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Most meaningful family posts of the year

Here we are, in the last days of 2015, when The Legal Genealogist tries to take a moment and reflect.

top10.mine.2015Especially here on the last Saturday of the year, when I can look back on a year’s worth of once-a-week blog posts about my family… the blog posts that mean the most to me individually.

On occasion, a family post will break into the top 10 overall. This year’s post, “Remembering Meredith,” about the death of my beloved young cousin 10 years ago, resonated with an awful lot of people whose families have been hit as hard as mine has by the ghosts of mental illness past… and present…1

But whether these posts are ever on a most-popular list anywhere, they’re certainly among the most important to me.

And so I take this opportunity, this last Saturday of 2015, to share with you my top 10 family-related posts of the year, not by reader ranking… but by the ranking of the heart…

Let’s do the Top 10 countdown:

At Number 10 for 2015:

Germany calling (28 November): “Hattie Geisler — oldest sister of The Legal Genealogist‘s grandfather Hugo Ernst Geissler — was married on this date 109 years ago. The marriage was before the Honorable Joseph Arne, Justice of the Peace of Cook County. Her groom: Paul Knop. There’s no doubt of the name on the marriage certificate. You can click on the image and see it larger. Hattie Geisler marrying Paul Knop. And therein lies the tale.”

At Number 9:

One single character (26 September): “It goes without saying in genealogy. You have to read every word. Every single character, in every single field, in every single document. It doesn’t matter what the document is. It doesn’t matter what particular use you’re making of it.
You have got to parse through everything it says.”

At Number 8:

Thank you, BLM! (15 June): “(I)t is a distinct pleasure to be in Winston County Mississippi, where my Gentry and Robertson ancestors lived in the 19th century, on tracts of land described in terms like ‘the West half of the South East quarter of Section twenty nine in Township fifteen North, of Range fourteen East, in the District of Lands subject to sale at Columbus, Mississippi.’ … Where I stood, yesterday afternoon, soaking up the feeling of standing where my ancestors did, on land that they owned, more than 170 years ago.”

At Number 7:

A grandmother’s strength (22 August): “But what just breaks your heart about all of these babies and their untimely deaths is one simple fact. … (W)hen little Hinnerina died in 1845 — when her older sister Marie died in 1841 — when her little brother Carsten died in 1848 — each time one of the babies of this family died… it was their grandmother, their father’s mother, my fourth great grandmother Maria Margarethe (Storch) Sievers who had to perform that sad duty.”

At Number 6:

“Number, please…” (7 February): “The telephone is everywhere these days. Including, for many of us, in a pocket or a purse every waking minute of every waking day … and on the bedstand next to us when we sleep. Omnipresent. Ubiquitous. Annoying. But it was not always so, was it?.”

At Number 5:

Backing up the paper trail (2 August): “It’s always so nice… so very nice… when the genetic evidence lines up with the documentary evidence. Taking the two together, combining the paper trail and the clues hidden in our own genetic code, can provide a confidence level for answers to questions that we simply couldn’t have reached in any other way. And sometimes… sometimes… serendipity plays a role.”

At Number 4:

The persistence of memory (28 February): “There is something very wrong with this picture…. it just isn’t possible … no way, no how … It’s simply out of the question … There is no way that I could possibly be old enough to remember something that happened sixty years ago today.”

At Number 3:

The marriage that would never last (17 October): “It wasn’t the right match, they said. He wasn’t the right boy for her. He didn’t come from a good enough family. He wasn’t smart enough. Good-looking enough. He wouldn’t provide well for her and any family they might have. It just wouldn’t work out. It wouldn’t last.”

At Number 2:

Love wins (27 June): “(T)he family of The Legal Genealogist is gathered here to watch a beloved niece, Katya, walk down the aisle and join in matrimony with the love of her life, Jimmy. … Yet — without wanting to take anything away from the joy of welcoming Jimmy to our family today — we are all riveted on events so many miles to the east where, yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States by the narrowest of margins gave equal rights to other members of our family. … So my family is doubly warmed today. By the Arizona sun shining down as we welcome Jimmy to the family and share in the joy of one straight couple. And by the sun of legal freedom shining down on the joy of another couple miles to the east. A couple that just happens to be gay.”

And the Number One family post — the hardest but most deeply felt in my family’s collective heart for 2015:

Mourning Adam (20 June): “(I)t is with the heaviest of hearts that my family gathers today in Chicago to try to come to terms with the loss of a child born too soon. His name was Adam. He was beautiful. And he was loved. And he is gone.”

On to 2016… with the usual additional sidetracks into other top 10 lists for this year…


  1. Judy G. Russell, “Remembering Meredith,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 25 July 2015 ( : accessed 20 Dec 2015).
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