Family Tree Program

One thing I want to do is with this blog is take a look at some of the different websites I use or have used over the years. There is nothing Brooklyn Genealogy specific about these sites, but they have been a big help. Right now I want to write about

Years ago the family tree was almost impossible to track a family with. You could only view the current “pedigree” version of the tree which only show an immediate family. Husband, wife, kids. At the time I was using, which allows you to build a normal viewable family all on one screen. I would print out each separate section of the tree that I was researching at the time, and be able to quickly check relations, dates of birth, date, marriage etc etc. It didn’t take long before a had around 200 ancestors in the family tree.

As times changed, so did the tree, which now only lets you add 100 family members in its free version. There was a time I paid for a year of membership to see if their version of “member connect” would match me up with distant family members building trees on the Geni site.

Unfortunately, somebody decided that I was related to them, and connected my family to theres. Long story short, I now have an additional 250 people in my family tree that are obviously not related to me. They are from Indiana. They were in Indiana way before my people came from Germany, and they are still in that part of the country. My family came from Germany and went straight to Red Hook, Brooklyn, and stayed there. None of the brothers and sisters in that family tree match any of the siblings in my tree. With all that being said, I guess Geni allows people to just go and attach trees for any reason, and now I am stuck with an entire tree full of relatives that I’m not related to because we both happen to have a John Zimmerman in our pool of ancestors.

I’m sure there is some way to undo this problem, but I can’t figure it out to save my life. I can’t even delete the members of the tree, presumably because I am not a paying member anymore and can not alter my over 100 member family tree. Whatever the problem is, it has kept me away from their website for a long time now.

Everything they do on now has been replicated by as far as I can tell. I think they charge a comparable price with almost none of the content that Ancestry offers. They have done one good thing though. If you follow the Facebook Page, you will get the little profile matches that connect random famous people. Something crazy like, “See how Mitt Romney is related to Barrack Obama”. Apparently they have genealogists that just focus on building as large a tree as possible for every known person that’s ever lived. When they make a connection, they post the link. They also have the market cornered on the “how are you related to this famous historical person” angle. The idea is that everybody is related to everybody else.

There is a certain logic out there that says if you multiply the amount of ancestors you have for 25 generations, that the number (over 33 Million) is some multiple of the earths population. So basically, allowing for geographic constraints, everybody is related to everybody else, having several different mutual 25 x great parents. It seems would like to connect it’s members to some of the more famous historical members of their trees, aswell as with each other. would be wise to attack this method of interaction with it’s members.

Besides that, does not have any advantage over the tree or service, and that angle, in part at least, can be followed on Facebook by liking the Geni fan page.

If you are one of those that have traced your ancestors back to around the 1700’s then you may want to go and enter those names into the free version of the Geni tree and see if you merge with some historical persons tree. Or some current celebrities tree. Take care not to waste your 100 by drifting off into cousins, etc. But maybe they won’t allow a merge even with a match if you are not a paid member. Who knows. All in all, I am pretty upset with the Geni site, and they get no trafiic or money from me anymore.

Please share any corrections, comments or experiences on this subject. Thank You!

1915 New York State Census Leads to Breakthrough

Like most of you, genealogy is a hobby of mine. I think we all would like to have more time to build our family tree, and we would like to more easily track down our ancestors. With recently updating their 1940 U.S. Census to make searchable Brooklyn, New York City and in fact all of New York State, we have just had our job made much easier.

That was something we had been expecting, and waiting for. What was not expected, was the release of the 1892, 1915 and 1925 New York State Census’s. As I am sure most of you can relate to, I have a branch of my family tree that has remained a mystery for years. When I hear has indexed the 1940 census I immediately type in that same name I have typed in a hundred times before – John N Murray, Born 1882 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. The results this time however, were very different. There was no immediate match in 1940, but at the top of my search results, right next to my saved records from 1900, 1910, and 1930 were 2 perfect matches that I had never seen before. The 1915 and 1925 New York State Census Reports.

There has been a New York Police Census of 1890 out for many years, but it is basically useless, this State census is however, the opposite. Including such information as address, names of all family members, ages and profession, this report is every bit as informative as the U.S census, and in fact appears to be modeled after it. It includes everything you would expect to find, except the birthplace of each parent (which I have found is incidentally not included in the 1940 U.S. census).

In this specific case of John N Murray Sr, Born 1882, I knew who he was married to in 1910, a Miss Catherine Twyford, a clothing store saleslady from the same Red Hook neighborhood (I have spent many hours searching all her siblings descendants) and I know they had 3 children, 2 of which were boys with the very common names of William and John, and the oldest, a female named Agnes. These 3 children were my grandfather’s cousins. I also had a very likely match for him in 1930, living with a different wife, Anna, and a young daughter, Mildred. I used the fact that he was exactly the right age, holding the same profession as an Iron Worker, and having both parents birthplaces of Brooklyn and Germany being correct as the “proof” needed to make this match.

The new 1925 census confirmed the same household at 285 Himrod St, Brooklyn, including wife Anna Murray (nee. Scholl) and 3 year old daughter, Mildred. No earth shattering revolution there, but as any genealogist knows, a 2nd source to back up every detail from a person’s name, to their age, is very important when searching for ancestors.

1915 New York Census

The real break came from the 1915 census. Before finding that I had the 1910 census and then the WWI Draft Card, badly damaged, for John N Murray. This WWI card from 1918 has his oldest sister listed as his nearest relative, not his wife, Catherine, leading me to believe that the couple had either divorced, or John was widowed. I could not find a trace of John, Catherine or any of the 3 children in the 1920 census (and still have not). What the 1915 census did was to finally provide clarity on this case, and also provided me with the names of 2 new children, born between 1910 and 1915. One was Theresa, born 1912 and Robert, listed as 47 days of age on census date on June 1st, making his birthday about April 12th, 1915. The clarity I mentioned came from Johns marital status as a widow. Rarely in genealogy do you get so lucky as to find out from a census exactly when somebody died, but with a child being 47 days old and the father being a widow, you have that 47 day window for the death of the mother, which is very necessary when searching a common name like “Catherine Murray”.

A quick search of New York Birth, Marriage and Death records provides me with a perfect match, a 34 year old Catherine Murray from Kings County, that died 2 weeks after Robert was born.


Holy Cross Cemetery

Searching Holy Cross Cemetery provided me with her gravesite.

Sometimes the biggest source of genealogical discovery is burial information with the other names on an ancestors tombstone being the children, or other unknown family members. This can provide you with much needed dates of death, and married names of daughters. This is invaluable when you have no clues for ancestors with common names. The bad news in this particular case was that there was only one other person in that grave, Robert, her 47 day old son who did not live very long, dying at 6 month of age on November 15th, 1915. connection

About a month ago I received notification that somebody was saving some of the same records I had saved on I looked at this persons’ family tree, and saw that they added my John Murray section of the family, but not a lot of the information matched. One of the discrepencies was that there was a sister named Theresa. Also, the first born of the family was named Ruth, and not “Agnes”, as in my John Murrays family. After e-mailing this person and asking why they thought our families were a match, she explained that her father had told her he remembers a “Willie” and a John (which are match’s), and that “Ruth” was the Jewish name of the converted Agnes Murray, after marriage. WOW! What seemed to be the case of another member jumping the gun, turned out to be an actual match, and the Great Granddaughter of my John N. Murray.

When I said earlier that there was no match for these children of John Murray in the 1920 census, I kinda lied. There are matches, in Orphanages, and “Asylums”. I never gave those much consideration, because I knew with 95% certainty that their father was living with another wife and raising a daughter born in 1921, in 1930 census. How could he have 4 children between the ages of 8 – 16 in orphanages in 1920’s census, and in the meantime I have his marriage record to Anna Scholl on June 20th, 1920!? The family lore provided from my new cousin on is that Agnes, or “Ruth” did infact provide that she and her siblings were raised in orphanages for a period of time. It appears my John Murray either had his children taken from him, or he possibly abandoned them.

R.C. House of Good Shepherd

House of the Good Shepherd, home to Agnes Murray in 1920.

My source did not have much information on brothers William and John, but if her father remembered them, then they had to have lived until the 1950’s at least. Knowing that, and the new details of their childhood, I can begin to find them in the 1920 census and beyond. 16 year old Agnes is located easily as an “Inmate” and a machine Operator in the Roman Catholic “House of the Good Shepherd” located on Hopkinson Ave, in East New York. She was in the Pacific Street Wing, which was the “Juvenile Delinquent Reformatory”.

I hope for the best as I research these 2 brothers. Whatever I find though, I realize that none of it would have been possible whithout the 1915 New York State Census.

A Brooklyn Kid in Normandy

Like many of you, I have a few ancestors in my family tree that have served our country during WWII, and are a great source of pride to our families, as well as our country.  On this day though, there is one particular ancestor of mine that comes to mind due to his death in Normandy.

My great uncle, James Murray was born In Brooklyn, New York, in 1919.  He can clearly be found as 7 months of age in the 1920 census, the youngest of 6, and the first male child of his parents that would live past infancy.  You can find the family again in the same Red Hook apartment in 1930, this time with a younger brother (my Grandfather) and sister.

Sometimes I think about these 2 brothers, both serving their country. One that lived until old age, and the other taken way too soon.  I think about the fact that, as I do some quick math, there are no less then 50 of us descended from my Grandfather, and 0 from his brother.  A young Brooklyn Kid of 23 years when he joined the Army in 1942, PFC. James J. Murray, as he would become, never had a chance to begin a family.

According to military records, my great-uncle enlisted at Camp Upton, in Yaphank New York, on February 19th 1942.  The next 7 months are a mystery, but I know that his unit, the 508th P.I.R (Parachute Infantry Regiment) was founded at Fort Blanding Georgia in October, 1942 and they spent the next 14 month conducting Airborne Training there, and at Camp Mackall, North Carolina.  After a short 2-day liberty pass to visit family while in New York, the unit was called to action on Christmas Day, 1943, and the unit soon sailed from New York, to Belfast, then Glasgow en route to Wollaton Park, England.  It was there that they waited almost 3 months until June 6th. Shortly after 2am they participated in “Operation Overlord” and jumped at 300 feet into Normandy with the objective of capturing Sainte-Mère-Église, as well as securing several river crossings in the area.

Unfortunately, this is where the mystery begins again. As most know, the airborne operation, although eventually successful, was a complete disaster. Many of the paratroopers never lived to see their feet hit the ground. Some landed and drowned in the rivers, some became hung up in trees or on the sides of buildings, and some were shot dead while waiting in line to jump from their plane. Of those that did manage to land safely, almost none were where they were supposed to land, and even fewer landed with their own unit. Because of this, and without a first hand account of his whereabouts, it makes it difficult to know what James Murray would have been doing until his death 10 days later on June 16th. I do know that his company, F (Foxtrot) Company, 508th P.I.R, was on a mission to secure the entire peninsula west of the beachheads. On June 16th the unit was in the small town of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, and on that day, he died. The record from a 508th PIR website shows us that James J Murray was indeed a member of F Company, and was in fact “Killed in Action” on June 16th.

But as we often find in genealogy research we do not know for sure the circumstances surrounding his death. All we can do is assume that he was with his assigned unit and in action the day he died. The K.I.A classification lets us know that he was alive and fighting on that day, and then died as a result of enemy action, as opposed to dying from wounds or injuries that would have occurred at an earlier time. This, combined with the information on his units maneuvers on that day give us a probable scenario surrounding his death. He was probably somewhere around Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte with F Company, 508th PIR on June 16th, and died as a result on gun fire or an explosion. Until the time in my life comes when I can dedicate some real time into finding better information, these details will have to be enough.

Photo Mystery

Ike speaks to Easy Company, 502nd PIR on June 5th, 1944.

You’ve seen this famous photo of General Eisenhowser speaking to troops on the Eve of D-Day, in England. A few years ago I heard of the family tale that James Murray is actually in this photo. He is claimed to be the man in the center of the page, his head right above Ike’s hand. This is the type of thing I would be thrilled about, but a quick bit of investigative work raises some doubts. We already know that my Great-uncle was killed on June 16th and was a member of F Co. 508th PIR, which was part of the 82nd Airborne Division. The unit in this photograph is E Co, 502nd PIR, part of the 101st Airborne Divison. I can not see a scenario that has him changing units between June 5th and June 16th, when they obviously had much bigger things to worry about then transfer orders. Also, the soldier has stripes on his left arm indicating he was higher rank then the “PFC” that James Murray was. I don’t know where this rumor came came originally, but at first glance, it appears to be untrue.

After Normandy

A mention in “The New York Sun” tells me that my grandfather returned to New York aboard the “Aquitanina” from Europe in September of 1945. I don’t know when he learned of his brothers death, but that was not the only death of a close relative he had to deal with. In fact, his mother passed away in September of 1944, and then right after Christmas, her father, died at age 84. They all lived a few blocks apart in that same Brooklyn neighborhood. These 3 deaths combined with the horrors of fighting the Nazi’s must have made this 18 months of his life incredibly traumatic.

Many people have experienced time at war, and everybody will suffer the loss of loved ones, but I think few will ever have to endure what my grandfather did between 1944 and 1945.

I will spend the next 10 days the way I always spend June 6th – 16th. Using my genealogy time towards investigating my Great-Uncle. Searching for anything new that might have found it’s way onto the internet in the attempt to better paint a picture of his last days on earth. RIP PFC Murray.

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