Sunday, May 22, 2016

Will the real Harry Meals please stand up?

Oh boy, do I have a mystery on my hands!  And the farther I get into this, the more mysterious it becomes.

To start from the beginning, my husband’s paternal grandmother was Ethel Theresa Reussing.  All of his grandparents were gone by the time we started dating, except for Ethel, so I might feel a little closer to her since she was the only grandparent of his I ever met.  I also had the pleasure of meeting her younger sister, May Reussing.  They were the only two children who survived into adulthood of Cecilia (Gorham) and Carl Wilhelm Reussing.

One of our most treasured wedding gifts was a gift from Aunt May and from what I’ve learned, she was quite ‘famous’ for her beautiful grape trivets.  And since I don’t have many photos to share for this post, I thought I’d share a photo of the trivet - the grapes are actually made around bottle caps!

Ethel’s oldest grandchild and I have been researching and sharing information on the Reussing family for the last few years.  This family was in San Francisco during the earthquake in 1906 and there is so much to learn about them and how they survived the event.  Because the San Francisco Public Libary will do obituary lookups rather quickly, I decided it was time to look for an obituary for Carl Reussing who died in 1919.  SCORE!

Carl Reussing Obit
San Francisco Examiner
Monday, December 1, 1919

But wait – who are the two children mentioned?  Mrs. H.P. Ast (yep, that’s Ethel) and Mrs. C.H. Biesel (WHO?).  May was married to Harry Grant Meals and we’d always known her as May Meals.  So who was C.H. Biesel?  Was May married before she married Harry?

We went back to the records we had saved and reviewed everything again.  May and Harry’s first child was born in 1922 so we knew they were married in 1922.  So just what was up?

Here’s what we know about Harry.  He was born 13 Jun 1893 in Pennsylvania.  By 1900, he was in Alleghenny, Pennsylvania with his mother, Ella, and a new family she had with Edward McDonald and was listed as step son.  Okay, makes sense.  Harry’s father must have died somewhere between 1893 and 1900 and Ella had remarried.

By 1910, he was in Pittsburgh with the same family only now was listed as Harry McDonald.  I know that’s not uncommon for a step child to be enumerated with the same last name as a step father so it doesn’t set off too many red flags.  Unfortunately, we have been unable to find Harry or May in the 1920 census – where were they?  And what happened between 1910 and 1922 when their son, Robert H. Meals, was born?  And from that point on, there are several references to Harry and May, together with both Robert and his younger sister, Barbara, born in 1930.  So where did C.H. Biesel fit in to this story?

Back to reviewing all of the records.  And that’s when it hit me, Harry Meals’ U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Form!

Harry Meals Interment

Look closely at the name!  It was typed as Charles H. Biesel, crossed out, and Harry G. Meals was handwritten in!  And you can see it is him because it shows his widow as May Meals but under Remarks it says “Name legally changed to Meals, Harry G.  NOK wants MEALS on headstone”.  WHAT????

And then I found this.

Charles Biesel Interment

A nearly identical form with the name Charles H. Biesel clearly shown with the same reference to Harry G. Meals.  So Harry and Charles were the same person?  What the heck is going on?

And to add even more clues to the Harry/Charles mystery, I found both Charles H. Biesel and Harry G. Meals listed in the California Death Index.  And not only are they both listed, they are both listed with the same date of death and same social security number.  Cue the Twilight Zone music!

What’s really sending shivers down my spine is that while I was preparing this blog post this afternoon, I noticed a message in my ancestry account.  I’d forgotten that I’d sent a message a month or so ago to someone who was a DNA match with my husband and she had responded back to me.  Wanna know who she is?  HARRY MEALS’ GRANDDAUGHTER!  Is that music sounding louder?

And just to confirm that Harry is interred as Harry Meals, here is his headstone from Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, where he is buried with his wife, May (Reussing) Meals.

Harry Meals Headstone
So now what?  Where do I go from here?

* No, I already asked Harry's granddaughter and she has never heard the name Charles Biesel before.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Now what have I here?

I have so many boxes of things in this house I never know what I’ll run across.  I have no idea why I even opened this box today as it is mostly filled with things I’ve printed as I’ve researched but this little gem caught my eye.

I have zero memory of this book – where, when, or even how it came into this house but here it is.  Hmmmm, let’s open it and see what I learn.

Look at that – a little photo album.  Of course I immediately surmised it belonged to my pack rat grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer, but I wanted to be sure.  So, the first thing I did was scan the photos and start to enlarge them on my screen so I could figure out what I have.

Girl at doghouse

I’m pretty sure that little cutie is my grandmother!  Her dad was an amateur photographer so it would make sense that he would fill a little album with photos of his adorable daughter. 

So I decided to dig a little deeper and then I came across this.


Wait just a minute – that house looks familiar!  Could it be the home of my 2nd great grandparents, Fannie (Goldstein) and Ferdinand Gunzendorfer?  Let’s compare the home I know to be theirs with their four sons in front.

Gunzendorfer home

Check!  The boys are (L to R) Jacob, Adolph, Gustave, and Abe (my great grandfather) Gunzendorfer.  So now I can be sure that this photo album belongs to a Gunzendorfer!

And a few more of the photos.


I’m pretty sure the woman on the left is my greant grandmother, Bertha “Birdie” Schwartz Gunzendorfer.  No idea who the others might be, though.

This could be my grandmother on the left with her father, Abraham Guzendorfer, and her cousin, Mervyn Gunzendorfer.  Loraine and Mervyn were born within months of each other and these kids look to be about the same age.  I’m fairly certain I have Loraine and Abe identified correctly but not sure if that really is Mervyn.

2 kids and man

Here’s the Gunzendorfer family in 1896 when the kids were just babies.

Back Row (L to R):  Abe, Gustave, his wife Minnie Dautermann, Adolph, Jacob.
Seated:  Birdie, Ferdinand, Fannie, Jacob’s wife Edith Inez Steinberger.
Loraine on Birdie’s lap, Mervyn on his mother’s lap, and Mervyn’s sister Irene on the ground. 

Gunzendorfer Family cropped

And another one with what I think to be Jacob Gunzendorfer.  Again, I would guess the kids to be Loraine, Mervyn, and maybe Irene?

3 kids and man

Now I’m pretty sure this is Loraine but who could this girl be with her?  Gustave and Adolph had no children and Irene was the oldest of the cousins so this is a mystery to me. 

2 girls in garden

Based on the other photos, this could be Mervyn, Loraine, and, and, and…..  Now I don’t think that could be Irene because it’s clear that this girl is younger than Loraine and Mervyn.  So now I don’t know who it is.

3 kids in garden

Look how cute Loraine is as she is holding her dress and rockin’ those boots!  And after so many years of hearing that I look like her, I can really see that now - this could be me as a young child.


There are so many cute photos in here I can’t stop!  I don’t even want to guess who these kids are (Loraine on the left?) but their outfits and hats are so cute I can’t stand it.  And they are holding hands – so sweet.  Would these outfits be for some sort of ceremony or special occasion?

Holding Hands

Looks like there were animals to tend to.

Feeding Geese

Feeding Chickens

But there was time to play, too.  Cute swing but it doesn’t look like it’s far enough off the ground to provide much of a thrill ride.


It’s so fun to see my ancestors doing every day things and capturing those moments for me to see more than 100 years later.  And once again, I’m thankful my grandmother was a packrat!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day

I’ve never been a Mother’s Day (or any other Hallmark holiday) fan but now that I’m older and my mother is no longer with us, I find it a perfect day to reflect.  This time of year is difficult as besides Mother’s Day, by mother passed away on May 22nd and her birthday was June 8th.  The good news is that I get all of these “days” over within about a month.

Geraldine Martin was born in Fresno on June 8, 1928 – she sure was a cutie!

Geraldine c 1928

Mom seemed to have a difficult childhood and didn’t talk about it much.  As I got deeper into this journey she shared a few tidbits with me but for the most part, it seemed like her life started when she met my dad.  Her parents divorced when she was about 10 so photos with her dad are almost non-existent.  But I was able to find one of the family together with her paternal grandmother.

Clara_Earle_Gerry_Francis Brooks cropped
Clara Fitzgerald Martin, Francis Brooks Martin, Earle Martin
Geraldine Martin

After a few years of moving around and staying with relatives, Mom found her way back to Fresno in time to enter High School.  I don’t think it was long before she had a new beau – my dad, Gordon Levy!  I love how she signed this photo – I wonder who was more smitten with who.

Lovingly Gerry

After high school, Mom ended up at Stanford with Dad.  She always said she didn’t “follow” him but I’m not sure who she was trying to kid.  And once they both graduated, it was time to get married.  Mom was a beautiful bride!

Geraldine 9_3_1950

Then came kids and a chance to pose for photos.  Unfortunately, the professional photos seemed to be more prevalent during the early years and before little brother joined the family. 


And just like that, the years had flown by and before she knew it, Mom had grandchildren.  I’m sure glad we were able to capture this photo with four generations but geez, what was going on with my hair?

Clara Fitzgerald_Erinn Austen_Geraldine Martin_Debi Levy_Megan Austen
Clara Fitzgerald Martin Hunter, Daughter #1, Geraldine Martin Levy, Me, Daughter #2  (c. 1981)

In later years, we tried to get together to celebrate Mom when we could.  I think she was happy that we were able to be with her for her 80th birthday.

Gerry 80th birthday

Mom and Dad loved to vacation in Kauai and visited every year around Memorial Day.  Once Dad was gone, Mom continued to go by herself and loved to putter around the island and visit her favorite restaurants.  After a few years of that, she said she wasn’t sure she could do it any longer but she wanted to go back one last time with the kids.  Us?  Vacation in Kauai?  How could we say no?

I don’t know why we didn’t take many pictures while we were there but we did manage this while we were out to lunch (Kauai = restaurants in Mom’s world).

And now here we are the 3rd Mother’s Day without Mom.  Still seems hard to believe she isn’t with us any longer but we have some great memories (and photos!) to remember her by.  Miss you, Mom!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Jacob Frederick Ast

Last week I took a Time Out to share some photos that a cousin of my husband had shared with us.  Since he has since shared even more, I need to continue with this theme.  And what better way to start than with the oldest of the children of Eberhard and Anna (Strauss) Ast, Jacob Frederick Ast.

Ast Jacob Frederick c 1885

Jacob was born 22 Aug 1878 in New York.  Sometime between 1880-1884, Jacob moved with his parents to California and in about 1901, he and Pauline Perez became husband and wife.

Ast Jacob 'Fred' _Pauline Perez Wedding cropped

Jacob Frederick Ast and Pauline Perez, abt. 1901
Jacob and Pauline had one child, Frederick W. (b. 1902) and in 1910 the family was living on Folsom Street in San Francisco.  But by 1920, Jacob and Pauline were no longer together and Jacob was married to Josephine McLaughlin.  I’m fairly certain that the marriage ended in divorce since it appears that Pauline also later remarried to Charles Lester.

It seems that Jacob worked as both a Veterinarian and a Butcher and for the most part, settled in San Mateo.  He and Josephine had two children, Rita (b. 1918) and Joseph (b. 1924).

I’d heard the story about Jacob being killed in 1958 as he walked across the street but it wasn’t until I found his obituary in the 29 Jan 1958 edition of The Times (San Mateo, California) that I learned the full story.  Doesn’t sound like he was hit by a drunk driver as I’d heard from the family 20 or so years after the accident occurred.

Dr. Jacob Frederick Ast, 79 year old retired San Mateo County veterinarian and resident of 124 Tenth Avenue, San Mateo, was instantly killed while crossing Capital Avenue in Woodland last night.

He had been attending a veterinarians’ convention and was on his way back to his motel following a banquet across the street.

Highway patrolmen said he was hit by a car driven by Lawrence B. White, 50, of Long Beach, executive secretary of the California School Boards association.

Officers Roy Jones and Robert Moyer said Dr. Ast was wearing all dark clothing and was difficult to see in the darkness.  No citations were issued.

Well known in this area for many years, Dr. Ast had been in practice with Dr. James D. Tuohig of Menlo Park.

A native of New York City, Dr. Ast lived in California for 76 years and in San Mateo city for 30 years.  During the past 12 years he was a member of the San Francisco county board of health.

He was a life member of the California Veterinary Medical association and a member of the Bay Counties Veterinary Medical association.

He was a life member of Occicental Lodge No. 22, F.& A.M. of San Francisco.

In addition Dr. Ast at one time was a meat inspector and held membership in Local 115, San Francisco Butchers’ union.

He is survived by his wife, Josephine, of San Mateo, and the following children:  Mrs. Rita Ast Thomen of Belmont, Joseph F. Ast of San Lorenzo and Frederick William Ast of Kelseyville, Calif.

He was a brother of William Ast of Williams, Calif., Mrs. Emily Williams of Concord, Herman P. Ast of Mountain View, and Miss Bertha Ast of San Francisco.  Four grandchildren also survive.

Funeral services will be held from Sneider and Sullivan chapel at 2 p.m. on Friday.

Jacob is buried with Josephine, who died in 1961, at St. John’s Cemetery in San Mateo.

More on the Asts in later posts. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Time Out!

I need to take a time out and set aside my family and work on my husband’s for a minute.  Especially since I received a gift from a cousin in my e-mail when I woke up this morning.

Take a look at this!

Ast_Eberhart_Ana_Wm_JF_ Emily_1885
                Left to right:  William Charles/Carl, Anna (Strauss), Jacob Frederick, Eberhard, Emily (about 1885)

This handsome family is my husband’s great grandparents, Eberhard and Anna (Strauss) Ast.  The children are the first of their children (six, I believe), none of which is my husband’s grandather.  But look at what a beautiful family this is!  And how about those clothes?  Love it!

And then another.

Ast, Herman and Bertha abt 1900
Herman and Bertha Ast, about 1898

That is my husband’s paternal grandfather and his younger sister!  Since they look to be about two and four, I’m guessing this was taken in about 1898.  And again, great clothes!

I never had the pleasure of meeting Herman as he had died before  I came into the picture but I did spend some time with Bertha.  And this little cutie looks exactly as I remember her with that twinkle in her eye.  WHY didn’t I take more photos? 

But another cousin gave me this picture of Bertha when she was a little more grown up – see the twinkle in her eyes?

Bertha Ast

And Herman was quite a looker when he was married in 1915.


What’s especially poignant is that as I was preparing this post (April 24, 2016) I realized that Eberhard died on this date in 1912.  Maybe someone was trying to tell us something?

Thanks again for the photos, cousins!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

National Siblings Day – The Levy Kids

Today is National Siblings Day – time to hug our brothers or sisters and let them know how much we appreciate them.  Since my siblings both live in another state, I can’t really hug them but I can let them know how much I appreciate and love them by posting some fun photos of them!

Since my sister and I were 10 and 7 when little brother was born, you can understand why there were lots of photos of just the two of us during our very early years.

Dad was always posing us in different places.  I remember hating to do that but now I’m sure glad we did. 

My beautiful picture

Here we are with Mom – check out those stylin’ glasses!

My beautiful picture

This one is too good not to share – what the heck are you hiding under the scarf, sis?

My beautiful picture

Every once in awhile we added a stranger to the picture.  Not sure what I was thinking (or saying) as we posed next to the Indian Chief.

My beautiful picture

Then little brother joined in the fun as we posed with our grandparents, Sig and Loraine (Gunzendorfer) Levy.

My beautiful picture

And our maternal grandparents, Shell and Clara (Fitzgerald) Hunter.

My beautiful picture

When I was about 10, we got our horses, Smokey and Snap.  Here we are giving little brother a ride on Smokey.

My beautiful picture

Looks like we were packing for the beach – or maybe our annual family camp outing at Camp Campbell.

My beautiful picture

Every year dad would pose us for a picture to use on our holiday card.  It’s fun to look at a few that didn’t make the cut.

My beautiful picture

How did he come up with these poses?

My beautiful picture

As the girls grew older and were too busy to go places with Mom & Dad, little brother had lots of experiences without us.  Looks like this might have been Knotts Berry Farm or Frontier Village?  Love that Mom was all dressed up!

My beautiful picture

Hmmm, wonder where they were in this photo?

My beautiful picture

I don’t think there’s much doubt where this was taken.  And just like Dad with the camera around his neck!

My beautiful picture

Over the years we managed to get some photos together, but it became harder and harder as we all lived in different cities/states.  But we had some special shots together in 2000 as we celebrated Mom & Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary.


Big sisters always taking care of their little brother!


So here’s some big hugs and lots of love to my siblings.  Looking forward to seeing both of you SOOOON!