Author Archive

Holiday Photo – More Theories Than The Zapruder Film!

December 24, 2008

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

See post below for corrections regarding the holiday photo.

Happy Holidays! – *Photo Info Updated

December 23, 2008


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!

Brief Stop In Buffalo

July 8, 2008

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

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.

1886: The Birth Of Gertrude Wrann

June 26, 2008

On October 15, 1886 F. Gustav Wrann and his wife Mary Paulmann Wrann had their third child Gertrude.

Following is her birth record. Click on it to enlarge.

1886 Birth Record For Gertrude Wrann

State Of New York – County Of New York – City Of New New York

Birth Return

1. Name Of Child: Gertrude Wrann

2. Sex: Female – Date Of Birth: Octo 15, 1886

3. Place Of Birth (Street and Number): 435 E 81 St

4. Name Of Father: Gustav Wrann

5. Full Name Of Mother: Mary ” ”

6. Maiden Name Of Mother: Paulmann

7. Birthplace (Country & State) Of Mother: German Age: 24 Years

8. Birthplace (Country & State) Of Father: German Age: 33 Years Occupation: Cigar Maker

9. Number Of Child Of Mother: 3 How Many Of Them Now Living: 3

10. Name and Address Of Medical Attendant or Other Authorized Person, In Own Handwriting: Signature: H. Mendolsohn Address: 528 E 82 St

11. Date Of This Return: Oct. 27 1886

I’m not 100% certain whether her name is GerDrude or is actually GerTrude. Both names were traditional German female names and it’s difficult to tell for sure what it was based on the two documents I have with her name.

We can tell from this document that the family has moved uptown from their Pitt St. address seen on earlier documents.

1885: The Birth Of Lillian Wrann

June 18, 2008

This was an interesting discovery!

The woman many of us know or knew by the name Lillian Wrann was actually named Elsa at birth.

Following is the birth record for Ferdinand Gustav Wrann and Mary Paulmann’s second child – Elsa/Lillian. Click to enlarge.

1. Name Of Child: Elsa Wrann

2. Sex: Female Date Of Birth: August 7, 1885

3. Place Of Birth (Street & Number): 137 Pitt Street

4. Name Of Father: Gustav Wrann

5. Full Name Of Mother: Mary Wrann

6. Maiden Name Of Mother: Paulmann

7. Birthplace Of Mother: Germania Age: 25 Years

8. Birthplace Of Father:Age: 35 Years Occupation: Cigarmaker

9. Number Of Child Of Mother: 2 How Many Of Them Now Living: 2

The certificate is dated August 18, 1885 and is signed by the midwife E. Herschell who lived down the block at 55 Pitt St.

I’ve only ever seen a handful of photos of Lillian taken late in her life. Not sure if any from her younger years still exist.

1885: The Wrann Family Is Back In NYC

June 16, 2008

The same day I discovered my Great Great Grandfather’s listing in the 1884 Buffalo, NY directory I found him listed in the New York City directory for the following year – 1885.

The entry indicates his job is “packer” – as in Cigar Packer and the family is now living at 137 Pitt St.

Following is the entry in the 1885 New York City Directory.

1885 NYC Directory - Gustav Wrann

I imagine it must have been difficult moving from Buffalo to NYC with a newborn son in tow!

Below you’ll find a navigable Google Map of 137 Pitt St. in NYC.

April 21, 1884: The Birth Of Gustave Wrann

June 15, 2008

Knowing that my grandfather Gustave Wrann was born in Buffalo, I sent $20 to the City Clerk and requested a copy of his Birth Record. Unfortunately the filing of birth records in NY State in 1884 was not a widespread practice and several weeks later I received a letter stating they were unable to find the record.

After a few months of gathering additional records I submitted a request to a website called Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness asking for someone to look up Gustave Wrann in the genealogy section of the local library. While they were unable to find anything for me they DID find something in the local governments Inactive Records Office. There in an old ledger was an entry for the birth of Gustave Wrann. The volunteer took digital photos of the entry and emailed them to me. Below are the pictures tacked together. Click on the image to enlarge.

The birth entry indicates the child’s name is Gustave Wrann. He was born on April 21, 1884 to Gustave and Mary Wrann who are both from Germany and who live at 32 Lemon St. The occupation of the father is “Cigar” (obviously meaning he was in the CIgar trade). Gustave’s father is 33 and his mother is 22. He is their first child. The midwife who delivered the child was M. Wolf.

This child would eventually marry Florence Parker and they’d have four children; Helen, Florence, Willard, and Virginia.

Unfortunately we have no marriage record for Gustav Wrann and Mary Paulmann. We have no idea if they were married in Germany and came to the States together or if they met in the U.S. and were married here. I’ve had several searched done in Buffalo for a marriage record and I’ve searched the Municipal Archives in NYC myself for one but have yet to come up with anything.

My second cousin Dennis sent me a copy of a letter his Grandmother (my Great Grandmother) Florence Parker Wrann sent to him when he had inquired about family history. The letter is dated Sept. 20, 1975 – one month prior to her death. In the letter Florence says:

“Grandpa Wranns name was Gustave and I don’t know Grandma Wranns before she was married. Grandma changed her name from Vronn when she came to America from Germany.”

Based on the letter we can assume that Great Grandma Florence believed that Gustav and Mary were wed prior to their arrival in the U.S. and that their last name had been changed from Vronn. Unfortunately I have yet to find any evidence in records supporting these beliefs. Quite possibly the biggest frustration from a research standpoint has been discovering if our last name REALLY was Vronn (I’ve not found ANY Vronns EVER in Germany but have found many Wranns) and figuring out where Gustav and Mary were from. It’s entirely possible that Florence was 100% accurate and the onus is on us to verify her claims. It’s also understandable that their Gus and Mary’s past is clouded due to the nature of Gustav’s death in 1895….but that’s a story for another post.

1884: Shuffle Off To Buffalo

June 13, 2008

After Ferdinand Gustav Wrann signed his Declaration Of Intention in New York City in 1882 we have no documentation of his activities or whereabouts until 1884. When I first spoke to my Uncle Willard about the Wrann history he had indicated that his grandfather Gus (Ferdinand’s son) was born in Buffalo, NY. At the time I knew next to nothing about genealogy so I decided to check out the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, CT. This library is about a mile from my home. I’d never visited it because I thought it only dealt with Connecticut history. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I noticed it’s stacks were divided up by State. In the NY section they had some very old Buffalo, NY City Directories. These were books used prior to the widespread use of the telephone and indicated who lived where in the city. I picked up the oldest one on the shelf, went to the “W” section and found the entry for my Great Great Grandfather! I was astounded. To be holding a book over 120 years old and seeing my ancestors name in it was pretty exciting.

1884 Buffalo City Directory

1884 Buffalo City Directory w/ Gustave Wrann listing.

As you can see in the listing the name Ferdinand is not used and Gustav ends in an “e”. Since he spelled his name without the “e” on his Declaration Of Intention I’m going to use his spelling of it in future articles despite the occasional appearance on various documents of the “e”.

From Gustav’s listing we can see he was employed as a cigar packer, worked at 454 Main St. and lived at 32 Lemon St.

A cigar packer was the person at a cigar making shop who took the rolled cigars, put the paper ring on them and packed them in the boxes prior to shipping.

Following is a section of a map of Buffalo from 1894 – 10 years after The Wranns lived there. Click on it for an enlarged view. I’ve added a red arrow pointing to the dwelling they lived in.

1894  -32 Lemon St. Buffalo, NY

Following is a modern satellite view of 32 Lemon St. where the Wranns lived.

You can see the neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the last 120 years!

In the back of the directory were addresses for local businesses and I noticed that the business at 454 Main St. was M. Breitweiser and Brothers of Buffalo Cigar Co.

My father-in-law Jerry is a cigar ephemera collector and was able to find an associate who had a vintage Breitweiser Bros. cigar box. Following is a scan of the cigar box label from it.

Breitwesier & Bros Cigar Co. Cigar Box Label

At the time, Buffalo was a major transportation hub and there were a few railroad lines that went from NYC to there so chances are that the Wranns got to Buffalo via railway.  It’s also a possibility they got there on boat via the Erie Canal.

How long would the Wranns stay in Buffalo?