Estella (Birney) Buell

When I was a child my grandmother told me that, Estella, the wife of her brother had been on Broadway. Also, according to my grandmother, she also knew Jeanette MacDonald and Sydney Greenstreet who were movie stars. I must admit when grandma told me that I didn’t really believe her. Then as I started digging into facts about Estella, I started to change my mind. I found many references to her in old newspapers on Fulton History, NY State Historic Newspapers and Chronicling America by the Library of Congress.

birney-estella-09Estella Birney was born 6 Aug. 1896 in New York City as the only child of James and Edith Birney. I know that she took ballet and voice lessons as a teenager as she is mentioned as being a ballet student. One newspaper article said that in 1914 she had a small part in the Broadway show “Sweethearts.” It appears that the show only lasted a short time.

As early as April 1915 she got a part in the musical play “Pirates of Pilsen.” That was a traveling show that was about a Cincinnati brewer. Estella played the young widow, Mrs. Crocker and got to sing and dance in the show. The show schedule was rough. They would be in a new city every day. From newspaper records I found that on 16 Nov 1916 they were in Plattsburgh, NY, the next day in Massena, NY, then in Watertown. They had Sunday off but the next four days the show was in Oswego, Fulton, Utica and then Johnstown. Frank T. Buell, my granduncle and Estella’s future husband was at first the advance (publicity) man for the show and later the show manager. Estella would be with the show until spring of 1917.

estella-1During the summer of 1916 and 1917 Frank was the publicity man at Luna Park which was one of the amusement parks at Coney Island. On 4 July 1916 Estella christened a captive balloon at the Park. She was also one of the first passengers in the balloon which would rise to as high as 2,200 feet and then be pulled back down by a rope. The picture from a magazine shows Estella in the center in a white dress and hat. Two people to the right, with his hair standing up, is Frank Buell.

Estella and Frank Buell married at her parent’s house in New York City on 25 June 1917. I didn’t find any references to Estella from that time until Dec. 1920 when she is at the Liberty Theater on Broadway. She is in the play “Lady Billy” which starred a then famous soprano Mitzi Hajos. That play was at the Theater until 21 May 1921. After that the show did a tour but I don’t think that Estella traveled with the show.My reason for believing that was that she and Frank had a son, Boyd, born 5 Dec. 1921 in New York City. Boyd only lived about a month and a half.

Estella would end up in the next play starring Mitzi Hajos that had try-outs in New England in April 1923. That show was titled “The Magic Ring” and it would come to the Lyceum Theatre in Rochester for six days the week before it opened at the Liberty Theater on Broadway on 1 Oct. 1923. After three months there in New York City, the play would tour around the US until at least summer 1925 and maybe in to 1926.

birney-estella-06Then a distant cousin would sent me a couple of interesting pictures. The picture at the opening of “The Magic Ring” at the Liberty Theater shows the primary female leads. Mitzi Hajos is on the left and Jeanette MacDonald on the right. Jeanette had started in the show in the chorus and was promoted to a solo for that show. I keep looking at that picture and I can’t decide which of the other ladies is Estella. Newspaper reviews of those days say that Estella was a great singer and actress.

buell-frank-13The other picture from the Broadway opening shows another star of “The Magic Ring.” On the left is Sydney Greenstreet. Then on the right is my granduncle, Frank Buell who was the show manager.

By summer 1926 Estella has retired from show business and is opening a vocal school in Perry, NY where the Buell family had a summer cottage. Estella would occasionally sing at local talent shows around Perry, NY over the next few years. She gave birth to Frank Birney Buell in November 1926 in the Bronx, NY.

Frank continued to tour as a manager of a variety show starring comedian Charles “Chic” Sale. I’m not sure what happened between Estella and Frank but in May 1938 she was granted a divorce in Reno, Nevada. Later that year she would marry Chester Stearns who owned a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. She and Chester would eventually retire to Florida. I don’t have an exact death datefor her  but I think she died in the mid 1960s in Florida.

So as it turned out, the stories my grandmother told about Estella were completely true. Plus I found a lot more information about her career than my grandmother ever knew.

I have lots of pictures of Estella from newspapers but most are of poor quality. Besides all newspapers that I got information from, there is also the Internet Broadway Database which lists plays that were on Broadway, dates and the cast members.

Indexing Event Results

WWIE-Infographic-Simple1Look at those statistics! Last weekend FamilySearch had a worldwide indexing event. They hoped to get 72,000 people to index records and went over by 61%. Ten million plus records were indexed by people from almost everywhere on the planet and in many languages. Another interesting statistic is that there were 10,348 indexers 17 and under. The best part about indexing for FamilySearch is that the indexed records will be available to everyone for free.

I indexed Massachusetts vital records. The sample showed handwritten records but I actual indexed pages from a printed book of vital records for the Town of Wrentham.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

mcgenweb-headerOn June 17th 1996 I created one web page that was the beginning of the GenWeb of Monroe Co., NY. The GenWeb project started about March 1996 in Kentucky when a few genealogist thought that it would be a great idea to have a separate website for each county in that state. It caught on fast to other states. I wasn’t the first to volunteer in NY State to have a GenWeb page. Someone sent me an email asking if I would do the website for Monroe County. I thought it over and decided that seeing as I had some sources for the county that I would do it. I already had some basic knowledge of how to make a web page so I had my first, and only, web page up the next day. I am fairly sure that was the first GenWeb page for any NY county

Originally the GenWeb site was on an internet service in Rochester called Vivanet. After a year a half they unexpectedly closed down so I quickly had to find another web provider. I ended up on Eznet which was also in Rochester. I kept adding web pages over time. I was starting to run out of space in 2000 on Eznet when RootsWeb started offering to host GenWeb sites for free. So on 18 Nov. 2000 I moved over to RootsWeb even though they had already been acquired by Ancestry.com. As part of the purchase, Ancestry agreed that RootsWeb would always be free and they still do offer RootsWeb for free. But after a year Ancestry started adding an advertising banner to all the RootsWeb pages. Then after another year they also added advertising at the bottoms of the web pages. So after much searching for internet providers I ended up with my own web domain (mcnygenealogy.com). That website that I maintain is on an internet service provider called Lunarpages. I have unlimited web space because it isn’t as active as commercial websites.

From a single web page 20 years ago, GenWeb of Monroe County has grown to over 700 web pages, 500 PDF files (books and brochures) and 2900 pictures. I haven’t hardly changed the home page in years. That is because very few people come through the homepage. Instead they find a name or reference to a page from an internet search and just visit that one page. Google finds anything new that I create in less than 2 weeks. Also, at Google’s urging, last year I fixed all the web pages so that they are mobile friendly. Without that fix all the pages would have had a very small font on your smart phone.

There are still are more things to come in the future. I have been working on an odd set of vital record since February. There are very tedious to transcribe so it has taken a lot of time. I am still scanning brochures, booklets and the occasional book.

Just for fun, if you want to see the skeleton of the GenWeb site from the past then you can see what I had on 6 June 1997. On that date the website was archived by Archive.org. At that time they did NOT save any graphics just the basic web page. In 1997 I was saving queries on web pages that I created by hand. Those queries later got moved over to RootsWeb. There are very few queries posted there any more. People seem to now put more queries on Facebook than on RootsWeb.

 

FamilySearch Indexing Event

fs-indexing-2016This weekend FamilySearch is having a 72 hour indexing event. They hope to have 72,000 people index records between July 15th and 17th. During those three days you can just index one set of records to be counted. I think once you find out how easy it is to index historical records then you will index many batches. There are all kinds of records that need to be indexed. There are obits, marriages, passenger records, naturalization records and others. If you can understand a foreign language then you can index records from other countries. If not, there are many records from the US to index. If fact, there are currently over 280 indexing projects worldwide.

You will have to download a small software app to get started. Visit this page for more information and to sign up.

Remember all the records you index will be available to others absolutely for free forever on FamilySearch.

Old News – New Bank

Fairport, NY gets a new bank 100 years ago. Fairport National Bank first rented space and then in 1924 they would build their own building at 36 South Main Street which is still a bank. The Fairport National Bank would only last until 1944 when it was acquired by Security Trust of Rochester.


THE FAIRORT HERALD

Thursday, July 12, 1916

FAIRPORT’S NEW BANK

The National is Now Open an Doing Business

ad-1916-07-12

Fairport’s new National bank opened its doors to the public Monday morning. The bank is located in the new Schummers building on West Avenue.

Frank E. Shepard, the president of the bank, and George G. Mulliner, the cashier, were on hand to receive and welcome the people who came in to the either to offer their facilitations or to do business with the bank. The banking hours began, as usual with all banks at 9 o’clock in the morning, but the doors were opened before that and depositors had already placed money to their credit when the official hour arrived.

With the opening of the bank the troubles of the men who have had to go out of town to do their banking ceased and the advantages of again having a local bank with which to do business will be greatly appreciated by not only the business men of the town, but by a great many other people in this vicinity who have been greatly inconvenienced by having to do without nearby banking facilities since the death of D. C. Becker and the subsequent closing of the Becker bank in March.

The bank starts with a capital of $50,000 and a surplus fund of $5,000. It is backed by men of unquestioned integrity and judgment, who know how to apply sound business principles, and the bank can not help but be an institution that will undoubtedly grow and be of much benefit to the town.

Top Songs of 1966 – #18

hankypankyThe next song to go to the top of the record charts in 1966 was “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. The song was written in 1963 by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops but their version went nowhere. The Shondells version was number one on the Cash Box record chart for the weeks of July 3 – 16. Then it was the top song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the weeks of July 10 – 23, 1966.

Tommy James formed formed a group in 1959, at age 12, called the Echoes, then changed the name of the group to Tom and the Tornadoes. In 1964 James renamed the band the Shondells because the name “sounded good.” In Feb. 1964 they recorded “Hanky Panky” but it was only released in the Midwest. The group disbanded in 1965. Then “Hanky Panky” started getting airplay in 1966 so Tommy had to form a new group of Shondells in order to do personal appearances. That second group of Shondells disbanded in 1970.

The only other number one song by the group was “Crimson and Clover” in 1968. “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Mony Mony” were in the top ten song lists in 1966 and 1967 respectively.

Tommy James still tours to small clubs and casinos. See his official website for tour dates, videos, t-shirts, etc.

1944 Occident Yearbook

occident-1944I uploaded the 1944 Occident yearbook that was for West School in Rochester. This was during World War II so there is a page of men from the class of 1943 and 1944 that have joined military service. There are pictures of 233 seniors. There re the usual pictures of activities but I thought the pictures of the band and orchestra were unusual in that didn’t have their instruments. Along with the other sports pictures is one of the tennis team with a future Kodak President, Walter Fallon. Then the girl’s swimming and bowling groups are really large.

Rochester Public Library has West High School yearbooks from 1906 to 1940 in their School Heritage Collection. I think that they didn’t scan any newer yearbooks because of copyright concerns.