Posts Tagged ‘genealogy’

Where was I? Oh, researching the Scots. Got a little side-tracked by the Germans, but discovered some exciting things about my family history through those little shaking leaves on Ancestry.com. Like how German I am.

I pulled up some military records for my 3rd Great Grandfather on my maternal side: Henry B. Rowe was a Private in the 18th Division, Wisconsin Infantry, during the Civil War (that’s on the North side for those of you not familiar with history).

Both 6th Great Grandfathers up the same maternal line were Privates in the American Revolution: Benjamin Reigel (or Riegel, there’s some discrepancy in spelling so it’s either pronounced with the long I (Reigel) or the long E (Riegel). Benjamin was a Private in the 1st Battalion, Northampton County Militia (Pennsylvannia). Peter Kern was Private 2C1 under Captain Arndt’s Company, 1st Battalion of Associators, Northampton (also PA).

Peter Kern is where I ran into trouble with those cute little fluttering leaves of hints. I could accept the data leaves with verifiable written history, but the “other ancestry trees” veered way off course. I had to back way the heck up.

Start with his wife, one Catharine (Catharina) Deshler, born 11 JAN 1746 and died 11 Hmmm… February of 1825 or November of 1815. Wait… She might have been born 11 JAN 1751. Oh, and her maiden name may have been Hoffert. What the…?

I’ll explain in a minute, after I tell you about Peter.

Peter Kern was born either 11 April 1741 or 23 July 1741. He may have been known as John Peter. He died either 31 May 1820 or 25 May 1820. And his surname may have been Daudistel.

I can’t accept those”hints” because I have no record tying them together. Someone did a lot of interesting research, but how did they tie those names (and dates) together? What records?

Or did someone do what I did ONCE (and one time, only) on Ancestry? Just blindly accepted a hint because the dates were similar and the names were “close enough” that maybe there was room for doubt?


Do NOT accept those hints. Back off. Find another way to verify this person is your ancestor. I now need to find the birth records, marriage records, death records – the actual verifiable bits of history to tie up the loose ends of the Kern/Deshler connections. The children are right and the siblings match, but where the heck did those alternate surnames come in?

UGH. I have a headache just thinking about untangling that web of misinformation.

On the other hand, I as able to follow the hints into the Rheinland down that same maternal line by veering into a paternal line. 6th great Grandfather Benjamin Riegel’s father, Matthias, immigrated from Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany during the early 1700’s. His spouse, Maria Margaetha (Unknown) immigrated around the same time from Rheinland-Palatine.

BINGO: family came out of the German Palatine immigration.My husband’s ancestors also immigrated from the same area around the same time (darn! We might be related outside of marriage – haha). I know another family line came out of the same area (too tired to look it up, but it was up a patriarchal line on my father’s side).

What is interesting to me is how much more connected I am to the Scots/Irish connections than to the German, although the German probably played a greater role in my DNA. Considering how religious the Palatine Germans were, when did that heritage drop off and the Irish/Scots Protestant kick in? (Pretty certain my German ancestors were Protestant, although many were Catholic).

I’m excited about the possibilities even though I feel I’ve reached a dead end up this particular family line as Ancestry has proven ambiguous. But never trust in a single source. I’ll just have to go old school on this line, so I am tabling it for now.

I did save documents about occupations (a lot of carpenters in there), military records, and how people died. Certain records are historic proof.

Oh-Oh-Oh! Rose became Rau the closer I got to Germany. Heinrich Rau was my fourth great grandfather, but the spelling of his surname quickly changed to Rowe, and his son, Johannes, became John. I can trace that and the names are similar enough to make that transition.

Common names often went through a period of misspellings: Presley/Priestly/Pressler/Pressley or Willcocks/Wilcox/Willcox. Johannes is the same as John in German. Rau to Rowe is a simple hop. Americanization. Assimilation. I even noted one stenographer who interpreted the hand-written “ROWE” signature to be “RONE” (I looked at the record. It’s clearly ROWE to me).

But Daudistel to Kern??? Or Deshler to Hoffert??? That’s not a simple leap. And the disparate birth/death dates are a huge red flag.  I’m backing way the heck off on that one until my brain quits hurting.

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“I know what I’ll do! I’ll put together that scrapbook of Mom’s memorabilia. She’s only been dead since 1995…”

I’ve been stuck in the Vortex for the past four days. First, there was the sorting out all the scrapbook materials between my mother, myself, my father, and my mother’s family (Great Grandma Melrose saved everything and her sister, Great-Great Aunt Gert was a prolific writer of letters to both my mother & grandmother). Mom was pretty good at collecting things herself, as am I.

As was my father, his mother, and his father’s mother. But I wasn’t dealing with Dad’s stuff just yet. Or mine.

I have scanned over 42 documents of varying size, from old letters to land deeds – anythng too fragile to take to a printing place and try to copy.  I use Scanbot, an App on my Smartphone. It allows me to scan multiple pages as .pdf files and will automatically send those to my Google Drive, inserting them in the folder I want. It does take a lot of time, but I’m not standing in a printing place, trying to unfold delicate documents and keep them from falling apart. Using Scanbot, I could take several photos, combine them, and save them. While they loaded to my Drive, I carefully put the documents into acid-free clear sleeves so they can be stored safely.

I also put together 98 pages of scrapbook – my mother’s clippings, saved poems, and loose memorabilia. I didn’t bother with the fancy scrapbooking they do nowadays: I scrapbook the old style, like my ancestors did. No special notes, just things of importance to my mother – and no judgment of what she saved. I’m talking about things she saved from the mid-1940’s until her death.

The land deeds were items Mom collected on various genealogical trips back to Wisconsin to trace her father’s family (Melrose). She also has copious notes she shared with a cousin & fellow genealogist who traced the family back into id-1500’s Scotland. That was no mean feat as the family preferred certain names: Philip Melrose would beget John Melrose who would beget Philip Melrose who would beget John… And often, one baby would die so they would reuse the baby’s name on the next son so there were two Philips in one family but only one who grew up to beget the next John (or two).

It gets further confusing because my Great-great-great Grandfather Philip Melrose married Euphemia Brown in Scotland before immigrating to the States. My Great Grandfather Philip Melrose married a Mary Brown, no relation to the afore-mentioned.

They often had very large families and often more than one marriage (I had to explain this to my husband who found that odd: the first spouse often died, so there was a remarriage and a blended family of half-siblings. My Great-great Aunt Gert (the letter writer) was the half sister of my Great Grandmother.

Genealogy is not just collecting the names of one’s ancestors, it is also about finding the stories. I’m fortunate to have a Family Bible handed down through the Melrose clan and the scrapbooks created by women – and men – who felt their history should be preserved. The collection of deeds and war records tells other stories. The letters, homey and warm for the most part, detail day-to-day events as well as the hobbies and interests of the people who make up my DNA pool.

Great-Grandmother’s brother, Newton Brown, surveyed much of Wyoming in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Great-great Aunt Gert had a U-Pick in Vancouver, Washington (and I am forever addicted to Boysenberries as opposed to any other variety of blackberries because she allowed me to just pick and feed my at little face). Great Grandmother saved every one of Dale’s letters, detailing his life in Oregon and subsequent death at Fort Lewis in 1917 (scarlet fever).


And that’s just my mother’s side of the family. That file cabinet in the photo above is the information I have on my father’s side of the family, dating back to the earliest ships to sail for the Colonies from Great Britain.

Oh, yeah, Mom’s side can be traced to the Mayflower as well. The Melroses were recent immigrants, coming here in 1860, just in time for the civil unrest to drive them to the wilds of Wisconsin (besides, the weather in North Carolina wasn’t fit for the Scots — so says a note that I scanned today). The first American John Melrose had to sign a document stating her would not choose sides in the war between the states.

I do need to sit down and work on the actual name-collecting part, where I fill in the blanks on a family tree that includes the names of half-siblings, second spouses, and distant cousins. But my brain is dead currently, and all I can do right now is bind everything up into scrapbooks and acid-free sleeves in a binder. I think I need a fire safe for the Wisconsin land deeds.

Mostly, I just want to get as much of this digitized as soon as possible.

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I made no headway in de-cluttering. Seriously, I have a hard time parting with things. But I did a heck of a job cleaning & organizing. I just wish it didn’t wear me out so much.



The loft is our library. I have never counted how many books we own and they’re only semi-organized into groups. There are more books downstairs and in my studio, and more in the boxes I packed at my father’s house in 2011 and left in storage.


There are more books in the left-hand corner of the photo (out of sight). I tried to group things so when I do have the time and energy, and that television is gone, I can sit down with a copy of the Dewey Decimal System and organize the books. No, I am not going to number the shelves, nor am I going to try to catalog what we own.


Yes, that is a cauldron full of rocks. No, I don’t know what I am going to do with those rocks. I hate to throw rocks out where the moss and mildew consume their natural beauty, know what I mean?

OK, so you don’t know what I mean. It’s just hard to part with rocks. I’ve pared it down to this bucket.


These are rocks, too, but at some point in time, a human being formed, chiseled, and used these rocks until they wore down to fit the hand that wielded them: grinding stones of different sizes and shapes and one coup stick. I try not to think of the heads the coup stick was used on.


Old pottery and insulators. We have a lot of old insulators. We do not have a lot of old pottery.

That bookcase seeds to be stripped and repainted. I’ve been hauling it around for more than 30 years, it has been painted 3 times and never stripped, and the paint is peeling. I tell you: I hate to part with anything practical, even if it is presently ugly.


Pewter. The pewter lid in the bottom of the photo is actually a can opener for canned milk. On the flip side, there are two sharp points for indenting the can of milk. The ornate lid at the top is an anomaly. I wish I had the entire pewter set. That lid is ornate and beautiful.

The ice bucket has been in my family for years. A legend is attached to the bottom of it: “Jaci, I don’t know how old this ice bucket is. It was around when I was a kid, pre-WW2. Dad.”


Ignore the horse. It’s a project. I need to get some galvanized tine & try to beat out new forelegs for it. I have one of the legs for a pattern. It is *not* an antique, anyway, but a replica. No, the treasure here is the trunk.


The trunk came from Scotland in the early 1880’s when John Melrose immigrated to the United States of America. He had to sign papers that he would not take sides in the American Civil War. The Melroses are hard to trace because Phillip begat John who begat Phillip who begat John who begat Phillip who…

In Scotland, Phillip was born. He married and in 1826, John was born. John came to America. He married and in 1861, Phillip was born. Phillip married and in 1901, John was born. John was my grandfather and he had no sons, only daughters.

This trunk was my mother’s treasure and she passed it on to me, along with all of her genealogy work.


I probably should take this down. It is hard to contemplate taking it down. The day is still raw in my memory. My son enlisted because of this day in history. This day in history is to my generation what December 7, 1941 was. The only difference between those days is that in 1941, the enemy not only declared himself, but took full credit. I’m not certain we will ever know who, exactly, was the enemy on 9/11/2001. But whoever the enemy was, a lot of heroes gave their lives on both dates. Some were soldiers and some were First Responders.

It may be awhile before I can take this down, fold it up, and retire it.


From left to right: Arwen, with newborn Javan. Above: Sylvia Cusick Wilcox with her two children, Mary & Jack, and a beloved family pet. Sylvia died within a year of this photo due to complications from the streptococcal bacteria. My dad believed – and I do, too – that she died of flesh-eating bacteria, the same as my little sister. Necrotizing faciitis. She died in Salt Lake City in 1930 and there are no longer any records.

The dog in the last photo was someone’s beloved pup. I found the photo at a Goodwill store. He looks a little like my childhood pet, Butchey, but I think this dog is purebred Cocker Spaniel. He meant something to someone because they had his photo enlarged and framed, and probably hung it on their wall until they passed away and someone from the younger generation didn’t know who the dog was.

So I bought the picture and I hang it on my wall because it reminds me that every generation has had at least one beloved pet that was worthy of a framed photo on a wall.

(That’s a candle holder right above the dog. Goes in a mine, most likely. The long, sharp end is hammered into the wall & the sconce is at the top. I have it hanging sideways to how it would be used.)


Godot approves of my new arrangement upstairs.


Zith is thinking about it. She’s not sure about being relegated to the inside of an antique school desk…


When the TV is moved out, I’ll be able to get better photos of the pump. It’s an old water pump for use with a large dredging system. It sat in the alley behind a girlfriend’s house for decades. When Don & I rented the house, we cleaned up the property. Don converted the pump into a Very Heavy Coffee Table. It takes two men to lift it and move it. That pump is all cast iron.

You wouldn’t believe the offers we’ve had on that monstrosity.


The entry to my studio now looks pretty and clean.


THIS is next weekend’s project: dealing with the clutter in the rest of the loft. I wasn’t up to this mess this weekend. This is going to require storage boxes and serious decluttering. Wish me luck.

(No animals were harmed in the collection of those antlers. They are all shed antlers).

The End. Or: The End until I bring the rest of the books home and I sit down and organize the books. That’s a scary thought.

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