Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   great-grandparent research
Friday, September 20 2019
I wanted some beer for the end of the day, so a noon I drove out to Hannaford to get myself a six pack of Lagunitas Supercluster Ale, which is their beer that I most prefer. While walking through the store, I passed some Halloween decorations that included a pile of small (but otherwise semi-realistic) articulated dinosaur skeleton. So I bought a plastic ceratopsid (either a primitive one or a juvenile triceratops) to stick on the edge of one of my workplace monitors. Only later did I realize it was missing an lower jaw bone, which would've hung from a mobile jaw pivot.
On the Friday night drive home from work, I made my customary detour to the Tibetan Center thrift store, which was unusually busy and a bit chaotic. There was also a sign near the cash register asking for volunteers, particularly someone capable of working in a managerial role. Later I overheard one of the other customers talking to the cashier lady (the one with the long straight grey hair who reminds me slightly of my mother) about Rob, the guy who usually runs the place. Evidently he's suffering from some sort of medical problem which has prevented him from working. Nobody said what the problem was, but last time I saw him I remember seeing a lump the size of a half ping pong ball on the side of his head that I hadn't remembered seeing before. I hope he's doing well; perhaps if I can get my LoRa technology working, I'll beam some packets of support his way, since they're likely to do more good than prayer (or even the flapping of Tibetan prayer flags). The two things I bought today were a nice foldable bluetooth headset and a short serrated knife for better tomato slicing in my workplace. (At $3, the knife proved unexpectedly expensive; yet more reason to beam out LoRa packets petitioning the overlords of this simulation for Rob's speedy recovery.)
This evening I found myself pulled yet again into the 23AndMe vortex in a prolonged narcissistic meditation about my more immediate human origins. At this point, I only knew four surnames in my origin story: my father's last name (Mueller), my mother's maiden name (DeMar) and the maiden names of my two dead grandmothers (Ilsley on my mother's side and Deschler on my father's). That was where it all ended. I didn't know the maiden names of any of my great grandmothers or much of anything about that whole great-grandparent generation. If I could tease just one more name out of my origins, it would give me a keyword I could use to search my 23AndMe-produced spreadsheet of people related to me. To try to find just one such name, I did some Google searches using keywords such as "Sherwood" (the village in Wisconsin where my father grew up) and "Deschler," as well as variations on my paternal grandmother's name, which was either Catherine or Katherine (and she may have gone by Kate). Eventually I found a page belonging to some museum in Oshkosh. It mentioned a "Kate Deschler" working as a "model" for a photographer in Sherwood named Nick Bruehl. It also mentioned that she married a man named "Miller." That might sound like the wrong Deschler until you realize that until my father was addressed as "Myooler" by a drill sergeant in WWII, he (and everyone he knew) pronounced "Mueller" identically to "Miller." Flipping between old gelatin plate images of this "Kate," I saw that she had brothers named Tommy, Edward, and August, all of whom I knew to be the names of my father's maternal uncles. (Indeed, the "August" of my middle name was an homage to that very August, who, like me, was both an atheist and childfree by choice.) It was looking like this Kate Deschler probably was my grandmother, and this meant that the people in other pictures identified as her mother, father, and brothers were probably my great-grandparents and great-uncles. What finally confirmed that this was correct was seeing a a couple photos that I recognized as having seen in a family album that my father had assembled some time in the early 1980s.
So now, not only did I know that my father's maternal grandfather was William Deschler, born in Germany in 1844 and died in 1905, but his maternal grandmother was Lena Putz, born in 1854 and died in 1930. (According to my father, she was paralyzed from the waist down after falling out of an apple tree back in Austria, though I could find no confirmation of her medical issues or birthplace.) I also had photographs of these people, and they weren't the stiff kind of photos of people fake-smiling at a cameraman on the occasion of life's milestones (the sort that one normally sees from the pre-smartphone era); instead they were photos of them doing things. (These were all staged, of course, as there was no such thing as a spontaneous snapshot back then.)
In past years I'd made half-hearted attempts to track this information down using and other family tree type sites, but I was never committed enough to pay any money to go deeper. I embrace my narcissism, at least for the purposes of this account of my evening, but I never wanted to be one one of those people. (I remember being visited by Lucretia, a batty old maternal Nth cousin X-times removed who was obsessed with family trees in the late 70s or early 80s, and, though it was interesting to discover we Ilsleys were all direct descendents of Charlemagne and Governor William Bradford, even then I could see the harm in obssessing over such information or giving it any more value than it deserves.)
But now I knew that a targeted Google search was every bit as useful for reconstructing a family tree as Using the same techniques, I soon tracked down a photograph of my father's father's gravestone that came complete with a newspaper account of how he had died:

The condition of John Mueller of Stockbridge, which was beginning to show signs of improvement, recently took a turn for the worse. and he died Wednesday morning. He had been ill for more than a month as a result of severe burns suffered in a fire in his home. He had rushed into the burning house to save his son and on learning that the boy was not in the building, he jumped out of the window thereby suffering a fracture of the ankle. The injury in the ankle became infected.

Surviving are the widow, eight children, Alexander, Bernita, Gilbert, Armond, Lina, Arthur, Janet, and Robert; three sisters, Mrs. Lena Fenton, St. Paul; Mrs. Mary Parker, Appleton; Mrs. Hannah Bloy, Sherwood; five brothers, Peter and Antone H., Sherwood; Joseph, North Dakota; Jacob, Milwaukee; Nicholas, Stockbridge. The body was conveyed Wednesday to Stockbridge where the funeral will take place at 9:30 Saturday morning at St. Mary church. Burial will be in the Sacred Heart cemetery of Sherwood.

The boy in that story that my grandfather had run back into the flaming house to rescue had been none other than my father (at least in my father's telling of the story). I hadn't heard that he had suffered burns, but I had heard that he'd died of complications from a broken leg, which (given that it became infected) was probably a compound fracture. You didn't want to have those in the days before antibiotics.
That site provides hyperlinks to other people related to the deceased, and this was how I learned that my paternal grandfather's mother was named Anna Maria Schneider (1848-1920). This meant that I had yet another great grandmother's maiden name.
I then turned my attention to my mother's family, and without too much digging, I found a page specifying my maternal grandmother's parents. My grandmother Margaret Ilsley's father was a Charles Danforth Ilsely (1865-1927) and her mother was a Sarah Lobdell (1872-1947). With Lobdell, I only had one more great grandmother's surname to track down. Unfortunately, my remaining grandfather's family (that is, Clarence DeMar's family) was a hard nut to crack. As I mentioned, though he wrote an autobiography, he never once specified the names of any of his ancestors. Like my own father with regard to the Mueller half of his ancestry, I got the sense that Clarence felt estranged from his family after they abandoned him to an island in Boston Harbot.
The upshot of all this was that I ended the evening knowing much more about my immediate ancestry than I had begun it knowing. Most unexpectedly of all, I even had photographs of some of these people.

My paternal grandmother, Kate Deschler with my uncle Edward some time around 1910. Photo by Nick Bruehl. I remember seeing this photo from my father's photo album.

Kate Deschler with an unknown boy some time around 1910. Photo by Nick Bruehl. I remember seeing this photo from my father's photo album.

My great-grandfather William Deschler working on shoes in the family home in Sherwood. Photo by Nick Bruel, probably taken around 1900.

"Fight" staged by Nick Bruel perhaps around 1890. My great grandfather William is second from the left. [It took a whole extra day for me to find this.]

William Deschler in his shoe shop, this time with a visible mustache. His legs and feet resemble mine and not most other peoples' (his feet point forward instead of splaying outward). [It took a whole extra day for me to find this.]

My great-grandmother Lena Putz making bread in Sherwood. Photo by Nick Bruel.

Kate Deschler. Photo by Nick Bruehl. I remember seeing this photo from my father's photo album.

"Babes in the Woods," a photo posed by Nick Bruehl. One of these girls is my grandmother, Kate Deschler.

Deschlers praying around the kitchen table. They were nominally Roman Catholic, though I don't think they were especially religious.

Lena Putz's obituary from 1930, back when wives didn't really have their own names.

A photo I found of my maternal grandfather and grandmother, Clarence DeMar and Margaret Ilsley.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next