31. Three Printed Books

Although my blog entries have emphasized downloadable publications, Bolesbooks actually offers three printed books that are otherwise unavailable in electronic form. Yes, that’s right: Real paper and real binding! They’re described below, but for access to indexes, prices, and ordering information, please visit the Bolesbooks web site.

Barth-Hickey Ancestry

(358 pages, softbound). With the additional familes of Bodine, Bowman, Brown, Brownlee, Burnett, Crocheron, Drury, Finch, French, Greiner, Gullett, Heisdorfer, Housh, Langham, Malmberg, Martin, McClain, McMurtrie, Millard, Mills, Phillips, Reynolds, Robinson, Rung, Russell, Shercliffe, Sinnott, Spinke, Swanson, Wilson, and Wolcott. Includes pictures.  Limited copies remaining; will not be reprinted.

The Barth-Hickey Ancestry covers a particularly strong concentration of families from St. Mary’s co, Md, especially Catholic families in the 1600s and 1700s. Other major geographic areas variously inhabited by Protestant or Catholic ancestors were Iowa, Ind, and NJ; Macon co, Ill; Nelson co, Ky; Washington co, Pa; Somerset co, Md; and Augusta co, Va. Other names, areas, and periods are also represented.

Speece-Robinson Ancestry

(222 pages, softbound). Co-author Harold W. Boles. With the additional families of Addams, Altruth, Auliffe, Bailey, Brown, Cole, Conklin, Cunningham, Dick, Dobbs, Doors, Flexney, Gobels, Hinds, McIntire, op den Graeff, Pletges, Princehouse, Rossiter, Tarpley, Tomey, and Williams. And Addenda on the Adams, Bachiler, Dungan, Holbrook, Large, Latham, Swift, Weaver, and Wing Families. Includes pictures.  Very limited copies remaining; will not be reprinted.

The Speece-Robinson Ancestry covers a number of families from Champaign and Shelby counties, Ohio; Frederick co, Va; Berkeley and Morgan counties, WVa; Bucks and Philadelphia counties, Pa; what is now Union co, NJ; New England; and England, Ireland, and Germany. The American coverage is particularly strong in the 1700s and 1800s, but there is a substantial segment of material from the 1600s as well. Other names, areas, and periods are also represented.

Withers-Davis Ancestry

(427 pages, hardbound). Co-author Harold W. Boles. With the additional families of Abraham, Babb, Bachiler, Chandler, Collet, David, Davies, Hollingsworth, Hussey, Jefferis, Lewis, Martin, May, Nash, Nowell, Perkins, Powell, Ree, Roberts, Sloper, Tarrant, Wise, Wood, and Woolaston. Also numerous Welsh families ancestral to William, David, and Ralph Lewis, and John Bevan, plus their royal descents.  Will not be reprinted.

The Withers-Davis Ancestry covers a large concentration of families from the area of Chester and Delaware counties, Pennsylvania; New Castle co, Delaware; New England; co. Wilts, England; and co. Glamorgan and surrounding areas of Wales. Many though by no means all of the families were Quaker. Coverage in America is particularly heavy in the 1600s and 1700s, making the book indispensable to those seeking their colonial roots. Other names, areas, and periods are also represented.




27. Late Immigrants Anders Persson Malmberg and Emma Swanson (Svensson)

As far as can be determined, I have no ancestors who immigrated to America after the Revolutionary War. This has been a great boon for my genealogical research since it has guaranteed that in every line traced back from the present, several generations of records can be found — and in English, and relatively locally.

Not so my wife. Her ancestors came to this country over a wide swath of time, ranging from 1623 to 1893 with many gradations between. Among the earliest were the following [1]:

  • Roberts 1623
  • Parker 1633
  • Thurlow ca 1635
  • Emerson ca 1637
  • Assiter 1638
  • Martin bef 1640
  • Burnet(t) 1640/1
  • Walcott/Wolcott/Woolcott bef 1654
  • Polhemius 1665
  • Sebring bef 1660
  • Trotter bef 1664
  • Barber bef 1667
  • Hayden bef 1667
  • Pride bef 1669
  • Crocheron bef 1671
  • Gullett 1671
  • Brown bef 1675
  • Bodine 1677

But my wife also descends from a number of relatively late immigrants coming variously from Ireland, Luxembourg, Germany, and Sweden [1,2]:

  • Russell 1852
  • Sinnott ca 1853
  • Heisdorfer 1855
  • Rung 1865
  • Barth 1874
  • Malmberg 1891
  • Swanson 1893

All of these families and more, early immigrants or late, are covered in the Omnibus Ancestry, available for download through Lulu.

Embracing the Past

Recently on a pleasure trip to New York City we decided to embrace the pasts of a couple of the late immigrants, Anders Persson Malmberg and Emma Swanson (Svensson). Anders was born into poor circumstances in 1866 in Södra Sallerup parish, Malmöhus county, Sweden, to a couple living in Sallerup village. His surname, meaning “iron mountain”, was assigned to him when in 1886 he enlisted in Regiment 2, Sandby Squadron of Royal Swedish Hussars [1,2]. Anders’ eventual wife Emma was born in 1872 in Osby, Kristianstads county, Sweden, the daughter of crofters. According to family legend they met while working for the same family, he as an outdoor laborer and she as a maid [1,2].

After his discharge in 1891, Anders immigrated to America, according to his later naturalization record arriving in New York in November of that year. He passed through to the Midwest, where according to legend he made money working on Mississippi River levees and helping build an iron staircase for the upcoming World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Removing to Iowa, he sent for Emma to join him. After one false start foiled by an epidemic on board her ship, she arrived at New York in 1893. They married the following year, and raised a large family in southeastern Iowa [1,2].

As family records go, these lent an unusually good start to learning more about the immigration of this couple.

Anders Comes to America

One of the first questions raised by the family records was whether or not either of the pair immigrated through Ellis Island. In Anders’ case the answer is simple, and negative — since he had arrived in Nov 1891, he could not possibly have come through Ellis Island, which opened in Jan 1892.

Nor, oddly, would he have come through Castle Garden in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan, which is often represented as the earlier version of Ellis Island. For between Apr 1890, when Castle Garden closed, and Jan 1892 when Ellis Island opened, a narrow slice of arrivals passed through the Barge Office in Battery Park, which had been temporarily pressed into service as an immigration center.

Barge Office, New York City, circa 1901

Unfortunately while pictures of the Barge Office survive (above), the office itself does not. The building was razed in 1911 [3].

Emma Comes to America

With Emma we enjoyed quite a bit more luck. Even before our trip to New York, I was able to access the on-line immigration records at the Ellis Island site. I found what surely is a match: Emma Svensson, age 21, native of Sweden, servant, arriving with one piece of luggage on 8 July 1893 on the ship New York from Southampton, England (presumably after transshipment from Sweden). True, my wife’s ancestor was actually 15 days short of age 21 on that date. But no one else was a better match in name, place, age, and date [4,6]. Arriving when she did, she of course must have been processed through Ellis Island.

Her ship, shown in the accompanying picture, was notable for being at that time (1892-3) the fastest in the world. Built in 1888 for the Inman & International Steamship Company as the ship City of New York, it was sold in 1893 to the American Line and renamed simply New York (picture below). It was destined to undergo other name changes as well as brief service in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American war, before being scrapped in 1923 [5].


Arriving at Ellis Island, Emma would have been processed through the original wood-framed immigration facility, shown below.


An interesting woodcut of the Great Hall inside this building is also available for viewing online [8].

Unfortunately the station burned in 1897, at which point immigrants were again received at the Barge Office. A new station was built at Ellis Island in the same spot, with the proviso that it not be of wood, and came into service in Dec 1900. It is the building that tourists visit today (below).

Ellis Island, 2016

According to Emma’s daughter Hulda Malmberg Barth, Emma had once worked drawing patterns for fashionable coats while in Sweden. However, Hulda also stated that Emma did not arrive in Chicago until Christmas or New Year’s Day. That leaves a period of about 6 months unaccounted for. It therefore seems possible that instead of drawing coat patterns in Sweden, Emma instead did so in New York, saving money before passing onward to Chicago. Perhaps she found employment in the Garment District, which by the late 1800s was already known for the production of clothing [7].

Our Visit To Ellis Island

Ellis Island is reachable only by ferry. We made reservations a day or two in advance, a necessity given the large tourist crowds of July. Although initially cowed by the size of those crowds, we found the park service intake on the tip of Manhattan to be efficient, moving people quickly through the airport-like security screening. Then it was simply a matter of getting on the boat.

We had only part of an afternoon for our trip due to an evening engagement and limited choices of ferry departures. (Lesson: Make reservations more than a day or two in advance!) Deciding to forgo the first stop, at the Statue of Liberty, we passed on to Ellis Island and disembarked there.

The main building was fully accessible, and the size of the crowds quite tolerable. There were extensive displays of immigrant stories, passports, and pictures of ships. We appreciated seeing the hospital-like inspection rooms, where the immigrants were screened for disease and “mental defect”.

All in all it was a very worthwhile experience. It was also a very American experience, the melting pot in evidence in the diverse faces of the crowd. Yet there was also a substantial contingent of international tourists, interested in the story of Ellis Island.

We did not, it must be said, find a lot on Swedish immigration in particular. Much of the emphasis seemed to be on Eastern Europe and Russia. However, it is true we only saw a fraction of the exhibits in our limited time.

At the return jetty the crowds were large and pressing. But the ferry service performed well, bringing on an empty boat after few passengers could get on a crowded boat carrying people from the Statue of Liberty. The weather cooperated, with a heavy storm starting while we were in the museum, then letting up just as we walked to the jetty to leave. How many times, I wondered as we walked, had our footsteps crossed those of Emma Swanson?

The Malmberg Family, circa 1917-8.  Emma and Anders on the ends; Hulda near the middle in the white dress.


[1] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd ed. Available for immediate download through Lulu.

[2] Boles, D.B. (1993). Barth-Hickey Ancestry. Troy, NY: Private print. Available for mail order through Bolesbooks.

[3] Information retrieved from http://www.shorpy.com/node/17266 (2016). Another picture of the Barge Office is published at this site, interesting to inspect because it has very high resolution, revealing details such as a lunch wagon and a sign for the Ellis Island ferry.

[4] Other minor discrepancies from family legends include the “Minn” destination stated on her immigration record, i.e., Minneapolis; and that she came on a ship of the American line, not the White Star line (Barth-Hickey Ancestry, see note 2). However, out of ignorance of American geography she may not have known her exact destination, and so Minneapolis may have been entered simply as a “ballpark” midwestern place west of Chicago.   The White Star ship may have been the ship of her epidemic-shortened first effort to sail, or it may have been the one that brought her to Southampton for transshipment (see text).

[5] Information retrieved from http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org & linked pages (2016).

[6] The closest were two 19-year-olds: Emma Svensson, arriving 5 May 1893 on the ship Servia, destination Chicago but an English citizen; and Emma Ch. Svensson, arriving 30 June 1893 on the ship Virginia but of “Forslofs” (Förslöv), Sweden, a location nearly 60 road miles from Osby. Neither ship was of the White Star Line (ibid).

[7] Information retrieved from https://zady.com/features/the-history-of-the-new-york-city-garment-district (2016).

[8] Image retrieved from http://www.alamy.com, using search terms “ellis island great hall 1897”.

Picture Attributions:

Barge Office: From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York (https://collections.mcny.org).

S.S. New York: Personal photo of public-domain postcard.

Original immigration facility: Public domain.

Ellis Island, 2016: Personal photo.

The Malmberg Family: Personal photo, public domain.

2. John Barth of Keokuk County, Iowa, and the Offhand Comment

John Barth immigrated to America in 1874, according to family legend to avoid conscription into the Prussian army. He wound up in Keokuk county, Iowa, where in 1876 he became the teacher of St. Peter and Paul Parish Church school in the tiny community of Clear Creek. Ten years later, his first wife Katharine Limbach having died, he married Mary Anna Rung, legendarily his music pupil at the school. Several moves followed: To Clinton county, Iowa, about 1888; to Barton county, Kansas, about 1890; and finally to a homestead near Edmond, Oklahoma county, Oklahoma, in 1893. John died in that area in 1906, either of consumption or a stray bullet from a bank robbery, depending on who told the story.

Barth, John.Lulu

A Mysterious Origin

John’s origin, however, was long shrouded in mystery. Family legend recorded that he was Catholic and that he was from Baden, Germany. Certainly he taught at a Catholic school, and his native country was confirmed by census records. But which Baden, the Grand Duchy or the namesake city within it? The conscription legend certainly made sense, for Baden had become part of the German Empire in 1871. But otherwise there was no clue to John’s origins.

An Offhand Comment

In 1985 my wife and I visited her great-aunt Rose Barth Boettcher in Litchfield, Illinois. Rose was the next-to-youngest and likely last surviving child of John Barth. During an interview she confirmed some of the old legends, including the conscription story. But she said she didn’t know anything more about her father’s origins — no exact place of origin in Baden, and no parents’ names. She did have a birthday for John, 28 May 1849, having included it in a typed “Family Register” she had compiled about 14 years previously. She had also written that he had no brothers, a stray fact gleaned from her father.

Toward the end of the interview, sensing that the opportunity might never arise again, I decided on one final effort. “Do you recall anything,” I emphasized, “that might help identify your father’s origins in Germany?”

Rose hesitated. Then she said offhandedly, “Well, I was named Rosanna Susanna by my parents, but the French priest who baptized me changed it to Rosalia Susanna. I was told I had been named for my grandmother.”

A Long Wait For The World To Change

So the matter stood for nearly 30 years. All attempts to determine the origin of John Barth failed. Even the monumental series of books Germans to America, by Glazier and Filby, failed to list any immigrant whose vital data unambiguously matched John’s.

Those 30 years saw enormous changes in the world of genealogy. The database known as the International Genealogical Index (IGI), which had first been published on microfiche in 1975 by the Church of Latter Day Saints, appeared in expanded form on CD in 1988. By the late 1990s, the internet came into widespread use, and in 1999 the IGI was incorporated into the on-line website FamilySearch.org [1].

But more importantly with respect to the case of John Barth, during this period the LDS Church accelerated its massive push to enter genealogical records into the database. In 1988, an already impressive 147 million records had been indexed worldwide, of which some 19 million (13%) were German [1, 2]. But by 2013, 1 billion indexed entries were in the worldwide data base [3].

Repeated Searches, Then Success

Throughout this period I repeatedly searched the database in its various editions, failing to turn up relevant Barth records. But then, in 2012, something intriguing happened. The ever-expanding FamilySearch database turned up an indexed church record of a Johannes Barth, born 27 May 1850 in Handschuhsheim, near Heidelberg, Baden, Germany. The name was right and the place was appropriate. More importantly, the birthdate was tantalizingly similar to the one Rose had given for her father, 28 May 1849. Could these possibly be the same man?

That was the wrong question, as it turned out; I should have been looking at the women. For a closer examination of the church record showed that Johannes was the son of Susanna Jost. Aunt Rose’s offhand comment, made at the end of an interview almost three decades previously, had finally proven its value, identifying John by way of his mother in the Baden church records. Johannes was the son of Susanna by her husband Casimir Barth. In short order, several other observations confirmed the match.


Importantly, the church records showed no brothers of Johannes Barth, just as Rose had reported. He did have two sisters of record, one of them named Eva Catherina. Her marriage was found in Catholic church records, as was Casimir Barth’s christening, both helpful discoveries because the affiliation of the church in Handschuhsheim was ambiguous. Thus, both from the standpoint of being an only son, and Catholic, Johannes was a match to John. Furthermore, John had used the name Casimir for one of his own sons in America. Taken together, the circumstances were convincing in supporting the match.

But what about the close but not quite matching birth dates? There is a rule of thumb in genealogy that the earlier a birth year is reported in the historical record, the more accurate it is likely to be. Over time, memories distort and reported birthdates drift. An extreme example in my wife’s genealogy is the case of an ancestor named Hester Walcott Brownlee. She was born about 1810 according to her father’s 1820 pension statement; 1804/5 according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses; 1803/4 according to the 1870 census; 1794 according to an 1894 newspaper article; 1793 according to her 1898 death record; and 1792 according to her 1898 obituary. It is clear that the 1820 statement by her father must be the most accurate, for he surely would not have mistaken his 10-year-old daughter for age 28, as she would have been according to the obituary. What is striking is the pronounced drift toward older and older birth years as Hester aged.

In John Barth’s case the earliest known record of his birth year was in 1880, his first U.S. census record. On June 16th of that year he (or someone of his household) reported that he was 30 years of age — i.e., born between 17 June 1849 and 16 June 1850. That range of dates fit perfectly with the church record, but less well with Rose’s date. For its part, the one day difference, between the 27th and the 28th of May, can be considered negligible given the imperfections of reportage. Clearly, this was a match.

Additional Ancestors

An additional Barth generation proved to be traceable beyond Casimir. Susanna Jost, his memorably named wife, proved traceable for several more generations, with collateral lines to the Dietz, Ries, Stammler, and Wassermann families.

I surely would not have been willing to make the identification of John Barth as Johannes Barth on the basis of the imperfect birthdate match alone. Not a bad outcome from Aunt Rose’s offhand comment, reported in our single meeting nearly 30 years previously.


[1] Information retrieved from https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/International_Genealogical_Index (2014).

[2] Information retrieved from http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/International_Genealogical_Index_(IGI) (2014).

[3] Information retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FamilySearch (2014).

All other references for the above statements are given in two volumes. The first is the all-in-one ancestry, The Omnibus Ancestry. That work updates and corrects, in brief form, material in the much more detailed volume, Barth-Hickey Ancestry (1993). Both books are available for download through Lulu.

You may also be interested in visiting the Bolesbooks website or my Facebook page.

The quotations in the text are paraphrases from memory.