William Montgomery Clemens (1860-1931)

Genealogists who made a difference

William Montgomery Clemens (1860-1931)
was a prolific genealogist and writer. Nephew to the more famous Samuel Clemens (1835-1910) – he was also a newspaper man and author. William M. Clemens started writing for the Pittsburgh Leader in 1879 and continued his research & writing for more than five decades.

(Illus. Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain – 2nd from right).

(Click here to see original Obituary – Trenton Evening Times 25 Nov. 1931)


A prolific writer, he was the author of well over 100 books and hundreds of essays and newspaper articles.


His regular column – “Notes on American Ancestry and Revolutionary Records” regularly appeared as the “Genealogical Department” in the Columbia, SC newspaper – the State.


Click Here to search all of the back issues of the State (Columbia, SC) newspaper 1891-1922

Over 80 of Clemens’ genealogy columns appeared in the Star.

Each one has genealogical details & information for families from across the country.

He regularly received questions from his readers and posted them to this column.

GenealogyBank has added a new feature – Ask the Genealogist!

Have a question about GenealogyBank or hit a brick wall with your family history research? Write us and let us know.

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John Fuller longtime leader in Internet Genealogy has passed away.

I was alerted to John Fuller’s passing by DearMYRTLE. Others in the genealogy community have sent me items to include in writing about him. His complete obituary will be posted later this weekend.
John Fuller was well known in the genealogy community for his landmark website – Genealogy Resources on the Internet – that made it easy to find “Genealogy Mailing Lists” and other resources online. He started that site back in 1995. That seems so long ago now.

A viewing and visitation will be held this coming Tuesday, June 23 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at the
Murphy Funeral Home; 4510 Wilson Blvd.; Arlington, VA

Per his sister Cynthia, “John would not want flowers” – she suggested memorial gifts to the American Cancer Society.

(Photo supplied by the family – John was a career Navy Officer in the Submarine Service)
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Elizabeth Gladys Dean (1912-2009) Last Titanic Survivor Dies

Elizabeth Gladys Dean was born on 12 Feb 1912. Her parents sold their family business in England and planned to emigrate to America like so many others from the UK before them.

Along with her mother Georgette Eva Dean, father Bertram Frank Dean and brother Bertram Dean they boarded the Titanic just a few weeks later to settle in their new home in Kansas. Her father perished in the sinking of the Titanic and the family returned to England to mourn their loss.

The newspapers of the day gave the grim listss of those that perished and those that survived.
(Boston Journal 12 April 1912)

Macon (GA) Weekly Telegraph 18 April 1912

Elizabeth Gladys Dean’s obituary appears in GenealogyBank.com

In fact GenealogyBank has the obituaries and stories of over 1,000 of the Titanic passengers that died in 1912 and the survivors that have died since.

Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) – May 31, 2009
Last survivor of the Titanic dies, aged 97

LONDON — Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the sinking of RMS Titanic, died Sunday in her sleep, her friend Gunter Babler said. She was 97.

Babler said Dean’s longtime companion, Bruno Nordmanis, called him in Switzerland to say that Dean died at her nursing home in southern England, on the 98th anniversary of the launch of the ship that was billed as “practically unsinkable.”

He said staff discovered Dean in her room Sunday morning. Babler said she had been hospitalized with pneumonia last week but she had recovered and returned to the nursing home.

A staff nurse at Woodlands Ridge Nursing Home in Southampton said no one could comment until administrators came on duty Monday morning.

Dean was just over 2 months old when the Titanic hit an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. The ship sank in less than three hours.

Dean was one of 706 people — mostly women and children — who survived. Her father was among the 1,517 who died.

Babler, who is head of the Switzerland Titanic Society, said Dean was a “very good friend of very many years.”
“I met her through the Titanic society but she became a friend and I went to see her every month or so,” he said.

The pride of the White Star line, the Titanic had a mahogany-paneled smoking room, a swimming pool and a squash court. But it did not have enough lifeboats for all of its 2,200 passengers and crew.

Dean’s family were steerage passengers setting out from the English port of Southampton for a new life in the United States. Her father had sold his pub and hoped to open a tobacconists’ shop in Kansas City, Missouri, where his wife had relatives.

Initially scheduled to travel on another ship, the family was transferred to the Titanic because of a coal strike. Four days out of port and about 600 kilometers (380 miles) southeast of Newfoundland, the ship hit an iceberg. The impact buckled the Titanic’s hull and sent sea water pouring into six of its supposedly watertight compartments.

Dean said her father’s quick actions saved his family. He felt the ship scrape the iceberg and hustled the family out of its third-class quarters and toward the lifeboat that would take them to safety. “That’s partly what saved us — because he was so quick. Some people thought the ship was unsinkable,” Dean told the British Broadcasting Corp. in 1998.

Wrapped in a sack against the Atlantic chill, Dean was lowered into a lifeboat. Her 2-year-old brother Bertram and her mother Georgette also survived.

“She said goodbye to my father and he said he’d be along later,” Dean said in 2002. “I was put into lifeboat 13. It was a bitterly cold night and eventually we were picked up by the Carpathia.”

The family was taken to New York, then returned to England with other survivors aboard the rescue ship Adriatic. Dean did not know she had been aboard the Titanic until she was 8 years old, when her mother, about to remarry, told her about her father’s death. Her mother, always reticent about the tragedy, died in 1975 at age 95.

Born in London on Feb. 2, 1912, Elizabeth Gladys “Millvina” Dean spent most of her life in the English seaside town of Southampton, Titanic’s home port. She never married, and worked as a secretary, retiring in 1972 from an engineering firm.

She moved into a nursing home after breaking her hip about three years ago. She had to sell several Titanic mementoes to raise funds, prompting her friends to set up a fund to subsidize her nursing home fees. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the stars of the film “Titanic,” pledged their support to the fund last month.

For most of her life Dean had no contact with Titanic enthusiasts and rarely spoke about the disaster. Dean said she had seen the 1958 film “A Night to Remember” with other survivors, but found it so upsetting that she declined to watch any other attempts to put the disaster on celluloid, including the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”

She began to take part in Titanic-related activities in the 1980s, after the discovery of the ship’s wreck in 1985 sparked renewed interest in the disaster. At a memorial service in England, Dean met a group of American Titanic enthusiasts who invited her to a meeting in the U.S.

She visited Belfast to see where the ship was built, attended Titanic conventions around the world — where she was mobbed by autograph seekers — and participated in radio and television documentaries about the sinking.

Charles Haas, president of the New-Jersey based Titanic International Society, said Dean was happy to talk to children about the Titanic. “She had a soft spot for children,” he said. “I remember watching as little tiny children came over clutching pieces of paper for her to sign. She was very good with them, very warm.”

In 1997, Dean crossed the Atlantic by boat on the QEII luxury liner and finally visited Kansas City, declaring it “so lovely I could stay here five years.” She was active well into her 90s, but missed the commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the disaster in 2007 after breaking her hip.

Dean had no memories of the sinking and said she preferred it that way. “I wouldn’t want to remember, really,” she told The Associated Press in 1997. She opposed attempts to raise the wreck 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) from the sea bed.

“I don’t want them to raise it, I think the other survivors would say exactly the same,” she said in 1997. “That would be horrible.”

The last survivor with memories of the sinking — and the last American survivor — was Lillian Asplund, who was 5 at the time. She died in May 2006 at the age of 99. The second-last survivor, Barbara Joyce West Dainton of Truro, England, died in October 2007 aged 96.
Reprinted by permission: Copyright (c) 2009 Deseret News Publishing Company

GenealogyBank.com brings you tomorrow’s obituaries – today.

Jamieson, Margaret Jean. (1924-2009)
Dayton Daily News (OH) – May 14, 2009

Earlier today I posted the list of recent Genealogist Obituaries.

A sharp-eyed researcher asked if there was a typo in this obituary – noting that she could not find this obituary in the Dayton Daily News (OH) and pointing out that the dateline was tomorrow’s date.

The answer is that GenealogyBank.com partners with newspapers and receives the obituaries directly from them as they are prepared. GenealogyBank is updated throughout the day so it is common for tomorrow’s obituaries to be available today in GenealogyBank. As soon as we receive it – we make it available to you!

In this case Margaret Jean Jamieson’s obituary will appear in tomorrow’s Dayton Daily News (OH) – May 14, 2009 – but you may read it now on GenealogyBank. Click on the link to read the full obituary.

GenealogyBank.com is the larget archive of obituaries on the planet – with over 130 million obituaries it is the most reliable online resource for genealogists.

Archivists that have recently passed away

These archivists have recently passed away.

Sister Veronica Grzelak. (1926-2009)
Archivist for Immaculate Heart of Mary Province for ten years
Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, CT) – May 3, 2009

Nicholson, Harman C.B. (1920-2009)
Archivist to the Chief of the Highland Clan MacNicol (Scotland)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA) – April 29, 2009

Rehberg, Lois E. (Lawrie). (1923-2009)
Bay View Historical Society and Archives
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) – May 6, 2009

Smiley, Jane Rittenhouse. (1919-2009)
Librarian and archivist for Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library
Poughkeepsie Journal (NY) – April 29, 2009

Tavener, Gilbert Y., Rev. Dr. (1921-2009)
St. George’s School, Gilbert Y. Taverner Archives, named in his honor
Concord Journal (MA) – April 27, 2009

Index to Early Philadelphia Obituaries – Public Ledger 1836

Obituary Reveals Identity of Homesick Boy from Orphanage – 65 years later

Genealogists want to find and document every member of a family. They don’t want even one child to be forgotten.

Thanks to genealogist Ed Hutchison of Mississippi a 78 year old Syracuse, NY man’s true identity has been uncovered.

Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) – April 5, 2009
Case, Dick. Death Uncovers Hidden Identity
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We called him Louie.
He told us his name was Louis Ludbeck.
Mostly, his life seemed to be a blank slate.


It wasn’t until he died March 5, that the mystery that was Louie began to unravel.
Louie died in peace at Francis House. He was 78. A stroke took him.

We know now that Louie was born Gene Rollin Poffahl, Jan.17, 1931. He came into a family of farmers in Albany County. Likely he had five siblings.

We know this because the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office came into the picture after Louie died. He went to Francis House, a hospice run by the Franciscan Order of Nuns, with no past: no government health insurance, no Social Security number, no record of medical treatment or military service. Just a limp, old man ready to die.

The nuns gathered Louie into their embrace, just the way Ann O’Connor and Peter King had, more than 30 years ago. He passed restfully, among friends.

Ann and Peter are two of the founders of Unity Kitchen of the Catholic Worker of Syracuse. They run an elegant soup kitchen, offering full-course, fully served meals twice a week, as well as brunch on Sundays after Mass. The kitchen gets by on alms and the good will of a small, devoted troop of volunteers, who support Ann and Peter with donations and the good will of their help, in-person sometimes twice a week.

They live in a house on Palmer Avenue, devoted to the Catholic Worker community. Years ago, Ann and Peter set their lives aside to serve the city’s poor in a very special way. My wife, Sandy, and I have been volunteers at the kitchen several years.

Louie drifted into Unity Kitchen maybe 30 years ago. No one paid attention to the exact date. Some say it was 1978. He was part of a continuous wave of needy folks who washed across the struggling agency every week. Back then, the kitchen was a literal soup kitchen, and a flophouse, holed up in two floors of an old sash factory tucked next to the DL&W railroad tracks about where Adams and South Clinton streets meet.

Louie settled in; he seemed to have found a home among the homeless. He said little, as became his way of life. Ann and Peter accepted his silence, knowing from experience that it’s not a good idea to poke at the psyche of a homeless person. If he wanted to share a story, he would. Louie didn’t. It was as if his life began when he arrived in Syracuse. The only clue he carried was a piece of paper marked Orwell,” where the affiliated Unity Acres shelter is located.

Peter recalls that Louie settled into a helping routine, taking on small jobs that seemed to give meaning to his life. He’d often stand fire watch in the building. When others refused to do anything but soak up the founders’ charity, Louie joined up, fit in.

“He seemed to have found his place,” Peter explains.

When Ann and Peter closed the old kitchen, and moved to new quarters in Syracuse’s only co-op apartment building on West Onondaga Street, Louie went with them. He was invited to join them in their home, moving into an upstairs bedroom in the house that’s not far from Unity Kitchen.

One time, Ann and Peter tried to bring Louie into the social welfare system. He told the social worker a fantastic story about owning a house at Split Rock and a car. No, he’s not eligible for help, they were told. You’ll have to apply to be his guardian.

Leave him alone, let it be, the couple was advised. Louie is Louie. He doesn’t want to reveal himself; maybe he can’t.

Louie kept to his routine at Unity Kitchen. He worked at menial things — taking out the garbage, dusting and mopping the floor, arranging chairs — and joining the other guests for meals. Louie asked for little and earned the love and respect of the community.

Like others of our readers, Ed Hutchison, a former county legislator who now lives in Mississippi, was intrigued by Louie’s obituary, which was published in The Post-Standard and the Albany Times Union. By then, the FBI fingerprint check had given him a new name and birth date. It also revealed he had been in the Army for seven years, discharged in 1957. Ed’s a genealogist and loves a mystery. He ran an Internet search.

The search revealed a number of folks with the last name of Poffahl, which is of German origin, in the Albany area. Ed also found a newspaper story with an Albany dateline from 1944: “A homesick boy, injured in trying to escape from the Humane Society for Children, fought for his life today. Gene Poffahl, 13, suffered critical back and neck injuries last week, when police said, he lost his grip on an improvised rope strung from a third-story window and fell to the porch steps of the shelter ….”

Gene Poffahl seems to be Louie Ludbeck. His age fits the FBI record. The accident also would explain Louie’s twisted body. “He was a pretty strong little guy,” according to Peter King, “but his motor facilities were compromised. He walked as if he was drunk.”

The mystery of Louie’s life continues to be peeled back. Peter’s been contacted by people who live in the Albany area who may be relatives. He’s being told his parents surrendered Louie and his brothers and sisters to an orphan home run by nuns in Troy; they couldn’t afford to raise the children. The Poffahls were vegetable farmers, supposedly.

His funeral service was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Father John Schopfer, shepherd of Syracuse’s needy, presided. He was carried to his grave in St. Mary’s Cemetery by his friends from Unity Kitchen.

Louie obviously was a troubled man, hiding his history or leaving it where it fell. Peter says he sometimes overheard him “arguing with himself” in a loud voice in his room. He didn’t intrude.

I’m not sure we know how hard we should push our inquiry, either.

Dick Case writes Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at dcase@syracuse.com or 470-2254.
Edition: Final

Page: B1
Copyright, 2009, The Herald Company

News: Mamaroneck (NY) Daily Times 1936-1979 Going Online

The Mamaroneck Public Library announced today that it is putting its backfile of the newspaper, the Mamaroneck Daily Times, 1936-1979 online. They will put the newspaper on the library’s website when the work is completed.

The Daily Times was published in Mamaroneck, NY. It was acquired by the Gannett newspaper group which merged it along with another ten local newspapers into the Journal News which is still published in Westchester County, NY.

“Our library receives a request for an article or obituary from The Daily Times nearly every week. People call from all across the country. Having the newspapers professionally digitized and archived is essential to the preservation of local history. Not only do we hope to make this wealth of information available nationwide, but we are also preserving this historical icon for generations to come,” said Susan Benton, Mamaroneck Public Library Director.

The Mamaroneck Library is seeking funding to continue this necessary preservation project. As Susan Benton expressed, “In order for us to continue on this path we need the public’s help. We just can’t do it alone.” For information on how you can help, please contact Susan Benton at (914) 698-1250 ext. 30.

For information on the Mamaroneck Public Library’s plans to put the Mamaroneck Daily Times, 1936-1979 online on it’s own website click here. This content is not on GenealogyBank.

For Obituaries from the Journal News 1999 – Today: Click Here

Search Over 300 New York newspapers 1719-1999: Click Here

Need help writing an obituary?

You can find all types of helpful advice in newspapers.
This humorous advice on writing an obituary is from today’s New London (CT) Day (3 April 2009). It wasn’t written on April Fool’s Day – but it sure could have been.

This video clip is by Day reporter Rick Koster.
You can view the video clip of his column here.

Have you noticed that more and more newspapers are adding video clips of their columnists and in depth expanded coverage of local news stories?
These “news clips” are a terrific 21st century bonus in today’s newspapers.

One of my favorite newspaper video clip stories is the New York Time’s report on Green Wood Cemetery’s (NYC) Civil War Graves Project. See it here. McDonald, Brett & Donald Glenn Collins. Green-Wood Remembers the Civil War Dead. (NY Times, 28 May 2007).

Both of these newspaper video clips are must viewing by genealogists.

Obituary key to finding missing heir – Tulsa, OK man receives $200,000

Nicholas Grod of Portland, Oregon used an online obituary to track down the rightful heir to a fortune in US Government bonds that he found hidden in his basement.

KATU-TV (Portland, OR) reports that last year Grod was cleaning out the basement of his Portland, Oregon home and found a homemade box wedged under a shelf. In it he found $200,000 in US Bonds, family photographs, a letter and clues to the person who had left them there.

Nicholas Grod used the Internet to track down the details about the previous owners of the house. He had reached a dead-end in the census – but “but an online obituary led Grod to a grandson named Thomas Fagg who lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

From that online obituary Nicholas Grod made contact with Thomas Fagg, now 2,000 miles away, and sent him the box and valuables that he had found hidden in his basement.

Wow – Thomas Fagg was thrilled to receive those family photos – he didn’t have any pictures of his grandfather – he was also pleased to receive the bonds. “There are no words in the English language that can express the gratitude and admiration I have for this man for being so, so honest,” Fagg said.

You can see the entire KATU-TV interview with Nicholas Grod and Thomas Fagg at: http://www.katu.com/news/39350242.html?video=YHI&t=a