Select Page

Looking back to 2019, forward to 2020

The very best part of falling headlong into family history research is the stories.

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.

Some 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.

milestones 2020

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 2019 or will have big milestones here in 2020.

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 2019, for example, in the 250-year milestone category, we had the birth of a fifth great grandfather, Wilhelm Storch. Well, at least that’s a pretty good approximation. His birthplace was given as Bremen, Germany, and his age at 61 in his death record, recorded in October 1830,1 so 1769 is probably as close as we’re going to come. I descend from him through his daughter Maria Margarethe, who married Carsten Heinrich Sievers in 1817,2 then their son Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers, who married Metta Huthoff in 1840,3 then their daughter Marie Margarethe Sievers who married Johann Nuckel in 1860,4 then their son Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Nuckel, who married Juliane Margarethe Smidt in 1884,5 and then their daughter Marie Margarethe Nuckel, my grandmother.

In the 200-year milestone category, there was the birth of a second great granduncle, David Davenport Baker. He was the first-born child of my third great grandparents Martin and Elizabeth (Buchanan) Baker. Born 29 June 1819, David D., as his name was usually recorded, married his half-first-cousin Mary Baker, daughter of his father’s half-brother Thomas Baker, in 1838, and went on to produce nine known children with her.6

And in the 150-year milestone category, there was the birth of my great grandmother Eula Baird Livingston in Alabama on 24 October 1869.7

Looking forward

And in 2020, there are a lot of milestones coming up as well.

In the 250-year milestone category, there’s a marriage milestone on which I am unabashedly cheating. I’m assigning a marriage year of 1770 to Philip Shew, my fifth great grandfather on my mother’s side. I’d love to say I’m also assigning that marriage year to the one woman we know he was married to, his widow Susannah, named in his will,8 except that we have no idea if Susannah was his one and only wife and mother of his children or … But Philip’s first child, Eve Anna, was born in 1772,9 so 1770 is a pretty good guess for a marriage, right?10 But hey… happy anniversary anyway.

In the 200-year milestone category, we have the — ahem — somewhat better documented birth of my paternal third great grandfather Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers, born in Bremen, Germany, on 3 December 1820.11 It’s his grandfather William Storch in last year’s 250-year milestone and, as noted, I descend through his daughter Marie Margarethe Sievers who married Johann Nuckel in 1860,12 then their son Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Nuckel who married Juliane Margarethe Smidt in 1884,13 and then their daughter, my grandmother, Marie Margarethe Nuckel, who married my grandfather, Hugo Ernst Geissler, on Valentine’s Day 1918.14

In the 150-year milestone category, there’s a lot to choose from, but to give myself a research goal, I’m going to choose the fact that — as of right now — 23 June 1870 is the last known record of Wilmoth (Killen) Gentry, my third great grandmother on my mother’s side. She was enumerated on that date living in the household of her son George in Neshoba County, Mississippi.15 She was recorded as age 75 on that census, and she’s not with George or any of her other children in 1880, so…

In the 100-year milestone category, we’ll go with one birth and one death — both part of sad stories. The birth: my mother’s cousin Phillip Cottrell, born 16 April 1920 in South Dakota. Phillip was everything you might want a boy to be: a Golden Gloves champion, appointed to the Naval Academy — and dead at age 23 in an aviation training accident during World War II.16 And the 100-year milestone death? That of a four-month-old infant who, if she’d lived, might have changed so much in my life. Marie Emma Geissler, born 10 September 1919, died 20 January 1920.17 She was my father’s only sibling.

And in the 50-year milestone category, two deaths. Two brothers. Two months apart. First, on 12 July 1970, my mother’s uncle Gilbert Fleetwood Cottrell.18 Next to the youngest surviving child of my great grandparents. And just two months later, on 21 September 1970, his little brother. My grandfather Clay Rex Cottrell.19

Each of these, a story of its own. And these are the stories we all have in our families, aren’t they? And they are, in truth, one of the real reasons why we do genealogy at all.

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.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Milestones, 2020,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 4 Jan 2020).


  1. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Todten 1830 p. 496, Wilhelm Storck.
  2. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Heiraten (marriages) 1817 p. 319, Sievers-Storch.
  3. Ibid., Heiraten 1840 p. 432, Sievers-Huthoff.
  4. Ibid., Heiraten 1860 p. 282, Nuckel-Sievers.
  5. Ibid., Heiraten 1884 Nr. 713, Nuckel-Smidt.
  6. Elma W. Baker, The Rugged Trail, Vol. II (Dallas, Texas : p.p., 1973), 73 (citing Library of Savanah Card, Denver CO).
  7. Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Health, Death Certificate No. 6367, Eula Robertson, 14 Mar 1954; Division of Vital Records, Richmond.
  8. Wilkes County, North Carolina, Will Book 4: 159, Will of Philip Shew, 4 Jan 1826; digital images, “North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 Jan 2020).
  9. 1860 U.S. census, Parke County, Indiana, Florida Township, population schedule, p. 185 (penned), dwelling 1267, family 1246, Evanna Lenderman in John Boatman household; digital image, ( : accessed 3 Jan 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 287.
  10. Whattaya mean the 1860 census isn’t enough proof of birth in 1772? Even if she’s shown as 99 in 1870? 1870 U.S. census, Parke County, Indiana, Florida Township, population schedule, p. 65 (stamped), dwelling 334, family 326, Evana Lenderman in John Boatman household; digital image, ( : accessed 3 Jan 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 349. Sigh… I did say I was cheating.
  11. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister (Bremen city registry office, civil status registers), Geburten (births) 1820 Nr. 1242 (3 Dec 1820, registered 7 Dec 1820), p. 614, Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers.
  12. Ibid., Heiraten (marriages) 1860, p. 282, Nuckel-Sievers.
  13. Ibid., 1884 Nr. 713, Bd. 2, Nuckel-Smidt.
  14. Ibid., 1918 Nr. 135, Geissler-Nuckel.
  15. 1870 U.S. census, Neshoba County, Mississippi, Philadelphia, population schedule, p. 374(A) (stamped), dwelling/family 1264, Wilmolth Gentry in George W. Gentry household; digital image, ( : accessed 3 Jan 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 741.
  16. Crystal Bachman, “In Memory of Marine Lieutenant Philip Ellsworth Cottrell,” South Dakota WWII Memorial via Wayback Machine ( : accessed 3 Jan 2020). Also, “California Death Index, 1940-1997,” entry for Philip Patrick Cottrell, 4 Aug 1943; database, ( : accessed 3 Jan 2020); citing California Death Index, 1940-1997, California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics, Sacramento.
  17. See Judy G. Russell, “Marie’s memory,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 20 Jan 2018 ( : accessed 3 Jan 2020).
  18. Texas Department of Health, death certif. no. 49224, Gilbert Fleetwood Cottrell, 12 July 1970; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  19. Virginia Department of Health, Certificate of Death, state file no. 70-026729, Clay Rex Cottrell (21 Sep 1970); Division of Vital Records, Richmond.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email