Genealogy and Pizza, Searching Roots in Brooklyn


A few months back my Aunt was scouring and up popped a cemetery match for my 3rd great grandmother, Charlotte Ruttel Schellenberger, 2 of her children, and a child of her married daughter.  All circumstantial, but it opened the door to allow for me to order a death certificate and verify it was indeed our Charlotte.  Long story short it’s led to more records that have helped me locate the town, and birth dates of the Charlotte’s son-in-law and his parents.  I then discovered a match on of German records that are indexed; the town, birth dates, parent’s names, and sibling names are spot on so I’ve decided to invest the time to order the films and start going through those records.  My Aunt however is more interested in the family of our Charlotte’s husband and I’ve found a likely match on the index as well, the town is correct, approx birth is there too, the problem is I’d feel a little better if I could find a document such as his death certificate that tied things a little neater.   Since I don’t know exactly when or where his death occurred, I thought I’d take a chance and see if he was buried near his wife.  The burial ground where Charlotte was interred is Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Kings County New York.  I viewed the “Green-Wood A National Historic Landmark”, and was surprised to see that it was a National Historic Landmark, as well as a very active cultural center. It may seem odd that a cemetery would be used for entertainment, but during the era in which it was designed such places were planned to be destinations for travel, family outings as well as final resting places.

There is a partial on-line database of burials, I recorded the plots for my family and made my plans.  I’m not a big fan of driving in cities, so I convinced my husband and history major son to accompany me on my quest.  My husband I am sure would have been happier to spend the day watching football, and my son made it clear he is interested in “historical events”, not people (forgive him he is 18).  However with a little ingenuity I came up with a bit of bait, pizza.  Whenever we travel my husband and son like to visit restaurants from some of their favorite food network shows, so I suggested we could try one of the pizza places they have wanted to go to in Brooklyn.  A plan was in place we would visit Green-Wood, followed by a trek to L & B Spumoni Gardens for pizza and spumoni.

We entered Green-Wood via the large gothic gate at the main entrance.   Once past the guard office we pulled over, it is there you can join a guided trolley tour, or purchase a map.  Right across from the guard in the main gates is an alcove with a computer inside. If there is a specific grave you would like to locate the program will print out a map directly to the area.  There are many famous “residents, and memorials which are works of art.  The most interesting tomb I observed had a giant bear lying across the top of the monument.  Infamous residents such as William Poole, Boss Tweed can be found in the cemetery, as well as notables such as Louis Comfort Tiffany.  There are plenty of humble folk such as my ancestor there as well.  It’s worth the visit to see some of the interesting pieces of art, and the natural setting.  I didn’t see them but there is also a community of wild parakeets living at Green-Wood.  Birds, history and art there is a little something for everyone there.

Unfortunately Charlotte’s grave was alone probably passing right before my German ancestors moved to New Jersey.  Ironically it was also about that time my husband ‘s Italian family set up their home in Brooklyn.  My family history portion of the jaunt was over, and my companions’ thoughts turned to food.

The distance to the pizzeria was approximately 5 miles it was interesting to see the different neighborhoods.  First we came upon a predominately Jewish area.  It was a beautiful day and families were out with their strollers and children enjoying the summer-like weather.  Slowly this section gave way to a more industrial neighborhood, reminding us we were indeed in a city.  A slight turn and we were back into a different residential area.  This time there were row houses with neatly manicured yards, and small gardens.   A house with “Il Tricolore “ waving proudly next to an American flag, and my husband announced, “we are in the Italian part of town we must be getting close”.  My husband’s family was one of my first projects.  I knew that his ancestors came from Sicily and spent a few years in Brooklyn.  It seems many from their little town of Santa Ninfa resided in the same area of New York when they first arrived to the United States.  Some ventured to the wilds of New Jersey, and most stayed in place.  While there is always exceptions the vast majority of my husband’s ancestors rarely moved once settled.  His surname is fairly uncommon, but a quick search via the white pages at shows 100+ listings in Brooklyn.  My son was fascinated and we talked about my husband’s family a bit until we came to the restaurant.  It reminded me that my children were very young when I created a little book for my husband’s family and perhaps it was time to reprint a couple of copies for them.

Brooklyn Pizza

Finally we arrived at what my men consider the point of the entire trip, L & B Spumoni gardens at 2725 86th St,  The specialties there are Sicilian style pizza and spumoni, and both were quite good.  I’m not usually a fan of Sicilian slices but this was extremely light, and quite delicious.  I opted for pistachio spumoni, and it was fantastic!  While I must admit that I was a bit disappointed to have not made much progress on my family tree that day, the trip to the Italian neighborhood really was fun.  It was nice to spend some time with my grown son, and husband and talk about his family, and culture.

The day was fading and it was time to head back to New Jersey.  We departed via the Verrazano Bridge, which brought us along Coney Island and the long stretch of the New York Bay.  I’ve always been fascinated by Brooklyn, it’s my favorite part of New York.  It seems that the past and present residents have created an area with personality galore evident by the sign right before you get on the exit ramp..”Leaving Brooklyn Fuggedaboutit”.


If you do have ancestors in Brooklyn there are some very useful sites, and I would start with:


1. “Genealogy, Family Trees and Family History Records online –”, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.

2.” Family History and Genealogy Records.” Family Search. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.

3. “Green-Wood main page.” Green-Wood A National Historic     Landmark. Green-Wood Cemetery, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.

4. “White Pages – Find People for Free.” MSN White Pages. Whitepages Services, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.

5. “L & B Spumoni Gardens.” Spumoni Gardens. Spumoni Gardens. Corp, 2010. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.

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