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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Family History Notes: My Mothers Side

My Mother’s Side:

Both of my mother’s parents are deceased so I relied on her for information. We got as far as her mother’s parents and their children then we were stuck. One of my grandmother’s sisters was still alive so I wrote to her asking if she would help me with the family tree, hoping she would remember me, I have not seen her for years. She did and she was very helpful. She wrote down everything she knew; her parent’s names and birth dates, even her mother’s maiden name! Her brothers and sisters birth and death dates along with spouses and children. She also wrote stories about her maternal grandfather Mathias (her grandfather on her mother’s side) on where he lived and that he worked for a bottling company and later bought a saloon then lost it during the probation act. This information helped me later in finding more about him.

My Mothers Mother- Katherine VanNess Krohn:

My grandmother died in 2001, so I remember her well. I wish I had started this family tree before she died because I would of have had more information on her father’s side. I sent away for my grandmother’s birth certificate but was disappointed when I received a letter back from the N.J state archives stating they could not find one. I searched online for the funeral home where her service was held. I found their web site and they had an online obituary index. I got lucky! They went back to 2001 and I found her obituary and printed it out!

My Great Grandparents- Katherine’s parents, Theresa Knaus & Alfred E.VanNess

My Great-grandmother lived to be 95 and she passed away when I was 29. I really wish that I started the family tree then…could you imagine the stories she could tell! The New Jersey State Archives had a birth certificate on her and they sent me a copy. I also wrote to the New Brunswick library and they sent me a copy of her obituary. I could not find a marriage certificate.

My Great grandfather passed away in 1965; I was only a year old. From my great aunt Mae I knew when and where he was born and when he died. The only other information I could find on him was US Census and a WWI draft card. This information I found on

My 2nd Great Grandparents- Alfred E.’s parents, Katherine Jones& Alfred A.VanNess I could only go back as far as Alfred Abram and his wife Katherine. Their information I received from a letter my great aunt Mae wrote to my mother. I contacted NY but they told me unless I knew the exact town where he died in, they could not help me. They also told me that back then (1902) there may not have been an obituary, just a name in the paper. I did find a 1910 United States Federal census on a Katherine living in NY. I am sure it is her, the birth date matches the information Mae sent my mother. I contacted Long Island, N.Y but I had no luck getting an obituary on her. I also sent away for birth and marriage records with no luck

My 2nd Great Grandparents –Theresa’s parents, Mary Walters & Mathias Knaus

My mother went through her mother’s old stuff and found a mass card on Mary, so the only thing I knew is when she died, 22 December 1942.

From the information my great Aunt sent me I knew Mathias was born in New Brunswick, NJ and was raised there, worked for a bottling company and owned a saloon. My great Aunt told me that most of her family was buried in St. Peters cemetery. I called the cemetery to see if he was buried there only to be told that they were not computerized, that their information were on books and that without a death date it would be impossible to find out. I live in Florida so I decided to plan a trip to NJ. In January 2009, my Mother, Sister and I made a trip to St. Peter’s Cemetery. We were hoping to find Mathias and Mary’s headstone. I had Mary’s death date so I was hoping they were buried together.

When the “keeper of the books” looked Mary up (yes, they were old books, if there ever was a fire all of the records would be lost!) he told me that there were six people listed in the family plot. I was excited! I could not wait for him to tell me the names-- Andrew & Mary, Mathias & Mary and John and his wife, were buried there. He told me that Andrew & Mary were the parents and that John was the brother of Mathias. I was disappointed when he told me that there was no death date written down for Mathias. Trampling through the snow hoping the date would be on the tombstone, I was freezing…I am a Floridian. We finally found the tombstone but I was disappointed again. Only Andrew & Mary were inscribed on it. The ‘Keeper of the Book’s’ told us that it was a double head stone and there should have been names on the other side. There were no names. But on the bright side I now know who his parents were and now I have their birth and death dates!

When I returned home I wrote to the New Brunswick library for Mary’s obituary and they sent it to me. I was looking for a death date for Mathias but all it stated was that she was the wife of the late Mathias so, no luck there. I plugged in the information on Mathias’s parents on my online tree and did a search. search engine pulled up an article on the Chronicles of New Brunswick New Jersey 1667-1931 and Mathias and his father are mentioned in the article! There was even a picture of Mathias (confirmed by my great Aunt Mae). I also found an article: A Retrospect of the Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist, New Brunswick as a souvenir of the 60th anniversary of the founding fathers 1865-1925. Mathias is mentioned as being in the church parish in October 30, 1910 as an active member. Then there is a picture of him and next to his picture is state’s deceased. The book was published November 8, 1925. Mathias had to of died between 1910 and 1920 because in the 1920 United States censes he is not listed with his family.

My 3rd Great Grandparents - Mathias’s parents, Mary & Andrew Knaus also had an index to the New Jersey State Archives wills and inventories along with an index number to Andrew & Mary’s will so I wrote to the New Jersey State Archives with the index number and they sent me a copy of their wills and inventories dated 1896 for Andrew and 1897 for Mary. This was interesting to read and from the wills I learned their other children’s names along with their children’s spouses. There were no obituaries for Andrew or Mary. One night I was searching for the history of New Brunswick when I came across the New Brunswick free public library. The library had an online newspaper search engine. The dates ranged from 1871-1908. I did a search on Mathias and Andrew and I found articles on them! One was from 1896 when Mathias was attacked on his way home in a horse and buggy and the other one was about how a border of Andrew’s died after he fell asleep while smoking a cigar—it caught him on fire! I even found an article on my great grandmother in 1906 when she was hosting a church function.

My Mothers Father John A. Krohn

My Grandfather passed away in 1977, I was 13 at the time yet I remember so little about him. I never met his parents. My mother could not find his obituary so I wrote to the hometown library and they sent it to me. When I read his obituary I was impressed, I learned what he did for a living, he was a soil conservationist and worked for the U.S Department of Agriculture for 38 years. My mother remembers her father telling her that his parents came from Romania. I found them on a 1920 US census but I was confused because they had my grandfather’s name as Albert not John. Everything else was right-his birth date, parent’s names, sibling’s names. I wrote a letter to my uncle asking him about this he wrote back to me explaining what he knew along with an old letter.

Letter from my Uncle Jack- retyped: This letter was written by my Aunt Lib to pop-pop when he was trying to get into the service. He was an experienced aerial (photo) map reader, which they needed. However his family ties in Europe were unknown and as such there was a security risk, even though he was a corporal in the R.O.T.C at Rutgers. Pop-pop was named Albert John at birth but didn’t like being called Albert and he switched the names as early as senior in St. Peter’s high school. Granny told Aunt Joyce the reason and I have senior year things that show John Albert. I have no official papers of a name change.

The copy of the letter he sent was from my Great Aunt Lib, my grandfather’s sister, dated Jan 8, 1942. This letter was full of information, where the family emigrated from and to where, the year my great-grandfather became a United State citizen and names of his brothers and sisters still living in Romania. She also stated that my grandfather was named Albert John at birth. I sent away for my grandfather’s birth certificate and it only states John, no Albert but on his obituary it states John A. After talking this over with family members I used John A. for my family tree.

My Great Grandparents - John A’s parents, Mary Bruck & John Krohn

No one could remember much about my great grandfather. On a 1920 United States Federal Census I found Mary living in New Brunswick. The census stated that she came over from Romania-Hungary in 1905 and was naturalized in 1911. When my Mom was searching she came across a New York Passenger list from 1905 listing a Johann, Maria and Albert. We knew this had to be them because Maria had a brother named Albert. Johann is John in America and Maria is Mary. They changed their Romanian names to American names. Well I contacted New Brunswick naturalization records and they had nothing on Mary, they told me that back then if a husband was naturalized then the wife was automatically naturalized. They had John’s naturalization records and sent them to me, so now I know exactly where in Romania they were from. On my Great grandfather’s petition for naturalization he has his name written down as John. There is no middle name, both my great aunt’s were listed; my grandfather was not born yet. This was John, Mary & Albert that came over on the ship, the name of the ship and the dates match the naturalization records.

My Mother told me that Mary moved from New Brunswick to State College, P.A., to live with her daughter Mary. I wrote to State College Library and they send me her obituary. In the obituary it stated that “she was married to John, who died in 1914. When I went to New Brunswick in Jan of 2009 I did find their tombstone but I had no luck finding a death notice for John. On the tombstone his name is written as Johann.

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