Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 10 Genealogical Finds of 2014

Photo by Pierce Place

As 2014 comes to a close, I’d like to step back and reflect on what I’ve learned over the past year.  So in my best David Letterman voice, I bring you my fourth annual Top 10 genealogical finds of 2014.

Number 10:  Thanks to some help by my new found cousins (see #2), I was able to identify a mystery photo that I've had stashed away in a box.  This handsome man is Mervyn Gunzendorfer – cousin of my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy.  And they also shared a photo of him from later in his life.

Mervyn Gunzendorfer 1916-1917
Mervyn Gunzendorfer
c. 1916-1917

Mervyn Gunzendorfer 1957
Mervyn Gunzendorfer

Number 9:  My great grandfather, Abraham “Abe” Gunzendorfer, was an amateur photographer in Monterey in the early 1900’s.  I have quite a few photos marked “Abe Gunzendorfer, Photographer” and I’m never quite sure if the photo was of a family member or just a photo that he took.  But it was pretty clear what was going on in May, 1901 – President McKinley visited the area and Abe took photos!  I wrote about it here and shared some of the photos – this one gives a pretty good idea of the scene.  And it was right in front of the family mercantile!

Addresses Citizens Close up

Number 8:  I found my grandmother’s diary!  Actually, I found it a few years ago but I stashed it in a drawer and just re-discovered it this year.  It really wasn’t much of a diary, per se, but it did have some very poignant items she shared with her “little friend”.  No matter how hard I try not to think about it, I just can’t forget her words about Ernest “breaking her in” before he left for Stanford.  Lalalalalalalala.

Number 7:  After nearly 2 years, I finished documenting my grandmother’s scrapbook.  I started here and finally finished it here.  What a gift to be able to share my grandmother’s teenage years with her!

Number 6:  I still can’t get over seeing my great grandmother, Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer, pregnant!  While I’m not 100% that’s what I’m seeing, I truly believe that it is.  I need to do a little more research about that house and see if it could, in fact, be their home in Monterey.

Bertha in front of house c 1895
Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer
c. 1895

Number 5:  Louis Schwartz had a father!  Well, of course he had a father but I think I know his father’s name!  Over the summer I received a call from Victoria, the researcher I’ve connected with, and she told me she thought she’d figured out his name.  I wrote a bunch of notes, and I know she has notes, but the short story is his name was Bendusch (or Bendel) Schwartz!

Number 4:  I just love seeing old houses, particularly when they were the home of my ancestors.  I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered not one but two homes that Ferdinand Gunzendorfer and his family lived in during the late 1800’s.  I wrote about the first here – the home of Ferdinand and Fannie (Goldstein) Gunzendorfer in about 1880.  And following that, I received a copy from another cousin, one generation older, of another house that he said was also the home of Ferdinand and Fannie.  As I looked at the photo a flood of memories came forward as I KNEW I’d seen that house before!  Sure enough, I went through Abe’s photos and there it was – the same house! 

Ferdinand Gunzendorfer House Pacific Grove
Home of Ferdinand Gunzendorfer
c. 1893

What’s especially interesting is that he told me the home, on the corner of 5th St. and Ocean View Blvd. in Pacific Grove, had been turned into a B&B and was called Green Gables.  So I looked online and sure enough, here is the Green Gables.  Same house, right?

Green Gables

I wrote to the Innkeepers and the house history and dates they provided to me doesn’t really match up just right so I need to do some more research.  Add that to my list for 2015!

Number 3:  Last year I wrote about connecting with a Fitzgerald cousin and this year she shared a very special photo with me – the photo of my 2nd great grandfather, Mathew Fitzgerald!

Matthew Fitzgerald
Mathew Fitzgerald

I wrote about Mathew here and was hopeful that a volunteer would get a photo of his grave for me.  Look what appeared just a month or so ago!

Fitzgerald Mathew – Memorial #126404259 – photo by Seth Pearl

And as an added bonus, here’s his wife and my second great grandmother, Julia Horgan Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald Julia Horgan – Memorial #126404793– photo by Seth Pearl

Number 2:  Probably the greatest gift I’ve received as I’ve gone through this journey is connecting with cousins.  My Gunzendorfer family is so very, very small that while I have connected with cousins of both of my maternal grandparents’, as well as my paternal grandfather’s side, I really didn’t hold out much hope of ever connecting with a Gunzendorfer.  After all, as my mother proclaimed years ago and what started me on this journey, there weren’t any Gunzendorfers left in the United States (darnit, I hate when she’s right).  But I knew there were Gunzendorfer descendants with different last names and this year I found some!  And it was truly genealogical serendipity when I heard from the first one THE NIGHT BEFORE I was planning to write about her great grandmother!  Read about the genealogical serendipity here.  My new cousin connected me to a few other cousins and we’ve had fun sharing information.  What really brings this full circle is that one of the other cousins I knew as a child and now he is back in my life!  My family just keeps getting larger and larger and I couldn’t be happier.

Number 1:  The bracelet.  Sure this wasn’t a new discovery – I inherited “the bracelet” in 1982 after my grandmother passed away – but a discovery that became much meaningful in 2014.  Grandma had always kept a list designating who would receive what after her death and I had always known I’d get “the bracelet”, even though I wasn’t sure what was so special about it and why I would want it.  I learned in 1982 that it had belonged to her mother, Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer, and had been a gift for her high school graduation in 1890 as the bracelet was inscribed with the words BS, Graduated June, 1890.  That bracelet has been a part of my life for over 30 years but it wasn’t until this year that I really had a good appreciation for just how important it was in my family.

And one day, as I struggled for inspiration for a blog post, I ran across this photo.

High School Graduation
Santa Cruz High School Graduation
June 6, 1890

That’s Bertha (aka Birdie) standing on the right.  You can read my post from May 4 here, but the Cliff Notes version is that she’s wearing “the bracelet”!   Look closely at her arm!  It’s such a treat to know the history behind a family heirloom but even better to actually SEE it. 

Bracelet on wrist

And from there I did a little research and connected with the great grandson of the young man in the photo, Harry Wanzer, and shared the photo with him.  I’d love to be able to contact descendants of the other graduates but, unfortunately, I put it aside and never got back to it…..until last night.  Maybe getting the graduating class’ descendants together might be my top find in 2015!

And that’s what I’ve been up to in 2014.  While I feel like it’s been a bit of a quiet year, I realize how far I’ve come and the treasures I’ve been able to share with my family. 

Who knew?


  1. Debi, don't you love the miracle of modern technology that lets you
    --find other descendants of your ancestors online?
    --receive photos through email?
    --enlarge photos so that you can actually see details, such as your grandmother's bracelet?

    You've had a great year, genealogically speaking. Congrats!

    1. Sometimes I scan a photo with the sole purpose of being able to enlarge it so I can see the detail. Thanks for visiting, Nancy!

  2. Your ancestors had the best houses. It's amazing that the "Green Gables" house looks almost like it did in 1893. The only major difference I see -- other than the paint -- is the bigger windows under 2 of the gables.

    You had a wonderful year of blogging in 2014. I enjoy your stories and photos immensely. I'm looking forward to seeing what your new connections will produce in 2015. Happy New Year!

    1. I studied that house/B&B and the only difference I could see was the bigger windows.

      It's amazing how fast a year goes but reflecting on what I've learned seems to make it better. I'm looking forward to 2015 to see what new discoveries I find.

      Happy new year to you, too, Wendy!

  3. What a wonderful Top 10... & a productive year! I was thinking about doing something similar, but I might have to wait until next year. I do hope to blog more faithfully next year & that should help!

    I truly enjoyed your post!