Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Reunion 78 Years in the Making

Several years following my Uncle Walt’s death in 1980, my mother tasked me with the mission of finding his oldest child – my first cousin Jane. I had heard about her and that no one in our family had seen her since the 1930s. The story of her parents, Walter and Kathleen, was a tale of two lovers and a tragedy that caused their separation from each other with no fault of either party.

Walter later in life (circa 1940) and Kathleen in 1929 as a high school senior.
They were married in Wellsburg, West Virginia on May 16, 1930 and over 2 years later, their daughter Jane was born. In short time, the Great Depression had taken its toll, Walter was unemployed with no prospects for work, and at the request of family members, it was suggested that the two divorce. Reluctantly, they did.

A page from my grandmother's bible.

When Kathleen later remarried, she asked Walter to sign over Jane to be raised by Kathleen’s new husband Ron. He agreed and Jane was raised with the Miller surname of her new father. Walter too remarried and had a son, William Martin Brakeall. Bill was a successful Navy helicopter pilot. Having survived being shot down in Vietnam during his two tours of duty, he was killed in a freak helicopter explosion over Springfield, Missouri in 1971. The tragedy occurred just days prior to his planned discharge from the Navy.

Bill Brakeall graduating from Naval Officer's Training
According to Jane, “Growing up I knew that I had been adopted by my dad, Ron Miller, but I knew nothing about my biological family other than the surname, Brakeall. In 1972, Mom and I traveled to McKeesport to attend Jane Randolph's funeral. Mrs. Randolph was a dear friend for who I am named, i.e. Jane Randolph Miller Boyce. While I was there, the funeral director gave me a note from Louise [Walter’s sister]. She asked me to call her and gave me the number. I called that evening and we had a nice chat wherein I told her about my life, my husband, my children, our home in Florida, and I suppose a lot more.”

She continued, “In 1980, someone gave my mother a copy of the Walter Brakeall obit and she passed it on to me. The obit mentioned my half-brother, Bill. That was the first time that I knew that my biological father had another child. (It also gave his [Walter’s] address that was only a few miles from our home in Florida during the sixties and early seventies. I have often wondered why he never took the time to contact me. Maybe Louise never told him about our conversation.)”

It is likely, for whatever reason, my Aunt Louise never told anyone about talking to Jane. She and my mother were not only sisters, but best friends. It was not unusual for us to see Aunt Louise daily as she stopped by our home after work nearly every day. We often visited her home on Saturdays and we sat in the same pew every Sunday at church. They were confidants and they often shared information with each other that they never shared with anyone else.

Apparently, Jane’s conversation was a piece of information that Aunt Louise took with her to the grave. My mother was never aware of it and neither was Aunt Louise’s only child, my cousin Joan. So, it is likely that she never shared this tidbit with her older brother Walt. There may be reasons for that as well.

The conversation with Jane occurred less than a year after Bill’s death; and perhaps to give him time to grieve, she never mentioned it. In addition, Aunt Lou, Uncle Walt’s second wife, was a fiercely jealous woman and would have not have welcomed any contact with his former family. It is likely then that Aunt Louise never told anyone. Unaware of this important but hidden piece of information, I trudged on with my search.

Over the years, I had attempted to find Jane or her mother. We knew of the Miller surname, but not Kathleen’s husband’s first name of Ron. We were also misinformed that Jane’s dad was a dentist – he was not. That sent me on some wild goose chases. There also was the uncertainty during this time whether Kathleen and Jane were even still living. I had assumed that due to Kathleen’s age that she probably had died, but she hadn’t.

Since Miller is the seventh most popular name in the US, this made the prospect of finding Jane a near impossibility. Add to this the great possibility that Jane was probably married and her married name could be anything. It was the proverbial needle in the haystack.

When I first got access to the Internet in 1995, I thought this new technology would probably be my only vehicle in finding Jane. All through the subsequent years, my mother encouraged me to look for Jane, as she would like to see her again. She was probably two years old when my mother last saw her niece.

Jane as a baby with her grandfather and great-grandmother Brakeall
Over the years I used the various search engines and genealogy sites to make a connection; however, nothing even close emerged. In 2008, however, the tide began to turn. Florida’s death records were indexed on and I found Jane’s maternal grandparents in the listing.

I sent away for the death record of Jane’s grandmother; however, no new information was gathered from it, the cemetery, or the funeral home. All listed Kathleen Miller as the next of kin, however, I could not find any current reference to a Kathleen Miller in the area that proved to be her.

My mother thought that Jane had grown up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania; however, she was only born there. Misinformed, I visited the Connellsville library in June 2008 and searched the high school yearbooks for a Jane Miller – nada. I also perused the city directories for a dentist named Miller – no hits on that one either. I felt I was no closer to finding Jane; however, that would quickly change.

On August 12, 2008, I logged onto and was filling in details for my family tree. While I was adding the various hints for my Uncle Walt, I found a family tree hint – you know one of those “leaves” that Ancestry advertises. Intrigued on who might have him listed on a personal tree, I found the missing link. The other Ancestry subscriber’s tree had a child listed under Walter Brakeall and Kathleen Graffious. This child’s information was blocked because she was living. It also showed a blocked husband and two children.

Typically, I am suspect of personal family trees as many are riddled with misinformation. One tree I encountered had my sister-in-law married to my great-grandfather. This was interesting as she was born 30 years after his death. This new listing, however, was the real deal.

Jim and Paul; September 13, 2012
I immediately emailed the owner of the tree and she explained that Jane’s husband Paul had written a booklet on their families and she would send me the relevant pages. She apparently received this from a relative of Jane’s that had received it directly from Paul.

My copy arrived in the mail in a few days later and I was able to ascertain Jane’s and Paul’s address. I felt that for this introduction a telephone call would be too abrupt for a first encounter, so I wrote Jane a letter. I was able to go into some detail and would give her the opportunity to ruminate on the information. If she called, then she was interested. If not, we at least knew that she was well and had raised a family.

It was a few days later and I arrived home one evening after teaching class. I was met at the door by my wife Pam who had a horrified look on her face. “You’re going to kill me,” she said. “You know that cousin of yours you’ve been trying to find? Well, she called tonight and I thought she was one of those political telemarketers and I let her have it for calling after 9 PM.” She explained that when she found out it was Jane that she apologized “six ways to Sunday” about the misunderstanding. She was right; I was ready to kill her right then and there.

Being that it was the 2008 election year and my wife and I do not share the same political affiliations, we were besieged by representatives of both parties and by numerous political action committees about who we were going to support. Some of these calls violated FTC regulations regarding when such calls could be made. The cutoff was 9:00 PM local time and frequently when we received calls after that, I would remind these callers that they were violating a federal telemarketing statute. Pam’s reaction was learned behavior from me.

Jane’s husband Paul reminded me of this recently and said that Jane being “rebuffed, decided not to call again. I don't know what happened on your end, but within a few minutes you called back and the rest is history. I can't help thinking that could have been the end of it. Jane probably would not have called again.”

With my tail between my legs, I called Jane and apologized profusely. She graciously accepted the apology and we had a wonderful conversation. She told me what she knew about the family; and from that point, I corresponded with Jane and Paul – frequently speaking to Paul on the phone about his research on Jane’s newfound family. Finding Jane was a great birthday present for my mother who was turning 90 in just a few days. I shared this information with our mutual first cousin Joan and she too began corresponding with Jane.

Jane’s mother, albeit in her late 90s, was still living at the time. Unfortunately, she would not be a source of any additional information. According to Jane, “It’s strange, and I have no explanation for it, but my mother never talked to me about her first marriage, so I essentially was in the dark about it until only recently. Even after my contact with you she evaded questions about her marriage.” Kathleen passed away in 2010.

While Jane and Paul wanted to come back to the Pennsylvania to visit, that did not get to happen until two weeks ago. My cousin Joan coordinated a lunch gathering at a local restaurant and it was followed by a small get-together at Joan’s home. Paul, by the way, had enlarged his family history into much expanded volume and had brought a copy for us to peruse. His research and layout was impressive.
Jane and my mother, September 13, 2012
My 94 year old mother finally got to see her oldest niece – 78 years later. In addition to Jane, Paul, my mom, me, and Joan; the event was attended by another first cousin, Nancy; my brother Chuck; and Joan’s daughter Kathy. Children from all four Brakeall siblings that attained adulthood were present. It was a wonderful event and it was like Jane had been among us all of her life. She and Paul fit in well with our crazy bunch.

Nancy, Joan, Jim, Genevieve, Kathy, Jane, & Chuck

You can tell we are family, as at times the topics turned to those two forbidden subjects of religion and politics, yet no one got angry – that’s family. Meeting Jane was one of those items on my mother’s and my own bucket lists. At our meeting, Jane thanked me for writing that letter. The reunion was the highlight to my year. What once was a mission impossible became a mission accomplished.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Death Styles of the Rich and Famous

Those who know me well realize that I’ve spent a great deal of time in cemeteries. While it’s hardly a record, I’ve been to cemeteries in 77 locations in 12 states. Offhand, I cannot tell you how many I’ve visited as many of those aforementioned locations had several of these resting places. Since I’ve done much of my cemetery research in Pennsylvania, some of the towns where I’ve researched grave markers had quite a few cemeteries.

One of my favorite locations is Homewood at the edge of the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. It’s rolling hills and pastoral setting is a perfect backdrop for some of the more interesting monuments and mausoleums in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.


While taking a leisurely drive through Homewood Cemetery last Friday, I rounded a corner and a stream of yellow light caught my eye. I backed up my car and noticed that it was the stained glass in a mausoleum. I parked and grabbed my camera to snap one of the most interesting examples of stained glass I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been aware that some mausoleums had stained glass windows, but never paid any attention to these works of art. I decided to look at several examples of (cue the Robin Leach impersonation) the “Death Styles of the Rich and Famous.” All but one of the following examples come from Homewood Cemetery. These are typically located on the rear wall, but several also have side windows as well.

This first example is the one that started the idea of this series and remains my favorite memorial glass art. From a simple mausoleum with an Egyptian motif, this picture of Cleopatra is truly amazing. It is in surprisingly good shape with the exception of the flaking of the brown paint in the headdress and the fading of the colors around the bars that protect the window.

This is from the tomb of the William S. Stimmel family. Stimmel was the manager of the John Hancock Insurance office in Pittsburgh. Stimmel was also an art collector and it is only fitting that one of the more beautiful examples of funerary art was found in his final resting place.


The Stimmel glass was not the first I had photographed – that distinction belongs to a window in historic Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. I spied the monument for Laure Beauregard Larendon and its circle of stained glass during a visit to the cemetery in July 2012. This particular glass is unusual because it was open on both sides and was not inside of a mausoleum.

This beautiful design also includes nine cut glass jeweled inserts. The monument and window were commissioned by Laure Larendon’s famous father Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate General. Her husband was Colonel Charles A. Larendon of South Carolina.


Typical of many windows are simplistic geometric designs. I like this one as the border reminds me of a Persian rug and the pastel glass in the center is similar to Amish hex signs. This window is found in the family crypt for Edward Worthington, Jr. Worthington was the assistant auditor for the Penn Oil Company.


In the tomb of oil magnate John A. Steel, four members of this family – husband, wife, son, and mother-in-law are bathed in the serene light of this pastoral scene. Notice the detail of the white and purple lilies in the lower left corner. The location of this mausoleum is in one of the higher elevations of the cemetery and its interior is one of the more pristine I’ve seen.


This cannot be said of the Young tomb which was erected in 1907. Although the external façade is beautiful, the window shows damage. Notice that one of the pieces of glass is missing, another has slipped from of its associated lead came, and a third is broken and missing a piece. I tend to believe that the face of the angel probably that of the patriarch of the family. Note that the flesh tone of the neck is nearly gone and beginning to flake off on the face.

Because of the broken glass, water inside the structure has allowed mold and mildew to accumulate on the window. This is the worst example that I have in this series and I’ve only included it to show what could happen when one of these works of art are damaged. This tomb is the final resting place of the Andrew Gray Young and his family. Young was a traffic manager in the steel industry and the tomb was constructed following the death of his daughter Agnes Gray Young.


Another pastoral scene is found in James W. Cheswright’s mausoleum. The sun was directly hitting the top left portion of the window, so it appears washed out. This window is not without some damage as the lowest blue pane is cracked at it appears that it was hit by a hailstone in the past. There may also be some cracks in the orange colored glass as well.

There is also dirt and cobwebs that one might expect. In addition, the front glass doors were very dirty with mold on the inside indicating that there was some water seepage in this structure over its lifetime. Its owner was an officer in the North American Savings Company.


David P. Reighard’s mausoleum has a traditional funerary design with the lilies of the valley. This was shot with direct sunlight that shows a shadow of the grating on the outside of the window used to protect the window and prevent access to the interior.

Reighard’s primary business concern was in oil; however, he also held interest in Duquesne Light Company, the Pittsburgh and Allegheny Telephone Company, and Central Bank of Pittsburgh.


The Frederick J. Kress family lies in state in a modern styled mausoleum which is on the Dallas Avenue side of the cemetery. Unlike the other monuments I perused, its window was of a different size than others.

This window is a fairly standard Christian design of a cross and a crown that might be found in a church building. Its vibrant colors and geometric designs are elegant.


Shaped much like the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Henry J. Heinz (yes that Heinz) mausoleum is a medium sized, but impressive piece of architecture with a Romanesque portal. In the rear of the crypt is a Romanesque window depicting Gabriel holding lilies.

The colors of this window are muted, but that should not be an interpretation that the quality of the workmanship is lesser in this Old World style window. The Heinz name is synonymous with ketchup and the 57 varieties for which the H.J. Heinz Company was once known to produce.


Unlike the tomb of his brother-in-law Henry J. Heinz, Sebastian Mueller's window's colors were not muted. In addition to his family connection, Mueller was a vice president of the H.J. Heinz company. His mausoleum is found in another section of Homewood Cemetery.

This Egyptian themed crypt is fronted with a winged sun and impressive columns. The structure is not square, but tapers and has an interesting pediment in an Egyptian style fit for a pharaoh. The window glass depicts the pyramids along the Nile.

While the physical structure of the window was in excellent condition, there appears to be some flaking of the paint on the left side and some outside water stains on the right third of this piece of art.


One of the larger mausoleums in the cemetery is for the Benedum family. Having made his fortune in the oil business, Micheal Late Benedum’s tomb is not only impressive, but it has its own courtyard surrounding the crypt. The Romanesque window depicts a warrior at the end of his journey flanked by the archangel Michael and the messenger angel Gabriel.

At the bottom of the window, a quote of Mark 10:45 intimates the ministering functions of this family, as the Benedum name in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia is synonymous with philanthropy. Our university has a Benedum Center – a gift of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The window is starting to show some damage on some of the darker gray panels.


Finally, our last example may be one of the more expensive windows in Homewood Cemetery. Found in the crypt for the Albert C. Opperman family, it is the only window in this installment that contains a company’s mark. Franz Xavier Zettler of Munich may have been the best known stained glass artisan in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Zettler graduated from Munich Art Academy in the 1860s and apprenticed under his father-in-law Joseph Mayer, another well known artist. While any number of artists in Zettler’s firm could have crafted this window, a Zettler window was a prized possession for any structure. While Opperman, who owned a lumber concern, was not one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest residents, his window is summarily impressive.

This scene doesn’t follow typical funerary art in that it depicts a mother with two of her children. The craftsmanship is exquisite. Unfortunately, an urn with a dried arrangement obscures a portion of the window.

Because these windows are found in mausoleums, their beauty is hidden from the general public. I felt they needed to be revealed.  While I did not depict any of the structures, the windows held the hidden beauty for these “Death Styles of the Rich and Famous.”  In closing, as Robin Leach would say, “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Dreams bathed in elegant colors, that is, until eternity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mystery Great (Grandparents That Is)

Those of you of a certain vintage will remember the 1960's Milton Bradley game “Mystery Date.” Obviously, I didn’t play the game, but I was familiar enough with it due to the countless number of commercials aired on television. In fact, I can still sing the first line of the commercial’s song ♫ “Mystery date” ♪ – now, that’s scary. The only other thing I could remember from the ad was the line – “Is he a dream or a dud?”

What about our “Mystery Greats?” – mystery great-grandparents in all configurations. We all have them and it is humbling experience to see how many there are in a set number of generations. I have taken the challenge of counting the number of my known ancestors. This exercise was inspired by the recent posts from the following blogs: Judy Russell's The Legal Genealogist and From Helen V. Smith’s Keyboard.

A number of genealogists have counted their known ancestors up to and including seventh great-grandparents. That’s nine generations with a possible total of 1,022 collective ancestors.

Some of these individuals are the same due to pedigree collapse; however, with my known ancestry only five from my paternal grandmother’s side and two from my maternal grandmother’s side are counted twice – thus, 14 slots represent the same seven ancestors.

I know there are other duplicates, but their identities are currently unknown. In addition, two of my maternal grandfather’s Myers lines are related; however, we do not exactly know how. The common ancestors for these two lines are likely my fourth or fifth great grandparents.

Enough talk, let’s see how I fared.

 Relationship   Possible    Known    Percentage  
 Parents   2  2  100.00% 
 Grandparents  4  4  100.00% 
 Great Grandparents   8  8  100.00% 
 2nd Great Grandparents   16  16  100.00% 
 3rd Great Grandparents   32  28  87.50% 
 4th Great Grandparents   64  40  62.50% 
 5th Great Grandparents   128  57  44.53% 
 6th Great Grandparents   256  63  24.60% 
 7th Great Grandparents   512  71  13.86% 
 Total  1022  289  28.27% 

My score of 28.27% is higher than some and lower than others. As for finding these missing leaves from my family tree, many lived at a time when record keeping was scarce, that is if documentation occurred at all. For example, my patrilineal 7th great-grandfather lived from 1636-1676 – therefore, he was born 376 years ago.

My numbers were influenced by the ancestries of my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother’s lineage is Colonial New England and these lines are fairly well documented. As for my maternal grandmother, her German ancestry is also well documented. Some of this knowledge came with a chance encounter of a third cousin about four years ago.

He knew the town from which our second great-grandmother was born; however, he did not know her name. I knew her name, but nothing about where in Germany she originated. The parish records were available on microfilm and he was able to secure copies for us to peruse. Our family trees were significantly enlarged.

It is my grandfathers' ancestries where the holes exist – especially the lineages from Pennsylvania before 1850. I can only go back so many generations and the trail is cold. I have some hunches that might take me back another generation, but I can neither prove nor disprove a relationship to other families with similar surnames. These places remain as blanks on my family tree.

I began my genealogical research in 1978, but must confess that I spent most of that time researching my surname by collecting data on collateral lines and seemingly unrelated lines of individuals who shared my low frequency surname and its variants. I only worked on other lines when it was convenient. Most of my research outside of my surname occurred from 1998 onward.

When I began in 1978, I could name all of my great-grandparents and 8 of my second great grandparents. I’ve come a long way, but at 28.27%, I have a long way to go. “Dream or a dud?” Finding any “mystery great” is always a dream.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Top 10 Genealogical Finds

Over the years, I’ve had some interesting discoveries about my family. A few years ago, I made a list of 25 things I learned through my own research. Recently, I stumbled on that list and decided to add to it and whittle it down to the top ten. While I first became interested in family history in 1968, I did not begin serious family research until 1978.

Some of the following broke down brick walls, while others were just plain interesting and added to the information I already knew about an individual. I have listed these discoveries in descending order in importance. Much like Billboard magazine has a Hot 100 chart, my Famboard list has my personal “Hot 10.”

1. There are three branches of my Owston surname that cannot be satisfactorily connected back to the 1500s by traditional methods; however, Y-DNA testing indicates that all three lines share a common patrilineal ancestor.

East Riding of Yorkshire - home of the Owston families.
Four of the participants (two from the Ganton family and one each from the Sherburn and Thornholme families) have 100% matches. Six other participants also had significant matches to these four individuals.  Our I1 haplogroup is a possible indication that we have Viking forebears which is consistent with the Old Norse prefix in our surname.
2. William Owston, my third great-grandfather who was master on the flagship HMS Superb in 1815, was presented to Napoleon as one of the ship's officers. This occurred when the emperor surrendered to the Channel Fleet and was presented to Admiral Henry Hotham in July of that year.

Napoleon on the HMS Bellerophon in July 1815
Although this discovery began as family legend, historical sources confirmed that it was valid. According to the ship’s logs, Owston was in command of the vessel that day and Hotham’s memoirs corroborate that the wardroom officers had brunch with their esteemed guest. Additionally, Hotham was criticized by the Admiralty for offering military courtesies to an enemy of the Crown. Napoleon spent three hours on the Superb before returning to the HMS Bellerophon.
3. For years I was misinformed of my great-grandmother's name. I was always told that it was Alice Amy Champlain. Through her husband’s pension records, I found that she really was Amy Alice Champlin. Once I made this discovery, I was able to trace most of her lineage through the 1600s.

Patriot Marker at the Gardner-Bulkeley Cemetery, Bozrah, CT
Her ancestry includes at least four Revolutionary War patriots – of which I utilized my lineage to one (William Gardner of the 20th Connecticut Militia) to gain membership in the Sons of the American Revolution this year.
4. My Gardner ancestors (of which I have three lines that converge) can be traced to King Edward III of England as well as to 70+ other royals in his lineage. These royal ancestors ruled areas that encompass geographic regions of the modern countries of England, Scotland, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, and Israel.

King Edward III of England
While many Europeans (perhaps most) probably have similar claims – it still seems interesting to have a traceable royal connection nonetheless.
5. My 7th great-grandfather George Owston became so interested in the Society of Friends, that he locked the door of the Church of England Parish Church (St. Hilda's) at Sherburn, Yorkshire. He absconded with the key and tied the bell so it could not be rung.

St. Hilda's Church prior to its 20th century restoration
Because of his actions, he was the subject of a visitation by the Archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1670. Five years later, George was buried under the floor of this same church.
6. My grandfather's half brother (Ross Milton Covalt) attempted to steal a woman's purse in Hancock, Maryland in 1908 while intoxicated. He was chased down by a Catholic priest who happened to have been a former golden gloves champ and a sprinter. The priest gave him quite the pounding. The Hancock police felt so sorry for Covalt that they sent him home to his mother in Pennsylvania and dropped the charges concluding that the priest's beating was sufficient enough punishment for the crime.

The Washington Herald, May 4, 1908
The story appeared in numerous newspapers across America where he was misidentified as Jackson Covalt also known as Jackson Brakeall.
7. The house that my 3rd great grandmother, Ann Elizabeth Rausch Völler Eichenauer, had owned and had deeded to her daughter Elizabeth Eichenauer Goebert, was lifted off of its foundation during the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and was moved approximately 175 yards down two streets without suffering any major structural damage or loss of life.

Movement of the Goebert Home during the Johnstown Flood.
It was later moved back to its original location. It is not known if any of their large family was in the home at the time the disaster struck.
8. My second great grandfather, George W. Staley, who served in Tennessee in the 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, had a questionable injury during the Civil War. Some of his fellow soldiers testified that the ax wound he received as a pioneer was intentionally self inflicted and not accidental as he claimed.

Grave at Independence-Butler Cemetery, Butler, OH
Not enough evidence was present to prove the allegations and the US government granted him pension despite the testimony of some members of the 62nd OVI. Over 40 years later, the wound festered and required his leg to be amputated. He died shortly thereafter.
9. My grandmother's first husband Timothy Dalton’s 1903 murder at the Hotel Victory in East McKeesport, Pennsylvania was precipitated by racial slurs and pop-bottles hailed at the assailant. John Walter Swingler (sometimes identified as Zwingler and Zwlinger) drew a revolver and fired two shots – one mortally wounding Dalton and the other wounding my double great uncle John Freemont Merriman.

Hotel Victory in East McKeesport, PA.
A capital murder charge was brought against Swingler; however, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Swingler was sentenced to 8 years in prison but the sentence was commuted to 5 years and 3 months for time served and good behavior. Swingler later returned to McKeesport and married. He is recorded as living with his brother Howard in the 1940 census. His wife Pearl predeceased him and they had no children.
10. My step-father's father, Axel Peter Akerberg, was thought as being the only one of his family born in the US. This was the understanding of my stepfather and apparently the understanding of his father as well. Census records and the World War I draft registrations list him as being a natural born American citizen.

Axel Akerberg and his wife Edith and son Charles circa 1905
Emigration records from Sweden, however, indicate that he was born there and traveled with his mother and brothers to the US when he was five months of age. His father had moved to the US earlier that same year.

These are the Top Ten genealogical discoveries I’ve made since beginning my journey as a family historian. I hope you found this as interesting as I had in making these personal discoveries.