History & Research

Inspiration From the Family Tree

By on December 6, 2011

Well, despite my hours logged into Ancestry.com being a diversion from NaNoWriMo, I did find a few interesting “characters” in those elusive branches that may very well make for some interesting inspirations for fiction later on…

First, meet Theophilis Goodwin, from my father’s side. Born in Virginia in 1709, died in North Carolina in 1788. No idea if he was involved in the Revolutionary War or not. Don’t know much about him at all, really, except his name would make for an awesome nom de plume! In all seriousness, his name (also spelled Theophilus) is Greek for “friend of God,” and can be found in both the first chapters of the books of Luke and Acts, as the addressee of Luke’s writing. Even more amusing is that “Goodwin” or the older spelling “Godwyn” comes from the Old English words god and wine, which means… God-Friend.

This man’s name was literally Friend-of-God Friend-of-God.

Next, I introduce you to Wilhelmina Holl from my mother’s side. I cannot find her maiden name, which distresses me, but she came from Württemberg as a young mother in 1857. Born in 1834, she was supposedly a lady-in-waiting to Princess Catherine Frederica Charlotte of Württemberg before emigrating to Pennsylvania. So cool. Unfortunately, still lots of digging to be done to find more records. But as far as sparking story ideas, this is enough!

Probably the most interesting and frustrating ancestor is George Andrie Bischoff,  whose son Jacob married Wilhelmina’s granddaughter Emma. Also born in Württemberg, in 1833, George is my Great Great Great Grandfather, and a veteran of the Union Army. His granddaughter, my Great Grandmother, I was very close to. He died before she was born, so we know little of him except that he was, apparently, not a very warm fuzzy person. From the records I’ve found, he was pretty nomadic! Here’s a little timeline, all with multiple documents to validate the events, but also with some holes that have proven to be incredibly hard to fill:

  • 1833: born in Germany
  • 1860: becomes a citizen in Pittsburgh, PA
  • 1861?: Resident of Augusta Kentucky, working as a laborer
  • January 31, 1862: enlists in the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry (Union), Company L
  • July 17, 1865: musters out
  • 1865?: Marries Anna Marie Biederman. Can’t find the records, but…
  • 1866: 1st child Mary born
  • 1868: Son John born
  • 1870: Living in Armstrong County, PA. No idea when he moved here!
  • 1871: Son Jacob Gustav (my Great Great Grandfather), born
  • 1872: daughter Louise (also an interesting character), born
  • 1875: Son George Andrew born
  • 1876: Anna dies (estimated)

(If you’re bored at this point, I promise this is where it gets a little interesting…)

So, in 1880, we lose track of George Andrie, but 4 of his kids we find, each in a different household! The oldest daughter Mary is living and working as a servant in Butler, aged 14. Her brother John is working on a farm nearby. Jacob is living with a family friend, and Louise is with her Uncle Andrew Biederman. Where little George Jr. is we have no idea, and his dad is untraceable! Widowed, single father, and a veteran at that, my imagination starts wondering what it was like for him and where he might have gone. Did he take little George with him? Was he really a terrible father, or just too broken from the war, and brokenhearted from losing Anna to care for so many young children on his own?

He doesn’t show up again until 1893, where he lives in a soldier’s home in Indiana, dying a year later. The documents say he’s a resident of Butler County, PA, still, but where he was is still a mystery. Family history says at some point he remarried, but we have no record of his second wife. Sadly, almost all of the US census records from 1890 were destroyed in a fire in the 1930s, so a big potential piece of the puzzle has been vaporized. All of his children show back up in the 1900s and future census records, which give us a lot of info to check against, as far as birthdays and such.

**edit** So, Old Georgie has gotten even more confusing over the years, with the possibility of another marriage before Anna, so I might have to revisit him in another post in the future!

Genealogy is so addicting. Not even kidding. I’ve spent far longer than I should have even writing this post because I got sidetracked with checking “just one more hint.”

Well, there are still some leaves to find, but in the meantime, I have a few story ideas brewing…

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