Genealogy wouldn’t be genealogy without a roadblock or two. My initial family research began at a time when Family Tree Maker and Google were still in their infancy, and you had to wait weeks or sometimes months to get responses to document requests. Tenacity was a badge anyone doing genealogy wore with pride.
My grandfather’s surname, Wersel, is not a common one, so research was a bit easier, but only by omission. I also found out I come from a long line of very vocal people; we’re no shrinking violets. So, channeling that vocal tenacity, I picked up the phone one Saturday morning late in 1996 and started dialing numbers. I made it through four numbers before finally reaching someone. Robert Wersel answered his phone, and after listening patiently to my little speech explaining who I was and why I was calling, he reluctantly began to talk with me. To my surprise, he began to tell me stories of my grandfather’s family. I wouldn’t say he was friendly, but he was cordial and kind enough to share with me some details about the origins of our family.
More importantly, he told me he had a scrapbook of original documents, many dated in the early 1800s gathered by his family. I asked if it would be possible to get copies of some of the documents; that I would appreciate so very much having copies. He told me that he would see what he could do, took my address and we said goodbye. When I hung up, all I could think was, ‘if I hadn’t had the nerve to call, I wouldn’t have gotten these wonderful nuggets of information.’
About a week later, I received an envelope of information from Mr. Wersel. It was simply a list of details from documents that he was in possession of from the family. He also had a ‘Comments on Wersel-Wagner Documents’ page that held the following information: “The earliest documents concern our forebears, Nicolas Jean Francois Wersel and Jean Wagner. The spelling in all of the Wersel documents is the same as today. NJFW had quite a traveled life. Born in Bliesbrucken c. 1800.This town is right in the area much disputed by France and Prussia. …there was the July, 1830 revolution in Paris. NJFW must have been in his late twenties at this time. How or why he got into the Dutch army is a good question. Then on to Brazil and the USA…”
I was stunned by how this information came to me, and there was one word that leapt off the page: BRAZIL. That’s right, as I had written about in one of my prior posts; I now had evidence of the barest kind that there was some truth to the oral history regarding our family’s Brazil connection! I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself!!
Then just as suddenly as I had become elated, it dawned on me; I had the origins of this family back to 1800 somewhere in France/Germany, so this couldn’t be my line to our American roots. Huh. I felt like I was back to ‘square one’. At the same time, I had found confidence in my ability to uncover resources that might have information. I would have to switch directions from the Wersel family roots, to those of my great-grandmother: Laura Louise RICHARDS. Perhaps the woman my parents named me after could lead me to the answer I was seeking…