Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mabel and Julia Fritz of Dexter, Michigan

The photo above is of Julia A. Fritz of Dexter, Michigan.  Whoever wrote the name on the back of this photo also added '6 years old'.  I just love the long hair and the dress.  I'm not very good at dating photographs, so I started searching for her in the 1900 census.  Dexter, Michigan is in Washtenaw County and it didn't take long to find Julia.  I clipped the census record below for the household of Christian and Maragrite Fritz.  Julia and Mabel are listed as children.  Julia is 21 years old in 1900 and is listed as a dressmaker.  She is listed as being born in 1878, so her photo must have been taken in 1884.

I also have the photograph for Mabel B. M. Fritz (of Dexter, Michigan) and Bertha Aprill (?, Michigan).  I am not sure of who is who.  They almost look like twins!  Mabel's birth occurred in March of 1888, so I guess this photo could have been taken sometime in 1894 or 1895.  I'll let you figure out which one is Mabel and which one is Bertha.

Don't the photos just make the census images come alive?  I think this must be the correct census record for Bertha.  This family is listed in Scio Township in Washtenaw County (the same township Dexter is in).  She too, is born in 1888 so I wonder if they are cousins? school friends? or maybe neighbors?
One last photo which finishes off the Fritz family quite nicely.  The photo is simply identified as Mr. and Mrs. Fritz.  The cabinet card is from E. E. Shaver's Art Gallery of Chelsea, Mich.  I love the flower coming out of an urn.  The spider web is pretty neat, too.  I wonder if this has some kind of symbolism?
Maybe I'm just seeing things, but don't the girls look like Mrs. Fritz?  That includes Bertha Aprill!  I found this biographical sketch for Christian Fritz in the History of Washtenaw County, Michigan.  This book was published 1881 so Mabel isn't listed.  

I just love putting faces to these names...   

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Build a better mouse trap ... A Sears Catalog Redux

OK, I just couldn't put down the 1896 Sears Catalog.  I came across the page with rat and mouse traps and it made me think about what life was really like for our ancestors.  Mice and rats must have been as common as visits from in-laws!
The Marty Rat Trap caught my attention.  The selling point for this device is that it is used in the leading hotels, market houses, and public institutions.  If that wasn't enough to get you to buy it, they have testimonials stating the the Marty Rat Trap will catch rats up to capacity night after night as long as the rats hold out!

If you are intrigued by these traps, check out this really neat site... Mouse Traps.      

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I am the Photographer!

How many times have you seen an old cabinet card with the photographer's name and address emblazoned across the bottom of the photograph?  If you are a family tree researcher, my guess is dozens of times.  I came across this photo not too long ago and added it to my collection.  It is part of an old Victorian photo album I acquired.  Originally I thought I was buying a 'complete' family photo album.  When I got the thing home, I realized what I had purchased was an album used by a collector of old photos to display his/her collection of photos.  In other words, the photographs were not placed their by the original owner of the album and the original context and relationship of the 20 or so photos have long been lost.

Even when historic context does not exist, individual photographs can still speak to us.  That's the case with the photo shown above.  It is a picture of an adult male, taken at (or maybe duplicated at) the photography shop of Howard Baker, 66 West Main Street, Battle Creek, Michigan.  It's not until you turn the photograph over that it becomes more interesting.  The caption states simply, "This is my husband, Howard Baker."
 So I thought to myself, why not try and hunt down Howard Baker and his wife.  The obvious place to start is Battle Creek, Michigan.  I started with the 1910 census to see how many people I might have to sort through.  As it turned out - I only had to 'sort' through one family!  The image below shows the only Howard Baker listed in the 1910 Battle Creek, Michigan census.  Both he and his wife are listed as photographers!  I wonder if J. Howard Baker's wife took this photograph?  They have a son named John H. Baker living in the household.  Howard Baker's wife appears to be named Mary L. or maybe Marg L. - I'm not really sure.

I also searched the 1900 census to see if the couple are listed in battle creek with a one year old son.  I found a listing for John Howard Baker with wife Mary Luella Baker and son John Howard Baker.  Howard Baker also has his single sister-in-law living in his household, Kate Anderson who is listed as a dress maker.  Maybe Mary Luella's maiden name is Anderson.

Since the 1900 hundred census asked how many years each individual had been married, and their answer was 11 years, Mary Luella would have been single in the 1880 census.  She should be approximately 14 years old at the time.  There is a very promising match.  I have the 1880 census four Henry Anderson and his wife Mary with a daughter name Luella (b. circa 1866) and a daughter named Kate (b. circa 1868) living in Calhoun County, Michigan.  It appears we have a match!

Going forward, I checked the 1920 census and find the household of J. Howard Baker.  Luella and his son are still living, and we now have a sister-in-law named Blanche McFarland living in the household.  She appears to be the right age to be Luella's sister Kate.

Looking at the marriage records of Calhoun County on the Family Search site, it is apparent that we do have a match, but Blanche's age should be 63 not 53 in the record above.  She would be an older sister of Luella.

See ... all of this came from just one little old photograph ...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Not your usual Sears Catalog

I just can't pass up new data bases on  They have digital images of Sears Catalogs starting in 1896.  What a great way to see what our ancestors were buying (or maybe wishing to buy).  I came across this page from the 1896 catalog.  I highlighted a couple of things our ancestors could purchase from Sears in 1896 which I found interesting.
You could buy Cocaine, Codeine, and Opium from good old Sears, Roebuck and Company.  If you get a chance check out those catalogs.  What a way to make the lives of your ancestors seem more 'real'.  Looking at many of the items listed here, it appears our ancestors were a constipated lot.  There seems to be no shortage of laxative or cathartic medicines.