28 December 2011

Wedding Wednesday - Wagner-Hensgen 1836 Bliesbrucken Sarreguemines France

This is an official copy (1844) of the original marriage certificate of Jean Frederick WAGNER and Ann Eve HENSGEN. They were married in a civil service on  February 4, 1836 in the city of Bliesbrucken, Sarreguemines, France. Jean Frederick was 30 and his new wife 28.

The documents are 'wrinkled' because at some point in time they were covered in cellophane, most likely in an effort to protect them. Unfortunately, the cellophane contracts and expands with temperature changes and has caused the documents to crinkle. 

Jean Frederick and Ann Eve are my 3rd great grandparents. I have, since I was a young adult, had a love affair with all things French, and consider myself a Francophile. This explains so much!

(Original documents courtesy of Nancy Wersel Rybolt).

26 December 2011

Motivation Monday - Synchronicity What?

Timing is everything, isn’t it? I’ve always enjoyed those stories and movies where they suppose what happens when we make a split-second decision: one side goes off to one life and the other towards another, completely different, life. There’s a part of me that believes that happens; that timing, synchronicity, plays a role in my everyday life.

The greatest example I have of that has been my decision to return to my genealogical research, having stopped almost 7 years ago because of a career change. I went from being a very, very busy professional to a college student (I went school full time to earn my BA in Art History) and even that path was strange and circuitous. In the end, two months before I graduated, I had secured a new job as a Consulting Archivist. I was very excited to be starting a career that incorporated some of my greatest assets: my attention to detail, organizational and assessment skills, my love of history, as well as my need to work hands-on.

At first I was so busy learning my new vocation that I really didn’t have time for personal genealogical research. Being a Consulting Archivist means having the ability to very quickly learn a collection; usually there’s a slightly lower learning curve, but knowing what’s in a collection is critical to having the ability to make it accessible. Plus, I was working at two or three places at once, so I had to be able to quickly shift gears from one knowledge base to another.

One collection though had my heart from the beginning, and in hind sight I now can acknowledge why: the collection was ripe for genealogical research. It was full of thousands, yes thousands, of records of individual people. From the start, I tried to bring those people back to life through the records in order to make the collection more interesting to those who were making the decisions about its future. Sadly in the end, after five years, the economy was such that my services were no longer required and I was let go.

Losing that client would’ve been a much bigger blow had I not already started working at the small Historical Society Collection I’m at now. It’s an incredible collection of late 19th century material from a vibrant, rural town about 45 miles west of Chicago. The initial processing took more than a year, since I’m only there two days a week, but from the beginning I recognized the importance of incorporating a genealogical infrastructure into the collection. It’s paid off in more ways than one as the research requests have almost always been for individual people and how they fit into the fabric of the town.

What the heck does that have to do with my own genealogical research? Well, it’s the synchronicity thing. I started my research in late 1996, when Family Tree Maker, RootsWeb and GenWeb were in their infancy, so most records were still not available online. I knew how to research, but only knew one foreign language, had no knowledge about preservation and/or conservation of materials, no understanding of how to organize and/or arrange material and a limited appreciation for any or all of those skills. When I started working at my Historical Society client, I had to look at what genealogical resources are now available, what software has been created, what technology can be used, etc. I had to look at it with fresh eyes and different perspective: new timing.

As I sat at a table in early December, looking at original documents in French, German, Dutch, and Portuguese from the early 19th century that MY ancestors had signed, touched, carried and lovingly saved, I was struck by the fact that I would NOT have been able to understand them or how to handle them or how to stabilize and protect them only five short years ago. They really would’ve been meaningless to me, as they currently were to my Cousin who has them in her possession. I laughed when her husband told me it would take me at least a year to go through the shopping bag full of material they’d brought and that I wouldn't be able to read most of them because they were in all kinds of different languages. Their admiration for my ability to get it all organized, scanned, stabilized and identified in several hours was great, but for me it was the triumph of FINALLY getting access to documents I knew existed years before and now was able to hold in my hands.

I’m still reviewing each document, some of which I’ve had to put into Photoshop to enhance, to glean as much information from as I can. That process made me take a long hard look at my own material I’d already processed, and I’ve “found” more information on pages I’ve had in my possession for 15+ years. I’ve had Family Group Sheets someone sent me in late 1996 that are fully sourced and cited (an interestingly debated subject of late) for which I had no appreciation when I received them, short of the names and dates I was able to put into my database. What a shame that I wasn’t able to understand the importance of that SOURCED information and the time and effort it took to obtain it.

My point here is: Timing is everything. What you can’t find today may be sitting on a piece of paper you shuffled to the side five years ago because there just wasn’t anything on it you could use. Because at the time there wasn’t. Those pictures you pushed to the side, because you didn't know who the people were in them, may have scribbles on the back that were meaningless two years ago but now are clues to a line you started to research last week. Have a look at some of that ‘stuff’ you’ve got stashed away, and let me know if you ‘find’ anything new. Because timing is everything.

24 December 2011

Happy Holidays Everyone

May everyone celebrating a holiday at this time of year enjoy the special moments presented to you.

My holiday wish is that you all have full hearts. Things, things come and go. But a full heart is something rare and beautiful and a blessing beyond imagination. Peace.

22 December 2011

Thankful Thursday - Genealogy as a Community

Much has been said in the last week or so about Genealogy as a Profession and genealogy as a hobby. Having performed genealogical research over the last 15 plus years, I believe I currently fall in the latter category, until the time I have some sort of professional certification to verify my level of expertise. (That's all I'll say about that for now.) I will say, though, I have been a Professional in two other industries: the Financial industry and Archival Sciences (my current profession). These very divergent industries actually have a thread that ties them together: Research. In both industries, solid research and the ability to glean seemingly unrelated information into usable form are the cornerstones of solid professional work. A lot rides on the abilities of the person doing the research to locate information, arrange that information into a usable format, describe it for both professional, and sometime non-professional, audiences and make that information accessible. 

This is also what we do in the Genealogical industry. What sets the Genealogical industry apart is it's HEART. I know no other professional community that supports its members in such a manner. It makes no difference whether you are off-line or on-line; people in the genealogical community truly CARE about each other. It is that genuine care and concern that creates the conduit through which so much information passes. 

Today, I am thankful for the generosity of Denise Crawford, who lives in Ohio. I do not know Denise, other than her email address. Why am I mentioning her? Denise's name came up on a website for look ups for an obscure book of cemetery headstone inscriptions in a tiny cemetery in Ohio. Her simple email to me this morning was the greatest gift I've received in a very long time. Here's the excerpt from the email:

“I am happy to help - 
pg. 227
Bloomfield Cemetery, South Bloomfield Twp
Stone fence enclosure
John Richards, 1784 - 1847
Mary Richards,  1785 – 1855”

I’ve looked for this tiny bit of information for more than 10 years. That's not the best part. THIS is the part that proves to me our genealogical heart beats as one:

“Knox County, Ohio Will Abstracts 1808-1877, vol. 1
John Richards,  date: 23 Aug 1847,  Box: 18  File:278,  Bk:B pg.281-282
brothers widow Mary, two nephews Edmund & Abner Richards
*you can request a copy of this will and the information listed below from the Knox County Probate court.

Ohio Wills and Estates to 1850: An Index
John Richard, W-1847,  KN, wbB p281; cpmb0  p615
 KN = Knox County
W = will
wb = will book, will record
cpmb - Common Pleas Court Minute Book
p = page

Merry Christmas, hope this is what you needed.”

What I needed? Seriously?!! Denise took a few extra minutes and found for me something I would have had to go to Ohio to find. This 'extra' minute on her part provided for me a key to a document I've searched for a very long time. And I have no doubt she provided this information because she knows how fickle research can be. You think you found the right thing, and it turns out to be wrong. Or it's right, but not what you expected. 

I know Denise is not alone. There are hundreds of Denises out there, corresponding with strangers asking for help. Heck, even I went to a cemetery to take pictures of headstones for someone I didn't know (at the time) because I knew if the shoe was on the other foot that I would appreciate the time and effort it took to do that. 

So, today, I have immense gratitude that I have been re-introduced to the Genealogical community. Genealogy is not just a Profession, or an Industry. It is the definition of community, "a social group...that shares historic heritage." But we are more than just a community, we are a family. Like any family, we may have our disagreements, but in the long run, we love and admire one another for our differences and likenesses and share the joy of discovering our human history. Together.

20 December 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Some are just too cool not to share

This monument is in the same cemetery as my Wersel/Burch family - The Maineville Cemetery in Maineville, OH. We wandered around because I saw headstones that appeared to be older, and indeed, many around this stone date to the 1830s. I was fascinated by the uniqueness of the headstones nearby; many of them had interesting inscriptions:

If you're ever near Maineville, I recommend a stroll through this very interesting cemetery.

19 December 2011

Mappy Monday - Hidden in Plain Sight

One of the wonderful documents I was able to see while visiting my cousins, the Strubbe's, last weekend was a map of Cincinnati that Kim proudly owns. I don't know if she knows when it was published, and when I looked at it, it didn't seem to have a date anywhere. However, based on a few facts, I'd date it to the 1820 - 1830s:

She had made photocopies of the map, and although I got a decent digital picture of it (above), I took the copy as well.

As I was on about my 14th hour of research and data entry last night, I wanted to verify a location, so I grabbed the map to take a look. I suddenly remembered that Kim had mentioned something to me about a family name being labeled on the map. As I turned it around in my hand, I saw it:

Just below the word 'Pearl' is the name Burrows. For years I've wondered where my Burrows settled and/or worked in Cincinnati. Of course, the digital age has truly uncovered so many wonderful resources; having only just gotten to Cincinnati for the first time in my adult life this last weekend, my research had often been stymied by lack of access to original documents. 

Naturally, the name 'Burrows' is very common; it could be anyone! A quick check on Ancestry.com though, and I located this 1834 Cincinnati City Directory listing: 

Stephen, and his son Theodore, are listed on Second Street. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's great to have another piece to add to our remarkable puzzle. Stephen Burrows is the son of my DAR Patriot, Waters Burrows. Stephen left the east coast along with his sister, the year their father died (1815), for the west. Cincinnati is where they settled, and my family has been there now, for nearly 200 years. 

12 December 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Mystery of Maineville Solved

While I was visiting my 2nd cousin, Bill Strubbe, in Cincinnati last weekend, he asked me if I could tell him why our great grandfather, Henry Wersel, was buried in the Maineville Cemetery in Maineville, Ohio. He'd been curious as to why our Henry and his family would be buried nearly 26 miles outside of Cincinnati, while the rest of the Wersel family is all buried in cemeteries in Cincinnati.

Bill's wife Kim is the family genealogist, though Bill shares an enthusiastic passion of learning about our family. The three of us drove out, on a gloriously sunny winter day, to explore the Maineville Cemetery and see if I could glean any clues from the experience.

This is our family plot: 

As you can see, the large stone says, "Burch" and there are four headstones for Burch family members. On the opposite side of that stone, is "Wersel" and there are eight family members buried there, including Henry:

Without having my database available, I wasn't able to make sense of the connection between the two families at first. However, when I got back to Bill & Kim's and started looking at the pictures, this is the one that peaked my curiosity:

As I looked at it, I had one of those wonderful "AHA!!" moments. Charles Wesley Richards was the younger brother of Virginia (Richards) Burch and Laura (Richards) Wersel! 

Virginia Richards had married Wallace Burch, a businessman who had grown up in Maineville. Their son, Richards (note it's spelled with the family 's'), died when he was only 19:

I suspect that the Wallace Burch purchased the lot at the time of his death, thus creating the space for his wife's family.

Bill was so excited when I told him my theory. As I left on Sunday, the last thing he said to me was, "...and thanks for solving the mystery of Maineville!!"

Amanuensis Monday - Wersel Military Recommendation 1825

Tweede Fusiliers KOMPAGNIE.

De Kommandant der 1 Fusiliers Kompanie, van het 1 Bataillon der Dienstdoende Schutterij van UTRECHT.

Stelt bij deze aan, onder goedkeumg van den Kommanderenden Officier van het Regiment, (overeenkomsitg Art. 42. Der Wet op de Schutterijen,) tot Korporaal bij gemelie Kompanie den Fusilier

Nicolaas Jan François Wersel.

Lastende en bevelende alle en een ieelijk, die het aangaat, den voornoemden Persoon, in voorschrevene kwaliteit te rkennen, en te respecteeren.

UTRECHT den 31 JanĂșary 1825
(Signature) Kapt
De Kommanderende Officier
Van het Regiment

28 November 2011

Mystery Monday - Where'd You Come From?

It seems that the more I look at my mom's line, the more holes I find. Or, rather, in one particular line: RICHARDS. Randolph Richards is my 'one guy'; the one I've only found meager records on and can't verify. Through Mr. Richards, my family opens into a rich array of families with names such as PENN, SARGENT and TAYLOR. But until I can prove him to his parents, he's my brick wall.

So I thought it would be a good idea to look at his children to see if I could glean anything from their records. Having started this so many years ago, I'm trying to be very careful about what information I enter into my new database: if it doesn't have a primary document, it stays blank. What I found while comparing my two databases is that I don't have a birth record for my namesake, Laura Louise Richards. Huh.

So, I did a quick search through Ancestry.com (yes, I'm a convert) and then through Heritage Quest. I like to compare the two, because I've found several instances where a record's been indexed on one and not the other, or vice versa. In the 1880 Census, Laura is the 17 year old daughter of Randolph and Laura Richards working at the telephone office. She's reported as being born in Wisconsin, c. 1864. In the 1900 Census, she's Laura Richards Wersel, living with her husband Henry (they were married in 1890) and their children. Oddly, she's reported as being born in Michigan. Was this a mistake? In 1910, she's once again reported as being born in Wisconsin. 

I have to presume that her mother provided the information to the enumerator in 1880, and that she did it herself in 1900 and 1910, although it is a presumption. After a second look, the 1880 Census showed Laura's younger brother Randolph was also born in Wisconsin c. 1866 although the youngest of them, Charles was born in Cincinnati in 1868. Why were Laura and Randolph born in Wisconsin? Where did the Richards' live while they were there? I suspect they moved temporarily to safer territory during the Civil War, and may have stayed into 1866 since Laura was pregnant, but Randolph was a merchant with a good business. To leave it for that length of time seems a bit strange.

The challenge is that the State of Wisconsin did not require registration of births prior to 1907. According to the State website, less than 50% of events were documented. So, I would have to drive up to Madison, Wisconsin to Wisconsin State Archives to find out whether or not the births of Laura and her brother Randolph were registered. Road trip anyone?

21 November 2011

Amanuensis Monday - '...very cute, good looking machine...'

Sept 19, 1923

Dearest Frances:

We did enjoy your letter of the 15th so much - That darling baby she must take an awful lot of watching and care - but as she is a baby only once, one might as well take the time and enjoy her while she is a baby - I would not worry about doing the other things, because they can wait, and she is needing all the attention now

What size do you buy her dresses - perhaps I can see some bargains here, if I know her size - I surely would not make her dresses when you can get them for such prices - just think of the work you save in your sewing - it fairly gives me a spasm to think of her standing up in her high chair - she is so quick -

Be careful how you carry her so much - I am afraid you will hurt yourself - it will not be long before she can walk and that will help you when you take her shopping - you surely canned a lot of pickles & tomatoes - I have not canned much this summer - Nell has not been at all well and the doctor says she is a very much rundown condition - I feel very much worried about her - she has not been well since last spring -

She bought the goods for the baby's winter gowns and I am going to make them soon - 

I am so glad you bought such a lovely davenport - and hope it has been sent out to you before this time - 

Father Wersel would enjoy the Radio concert very much I am sure - they had quite a programme at the Grand Hotel last evening - 

Roger is out in Southern Indiana in his machine - Horace takes Mary out in his, every evening they ride all the time - he has a very cute, good looking machine - he paid $18 $5 down (I think) and $35 per month - 

All send love to Victor dear - Virginia and your own self - take good care of your health and keep well and happy - 



Letter from Laura Louise Richards Wersel to Frances Jeffrey Wersel regarding Virginia Wersel Ill, Frances and Victor Wersel's first child. Mailed from 3714 Woodland Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio to 1319 Kenilworth Avenue, Chicago, Illinois on September 19, 1923.

13 November 2011

Sentimental Sunday - A Soldier's Untold Stories

March 1968 "Tet" - Vinh Binh Province

Vietnam. For most American's under 40, this is a benign word. But for the rest of us, it conjures memories of political unrest, the loss of countless young men both physically and in spirit. What a turbulent time in our country's history.

I can remember when the Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm) was over in 1991, as the soldiers were returning, a large number of Vietnam veterans were finally starting to get their due. The realization that we had stigmatized them as they returned from their war needed to be rectified, and it seemed only fitting to bring them back into the fold by including them in the celebrations.

But for so many Vietnam veterans, it was nearly too late. Years of health problems, both physical and mental, had surely taken their toll. One of those veterans took the picture you see here. He is my uncle, but for a number of reasons, I'm not going to name him. I will tell you some of what I know about his experience as a Vietnam War veteran.

He graduated from a well known local university with highest honors in Political Science. He enlisted in the service around 1963; to most Americans Vietnam was not in their lexicon. He trained as an elite soldier, becoming part of the special forces Green Berets and was assigned with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was an expert in languages; by the time he returned home, he knew 6 or 7 Oriental languages as well as French, which was spoken by the South Vietnamese officials. After 1972, he spent a few more years attached to the 101st Airborne where he 'changed hats' proudly wearing the Black beret.

As the picture shows, he carried a camera. I remember him telling me it was a Nikon, and that it had gone through hell. Dropped in rice paddies, shot and generally mistreated, but it kept on working. Seemed at times he was talking about himself. His role was that of interpreter, and later as a liaison between the South Vietnamese officials and U.S. officials and dignitaries. I have photographs of both Chuck Connors and Henry Fonda; the images of Henry Fonda are simply remarkable.

The real job? The job he was trained and unofficially assigned to do? That we don't talk about. He told me once; I wasn't shocked. What shocked me was what happened when the War was over. Many, many soldiers, drafted to fight in a war we couldn't win, trained to do the things that soldiers are trained to do, were then fired. That's right. From the lowest foot soldier to some of the higher ranking officers, including my uncle, they were released from their duties.

Imagine someone being trained to kill, returning to jeers and taunts unable to find work because of physical and mental disabilities. In my uncle's case, he'd spent so long in the rice paddies he had what he still refers to as swamp rot, a debilitating skin disorder on his legs. For years he suffered in silence, removing himself from society and his family, taking a low paying job in a shop in downtown Chicago.

And it was, in 1991, that he finally started to get some help. He reconnected with one or two of his comrades, and was connected with current military personnel. He started working with the Veteran's Administration to get some health services that he desperately needed. Most importantly, he started getting mental health services, which he sorely needed.

My uncle is a character. He is constantly medicated in order to be able to function; he jokes, "I take two pills. One so I won't kill myself, and one so I won't kill anyone else." We have a unique relationship. I do my best to acknowledge who he is, and the things he's done. We talk about politics, gardening (his one joy), life and love. Occasionally we'll break into French, a lovely way to share a common interest. And every once in a while, he'll look at me, and relate a story about something that happened to him while he was a soldier. I cherish those words, because I know he gives them to me with the understanding I will never judge him. Because I never will. I respect the hell out of him for doing the job he was assigned to do. That's what a great soldier does.

09 November 2011

05 November 2011

Sentimental Sunday - To Whom It May Concern...

I'm so glad you found me. I'm much, much more than my birth date, the dates of my marriages (yes, more than one) and my death. Because while those will help fill out your family tree, I can assure you, I lived life in between those dates the best way I knew how and I would like for that life to be remembered.

It's not easy being the one on the end of the branch, the 'last'. For what it's worth, it wasn't by choice (perhaps that changes your perspective of the 'childless woman'). I grew up in a fairly large family group; I was the youngest in a group of cousins; my mom and her two sisters had 11 children between them of which only 2 were girls. My only other female cousin was 11 years older than me, and married by the time she was 18, so we never really got to know one another. As the baby of the group, I received a lot of attention and I grew to adore being a part of a large family; it was an essential part of who I was and how I identified myself. I always thought I would have a family of my own; I was 29 when I found out, via a near fatal illness passed down through my mother and her ancestors, that I could not have children.

It was many years after that I realized what it meant to be the last leaf on the branch. It was from this perspective that I began my genealogical research. Suddenly my unmarried aunts and uncles in every generation would catch my eye. As an Archivist and Genealogist, I tried to look beyond the vital records, to uncover any information that might shed light on who they were and how they lived their lives. The most obvious question was always, 'Why didn't you marry?' because without being married, there were no children to pass on their legacy.

My research uncovered three on my mother's side; a brother and  his two sisters who traveled across the country to settle in a new place, alone. The nature of the brother and one sister's personal relationships was lost to my knowledge, but the other, well, her Will revealed much. Imagine, as a woman in the early 1950s, having the wherewithal to ensure that the woman who had been your 'friend and companion' for forty plus years was cared for until her death, at which time your own estate was then divided among your heirs. It was a beautiful gesture. Oh, and they were buried together in one crypt in the mausoleum.

Sadly, though, I knew little else of them as people. What were their joys and sorrows? What were their stories? Of course, if I'd been independently wealthy, I'd have happily spent my days delving into these questions. But I was an Archivist and Genealogist, so money was often in short supply. My wonder at what the technology of my time could do was the catalyst for me to start to write. I hope that you'll be happy that in these writings I've provided more than just a little glimpse into who I was.

As I grew older, my life changed, as did the lives of so many in my family and our time together became more and more infrequent. I miss the warmth of Sundays spent with my family in many, many ways. I loved to cook, especially for groups of people, and I'd often been told I was a great cook. I loved to play cards (pinochle was a family favorite) as well as doing jigsaw puzzles (my granny and her daughters always had puzzles in some semblance of completion on tables in their homes). I knew how to stitch, sew and knit. I played the guitar and sang. I loved art; while I didn't have a talent for it I wasn't bad at it and enjoyed it a lot. I loved all kinds of music. I volunteered for service organizations because the feeling I got from serving others came the closest to what it felt like to be with my family; it gave me warmth even in the most challenging of circumstances

I hope that while you're performing your research that you'll think a bit more deeply about those of us at the end of the branches. We lived and loved, had joy and sorrow, succeeded and failed miserably. The only difference is we just weren't blessed with our own descendants to carry on the story of our lives. I wrote from my heart, in the hopes my story would be told. Will you do it for me?

02 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Isabel Jeffrey (1886 - 1892)

Isabel Jeffrey (1886 - 1892)
First daughter of George Jeffrey and Fannie Powelson Jeffrey
Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States

30 October 2011

Sunday's Obituary - Henry Wersel

In several of my posts I've written about Henry Wersel, my great grandfather. As I was gathering material for my genealogical research, a picture of this man was emerging that honestly surprised me. My mother didn't know her grandfather, just as I didn't know mine, so I think that the surprise was more that she knew nothing about him, or said that she remembered hearing nothing about him. The piece that stunned me was the obituary that was written for him; it was filled with fascinating tidbits of information, some of which I've used to further my research. From the Cincinnati Enquirer, September 22, 1936 (p 9 22:5) in its entirety:

 O'er For Wersel
Veteran Enquirer Employee
Stricken on Street Car.
Editor of "Why and Wherefore"
Column Is Victim of Attack
On Way to Work

  Henry Wersel, an employee of the composing room of The Enquirer for the last 54 years and editor of "The Why and Wherefore" column, suffered a fatal heart attack when on his way to work yesterday.
  In Mr. Wersel's pocket was his last column, one which will not be published, but which contained the lines:
"For, alas! alas! with me
The light of life is o'er."
  They are from Edgar Allan Poe's "To One in Paradise.
  Mr. Wersel was 71 years old. He had been an employee of The Enquirer since he was 17 years old. He lived at 3715 Woodland Avenue, Hyde Park.
  Becoming ill on an Oakley street car, Mr. Wersel was placed in a police patrol at Madison Road and Woodburn Avenue and taken to General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
  One of the first residents of Hyde Park, Mr. Wersel had lived at the Woodland Avenue address since 1890. He was a native of Cincinnati.
  Mr. Wersel was one of Cincinnati's best-informed men on the history of Cincinnati and its people. He was an ardent student of history. Among other volumes he collected rare books on the history of Ohio.
  At one time Mr. Wersel was day foreman of The Enquirer composing room. In recent years he had been a proof reader and compositor. For the last 12 years he had edited "The Why and Wherefore" column as a hobby. He was a member of the Typographical Union No. 3.
  His widow, Mrs. Laura Richards Wersel; a daughter, Mrs. Virginia Baer, wife of C. S. Baer, President and Treasurer, Baer-Bigler-Van de Mark Advertising Company; three sons, Victor H. Wersel, Brokau, Wis., and Horace R. Wersel and Roger R. Wersel, both of Cincinnati; a sister, Miss Stella Wersel, La Habre, Calif., and three brothers, Frank, Charles, and William Wersel, all of Cincinnati, survive him.
  Rites will be held at Rohde's funeral home, 3183 Linwood Road, Hyde Park, at 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Burial will be at Maineville, Ohio.

27 October 2011

Thriller Thursday - "Former Village Clerk of Hyde Park Has Thrilling Experience"

OK, so a bit of disclosure here: my great-grandfather, Henry Wersel, worked at the Cincinnati Enquirer for 54 years. Yep, that's right, fifty-four. The only reason he stopped working there, in 1936, is because he died on the streetcar on the way to work. He started out working in the press room, but eventually wrote for one of the columns. So, he not only had writing abilities, he had access to a typesetter. Heh.

I received, a few years after I had started my genealogical research, photocopies of the pages from a scrapbook in the possession of my mom's first cousin, Tom Wersel. Tom couldn't remember how the book came into his possession, told me via our phone conversation that it was in deplorable condition, but that he would make some copies and send them along. This is only one of the treasures I found among newspaper clippings (1896-1908) in the scrapbook:

In a Snow Wrapped Mountain Pass
Former Village Clerk of Hyde Park
Has Thrilling Experience

  William Wersel, former Village Clerk of Oakley, who has been prospecting for gold in the Thunder Mountains of Idaho, has just been heard from, with one of the most thrilling stories of adventure that has come out of that region. In a letter to his brother, Henry Wersel, he narrates the experience of himself and a party of gold seekers who had left the mountains and were wending their way through the foothills to a section of country that had not been invaded by searchers for wealth. They had reached the New Percez Pass when, one night, there was a fall of snow two inches in depth that completely obliterated all traces of the trail they had been following. Unfamiliar with the country, knowing nothing about the landmarks that would have been a sufficient guide for the natives, they were panic-stricken when they realized their perilous situation. They went through that experience so common to travelers in the Arctic regions - attempting to advance, but soon deviating from a straight course and returning to the original starting point. For six days they wandered about in the foothills, hopelessly lost. On the sixth day their supply of provisions was exhausted. They had not run across any game in their wanderings, and unable to replenish their arder, starvation stared them in the face. Despair seized on several members of the party, and, wrapping themselves in their blankets, they lay down and resigned themselves to a terrible death. Mr. Wersel, undaunted by this misfortune, continued the search for an outlet to the plains beyond the pass. On a day when the situation of the party had become desperate in the extreme he discovered a log cabin on the mountain side that looked as if it had not been tenanted for months. Searching in all parts of the structure he soon found a supply of provisions which had evidently been "cached" by the mountaineer, to be drawn on at some future date. Leaving money on the table sufficient to pay for the articles he took and a note of explanation, he hurried back to the camp. The famished gold seekers were in the midst of a feast when the owner of the provisions put in an appearance. He refused to accept the money left at the cabin, but as soon as he had heard their story tendered his services in piloting them out of the desolate country to a place of safety, which, of course, were eagerly accepted. 
  After a ride of 1,000 miles on horseback Mr. Wersel has returned to Butte, Mont. He has secured options on three mines there that five great promise of handsome returns when fully developed.

Oh, as far as I know, or was able to research, there was no record of the mine options this article spoke of; no family fortune was passed down. Only thing that got passed down? Tenacity.

26 October 2011

Technology Tuesday - What's the fun, if the Search is Easy?

As I've come along in my own genealogical research, and as my network of genealogical friends has grown, there's something I've heard a LOT: "OMG, I can't FIND anything...but the searching is SO fun..." 

I would've thought these two things would be mutually exclusive, but there seems to be a certain joy in the pain of having to dig with a proverbial toothpick to find the deeply buried treasure that are the details of our genealogical roots. 

I give as an example, my ONE GUY, Randolph Richards. When I started to look for him in earnest back in about 2001, there was nothing. Oh, of course, I could've gotten in my car, driven to Ohio (or Kentucky...or Wisconsin...still not sure yet) and started physically going from place to place to try to find the records. but I had neither the time nor the finances to take a trip like that!  So, I guess the 'search' I'm talking about is the "new" generation of research, where materials are located via computer and then you have the option to physically go see the record. 

So, when I put his name into Ancestry.com (I received a free trial with my new FTM 2011...yes, I'm a version behind) about a month ago, there were about 20 or so records with his name, all of which were actually him! I was also able to use a few of those records, which pointed in new directions, to uncover other clues. I then went to FamilySearch.com and had a similar experience. 

What's truly remarkable is the amount of newly digitized material out on the Web. As an Archivist, one of the most challenging aspects of our current work is the desire by our clients to have everything digitized. When collections are digitized, the material can be used for marketing purposes to drive traffic to a repository, just as a virtual search drives traffic to a website. But a very large percentage of Archives maintain a backlog of unprocessed material and if there's not enough time to get the material processed where is the time going to come from to digitize? What's more, it's not as if you can take material and run it through a high-speed scanner; great care has to be taken when handling archives material for scanning. So I respect the heck out of the fact that so many places have found the resources to get this vital information digitized, indexed and out there.

And this brings me to the "cool places you would've never thought to look." Naturally, there's Google. You can even use Google Alerts to automatically send you an email if a name has been recently posted on the Web. But my new favorite? That would be Geneablogger.com. What? That's right!! How many times have you been on Thomas MacEntee's awesome website and missed the fact that there is a 'Search' function? Well, I'm here to tell you that there's one on the right side bar and it's sole purpose is to search the nearly 2,000 blogs for whatever term you want!! How awesome is that! And easy! I don't know about you, but I have trouble finding time to read the blogs I really want to read, let alone trolling 2,000 to see if one of my names comes up.  

So, get out there and try some new places for searching. There may be one that really makes things easier. I'd love to know if you've found one that's particularly helpful and/or easy. Happy searching!

24 October 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Letter to George Jeffrey 1889

Waubano August 23 1889

Dear George

I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and that you were all well as this leaves us the same I was pleased to hear that you will be home John will meet you at Courtright as he says it will be handier for him than Sarnia you can send word when you will be and what time to meet whether by boat or train I'll not expect to hear from you till you write when you will be  love to all from your Mother

Letter from Margaret Nicol Jeffrey to her son George Jeffrey, my great grandfather. This letter helped uncovered the fact my grandmother's family did not immigrate directly to the United States, but rather spent several generations in Canada before my great grandfather settled in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

22 October 2011

Saturday Surnames - PENN and RICHARDS

Ah, the joys of returning to genealogical research after taking a hiatus. This last one lasted about 3 years; I strongly doubt there will be a time in the future when I'm not doing some kind of genealogical research. 

I've been doing research on and off for more than 15 years, and I like to think that I fit into the 'advanced' range of researcher. At the same time, a lot has changed in the last few years, which opens doors and creates the opportunity to get even more information in a wide variety of formats. It's really clear to me that there is more awareness of genealogy as a whole; out of four blind emails I sent requesting information from potential family connections, I've received three responses. It's awesome!

Of course, there's that ONE GUY. Yes, you're sitting there nodding in agreement. Man or woman, makes no difference. This person alludes you no matter what you do. *Just* when you think you've found them, you realize you were searching on the wrong line. Or the courthouse burned down. Or they're in the Witness Protection Program. So frustrating! Which makes this SO much fun!!

My 'one guy' is actually the relationship between RANDOLPH RICHARDS and MARY PENN RICHARDS. I know he was born in 1830 but have no birth documentation. Census records show he was born in both Kentucky and Ohio, with his burial record showing his place of birth as Felicity, Clermont County, Ohio. I know he was married in 1857 to Laura Louisa Greene in Cincinnati, Ohio and died in 1870 in Cincinnati, Ohio. What I need to locate is the EVIDENCE of his connection to his parents, who I BELIEVE are John R. Richards and Mary PENN. 

One of the first documents I received when I started this 15 years ago was a handwritten 'genealogy' chart of this Richards family, but nothing to properly prove the information. I recently uncovered an 1850 Census record showing Randolph, his sisters Eveline and Caroline, living with their mother MARY, who was 61. Randolph and Laura also had an infant daughter who died who they had named MARY P. Richards. Still, nothing to prove the connection.

So, I'll put it out to all of you wonderful genealogy fans: Connection or Witness Protection ?

21 October 2011

Friday Funny - Laughter Truly IS The Best Medicine

One of the most ardent debates going on today revolves around the use of Social Media. Be it MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Klout...the list gets longer and longer. The debate stems around whether we're detaching from face-to-face communication to spend time sitting in a corner clasping our smartphones in our hands, tapping away. And while I found myself spending just a *wee* bit too much time on each of these platforms when I first got on them, I like to think I've found some balance in it.

For those of you that don't know me, I've been a vocal advocate of getting away from Facebook, due to privacy concerns. I'm not going to go into the hows and whys now, but I got rid of my account several weeks ago and haven't regretted it. At the same time, I have a Twitter account that I use regularly. I had a 'personal only' account several years ago; I had a negative experience and ended up killing my account to avoid someone that I was having difficulties with. I had a friend, who doesn't use Twitter, ask me why I would bother to try another account. My response, "Because there are crazy people no matter where you go."

So, I started my @ArchivalBiz account with the hopes of keeping it more business than personal. This is a very, very challenging thing to do. But I also realized, the wonder of Twitter is YOU decide who you follow and what information you get. I found lists to be a great way to manage the people and organizations that I follow, and I think I gave them some cool names: In A Family Way are all my genealogy/genealogical friends and organizations; Its All About History are all my Archives/Archivists/History/Librarian tweeps; You Are What You Eat are my Fitness/Running/PoleDancing follows; you get the idea. As a resource, Twitter is an amazing place to find curated content; information that's specific to a topic that you're interested in.

This the where the 'Friday Funny' part comes in. My blog posts have been sporadic because my life has been, well, very challenging lately. There is not a single major aspect of my life that hasn't had some sort of setback from physical ailments, to sick parents, to financial challenges, to losing clients and possibly losing my job as an Archivist...again, you get the point. So, what's funny?

What's funny is how my Twitter followers, especially  the genealogy ones, make me feel. I cannot think of another 'industry' where people are so invested in one another. It's sort of a 'duh' thing; it's genealogy dummy! But, at the same time, they don't have to be so giving and caring. The last few days have been excruciatingly difficult, but each morning when I signed into Twitter I would see my 'good mornings' from my 'Family Way' folks and it just makes me feel good. I feel happy to know their day-to-day things, and I know they really do care about mine. I don't share the details of my drama...gosh, even *I* don't like thinking about it. But, as an example, we had the best time this morning teasing someone (who lives on the other side of the world, btw) about a new haircut he had gotten, razzing him about putting up a picture. To outside observers it was probably a bit much, but for me, it was a small joy among so much negative stuff. A tiny little thing that's not so tiny; being able to laugh when you really think there's not anything to laugh about.

So, laughter is, indeed, the best medicine. And I guarantee you, if you need a little support, Social Media can be the gateway to so many wonderful people, both virtually and in person. You just have to get out there.

If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path.    
~ Buddha

19 October 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Laura Louisa Greene Richards

Photo taken at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Cincinnati, Ohio, Section 54 Lot 93 courtesy of Colleen McSwiggin via Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (www.RAOGK.com) with sincerest thanks.

18 October 2011

Tech Tuesday - It Does That? Leverage your Technology

I'll preface this by saying that this isn't going to be some technical discussion of smartphones and/or different platforms on which you can use Tweetdeck...it's more the 'down & dirty' I wish I would've had when I first started using Tweetdeck to manage my Twitter account. I have about 500 or so follows/followers; the number doesn't matter to me, but I have to admit that managing 100 is a LOT easier than 500. 

So, you have your Twitter account, Facebook and possibly Foursquare and you'd like to see them on your smartphone all in one place. There are several platforms you can use; my personal preference is Tweetdeck. When starting up the app, I believe you have to sign in. Once you've done that, it'll keep you signed in and you won't have to do it again. You'll see a bar at the top with the word 'Home' (in white).  The first and most important thing I didn't know: the word will turn yellow when there are new tweets to read, and if you tap the bar it will scroll through everything, bringing you to the top of the list. Oh, how I wish I'd known this right away...LOL. At the bottom of the screen there are four icons: one that looks like a dialog bubble (for creating tweets/posts), an outline of a person, a plus sign, and a compass.

The dialog bubble opens a screen where you can enter text to tweet or post. Above that, there should be icons that correspond to each of your accounts: Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. By the way, for those that have more than one Twitter account, you can add them here, either switching between icons or tweeting to both accounts simultaneously. Simply tap the icon for the account you want to tweet/post to, and that's where it goes!

The icon of a person opens a screen that at first seemed pointless. However, if you have specific people that you want to see, this is where you can put them! There are 12 spaces to use and all you have to do is tap an empty square, select the account from the auto-generated list and you'll be able to access their account with a single touch. I like this for accessing my own account and for some of my Tweeple who have lots and lots of tweets. There is also a place on this screen to lookup a Twitter profile.

The next icon, the plus sign, was the one that Jen was the most interested in. This is the screen where you select what columns you'll have available. When you first start up Tweetdeck, only the 'Home' column is available. As you add columns, using this page, dots will appear on the top bar to show (white or yellow) if there are active tweets on the column. You can either search Twitter, using a hashtag term, or the thing that Jen loved was that you can have your lists on a column! This is how I follow my groups of Tweeple. By clicking on your Twitter icon on this page, a new page opens with options for columns that include @ Mentions, Direct Messages, Favorites and then, Lists. Simply select the list you want, tap the 'Add Column' at the bottom and the follows on that list will show up in a column! Swipe your finger on the screen to move across columns.

A bit about Lists. Twitter allows up to 10 lists to be created, and this is how I manage my account. It allows me to see almost all of the tweets I receive, a vast amount of information. However, but chopping it up into chunks, it's much easier to manage. Also, it's easier to go back if I need to check something that I did miss. I have a list for my 'real life' people (a locked list), one for genealogy people, one for archivists/librarians, one for fitness, etc. 

Each column can be individually set for notifications that include a notification at the top, a blinking light, a quick sound, and/or vibrate. There also is a bar that allows you to decide how often the columns are updated, from a manual update to every 3 minutes.

I hope this helps someone who may be new to Tweetdeck, or who hasn't used it as much as they'd like. Technology can truly be our friend, if we let it. Is there anything I've missed? Anything else I can help explain?

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