Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

Month: November 2015


Patriotic Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is my very favorite of all holidays.   An entire holiday meant for us slow down and give thanks for all we have.  All of us have a pile of problems, but spending just one day focusing on the good stuff is in order.  We are in a season of life that is just busy – crazy, chaotic busy.  Our kids range in age from High school to preschool…we are always running somewhere.  Our life is ruled by a calendar and is scheduled to the max. We never set out to be this busy – before kids we said we wouldn’t be these people.  It just sort of snuck up on us and here we are. As tough as it is (and somedays it is!) I wouldn’t change it. Our kids are thriving and it is a privilege to see them work hard and grow. It is  something I do not take lightly, because I didn’t always know that we would have the chance.

For me I am so Thankful to have a day where I don’t have to look at the calendar.  A day that we can just be together. A day to slow down and enjoy each other. We have a warm home, food to eat and each other. I could not ask for more.

So far from what I have found, both the Irish and German ancestors emigrated to the United States in the 1850-60’s.  With most coming during the Civil War.  How bad were the conditions where they came from to make them come to a country in the midst of a Civil War? I truly cannot imagine. They left everyone and everything they new to start a new life. There was no way to know how everything would turn out, but they had each other.

One of the coolest things about Thanksgiving is that it is an American holiday. So many of our holidays have roots from across the ocean.  Our ancestors brought so many traditions with them – but Thanksgiving was a chance for them to make brand new traditions, to celebrate their new lives and home. Thanksgiving was first declared a Federal in 1863 by President Lincoln. So Thanksgiving would have been a part of my ancestors lives from the time they first came here. I love the idea of generations of family gathering, much the same as today.   Maybe minus the incessant Black Friday/Cyber Monday craziness.

So today as I gather with my loved ones, I will say a silent prayer for all those who came before me and honor their memory by laughing, loving, and enjoying our family.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!

Pfundstein and Sons

Have you ever noticed how in those old black and white pictures – people dressed up? They dressed up all the time – woman wore dresses and men wore suits. Not just for special occasions but every single day.  Dresses, suits,hats, the whole deal.  Look around – you can’t go anywhere today without seeing someone out and about in their pajamas! Our great-grandmother’s did housework in dresses! Men sat down to dinner with their families in suit and tie. I’m lucky to get my entire family in the house at the same time for a meal, much less worry about what they have on.

My Great grandfather, Adam was from that fabulous generation of well dressed men. He owned a tailor shop in Brooklyn, Adam Pfundstein and Sons. It opened in 1896 and remained open until the 1950’s.  The shop was originally located at 1705 Myrtle Ave in Glendale/Ridgewood.  At some point the shop moved to 56-07 Myrtle Ave.  Since my Great-grandfather was also a partner in a building firm, he probably owned the building.  56-07 Myrtle is a 3 story brick building, the ground flood is storefront property and the upper floors are apartments.  The building still stands today with beautiful brickwork and decorative elements.  The picture above shows the shop in 1940 and in 2015. The fire hydrant is still there as is the decorative detail on the brick facade. Many different businesses have been housed here over the years, currently it is a print shop.  A year ago my family and I took our first trip to Brooklyn. Among other things we went to seek out the location of our Adam’s business.  We were so excited to find it!  We went in to take a look around, we had come that far and there was no way we weren’t going to take at least a peek.  The people who worked there were lovely and couldn’t have been nicer to us.  I’m not sure that they had any idea what we were talking about but they let us have a look throughout the whole ground floor – the workers in the back room weren’t to sure what to make of us poking around!

The shop was long and narrow and I’m sure looked nothing like it did when it belonged to my Great-Grandfather.  The wooden floor obviously had been refinished…but it could very well be the same one that my family walked on.

I can just imagine that wooden floor when it was laid down new. My Great-Grandfather and Great-Uncles spending hours walking over the floorboards, creaking and squeaking as they settled.  The front of store with its glass display windows, mannequins displaying the newest and finest in men’s fashion.  Inside the walls lined with shelves, and display cases under long wooden counters. Displaying handmade shirts, ties, suits all custom made to measure.  Drawers to hold tissue, string, and boxes to package customers purchases.  Several mirrors and curtained dressing areas. I can picture a shop girl, probably a member of the family greeting customers.The shop heated with a coal or kerosene stove, lit first with gas lights and eventually electric lights. The shop was probably always warm – they would have needed keep the irons warm.  It was probably cozy in the wintertime, maybe less so in the summertime.  Maybe there were ceiling fans to keep the air moving.  I hope there was a grand brass and wooden cash register on a long wooden counter. Orders would be written by hand, payment in cash or terms.  In 1910 a new suit could cost anywhere from $10-20 depending on the fabric used. Wool was the standard and cotton was less expensive. Much of the account information was probably stored in Adam’s head. The shop would have smelled of the heating irons and starch.  In the back room, I see long tables for cutting, machines for sewing, bolts of wool and cotton, sharp scissors, needles, thread, and lots and lots of pins.  Adam’s sons had to work their way up in the business, so that they would know and understand every facet.  You can see the progression of the work through census records, they were cutters, clerks, and tailors. I like to think that Adam himself waited on his customers, wearing a tape measure around his neck for quick access to take measurements for his clients.  In a time where very few things were disposable, the suits were hung on wooden hangers which had their name and address printed on it.  Many of the hangers are still in use today, I have one in my closet.  It makes me smile whenever I see it just thinking about the hard work and pride behind it.  

Outside the shop was the very busy Myrtle Ave. A bustling brick lined street filled with shops of every kind. Looking out the front windows they would be looking at the oddly shaped intersection of Myrtle and Cypress Ave.  They probably watched the street go from dirt to brick to asphalt. From horse and buggy to street trolleys to the first cars.The occasional Om-PA band of traveling street musicians. The neighborhood had a large German immigrant population.  German and English were probably used interchangeably 

When Adam retired he handed the reigns to his oldest son Henry who ran the business until his death in 1938.  Sons Joseph and Anton also were part of the business. Joseph ran the store until the 1950’s when mass produced clothing became more common and less expensive than custom made.

What an amazing legacy Adam built!  Through his hard work and dedication he was able to provide for his family and pass the business to his sons.  Even more impressive is that Pfundstein and Sons survived through 2 World Wars and the Great Depression.


Sales Receipt

Sales slip

Pf tags

Tags to be sewn into suits


pf hanger 1

Sales slip




Wilkinson, C. (2012, September 10). Border Town Ridgewood: Brooklyn or Queens. Retrieved November 11, 2015.




My sister and I had the opportunity to see Paris for the first time this past May, it was unforgettable.

Some day I will tell my family’s 9/11 experiences, but for tonight my heart breaks and my prayers go out to all involved.



So because I don’t know what I am doing, I decided to take a Blogging 101 course to go along with my family history stories.  We were given the assignment to read and comment on other people’s blogs.  It was really interesting to see what is out there! The next day’s assignment was to write a blog based on one of our comments.

I read the following post it just spoke to me:

My comment had to do with how well the author weaved together several stories and brought them to life.  I don’t know much about weaving but I do know that it is an intricate process.  A person’s life story is also an intricate process.  The thing I loved the most that she used short but very powerful bits to make an unforgettable story.  Really, how much of our own life stories are made up this way?  Short (relatively) events that have profound and prolonged ramifications.  The most life-changing events in my own life have followed this pattern. Minutes, hours, days that change everything sometimes for the better, sometimes for the lessons.   Our life stories are made up of piecework moments woven together to make us who we are.  Every story, every person unique…how beautiful and powerful that is.

A Life Uncommon

Adam Pfundstein


Adam Pfundstein circa 1910

Adam Pfundstein circa 1910

Adam Pfundstein was 1 of 7 children born to Joseph and Magdalena Helfrich Pfundstein.  He was born in Brooklyn the son of German immigrants.  Adam’s father was a Shoemaker by trade.   Adam married Theresa Eich when he was 25 years old and was the father of 13 children.  I picture him probably as a stern father – I mean really, he had 13 children and probably had to be!  However when I look at his pictures I see kindness and good humor in his eyes – again with 13 children he probably had to have a whole lot of humor and patience!!

Adam took excellent care of his large brood, he raised them by the teachings of the Catholic church, 2 of his sons became priests and 2 daughters were nuns, all of his children went on to live productive lives. He seems to have had an especially close relationship with his son Adam.

Adam was undoubtedly a very hard worker, but I feel like he also lived his life to it’s fullest.  I like to think he lived a life uncommon for his time. Adam was a business owner – more than 1 business.  He was a tailor but also was a partner in a construction firm.  It makes me very proud to think that he had a hand – no matter how small in shaping a bit of the landscape of Brooklyn.  He was the 1st generation of this branch to be born in America.  He embodied that American dream, a self-made man who worked hard to make a life but also worked to live that life.  

His construction firm was called Busar & Pfundstein.  There are several newspaper notices listing land that they purchased and the approvals they received for construction.  They mainly built 2-3 story brick buildings. The ground floor of the buildings were designed to be store fronts and the upper floors were apartments. I love to think about the people who lived the those apartments and what the neighborhoods would have looked like. What kind of business has been done in those shops, how many other immigrants and their families have built their part of the American dream within those walls? Adam’s main business was a tailor shop located on Myrtle Ave in Brooklyn.  He opened the business in 1896 and it remained open and in the family until the 1950’s. The buildings still stand today – what a legacy!

One of my very favorite things about Adam is the fact that he was a traveler.  Before I became a nurse, I was a travel agent and always had the travel bug – maybe it came from Great Grandpa Adam!

Adam had at least 2 passports that I have found, the first was issued in 1921.  The purpose of his trip was to travel to Europe to see his son Adam.  Adam the younger studied for the Priesthood in Austria, and his father traveled there to see him ordained.  While he was there they traveled through Austria, Switzerland and Germany.   He was gone for several months. According to his passport he was 5’11” with a high forehead, gray eyes and a Roman nose (?) he was noted to have an oval shaped face, blond hair, light complexion and a medium mouth with a mustache.

He sailed on the Orduna leaving New York on July 30, 1921.  He returned on the same ship departing from Hamburg, Germany on Oct . 1 1921 as a first class passenger and arriving in NY on October 14.  A 14 day journey that today takes a matter of hours! While in Germany he traveled to Rodalben to see where his father was born. He and his son were able to meet family members while there. One of his cousins operated an Inn and they met the cousin as others.  There is a picture of the Inn and a note on it says how amazing it was that the village had remained largely unchanged for so many years.  My sister and I travelled to Germany in the spring – 94 years later and we said the very same thing!!

He and Fr. Adam traveled to Germany again in 1925, this time they also visited Austria and  Italy. It looks like he again traveled on the Orduna – wonder if they had frequent sailor miles? They sailed back to NY on the Stuttgart from the port of Bremen.  In 1932 Adam and his son traveled again to Cuba – seriously how cool is that?! What did Cuba look like in 1932? I haven’t  found his departure but they returned on the Toala, she sailed from Havana on March 31 and arrived back in NY on April 3.
Adam died in his home in September of 1942 at the age of 78. He outlived his wife Theresa and his son Henry.  His obituary called him a pioneer merchant tailor.  His son’s Fr. Adam and Fr. Edward officiated at their father’s funeral.  

When I look at Adam's writing - I see my mother's handwriting!

When I look at Adam’s writing – I see my mother’s handwriting!

Adam and Theresa with their children - 1930's

Adam and Theresa with their children – 1930’s

1940's Adam with Fr. Adam, Sr. Miriam, Sr.Augusta, a niece, and Fr. Edward

1940’s Adam with Fr. Adam, Sr. Miriam, Sr.Augusta, a niece, and Fr. Edward

What's in a Name…

Pfundstein family crestWhat’s in a name…turns out quite a bit actually.  Most surnames have their roots in Medieval times.  The simple ones still remain unchanged today – Baker, Miller, Weaver, Mason, etc.  It is pretty easy to know what kind of work your ancestors may have done many generations earlier. Over time many names have been shortened or lengthened, or changed by different spellings.  Even the most basic Smith has many variations Smyth, Smythe, Smithson, etc. If  a simple name could be so varied imagine when the name was a little more complicated.  On my Dad’s side which is Irish I have been researching his mother’s family.  My Grandmother’s maiden name was McVay.Seems easy enough but as the family came over at different times the name was also written as McVey or McVeigh.  There is a whole section of McVay’s buried together that I found and all 3 of those spellings are represented.  They are likely all from the same family but I am still working out how!

My mother’s maiden name was Marshall.   I have been able to trace that line back to 1600 Bavaria, the name evolution is: Marschalk to Marschaldt to Marschall and finally Marshall.

The census records are famously bad for mis-spellings, the census takers would write a name how they heard it.  Depending on the speaker’s accent or the writers spelling – you can really get thrown off track! You need to have an open mind reading those records!

I always wondered where the Pfundstein name came from. It didn’t really sound like an occupation.  It is just a little less self-explanatory than Baker…  Growing up we were always told it meant Pound Stone, which made sense but I really still couldn’t come up with an occupation to go along with that one!  Luckily some of the smarter Pfundstein’s had answers.  A Pfund is a unit of weight measurement that is still actually used in some parts of Germany (mostly Bavaria). A Pfund is equal to 500 grams or 1/2  kilo. In the world of languages and linguistics there is something called the Benrath Line.  This imaginary line runs through Germany  and accounts for differences in dialect and language.  North of the line P is used – so Pound would be common, south of the line PF is used, so Pfund. Ok so now we are getting somewhere.

In Medieval villages people traded for good and services before standard currencies were in widespread use.  In order to make sure that everyone was getting a fair deal, goods such as wool or wheat would need to be weighed.  The tradesman who did this job would have stones or steins in different weights and use some type of balance.  My Pfundstein ancestors would  use pfund steins to balance the goods they were measuring and is how the Pfundstein name came about. The name has stayed consistent throughout the generations.  I have also seen the surname “Pfund” which is probably a shortened version – crazy to see the evolution that the Marshall name went through, while Pfundstein has stayed the same!

I need to thank my cousin Jeanette and Rich Pfundstein for their help in getting this story told.  I also want to thank Rich for sharing the family crest.

Awesome Daily Feats

Theresa Eich Pfundstein 1866-1937

Theresa Pfundstein

Theresa Pfundstein

Letter to her Father

Excerpt from a letter to her Father

My Great-Grandmother Theresa Pfundstein was a pretty amazing woman.  I just love this picture of her, I see kindness and humor but also steel – she doesn’t strike me as someone to trifle with and with good reason! She bore and raised 13 children…let that sink in for a moment.  She delivered each of them likely at home and likely with no real interventions – no meds, epidural, and probably not much rest in between.  As an RN (a labor and delivery nurse for several years) that is no joke.  She was pregnant for approximately 9.75 years of her life.  Her 13 children were born over 21 yrs.  Her first son was born when she was 24 and her last born when she was…45. Henry, Joseph, Ida, Clara, Anthony, Elizabeth, Augusta, Adam, Theresa, Edward, Albert, George, and Christopher all lived to adulthood.  They went on join the clergy or marry and have families of their own.

I have 3 children – 3.  Most days I can’t keep their names straight, my house looks like a Lego factory married a sporting goods store and then exploded.  I couldn’t tell you what I had for breakfast – seriously.  Now, you may say that she didn’t work outside the home. Maybe, but I was a stay at home mom for many years and that was harder than any job I have ever had. I know how much laundry a family of 5 produces on a weekly basis – triple that. They probably owned nowhere near the number of clothes that we possess but that still had to be an impressive amount of laundry. Happily for Theresa she was able to send her laundry out to be done. This I know because the woman who did the laundry was my other Great Grandmother Catherine Marshall, her son Edmund married Ida Pfundstein.

Theresa accomplished her awesome daily feats without such modern conveniences as  washing machines, dishwashers,  microwaves, vacuum cleaners, television, etc. Makes me wonder how much of my “busyness” is self- imposed. She certainly didn’t have the distractions of constant electronic interruptions designed to simplify our modern lives.  The constant barrage of news, noise, emails, and social media.

My Great Grandmother Theresa was born in 1866 in Brooklyn, NY to Henry and Augusta Eich.  She was one of 8 children. Both of her parents were born in Bavaria, Germany.  They emigrated to the US during the Civil War.  Several of Theresa’s brood were named after her siblings suggesting that they were a close family.  The Pfundstein’s and Eich’s were all very strong Catholics.

Theresa and Adam Pfundstein were married on September 25, 1889 at St. Leonard’s Church of Port Maurice.  This is the church that they attended for their entire marriage.  All of the children were baptized there and several were married there as well.  St. Leonard’s had very large German population. The church was decommissioned and demolished in 2002. Of the Pfundstein children 2 of the boys became Priests and 2 of the girls became Nuns.  For a strong devout Catholic, I can only imagine how proud she must have been of them.

The Pfundstein’s lived in Brooklyn and the surrounding area all of their lives. They likely were relatively comfortable from a financial standpoint.  Adam was a tailor and owned a successful tailor shop, Adam Pfundstein and Sons.  It was established in 1896 and remained open into the 1950’s. The site of the shop still stands today and has housed various businesses.  Adam was also involved in construction and real estate. He also was a partner in a firm called Busar & Pfundstein, they built several buildings in the same style – storefronts on the ground floor and apartments on the upper 2 floors.

Theresa Pfundstein died at her home in July of 1937, a few days before her 71st birthday. Her sister Sr. Jovita (Ida) Eich also died on the very same day within a few hours of each other  She was survived by her beloved husband Adam and all 13 of her children, she and Adam had been married for 47 years. Theresa’s funeral was on Wed. and Sister Jovita’s on Thurs. There are several newspaper articles about the funerals. The 2 Priests said Masses for both their Mother and Aunt in those 2 days. Theresa is buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY beside 3 of their children.

I put together a timeline of some of significant events that occurred during Theresa’s life:

Theresa Pfundstein timeline

What this is All About

The idea behind this blog is to gather and tell the stories of my family.  Ever since I was a young girl I would ask my parents questions about our family history.  They would tell me what they knew but I always wanted to know more.  

I was the youngest of 4, my oldest brothers was in college when I was born and my other 2 siblings were in high school.  It is safe to say that my arrival was a surprise to my parents.  Growing up I had the best of being an only child and being a part of a bigger family.  The downside to this is that as my parents were older, I  never had the opportunity to know any of my grandparents. This created a void for me and I always felt like I was always looking for any connections to them.  On my dad’s side I have only ever met 1 relative, my father’s uncle Wayne.  As a young girl I had a hard time feeling a connection with this person who was in his 70’s.  The small bits of information I have found from his notes is fascinating. He actually worked for Howard Hughes!  How I wish I could spend an hour with him now – the things he must have seen and stories he had to tell. On my mom’s side I was lucky enough to know many more people.  My Aunts were more like Grandmothers to me.  There are many cousins on that side and we do our best to keep in touch with each other.  It is so surreal to think that we are now the generation that has to keep the stories alive.

I lost my sweet mom a year and a half ago.  As we were cleaning out her house we found numerous pictures that were not labeled or maybe only had first names here and there.  It was so frustrating to be holding links to my history and knowing nothing about them! I decided that is was time to do something about it! When I finally began researching, I fell in love with the process.  The search that is sometimes easy but most times frustrating, the Eureka! moment when you find what you are looking for and finally, for me the connections to generations that came before.

I contacted my local research Librarian and was off and running.  It is amazing to see how much has been uncovered in a short time.  For years at our family gatherings we would sit around and talk about how there had to be more relatives out there.  My Grandmother was 1 of 13 children!  Her maiden name was Pfundstein and my Grandfather was a Marshall.  My Grandpa Marshall was an immigrant from Germany. Grandma Marshall (Pfundstein) also came from Germany, her Grandfather was the 1st generation to come to America. They were both from Bavaria. Our Grandparents were born in Brooklyn and were one of the few that left that area.  They settled in between Buffalo and Rochester, NY several hours travel by train from their families.  The Aunts would talk about their wonderful memories of travelling to Brooklyn/Long Island to visit family.  They would visit the beach and go into the city. NYC in the 1930-40’s must have been such a sight!

Through social media many of the Pfundstein descendants have found each other. The Pfundstein’s have spread all over the country and there is still family in Germany. I think the Aunt’s must be smiling somewhere to know that we have managed to connect to each other and share photos and stories and to forge new connections!

Not long before my mom get sick she was contacted by a relation in Germany.  I will tell more stories about her – my sister and I have been able to meet her on several occasions and went to Germany in the spring to meet even more family.

I am really looking forward to telling the stories of my family!  Hope you enjoy all of wonderful things I have already discovered and all that is still out there. To all the Pfundstein/Marshall relatives – please, please add to the blog!!!

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