Sunday, February 28, 2021

5 Resources to Tracing Missouri Territorial Ancestors

Emphasis on Free Territorial People of Color
Territorial Research in Missouri, whether for white or free-people of color ancestry, is quite similar to other territorial research. Following are a 5 resources to uncover relevant territorial census records, church records and court records to begin your research. 

Missouri has its particularities. In honor of the last day of Black History Month, the examples within are for Free -People of Color, with additional guidance for descendant researchers but the basics and collections covered for the most part apply to all - mainly because this covers free persons of pre-statehood Missouri. 

Most researchers know, that pre-statehood, early records in Missouri may live in Illinois, Louisiana, Florida or Missouri Territory, as well as the Kansas Courts.  Here is an earlier posted article on the conundrum of "Florida Territory Research and the Missouri Records."

Uniquely Missouri 
Missouri is Unique for the slaveholders, slaves & free-coloreds. When researching Free People of Color, the resources and strategies does not follow the "prescribed" slave to slaveholder research practices in other regions.  Matter of fact, when discussing territorial research or earlier colonial research of free people of color (yes there were free colored during this period as far west as Missouri), it is quite similar to researching other free persons in the region; however, there is one glaring difference: the laws!

The colonial upper Louisiana Territory -"Missouri"- laws on the books did not follow the Lower Louisiana territory practices; especially regarding the limitations and restrictions of free-colored persons. 

Some would love to point to the Code Noir books, but how these laws were practiced in Louisiana, let's say New Orleans, vs how the same laws were practiced in St Genevieve, Missouri for the same time were not equal.  So let's just concentrate on Missouri for now as we celebrate its Bicentennial (1821-2021).

Before Louisiana Territory
When researching Missouri pre-statehood remember early settlers were determined to block British access to the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. They began setting up camp in St. Genevieve as early as 1750.  

Early Census Records - French & Spanish
Men who owned land, obligated to pay taxes, or lived as free persons usually guaranteed census enumerations.  This was the true in Missouri as early as the 1752 France Illinois Country census.  "Illinois Country" is what this territory was called; researchers may also see it read Pais des Illinois, Upper Louisiana or Haute-Louisiane, and after the 1752 census the Spanish translation of Alta Luisiana.

1787 St. Genevieve
Note: these census records capture all free persons: white, black, and brown - to include Native Americans and mulattos). Many of the early Missouri census records can be found in the State Archives of Missouri, Jefferson, City. 

Church Records:
1830 Slave Baptism
The desire to baptize the colored people, free or not, was practiced, as it was across the Lower Louisiana Territory. These books should be treasured as they often provide us with generational information. These records include birth records, and death dates. Although these early records were in French and Spanish, many indices are in English. These records may also be found on

Slave's names and that of his parents are given here, along with the slave master. Yes, you may need a translator, but you are looking for words like "hijo". Your eye will get accustomed with practice as you rely on your 8th grade Spanish class. 

Court Records
Missouri practiced Due Process for all, allowing slaves to request their own freedom. This is seen in other colonial areas, especially when a promise for freeing a Revolutionary War soldier is breeched. However, Missouri court records may also reveal land disputes or the free negro licenses required after 1835.  Researchers may also uncover travel passports for free-coloreds.  This was required for travel outside of the territory and issued especially for those who worked the waterways between Missouri and Louisiana or Illinois. 
Passport Permission for Free Persons to travel to New Orleans

These records may be found in the French & Spanish Archives at the Missouri Historical Society.

Where Are the Records: 1741 – Statehood, 1821
The following 5 resources will assist the researcher in uncovering the following:

  1. State Historical Society of Missouri: French and Spanish Archives, 1741 – 1841
  2. Family Search, French and Spanish Archives, 1766 -1816 (microfilmed)
  3. Missouri Historical Society, Slaves and Slavery Collection 1772-1950
  4. Secretary of State Archives: Territorial Censuses (1752-1819) and Tax Lists (1814-1821)
  5. Guide to St. Louis Catholic Archdiocesan parish Records
Or follow a3Genealogy for Missouri Bicentennial presentations. 
Be Historically Correct 

Kathleen Brandt
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Monday, February 22, 2021

Researching in Abstinence & Temperance Society Records

Abstinence & Temperance Society &Genealogy?
In researching in the small town of Washington, Clinton County, Iowa, I stumbled upon the St. Patrick’s Total Abstinence Society information which held records that I was unsuccessful in locating elsewhere. The St. Patrick's Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society, founded in Montreal, 23 Feb 1840, was reportedly the first Roman Catholic temperance society in North America, but it soon found its way across America. 

Membership, membership withdrawal, transfer records from one society chapter to another should not be overlooked. In 1836 alone, the American Temperance Society had over 170 thousand members. Presumably over a million members were recorded in less than two years. The St. Patrick’s Total Abstinence Society, with overwhelming Catholic members is just one type of an abstinence society or union that researchers may find between 1866 - 1884. The Clinton County St. Patrick's Total Abstinence Society located in Center Grove, IA came about in 1875. 

The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart (or PTAA) is said to be an Irish organization for Roman Catholic teetotallers. This present day organization as founded in 1898.  (Genealogical note: the term Pioneer was often used synonymously as teetotallism among Irish Catholic in the 20th century).  

From Ireland to USA - Touch Not, Taste Not, Handle Not

From The Glasgow Story Website

The goal was to practice total abstinence from alcohol and  spoke against imbibing and highlighted the medical issues. According to the History of the Total Abstinence Union of America, published by Penn Penn Printing 1907, pg. 11, the US temperance movement began as early as 1676 in Virginia when the first prohibitory act was passed.  This Irish Temperance movement was initiated in Cork, Ireland, April 1838, by the "Apostle of Temperance" the Franciscan priest Father Theobald Mathew (1790-1856).  Yet, the first temperance society was found in the USA, 1780, Litchfield, CT. As mentioned, active societies were filled with our ancestors not only in rural Iowa and small communities; but it spread across America, Ireland, Scotland, England, etc. 

American Memory Collection, An American Time Capsule, Library of Congress

The Catholic Temperance had a national scope. In 1865 there were twenty two temperance organizations, mostly concentrated in New England. Some suggest this a drop of membership due to the Civil War (one may have needed a drink?) It is found that the popularity of these societies was not consistent. In 1872 Massachusetts had "twenty-two societies devoted to temperance, and New York twenty four that year. Read more: The Organization of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America, 1866 -1884, James Green.

Not Just Irish Catholic
Unassociated but also targeting the same membership, mostly Irish Catholics, were the Shamrock Society, The United Sons of Erin Benevolent Society and the Fenian Brotherhood. 

The Temperance Meeting did not stay confined in the Irish communities. Groups and societies served all people. For example, there was the Rochester Colored Total Abstinence Association, 1841 and many others, especially in the New England states.  

There was also the Protestant Episcopal Church Temperance Society established in the U.S. A. in 1881. 

5 Starters to Finding Records
Researchers must keep a keen eye for ancestors in church records, state and county archives, and local genealogical and historical societies to unearth ancestors in this collection. Members of the Temperance Societies took an oath. In addition to membership, members also withdrew membership leaving a record trail. Although these records are not centralized researchers will want to scour state and county repositories. 

  1. State Historical Societies. The following Wisconsin's Sons of Temperance member, Frederick Beermein, was issued his 1857 stating he had asked to be withdrawn.

  2. Obituaries. These obituaries not only provide ancestral information but it may also define community. 
    In memory of George Farrell It is with feelings  of the most profound and  sincere regret that we pen the following tribute in memory of our departed friend, George Farrell, who died on Friday morning, March  24th, age fifty-two years,  after a long and painful illness from which  he suffered much, but  bore it with christian fortitude and resignation,  declaring himself resigned  to the will  of the Most High. George was dearly beloved by all who knew him.  Previous to his death  he was attended  by the Rev. Father Garland,  and received the last rites of the church, of which he was a devoted member  during life.  He was a  member of St.  Patrick's  Catholic Total Abstinence Society, of  Center Grove,  which  turned  out  in  full regalia  to  attend the funeral  on Sunday.  
    (History of Clinton County, IA, 1879 Chicago: Western Historical Company, pg815, Washington Township). 
  3. Newspapers. Local newspapers often provided names of officers and members. The 27 May 1875 Intelligencer newspaper of Anderson South Carolina posted the following:

    Anderson, SC,

  4. Church Records. Some parishes still hold society membership books.

    Hastings Museum, NE

  5. State and County Archives and Museums. Be sure to search regionally.  Your ancestor may have had a transfer from one "chapter" to another. 

Be Historically Correct 

Kathleen Brandt
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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Researching Railroad Ancestors

Locations of Railroad Genealogical Materials, James Sponholz

Finding Railroad Genealogical Records
Our railroad ancestors crossed America for their work and can often be difficult to trace.  This blog is twofold.  1) provide tips and hints to records that may assist with tracing these transient ancestors 2) encourage DNA testing.  A DNA surprise was the impetus for this blog.

 The a3Genealogy Research Team discovered through DNA exactly where a client’s grandfather disappeared to because he was the “head of househould” for two additional households along the railroad track line. He appeared under slightly different spellings of his names, but DNA proved him to be the same man. Two of the wives divorced him for abandonment; but upon his death the third wife was subjugated to a Poor Farm. Court records suggested he was presumed dead. Of course once the bloodline was proven, these three groups of descendants connected.  Know that this story is repeated in American history, as DNA has identified many second families that resulted from the moveability of the railroad workers.

Where to Start
To begin this research the timeframe and place of employment is important.  If your ancestor worked for a pensioned railroad, you are probably in luck.

Railroad Pension Records.  

The U. S. Railroad Retirement Board Resources held at the National Archives (NARA) - Atlanta can be access by the public if they do not violate the restrictions (see link above.). The Midwest Genealogy Center, Mo, as well as and other accessible databases host an index of the inactive pension claims from the U. S. Railroad Retirement Board (1936 -2010).  This only holds persons whose employers were covered under the Railroad Retirement Act.

Pullman Employee and Retirement Records. The Pullman Porters, all called “George” were ex-slaves who worked on the George Pullman luxury railcars. Pullman also hired maids and other people for attendant jobs. To learn more about Pullman Porters read this article from

The Newberry of Chicago holds the large collection of Pullman Employee Records. This record collection includes operating company workers: porters, maids, commissary attendants, conductors, shop workers, yard force workers, clerks, and manager. Of course, the registration with the Railroad Retirement (1937 - 1960’s) may also be located within The Newberry collection. 

Be sure to also peruse Jim Sponholz’ overview of other Pullman Company resources. 

The Chinese and the Iron Road book will give Asian American researchers a great foundation for the cultural and social complications that have resulted in missing records and undocumented workers. 

But, it is possible to reconstruct your ancestor’s travails and accomplishments. Our researchers usually start with scouring the NARA branches, especially NARA - San Bruno if your ancestor worked the railroads out west. also offers articles, videos and a listing of its Chinese Railroad Workers’ collections. 

National Archives at Atlanta holds the original Railroad Retirement Board collection of To 1.5 million worker claims’ files. Researchers can access this records directly from the Archives.  Email as much of the following information about the claimant or pensioner as possible”:

  • First Name, Middle Name/Initial, Last Name
  • Railroad Retirement Board Claim Number
  • Social Security Number
  • Year of Birth
  • Year of Death 
However, the family researchers may be looking for exactly this information (date of birth, social security number to obtain an SS5, etc).  Or, the researcher may be looking for documents to unscramble commonly named family units, i.e. William Smith. Often, the death date, or additional information like the wife’s first name, children’s names are known. But, additional information may be obtained from these retirement claims. 

We all love it when one collection uncovers siblings, a wife’s maiden names, parents' names, or our ancestor's movements from one state to another, etc. This may be possible in the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB records), but several steps may be needed to pinpoint YOUR ancestor's claims.

Midwest Genealogy Center (MGC) Quick Look
Here researchers will find a 1936 - 2010 index of the Railroad Retirement Board claims.  When ready to submit a request, it can be done with a touch of a button. But, we suggest you use first, if applicable. The index, presently covers 1934-1984, but, more information is abstracted for the researcher. With only the name, and date of death, determining which “H Brandt,” was the correct one was pinpointed using both and requesting via MGC Quick Look. and MGC Quick Look Index side by side

By going through Railroad Pension Index,  the correct “H Brandt,” was located because the ancestor was known as Henry Albert Brandt (early census record). By returning to the Midwest Genealogy Quick Look, a request for record was submitted using the ancestry 1972 death date. This process avoided copying costs of the incorrect “H Brandt,” from the archives’ collection. Copy charges are incurred from the archives not Midwest Genealogy Center. As you can see, Henry Brandt, born Jul 1878 in Iowa, died in CA in 1972.

What Will Railroad Retirement Claims Tell Us?

Vital Records: In addition to a birth or death date, pension files provide other family information.  Oh and for proof of eligibility, death certificates in the ancestor's RRB claim can also be had. 

Marriage(s): Researchers may discover why that the marriage record was never located.  In this case, Edward had a “common law” marriage, but also affidavits from family and neighbors as to the date and location of the union.

Family: Like most pension claims, family names or at least beneficiaries can be validated along with other proofs of kinship - parents, spouse, maiden names, siblings and children. Addresses or location of each person can also be uncovered. 

Other Resources

US Migration Railroads

Researching Old Railroads and Railway Records,

The Directory of North American railroads, associations, societies, archives, libraries, museums and their collections

Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Inc

National Railway Historical Society

US Occupations finding Railroad Records

United States Occupations Finding Railroad Records (National Institute)

Research Come Up Empty?
We know your ancestor my have worked for the early railroads across America or they may have not been enrolled (or eligible for) the Railroad Retirement plan.  This compilation by Jim Sponholz offers historical and genealogical resources by location and railway to fill in those holes. Although not complete, Sponholz has uncovered a wealth of resources. Be sure to look for your ancestor in the scanned books for your area. Visit Locations of Railroad Genealogical Materials, January 28, 2021 Jim Sponholz. 

Many of our blog posts are pre-scheduled. In spite of the NARA branches being locked down, our thoughts are hopeful. Researchers can began to plan and are able to begin gathering information on our railroad ancestor data. Come "late spring (yes I'm hopeful), we will have our Research Plans ready to go.  Join me in wishing the repositories to all open safely in a few months. 

Be Historically Correct 

Kathleen Brandt
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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Researching Disappeared Cemeteries?


Lebanon, PA, Aug 1992

9 Hints & Tips to Unearthing the Interred
Although the following hints and tips below are relevant for the general reader, know that in honoring Black History Month, this post emphasizes African American examples.  The hints and tips, research collections and repositories, are used for our Irish, German, Swedish, etc. as well as African American ancestors.  Each community and era had its own set of circumstances and influences that shaped disappearing burials. 

Was your Ancestor Buried on Church Grounds
Below I have put an examples of an early lost Freedmen Cemetery in New Orleans, and an example of an unknown Swedish Cemetery in Hickory County, MO. 

As mentioned, the repository search strategies are similar. For example, the location of both churches are unknown. The sacrament’s record books, to include deaths & burials, may have been held in the home of the ministers or held in the home of heirs. The obituary and death records name the  “Sweed [Swede] Cemetery.” Yet, the cemetery no longer exists.  It appeared to be incorporated in the Fairfield Cemetery. The location is sketchy.

May 1868, New Orleans

This is the same scenario is often found when research a Slave Cemetery, African Cemetery, Freedmen Cemetery, Colored Cemetery, Black Cemetery or Negro Cemetery. Same cemetery but naming depends on the era. Was the cemetery grown over or was it cemented over in place of the new interstate or a shiny building? What was the norm? Were the burials removed and / or reinterred? This is not to say an occasional cemetery from any group could have been co-oped into the city limits but the recovery of the burials, as a norm, may have differed.

From Slavery to about WWII
Like many towns in America, cemeteries should be assumed to have been segregated across America until the late 1960’s. Often researchers will find a “black interment section” in the local cemetery - dedicated for the black locals. 

Prior to the Civil War, deceased slaves and free coloreds were often buried on the land of a slaveholder.  Free coloreds may have been buried with the slaves of an employer or a white benefactor, if not in a plot of a local cemetery or a church plot dedicated for freed black citizens. 

Researchers may cross a Freedmen Cemetery in the books, newspapers, old court documents, etc.  However, in spite of pinpointing the noted plat usually through deed tracing, the cemetery no longer stands in its purported location. Many times there is no proof that a cemetery ever existed.  The Freedmen’s Cemetery of old may have been paved over for an interstate, the expansion of the city roads, or a building, etc. 

One notion that must be considered in research is that a cemetery may appear too small for the number of burials.  Know that often coffins were stacked underground.  The north and south engaged in this practice. There was a horrifying story about a 4 layer cemetery, often with no coffins in Pennsylvania. Other cemeteries were just upended for modernization; and the bodies were not removed or reinterred. 

Colonial People of Color – the North

The Ancient Burying Ground Association of Connecticut uncovered stories of interred people of color: both African Americans and Native Americans. The Ancient Burying Ground Association proved  many of these early colonists also served in the Continental Navy for their freedom and the freedom of this nation. 

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Weston, MO

We are seeing similar efforts across America. Recently Weston Missouri identified and memorialized 400 ex-slaves buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery.  Fort Scott, Kansas has recently launched similar efforts for the “colored” Mayhew Cemetery.  

How to Research the Disappeared Burials?
Where and how to locate missing cemeteries can be challenging when the graves no longer exists, the cemeteries were removed, and records were never maintained. Here are a few tips to reconstruct your ancestor’s final resting place:

Mayhew Cemetery, Ft. Scott, KS

  1. Wilkes-Barre, PA May 1933
    Death Certificates and Obituaries
  2. Newspaper Search: be sure to check the black newspapers of the closest cities. Hutchinson, Kansas black residents, often posted in The Call paper, Kansas City, or the black Topeka, KS paper, and even the Tulsa or Oklahoma City black papers.  Whereas only a death notice was posted in the local Hutchinson, KS paper the idea was to reach relatives who lived and worked in the larger cities.
  3. Church Records, if applicable
  4. Land Deeds: tracing the land deeds may give the researcher the inheritance of the church land which may lead to hints of who may have church records, or any court records associated with constructing on top of the cemetery burials. This was the case with a small black cemetery in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  5. Archives and Historical Societies: be sure to check State and County repositories
  6. Funeral and Coroner Records: newer funeral homes may still house a previous owner’s records. Coroner records may still be held at the local courthouse.
  7. Sexton Records
    The Sexton and Gravedigger in Anthony Kansas opened a book and flipped to the early burials  of the black citizens. Matter of fact, he was the only one who knew the location of every unmarked plot.
  8. Estate Records (of slaveholders or heirs). They may not tell where your ancestor is buried, but it will help narrow when the died. This is seen when a minor was to inherit a slave, but by they time the heir became of age the slave died. The family noted this tragedy (the heir not getting a slave) and managed to come up with an acceptable solution.
  9. Military Records and Pension Files may include where a soldier was interred
Be Historically Correct 

Kathleen Brandt
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Monday, February 1, 2021

Why Would White Ancestors Identify as Black?

1909 Virginia

Racial Confusion in Ancestors?
We have all heard of black people passing for white. This more-frequent-than-thought practice was usually to take advantage of otherwise closed doors. That closed door may have been a a railcar door, a front door, a job door, the door to the nearby loo…you get the picture. In passing as white a person who chose to do so often lost as much as they gained. They no longer could associate with the family they left behind. Their new family, presumably white, would never know about their childhood, their life experiences were not shared, and they lived with a secret that would eventually become generational. Of course, DNA is revealing some of those generational secrets.

But, why would a white person identify as black? Through the years, this discussion has risen. Most curious is when the someone "white" is enumerated on early census records as "white" but on a later military record as “black.” Through genealogy, the newly “black” person can be proven as the white son or brother of a white family from a different parish or a different state. The practice of reclassifying one's race in America can be seen as early as the 1740's.

One Drop Rule

One of the more common reasons of racial identity change was due to the one drop rule. Due to the one drop rule ancestors who were once white were newly classified by a codified state law as black. Yes, this was one of the many new laws imposed during the Jim Crow Era: 1910 in Tennessee, and Virginia before spreading to other states. But as we know, this was not new. Laws that forbade sex across color line laws existed in 1662 (Virginia). And, 12 of the 13 colonies forbade racial intermarriage by 1776.

So regardless of appearance, one drop of black blood, inherited from a faraway ancestor, would result in "Black"(Negro) classification. Read Who is Black? One Nation’s Definition by F. James Davis, PBS.

This leaves us today with  cases of descendants who appear to belong to the “white” race; yet, identify as black. And, their self-identification, despite their several generations of white ancestors, have maintained and asserted their identity as “black.”

The story of Clarice Shreck, one of Thomas Byrd’s ancestors, reveals Thomas was “the last known full blooded black person in her family.” Her parents, like themselves, identified her as “Negro” on the birth certificate.” Byrd’s descendants, like any other identity-fluid family, are divided into fractions;  one first cousin identifies as Native American, the other as Black. The eight children of one descendant do not agree on their racial identity: only three identify as Black. Four identify as Catawba Indian, and one as White. Read about this East Jackson, OH family and residents in the Guardian: They look white but say they’re black: a tiny town in Ohio wrestles with race.

Plaçage and miscegenation

1911 Miscegenation
Another reason a white ancestor may have begun identifying as black was due to outlawing the practice of Plaçage. Plaçage was tolerated in colonial America where European men, especially the French and Spanish, freely joined in civil unions with people of color. But later this practice became frowned upon. Researchers will very often see these civil unions in the Louisiana Territory and Missouri Territory; but also noted in  Illinois Country.  Although this practice was once tolerated, new state laws against miscegenation may have forced otherwise white Americans to identify as black. Identifying as black would allow one to stay with their mixed-race family in the community where miscegenation was illegal.  In addition to white men in civil unions with women of color, Paul Heinegg’s study identifies court documents where mixed-race children were born to free colored men and a white women. These early practices can be seen from the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, to Delaware. Again, researchers may find proof of these unions in colonial and territorial records to include the Territory of Missouri.   

If you have traced creole families in Louisiana using parish records, or analyzing Father Hebert's Acadian - Cajun church records, researchers will identify racial generational changes supported by court records and legal document research. Outlawing interracial unions and cohabitation were mandated by state laws resulting in severe penalties if violated. It is presumably due to this law and its associated penalties that an otherwise white ancestor would identify as black. Later mixed-race children from these unions left children not only light enough to pass for white; but tanned enough to marry black. This may again resulted in some of the children identifying as black as siblings identified as white. 

Census Record Issues

And remember, if a white man was cohabitating with a woman of color (legally or not) genealogical researchers may find the entire family remarked as “black/Negro/colored” in the census. Consider a teenage child or wife of color who answered the census taker's knock. The question of "
is the whole family colored?" was not asked. Census takers were instructed to note color. In most cases it was assumed to be a "one race family." 

Where to Research to Solve Race Confusion?
If a conflict of family racial origin arises, be sure to become familiar with 1) the law 2) the community racial tolerance 3) the various repositories in your state of interest. Researchers may begin with the State Historical Society and the County Courthouse.

  1. Court Records will reveal community complaints, county court cases, legal bonds, and penalties.
  2. Census Analysis. Most of our ancestors made mistakes along the way. A census record may denote one race, whereas a military record may state another. 
  3. DNA.  Family secrets may be revealed by tying DNA with good genealogical research
  4. Church records.  Especially in early territory and colonial records, racial answers can be uncovered. 
  5. Bastardy Bonds. These can be revealing.  Of course, if there is an associated court record, not just the warrant, be sure to pull the originals. (Will blog about these later.)
    1802 Plaçage: County Court Records: Will - Esther with Jacques Clamorgan for abt. 14 years; 
    Bequeathed money and land to mixed-race son "blue eyed" Tom with "strait white hair "
    Siblings chose black or white

  6. Wills.  Amazing how many openly bequeath land, property and assets to their mixed race children.  But the key is to trace backward.  Was this land passed down by a white family to a child who years later identified as black? Read the Clamorgan story.
  7. Land deeds. Tracing property and land deeds may prove racial changes if supported by other documents and research (i.e. family correspondence, city directories, sale of land, etc). 
Be Historically Correct 

Kathleen Brandt