Woman’s research begins with old photo’s – Article from the FrederickNewsPost.com by Courtney Pomeroy

Below please find a link to the story the Frederick News Post published about a photo album from 1936, Germany.  The reporter was awesome and so fun to work with.  She had a lot of details and pulled them together nicely.  Thank you Courtney.

Woman’s research begins with old photos
Originally published December 23, 2012
By Courtney Pomeroy 

View additional photos: Previous Next
Woman’s research begins with old photos
Photo by Sam Yu

Amateur genealogist Sharon Crisafulli holds a book from 1936 Germany detailing a wedding that she obtained from a local flea market. In her research, Crisafulli found a relative of the couple and will be returning the book to Germany.

Sharon Crisafulli’s latest favorite photograph is of people she never met.

Taken at a 1936 wedding in Koblenz-Winningen, Germany, the picture shows just the bride and the groom. It was taken from below, as if the photographer was sitting in a chair. The couple face the lens arm in arm. The bride’s eyes are closed, but her mouth forms a wide, tooth-baring smile, and she clutches her bouquet. The groom’s eyes are fixed on the camera. With his hands in his pockets, he appears to be in the middle of uttering a sentence. A joke, maybe? His bride looks to be laughing, after all.

Crisafulli can’t know for sure. Part of the reason she likes the picture so much is that she never will.

“It’s not a great picture,” she said. “But it’s the one I keep coming back to time and time again.”

While the details of moments captured in antique photographs remain a mystery, Crisafulli gets a thrill from finding out what she can about the people in them. She is good at it, too. She just came across the wedding album containing this picture in November, but she already knows plenty about the couple, Harald Koethe and Anneliese Schwebel. She has even found a living relative of Schwebel’s, and she plans to return the book to the family.

Crisafulli did not come across the book by accident. She collects such treasures. She calls them items of “genealogical interest,” and her hobby is researching the people they belonged to and, if possible, returning her finds to their descendants.

The blue, leather-bound wedding book turned up at, of all places, the Feagaville Flea Market in Frederick.

In her day job at Long & Foster Real Estate, Crisafulli is a sales manager. She inherited her extracurricular activity from her father, who enjoyed doing research into family lines and local history, she said.

“He just instilled in me this love of genealogy,” she said.

Most of her research is on local families, including the Clarke, Gardiner, Sullivan and Fealy lines. She scours websites such as ances try.com and genealogy blogs similar to her own — trace myorigin.com. Sometimes, she researches names from random antique gravestones.

Earlier this year, her hobby gained new meaning. While researching her Clarke family ancestors (as in Clarke Place in downtown Frederick), she came across an old post on a message board from the year 2000. The writer mentioned that she had the death notice of Horace Clarke. Crisafulli, hoping she could connect more than a decade after the post was written, responded and asked the woman to send photos of the Clarkes, if she had them.

To her amazement, the woman replied, and she had pictures — including one of Crisafulli’s great-grandparents on their wedding day. The woman turned out to be distantly related to Crisafulli by marriage. She had inherited the decades-old family album and gladly turned it over when she realized it had belonged to Crisafulli’s great-great-grandmother.

“I have this incredible family treasure that I feel was just a gift out of nowhere,” she said. “I want someone else to get that satisfaction.”

So, she tracked down Anneliese Schwebel’s nephew.

A recent blog post is a plea for information about living relatives of Samuel Estill and Rosa Mills. Crisafulli has their marriage certificate, which dates back to 1872.

Her mother, Betty Gardiner, admires her daughter’s efforts.

“It’s just incredible how dedicated she is to it,” Gardiner said. “A lot of people have fun watching TV or something. Well, this is her fun.”

When Crisafulli gets lost in one of her projects, Gardiner is reminded of her late husband.

And, at their 2010 family reunion in Ireland, Crisafulli’s talents came in handy.

“She knew so much and enlightened all of the cousins,” Gardiner said.

Crisafulli knows plenty about her own ancestry. But she wishes she could find out more about Schwebel.

“She has become so real to me that I feel like she’s a heroine in my favorite novel,” she said.

Because Schwebel’s family included Nazi soldiers, Crisafulli has been unable to learn much through historical societies and other sources in Germany, she said.

What she does know, courtesy of an online database of World War II casualties, is that Harald Koethe died in the war in 1944, less than a decade after his wedding to Schwebel.

“I want to know what happened to her after Harald died,” Crisafulli said. According to her research, Schwebel lived until 2000.

While she may never piece together the rest of Schwebel’s story, Crisafulli has told her daughters, who are 21 and 19, that she hopes to someday have a grandchild named Anneliese, in honor of the beautiful German bride in the small, blue book.

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Treasure Chest Thursday – The Discovery of a Lifetime

I love google and use it in my genealogical research daily.  Not knowing how the search engines and all of their little robots crawlers worked I am often amazed and sometimes frustrated by the search results.  Today however, with the help of my good friend google, I have unearthed a family treasure.

While searching for information on “Horace Woodward Clarke” the following query was returned:

“Trying to identify a picture that may be a Clarke. Picture was taken in Stewartstown, York Co, Pa. No dates – no names. But with the pictures was this card: Mrs. Horace Woodward Clarke gratefully acknowledges with deepest appreciation your kind remembrance and sympathy. If you are interested you can e-mail me.”

My heart started pumping quickly and my palms got sweaty (genealogists can relate).  I scrolled to the end of the post and saw that it was dated November 2000.  Hmmm twelve years ago – I clicked the email listed and typed ”

“Hi there: I know that this is a stab in the dark, but I saw your posting from 2000 about the above photo.  If you are still around I would love to compare notes and assist you if I can.”

I stared at my inbox (for what felt like an eternity) waiting for the dreaded bounce back message.  Nothing….it must have been delivered and the address must still be valid.

After an exchange of emails and answering questions we verified that I was indeed related to the surnames in the photo album.  What is ironic is the holder of this album is in no way directly related to me nor any of the people in the album.  It had been inherited it from her Aunt who had passed away nearly ten years ago.

Keep in mind at this point I still had not seen any of the photographs in the album.  I just provided surnames and geographical information.  Just to make sure that we were on 100% certain photograph scans would be completed and sent to me.

On Monday morning while sitting at my desk an email came in from the email address (the album holder) that I now had memorized. The subject line read, “pictures.”  Now for the moment of truth.  I clicked on the email and the picture below was embedded:

Inez Bowlen & H. Bernard Gardiner

My jaw dropped as I was looking at the wedding photograph of my great grandmother and grandfather.  I am never this fortunate.  Must of my clues result in dead ends.  Today was a different story!

After identifying several other photo’s we knew that some how, some way that this phot album had once been in the hands of my ancestors.

We set a meeting to get together and view the album together.  I must confess that I did not get very much sleep the night before our meeting.  A million questions floated through my head as well as visions of dead ancestors dancing in my head.

On the day of our meeting we set around her dining room table.  Tears filled my eyes with each page I turned.  Familiar faces (and some unidentified) where staring back at me. Through deductive reasoning and inscriptions on the photo’s we concluded that in my hands was the family album of my three times great grandmother – Ann Frances Green Gardiner (1827-1902) .

Ann F. Green was the daughter of Giles T. Green (1803-1863 ) and Deborah Kirkwood (1802-1846).  had no idea . On the back of a photograph of a handsome man was written…To my Ann Frances Green from her father.

To Ann Frances Green from her Father

Now, after 20 years of researching, I can place a face to the name. Through the use of google’s Picaso Ablum I uploaded all of the photo’s and sent sharing requests to all living relatives that may 1. enjoy seeing the photo’s and 2. help identify some of the nameless faces. After combing our family trees we finally determined a connection between our two lines. Dot was the niece of my fist cousin twice removed husband.  The couple where childless and after they passed the sister of Clarence retained the album.  Dot would hold this album until her death in 1991 – over 25 years after the death of her brother.  It then went into the hands another family member who maintained the album for another 20 years.  This last holder of the album was the 1st great grand niece of husband of 1st cousin 2x removed.  How is that for a “distant” relative.  However distant the relation may be she is someone that I will always hold close to my heart.  She is a kind and generous soul, who gave my back my great grandmother’s photo album and the gift of a lifetime.

Can anyone translate this for me? Assuming it is German?

Madness Monday – Looking for descedants of Samuel Estill & Rosa Mills

I am looking to a pay it forward and do a good deed! Through my auction scout,  I recently came into the possession of an original marriage certificate for Samuel Estill (1824-1890) &  Rosa Mills (1852-1907). They were married in Menard County, Illinois in the year 1872. I have contacted several Ancestry trees owners with the subjects –  and to date no response. I would love to place this treasured heirloom in the hands of a descendant. Please share this post so we can return to the rightful owner.  I am not looking to sell this – only return for FREE.

Happy Fourth of July!

Tomorrow, the 4th of July,  we will be celebrating the birth of American independence!   On July 4th, 1776,  Congress formally adopted The Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.  The courage, intelligence and wisdom of our founding fathers is awe inspiring.  In a concise document – they laid the foundation for liberty and freedom. I feel both privileged and honored to have descended  from three signers of the Declaration.

They are: Francis Lightfoot Lee (1st cousin 8x removed), Button Gwinnett ( 7th cousin 11 times removed) and Charles Carroll of Carrollton ( 3rd cousin 7X removed).

In closing I share a popularly quoted phrase from the Declaration“WE hold these Truths to be self evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

God Bless America!


My daughter the writer…

I used to sit on the edge of your bed and watch you sleep. Tiny cherub face, strawberry blond curls falling loosely on your pillow. Your tiny nose kissed by the sun awash with freckles. I would wonder what life had in store for you. Where would this journey take you, and most importantly where did you want to go.

Today, a decade later, I find myself doing the same thing. The physical composition has changed, You have grown, matured and your journey has begun.I am so proud and privileged to be viewing your life unfolding before my eyes like the petals of a beautiful rose.

Most people go through life afraid, You Caitlin do not. I hope this is something that you embrace for the rest of you life. You have goals, aspirations and dreams. But most importantly you have the courage and the DNA to succeed.

Today I awoke, and realized that a piece of life’s puzzle has been placed. You, my daughter, are a writer. It was meant to be. You started writing in elementary school and mesmerized us with you tales and poetry. Truman Capote said “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that the words make.”

Like all great writers your words have the power to take people on a journey. Virginia Woolf took us into a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway; Jane Austen’s words so real made us feel the pain of the Dashwood sisters life and loves and Louisa May Alcott who took a coming of age story about sisters’ turned the character “Jo March” into a witty, independent, real person.

I am excited about your journey and look forward to seeing the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Keep writing, keep believing, never stop dreaming. You are my Jo March. It is only fitting that I conclude with the words of Mark Twain…”Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.


Madness Monday – Delzell Family from Maryland

How does an entire family disappear?  There is literally no trace of this family after the 1850 census taken in Rockville, Maryland. 

Sarah Ann Robinson Worthing Clarke  married Robert Delzell on February 15, 1848 in Frederick, MD.  Delzell has several spelling variants and I have tried them all!

In August of 1850 the family in residing in Rockville, Maryland:

Robert Delzell (b. ca 1825) – head of house

Sarah Delzell (b. ca 1830) wife

James Delzell (b. ca 1848) son

Elizabeth Clarke (b. ca. 1794) mother-in-law

1850 Census Rockville, MD

 From a family bible I know that they had several other children

James W. N. Delzell (twin) b. 17 Dec 1848

Frances W. R. Delzell  (twin) b. December 17 Dec 1848 – she does not appear on the census perhaps she was decesed by 1850

Mary Ellen Delzell b. 23 Nov 1849 – d. 12 Dec1849

Charles Ridgely Delzell b. 13 Feb 1851 – d. 18 Jul 1851

Amanda Milvina Fitzellen Delzell b. 16 May 1852

Robert Basil Delzell b. 12 Jan 1854

Did all of the children pass away?  Looks like they suffered several deaths of infants. Since the mother Sarah got married again I assume that her husband also passed away sometime bet. 1850 and 1855.

On 18 Oct 1855,  Sarah Ann Robinson Worthington Clarke Delzell would marry John F. Carder in Allegany, Maryland.

After that I cannot find them anywhere.  Can anyone offer any clues?

Tombstone Inscription Explained

In a previous post http://tracemyorigin.com/2012/03/tombstone-tuesday-im-ready-now/ I shared the heart breaking story of the death of  little Horace Miller Clarke, 5 year old. The chilling inscription on his tombstone simply stated “I’m ready now.”  Intrigued by the three simple words I continued researching and found this telltale article regarding his death:


LITTLE MILLER..five year old son of Mr.& Mrs.HORACE N.CLARK, died in Milan Monday and was buried Tuesday. Rev.Dr.WEAVER conducting the services, Before the little sufferer died he called his mother and father, grandfather and grandmother (Mr.& Mrs.MILLER) to his bedside, and after kissing each one good bye, said,”now I’m ready to go.” “Angels were waitiing to receive him and his pure soul took its flight.”  A special train went up from Jackson carrying a large number of friends of Mr.& Mrs.CLARK, who wished to attend the funeral. Mr.W.D.ROBINSON, the undertaker,went up Monday afternoon and embalmed the body, and was as expected, its appearance was not charged up to the time of the funeral. The little child looked as lifelike as if he had only fallen asleep. Mr.ROBINSON had charge of the funeral and cars were provided on which he carried his horses, carriages and elegant white hearse, and after the funeral, they were returned to Jackson the same way.

A special thank you to http://files.usgwarchives.net/tn/madison/newspapers/forked1885.txt for posting the newspaper article.


Wordless Wednesday – Henry Bernard Gardiner

My Great Grandfather.  It has been told that his hair turned white overnight after his young son was killed on railroad tracks.


Tombstone Tuesday – “I’m ready now”


While combing through the Frederick County Historical Society’s collection I stumbled across an entry in the Margaret Myers Collection.  “Married Horace W. Clarke & Katie Miller – October 1st 1881 – Milan, Tennessee.  There aren’t that many Horace Clarke’s in the area so I knew it was my family line.

But what I didn’t know was that he had been married to a Miss Kate Miller.  Horace Clarke was a famous railroader who descended from one of the most illustrious railroad men of all time his father – James C. Clarke.

Horace’s railroad career would relocate him from Frederick to the Tennessee area.  He married Kate Miller, daughter of Hezekiah and Julia Miller.  Her father, also know as H.P. Miller, was proprietor of the Southern Pacific Hotel.

I was so excited to see he had produced an offspring as this was the end of the Clarke line.  But my excitement was short lived when I found the obituary for his one and only son.  Horace Miller Clarke (1883-1887).

Little “Miller Clarke”, died at the age of five at the home of his grandfather.

The exquisitely carved stone denotes a cherubic boy with a writing instrument in his hand tracing over the words, “I’m Ready Now.’

I can only imagine the pain of losing a child at such an early age.  The love for the child is evident by the stunning stone they erected in memoriam of this sweet little angel.  Little Miller Clarke, as he is identified, lies in eternal peace beside his maternal grandparents, H.P. and Julia Miller.  I do not know what become of his mother, Kate Miller Clarke.

His father Horace would go on to marry again in  1903 to Miss Virginia Alice Shriner from Frederick, Md.  Horace passed away in 1912 and interred in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Frederick, MD ,in the prestigious family plot adorned by a large obelisk monument.

May you rest in peace and now that you are not forgotten..

Special thanks and credit for all of the photo’s is kindly extended to Toni Kee.  Toni is a contributor and volunteer for www.findagrave.com who took the photo’s and sent them to me.  It is with permission from Toni that I share the enclosed photographs.  Click the link to see the listing on findagrave.com.