Family History Research

Connecting Families Online, a lesson learned

Several months ago I received a message from a woman on Ancestry.com named Jean who was working on her Hammer family and we found a connection. Her Catherine Hammer was the sister of my Dorothy Hammer from Bohemia. While we were making this connection, another woman connected with us. This woman thought her John Hammer was a possible sibling to our Catherine and Dorothy. Their parents were Vaclav and Rosie Hammer.

Now Jean and I had documents to prove the relationship between our siblings and parents. This woman had no idea who John’s parents were, but thought the birth year fit and the fact he lived in Chicago fit. She basically wanted me to prove whether or not her John was the same as my John. Not a lot to go on when trying to prove or say “yes I believe this could be the same person.” I love a good mystery and helping people who are stuck, but you have to provide information to get me going.

Many emails were exchanged between this woman and myself and she provided one or two new clues in each email such as when he was married, who he married, where he lived, what spellings of the last name she had encountered (Hammer, Hamer, Hemr, Hamr). She had a naturalization document for him as a Minor and the date of naturalization. She found him on the 1892 Chicago Voter Registration. I became very frustrated because the more I searched based on what information she was giving me, when I contacted her again she would tell me she already had that information. It was a frustrating for me.

More information was provided via email but still not enough to say yes or no to John. At this time I was also tracing each child of Vaclav and Rosie, and their spouses through census and knew who the nieces and nephews were for my Dorothy Hammer. Jean and I were updating our trees on Ancestry.com and would notify each other if we found something exciting. It was at this point that this woman brought up a letter written to John by a cousin. When she gave me the name of the cousin and address of the letter I was immediately able to connect John to the family. The cousin was a niece of Dorothy. Tracking the families addresses made making the connection easier too.

I learned a big lesson in this connection and that is if you are asking for help, you should provide the person helping you with as much information as you can. This will result in less backtracking for the helper and less confusion. A connection, or lack thereof, may occur much more quickly if more information is given up front. I love helping people who are stuck facing a brick wall. It is a challenge for me to see if I can get over it because I am looking at it with new eyes. Because I love and need the challenge, I will continue to help people when asked, but I think I will ask for as much information as they have up front before I start the search.

Have you had a similar frustrating experience helping someone online? What did you learn? Please post in the comments so we can all learn new ways to help others.

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Book Review – Women Adrift

I was looking through my bookcase this morning and came across a book I read in a Chicago Women’s History grad school called Women Adrift, Independent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880-1930 by Joanne J. Meyerowitz. I thought this would be a great book to mention this week since I wrote an article about women and naturalization.

I do not have any women in my family who went off on their own to become “women adrift” but this book was very interesting to read. The chapters walk the reader through what some of the women experienced. Chapter 1 discusses being apart from the family. Chapter 2 is about exercising caution in the big city. Chapter 3 mentions orphans and innocents while Chapter 4 discusses Surrogate Families. Chapter 5 goes in depth about the people who helped these women and Chapter 6 talks about the women being Urban Pioneers.

Meyerowitz addresses issues such as sexuality of this “new breed” of women coming to the cities; what social circles formed and why; the vices that existed in the cities and how the women handled them or fell prey to them; and contains many tables with statistics, several illustrations, and lengthy note and bibliography sections.

Whether you had a Woman Adrift in your family or not, this book is well worth your time to read. You might just see some similarities between these women and second or third generation women of immigrants in your families who branched out on their own after the 1930’s.

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Women and the Naturalization Process

This week I came across a Naturalization Record Index Card for my husband’s great grandmother, Rose La Mantia Murabito. It stated she was repatriated. This confused me a great deal because she was born in Chicago, which is in the United States last I checked. I doubled checked her birth certificate to make sure I had it and it was her. It was. So why in 1939 was Rose being repatriated?

A kind blog reader commented on my post regarding this issue and sent me to a website regarding loss of citizenship due to marriage. This thought crossed my mind before I wrote the post but I could not locate anything specific on this. When researching both my lines and my husband’s, I suppose I just assumed all of the women in our direct lines became citizens. It never occurred to me that one of the women in my tree would have lost her citizenship until I found this index card. Due to this discovery, I took a closer look at my direct lines. Rose was the only woman on either side that was born in the U.S. but married an Alien after 1907. The rest of the women were either married upon arrival; married an Alien after arrival and was naturalized with him; or obtained naturalization on her own.

Today as I dig further into the Naturalization process and the information I thought to be correct, until this case arose, I am learning a lot about the changes in laws. KindredConnections has a fantastic article on the Naturalization Process called “Where are they? Finding Your Ancestors’ US Naturalization Records.”  In the article’s section about Women, the author, Karen Clifford, states, “An act passed in 1907 stated that a woman’s nationality depended entirely on her husband’s. This meant that if her husband gained citizenship, so did she. It also meant that if a woman who had been born a US citizen married an alien, she lost her citizenship. She could repatriate only if and when her husband naturalized.”

That completely explains Rose’s case. Isn’t it funny that I have read many articles on Naturalization and listened to speakers, yet never heard or saw this tidbit of information? I guess it is a good example of having blinders on and only seeing or hearing what we need at the time for the research we are doing.

Another great resource I discovered is from the National Archives. There is an informative article on their website from the Prologue Magazine, Summer 1998, Vol. 30, No. 2, called “Any woman who is now or may hereafter be married . . .” Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940 By Marian L. Smith

If you have other great Naturalization Process websites, please post them in the comments section.

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Follow-up to Mind Boggling Question post

I posted my question on my Chicago Family History blog and someone sent me a link to check out regarding loss of citizenship due to marriage.  It appears that since my Rose La Mantia, a U.S. citizen, married Charles Murabito, an Alien, she lost her citizenship. I have not found any proof that Charles was ever Naturalized, and because Rose applied for citizenship in 1939, six years after he died, I might be correct in that he was never a citizen.

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