Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wishful Wednesday: An Enigma

                           "My brother and your father - a good man - an enigma"

These are the words of my great-great uncle, Ralph Holsclaw, written in a letter to my grandmother, Mary Holsclaw Andrews. Her father, Hubert Holsclaw, or "Herb", had just died, and he was writing to her about his death. But neither one of them had known him at the time of his death. Neither one of them had seen him for years before his death.

Hubert Holsclaw had walked out on my grandma and her mother, Helen, when my grandma was only seven years old. She was an only child. My grandma and her mother lived with Helen's parents from that time on, and her grandparents, Elmer and Lottie Oder, became very close to her. But to my knowledge, from the age of seven, my grandma never again saw her father, and I don't believe she ever spoke to him again either.

So in 1973, Ralph wrote a letter on a typewriter to my grandma Mary in response to one she had written to him, telling him there were many things she wished to know. We had never heard about this letter, and only discovered it in her house after she had died. Ralph begins the letter by harkening back to 1927, the year Hubert walked out. He left, relocated to Boston, remarried, and later moved to Miami, where years later, he divorced again. But he was a hard worker, and did, it seems, keep a few close friends, but it seems he had trouble with relationships, and as Ralph later notes, he had a pattern of rejecting the people who loved him. He never did mention a daughter to anyone he came in contact with. He died suddenly, without any warning, at the age of 75.

Ralph writes, "Seventeen elderly persons attended his funeral and signed the register. I met them all as they came in and asked if they had the time to wait after the service so that I could talk with them. We all met in the back of the chapel and each and every one of them expressed to me that they had never known a finer and gentler man. None had laid eyes upon him since he bowed out upon them without a goodbye. An elderly couple who, because of their infirmities, could not attend the service, had a friend drive them to the door of the chapel and asked that I come out and talk to them, which I did. All of their questioning eyes formed the one word - WHY. They and you and I will never know the answer. None of these friends had ever heard of the existence of a brother or a daughter except Mrs. Gasche and she had not heard about you. My brother and your father - a good man - an enigma. I am sure you have detected a pattern in your father's life, as I have - a rejection of the people who loved him....."

These are the times in genealogy when you wish you could have been a fly on the wall. When you wish you could have known Mrs. Gasche, or Ralph, or Ralph's daughter that he mentions, who apparently Hubert favored. But at the same time it gives me insight to my grandmother's childhood, and what pain this man must have caused her. But having only known him to the age of seven, she couldn't really tell me much about him when I asked, or...she didn't really want to. I couldn't tell. An enigma indeed. All of genealogy really is, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Travel Tuesday: Lutztown Road

The Lutz line of my genealogy research used to be a huge brick wall for me. It was finally broken down after I was able to look through some things from my great-grandmother's old cedar chest, and then resources from local libraries helped me climb my way up the tree.

Here is my Lutz family tree: 

George Lutz b. 1772 m. Catherine Wolf b. 1777
    - Baltzer Lutz b. 1803 m. Nancy Eby b. 1803
        - Moses Lutz b. 1828 m. Nancy Ann Shafer b. 1833
            - Ervin Lutz n. Ida Slagle
                 - Earl Moses Lutz b. 1886 m. Alma Bertha Bruns
                      - Harold Lutz b. 1920 m. Virginia Bunce
                          - Robert Earl Lutz b. 1944 m. Jacqueline Ann Mulry

This past week we vacationed in upstate New York, and since it was the 4th of July weekend, we decided it would be neat to swing by Philadelphia to see where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Immediately the thought crossed my mind that we would be coming home to Indianapolis heading due west, and the Lutzes were from an area we would be driving through. A quick Google Maps search confirmed this and I headed straight to to locate the cemetery where George and Catherine Wolf Lutz are buried. They lived in Churchtown, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and are buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery. I also knew from reading in an old county history book that the area where they lived and for three generations engaged in wagon and coachmaking was known as Lutztown. When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the next road by the cemetery was called Lutztown Road. I was standing in the very area the Lutzes must have lived and worked.

We then took to the cemetery. It was a pretty large cemetery, across from a gas station, otherwise surrounded by cornfields. (I was also excited to discover it was very near to the Appalachian Trail.) For once it didn't take me long to find the graves I was looking for.

It was raining so I didn't stay long at their graves, but it was so neat to see them and feel the rough stone. George is the earliest Lutz ancestor I can trace. He was born around 1772 in Switzerland and came to America because of religious persecutions. He settled in Pennsylvania, eventually making his way to Cumberland County. He married Catherine Wolf, and they had nine children. Our ancestor is their son, Baltzer Lutz, who came to Muncie, Indiana, and his son Moses, who was a blacksmith in Muncie.

(To my Lutz relatives, I have much more information. Send me an email and I can send the rest to you. Let me know if you have any questions too! Someday I will turn this all into a book like I'm doing with the Mulry family.)

Long story short, if you ever find yourself traveling near an ancestral homeland, take the extra hour or two out of your day to visit. It's worth it.

History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania.
Containing History of the Counties, Their Townships, Towns, Villages,
Schools, Churches, Industries, Etc.; Portraits of Early Settlers and
Prominent Men; Biographies; History of Pennsylvania; Statistical and
Miscellaneous Matter, Etc., Etc.  Illustrated.  Chicago: Warner, Beers
& Co., 1886.