Following A Shiny Star Into A Genealogy Black Hole

I try to be an organized, thoughtful researcher who plans every move in advance.  Reality looks different then my dreams.  I have research that I need to analyze and enter into my genealogy software.  I use my research log but not consistently (a goal again this year to work on).  I also get sucked into genealogy black holes every now and then.

Supermassive_black_hole

I will get sucked in so fast and so hard by some random side line of research that I do not even realize what has occurred.  When I come up for air a couple of hours later, there is not much to show for it.  Except me with my eyes wide-eyed and glassy and hair sticking out in every direction like it was electrocuted.

I have been working on my family tree at FamilySearch by adding documentation and photos, attaching sources, and adding siblings.  Yesterday after adding a transcription of the obituary for Lydia Ummel, my house was suddenly engulfed by a HUGE genealogy black hole.

It started with a quick search for anything about Lydia Ummel in Juinata County, Pennsylvania. This was listed as her birthplace in the obituary.  Not finding anything, the search then detoured to the Ohio Marriages database at FamilySearch.  There I found a record of Lydia’s marriage to William Lawbaugh in Wayne County, Ohio on 22 November 1849.

I really got in deep when I Googled “Lydia Ummel Ohio”.  I found a reference to Lydia on a record for Joseph Ummel on MyHeritage.  I was excited because as a member of the Southern California Genealogical Society I can log into that database from home.  There was a biography of Joseph Ummel posted that named his Lydia as his sister.

At this point I had a feeling I was onto something and opened Evernote on my laptop.  I started clipping everything I was finding so I would have breadcrumbs when I returned to reality.

I was able to get a partial read of the title of the book at the top of the article about Joseph Ummel.  Another tab was opened in Chrome to now do a Google search for Joseph in Elkhart, Indiana.  I found the full biography using the Google Book search.  In “Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties Indiana”, pages 748-749, is a complete rundown of the life of Joseph Elkhart.  Not only does the biography name his four sisters, I now have he names of his parents!

Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St Joseph Counties Indiana, Goodspeed Brothers, 1893, page 748.
Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St Joseph Counties Indiana, Goodspeed Brothers, 1893, page 748.

 

Of course, I could not stop myself and steamed ahead into the genealogy unknown.  After some searches at FamilySearch and Ancestry, I went back to my trusted friend Google.  A simple search for John Ummel had too many hits, but the same search on Google Books was akin to having winning lottery ticket.  The very first listing is for a book by Helen Ummel Harness titled “Ummel-Lambert Roots and Branches: The Family History of John Ummel (1861-1942) and Ella Lambert (1874-1951): Their Ancestors and Descendants, Including the Surnames Brumbaugh, Coughman, Gehman, Musselman, Nafzger, Unangst and Others.”  The book was not digitized on Google.  I clicked on the link to find a copy in a library which pops you over to WorldCat.  I happy to see that a copy of the book is at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

I opened yet another tab in Chrome to check the catalog for FamilySearch.  I was hoping the book had been microfilmed and I could order the film right away.  To my surprise, it has been digitized and is available online at FamilySearch!  The pages 31-54 include tons of information regarding John Ummel and Magdalena Nafzger.  It even goes back another couple of generations for the Nafzger line. I now have at least one more gateway ancestor on my list.

Ummel Book

It was time to come up for a breath of fresh air.  The first thing I did was send an email to a cousin who is researching the same line.  I was so excited to share the link to the book!  I then called my husband to ask him to pick up take-out since I had not been doing anything I was supposed to be.  After some family time and the kids were snuggled into bed, I attacked my laptop again to get some sources created and people entered into my database.

I still have some more work to do today for my finds yesterday but I am confident my notes in Evernote will lead me the right direction.  I also now have tons to research to do to find the sources listed in the Ummel Lambert Roots and Branches book.  Only a genealogist would be this happy to have more research to do!

I have never had such a successful genealogy black hole! I do not generally recommend chasing shiny stars into a genealogy black hole.  I will say that an occasional trip can be fun and it might have some results.  Just be sure to follow up after you finish your genealogy binge with good research skills such as citing your sources and analyzing the data.

Double Whammy! Another Genealogy Jackpot!

As a genealogist you can find small tidbits about family almost anytime of the year.  If you are lucky there will be a huge break through every year or two.  I have hit the big time twice in the last two months.  The genealogy gods have been showering me with kindness this year!  My first great find about finding the signature for my 6th great-grandfather can be found here.

I have been trying to identify a hometown in Hungary for over a year now for my mother-in-laws paternal line.  We are planning a family trip to Hungary this summer so there has been a lot of work done to identify the family and where they came from.  So far my mother-in-law’s paternal grandfather is a concrete wall reinforced with rebar.

I have been working her maternal great-grandparents line as my last hope for finding a place to visit in the homeland.  They are John Nagy and Elizabeth Varro from Hungary.  On Ancestry.com, I found an entry in the Naturalization Indexes for several men named John Nagy.  I was pretty sure I found “my” John since he lived at the same address as my John Nagy did in Whiting, Indiana.

Back in early December 2012 I sent a request to the Indiana State Archives for the naturalization paperwork.  Thankfully, when I sent the request I noted it in my research log.

Fast forward to April 2013.  As I am getting ready to visit my parents in Virginia and do some research at the Daughters of the American Revolution library, I notice on my research log that I still have not received a reply from Indiana regarding John Nagy.  I sent them a follow-up email to check where in the queue I was since our trip to Hungary in August is fast approaching.  I received a reply that they had misplaced my original request and would look at mine quickly.  I then received another email a week later informing me that the only courthouse in Lake County, Indiana they do not have in the Indiana State Archives is the one I need.(Of Course!!)  I was so grateful because the email included information about who I needed to contact to get the records I was looking for.

My next step was to contact the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society with my request for John Nagy’s naturalization paperwork.  Sure enough within 2 weeks a self-addressed envelope was delivered to my mailbox.  Genealogy Jackpot #2!

The Declaration of Intention lists his town of birth and his signature!!

Nagy, John signature

Even better, his Petition of Naturalization is a goldmine of information.  John Nagy was born in Jablonca, Hungary 15 February 1862.  He met a woman named Elizabeth who came from the town of Tenestene, Hungary. They were settled in Jablonca when they had their first child, Mary (my husband’s great-grandmother) in March 1890.  In late July 1890, just four months after Mary’s birth, the family boarded the Red Star Line in Antwerp, Germany.  They arrived in New York City, New York the 8th of August.  The family continued their travels to outside Chicago and settled in Whiting, Indiana.  They had five more children between 1896-1905.

Nagy, John Naturalization Petition

Holy Moly!  We have a town to visit on our trip this summer.  Jablonca now resides on the Slovakia side of the Hungary/Slovakia border.  It is about a three-hour drive outside of Budapest to the northeast.  I am so excited!!  My kids, my husband, and my mother-in-law will all get to visit a town of their direct line in Hungary/Slovakia.

Jablonca satellite view
View of Jablonca, Slovakia from Google Maps

Treasure Chest Thursday – Radvany Family in Whiting, Indiana

My first set of records I have given sweet genealogy love to from my Ancestry.com shoebox all pertain to the Radvany family.  They confirm the makeup of the family and where they resided from 1937-1943.  This information has been previously documented through other sources such as the federal census, obituaries and death records.

The family appears in the 1937, 1939, 1941, and 1943 Polk City Directories for Whiting, Indiana.

Polk's City Directory 1937 Whiting, Indiana
Polk’s City Directory 1937 Whiting, Indiana

The 1937 and 1939 directory list both Mary and her oldest son, William.  The 1941 directory lists Mary, William, and the second oldest daughter, Violet.  The oldest daughter Julia was already married and living with her husband.  The last directory in 1943 adds Walter to the family listing.  Walter was my husband’s grandfather.

Polk's City Directory 1943 Whiting, Indiana
Polk’s City Directory 1943 Whiting, Indiana

 

We also find evidence of the family in the 1940 federal census.  The family is headed by the widowed Mary.  (Louis Radvany died suddenly after being hit by a car in a neighboring town in 1930.  I have written about his passing here.)  The household lists the remaining children at home: William, 23; Violet, 17; Walter, 15; Gloria, 13; Angeline, 11.  William, the oldest son was the only person in the home to receive any income.  Sadly, the family was living through some very tough times.

1940 Federal Census, Whiting, Indiana
1940 Federal Census, Whiting, Indiana

 

All of the above records place the family at 2416 Schrage Avenue, Whiting, Indiana.  Below is a google map of the area today.  You will notice that the Radvany’s lived within a mile of Lake Michigan and immediately across the street from the Standard Oil plant (today it is a Chevron plant). All of the men in this family worked for Standard Oil.

2416 Schrage Avenue, Whiting, Indiana
2416 Schrage Avenue, Whiting, Indiana

 

Sunday’s Obituary – Elizabeth Nagy

Elizabeth Nagy is my husband’s great-great-grandmother.  She moved to the United States with her husband John Nagy from Hungary about 1889.  John and Elizabeth raised their family in and around Whiting, Indiana.

 

Death and Funeral Notices

NAGY – Elizabeth, age 75, of 1235 Steiber St, Whiting, passed away Friday, August 17th at 10:20 a.m. at her house.   Funeral services Monday, August 20th at 2p.m. from Baron Chapel, 1221 119th St, Whiting. Rev George E Francis of the First Methodist church of Whiting officiating.  Burial Elmwood cemetery, Hammond.  Survivors are 2 sons, Andrew of Hammond and John of East Chicago; 2 daughters, Mrs. Louis Radvany and Mrs. Brice Voight, both of Whiting; 13 grandchildren; 1 great-grandchild; 1 sister, Mrs. John Kollarick of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hammond Times, Hammond, Indiana, August 19, 1945, Page 24, column 1

This obituary is stock full of clues for me to follow-up on.  First I want to see if the First Methodist Church is still in existence.  If so, I am going to contact them to see if they have any information about my husband’s family.  I knew of all of the children’s names but the sister is a surprise.  I need to see if I can find John Kollarick to identify the first name of his wife.  I wonder how many other of Elizabeth’s siblings/family made the trip from Hungary to the United States.  If I am unable to identify where in Hungary Elizabeth immigrated from, maybe another one of her family members will have left a clue!

Chips In The Concrete Wall

The phrase “two steps forward, one step back” has been in my thoughts the last couple of days.  Some forward progress was made in my quest to locate where in Hungary Louis Radvany and Mary Nagy were born.  I also hit my head against that concrete wall at the same time. The previous posts I have written about this research are My Wall Is Made Of Concrete and Mystery Monday – Unraveling the Radvany Secrets.

I wish more of my (or my husband’s) ancestors lived in Indiana.  The people and government offices I have contacted in the last several weeks have been amazing.  Great service and lightning speed on delivery of documents.

Two weeks ago our mailman delivered the death certificates for Louis, Mary, and their son, William.  The death certificates for Mary and William confirmed the information that I had already found in their obituaries but also added new information for each of them.  The cause of death for Mary was a heart attack.  The highlight was finding her mother’s maiden name – Elizabeth Viro.

William died in the garage of his home due to carbon monoxide poisoning.  His death was ruled a suicide.  The death certificate disputes the story of William’s younger sister that the ex-boyfriend of William’s girlfriend killed him and then made it look like a suicide.  I want to check to see if there are any coroner’s record to back up the death certificate.  William’s death certificate also indicates that he was a World War II veteran.  I need to add finding his military records to my research plan.

Receiving Louis Radvany’s death certificate in the mail was the biggest find.  I did not know his date of death prior to the death certificate. I only knew that my husband’s grandfather was young when he died.  I guessed the correct five-year range when applying for the death certificate.  Louis died November 16, 1930.   It listed his parents as Stephen Radvany and mother Unknown.  Unfortunately the cause of death section of the certificate is illegible.

There are a couple of family stories regarding his death.  The first is that he was a spy for Hungary and when he decided to quit being a spy, he was killed.  The second story was that he was hit by a bus.  I was skeptical about both stories.  It turns out that the second one comes close to the truth.

After receiving the death certificate, I immediately sent a request to the Lake County Library for an obituary for Louis’ death.  The obituary was actually a front page story, “Pedestrian Fatally Hurt By Autoist.”  Louis was hit by a door handle of a passing car.  The car was driven by a man accompanied by his family.  Louis died before the ambulance reached the hospital.  The man was held by local police pending an investigation.  Again, I need to check to see if there is any access available to the coroner’s records.

The genealogy question I am trying to answer is where were Louis Radvany and Mary Nagy born?  I have made some positive steps forward for Mary by identifying both of her parent’s names.  This is key since she immigrated with them as a baby.  While I have filled in stories about Louis’ life, I am still no where close to finding where he was born.  I still have some action items on my research plan to follow-up on.  I will keep you posted!

 

 

My Wall Is Made Of Concrete

My mother-in-law has told me that she wants to visit Hungary next year.  This is the land of her paternal line.  The only problem is that we do not know anything beyond her grandfather.  It is time to break down a wall!  I have to admit that I have not put much effort into this wall because it seems to be made of Eastern European concrete at first glance.

Her father, Walter, was born in Indiana in 1924 to Louis and Mary Radvanyi. Walter (Wally) was the 4th child and second son born to Mary and Louis.  His siblings were Julia, William, Violet, Gloria, and Angeline.

Family lore has Louis illegally immigrating to the United States around 1900 through Canada.  It also states that Louis came to the U.S. as a spy for Hungary and died when he quit being a spy in the 1930’s.  This story was told to my mother-in-law by her Aunt Julia (the oldest child).

What we do know is that Wally’s birth certificate confirms the names of his parents.  I have found Louis Radvanyi’s WWI Draft Registration Card.  It places Louis in Whiting, Indiana working for Standard Oil.  His birthdate is listed as December 28, 1883.  His nearest relative is his wife, Mary.  I have also found a marriage index that lists the marriage between Louis Radvanyi and Mary Nagy on November 21, 1914.

I have located the family in the 1920, 1930, and 1940 US Federal Census enumerations.  The 1920 census lists Louis and Mary along with their children, Julia and William.  There are three boarders living with the family.  This census also indicates that Louis came to the US in 1904.

The 1930 census again confirms known information about the family.  The family is listed as Louis, Mary, Julia, William, Violet, Walter, Gloria, and Angeline.  The family last name has lost its “i.”  This census puts Louis’ arrival in 1903 and Mary’s arrival in 1889.  The birthplace is listed as Hungary for Louis and Austria for Mary.

The 1940 census brings sad news.  Mary is now a widow and her son William, now 23, is the sole breadwinner for the family.  My mother-in-law remembers stories her father told of the poverty his family faced during this time period.

I have also found Mary in the 1910 census with her parents, John and Elizabeth Nagy.  Mary is the oldest of six children.  The year of birth (1888) matches known information.  Her parent’s birthplace is listed as Hungary/Maygar.  Mary is the only child in the family to be born in Hungary.  All of her siblings were born in Indiana.  This matches the information regarding arrival in the US found on the 1930 census.

I was unable to locate Louis Radvanyi in the 1910 census.  I am also unable to locate John and Elizabeth Nagy and their family in the 1900 census.

The 1920, 1930, and 1940 census enumerations indicate that both Louis and Mary became naturalized citizens at some point.  I have tried to get copies of their records through NARA.  They were unable to locate any paperwork.

Did I mention that I do not know when Louis Radvanyi died?  The best information I have been given is that Wally was young.  For now, I have a ten year range to work with.

My plan of attack is to start catching up on some vital records. I have sent requests to the State of Indiana for death records for Louis, Mary, and William (the older son).  I have also sent a letter to Lake County to get a copy of the marriage certificate for Louis and Mary.  Lastly, I have sent off to the Hammond Public Library in Lake County for copies of the obituaries of Mary and William.  I also need to follow-up with the State of Indiana to see if they have any naturalization records for Mary and Louis.

I am hoping that this first round of attack helps take large chunks out of my wall.  I will keep you updated how my search progresses.

Census Sunday – The 1940 Indexes Are Here

Most people know that the 1940 U.S. Census was released on April 2nd.  At the time of its release, there was no index for the census.  You had to search by enumeration district to find your family members.  I was able to find most of the family on my ‘most wanted’ list.  There were a couple of families on my husband’s side that had to wait for an index because they had no known address for 1940.

After the census was released, I helped with transcribing efforts by participating at FamilySearch.org.  This was the crowd-sourcing effort to index the census for free.  There was also a simultaneous effort taking place at Ancestry.com.  The indexing at Ancestry.com was outsourced to several companies located outside of the United States.

This week Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org both announced that the transcribing has been completed.  FamilySearch has most states up and ready to search.  The remaining states are completed and will finish a quality check before they are posted to the Internet in the next couple of weeks.  Ancestry.com has all states ready to search on their website.  Both sites offer free access to the 1940 census.

I took a spin yesterday on the Ancestry.com index in an effort to find my husband’s Chicago area relatives.  Up first was the Radvany family living in Whiting, Indiana.  I searched using the last name and the location.  They were the first family listed in the search results.  I will post their individual census record on another Sunday.

The second family I wanted to locate includes my husband’s grandmother.  I knew this search would be a little tricky.  Gwendolyn (June) Fuller and her mother, Loretta, moved to Chicago after Loretta divorced June’s father.  Sometime between 1930 and 1940, Loretta was married a second time to Alexander Fraser.  I knew that there could be a lot of last name variables when looking for this family.  I was unable to locate the family by searching for a mix of first names and last names.  I then tried using variations of Fraser but still no luck.  My next plan of attack was to search using the first names for mother/daughter or spouse/spouse.  Bingo!  Using the location and first names only for Loretta and Alex*, I found them transcribed with the last name Troger.  I have already added name variations to this family.  I cannot fault the transcriber for this entry.  The census enumerator did not have very clear handwriting.  In fact, if I had transcribed this page I would have gotten it wrong also.

I will be interested to see how Grandma June is indexed in FamilySearch.org.  Illinois is one of the states that still needs to be posted on that website so I will have to wait a couple of weeks.