Evolution of An Amateur Genealogist Part III – Speedy Gonzales Has Retired

This is the third part of what is becoming an on-going series of posts discussing my personal evolution as a genealogist and lessons I’m learning.  Here are the links so that you can read Part I and Part II.


How many of you remember the Looney Tunes cartoon character, Speedy Gonzales, from several years back?  He was the little “Mexican” mouse who was always rushing around getting into trouble and causing mischief.  (Admittedly, not very politically correct, but not many people knew what “PC” was back then.)  I have to admit that for much of the time I have been doing my genealogy/family history research, Speedy Gonzales would probably be a pretty good representation of how I worked.  (I actually considered calling this post the Retirement of Speed Racer, but I wasn’t much of a Speed Racer fan when I was younger – I was more partial to Looney Tunes.)  I was racing from one find to the next, always eager to make new finds and trace things back one more generation.  I somewhat blame Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker for this habit.  No, I don’t mean that it is a fault of the program or website.  What I mean is that one of the greatest strengths of Ancestry and the FTM program is that they make basic genealogy research very easy for the beginner and in my case, that contributed to my self-perceived need for speed.

Well, I can tell you without a doubt, that Speedy Gonzales has now retired from genealogy.
No, I don’t actually mean that I am retiring from genealogy!  (Even though I think my fiancee and a few others might welcome the relief from my passion/obsession!)

One of the things that I have learned over the past few months while educating myself on the more technical side of genealogy is the importance of slowing down.  I talked in my first post about how I had come to fully realized the importance of not just collecting names and dates, but actually documenting and citing all of that information, and then in my second post, I talked more about the education process and learning the methodologies and citation forms that lend legitimacy to our research.  Well, folks, I am here to tell you that my third lesson is that doing all of those things takes time!

I mentioned earlier in the month that one of my goals for June was to evaluate the Evidentia program.  While I haven’t fully explored all of it or completely decided whether or not I am going to continue using it, I have definitely discovered the biggest benefit of the program – it forces the researcher to slow down and truly examine their sources and what the individual source is telling you.  As I have worked with the program, I have discovered that even on a source that I thought I had fully examined and analyzed, I actually missed information, or misread information that the source contained.  Evidentia got me to take a second look and completely and thoroughly examine the source.

In addition, I have started to more carefully examine what sources I have checked for information to verify or disprove conclusions that I have reached.  This is element one of the genealogy proof standard – conduct a reasonably exhaustive search of available sources.  Adhering to this element has not only helped me ensure that my conclusions are correct, but it has also in a few cases, lead me to new information that unexpectedly helped me on other questions that I had not yet even asked.  A great example of this was when I went back to search land records for information on my paternal great great grandfather.  While I didn’t find any new information on his land holdings, what I did accidentally discover was information on my father’s maternal great grandfather’s landholdings.  This information not is not only going to help me advance my research on the Nicholls line, but it also provided me with proof that one of my ancestors qualifies me for a Pioneer Certificate in my home county of De Kalb County, Indiana.

As I have learned to slow down in doing my research, I have also learned to not be quite so obsessed with “advancing” my lineage.  I have begun to focus more and more on not just proving and documenting the lineage, but also on learning about the “why” behind the facts.  This has been a very personally enriching side effect of my slow down.  I have begun to take the time to stop and wonder why my ancestors did the things that they did and how they ended up where they were.  To genuinely learn about their stories and the lives that my ancestors lived has given me a much greater appreciation for who they were and who I am.

My advice to all of my fellow amateur genealogists – heed the old adage and slow down and take time to smell the roses.  It will benefit your research in ways that you can only begin to imagine!


Sunday’s Obituary – Clara Augusta (Paessler) Hill

This week’s Sunday Obituary is for my great grandmother, Clara Augusta (Paessler) Hill (25 Aug 1881 – 21 Jan 1970).

Clara Hill obituary,
Upper Sandusky, Ohio,
Upper Sandusky Daily Chief-Union,
22 Jan 1970, p.1 column 3

Great Grandma Hill’s parents, Herman and Augusta Paessler, were German immigrants, and Clara was the youngest of their children.  From letters that I have seen and have copies of, Clara was rather well traveled in her later years as I have found letters from her to my grandmother that are post marked California, Arizona and Texas.  From the letters, it appears that Great Grandma Hill took a several months long trip to visit her children that lived in various states around the country.

Friday’s Faces from the Past – I know when, but not why

Earl Link (2nd front row, 2nd from right)
Picture taken 23 March 1935
Neuman Photography Studio
Ft. Wayne, IN

This Friday’s Faces from the Past photo is one of the many “mystery” photos that came home with me from my trip last week.  The reason that I call these pictures “mystery photos” is that while I am able to identify one or more family members in many of the pics, I have not been able to identify the why or sometimes when of the pictures.  The photo above is one such picture.

We found this picture in my grandmother’s things this past week.  The man seated 2nd from the right in front is clearly my grandfather, Earl Link.  The picture had a few great clues on the back of it: 1) It was clearly dated March 23, 1935; 2) it had a stamp from the studio where it was taken – Neuman Studio, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  Unfortunately, beyond that, there are no clues about what this picture is or why it was taken.

The “school boy” look of many of the men in it (including my grandfather) at first made me think that perhaps it was a school reunion; however, the age difference in a few of the men would seem to shoot down that theory (also the fact that my grandfather went to school in Ohio and not in Indiana).  A second idea was that perhaps this was some sort of promotional photo for where my grandfather worked.  I have information that he did work for Sears at some point in his life, but his Railroad Retirement Board file clearly shows that in 1935, my grandfather was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

I have one other theory that as of yet, I have not been able pursue… My grandfather was a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (essentially the union for railroad workers) at some point during his career.  One of my theories about this picture is that perhaps it is the “freshman class” photo for the newest members of his local Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers #12.  My younger brother and I are in the process of trying to track down records for my grandfathers membership in the union, but until we find those, I won’t have much to go on for this theory.

I have no doubt that the clues that are provided on the picture itself will help me track this down (I’m already working on the Neuman Studio clue), but until then, this picture remains one of of those faces from the past colored in a little mystery.

Wordless Wednesday – Winter Work

“Ira and Donald Washler”
(as written on the original)
date unknown

I love this picture just because it shows what life was like for my grandfather’s generation during the winters – hard work just to bring in the wood needed to keep warm when snow was covering everything.

The picture does need a little explanation…the writing on the back of this picture identifies the individuals as “Ira and Donald Washler” which I can confirm is at least partially true.  The man on the right is most definitely my grandfather, Donald A. Washler.  However, there was no “Ira Washler” as far as I have been able to find.  My best guess at this point is that the other man in the picture is actually Donald’s brother-in-law, Ira Reinhart.  Ira married Donald’s sister, Stella.

I have a few requests out to family members to see if my hunch on this picture is correct.

Tombstone Tuesday – Donald and Mary (Hablawetz) Washler

This week’s Tombstone Tuesday post is of my father’s parents, Donald and Mary (Hablawetz) Washler.  I have only very very vague memories of my grandfather and unfortunately no memories of my grandmother since both died when I was still relatively young.  It wasn’t until I started doing my genealogy research that I knew that my grandfather actually died on my 4th birthday.

My grandparents are buried in Riverview Cemetery in Newville, Indiana.  This is the same cemetery where both of their parents, many of their siblings and many of the family ancestors are buried.

Donald and Mary (Hablawetz) Washler
Riverview Cemetery, Newville, DeKalb County, IN

Donald Adelbert WASHLER:  b. 10 June 1898 in Concord Twp, DeKalb County, IN
                                               d. 11 December 1975 in Auburn, IN
                                                m. 28 March 1929 in United Brethren Church of Newville, IN

Mary Louise HABLAWETZ:   b. 07 August 1907 in Wilmington Twp., DeKalb County, IN
                                               d. 25 August 1973 in Auburn, IN

Sentimental Sunday – Going Home

I have to apologize to my readers – I have been AWOL from the blog and pretty much all social media for the past week.  My absence was for a very good reason.  This past week, I went back home to my

childhood home to spend the week with my brother and sisters and our dad.  I wish I could say that it was all pleasure and fun, but we were home with a purpose.  The week was a rough one in some respects, but a pleasure and incredibly rewarding in others.

My mom passed away just over six years ago, and at the time, we went through her personal effects, but we never dealt with were the years, and years (and years) of accumulated things that were in the house.  This week, we all went home to go through the house and divide up the pictures and everything else.
What we found as we were going through the house was almost overwhelming.Some of what we went through was not unexpected – there were the quilts and blankets that Mom had accumulated over the years, the pictures from her childhood and our childhoods that we needed to sort and divide up, the various memorabilia from us growing up that we each simply needed to take with us.  The memories that came back as we tackled the “expected” were amazing.  
It was Mom and Dad’s “spare room” (or as my sisters call it – borrowing a line from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – The land of Spare Oom) that provided the “wow” factor for the week.  The room contained not only things that Mom and Dad had kept from their lives, but also a large amount of things that had come from my grandmother’s house when she passed away.  As you can imagine, the room proved to be a treasure trove of not just memories, but genealogical finds as well!
Among the things that we found were a log from my grandfather’s days as an engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad which my younger brother is going transcribe and “decrypt.”  (You can expect a follow-up post on that item since we believe he may have been the engineer on some significant trains!)  We also found a 160 year old bible that belonged to my great great grandmother as well as her hymnal, diplomas from my grandmothers college and high school, my mother’s college diploma, grade cards, awards, address books, newspaper clippings, letters, cards, and the list goes on and on.
Needless to say, I am sitting here at home now having just unloaded my car and I am looking at everything that came home with me as well as everything that I scanned because it went home with my brother and sisters, and to be honest I am feeling just a bit overwhelmed in a great way.  I have to sort all of this and then start the process of seeing what just gets preserved and stored for the memories, what will be used for genealogical information before being preserved and stored, and what gets put out and displayed in the house (or used in my house).  As hard as the task was last week, the one ahead of me is not harder, but almost more challenging.
Over the next several weeks (and probably months), I will have many, many posts here letting my readers know what my finds are and what exciting memories and new finds I come across.  I already know that from a genealogical standpoint, the new information, proof and leads that I am going to find will be amazingly rewarding.  
What I’m looking forward to the most, though, is sharing with you some of the memories that all of this brings back because I think that has been the most overwhelming part of the week is the memories that were long forgotten which are now stirred up and swirling through my head.
Sometimes going home is fun; sometimes it is emotional; sometimes it is heart-breaking; but most of all, going home is always going where the family comes together and the memories come pouring out and flood my head.

Follow Friday – June 14

Several of my posts for this Friday were part of a series of posts.  Two sets came from bloggers who are attending the Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University up the road in Birmingham, Alabama.  I even found time this week to find a few new blogs to follow.  

This week’s favorites:
Genealogy Prejudice Rears its Ugly Head – The title pretty much says it all.  This was a great article about the prejudice that seems to be coming up a lot within the genealogical community.  I completely agree with Mark – This is dumb!
IGHR Reports from Are My Roots Showing – I loved reading Jenny’s posts about IGHR, and I have to say that she has done a lot to convince me that IGHR is on my agenda some year soon!  Here are her post on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5.
Judy Russell over at the Legal Genealogist has two great posts on IGHR as well.  One on Primary Resources and one on Historical Maps
An on going series at Nutfield Genealogy – Weathervane Wednesday – has always been a favorite weekly read for me.
Who Put the Heads on Pez?  My Cousin Curt! is a great post that gives us all a great biography of someone that most of us have probably never thought about but who was responsible for a cultural icon!
The Gift of Time is an a post that I just read this morning.  Michelle over at Southern Sleuth wrote a great biography piece with a pocket watch as her inspiration.  Fantastic writing!
Last, but not least, is Swimming in the stream of history over at Genealogy’s Star.  James’s piece has some great advice for all genealogists – go read and learn about the history that your ancestors lived through!  It will enlighten you so much more on what their lives were really like.
Two new (to me) blogs this week:
Teach Me Genealogy is a great educational blog.
50 Shades of Genealogy isn’t actually new to me, but I wanted to include it because it’s very funny and hits home on pretty much every post.  This is a tumblr page by Thomas MacEntee (the man behind Geneabloggers).