31 January 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 4; Stephen Behrhof

This week's ancestor biography is on Stephen Behrhof; younger brother of my gg grandmother Margaret Behrhof. Stephen was the son of Michael Behrhof and Magdelena Schaetzle who were German immigrants from the town of Grosbardorf in the state of Bayern. Michael and Magdelena emigrated to America on 26 August 1852 on the ship Guttenberg. Stephen was born in Albany in June of 1856 most likely on Delaware Street in the South End of Albany. Stephen's siblings included

  • Margaret (1844 - 1908) married Henry Koreman (1841-1923) 
  • Magdelena (1856 - 1892) married Charles Koreman (1844-1908) 
  • Peter (1861 - 1886)
Stephen Behrhof, circa 1876


Although Stephen was first generation American born in the Behrhof family. He could be considered a prominent German-American in Albany due to his cultural interest in his ethnicity. Stephen was a member in numerous Gesangvereine (German singing societies) in Albany. In 1907 he was the financial secretary of the German Hall Association. The association was instrumental in the building of the German Hall building located at 48 Beaver Street.

The Northeastern Sängerbund of America attempted to unify Albany’s Gesängvereine when it encouraged seven of Albany’s societies (Liederkranz OSDF, Eintracht, Harugari, Liederkranz, Männerquartett, Cäcilia, and Harmonia) to unite for the Seventeenth National Sängerfest in New York on June 23-26, 1894. On October 1, 1893, delegates from Albany’s singing societies met at Eintracht Halle, and the Gesängvereine agreed to merge as the Vereinigte Sänger von Albany, or the Combined Singers of Albany. At the meeting, the representatives voted Stephen Behrhof as President of the society.  

Stephen was elected Chairman of the Music Committee for the 1907 German Day Parade. He was in charge of organizating all of the music activities for the three day celebration. From 1905 until 1916 there were enormous parades and celebrations commemorating "German Day." The German Day parades from the past possibly might have dwarfed Albany's St. Patrick's Day parades of today. Thousands of Albanians attended these festivals, which had numerous events; each chaired by prominent German-Americans. (German Day will be the subject of a future blog post.)

Stephen married Wilhelmina Neudorf (1860-1954) in 1885. They had no children. Stephen worked in various occupations throughout his years. He clerked in his father's grocery store and saloon at 48 Delaware Street. Later he operated the saloon. By 1900 he worked as a tailor at Koreman & Behrhof at 276 South Pearl Street. His partner was his nephew, Henry Koreman. Stephen died on 23 January 1917 in Albany. He was buried in Our Lady Help of Christian's Cemetery in Glenmont, New York.

Stephen & Wilhelmina Behrhof gravestone

For years I never knew what his epitaph meant. However as research on my family tree progressed I discovered that he was a member and officer in many German singing societies. His grave site above was rehabbed in 2013.

28 January 2015

Washington Hotel & Other Albany Hotels

Some discussion has taken place on the Facebook group Albany...the way it was, regarding the former Washington Hotel located at the corner of Swan Street and Washington Avenue.  The building was demolished in 1907 to make way for the State Education Building.  Below will be a brief study on the Washington  Hotel and a few other hotels in Albany that were run by German proprietors.  This information is culled from my SUNY Albany 2005 MA Thesis, From Acceptance to Renunciation: Das Ende von Albanys Deutschtum.  During my research for this work I have accumulated a large amount of German-American history about Albany.

Henry Parr
Many Germans proudly worked in the service sector of Albany’s various business entities. They provided board, entertainment, camaraderie, and Bier. German proprietors ran many halls, hotels, cafes, and Biergartens. German hotels were numerous in the downtown business section and also outside the city limits. According to Howell and Tenney, the first German hotel was the National Hotel situated across from Steamboat Square at 266 Broadway and run by former barber John Wachter.[1] Wachter operated the hotel from 1848 until his death circa 1860. His wife, Catherine, then became proprietress until John Bissikummer (1843-1883) took control around 1868. Another early German hotel was Schweitzer’s Hotel, located on the corner of Lydius Street (now Madison Avenue) and Broadway. The hotel was listed in the Albany city directory of 1851-52. Outside the city limits, Henry Parr provided a fine assortment of wines, liquors, and cigars at the Abbey Hotel, located south of Albany on River Road (today Route 144) in the Bethlehem hamlet of Kenwood.

Abbey Hotel

The landmark hotel offered accommodations for private parties, picnics, and social gatherings. The Abbey was “…famous for its marvelous German food and good draw of hops and malt.”[2] The famous structure was said to have been built around 1680 and was in constant use until 1945, when it became vacant. The building became a ruin when it mysteriously collapsed in 1959 and was consequently razed for safety concerns.[3] The Shafer’s Hotel and Family Resort also known as Shafer’s Grove was operated by Martin Shafer and was located at Central and Colvin Avenues; the present site of the Armory Garage complex. The grove was in operation from circa 1894 till 1924. It featured a swimming hole and an amusement park. The grounds were the setting for many German picnics and outings.

1872 Ad
The Hotel Germania, at 34 Beaver Street and summer Biergarten in the rear of the building was first managed by John Bissikummer from 1871 until his death on May 24, 1883. Bissikummer’s wife, Caroline [Wachter] (1847-1926), then operated the hotel until 1889. William Menk took charge next until 1892, when John Bissikummer Jr. (1869-1895) brought hotel proprietorship back to the Bissikummer family from 1892 to 1894. Theodore J. Gutekunst was the last manager of the Hotel Germania. He operated the hotel until 1901, when he opened the Hotel Washington, located at 93 Washington Avenue. Gutekunst ran the Hotel Washington only three years. Mrs. Bertha Klemp next took control of the 93 Washington Avenue locale, until 1906 when she opened a new hotel at 73 Whitehall Road. The Whitehall Road hotel was in operation until circa 1924.
Hotel Washington

German proprietors sometimes moved from location to location. When this occurred, other German proprietors soon followed and established their businesses in the locale of a former German establishment. For instance, Michael Milhauser (1841-1935) ran a saloon at 49 Madison Avenue from 1887 to 1889. He relocated to 33 Green Street and opened the Württemberger Hof there from 1890 to 1891. William Firmbach next moved into 49 Madison Avenue and established the German Hotel between 1891 and 1892. After Milhauser left his 33 Green Street location, John Markert (1855-1920) moved into the locale and established Markert’s Hotel from 1892 to 1907.
Michael Milhauser

Markert made lodging available weekly or daily board along with Dobler’s Lager, fine liquors, and cigars. Meanwhile, Milhauser moved to 68 Green Street and reopened the Württemberger Hof from 1892 to 1912. Nearby, at 29-31 Green Street, Nicholas Engel (died 30 July 1896) operated a restaurant known as the “The Best Lager.” The rear of the restaurant backed into John Bissikummer’s summer Biergarten at the rear of the Hotel Germania.[4]

The Hotel Columbia was a first class German hotel and restaurant. It was located at 44 Beaver Street. Gustav Zinserling was the owner from 1892 to 1900. Louis Dube operated the hotel from 1901 to 1903 and John 
                                                                                       B. Staats from 1904 to                                                                                          1911.

The Schlitz Hotel and Rathskeller, operated by Phillip H. Kalkbrenner (1863-1925) was located at 578-580 Broadway from 1897 until the 1930s. 

Schlitz Hotel
1902 Ad

Ernest Zeller (1827-1879) operated the Progress Hotel at 93 Green Street from the early 1860s till 1873.  He then became the operator of the Belvedere House, sited at 39 Beaver Street, until his death.  Zeller’s wife, Elizabeth, ran the hotel until 1892, when Nicholas J. Dell and Joseph Neuser took over. 

1894 Ad

The Bavaria at 38 Beaver Street was managed by Ernestine F. Gioth, in 1889 and 1890, until she moved to San Francisco in 1890. 

1889 Ad

Wilhelm Grandpré
Other German hotels and cafes included the Café Columbus, the Deutscher Hotel, located at 270 Broadway, the Old Homestead Hotel and Restaurant, which was run by Wilhelm Grandpré (1855-1922), who was also the president of the local branch of the DANB.  The hotel was situated at 33 Hudson Avenue.  Henry Schuster (1840-1922) from Nordheim, Bavaria ran the Hotel Schuster at 199 South Pearl Street from 1895 to 1900. 

[1] Howell and Tenney, eds., History of the County of Albany, N. Y, pp. 652-653.
[2] Times Union, July 7, 1970, 5:1.
[3] Knickerbocker News, October 12, 1959, 1B:1.
[4] City Atlas of Albany, New York (Philadelphia: G. M. Hopkins, C. E., 1876), Plate E.

21 January 2015

A Dead Woman's Wishes Not Fullfilled, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Gertrude Hemstreet Hitchcock, Week 3

This week's bio is a sad finding just discovered during some genealogical research regarding a deceased woman's money and her siblings.  Her story plays out below.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards is a great site to try to locate individuals in old digitized newspapers. Simply type in a name and the website uses OCR to search the thousands of pages of digitized newspapers on the site.

The site was being used to search for death notices for Elijah F. Hitchcock and his wife Gertrude. I believe Elijah to be connected to my Hitchcock's but I do not have the exact connection.  Therefore I was hoping I might find a clue in a death notice.

I have yet to find when Elijah died or where he is buried but his wife, Gertrude, is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.  In the fall, my daughter and I walked the section in ARC and we could not find her stone.  After visiting the cemetery office it was determined by the office staff and plot records that there was no stone placed on the lot.  This explains why we could not find one.

Unfortunately my Old Fulton search did not give me what I was looking for.  I could not find a death notice for Elijah but I did find an article on the reading of Gertrude Hitchcock's will.  In The Daily Times, Troy, N.Y. newspaper from 10 June 1893 (2:4) it stated;

The will of Gertrude Hitchcock was also proved yesterday.  Alida Cordell, a sister, receives all the personal property, and a bequest is made to a brother.  The money realized from selling the real estate is to be divided between Alida Cordell, her sister, and Garrett Hemstreet, her brother.  Two headstones, at a cost of $150, are to be erected on the family lot in the Rural cemetery.

It apparent that Gertrude's siblings never paid for nor had a tombstone placed at her plot.  They took the money and ran.  Very sad.

20 January 2015

Liederkranz Hall and Strempel's Hall

At one time Albany had two distinctive German enclaves.  First and largest was in the "South End." Comprising of the areas of the west side of South Pearl Street from First Avenue to Delaware Street westward out to around Eagle Street.  The second German enclave centered on the Bowery, now known as Central Avenue, Sherman and Elk Streets.  The area was also known as Cabbage Town.[1]  

In close proximity, on Central Avenue, were the anchor churches of Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Catholic Our Lady of Angels Church.  Around the corner, on Sherman Street, Liederkranz Hall was popular meeting spots for German societies.  Fashionable Biergartens and saloons in the area included Lange’s and Strempel’s

The Liederkranz O. S. D. F. (Order of Sons of German Freedom), was a German Gesangverien or singing society founded on March 4, 1884.  The group practiced at Strempel’s Halle located at 241 Central Avenue until it was decided on March 3, 1897, to build a hall at 210 Sherman Street.  Erection of the new hall was started on April 22, 1897 and was completed in July 1897. 

Liederkranz Hall, 210 Sherman Street, 2004

Liederkranz Hall looking towards Strempels on Central Avenue, 2004

Charles Strempel, 1897
Strempel Halle und Garten was operated by Charles Strempel, who provided choice ales, wines, liquors, and cigars.  The hall was a popular gathering point for German Vereine, or societies.  Notably, the rear of Strempe
l Halle ran through to Sherman Street and was back to back with the new Liederkranz Halle, at 210 Sherman Street, which also became the scene for many festivities.  The new Halle also had a Rathskeller, or restaurant, meeting rooms, and a bowling alley. 

1895 Albany City Directory Ad

241 Central Avenue, former site of Strempel's Hall, 2004

[1] Times Union, July 6, 1986, Supplement, 41:3.

19 January 2015

Upcoming Local Genealogy Meeting

The Capital District Genealogical Society will be holding its monthly meeting this Saturday, 24 January 2015 at the William K. Sanford Library in Colonie.  Below are details cut and pasted from their web site.

Please note new schedule for meetings:

12:00-1:00 Interest groups
1:00-2:30 Meeting and Speaker
2:30-3:30 Computer Group

January 24, 2015

Schenectady County Public Library Digital History Archives

Robert G. Sullivan is a librarian at Schenectady County Public Library and is the coordinator for genealogy and local history at the library. Bob will discuss Schenectady library holdings for research and the Digital History Archive. He also will talk about Thomas Reimer's index to Schenectady German language newspapers.

Regular meetings:

Held at William K. Sanford
Town of Colonie Library
629 Albany Shaker Road
Loudonville, N.Y. 12211

14 January 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Elizabeth Sickman; Week 2

This week's bio is on Elizabeth Sickman, my ggggg grandmother.  This post will not be a long because as with most females in this era; she was a housewife and mother.  Little than that nothing else in known.  She was chosen for this week's entry because for many many years she was the furthest back ancestor that I had found.

Elizabeth was born 1 January 1769.  The location of her birth is unknown.  Was she born in New York, England, Germany, or elsewhere in Europe? More research may determine this.  At the same time, her maiden name is unknown at this point.  What is known is that she was living in Niskayuna in 1806 when she married Frederick Waltz on 13 July 1806 at the First Lutheran Church in Albany.

Also found in the marriage records from Albany's First Lutheran Church is that Elizabeth was married a second time.  On 12 March 1809, she married Henry Sickman.  Elizabeth and Henry had the following children:

  • Margaret Ann (1812-1892) married Aistroppe Robinson Hitchcock on 13 April 1833
  • Mathias Henry (1815-1872) married Ellen _____?
I believe these children to be born in Gibbonsville or West Troy, New York.  Elizabeth was a long time resident of Gibbonsville.  Below is a scan of the 1850 Census from West Troy showing Elizabeth living with her daughter, Margaret, and her son-in-law, Aistroppe Robinson Hitchcock.

1850 New York State Census

At some point Elizabeth moved to Albany with her daughter Margaret and family.  They resided in the South End at 198 Green Street.

Elizabeth died in Albany on 11 September 1861.  Her obituary was listed in the 18 September 1861 copy of the West Troy Advocate stating:

In Albany on the 11th inst. Mrs.
Elizabeth SICKMAN, formerly of this Village in the 93d
year of her age.

She was buried in Albany Rural Cemetery in her son-in-law's plot.  

06 January 2015

DKV or Deutscher Kreigerverein

After viewing an online FB discussion regarding an older picture of a man in a uniform, this brief paragraph from my MA thesis on German-American history in Albany should clarify some questions.

German immigrants who fought in the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War established the Deutscher Kriegerverein, or the German Veterans Society, on December 1, 1889.  Members paid dues amounting to $.10 per month.  Gustav Zinserling, the proprietor of the Hotel Columbia, was the leader of the veterans’ group for many years.  They met monthly at the Hotel Columbia until 1901, when they met at the Grand Army Hall, located at 31 Green Street.  In 1908 the society moved to its final meeting place- the German Hall.  The Veterans’ Society celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary at Shafer’s Grove.  The group had 150 members in its heyday; by 1897 membership included seventy-two members and two honorary members, but by March 1918, membership had dwindled to twenty-nine individuals, and the society dissolved itself after twenty-nine years.[1]

[1] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, p. 179. Schenectady Herold-Journal, March 29, 1918, 1:2.

Below is a photo of a DKV veteran's grave marker.  I used to see quite a few of these in local German cemeteries.  However very few are still around today.  Either they were tossed out by the caretakers or perhaps stolen.  Either way we do not see these much anymore.

Below are photos of two men in their DKV uniform.

Anton Hafner

Gustav Zinserling

05 January 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 1; George Edward Kirk White

The first biography of the year that I will write will be that of my grandfather, George Edward Kirk White; who was born 3 April 1910 in Albany, NY at 239 Second Street.  He was the only son of George Washington White (1871-1935) and Clara Boyd Hitchcock (1882-1966).  Other children of George and Clara include

  • Margaret Agnes (1905-1984)
  • Clara Edna (1906-1978)
  • Mary Wilson (1908-1973)
  • Marie Mulder (1912-1976)

Left to Right: Mary, George, Margaret, and Clara

George was baptized in Albany at Grace Episcopal Church located on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Robin Street on 14 May 1910.  Below is a scan of his original baptism record.  George's grandfather, Charles William White (1835-1917) was the longest tenured vestryman in the Church's history.

According to George's National Guard papers, he entered the trade of bookbinder.  The 1935 Albany city directory lists George as a signal operator at 11 North Pearl Street, the Home Savings Bank building, in room 212.

George Edward Kirk White, circa 1927

On 15 May 1931 George married Margaret Mary Gannon (1913-1998) in Albany.  Below is a scan of their wedding certificate.  They were married again on 24 August 1933 in the Catholic Church of the Assumption in Peekskill.  By this time George was in the National Guard and stationed there.

George and Margaret's children:
  • George Edward (1931-2001)
  • Richard Kirk (1934-1949)
  • Thomas Charles (1936-2012)
  • Michael William (1941-     )

George Edward Kirk White, circa 1930s

George Edward Kirk White, 1936

George enlisted in the National Guard in 1927.  He spent over twenty-five years in the Guard rising to First Sergeant. During World War II, he enlisted in the US Army and landed in France in December 1944.  During the Battle of the Bulge he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW until his camp was liberated.

US Army discharge, front

US Army discharge, reverse

Below is a scan of the Western Union telegraph from 12 January 1945 that was sent to my grandmother indicating that her husband was missing in action.

After a long two and a half months, another Western Union telegraph came notifying my grandmother that her husband was a prisoner of war of the German government.  Below is a scan of that telegraph.

After the war, George was discharged from the US Army but he continued his enlistment in the National Guard and became superintendent of the National Guard armory on Washington Avenue in Albany.

George Edward Kirk White, 1981

On 10 October 1982, George Edward Kirk White died at St. Peter's Hospital after suffering a heart attack.  He was buried two days later in Our Lady of Angels cemetery.  Sixteen years later on 2 July 1998, his wife Margaret Mary Gannon White joined him.

Gravestone at Our Lady of Angels Cemetery