The Universe and Me

comments on the journey of life

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Why is it always my family missing?

I actually yell that a lot when I’m in a research mode. It seems that my family is always the one missing from whatever record I am looking for. This creates tons of those “brick walls”. The point when you are stuck trying to verify or find information to go back another generation. I have been obsessively stuck on my Great Great Grandparents on my mother’s side.

I’m having the normal problems with names, that is abundant in my family, what the name really is. My Great Great Grandfather was Augustus Gottlieb Schmidt. (How do you spell that again? August, Schmitte, Schmit, Schmit, Smith. What is Gottlieb? Gottfried? Gottleib, Godfrey? you get the picture). My Great Great Grandmother was Dorothea Kline (Klein, Kleiner, Dora, Dorothy). Following this family has been one brick wall after another. See my Murder Mystery post 

To tackle this family I have had to split it up to one section at a time in the hope of finding something to help find out what happened to Dorothea. That is the major stumbling block. I have a beautiful portrait of her in a wonderful black gown, with a gorgeous Ostrich feather hat, not just one feather, but the whole hat. The look and style of the picture says to me 1900, but Dorothea seems to have died around 1885.

I can remember a day when all I knew about my Great Grandmother’s history was there was a picture of her and some relatives from Wisconsin. That’s all the picture said was some relatives from Wisconsin. Other information told me she was born in Black Creek, Wisconsin, but as yet I have not found a record of her birth. But I do know the date and I used all her information (marriage, death, family memories) to find her parents. I used her parents marriage record to find their parents. Finding a marriage record for Wisconsin somewhere before 1874 was a trial and error method until I had a father, a mother and a verified marriage recording.

I then used census records to verify where they lived in what years.  I took a big spreadsheet (honestly an old fashion accounting 15 column green notebook) I wrote Augustus and Dorothea at the top. I penciled in 1855 the year they were married. I then searched 1850 census and found Augustus, his brother and his wife, and an older man. I then went forward 1855 found 3 Males  no female, hmm. 1860 found Augustus, Dorothea, Herman, Edward, and Auguste, my first thought was 3 children in 6 years. I followed all the census’s I could and found myself with a confusion on the children. Herman and Edward’s birth years switched constantly as well as where they were born. I followed each of the boys as far as I could and kept wondering about the birth dates. I fixated on the discrepancies so much I discovered that Dorothea was not their mother. Had I just chalked it up to census errors. I would not have found that Augustus married another woman in 1850 and that she died between 1853 and Nov 1855 (Augustus & Dorothea’s wedding date).

There are 7 children in this family. My original Family Tree lists Dorothea as the mother of all of them. I need to correct that to list Herman and Edward’s mother Sophia. I have found husbands for all 5 girls and realized that my 6th daughter is really not there. She is one of those wonderful “call them a different name in the next census” person’s. She is listed as Clara and Mathilda and I allowed an online family tree to convince me it was two people. It’s just one woman Mathilda Clara and I need to correct that error too. I am now following each child and their descendant line to hopefully discover what happened to Dorothea. I have one line done, Auguste’s line had no living descendants. Edward seems to have been single through 1940 at 87 I think he probably has no descendants.

To tackle a brick wall, you do it one brick at a time. 


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Trees, Charts and Organized Mess

I like to think of myself as an organized genealogist. I color coordinate with the best of them. But when I am on a roll, or not sure what direction to go, I resort to hand written charts to follow my family tree. This is a typical tree I create when I am searching for a new lead.


I was also trying to explain to my cousin who someone was so I made my chart just a little neater.


These visual charts help me follow lines especially when I am looking for connections and just jotting down lines that have the same name. The original purpose was, it was just a note and throw it out. I later found myself recreating them over and over. If I am following an unknown line, I keep my “notes” until it connects to my tree or I prove it doesn’t. Once I have proof it is my line it goes into my database and looks like this.


The database includes or should include as much information as I have. Occupation, Religion, Cause of Death, Birth Records, Marriage Records, Death Records and a photo. I can tell that this photo of a family sheet is old because it does not include that I have a birth record for Leonardus Julius. I have the record, recently found, so I need to update my database to show that I have this record. This saves time in looking for the record again (or looking through my records for it). I also do not have a photo of Maria Ludovica attached but I believe I have one, so this reminds be to check and to attach it the database. Sadly I have seen one photo of Leonardus Julius with all his brothers and sisters but it belongs to a cousin in Belgium and when I was shown it I never thought of taking a photo of the photo and now no one seems able to locate it. Moral of the story if you are without any way of copying the photo, take a photo of it, from your camera or your phone. It all works and you will have it.

I would like to point out that scribbled sheet when I am done working for the day goes into one of my color coordinated folders for the family line I am working on. Some days I just open up a folder and re-read my notes. I have found information that links to my direct line that I didn’t know I had by comparing my notes. We are not all perfect and when researching in the wee hours of the morning we sometimes don’t make the connection between names and family ties.

Do not feel like my methods are the only methods, or the correct method and you can laugh and say it’s the stupidest method you ever heard of. We all have our own ways. I just like to point out a few of mine. What I find works, what I find doesn’t, and that I prefer to be organized, methodical and only use the neat methods, but it doesn’t always work. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. I am far from perfect. I just try to keep learning, to keep sharing. I have my family tree back to the 1500’s, when I started I just wanted to know who my great grandparents where. I think I’m doing ok.


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Genealogy Classes Yes or No

Yesterday in my mail was my local community education classes for the fall. While I was trying to decide between Pickleball (it’s real), Hula Hoop Fundamentals Plus, or the Film Series focusing on Clark Gable, my eye saw Beginning Genealogy – Questions and Answers. For $31 and 2 sessions, all I needed was pen and a notebook. I would find out “Why I was hitting a brick wall?”and “How to find that ‘lost’ relative”.

There was a loud thud in the room as my head hit the table. Beginning Genealogy, I yelled, Beginning!!! First I will say I am all for taking classes, help with your family research is why I write this blog. The problem with this is that this is not Beginning Genealogy. Beginning is when you are trying to figure out, what sites to use, what programs to use, how do I gather information, how do I organize. I would call “How to find that ‘lost’ relative” and “Why I was hitting a brick wall” Intermediate Genealogy, because until you get the basics under your belt, you aren’t even going to know what that brick wall is.

I can also tell you that brick walls happen when you no longer have access to easy research and vital records. Lost relatives tend to be female. Paying $31 for two sessions of genealogy help is a great deal, it’s like going to the movies, but if you are just starting your research, your questions are not the same as someone who has been searching for years and really wants to know a way to clear that brick wall.  In my opinion this class has a fatal flaw, in that both are going to attend and the likely hood is the beginner is going to be confused and the long time researcher is not going to get an answer that fits the problem they have.

My first reaction is to tell you ways to climb the brick wall and find the lost relative. I’m not sure us beginners are there yet. I think I will have to throw that question out there. I don’t want to take away the importance or the opportunity for someone to have a more one on one help session. I just want to point out that before signing up for a class be realistic about what you want to learn and if you feel the class description covers what you need to know.

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Genealogy -Sources -Help You

The number one reason to use sources is time. I just spent two days trying to verify something in my own family tree. I decided to look at going back a generation in a line I rarely work on. Time is a major factor in rarely and also a brick wall.

The first thing I did when picking up the neglected line was to type the name of my ancestor I was certain about, into the internet, yes she came up with the same parents. When I looked further to find her grandparents I discovered that quick internet search was not a match to my family tree as she was married to someone else. Her birth date was the same on two sites but not a third. Her marriage to mystery man number two and her children were during the same time she was married to my relative and had her daughter, also my relative. So I went to the source. Wrong. I never wrote down a source. Not in my program which has a definite source section, not on any scrap of paper I could find. So now I cried, not because I couldn’t find the source, but at the thought that in my official family tree there was an error.

I knew I couldn’t be wrong, I just couldn’t, but now I had to prove I was correct by not only finding the original source but proving it. This took away all my free time over two days. Had I written down the source the first time. I would have saved at least a day and a half. Once I found my original source, it proved absolutely nothing, except that maybe I just copied someone else’s tree without verifying it. This could be because my original source was the online family tree of a far flung relative.  Now I had to prove it.

Proving it required searching every spelling of her last name I could think of and every spelling of her potential parents in a foreign website who’s records at any given time can be in three different languages (French, Latin or Dutch or even local variations of Dutch). Once I found the index I had to search page by page for the actual birth record to prove her parents where her’s and find her marriage record to prove my ancestor was indeed mine and married to the correct man. I now have a printed copy of her records and have noted my source and when I have some time I will go back a generation. Her mother’s mother seems to have 5 different spellings of her last name. Actually 5 different last names because each spelling sends you in a unique direction.

Sources, they save you valuable time, energy, and doubt. It’s a simple thing to write down for yourself.


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Who are we visiting?

The difference between childhood and adulthood is that as an adult you have more of an appreciation for those you are visiting, than as a child when you are bored because you don’t know who they are and they are taking up precious play time.

The Grandparent I did have, that knew nothing for years and years and years, was actually my Mother’s Mother. If you asked her about family she never knew anything, ever.

When I was a little girl. I remember going with my Mother and Grandmother to visit some old woman. I remember she had a walker (which I had never seen before) and white hair, and walked slowly (thus the walker). She also had a slide outside her front door that was as hot as an oven and I burnt the back of my legs sliding down it (but I did it multiple times anyhow). What we didn’t do, was take a picture, because the old woman was my Grandmother’s mother and I would have loved a four generation picture. I am sure that my mother told me who we were going to see, but I didn’t remember. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I pieced it all together.

One Saturday afternoon, when my Grandmother and I lived in the same town I went to visit. I was furious with her for her disposal of the family silver. She told me in blunt terms it was hers and she could do what she wanted, even if she gave it to someone who sold it immediately. I reminded her that she actually had grandchildren, and that it would be nice if she remembered that once in a while and maybe, just maybe, they would like something to remember her by. She said she had nothing. I then went around her house and gathered all her music boxes, one for each grandchild and said there, you have something to give to everyone. They may be the ugliest music boxes you have ever seen, but my sisters and I still have ours, maybe because they are so ugly, but mostly because they are the only thing she ever gave us.

She surprised me then and said, you know, my cousin lived to be 109 years old. I was like really? (I didn’t actually believe her). She then went and pulled out a box with a newspaper clipping to prove that yes she did. Then she started pulling out pictures and there was one of the white haired lady with the hot slide. She goes, that’s my Mother. She was born in 1880 in the Dakota’s (there was no North and South back then). Her parents where from Canada and spoke French.

This was a seed planted in my brain, that became a fascinating story about this woman. She pulled out photos’ of her and her twin sister with their mother as infants (I have these photos) I never knew she had a twin sister and was fascinated. Here was a woman I had a love/hate relationship with and after I told her, her grandchildren would like a memento from her and gathered up ugly music boxes, suddenly started talking about her family. She told me about her sisters, and she told me about a relative also interested in family history and she put me in touch with her, though the woman would not share with me, so my Grandmother wrote her and she gave the information to my grandmother. She also put me in touch with my Grandfather’s Aunt ,who was still alive, and who happily shared with me what she could remember about the family. I have wonderful cousins in these family branches, who help put together the family history. From a music box, to family, it’s a treasure.

As children, we do not understand why we are dragged to see some old relative or someone who knew someone, but as adults, we wish we could go back and ask questions. That is why I search for my family through history, why I want to know stories, why I search every where for hints, and pictures, why I hope that someday, someone wants to know about me.


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The Missing Family – Murder Mystery

Once you have gathered all your information, organized your research, created a database and determined how you will share it and set about getting some favorite websites, all the fun begins.

When researching my family I have found numerous brick walls and disappearing families. It is most frustrating in female lines, because girls tend to disappear if you can’t find a marriage license due to changing their names. Fortunately this is a modern era problem because prior to the mid 1800’s they tend to keep their original surnames.

While researching my great great Grandfather Augustus I have found more brick walls than I like. The original surname Schmidt, at various times is Schmitt, Schmidt, Smith. The first list of children was Herman, Edward, Auguste, Cristele, Clara, Matilda, Elena Ernstina and Bertha Ernstina. Trying to following these children has proved difficult with lots of dead ends. I know what happened to Bertha Ernstina, she became my Great Grandmother.

I tried to tackle the children one at a time. A good idea that never seems to work, while looking for one I sometimes find a different one.

One day I stumbled across Auguste’s husband, by now she was being listed at Augusta but the parents where the same. Armed with a husband I set out to find her family. I discovered 11 children and no information on the children. The family simply disappeared. I tried everything, all the search engines and every site I could think of, they were just gone. I filed it away to work on another day.  Then one day I saw the husband listed in deaths in a newspaper, but all I could read was his name and murdered! It was one of those search newspaper sites that give you a few words, but if you want to read more you need a subscription. I wasn’t into buying a subscription so I searched more. I had a name, murder and 1912 it had to be somewhere. I found another newspaper snippet that listed him, a son and again murder, but this time they listed suicide. Now I was on a hunt, to find out what happened and to prove I didn’t need a subscription. (Yes a subscription would have ended this quest right then and there, but I may have also just read the article and let it go and missed the rest of the story.) Numerous searches and numerous snippets of newspaper stories kept giving me more information, each another piece to the puzzle.

I finally found the whole article (for free) it had in fact been reported in 22 states because a murder/suicide in 1912 was big news.

V.W. Thurs 8 Feb 1912, (THREE MURDERED AND ONE SUCIDE), Page 21 
   MAILAHN, Lewis, age sixty-six, shot in the head. 
   MAILAHN, William, twenty-one years old, cut in the throat. 
   MAILAHN, Dora, sixteen years old, cut in the throat. 
   MAILAHN, John, eight years old, cut in the throat. 
   These terrible murders and suicide occurred last week in Binghamton, fifteen miles north of Appleton.  Wm. Mailahn, the target, according to his behavior lately, as testified by the neighbors, that he committed the family murders and then sought to take his own life.  He had strained relations with his father which extended to other family members. 
  The horrible bloody act appears to be the result of him being diagnosed with consumption, which has hit all of his family members with incurable sufferings.  In the last months already three brothers were victims.  Also the murdered sister was already lying in death.  The horrible fate of the family had been discussed around the table for some time and the brother believed that it is better for everyone if they took carbolic acid and die together.  The story was also known by the neighbors but no-one thought that the young man would carry it out.  The surviving brothers are also stricken with the horrible illness.   The  murderer has not only used a straight razor but a piece of broken mirror on his siblings and then lacerated their throats  This act, which is horrible in all details, has caused great excitement in Appleton and the surrounding area.

That wonderful newspaper article was really the start of the family story in my opinion and I dug further. Augusta had 11 children. Her oldest daughter died within 5 months of giving birth to her only child. 3 other daughters died of tuberculosis before Augusta herself died in 1908. Her other two daughters both had tuberculosis and one died within a year of her mother. William the one who is assumed to have murdered his family did not want to see any other siblings die of this disease. The five remaining children were all suspected to have tuberculosis. The two youngest being at home on that fateful day died along with their father and brother. The three remaining boys, with the oldest having gone to collect the other two from school, escaped from being murdered only for one to die within two years of tuberculosis and the another to also die of tuberculosis only 20 years later.  Of eleven children only one survived, to marry and have a child, and to live to an old age.

It’s a sad story, but a wonderful story of what happens when you continue to dig through those brick walls. My heart breaks for the end of a line and such a tragic ending, but I find hope in that I solved this problem and perhaps I can solve the problem of the rest of Auguste’s siblings.


Genealogy – Should I buy a subscription to..?

I am asked all the time what do I think of and should they buy a subscription. My answer is always the same it depends upon what you want to do with it. If you think you can sign up and get some leaves and do your family tree in one afternoon. No. Do not buy a subscription to anything. To get your leaf in Ancestry you first must have a family tree and upload or direct input it into Ancestry. The better detailed and the more people in your family tree, the better and more leaves you will receive. If you receive a hint and it has nothing to do with your family tree it will just keep coming back. If it is not your line be sure to click ignore leaf, so can better use their algorithms to search for your ancestor.

Their are plenty of free ways to search your family tree. Local History sites, Roots Web, just typing the name into a search engine and seeing what is out there, or use the best of the free sites I like free, free makes me happy. What I really hate is a site that misleads you, that says search your ancestors and then does not allow you to read anything.

I use anything and everything I can get my hands on and yes I do have a subscription to Ancestry. When I first bought a subscription I thought it was a waste of money. My family was first generation American on my Father’s side and from Canada on my Mother’s side, a few generations back. Ancestry was all about American ancestors and I did not have any. I bought the subscription anyhow. I looked, I searched, I grumbled and then I bought the worldwide subscription, on the idea that it would help me more than the basic and guess what it did. It could be timing, it could be coincidence, it could be anything, but once I got that worldwide subscription I discovered that my Family was really American after all. That German side of my Mother’s, the ones that came from Canada, seems they were American after all. They arrived in 1710, cleared the frontier of New York Territory, fought Indians, pushed further and further West by the arriving British, fought in the American Revolutionary War (on both sides) and were more exciting than I could imagine.

Ancestry has now upgraded their database and the Worldwide Subscription does not access everything and you need to have An All Access subscription. I am still in the grumbling mode on that one. The additional $90 gets me access to Fold3 and to newspapers. I haven’t yet decided if it’s necessary. Newspapers can be accessed on a number of sites for pay and I haven’t found a large number of ancestor stories that I need to read on a newspaper, but then I keep thinking well maybe there is and it would be easier to find the whole story with out months of searching like I did for the missing family that turned out to be a murder mystery after all.

When starting your family search, always start with free and then decide how much of what you must read is on a pay site. Family Search has easy search engines and if you just use the easy search options, you can miss tons of stuff on their browse/non indexed databases and things you can find my clicking their map and seaching by states or countries. Believe it or not they are even starting to link to a fabulous Belgian website I’ve been using for years. When I am on Family Search I always pay attention to how much information wants me to go to a partner site and how badly I want that information, if it’s enough, then I decide on a subscription to that site.