Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Aunt Pittypat...Is That You?

That's what I think each time I see this picture.  Aunt Pittypat Hamilton from Gone With the Wind.  No clue who she is though.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Maurice Leib Blum

Civilian tombstone - Beth Israel Cemetery
I've been sharing about Maurice Blum recently.  As I try to discover more about the lady I grew up calling "Nana" I need to find out more about the people in her life and Maurice was her husband.  Maurice was born on April 10, 1895 in Warsaw, Poland.  He came to America around 1911.  Married Hazel Hill in the early 1940s and died on May 20, 1971 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  As you can read from my recent posts, Maurice did an awful lot in his life.  He really impresses the heck out of me and I wish I had known him.

Maurice was a veteran of World War I so he has a military stone with his regular tombstone.  I love that.  It not only lets you know someone was a vet, but tells you a little about their service.  Particularly good since getting military records can be a pain in the butt...especially since so many have been destroyed.  At least you might be able to find out more about the person's unit if you can't get their file.  This information can also help you get the right file if your veteran has a fairly common name.

Maurice's Military Marker
"Maurice L Blum
PVT Co C 30 Infantry
World War I
April 10, 1895    May 20, 1971"

I haven't had much luck finding information on this unit...for WWII, sure...not so much for WWI, but it'll be something that I check out for sure.  I'm a veteran and as silly as it sounds, I don't know the best places to look for this information.

Where do you look for unit histories?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Military Monday - Maurice's Life Before Hazel

Beth Israel Cemetery, Hazleton, PA
I'm continuing with my research into my "Nana's" family today with a World War I draft registration for her husband, Maurice Blum.  His obituary (here) was filled with so much information regarding his involvement in various organizations, but was lacking in his personal life.  No mention of how old he was.  No mention of where he was born or lived prior to Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  No mention of when he came to America.  Very little information about his marriage to Hazel, and only a passing mention of a sister living in Tel Aviv (a name would have been nice here).  What we do know is that he served in World War I so I went for his WWI Draft Registration.

Maurice wasn't living in Hazleton or even Luzerne county when he registered for the draft and he wasn't married to Hazel yet, so how could I be sure that I had the right WWI registration?  It wasn't hard to discover this.  There are lots of great records out there that touched on Maurice's military service like his WWII registration which not only listed Hazel as his wife, but gave his birth date and birth location. That birth information was exactly matched in a World War I registration in Allentown, Leigh County, Pennsylvania.  I can be pretty certain that this is the right Maurice.  I know stranger genealogical coincidences have occurred, but this with matches that corroborated it from census records that I know to be him and veterans burial records help to solidify this match (a visit to his grave when home also was helpful, but that's tomorrow).

So what did I find about Maurice and World War I and why is it important.

WWI Draft Registration*
Name and Age - Maurice L Blum / 22
Home Address - 609 N 6(th) Allentown PA
Date of Birth - April 10, 1895
Citizenship - declared intention
If not citizen, what nation are you a subject - Warsaw, Russia
Occupation - (unk) foreman silk mill
Employer - Allentown Silk, Allentown
Dependents - sisters
Marital status and race - single / caucasian
Prior military service - None
Exemption claims from military service and grounds - Two sisters in Europe

And about how Maurice looked (although there was a head shot of him with his obituary) - he was of a medium and slender build with blue eyes and light brown hair.

Remember that the borders to countries change.  They still do and always have.  Heck state and county borders in our own country do the same!  We all (should) know that Warsaw is in Poland not Russia, but at the time this was apparently not the case.  Even if you don't remember your history very well, what Maurice tells us in this registration lets us know that Warsaw was under Russian control then.  We also see that he is responsible for the support of 2 sisters that are still in Europe (presumably in Warsaw)  and that Maurice was not yet an optometrist.

From this registration I know his date and place of birth and can find him a bit more easily in the census records knowing that I may not find him in Luzerne county.  I can use his birth information to help narrow down searches including finding him on passenger lists and naturalization records.  Only two sisters are mentioned here and we know that one was alive and well in Tel Aviv in 1971, but we don't know her name or when she eventually passed on.  One hard to read record can yield a lot of information that will help me to find more and get to know Maurice (and thus Hazel) a little better.

*WWI Draft Registrations can be viewed from many genealogy search sites, both paid and free of charge like our wonderful National Archives!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sunday's Obituary - Discovering Nana through Maurice Blum's Obituary

What a handsom man he was!
I never had the pleasure of meeting Maurice Blum and he's not a relative of mine, but I wanted to share his obituary because he is special to me and my family.  How you might ask?  His wife, Hazel Blum nee Hill, was all I ever knew of a grandmother.  My paternal grandmother, Florence Tabor nee Bronsavage, died a decade before I was born and my maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Brown nee Quirk, died 2 years before I was born.  I love both of them, but I never had them in my life.  Hazel was my surrogate grandmother.

I've mentioned Hazel in previous posts, but nothing really concrete.  I never really knew much about my "Nana".  She taught my sisters and I how to knit and crochet.  She loved watching soap operas while she did her yarn-work.  She embroidered and cross-stitched and even reupholstered the covers on some dining room chairs with her needlework.  She lived in the house next door to us.  It was a house that she grew up in and lived her entire life.  It was the house she eventually shared with her husband, Maurice Blum.

I had always wanted to find out more about Nana, but like many things, I procrastinated and never followed through until I got a lovely email and phone call from a sweetheart named, Debbie, that came across one of my posts on Nana.  I'm not going to tell Debbie's story here.  She's going to be writing a book about it and when it's out I'll let you all know so you can see for yourself, but Debbie asked for some information on my Nana and I was so disappointed to admit that I knew little of value about a woman I loved dearly...so I started some research.  Research for me to find out more about the woman that meant so much to me and research for Debbie because I was touched by the connection her family had with Hazel and Maurice Blum.

So having just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania I'm going to share the information I found starting with Maurice's obituary today.  Maurice died a year before I was born, but Nana mentioned her husband frequently.  Like a typical 11 to 14 year old, the information just never really made and impression and apart from his name and a couple other details I can remember nothing.  It's really a shame because, as you'll see, he was an extremely impressive man.  So much so that his death made the front page of the Hazleton Standard Speaker.

Hazleton Standard Speaker, 21MAY1971, pg 1
"Dr. M.L. Blum, Prominent Civic Worker, Is Dead

Dr. Maurice L. Blum, local optometrist and one of the community's most active civic workers and leader in veteran affairs, died at 11 a.m. yesterday in the Hazleton State General Hospital following a lengthy illness.

Dr. Blum, who resided at 701 W. Diamond Ave., was a veteran of World War One, and was a charter member of American Legion Post 76, which he served as commander in 1928, and for many years as chaplain of the veterans' organization.

Dr. Blum served for 22 years as head of the National Firm's Division for the annual campaigns of the Hazleton Chapter of the American Red Cross.

He also served as general chairman of the United Fund Campaign, and headed divisions in other years.

Dr. Blum served as chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, was a past president of the Hazleton Lions Club and served in various capacities with the Hazleton Tuberculosis and Health Society, the Anthracite Council of the Boy Scouts of America (now part of the Penn Mountain Council), and other local organizations.

Arranged Programs
21MAY1971, pg 14

For many years he arranged programs for patients in the White Haven State Sanitarium and continued the service for the White Haven State School and Hospital.

He was also one of the organizers and an active member, until his illness, of the committee of veterans in the Greater Hazleton Area who visited hospitalized veterans in St. Joseph and the State General Hospitals.

In July 1965, Dr. Blum was selected to a life membership in the American Optometric Association, and prior to that honor was awarded life membership in the state organization and in the Anthracite Optometric Association in 1960.  He aided in the organization of the anthracite group in September 1929, and served as its secretary-treasurer for 25 years.

State Chairman

In October, 1931, he was general chairman of the State Optometric Association Convention, which was held in Hazleton, at which time he was selected to serve a two-year term as secretary of the state organization.

In May, 1954, the Regional Association held a special dinner marking Dr. Blum's 25 years of service as secretary-treasurer, during which he was awarded a plaque for that service.

He has been the recipient of numerous local awards, among which were the designation of "Outstanding Citizen" by the Greater Hazleton Jaycees in 1957.  He was also recognized by the American Legion, the Boy Scouts of America, Salvation Army, Heart Association, White Haven State School and Hospital, Greater Hazleton Veterans' Association; Unico Club and the Community Chest.

American Legion Post 76, in April 1969, awarded Dr. Blum a life membership for his outstanding service to the organization [sic].

Dr. Blum is survived by his wife, the former Hazel Hill, and ane [sic] sister, residing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Services Sunday

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Sunday from the Temple Beth Israel, with Rabbi Abraham Ruderman, spiritual leader of the Temple officiating.  Interment will be in Beth Israel Cemetery.

Viewing will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Joseph and Mary Fierro Funeral Home.

Pallbearers, all members of the Hazleton Lions Club, will be President David Schwarz; Third Vice President Louis Fierro, and Past Presidents Carl Ambrosio, Edward Scarp, Angelo Sist and Peter Forliano."

I read this and all I could think was, "WOW".  I never imagined that Nana was married to such a man.  She was so quiet and reserved...shy even.  I could hardly picture her at his side at these events, but perhaps that wasn't expected at the time.  I read this obituary and realized that Nana's life must have been so different than what I imagined...or was it?  I wish I had paid attention to all her stories.  She and Maurice never had children so who is there to remember them now?

FOLLOW UP - It didn't take long after posting this that something occurred to me...there's no age or date of birth for Maurice.  All that great information and it isn't mentioned.  It's not impossible to find clues to a birth for him (military records, burial, SSDI) but it was just plain surprising that with all the great information in there nothing on his birth.  Heck...very little on his family in general!