Monday, February 23, 2015

52 Ancestors: Close to Home

"Week 9 (Feb 26-Mar 4) – Close to Home. Which ancestor is the closest to where you live? Who has a story that hits “close to home”?" (No Story Too Small)

As I mentioned at the end of my post last week, my family's history in California is fairly recent. One of my Devol ancestors married a Capt. George Littlefield who I know visited San Francisco during a voyage and died somewhere between there and Hawaii in 1850. But it would be another 69 years before any ancestor put down roots there. Before 1919, you would have to go all the way to Utah (or perhaps Panaca, Nevada, where ancestor John S. Haslam settled for a short time before returning to Salt Lake City) to find any of my family.

That said, this is a good week to talk about why my great-grandparents John Joseph and Mary Josephine (Hickey) Carey and later three of my grandparents and two more of my great-grandparents came here.

One of my favorite photos of my great-
grandparents. John, an amateur photographer
evidentally set up the shot and just barely
made it into the picture. Mae is holding

 their eldest son John.
My mother discovered this in a group of
undeveloped negatives that John had taken.

John and Mary (called Mae after she married) were first-generation Americans. Each of their parents were born in the counties of Tipperary and Limerick in Ireland. John was born in a working-class Irish neighborhood in Chicago, near where Mrs. O'Leary's cow allegedly kicked over the lantern (the fire went the other way, fortunately). Though the Hickeys lived in Chicago usually, Mary's father found work on the railroad, so she was born in Colorado. Education and improvement was important to these hard-working families to whom opportunities had been so long denied. And so John and Mary were encouraged and were able to move up and find respectable work at Marshall Fields department store. Mary was a cashier, a very lady-like job in those days, and John became a credit manager. They married in 1908 and had two sons in Chicago, John Joseph and Thomas Ignatius.

Mary Josephine (Hickey) Carey
John Joseph Carey

Things were looking good for the Careys until the store owner's son changed it all. My mother wrote: "John's strong ties to Chicago were broken when John got into a disagreement with Marshall Field, Jr., and John 'told off' Marshall Fields, Jr. John was effectively blackballed in Chicago, and had to look outside the area for employment. He found work in San Francisco, and the family moved there. Before they left John was able to watch the homebound troops march down State St. at the end of World War I." That was in 1919 and the next year, Grandpa James Aloysius Carey was born, the first of my family born in my home state.

John at the Palace of Fine Arts
in San Francisco, a place with which I,
as a Bay Area native, am very familiar
Grandpa James Aloysius Carey
The first of my family born in California

John continued his work as a department store credit manager, first at City of Paris in San Francisco, then Schlesinger's in Oakland, then again at City of Paris. They lived in San Francisco, then in Berkeley. John is remebered for his good sense of humor. He loved loved photography and building radios. Some of his photos can be seen in this online Carey family photo album.

John and son Tom, Lake Michigan

John in a pith helmet

John and Mae at my grandparents' wedding

Mae was president of the Berkeley City Women's Club, president of the parish branch of the Ladies Aid Society, and State Secretary of the Catholic Daughters. She knew Robert's Rules of Orders from cover to cover, crocheted, loved elegant hats and clothes, and smelled of lavender, according to her grandchildren.

Mae in a kimono

John and Mae

Mae and one of her awesome hats

Mae in furs

The 1919 move brought part of my family to the San Francisco Bay Area. The next part of my family, the Boyds, would come ten years later in 1929. It was the year that saw the start of the Great Depression and my great-grandfather William Henry Boyd (born William Henry Richardson) was out of work. The mines had been “all mined out” and began to close down. No other work could be found in Arizona where he and his family lived. Will hadn't paid property taxes on some oil land in New Mexico and lost that, as well. The Boyds owned a small store that was attached to their house in Phoenix but it didn't produce the income to make up for the losses. Like many others, the family began to move to California.

The Boyds, from top to bottom:
Will and Bertha
Frank Willis (Katie's husband) and Katie
John and Antonette (John's wife)
Ruth (Jim's wife) and Jim
Mary and Julia
Ruthie (Mary's daughter) and Frank

They did not come all at once. I know that daughters Katie and Mary were there by the time son Frank (my grandfather) arrived. Great-Grandma Bertha (Brown) Boyd drove to their new home with my seven-year-old grandfather and her seventeen-year-old daughter Julia in a 1928 soft top Dodge touring car. The trip took a week. They went to Marysville, California first, where Bertha worked at the Del Monte cannery in Gridley. Will and his son John, in the meanwhile, worked and lived in Oakland. Eventually, wanting to keep the family together, Bertha brought Grandpa to Oakland.

The next to come was Grandma Florence Rose Mahler in 1945. She was then engaged to Grandpa Boyd who had met her as an Army surgical technician in training at a hospital near her hometown, Denver, Colorado, during World War II. During leave, he and a friend went to the skating rink, where they met a “nice girl, innocent, clean-living, pretty.” Their engagement was not received well by her family, however, and things became such that she decided to leave home. She went to the Bay Area and was taken in by Grandpa's parents. 

Frank and Florence (Mahler) Boyd

Soon after, she took a train to North Carolina (where Grandpa was then stationed), went over the border to South Carolina (where there was a short wait period for marriage licenses), and married at the first town they encountered (Marion). She returned to California and waited for him there. He was discharged in early 1946 and they settled in the East Bay.

It was also in about 1946 that the last of my grandparents arrived. Grandma Beulah Green had grown up in Salt Lake City, Utah, but with the end of the war, jobs and opportunities were far more plentiful than they had been before. Grandma wrote: "I came to California when I was 25, so that Aunt Velda and Uncle Blondie could come here and go to school. I had the car, and they wanted to go to the University of California. I applied for jobs at the unemployment office in Oakland. I applied for four jobs, and got five offers...I took the job at Bank of America as a traveling secretary." 

Beulah (Green) Carey

A Bank of America party
Jim is in the back row, far left. Beulah is in the back row, fourth from left.

It was at this job that she would meet a veteran named James Aloysius Carey. At first, she thought he was a happily married man with about three children, but soon discovered otherwise. After two years, the quiet Jim asked her out.

And the rest is, well, my family history. So now you know how I ended up calling California home!

Next week's challenge from No Story Too Small: "Week 10 (March 5-11) – Stormy Weather. This is the time of year that the northern hemisphere starts to see severe storms. (As if the blizzards in New England this winter haven’t been bad enough!) What ancestor endured a particularly severe storm? It could be something like a tornado or blizzard or it could be a “storm” of bad things." You've had a chance to see how my family got to California this week. Next week, you will learn how the first of my family came to America. That tale will take us back to a storm at sea in 1620 that nearly cost an ancestor his life.

Monday, February 16, 2015

52 Ancestors: Good Deeds

"Week 8 (Feb 19-25) – Good Deeds. Does this mean a generous ancestor or one you found through land records? You decide." (No Story Too Small)

This week I decided to highlight Alonzo Havington Ennis, not only because he was a man whose legacy includes good deeds but whose tale came to me through a good deed. (Technically, I could go into good land deeds too. He had a fair deal of land to his name. However, more important to my research were the good land deeds of his wife's family - one key to my being able to break through the brick wall that had kept us from going any further back. Anyways, back to the generous kind of good deeds...)

A Genealogical Good Deed
Alonzo and his wife Olive Bird were among my first interests in family history. As a child, my parents often volunteered at the Oakland LDS Family History Library. While we would often go to my grandparents' house whenever they called upon to work at the library, sometimes my brother and I would end up at the library with them. We would quietly find ways to entertain ourselves. At first, this meant shadow puppet shows using unoccupied microfilm readers or looking through the card catalog for the hardest word to read (the winner was Czechoslavakia). 

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to do family history. My initial methods were not very effective. They consisted of picking random books off shelves and looking in the indexes for familiar surnames. So, my parents set tasks for me, like looking through specific records for Alonzo and Olive. I found some secondary records for Olive's birth but nothing that helped us get past Alonzo's parents William and Margaret or to find Olive's parents. However, it helped me learn the very basics of research. Eventually, Mom taught me how to read old documents and had me help her search wills and church records for other ancestors. At BYU, I took a family history class and honed my skills by researching my ancestors Elias and Eliza (Fowlke) Aston. But it always bothered me that I could never get any further on the Ennis and Bird families.

Then, after my college graduation, it happened - the good deed that helped me learn more about Alonzo and Olive and eventually about many generations of their ancestors.

A kind distant cousin contacted my father. We had never met her but she had stumbled across the website my father had built, which included information on our family history. She had seen that we were descendants of Alonzo and Olive but that we went no further back than his parents and Olive. In her email, she said she had information that we might want. That email was followed soon after by a package. In it were these two pictures:

Alonzo Havington Ennis

Olive Bird

Perhaps you know what's it like to have heard the name of a long-dead relative and then, at last, to see their faces. If you have, you know what joy I felt. If not, then I will tell you that you go from the murk of only having an abstract image of these people you know so well by name, from the uncertain imaginings of what they may have looked like, to having a definite idea of their faces. In your mind, you can see them now as they appeared when they were alive, walking, smiling, holding their children. They become more real. I have experienced this with the Ennises, the Astons, and ancestor George Southam, and each time it was a delight to see their faces at last.

But it was even better than that. Also included in the package was the copy of a manuscript written by Alonzo and Olive's grandson Calvin and a page from a county history that linked Olive to her parents James and Mary Bird. Here were details of their lives, an account of Alonzo's personality, and information that I would be able to use to push further back in time to earlier generations!

This relative blessed me through her kind deed and now, if you wish to know more about the ancestry of Alonzo and Olive, I will pay her kindness forward. Click here to see my website on the Ennis genealogy (scroll down for the Birds). Be aware though that I am still building many of the pages and will post the missing pages as I am able. I had much of the information posted on (my father's website) but since I have an easier time accessing Olive and Eliza (my website), any updates to my information will be posted there.

An Ancestor's Good Deeds
Alonzo was born in 1819 in Schenectady, New York to William A. and Margaret Elizabeth (Snell) Ennis and grew up in upstate New York. The religious environment at that time and place is something with which I'm quite familiar, being LDS. It was a time of revivals and spiritual renewal, a time when people were making decisions about what they believed and allying themselves to one church or another. Joseph Smith, the first president of the LDS church, was living in upstate New York at the time and described "this time of great excitement":

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

According to Calvin Ennes, Alonzo's father eventually chose spiritualism - in essence, a movement featuring the belief that the living can communicate with the dead and associated with mediums and seances. The Ennises, like Joseph Smith's family initially, seemed to be divided in their beliefs. At least, Alonzo made his own choice. He became a Seventh-day Adventist, as did many of his posterity. My own grandfather (Alonzo's great-grandson) spent part of his childhood attending an Adventist church in Arizona.

The Ennises moved to Ohio. Here, Alonzo taught school and met Olive Bird. Olive was the daughter of James and Mary (Bunker) Bird. Before Olive was born, the Birds had moved from the area around Palmyra, New York in 1819 (with other family members moving in the spring of 1820 - a familiar town and date to any reader who is LDS like me). In Ohio, James farmed, "preached the Gospel" (though I'm not sure which church he belonged to), and practiced a form of herbal medicine. Alonzo and Olive moved from Union County, Ohio, where they had met and married, after the birth of their sixth child.

In Henry County, they bought land and had a great deal of success in farming. Another daughter, Sarah Olive, was born there but three and a half years later, tragedy struck. Olive and their youngest baby did not survive childbirth. Alonzo was left to raise his children alone and he carried on for another nine, almost ten years, with great grace and dignity.

Among the details that I learned about Alonzo from his grandson Calvin's account, two details particularly impressed me and gave me a picture of a man of conviction who nevertheless was kind and generous with those who believed differently:

"Alonzo was liberal in his belief. He not only kept the Sabbath Day holy, but he kept Sundays holy also. He would not do anything nor permit any members of his household to do anything on Sunday that would disturb people of other faiths."

"When the Community Church was built at Texas, Sarah Ennes stated that Alonzo Ennes was instrumental in getting the church finished by giving a large contribution towards its completion. Although always an Advent by faith, he wanted other churches to thrive."

What an example! In our time, when people are often so divided, it's good to remember that we can be firm in our beliefs, we can practice as our conscience dictates, and yet we can, like Alonzo, be civil, considerate, and loving with our neighbors. That is part of both my heritage and my belief system. Even before I knew Alonzo as well as I do now, conviction with kindness is something that was instilled in me and it continues, strengthened by the example of this good man, to be part of me. I hope that you may find inspiration in the good deeds of Alonzo as well.

Next week's challenge from No Story Too Small: "Week 9 (Feb 26-Mar 4) – Close to Home. Which ancestor is the closest to where you live? Who has a story that hits “close to home”?" I grew up and have returned to live in Northern California. Having lived in Virginia and traveled in Europe, I know how relatively recent Californian history is (or rather, the European-American part of it - of course, the Miwok have been here a long time). My own family history in California is even more recent. However, I've decided that this is a good time to explain how the first of my family came to be here. So, next week, we go back in time to 1919. Until then, do a good deed in honor of Alonzo!

Monday, February 9, 2015

52 Ancestors: Love - The Tale (Maybe) of A Phoenix and A Turtledove

"Week 7 (Feb 12-18) – Love. Which ancestor do you love to research? Which ancestor do you feel especially close to? Which ancestor seemed to have a lot of love?" (No Story Too Small)

I debated which story I should share this week. I could go for comedy and talk about Stephen and Martha (Bunker) Hussey's disastrous wedding...but I think I'll save that tale for later, just in case. ;) There were a couple of other tales from my family tree that would fit the challenge. But in the end, I've got to go with the couple that may have inspired poems about ideal love and marriage...including one by Shakespeare. Their names are John Salisbury and Ursula Stanley.

John Salisbury was the son of Katherine Tudor of Berian by her first husband, Sir John Salusbury. Katherine was a relative of Queen Elizabeth I, as well as her ward and companion, and a descendant of both Owen Tudor and Henry VII. Katherine was married four times and widowed thrice. 

She must have been considered a pretty prime choice for a wife. "It is said that when performing her last duty at the tomb of her first husband, she was escorted to church by Sir Richard Clough, and home by Morris Wynned of Geydir, who expressed a wish to be her second spouse, and received the civil reply, that his offer came too late, for she had already promised her hand to Sir Richard in going to church; but that is she should be call to perform the same melancholy ceremony over that gallant knight, he might rest assured that he should be her third benedict; a promise which she afterwards honorably performed." (Salisburies of Lleweni)

Below is a portrait of Katherine. No, I don't know whose skull that is. I'm hoping it's just allegorical and not great-great-great-great-etc.-grandpa Sir John (husband #1).

John's mother, Katherine of Berain

As for John, called Sir John the Strong, I have not found a portrait of him, though one seems to have existed at least into the 1700s. According to Dr. Johnson, it and its subject are described as “dated 1591, aged 24, half-length, short hair, no beard, dressed in a yellow figured jacket, a ruff, and with his hand on a sword. Syr John ye Strong was also represented in half-length, stout, with dark hair, but no beard; with a great ruff and yellow figured jacket, having a sword in one hand, AD 1591.”

I have not found any portrait of Ursula Stanley either nor any description from Dr. Johnson or any other writer. What I do know of her is that she was the result of an illicit love. Her father, Sir Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby, had been married to Lady Margaret Clifford but their marriage apparently soured. Henry and Margaret separated sometime after they had had four children. Henry then lived with a mistress, Jane Halsall, by whom he had four children, including Ursula. While it's not confirmed, it's said that Shakespeare was, at one point, a tutor in Sir Henry's household to Ursula and her sister Dorothy.

Ursula's father, Sir Henry Stanley

John was a poet and a literary patron. Here is the opening to one of his poems:

Not to extoll your beautie, or sett forth 
your plenteous graces, and your vertues woorth 
my yonge Muse dares attempt: such higher skill 
belonges vnto a farr more learned qwill: 
I only in humble layes endevor here

 to tell the loue I beare to you (my deare)...

Several poets dedicated work to him but perhaps the most important was The Love's Martyr by Robert Chester, as well as the verses written by other poets and added to the work. Chester dedicated his work to both John and Ursula, with the Phoenix being female and the Turtledove male. Below is just a portion of the long poem:

Phoenix of beautie, beauteous, Bird of any
To thee I do entitle all my labour,
More precious in mine eye by far then many
That feedst all earthly sences with thy savour:
Accept my home-writ praises of thy love,

And kind acceptance of thy Turtle-dove

Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, and other poets, as mentioned above, subsequently wrote verses inspired by and supplementing Chester's poem.

Here is part of Jonson's contribution, the final ode:

Splendor! O more than mortal 
For other forms come short all.
Of her illustrious brightness 
As far as sin's from lightness.

Her wit as quick and sprightful 
As fire, and more delightful 
Than the stolen sports of lovers, 
When night their meeting covers.

Judgment adorn'd with learning, 
Doth shine in her discerning,
Clear as a naked vestal 
Closed in an orb of crystal.

Her breath for sweet exceeding 
The Phoenix' place of breeding, 
But mix'd with sound transcending, 
All nature of commending.

Alas then whither wade I 
In thought to praise this lady, 
When seeking her renowning 
My self am so near drowning.

Retire and say her graces 
Are deeper than their faces, 
Yet she's not nice to show them, 
Nor takes she pride to know them.

And here is Shakespeare's contribution, The Phoenix and The Turtle:

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou, shrieking harbinger,
Foul pre-currer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever's end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather'd king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou, treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak'st
With the breath thou giv'st and tak'st,
'Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov'd, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
'Twixt the turtle and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix' sight:
Either was the other's mine.

Property was thus appall'd,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature's double name
Neither two nor one was call'd.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either-neither,
Simple were so well compounded

That it cried how true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none
If what parts can so remain.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.


Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos'd in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix' nest;
And the turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:--
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

It's not certain whether the companion poems to Chester's work were dedicated to the couple, like Chester's work was. If so, the two birds of the mysteriously allegorical poem about the death of ideal love symbolized John and Ursula. An argument against that idea was that John and Ursula didn't die "leaving no posterity," as Shakespeare wrote. In fact, they had ten children and probably now have a numerous posterity, including myself.

Did Shakespeare and Jonson and the others find inspiration for his poem in different sources than Chester's while still using the same imagery of the Phoenix and the Turtledove? Or did Shakespeare take creative liberties for the sake of his art while still joining with Chester in his dedication to the Salisburys? It's hard to tell. It's tempting to indulge in the hope that John and Ursula's marriage was happy enough to inspire love poetry, however.

Next week's challenge from No Story Too Small: "Week 8 (Feb 19-25) – Good Deeds. Does this mean a generous ancestor or one you found through land records? You decide." I have some very good and gernerous ancestors but I have to choose one. And I've chosen an ancestor who exemplified not only married and somewhat tragic love (marrying his sweetheart, raising children with her, losing her in childbirth, then dying ten years later due to an accident) but also a Christlike love for his neighbors. More later...

Monday, February 2, 2015

52 Ancestors: So Far Away

Week 6 (Feb 5-11) – So Far Away. Which ancestor is the farthest from you, either in distance or in time/generations? Which ancestor have you had to go the farthest away to research? (No Story Too Small)

So, it looks like I have three options laid out in this challenge:

  1. The ancestor farthest away from me in distance
  2. The ancestor farthest away from me in time
  3. The ancestor that cause me to travel the farthest

Two is just not going to happen. I have a number of lines stretching back well into the early Middle Ages and have learned that at that point in history, primary sources are scarce and published genealogies that stretch into it are iffy. On numerous occasions, I've come across a supposed line that traces back to Thor, son of Odin or to Zeus. Umm...yuh-huh. That's likely. How does that happen? Well, early on, the folks who drew up pedigrees for those in power all too often faked a line in order to include important historical figures or even gods in the family tree and so prove that their client was worthy to rule. 

Anyways, trying to figure out the exact generation where you go from historical and accurate to mythological is tricky and sometimes you just end up with several generations labeled "semi-legendary." And then there are lines that conjecture. If I go with that, I'd end up in ancient Egypt because maybe, maybe I can trace a line from Central Europe into Byzantium to Syria and eventually to the pharoahs. But again, there is a TON of conjecture between my medieval countess and that Egyptian king. It could have happened but there are way more fuzzy points than a genealogist would like.


I'm going for both One and Three. One takes me to the Volga area of Russia and Three takes me to my travels in Germany. And the prize for the ancestors that fit both One and Three goes to Jacob and Margaretha (Rhein) Ewald. I'll also mention their son-in-law Franz Meler, since his story is related.

Here's what I knew about them:

Jacob Ewald was born in about 1718 and his wife Margaretha in 1728. Like the ancestors of Katherine Hoffman that I mentioned earlier, the Ewalds immigrated to the Leichtling colony near the Volga River in Russia, where they became farmers. They're mentioned on that colony's First Settlers List of 1767, along with their children Friedrich, Catharina, and Margaretha (my ancestor, then aged three).

Magaretha grew up and married a widower about sixteen years her senior. Franz Meler, born in about 1749, shows up on Leichtling's First Settlers List with his first wife Anna Maria Schnellbecher and nine-week-old daughter Sarah.

That we knew this much is miraculous to me. I can remember a time, back when the Soviet Union still existed, when my father and grandmother were told by relatives that what they already knew about their German ancestors in the Russian colonies was all that they would ever know about them. And logically, that seemed likely. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, there was little reason to hope for more.

Then, in the late 1990s, the censuses came to light. The Russian government, wanting to keep tabs on anyone they considered foreigners, would periodically take a census of the German villages, including each member of household, their ages, their livestock and crops, and their movement to other villages. While they paint an incomplete picture, they are precious. And thus, our family came to know that my great-grandfather's grandfather Nikolaus Mehler (who we knew from Great-Grandfather's stories) was the son of Georg, son of Friedrich, son of Franz and Margaretha.

Well, one more valuable piece of information that the First Settlers List tells us is where these people came from. The Ewalds came from Aschaffenburg in Bavaria, Germany and Franz came from in Mainz in the Rheinland Palatinate in Germany.

This last year, my mother decided to plan a trip for all of us to Europe. Mom's idea was to go to Italy and I readily agreed. I've wanted to go to Florence since I was a teen, which is when I learned to love Botticelli and da Vinci and the other greats of the Italian Renaissance. To give my father something that would interest him, she chose to include Germany, including a tour of ancestral hometowns. What that meant for me was a couple of months of going over the records we had and doing additional research so we would know what towns we wanted to see and what we could do when we got there.

Mom was of great help with Mainz. She took a moment while we were both scrambling about planning to help me Google information on the town. And this is how I learned about the wonderful Stadtarchiv! At her suggestion, I wrote to them to gather any information on Franz that I could before I left. I also decided to look for a stadtarchiv in Aschaffenburg and email them as well (though I did this a little too near to our departure). I highly recommend the archives in Germany to see if they can help you - they often have someone who speaks English, if you don't know German and are often very helpful.

Mom booked us to stay first at Ruesselsheim near Mainz and this was our home base for several days. On the last of these days, we stopped at the Stadtarchiv in Mainz. We only had a few hours in the morning before the archives shut for lunch and we had to leave to get to Rothenburg ob der Tauber before nightfall.

Mainz, near the cathedral (dom)
Photo taken by me (2014)

We sat in a little room, surrounded by old books and card catalogs and maps, with the cathedral bells sounding the hour outside, and searched feverishly through the cards that contained the extracted records of the parishes of Mainz. Every now and then, one of us would go to set of little drawers at one end of the room and with the help of the archivist, pull another drawer out and take it to the wide table in the middle of the room. The archivist knew very little English but between the librarian who did speak English and came to check on us a couple of times, the little German we knew, the little English the archivist knew, and a little pantomime and guessing, she was able to piece together what was happening and watch with eagerness as a discovery took place.

Above the door to the city archive and library in Mainz
Photo taken by me (2014)

There were no Franz Melers, no Franz Mehlers, no Franz Mahlers, no Franz Mollers christened anywhere near the right time. I was becoming resigned to the idea that Franz would remain the end-of-the-line ancestor. Then, my brother came to the rescue. While Mom, Dad, and I searched, he was looking around. His eyes met with a book marked Müller and he realized how close that was to Meler. He and Mom asked for the drawer that might contain Müllers and the archivist's eyes lit up. Of course!

Hearing what was going on, I pulled up my information and discovered something I had overlooked. While the family had gone by Meler and Mehler later, the very first mention of Franz that I had spelled his name Müller. The importance of looking for all the different spelling variations! How important that can be!

As it turns out, there was one Franz Müller born at the right time: Franz Michael Müller, christened 30 November 1748 at St. Emmeran's parish, Mainz, the son of Georg and Maria Müller! We had just enough time to stop at St. Emmeran's church before we had to leave for Rothenburg.

Copy of the original christening record for Franz Michael Mueller that I was able to obtain later

St. Emmeran, Mainz
Photo taken by me (2014)

Old statue (perhaps of Mary), St. Emmeran
Photo taken by me (2014)

Along the way, we stopped at Aschaffenburg. It's in Bavaria, only about 45 minutes away from the Czech border, and features a nice aldstadt (old part of town) with a large basilica. We walked around, then went into the basilica, then had lunch at a cafe (giant soft pretzels!). The church was of great interest to me because of the old memorial stones and the art (some created by artists I know) but I was startled by the relics (a very old skeleton, supposedly of a saint, in a glass coffin). Now, I have a good solid university education and have watched plenty of travel shows and knew very well about such relics. Being a good genealogist, I have a deep appreciation and lack of fear of cemeteries. I've seen other skeletons (or replicas - I never really determined which - at Jamestown) and mummies in museums. But this one...nnnhhh-huh-huh! Yipes! Not sure why it got to me but...shudder!

The basilica at Aschaffenburg
Photo taken by me (2014)

Painting by Lucas Cranach, Aschaffenburg
Photo taken by me (2014)

Overall, I liked Aschaffenburg but it was what happened when we got to Rothenburg that evening that really made that day complete.

The archivist at Aschaffenburg had emailed me. He had recruited two members of the local historical society and those lovely women had track down the Ewalds in the records. As it turns out, the Ewalds were pig-herders who moved frequently in and around Aschaffenburg. In fact, in Margaretha Ewald's christening record, Jacob and Margaretha are listed as "vagabundierend," or vagabonds. Jacob was the son of Johann Ewald and Margaretha was the daughter of Johann Adam Rhein.

A pig and butcher statue,
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Photo taken by me (2014), in honor of my
pig-herding Ewald ancestors

Like I said, working with the archives in the towns where your ancestor came from is important. So too, as this trip reminded me, is reviewing what you know periodically. And travel to these places that were so important to your ancestors can draw you closer to them. I felt less of a connection to my German roots than my other roots before. But getting to know Germany on such a personal level has given me a new level of love for that side of my family tree.

By the way, since then, I've been able to find more materials available from the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and fill in some details about the Ewalds' voyage from Germany to Russia and potentially about Franz. To learn more, see my page about the Ewalds and my page about Franz and Margaretha.

Next week's challenge from No Story Too Small: "Week 7 (Feb 12-18) – Love. Which ancestor do you love to research? Which ancestor do you feel especially close to? Which ancestor seemed to have a lot of love?" After some deliberation, I think I'm going with a love story that may have inspired Shakespeare. Intrigued? Come back to find out more!