One day when I was visiting my mother in her Philadelphia home I actually did something other than lie about and eat her excellent cooking.  I sat my Mom down and went through most of the enormous number of family photos she saved. I labeled the photos of the people my mother could identify.  Even then there were an unfortunate number that couldn’t be identified, but my mother’s memory was amazing and a story came with each photo.  I was smart enough to write them down.

One of her stories was about her cousin Nathan Stein.  I never knew my grandmother or most of the Stein family, so I filed the picture and the story and pursued other genealogical interests.

A recent response to my post, Too Many Steins, made me go back and look at some of my notes.  I found this photo of Nathan Stein and my mother’s story about him.

Mom said that Nathan was her Uncle Joseph’s son and that he played in the Marine Band in Haiti.  She also said that Nathan had a picture of my mother painted by someone in Haiti.  I didn’t place much stock in this story.  As I’ve said before, my Russian Jewish immigrant family was not enthusiastic about military service.  As always, I should have listened to my mother.

My recent contact piqued my curiosity and I started to look for Nathan’s military records.  To my absolute delight had the Marine muster rolls for 1798-1958.  If you had a relative in the Marines these muster rolls are pure gold.

Nathan enlisted in the Marines on June 3, 1924. I believe he was born in 1905, so he would have been 19 years old.  The muster roll for Battalion D of the Marine Barracks Training Station at Parris Island, South Carolina tells me that Nathan joined the Marines by enlisting at Parris Island.  This 19-year-old young man took himself 800 miles from Philadelphia to South Carolina to enlist. I assume there was a long train trip involved.

By August of 1924 Nathan had finished his training, qualified as a marksman and been transferred to the United States Marine Scoring Detachment in Quantico, Virginia. He remained in Quantico with brief detachments to Camp Perry in Ohio and on board the USS Dobbin until June of 1925.

In June 1925 Nathan was still at Quantico, but listed as “under instruction post band school.”  I wonder what the training involved.  I assume he already played an instrument, so he probably was learning to play it while marching. Although he remained with the band Nathan spent a few days in September of 1925 “under instruction Rifle Range” where he qualified as a sharpshooter. Apparently Nathan was handy with both a musical instrument and a rifle.

On October 19, 1925 Nathan boarded the USS Henderson.  He arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on October 24.  Why Haiti?  The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934.

USS Henderson 1925

If you want to know more about the U.S. involvement there you can read about in Wikipedia.

This is a photo of the marine Band in Haiti in 1915, a bit earlier than Nathan’s time.

Although the muster rolls have lots of detail, one detail that is consistently missing is any mention of what instrument Nathan played.  I assume it was a horn or a drum of some kind, but it would be nice to know.

Nathan was discharged from the Marines on March 8, 1928 in Haiti ” at OWN convenience”. His home address is listed as his parent’s home at 2560 Corlis Street in Philadelphia.  His character was recognized as excellent.  I would have thought that Nathan would have headed for home at the Marine’s expense after his discharge, but apparently he remained in Haiti for another 8 months.  He is listed as a passenger on the SS Cristobal on Nov. 2, 1927, arriving in New York on November 7.

What was Nathan doing for those 8 months in Haiti?  Perhaps he was having a picture of my mother painted.  I would love to see it.

On September 17, 1787 the final draft of the United States Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. We moved from being a Confederation of states to a nation with a strong central government.  An election was scheduled on January 7, 1789 and the fun began.

Here we are 223 years later still trying to figure out how to do it right.

In that first election only 10-15% of the population was eligible to vote.  Male, white, property owners were the only ones to have that privilege. My husband has a few ancestors who were in the country by then and fit that description and a few that did not.

Francis Blood a revolutionary war general and prominent citizen of Temple New Hampshire probably exercised his franchise.  Ephraim Bate Bigelow a runaway from indentured servitude certainly did not.

By 1850 property ownership had been eliminated as a voting requirement.  Now many of our white, male relatives could vote if they had obtained citizenship. William Martin and Francis Blood, grandson of the revolutionary War general probably voted.

Francis Blood

But in 1855 Connecticut adopted the first literacy test, quickly followed by Massachusetts.  These literacy tests were designed to keep too many newly minted Irish-American citizens from voting.  They would later be used to discriminate against other groups, most notably African-Americans

The newly arrived Irishman John Costello would not have voted.

The Coles, the Silvers, and the Bublicks had yet to arrive in the United States.

The 15th amendment to the constitution was passed in 1870.  It gave all male citizens the right to vote, including former slaves.  It was the beginning of a long road to real voting rights for African-Americans.

I don’t think we have any African-American ancestors.  We certainly had some ancestors who could not pass a literacy test.

In the 1890’s poll taxes and literacy tests were adopted throughout the South.  The literacy test presented a problem as it excluded many white voters along with the African voters for whom it was intended, so grandfather clauses were adopted, allowing those who could vote before 1870 to continue to do so irrespective of literacy or tax qualifications. In 1915 the Supreme Court outlawed literacy tests.

At the turn of the twentieth century the Western states started granting women the right to vote in state and local elections.

And–ta-da– in 1920 the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution is passed and women get the right to vote in national elections.   Lots of people in my family gained the right to vote in 1920.

Rosa Cole

Celia Mason

Pauline Silver


So now all U.S. citizens can vote, right?  Well, not quite. That would happen in 1924, when Indian Citizenship Act grants all Native Americans the rights of citizenship including the right to vote in federal elections. Of course, residents of the nation’s capital couldn’t vote in presidential elections until the 23rd Amendment was passed in 1961.

This of course, doesn’t stop states from attempting to block some of the people from voting. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally put an end to the poll tax.  Somehow literacy tests had made their way back into law and were finally banned in 1970.

And finally in 1971 the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.

The national argument over who can vote continues of course, with cases about voter ID requirements moving through the courts as I write this.  We all want our choice to win.  I think the best way to achieve this is not to stop others from voting, but to get off your behind, even if it’s raining, and get to the polls on November 6, 2012; unless you’re voting for the other guy, then you can stay home.


I have lots of family pictures, boxes and boxes of them.  About fifteen years ago I actually had the foresight to sit down with my mother and ask her to help me label these old photos.   In the course of talking and labeling and noshing I realized that there were very few photos of my maternal grandmother’s family, the Steins.  My mother was puzzled by this as well, but then she said, “There’s that picture of the Stein family.”

There’s a picture of the Stein family? I didn’t recall ever seeing such a picture.

“It’s in my bedroom behind the bureau.”

Behind the bureau, interesting spot for a picture, perhaps why I didn’t remember it.

I dashed upstairs and there behind the bureau was a picture in an ornate frame with a wire for hanging.  The picture was a formal portrait of my great-grandmother surrounded by her eight children.  It had clearly been hanging on a wall at one time; I have no idea how it ended up behind the bureau. I will say that stashing things in odd places was completely normal for my mother.

I have written before about the moment many years later when my son pointed out that my grandmother was actually surrounded by nine people, not eight. Too many Steins.

I have looked at the photo many times, wondering who the extra person was. Finally I sat down to figure out the age and sex of my grandmother and her siblings and was able to determine that the extra person was a woman.  The ages of my grandmother and her siblings were close enough and uncertain enough that I couldn’t sort them all out.

In preparation for attending the IAJGS conference in August I finally started entering my old handwritten notes into my database.  I had a page for each person and a series of pockets holding copies of naturalization papers, census copies, and scraps of this and that.   One of the scraps, in my handwriting was a list of people in that photo.  I had completely forgotten ever having this information.

Standing, left to right, Sophie Moonblatt…. Sophie Moonblatt?  Two minutes later I knew that Sophie Moonblatt married Joseph Stein, the man on whose shoulder her hand is resting.   The rest of the people are indeed my grandmother and her siblings.  For the record standing next to Sophie are Becky, Bessie, Jennie and Celia, my grandmother.  My great grandmother, Lily, is seated in the middle..  On her left are Martin and Joseph and on her right, Morris amd Yetta.

Then things got even better.  There is a Stein family tree on  My grandmother is not in it, but the rest of her siblings are. There are pictures of citizenship papers with ancestral towns and ship names.  I have not been able to locate a passsenger list yet, but I am hopeful.  Of course, there are people to contact.  I will do that after I post this.  This has been a very exciting day in genealogy for me when I was not expecting it and all because of a scrap of paper.

I know that there is lots of talk among genealogists about what to throw out.  I have seen the rule of 3 and the ten things a day approach and lots of others.  Here is my rule.  Keep everything!.  Yes it was awful when I had to clean out my mother’s house.  Given her propensity for stashing things in odd places I had to look in every sock, examine every nook and crannie, wade through almost 50 years of accumulating and saving everything.  Yes I swore I would not let this happen to my kids.  I don’t care anymore.  Those kids owe me.  I’m keeping everything.


We have all been told many times the value of looking again at the information we have accumulated and revisiting sources we have used in the past when trying to make progress in our family histories.  We simply cannot stress this enough, there is always new information out there and frequently new ways in which to view the information we have already collected.  In my next post I will give you several examples from my own research and ask Pat to join me with a few of her own.

But for now I will simply recall my most embarrassing moment in this category.  We had a pleasant mix of family and friends assembled for Thanksgiving and, as Pat said in her last post, there are pictures on my wall that I hardly notice anymore, including one of my mother’s family, the Steins.  It’s a terrific photograph of my great-grandmother surrounded by her children taken either shortly before or shortly after they left Russia.

Someone asked me about the picture and I responded, “That’s my great-grandmother surrounded by her eight living children.”

We are a math-friendly family.  I have spent a good portion of my adult life dealing with numbers, my husband calculates all kinds of stuff in his job as a city planner, together we raised a computer major and a math minor.  Everyone in this family can count to ten without taking off his or her shoes , even me. So imagine my surprise when my son said, “Mom, there are ten people in that picture.” I stopped, I looked and, yes, there are nine people surrounding my great grandmother.

My mother told me that the photo was her grandmother’s family. I knew my great-grandmother had eight children that survived infancy and that was that.  I never really looked at that picture.  Now I see that not only are there nine children, some of the women are wearing the same dresses.  This might be a wedding photo or one child might be a grandchild.  I have lots of information on this family that will help me sort this out, and this afternoon we’re taking the frame off and very carefully getting a look at the back and scanning the photograph for posterity and for this post.  Then I’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon looking at old photos.