Sunday, September 28, 2014

Genealogical Serendipity

Serendipity: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.  (Merriam-Webster)

Serendipity sort of bit me in the rear today and I couldn’t be happier.  Anyone who has spent time researching their family dreams of connecting with another descendant and, occasionally, it happens.  But how often does it happen when you are preparing to blog about the EXACT same ancestor that connects you on the DAY you were going to post? 

I’ve been writing recently about my Gunzendorfer family, the family who got me started on this quest.  I wrote about that here and my mother’s challenge that there were no more Gunzendorfers in the United States.  And just recently I wrote about Adolph and Jacob Gunzendorfer and my plan for today was to write about Jacob’s wife, Edith Inez Steinberger Gunzendorfer. 

I don’t know much about Inez in early years other than that she was the daughter of Mary Dyer and Julius Steinberger and was born in Nevada 22 April 1874.  By 1880 the family was living in San Francisco and she married Jacob in about 1893.  From that point on, I can follow her with Jacob – the birth of their children, their addresses, and information about Jacob’s business, The Typewritorium.  But I have come across two photos of her that I wanted to share in the event someone would find my blog so decided that she needed a blog post of her own even though I don't know much about her.

I have shared this treasured photo on many occasions but it’s worth sharing it again since I’m now 99.99% certain that I have identified Inez.

Gunzendorfer Family
The Gunzendorfer Family
Edith Inez Steinberger seated on right holding her son Mervyn Gunzendorfer
Irene Gunzendorfer, daughter, seated in front

And then I came across these two photos.

Inez Steinberger with children c 1896 cropped

She’s even wearing the same dress!  This would be Mervyn on the left and Irene on the right.  Infant boys must have been dressed in dresses in the late 1890’s, right?

And then there is this from maybe a year or two later.

Inez Steinberger with children cropped

Would they still have dressed Mervyn in a dress?  Another child, Helen, joined the family in 1902 but since Irene was eight years old when Helen was born, this just can’t be Helen and Irene with their mother – it must be Mervyn who was just two years younger than his big sister, Irene.

And that’s about all I know specifically about Inez except for her date of death, 12 April 1957, and final resting place, Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.

Edith Inez Steinberger Gunzendorfer

So how is this serendipitous?  Maybe the serendipity involves not just Inez but her daughter, Irene.  Because guess who I connected with today (well actually last night when she sent me the e-mail but today by the time I woke up and read it)?  INEZ STEINBERGER GUNZENDORFER’S GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER, GRANDDAUGHTER OF IRENE!  I have dreamed about connecting with a Gunzendorfer descendant for years and now it has happened.  I know that her mother, Lois (Irene’s daughter), helped in this quest and I can just imagine just how happy that would make both Lois and my dad, two cousins who shared the Gunzendorfer connection. 

Lois passed away in July and while doing some research last month, I ran across her obituary.  Even when you don’t personally know someone, it still hits you in the gut when you realize that one of your relatives has passed away and somewhere there are other relatives mourning their passing.  So, I signed the on-line guest book, expressed my condolences, and stated how we were related.  And then I received the e-mail telling me that there is, in fact, another Gunzendorfer descendant who actually cares about this stuff.  I know there is lots of information to share and I’m excited to get to know this “new” cousin.

Who knew?


  1. Wow! How exciting Debi! Congrats on connecting with your cousin!

    1. I'm sure it will be fun to exchange information!

  2. Since I'm now an unofficial follower of this blog (see comment I left to September 21 post), I'll offer my thoughts on "boys in dresses." I've seen many, many photos of not just infant boys but toddler boys in dresses from that era. I've wondered why, and though I don't have a definitive answer, I suspect that parents considered in a needless and wasteful expense to purchase (or sew) trousers for a toddler, when he would outgrow them so fast. A dress, being roomier, could be used for a longer period of time. And it was also customary to let toddler boys' hair grow. In looking at the picture, the clue that the child on the left is male is the fact he has no ribbon(s) in his hair!

    1. Very interesting and it totally makes sense. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog!

  3. Great post! I loved how you told your family's story. The pictures really added to your post. Genealogical Serendipity, yes indeed! Great title too. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Smart girl signing the online guest book!

    And yes, boys wore dresses and kept those long curls for quite a while. I stared at a photo of my grandfather as a toddler a long time before I realized this is a BOY, not a GIRL.

    1. I think I learned to never leave a stone unturned from you, Wendy. I really never thought about it connecting me with someone, though - I just wanted to express my condolences. But I'm glad I did!

  5. Debi check your Facebook inbox. Just sent you something you might like...

  6. What beautiful pictures and congrats on your connection. I hope that they have something wonderful to share.

    My grandmother had a picture of her little brother on the wall (he was born in 1900) and he had long ringlets. Every time we made the trip to visit her I asked her who that picture was, convinced that she had been confused when she told me it was her brother, but every time the answer was the same.