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An Experiment

I got a few resource books for Christmas, so I have decided to go back and start over with my trees, making sure everything is documented properly.  I also got a flood of original documents from my uncle, so I have a lot of work to do.

But that whole process got sidetracked because I became obsessed with the idea of PICTURES.  I wanted to get my hands on every picture of my family I could find.  My uncle dug some of those up for me, and I am working on scanning them to preserve them and pass them along to my other family members.  But I decided to take one picture of my grandma and do a little experiment.

Nine years ago, on February 2, we buried my grandma, Jennie Valenti.  So I took a beautiful picture I had of her, and I decided to try to do a slight restore and color.  I meant it to be a weekend project, but it ended up taking me closer to a week.  Oops. Here’s my finished product (if I truly stop fiddling with it).

Jennie Valenti 1952

Jennie Valenti 1952


News To Me

In trying to stay organized and thoughtful in my research, I’ve become extremely overwhelmed.  I need to take a step back and evaluate what I’ve been doing, make sure I’ve been sourcing properly and that I know what documentation I’m missing.

I know that in order to find out more about my Meditz heritage, I will have to get documents from the Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association.  So I did a little research into the Cachia line instead.  I checked out the 1930 census, and I noticed something interesting.


In the right hand column, it notes the year of immigration for each person.  I had always thought my great-grandfather Emanuel came first, in 1922, and the rest of the family followed after in 1928.  But now I see that my grandmother’s oldest brother came on his own in 1926.  I decided to track down his ship record and made an interesting discovery.


On the passenger list, they made note of where the person will be staying when they arrive at their destination.  According to this, Lorenzo was going to be staying with his father Emanuel, who was living at 411 West 19th Street in Manhattan.  I always thought my family always lived in this small area around Brooklyn and Queens, but now I know a bit differently!

Before Ellis Island

There are so many people on my tree I am dying to find out about, I’ve been finding myself getting overwhelmed and confused.  I’ve been dividing my time between the Meditz and Proffitt lines primarily, but I’ve found myself hopping around too much within those families, and even skipping over to the Cachia line.  Tsk, tsk to me.

So I’ve decided to focus on some very specific things for the time being.  One of the things I’ve chosen to focus on is finding the first passenger list for John Meditz.  The records I have found show that John had immigrated to New York some time between 1887 and 1890.  I seem to have pretty decent luck finding passenger lists from Ellis Island, but Ellis Island was not opened until 1892.  It’s kind of strange thinking that my ancestor didn’t arrive at Ellis Island when he first came over.  He probably was processed at Castle Garden.

I haven’t been able to find anything in the indexed searches, so I’m going hunting!  It’s going to take a while to go through 4 years of passenger lists, but hopefully I don’t come up empty handed.

Meanwhile, I took another look at John’s naturalization paperwork, from October, 1894.  I must have looked at this 50 times, especially since this is a document my parents had tracked down years ago.  But for the first time I noticed an address on it, 31 McKibbin Street.  This is different from the address where he was living in the 1892 New York Census.  He was also vouched for by an acquaintance named Anton Riegel, who lived at the same address, and swore that John had lived in the US for at least 5 years.  Maybe I can poke around for Anton a little and see if I can get any more clues, as long as I don’t get too distracted from my massive passenger list search.

And one more thing:

John Meditz signature

John Meditz’s signature

Traveling: with John Jackson Proffitt

I did some unexpected traveling with John Jackson Proffitt this weekend, which I hope will help me verify his parents in the upcoming days.  But let me not get ahead of myself.

When I found a pension application for John Jackson and Dicie in the Civil War Pension Index, trust me, I was confused.  John was only 10 or so when the Civil War ended.  Furthermore, this record only contains Union soldiers, which we would assume John would not have been.  But as it turns out, this index holds pension cards for service after the Civil War as well.  Later on, I may contact the National Archives and Records Administration to get his full case file.  For now, I just grabbed his service details to see what I could find.

John Jackson's pension application

John Jackson’s pension application

Using this information, I found a register of enlistments from 1881.  There is a John J. on the list, but he is listed as being 22 when he should be 27.  He also enlisted in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is strange. So that didn’t add up.  However, this John J. was born in Newport, Tennessee, and he is in the same regiment and company as John Jackson.  He is also a farmer.  I feel pretty confident this is the right John J.  One of my favorite things about this document is that it includes a physical description of John. Blue eyes, dark hair, dark complexion and 5’10.5″.  

The document also states that he was discharged in April of 1886 at St. Francis Barracks in Florida, and apparently his character was very good (NOT excellent).

As I scanned the rest of the enlistment sheet, I found an entry for a David Proffitt with very similar information, except he was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, about 25 miles from Newport.  I felt it was safe to assume these two might very well be brothers.

I’d worked my way back to the 1900 census, but the 1890 census is nowhere to be found.  It’s tough to leap back 20 years with these wanderers, but I found a David and John in the 1880 Census, in TEXAS of all places!

John and David Proffitt in Grayson Texas

John and David Proffitt in Grayson Texas

They’re the proper ages and everything!  It’s going to take some digging to get back further than this, but this census does give me a hint that David was married by 1880.  Hopefully if I follow his trail around, I can get enough clues to jump back another generation.

Born on the Boat?

My grandparents aren’t around anymore, so I was very fortunate that my mother and father had asked them a lot of questions and written down everything they were told a LONG time ago.  When I started my research, one of the first things I did was read through all the information my grandparents had given my parents.  In addition to names and dates, it was also filled with funny little stories about my grandparents’ siblings.

One of the things that stuck out to me was this story my grandfather, Frank Meditz told about his brother Gottfried, or “Uncle Skinny,” who claimed he was born on the boat coming to America.

According to my parents’ research, Frank and Gottfried’s father, John, was naturalized in 1894, and Gottfried was born in 1899.  So we all just laughed it off.  That is, until I started finding census records. Here’s the 1910 Census, for example.

meditz 1910 census

Whereas all of his other siblings were born in New York, there Gottfried is, an American citizen born in Austria.  Gottfried was only 9 months old when the family arrived from Austria.  So he may not have been born on the boat, but he wasn’t too far off!

This was one of the first things I discovered, and it’s interesting because it means my great-grandfather and his family went back to Austria after living in New York for some time.  Hopefully some day I can find out more about why they might have gone back!

Priest in the Family!

A while ago, when I was researching my great-grandfather, Emanuel Cachia, I started coming across some documents pertaining to a Theophilus Cachia who was a priest.  Of particular interest to me was a passport application that said his father’s name was Angelo Cachia, which I believed was the name of my great-great-grandfather.  I asked my father if his mother Jessie had an uncle who was a priest, since that sounded vaguely familiar to me.  My dad said yes, and that he was baptized by him.

According to my father’s previous research though, that uncle was named Carmen.  I demanded my mother pull my father’s baptismal record out of storage, and lo and behold, it was signed Theophilus!

Well, that passport application got me a lot of information.

Theophilus Cachia's passport application

Theophilus Cachia’s passport application

First, it confirmed that Angelo Cachia was my great-great-grandfather.  Second, it showed his birthplace as Sliema, Malta, which was a place I’d never heard of.  We had always believed the family was from Valetta, but could never find any church records from there.  Now we have the opportunity to check church records in Sliema to see what we can find!

Following Theophilus also helped me find another brother, John.  And it found me the first photo of one of my ancestors.

Theophilus Cachia

Theophilus Cachia

Pretty cool!

Who is Mary McGaha?

Last night I had a hunch.  I knew William Russell McGaha was married at least twice, and that his first wife was the mother of Matt’s great-grandmother, Dicie.  But from the information I had from the 1900 Census, I only knew William’s second wife.

Not being able to access the 1890 Census really hindered me here.  But I found a hint for a W. R. McGaha in the 1880 Census in Cocke County, Tennessee.  Only problem here is, the oldest child William had in the 1900 Census was born in 1881!  So I have a census from the right county with the right initials and last name, but a different wife, and no matching children.

All I knew about Dicie’s mother from the 1900 Census was that she was born in South Carolina.  In the 1880 Census I found, W. R.’s wife, Mary, was born in South Carolina.  So, I was onto something.

On the right hand side you can see Mary McGaha and her parents were born in South Carolina.

On the right hand side you can see Mary McGaha and her parents were born in South Carolina.

What I would have LOVED to do at this point, would have been to look at Dicie’s birth certificate and call it a day.  Except, I couldn’t do that, because Tennessee didn’t keep track of birth records until 1908. Perfect.

Instead, I discovered a thing called “Tennessee Delayed Birth Records.”  I had to hope one of Dicie’s full siblings would have one of these.

A search for Dicie and her full siblings in this archive turned up nothing, except one record for a James B. McGaha born on August 7, 1884.  I knew that Dicie had a brother known as Benjamin S. born in August 1884.  James was born in Cocke County to a William R. McGaha, so I hoped this was the Benjamin I knew of.

Tennessee Delayed Birth Records require supporting evidence in order to be issued.  One of James’ points of supporting evidence was the oath of an uncle, F.G. McGaha.  At this point, I checked the Delayed Birth Record of one of Dicie’s half-siblings, Milford Edgar.  He also had an uncle F.G. McGaha vouch for him.  At the time James’ certificate was issued in 1942, F.G. said he was 77.  When Milford’s was issued in 1949, F.G. said he was 82.  It wasn’t a perfect match, but it was close.  Then I compared the signatures on both documents.

F.G.'s signature on James's Birth Record

F.G.’s signature on James’s birth record

FG sig from milford DBR

F.G.’s signature on Milford’s birth record

I thought the signatures were pretty close.  So that allowed me to determine that James and Milford were, in fact, half brothers.  It let me add F.G. to my tree as a brother to William Russell, which will hopefully help me track down their parents.  It also meant that Benjamin S and James B were one and the same.

This all told me one more BIG thing: the name of James and Dicie’s mother!

Name of mother from James DBR

That’s a bingo!

Mary Nix!  Another name to add to the Ahnentafel Chart!  You don’t get to do that every day.