Thursday, November 28, 2013

Edna Marie (Outhouse) Schwarz (1915-1992)

It’s Thanksgiving Day and I can’t help but think back to those family holiday dinners of the past. It isn’t the preparations, the decorations or even the turkey that I remember the most. I'm thinking about my Aunt Edna.
 I can hear her cheerful greeting, her laughter, and her asking me to get her a cup of tea; I remember the walks into town and feel her arms giving me a hug. She was ever-present in my childhood. When I was a baby, she lived upstairs; then later, she lived with our family for a few years until I was a young teen; then she got an apartment nearby. She was always there.
Holidays were special because of all the preparations for visiting relatives and the big dinners. Aunt Edna made the best coleslaw I’ve ever tasted. I would stand on a chair next to her at the kitchen sink and watch
Thanksgiving   c. 1977     Edna (front far right) at kid's table   
her chop the cabbage. I didn’t really help; I think I just wanted to be near her to listen to her talk. Our dining room table wasn’t large enough for everyone, so additions were made to make a big L-shaped table. All of us children sat together at the far end away from the adults. Aunt Edna always sat at the kids’ table with us. After dinner, she and I would help clear the tables and then we would wash all the dishes, chatting, sharing news, and telling stories. Even on New Year’s Eve, all the kids were at her apartment, playing games and listening to music, while the adults went to their parties. She taught me how to play pinochle, let me taste her blackberry brandy, and listened to my childish woes.
Aunt Edna always had gray hair for as long as I’ve known her. She was more like a grandma than an aunt—she had hard candies in her pockets, Melba toast in her cupboard, and talcum powder in her bathroom. She had a caregiver’s heart, and an infectious laugh. She rarely got angry, and when she did, it wasn’t for long. One time, my brother and I crawled up beside her in bed when she was sleeping. Aunt Edna snored very loudly. We found a downy feather from the pillow and tried to float it over her mouth, just like in the cartoons. When she inhaled it, we laughed hysterically, waking her up. She didn’t even get mad; she saw the humor in it and laughed right along with us.
Another time, we were getting ready to go somewhere, and I remember her franticly looking all over for her glasses only to discover they were on her head. We laughed about that for a long time. When my brother and I asked her to take our shortcut “over the river and through the woods” to her apartment complex, she hesitated, but only a little. She followed us on that crazy shortcut, brushing brambles aside, crossing over a log, and laughing all the way. We spent many hours going for walks to the store, to the library and around the neighborhood. Aunt Edna had never learned to drive; she never learned to ride a bicycle; and she never learned to swim. But she had a big heart and a great capacity for love.
My memories of her are mostly the memories of a child. Having moved away as a teen, I never really got to know her as an adult. It’s only when I look back, seeing her life through a genealogist’s eyes that I can appreciate what she’s been through. It’s then that I realize just what a remarkable person she was.
Edna Marie Outhouse was born in Peekskill, New York, on 27 January 1915, the only child of Lester [i]
Edna (Baisley) Outhouse with daughter, Edna Marie c. 1918
Outhouse and Edna Baisley. Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States and Congress had just rejected an amendment to give women the right to vote.
In September 1918, when she was almost 4 years old, the Spanish Influenza hit Peekskill. Between the months of September and November, there were over 3000 cases. The local newspapers reported over 30 deaths each week. [ii]  My Aunt Edna lost both her father and her uncle, Franklin Baisley, in the same week—both just young men in their early twenties.
A widow with a young daughter, Edna’s mother moved in with her in-laws, Ralph and Annie Outhouse.[iii] She lived with them until the early 1920s, when she met and married a young sailor, Albert Pastoor, with whom she made a home in Peekskill.[iv] In the years that followed, three more children, all sons, were born. The family managed to make a living during the depression. Edna, being the oldest and the only daughter, had many household chores and helped raise her young brothers. She told me of a time she killed a neighbor’s rooster because it attacked her every day as she walked to school. One day she got tired of being harassed by it and killed it with an ax. She got in trouble for killing the neighbor’s prize rooster and had to work to pay off its cost.
In 1949, Edna again lost a father, and in another six years, her mother was gone as well. By that time, Edna was married and pregnant with her only child. Five years later, she was a single mother trying to raise a daughter in Jersey City, New Jersey, the handsome US Marine she married having deserted them. She never remarried.
I never once thought about the hardships she had faced in her life. Maybe it was just because we never saw
Aunt Edna   c. 1978
that side of her. She was never bitter but always happy. She never had much money, but she was a generous person, especially with her time. She devoted her life to her family, to being a foster grandparent, and to volunteering for 15 years at a Home for Battered Women. She never knew a stranger and would talk to everyone.
She’s been gone 21 years now, and I miss her dearly. I think about her often and wish she could see her family now. She would love watching her grown grandchildren, nieces and nephews with their own children. I know if she were here this Thanksgiving, she’d be sitting with the kids, playing games, teaching them how to play cards, handing out hard candies from her pockets, and asking me to get her a cup of tea.

[i] The New York Times, "Jan. 12, 1915 - Congress Votes Against Women's Suffrage Amendment," The Learning Network, 12 Jan 2012 ( : accessed 23 Nov 2013).
[ii] "Influenza on the Wane," The Highland Democrat, 2 Nov 1918, p. 2, col. 4; digital images, Old Fulton NY Post Cards ( : accessed 22 Nov 2013).
[iii] 1920 U.S. census, Westchester, New York, population schedule, Peekskill, enumeration district (ED) 18, sheet 6-B (penned), p. 220-B (stamped), dwelling 106, family 151, Edna Outhouse in Ralph Outhouse household; digital images, ( : accessed 5 Jan 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625, roll 1,275.
[iv] "U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989," database and images, ( : accessed 14 Apr 2013), entry for "Pasteur, Albert (Edna)"; citing Richmond's Peekskill New York Directory, 1927, p. 160; image 86.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rinse & Repeat

One of the things I really like to do is to organize—really. As a kid, I had hundreds of books, all organized on shelves alphabetically by author. My records (yes, those vinyl ones) were also filed alphabetically. My husband laughs at me because even today, my spice rack is alphabetically arranged. Organizing things is just part of who I am and gives me great pleasure.
So you would think organizing my genealogy would come naturally. Unfortunately my need to organize is a bit too compulsive. I find a system, then read about another system I think I might like better. So I re-organize my system and in between, my paper piles continue to grow. The advent of the computer and the internet should have made my life easier. Hah! Not for a compulsive organizer like me.
For a long time I used both computer software and a color-based paper file and binder system. Being old school, I tended to trust my paper files more than my computer ones. I could find my paper files; I forgot where I put the digital ones. But as I’m becoming more computer savvy, I really like the idea of going completely digital. I have developed a system of labeling my digital photos and scanned documents and filing them by surname on my computer. Then I learned that best practice means I should have a citation on every document and photo—which I don’t.
At the same time, I realized I was working too hard to make my natural organizational style fit with my current software. I found a program which uses Sourcewriter, a built-in tool that helps cite my sources properly and the way citation goddess, Elizabeth Shown Mills in Evidence Explained suggests. This appeals to my inner organizational bone and I have now transferred my research from one software system to the new one.  I am currently going through my direct-line families first (followed by collateral and off-shoot families) and cleaning up my citations and adding my digital files. I’m taking the time to go back and add citations to those un-cited digital photos and documents as I come to them. 
Some might say I’m stuck in the rinse-and-repeat cycle, but I’m improving my process all the time. I think the biggest perk in doing it this way is that while I am again going through my data, I am seeing it with new eyes and making new discoveries in my old data.
Now, I not only collect data, but I analyze it before adding it to my tree. Keeping Evidence Explained by my side helps with proper citation technique, but also reminds me that I need to think through each piece of information, not just for additional clues, but for the reliability of the source.
So while I am seemingly in an endless data-entry cycle, not only am I learning new things along the way, I’m also refining my research technique. And this continues to appeal to my inner organizational nature…and probably why I will continue to work genealogy in this way. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Albert H. Pastoor (1898-1949)

On this Veteran’s Day 2013, I am thinking about my grandfather, Albert Herman Pastoor who served during World War I in the U.S. Navy. Sadly, I never got the chance to meet him; he died long before I was born.
Albert H. Pastoor was born on January 30, 1898, in South Brooklyn, New York, the third child of his German immigrant parents, Albert and Anna (Kolb) Pastoor. The family was not wealthy, as evidenced by their moving frequently from one tenement house to another. As a cook, Albert senior probably did not make much money. Since he worked in the transportation business, it seems likely he worked along the Brooklyn docks, maybe working in a kitchen to help feed the longshoremen. My grandfather had two siblings who died in early childhood. A sister died just months after his mother gave birth to another sister, and a brother died as an infant from pneumonia. I imagine the living conditions were crowded and unhealthy and life at home was a struggle.
In contrast, during the time he lived there, industry in Brooklyn was booming. Brooklyn was one of the nation’s leading producers of manufactured goods. It also had sugar refineries which produced more than half the nation’s sugar. The Williamsburg Bridge, the world’s largest suspension bridge at the time, was built, as was the city’s first subway, and Ebbets Field, the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Work was plentiful, but it wasn’t always safe or healthy. Chances are good that Albert worked at odd jobs when a boy to help make ends meet at home.
When Albert was ten years old, his father became so gravely ill that he was sent away to a state hospital, never to come home again, and died three years later. Shortly after, his mother started to display signs of illness, eventually dying when Albert was 16 years old.
From a young age, my grandfather’s parents were negligent or absent, not from choice, but because of poverty, sickness and death. Between the ages of 10 and 16, Albert had to deal with both parents being ill and probably struggled to make ends meet, especially after his father fell sick and could not work. I imagine my young grandfather roaming the streets of South Brooklyn and winding up on the waterfront. By the time he joined the Navy, he had numerous tattoos. I imagine tough streets and wonder if he knew Al Capone, who lived there at the same time as my grandfather. I wonder if Albert watched the freighters sail into the busiest freight port in the world or stood looking at the Statue of Liberty across the Bay. I wonder if he ever visited the U.S. Navy Yard, where the USS Arizona was being built, or if he ever crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.
In 1915, Woodrow Wilson was president and Europe was engaged in World War I. Earlier that year, the Lusitania was sunk by the Germans. By that time, Albert was 17 years old and living with his married sister in Annapolis, Maryland, and it was there that Helen signed his consent to join the U.S. Navy. When the United States became involved in the war in April 1917, Albert was a seaman serving aboard the battleship USS Texas.  
Victory Medal w/Transport Clasp
On December 6, 1917, my grandfather was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, aboard the USS Old Colony which was dry docked for boiler repairs.  That was the day two ships collided near Halifax harbor. One of them, a French freighter, the SS Mont-Blanc, was carrying wartime explosives. Shortly after the collision, a fire broke out on the Mont-Blanc causing a “cataclysmic explosion” that was deemed to be the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons. The USS Old Colony had received little damage and was converted to a hospital ship to care for the estimated 9000 wounded.  My grandfather received a commendation for his work during the Halifax disaster.
Albert also served aboard the USS Wachusetts, a cargo ship sailing to Brest, France, to bring supplies to the US Army in 1918.  For his service aboard both the USS Old Colony and the USS Wachusetts, Albert Herman Pastoor was awarded the Victory Medal and Transport Clasp.
My grandfather reenlisted two more times, serving out the rest of his military career at the Naval Ammunitions Depot on Iona Island, New York. He was honorably discharged on December 17, 1922 with a rank of Boatswain's Mate Second Class. 

He left a legacy of which he could be proud. All three of his sons joined the military, his oldest serving during WWII.  Of his three grandsons, two have made careers in the military, both serving during peace and wartime.  
So this Veterans’ Day, I salute and honor my grandfather, Albert Herman Pastoor. I don’t know much about him, but what I do know makes me proud to be his granddaughter.


Compiled service record, Albert H. Pastoor personnel file, service no. 1521327, (discharged 1921); Official Military Personnel Files, World War I; Enlisted Personnel, 1885 - 1951, United States Navy; National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis; photocopies supplied by Center without citation.
Ebay. US WWI Victory medal with "TRANSPORT" clasp. : accessed 10 Nov 2013
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Ships of the Halifax Explosion. accessed 10 Nov 2013
Reilly, Michael. Life in Brooklyn: 150 years in History. : 2006.
Thirteen WNET New York Public Media. History of Brooklyn - Early 20th Century. : 2012.
Time: Disasters that Shook the World. New York City: Time Home Entertainment. 2012. p. 56.
New York. City of New York. Death Certificates. New York City Municipal Archives, New York City.
New York. Kings. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule. Digital images. : 2004.
New York. Kings. 1905 New York State Census, population schedule. Digital images. FamilySearch. : n.d.
New York. Kings, Brooklyn. Birth Certificates. New York City Municipal Archives, New York City.
New York. Kings Park State Hospital. Death Certificates. Town of Smithtown, Smithtown.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Paperless - Evernote or OneNote?

Having decided to move to paperless genealogical research, I’m trying to choose between the two main note-taking programs, Evernote and OneNote. Since I don’t know how to use either of them, I’m having lots of trouble deciding.  So I had to figure out just what I want to do with the program. Basically, I want to duplicate my existing paper and notebook method. I want a place to store bits of information and notes that I’m not yet ready to input into my family tree software. I want a holding place where I can analyze the data I’ve collected. I’ve been using Clooz to organize my documents and link them to my people, but I haven’t yet been able to find a method that works for me for analyzing the documents and writing down my ideas and thoughts about each document or potential research avenue.
So what do I want in a note-taking/notebook system?
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Good organization
  • portable - an app for my iPad
  • Searchable notes
  • Not too expensive

Evernote can sync across many devices, and the app seems to function almost fully like the desktop version. It also has a great add-on web-clipping tool for desktop that will automatically save items I clip from the web to Evernote. It has three levels of organization: stacks of notebooks, individual notebooks, and notes. Evernote relies on a tagging system for searching and there seems to be an unlimited amount of tags one can create. The program is free to use across all platforms, however if I want extra features like more storage and no ads, the cost is $45 per year.
OneNote is organized like a virtual notebook.  Each notebook can have a section, which can be divided into subsections, and then into pages. Hyperlinking notes to other notes, webpages, or notebooks are a nice feature. I don’t see a web-clipper, but digital images and audio files can be dragged into the notebook. OneNote also employs tags for easy searching, but supposedly has an instant search feature. Notes are automatically saved as I type and syncs to all devices if I sign in to SkyDrive. The app is free, but I learned that after 500 notes, you must pay $15 for the iPad version, which has limited functioning. OneNote 2013 is reasonably priced at $69.99 for standalone or it is included in the Microsoft Office Suite bundles.
I think the choice depends on style rather than features. I’m leaning toward OneNote because it mimics my own style of organization a little bit better. What do you think? Which program do you use and why? I’d love to hear how you use either program for genealogy.