Peninsula 10% Iberian Peninsula 4%
Italy/Greece 8% Italy/Greece <1%

 

The Scandinavia is the ethnicity that struck us the most, as we do not have any knowledge of having family in this region.  However, I have read recently, this is one of the areas that Ancestry has been criticized for.  According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy,

The Genetic Ethnicity Summary (of Ancestry) consistently overestimates the Central European and Scandinavian ancestral components for people whose ancestors were from the British Isles. The ancestral component from the British Isles is overestimated for people whose ancestors were from continental Europe. Overall, the European ancestry predictions tend to be inaccurate.

Regardless, the main benefit of doing DNA testing on Ancestry is that you can link your genetic matches to your ancestry tree and that is a pretty cool feature.

 

So, I will continue to explore backwards

 

 

 

 

 

ISOGG Wiki retrieved on 9/30/16 from http://www.isogg.org/wiki

Family Heirlooms

 

While exploring backwards, I have become the repository for some of our family’s heirlooms.  I could not be more proud.  However, in order to be a good custodian, you want to know the story behind the object or objects.

I have my great-grandfather Peter Kersten’s revolver.  It is a top-break Iver Johnson.  It is a very old gun.  I suspect he purchased it so after he arrived in the United States.   Peter immigrated in 1893.  The model that I have is probably from 1895.

Peter and his gun

Peter and his gun

As discussed previously, I am the custodian for the Whitehead Family Bible.  You can read about it here:  https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/the-bible/

I also have two books that my grandfather, Fred Whitehead had in school.  One that I received from my cousin Sara, and just recently, my sister, Kathy passed on the Fryes Higher Geography book.  Inside the book, it has my grandfather’s signature and a date of September 16, 1913.  That is over 100 years old that he was holding this book.  He used this textbook in high school.

Fred's textbook

Fred’s textbook


September 1913

September 1913

Most recently, my sister let me take home a portion of a tea set of two mugs and a sugar bowl.  It is unknown if there were more pieces at one time.  The history of the set as we know is that it came from my German Grandparents, Peter and Anna Kersten.  After inquiring with my paternal Aunts, neither of them knew anything about it.   I am stuck without a story.  You see, the set has images of the Cherbourg Swing Bridge that was created in 1885 in Cherbourg-Octeville, France.  This is on the English Channel.  Therefore, it is unknown how my great-grandparents come to have this piece.  I am left to wonder.  Maybe it was a house-warming gift from a family member.  Maybe they took a trip at one point after they were married; a honeymoon even.  Maybe Anna found it at a flea market or estate sale.  Who knows?

Anna Kersten's tea set

Anna Kersten’s tea set

I think I will try to my second cousin, 2x removed, Father Ron.  Maybe he can shed some insight.

Heirlooms.  You do not need to fill your house with everything they owned, but to share these priceless family artifacts with each other is what genealogy is all about.  Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

 

 

 

 

Chicago born and raised

Margaret Agnes Kersten was the grandmother that I never met. My Aunts and father both stated she was a religious woman. She is one of my ancestors that I wished I could have met.

Margaret was born to Peter and Anna Stalhaber Kersten in Chicago on March 13, 1906. She was the second child born to Peter and Anna. She was baptized at St. Anthony of Padua on 15 April 1906 (Source: Delayed Birth Certificate). Margaret and her older brother William were first-generation German Americans. Just for a frame of reference, in 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was the President of the United States.

In the 1910 Census, the family is living at 2804 Calumet Avenue. Also living there are three boarders. Her father Peter is a brewer.

Kersten Home-1910 Census

Kersten Home-1910 Census (source: Alookatcook.com)

When she was 8 years old, World War I started. I wonder what it was like for such a young girl when I am sure her parents were worried about loved ones that were still in Germany.

When she was 14 years old, Women got the right to vote with the passing of the 19th amendment. I wonder if she ever voted?

In 1920 Census, the family is living at 2411 South Park Avenue with her parents, her Uncle Johann Kersten, her cousin Harry Stalhaber and three lodgers. She is 13 years old. Margaret and her brother are listed as attending school. I wonder what she thought about having three lodgers in her home. I know at 13 years old, young girls and boys are wanting their privacy. I am sure there was not much of that in the household of 8.

Kersten Home-1930 Census

Kersten Home-1930 Census(source: Alookatcook.com)

 

I have a letter from Fred to his father, Papa dated 7/27/26.  He is living and presumably working at the Palmer House in Chicago.  He writes,

Marge is all enthused with expectancy and I hope not in vain.  I know I will do my utmost to make her as happy as my means and brains will allow.  She is sure one sweet girl and deserves a whole lot more than she is getting but if I can make her happy, I sure will as she wants.

On September 18, 1926, Fred and Margaret were married at Saint Dorothy’s Church in Chicago, Illinois. The witnesses listed were Joseph Donnelly and Helen Diefenbach. I believe Helen was Margaret’s first cousin. The story about how my grandparents met is a little vague. I think it was Aunt Lee that told me she heard that Margaret and her friend were walking down the street when Fred and his friend walked by. Apparently, Fred starts chatting her up. The rest is history…

In the 1930 Census, Fred and Margaret are raising their first-born, Vivian, at 509 79th Street, Chicago. Fred is listed as unemployed and Margaret is listed as working as a stenographer in the Chemical Industry. The rent is $50 per month and they have a radio. It is interesting that Fred is not listed as a veteran. In some records, the census taker makes a notation as to who they spoke to at the residence. This record does not list that. I wonder if Margaret’s mother is caring for the young Vivian, or is Fred taking care of her. Recall, this is 1930 and the depression is in full swing.

Whitehead Home-1930 Census

Whitehead Home-1930 Census (source: google maps)

By the 1940 Census, the last one that has been made public, Fred and Margaret are living at 618 East 77th Street. Fred is indicated as the respondent in this census. He is now working as an Accountant doing tax appraisals. Margaret is listed as not working outside the home. But, how could she, she had Larry, age 3, Annette, age 7, and Vivian, age 12. The question about education level shows that Fred, completed the second year of high school and Margaret, completed the 7th grade. So, why did Margaret stop going to school? Is this accurate?

Whitehead Home-1940 Census

Whitehead Home-1940 Census (source: Google Maps)

I have a 1950 Tax Return. This was the tax return for the year her husband, Fred, died (4/3/50). It listed her occupation as a Stenographer. The family is listed as living at 7939 Champlain Avenue with her parents. It shows that Fred last wages were for James R. Casey on Clark Street. If I recall, I think this was an accounting office. Margaret’s listed occupations in 1950 were at Maywood Park Trotting Association and Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railway Company.

Kersten Home

Kersten Home (Source: Google Maps)

At some point she moves to 8638 South Sangamon Street, as that is the residence listed on her death certificate.  Margaret died 27 August 1967.  She was 61 years old.

Margaret Whitehead's Home

Margaret Whitehead’s Home (Source: Google Maps)

I would like for my Aunts and Father to chip in and send me some more memories of their mother. I have written far more than I had planned.  Hopefully we  all learned about a wonderful woman, Margaret Agnes Kersten Whitehead.

Below are some more pictures that I wanted to include.

Whitehead Family

Whitehead Family

Fred and Margaret

Fred and Margaret

Fred and Margaret

Fred and Margaret

Margaret, Larry, Vivian, Kathy

Margaret, Larry, Vivian, Kathy

 

Happy Easter!  Join me again later as we explore backwards!

 

 

Mathias Kersten

Mathias Kersten (my second great-grandfather)

Mathias was born to Daniel and Margaretha Gierten on 24 March 1843 in Manderfeld, now Belgium. He was baptized at the St. Lamertus Parish in Manderfeld. We will explore St. Lambertus in more detail at a later time.

St. Lamberts Church

St. Lambertus Church

In order to understand my family history, I have had to learn about the history of my ancestors. For my ancestors lived through a tumultuous time. The borders are the remains of history and the symbols of the struggles faced.  As I have mentioned before, I am grateful for the research done by my genealogical minded ancestors.

If you look on a map for the Eifel region, you can see that it west of the Rhine River. As we zero in on the Hamlet of Hergersberg and nearby Manderfeld (both are today on the Belgian side), we begin to learn much about our German roots.  The village of Manderfeld  is located in the eastern tip of eastern Belgium.

Mathias had four siblings, Gertrud, Magdalena, Peter (not my grandfather), and Wilhelm. Mathias was the oldest son, and according to “Stockerbenrecht”, (the practice where family property could not be divided and only one son or one daughter inherited the property. According to Agnes Perings (my second cousin, one time removed), “most of them remained single, stayed in the house and went on working with the rightful heir” (p. 7). Or they moved outside of the village. This is one of the reasons people from this region moved to the Ruhr region, where they could work in more urban areas or the mines of Northwest Germany.

Mathias grew up in Manderfeld. It is likely he took over the family farm, as so many of the families did in those days. His older brother Peter immigrated to the United States in 1887 (we will talk more about him in a later post).

Mathias and Anna Maria Kersten

Perings wrote that Anna-Maria and Mathias lived in the house Buresch after getting married, then they build the house of Kersten in 1873 (Perings, 1990). Anna-Maria and Mathias had nine children. Their oldest son Peter (my great-grandfather) immigrated to the United States, followed by his younger brother Hubert. Mathias died in January 1905 at the age of 61. Below are there children:

Margaretha, the eldest daughter of Mathias and Anna-Maria went to the Ruhr Region; she died at the age of 32. She married Aloys Heitkamp

Christoph the second child to Anna-Maria and Mathias died at the age of four.

Peter (my grandfather) immigrated to the United States

Johann Peter died at 13 years old

Maria stayed in the House of Kersten and married Kaspar Perings

Wilhelm-died at age 3

Magdalena married Aloys Heitkamp they went to live in Castrop (Ruhr Region) (not quite sure if this is the same Aloys as her sister married).

Katharina-died at age 9, by diphtheria

Johann-Hubert-emigrated to Chicago married Emma

 

I plan to write more about these ancestors.  Join me as I continue to Explore Backwards!

 


 

Source:

Ancestors and descendants of Mathias Kersten and Anna Maria Reiter by Agnes Perings, 1990.

 

 

 

Cousins and more cousins

 

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Cousin “as a child of your uncle or aunt or a person who is related to you but not in a close or direct way”.

Since I started to explore backwards I have been amazed at the number and kinds of cousins I have met (via the internet). It is truly remarkable.

The first cousins I met on my journey were my mother’s cousins. I met them when I was a little girl, but after I started exploring my genealogical roots, I got to meet them and get to know them as adults. I previously wrote about them, see my July 2013 post.

Another cousin I met while exploring backwards was Mary Stevens.  She is my second cousin 1x removed.  Her father carries the Steven’s name and as such we have many familiar names in our line.  We met via Ancestry.com and have shared a lot of information with each other.  She and I have even shared our online family tree.

Recently I met Anne Moore Vaught, my first cousin 1x removed. Her mother, Martha Ann Whitehead was my grand-aunt. Anita stumbled onto my blog in search of a Facebook page about growing up in Oglethorpe. After we reconnected and exchanged emails, I found out more about her and her parents. She in turn introduced me to her daughter, my second cousin. It was through the connection with Anita and her happy accident that I went to find this Facebook page and met more cousins. I have not placed them all yet, but several of them seem to be doing similar research.

Another cousin I met recently was Father Ronald Crewe, who is my second cousin 2x removed. His mother’s maiden name was Kersten. I took a chance and contacted him blindly through his work email. I am so glad I did. Since then, I have learned much more about the Kersten’s in Wisconsin and Cicero as well as the homestead in Belgium.

Another cousin I met online was through the website, Ancestry.com. Billie Jean is my second cousin 1x removed. We share a history from the Hicks side of my family tree.

Each of these individuals have been so generous with their time and resources. I want to thank them for their friendship that has evolved. It is with their resources that I have been able to add to the family tree, this blog and eventually, a book (I hope).

So here is to cousins! They provide a whole different connection to your past.

 

 

 

 

 

A letter in German

I know I have talked about Peter Kersten before, but with all things, we learn more information as we go. Recently I attended a Rotary meeting. I was asked by a colleague of mine, and since I have wanted to become more active in my community, I accepted. While at the meeting, I was introduced to Vonn. Vonn is an eighty something year old fellow that is somewhat of a historian. More importantly (to this blog at least), he is also fluent in German and he took the time to translate a letter that I have. I am sure I got the letter from my Aunt Leah, when she lent me items to copy. But, I tried “Google translate” with minimum success, so when he offered to translate this document, I was stoked. I was excited because it was a piece of my past that I could then put into some context with what I already know about Peter and his family. I was also excited that some light could be shed on this mysterious letter.  I am going to include the letter in its entirety, but I am going to try to add information that I have to put it into context. Please if you know more information let me know.  The letter was written on stationery from the German Mutual Benefit and Aid Society.  We will talk more about this at another time.

 

Chicago, Ill., December 23, 1925

Dear Ones,

Received your letter of December 2 and are pleased to hear from you. We are sorry to hear that Uncle Wilhelm died (Willhelm Kersten, Peter’s Uncle, Mathias’ brother). I cannot believe that Uncle would die so soon. What was he ailing from that he died so quickly? In November our brother-in-law (Unknown reference) informed us of his death but did not explain what ailed him. We have not heard from Uncle Wilhelm since he collected my part of the inheritance. I have no idea why he stopped writing. You ask about your Uncle Cristian Palm (we do have a line with last name Palm, Peter’s Aunt Magdalena married a Simon, they had children and their daughter Margaretha Simon married Johann Jacob Palm, I am assuming they had a child named Christian Palm). I cannot say if he is still alive or where he lives. I asked Johann Lanz of Manderfeld who lives here in Chicago about him. He said that your uncle lived in New York in 1898 [?] but that he has not heard from him since then. He promised to look for information. The court at St. Vith sent us a copy of the will. It was mailed to the old address. Will you be so kind and give the court our new address. Share it also with the executor [of the will] Johann Nicholas Theisen, mayor of Mandersfeld and give him and his family our regards. Regarding the inheritance I believe that we should leave it as Uncle has decreed. I am sorry that he excluded Persinger’s (I think he meant Perings) children but nothing can be done about that. The aunt in Racine is doing well, as is her husband. The same goes for their children. Both ___ [illegible] Maria (Anna Marie Kertsen Crewe), lives in Racine and Eduard (Edward Peter Kersten) lives here in Chicago. I will send you their addresses. As far as we are concerned we are hale and hearty and hope to continue so. Now with the old year coming to an end we wish you all happy holidays and the best for the new year. Give our greetings and a wish for a happy new year to Aunt Magdalena and Anna.

Greetings from your cousin Peter Kersten and family.

Hubert (Johann Hubertus Kersten, Peter’s brother) plans to write you.

 

Until later, I will be exploring backwards, or as my German ancestors would have said “Ich werde nach hinten erforschen