Did Grandpa Dingman Die of the Spanish Flu


Today I watched a documentary presentation on the C-Span 3 network entitled “Influenza Pandemic and World War I..” The presenter was Nancy Bristow, professor of history, University of Puget Sound. The presentation was originally broadcast live on Nov. 1, 2019, from the National WWI Museum & Memorial in Kansas City, MO.

Prof. Bristow made the point in her presentation that the so-called Spanish Flu pandemic began in 1918 but recurred through 1920. She discussed how it started Camp Funston, an Army base in Kansas and quickly spread to many other Army bases and into the general population. What she related sounded eerily like what we are experiencing with Covid19 in March of 2020.

Do learn more about the 1918 pandemic, I turned to Wikipedia, which provided the following: “The Influenza pandemic of 1918 was a serious pandemic of influenza. It lasted for three years, from January 1918 to December 1920. About 500 million people were infected across the world. The pandemic spread to remote Pacific Islands and the Arctic. It killed 50 million to 100 million people— three to five percent of the world’s population at the time. This means it was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.”

Grandpa Wallace Betts Dingman died on 01 Apr 1920. As I pointed out in an earlier blog posting ( http://www.collectingancestors.com/2017/12/21/more-on-grandpa-wallace-dingman/ ), the cause of his death is a mystery. His death certificate was filled out by a doctor who reported “I have no knowledge as to cause of Death. He was treated by a Christin Cientist [sic]. “

An obituary I have from the Andover Citizen states that he was ill for several days and then attended an auction Shortly after that his condition worsened resulting in his death.

Having learned the extent of the 1918 Flu pandemic, I now suspect that Grandpa might have been a victim of that disease.

One final note: The 1918 pandemic was commonly referred to as the Spanish Flu.At the time, the U.S. government Wikipedia points out that: “To maintain morale, wartime censors reduced reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States; but papers could report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain (such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII. This situation created the false impression of Spain being especially hard-hit.  It also resulted in the nickname Spanish flu.

Outbreaks, Epidemics, Pandemics


It’s official: The world is experiencing a pandemic with Covid-19, referred to colloquially as Coronavirus. The World Health Organization made that pronouncement today, March 11, 2020.

I have been checking on the latest developments in my state of Ohio. Our Governor Mike DeWine is holding frequent briefings and they are broadcast in their entirety by my cable provider Spectrum TV. He and state health officials seem to be on top of the situation, as much as we can be with all the changes day by day. Today’s briefing included the announcement that a fourth individual, a male in his 50s, had tested positive for Covid-19. A couple of days ago, it was announced that there were three proven cases in Cuyahoga County. The two situations were different because the first three had been exposed to other victims, but the fourth was not. This means that he caught the virus by the mysterious mechanism known as “community spread.”

I have learned from my grandkids that their universities have suspended in-person classes, switching over to online classes until further notice.

On a personal level, my Silver Sneakers exercise class, which meets three days a week, has been suspended until April 1. Also, some genealogical events that I was planning to attend have been canceled or postponed.

In news coverage of this pandemic, we are learning about the spread of this disease. First, it was an outbreak in China (localized), then it became an epidemic (wider regional spread), and finally a pandemic with cases in many countries around the world. So far, more than 100 countries have reported cases of Covid-19.

The term self-quarantine has been used more and more as people stay at home when they suspect that they might have been exposed to victims of the virus or at least are feeling some or all of the symptoms.


Again, on a personal level, I would like to record that my house in Andover, Ohio, was quarantined about 70 years ago. I and my sister and brother had to stay home from school for a few days because we were diagnosed with scarlet fever,

Here is a concise description of that illness found on the Mayo Clinic website (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scarlet-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20377406):

“Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness that develops in some people who have strep throat. Also known as scarlatina, scarlet fever features a bright red rash that covers most of the body. Scarlet fever is almost always accompanied by a sore throat and a high fever.

“Scarlet fever is most common in children 5 to 15 years of age. Although scarlet fever was once considered a serious childhood illness, antibiotic treatments have made it less threatening. Still, if left untreated, scarlet fever can result in more serious conditions that affect the heart, kidneys and other parts of the body.”

What I remember about this event is that we had sore throats, but otherwise weren’t very sickly (thank goodness). Also, there were no lasting effects. I also remember that our house did have a red sign next to the front door announcing our quarantine.

I only hope we get through the Covid-19 pandemic as well as our family got through the adventure with scarlet fever those many decades ago.

Great Grandpa’s Headstone “Find” by Familysearch


This morning I received an email from FamilySearch.org informing me about finding my Great Grandpa Andrew Dingman’s headstone. Here is a screen capture of the message:

Email from FamilySearch

I’m very impressed by this information, not because it is new to me but because FamilySearch has the capability of connecting Grandpa Andrew’s information with the headstone image. I have visited the Park Lawn Cemetery in Jamestown, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and photographed the headstone. I have even seen the image on Find A Grave.

Great Grandpa Andrew’s headstone in Park Lawn Cemetery in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

What is impressive is that FamilySearch has written an algorithm to find a connection between the data I have entered in my family tree contribution on FamilySearch.org with the data on the Find A Grave website.

It makes me wonder what FamilySearch will develop for hinting in the future.

It’s Soon Time to be Counted in the 2020 Census


On April 1 this year, it’s more than April Fool’s Day. It is the official start date, or Census Day, for the 2020 Federal Census. You may already have learned some things about this upcoming Census, as the Census Bureau is making an extensive effort to educate the America public about how and why to participate.

One thing new this year is that households will be able to respond to the 2020 Census in none of three ways: with a paper questionnaire, or online, or even over the telephone.

Once again, the questionnaire is bilingual, with English and Spanish language versions. The Spanish version is provided primarily for Spanish-speaking residents who are U.S. citizens by virtue of residing in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States.

Federal law requires residents to participate in the U.S. Census Survey. The census is required by the Constitution, which has called for an “actual enumeration” once a decade since 1790. The 2020 population numbers will shape how political power and federal tax dollars are shared in the U.S over the next 10 years. You can use the Internet to download a sample copy of the 2020 Census Questionnaire by going to this URL: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/technical-documentation/questionnaires/2020.html.

The sample version excludes some features that will be made available to households starting in March 2020, such as the URL for online response and the contact information for phone response.

You will be urged to respond to the questionnaire

The Census Day is important as that is the date used to determine the proper answers to questions of residency and age.

The Census has been conducted by Federal law every 10 years beginning in 1790. The official Census Day is when the enumerators were sent out to begin census-taking. The Census Day has varied from time to time, a fact that is important for genealogists to know who are interested in estimating birth years from ages recorded by census enumerators.

Several genealogical database providers make available online complete census data from 1790 through 1940. The census data has been released to the public 72 years after the census date. This means that the 1950 census will be release on or about April 1, 2022.

For your reference, here are the Census Days for the 16 censuses that have been conducted since 1790 and released for public use:

US Census Days

1790: Aug. 2
1800: Aug. 4
1810: Aug. 6
1820: Aug. 7
1830: June 1
1840: June 1
1850: June 1
1860: June 1
1870: June 1
1880: June 1
1890: June 1 (this was a Sunday, so census-taking began June 2)
1900: June 1
1910: April 15
1920: Jan. 1
1930: April 1 (Oct. 1, 1929 in Alaska)
1940: April 1

The Census Bureau maintains a website with a wide variety of interesting historical facts about the Census and census-taking at https://www.census.gov/history/. On the home page, you might want to click on the Genealogy drop-down menu for more information.

Ancestry.com To Remember WWII in 2020


Amcestry.com has announced that it will be commemorating the end of World War II during 2020. This year marks 75 years since the end of World War II. 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. 75 years since the first deployed atomic bomb. 75 years since many in the greatest generation made the ultimate sacrifice to restore peace.

Throughout this milestone-filled year, we’ll be sharing important collections that highlight the historic events of the war, beginning with the Ancestry Holocaust Remembrance Collection.

NBC’s Genealogy Show: A New Leaf


I just became aware of a new half-hour genealogy show on TV: A New Leaf presented on NBC with major sponsorship by Ancestry.com. In the Cleveland area, it is broadcast on Saturday morning at 11:30 on WKYC Channel 3.

Logo for NBC’s new genealogy series.

According to the website for the program (click here), two episodes have already been broadcast. They are available for viewing from the website or On Demand on your TV (I have Spectrum TV service and they are listed in the On Demand list).

Here is how NBC describes the show:

“A New Leaf” will follow everyday people on the cusp of key life inflection points, using family history, genealogy and sometimes DNA analysis to help guide them on their journey of self‑discovery. Along the way, viewers will learn about different cultures as our featured guest uncovers new information about their family’s heritage. Each week, “A New Leaf” will teach viewers the importance of appreciating and understanding their family history in order to make important decisions and enact positive changes in their lives.

The hostess for the premiere (and subsequent episodes) was TV personality Daisy Fuentes, who visited with the subject of the episode, Nadia, to explore her family history. (One note: if you watch an On Demand presentation, you won’t be able to fast forward through commercials — boo-hoo!)

Countdown until German Seminar at WRHS


We have one month to go until the Western Reserve Historical Society hosts an all-day German Genealogy Seminar at the Cleveland History Center in University Circle. James M. Beidler will present four presentations under the umbrella title of “Jumping into German Genealogy” there on November 16.

The History Center is located at 10825 East Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. The doors will open at 9 am with the first presentation scheduled to begin at 9 am.

Beidler will present the following lectures:

  • Your Immigrants’ Germany
  • German Research Online
  • German Names and Naming Patterns
  • Online German Church Registers, Duplicates, and Substitutes

I am interested in gathering more information about the German immigrant ancestors I have added to my Ancestry.com family tree. In preparation for attending the seminar, I have identified in my own lineage on my mother’s side, nine 4- to 6-great grandparents. I may identify more.

Based on the information I have found so far, they came from the German states of Hesse, Wurttemberg, Thueringen, and Bavaria in various years between 1749 and 1773. In many cases, I have been able to find birth and marriage records for them on Ancestry.com. I will be checking FamilySearch.org and MyHeritage.com for additional online records.

In his book, The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide, Beidler states that these immigrants would be classified as “First Boat” German immigrants, arriving in American during the first wave of immigration in the 18th century.

The maternal line of my late wife MJ arrived as “Second Boat” German immigrants between 1800 and 1920. In this case, we know that her grandfather, August Scheppelmann, arrived in 1897 from Neinburg, Germany. This city is in the present-day state of Lower Saxony. We know this not only from records found on Ancestry.com but also from records retrieved by MJ’s second cousin who traveled back to Germany about 35 years ago to visit relatives and obtain church records for family members.

MJ’s maternal grandmother was another story. We only had the fact that she last lived in Kempten, Bavaria, gleaned from her passenger arrival record at Ellis Island in 1902. I paid a researcher to look for any records for Marie Thomann. She was able to provide residency and work records for Marie, and eventually, she tracked down the fact that she was born out of wedlock and even the names of her mother and father. At some point, I probably will hire her to find any additional information about Marie’s family in Bavaria.

In the meantime, I am reading Beidler’s book and learning about German history.

I hope to be well-prepared to learn more about researching family history records from James Beidler when he presents his seminar on Nov. 16. If you are interested in signing up for this seminar, go here on the WRHS website. You can check out Beidler’s website here.

“Finding Your Roots” Season Off to a Satisfying Start


Last evening (08 Oct 2019) I watched to first episode of Season Six of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I found the three case studies featured in this episode to be interesting and satisfying.

The subjects were Isabella Rossellini, Angelica Huston, and Mia Farrow. Mia Farrow’s ancestry was traced to Australia, Angelica Huston’s to Italy, and Isabella Rossellini’s to Sweden.

Rossellini is the daughter of Ingred Bergman, an actress who was well-known for being born in Sweden. Gates and his research crew traced her ancestry to Norrköping, Sweden. That resonated with me because I had visited a training school for foundry workers in nearby Jönköping during a business trip to Sweden and Denmark in the 1970s while I was working as the engineering editor of Foundry magazine.

Overall, I was impressed by what the episode revealed in terms of “old world” documentation for the ancestors of the three guests.

DNA also figured into the episode when Gates revealed that Rossellini shared some DNA with another actress with Swedish roots: Scarlett Johansson.

Upcoming episodes will be broadcast in the Cleveland area on WVIZ PBS on Tuesdays at 8 pm. I’ll be tuning in to learn the ancestral stories of many fascinating guests, including Jeffrey Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Melissa McCarthy, Sterling K. Brown, Jordan Peele, Nancy Pelosi, Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, Queen Latifah, Jon Batiste, Diane von Furstenberg, Zac Posen, Jeff Goldblum, Terry Gross, Eric Stonestreet and more.

A Finn Was Pitcher for Chicago White Sox


From time to time my cousin Matti in Finland sends emails with links to articles and other text material of interest to me and my brother Walfrid. This morning, he sent an item article about a Finnish national who came to America in the early 1900’s to pitch for the Chicago White Sox. It was from today’s Helsingin Sanomat, the leading newspaper in Finland

Of course, the article was published in Finnish. This is no problem for my brother, as he is fluent in Finnish. I, on the other hand, know very little Finnish. Google Translate comes in handy for me, and I am going to include some screenshots to show what Matti’s email was all about — and to demonstrate the capabilities of Google Translate with Finnish. First, here is Matti’s email:

Matti’s Email as it arrived this morning
Translation provided by Gmail

This contained some “awkward” translations. I thought I could do better by copying and pasting the text into Google Translate. And here is what I got back:

Side-by-side comparison between the original and the Google Translate result.

A much cleaner translation. It’s obvious that the translation service within Gmail is not as capable as is Google Translate.

FYI, here is why Matti sent the message to me: When I visited Finland last summer, he and other cousins took me to view a baseball park in Kuopio, the closest big city to where my grandparents emigrated from.

Now back to the newspaper article. I noted that the credit line Jouni Nieminen, teksti, was a hotlink, so I clicked on it. It took me to the newspaper’s website, which featured a built-in translation service. I searched for the article and got this result in English:

The article (translated) from the Helsingin Sanomat website. Note that the baseball player’s name has been translated into English.

I believe that the term “feeder” would more likely be used as “special” or some such term in an American newspaper. Jouni Nieminen probably is a freelance writer, feeding items of interest to the newspaper.

I went to Wikipedia and searched for Michaelson and found this summary of his very brief baseball career:

John August Michaelson’s baseball career summary on Wikipedia.

A brief search on Ancestry.com shows that John August Michaelson was a common name. But I was able to separate out the fact that the Michaelson I was looking for died in Wisconsin in April of 1968. Here is his cemetery stone:

Maps Galore in Historical Atlas of Germany


If you are tracing ancestors born in Germany and other German-speaking lands, there is a new reference book that should be helpful to you. For centuries, what evolved into Germany as we know it today was a feudal patchwork of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, and even free cities, with often changing boundaries. The book is The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany, by James M. Beidler. It provides more than 100 full-color maps along with valuable text about the history of the region that developed into present-day Germany. The maps and text combine to fill 240 pages bound in an attractive hard-cover format.

By studying this book, you can come to understand German border changes throughout the centuries. Of particular value to genealogical researchers are the following chapters: Nineteenth-Century Germany, Regional and State Maps, Twentieth-century Germany, and Modern-Day Religious and Demographic Maps. Another valuable section provides an index to cities and villages found on the included maps, a glossary of geographic terms, and a list of map sources, All this material can help you pinpoint the hometowns of your German ancestors and thereby locate where you might find their records.

I am researching German ancestors ranging from my fourth great grandfather Johan Mathias Flaugh, born in Rimhorn, Baden-Wuerttemberg, who immigrated to America in 1773, to Maria Thoman, the grandmother of my late wife, who was born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria and came to America in 1905.

The Historical Atlas has helped me understand the geography and history of Germany pertinent to these and other ancestors.

The author readily admits in the introduction that most of the maps can be viewed online. I found it to be convenient, however, to have them in one printed reference. If you wish to study them online, and perhaps use your browser to enlarge them, you’ll be happy to know that citations to the sources of the maps are provided.

Jim Biedler has written other books about German genealogical research, including The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe and Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites. He also is the author of The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers (which we should note includes information about German-language newspapers in America).

The book is available from a wide range of booksellers, both brick and mortar and online. The list price is $34.99, but you can find it available for less if you search online for special offerings.