Monday, November 25, 2013

Researching Helen's Diary on Ancestry.com and Other Online Resources

I have been busy with my research on Helen Korngold's 1919 diary. It is amazing how much I can find on ancestry.com, and in Goggle books and the Hathi Trust Digital Library, the online collections of the St. Louis Public Library and the Missouri Historical Museum, university online collections, and Fulton Postcards' wonderful collection of historic New York State newspapers. I am amazed that I can discover the identity of a person with so little information. Sometimes intuition and guess work leads me in the right direction. Rarely do I come up empty handed, and that is usually because there are too many people with the same name on the census or because I do not have an idea of residency.
I have discovered that ancestry's collection of city directories is priceless to my research. For instance, yesterday I was looking into her comment about Mr. Bush coming into her classroom when she was student teaching at Wellston High School. Since I am not a St. Louis native, nor have I even visited the city, I have no prior knowledge about anything regarding St. Louis.

I searched for Bush on the St. Louis City Directories, focused on the years closest to 1919, and then had to find the Bush who was a teacher or principle. And sure enough, I found Ernest F. Bush on the 1917 city directory, principle of  Wellston H.S. it turns out he was the founder and principle of the high school for 34 years! From there I could look into the census and even school yearbooks, where I found a memorial in the 1940 Wellston yearbook, including his photograph.

A poignant moment came when I looked at the April 9, 1940 St. Louis Census. Principle Bush gave his employment as a superintendent in the public school system, although it was then crossed off. At age 73 he clung to that achievement with pride and it still gave him his identity. He died a few months later on July 17, 1940.

Another example is Helen's comment that Florence F. "just naturally tries to bully everyone" on the basketball team. I looked into ancestry.com, the Washington University yearbooks available on Hathi Trust, and the Goggle book 1919-1920 Washington University Bulletin, which lists the graduating classes. I found Florence Funston Forbes in the 1916 W.U. freshman class and that she graduated in 1922. She was active in sports, including Varsity basketball, so I knew it had to be Helen's teammate. Florence had a family tree on ancestry, which I coordinated with the documents I found on ancestry.com. And I ended up with a complete bio on Florence!


Florence was the daughter of the beautiful Hortense Funsten who married Arthur Henry Forbes in 1897. Florence was born on October 26, 1898. Her father died on April 19, 1899 in Waco, TX.  The coroner’s death certificate lists the cause of death as “La Grippe.” Florence and her mother moved in with her maternal grandparents Robert Emmett Funsten (12/10/1851 in VA to 1927 in St. Louis) and Charlotte Elizabeth Cook (6-1852 in VA to 9/1922 in St. Louis). And they happened to be rich, as Robert was President of Webster Groves Dried Fruit Company.

In 1905 Hortense married author Herbert Durand, born 1858 in New York, who was a famous author of nature guides and travel books. He was also active in nature preservation. In 1906 Hortense and Herbert had a son Eugene Funsten Durand. They were wealthy enough that the 1940 New York State Census shows they had a butler and a cook. Hortense died in 1950. 

Florence traveled with her mother and step-father numerous times. A December 12, 1922 passport application shows Florence was 24 years old, 5’ 6 ½” tall, with a low forehead, grey/blue eyes, short retrousse nose, medium mouth, round chin and face, and had light brown hair. Florence reported no occupation. She was born at St. Louis on October 26, 1898. She reported her father Arthur Henry Forbes was diseased. She had resided at the Graniston Hotel in Bronxville, NY. She was going to Italy, Egypt, Portugal, the British Isles, France, Spain, Constantinople and Morocco, leaving from the port of New York on the S.S. Empress of Scotland on February 3.

Florence’s grandfather Arthur Page Forbes also appears in the Book of St. Louisians. He was born in 1840 in Illinois, and moved with his family to St. Louis in 1846. His father moved to Massachusetts in 1852 and served in the Civil War. In 1866 he returned to St. Louis with his family and in 1867 joined Forbes Bros and White tea dealers. In 1869 he married Theresa James and they had a daughter Alice Eliza who in 1869 married William Fitzhugh Funsten, born in Virginia in 1855 and owner of Funsten & Co. Furs. Their children included Kenneth Mead, Florence, and Arthur Forbes Funsten, who was father to Mary James, Arthur Henry (father of Florence), Helen Francis, Ruth Rogers and Florence Theresa born in 1874.


The family appears in The Ancestors and Descendents of Colonel David Funsten and his wife Susan Everad Meade.

I have 32 pages of notes on the people, places, and events in Helen's diary! I have further notes on her university, the Jefferson Barracks which was the main induction center during WWI, the Jewish population of St. Louis, and of course there is Helen's family tree.

I need to learn a lot more about her husband, Dr. Fritz Herzog, who left his studies in Berlin to come to the U.S., received his education at Columbia, taught at Cornell, then at Michigan State, and was on loan to Washington University and U.of Michigan. The Michigan State notice for the annual Herzog Prize included his photograph! The latest find is that Helen's brother's daughter moved to Michigan and that his great-grandchildren may be alive and living in Metro Detroit! 

I found Helen's diary shortly after Fritz's death in 2001. It is pure chance and curiosity that made me pick it up. And that I could at that moment afford the $15 to purchase the diary is another pure miracle. or perhaps, Helen choose me to keep her memory and name alive. For I heard her voice with her first entry: "Rise 11:30 AM! Oh, such a spiffy time last night: a regular N. Y. Eve. All dolled up in a satin clown suit. E.E. proposed--tough luck!" And she has been with me ever since.

Old Fulton NY Postcards: http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html
Hathi Trust Digital Library: http://www.hathitrust.org/
Helen Korngold Family Tree: http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/21628010/family