Archive for the ‘Hirsch’ Category

A lot of people will tell me I look like my mother – and when I look at photos, yes, I do look like my mom. My brother and sister look more like my mother, the other brother and I are spitting image Hirsch’s. In my family, we’ve always split it up that way – Wendy and Paddy, Tomlin; Kirsten and Matt; Hirsch. It’s so interesting to me then that not only did Matt and I get Dad’s nose (thanks for that), we also got his temperament. On the good side, we are solid workers (Wendy and Paddy are too). We stay busy, we will work for free if we love what we are doing, and we don’t “relax” very easily (this is not always a good thing). We are kind, helpful, interested in a lot of different things, handy, curious and independent.

On the other hand, we all grapple with anxiety, too much mulling, insomnia, and a low-hum of anger at injustices done to us, our family, our friends, or any other work-a-day Joe. In talking to my Dad recently, we both again verbally recognized this. It’s like the big, green fire-breathing dragon in the room – “yes, yes, I could handle this much better if it wasn’t for the heat on my head from this here dragon.” It’s great to have my Dad to call – he knows what it feels like. We don’t want to be this way: uptight, worried constantly, our minds running a wild parallel ride to our normal, everyday thoughts. It’s maddening…but livable. Dad said, “Just try not to dwell on it, that is what will eat you up.” And I asked him how? How do I not dwell on losing my job, the job that I loved? The answer, is in the good traits, it seems. Work, stay busy, be kind to people (but not people who are out to hurt others-he was specific about this), and look out for yourself, your family, and your dear friends. Sending up a little prayer once in a while is also good practice.

It’s this kind of truthful, meaty nugget, oddly enough, that I look for everyday in the obituaries. Genealogists love obituaries, but if they’re all like me, are so very disappointed in the simple announcement type. To me, an obit is a great place to send messages out to the future – here is how your great-grandmother died, here is why, and here is what she lived for, who she loved, who she called a friend and where she lived. Clues. Obits are for clues. And really good obits contain them in dignified, classy, subtle ways. These obits do not need to be lengthy, just truthful. There is no need to hide in an obit – it’s over, it’s done, it happened.

I’m pretty sure that if the truth was told, there would have been an obituary or two in our family line that mentioned the brave battle an ancestor or two had with anxiety, and maybe even a tip or two on how they coped. I haven’t found it yet, but luckily, I still have my Dad.


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As promised in my last post – I wrote to the bricklayers. Surprisingly, they responded within two days of my letter being mailed! Unfortunately, their records only go back to 1990, but John Phillips, president of Local 1 in Philadelphia personally called to give me the news AND is forwarding my letter to their international office.

Lewis Hirsch, great-grandfather paternal, and George Tomlin, great-grandfather maternal, were both bricklayers, so shout out to Local 1! Philadelphia Freedom!

Proves that sometimes all you really have to do is ask.

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I wonder what the mailman thought, seeing my letter in the slot yesterday morning? Addressed to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the line “Attn: Death Unit” must have caught his attention. I myself never imagined that I would write the words “Attn: Death Unit” ever in my life.

But those are the instructions and if you want the death certificate of your great-great-grandfather, and harbor some hope that his parent’s names will be listed…you write the words Attn: Death Unit.

I do realize that this entire undertaking is only providing me with a very outside chance of finding my great-great-great-grandparents. Last week I received word back from the Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society (NCHGS) that the search for Lewis Hirsch only turned up the 1896 newspaper wedding announcement. While we already know most of this information, the announcement did say that Lewis was born in South Easton, March 3, 1871 and that he was currently residing in Philadelphia. This in turn verifies that the Lewis Hirsch I found boarding at the Drove Yard Hotel and listed as a “bricklayer” in 1888-89 is probably my Lewis. I already know he followed the work – the 1900 Census lists the young family in Hartford, Conn. – so it makes sense. [A thank you to the NCHGS for getting back to me so quickly!]

NCHGS also suggested that Lewis was probably of the Homestead Hirschs (story coming soon!), but I still doubt that lineage since it places Lewis in San Francisco in the early 1900’s.

Organized in 1865, the bricklayers union of Philadelphia, Local1 PA/DE was the first of its kind and I’m hopeful they have old records of members. I don’t know how finding this out will help me, but at this point I think every little connection counts. The next letter is to the Local1 PA/DE…and I wonder what the mailman will think of that!?

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St. Joseph's German Catholic Church

St. Joseph's German Catholic Church

After several frustrating months of trying to find the family and parents of Lewis Hirsch online and via mailed requests, I have decided to plan a trip north to Easton, PA.  My Dad has offered to come along and assist, and I’m looking forward as much to the planning as the sleuthing!

We’ll start at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, the oldest German Catholic Church in the Lehigh Valley. My great-grandparents were married at St. Joseph’ German Catholic Church in 1896, which was formed in south Easton in the 1850’s, after the congregation at St. Bernard’s became too large. St. Joseph’s burned down but St. Bernard’s has many of their records – mostly all in German. It is the only link I have and probably the best place to start. There was a cemetary at the site of St. Joseph’s and I”m also curious to know is that is still in tact.

Next, we’ll try City Hall and land records, tax records – anything! There is a family living in Williams, PA, which is just south of Easton. Listed as a farmer, the patriarch Joseph Hersch (sic) appears to be widowed with many children, one of them Lewis. Could this family be the one?

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Flashback 1976

This past weekend we travelled back to the Philadephia area for my cousins wedding – and then back in time. Before jumping back on I-95 to head south and home on Sunday, we wanted to vist the old neighborhood. I know the streets by sight within about a 10 block radius of our old house, but getting there required a map. My father pulled this one out of his glove compartment. It was the map he used when working a side job as an exterminator in the mid-70’s. (I remember him having this job – he had t-shirts that said BUG OUT! on the front). Anyway, the map still has his marks on it for the location of his customers. What I love most about it though, is that it is from 1976.

Being the bicentennial, 1976 was a BIG year in Philadelphia. I remember drawing a picture of Ben Franklin eating Frosted Flakes for a contest sponsored by Kellogs. I remember going downtown for the Bicentennial Celebration and the throngs of people everywhere. The illustrations on the map clearly depict images that I saw as iconic that year.

On our trip this weekend, we went by the old house and oddly enough, it is for sale. Wouldn’t that be nice to have a place to stay while in Philly doing genealogical research?

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I have long been proud of my German ancestry so much so that I used to tell people that I was almost completely German (with a name like Kirsten Hirsch…it was very believable).  I have found recently that this fact is not entirely accurate. While we do have Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, and straight-off-the-boat Germans in our line, we also have Swiss (great great grandparents Sutter who spoke German in their home), Knoell (which is listed as a name of “Germans from Russia” ancestry).

I had requested information from St. Bernard’s Church in Easton, PA – since Aunt Elsie had listed this as the place of Clara Stacer and Lewis Hirschs marriage. Easton, PA is also where Clara and Lewis’s first two sons were born.

Linda and Nancy at St. Bernard’s have been fantastic in helping me. Linda called last night to tell me that Lewis and Clara were actually married at St. Joseph’s, another Roman Catholic church that merged with St. Bernards in the late 1880s.

Linda has been searching the old, big, dusty books from St. Joseph’s and tells me there are many, many more “upstairs.”

The gist is – they’re all in German and Linda doesn’t speak a word of it.

What Linda noted is the names are spelled very differently. Clara Stacer is actually Clara STASSER, and Lewis Hirsch was Lewovicus Hirsch. Their sons, Henricus and Johanicus later became Henry and John.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from Linda. While I”m waiting, I think I’ll take my “Learn German DEUTCH The Fast and Fun Way” CDs down off the shelf and load them in to my iPod. I”m going to need it!

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My family and friends have been surprised to see me lately, which is how I know I’ve been spending too much time on the computer. ( I haven’t even started the road trips and long stints in the State Library!)

Talking about what I have been up too lately is a great conversation starter, people love to share their stories. These conversations usually end with my promise to help my friend find Mystery Relative #1, with the caveat that I’ll need to tackle my own family mysteries list first.

Little do they know the length of the list and how inevitably, it will grow and morph into a more complex matrix each time I sit down to do work. Anyone can do this really – anyone with curiosity, patience, some creative thinking skills, perseverance and the ability to organize facts and sources. Basically, you’ve got to love research.

If I ever tell you that I’ve just got a “bit of research” to do before I can help you find Aunt Lulu, refer back to the following, my current list of mysteries (subject to change) 🙂 (more…)

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