Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Honoring my mother’s family

In the years before she died in 2004, my mother became interested in tracing her family roots in Bavaria and was successful in tracing them back to the 1500s – and this was before the days of! 

I didn’t fully appreciate what Mom did then, but I have come to fully appreciate her efforts now, and I so wish that I could tell her so.  But I can’t.

Instead, I took the old original photos of her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins (one board for her mother’s relatives and one for her father’s) that she had originally taped onto tag board and labeled herself…


and I turned them into these:




Most of the photos are originals – printed on very thick cardboard and ornately labeled on the back.



I love looking at similarities between our ancestors and current family members.  This, for example, is my mother’s mother, Mathilde:

Mathilde Reiss 1909

…and this is my niece Niki:


They look so much alike!

I also love exploring the dress of the time.  Just imagine how much work it was to get dressed.


(Yes, that says that my mother’s paternal grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1897!)

How regal some of Mom’s relatives looked!


My favorite story to come from Mom’s photos is the story of her nephew Willy Merkl.  This is Willy:

Willy Merkl 1900 - 1934  March 1923

If you google him, you’ll come up with this:

Willy Merkl Search

and this:

Willy Merkl Strasse

and this:

Willy Merkl website

It’s easy to find information about Mom’s nephew.  The Wikipedia entry begins like this: “

Willy Merkl (6 October 1900 – 9/17 July 1934) was a German mountain climber who is most notable for his attempt to lead a German-American team up Nanga Parbat (the Naked Mountain) in the Pakistani Himalayas in 1932.

His team was known to be very experienced in Alpine and European mountain expeditions, but were unprepared for the trials of the Himalayas. Despite being forced to turn back, the team did make excellent progress and found a way through the Rakhiot Peak and the main ridge.[1]

In 1934 he led another expedition up the same mountain that proved to be fatal.”

Could I make the claim that Peter’s earlier propensity for rock climbing…


Nah, guess not.

The beautiful original photos that I had custom framed only accounts for about 150 years of Mom’s family.  But this document (it’s taller than me!) shows Mom’s relatives all the way back to the 1500s!

Reiss tree full size

And she documented the family lineage in a document, too:




And there’s the booklet that she found that describes her family’s 225 years in the hat making business!


I’ll soon be dedicating a few wall surfaces to family historical memorabilia like this.  I just hope that the kids will have an interest in preserving it for their kids… and their kids… and…

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1 comment:

Margaret said...

I always wanted to know more about my husband's family, but his mother was adopted, so that line dropped. His grandparents came over from Germany and changed their name from Fentstein(or Fentstine, not sure) to Fent. Thus, I'm not sure where to start looking. My family tree is more traceable since a couple of older relatives kept track of their great-great grandparents.

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