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25 April 2011

Who is Bertha Schenk?

I have another photo from the family album that I've been blessed to be the guardian of. Many of the photos have been identified, but several have not. This picture is labeled Bertha Schenk. Bertha was said to be the maid of honor, or some such important attendant, at the wedding of Henry Joseph Geiszler to Magdalena Hopppe on 3 Jul 1882 in Columbus, Franklin, Ohio.

Other than this information, that's all I have of her. Except that she has a son, of which I have a baby picture for. So... perhaps someone is looking for Bertha Schenk. Hopefully they can help me solve this mystery.

Mystery Monday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

20 April 2011

Wedding Wednesday - Robert and Clementina Zumstein

Victor and Clementina Comfort Wedding Photo
Victor married his childhood sweetheart Clementina Comfort, who at that time was teaching public school in Smithville Ont. Her engagement ring was said to have cost $100. They were married under a pear tree at the home of Alonzo Comfort.

This photo is such a treasure. I've posted before how I've had to have Patience and Courage in Genealogy. The above picture is an example of having patience and courage. Victor and Clementina are my father's grandparents. My grandma Helen Zumstein is their daughter. Grandma Helen had numerous pictures lining her home in Ohio of her ancestors. She loved sharing stories about these relatives. Unfortunately, I didn't share the interest when I was 7. Sadly, she had a stroke with resulting dementia when I was ready to pursue the family history.

It's a long and sad story, but suffice it to say, when Helen was in a nursing home, her family pictures seemed to have been lost to the times. Perhaps the state of Ohio has a collection of unclaimed family artifacts waiting to be discovered. Regardless, I never thought I'd have more than one picture of my great-grandparents.

In March, I called upon a niece of Helen's who lives in Ohio. Cousin Molly was insanely nice and the next day, she filled my inbox with 30+ pictures of Helen, her siblings, her nieces and nephews, as well as her parents and grandparents. Not only is this Wedding photo awesome and the couple so handsome, the picture is a priceless treasure for me because of the story in how I received a copy of it.

Wedding Wednesday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

18 April 2011

Mystery Monday - Basler

Who is this man? The name written under his photo is Basler. But it's hard to decide what's written in front of his name. This picture was found in a photo album held by the recently deceased Margie Geiszler Wasson. The album contains photos of Caroline Mack Geiszler Billman, Henry and Margie (nee Hoppe) Geiszler, and Conrad and Lizzie Grener.

Currently I don't have any established connections to this gentleman. I don't really know when this photograph was taken. It's possible that this man was a family friend or a Godfather. I do have one photo in this album that fits that bill. Sadly, the family members who would know why this picture is in the album have passed away.

So... this photo is open to the internet as a Family History mystery to be solved.

Mystery Monday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

16 April 2011

Surname Saturday - Gesizler Family

Lineage of Joseph Geißler of Baden
who immigrated to Franklin County, Ohio

My father is a descendant of a German Catholic immigrant that made his way to Franklin County, Ohio perhaps in the 1850s. The immigrant's name was Joseph Geißler. Additional posts about Joseph include:

This post focuses on the surname Geißler and much of the family lore and the published speculation about the last name.

What is the Meaning and Origin? 

A variety of resources, many with suspect sources, put forth the idea that the Geißler surname has a Swiss origin. The meaning is supposedly related to a goat herder. One source speculated that Geiß translates as "nanny goat" in German, giving weight to the origin and meaning. Goat herders not only tended goats but products from goat milk.

Another origin source says the name is a Bavaria / Austria name associated with the personal name Giselher (Gieseler). Giselher is from gisil meaning ‘offspring’, ‘pledge’, ‘noble offspring’ and heri meaning ‘army'.i

How do you say the last name Geißler?

The G in German might have various sounds depending upon who is saying the name. It can have a familiar English /g/ sound or a harsher /k/ sound. I have seen documents from my immigrant ancestor with a 'G' as the initial letter and a 'K'. This could explain why Joseph's naturalization documents have a K rather than a G.  As one can see, the 'G' and the ß from Joseph's last name can create much confusion in the English speaking new world.

Next is the vowel combination of 'ei'  The German pronunciation is long i.  The English pronunciation tends to be long e.  Geesler?  German ie is long e.  English ie is long i. Most Geiszlers that I have met say the "I" sound... almost like the first syllable is "guy" rather than "Gee"

According to Paul Joyce German Course at the University of Portsmouth,  "A double 's' (written 'ss' or 'ß') is always pronounced as an unvoiced English 's' in words such as 'seal' or 'self'. This sound is written 'ss' when the preceding vowel in a word is short. It is written 'ß': after a long vowel e.g. 'Fuß', 'Maß', 'Spaß'"

For the most part, the Geiszlers in Ohio pronounce the name: "Guys - lure."

Spelling Variations

Wouldn't it be easy if the Geißler had only two variations? Well, that's not the case. In the name Geißler, the  strange looking letter that resembles a "B" with a leg on it is referred to as a German Beta or the eszett. When Germans were describing how to spell their names in English, the middle letters have often become 'ss' or 'sz' as it sounds like the letter name of eszett.  The Geiszlers on the lineage above have had various spellings until it finally locked into Geiszler by Henry's death in 1931.

The last name can be spelled as: Geiszler, Geissler, Keisler, Keiszler, Guysler, Gysler, Gesley, Geiss, Geisler, Geisen, Geisnger,  Gessler.

The Rumor

Several Geiszler 'cousins' have shared emails with me over the year and suggested that the Geißlers were in the Prussian aristocratic class. When things deteriorated for the gentry, the Geißlers fled.

Now there may or may not be truth to this idea. What I do know is that there was no 'real Germany' as a unified country in the 1830s-1850s when my immigrant was born and then sailed to America. In the early 1800s, many Germanic people hoped to create a unified country with democratic rather that royal government. In 1848, uprisings began throughout the German-states to overthrown the princes. The princes won and for a time worked with the rebels towards reformation, but soon many rebels were being arrested and persecuted. Disappointed Germans then began leaving their homeland.

If Joseph was linked to aristocracy it could explain how he had the initial money to purchase land in Franklin County, Ohio at such a young age. However, those who fled were generally merchants and educated individuals, and sometimes the poor class, which was generally below the aristocratic tier of society. In other words, the mass emigration in the 1840s and 1850s were primarily rebels or rebel sympathizers. For my particular ancestor, I'm inclined to believe Joseph was a part of or related to a rebel and needed to find a new home quickly to save his skin. He could still have been born a part of the aristocracy, but it currently can't be proven.

Further Reading:
Discovering A Signature for Joseph Geißler

i. Dictionary of American Family Names Edited by Patrick Hanks
ii. Joseph Keizler, certificate of naturalization (1858), The State of Ohio, Franklin Count, Clerk of Superior Court, September term AD 1858, Joseph Keizler, Certified in Columbus, On 11 October 1858. Document in possession of David G. Geiszler of Columbus, Ohio. Electronic copy in possession of Devon Geiszler Lee.

12 April 2011

Tech Tuesday: Help!?! I don't know what to do next on


I took the plunge at got a one-month membership to Now that I've found all the family trees that mention my family members and gone through all of the Hints. Now I'm overwhelemed on what to do next.

First, I don't understand how to sort through the families I have accepted as hints.

Second, I don't understand how to refine the search historical documents so that I don't have 400,000 records that aren't even CLOSE to the individual I'm attempting to search. I guess I don't understand why I have so many options when I select a family member from my tree and the search field are completed for me.

Any help in the reverse would be GREAT! Thanks!

Tech Tuesday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

10 April 2011

Thank You GenaBloggers

I found this great community called GenaBloggers. It is a great place for inspiration on what to share on my family history blog. I've found technical tips and genealogy tips as well. I have not been able to begin absorbing all the information as there are over 1,800 blogs on their blog roll. Wow!

Additionally, the community has been so welcoming already. I haven't even begun participating in the Daily Prompts and community members have reached out to me. I'm so excited. I hope as more people find me, they'll find them. Even if you receive moral support in your genealogy efforts alone, the community was worth the membership (it's not a paid membership, just in case your wondering).

So thank you to Thomas MacEntee for this awesome blog and all the work you do.