Monday, April 17, 2017

British Isles - Here We Come!

For eight years, I have been immersed in genealogy - finding ancestors in Germany, Ireland, England and Belgium.  I have also found ancestors of my husband - in Croatia, England, Ireland, and Switzerland.  As part of those searches, we have engaged in travel to several countries.  We have also traveled just for the fun of it.  We have been on trips to Ireland, France, Belgium, the Mediterranean, Italy and Croatia.  Now we are headed to England and Scotland, preceded by four days in Dublin. We leave on April 24 and we are quite excited.  I will be posting from the various cities we will be visiting: Dublin, Edinburgh, York, Chipping Campden, Stratford Upon Avon, Bath, Canterbury and London.  Although this trip will not involve any genealogy, we will be visiting one distant cousin in Ireland.  And it will be fun to visit places where my English ancestors and my husband's once lived.  Hope you enjoy the travelogue.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Origin of the Schuliens

My mother's mother was Mary Bernadine Schulien.  Everyone called her "Bernie."  She was the dearest, and one of the funniest, wisest women I have ever met.  Her parents were of German ancestry, though both had been born in this country.  Currently I am working on her father Joseph's family, the Schuliens.  Joseph was the youngest son of Mathias Schulien and Mary Petry. Their other children had been born in Germany. Mathias came from a large family - his parents were Mathias Schulien and Elizabeth Jung, and about half of their descendants came to the United States in the mid 1800s.  

When I began my research into the family, I knew almost nothing about them.  In fact, my mother didn't say much about her German heritage, preferring to believe she was really French.  Since the Schuliens came from a small town in Saarland, which borders the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, and since that territory went back and forth several times between France and Germany, she may not have been wrong.  But I believe her grandparents spoke German, not French, and today the town of Losheim is most definitely in Germany.

Slowly and methodically, over the past several years, I have been trying to put together the Schulien family tree.  I have found many branches in the United States, and have been in email and telephone contact with one Schulien descendant in Losheim. Last year, I visited Losheim and met several other Schulien descendants, including a cousin named Janine.  Janine showed me something I had been trying to get my hands on for years, a two volume set of books, written by her grandfather, tracing all the families of Losheim from the early 1700s.  The books are no longer in print and while Janine was all too eager to copy relevant pages of the books for me, it wasn't the same as having the books at my fingertips. So when she sent me an email a couple of months ago saying she had located a set of the books for me, I was thrilled.  She sent them to me and I have been filling in gaps in the family tree ever since.

At the same time, I have been making contact with Schuliens in the United States. I have sent letters and emails, and made phone calls.  Those contacts led to other contacts, and I have been able to gather more information, documents and photographs from many Schulien descendants.  Two of them even live close to me and we have been fortunate to be able to meet in person.

One thing that has eluded me, however, is the knowledge of where the Schuliens might have come from prior to their time in Losheim.  The two books I have only begin with the early 1700s, and I have been told that there are no organized records prior to that.  However, my cousin Janine recently contacted a former colleague of her late grandfather and asked if she had any information on where the Schuliens might have come from originally.  The colleague has sent her some information on this matter and after Janine translates it, she will pass it on to me.

Maybe I will find out that the Schuliens always lived in the area of Losheim, or maybe I will find out that, as my mother believed, they originally came from France.  Either way, I am hoping the new information will solve another mystery.  My mother is deceased now, but I keep thinking how thrilled she would be to share in all my discoveries and learn things about her family she never knew.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


I'm working on my mother's Schulien family now and from time to time I come across something that seems strange to me - missing records, dates that don't add up, or missing people.  I came across such a mystery today, and to say that I was energized and determined to solve the mystery would be an understatement.

First, a little background.  My third great grandparents were Mathias Schulien (1790-1868) and Elizabeth Jung, from Germany.  They had 10 children, as was common in those days.  While they stayed in Germany, three of their sons came to America.  The sons were Mathias (my second great grandfather), Michael and Johann Adam.  Johann Adam is the patriarch of the Chicago Schuliens who ran the famous Schulien's restaurant in Chicago for many years.  Michael (1813-1883)also settled in Chicago, married and had 7 children, as I learned from records.  And he spelled his name Shulgen instead of Schulien.  

Michael's oldest son was Mathias or Matthew (1840-1913), and I had no exact dates for his birth or death, and no dates at all for his wife, Anna Maria Schneider.  He came over to America a few years after his parents (in 1867) and younger siblings, and I do not know if he married in Germany or America.  But I did have information that he and his wife had 3  children:  Mary, Regina and John.  I had dates for John, but not for Mary and Regina, so I began searching in other databases to see what I could find.  

The first thing I found was an 1880 census that had Mathias, now a widower, living with his sister, Elizabeth Schulgen Berresheim and her 7 children.  But there was no sign of his children. Obviously, I wondered what had happened to them.  So I looked in other 1880 census records for other Schulgens, and I found a Regina Schulgen living with Dionysius (Dennis) Schulgen and his wife and their 2 very young children.  Dennis is the younger brother of Mathias.  Regina is listed as their daughter, but since she was born several years before Dennis's marriage, it seemed likely she was either adopted by Dennis and his wife or was just living with them.  Then I found the other two children, Mary and John, living with their grandparents, Michael and Anna Schulgen, also in the 1880 census.

There is no 1890 census, so I could not figure out where the children went after that, and I also could not answer the question why the children were split up, and why Mathias wasn't living with any of them.  So all I can do (unless some descendant of this branch of the family contacts me) is to speculate about what might have happened.  Here's my guess:

Mathias's wife may have died in childbirth when she had John, the youngest, leaving him without anyone to care for him adequately.  Or she could have died a few years later.  Back in the 1880s, fathers simply didn't take care of their motherless children, especially when they were very young.  Family always stepped in to help.  Sometimes an unmarried sister or aunt moved in to care for the children, and sometimes the children moved in with relatives.  Caring for children in those days was a full time job, as it is today, but without any of today's conveniences and support systems.  There was no day care, no nannies, no convenience foods or microwave ovens to cook meals.  There were no washing machines or dishwashers, so children whose mothers died had to go where there was an available woman to care for them and do the cooking and washing and rearing.  

But this still doesn't answer the question of why Mathias didn't move in with his parents or his brother, who were watching over his children, or why he moved in by himself with his sister.  So I went back to the census records and found something interesting.  Dennis Schulgen and his father lived next door to each other in 1880.  So the children would have not really been separated.  I'm sure they went back and forth between houses all the time.  But that still doesn't explain Mathias living with his sister.  They did not live next door.  The census tells me that Dennis, Michael and all the children lived in enumeration district 67, while Mathias lived in enumeration district 73.  Chicago is a big place, so I don't know how close they were, but it's possible Mathias stayed with his sister because it was closer to his work.  In any case, it doesn't seem like it would be too far away to at least see his children on the weekends.  On the other hand, he could have been having a very hard time accepting the death of his wife, and maybe he needed some separation time.  

Maybe some day a descendant of the Michael Schulgen family will have more information for me.  Until then, I feel satisfied that I have solved one mystery.  Now I would like to see if I can find out what happened to the children as they got older.      

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Having just  finished the Shaw family history book,  British Roots, Colonial Branches, the book documenting my paternal grandmother's mostly English family, I am starting in earnest on my fifth family history book.  This book will document the Schulien family who originally came from the town of Losheim in the Saarland area of Germany.  Several branches came to this country in the 1800s, one of which was that of my maternal great, great grandfather Mathias Schulien.

Mathias and his wife Maria Petry had four children in Germany before they emigrated and settled in Ohio.  After arriving in America, they had one more child, Joseph, who was my great grandfather.  Joseph married Mary Gertrude Frecker, also from a German family, and they had 8 children, including my maternal grandmother, Mary Bernadine Schulien or "Bernie," as everyone called her, including some of her grandchildren.

Bernie and her husband Alfred Mueller had 5 children before Alfred was killed in a train accident. The youngest child was my mother, Frances.

While I had a close relationship with my grandmother, aunts and uncles in the Schulien-Mueller clan, I did not know too many extended family members.  I remember hearing my mother speak fondly of all of them, so I do remember names.  And I did visit a few, so I have some memories of those visits.  But other than that, I have had to start from a place of ignorance regarding the larger extended family.  Fortunately my cousins Jim Lisk and Tim Schulien, who lived in Ohio in their youth, have helped me get started and fill out much of the more recent generations.

And so, for the past few weeks, I have buried myself in the Schulien family tree and I have to say, the task is monumental.  These Schuliens certainly did not have fertility problems.  Most of the families, in both Germany and the United States, had at least five or six children, and many had ten or twelve.  Needless to say, in trying to trace each branch of the family to the present day, the sheer number of individuals is overwhelming.  And it is easy to get lost.  Then, just when I think I have a handle on things, I find that there are several intermarriages, making me loop back to another family which is already in the family tree, whereupon I get completely lost in the weeds.

This afternoon, I've spent hours on just a handful of people.  I was working on some descandents of one of the Schuliens, whose family name is Kehres.  I found three men with the same first name and surname Kehres, all born within a year or two of each other and it took me two hours to figure out which one belonged in my tree.  I tell myself I shouldn't care about these second cousins, once removed, or 1st cousins, 3 times removed, but I have this need for completion, and unless I can come close to completing this tree, I won't be satisfied.

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't do genealogy, but it's sort of like trying to finish a jigsaw puzzle or a crossword that you've started.   It isn't good enough to have the puzzle finished except for a few pieces the dog chewed up, or that might have gotten lost.  It isn't okay to be minus two or three words in that crossword.  You won't rest until you finish.

Of course, doing a family tree that dates all the way back to 1790 is a bit different.  No, it's a lot different. To find all the records and verification on just one person can take hours or days.  Other people are much easier to find.  But I have learned that every family history book I do takes about a year of full time work - work that is a labor of love, I might add, as I get no income from this.  This tree, however, might take a bit longer.  The fact is, I don't want to work full time on it as I have other things I enjoy doing, so it might take more like two years.

Sometimes, because of the way it drives me to continue searching, I wish I had never started.  Other times I tell myself that this is something I'm really good at - finding hard to find people -  and I know the finished product - a family history book that will endure long past the time when I'm on this planet, will be something I will be proud to complete.

So I continue ..... and will post updates as the project continues.  Next post will be about the steps I take to find hard to find people.    

Friday, May 22, 2015

Genealogy Fatigue

I just looked at my last post and was shocked to see how long it had been since I've posted - 3 months.  I'm not sure anyone is still out there reading the blog.  I wouldn't be surprised if they stopped.  But after spending a good year working on a family history book project, sometimes you just have genealogy fatigue and need to take a breather. And that's what I did.

The book - The Brennans of Ireland, Ohio and Beyond -  was finished in February and I began taking orders and mailing out copies of the book as well as a CD of pictures to accompany it.  I've already put in two orders from the printer - one for 70 books and one for 10.  I still have a few left.  Several relatives have asked me to reserve one for them, but so far I haven't received an official order from them.  I'm quite proud of the book, even though as always happens, I (or a few relatives) spotted a few mistakes, although I must have edited and proofed the book dozens of times before sending it to the printer. 

This was my third family history book.  The first was a book on my husband's paternal side, the Croatian family.  The book was professionally designed and printed, with a beautiful photograph of the island of his grandparents' birth on the cover.  The second was a do-it-yourself project, a book I wrote and printed on my computer, and then had spiral bound.  That book was on my husband's maternal side and included the discovery I made and confirmed  several years ago that there are three Mayflower passengers in the direct line. This last book, as I've posted before, was also professionally designed (by my very talented daughter in law) and printed.  It's a book I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing because it told the story of my father's Irish side of the family. In writing it, I met many relatives I had never met before, nor even heard of.  Most were in America, but a few were in Ireland. 

After completing that book, however, I was exhausted and for a while, I didn't even want to deal with genealogy.  So in between times when I was busy packaging and mailing off books, I tackled some long neglected  projects around the house, and took a vacation to see two of my sons in Seattle.  I've painted the dining room, organized my closets, had a garage sale to rid myself of unneeded possessions, and done some gardening.  I'm also looking forward in June to my grandson Sean's 8th grade graduation,  my granddaughter Grace's 12th birthday and my 50th high school reunion.  Sometimes you just have to get away from documenting the past, and have fun with much-loved family members here and now.

I will be returning to genealogy soon, however.  Even as I was finishing my Brennan family history book, I was putting together another do-it-yourself project - the history of my father's maternal side of the family - the Shaws.  Once again, I will be printing it myself and having it spiral bound.  This one won't be sold to the family, as I'm not in contact with any of them, with the exception of my aunt Sheila.  So I will make a few for myself and my children, and my aunt, and then move on to a much larger project:  the first family history book for my mother's side of the family. 

This is the Schulien family, from Germany, and after having met a few family members when we were in Germany last year, I will look forward even more to getting started.  And I am going to have help on this one from some very dear cousins who have some very interesting stories to tell. 

Stay tuned. 

Monday, February 16, 2015


The Brennan Family History Book is finally here. 

After nearly 5 years of research, two years of writing, and several months of editing and designing, the book recording the history and genealogy of my father's Brennan family finally arrived from the printer.  I have been busy in the past week sending out copies to those members of the family who ordered it.  I still have some extra copies, so if anyone from the family reads this and would like to order a copy, they cost $48, plus $5 shipping cost.  For an extra $3 I will add a CD of all the pictures in the book, plus many not in the book.  Some of these pictures go back to the late 1800s. 

This is the third family history book I have written and published.  The first two were histories and genealogies of my husband's family:  his father's Croatian family and his mother's Swiss and English families (complete with 3 ancestors who came over on the Mayflower).  Each book has involved thousands of hours of research and writing, all of which keeps this retired woman out of trouble.  And as I write each book, I believe I get better at it.  This current volume is, I believe, the best of all.  It is comprised of over 220 pages recording the names and occupations of nearly every descendant, both living and deceased, of my thoroughly Irish great great grandparents, Ned Brennan and Mary Fahey who came to Ohio in 1861.   It also includes a chapter on the history of Ireland, and a chapter on the state of Ohio, focusing on the city of Lima, where many of Ned and Mary's descendants were born. 

I truly love doing this research and writing the books.  Each one is a labor of love, and each one teaches me something.  I write a history of the countries from which the ancestors came in each book, and that is an education in itself.  I learned about Switzerland and the Mayflower in writing my mother-in-law's history, and about Croatia in writing my father-in-law's history. For the Brennan book, I learned so many things about Ireland I never knew.  Now, I am nearing completion on my paternal grandmother's family history and I am learning about the history of England and Wales, as so many of her ancestors came from there. 

But I learn so much more than names, dates, and history.  I learn about the everyday lives of people, their joys and tragedies, their struggles and triumphs.  I gain a larger picture of how we humans  are all connected in one way or another and I learn that we are not that different from each other.  It highlights for me the frailty of the human race, but also the courage.  And, sadly, it reminds me of what a short time we spend on this planet.  For that reason, it makes me more determined to leave something of value behind, and to practice acts of kindness towards those who surround me. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


One thing I have learned in writing family history books is that nothing goes according to plan.  I learned this in spades with the writing of the Brennan family history book:

                          THE BRENNANS OF IRELAND, OHIO AND BEYOND

I sent out a letter to my cousins in December, informing them that the book would be on the way to the printers that month, and might even be available to ship before Christmas.  As it turns out, a series of changes and problems made that impossible.  My book designer, who is also my lovely daughter in law, Tere Mendez, did an amazing job of creating a beautiful book.  She then sent it to me for review, just after Thanksgiving.  While I was proof reading and seeing if there were any major changes I wanted to make, she was proof reading as well.  We both found a number of mistakes that needed correcting, and I had a number of changes I wanted to make.  So Tere got back to work.  The changes, combined with the upcoming holiday season, and other design jobs she had on her plate, led to a delay until she and my son, Matt, came down for Christmas.

During their visit, Tere and I spent many hours going over the book, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence.  (It should be noted that even this extensive proof reading missed a few things which we corrected later.)  Tere took the work back to Seattle, where she lives, and made sure she had all the corrections in place.  We both agreed that the manuscript would finally be sent to the printer the first week in January.  I felt bad that my relatives would have to wait even longer for a book once promised in late December, but it was what it was and I was just happy to be finally getting the book in print. 

Late Monday, the day Tere was going to send the completed book to the printer, she called and said she had printed up a few pages of the book to see how they looked and decided she had used a font size that was too large.  As she humorously said, "You can read it from outer space." That meant she had to change the entire book to a smaller font, which would shorten the chapters, cause difficulties in aligning the text with pictures, and change the page numbers in the Table of Contents.  So she set to work, correcting the book at night, while she worked on her other projects during the day. And while she was doing that, I did one more proof and found many mistakes in capitalization and punctuation that had gone unnoticed before.  One of many things I have learned as a writer is that proofing your own book is very difficult.  After having read it so many times, your eyes just skip over mistakes, filling in a missing letter or punctuation mark, not seeing a misspelling, your mind not even registering incorrect capitalizations.  But this time I found a number of them, and when Tere finally had her part of the changes done, we corrected the last batch of mistakes.  I'm not going to say they were the final mistakes, because I know there are minor mistakes I have not found.  I only hope I have not made any major ones. 

Now the book is at the printer.  I have paid a deposit and they will begin the process, sending me a printed proof to read and approve before they do the final run.  The book should be completed by early February, and I am hoping to send out the first copies shortly after I receive them.