Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10 Genealogical Finds of 2015

Photo by Pierce Place

As 2015 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 fifth annual Top 10 genealogical finds of 2015

Number 10:  My great grandfather, Abraham Gunzendorfer, invented the cash carrier.  

The Monterey New Era
Thursday, April 28, 1892

I would say, since the family owned a mercantile, that this was a pretty useful contraption for them in the 1890's.  Pretty cool!

Number 9:  My grandfather, Sigmund Levy, apparently spent quite a bit of time trying to convince people that my dad should be allowed to go back to his studies at Stanford University rather than serve in the military in 1945.  Click here to read the post.  I was able to follow along with his correspondence and see the response he received.  My dad did end up going overseas but, thankfully, the conflict was over.

Number 8:  Isn't it rewarding when we can finally figure out the mystery that lies before us?  I found a photo of two handsome gents and finally paid attention to what it was telling me.  
Abe and Gustave Gunzendorfer
Taken about 1890
My grandmother had actually written on the back:

But try as I might, I just couldn't figure out what not driving horses meant.  And, thankfully, a couple of very, very smart readers helped the light bulb to go off for me.
Abe is not driving the horses, as the reins are in the other man's hands. Ergo, Gus is driving the horses.

Number 7:  Facebook has been a great tool for me to learn about the areas of the world where my ancestors lived.  I've joined several groups, mostly historical societies, and thought they were pretty helpful.  But imagine my surprise when I received a comment on my blog that said:
Your grandfather was mentioned in a Facebook post today on Fresno's Past page. 
>>AVIATIONby Sigmund Levy(Fresno Realtor)"Glaring National Headlines proclaimed Fresno as the scene of the first attempt to deliver newspapers by air express when Glenn L. Martin flew 100 copies of the Fresno Morning Republican to Madera on April 13, 1912.Martin had just stepped into the aviation picture & was predicting that airplanes would some day be used to carry passengers, mail & express over land & sea. In providing basis for his predictions, he brought Fresno its first recognition in the field of aviation."(Source: Fresno County Centennial Almanac)
You are also mentioned in that particular post. Don't know if you follow the FB page or not. 
Wait - WHAT?  Not just my grandfather but I'm mentioned on a Fresno Facebook page? So of course I immediately joined the group and found several posts and comments linking back to my grandfather and my blog posts!  How cool is that?  Even thought it's only been a month or so, I can see already that this is going to be FUN!

Number 6:  Earlier in the year, I received another comment on my blog that made me smile - a new cousin found me from my blog.  Her husband sent me a message and told me that her 2x great grandmother, Lilly Gay McAboy Langworthy, was the older sister of my great grandmother, Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald.  Once again, someone found me through my blog.  And not only that, she was able to see photos of Lilly, an ancestor she had only seen once before.  Welcome to the family, Terese and Bart!

Number 5:  After my mother passed away, my siblings and I had the daunting task of cleaning out the home our parents had lived in for over 55 years.  Since none of us lived in the same city, we had to do this pretty quickly so we packed up a bunch of stuff and each went back home.  The task of documenting and researching everything is overwhelming but I decided to just do what I could, when I could.

One of the items that I ended up with was the Family Photo Album.  What fun it was to relive my early childhood.  Here's my favorite photo from the album - my dad even captioned this photo from 1957 The Greatest Photo Ever Taken.  

That's me on the right

Number 4:  Yearbooks are an amazing find for a family researcher/historian - it is so fun to look through them and learn what our ancestors were doing during those times.  One of my first purchases when I got started with this was a copy of the Monterey High School yearbook from 1915, the year my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, graduated from high school.  It was especially fun to see her friends and as I documented her scrapbook from about that time, I was able to really get a feel for what life was like then.

As we were cleaning out the house, I just couldn't leave the high school and college yearbooks of my parents behind.  Thank goodness I didn't!  And then I found even more yearbooks from my grandfather and his brothers from Fresno High School, the same school both of my parents went to.  The publication was called The Owl and even though I'm just starting to document these priceless books, it is fun to go back to the early days of the 20th century and see how things have changed.

I've posted some blog posts on the Fresno's Past facebook page and have been able to find a photo for someone of a family member she has never seen before.  Love that!

Number 3:  My dad was quite a guy and was loved by all who knew him - I still can't believe he's been gone over 10 years.  But thankfully, my family saved everything so I have been able to find gems that just make me smile.

In 1999 my dad, a very dedicated Rotarian, was asked to speak at a meeting and as luck would have it, he kept the speech he wrote documenting his life.  What a treasure to have! You can read about it here.

Gordon Levy
c. 2005
Number 2:  Once again, a cousin I met through my blog and ancestry has given me a gift by sharing a photo with me.  Not just me, but my new found cousin (see Number 6 above) also loved the photo of her 2x great grandmother and my great grandmother.

Lilly Gay McAboy Langworthy (L)
Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald (R)
c. 1952
Thanks again, Kris!

Number 1:  This genealogical find is so recent that I really haven't been able to absorb it yet.

As we cleaned out our parents home, we were overwhelmed with photos, slides, movies, and many other sentimental items.  My brother took the movies home and the plan was for him to watch them and covert them into DVD's.  I know the project was completely overwhelming (thank goodness he took it on) but when he finally got to it, he learned that just watching movies from the 1930's could damage them.

He was able to find an expert to restore them and convert them and we (my siblings and I) decided that our Christmas present to each other would be tackling the first set of films and getting them converted.  And just in time for Christmas, these arrived in the mail.

That's right, movies from my grandfather from 1936-1942!

What a treat to see my father, his older brother, and their parents on vacation in Washington D.C. and New York.  And so many other places they visited that I have yet to figure out the locale.

And film - not just a still photo but actual FILM - of my great grandparents, Abraham and Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer from the early 40's.  Playful film of the family in the back yard of the home my dad grew up in, film of the new car they bought in the late 30's, my uncle looking sharp in his officer's uniform, and even film of the Golden Gate Bridge being built.  And since I'm trying to get better about backing things up and keeping notes of what I have, I had an extra copy made which I put notes on and packed away in the safe deposit box.

So that's what I've been up to in 2015.  I really felt like it was a slow year but now that I've listed some of the things I've found, I feel like it's been more productive than I thought.  I've found new family and friends, I've learned even more about my family, and I've documented things for future generations.

Who knew?



  1. Oh my -- No. 1 is definitely deserving of being No. 1. How thrilling to see what your parents, grandparents and GREAT grands looked like 70 years ago, how they moved even.

  2. I've enjoyed all these discoveries you've made and look forward to new ones! I hope you will be able to post some of the films!!

  3. You've done an amazing job, and I am so glad I stumbled onto your blog. It's been fun, and I hope to enjoy more of your posts in 2016.

  4. Looks like a wonderful year! Great discoveries and some great inspiration for the rest of us to get with it!