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Not enough water under the bridge

Monday will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

And there is so much good that came from that event.

Eight children.

Thirteen grandchildren.

Eleven great grandchildren — so far.

And there is so much on the other side of that scale.

Two failed marriages.

One so bad that the child of that marriage wasn’t told until he was grown that his father was still alive.

The other that left every single child scarred in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree. We’ll just leave it at the fact that one of the things the older ones are most grateful for is that the scarves their mother wore around her neck only covered bruises — and nothing worse.

Genealogy is a lot easier when enough water has passed under the bridge that the story isn’t so muddied by the anger and the pain and, yes, the wanting to love and be loved and the memories of times that weren’t all bad.

One hundred years since his birth — and 27 years since his death — and enough water hasn’t yet passed under that bridge.

Not enough for The Legal Genealogist to try to tell his story.

And perhaps enough water will never pass under that bridge for me to tell that story.

The story of my father.

I can give the names and dates and places. Born Hugo Hermann Geissler, 5 July 1921 in Bremen, Germany, to Hugo Ernst and Marie Margarethe (Nuckel) Geissler. Emigrated to the United States with his parents at the age of three. Raised in Chicago. Educated as a chemical engineer. Married, then a child, then divorced. Married, then children, then divorced. Married… and then died.

And for so very long this genealogist couldn’t get past that. I spent all my time researching my mother’s big brash bold story-telling southern family instead. Those Germans could wait.

Until finally they couldn’t wait any more.

here kitty

The little I heard about the grandfather who died before I was born made me think that, perhaps, whatever his son had become was in spite of and not because of him. What I heard about the grandmother who also died before I was born made me think that, perhaps, her childrearing would have been so much better had she not lost her own mother so young. And what I began to learn of all of their lives and the lives of those who came before them made me think that perhaps it was a mistake to turn my back on everything that came down that paternal line.

There was strength there. Perseverance there. Resilience there. A work ethic and more.

Embodied today in those children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Who wouldn’t be here today but for that birth 100 years ago on Monday.

And a man who — for all his faults — left a legacy of bone and blood and grit and determination and brains and talent.

That’s what finally got me past the hurdle of one generation back and let me dig into the German records for the clues to where all that came from.

It may be that there will never be enough water under that bridge to tell the story of that one generation.

But perhaps there’s been enough to tell at least part of the story…

The part that perhaps explains my own warped sense of humor.

The part about the man who once taught the parakeet to say “here, kitty, kitty, kitty…”

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “One hundred years ago Monday,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 3 July 2021).

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