Published October 2, 2017

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A post card mentioning me, written 30 years ago by my cousin.

There are times in a genealogist’s life when you may well feel like you are not only documenting past ancestors but find yourself in “the history” of others in your family.

I encountered this recently when I received a welcome e-mail from my cousin Ron Machmer.

Of course, I’ve written a bit on the Machmers over the years but the quick story is this: My great-great-grandfather Wellington B. Machmer was the man who brought the house in which I live into the family almost a century ago (The additional family legend is that Wellington B. helped lay the foundation for this house as an apprentice stone mason around 1870, some 50 years before he bought it as a retirement farmette after his youngest son was killed in World War I).

His namesake grandson Wellington R. Machmer and I corresponded on genealogy for years.

Along the way, I had the good fortune – and it literally was luck, since I was really researching a different family! – to find that our 1744 immigrant ancestor, Johann Phillip Machmer, hailed from the Rhineland village of Sprendlingen.

When Wellington R. died in 2014, he was the third generation in a row (starting with his grandfather Wellington B. and then his father Edwin) to live into his 90s. Ron is Wellington R.’s son and my “second cousin once removed.”

Ron’s mother Anna died earlier this year and it then became his business to deal with his parents’ effects.

Among those effects were the hundreds of post cards that Wellington R. saved over the years. “He wrote to Edwin and Eva nearly every two weeks from 1980s on,” Ron Machmer wrote. He said he found two mentioning me from 1985 and 1986.

Ron attached the cards. The first one, dated 12 November 1985, said: “I had a letter from Jim Beidler. I thold you he is working on genealogy. He said he would call you and might come up to ask you’re a few questions about Aunt Rosie.”

“Aunt Rosie” was my great-grandmother Rosa D. Machmer, who gave birth to my grandmother Luella Emma Fredericks while unmarried (as it turned out, Edwin and Eva weren’t able to solve the mystery of Luella’s father, which was solved through other means).

The second card was dated 21 February 1985 and read: “I had a nice letter from Jim Beidler. He, again, asked me to thank you for a nice visit and the information you had for him.”

Without these cards, I never would have recalled anything about when these visits happened other than “sometime in the 1980s.”

I was nice to have this piece of “the history” – in part mine and in part others – sent to me.


  1. Rick Bender

    7 months ago  

    Maybe a little off-topic:
    I’ve written a lot of progress reports about my ongoing family-history project during the past 25 years (almost). It amazes me how often I refer to one of those reports for times and places — those reports have usually been a combination of family history mixed with “current” meetings/communications with relatives throughout the country.
    The most inclusive of them is a travelogue covering the years 2002-2007 which I “published” in 2009. It’s now part of the family history; that is, so much of the report is about people I met here and there, many of whom have since died, that it is actually already history. And I think it adds a lot of “flavor” to project.
    My father got me started with all of it; my mother pestered me about it even more than she did him, because I was spending (“wasting”?) so much time and money on it. (But I remember many occasions when I discovered she had been re-reading one of the reports.)
    I have very few letters from old family members. If they wrote at all, they didn’t keep many of the letters. I have a couple written by my grandfather’s older sister, and they’ve been interesting as well as helpful. And I have one that my widower grandfather wrote to my parents after we had moved to New Mexico in 1956, leaving him the only one of us still in Pennsylvania. One sentence in that letter makes it clear how much he missed us. It was a side of my otherwise gruff “Dutchman” grandfather that I really hadn’t seen before. — Rick

    • Jim

      7 months ago  

      Nothing off-topic about that! A great example!