Thursday, December 31, 2009


Schridde Family



This is a real treasure and quite a serendipitous find.   I was going through a box of my fathers collections of family type papers. 

What caught my attention was Geburtstag at the top of the paper.   My limited knowledge of German told me it was a list of birthdays.   Vater und Mutter written in the Old German Script.  

What I had found, and never knew of its existence was a hand written note circa late 1920’s.

My theory was that it was written by my great grandmother Anna Meta Margarita Hackmann.   My theory was that it is usually a woman who knows such things as birthdays.

The latest date that I can see is 1929.   My grandfather and grandmother (Willi Schridde and Anna Bartels) had emigrated in 1926 and it has listed the names of his sisters, their spouses and children, as well as their birthdays.   

The writing on the lower half of the second page is that of my grandmother, which I had recognized as hers.

From this, with a little help of my friends I was able to find Anna’s parents (Ernst Freiderich  Wilhelm Hackman and Elsie Marie Johanna Rettle, and Elsie’s mother Anna Meta Margarita Lurssen my my great great great grandmother.

My hope is some descendents of the sisters of Willi will find my posts and get in contact with me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I tried to write the explanation with the picture but somehow it would not permit me to do that... Katharina RAUSCH Sperl Nosseck was born in Bohemia, which is located at the far western area of the Czech Republic. As you can see from the stone, her language was German. At the time she had emigrated Bohemia was a part of the Austro Hungarian Empire.

She emigrated sometime circa 1882 and married Anton Sperl circa 1884. I have yet to find their marriage record. Anton died from Typhoid Fever in August of 1899, just a few months after his youngest son, John Christ Sperl was born. John was my husbands grandfather.

In 1904 Katharine married Jospeh Nosseck and they had two daughters, Caroline and Josephing. Joseph was previsously married two times. The first is unknown to me and the second was Katie Stross who died sometime between 1900 and 1904, have yet to find her records.


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Saturday, December 26, 2009


In my family there are eleven offspring of six siblings. This Christmas two of the nephews have become engaged. That leaves nine to go. It is funny to me that the guys all have steady girls friends and the gals do not.......The breakdown is seven females and four males.

The daughter said it was because all the girls were busy going to school, this could possible be correct because they are in post bachelor education.

I told the one bride to be that I would have to add her to the family tree..

Thursday, December 24, 2009


When I was a child Christmas Eve was pretty uneventful. What I remember was my mother preparing for Christmas Day. We really did not go anywhere, at least not that I remember.

When I met Chuck I was delighted that his family celebrated Christmas Eve. We always got there early and waited for his chronically late brother to arrive. We would eat cold cuts with cheese in sandwiches. Perhaps a side dish or two. I would make cookies to take alone and possibly a cake.

After we ate and it was then close to midnight we would open the gifts and then drive home in the wee hours, it was only a half hour drive. The roads we quite still and we would go to bed and wake up to go to my moms for dinner.

I miss the Christmas Eve get together, and wish we had a celebration and tradition like the Italian traditions of the Seven Fishes. I went to my sisters one Christmas and enjoyed the fish tradition.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Did I decorate the graves. Yes, and it was quite a project. First I had to buy the flowers, no problem there. Then after a consultation with my sister, she fed the metal wires through the stems and told me I had to feed the wire and stems into the vase, then wind them around the bottom stem of the vase. Sounded easy enough.

She also said I had to find the tiny holes to slip the wire through. This proved to be not a job for anyone who wears bifocals. I was able to do that on my fathers vase, but on my mothers vase I could not SEE the hole to thread the wire. So, what I had to do was bring the wire up from the stems and try to wind it around the outside of the vase.

By now my knew were wet and dirty and I said "Sorry Mom" I have a suspicion that those flowers will get blown away. I do not know how to solve this problem, but I need a warm, dry day, which is not happening anytime soon. BAH HUMBUG.

Monday, December 21, 2009



]I will try to make this a twofer.   The first question was did you attend a religious celebration.  

Yes, we always went to Mass on Christmas and every Sunday.   It was always so exciting because we were little and the church was ablaze with candles and the altar was teeming with flowers. 

In one of the side alcoves there was the Nativity Scene, with rather large statues.   They looked life size to me at the time, but I do not know how large they really were.

It was always a High Mass, which means there was a lot of singing.   I can remember GREGORIAN CHANT MUSIC    and the scene of the incense that was wafting through the air.

We always attended the earliest service possible, usually 6 AM, but sometimes we went at  8 AM.   I do not know why they got up so early.  

Christmas Carols, the only time I have ever gone caroling was when I was in Nursing School and the students went to the LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR and sang there for what seems to be  a long time.

The seniors enjoyed the singing and it brought tears to a few eyes, including our own.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I do not have anything to post about concerning black sheep relatives.   I am not saying they were perfect, I am saying I haven’t found them yet.

I did hear, but not documented, from my father that my great father Patrick O’Rourke had participated in the HOMESTEAD STEEL STRIKE  When my father talked about it he only said that Patrick never worked for the steel industry again, and he spent his days as a street sweeper for the local borough.  He would have been forty at the time.   Dad also said that his grandfather was “miserable” and “mean”   and he had quote him by saying “It is better to be a dead lion than a live jackass.”   There was a lot of bitterness in the man, and probably rightly so.   Patrick lived to the ripe old age of seventy seven.

Now, is this a kids perspective?  But my grandmother Gertrude O’Rourke said he father was mean and angry at everyone at the time.  It would be demoralizing to lose your job in the prime of life and have a eight  children to feed.   At that time big business did not care about their employees and whether they lived or died.   Looking at the conditions today I do not think anything has changed, just the bonuses have gotten ridiculously out of proportion to the rest of the salaries.  I seriously doubt if then, as well as now, the CEO’s have any idea of the lives of their employees and the suffering they caused, on the other hand they do not care.


Saturday, December 19, 2009


I have no idea when my parents started Christmas Shopping. After I had gotten married I know my mother would start after Thanksgiving.

When we were first married I had usually took the first week in December and did my shopping then. But now the list is so short that I can do it on my days off and weekends (but I have to be sure to get out there early) There are just a few things left to buy, so maybe tomorrow morning I will be out and about.


I have been up since I heard my husband scraping of the car windshield as he was going to work, or rather, getting the car ready to go. It is snowing and there are about four inches outside.

What did our ancestors do when it snowed? Did they walk to work? Since they would have been working in the year 1900 they would not have had a car. I suppose there were trolleys or did everyone live near their place of employment?

Some things that were so common sometimes are off our own radar.. I would really like to have spent a day with each family of mine to see what a typical day was really like. I wonder what it will be like one hundred ten years from now and what will my descendants life be like? Now that is a thought to be pondered.....I imagine the future will be entirely different than we could ever imagine, just as the future was for our great grandparents.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent Calendar December 18th

Did I have a stocking?? NO, I think it was because there was not much money. We were lucky we got gifts. And thanks to my grandmother, Anna Maria Johanna Bartels, we had gifts.

My daughter has a stocking, which I habitually forget to buy things and run around thinking what will I put in the stocking. So if Emily reads this, what is coming are gift cards. They're small but mighty.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Grab bags. When my sibs and I got older we would put names in and draw them for Christmas, but that proved to be expensive. Then we did the children, but most of them are grown up and a few out of college.

Every month I get together with some of my friends and we eat, have a glass of wine or two and chat. This January we will get together and celebrate Christmas. We decided we were too busy in December. So, the procedure is such, you buy a gift for the cost of $20, then you pick one of them. If the next person decides they like your gift it is still up for grabs. I do not know how it ends but I will post on it in January. Sounds like fun, think I will get a bottle of Reisling.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



Phipps Conservatory.


I was in a Christmas Play. I had forgotten all about that. I went to a Catholic Grade School from 1st to 8th grade. One year, I can not remember except that it was early elementary, and I think perhaps 1st grade I was an angel. I think this was because I was the most petite person in the class. I remember that my line was "Hark, I bring you tidings of great joy"

In the second grade I had the honor of drawing the Nativity Scene on the black board. I was always good in art so I suppose that is how I was selected. I had a picture and drew it from the card. It looked good at the time, I would like to know know how it really looked with my adult perspective.

I still like art, and paint in watercolors, although I haven't done that for awhile and I also like photography. I do that a lot.

I must add that this Advent Calendar is bringing a lot of memories of things long forgotten. I bet my sister will call me and ask me about this......

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Are there any occasions or anniversaries coinciding with the Holiday Season? Well the first would be my and Chucks wedding anniversary, which is December 4th 1971. I asked him if he wanted an summer or winter wedding and told him when to show up.

The second thing that I have found is his great grandmother Olive Bauser Stephens Rauhut's death, which was on Christmas Eve in 1923. It took a few months but I managed, with the help of a kind soul on Allegheny County Roots Web, found that what my Aunt Edna said was true, Olive did indeed die on Christmas Eve. After someone found the death certificate on the Ohio site, she was buried in December 27, 1923.

Can you imagine how everyone felt, each and every Christmas they would think how mom died on Christmas Eve. That is really depressing, I found it depressing eighty one years later. I suppose that I should contact the cemetery to see if there is a memorial stone.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Fruit cake????? Do people really eat that?

Sunday, December 13, 2009



Did we travel anywhere????   NO, there was no where to go.   My dad would bring my grandmother to our house.  My mother was an only child and my fathers only brother died in 1951.   

He had told us all that we didn’t have any relatives, with the exception of a few aunts, and I found out recently that there were a lot.

I am wondering now if Gertrude did not associate at all with her husbands siblings?     I have a feeling that there is more than meets the eye, and I probably never find out.

Advent Calendar December 12


Cheating?????   The only “cheating” I can associate with Christmas, and I had totally forgotten was my parents would celebrate Christmas on December 24th.

Their reason was that the kids would not want to go to church once they started playing with their toys.    It was done by telling the unsuspecting sibling that December 24th was Christmas.  They were so busy playing that they never went outside to compare findings with the neighbors.

Today, with all the instant electronic communications, they would have never been able to pull it off.

I will have to ask the sibs if they remember that???   I had long forgotten, but the title of the Advent Calendar made me remember.

Saturday, December 12, 2009



I was reading some of my favorite blogs when I came upon  Blog Anniversary Dates in GENEABLOGGERS.   I thought my date should be coming up  soon and so I checked…..

Much to my amazement it is December 22, 2008.    Have I only been writing here for one year???   It must be so because I have the written documentation……

I love reading others blogs, it gives me inspiration, where and how to research and just ideas on what to write about.  

I have been working on Genealogy for three years now and I must say I have found more and gotten farther than I would have thought to be possible. 

My biggest regret would be I did not start it sooner and gotten information from my parents or grandparents.   Some one posed a question to me one day.   If you could have dinner with anyone throughout history, who would it be?    My initial answer was Thomas Jefferson, but now it would be my great grandparents.  There would be so much to find out.   I would love to talk to the people who came before me and who genes made me who I am today.


Today I had a demonstration and a tutorial on placement of flowers in the cemetery vase. My sister said she read my blog and had to give me a call. She did wire the flowers in the vase, it begins with very fine wire and you have to weave the wire thru the stems of your flowers.

The second step is to place the wires thru the little holes at the bottom of the vase and then wind the ends around the stem at the base of the holder.

She said that the flowers will blow away and the wiring help to prevent someone from taking the decorations. Hard to believe that some one would take decorations from a grave.

Advent Calendar December 12.

The question was did your family do volunteer work at Christmas. The answer is No. I think my parents were busy trying to eke a life of their own. My parents had given money to the church but other than that I do not think there was any to give.

I know later, after we were gone he and my mother gave money to organizations but never got involved in volunteering. I think my father had social anxiety disorder, it there is such a thing. He was always uncomfortable with people other than his family and people at work.

Friday, December 11, 2009


My family celebrated the usual traditions. But I do have another tradition story. When my daughter was in first grade the community had a large Jewish population. In the holdiay season they learned of the traditions of Judaism and Christian. She came home one day and told me she wanted to celebrate Hanaukkah. I told her to go ahead and celebrate what she wanted but I was not going to give her nine presents.

I thought it was a good idea that they would be taught about other beliefs, celebrations and customs. Happy Hanukkah to those who's celebration starts tonight.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


What was the favorite gift I have received? I honestly do not know......I like things that are a total surprise. Something you would like and would not buy for yourself.

At first we bought gifts for everyone in the family, that proved to be too expensive, especially with the addition of family members.

Then we tried a Christmas grab bag and that worked for a while, but also got too expensive. Now we just get little things. Last year I gave my sibs a copy of a picture my sister in law had taken of the six of us. Some times you will get pictures, ornaments or some tasty food item.

I think what I like the best is the company of my family and just getting together for dinner, and sharing the time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009



Write about what I remember.   We grew up poor, but we didn’t know it.   When my mother was very sick and at the last day she went to her oncologist she was talking about her mother.  

Gerda said that the only way we had presents at Christmas was because her mother gave her money to buy presents for the kids.   My father did not want to take any sort of help from his mother in law, I guess he was too proud to take any help.   But my grandmother buying presents was for the children.   Gerda said if she had not done that we would have not had any Christmas.

At Christmas we each got one larger present and perhaps two smaller ones.    One Christmas I got a bicycle and I had always wondered where they kept that bike till Christmas morning.

A big disappointment for me one year was that my grandmother Gertrude asked what I wanted, and I had my eye on a Terri Lee Doll because the girl next door had one.   Gertrude said OK,  I was in little girl heaven.  On Christmas I was waiting with anticipatory joy, and what she bought was a Madame Alexander Doll.  Now this doll looked like an adult and not like the child figure I had wanted. 

I then noticed that anything I told Gertrude I had wanted was not to be believed, she bought what she wanted.  In spite of that I managed to survive.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009






It took me a long time to go and take these pictures.  I guess I had to resolve the issues of my parents dying.   Last Saturday I went and took the camera and took the pictures.

My father saw a tombstone in one of the cemeteries on Ocracoke Island and he like the inscription and decided to put it on my mothers tombstone.



I had mentioned in an earlier posting about the brown sugar cookies that I had loved as a child.  My mother got the recipe from the little old lady who lived across the street from my mother.


1 egg

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cup walnuts, ground medium fine

Beat egg at high speed until is thick and creamy.  Add sugar and vanilla until smooth.   Stir in flour, salt and soda.  Then mix in the walnuts.  Drop by teaspoon full on greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for ten minutes.   Makes about 2 dozen.  Remove and cool on cookie sheet then ice.


1 cup powered sugar

2 tbsp. milk

1 tsp vanilla

add a few drops food coloring if you like (I use green and red)




I can honestly say that my parents never had a Christmas Party, or one of any other kind to be exact.

When I was a child we would go to my grandmother Gertrude O’Rourke Dowd house and she would cook.   I can only remember doing this once or twice.   I suppose she was getting older and the task moved to the next generation, or perhaps, it was easier for my dad to go and chauffeur his mother than it was for him to take all the kids to grandmothers house.

When I was school age my mother would cook Christmas Dinner.   It was the same every year because they were reticent to change.  Everything HAD to be the same way it was the year before. She would put the turkey in the oven late at night and the house would fill with the aroma of the roasting bird.  I remember when we were first married we would go to Chucks parents home for Christmas Eve and my parents for Christmas dinner.

When we moved back to Pittsburgh in 1989 or 1990 my mother decided she was not going to cook any more dinners and me and my sisters and brother took up the tradition.

Then my dad would chauffeur my mom to the kids houses.   The menu would include turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, cranberry sauce and the pies.

Now that they are both gone, we still celebrate together, but the one doing the hosting cooks the turkey, stuffing and gravy and the other dishes are parceled out and it is much easier to do it that way.   You just have to plan if you are the host, take the next day off.   As he got older my father would not go out and we would take him a platter of food which he would reheat in the microwave.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Dear Gene Santa:

What I would like is a picture of my great grandfather Thomas Dowd and his wife, my great grandmother Bridget Naughton and their eight children. Their oldest son, my grandfather, died in 1921. If he had lived to a ripe old age I am sure there would be one.

I have been in touch with other newly found cousins, but no one had offered to send me a picture. I feel really bad that I can not see what they look like. I would gladly share my photos with cousins I have yet to meet.




I have two memories of Santa Claus.  When I was little, I suppose about three or four at the most, my grandmother and mother took me into the big City of Pittsburgh.   They were Christmas shopping, and I was going to see Santa.   I do not remember if seeing Santa was the plan, but I do remember standing in a long line.   Maybe I got bored or didn’t want to be there at all, but when  it was my turn I did not talk to him or sit in his lap, I climbed under his chair…… I do not remember how my mom got me out from under the chair.  

Was I afraid of him?   I think I was, but did not have the skills to tell my mother and grandmother of my fears.   They were really angry that they had wasted their time.

My second story is when my daughter was in first grade we live in a primarily Jewish community.  We had moved from Texas to New Jersey.   The public schools system had both the Jewish and Christian Holy Days scheduled to be off.  In the school system they learned about the traditions of both faiths.   She came home from school and told me she wanted to celebrate Hanukkah.  I told her she could celebrate if she wished but I was not going to buy nine presents.

One day, close to Christmas, I took her to the local mall and asked her if she wanted to talk to Santa (I wasn’t going to wait for her to climb under his chair if she was afraid).    She told me no, that the Jewish kids told her that Santa was not real and the parents did that.    “What if you’re wrong?” I asked.  The reply was “I will see him just in case……”   

We then had a discussion about the meaning of Christmas, sharing with the family and the reasons for the decorations.   She did not believe even though she talked to him, but she said later “I wondered why I only got presents from Santa and none from you.”

My final words on that subject was “Don’t tell your cousins of your suspicions.”   She never told her cousins and seemed to enjoy playing along with the adults.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


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With plenty of help of the feline kind.    I would love to have tinsel, but the cats would eat it……



Most people in my neighbor hood decorate with Christmas lights.   Most of them are tasteful but some are downright overdone.   

What I do at my house is candles in in the window.   I actually have been keeping them in a closet so they can be put up early.   The rest of the ornaments are kept in the attic and we somehow, never get the decorations down  till the week of Christmas.   We always manage to get it done by Christmas Eve.

Chuck said that the tradition at his house was that Santa decorated the tree and outside of the house in addition to the delivery of the booty.

I will tell a story about an incident from my mothers childhood Christmas Tree.   I suppose it was circa 1926 because that is the year they arrived from Germany.   My mutti said that her parents put up a tree and the German tradition was to put candles on the tree and then light them.    Well, somehow the caught on fire and my grandfather threw the tree outside and avoided a catastrophe.   She said that particular tradition was never done again.   I suppose it originated before Christmas lights, and I suppose now candles use is gone forever.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Christmas Cards. They do not really stand out in my memory. I remember my parents send them and we got some, but my mother did not display them prominently.

However, Chuck said his parents always received about 100 cards and they hung them up by tape on the wrought iron railing that was on both side of the steps going up to the second floor.

They kept them in a box and then the next year they would make sure everyone would get a card in return. Chuck remembers every year his parents would have a card and mentioned that the person had died during the current year.

I send cards myself but only to family and a few friends who now live out of state. I think it is the cost of postage that limits the amount of cards that most people send. When Emily was little and in school I would take the best snap shot, make one of those family cards and send them to friends and family. I found that Aunt Edna and the grandparents saved them all.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


The ornaments we had were a lot of decorated glass balls. There were a lot that I suspected were from my mothers family. My dads mom would buy an ornament or two and add it to the collection. Some of them were hand painted and quite elaborate. Sadly the all were broken long ago. I remember the Christmas scenes painted on two sides.

What we had was an electric train and miniature village. My father had three panels that were elevated and put together. The tree went in the corner and the train went in an oval, with the village set around the platform. There was a train station, houses, stores and a church; also a few trees to place around the houses. I am sure there must have been people,but I do not remember them being there.

How I got my ornaments that I have now. When we were dating Chucks grandfather said that he would give his Christmas decoration to the first of the grandchildren that would get married. Chuck and I were the first and shortly thereafter we had several boxes of many decoration and glass balls. We no longer put those old ornaments on our tree because they are so fragile. I now have colorful, unbreakable ornaments.


I had mentioned a few posting ago how my father was a pack rat and kept everything but the old Christmas decoration and aluminum tree, but, he kept a plethora of paper documentation from both his and my mothers family.

These were things I had never known existed until after his death. What I found was a rudimentary family tree


He had started with his mothers family, O’Rourke. He has listed his grandmother Ellen. On many of their children it had listed her maiden name as Martel, and Martin. After researching I found that Martel was French and although there were some French in Ireland, they were Protestant. A man on the Limerick suggested that the name might be Mortell or Mortel, and these names were frequent in County Limerick. Indeed, that is where I found information. But the census of 1851 showed the family was living in England. Poverty and the famine had forced them to migrate.

Ellen’s fathers name was Patrick and Catholic. I found the Patrick Mortel family in the 1851 census with Ellen 6 months old. I am 99.9% sure that they are my ancestors.

He had his grandfather listed as Patrick and a brother John, one one of the childrens Baptismal Certificate it was listed as a brother James.

It took me a while to figure out the sister Reagan. About one year ago a fellow researcher sent me an obit of Mary O’ROURKE Rogan, which listed her brother Patrick in Pittsburgh, parents Denis and Mary O’Rourke of Limerick, and a sister Mrs.William Collins of Limerick Ireland too.

With that little tidbit I found out the parents name, where they lived and two sisters. What I am still searching is my 2x grandmother Mary last name, and the given name of Patricks sister Mrs. Collins.

My father would have been vey interested in my discoveries.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


The thing I remember most was the baking of the cookies. My mother would bake dozens and store them for Christmas. One of my favorites was a brown sugar drop cookie and she would ice it with a powder sugar frosting.

I have never seen a recipe for those, but, somewhere in my recipe box I have it written down. Perhaps I will post it this weekend when I conjure it out of it hiding place.

My mother was German, but my favorite treat was made by the woman who lived next door. She was of Slovak ancestry and made the best nut and poppy seed rolls. She gave me the recipe and I made them faithfully, but not recently. I guess watching calories replaced the rolls. I will see if I can find them too.

It was a traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetables and pumpkin pie. My mother also made the German red cabbage in which you cut the cabbage in slivers like for cole slaw and then cook it with a little water, cloves and a sliced apple. You have to cook it for about 20 to 30 minutes. I love it, I suppose it reminds me of my mother.


Even thought it is December 2nd, I am behind as usual. My parents bought a live tree from a local tree stand. I never really paid attention, it just sort of showed up sometime in December. We had old (antique) ornaments that were of glass many were from Germany, and large light bulbs (the size that would fit in a night light) and they were inserted into a shaped, shiny star that had the finish of a mirror. This went on the outside of the receptacle and then the bulb was screwed in the socket. This would reflect the large light and the colors on the shiny form. Those bulbs were circa 1950’s.

The next bulbs I remember were the bubble lights, which were shaped like little candles. There was a small base and the thin shaped tube with colored liquid inside, it bubbled when the liquid got warm. I liked them they appeared festive on the tree.

Next was the tinsel which covered the whole tree, at first they were metallic but later they are now made of plastic or some derivative of some petro chemical.

In the 60’s an aluminum tree arrived with solid colored balls and a revolving light with four colors, yellow, blue, green and red. That lasted a few years and then the final tree was an artificial green and we went back to the antique balls and little twinkle lights.

My father was a pack rate and never threw anything out, but after he died and we were cleaning the attic we never found any of the decorations, lights or aluminum tree. My sibs and I decided he threw away anything that would have been of value and we could have sold on eBAy.


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