Back in the saddle again

After almost a year hiatus from my beloved Sherlock Homes and with great apologies to my readers, I am ready to begin again.  I’m ramping up my business and marketing plans, setting short and long term goals, and determined to network and get my name out there.  I’m excited to be volunteering down at the Missouri State Archives once again, have joined a small business group, and joined the National Council on Public History, the American Historical Organization and renewed my memberships to the National Genealogical Society and the Missouri History Museum.  Whew!  So look for me to post once a week about interesting tidbits in history and genealogy.  I’m happy to be back 🙂

Detective Work and a New Cousin

(I hope I can tell this story clearly enough without using the names – I don’t want to betray any privacy without permissions)

So I was recently contacted through Ancestry (a genealogy database that I have subscribed to for ages) by someone who had done their DNA test and reached out to me as their 4th cousin.  Now I’ve gotten those requests before and I usually reply cordially, with a “nice to meet you, thanks for contacting me”, but this one was more intriguing.  She said that her mother was adopted and she knew who her birth grandmother was (I’ll call her EM) but my dna match was from what she suspected was her birth grandFATHER’s side (whom she knew nothing about).  She told me a few background details that sent me scurrying to those branches of my family tree to check things out. (I love a good mystery)

So I thought if I could place the family of her grandmother (EM) near or around the suspected grandfather’s family (JG), there may be some evidence that my JG was indeed her grandfather.

EM worked at the Albert L Stockman beauty shop in 1940,41,42. The address was 218 Lyceum Bldg, which was on W. Superior (corner of 2nd) which was part of the ‘Bowery District’. (that historic part of Duluth was demolished in the 60s in the name of urban renewal) She lived with her family and son (whom she kept and raised) nearby.  JG was married with 4 daughters in 1940. He worked at the First Street store (131 W First Av corner of 2nd Ave). He was unmarried by 1942 and living at 2801 W. Superior and then remarried in 1946 (she was listed in 1948 as a beauty operator). A theory could be that since his work was so close to EM’s shop (same cross street, one block up), that they may have met? Coincidence also that he became divorced around the birth of EM’s second child as well (1942) …

So I sent these details off and she responded that there was a family rumor about her grandmother being ‘a mistress’ (there’s usually some truth to those family rumors) and that she looked at the 4 daughters of JG from 1940 and one of them popped up on her DNA matches as a second cousin!  Confirmation and mystery solved?

She contacted this second cousin and it was confirmed that JG was their common grandfather so she is hoping to get to know her new relatives and see pictures of her half-Aunts and cousins.  Her great grandmother and my great grandmother were sisters, so we are more distant, but still family.

I am so happy that this worked out for her.  I’m honored to have been involved and to have provided some resources to help.  This is one of the most satisfying parts of being a professional genealogist and historian.  And also a big shout out of thanks to old City Directories being transcribed and indexed!!

p.s. – feel free to contact me at 314-292-9153 for your family mysteries — CJ

Quirky Hobbies

I love transcribing historical records and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  Because I use digitized, searchable records almost daily in my research, I consider indulging this hobby as contributing and enhancing my business success.  (At least that’s how I justify the obsession)

photo courtesy of DariuszSankowski, CC0 Creative Commons

Currently, I’m working at the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers site and transcribing records of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

The Bureau of Refugees, Freemen, and Abandoned Lands, often referred to as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was established on March 3, 1865. The duties of the Freedmen’s Bureau included supervision of all affairs relating to refugees, freedmen, and the custody of abandoned lands and property. These documents come from the Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of North Carolina, Series 4: Letters Received.

However, I am not the speediest transcriber as I have a researcher’s penchant for looking up every minute detail and fact – I have learned so many interesting details about post-Civil War reconstruction in North Carolina that I feel I could write a book. (well, not really, but…)  I also transcribe for the Missouri State Archives and Ancestry’s World Archives Project.

So if you happen to ask me what I’m working on, be prepared for my obsessive rant about some detailed account of what I’ve been transcribing lately.  Because if I’m between ‘paying’ research projects, that is more than likely what I’ll talk about.  It’s one of my quirky hobbies!


Call me at (314) 773-2881 or contact me to discuss your historical research, legal, writing, or genealogy needs.

Reblogged: “Neighborhood Watering Holes”, Marquis, 2005

My “Peeking into the Past” column and this article originally ran in the Lafayette Square ‘Marquis’, which was published monthly by the Virginia Publishing Company until 2011. It’s always fun to go back and see what I was working on in years past – it inspires me to keep digging too!

Peeking into the Past: Neighborhood Watering Holes

By Cara Jensen

Around the turn of the century, St. Louis was known as “first in shoes, first in booze, and last in the American League”. It seemed St Louis residents took this slogan to heart, as there were over 1100 saloons/saloon employees listed in the city directory in 1890! The term highball was said to have been coined at a St. Louis saloon that catered to railroad workers. The drinking glass was nicknamed a ball, and the workers who only had time for a quick drink started calling their whiskey and water a “highball”. In 1874, St. Louis native M.W. Heron, bartending in New Orleans, created a peach-flavored bourbon whiskey that became known as “the grand old drink of the South.” Heron named his invention Cuffs and Buttons, a takeoff on a popular beverage of the era called Top Hat and Tails. He changed the name to Southern Comfort only after moving back to St. Louis. Whether you prefer to call them bars, pubs, taverns, or ale houses, here are a few that called this area home:

1700 Russell: McKinley Heights saloon run by Leonard Bachmann.

2400 Menard: Soulard establishment operated by Robert Zanto and family.

1700 S. 11th: LaSalle canteen run by Anton Filip who resided at 1046 Soulard Ave.

1700 Geyer: Soulard taproom operated by Thomas Hause.

900 Geyer: Soulard pub owned by Bernard Duesterhaus.

2800 Missouri: Benton Park tavern kept by August P. Koebbe.

1800 Park: Lafayette Square lounge managed by John Schnieder.

NE corner of Menard/Emmet: Soulard saloon run by Charles Kreichelt who lived nearby at 1019 Emmet.

Tuesday Twigs: The Johnson Girls

Each Tuesday, I will post a tidbit from my family tree – I hope you enjoy!

Irene, Evelyn, Ardis & Verna
photo from personal collection

I love this picture!  These cuties are my great aunts – Irene Margaret, Evelyn Maude, Ardis Helen, and Verna Lucille.  The picture was taken around 1910 in Minneapolis where their Norwegian immigrant family lived (on 16th avenue) – probably in the Spring as by the 1910 census they had moved to a farm in Mahnomen County.  Maybe an Easter portrait as the two youngest are holding bunnies!

I would love to find those gold lockets or at least to know that they are kept and preserved by our family.  After the Johnsons moved to the farm, four more children (including my grandmother) were born, and the rest is history!

George & Tina Johnson & family.jpg
The George and Tina Johnson family ca 1930, personal collection

(They are arranged by age below, so you can match the four above to the eldest four girls!)

Visual Genealogy

There’s been a fun trend twisting on the genealogy blogging sites – visually plotting your ancestor’s birth states or countries. I had to join the fun – here’s mine and my husband’s!!

Cara Jensen 5 gen birthplace chartRyan 5 gen birthplace chart

It would be fun to do other things this way – imagine zodiac signs, or how many children in a family, city/country living, etc.  Ah statistics!!

“‘Bob’ Grierson in Town Again”

This article from today’s 1890 St. Louis Post-Dispatch piqued my curiosity – “‘Bob’ Grierson in town again”.

Bob Grierson
8 Dec 1890 St. Louis Post Dispatch

This poor man had a story – what was his background that made for such an unfortunate highlight in the daily paper?

Robert was the son of Benjamin Grierson, a major general of volunteers who went on to be Superintendent of the General Mounted Recruiting Service in Saint Louis, Missouri from 1873-1874 and later commanded several forts in Texas. (He also had commanded the 10th US Cavalry, one of two units composed of African-American soldiers)  The family was originally from Jacksonville Illinois but moved extensively as General Grierson was posted out West.


Robert attended medical school and suffered a history of mental illness.  He managed the family ranch outside Fort Davis, Texas in the 1880s, and was elected county commissioner.  Family investments fell on hard times as drought devastated the local cattle industry.  When the county treasurer embezzled $2000, Robert, as the commissioner, was held personally accountable for the loss.  That pressure, coupled with the death of his mother in 1888, overwhelmed him and he collapsed into depression.  His family eventually had him committed to the Insane Asylum in Jacksonville, Illinois, where they still kept residence.

In the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census he was listed a patient at the Illinois Central Hospital for the Insane.  He apparently indulged in frequent unscheduled trips to St. Louis during his stay at the asylum – I don’t blame him, I can only imagine how horrible conditions were at a turn-of-the-century insane asylum.  He died in 1922 and was buried in Jacksonville, Illinois.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the past – it’s always fascinating for me to find the back story on a particular situation especially with a local connection!


“GRIERSON, ALICE KIRK | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA).” Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) | A Digital Gateway to Texas History. Accessed December 8, 2015

“Benjamin H. Grierson: An Inventory of His Papers, 1827-1941 and Undated, at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.” University of Texas Libraries. Accessed December 8, 2015.

“Wooster, Robert. Frontier Crossroads Fort Davis and the West.” College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2006. Google Books. Accessed December 8, 2015.


52 Ancestors #26 – Another wife ’round the corner

This is the halfway point in Amy Johnson Crow’s Ancestor’s challenge – it feels good to look back on all of my narratives made public and to know that more is yet to come.

Sometimes strange quirks pull me in to my family tree and I turn to investigate a little deeper.  Such is the case with my 1st cousine (they were a French-speaking family, so…) 2x removed – Gladys Elizabeth Rancore.  She was the eldest child of 16, born in 1899 in northern Minnesota, near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  What got my attention was where she was in 1920.  The 1920 census showed her as an inmate at the Salvation Army Rescue Home in St. Paul, MN.  St. Paul was about 200 miles away from where she grew up – not unusual for a 19 year old to go looking for a job, and she did die in 1925, so perhaps she was seeking medical treatment.  But she came back north to teach in Beltrami County – I found a newspaper clipping from September 1920 saying that Gladys Rancore was teaching at the Winan and Murray schools there. Then she got married in Jun of 1921 to James Lyle Angell .  (My new subscription to really has come in handy!)  This was marriage #2 for James Angell, as his first wife, Harriet Bogart, had died from childbirth complications in June 1920, leaving 2 daughters.

Going back to Gladys in 1920 – I found out that the Salvation Army home in St. Paul was for ‘fallen women’ and had a maternity ward – so it seemed Gladys had a child out of wedlock in January 1920ish.  There is no birth certificate that I can find for the child, so we don’t know who the father is, if she would have named him at all.  But I suspect perhaps that it is James Angell, for reasons to follow.

Gladys and James had (another?) child in 1923, and then Gladys died in June of 1925, I suspect of childbirth complications even though I can’t find a birth certificate for an infant at that time.  James rebounded and married for a 3rd time – Ethel Leonard, who gave birth to a son in Feb 1930.  James and Ethel had no more children after the son, James Lyle Jr. [ Ethel’s sister Emma married James’ brother George around the same time, which confused me somewhat with the birth certificates since they had children all around the same time.]

The relationship between James’ third wife and his children seemed strained  – in 1930, his eldest daughter Fern (mother Harriet) was living with her father (perhaps the 13 year old was helping take care of the baby?).  Second daughter Florence (mother Harriet) was living with Aunt and Uncle out in faraway Skagit County, Washington.  Third daughter Lavurne (mother Gladys) was living in the same community, but with Uncle and Aunt Angell.

Given the rapidity with which James Angell remarried after his first two wives died from childbirth complication, it does seem like he was quite popular with the ladies.  Could he have had affairs during his marriages? (with Gladys Rancore?)  I may be watching too many detective shows and ‘Forensic Files’, but could he have contributed to his first 2 wives deaths, impatiently waiting for another wife to give him a son?

Update:  I found the obituary of James Lyle Angell, and I was slightly wrong about some things.  He married Ethel in August of 1929, not right after the death of his 2nd wife, and his son, James Lyle Jr., died in infancy.  So perhaps I should lay off those mystery murder shows…

52 Ancestors #25 – The Old Homestead

This week’s theme is ‘homestead’ and I immediately turned to a picture I have in my office:

OlgaAltaOrvilleWaldoOscar_ErmalIvaCyLindstromThis is my great grandfather and grandmother Oscar and Alta Fuller Lindstrom with a few of their children (Alta had 14 births, of which only 9 survived past infancy).  The are, from left to right, eldest sister Olga, mother Alta, my grandpa Orville (who I’ve been transcribing WWII letters from if you’ve been following me), Waldo, father Oscar, then in front it is Iva, Ermal, and baby Cy.  I can safely date this picture to 1918, since the youngest son, Cyril, was born in September 1917, he looks under 2, it is summer (even tho the long sleeves, it is northern Minnesota after all), and the next child was born in December of 1919.  (I don’t know much about log cabin construction but the roof looks a bit crooked to me.)

Don’t know the story of the cabin, but my great grandfather moved up to Hubbard County, Minnesota from Webster County, Iowa in 1913 and farmed in Hart Lake Township, section 10.  The dark blue dot is Oscar Lindstrom’s and I put the aqua dot as reference to where my mother grew up.

Hart Lake twp
1916 Hubbard Co. plat map, University of MN, John R. Borchert map library.

I wish I could find some more information about why they moved from the fertile black gold soil of NW Iowa to the rocky, boggy soil of northern Minnesota.  Oscar’s parents both died in 1909 and the heirs sold the 80 acre farm on 12 Jan 1911 for $8270.  So that is still a mystery for another day.  But it is nice to put that cabin on the map!

52 Ancestors #23 – June Weddings

I’ve been lax on my 52 Ancestors posts – I’ve been busy working on projects for clients, so I guess that’s a good thing.  Anyway, I thought this one would be easy – “June Weddings” – why do I always think that?  I have a large collection of beautiful wedding photos from my paternal side and seeing that June is the favored month for weddings, I dug in to look.  Surprise, surprise – nothing in the Aprils, Mays, Januarys, and finally … the elusive June wedding!

Oscar Anderson Irene Johnson wedding
from personal collection

This is my grand aunt, Anna Irene Margaret Johnson and her husband Oscar Theodore Anderson on their wedding day June 16, 1920.  I found it interesting that in the 1920 census, Oscar was listed as a farm hand on the Johnson farm!  Her parents must have vetted him very well and obviously liked his potential. I like the details that pictures can add to a story.  His face seems to be more tan than his forehead – a sign of a farmer for sure!  Her huge bouquet of roses, ferns, and ribbons match the ribbons on her dress and that style of veil is so unusual – wonder if that was in vogue, or if it was of Norwegian style?  (They were Norwegian-Americans)  Her hair looks to be bobbed in the 1920s style – how chic! I’ll continue to look for more June wedding photos this week to add to this post – thanks for reading!