Category Archives: Family Pictures

2017 trip – days 39 to 41 – back “home”

These last few days have evoked a lot of feelings and make it hard to think what is appropriate to write in a public blog.  We have been in Iowa.  This is the place my mother always wanted me to think of as home, as in “when are you going to be coming home?” I wasn’t born here (that was in Illinois), I did not live here as a young child (that was in Nebraska), and I have not lived most of my life here (that would be Washington for the past 40 years).  I remember more than once responding to my mother’s question about coming home with something like “Mom, Seattle is my home, but we are thinking about coming to visit you in Iowa in the summer.”

Despite that point of view, there clearly is something about returning to the place and interacting with the people I knew when I was young.  There have been joyful and beautiful experiences in these past three days but there have also been moments of sadnes, disturbance, and even anger.  I would rather focus on the positive experiences and leave the others for my private contemplation and growth. So, the following is a very filtered account.

We were treated to a wonderful personal guided tour of SAC air force base outside of Omaha on Thursday.

On Friday I had the chance to visit the gravesite of my great great great grandparents Johann Christian Langenfeld and Joanna Christina Eckes in St Joseph Cemetery in Earling, Iowa.  They were born in Germany in the 1820’s; married there in the 1840’s; imigrated to Wisconsin in the 1860’s; moved to Iowa in the 1880’s; and died there after 1900.  Johann’s grandfather (my 5th great grandfather) had converted from Judaism to Catholicism in order to marry his wife in Germany in 1772.  We do not know his birth name but the Christian name he took at the time of his baptism was Johannes Quirinus Langenfeld; Johannes for his wife’s father; Quirinus for the St. Quirinus church in which they were to be married; and Langenfeld, for the town in which they lived.  I hope to visit the village of Langenfeld some day so I might be able to stand in a place where my 5th great grandfather stood.  For now, I have to settle for the satisfaction of standing in a place in Iowa where my 3rd great grandfather lived at the end of his life.


I also visited Harlan, the county seat of Shelby county Iowa, the county where 5 generations of my ancestors lived.  There I picked up a couple of local items related to family history and my own memories.  Two cases of a very locally available mustand, “Denison Mustard.” That should be enough to satisfy my eating and cooking mustard needs for a couple of years.  Also, I picked up a couple of bottles of Templeton Rye.  Although the current product is a commercialized version of the prohibition era bootleg version, it still satisfies a desire to collect a couple of items related to family history.  Templeton Rye was the local brew at during prohibition and was known to be the favorite of Al Capone in Chicago. He always had a steady supply sent his way.  My adoptive father, as a young man in the prohibition era, made some money running a water wagon. It carried large volumes of fresh water from farms with fresh water sources to homes and household that did not.  Apparently his water tank also had a secret compartment for transporting some of the local brew out of sight of the local authorities.

On Saturday I went to a high school class reunion.  Having never attended an official reunion in the previous 45 years since I graduated high school, I have to admit I had some qualms about what to expect.  It could not have been a more pleasant reunion.  About a dozen classmates showed up for a brewery tour, a dinner, and a social hour.  So many memories and so good to catch up with people from the past.

Finally, today we were invited to a bruch by one of my cousins from the area.  It was a wonderful experience.  An opportunity to reconnect with a large number of the cousins with whom I had attended the annual “Goeser family reunion” many times when I was young.

As I said, there have also been a few expericences that evoked other emotions.  On Friday I visitied the area of Omaha where I lived as a young child, a period of time for which I have no memories.  We also visited the church where I was baptised.  I found myself overwhelmed for awhile with the sadness of not ever having known my father; of the secrets about my early life I have had to dig to uncover; and of the many more details which I will never know.  It was sad, but it was also good, because I am determined not to be a person who perpetuates the cult of secrecy which seems to have been accepted as normal by so many in my family.

There were also, other experiences related to family involving secrecy, rudeness, and just plain lack of respect.  I survived those experiences and hopefully learned from them.  My life motto in recent years has become “Every Day is Practice for Tomorrow” and these last few days have provided plenty of experiences from which I hope I can learn and improve my own practice of life for tomorrow.

2017 trip – day 21 – honoring the dead

A few more miles, another day, another state (Ohio – 11), another national park (Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis – 9), and several more license plate jurisdictions spotted (Kentucky, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina – 48 so far).

First off for the day we found a tiny cemetery in the middle of the farmlands east of Auburn, Indiana, Cosper cemetery.  A year or so ago I would not have thought to stop here.  However, in the past year, I had a break through on one brick wall in my family history research.  I have known for about 10 years, not too long after I discovered who my father was, that one of my great grandmothers was Catherine Francis Miller.  And I had some hints as to her parents, John Miller and Barbara Wappes.  But that was the end of my information.  Then through some connections through my online family trees I made contact with a cousin and found enough information to go back a bit more.  Catherine’s father was Johnathon G Miller, and he was born in 1832 in Pennsylvania and died in 1922 in Idaho.  Also, his parents were Eli Miller and Catharine Eva Whisler.  They were both born in Pennsylvania, but later moved to Indiana and lived, died, and were buried, in De Kalb county Indiana.  Today we found their gravesite and were able to stand in fields where they had lived.

As always with family history research, breaking through one brick wall always results in 2 or more new ones.  Eli is my new brick wall and I need to find his ancestry so I can find where in Europe his family came from.  For Catharine, I have 2 more generations of family in my tree and will need a future trip to Pennsylvania to have the experience of walking in the shadow of my ancestors in that place, and maybe to find information to break through another brick wall.

From Cosper we moved east and north toward Cleveland. But first a stop at a relatively unknown national park, Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis.   A simple site with several plaques explaining the event to which the park is dedicated.  One monument with 4 sides.  Here is what each side of the monument says it is dedicated to:




side 1:  In memory of the white settlers massacured1783-1794.

side 2 : To Chief Little Turtle and his brave Indian Warriors.

side 3: Dedicated to the Greenville Treaty, written in 1795 after the 1794 battle of Fallen Timbers, and which led to the opening of present day Ohio to white settlers.

side 4: To the pioneers of Ohio and the Great Northwest.

Without knowing much else about the events that took place here just think about the dedications on the 4 sides of that monument.  Except for failing to mention that there had also been some Indian civilians massacred a bit earlier in the history of the area, this monument covers quite a bit: both sides in a conflict, the treaty which ended the conflict, and the expansion of our country as a result of that treaty.

It got me thinking about all of the national parks we have visited and the various reasons they have been protected as national treasures.  Some for nature, some for beauty, some because of connection to a person central to our nation’s history, some celebrate an important period of time for our nation, some to celebrate a national achievement, and some to mark a place of national shame it is important we do not forget.  Think of the Rosie the Riveter park for celebration and the Japanese internment for shame.  Here at Fallen Timbers is one monument covering at least 3 of those reasons in one place.  Without the preservation of this event with at least some honesty about why it is being preserved important parts of our history and lessons we should learn and relearn would be lost.

One final thought the place evoked is that I wondered what monuments might be preserved in the future about events taking place in our day.  Will they be monuments to events of which we are proud or events of which we are ashamed and hope never to allow to happen again.

2017 trip – day 19

I need to go through the day backwards today.  At the end of the day today the people I now can truly identify as “family” gave us a gift and made us promise not to open it til we were back at our hotel.  We followed instructions and a good thing too.  I don’t think I could have safely driven for awhile after opening their beautiful gift.  Sometimes the power of words is just amazing.  Obviously the word of the day is family.  These people, my sister, and her children and grandchildren are no doubt by family.  I am so glad we decided to spend three days here to meet and get to know them.  At first I would have described them as family but it would just have been a word.  After three days together, sharing stories, sharing pictures, sharing food, sharing an outing to a beautiful park, sharing mutual interests in history, in computers, in puzzles, in cooking, in the education of children among other things, the word “family” has real meaning.  These are people I feel at home with, who I instinctually feel I could trust and rely on if needed.

I could contrast this with how the word family has often been used in other interactions where the word is often used to try to tell someone how they are “supposed” to behave, because that is what “families” do.  However, I will leave my history to that one comment and just relish this new experience of family.

Earlier in the day we went out to lunch.  We were told that in addition to pizza, another food people from Chicago are willing to fight over is sandwiches.  While we could not do a sampling of multiple sandwich places we could enjoy one from an iconic Chicago institution: Portillo’s Hot Dogs & Barnelli’s Pasta Bowl.  We were only able to sample a couple items from an amazing menu. And everything we tried truley was amazing.  We will definitely be making another stop at a Portillo’s the next time we find ourselves anywhere near Chicago.

And before that we met everyone in the family for a wonderful day a place described as a hidden treasure: Cantigny Park.  It certainly wasn’t on any list of places we had seen but surely it should have been. I only saw a bit of the park but the museum dedicated to the history of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division was exceptional.  It covered in as interesting and interactive a way as I have seen anywhere this particular army divisions involvement in the Great War, World War II, the old war, Vietnam, and the recent conflicts in the Middle East.

Today completed one of the “people portions” of our long trip.  The next 2 weeks are going to be mostly national parks, presidental sites, and seeing parts of the country we have never seen before.


Family Reunion

With our recent adventures,  part of what we missed was a family reunion in Iowa on 8 Aug 2015.  One of my 4 sets of great grandparents were Nicholas Frederick Goeser and Mary Eva Sonntag.  I never knew either of them but knew of them all my life because of regular gatherings of extended family consisting of their descendants.  In addition to attending numerous wedding, funeral, and anniversary events, we had a Goeser family reunion on the 4th of July every year of my childhood. There was seldom anyone with the name “Goeser” at these gatherings because Nick and Mary had 4 daughters who married into different names and a foster son who was the son of Mary’s cousin.  These reunions seem to have been a long tradition among the German Catholic families that are my heritage on my mother’s side.  Although I missed the most recent reunion, my cousins have shared many pictures with me so I thought I would post a few historical photos from this family line along with some from the most recent event.

Langenfeld-Johann-Johanna-1898A Photo from 1898, of my great great grandparents and their family. (Nick Goeser’s grandparents).

Nick’s Mother and Father, Anna Langenfeld and Joseph Goeser are in this picture though I have not specifically identified them.  The gathering is of Anna’s parents and 8 siblings.



Goeser-FamilyReunion1Another from about 1925.  This is the Goeser family with Nick and most of his 8 living siblings.  I can identify my great grandfather, Nick; my grandparents Bertha Goeser and Joe Mickels; and my mother, Alvina Mickels, and her sister, my aunt Edna, when they were about 7 and 9 years old.

ReunionGoeserHouseAnd from 1929, a wedding gathering for my great aunt Cecelia, Nick’s 2nd of 4 daughters. My mother and aunt, my grandmother and 3 great aunts are among the people shown here.  The picture is taken in front of the home Nick Goeser built 20 years earlier and in which my cousins still live today.

Pictures from the 2015 reunion:11094667_10156023744360226_7833149195133920611_n

Hanging on the barn Nick Goeser built is a picture of him and his four daughters:




Here are the living grandchildren of Nick and Mary who made it to the reunion.




Descendants of Nick and Mary’s first daughter, Bertha, my grandmother, who married Joseph Mickels and had 2 daughters, Edna (Schomer) and Alvina (Borkowski);




Descendants of their 2nd daughter, Cecelia, who married Leo Waltz, and had 3 children, one of whom married and had children. Jerry Waltz, their son, is seated to the right;





Descendants of their third daughter, Irene, who married Art Hoffmann, with two of Irene’s children, Marie and Harold, present;



Descendants of their fourth daughter, Marcella, who married Sylvester Michels. One of Marcella’s sons, Joe, farms the original Goeser farm which has been designated a Century Farm in Iowa.  The reunion was at their place and most of Marcella’s descendants are present.




Descendants of Nick and Mary’s foster son Leo Sonntag.  Leo married Isabelle Mickels and had several children.




One picture of most everyone attending the reunion.  Pictured are two people who are also pictured in the 1929 photo from Cecelia’s wedding.  I am waiting to hear from any cousins who can identify who those two people are.

I published a book last year on the Goeser family.  At the time of publication I had included 294 descendants of Nick and Mary Goeser, most of whom are still living.

Day 0 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

Final preps for the trip today.  Amazing how many devices we travel with these days:  computers, phones, pods, nook, hearing aides, etc.  Hope we have all the chargers and connectors we need.  Had a final gathering with all 4 boys for a birthday celebration at our favorite Italian restaurants, Soprano’s.  Tomorrow we start our trip with a short drive of less than 300 miles to Walla Walla and our first National Park Site, Whitman Mission.


2015-June-RJbirthday 058