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