Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Friday, August 5, 2011
When I was a kid in the 1970s, my mother’s family had somewhat regular family reunions in the summer. There were essentially two branches of the Wenz family, located in New York/New Jersey and Boston. Most of the reunions I remember were in Boston, except for one big one in 1976 in New Jersey. Each year, I would have an opportunity to hang out with cousins who were ostensibly related to me and then not see them again until the next reunion. My mother’s mother, Dorothy Mae (Irving) Wenz, lived in Miami, and would come up for a visit at the time of the reunions. As we were preparing for the 1976 reunion, I was sitting at the kitchen table with Grandma Dot and I asked her how I was related to the cousins I only saw once each year.
It was a bit of a tangled situation, the result of the marriage of two sisters, Dot and Millie Irving and their marriage to two brothers, Ted and Fred Wenz. I finally had to get out a piece of paper and draw a little chart to keep things straight. As she waited for me to draw the lines, she would tell me stories of her childhood.
Her father was an immigrant from Canada, where he used to run the ferry from St. John, New Brunswick to Boston. One trip, it seems, he just got off the ferry and never got back on it. Eventually he got a job with the Houghton Publishing Company in Boston (millions of schoolchildren then and now will recognize the Houghton Mifflin name!). He used to bring home the seconds to his children, starting them, and subsequent generations, on a lifetime of a love of literature.
Grandma Dot said that her legs were bowed as a child, and that her father had dug a shallow trench in the backyard, sit her in it and pack her legs with dirt each day. I don’t remember how long this process took, but eventually, my grandmother had nice, straight legs.
To this day, thirty-five years later, I can still remember the magic of that moment – I loved the stories about the people and the history and wanted to know more! I embarked on a mission to accumulate dozens of vital records certificates from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and each one provided both missing pieces of the puzzle and more holes in the puzzle! From the scrap of paper (which I still have) came a half dozen poster boards delineating the Wenz-Irving family for the reunion. Wonder what became of them?
Then one day two LDS missionaries came to the door while I was working on the posters. I could say coincidentally, but I’ve come to know that there are no coincidences in the work of family history. There just happened to be a woman in town, part of the only LDS family in town, who know a lot about family history.
Learning about the genealogical resources of the LDS Church opened up a whole new world to me. In September of 1976, I moved to Miami and went to my first local Family History Center, in the Miami 1st Ward building, with Sister Edna Slay as director.
Since then I’ve spent countless hours in Family History Centers, National Archives Branches and online and had some marvelous “adventures of the Spirit.” Oh, and I'm a Mormon now!
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
My 3rd great-grandparents, Joseph and Marie (Seltz) Drach came from the town of Benfeld, in the Bas Rhin region of France. Around 1843 they took their two daughters - Ernestine and Marie Aloise, and left Benfeld for Le Havre. Joseph's brother Antoine, his wife Marie Anne (Gastiger) and their five children. They apparently stayed there for a time, as Emil and Josephine were born there, and Ernestine died.
They sailed from Le Havre on the ship William Goddard and arrived in Boston on August 26, 1847 and traveled to Lowell, Massachusetts. There is a large French community there, although it is primarily Quebeçois.Joseph Drach became a naturalized citizen in Lowell in 1894. His son-in-law, Hugh Gillon, was one of his witnesses.
Emil enlisted in Company K, 31st Massachusetts Infantry in February of 1862, and by December he was dead, killed by a sniper's bullet. But that's another blog.
The parents of Marie Aloise's husband, Theodore Antoine Vautrinot, were Jean Antoine and Marie Rosalie (Munier) Vautrinot. They came from Liepvre in the Haut Rhin region. They sailed on the ship "Mary & Adele" (637 tons) from Le Havre and landed at the Port of New York in January of 1855. From New York they traveled to Boston. Marie Rosalie gave birth to two more girls, but by 1862, she and the two girls had died. Theodore was their oldest child, and by this time he had already married Marie Aloise and started a family of his own. Jean Antoine took Marie Louise and Jean Jr. and moved to Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.
This is one of the great family mysteries. First, why didn't they stay in NYC when they landed in 1855? Then, after Marie Rosalie died, why pull up stakes and go to NJ? Egg Harbor City was a planned community as a safe haven for German immigrants, mostly Moravians. The Vautrinots have traditionally been French Roman Catholic.
The Vautrinot and Munier families have made their own individual marks in American history. Donald Vautrinot was a member of the Army Air Corps stationed in the Philippines at the start of WWII, and survived the infamous Bataan Death March only to die in a prison camp shortly before its liberation.Mary Canning, daughter of Ernestine Vautrinot Canning was an Army Nurse in the African and Italian campaigns and finished the war in Tokyo. Many other Vautrinots fought to defend their country in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
Madeline Vautrinot was a well-known artist in New Jersey, and was commissioned to paint several WPA murals, including one in the Atlantic City Post Office. Her father was a banker who established a scholarship at the local high school which still exists today.
Ferdinand Munier was a bit player in 1930s Hollywood, acting in movies with the likes of Fred Astair and Lucille Ball. He played Santa Claus in Laurel & Hardy's "Babes in Toyland," and a senator with Will Rogers in "Ambassador Bill" that you can watch on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F2MYMiHpdU
In 2002, I was privileged to be able to travel to France to see the beautiful towns of Benfeld and Liepvre and drive through this beautiful region.
If I ever get the audio straightened out on my project, I might just post it on my blog!