Category Archives: Mimm

Gesundheit: A little linguistic legacy

If you are several generations removed from immigrant ancestors, you may find yourself longing — as I did — for some lingering evidence of a heritage connection within your own family.

Tissues. My family’s use of the word “gesundheit” when someone sneezed was likely passed down from my maternal German immigrant ancestors. By: Chris Costes

My advice is to pay careful attention, because — as I discovered with my maternal German ancestors — the evidence you seek might be found in the most unlikely place.

My German heritage comes from my maternal grandmother Elizabeth Christina Stoutner — who eloped with Anthony [Di Lorenzo] Laurence, the Italian-American boy next door in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

My mom — their oldest daughter — grew up near both my grandparents’ families, with many reminders of her ethnic roots.

Where were my ethnic clues?

But off my mom went to college. Then there was a career move, marriage to my dad, children and more moves — so by the time I was growing up in the suburbs of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., we were an assimilated, Baby Boom family living several hours’ drive from our nearest relatives.

I envied my friends who had closer ties to their immigrant heritage — as I enjoyed perogies and kolachkis with my Eastern European friend up the block or watched a school friend’s Italian grandmother lay handmade pasta to dry over the backs of her kitchen chairs.

Alas, there were few ethnic clues in the basic meat-and-potatoes dinner my family sat down to most evenings. But then someone would sneeze, and we would all say, “Gesundheit!” — and presto, there was my first heritage hint.

A healthful heritage hint

Gesundheit means “health” in German, but I never gave this much thought as a child. It was just something our family said. Not until at school, when I heard others say “bless you,” did I realize that not everyone said gesundheit.

Many years passed before I delved into why — and many more years still until I seriously researched my German heritage and made the connection to this salutation.

It turns out the word gesundheit arrived here with early German immigrants — like my ancestors, who came to these shores in the mid 1800s — then proliferated through the general population as German immigration picked up.

“Used to wish good health to a person who has just sneezed,” according to thefreedictionary.com, the word’s frequency of use over the decades is depicted by an online n-gram graph.

Who would have imagined that as my German-American ancestors sneezed down through the  generations, they would pass along the hearty response “Gesundheit!” as a little linguistic legacy from one generation to the next?

Or that their healthful German salutation would be passed from my immigrant Mimm, Stoutner, Albeitz and Edel great, great grandparents to their children, then to my maternal grandmother, my mom and me?

Such a small ancestral bequest — but one I am reminded of whenever I hear someone sneeze!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Library research leads

Letter L: Twelfth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Online family history research is great — but because there are still so few genealogical resources that have been digitized, library research leads continue to play a significant role in my ancestral journey. And that’s fine.

http://frontpagegloversville.squarespace.com/home/2014/1/11/gloversille-free-library.html
Gloversville Free Library in Fulton Co., N.Y. On a family history visit here with my mom in 1991, we researched our Italian and German ancestors and met a librarian who knew one of our collateral relatives. Photo: Front Page Gloversville

Some of my most valuable clues and evidence have come from libraries — and the wonderful librarians who work there — both on road trips and by phone. Here are just a few examples.

Pictured is the Gloversville Free Library, which my mom and I visited in August 1991 on a family history trip to her home town. There, we consulted city directories that listed our Italian and German ancestors.

Even better, we met a librarian who knew Lucy Edel — a cousin of my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner,  who my mom said, “could have been her twin.”

She told us Lucy was a career librarian at the Free Library and was very proud that she earned enough money to buy her own house. Now that’s not a story you will find on the Internet!

My dad and I made a similar trip to his Otter Lake home town in August 1991. At the Irwin Library and Institute in Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y., using an ancient microfilm reader, we found the obituary of our Montréal-born ancestor Laurent Charles Charbonneau — a landmark discovery! Alas, we were not so lucky on that trip learning the name of his spouse.

“His wife? His wife?” Dad fumed when he saw her nameless entry in the list of Laurent’s survivors. “Doesn’t she even get to have her name in the paper?”

Helpful librarians: a phone call away

Calls to libraries have also yielded breakthroughs. The Salamanca Public Library in Cattaraugus County, N.Y., maintains a index of newspaper obituaries. With a phone call to their librarian, I was able to obtain the obituaries of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull and his mother-in-law, my great, great, great grandmother Hannah (Hance ) Blakeslee.

And when I called a helpful librarian at the Little Falls Public Library in Herkimer County, N.Y., he found and sent me the long-sought-after obituary of my Grand-Uncle Albert B. Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother — who died in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

Are there libraries in the towns where your ancestors lived? Check their catalog and resources online, then consider planning a visit to see what genealogical treasures they hold. Not sure where to start? Call their help desk and speak to the librarian. And always send a thank you note, by mail or email, when they help you make a discovery.

Up next: Maps point the way. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Joseph Mimm’s bucket list

Letter J: Tenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Joseph A. Mimm, one of my maternal great, great grandfathers, emigrated from Baden-Württemburg in Germany to Gloversville in Fulton County, N.Y., in 1873.

My ancestor lived a good life in Gloversville — worked as a glove die maker for 45 years, married my great, great grandmother Eva Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm and had two daughters.

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Ellwangen, Baden, Germany. My immigrant ancestor Joseph A. Mimm celebrated his 79th birthday by fulfilling the lifelong dream of visiting his home town, Ellwangen, one last time. Photo: Moggosaurier/German Wikipedia Project

But when he was a widower and had been retired about 10 years, he decided to cross one last item off his bucket list — a trip back to Ellwangen, the town he had left 57 years before.

So to celebrate his 79th birthday, which occurred on 2 May 1930, Joseph boarded the S.S. Bremen for the trans-Atlantic trip. He was gone for the summer and set sail back to the U.S. on 7 August 1930.

Sadly, Joseph was taken ill on the return trip and later died at his Gloversville home. But according to his obituary in the 20 Aug. 1930 Leader-Republican and Gloversville Journal, he lived a last few months that many would envy:

While abroad he traveled extensively through the Rhine Valley and witnessed the Passion Play at Oberammergau going from there to his home in Ellwangen.

Most important of all, my great, great grandfather Joseph A. Mimm went out on his own terms and realized his lifelong dream of visiting his home town one last time.

Tomorrow’s post: Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey of Galway. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Gloversville, N.Y. and my maternal ancestors

Letter G: Seventh of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

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Louis Meyers & Son glove factory making room, Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Some of my maternal ancestors worked in glove shops like this one. Others sewed gloves at home. The second woman on the right looks a bit like my grandmother’s sister, Margaret (Stoutner) Rothbell. Photo: Steve Oare/Pictorial History of Gloversville

Most of my paternal ancestors have been in North America for centuries, but my maternal German and Italian ancestors arrived more recently and settled in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York.

As the name implies, the town was once home to a bustling glove manufacturing industry, with small brick shops the size of New York City brownstones dotting the thoroughfares and side streets — and women workers all over town making gloves at home.

Gloves and other trades

But that was not the only industry. My great, great grandfather Andrew Stoutner — who emigrated from Prussia in the mid 1800s — operated a brick manufacturing works, supplying the bricks for his own home and many others. His son Pete (my great grandfather) worked for the railroad, and his other son John was a milliner who ran a hat shop.

Another great, great grandfather Joseph A. Mimm, from Baden-Württemberg, was a glove die maker — while his wife Eva Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm was a glove factory worker. Their daughter, my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner (who married Pete the railroad worker) sewed and turned gloves at home.

My mom told me that when she was young, she and her sister Rita would run back and forth to the factory for their grandmother Celia — dropping off finished gloves and picking up new glove kits. I inherited a wooden Meyers glove turner from one of the companies Celia worked for (maybe the one in the photo above).

A family filling station

My Italian great, great grandfather Antonio Curcio started a junk business that morphed over time into a garage and filling station. It was taken over by his son-in-law, my great grandfather Peter Laurence [Di Lorenzo]. They were both from Italy’s Campania region within sight of Mount Vesuvius — as was my great, great grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio.

Family legend has it that Peter came to the U.S. in response to recruitment ads from the glove companies, where he initially worked as a leather dresser after his 1895 arrival.

Gloversville is a beautiful town in the Mohawk Valley region with some lovely boulevards and a Carnegie library. Once it even boasted an opera house downtown, as my mom and I discovered on a family history trip. With the exit of manufacturing from upstate New York, the town is less vibrant than it was in my ancestors’ day, but I still consider it a shining part of my heritage.

Have you visited towns where your ancestors lived? What were your impressions? Communities and their history are an integral part of our ancestors’ stories.

Tomorrow: Heritage and identity. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Elizabeths in my family tree

Letter E: Fifth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Among my ancestors, there are many duplicate given names. But Elizabeth is one of the most common — as a first or middle name — on both sides of my family tree.

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My maternal grandmother’s handkerchief with the letter E. Elizabeth was a common first or middle name among my female ancestors. Photo by Molly Charboneau

My paternal great, great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — wife of my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull — apparently went by Elizabeth because there were so many Marys in her family. Here and there, it shows up as her first name on records.

My maternal grandmother Elizabeth Christina (Stoutner) Laurence was called Lizbeth by my grandfather, who knew her from childhood. But when she learned, and later taught, Early American Tole Painting, she always signed her work Liz.

She appears to have been named after her German-born grandmothers — her mom’s mother Eva Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm (who went by Elizabeth) and her dad’s mother Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner.

Then there was my Irish great grandmother Elizabeth C. Dempsey, born in 1865 in Baltimore City, Baltimore Co., Md. — a twin and part of the large household of my Irish-born great, great grandparents William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey.

There are some other Elizabeths, Lizzies and Mary Elizabeths among my side line ancestors, too — clearly a popular name on many branches of my family tree.

Have you looked for patterns in your ancestors’ given names? They might hold clues about the next generation back.

Up next: Fort Monroe in Virginia, where my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull — husband of one of my Elizabeths, Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — was hospitalized during the U.S. Civil War.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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