Black Cat Appreciation Day?!

How did I miss this?

Okay, the truth is, I didn’t miss it. August 17th is Black Cat Appreciation Day, and like practically all other news and current events, I learned about it on Twitter.

Nonetheless, as the person claimed by one exceedingly lovely 15-year-old black cat, I am somewhat flummoxed and embarrassed that I didn’t know about this in advance. However, I did manage to squeeze a few snaps into today’s timeline…

More kitty blogs!

There’s a “scratching posts” joke here, I think, but I’m not going to make it…

What’s this really about, Brandy?

Well, I planned to write a follow-up to my Elizabeth Krauss post with a piece about her father, John Krauss, but it didn’t quite come together… and here we are. Although the occasional cat pic is part of my brand promise. »^¤^«

However, I do have something important, too. If you don’t subscribe to my novel news alerts (separate from the blog!), then take a peek at my latest message. I’ve got lots of fun news to share, and I don’t want you to miss it–especially the part about the Goodreads giveaway! (There’s still time! Winners to be drawn on Monday!)

Your Turn!

Tell me about your silly pet celebrations! Do you feed your kitty canned food on Christmas? Take your dog for a ride in the car on his birthday? Post pet pics on Twitter “holidays”? Leave a comment!

Workday Wednesday: Elizabeth Krauss Loop, “Gemm Examiner”?

Even as one of the first direct-line ancestors handed to me in copies of old clippings when I took an interest in genealogy, my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Krauss Loop has become something of an enigma in my family tree.

Workday Wednesday: Elizabeth Krauss Loop

Photo credit: © Sinelnikov |

Partly true family stories

The first interesting fact I learned about Elizabeth Krauss was that she was a twin. However, once I started digging, that “fact” turned out to be false. In actuality, the twins were her brother and sister, Charles and Louisa, born in October 1891.

That’s a simple enough misunderstanding, especially considering the second thing I knew about her: she was deaf. However, I don’t know if she was completely or just mostly deaf, and I don’t know if she was always deaf, or became so later in life. The 1910 census asks whether a person is “deaf and dumb,” but the space is not marked on Elizabeth’s entry.

Just the facts?

Family stories describe her no-good husband. Newspaper accounts make it all too clear that she was a battered woman. She raised three children, Evelyn, Mildred, and Richard, and lost three babies, Milo, Ernest, and Annabel.

I knew all this when I discovered something I did not know.

At age 17, Elizabeth had a job.

Workin’ girl–but doing what?

I learned this fascinating fact from the 1905 New York State census. The tight, left-slanting penmanship of the enumerator is difficult to read, and making out Elizabeth’s occupation proved a challenge. It looked like “Gemm examiner,” whatever that meant.

A search for a gem factory in Hornellsville history came up blank, so I returned to the record to see if looking at other entries could help me decipher the difficult handwriting.

I found two other young ladies on the same page who were “Gemm makers” and one young man who was a “Gemm cuter.”

Realizing that at the time, a man might keep his job until he retired and a woman would be more likely to leave her job when she married, I decided to see if I could find that “Gemm cuter” in later records, and that is how I solved this mystery.

Fredrick Phillipson appears in the 1915 NYS census where I first found him listed as as “cutter (silk mill).” In the 1910 Federal Census, his occupation is “Glove Cutter” at the “Glove Factory.”


Mystery solved

Returning to Elizabeth, I could totally see “Glove examiner,” written there once I knew what I was looking at. The Merrill Fabric Glove Company manufactured silk gloves and mitts. It makes sense that young ladies in 1905 would be employed there.

“Over 400 persons are employed in the Merrill glove factory at Hornellsville.”
-from The Whitesville News, March 3, 1904. See a historic postcard picture of the factory here.

Knowing that Elizabeth had a hard life, it’s a little pleasing and a little sad to think of her at seventeen, working and earning her own money, the whole world in the palm of her silk-gloved hand.

Fun stuff!

I have not one but TWO fun interviews to share with you! First, I’m visiting Jodie Wolfe’s blog today! Check it out here.

Also–exciting news–I’m on the cover of Book Fun Magazine! Award-winning author Susan May Warren interviewed me for this month’s issue. Read it and the rest of the issue here.

One more thing if you haven’t already heard, I have a Goodreads giveaway on this month! Enter for a chance to win one of five signed copies of Whispers in the Branches. (Note: This giveaway has ended!)

Whispers in the Branches by Brandy Heineman

(Sweepstakes. No purchase required; US residents only; void where prohibited. See official rules when entering.)

Your Turn

Do you have family stories that turned out to be only partly true?

Deserts and Storms

The Intertestamentary Desert of the Soul

August. The desert month of summer. There are seven months with thirty-one days, so why does this one seem like the longest? Long hot days. No special holidays or celebrations (at least, not in the USA). August feels to me like the intertestament time in the Bible. A long time between the last great thing and the next great thing.

I feel like I’m in a mini-intertestament period in my life, actually. Because of my faith, I know God is not far off — He’s a very present help in time of need — but if I were to rely on my feelings alone, I’d be in trouble, because lately it feels like God is distant.

It’s not unusual to feel this way, and it’s not unholy to talk about it or even to ask why. Jesus on the cross asked, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” And King David wrote about this feeling often in the Psalms. We have a green-light to ask God, in all seriousness, “Lord, why do You seem so far away?” and humbly wait for His answer. Psalm 13 is one such prayer, which is good to know when the words won’t even come.

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

I think one of the most beautiful features of this psalm is in the last two verses, where it places praise before outcomes. The very heart and definition of faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

Seasons change in their time, and God is not far. We can ask our questions, and expect His answer.

Sometimes the answer is a deluge.

Originally, that was the end of this entry, but the landscape changed between the time I started writing this and now that it’s time to schedule the post. I had an inkling that it would, when a recent post by Nicole Seitz (here) and another by Rachel Hauck (here) plucked my heartstrings the way they did. Like that feeling that tells you to remember your umbrella, a gentle sense of warning stirred in my soul at the words, “Be ready.”

The forecast was true.

A death in my husband’s family. A dire hospitalization in mine. A friend suffering a loss that makes my soul ache–though surely not a tenth of what she must be feeling.

Along with people I love, I am heartbroken. And being heartbroken means there are promises for us. For me.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
-Psalm 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
-Psalm 147:3

My God–the God who felt distant, though He wasn’t, when I wrote the paragraphs above–is very present. He’s given peace; He’s dealt bountifully with me. He’s fitted together disparate pieces into a picture that I know He means for me to see, one that might almost have a note on the back. Saw this & thought of you.

It’s kind of like this.

Two weeks ago, I helped with a yard sale and got a terrible sunburn in the process. I didn’t wear sunscreen because I didn’t think I’d be in the sun that much. We would set up and then hang out in the garage in front of the fans. But I didn’t account for the 45 minute drive both ways. I burned. It hurt. A lot.

When I went back for day two of the yard sale, I took measures to keep it from getting worse–my hubby’s heavy-duty sunblock, a little cardigan to cover my arms if I had to go out of the shade, and because that was unbearable, a cute-kitten umbrella that provided much-needed shade and allowed me to unleash my inner girlie-girl.

It was so hot. Ninety-plus degrees, as it has been for too many days in a row. I love the south, but this… this was hot.

Afternoon came, and with it, one of those sudden thunderstorms that are as much a part of a Georgia summer as the heat. All of us helping with the yard sale raced around to move things inside and cover the rest with tarps. We got it all done just in the nick–honestly, the sky opened up right then.

It poured. And everyone stood in the garage, looking forlorn.

But I’d been uncomfortable all day, and I couldn’t help myself. I took my umbrella and danced around in the sweet, cooling rain. I shouted for them out of a crazy spilling-over of joy. “It feels glorious out here!”

The storm came, but you know… for those twenty minutes or so, the rain that ruined our yard sale was nonetheless a relief.

Thanks for reading. You are a blessing to me.

Author Q&A today on Story Matters!

I’m pleased to be featured on Story Matters today, talking faith, genealogy and my debut novel with author and book reviewer Katherine Scott Jones. I enjoyed answering her thoughtful questions so much. Hop over and take a peek!

And by the way—if you haven’t picked up your copy of Whispers in the Branches yet, you’ll want to check out my Goodreads giveaway, too!

(Sweepstakes. No purchase required; US residents only; void where prohibited. See official rules when entering. Note: This giveaway has ended!)

Whispers in the Branches, and Kitty

I don’t have teenagers to embarrass, so I made my cat pose with my book. Smile, Kitty

DIAGNOSED: Clues connect to explain John H. Heinemann’s limp

(Or, How a Find My Past Free Trial Weekend Rocked My Research, pt. 4)

Glad you’ve been enjoying this series! Last time, I wrote about a bevy of undiscovered details in a mostly-solved mystery. This time, I want to talk about an overlooked figure in Orilla and Edward’s story–John Heinemann, one half of the couple who adopted their baby.

I don’t know what compelled John to give his name to a child at the age of 78, but I’ve long admired his choice. What else could I learn about this interesting man?

A brand-new detail connects to existing evidence and launches a new search.

Details about my grandfather’s adoptive father, John H. Heinemann, are sparse compared to his more famous brother (Nicholas W. Heinemann of the Heinemann Chemical Company). In particular, I’d long desired to find a record or clipping giving the exact date and location of his 1905 marriage to Clara Jane Wertz. So far, no joy.

But if you guessed that I saw another newspaper I thought worth checking, you guessed right. Since the Wertz family had established ties to Olean NY by then, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look for Clara and John in the Olean Democrat.

I still didn’t hear wedding bells, but I did find two very interesting mentions:


“Heineman, the proprietor of the Exchange hotel, is confined to the house with rheumatism. This is the third attack Mr. Heineman has had this winter.” -March 5, 1891, Olean Democrat

—and this—

“John Heineman who has been confined to his room by rheumatism for some time is now able to be out with the aid of a crutch.” -April 27, 1894, Olean Democrat

In spite of my sensational title, I’m not actually 100% sure this is “our” John. But if it is, these details connect unexpectedly with not one but two of our family photographs of him—one in which he’s using a cane, and another in which a crutch can be seen lying in the yard in the foreground.

If I can confirm this, what an interesting chapter it will add to John H. Heinemann’s story. The search is on for records surrounding the purchase and sale of the Exchange hotel in Cattaraugus county.

All this in a weekend!

I can hardly believe I found so many discoveries and clues in a single weekend. I had walls I couldn’t scale in my family tree research. One weekend of free access to Find My Past and marathon-searching opened doors that I didn’t know existed in the middle of those walls.

In summary, diving into new, unfamiliar resources can be the best thing for a line that seems stalled or a problem that seems unsolvable. Keep at it, thanks for reading, and good hunting to you!

Like any puzzle, you just have to put the pieces together...

(Photo: © Okea |

Disclosure: I’m not an affiliate of Find My Past—and actually, I haven’t even bought a paid subscription, although I’m very likely to do so at some point in the future.