One of the first rules of genealogy, long neglected by genealogists is to write down your own stories. On this German Unity Day, as falling leaves and temperatures finally reach Alabama, memories of my Year of Firsts, thirty (!) years ago flood my mind. But the beginning of the story, like so many tales, requires me to go back a year earlier when I was in the spring of my fourth year of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri in Columbia. A wanderlust had invaded my soul at an early age, but financial and academic limitations made me believe I could not afford to study abroad during my undergraduate days. As I was talking to my advisor and German mentor, Dr. Dennis Mueller, I mentioned I had dreamed of going to Germany for many years. He looked at me rather quizzically and said simply “why don’t you?”
Genealogists know that city directories are not simply phone books, rather that these resources were created for businesses to get access to customers and vice versa. They are genealogy gold ready to be mined! Ralph L. Polk, the most widely known publisher, began his business with 1872 Evansville, IN directory, listing the names and addresses of all residents of the town. Early Polk directories included a variety of information useful to genealogists including county courts, stage lines, steamboat companies, count residents on rural routes, and other detailed information on the locality.
On this day in 1871 the Deutsches Reich, or German Empire, was proclaimed from a group of 26 disparate entities. My ancestors hailed from the western side of the Prussian empire near Coblenz, the Duchy of Nassau, the Kingdom of Hanover, and the Electorate of Hessen. Lately, I’ve been researching the 1920s, German immigration to the U.S., prohibition, and WWI. Most of my ancestors emigrated prior to unification and therefore, I don’t believe they ever identified with the German Empire as their homeland.
Several months ago, a friend from Florence, Missouri, asked if I knew about the deaths of three women in the United Church of Christ Cemetery. All three had been married but died as young wives. She wondered if I knew their stories. I knew one, and immediately went to work on the other two. May their stories never been forgotten.
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved postcards. I think my ancestors instilled in me a desire to travel and in previous centuries getting a postcard in the mail allowed one to get a glimpse of that faraway place. I have a collection of cards sent to other family members as well. When my grandmother Roma died, we found hundreds of postcards in her farmhouse. Recently I have been examining my collection for a new project and I have found several great genealogy nuggets! This one titled, “A Carload of Cucumbers.” For the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Oct 2-8  is one of my favorites.