Journey to the Past: Meeting My Father's Cousins and Getting Priceless Treasures

After spending a few hours at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, it was time to go meet my father's cousins.

I'll admit that I left later than I should have and everything that could then delay me, did. First, I lost my parking garage ticket. The CML personnel was awesome and helped me out, but that sucked up time. Then I didn't understand the GPS when I needed to make a turn and missed one. Then the GPS didn't understand that a HUGE CHUNK of I-71 was missing. No matter how many times I attempted to get the GPS to do an alternate route, it kept sending me back to the section of I-71 that didn't exist. Finally, I decided to drive completely wrong and the GPS would have to give me a route. The long and short of it, I was 30 minutes late. UGH! I was really sorry.

My dad's cousins were AWESOME! We soon went out to Friendly's for lunch. I hadn't eaten at Friendly's since I lived in New York. It was a bit nostalgic. I didn't actually get any of the ice cream they were famous for. But the food was as good as I remembered. Excellent choice.

I'd only met one of the cousins before, Anita. She was just as fun as I remembered. Her sister Karolyn was awesome to meet. I had spoken to her by phone several times since 2010. It was so fun to finally meet her in person. And Nancy, ever my mother's favorite, was a quiet darling.

Over lunch we discussed primarily each other's lives. They asked many questions about my personal faith, how I found it, and what impact it has on my life. I hoped that I came across as sincere and frank but not pompous. My second cousins shared their individual faith and I was glad to have something to talk about.

After lunch, we returned to Karolyn’s home. She's a HUGE Ohio State fan with a well decorated bathroom. I teased that I had wanted to go to Michigan to spite my family. My parents tried to force a love of OSU down my throat and I resisted. Funny thing. When I found out how cold Michigan was compared to Texas, I said no thanks. Now, I've lived in upstate New York and Iowa. Yep. It's cold. Guess I was meant to leave Texas some day.

In any case, Karolyn presented me a box that contained a priceless treasure. When I say presented, I don't mean with great ceremony like the sweet culture of the Taiwanese. I mean, 
 “Hey. Pick up that box and there's something inside.” 
I say, “Which box and what are you talking about?” “
The small clear box and the rings.” 
I say, “You mean this one?” 
That was pretty funny.

Masonic and Eastern Star Rings
When I opened the box, I was ready for the trip to end. It was such a high note and made me tear up and choke up. Inside the box was a masonic ring for a very large finger. When I tried it on my hand, it twirled comically around my thumb. The ring belonged to my grandfather Robert Paul Geiszler. My dad's cousin had it because it came to her through her uncle. The whole affair of my grandfather's estate is confusing and sad. Nevertheless, Karolyn has held onto these rings for some future date. When she heard I was barking up the family tree, she knew who deserved the rings. And yes, I said rings... as in more than one. The other ring was made for a petite hand. The hand of my grandmother Helen Grace Zumstein Geiszler. I believe the ring was shaped liked the Eastern Star. I think Masons and Eastern Star are compliments.

Having these rings mean so much to me. Having something that belonged to the grandparents that I barely knew and who died without my father and our family close by or attending their funeral. The sentiments overwhelmed me. So yes, I was ready to pack it in and go home. But, I didn't and I'm glad I stayed.

Why? Because the cousins had photo albums for me. I LOVE PHOTO ALBUMS. I don't care how organized or disorganized they are. Photo albums are collections of events. They contain the people and places of our family. And, if we're lucky, we'll find a great MANY photos of people that we've never seen.
Anita and her new husband at their reception.
Anita and her new husband at their reception.

In Karolyn and Anita's family albums, I learned a lot about George Barton Geiszler's children. Karolyn and Anita had RED hair when they were younger. Karolyn was always posing and modeling for the camera. She was a svelte young lady and now is a buxom woman. But her smile and personality invite me to know her better. Anita is the sentimental, sweet one. Her pictures prove it. I saw pictures of Uncle George and Aunt Mary that told me a lot about this family. I now have MORE questions to learn more about this family. One picture that I love is that of Anita's wedding. She went to the Justice of the Peace for the ceremony and then had a reception afterwards. There are stories about nearly getting kicked out of the reception hall that I need to remember to ask. But in any case, the pictures were FABULOUS.

As I was looking through the albums and knew that I would be scanning them during the evenings, I made little notes on a piece of paper. Then I put that paper over the corresponding pictures. Then I took a picture of the picture and note with my digital camera. This way, I could let the journey through the album continue at a rapid pace but I had notes that I could refer to when I next visited the photos (which, after scanning, could be some months or years later).

Improvised Genealogy Note Taking
We covered so much ground with the pictures I wrote notes and took snapshots of the photos
that I would scan later to help me remember all the important details.

Then it was Nancy's turn for show and tell. She pulled out a scrapbook. Sadly the posts are falling apart, but I recognized the post bound album with extenders. Half of the pages could actually be removed as they are blank and will probably never be filled. I believe the scrap book was compiled by Margie Geiszler Wasson, my great aunt.

The only thing 'wrong' with the album is how the pictures are glued to the pages. When I say glue, I mean something like Elmer's glue. The pictures and scrap book pages are warped together like when Elmer's glue dries. When I saw that, I knew that the only way to salvage some of these photos would be to scan them and clean them up. But when I saw WHO was inside, it didn't matter.

I'll be including many of the photos from the album over time. For now, the highlights are these.

Photo of William Talbot Peak, edited by Devon Lee
Photo of William Talbot Peak,
edited by Devon Lee
My 2ndgreat-grandfather William Talbot Peak. I've had NO pictures of Peak family members. To see this, my reaction was much different than the rings. I was ready to jump up and down and do a disco party dance. I was so HAPPY. Weird how pictures of the 'unknown' made known can bring tears or shouts of acclamation. And as my blog states, I'm mostly a patient genealogist. I've been researching regularly for nearly 8 years. I started rebuilding the family relationships that my father and his family members had destroyed, almost 12 years ago, perhaps. And this day, a day I never thought I'd see, was like winning the lottery. And, is what patience in genealogy is all about.

The other FASCINATING thing were pictures of Baby Carl. Remember the tombstones that I first saw when I arrived in Columbus? Yes, this baby Carl. A picture of the little boy that died and his mother at the right age of his life. I didn't choke up as much as when I was at the tombstone. Instead, I was speechless and motionless. I was awestruck to see a face for the youngster. And, big tears coming, I can't wait to share the story of how he got his name! Again, another post in the future. (I told you I came home with a plethora of information)

What a wonderful afternoon. I learned about the good and the bad of the family members. To say we have some black sheep would be sufficient. But were they really black sheep or sheep with spots? I loved learning about the spotted sheep but I know there is a time and place to share the stories of these sheep. And some of these sheep's stories are not meant for the internet. However, I will make sure I record their stories in the family history.

Too soon the afternoon was over and I was headed back to the Columbus Metropolitan Library.


  1. How exciting for you! Sounds like a wonderful visit!

    1. It was a wonderful visit. I want to go back again very soon. With family south rather than northeast, I don't know when it will happen. But, thank the Lord for the invention of technology!

  2. You had such a great trip! I hope you manage to find time to blog in more detail about all your finds - you sound like you've got material for many, many posts!

    1. I did have such an amazing trip. And I do have so much material I'm going to be busy for a long, long time.

  3. What a great family reunion! Did you bring a tape recorder to get all the stories? I hope to read more in your blog soon.

    1. Heather,

      Thanks for stopping by. In response to your question, I didn't bring a tape recorder. I tried out taping my kids (before the trip) and I couldn't figure out how to work the recorder well enough to keep the speaker's voice loud enough to hear later. I don't know if that makes sense. I knew I would have spent so much time moving a recorder or microphone around that it would distract from the free flow of stories. Perhaps I just need more practice.

      I have a fairly good memory (thankfully) and I wrote up notes as soon as I can. Thankfully my relatives are great writers so I can send them my notes for verification later.

      I'd love to know other people's strategies for recording conversations without it being distracting.


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