New HBO Series ‘Family Tree’ Begins May 12th

A hilarious new HBO series, Family Tree, makes its debut Sunday May 12th at 10:30 p.m.

logo for HBO's new series "Family Tree"

Credit: HBO “Family Tree”

This new show will be a gut-buster for genealogists. The central character, Tom Chadwick, has a rather unsure sense of his own identity. When he inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a great aunt he never met, Tom starts investigating his lineage and uncovers a whole world of unusual stories and characters, acquiring a growing sense of who he and his real family are.

Some very funny people will appear in this show: Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard, Carrie Aizley, Bob Balaban, Maria Blasucci, Matt Griesser, Christopher Guest, Don Lake, Michael McKean, Lisa Palfrey, Jim Piddock, Kevin Pollak, Amy Seimetz, Meera Syal and Ashley Walters.

Watch these two trailers in the videos below to see just how funny this new HBO series will be.

Hmm…I might have to sign up for HBO to get this one!

Family Tree Season 1: Invitation to the Set

Family Tree Season 1: Trailer

Tracing My Unknown Ancestor in the Martin Family

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott discovers the name of an ancestor he never knew about—and turns to old newspapers to fill in this blank on his family tree.

Recently my sister phoned me to ask some questions about certain members of our family who had passed through Ellis Island. As I was talking to her, I pulled up some of the documents I had for our grandparents and started reciting facts and information about them. As I was wrapping up our phone call a bell was ringing in my mind telling me something wasn’t quite right.

I looked at all the information again and there it was: on her Ellis Island documentation, my future grandmother had listed her brother-in-law, Thomas Martin of Cleveland, Ohio, as her contact in the U.S. Since I knew that her sister, my Great Aunt Rose, had married a Martin, finding this contact listing was not a surprise. As I looked at our family tree, however, I could see that the Martin her sister had married was named William, not Thomas.

photo of Rose Cottle Martin Jones and Ina Cottle Phillips

The author’s Great Aunt Rose Cottle Martin Jones on the left, with her sister (and the author’s grandmother) Ina Cottle Phillips on the right. Photo from the author’s collection.

So who was the Thomas Martin my grandmother had listed at Ellis Island?

I needed to look into this! I went to GenealogyBank.com first to see what I might discover. As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.” This family history search led me down a very long—but delightful—path.

First I discovered the old obituary for William Martin, my Great Aunt Rose’s husband. It was quite a genealogical find.

William Martin obituary, Plain Dealer newspaper article 26 October 1933

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 October 1933, page 23

In just its seven short lines, it provided my great aunt’s name complete with her maiden name. It also gave the names of their two daughters (Edna and Dorothy) and William’s three siblings (Grace, Charlotte and Jessie). The obituary listed the street address where William and Mary Rose lived. I was about ready to move on, when that last item caught my attention.

I went back to the Ellis Island passenger manifest that I had been reading to my sister, and noted that the street address listed for Thomas Martin happened to be the very same as the street address given in William’s obituary. Nice way to close that circle! The link was looking quite strong, but still a puzzle remained: there was no mention of a brother named Thomas in the obituary.

Next, I started a search on the three siblings listed in William’s obituary. First up, I searched on Grace Bowhay. What I found was mention of her name in her sister Charlotte’s obituary.

Charlotte Martin obituary, Plain Dealer newspaper article 17 September 1944

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 17 September 1944, page 78

This old obituary not only made reference to Grace Bowhay and siblings Jessie and William, but also listed the so-far elusive Thomas (deceased). Oh, and don’t let me forget to tell you that it also included three additional siblings: three sisters (complete with married names) all still residing in England!

With Thomas Martin being such a common name combination, I decided to make a quick check of the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office website for Thomas Martin. Sure enough, not only did I get a “hit,” but it was for the purchase of a home on—again—the same street as all the other notices. Plus, the property record informed me that this Thomas had a wife, Mary.

While I am still on the trail of Thomas Martin and have more searching to do, I am more convinced than ever that I am on the right path! And I am bound and determined to find this ancestor that I never knew about and add more information to our family tree!

A Murder in the Family Tree: Policeman Stabbed to Death

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott reports a sad discovery when doing his family history research—finding a murder in his family tree.

Ever have one of those eerie experiences that make you just a little bit scared in your family history work? I did and it happened early in my genealogy research when I decided to visit the Woodland Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. I had been wanting to visit this cemetery for some time as I have faint memories of visiting there with my family when I was a very young boy. Additionally, in my genealogy research, I have discovered that our family has more than 160 deceased family members resting eternally in Woodland Cemetery.

On this particular cemetery visit I was planning on paying my respects to my great grandfather’s sister, Theresa Sluka. As I arrived at her grave I not only found her gravestone, but I found a substantial family burial plot. I was madly clicking photos and writing down notes as to location, directions, etc., when one of the Sluka family gravestones caught my attention.

Up until that visit, I had never seen a gravestone that held portraits captured in porcelain. The small obelisk in front of me held not one portrait, but two. As I came closer, I realized that for the first time I was gazing at the likenesses of my cousins, Albert and Frank Sluka. Both looked remarkably young and then I noticed that Albert died at just 29 (1877-1907) and his brother, Frank, wearing a uniform of some sort in his portrait, died at only 33 (1878-1912).

gravestone portrait of Albert Sluka (1877-1907)

Gravestone portrait of Albert Sluka (1877-1907)

It wasn’t an hour later that I was booting up my computer and digging into these two family members. Beginning with Albert, my first stop was at GenealogyBank.com and I was not disappointed. On the first page of search results there was an article from the front page of the Plain Dealer:

Policeman Dies in Street Fight, Plain Dealer newspaper article, 28 March 1907

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 March 1907, page 1

I felt as if the headline was screaming at me. I couldn’t believe what I was reading: “Policeman Dies in Street Fight. Is Stabbed Just Once, but Life Ebbs Away in Short Time.”

Only three blocks from the very cemetery where I had been standing only an hour earlier, my cousin, wearing his badge and working as a “Special Policeman,” was stabbed to death by a man he had bounced from a dancehall! The old newspaper article explained the crime scene and reported that his brother was a member of the Cleveland Police Department. My curiosity, being fully piqued at this point, kept me looking further.

Amidst the tragedy of this police murder story, I discovered in another newspaper article that the Cleveland Police did indeed get their man, who was a fellow by the name of Harry Fertel:

Murder Charge Rests Lightly, Plain Dealer newspaper article, 29 March 1907

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 29 March 1907, page 2

The news of Albert Sluka’s murder was carried in other newspapers in other states, such as this historical news article which appeared on the front page of an Indiana paper:

Policeman Stabbed to Death, Elkhart Truth newspaper article, 28 March 1907

Elkhart Truth (Elkhart, Indiana), 28 March 1907, page 1

GenealogyBank.com was finding, and I was reading, news stories that covered the initial reports of the assault and crime, and explanations of the impact of the murder on my ancestors including this: “The aged father and mother of the dead policeman are brokenhearted. All day long they sat sobbing beside the casket in the little front room of their home at 5311 McBride Av., S.E…”

I was even learning about my great aunt trying to get her son’s killer sentenced to serve his time in the Penitentiary rather than the Ohio State Reformatory—which itself was none too nice, as revealed in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption (the movie was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory).

Mother Seeks Revenge, Plain Dealer newspaper article, 15 May 1907

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 15 May 1907, page 3

Ever since that first day of those discoveries about my cousin Albert and his murder, I have been further augmenting my knowledge of this family tragedy with information available from the coroner’s autopsy report, trial transcripts, jail records, and more.

The one thing I can tell you for certain is that reading those early newspaper articles sure beats any TV courtroom drama I have ever seen, because, as they say, “This Is Family.”

 

Genealogist Shares Her Genealogy Research Success Story!

With GenealogyBank adding more records at the rate of 10 documents a second, we hear from genealogists every day sharing their excitement about their family history discoveries.

Here is a genealogy research success story we received today from GenealogyBank member Michele Lewis.

Deaths in Louisiana Article - New Orleans Item Newspaper

New Orleans Item (Louisiana), 4 September 1911, page 2, column 4

Michele wrote us:

Here is a newspaper success story for you.

My great, great Aunt Ida Perry was born in Purvis, MS, in 1884. She and two of her sisters became nurses. All three graduated from the Charity Hospital School of Nursing in Shreveport, LA. Two of the three contracted TB and died and one of those was Ida. The American Journal of Nursing had printed a blurb about Ida in the March 1906 issue: “Miss Ida Perry has resigned her position of the charity Hospital, Shreveport, La., and will engage in private nursing.” On the 1910 census she is living in Eunice, LA, with her sister Mary (who happens to be the other sister that died of TB). She is listed under her maiden name and as single. That is the last official record we had of Ida. Our only other clue was a picture postcard (undated) that Ida had sent to her brother from Denver, CO, that stated:

“Dear Bro, I am feeling fine. Had this made to show you all how fit I’m getting.

With love to all from ‘Jack’” [Jack was her nickname.]

So we knew that Ida had gone to CO for health reasons, which was common with TB patients. On the back of the picture it stated “Ida Perry Faust” so now we knew she had also gotten married.

We had checked EVERYTHING.

Colorado couldn’t find a death certificate or marriage license and neither could Louisiana. I had run her name through GenealogyBank (of course) and got nothing. We couldn’t determine when and where she had died. We couldn’t find her grave. It was very frustrating.

Yesterday I decided to run her name through GenealogyBank again since I know you regularly add papers and I got a hit! Apparently you had added the New Orleans Item since the first time I ran her name through.

New Orleans Item (Louisiana), 4 September 1911, page 2, column 4

Mrs. Ida Perry Faust

EUNICE, La., Sept. 4—A telegram from Denver (Colo.) brings the news of the death of Mrs. Ida Perry Faust, sister of Mrs. J. N. Adams of this city. The remains will be interred at Purvis (Miss.), the girlhood home of the deceased.

So we finally know! She did die in Denver as we suspected but she died earlier than we thought. She got married, moved, and died in the span of one year (she was still in LA and unmarried on the 1910 census) which means her husband knew she had TB and married her anyway. We are still searching for him. We assumed she had died in Denver but were surprised to see that they brought her back to Mississippi! We know which cemetery she would have been buried in (where the rest of the family is) but there is no marker for her. We might have to rectify that.

If I hadn’t run her name through again I wouldn’t have found this. Unfortunately, I can’t find her in any of the Colorado papers you have (including the Denver ones). I am assuming that the death of a TB sanitarium patient from another state didn’t warrant an obituary.

Congratulations to Michele for this family history success story!

Have you had a similar genealogy research discovery you’d like to share?