Wolfscratch Wilderness  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , ,

My mother-in-law rented a house in the north Georgia mountains in the amazing serene and beautiful community of Big Canoe. Uncle Glenn and Aunt Jane joined us from Florida and we spent a terrific long Thanksgiving weekend in front of the fireplace, rubbing our full bellies.

On the day we arrived, I looked through the bookcase in the living room and found a booked titled "Wolfscratch Wilderness : A Backward Walk in Time in an Old North Georgia Settlement" by Charlene Terrell. It's a big book (700 pages) with a complete history of this enchanting area, from the days of the Creeks and Cherokees, through the Georgia Gold Rush, Trail of Tears and eventually up to the beginning of the Big Canoe development.

But what truly amazed me are the chronicles of the families who lived here. The Potts, Disharoon, Cox, Cowart, Sanderlin, Pettit, Fields, Gaddis, Vandiver, Fouts, Glass, Brooks, Heath, Hendrix, Blackwell, McElroy, Wigington, Whitley, Byess and Tate families either won land in lotteries or acquired some of this rough terrain and lived here through cold winters, poverty, moonshining, wars, infant and childbirth mortality and other excruciating hardships. The family chapters include testimonials from living family members and amazing photographs of these tough mountain people.

The chapters read very easily and are compiled from census information, court and land records, family bibles, letters and interviews. The author did a terrific job of researching the family histories and added some literary glue around them. There are lots of details and dialogues as well as several letters written by the family members and descendants. I will probably put up a couple of interesting photos that caught my eye, like the family that always took a picture with a big Bible, the girl with her pet bunnies or the moonshiners playing cards.

We also spent a day in Dahlonega, the gold capital of Georgia, which was a short drive away. We visited the gold museum and went panning for gold in one of the nearby mines. I was fascinated by it all and thoroughly enjoyed our day. In the town square were several interesting stores with antiques and other memorabilia from the region. I was on the lookout for a bookstore I read about in a travel guide that promised to have genealogy books, native American literature, old flags and maps. But it had closed down about three years ago and nobody knows where the owner went. The only other store that had antique books was more on the literary side. I did see a couple of extremely expensive books dating back to 1700's including a 3-volume English Baronage from the early 1800's and a couple of old map books. I was kind of upset that these were not in a library somewhere but I guess the store owner has to make a profit somehow, right?

The most expensive book I saw at the store was a 1st edition, 1st print 'Gone with the Wind' with an original letter by Margaret Mitchell. Price? Almost $11,000. Good luck selling that one.

So to sum it up, we had a very relaxing and fun-filled Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe we'll turn it into a family tradition?

So many amazing photos and original documents to share  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , , , , , , ,

When my parents came to visit last month, I asked my mother to bring as much family history material as she could fit in her luggage. At first she said it wasn't a problem but when she saw the amount of photos and albums she started to get worried. Eventually we agreed that she would bring the best of the best, including my sister's entire roots project.

So it's been some time since I scanned everything and I am finally starting to get around to sorting everything and getting organized. I thought I would share some of these treasures with my readers.

First is probably the oldest photograph I have from my mother's side of the family. The photo below is in very bad shape. It was printed on cardboard and is severely deteriorating. It is the picture of my great grandfather, Moshe Zinberg, probably in his 20's, which would date the photo back to around 1920:

On the back of the photo is something that I believe to be a Russian newspaper. I am not sure how the cardboard photograph ended up glued to a piece of newspaper. You can also see my grandmother's handwriting, where she wrote her father's name in Hebrew:

Next up is my father side of the family and once again, a very old photo. In this photo of the Smorgonski family you can see my great grandfather Avraham Smorgonski and his second wife, Henia Segalchik. Henia was the sister of Avraham's first wife, Esther Segalchik, who died between 1917-1918. You can also see 6 of Avraham's 7 children:

Top row (left to right): Zipora (my grandmother), Shlomo and Pesia
Bottom row (left to right): Ida (Ita), Joseph Haim and Haya

Everyone in the picture except for the top row of older siblings perished in the holocaust. They were murdered by the Polish villagers in their town of Dolhinov by being herded into a barn that was then set on fire.

Staying a while longer with my grandmother, Zipora, we have some truly incredible identity cards for her and her husband, my grandfather, Avraham Kilchevsky, from Israel in 1939-1940:

But who issued identity cards in Israel nine years prior to it gaining Independence? See below:

The Government of Palestine? But hold on one second before you jump to conclusions and we start another 5000 year war. Palestine at the time was not an independent country. It was a British Colony. Like half the world at the time.

Now back to my mother's parents. I have never seen these photos from their wedding before. These were taken in Beltz, USSR (now Beltsy, Moldova) on October 6th 1945:

Aren't they a beautiful couple? Here's a close-up:

I loved my grandfather very much. He was a cool guy and always fun to hang out with. He was always taking things apart, fixing them and putting them back together. He had a tool shed inside his apartment. He once made a guy sell him a toy that he bought for his son so that he could give it to me. It was an elliptical race track and had these little cars that had rechargeable batteries. They were always breaking down and we would take them apart and fix them.

I know this has been a long post full of big images, but I will leave you with two more. The first is a typical pose for my grandfather. I call it the "What's the Problem?" pose:

That's him on the beach at the Dead Sea in Israel where he and my grandmother used to vacation often with their friends. I remember going out there with them several times.

And here's how you relax on your Dead Sea vacation. You just get in the water and float your troubles away:

Touchy subjects - Should I leave them alone?  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , ,

This one goes out to both my family reading the blog as well as seasoned genea-bloggers. What should I do about sensitive material that I uncover in my research? I will list a few scenarios (some real and some not) and hope to see what you think I should do:

1) Children out of wedlock / Marriage while pregnant.
2) Previously unknown spouses.
3) Canceled engagements.
4) Missing people.

If it were up to me I would write about everything I find. But I am aware of the fact that some people are more private than me and would not want sensitive subject out on display for the whole world (and future descendants) to see. I see several possibilities:

1) Living vs. Deceased.
2) Direct Ancestors vs. Indirect Relatives.
3) Contacted Relatives vs. Unknown Relatives.

For now I will sit on most of my information until I can figure this out. But I think everyone would agree that deceased direct ancestors are fine, right?

How do you treat touchy subjects?

Connecting with distant cousins through Geni  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , ,

What are third/fourth/fifth cousins? They are descendants of your ancestors that you never knew you had. Almost every week I make contact with new distant cousins through Geni.com and I love it. So far I have discovered family in:

Puerto Rico (previously living in Cuba)

There are several cousins who I know of that I have not been able to contact yet, but I know I will some day.

Here are a couple of stories for you:

1) One of my Kreplak cousins wrote this amazing story a while back when I just started my research:

12 years ago I went to the US after the army and I worked in a moving company. One Sunday I was at home and and a friend that owns a different moving company ask me to do him a favor and do a job for him. I went because he was my friend. When I got to the customer's house I was amazed to see it was a Kreplak family in Florida! It was unbelievable! When they opened the door I told them to look at my ID. They were in shock. We were relatives!

2) Here's another story that will amaze you:
My wife's uncle, Glenn, met a couple in Florida and the wife's maiden name turned out to be Hytowitz. Since it is such an uncommon name they tried to see how they were related but could not make the connection. A few weeks ago I got a response from another Hytowitz on Geni. I have about 8 Hytowitz families in my database and have not been able to link them all up yet. Turns out that this man is in one of these trees and he lives in one of the Atlanta suburbs. I gave him a call and we had a great conversation. Later that evening, I sent both him and uncle Glenn and e-mail to introduce them to each other. After a little discussion it turns out that the woman in Florida that known Glenn is a cousin of the man from Atlanta. The families have lost contact about a decade ago. What a small world.

3) You may have read my post detailing how my cousin from Argentina found the blog while Googling his surname. I have been able to contact him and get him on the Geni Tree. He had a few changes to make, like adding another brother! I also got in touch with third cousins in Spain, Miami and Barcelona through Geni. One thing I try to do every time I see that someone has joined the tree is to send them a quick message and welcome them to the tree and see if they have any questions.

Geni is a great site but I still have my issues with the speed of the site and the lack of an admin tool that will give me access to everything that is happening in my tree. I am also working with the folks at MyHeritage by giving them feedback on some of the features and functionality of their site. If you haven't checked it out, you should see how cool their photo tagging is and what celebrity you look like.

So much new information from City Directories  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , ,

One of the reasons I've been visiting the library is to go through the City Directories. I looked at all my research subjects and tried to find them and see what information I can gain about them. And let me tell you, if you're not looking at City Directories you are missing out on a lot of information. I am not sure how accurate it is, but it is extremely helpful.

For example, the Atlanta City Directories usually have two indexes. The first is a street address index that lists all the streets in the city and then the house number. Next to each house number you will find the residents. This is very helpful when you are trying to figure out who lived in a certain house and you don't know all the names.

The second index is obviously the names index. But it doesn't just give you the name. You can see the last name, then usually head of household name and wife's name in parenthesis. Then you will get an occupation and place of work. Next to that you can see the persons address and whether they were renting or boarding at that location.

There are a lot of additional tidbits that are invaluable clues. For example, you might find a person who died that year and get a date of death. You can find widows listed with their deceased spouse's name next to them in parenthesis. Sometimes if someone worked for another person as a cook or driver you will see their employer's name.

Needless to say I was blown away. And then, on my first library visit, I forgot to bring my camera (doh!) so I wrote down everything I could find. I took down 3-4 books at a time and went through a through surname search to see who I could find. What really helped me find hidden relatives is that they sometimes were listed as living in the same house. Here's an example:

This is a partial listing of Brannon's living in Atlanta in 1932. Look what I can find from this:

1) L Travis, married to Esther, works as a Secretary/Treasurer for Charles J. Williamson Inc. and rents a house at 209 Poplar Circle. From my previous research I know that Lester Travis Brannon Sr. was married to Esta (Esther) Louisa Cherry and was a bookkeeper/accountant. In 1930 they are listed in the census as living at 189 Poplar Circle. This is a perfect match. I can now go through the rest of the directories, year by year and see where he worked and where they lived. This is information I can't get anywhere else since it's past the 1930 census.

2) Lollie G, married to Louise, works as a musician at the Fox Theatre and rents a house at 1186 Stewart Avenue. Before I found this I knew he was a piano salesman from the 1920 census. But this adds so much more and I didn't even know his wife's name. But this gets better:

3) William L works as a salesman and rents a house at 1186 Stewart Avenue as well. This is my wife's elusive grandfather who I know as Lawrence, not William. The six siblings all had names that started in the letter L. Leile/Lula, Louis, Lester, Lollie, Levi and Lawrence. Anyway, he's living with his big brother Lollie. The thing is, in 1932 his son, my father-in-law, is born but Lawrence is not listed as living with a spouse yet. I wonder when these were actually published and how old the data is in them. And a little more:

4) Salena L, widow of William T, owns the house at 1186 Stewart Avenue! Salena (Selena) is my wife's great-grandmother and the daughter of my mysterious Margaret Bishop/McElrath. I don't have a date of death for her yet, but if I keep going through these directories I might be able to find that. I also find it hilarious that her two sons are renting rooms from her. Smart woman!

5) Is Lula that rents apartment C11 at 635 North Highland Avenue one of the sisters? I don't have any information about her so this could lead me down a new path.

As you can see there is a lot of information here. I took this page as an example, but I have tracked the family members for 20 years through the turn of the century and found middle names, spouse names, occupations, places of employment and so much more.

Bottom line: If you are not looking at City Directories, you are losing out!

False hope in the search for Margaret Bishop/McElrath  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , , ,

Margaret Bishop, later Margaret McElrath (maiden name unknown), was my wife's 2nd-great-grandmother. Click the McElrath tab on the right to read more about my search for her.

On my first trip to the Georgia Room at the Cobb County Central Library I found a book that listed marriages in Spartanburg County, South Carolina 1785-1911. The line that immediately caught my eye was the following:

Man - Bishop, _____
Woman - Margaret A. Wolf
File - 2165
Lived - 1870

At first I was pretty stunned that I completely forgot to take a picture of the page. I also forgot to read about all the other Bishop's mentioned on the page. And I totally forgot to properly cite my source. All I could think about was "Hey! I just found Margaret Bishop's maiden name!"

Eventually I came around and looked at the rest of the page:

I actually took this photo on my next visit to the library. This is so much easier than photocopying.

Anyway, let me point out a couple of things that caught my attention. The first is an entry for Calvin Rufus Bishop's (who I suspect married Margaret around 1870) parents a few rows above:

Man - Bishop, ____
Woman - Elizabeth Ann Collins
File - 443
Lived - 1849

And another line right above Margaret Wolf's entry of another Wolf on the same file:

Man - Bishop, ____
Woman - Adaline L. Wolf
File - 2165
Lived - 1870

The 'File' number is from the Probate Court record and the 'Lived' indicates that this is when the file was recorded and implies these people were alive at the time. The reason I thought this was my match was the year. My assumption is that Calvin and Margaret were married in 1870 and had their first child in 1871. In 1870 Calvin would have been 18 years old.

I started research the Wolf family members in Spartanburg County and the first thing I saw was that in the 1870 Census, Margaret Wolf lived next door to Calvin with another Bishop family. Turns out she lived there with her sister Adeline, who married a Bishop:

This made me think I was obviously on the right track. In researching the Wolf Family I came across a PDF file written by Dan W. Olds who lives in Spartanburg. I read the file with interest, but since it was published in the year 2000 I decided to contact Dan and see if he had any new information.

My theory was that Margaret and Adeline married Bishop men of different generations since it seems that Margaret was much younger. I thought that while Margaret married Calvin, Adeline married his uncle James. Dan got back to me and sent a much newer file as well as suggesting that he hit the library and try to help me out. That was very nice of him to do and I thought I would finally get my answer.

One of the problems I had with my theory is the birth year for Margaret Wolfe not matching the one of Margaret Bishop. Dan confirmed my fears in his e-mail:

"I did go to the library today and convinced myself that the Margaret A. Bishop I want is not the same as yours.

I did look at the McDowell estate papers. One set of heirs were the children of Jane Wolf. At first, the administrator could not remember their names but in the Feb. 1870 distribution, the five of them signed as A. L. Bishop, Margaret A. Bishop, Elizabeth Cantrell, Harriet Seay and Wm. P. D. Wolf. None of the husbands were mentioned.

Second, I found the SC Death record for Mrs. Margaret Ann Bishop, age 81, d. 28 March 1927, daughter of Noah Wolfe and "DK" [don't know] as mother.
Also the Spartanburg Herald of March 29, 1927, carried the obituary of Mrs. Margaret A. Bishop, 81, wife of G. C. Bishop who survived and mother of five sons and four daughters who were survivors. Her parents were not named but she was survived by one brother, W. P. D. Wolfe of Charlotte."
And guess what, when I looked at my database I found Ann Wolf married to George Columbus Bishop. He was the brother of James A. Bishop who married Adelina A. Wolfe. So two brothers married two sisters and that makes sense. And both these guys are the brothers of Andrew Berryman Bishop, Calvin's father. So these two Wolfe women were Calvin's aunts. I got close, but not close enough.

On my trip to the Fulton Library I looked through the Atlanta City Directories and found another piece of information. When Margaret McElreath (not McElrath or McIlrath) shows up in 1897 she is listed as widow of Ira:

And there is no Ira McElreath anywhere. I tried every possible database and every spelling. I even tried to figure out who Emmett and Walter McElreath were and they are too young to be siblings of Ira. But guess what? Their grandfather is from Spartanburg, SC. So there might be something there.

I did uncover Margaret's Obituary in the Atlanta Constitution from Jan 14th, 1912:

(This was a lucky break because it doesn't show up in Ancestry's new search. The only reason I found it is that the computers at the library still use the old search and it was the first hit I got.)

I know I will figure this out, but it's just taking forever and I am running out of clues. I tried to find burials in Cobb County and Marietta, but no luck there. I need to find out where Greenberg and Bond's Chapel was and where their records are today. I am going to try to find her other descendants and see if any of them know who she was, but that is not going to be an easy task either.

Nobody said genealogy is easy, right?

Oh Baby!  

Posted by Abba-Dad in ,

This is my submission to the 7th edition of Smile for the Camera.

footnoteMaven has asked us to "Choose a photograph of an ancestor, relative, yourself, or an orphan photograph that is the epitome of Oh, Baby! and bring it to the carnival." I have a lot of baby pictures to chose from. I obviously have hundreds of photos of my daughter as well as many of myself, my wife, my sister and my nephew and niece. I even have a few of my mother and father, but I think I will save those for some special occasion.

I decided to go with another photo from my brith. I already posted the one of my grandfather wincing in pain as the rabbi does the deed. But the next photo is all smiles. I like to call it the 'Lion King' photo:

I am not sure if this was the custom in 1970 in Israel. It always struck me as odd that Rabbi Rafiki is holding me, an 8-day old Baby Simba, high up in the air while King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi show absolutely no sign of worry for their newborn son. My mother does seem to be a little bit sedated, but my dad is totally carefree and has the biggest smile on his face.

I guess times have changed a bit, because today, if I caught anyone holding up my child like that, it would probably be the last time in a long time that they were able to hold up their arms. I'm kidding. But I would not be happy. At all.

I still love this photo, though. Everyone looks so happy. Except for me.

Circle of Life. Oh Baby!

Library Card  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , , , , ,

A couple of weeks ago I stepped out of my internet genealogy bubble and went to the library. I went to my local South Cobb Regional Library which is one of 17 libraries in Cobb County. And I got myself a brand new, shiny library card! Then I went over to the reference desk and asked where their genealogy section was and got a blank stare from the nice lady across the desk. Apparently they don't have a section like that, all they have is computer access. And at that location they didn't even have AncestryPlus. I did learn that I could access all the online resources from home, if I needed to, using my library number and a password.

I remembered that the Central Library has a big genealogy collection in the Georgia Room, so I headed that way. I walked right in, checked in with the front desk and got some instructions and a map. Yes, a map. The room is pretty big (12,000 books), so they give everyone a map to help them figure out where they want to go.

Since nobody was in the room I asked for some help anyway. I was led to the South Carolina section and shown the Spartanburg County books. I found a book entitled:

Spartanburg County Marriages, 1785-1911: Implied in Spartanburg County South Carolina Probate Records
By Barbara R. Langdon
Published by Langdon & Langdon Genealogical Research, 1992
ISBN 0938741071, 9780938741077
317 pages

I did not know this at the time, but South Carolina doesn't have marriage records prior to these dates and the way Langdon got this information is from going through loose probate records and trying to figure out who's who.

And there I found that Margaret Wolf married a Bishop man around 1870, which matched the information about my elusive Margaret. But this will have to wait for another post.

A couple of weeks later I went to the Georgia Room again, this time looking for actual Cobb County burial information since I found Margaret's obituary, but couldn't find what I wanted. So I headed over to the Fulton County Central Library and found Atlanta City Directories dating back to pre-1900. Of course, I forgot to bring my digital camera, which I took out of my bag to take Halloween pictures with, so I had to hand-write everything.

And there was a lot to write. I tracked Bishop's, Brannon's, McElrath's, Tuggle's and Wiley's through about two decades of life in Atlanta. But again, that's the topic for another post.

I have to say, the library is a terrific source of information. I just wish I knew a little more about how it's organized and how to find things faster. But I guess that's something you learn from experience.

And never leave home without your digital camera!

Been Busy  

Posted by Abba-Dad in

Sorry for neglecting this blog lately, but as usual time slips away when you're busy with family, work and life, in general. In an effort to organize my thoughts and make sure I start posting here more frequently I have decided to write a list of future posts:

1. Cobb County Library Card & a couple of library visits.
2. False hope in the search for Margaret Bishop/McElrath.
3. So much new information from City Directories.
4. Connecting with distant cousins through Geni.
5. Touchy subjects - Should I leave them alone?
6. So many amazing photos and original documents to share.
7. NewspaperArchive.com - Worth the trouble?

So as you can see there's a lot to get to. I have some fascinating stories to tell. Stay tuned.

Election Day Joke  

Posted by Abba-Dad in ,

Since it's election day (in which I can't participate, yet I still have to pay tons of taxes, go figure) I would like to escort the bumbling idiot in the white house out of his current job and into the wonderful world of guest speaking (that is, if he can actually put more than two words together to make a meaningful sentence) for $50K+ a pop for the rest of his life with this little joke:

After numerous rounds of 'We don't even know if Osama bin Laden is still alive', Osama himself decided to send George Bush a letter in his own hand writing to let him know he was still in the game.

Bush opened the letter and it contained a single line of coded message:


Bush was baffled, so he e-mailed it to Condoleezza Rice. Condi and her aides had not a clue either, so they sent it to the FBI.

No one could solve it at the FBI so it went to the CIA, and then to MI6.

Eventually they asked the Mossad (Israeli intelligence) for help.

Within a minute the Mossad emailed the White House with this reply:

'Tell the President he's holding the note upside down'

Go vote people!