Sunday, September 27, 2015

Amanuensis Monday - Louis Joseph Villers' Funeral

This funeral notice for Louis Villers was in a family scrapbook. No obituary, just the short and not so sweet funeral notice. I already have Louis down in my research calendar for an obit-pull when I go home to Wisconsin for Christmas. I'm hoping I'll find one that's a little more satisfying than this.

"Louis Villers - At Schauer and Schumacher Funeral Home after 6:30 tonight. Rosary, 8 tonight and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Daughters of Isabella. Funeral services, 9 a.m. Monday, Cathedral, the Rev. John Gehl. Allouez Cemetery. Mr. Villers died Thursday evening in a local hospital after a short illness. He was a lifelong resident of Green Bay and worked for the Green Bay Apostolate for 22 years." (handwritten July 7, 1960).

So who was Louis Villers? This funeral notice is pretty sparse. It doesn't tell us much and it's certainly not incredibly accurate.

Louis was not a lifelong resident of Green Bay. In the 1880 census he is listed with his parents, Martin Joseph and Octavia Villers nee Waguener, in Ahnapee, Kewaunee county, Wisconsin. In 1896 he was married in Lincoln, Kewaunee county and in the 1900 census he and his wife, Mary Frances, are in Algoma, Kewaunee county. It's not until the 1910 census that he is living in Green Bay.

As for if the rest of the information is accurate or not it's hard to tell...there's not a lot there. I was a bit surprised to see that it gave where he worked for 22 years, but not who he had been married to for over 50 years. Of course his wife predeceased him so perhaps this is why.

Aside from his parents (listed above) Louis Joseph Villers had four siblings: Florence, Mary Ann Octavia, Alta Ellen/Ella, and Agnes. He and his wife, Mary Frances, had one daughter, Eva. Louis Villers has a FindAGrave memorial I created a few years back. His wife, Mary Frances, is on the same stone. He is my husband's 2nd great uncle.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Amanuensis Monday - The Death of Martin Joseph Villers

Bismarck Daily Tribune, April 4, 1904, pg 1

Martin Joseph Villers was is of those people in a family tree that adds interest to genealogy research, while at the same time you wish he wasn't there. No one wants a murderer in their family tree, but sometimes those people are there and you can't change it. Martin Joseph was convicted of doing some horrible things (see below for links to other posts), but I'm not sorry he existed. The way his wife was written of in her obituary shows that she was well-liked/respected, and they had five children together that (to my knowledge) were respectable members of society. Without this man in our family tree there would be no family tree for my husband or my children. They would never have been born.

I am fascinated by this man's story because I want to know why he did what he did. Unfortunately, the newspaper articles on both of his trials (yes there were two for two different crimes) don't do much to explain the whys. Did he do it for land the man he killed owned? Why not just buy some then? Could he not afford it? Was there a falling out between Villers and the man he killed from whom, I believe, he was renting the land? Was he just a wicked man? That last one I just don't want to believe, but it's possible. In the 1880 US Federal Census Villers' occupation was a policeman. I know that doesn't make him a good man. There have always been people that sought out positions of trust and power to abuse them. Was that why or did he used to be good and something inside him snapped? I want to believe that there was a catalyst.

He was a model prisoner when he was in jail, but he was also sick. Either way he behaved himself once he got there and that gave me hope that he might not have been all bad. It doesn't excuse the bad and being sick and well-behaved behind bars certainly didn't garner any sympathy from the public. In fact, as far as being ill went, the public thought he was faking. He proved them wrong. On April 4th, 1904 he died in prison:

"A Life Prisoner is Dead

Death of M. J. Villers, Life Prisoner at the Penitentiary, with a Gruesome Record of Crime

M. J. Villers, a life prisoner in the penitentiary from LaMoure county, died Sunday of cystitis. He has been ill for several years, in fact having come to the institution seven or eight years ago in such poor health that he was at once put under medical care.  The case of Villers was one of the most interesting from a criminal standpoint of any in the institution. He was first brought to the penitentiary in 1895 for an assault upon Mrs. August Tromner. The history of the case briefly is as Follows: In the year 1895 or thereabouts August Tromner, a farmer living in LaMoure county disappeared. No one knew of his whereabouts, although the last seen of him he was with Villers. Some time after he disappeared, Villers went to the Tromner place, assaulted Mrs. Tromner and threw her in an old well, at the same time firing the barn. He thought no doubt he had killed the woman but she managed to crawl out of the well and crawled to the neighbors stating what had been done. Villers was arrested and sentenced to nine and a half years in the penitentiary. After he had been in the institution for a year or so, a farmer, plowing in the field, saw some bones that had evidently been thrown up by a badger. Further investigation disclosed the remains of a man who had been buried in the field, but in such a state of decay that identification was impossible except for some articles which had been buried with him and which were identified by Mrs. Tromner as having belonged to her husband. Suspicion was at once directed to Villers as having killed Tromner and buried his body there and an order was obtained from the district court of that district for the return of Villers from the state penitentiary for trial. He was tried for the murder of Tromner, found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for life, being at the time of his death serving the life sentence. Villers was in his 62d year at the time of his death. A coroner's inquest will be held, as provided by law in the case of prisoners dying at the penitentiary. Villers is the second lifer to die in the past few months, the other having been Thomas Swidensky, who was convicted for the murder of Mrs. Kent at Mandan."

I can't call it an obituary. It isn't one and I had, perhaps unrealistically, hoped to find one. Even though some of his children who lived in North Dakota had visited him in jail for Thanksgiving (Bismarck Daily Tribune, 29NOV1897, pg 2) it would appear that he was brushed off eventually...or perhaps they just didn't want to draw attention to the events after he passed.

The wonderful people at the North Dakota Historical Society have helped me with information on MJ Villers previously. I contacted them recently to see if they knew if there was a cemetery on the penitentiary grounds and if not where would he have been buried. I was told that the Burleigh County, ND, Remembrance Book has him buried in St. Mary's Cemetery. I created a FindAGrave memorial for him when I got the information. They also sent me a copy of the article transcribed above (aren't they absolutely the best?!?

After creating that memorial I requested a photo. I wasn't overly hopeful. His wife, Octavia Villers nee Wagner (various spellings exist and I believe this was Americanized) is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Stutsman County and not with him. I found out in early June that there is no tombstone for him. A wonderful FindAGrave volunteer, Brian Backes, contacted the cemetery office and discovered it was unmarked. No tombstone for him. I lean more to thinking that was a family decision. He wasn't mentioned in his wife's obituary either.

No doubt he did terrible things, and I wish I had some good stories for him to be remembered by. I don't, but he will be remembered for the wonderful family that he fathered. Rest in peace, Martin.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Wednesday's Child - Nancy May Bronsavage

The Plain Speaker, 28SEP1944, pg 20
This clipping is another of those that I had the choice of it being too small to read or ridiculously large but legible. I chose the latter. sent me an automated email one day letting me know that there were some new additions to their collections that included some of my saved searches (I love that!) so when I got to the "Bronsavage" link this was one of the articles I saw and I was surprised and grieved.

"Girl At W.H. Killed By Car

Nancy May, five-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs Michael Bronsavage, of 107 East Cranberry avenue, West Hazleton, was fatally injured at 6:15 last evening by an automobile operated by Albert Miller, of 207 East Broad street, West Hazleton.

She was taken to the State Hospital by Miller and Raymond Schneider, driver for the West Hazleton Fire Company, at 6:22 and succumbed three minutes later from a fractured skull.

According to Chief of Police Carl O. Meiss of West Hazleton, Miller, who is constable of the First Ward in that borough, delivered a prisoner to the West Hazleton lockup.

Coming out of the building he drove around it to Clay avenue where the accident occurred near the girl's home.

According to Miller he did not see the girl but when he noticed another girl standing nearby with a frightened expression he stopped his car and found the injured child in the street.  The West Hazleton authorities are checking today to ascertain whether she was hit crossing the street or ran into the side of the car. No dents were found on the auto.

Chief Meiss was assisted in the investigation by Lieutenant Edward Waitkus and Patrolman Andrew Scheagan.

Miller appeared before Justice of the Peace John Nensteil, of West Hazleton and furnished bail in the amount of $2500 on a charge of involuntary manslaughter by automobile.

Deputy Coroner John J. Salvator, Jr., was called and after investigating, issued a certificate of death cause by automobile accident.

The child is survived by the parents.

The child's mother is the former Helen Krupko (sic), of Coxeville.

The funeral will be held Saturday at 9 a.m., from the family home. Mass of the Angels will be held in Ss. Peter and Paul's Lithuanian Church at 9:30 a.m.

Interment will be made in the parish cemetery."

I knew Nancy May Bronsavage existed. I may have even been told that she died young, but when people tell me things in passing with no proof I tend to let them go in one ear and out the other. Not to be rude, but because there are so many things going on in my mind regarding genealogy that as Sherlock said "I have to delete something."

Now that I've seen the article in black and white I'll most likely never forget it again. Seeing it is different than hearing that they had a daughter that died young. The details make it real. Having children myself makes it even more real. Losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare and you feel it even when the loss you read about is someone else's.

According to Michael's obituary Nancy May was the only child Michael and Helen Bronsavage nee Krupka ever had which makes this even more tragic.

I hadn't been able to find Michael, Helen, and Nancy Bronsavage in the 1940 census previously, but this article told me that they lived in ward 1 of West Hazleton. That narrowed it down to 34 pages to scan through on and I found them quickly. Their surname was transcribed as "Bronavage".  Only the "s" was missing so I would have expected the Ancestry search engine to have picked that up, but it didn't. Living with them was Michael's brother, Anthony Jr., and his surname was transcribed "Bonarrigo". I submitted correction for all of them and linked the record to my family tree.

Nancy May Bronsavage was born on May 21st 1939 and died on September 27th 1944. She was buried in Saints Peter and Paul Lithuanian Roman Catholic Cemetery on September 30th 1944 and has a memorial on FindAGrave. She is my first cousin once removed. Rest in peace sweet, little girl.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Medical Monday - My First Casualty from the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Death certificate - Alice Dougherty nee Fay
Alice Dougherty nee Fay is the first person I've come across in my research to have died from the 1918 flu pandemic. The cause of death was croupous pneumonia with influenza as a contributing factor. Croupous pneumonia is an outdated term. Today we call it acute lobar pneumonia.

I've done research on the "Spanish Influenza" outbreak of 1918 before. Sadly each time I've read The Great Influenza by John M. Barry I've meant to take notes and then failed to do so. Maybe the third time will be a charm. It's an excellent read, but does get technical in parts. That doesn't bother me, but when I go to pass on the information in a post I want to be able to do so correctly, and I'll need notes.

Either way it is incorrect to refer to this terrible pandemic as the "Spanish Flu." It did not begin in Spain as was originally though. The belief now is that it actually began in America and spread to Europe due to WWI. Think about that one. Lots of people in training camps to fight in the war. Lots of people moving around the world. More so than would have been normally. With an estimated 100 million people worldwide potentially killed by this flu outbreak I thought that I'd be counting the bodies in my family tree that succumbed...but that didn't happen.

Each time I came across someone that died in 1918 or 1919 I thought...yep...the flu got 'em. It didn't though.

Abraham Turnbach died in December 1918. He was electrocuted. He did repair work in the local coal mines and his death certificate says that he came in contact with "hot wires." He left behind a pregnant wife and quite a number of children.

Mary Turnbach nee Blanchfield, Abraham's wife, died in March 1919 of heart failure due to mitral regurgitation. They listed a contributing factor as "miscarriage." That may have been the terminology at the time, but we wouldn't call it miscarriage today. We'd call it a premature birth. The child, Joseph, lived...for two weeks.

Joseph Turnbach was born on March 7th 1919 and died on the 26th. His cause of death is difficult to read, but one of the components was malnutrition which was contributed to his premature birth. I suppose today we would say "failure to thrive."

Thank you to FindAGrave contributor Virginia (#47379955) for kind
permission to post her photo on my blog
Elizabeth "Bessie" Dugan nee Quirk died in December 1918 from placenta previa which caused Bessie to have a c-section. A contributing cause was separation of the placenta. Placenta previa and placental abruption (detachment of the placenta) are two different things, both of which are claimed on her death certificate. Her child, Elizabeth "Betty," survived (for a few years anyway).

So when I came across Alice's death certificate and saw pneumonia and the flu on there she became my first casualty. Alice and her husband, Francis Joseph Dougherty, had six children: William, Francis Joseph Jr., Leo, Mary, John, and Alice. All but two outlived their mom.

You can see on the tombstone above not only Alice's name, but those of her family buried with her. Alice died at the age of 35 and her husband, dying at the age of 84, never remarried. Her two little twins, Mary and John. Her daughter, Alice, married Matthew Gallagher and lived to the age of 91 while he only lived to the age of 48.

Despite having a husband and four little ones at home, Alice was the only one to succumb to this terrifying pandemic. Alice Dougherty nee Fay is my first cousin three times removed. Rest in peace, dear cousin.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - Philippe and Mary Therese Laurent nee Francar

I spent a little over a week in Wisconsin this summer. Not enough time to get to the historical society or the county library to do some record pulling. It was just too beautiful for that. Sunny and warm...but not too my boys and I relaxed and played with my in-laws. I did take two afternoons to head to St. Martin's Cemetery in Tonet and St. Joseph's Cemetery in Champion. I photographed every grave that had a semi-legible tombstone for BillionGraves. Then at night I spent time making sure that there was a FindAGrave memorial and/or photo for each as well. It was more time consuming than I expected, but well worth it.

Both of these cemeteries (and their respective churches...although St. Martin's is closed now) are only a few miles apart, down the same stretch of road. In between them on that same stretch of road is the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Another Catholic Church although this one has quite the interesting history. I've blogged about it before. It's the only Church-acknowledged Marian Shrine in the U.S. (although some will argue that point).

Philippe's tombstone is too difficult for me to make out
much...even in person!
I digress though. I was just struck by how close they all were. In a city it's not so unexpected, but in farm country I would have expected them to be a bit more spread out. Either way, they all play a part in my husband's family's history so I visit them when I can. With all of the worn and lichen-covered gravestones in St. Joseph's I wasn't hopeful finding the tombstones of Philippe and Mary, but I had to look. While I was there methodically taking pictures with the caretaker riding along mowing the grass, I was approached by a gentleman asking if I was looking for anyone in particular. I told him I was, but that I was also canvassing the cemetery. He was kind enough to tip me off to the fact that there is a website online that will tell you exactly where in the cemetery everyone in St. Joseph's was buried. (I imagine this is the website he was talking about) I thanked him and continued on my mission.

I'm always struck by how things play out. You think of someone that you haven't thought of in years and you get news of them, or perhaps a Facebook friend request soon after. The gentleman asks who I'm looking for and they turn up a couple tombstones down from where I was. It's just coincidence, but it's a lovely one.

The tombstones are difficult to read. I must go back there in the winter when the leaves are off the trees and bring a mirror to reflect light. I haven't actually attempted using a mirror before, but I've heard it recommended several times. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Seeing a ceramic photo on Mary Therese's tombstone was
absolutely thrilling!
So the tombstone of Mary Therese Laurent nee Francar was legible, but barely. The bigger surprise was the ceramic photo attached to the tombstone. I didn't expect one, but was delighted to discover one. I immediately shared it on Facebook and tagged my husband in the post so he could see his great-great grandmother. I rarely get much interest from my husband regarding genealogy, but this did earn a "that's cool!" response from him. Cool indeed. Cooler because of how unexpected it was especially considering the state of the tombstone.

"M. Therese Francar
wife of Philip Laurent
born Aug. 16 1850
died June 21 1916"

Philip's tombstone wasn't really possible for me to read even in person. I was able to make out whose tombstone it was, but not too much more. Maybe that mirror will (ahem) bring to light what my tired eyes could not see. As of right now all I know of Philip was that he was born around 1838 in Belgium and died between the 1905 Wisconsin state census and the 1910 Federal one. I may have to contact St. Joseph's in the meantime. I may burst not knowing and don't know if I can wait until December.

Mary Therese's tombstone is much easier to read
than her husband's
I was even more disappointed after finding the ceramic photo of M. Therese to see that there had been one for Philip that was now gone from his tombstone. The empty circle at the top made that particular loss felt. Perhaps someday, someone coming across this blog with a photo of Philip will be able to share it with me. It's got to be out there somewhere.

I was able to upload photos of M. Therese and Philip's tombstones to memorials already created on FindAGrave. I was even more thrilled when contributor, Lori Lyon, transferred both of their memorials to me!

So until December when I can revisit St. Joseph's and get a better picture (or just stubbornly get my face up close enough to figure out what Philip's says) I'll end here. Rest in peace, Philip and M. Therese!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Eleanor Prosser nee Brown

I decided to prepare some posts on the Neil and Bridget Brown (nee Brown) family. I recently uploaded my family tree onto Ancestry. I had been holding off wanting to get everything just perfect before uploading it. How silly is that though! Are we ever truly finished with our family trees? No! So I uploaded it, but kept it private. I know some people think it's counter-productive to keep it private, but I disagree. I can still interact with others and they can interact with me, but they have to contact me for most information as opposed to just copying it and running away. Isn’t that what we want anyway?

So as I was clicking on the little leaf-hints after uploading my tree I saw that someone else had a tree with people from my Brown line. I contacted her and asked if she wanted to collaborate. Since I was looking at this line’s information and hadn’t shared much I figured that now was a good time.

“Eleanor Brown Prosser

Hazleton Standard Speaker,
14OCT1972, pg 16
Mrs. Eleanor Brown Prosser, of 635 N. James St., died at 9 a.m. yesterday in St. Joseph Hospital, where she had been a patient since Sept. 22.

Born in this city where she spent the greater part of her life, she was a daughter of  the late Neil and Bridget (Brown) Brown, and was a member of St. Gabriel’s Church.

She was graduated from the former St. Gabriel’s High School and the Hazleton State General Hospital School of Nursing.

She was preceded in death by a brother, Neil and a sister, Mrs. William (Rita) Dermott.

Surviving are three sons, Thomas J., of Camp Hill; Robert C. and J. Paul, both of Reading; five grandchildren and the following brothers and sisters, Mrs. Nancy Harkins, Newark, Del.; Mrs. Clyde (Mary) Barth, James and Charles Brown, all of this city; Eugene, of Levittown; Paul, Meadville; John, of Philadelphia; and Mrs. Charles (Joan) Cann, this city.

The funeral will be held from the Boyle Funeral Home, 100 S. Wyoming St., at 9 a.m. Monday, with a Mass of the Resurrection in St. Gabriel’s Church at 9:30. Interment will be in the Calvary Cemetery, Drums.

Friends may call from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday.”

What wasn’t mentioned in this obituary was Eleanor’s husband’s name. I’ve seen plenty of obituaries where the spouse was mentioned and not the parents, but I haven’t seen many where the husband was left out. My assumption is that Rodney died before his wife. To me the fact that he isn’t listed as surviving Eleanor implies this, but I’ll have to see what I can turn up. So far nothing on Ancestry or confirms this, but I have little on Rodney to start from. He was a member of a family tree that my late cousin, Nancy O’Donoghue nee Brown, sent me and she had no dates of birth or death for him. As for Eleanor, she is my first cousin twice removed.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Funeral Card Friday - Eugene Dart

Thank you to Sally Marcelle for kind
permission to share this on my blog
I have a lot of memorial/funeral cards in my possession. As I was working on my family tree on one of the hints that I was given was this memorial card. It was uploaded by Sally Marcelle to her family tree. Rather than just grabbing it and posting it here or attaching it to my tree I emailed her to ask permission to share it. She very kindly granted it.

Eugene Joseph Dart was the child of Jean Baptiste Dart Sr and Marie Josephe Podor. They had six or seven (I just potentially found a new one, but haven't confirmed it yet) children: Jean Baptiste Jr, Marie Julienne, (Ferdinande...maybe), Jules Joseph, Eugene Joseph, Marie Antoinette Josephine, and Desira. Eugene is my husband's great, great grandfather.

On April 29, 1871* in Robinsonville, Wisconsin Eugene married Josephine Hermans in the Robinsonville Chapel. Together they had 12 known children: Louisa, Charles Antone, Jean Baptiste, Odile, Adolphe, Jule, Desirea, Mary, August Joseph, William, Eli Joseph, and Wilbert. Their daughter, Mary, is my husband's great grandmother.

Eugene and Josephine are buried in St. Martin's Cemetery in Tonet, Wisconsin.

*According to Josephine's obituary the couple was married on 30APR1870. Eugene's has 30APR1871. The Wisconsin Marriage Index they were actually married 29APR1871. I'll have to see if I have a hard copy of that certificate in my possession or if I'll need to pull one over Christmas when I'm back in Wisconsin.