Finding Harry Weinpahl

How to start with not even a name, and end up at a love story.

Last week my ancestors—probably in cahoots with the algorithm at—slid another surprise birth certificate in front of my face. “Let her try this one…” I’m sure they snickered.

Mystery "Weinpall" birth certificate from New York City Municipal Archives.
Mystery “Weinpall” birth certificate from New York City Municipal Archives.

Well they should, as it didn’t list a name or even indicate the child’s sex. It granted me only a birthdate from 1881, and the names of my great-great grandparents, at their home address. It was just enough information to get my attention, and not enough to exactly match any established relatives. The ancestors know what they’re doing.

But despite their best efforts, I found it, and fast. And then I discovered an array of records. Piecing those together revealed a life unlike anyone else I’ve researched so far, and unlike anyone else in my family.

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Basting Stitches

Just trying to hold it all together.

In early February, when All This began pulling its long shadow over our lives, I joked to my husband that I might be particularly well-equipped to handle the situation.

I’m a homebody by nature. All my hobbies are domestic, or can be done at home. I can already make bread or provide a decent chicken soup for the invalid. And I’ve read plenty about the influenza epidemic of 1918. I was made for this, I told him. We both laughed.

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The Things You Find

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 13, 1910.
Rev. Shields was my great-grandfather. And Cermak was Cermak.
And in case you wondered what a smartass looked like at the turn of the last century, we have this snip about women trying to get men to sign dry petitions.



© 2019 Tori Brovet/All rights reserved

Ex Libris

Genealogy sometimes feels like quicksand.

Instead of writing a blog post this weekend, I spent far too much time listening to Adele and creating a photo album for a past vacation. I knew perfectly well that I was stalling. I was operating in the nostalgia I could handle, rather than the uncomfortable one that actually needed my attention.

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Hello My Name Is

I had happily imagined a pile of family photos. I didn’t bother thinking about what might be on the back of them.

This woman’s face drifted up to me this week. She came out of a pile of photos, a randomly selected card in a shuffled deck of memories. It has been some days, but I keep going back to her although — and maybe because — I have no idea who she is.

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