Sentimental Sunday: Cee-Bee

Poor Cee-Bee probably had the silliest name ever. She began life as “Candy Buttons,” but the name just didn’t seem right (ya think?). It was shortened to Cee-Bee, or so we were told.  This was during the long-ago citizen’s-band radio fad, so everyone who met her assumed that she was somehow involved in the trucking industry.

She wasn’t. She wasn’t purebred, either, as you can see. She had some beagle and some shepherd and who knows what in her, and really, it didn’t matter. She was The Cee.

She was six years old when she came to live with us. Her previous family loved her to bits but had to surrender her when one of them became violently allergic to fur. My mom played bridge with their mom, who kept lobbying for Cee-Bee to come live with us, very persuasively, overcoming my mom’s entrenched reluctance to take on a pet (“I have seven kids, do you think I NEED a dog?”).

Mom agreed to have Cee-Bee over, just for a while, just to see. Her bridge buddy brought Cee-Bee to our house with her dishes and leash and toys, and left in floods of tears. The door closed behind her, and there we all were.

Cee-Bee looked at us, went to a corner, and curled up, her head on her paws and the saddest expression on her face that I had ever seen on anybody. My mom forgot about her reluctance and only worried about how to make Cee-Bee happier. You couldn’t do anything else, really.

Cee-Bee did get used to us, and was happy again. She loved sunning herself in the backyard and chasing rocks. She was brilliant at finding a round rock and rolling it around so that it approximated prey, which she would promptly subdue, snarling in faux savagery. It was extremely silly, even sillier than a name like Cee-Bee. But adorable.

Cee-Bee, blissfully relaxed.

She hated thunderstorms and loved bologna but never outright stole food that I can recall, although maybe I’m looking back with rose-colored glasses on that one. But maybe not. Cee-Bee was a beautifully behaved dog. As my mother used to say: She lived to please. She was affectionate and serene but had just the right sense of fun to thrive in a household with seven kids.

But the day came, inevitably, when she was fourteen and very sick and suffering badly, and my mother had to make the tough decision animal lovers so often face. I was at work and she called me to tell me. I kept telling myself I wasn’t surprised, that nobody could be surprised.

But I was. Cee-Bee was the first pet I ever knew, and somehow, it didn’t occur to me that I’d have to say goodbye someday. That she wouldn’t always be in the backyard basking in her special ray of sun.

Although I’d like to think she still is, somewhere.


In Today’s Unsurprising News

Young people on Twitter do not know the same things as old people know!

(In other news: My music is great, and your music is not.)


My sister hates the signature whine her GPS makes when she deviates from the agreed-upon route:


For a piece of electronic engineering, it sounds remarkably petulant. However, sometimes redirECTing is unavoidable, as we could tell the GPS if it were in the mood to listen.

Particularly in genealogical research. Particularly when your original route is leading into a swamp.

For example: One of my great-great-aunts, Mary Ann Haigney (1872-1956), inconsiderately married a person surnamed Walker. Sorting through Walkers in directories, documents and federal censuses is not nearly as efficient as sorting through Haigneys, and I just don’t know as much as I’d like about them. I did have a bunch of newspaper clippings about Mary Ann, including her obituary and several society items about family parties mentioning visits from her son Edward and his wife, a grandson, and “Mrs. Geis.” I really wanted to confirm the names of Edward’s wife and son, and find out who the mysterious Mrs. Geis was.

But this year, I had a couple of super-strengths to put into the Walker search.

The first was the 1940 census. The second was the address book kept in the late 1930s and early 1940s by my great-aunt Anna.  When I got this address book last fall and realized its value as a 1940 search tool, I felt like holding it aloft, superhero-style, and waiting for thunderbolts to explode out of it.

In the address book was a Brooklyn address for an “E. Walker,” whom I devoutly hoped would turn out to be Mary Ann’s son Edward. Using another awesome thunderbolt of genealogical power, the Unified 1940 Census E.D. Finder, I located:

Walker, Edward, head, 38

Walker, Frances, wife, 43

[redacted], son, 11

Geis, Caspar, brother-in-law, 58

Geis, Henrietta, sister-in-law, 49

[redacted], niece by marriage, 23

Identities for Edward’s wife and son! Plus, an explanation for Mrs. Geis!

Clearly, Caspar was Frances’ brother, and Frances’ maiden name was Geis. Fantastic. I decided to take a lunch break.

Astute readers will know that any time the word “clearly” appears in my text, things are actually not clear at all. Over a sandwich and tea, I recalled that phrase “by marriage.”

Wait a minute. Whose marriage? Was Edward linked to the Geis family through Caspar, or through Henrietta? I read through the entry again. Sure enough, it was a classic case of stopping too soon for a lunch break. There was a seventh name in the household:

 Schemank, Mary, mother-in-law, 77

With that, I had the complete picture. As the full household list implies (and other documents eventually confirmed), Edward had married the former Miss Frances Schemank, not Geis. Henrietta (Schemank) Geis is one of Frances’ sisters (she had two, plus a brother). Caspar Geis, of course, is Frances’ brother-in-law, not her brother.

And I’m just glad my genealogy GPS redirECTed before I drove the car into a swamp.

Follow Friday: Mail I Wanted To Read

As part of my ongoing Quest For New Directions, I have become very stern and pruned a number of subscriptions, loops and lists because the mailbox was becoming something I felt vaguely ill about opening every morning.

Now I feel much better. And here are some nice things that were in the mailbox.

• A primer on house histories by a very nice expert on them from my neck of the woods. Read all about why people are interested in them, and what are the key questions to ask when doing one.

• The ongoing good news about efforts to resurrect Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. A RAOGK Wiki has some basic information. There are also two Facebook pages, one for USA-based requests and one for international requests.

• OT but good to know – Internet security tips for small businesses. We tend to think of Internet security problems as something huge and global, but they can affect people at every level. (Disclosure: I know the author from my local chapter of Women in Communications, always a source of interesting news and ideas.)

• The DNA study of Melungeons – a classic example of DNA sleuthing brushing away preconceptions and achieving new insights, though not without some difficult feelings. But I like the quote from sociologist D. Reginald Daniel: “All of us are multiracial. It is recapturing a more authentic U.S. history.”

NewsClips: An Inspector Calls!

I never knew my paternal grandfather Raymond Haigney (1891-1940), as I mentioned recently when describing his final census appearance in 1940. But I knew that at the time he died, he worked for the New York City Department of Health as a food inspector. I’d always supposed that my knowledge of his work was destined to begin and end there.

But, thanks to the magic of indexed, digital newspaper archives, I have three news clips showing my grandpa on the milk-dealer beat, keeping an eye out for questionable practices and doing his bit to keep New York’s dairy supply pure. You go, Grandpa Haigney!

The newspaper is the long-ago Daily Star, published in the borough of Queens (my grandfather was detailed to the health department’s Queens bureau). Punctuation, grammar and capitalization are reproduced faithfully from the original, alas.

First, here are two fairly routine situations:

Daily Star, Queens Borough, N.Y. City, Tuesday January 17, 1928, page 1: Milk Dealer Fined Total of $250 On Two Counts in Ridgewood Court

A man described as Meyer Krout, a milk dealer, of Seventy-ninth street (Furman avenue), Middle Village, was fined $100 by Magistrate Benjamin Marvin yesterday on complaint of Health Inspector Raymond Haigney, who swore that the defendant had fifteen quarts of milk for sale which was unwholesome.

Daily Star, Queens Borough, N.Y. City, Thursday Evening, October 11, 1928, page 7: Milk Dealer Fined $25 For Unrecorded Sales

Morris Cohen, a milk dealer of Cooper avenue and Eighty-eighth street, Glendale, was fined $25 by Magistrate Peter M. Daly in Ridgewood Court yesterday on complaint of Inspector Raymond Haigney attached to the Queens office of the Department of Health, who alleged that Cohen failed to keep a record of milk sales as required by regulations of the Department of Health.

This last one contains a bit of drama.

Daily Star, Queens Borough, N.Y. City, Tuesday evening May 28, 1928, page 1: Milk Dealer Pays $50 Fine For Violation

Muzzio Saladino, a milk dealer, of 2243 Flushing avenue, Maspeth, charged with violating the Sanitary Code was found guilty in Ridgewood court yesterday and fined $50 by Magistrate Peter M. Daly.

The defendant was accused by Inspector Raymond Haigney, attached to the Queens bureau of the Department of Health, with having eighty quarts of mlk in unlabeled and untagged containers. Saladino told the court that he informed the inspector that the milk was to be used for making cheese and was not for sale.

Haigney read Saladino’s record, which purported to show that he has been fined on no less than ten occasions for various infractions of the Sanitary Code relating to milk. In answer to the plea of Francis D. Saitta, counsel for the defendant, Magistrate Daly said:

“This defendant seems to have no regard for the law. I am going to fine him $50, and I don’t want a repetition of the offense.”

Compiler note: I will admit to a sneaking bit of sympathy for Mr. Saladino. I mean, freshly made cheese – what’s not to like? But the law is the law.

Research note: I found these clips (along with many other valuable items) in Tom Tryniski’s amazing Old New York Newspapers database – well worth a look for those of us tracking Empire State ancestors.

Hello Again!

Here’s a dark secret about the blog: When I started it, I just wanted to write. The tricky part was, I needed a topic I liked to write about a lot.

Genealogy was the perfect choice. Writing has always been a way for me to work out knotty problems, and what’s knottier than your typical genealogy puzzler? Plus, if I wrote about my genealogy I wouldn’t necessarily have to talk about genealogy so much, and my family would like me better.

In the past several months I haven’t lacked for genealogy to write and think about. But a lot of it has been just … percolating. I took the genealogical research course through Boston University last fall, which was an incredible experience that gave me lots of new ways to think about research. Accordingly, I’ve been busier than ever with genealogy, for myself and for others. If you could see my desk, which I’m glad you can’t, you would see lots of torn-off bits of paper with scribbled topics, underlined a lot, with comments like “Yes! Write A Post!

Also, I noticed the family stumbling around with glazed-looking eyes, so I realized I was talking a lot about genealogy again.

So I’ve started heeding the scribbled comments, and I now have a neat and growing pile of posts. The pile of torn-off paper bits is slowly shrinking. As this has been happening, some new directions for what I do in this space have emerged.

• I’m officially giving up a links roundup. Obviously, I haven’t done one in a while. They were fun, but increasingly, the time spent compiling them felt more and more like time stolen from other things I’d enjoy doing more. Like:

• Heritage recipes. I want to write more about those. I am fascinated by the way cooking and stories about cooking reverberate in families. But I’m also fascinated by the practical challenges heritage recipes can present. For instance, one of my treasured cookbooks is The Ellis Island Immigrant Cookbook, with its wealth of wonderful family stories. And many of the recipes in the book are great examples of what we all face when confronted with great-grandma’s pinch-of-this, dash-of-that directions. This warms my heart, as a former food-section copy editor who checked recipes for a living. So once in a while I’ll be trying out fuzzy recipes and figuring out how to adapt them to modern cooking practices.

• Another writing challenge: Family history profiles. I’m still experimenting with ways to package the research I’ve done so that non-genealogists will honestly like to read it. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy writing properly numbered and cited essays. But one of the absorbing aspects of writing is flexing it in different ways, using different colors and textures. So there will be some of that, from my little ancestral-history collection.

• I expect to be having more fun with genealogy blogging memes, too. They are such great writing prompts. And when it boils down to it, I really like to write. Maybe that’s a retro thing to say.

But as my kids will tell you, I just have no shame that way.