Sunday, May 23, 2021

Ancestors & Bankruptcy? 7 Great Genealogical Finds

Vermont Watchman and State Journal
Montpelier, Vermont, 
16 May 1842

What Can Bankruptcy Records Tell Us?
a3Genealogy attorney clients, corporate clients and even the media often have us digging into and copying bankruptcy records. What do they know that most genealogists overlook?  Bankruptcy records are filled with genealogical information, and they go back in time that can be quite useful in uncovering ancestors, their whereabouts, their secrets, and their heirs!

It was clear when the a3Genealogy research team was led to a full newspaper page of 1842 bankruptcy cases, that something had gone awry. Yes, the 1841 Act was in effect and obviously quite welcomed. It followed the Panic of 1837. 

Where to Begin
Start with understanding the applicable Bankruptcy Act. 

Bankruptcy practices are not new.  As Jake Ersland reminds us in his Prologue article, "By 1900, Congress had passed four separate bankruptcy laws - The Bankruptcy Acts of 1800, 1841, 1867, 1898.  Read: Using Bankruptcy Records for Genealogical, by Ersland.  

7 Great Finds 
  1. Names: family and associates
    Our ancestors often went into business with relatives. It's a great way to get a list of unknown persons and connect the dots.  This is why genealogy researchers use bankruptcy records also for communities. One bankruptcy can affect an entire community. It's a great way to understand roles in the family, the community and the industry. With one research project we were unable to unscramble a close family and associates. The names proffered by the bankruptcy docket and case file led us to a list of persons; mostly related. It also allowed us to do newspaper searches on the interested parties.  Ultimately, we were able to divide the correct father - son family units. 
  2. Addresses / Property

    After the Civil War, the 1867 Bankruptcy Act was used to recover financial losses across America.  It is through the use of this Act that we often can follow an elusive ancestor.  After bankruptcy, due to financial devastation caused by the war, many "picked up" their belongs and moved to more prosperous towns.  Bankruptcy papers may provide their new residence or relatives in another town. Or a connection through a testimony or deposition or witness that helps corroborate data. This may connect researchers to a the correct family unit.
  3.  Heirs
    Financial problems were known well before bankruptcy laws. Prior to these acts we followed bankers, Even so the notices were the same: in newspapers, and in the court records. It is in these records that we were able to learn of the son in law telling the story, the death of the business partner and the name his father - the ancestor of the client. 

  4.  Occupations 
  5.  Divorces
  6.  Court Records for Details
    It was through a Newspaper article that we realized that Morris was in trouble. It led us to the his bankruptcy infraction in 1923.  Perjury charges included family affidavits and testimonies, witnesses for and against Morris' character and information on his family life
  7. Reasons for Moving
    It's not often that our missing ancestor joined the Circus, but when named in a bankruptcy case, the descendants understand a lot more about his lifestyle and sudden disappearance. It's the story we've heard and it always begins with "and the Circus  came to town..."

Be Historically Correct  

Kathleen Brandt
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Sunday, May 2, 2021

Was Grandma a Feminist? shhh... Her Secret Life?


4 Resources to Researching The Heterodoxy
For the feminist of 1912  to abt. 1940, the badge of heterodoxy was hailed proudly in Greenwich Village. For the opposition, the "Heterodites "were destroying the “honor of the traditional women:" taking care of the family, cooking and cleaning; and being subservient to their mate.

Better said, they controversially encouraged women to think for themselves and find freedom by being economically, mentally and sexually independent. The Horror!

Many, but not all,  had come from progressive liberal schools, along the east coast.

Marie Jenny Howe, from  Cleveland, OH organized and founded Heterodoxy, a Greenwich Village group for women. A safe place to share and exchange thoughts and issues affecting it's members and women nationwide . Howe was an ordained, non-practicing Unitarian minister. Her only known stipulation for membership was that the applicant “not be orthodox in her opinion.” 

Women across the nation - activists, artists, writers, musicians, female professionals (i.e. doctors), “homemakers, aka wives, lesbians, and exhausted widows and divorcees, moved to or participated in the bohemian type lifestyle and freedom that Greenwich Village offered. Many joined the biweekly luncheons at Polly Halliday’s restaurant. Grace Nail Johnson, a New York African American elite, wife of Weldon Johnson,  was the only known African American woman who belonged to Heterodoxy. 

4 Tips to Researching Your Heterodoxy
After having raised her family - two sons and a daughter -  a 48 year old widowed moved from Massachusetts to a Greenwich Village address. She was settled in her small home by 1930 with an apparent roommate. Her story was quite curious to the a3Genealogy research team in 2012. One son had distanced himself from the family after “Father’s” death. The daughter, educated at Wellesley College in their home state of Massachusetts, frequented “Mother” in her small Greenwich Village home; the youngest son followed a “protest crowd” of his own. Notes and photos were located.  Following are 4 places to start your Greenwich Village ancestral research, even if she had lived in a sleepy midwestern town, before moving to New York City. 

Tip 1  Address
A single woman with a Greenwich Village address may tip off your genealogical research. Also these was neighborhood for that elusive artists - writer, actor, musician, etc.

Tip 2  Insane Wards, Jail and Prisons Records.
Be sure to check the insane wards. This feminine heterodoxy beliefs and practices landed many women, especially wives, in an institution for “reprogramming.”  

Heterodites Alice KimballAlison Turnbull HopkinsDoris Stevens, and Paula Jakobi were just a few arrested in 1917 and 1918 for suffrage protests. They served time in the Occoquan Workhouse, jail, or prison psychiatric wards. Your female ancestor may have also been an activists with a criminal record for her protests activities - suffrage, labor rights, birth control, etc. 

Tip 3  Diary.
Do you have a diary from your female ancestor? Many of these women were avid writers. 

They wrote to politicians, to each other and many kept diaries. The details of meetings were excluded, but personal diaries, by happenstance, may reference a name or two that may be quite telling. A reference to Polly’s Halliday's liberal tea house may also let you know that you are on the track of a progressive thinking ancestor.  .  

Tip 4 Photo Collections.

General Federation of Women's Club

Newspapers, libraries and local repositories have special collections and photos of the Heterodoxy and other Women Organizations. Photos and diaries of Jessie Tarbox Beals, should not be overlooked. Her diary and photos captured Greenwich Village and the Bohemian cultures. 

We used to call them "black sheep." Now I reference them as the "shapers and shakers" of America. 

 Be Historically Correct  

Kathleen Brandt
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