At Play In The Archive
Hello, People. We’ve reached the point in the narrative where my great-grandpa Leo Lessiack’s story begins to intersect with my great-grandmother, Margaret Spielmann’s story. This is a full-circle moment for me, and worthy of some reflection. I’ve learned a lot about both of these branches since I began this blog.
When I first embarked on the mammoth task of scanning, sorting, and trying to identify the unknown faces in the mass of jumbled photographs that I dragged home from my grandmother’s house, I knew almost nothing about my great-grandmother Margaret, and absolutely nothing about her family and origins. As I wrote in Making Margaret Less Mysterious back in May of 2014:
“My great-grandmother Margaret was born on November 26, 1891 in Vienna, Austria, and died on July 22, 1953 in Bogota, New Jersey, long before I was born. My mother was only six years old when Margaret died, so she doesn’t remember much about her, other than that the grandkids had to be very, very quiet when they visited because, ‘Grandma Margaret was resting.’ Margaret suffered from Parkinson’s disease, and for many, many years, that was all I knew about her. I certainly would not want to be remembered only as a sick old lady, so I’m trying to get to know the real Margaret better.”
Mission accomplished. After a year of scanning, scrutinizing, researching, and puzzling, I do know Margaret (and all her brothers and sisters) better.
In the process, I’ve also solved the mystery of the unexpected Jewishness that showed up in both my 23andMe and AncestryDNA results. Now I know that those roots reside with my great-great grandparents, Hermann and Fanny Spielmann, whose marriage was recorded in the Wedding Book of the Israelic Community of Vienna in 1891. I wrote about those discoveries in What I’ve Learned So Far, and prior to solving that mystery, about my ineffable sense of belonging in The Hidden Branch. There is, of course, a great deal more to find out, but I did succeed in opening a chink in that particular brick wall.
Best of all, writing about my research resulted in my meeting several Spielmann/Spellman relatives that I never knew I had. When I published this photograph of a little mystery girl, who knew that she would turn out to be the best email pen-pal and long-distance collaborator ever? I absolutely treasure the family connections I’ve made through this blog.
Of course, I vividly remember my great-grandpa Leo.
He was a treasure of man, and I’ve so enjoyed getting to know more about his life in Hamburg as a child and young man, before he emigrated to the United States to work for the Hamburg-Amerika shipping line. More coming on all that very soon.
One mystery yet to be solved? The big one that started this whole project: Dorrie, the Mystery Wife.
Still no clue who she is, but I refuse to give up hope. I sure wish that Leo and Margaret and their son, my Grandpa Bob, were around to help me out.
Oh yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of this too. Polkas make the German/Austrian ancestors happy, I think.
Until next time, People. Thanks for waiting out my long hiatus.