In 1974 my sister-in-law started researching her mother’s (Sarah Riddner) early life. She wrote a lot of letters to all the related people she knew about and asked them what they knew about her mother as a young girl or young woman..
In November 1974 one of the Field cousins answered her letter and provided 2 and a half typewritten pages of what she knew about my mother-in-law and the Riddner family. This cousin was one of the children of Clara Riddner Field, who was the younger sister of Ben Riddner (Sarah’s father). Ben Riddner and his second family lived in Ft. Wayne Indiana as did the Field family. Sarah had been born and raised in Milwaukee so the Fields only saw her occasionally, however this cousin had been closer to her in adolescence and spent time with her in Chicago.
Sometime between 2002 and 2011 I had conversations with my sister-in-law about the family history, and she finally found the letters she had gotten and let me read and copy them. The tidbit I first followed was the Field cousin saying that her mother had cousins in West Hartford, Connecticut names Leah Portner and Helen Seltzer. So I went looking for census records and – bingo! – found Helen (Ellen) and her husband Isidore Seltzer living in West Hartford in 1920 with Leah and Abraham Portner’s family, and listed as cousins. I also found the Seltzer family in the 1930 census in Hartford. This was 2007 and that was about as far as censuses would take me. In 2011 I did some more internet searching, having connected a family picture tentatively with the Portners, and I continued some searching on the Seltzers as well. The Connecticut Death Index showed me that Helen Seltzer’s maiden name was Rudner. .At that point I dropped the ball and did not pursue the likelihood that Rudner and Ridner were the same name. I didn’t make the connection. In 2013 when the 1940 census became available, I found both the Portners and the Seltzers living in Hartford or West Hartford but again didn’t pursue them further.
Then this summer I started again trying to put the pieces together and discovered some new sources. Of course there are many more online databases to search and I have found some useful evidence. The research question I am focusing on now is: how is Helen Ridner related to Benjamin and Clara Riddner? I have gotten Isidore Seltzer’s naturalization papers and his World War II military service record from the State of Connecticut which both give Helen’s name and a date of birth, with the place of her birth given as “Russia” with no town given. So far none of the evidence gives a clue about where in Russia she came from or was born.
I have a list of places I need to look for information (and more will likely occur to me as I look). I need to comb the Steve Morse and Ellis Island sites for Helen’s entry to the U.S. A passenger list might just give me the name of the town she came from. I have looked quickly and did not find her, but haven’t yet dug deeper. I also have the name of her mother who was living with her in 1930 so I can look for her migration. I think I have to go to the Town Clerk’s office to look at/obtain a copy of her death certificate, which might provide some information. I will pull her marriage license and certificate from the microfilm in Salt Lake City in September when Judy and I go. I have made a first attempt to contact the cemetery where she is buried to see what information they might have.