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Looking back to 2017, forward to 2018

Stories in The Legal Genealogist’s family take us back a long way in America on the maternal side and in Germany on the paternal side.

Stories that begin, in this country, in the late 1600s. Stories in Germany that we can take all the way back to the late 1500s.

Milestones 2018Some of them, astoundingly, given my family’s tendency never to let the truth get in the way of a good story, that may even possibly be true.

And some of the possibly-true ones — that is, the ones that I’ve managed to document with something other than a marginal note that one of the family storytellers told me so — had very big milestones in 2017 or will have big milestones here in 2018.

These “big milestones” are events that were exactly 50 or 100 or 150 or 200 years ago — or more! — during the year.

And they’re the kinds of milestones that we shouldn’t allow to pass without pausing to reflect.

Looking back

In 2017, for example, in the 250-year milestone category, we had the birth of my fourth great granduncle, or second cousin five times removed depending on which line you’re looking at, William Wiseman on 5 August 1767.1 He’s the one who — allegedly, at least — caused no end of grief to his sister, my fourth great grandmother (and, yeah, she’s also my second cousin five times removed), Dorothy (Wiseman) Baker when he sent marriage information to the Pension Office that erroneously reported the year of her marriage to David Baker. It came close to costing her the pension benefits she deserved for her late husband’s Revolutionary War service — and almost got her indicted.2

In the 200-year milestone category, there was the ordination of my 3rd great grandfather Elijah Gentry on 7 November 1817 as a Methodist preacher — admitted into full connection and elected to Deacon’s Orders in the Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.3

And in the 100-year milestone category, the births of two family members: my aunt Ruth, born 12 August 1917, and died when she was just six months old;4 and my mother’s cousin, Frederick Merledon Gottlieb — the cousin who walked my mother down the aisle at her wedding to my father5 — born on 17 May 1917 at Wichita Falls, Texas.6

Looking forward

Coming up in 2018, there are a lot of milestones.

In the 250-year milestone category is the birth of a fourth great grandfather in Germany. Johann Jürgen Nuckel was reportedly 47 years old when he served as the informant for the death of his mother, Elisabeth (Behnhauer) Nuckel, in Bremen in 1815.7 I wish I knew more about this man, but other than the names of his wife and children and his death in 1823, there’s not a lot to go on.

In the 200-year milestone category are three notables: a birth, a marriage and a death. The birth is estimated to have been in 1818, and it’s my second great grandmother Mary “Polly” Fore. The problem? The 1850 census showed her as 32, or birthyear around 1818, and birthplace Georgia;8 the 1860 census showed her as 39, or birthyear around 1820-21, and birthplace North Carolina;9 and the 1870 census indicated an age of 55, or around 1815, and birthplace Tennessee.10 Sigh…

More definitive is the death of Elizabeth Pettypool Jones, my fifth great grandmother, in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Daughter of John Pettypool and Sarah Sanford,11 she died on 2 Sep 1818 at Rutherford (now Cleveland) County, and was buried at Sandy Run Baptist Cemetery.12

And equally definitive is the marriage of my fourth great grandfather William Battles to his first wife, Kiziah Wright, in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, on 12 December 1818.13 That marriage was doomed: Kiziah sued William for divorce in Blount County, Alabama, by 1824, saying he’d run off with the woman who later became wife number 2 (and most likely my fourth great grandmother), Ann Jacobs.14

In the 150-year milestone category, another loss: my third great grandfather Martin Baker died in Parker County, Texas, in November 1868. He is buried in Baker Cemetery there on land donated by his son Josiah.15 Born in North Carolina, he dragged his family half-way across the country — through Kentucky then to Iowa and finally ending up in Texas.16

The marriage of my German grandparents on Valentine’s Day 1918 heads the list of 100-year milestones. Hugo Ernst Geissler and Marie Margarethe Nuckel were married 14 February 1918 at St. Jakobi Church in Bremen, Germany,17 after a civil ceremony at the City Registrar’s Office.18 Their decision to emigrate to the United States — bringing my then three-year-old father along19 — changed the course of my personal history in a big way.

And of course, my family was greatly impacted 100 years ago — as were most families — by the 1918 flu epidemic. So many deaths… though it was a little too early to have been a contributing factor in the death of my grandparents’ first-born child, my aunt Ruth, who died in February 1918 and, like so many other things, changed my personal history.

And speaking of personal history, in the 50-year milestone category, I refuse to even consider the fact that my high school class will be holding a reunion in 2018. Why, it was just yesterday that I was in high school, wasn’t it? It can’t possibly have been 50 years ago that that class graduated…

These are the stories we all have in our families, aren’t they? And they are, in truth, one of the real reasons why I have to write this blog. Why I have to tell the stories. To make sure that those I remember aren’t forgotten… that these milestones continue to be remembered down through the generations.


  1. Maribeth Lang Vineyard and Eugene M. Wiseman, William Wiseman and the Davenports (Franklin, NC: Genealogy Publishing Service, 1997), 6-9, 13.
  2. See Judy G. Russell, “The marriage date,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 10 Aug 2013 ( : accessed 1 Jan 2018).
  3. Methodist Episcopal Church, Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Years 1773-1881 (New York: p.p., 1883), 288-289.
  4. Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell. See also Dutton Funeral Home (Iowa Park, Texas), Record of Funeral, Baby Cottrell, 22 February 1918; digital copy privately held by Judy G. Russell.
  5. Judy G. Russell, “Missing cousin Fred,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 18 May 2013.
  6. Texas State Board of Health, birth certif. no. 20585, Frederick Gottlieb, 17 May 1917; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin. And see “Personals,” Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Tex., 18 May 1917, p. 8.
  7. Bremen registry office, civil status registers, deaths), 1811-1875, Elisabeth Nuckel geb. Behnhaner, Todten 1815 p464 (FHL Film 1344211).
  8. 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, p. 2(B) (stamped), dwelling/family 27, Mary Johnson, age 32; digital image, ( : accessed 1 Jan 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 217.
  9. 1860 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, Somerset, population schedule, p. 2 (penned), dwelling/family 8, Mary Johnson; digital image, ( : accessed 1 Jan 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 393.
  10. 1870 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, Justice Precinct 1, population schedule, p. 382B (stamped), dwelling/family 377, Mary Johnson; digital image, ( : accessed 1 Jan 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 1601.
  11. Elizabeth was identified as a child of John and Sarah Pettypool in an 1803 deed. Granville County, North Carolina Deed Book R: 228, Granville County Record of Deeds 1797-1805, Microfilm C.044.4009, State of North Carolina Library and Archives, Raleigh.
  12. W.D. Floyd, “Cleveland County Cemeteries,” Website On Disks, CD-ROM (Forest City, NC : Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County, 2007), entry for Elizabeth Jones, Sandy Run Baptist Cemetery. See also Sandy Run Baptist Church Cemetery, Cleveland County, North Carolina, Elizabeth Jones marker and memorial 21655263; digital image, Find A Grave ( : accessed 1 Jan 2018).
  13. Oglethorpe County, Georgia, Marriage Book 1: 61, Battles-Wright, 12 December 1818; Georgia’s Virtual Vault ( : accessed 1 Jan 2018).
  14. Blount County, Alabama, Circuit Court Minutes B: 373-375 (1829).
  15. Baker Cemetery (Baker Community, Parker County, Texas; on Baker Road 0.4 miles north of the intersection with Baker Cutoff Road, Latitude 32.5843012, Longitude -97.7272504), Martin Baker marker; photograph by J.G. Russell, 3 May 2003.
  16. See Judy G. Russell, “Elizabeth’s courage,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 21 July 2012.
  17. Heiraten (Marriages), p. 41, nr. 5, Geißler-Nuckel, 14 Feb 1918; Kirchenbuch (Church Book), Evangelische Kirche St. Jakobi, Bremen, Heiraten 1911-1930; FHL INTL microfilm 953,273.
  18. Bescheinigung der Eheschließung (Certificate of Marriage), nr. 135 (1918), Geißler-Nuckel, Standesamt (Registry Office), Bremen.
  19. Manifest, S.S. George Washington, Jan-Feb 1925, p. 59 (stamped), lines 4-6, Geissler family, 4; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, ( : accessed 10 Feb 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 3605.
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