Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

Category: Pfundstein (page 1 of 3)

A Typical Day

Day 6: Imagine a typical day for a female ancestor. What time did she wake up, and what did she do throughout the day?


Mornings are a pretty hectic time for most of us, I can’t imagine it was much different in the early 1900’s.  What is much different are the how and why.  In 1911 my Great grandmother, Theresa Eich Pfundstein had 13 children to get up and ready for the day. Just let that one sink in for a moment.  I have 3 and lose my mind most mornings.

Theresa days were filled with hard work .  She would be up before the rest of the family to start breakfast. She would need to get the stove heated and begin to warm water for cooking and cleaning.  The Coffee would be started.  Breakfast could have been any number of things from eggs to homemade cereals – porridge, oatmeal, etc.  In 1911 her children ranged in age from 21 to a newborn.  All of them were still living at home.  With a family that large, everyone would be expected to pitch in to get the day started.  I can’t even imagine what the daily rush to get out the door would have been like – shoes, coats, lunch buckets

Once breakfast was finished and the older children were out the door, Theresa would have begun the first clean up of the day.  Dishes, dusting, floors etc.  The amount of laundry must have been impressive.  Even taking into consideration the family only owned a few outfits each.  Theresa sent her laundry out to be done. This is how my grandparents met – my grandfather’s mother was the who did the laundry.

The next part of the day would have been spent shopping for any necessary items.  Many ingredients for meals would be purchased fresh the day they were to be used.   Theresa lived in Brooklyn and had access to many different types of food.  She would have easy access to fresh meat from the butcher, fresh seafood and any seasonal fruits and vegetables. Most of the family’s food would be made from scratch, commercial items such as crackers and biscuits were just becoming readily available.  She likely cooked many German dishes that she learned to make from her own mother. Most of her shopping would have been done in her German neighborhood but living in Brooklyn they could sample food from all over the world.

Much of her day would have been taken up with cooking and cleaning as well as mending. Theresa would have prepared a main meal midday and a dinner for the entire family in the evening.  The cycle of cleaning and preparing for the next meal would continue as soon as one meal ended.

The older children helped with the younger ones and they all found ways to entertain themselves.

Raising a family and caring for a family in 1911 was hard, back breaking work.  While some aspects of it are easier today it is still a tough job.  

There are many things that we worry about today that didn’t exist then – but it works both ways.  I am especially grateful for modern medicine…and vacuums, washing machines, and crockpots!





Augusta Pfundstein 1917

Family History Magazine Writing Challenge: Imagine your ancestor had social media during their lifetime, and write a Facebook post or series of tweets describing something they’re witnessing in real-time.

In 1922 Augusta was a 21 year old woman living in the Boroughs of New York city. She was also a registered voter. What an amazing witness to history she was! She is listed as a  Democrat in a book of enrolled voters,  It made me so proud to see.

The first Presidential election she was eligible to vote in was 1924. It saw Republican Calvin Coolidge running against  Democrat John Davis.  Coolidge was already in the White House, he was Vice President when Warren Harding died in office the year before. The election probably didn’t turn out as she hoped – I know the feeling…

Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had died long before women were finally granted the right to vote.  Even though they were not alive to see their efforts rewarded they influenced generations of women to come. Susan B Anthony is buried in nearby Rochester, NY.  Every year on Election Day thousands of women visit her grave to pay tribute to the pioneer.

Here is my imagination of Augusta’s Facebook post from Election day in 1924:

Women around the country vote today! History in the making. So proud to be a part of this great nation.  Go Vote!  #susanbanthony, #elizabethcadystanton, #womenrule, #hopemyguywins

Augusta went on to live her best life and I have to believe that the brave woman who came before her, helped to influence her. She became a Nun, but didn’t fade quietly into their numbers.  Augusta (Sister Miriam Claire) got an education, more than many women of her time were able to even fathom.  She was 27 when she went into the convent. She was high school teacher and went on to become an administrator. I found her in a book that included an abstract of her dissertation that was published in 1939. Augusta Pfundstein rocked and I could not be more proud to be her relative!

City Record Supplement: Transcript of Enrollment books. Borough of Queens. (1922). New York, New York.

Navy Day

October 27 is recognized as Navy Day, a day to honor past and present members of the United States Navy.  For today’s Picure Day I am sharing a photo of my very favorite member of the Navy, my uncle Ed Marshall.  Uncle Ed served in the Navy which allowed him to graduate from Notre Dame University.  He was an aeronautical engineeer, he helped design a Navy plane and worked for NASA.  He was part of the team that designed the oxygen pack that the  Apollo 11 astronauts wore during the first moon walk.  It is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum.  Uncle Ed may have been a “rocket scientist” but he was also very down to earth. He had that wonderful ability to make you feel as if you were the most important person in the room.  As a kid I always remember how he would take extra time to talk to me.  I can’t imagine that anything I told him was terribly riveting but he always made me feel like it was interesting to him.

What other members of the family served in the Navy?  Let me know and I will add them

Joseph Pfundstein

Thomas Pfundstein




Clergy Appreciation Day

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


October 9 was Clergy Appreciation Day – who knew?  This picture has been shared before but it always makes me smile to see it!! The photo was taken in the early 1940’s (Adam died in 1942).  Maybe they were all together for a special occasion or maybed it was just a Sunday dinner.  Whatever the reason it looks like they were having a great time!  I can’t even imagine how proud Adam and Theresa must have been about their son’s in the Clergy and of the their daughter’s who became Sisters.

**Update**  Thank you to Loretta Hawkes who was able to give me some more details about the above picture. From Loretta:

Three times a year the nuns were allowed to come home. After they had dinner at Grandpa Grandma’s house, all the brothers and sisters would come for coffee or tea, including all the grandchildren. Everybody brought a cake or cookies and took turns visiting with the nuns and priests. The Josephite nun in the picture was a friend of the family not a niece. Her name was Sr. Grace. All we grandchildren had fun playing outside until it was time for us to come in to have a treat.. At this time, Aunt Tess was hostess and chief cook. After Grandpa passed away, Aunt Elsie Wengler took over the affair also in Glendale where most of us lived. I think I am the eldest of my generation to tell these stories. My last brother, Dick, passed away in May at 94 years of age. I will be 90 in Dec..

Happy Anniversary


Happy Anniversary to my cousin Mary Claire and her husband Dick.  They were married this week in October 1976.  The picture was taken at the Stafford Country Club in Stafford, NY.  I love everything about this picture – Mary Claire is gorgeous. All 5 of the Marshall children are here with spouses as are many of the Marshall cousins.  The clothes and hairstyles are fabulous!

Family Reunion


This is not a very old picture, but I sure do love it a lot.  After many years of talking about having a family reunion, we actually did it.  This is a picture of the Marshall cousins (grandchildren of Ed and Ida Pfundstein Marshall).  We were missing a few but fairly well represented nonetheless.  The reunion was held where I live, Seven Springs in Batavia, NY, on August 8, 2011.  It was such a great day to spend with our cousins!!

Even though the picture is only 6 yrs old, we have lost 2 cousins from this group as well as 2 aunts and an uncle.  10 days after the picture was taken, my husband and I welcomed our third son to the family!  There have been several more little ones added over the years as well.

Even though we are scattered all over, we still get together when we can.  We haven’t had a reunion quite this big in a few years – maybe time to start planning again…

Tiny Little Pfundsteins…

This week’s Picture Day features the oldest 4 Pfundsteins.  This was sent to me, I don’t have the original.  The picture was taken in Brooklyn in the late 1890’s .  The back row is Joseph (1892),  and Henry (1890), in the front Clara (Sister Augusta 1896) and Ida (1894). How cure are the boys matching outfits? Looks like they gave Clara a bell to hold to keep her occupied!  Keeping 4 small kids still long enough to take a picture at that time  couldn’t have been easy…  Love these cuties!

Favorite Picture



The assignment for Day 6 is to write about your favorite picture.  I have come across a lot of great pictures on my journey – but I think this is truly one of my favorites.

My sweet cousins, Meg,Maureen and Beth sent this to my mom when she was in the hospital before she passed away.  She loved it so much and showed to everyone who would look at it.  Every time I see it, it makes me grin.

The picture was taken in 1912, at Broad Channel in New York.  My Grandmother Ida Pfundstein Marshall is the lovely beach-goer in the middle smiling for the camera (without her cap).  I am still working on the identities of the other ladies.  Probably at least a few them are her sisters – Ida was one of 13 and 5 were girls. Two of the sisters became Sisters – I think it is safe to say the picture was taken before they took their vows.

I can almost hear the girls laughing and enjoying their day at the beach. It was probably a hot summer day and the breeze by the water felt great.  I think they were probably talking about the same things that groups of girls had talked about since forever – boys!  They may have been talking about the neighborhood and all the goings on.   The Titanic had sunk earlier in the year – I would imagine that was still in the minds of everyone.

Did you get a look at their outfits? Button up boots, full dresses and of course the caps!!! The caps are just absolutely my favorite part of the whole getup.  It seems like a a whole lot of work for a day at the beach.  A day at beach looks a wee bit different today! I’m guessing they didn’t actually spend much time IN the water.

Ida’s family had a cottage at Broad Channel.  My sweet Aunt Terry used to make the most beautiful dollhouses.  My favorite one was always the beach house in Broad Channel.  It was just the kitchen of the cottage, done with Aunt Terry’s meticulous attention to detail.  I’m not sure why that one resonated with me but maybe just because it was a real place that obviously held many happy memories.  Since seeing this picture the scene becomes even more real.

Hope you enjoy this sweet picture as much as I do!



A Change in Focus




My sister and I had the opportunity to visit Germany last spring.  It was a life altering trip for me.  I learned a lot about myself, mostly that I am braver than I thought.  We stayed with a relative for several days but were on a own quite a bit too, we went from Germany to France and then to Great Britain on our own.  You know what? We did it, we navigated through foreign countries on our own and it was an amazing experience.  We stood in Medieval towns and were staggered by unbelievable age of things, built so long ago and yet still standing in front of us.

We had the good fortune to be in contact with a German relative who also had been doing genealogy for years.  She also is a tour guide – a pretty great combo!  We had met several times before our trip, she had even stayed with my mom for a few days. I am so thankful they had the opportunity to meet.

Going to Europe had been a lifelong dream for me.  When the chance came around, I grabbed it.  Sure it cost money I could have saved, and it was more difficult to plan for the kid’s schedules that it was to plan for 10 days in Europe… but it was also the trip of a lifetime and the fulfillment of a dream.  Simply put, I am so glad I did it.

We met some wonderful people while there. In Germany we were lucky enough to be introduced to several family members, most didn’t’ speak English and we only knew a tiny amount of German but somehow it worked and we really didn’t have any trouble communicating.  We were welcomed in many homes as strangers and left as family.  We even made a local newspaper, with an article and pictures!

While I fully expected to love our journey, I hadn’t fully understood  how strongly it would feel. When our cousin took us to the town that my  great grandfather came from, I was completely blown away. My great grandfather was born in the 1850’s and 1881 left for the United States by himself.  The house he was born in stood right next door to the church. Names of several young men from our family were carved into a WWI memorial at the church. The church stood nearly exactly as it had then.  As I stood in the church it all hit me, he existed, he stood in this place, he looked at the very things I was seeing.  It hit me so hard, I almost needed to sit down.  It was right in front of me, I could see my great-grandfather and his family walking next door to worship, being a part of this community in this tiny Bavarian town.  I couldn’t help but wonder what made him leave this beautiful place and how it must have felt to go from this place to New York City alone and make a completely new life for himself.  Bravery, perseverance, a bit of stubbornness? I will never know but I do know that I felt so strongly connected to him at that moment.  It was one of the most incredible, unforgettable experiences of my life.  When we went to the church and home of my great grandmother I was a little more prepared but still blown away.  Her family also lived next door to her church. The current owners of the house came out and spoke with us, amazingly they remembered the family!

So, all that being said, I am going to shift my focus to my Irish side of the family. I am by no means done with my German research but have to give some love to my Irish.  My Dad’s side of the family is Irish – McGee and McVay.  I only ever met 1 relative of my Dad’s, his uncle, my great uncle Wayne. He was ancient when I was little but very knowledgeable about our family history.  I was never very interested as a kid but man, what I would give to be able to talk to him today.  From what I have been able to find out so far the family history is rich and deep and sometimes very sad.  They took pictures and played, wrote poems, worked hard and lived with dignity sometimes in the face of tragedy.  Recently I had the great luck of finding McGee cousins.  Actual living relatives from my Dad’s side!!  They recently sent me pages and pages of handwritten family history – it was better than Christmas!!!

I am really looking forward to sharing the stories of this side of the family.  This is all leading up fulfilling another dream – to visit Ireland.  This trip is still a year off but the planning is fully underway.  My sister and I along with 2 funny, amazing women are planning, plotting and saving our pennies to make it happen.  There will be a lot of laughing on this trip!!!I don’t know that I will be able to match the personal connection of Germany but I do know that I can’t wait to see what we discover.

Please Don't Wait


Marshall Cousins 2015


We all think there is time and most of the time we are lucky enough to be right.  However sometimes we are wrong.  We lost a dear member of our family this week very unexpectedly. When I got the call I was stunned, like had the breath knocked out of me stunned, like even though I understood the words I couldn’t make sense of what they meant.  The thing is when he went to bed the night before he had plans for the next day.  Just like all of us, work, family, stuff.  He had been lucky enough to have just spent the weekend celebrating a family birthday and had all his children home.  I still just can’t believe it. Gone too soon.  It hits me hard that this is what happens now to my generation.  The last of my parent’s generation passed away a year ago.  My cousins and I are all orphans now, we are too young to be the oldest ones – the grownups. (I know this is ridiculous because we range in age from 60’s to 40’s.

The picture above is from the last time we saw him.  We were at a family picnic and had a great day. My sister and I had just come back from Germany and had pictures and stories about our trip and the new-found relatives we met.  As usual he had a bunch of wise cracks and you could hear him laughing where ever you were that day. The last time – that has to be impossible. As the picture was being taken I am positive that I was thinking about how much I hate having my picture taken. Now I am thankful.

Last week I was so excited to get a package with pages of handwritten family stories.  As I have been reading through them, I am struck by the writer’s comments.  Many times throughout he says that he isn’t the best one to tell the stories, that other people in the family knew more history or he hoped the reader wasn’t bored with the stories.  If only he knew what a treasure he had left.  They are all I have of a whole branch of my tree that I never knew.  We are all guilty of thinking what we do isn’t good enough – but it is.  It is better than good enough. The fact that this relative of mine took the time to write down stories and that they were preserved for all these years is amazing.  I have a book that my Grandmother used to write down the people that sent her Christmas cards.  If she had any idea how many times I have pored over those lists looking for clues to relatives. A Christmas card list for goodness sake!

When my darling niece was in high school she would never hang up the phone or let any say goodbye without first saying “I Love You”  At first I thought it was kind of silly but as the years go by, I think it is pretty great.  She taught me the importance of just telling people  – so they know you love them. She has been out of high school for a little while now but we still always end our conversations with “I Love You”.  
So just don’t wait… tell people you love them and don’t apologize for it, write down any stories you have of the earlier generations and don’t apologize for it. Someone will hang on every word someday – trust me!

Kevin Kelly 1961-2016

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