What the pages don’t quite say

She was born, the records tell us, at 5 p.m. on 11 August 1857, at home at Buntenthorsteinweg Nr. 113 in the City of Bremen, Germany. Her father, Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers, was shown as a 36-year-old laborer; her mother, Metta Huthoff, was shown as age 37. She was given the name Metta Margarethe Sievers.1

HarlingAnd she died 84 years ago today, most likely in Bremen; she was buried in Bremen’s Riensberg Cemetery on 23 April 1931.2

She was, the funerary book reports, 73 years and eight months old at the time of her death, and that matches a birth in August 1857.

So… what else do we know about this woman, this second great grand-aunt, this very much younger sister to The Legal Genealogist‘s own second great grandmother Marie Margaretha Sievers?

The answer is: painfully little.

We know she was the eighth of nine children born to her mother Metta Huthoff Sievers, and that she married a man named Johann Harling at some point after the year when microfilmed versions of Bremen’s civil registration records stopped being available.

And that’s it. My immigrant father never spoke of his family, not even much about his parents, much less more distant relatives like this. There are no photographs, no artifacts, no family accounts of any kind.

But perhaps one other record that is available today tells at least something of the story.

That record is the Bremen City Directory — the Bremer Addressbuch — digitized by the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen.

As you can see in the image above, Metta was a widow in 1930, living at Nordenhamerstrasse 48: “Harling, Joh., Wwe., geb. Sievers” (Harling, Johann, widow, born Sievers).3

Working backwards, we see that in 1925, the same woman was shown living at the same address.4

In 1924, perhaps she was already widowed. There was a Johann living at Bagtstrasse 58, and a Johann at Stedingerstrasse 36, but also a Frau Johann living at Meer 126.5 Both of the men continued to be recorded in the 1925 directory, but there was no “Frau Johann” in 1925, only the “Joh., Wwe. geb. Sievers” (Johann, widow, born Sievers).

If that’s our candidate, then she was widowed long before that 1924 directory. That Frau Johann is recorded in 1922-23,6 in 1920,7 in 1918.8

But in 1917, we see a laborer named Johann at Meer 126,9 the same laborer who was there in 1915.10

The records don’t tell us what happened to Johann. He’s not recorded in the city burial books. And when you put a likely death in 1917-18 together with no burial in the city where the family lived, where Metta was born, where she was buried… you have to wonder what happened here.

Reading between the lines of the City Directory, do we have a hint at a war-related death here? An old man, to be sure, nearing 60 if not 60 already at the time. But alive in 1917, gone in 1918, and not buried in the city cemeteries.

Sigh… I really need a research trip to Germany…


SOURCES

  1. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Geburten (Bremen registry office, civil status registers, births), 1811-1875, Metta Margarethe Sievers, Geburten 1857, Reg. Nr. 1336 (14 Aug 1857), p. 671; FHL Film 1344168.
  2. “Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875 – 1939” (The Funerary Records of the City of Bremen, 1875-1939), book 1931, page 342; online database, Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen (http://www.die-maus-bremen.de/index.php : accessed 17 Apr 2015).
  3. Bremer Addressbuch 1930 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1930), II: 126; digital images Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen (http://www.suub.uni-bremen.de/ : accessed 17 Apr 2015).
  4. Ibid., Bremer Addressbuch 1925 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1925), II: 276.
  5. Ibid., Bremer Addressbuch 1924 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1924), II: 271.
  6. Ibid., Bremer Addressbuch 1922-23 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1923), II: 254.
  7. Ibid., Bremer Addressbuch 1920 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1920), II: 234.
  8. Ibid., Bremer Addressbuch 1918 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1918), I: 214.
  9. Ibid., Bremer Addressbuch 1917 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1917), I: 213.
  10. Ibid., Bremer Addressbuch 1915 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann, 1915), I: 211.
Posted in My family | 12 Comments

Another one for the NERGC crowd

If there was even a tiny shred of doubt remaining in your mind as to whether or not The Legal Genealogist is a total law geek, this should put it completely to rest.

Here it is.

The genealogy-law-geek-happy-dance-book-for-today.

NH1The first-ever published compilation of the laws of New Hampshire.

The full title is the Acts and Laws, Passed by the General Court or Assembly of His Majestie’s Province of New-Hampshire in New-England.1 Published in Boston in 1716, printed by B. Green, sold by Eliazar Russel2

And it’s digitized and free online.

Google Books has it here.

And it’s a gem.

I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want to know that it was illegal in 1700 for any “Traveller, Drover, Horse-couser, Waggoner, Butcher, Higler, or any of their Servants” to travel on Sunday, “Except by some adversity they were belated, and forced to lodge in the Woods, Wilderness, or High-ways the Night before, and in such case to Travel no further than the next Inn, or Place of shelter…”?3

And could you get through the day without knowing that “all and every person and persons, which shall unlawfully Cut, or Take away any Grass, Corn, or Grain, growing, or Rob any Orchard or Garden, … or take away any Grafts or Fruit Trees” would have to pay damages and be labeled “robbers of orchards & gardens”?4

Wouldn’t you want to know that your ancestor who ran the local tavern in New Hampshire in 1715 was legally required to ensure that there were suitable provisions and lodging for the refreshment and entertainment of strangers and travellers, but had to ensure that the lower classes weren’t to sit “Drinking or Tipling after Ten a Clock at Night” and that he couldn’t “suffer any person to Drink to Drunkenness or Excess nor suffer any person as his or her Guest, to be and remain … on the Lords Day (other than Strangers, Travellers or such as come thither for necessary refreshment)”5 — whatever that meant!

Wouldn’t it be a neat part of your early 18th century New Hampshire family history to know that any ancestor of yours could be rewarded if he killed a full-grown wolf — and rewarded handsomely: 20 shillings from the town and another 50 shillings paid out of the Treasury of the Province?6

These early laws so impacted our early ancestors’ lives… and it is just flat out neat to be able to sit and read them.


SOURCES

  1. Acts and Laws, Passed by the General Court or Assembly of His Majestie’s Province of New-Hampshire in New-England (Boston, Mass. : n.p., 1716); digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 16 Apr 2015).
  2. Nope, no relation, no how.
  3. “An Act for the better Observation and Keeping the Lords Day,” 19 July 1700, ibid. at 7.
  4. “An Act for Preventing of Trespasses,” 16 October 1707, ibid. at 27.
  5. “An Act for the Inspecting, and Suppressing of Disorders in Licensed Houses,” 6 Jan 1715, ibid. at 57.
  6. “An Act for Encouraging the Killing of Wolves”, (1716), ibid. at 109.
Posted in General, Resources, Statutes | 10 Comments

Some Connecticut gems

It’s finally here: the opening day of NERGC — the 2015 New England Regional Genealogical Consortium — at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.

CT.lawPeople from all over New England — people with roots back in New England — people who are just interested in New England genealogy are starting out today with the Librarians and Teachers Day Track and the Tech Day track. And then the whole conference gets underway tomorrow.

While explains why The Legal Genealogist has been up to her eyeballs recently in early New England law.

Monday, we looked at some Rhode Island resources.1 Yesterday, it was a cool little volume of the earliest Massachusetts laws.2 Today, it’s Connecticut’s turn — and oh my… there are some gems out there.

First and foremost, a general resource for anybody who’s even thinking about researching in Connecticut. It’s a website called ConnecticutHistory.org and it’s a wonder all by itself. Described as “a project of Connecticut Humanities and your home for stories about the people, traditions, innovations, and events that make up the rich history of the Nutmeg State,” it has sections on the towns, topics and people of Connecticut.

Among the roughly 40 topics covered by the website will surely be one that is just what you’re looking for — there are topic categories for disasters, education, folklore — and there surely are some that were just what I was looking for — crime and punishment, law, politics and government, even slavery and abolition.

And the law page in particular is worth a visit, because it brings together some links that are surely worth any researcher’s time.

It will link you, for example, to the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries and its Tapping the Scales of Justice – A Dose of Connecticut Legal History site. You can read there about “A Case of Tories, Treasure and Trespass” or about “Witches and Witchcraft – the First Person Executed in the Colonies.”

And it will take you to key legal documents from Connecticut’s history:

• “Connecticut Resolutions on the Stamp Act: December 10, 1765.” Avalon Project, Yale Law School.
• “The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776.” University of Connecticut.
• “Constitution of the State of Connecticut.” Connecticut State Library.
• “Litchfield Ledger.” Litchfield Historical Society.
• “Charter of Connecticut – 1662.” Avalon Project, Yale Law School.
• “Fundamental Agreement, or Original Constitution of the Colony of New Haven, June 4, 1639.” Avalon Project, Yale Law School.
• “Wethersfield Prison Records.” Connecticut State Library.

And if you keep scrolling down on the law page, it’ll take you to digitizations of some of Connecticut’s earliest laws, including Elisha Babcock’s 1786 Acts and Laws of the State of Connecticut, in America and Zephaniah Swift’s 1795 A System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut: In Six Books.

Another great resource is the Connecticut Legal History collection of eYLS: the electronic collections of Yale Law School. There you can read, for example, William Lanson’s book of satisfaction — a 12-page pamphlet from 1848 — in which he “disclaims responsibility for murder of C. Parkisson by Samuel C. Yemmans in his boarding house; denies that his is a disorderly house.” Or you can review Aholiab Johnson’s account ledgers for his law practice in Stafford and Somers from 1825-1840. Or Sanford Billings’ Justice of the Peace records, c1795-1797, in Stonington.

Both online and offline, the Connecticut State Library in Hartford is an amazing resource for anyone doing research in the Nutmeg State. In particular, printed copies of all of Connecticut’s Public and Special Acts and General Statutes are available at the library, and it offers downloadable indexes to some of the most genealogically-valuable laws: the private laws and special acts. You can download a PDF index to the private laws of 1789-1943 and another for the special acts of 1944-2008.

And for modern Connecticut legal resources, look no farther than the Connecticut Legal Resources page of the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries — it has links to today’s statutes, all of Connecticut’s constitutions and more.

See you in Providence!


SOURCES

  1. Judy G. Russell, “A smattering of law,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 Apr 2015 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 14 Apr 2015).
  2. Ibid., “Early Massachusetts laws,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 14 Apr 2015.
Posted in Primary Law, Resources, Statutes | 5 Comments

An online resource

You can’t be a genuine law geek without breaking into a smile when you discover that one city, in one state, reprinted an entire body of its earliest colonial laws — and included a whole introduction outlining the known sources of manuscripts used.

Mass.lawsAnd you can’t be a genuine law geek without breaking into a happy dance when you discover that the reprint has been digitized and is online, free.

So… without further ado… the source of today’s happy dance:

The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts: Reprinted from the Edition of 1672 with the Supplements Through 1686.1

Now maybe it doesn’t float your boat to read that Phillip White was fined in 1642 for drunkenness,2 or that there were substantial bounties on wolves to be paid in 16613 or that ships’ masters and seamen were barred in 1663 from drinking healths or shooting off their guns after dark or on Sunday.4

Maybe you’re not interested in the fact that it was illegal even to possess cards or dice for gaming in 1670,5 that it was heresy — and illegal to boot — for any Christian over the age of 16 to deny the Books of the Old Testament or any of the New Testament as as “the written and infallible Word of God,”6 or that there was a system in place as early as the 1630s for settling wage disputes between masters and servants.7

It’s possible that you don’t really care that Massachusetts minted 12-penny, six-penny and three-penny coins in the 1650s,8 that a man couldn’t be whipped for a crime “unless his Crime be very shameful, and his course of life vicious and profligate,”9 or that — talk about a statute near and dear to a genealogist’s heart — anybody damaging or defacing a public record might be locked up for two months or “stand in the Pillory two hours in Boston Market, with a Paper over his head written in Capital Letters, A DEFACER OF RECORDS.”10

Maybe those things don’t interest you.

But as for The Legal Genealogist…?

Um… don’t bother me.

I’m reading old statutes.


SOURCES

  1. William Henry Whitmore, ed., The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts: Reprinted from the Edition of 1672 with the Supplements Through 1686 (Boston: Rockwell & Churchill, City Printers, 1890); digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 13 Apr 2015).
  2. Ibid. at 3.
  3. Ibid. at 160.
  4. Ibid. at 140.
  5. Ibid. at 58.
  6. Ibid. at 59.
  7. Ibid. at 105.
  8. Ibid. at 117.
  9. Ibid. at 119.
  10. Ibid. 1t 131.
Posted in Primary Law, Resources, Statutes | 6 Comments

For the State of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations

It’s NERGC week!

It’s finally here!

RI.lawPeople from all over New England — people with roots back in New England — people who are just interested in New England genealogy will be flocking to Providence for the 2015 New England Regional Genealogical Consortium which gets undertway at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Wednesday’s offerings are two special tracks: the Librarians and Teachers Day Track and the Tech Day track. And then the whole conference gets underway Thursday with what is going to be about the most fun opening session ever: a first person talk from the first English settler in what is now Rhode Island.

Really.

Well, okay, so it’s not exactly him, but hey… anybody who’s willing to dress in mid-17th century costume and tell us about what went on from the Pilgrims to King Phillip’s War is just fine by us, right?

And in preparation for this week, as you can imagine, The Legal Genealogist has been poking around in old statute books again, and offers the following as tidbits to help anyone looking for the statutes of Rhode Island.

It turns out you can find a fairly good sampling of early Rhode Island session laws online:

Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1747-1752 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1753-1757 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1758-1762 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1762-1765 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1765-1769 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1769-1771 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1773-1775 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1776 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1777 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1779 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1781 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1782 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1784 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1786 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1789 (Google Books) and (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1792 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1795 (Google Books) and (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1798 (Internet Archive) and (Internet Archive)

Once you get into the 19th century, however, things are a lot sparser in the online offerings. Some that you will find online include:

Public Laws of the State of Rhode-Island … as Revised … 1844 (Internet Archive)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1850 (Google Books)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1852 (Google Books)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1855 (Google Books)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1857 (Google Books)
Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly 1858 (Google Books)

The Rhode Island State Law Library has excellent historical resources… but, for the most part, they’re not online. The Library website has a Legal Links page, but the Rhode Island links there go to the State Legislature site where the Public Laws, Acts and Resolves are online only back to 1999; the legislative journals to 1998; and and bill texts back to 1997.

One exception is that published indexes to the Acts and Resolves that will give you an overview of most of the State’s historical statutes through 1899 have been digitized and are available online through the HELIN Digital Commons, a library consortium in which Rhode Island colleges and universities participate:

John Russell Bartlett, Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1758-1850 Part 1 (A-G), Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1758-1850 Part 2 (H-O) and Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1758-1850 Part 3 (P-Y).

John Russell Bartlett, Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1850-1862.

Joshua M. Addeman, Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1863-1873.

Charles P. Bennett, Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1873-1899 Part 1 (A-G); Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1873-1899 Part 2 (H-O); and Index to the Acts & Resolves of Rhode Island 1873-1899 Part 3 (P-Z).

Posted in Primary Law, Resources, Statutes | Leave a comment

DNA as mainstream genealogy

Is there any possibility — any chance at all — that DNA is not mainstream genealogy these days?

Um…

No.

It’s here, it’s here to stay, and it’s here in force.

And if you had any doubts about any of that, whatsoever, the past couple of days in Columbus, Ohio, would have settled the question.

logo_blueblack

Columbus was the site of the 2015 Ohio Genealogical Society conference, three glorious days (plus an advance workshop day!) of non-stop genealogical fun.

Conferences like this one offer such a wonderful opportunity to learn about methodologies and tools and record sets we’d like to become more familiar with — and so such more. They give us a chance to network, to see old friends and meet new ones.

And boy do they ever give you the answer to just how powerful the interest in DNA as a genealogical tool is these days, as the conference goers vote with their feet — by choosing session A over session B in the same time slot.

Those feet told the story here: DNA as a genealogical tool is here, it’s here to stay, and it’s here in force.

You could see it Thursday when Diane Southard’s lecture on organizing your DNA matches had a full house.

Then it really got underway Friday with a round-table discussion where people could ask whatever questions they wanted.

It was scheduled for the end of a very long day of presentations. It cut into the dinner hour. And it was standing room only. The moderator let the discussion go on as long as she reasonably could, but still had to finally cut people off with their questions still pending.

Yesterday, Saturday, you could see it throughout the day — there was a whole DNA track at this conference, starting at oh-dark-thirty (okay, so it was 8:30 a.m.) and running through to the end of the day.

And every single session was packed. From the basic basics that I was privileged to present at the start of the day through my own presentation of using DNA to reconstruct a famiy in a burned county, through Drew Smith’s presentation on understanding and using DNA results and on to Diane Southard’s lectures on autosomal DNA testing and on ethnic origins.

Oh, yes, there are some unrealistic expectations — or perhaps hopes is a better word. The hope that DNA will be the magic bullet to break through a brick wall without any other effort. But most people genuinely understand this tool needs hard work as much as any genealogical research does.

And boy oh boy… there is no doubt.

It’s here, it’s here to stay, and it’s here in force.

Posted in DNA | 7 Comments

Of brothers and sisters

Yesterday, The Legal Genealogist is told, was National Siblings Day.

And there is no-one who knows us as well… no-one as close a friend or as deadly an enemy… no-one who understands the shared history, the ups and downs, the glories and the disasters of life as a family… no-one in this world like a sibling.

And the stories of siblings are so much a part of the stories of my family’s life.

In my own life, there are all those wonderful, funny, sweet, smart, exasperating and frustrating people who have so enriched every day of my life… my siblings. Here we are, all eight of us, five boys and three girls:

siblings

Then in my mother’s life, there were all those wonderful, funny, sweet, smart, exasperating and frustrating people who so enriched her life… her siblings… my aunts and uncles. Here they are, shown around my grandmother in the white blouse and pink pants, the 10 children she raised to adulthood… five boys and five girls:

siblings2

And then in my father’s life, there was just that one little girl… the baby whose entire life passed before my father was ever born. One little girl of whom all that is known is that she was born 10 September 1919 in Bremen, Germany, and died at the Children’s Hospital there on 20 January 1920.

Her brother, my father, was not born until July of 1921. He never knew what it was like to have a sibling. Never shared a bed or a room or a chore. Never shared a toy or a secret.

He lost his father when he was just 24, his mother just two years later when he was not quite 26.

And, at that moment, he was alone.

No-one to remember with. No-one to share the stories with. No-one who would know all the family quirks. No-one who would or could understand without words.

No-one to laugh with. No-one to cry with. No-one even to fight with.

It is sweet to see the photo of my siblings, to know that I can pick up the phone right now and speak to any one of them. So much of who I am is because of our shared stories: the stories of their love for each other and for me.

It is bittersweet to see the photo of my mother and her siblings, to know that only four of these 11 people are alive today, but a joy to know that so much of who she was is because of their shared stories: the stories of their love for each other and for her.

And it is unspeakably sad to know that there isn’t even a photograph that survives today to show us what Marie Emma Geissler looked like, and to think that there were no stories there to tell. Nothing at all in her brother’s life that even gave him a hint of who his sister was, or even what it meant to have or to be a sibling.

Posted in My family | 6 Comments

150 years ago today

At 3:15 p.m. today, Thursday, the 9th of April 2015, all across America, the bells will ring out.

bell.ringThey will actually start just a little before then, sounding alone in a little town in Virginia.

It is called Bells across the Land: A Nation Remembers Appomattox, it’s sponsored by the National Park Service, and it marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the bloodiest conflict this nation has ever known.

It was then, exactly 150 years ago today, on the 9th of April 1865, that the Civil War came to an end.

Then, on that day, in the town of Appomattox Court House in northern Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, just about 3 p.m.

So, just after 3 p.m. today, in that same little Virginia town, the very first bell will ring. It’s a bell once owned by former slaves. It will toll for four minutes—one minute for each year of that terrible war. (It’ll be streamed live online if you can tune in…)

And then, at 3:15 p.m., from every corner of this land, the bells will ring out.

They will ring in Boston at the Old North Church.

They will ring in Philadelphia, including the Liberty Bell.

At Richmond’s Capitol Square.

At Chicago’s firehouses.

At Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

At the Statue of Liberty.

At battlefields, national park sites, national cemeteries, state capitols, county court houses, town halls, historical sites, universities, schools, homes, churches, temples, and mosques around the nation.

Individuals will also be joining in by ringing hand bells and cellphone bells.

I already have my cellphone set up to sound the bells here in Ohio at 3:15 p.m.

And I will bow my head, remembering a terrible war and the losses this nation suffered, that all came to an end, 150 years ago today.

Posted in General | 8 Comments

… With a flair

Perhaps the biggest problem with casting a wide research net for a genealogy presentation is the vast array of neat stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor.

But The Legal Genealogist can’t resist sharing this bit of neat stuff even if I can’t figure out how to neatly work it in to a keynote about Ohio law.

What follows is a series of signatures — and talk about signing off with a flair!

The occasion was the signing of what became known as the Treaty of Brownstown on 25 November 1808. The “Sachems, chiefs, and Warriors of the Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatamie, Wyandot, and Shawanoese nations of Indians” endered into an agreement with the United States to cede a strip of land 120 feet wide “from the foot of the rapids of the river Miami of the Lake Erie, to the western line of the Connecticut reserve” and another strip “to run southwardly from what is called Lower Sandusky, to the boundary line established by the Treaty of Greenville” for roads connecting settlements in Ohio and Michigan.1

It was signed for the United States by William Hull, Governor of Michigan Territory and Indian Agent.

And then it was signed by the representatives of the tribes.

Take a look; there is no need for words.

Signature page, Treaty of Brownstown, 1808 (click to enlarge)

Signature page, Treaty of Brownstown, 1808 (click to enlarge).2

See what I mean?

Neat stuff.


SOURCES

  1. See Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Treaty of Brownstown,” rev. 25 Feb 2013.
  2. Treaty of Brownstown, 25 Nov 1808; Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com), citing Ratified Indian Treaties, 1722-1869; NARA microfilm M668, roll 3.
Posted in General, Resources | 12 Comments

… and in the laws … and the index

Okay, so The Legal Genealogist is getting ready to head off to Ohio for the 2015 Ohio Genealogical Society Conference, and you know what that means, right?

astrologerYep, once again, I’m poking around in musty old volumes of forgotten legal lore.

Well, maybe not so forgotten in this case.

Because the law that just tickled my fancy as I was poking around yesterday was a bit newer than some that I’ve written about in the past.

This one was adopted by the Ohio Legislature on the 16th of April 1900.1 And it wasn’t repealed until 1974.2

The law read, in part:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio:

SECTION 1. That whoever shall represent himself to be an astrologer, a fortune-teller, a clairvoyant or a palmister shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall for each and every offense be fined not more than one hundred dollars and not less than twenty-five dollars, or imprisoned in the county jail for a period not longer than three months nor shorter than thirty days, or shall, within the discretion of the trial court, be both so fined and imprisoned.3

Ouch.

But then there was the “except” language. There has to be an exception, right? And Section 2 of this Act — the exception provision — read, in its entirety: “Nothing in this act contained shall apply to any astrologer, fortune-teller, clairvoyant or palmister to any astrologer, fortune-teller, clairvoyant or palmister to whom a license to practice has been legally granted.”4

Now who’d-a thunk it? A license! To practice astrology, fortune-telling, clairvoyance or palmistry! A bargain, under the law, at only $300 a pop.5 Only 10 times the licensing fee for keepers of shooting galleries,6 and only 20 times the licensing fee for vendors of gunpowder.7

So… did anybody in Ohio ever actually claim to be an astrologer?

Well, if you look at the census records, you’re going to find two things.

First, some people did claim it.

In 1930, 71-year-old Barbara Yaeger of Cincinnati was enumerated as an astrologer working out of her home. I suspect the bills may have been paid by her middle-aged daughters, one of whom was enumerated as a farmer and two as dressmakers.8

That same year, 42-year-old Paul Sandridge of Dayton was also enumerated as an astrologer working out of his home.9 He shows up listed that way in the 1930 city directory, too.10

In 1940, you can find David Stuart enumerated as an astrologer, who plied his trade door-to-door.11

That’s the fun part.

Then it gets wonky.

Because, when you look for astrologers in the census on Ancestry, you get some decidedly odd results. Like an index entry for the 1920 census for 33-year-old Theodore N. Smith of Cleveland. For him, the index includes:

Occupation: Physician
Industry: Astrologer12

Um… no. Oh, the occupation is entered correctly. It does read physician. But the industry column? The word there is osteopathy.

Ah, the things you can find when you start out poking around in the law…


SOURCES

  1. S.B. 162, 94 O.L. 363 (1900); digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 6 Apr 2015).
  2. Ohio R.C. 2911.16, repealed effective 1 Jan 1974. See Chapter 2911: Robbery, Burglary, Trespass and Safecracking, Ohio Revised Code, LAWriter (http://codes.ohio.gov/ : accessed 6 Apr 2015).
  3. §1, S.B. 162, 94 O.L. 363 (1900).
  4. §2, S.B. 162, 94 O.L. 363 (1900).
  5. Ohio Rev. Code §2672-36 in Rufus B. Smith and Alfred B. Benedict, ed., The Verified Revised Statutes of the State of Ohio (Cincinnati : Ohio Valley Co., 1893), I: 699; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 6 Apr 2015).
  6. Ibid., §2672-25, I: 697.
  7. Ibid., §2672-24.
  8. 1930 U.S. census, Hamilton County, Ohio, Cincinnati, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 401, sheet 8(A), dwelling 51, family 66, Barbara Yaeger; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Apr 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 1806.
  9. Ibid., Montgomery Co., Ohio, Dayton, pop. sched., ED 65, sheet 10(B), dwell. 120, fam. 163, Paul Sandridge.
  10. Williams’ Dayton Directory for 1930 (Cincinnati : Williams Directory Co., 1930), 1216; entry for Paul Sandridge; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Apr 2015).
  11. 1940 U.S. census, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Cleveland, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 92-455, p. 6025 (stamped), sheet 12(A), household 200, David Stuart; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Apr 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 3221.
  12. 1920 U.S. census, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, area, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 534, p. 69(B) (stamped), dwelling 115, family 170, Theodore N. Smith; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Apr 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T625, roll 1374.
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