Monday, November 11, 2013

City Directories and Early Veterans of War

Veteran's Day Includes All Wars

Most of us know the 1919 history of Armistice Day. We may also know that 11 Nov 1938 it became a Federal Holiday to recognize and honor WWI veterans.  The recognition of American soldiers was extended to “American veterans of all wars.” 1 June 1954 thanks to President Eisenhower. So that would include the early wars.  Early war veterans were most often recognized locally way before Armistice Day, especially in small towns across America. 

Using City Directories
Local researchers may find their veteran ancestor featured in newspapers, local town histories, and even in city directories.  Families were sometimes elevated to “local celebrity status.”

In 1888 the Des Moines City Directory noted its Sons of Veterans and highlighted officers of the Iowa Prisoners of War Associations way before the 1919 Armistice Day and decades before the official 8 Oct 1954 Veterans Day Proclamation.

In Toledo
The 1892 City Directory not only lists the Sons of Veterans information but also the Union Veteran’s Union (Civil War).

Kathleen Brandt

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Finding WWII Heirs

Hildebrand Gurlitt and Forensic Genealogy 
Few are as fortunate as those researching Hildebrand Gurlitt, his family, the Gurlitt Gallery and his business operations. If you have been following the news, Hidebrand Gurlitt is probably a household name. He was an art dealer before, during, and after the war. Recently his art collection - some acquired legally, other looted pieces, or hidden to keep safe - valued at over $1.3 billion dollars was discovered in his son Cornelius Gurlitt’s Munich flat. Hildebrand died 9 Nov 1956. The art included Nazi confiscated pieces and many classics. There was a copper engraving of a crucifixion scene by Albrecht Dürer from the 16th century. For a good briefing on the news visit The Economist.

What few realize is that Gurlitt was thoroughly questioned by the Unites States, France and other world governments, so post-War documents - lists of art pieces, and correspondence between he and various agencies - is in abundance. The correspondence included lists of his inventory which identified works of Picasso, Degas, Chagall, Matisse. All of these collector favorites passed through the Gurlitt Gallery.

In 1945, when Hildebrand Gurlitt was being questioned for his art dealings, young Cornelius was only 12 years old and sibling Renate, 10.  But it was Cornelius who became the custodian (legal or not) of the art.

Genealogy of Hildebrand Gurlitt
The genealogy and official biography of Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt is outlined for us in his 10 page Oath dated 10 Jun 1945.  Gurlitt included in his Oath a “full and complete declaration” of his art, as required by the post-war investigation. The Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) (OMGUS) were attempting to return the original pieces to their rightful owners. Visit a3Genealogy Hildebrand Gurllitt Oath and Genealogy page for his full declaration dated 10 Jun 1945..

The family history Gurlitt provided to OMGUS spanned several generations and provides researchers substantial information.

What’s Next? Forensic Genealogy
Uncovering the art pieces is only the first step of the long process of returning the valuable art pieces to their rightful owners and families.  Who were the owners, who are the heirs? What is the fate of these wonderful pieces of history? These are some of the looming questions.

There are many post-war letters salvaged in governmental records in France, the US, and other countries requesting their art to be returned;  therefore, owner’s names can be verified for some pieces. Sometimes addressed envelopes were salvaged in the various post war collections providing clues of residence for the heir researcher. Gurlitt also kept accurate records for pieces that were legally acquired, and provided accounts of the Gallery pieces to the post-war investigators of various countries.

However, time will seem to stand still, as lawyers, forensic genealogist specialists, private investigators, and others, research to locate families and heirs.

Note: In the US, the Gurlitt Investigation information, documents and records are held at the National Archives and Records Administration;  much is in the Ardelia Hall Collection.

Kathleen Brandt
Researcher, Forensic Genealogist
Private Investigator, MO Lic #2012006814

Friday, November 8, 2013

Using Early Tax List for Genealogy in KY, VA, and TN

Census Substitute

VA Tithable
As a family researcher or genealogists have substituted tax lists for those missing census records or for county/state enumerations between census?  At a3Genealogy we find that we use Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia tax lists the most, so we wanted to share this topic with our readers with a few helpful links.

What Types of Tax Lists?
There were poll tax, real property tax (land), and personal property tax (slaves, cattle, horses). And let’s not forget the tithing states, like Virginia; and early quit-rent taxes paid by landowners before Revolutionary War in Colonial America. Again these can be analyzed.

In Virginia the 1790 and 1800 census schedules were lost (ever wonder how that happened?), but tithable men were enumerated. Tithable monies were important to pay for the maintenance of the local churches and parishes. It was through a tithable Virginia list that we located Tim McGraw’s ancestor Isaac Chrisman in VA. 

Since tax lists were created annually, with a bit analysis, the researcher can…
  • Narrow birth years of males (when are they initially named on the tax lists).  Know your states’ laws for the year as to when a male (son) must be listed individually and not enumerated with the father. 
  • Differentiate men of the same names.  .
  • Track families that were not landowners.  If they were not landowners, researchers rarely find a probate or will.
In addition to substituting census records, we find that tax lists are especially useful when paired with pre-1850 census records.

A great article on analyzing tax lists and the possibilities of solving research problems is provided on the Wiki: Kentucky Tax Records Even if you aren’t researching in Kentucky, this article is helpful. Here’s a small excerpt:
A study of tax lists across time would reveal which of the three men named John Jones owned land. The land could be identified by location and tract. The acquisition and disposal of the land can be tracked for each man. With this knowledge, deeds and land grants can be checked. Deeds may reveal the wife’s name. This may now have helped pinpoint which John Jones married Sintha Smith. John Jones’ relationship to the other Jones men in the neighborhood can then be studied.

Where to Begin

Here are three key points to tax lists analysis:

Virginia Early Laws
  1. Know the law of the county/state of interest
  2. Also, stay mindful of the state and county map formations. As noted, Kentucky and West Virginia were in present day Virginia in 1783.
  3. Obtain copies of the original lists.  Transcribed copies may not be exact: are the names in order as recorded?, typos?, etc.  Researchers may find copies of original records on line, on subscribed websites, or order the microfilm copy from the Family History Library (FHL). Be creative when using keywords on the FHL. A recent search for “tithable” led us to the following title: The 1787 census of Virginia : an accounting of the name of every white male tithable over 21 years, the number of white males between 16 & 21years, the number of slaves over 16 & those under 16 years, together with alisting of their horses, cattle & carriages, and also the names of all persons to whom ordinary licenses and physician's licenses were issued. This title was used in lieu of “1787 Tax Lists of Virginia.” (Note: to activate link, login may be necessary) 

For More Information (and Case Studies)
Tennessee Early Tax (
Other States
Mississippi County Tax Rolls, 1818-1902. Recently the a3Genealogy researchers were able to use these tax rolls to identify the correct slaveholder and slave family.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers