Holiday Photo – More Theories Than The Zapruder Film!

December 24, 2008 by

Since I posted the Holiday Photo I’ve received a number of emails from family members with differing accounts of who the little girl in the lower left is and who my grandmother Helen is holding.    Based on the responses the girl in the lower left is either my father’s cousin Kathie or my Aunt Loretta.  The child being held by my grandmother is either my Aunt Loretta, my father Michael or my Aunt Margaret.

Here are some enlargements of the two kids in question:



Based on the first closeup I’d say it’s most definitely a girl.

Additionally, the following photo appears to have been taken at the same event and I believe the child in this is my father who is not present in the group photo.


If the above child is my father who was born May 1949 then it’s a safe bet that this picture was taken seven months later at the Christmas party.

I’m looking forward to your comments!

P.S. Whatever became of the big round photo hanging on the wall in the above picture?  Who is it of?


Holiday Photo Info Updated!

December 23, 2008 by

See post below for corrections regarding the holiday photo.

Happy Holidays! – *Photo Info Updated

December 23, 2008 by


X-Mas on Long Island, NY circa 1950.

Correct me if I’m wrong…

From L to R -Front row kids are Kathie Watts – Betty Wrann Fletcher – Helen Wrann Pelletier – Patricia Wrann Smith – Willard Wrann Jr.

Back row are Florence Wrann, Helen Wrann, Rose Pfeffer Horeau, Virginia Wrann Watts holding Ronnie Wrann Darlington, Helen Horeau Wrann holding Loretta Wrann Schillo and Willard Wrann ready to carve up the Turkey.

I used to think this was a Thanksgiving photo but there’s a sign hanging on the wall behind my great Aunt Helen Wrann that says “Merry Christmas”.

Thanks to Pat Smith and Ginny and Dennis Watts for ID’ing Kathie! Dennis and Ginny believe this was taken in 1950 in Floral Park , Queens and that Floyd Watts may have been the photographer. Dennis and my father would have been less than a year old at the time and were not included in the photo.

This scan is of an original photo from Dennis Watts’ collection.  Special thanks to him for loaning it to me last Summer.

Happy holidays everyone!

Upcoming Research

November 26, 2008 by

Despite the failure of DNA finding our Wrann/Paulmann ancestral home there still may be some other avenues that lead us there. Two that I’m currently working on are:

1. Marie Paulmann Hayes’ death certificate – My Great Great Grandmother Marie was first married to Ferdinand Gustav Wrann in the early 1880’s and after his death in 1895 she married William Joseph Hayes. Curiously I have not been able to locate a death certificate for her. Thanks to information from two (recently found!) Hayes cousins I’ve learned that she died in Broad Channel, Queens, NY and that it happened on September 2, 1942. What’s bizarre is that her death certificate does not show up in either the NYC Death Index or the NY State Death Index. Because she died in Queens it absolutely should be in the NYC Index but it’s not. It’s possible (though rare) that for some reason her Death Certificate was not indexed but does still exist. I’ve ordered a reel of microfilm from the Family History Library in Utah with every Queens, NY Death Certificate from Aug – Oct 1942 on it. It should be delivered to my local genealogy library in a few weeks. Once it arrives I can go through each certificate HOPING it’s in there. A death certificate from 1942 could have her parents names as well as the specific town she was from in Germany. …but only if the informant knew that information themselves. I’m guessing the informant on her death certificate was either her daughter Lillian or her son Gustav as they lived closest to her when she died.

2. Gustav Wrann’s Pre Marriage Investigation File – This could be interesting..but it’s a longshot. I stumbled upon the possibility of this by accident. While trying to find the previously mentioned Hayes cousins I was on the phone with the church that my Great Great Uncle William R. Hayes was married at. The clerk I spoke to read me the information from the church record of his marriage. She asked if I wanted to know where and when the bride and groom had been baptized. “Huh?”. Because this information was not included on the standard Catholic Church Marriage Certificate I had no idea that such information was required and recorded. This gave me an idea…my Great Grandfather Gustav and his wife Florence were married at St. John The Martyr’s church in NYC. I already have their City and Church marriage certificates but wanted to find out about their baptisms. Especially Gustavs because family lore says he was not baptized when he was a child and had to be before he could get married at St. Johns. Perhaps his delayed baptismal record would indicate a town in Germany his parents were from. Well…the church clerk found their marriage entry in the dusty old book from 1911 however she was surprised to find their was no entry for EITHER of my Great Great Grandparents baptisms. She said this was VERY odd that it wasn’t recorded. She then told me that in the basement were the old papers for pre-marriage investigations. Apparently these were files kept with information on the couple that would include baptismal information and possibly…family history. The clerk told me she wouldn’t be going into the basement alone and that it would take some time to locate the papers…if they exist. This could yield some results…we’ll see….

DNA Result – UPDATE!

November 26, 2008 by

Well…..I received the results of the DNA test for the Wrann we found out in Indiana. Unfortunately it’s not even close. Nowhere near being a match to my own.

To recap – currently we don’t know where exactly our Wrann’s came from. All we know is that on all the official documents that have surfaced to date they indicated “Germany”. Germany back in the 1800’s could mean Germany, Prussia, Austria etc… We found a Wrann in his 80’s living in Indiana who isn’t related to any Wrann we are aware of whose father was born in Klagenfurt, Austria. If this gentleman and myself shared a male ancestor going back through history then our Y DNA tests would match. I took mine a year ago and he took his a month ago. The results are so different that there’s no way we are related.

Pretty disappointing because had we been related I could have researched his family line until I found an intersect with our own (which would have been in the early 1800’s).

Back to the paper trail….

Wrann DNA

November 14, 2008 by

For the past few years I’ve been hearing about DNA tests and how they can be of value to genealogists…especially when they’re trying to prove a relationship.

Without getting too technical, the Y Chromosome is passed virtually unchanged from father to son. What this means is I have the same Y-DNA as my father, his father, his father’s father, his father’s father’s father and on back as far as you can imagine. This also means that my Y-DNA is the same as my Great Great Grandfather Ferdinand Gustav Wrann’s as well as any Wrann male grandparents, cousins, uncles and male siblings he might have had. Since a major brickwall in us figuring out where our Wrann-cestors (too cheesey?) came from in Germany begins at Ferdinand I thought maybe DNA would eventually help us break through.

About a year ago I had my Y-DNA tested via The markers that make up my Y-DNA are stored in a database there and if anyone gets a Y test through them and the results match mine I’ll receive an email with a link to a form I could use to contact that person. Since the Y-DNA is passed only along the male line then logically only someone with a Wrann (or someone who had a Wrann for a father) surname would match mine. To date there are no matched amongst the thousands of Y-DNA tests they have done.

Outside of the people directly related to my Grandfather Willard I’ve never bumped into a Wrann I didn’t know. We’ve always considered the surname to be fairly rare. We have of course found other Wrann’s online – some from Austria, some from Germany, some from Chile, Australia, the UK…and a few in the United States with no known connection to us.

Last year my father contacted one of these United States Wranns who seems completely unrelated to our branch of Wranns. In the interest of privacy I won’t post his first name here but I will tell you he’s in his 80’s, fought in WWII and seems to be a genuinely nice guy. His father immigrated to the U.S. from Austria in the 1920’s and documents indicate he was born in a town called Klagenfurt. If somewhere down the line this man and myself share a common male ancestor then a DNA test would prove the relationship. Because we know specifically where his father was born then if we are connected I could research records from that area and eventually we would discover where Ferdinand Gustav and this man were related. My father paid for the test, Mr. Wrann took it and the lab received the test kit back on November 3. The test results typically take about two weeks to be completed and we’re anxiously awaiting the results.

If any family members want to see the results of my own test send me an email at and I’ll send you a .pdf file.

1889: The Birth Of Walter Wrann

November 14, 2008 by

On October 4, 1889 Walter Harry Wrann was born. The fourth child to be born to my great great grandparents Ferdinand Gustav Wrann and Marie Paulmann, Walter would be the final child the couple would have together.

Based on later Federal Census data we knew Walter was born in Pennsylvania but why the Wrann’s moved there from NYC is not known. They didn’t stay long in PA and would soon move back to Manhattan.

At the time of his birth Philadelphia did not hold Birth Certificates but instead kept the records in a ledger. Following is an image taken from a microfilm copy of the Birth Registration for Walter. Click on the image to enlarge it.


The information contained in the ledger is as follows:

Date Of Birth: Oct 4

Name Of Child: Walter H. Wrann

Sex: Male

Color: White

Ward: 16

Place Of Birth: 401 No 4

Name Of Parents: Gustav + Maria Wrann

Occupation Of Father: Cigar Maker

Name Of Physician: Matilda Ullrich

Residence Of Physician: 709 St. John’s’

Unfortunately this document does not indicate the birth place of his parents…something we are still trying to pinpoint to this day.

Walter would one day marry and have a son and later grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Walter’s son was my Grandfather Willard’s cousin and it seems the two lost touch with each other long before I was born. A few years ago I managed to track down Walter’s granddaughter and she and her sister have since attended a Wrann gathering and keep in touch via email! Re-establishing a connection between my grandfather’s Wrann family and her father’s Wrann family has certainly been one of my proudest moments since becoming involved in this research.

1886: F. Gustav Wrann Becomes A U.S. Citizen

July 24, 2008 by

When tracing your U.S. family history to it’s origins overseas, one of the critical components to the puzzle can be naturalization documents. Naturalization was the process U.S. immigrants went through to become citizens. When Gustav Wrann came to this country circa 1881 there was a three step process. The first step was to file a Declaration Of Intention wherein the immigrant swore allegiance to the U.S. and renounced citizenship to their homeland. Gustav Wrann completed this step in 1882 – the documentation of which I wrote about here. The second step could only be completed after the immigrant had been a resident of this country for five years. This step was called the Petition For Naturalization and was the application to a local court for citizenship. The third and final step was the Certificate Of Naturalization with which the court designated the applicant a legal citizen of the United States.

Last year I stumbled upon a new website called Footnote that sold scans of a variety of old documents. One of the many series of documents available was an index to naturalization petitions for the New York County Superior Court. As most of my research into Wrann history has been difficult (to put it mildly) I wasn’t actually expecting to find anything. I typed in “Wrann” and up came:

The National Archives

M1674 Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906

“What’s this?”, I thought to myself. Who was Ferdinand Wrann? At this point all anyone knew was that our immigrant ancestor’s name was Gustav. I noted that his occupation was “Cigar Packer” which we knew from the City Directories we had found his name in. When I saw the address – the SAME address that appeared on Gertrude Wrann’s Birth Certificate in 1886, I knew this was the man who up to this point we had only known as Gustav.

Since the index card contained a bundle and record number I knew I could order his naturalization documents from the National Archives. I placed the order online through NARA’S website and for $10 I’d have copies of those records in a few short weeks.

The records arrived and I was disappointed to find that they contained nothing indicating where EXACTLY in Germany he was from or an exact date of arrival in the U.S. The following documents can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Declaration Of Intention (COPY)

The first document in the Naturalization packet is a handwritten copy of Gustav’s Declaration Of Intention which he had originally filed in 1882. Obviously since they didn’t have copy machines back then a “copy” was actually just the original document redone and signed by the court clerk verifying it’s authenticity. They even signed Gustav’s name on it!

Ferdinand Gustav Wrann's Declaration Of Intention (Copy)

Petition For Naturalization

The second document in the packet is the Petition For Naturalization dated October 8, 1886 (a little over a week prior to his daughter Gertrude’s birth). This is the document where Gustav renounces his allegiance to the Emperor Of Germany (at the time it was William I – King Of Prussia) and pledges he will support the U.S. Constitution.

This document is also signed by a Frederick Bohle who is confirming that Gustav has been in the U.S. for five years and has been a citizen of New York State for at least one year. He’s also vouching for Gustav’s moral character. Frederick is also a Cigar Packer so presumably they worked together.

The petition is signed by Gustav and what’s interesting is that it appears he attempted to sign it “F. Gustav Wrann”. The “F.” is crossed out and he’s then written out the name Ferdinand. This would indicate that he preferred going by Gustav instead of Ferdinand. Several months ago I posted my discovery to a German genealogical forum and someone responded with “Many Germans had a baptismal name and a ‘call’ name. In your case Ferdinand may have been the baptismal name but everyone used his middle or call name, Gustav. If he shared an entire name with his father he may have actually been called a third name which would not appear in any legal documents but may have been used in a ships manifest or census listing.” Food for thought…

Ferdinand Gustave Wrann's Petition For Naturalization 1887

Ferdinand Gustav Wrann's Petition For Naturalization 1886

Certificate Of Naturalization

The third and final document in the packet is the Certificate Of Naturalization. This document approves Gustav’s petition and declares him a citizen of the United States. The Certificate is dated the October 6, 1886, the same day he filed his petition. The naturalization bundle was filed with the NY Superior Court two days later on October 8, 1886.

Ferdinand Gustave Wrann\'s Naturalization Certificate - October 6, 1886

In 1906 naturalization forms required more information so if my great great grandfather had arrived in the U.S after that year these documents would probably indicate when and where he arrived and possibly the exact town he was born in. Unfortunately these documents, while interesting, don’t bring us any closer to finding out where he came from.

Brief Stop In Buffalo

July 8, 2008 by

We took our summer vacation two weeks ago and went to Cabery, IL where my wife has relatives, Mackinac Island, MI (where we were married in 2001) and finally, Niagara Falls in Canada (for the heck of it). On the drive back to CT from Canada I quickly stopped at the Buffalo, NY City Hall. I figured I’d have them take another look for my great grandfather Gustav Wrann’s birth certificate from 1884. Because his listing is in the Birth Index at the Buffalo Inactive Archives I believe his actual certificate MUST exist there… somewhere. I spoke to two city employees about it and they are going to look for it. I should hear back by mail in a few weeks. Fingers crossed.  Meanwhile I’m preparing a list of what to look for at the Municipal Archives and Public Library in NYC where I’m planning to spend a day within the next few weeks (strictly doing Wrann research).

1887: The Death Of Gertrude Wrann

July 8, 2008 by

My initial excitement at discovering a previously unknown sister of my Great Grandfather Gustav Wrann was dampened when I discovered her name in the NYC Death Index for the year after she was born. The index indicated her Death Certificate # was 599964 and that she had died just 6 months after her birth.

While at the Municipal Archives in NYC I looked up her certificate on microfilm and purchased a certified copy of it.

Following is Gertrude’s Death Certificate. Click on it to view an enlargement.

1. Full Name Of Deceased: Gertrude Wrann

2. Age years, 6 months, 12 days.

5. Birthplace: NY

7. Father’s Birthplace: Germany Father’s Name: Gustave Wrann

8. Mother’s Birthplace: “ “ Mother’s Name: Mary

9. Place Of Death: 441 E 81

10. If a Dwelling, by how many families, living separately, occupied, 4 Floor 1

11. I hereby certify that I attended deceased from: March 12, 1887 to April 28, 1887 and that I last saw her alive on the 26 day of “ “ 1887, that she died on the 28 day of March 1887, about 12 o’clock, A.M., and that to my best knowledge and belief the cause of her death was as here under written:

Chief and Determining: Enteritis (Diarrheal) Asthenia

Witness my hand this 28th day of April 1887.

Signature: Frank B. C… M.D.

Residence: 136 E. 18th

Place of Burial: Lutheran

Date of Burial: April 29, 1887

Name of Undertaker: Herman Lange 433 E 81st Street

A few notes/observations regarding this death certificate:

Gertrude was born at 435 E 81st St. Her death occurred at 441 E. 81st St. I’ve checked old maps and both places appear to be apartment buildings and not hospitals. Not sure if the Wrann’s lived at both places. The undertaker lived a few doors down as well. I’ve also noticed that St. Monica’s Roman Catholic Church is around the corner so I may contact them to see if they have baptismal records for Gertrude.

There is no new information on Gustave or Mary.

Her cause of death was Diarrheal Enteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal system) – my Aunt Pat helped me decipher Enteritis when I saw her in VT last year. I had originally thought the second cause of death listed was “Asthma” but it didn’t make sense to me…didn’t seem to fit in with Enteritis. I did some research into archaic medical terms and found the likely translation: Asthenia. Asthenia means weakness or lack of energy and strength and makes more sense than Asthma when associated with Enteritis. Click HERE for the full definition.

There are some inconsistencies in the dates the physician saw her. Looks like he wrote March once when he should have written April as it’s fairly clear she died on April 28 and not March 28. I believe he actually first saw her on March 12 and she was ill for six weeks before dieing on April 28.

The birth certificate indicated she was buried at the Lutheran Cemetery which would be the Lutheran All-Faiths Cemetery in Astoria, Queens. I contacted the cemetery and unfortunately they were not able to find a record of her burial or plot. I plan on inquiring again in the future – maybe I’ll get someone who has better luck searching.