Sunday, September 10, 2017

Who would I like to meet?

I noticed yesterday that someone on Facebook had asked the question “if you could meet one of your ancestors, who would it be?”  I wish I’d paid more attention to who posted it so I could give them credit but at the time I just scrolled on by.  But I couldn’t get it out of my head and just kept thinking and thinking about it.  Who would I like to meet?

Of course there are several that I’d like to see (and hug them tight) to have an opportunity to sit and ask questions.  But, I’ve already met them and if I didn’t ask them questions, I have no one to blame but myself.  That makes me cranky but I had to think about those I was never fortunate enough to meet or, really, KNOW. 

I was fortunate to know all of my grandparents and even two of my great grandparents so I couldn’t pick them.  And, of course, I couldn’t pick either of my parents since I knew them until the day they died.  So who would it be?

I wish I’d had an opportunity to meet my paternal great grandparents, Abraham and Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer. 

Bertha Schwartz_Abe Gunzendorfer
Bertha (Schwartz) and Abe Gunzendorfer, c. 1944

I know quite a bit about them (thank you, family packrats) and I have a LOT of photos of them.  And since my dad knew both of them, and my mother knew Birdie, I have several first-hand stories about them.  So, neither of them.

Next up would be Bertha’s parents, Rebecca (Steen) and Louis Schwartz.  Now they would be interesting to meet.  I’ve been in contact with a researcher who is writing a book – it is at the publisher now and should be available next month – and Louis, particularly, is noted in the book.  In fact, I’ve even donated a few photos for inclusion, if they find them useful.  I have original photos of the house that Louis built, and both Bertha and my grandmother were born in, and many of their personal effects (thanks again, family packrats).  Sometimes I feel like I’ve already met Louis since I know so much about him.  So, neither of them.

Rebecca_Louis_Joseph_Bertha Schwartz cropped
Rebecca (Steen), Joseph, Bertha, and Louis Schwartz, c. 1875

My paternal great grandather, Herman Levy, has been a brick wall for me so I think it would be interesting to meet him.  He arrived in Fresno in 1874 and was the first man to be made a Mason in Fresno, being part of Lodge No. 247, F. & A.M.  His obituary in 1918 called him a Pioneer Citizen so I’m sure he would have lots to share.  But even though I share my birth name with him and would like nothing more than to know more about his parents, grandparents, and on down the line, I wouldn’t pick him.

Nor would I pick his wife, Goldie Benas.  I’m fairly certain my dad was named after her – she died shortly before he was born and my mom told me that the custom was to name the baby using the first letter of a recently deceased relative (his name was Gordon) – and I know she’d have a lot to tell me.  But no, I wouldn’t pick her.

Benas_Goldie Levy_Herman
Goldie (Benas) and Herman Levy, c. 1917

While I’ve always been particularly fascinated with the paternal side of my family (is it normal to be more curious about those who share your birth name?  is it because they were packrats and I know so much about them?), the one person I would love to meet is on my mother’s side.  The man I have grown to know in a way I never thought possible.  Not only that, but I was able to share the details of his life with my mother, his great great granddaughter, before she was gone. 

So who is the ancestor I would love to meet?  My 3x great grandfather, Emery Waller!

I have researched Emery a lot and know that he served in the Civil War –  in the 107th Illinois Infantry as both First Lieutenant and Captain.  He took part in the battle at Winchester on March 23, 1862 that resulted in the defeat of Stonewall Jackson’s forces.  I would like to know more about that!

I know that his first wife, Rebecca Parker, most likely died as a result of my 2x great grandmother’s birth.  My hunch is that the baby, Rebecca Waller, was named in honor of her mother.  I wrote about finding Rebecca Parker HERE.  It would sure help to learn more about Rebecca’s death and Emery’s later marriage to Clarinda.

For those who have followed my blog, several years ago and only because of a slight nudge, I ordered Emery’s pension record to see what I could find.  And while at first it didn’t seem to give me any new information, once the light bulb went off a whole new world was in front of me.  And then I found his unmarked grave in Kansas.  What an emotional journey to get a headstone for him – our story even made the front page of the local paper in McPherson!

But there is still so much I want to know about Emery.  What was life like after the Civil War?  What took him to Kansas?  What were my 2x and 3x great grandmothers like?  And while I know from his pension record that he was about 5’7” and between 135 and 145 pounds, most of all I just want to actually see him.  So meeting him would be a win/win – I could look into his face (and take a picture) and find out so many more details about him and his life.

So that’s who I would like to meet.  What about you?

Emery Waller gravestone
Emery Waller, McPherson Cemetery


  1. I could never narrow it down to one. I would love to have a chance to talk to my grandfather, who died when I was not yet five. I want to know what his life was like in Iasi, what his parents were like, what his trip out of Romania and to the US was like, and so on.

    Also, I'd want to meet my mother's maternal grandfather Joseph Brotman, who died when my grandmother was five. I'd like to ask him about life in the old country, what made him come to the US, who were his parents, his siblings, etc.

    I could go on, but those are my top two. Both maternal relatives because that's the side that I know so little about.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks, Amy - it was a fun post to think about. I would also like to meet my ancestors who immigrated to America - what stories they could tell us!