Archives for TOPICS


Old Bill Wagner

Jacob William (later dubbed "Old Bill") was born in 1840 in Elleringhausen, Germany. At the age of 6, he and his family joined the waves of German immigrants after their friends in Quincy, Illinois, kept writing for them to come. Six-year-old William took his little sister Henrietta by the hand and led her up the gangplank onto the ship. She never forgot the smell of tar coming from the cordage coiled on deck. They had…
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Are we related?

Are we related to Barack Obama?

The short answer is: sort of. President Barack Obama's maternal  GGGG grandfather Thomas L. Clark settled in Canton, Missouri around 1835. All of Thomas' 11 children were born there and they lived there at the same time our family (Surnames: Wagner, Eckert, Hetzler, Giegerich, Vesper). Obama's ggg grandfather Christopher Columbus Clark is buried in the same cemetery (Forest Grove) in Canton as our ancestors. By searching through the Canton newspaper, I found multiple connections that…
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Bill Russell

Til the Butcher Cut Him Down

This 1971 film by Philip Spalding was narrated by my great uncle Bill Russell. The film includes him talking about the musicians and himself, shows Preservation Hall, New Orleans, second lines, Ben Jaffee, and even Bill Russell's apartment with his massive collection. A superb study of the history and men who played New Orleans Jazz through the eyes of one of its greatest trumpet players: Punch Miller (died 1971). Kid Punch was renowned in New…
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Interesting Tidbits

Ernest gets arrested

On November 25, 1940, my grandfather Ernest Monroe Thornton was arrested after firing 3 shots at James Rucker during a fist fight at West Park Cafe at 1111 Federal St. (3 blocks from his apartment) North Side, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The “cafe” was a rough place with gambling, drinking and repeated code violations. Read more in the updated chapter PDF:
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Ernest and Helen Thornton

Ernest Monroe Thornton was born in 1902 in Radford, Virginia. At a young age his father drowned and his mother died of pneumonia. Around the age of 20 he moved to Pittsburgh for a better life. Helen Lucille Strawser was born in Preston County, West Virginia. They met and married and started a family. Ernest worked as a watch repair and maker and the family appeared to be doing well in North Side, Pittsburgh, PA.…
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No Relation

Ulrich and Juliana Lahr

In 1891, my great grandfather Rev. William Weiler, age 14 and fresh off the boat from Germany, went to live and work with Ulrich Lahr and his wife and son William in Lafayette, Indiana. Rev. Weiler spoke of them in his autobiography. I am posting this PDF of an excerpt about the Lahrs for any descendants who might find ; Feel free to download the excerpt, as well as the full autobiography. Please reach out…
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Are we related?

We’re All Connected

It turns out that my half siblings and a close friend and his mother and my mother are all distant cousins, at least by marriage. It wasn’t some deep dark secret the family had kept hidden. I only just stumbled on it. Sometimes I think that instead of a tree, my family works better as a spirograph or vines that twist and tangle onto themselves as they grow in all directions. READ:
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Santa Claus Methodist Church Historical Record 1899-1999

This is a scan of a document I borrowed from Connie Hanning Wagner in Santa Claus when I visited in November, 2015. My great grandfather Rev. William Weiler was sent there as minister between 1912 and 1917. He also married Addie Hanning, granddaughter of John Hanning, co-founder of the town and German Methodist church. I have extracted pertinent info to include in the narratives and records. 
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PDF downloads

Early History of Snowville by Louise B. Allison

(Transcribed by Rhonda F. Smith 9/2000) DOWNLOAD scan of Early History of Snowville by Louise Allison PDF  This appeared in the Pulaski County Genealogy Club newsletter in October 2000 In order to obtain materials relative to the founding and early development of Snowville, a survey of the community was made. In addition, letters were written to relatives of one-time Snowville residents to secure information about its early days, its residents and industrial enterprises. Various…
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