Sunday, February 10, 2019

52 Ancestors: Surprise

I’ve had a lot of surprises as I’ve researched my family – unmarked graves, spouses I never knew about, the strong connection I have to the Jewish pioneers in Santa Cruz and Fresno, and other tidbits along the way.  But one surprise I can’t stop thinking about is the possible connection I have to Grace Barnet, my great grandmother’s (Birdie Schwartz Gunzendorfer’s) friend during her early years, and maybe beyond.

Grace Barnet

I first learned of Grace when I read the names of the graduating class of Santa Cruz High School in 1890.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, 7 June 1900, page 3

There’s my great grandmother, her cousin Bella Steen, and Grace Barnet.

And then I found a photo of this graduating class but I could only identify Birdie, Bella, and Henry Wanzer, since he was the only boy in the class.

1890 Graduating Class, Santa Cruz High School

I’ve since determined that Grace Barnet was standing immediately to Birdie’s right - Birdie on the far right and Grace just next to her.  So now I’m able to identify four out of the nine graduates. 

I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching Grace and have found some interesting facts.

In 1860 the Jewish community numbered only 15 Jews (total population of 950) in Santa Cruz.  So not too surprising to “know” most of the names.  Joseph and Hannah (Plotzky) Steen were there with my 2x great grandmother, Rebecca.  Next door was Rebecca’s future husband, Louis Schwartz.  And next door to Louis was Samuel Barnet, his wife Rose, and son Zacharias.  Of course Birdie and Grace weren’t born yet but these families must have been friends at least as early as 1860.  The only other Jewish family at the time were the three Brownstone brothers, Isaac, David, and Jacob.

Grace was also a bridesmaid in Birdie’s marriage to Abraham Gunzendorfer 9 September 1894.  So four years after graduation, the girls remained close.  I love learning about the friends of my ancestors so over the years I’ve done a bit of research about Grace to see what else I could find.  I looked at an Ancestry tree and decided I’d contact the individual who put the tree together to see if he/she could help me when to my SURPRISE I found that individual, P.S., on my list of DNA matches!  What?  Were Grace and Birdie not only friends but actually related? 

I have connected with the owner of the tree and I’m no farther along than I was before.  He is related through his great-grandfather, Jacob, whose sister was married to Grace’s brother, Emanuel.  But try as I might, I just can’t seem to connect the dots.  I have found some interesting clues – somewhere in Jacob’s line is E. Fleischer.  Okay, not so amazing except that Grace’s sister was married to Marks Fleisher.  Coincidence?  Or how about the fact that the surnames on this DNA match’s include Frankel – my great grandmother on my Gunzendorfer side was the daughter of Sarah (Frankel) Goldstein.  Another coincidence?

I’ve also connected with another descendant.  Actually, the Barnet connection goes through his deceased wife who was the granddaughter of Rachel (Barnet) and Marks Fleisher.  But that connection has sort of petered out and I need to get back in touch with him and/or his children (cousins?). 

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten.  Except to learn some facts about Grace’s death on 19 July 1937, just 3 days after the death of her brother, Herman Barnet.  Did Birdie know?  Did she attend either of the funerals?  WERE THEY RELATED???

Santa Cruz Evening News
20 July 1937, page 2

Santa Cruz Sentinel
24 July 1937, page 3

Grace is buried in the Barnet Family Plot at Home of Peace Cemetery in Santa Cruz.

Photos courtesy of Tombstone Finder, Find A Grave

So many surprises yet to find - hope I can make it happen!


  1. I feel your frustration of being sooooo close yet so far. I have cases like this too that seem like they should be easier to solve.

    1. I just KNOW there has to be a connection to Grace Barnet - I'm not giving up!

  2. Good luck finding the connection! And how sad that she died just days after her brother. It seems that happens more often than we'd think.

    1. It makes me wonder if she just gave up after her brother died.