Saturday, March 20, 2010

Genealogy Books - A Goldmine of Information

Somehow between family social events, work, and blogging, I found time this past week to actually do some research on our family history. Whatever the inspiration, I decided to try an extract phrase Google search for my wife's paternal great grandfather, the Rev. Louis Henry Wagner.

The Google search techniques that I used are simple enough but not 'advertised' by Google. For a thorough understanding of how Google can enhance your genealogy research, I would encourage you to check out Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems Podcast. Lisa offers both free podcasts and a premium, 'members only' area that contains video instructions on how the maximize the benefit of Google. While there is an annual fee for Premium membership, it is a very small amount for a very large benefit.

Under the Google 'Books' tab, I found a snippet view of a book that referenced Louis Wagner. With the book title, I was then able to search through and found the complete book, written in 1895 by the Rev. A. J. Fretz and published in 1896 by News Printing House, entitled A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Christian and Hans Meyer and other pioneers: Together with Historical and Biographical Sketches. Apparently, short, catchy book titles were not as fashionable in the late 19th century!

This is no small book - it is over 700 pages long, containing the genealogy of one branch of Ellen's family and as importantly, sketches of many of the family members written based on information that the subjects of the sketches, or then contemporaries of the subjects, provided. It's going to take me some time to fully explore and mine all of the information contained in the book. But not only does the book provide a wealth of detailed genealogy information, the historical sketches offer a remarkable glimpse into the lives of ancestors that by today's standards and conveniences are hard to relate to. The section on Louis Henry Wagner, I will share in parts in upcoming posts.

One sketch about Samuel Meyer (the family used both Meyer and Moyer) in particular caught my attention. Samuel was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on 4 March 1767. Before he was 10 years old, both of Samuel's parents had died of yellow fever and although the next years of his life are somewhat cloudy,  by the age of 16, Samuel was a school teacher. On 15 November 1789, Samuel married 19-year-old Anna Bechtel and they made their home in Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania. In 1800, Samuel decided to move his family north to what was then Canada West and specifically to the area of present day St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls, where he purchased 200 acres of land.

In the summer of 1820, Samuel, accompanied by two friends, returned to Blooming Glen to conduct business. "His next trip to Pennsylvania, a few years later, he made on foot, getting some chance rides, and completed the journey in nine days.He was a rapid walker and more than once covered 6 miles in an hour." He walked the almost 650 kilometres or about 400 miles - and without the aid of nicely paved roads and interstate highways. I had really not given a lot of thought to the day-to-day mobility challenges that were faced almost 200 years ago and the fitness levels that ancestors likely maintained.

I guess I won't be able to complain as much the next time I can't find a parking spot close to a shopping mall entrance!

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