Looking for the Riddner Cousins in Connecticut

This is a work in progress as I work to track the Riddner family that my mother-in-law was part of.  [I have written a couple of past posts about Sarah and her family, here and here.]

Sylvia, Sarah, and Tillie, 1922

Sylvia, Sarah, and Tillie, 1922

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.

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August Genealogy To-Do List

IMGP1496I’m hearing choruses of locusts on my morning walks these days and being transported back to my childhood days in the middle of Indiana.  The weather has felt a lot like my childhood memories as well:  hot and very humid.  Thankfully I now have air-conditioning which we didn’t when I was a child.  And it is certainly a nice contrast to the very cold and snowy winter just past.  I am reminded to slow down and pay attention to my surroundings.

It feels like I need to change my monthly title and theme for these posts.  I don’t seem to follow the goals I set very faithfully.  This makes me think that I need a reboot or “do-over” of this idea as well as of my genealogy.  I don’t know yet what I might try or even what I really want this regular post to accomplish, so it will be a work in progress.

August is shaping up nicely as a relatively quiet month, broken most noticeably by a visit from my sister-in-law and her grandson.  This is a major deal around here!  I also have a visit to the National Archives at Boston again with a friend planned toward the end of the month.  I am working to make connections in my husband’s family tree with three families in Connecticut who might have been cousins on his mother’s side.  Since this is a line we know very little about I am excited to try to find out more.  I did get the naturalization papers for each family from the Archives and need to find out what other resources are available.

Judy and I have locked in a week to go to Salt Lake City to the Family History Library and I am very excited!  I have a picture in my mind about how I want to organize my planned research.  Now to see if I can make it real.  I have started to list the different areas I want to research (e.g., missing vital record for my direct lines) and am collecting film numbers from familysearch.org.   I am using Evernote for this collection.  I envision creating a spreadsheet or list that includes the person’s name and the record to be found and the film number.  Maybe I need the location of where the record was created (like state and county).  I think if I can at least start with a spreadsheet I can then sort and see where I have more than one item from the same film.  Sounds good, right?  Doing this is my major goal for August, since we’re planning to go in September.

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Books I Have Found Useful and Interesting

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I am putting up a page that is a list of various books I have read over the last few years in my search for information or education about something related to genealogy and my family lines.  The page is called Pat’s Book List and you can find it here.  This post is a brief introduction to my list.

I have thought about making a list of useful resources, websites, or genealogy and reference books that I use but decided to start that I would make a list of the books about an aspect of history and the fiction that have felt educational to me.  I often look for a book to help fill in some of the context of a person or line I am researching.

Several of the books on my list were written by journalists who were interested in a topic for one reason or another.  These are difficult to categorize as non-fiction or fiction, being based in historical materials but often extended to imagined conversations.  Some of the other books are straightforward fiction but I think are based in enough reality to be helpful in providing some picture of what a situation might have been like.

I know that there are at least a couple of books I have left off this list, so I will be updating it periodically.  If you have any suggestions about something I should read, or have comments about any of the books already on the list, please leave me a comment.  Here’s to summer reading!

Posted in Miscellaneous

July Genealogy To-Do List

Fireworks on the Charles River

Fireworks on the Charles River By Pablo Valerio (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

June was a busy month with not a lot of very focused genealogy work taking place.  I read a packet of materials I inherited from my father about Titus Salt and more about Titus’s work and Saltaire.  I put a couple of techniques together and came up with a way I can fairly satisfactorily digitize my daguerreotype collection (as described in the post before this one).  I had a lovely long telephone chat with my youngest brother.  I sent my male Denman cousin a short article by Elizabeth Jones who runs a One-Name study for the Denmans and also a DNA study.  I am hoping he’ll eventually be interested in participating in the DNA study.  (It could answer several burning genealogical questions about our Denman line.)  I’m always reticent about approaching cousins to do testing (which gets in the way).  I also got a good start on what I am going to put up here as a new page (rather than a post) with a list of books I have found interesting and educational in my genealogical research.

In July I will write a short post about this and publish the page at that time.  I’m looking forward to adding to the list over time too.

I will decide how I’m going to organize my research goals for a trip to Salt Lake City later with Judy.  We have agreed that we will try to pull off a trip in September, so I need to get going!

I will continue to enter the birth records I have for each family into my RootsMagic database if they’re not already entered, and attach any digital images.  I will make sure to share the fact with anyone else on the record, and make sure that the metadata on the image is filled in (where I found the image, etc.).  I will try *not* to chase down the always-attractive rabbit holes as I verify the source of the image if it isn’t already there.

Leaving for a vacation and will be back in the middle of the month.  Happy summer, everyone!

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Digitizing My Daguerreotypes

Since I don’t have any research at a point that I can write about it, I thought I would put together what I have learned about using my cellphone camera to digitize a picture or document and my trying the system out on some daguerreotypes.

I am very lucky in having a small (I think the number is 32 or 36) collection of family daguerreotypes.  For several years now I have been periodically thinking about how to protect them in storage and how to digitize them without harming them.  For now at least I solved the storage issue with an archival carton and trays that fit inside (made for storing other objects but with dividers making sections about the right size for one of the cased images).

I still have trouble with the distinction between a daguerreotype and an ambrotype, and am not sure I can reliably tell the difference (they are two different methods of producing a photographic image) and I think that at least some of what I have are ambrotypes.  There is also some possibility that there is a cased tintype or two as well.  Nonetheless, my concerns are the same in terms of protecting in storage and in terms of digitizing.  These are unique original images, either printed on a silver plate or on glass, or possibly on iron.

If you go searching on the Internet about digitizing daguerreotypes, there is a fair amount of opinion and information, although you have to dig some to find any real detail about how to do it.  I gather some people have a way to use a scanner and others use cameras.  I decided to try combining what I discovered about using my cellphone to photograph things like business cards and documents with the cell phone (or iPad).  It is an ingenious concept that works very well for many documents and pictures.

Some time ago I ran across a genealogy blog (perhaps reported on a Facebook group) that posted a simple technique that seemed like even I could use it.  If you’re interested in what I think is the first report of using this method, it is here.  The basics involve a wire mesh locker shelf which has holes about an inch across and which stands about a foot high.  You simply place your cell phone or iPad with its camera directly over an opening and put the item to be photographed or scanned below it.  Both blogs I just mentioned show clear pictures of the set-up.  I particularly like the genealogist’s refinement of using the voice command to take the picture, so you don’t have to touch the camera possibly creating movement.

There are some limitations to using this particular method over a standard copy-stand.  You cannot use a camera (unless it doesn’t have an extending lens) so you are restricted to what your phone or tablet can do.  Likewise, the height above what you are copying is fixed, so you have to use the camera’s zoom to focus on smaller objects and you can’t copy oversize books, pages or pictures.  I have a much shorter rack that is similar, sitting about 3 inches above the surface which is good for small images (business cards for example).

copystand work aroundWhen I started to test this set-up with my daguerreotypes, I found that even in daylight with no flash I was getting reflections because of the glass coverings.  So then I remembered the advice to use a piece of cardboard covered with black velvet and a hole for the lens, so I dug out a couple of scraps of black velvet (I have lots of scraps because I usually don’t throw pieces away when I have made something).  And voila!  This seems to work well and now all I have to do is figure out which to use the short stand for and which to use the taller one for.  This is what my set-up looks like with the taller stand.

Having at least temporarily figured out a way to digitize the collection as it is, I plan to eventually contact the Northeast Document Conservation Center which is conveniently located not too far from me about whether they can advise me about cleaning, preserving, more professionally digitizing, etc. this collection.  I have also joined the Facebook group for The Daguerreian Society and am enjoying learning and seeing many different images.  I don’t know that I will join those who collect them as objects but I do love having my collection of family images.

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