When Franzisca and Fantje became Frances

IMG_0103Above, Grandma Anna Mary Feser Schmidley from Genderalden Bavaria. She migrated to Chicago with her parents c. 1840 and died in Janesville Wisconsin in 1912.


I haven’t been online the past few days.  Much to do around here.  And I thought I would have time on my hands when I retired……

For one thing, I got back to the pool after a few weeks absence owing to various medical complaints. Very annoying complaints.

My doc henceforth known as ‘the quack” says I must drink less fluid.  Excuse me, did I hear that right?  Seems I have “too much water in my blood.” He also says I am anemic, and has sent paperwork to the hospital center for more blood work.  That should take care of some of the water, she said sarcastically.  Oh I shouldn’t complain, he’s one of the last doctors around taking Medicare patients.


But enough of that! After 70 degree weather for a few days, the temps plummeted to 15 last night, although its warming up outside with the ‘almost springlike’ sunlight. The weather forced me to stay inside, and I finally got on the Ancestry.com website.  Of course I had to sign up.

I have years and years of material accumulated by me and various family members who passed stuff on to me before they died.  I am not the oldest survivor, that’s probably cousin Susie on the Schmidley side, but I want to leave a record for the kids and grandkids.  I am the oldest on my Mom’s side…maybe.  I have cousins all over the Netherlands, and some of the material I have on hand came from them.

So I went exploring, mostly entering information from the reams of paper I have stacked in my “ancestry” section of one of my bookcases.

My training as a demographer has helped me sort the wheat from the chaff on the Ancestry.com site, which does indeed have access to numerous written accounts and tons of what we social scientists call ‘data.’  Census records; vital records…births, deaths, marriages and divorces; city directories; county, state and other collections, etc.  I found my dad in the Brunswick Georgia City Directory…one of the dozens of places we lived at one time or another.

As I struggled through the material, I became quite confident NSA could never figure out my peripatetic familey.

I also became aware of some of the secrets various family members might have kept. I say might, because I also found mistakes in many records. Years of social science research training and editing census data and other statistics made me a data hawk.  I can spot the slightest discrepancy, and the discrepancies are not all owing to sloppy clerks. For example, sometimes a child died and the next child got the same name.  Sometimes men and occasionally women remarried after the death or abandonment of a spouse.

I discovered my dad was probably more German than not…a well kept secret in the twentieth century.  He also had ancestors who were French orphans, indentured Welsh, fusty Puritans, and farmers who fought in the American War of Independence from Britain (they are in the “American Revolution’s soldiers and sailors” records).

From my examination of the branch of the family that came from New England I reached two conclusions.  The folks who fought the British had many reasons to dislike them, and it’s no surprise that the struggle began in New England.  The second thing I knew and rediscovered, is that you are very fortunate if one of your ancestral lines goes back into the New England colonies, particularly Massachusetts. My goodness, when they weren’t killing Indians, they kept a lot of records.

Years ago, I wrote a graduate paper on the Urbanization of Massachusetts and Virginia and I looked at settlement patterns, boundaries, etc. over several hundred years. From this, I had some inkling of what I might find if I began genealogical research in Massachusetts (many records in Virginia were destroyed during the Civil War). Later, I did some field work in New England and visited various towns and graveyards. A friend who did genealogical work for her keep, then a cousin of my Mom’s, did some of the record searching and passed what they found onto me.

I knew one line of the family had migrated from the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel around 1650, and yesterday, I found corroboration.  You see, genealogical work is like police detection.  It’s also puzzle solving.  And, it’s  fascinating to look at the lives of those who went before. For me, the women’s lives are fascinating.  I have been thrilled to find material for several of my women ancestors.

Years ago, one of my graduate history professors recommended Ancestry.com for research, and I can see why.

PS I wil be around to visit other bloggers over the next few days.

15 thoughts on “When Franzisca and Fantje became Frances

  1. Diane:I am the eldest cousin,but my mom is the oldest living Schmidley that we know of. she will be 97 n Aug. Also your dad is part Polish. His great grandmother came from Poland. Her maiden name was Domonowski. Also the name Nichols is also polish. Susie


    • I forgot about Aunt Rita (checking to see if you are reading my posts?) Slap slap. Guess she is not doing much around building ancestry charts these days. Some of our double cousins (children of Uncle Bill and Aunt Ruby) are also into geneology. Many others perhaps alive from the large Schmidley family.

      Re Polish. If there is Polish, it was in Grandma Edna’s mother’s family, but Nichols from Great Britain through and through. They did not approve of PFD I was told by my dad. PFD immigrated from Prussia which became part of Germany under Bismarck. Today this area is in Poland. 87% of people with the name Dominowski say they are German. The rest claim Prussia. Both Germans and Polish in Prussia. More research needed.


  2. Hi dear YOu….I did ancestry.com a year ago. Not only do I have reams of family data, I have the photographs to back it up. My uncle was head of the Mayflower society for a while, so there are all those things too. I found it fascinating, and when I entered the info, I also posted a picture of each person. I know there is a lot richer lists than mine, but I covered from my grandkids through my great great grandparents. I felt that was enough.

    Isn’t it time to consider a Medicare Advantage Plan. My doc won’t take Medicare either, but she will take me with that Advantage Plan. Hurrah.


    • David has a Medicare Advantage Plan via AT&T ( his retirement insurance)…and he took out additional dental coverage with an additional cost. I was on his plan for many years, but took myself off it when I got my own coverage through my job. I have the federal government plan…BC/BS. Probably should switch to Kaiser as they are taking over health care.

      Under the ACA ALL advantage plans will be cut, however. That’s one of the parts of the ACA Obama delayed until after the 2014 midterm elections. I hate to think of David and you too, perhaps losing some of his coverage when he most needs it.

      Re Ancestry… I remember your posts. I read about the Gunny amoung others.


  3. I have pretty good stuff on my family (my mom was a proud card-carrying DAR … a group that makes me a little queasy actually, if it even still exists) and my sister has done the research on our dad’s family quite a ways back. But I would like to do it for Bill’s….there isn’t too much and nobody else is interested at this point that I know of. I’d like to do it for our kids….


  4. I have had occasion to use ancestry.com in the past for research into a few projects (including my own genealogy) and find that as long as I stay away from the other researchers we all do just fine. Too many tend to grab without checking their facts, and assume.

    There may even be some books online (readable) that could help you as well. this is a site I use frequently, often they will have just the genealogy or history you need, many of them available online and readable. https://openlibrary.org

    I understand the frustration, and get seriously annoyed when the wife is regarded as a baby machine, to be replaced very quickly after she dies with yet another baby machine. Sometimes they even remembered to record her name…


  5. I always wanted to do a maternal family tree,it is very hard because the name changes every generation and some records just say “wife” don’t even mention a name.I only got back about five generations and hit a brick wall. In contrast my Dad’s family “Pittards” can trace back to England 1725. A Samuel Pittard was born then in Somerset England. They used the name Samuel all through the generations as I had a great uncle Samuel and an Aunt they named Sammy Dee, a Southern thing to name a girl with a version of a man’s name..You have a much more diverse ancestor pool than I do mine were all English,French,Irish and Scotch. My ex-husband gave my kids the addition of German and Prussian. My family, Mom’s and Dad’s ,all stayed in Georgia for many ,many generations.



  6. I have been researching my family and my husband’s on and off for years. It is interesting, fun, but time consuming and can be tedious. It is difficult sometimes sifting through layers of family stories, find some truth, and then the info in the records. A never-ending story and search!


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