Wilma was born in Manhattan in 1909.
She was kind, and funny, and one of my deepest regrets is that she didn’t live long enough to learn about her own amazing family history. My entirely unsuspecting grandmother had some amazing ancestors.
Genealogy can be very rewarding.
Genealogy can be very frustrating.
I’ve been a closet genealogist for a few years now. Being also a closet historian, I find searching for dead ancestors oddly enjoyable. I think it’s the desire to see how I fit in with the events of the past. Until the last decade or so, I had no ancestral connections beyond a few generations back. My mother’s family came to the United States from Sicily in the early 1900’s, and my paternal grandfather’s family arrived from Austria right around the same time. That left my grandmother, Willie Moseman, whose roots, for some reason, I had left unexplored.
I don’t remember why I started researching Willie’s branches; I suppose maybe I had hit a brick wall researching another line, and just needed something to work on. All I know is that in late 2003 I suddenly found myself struggling to remember important conversations with Willie about her family. I had a few tantalizing memories of snatches of conversation to spur me on – the fact that her father was part Dutch, that “his people” were from North Carolina, and that he was supposedly part Cherokee Indian. I also had family rumor that we were somehow related to the 8th president of the United States, Martin van Buren.
Slowly, I pieced together the immediate family – her father was a Moseman. I found him on several census forms, from 1900 to 1930. His name was Nathaniel, sometimes spelled “Nathanael”. I found that he had been married twice. His first wife was a woman named Elsie, from Switzerland. With Elsie, “Nate”, as I began to call him, had fathered 3 children, Abraham, Sarah, and Elizabeth. I’m assuming that Elsie died, because suddenly in 1910 Nate appeared on the census forms with the previous three children, and a new wife, named Marie. To make matters more complicated, Marie had also been married before. She had 2 children of her own, Martin and Laura. Together Nate and Marie had 3 more children; twins, Augusta Wilhelmina and Grace, and a boy, Herbert. (Augusta Wilhelmina was my grandmother Willie.) So far, this is what I knew:
I kept wondering about the family, and just how far back the paper trail would go. Internet queries on “Moseman” brought back hits on one Captain Marcus Moseman, of the Westchester County, New York Militia in the Revolutionary War. To a closet historian, dangling this type of information out there is like leaving a glass of gin and tonic in front of an AA member. It’s really hard to just walk away.
Then, in late 2006, around Thanksgiving, I traded a few “happy holidays” types of e-mails with my cousin Pat, who still lives in upstate New York. The subject of family history came up, and Pat offered to talk to her father’s cousin Barbara, who was visiting. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were on the brink of huge discoveries.
From Barbara we learned that Nate’s full name was Nathaniel Green van Buren Moseman. Now the glass of gin and tonic was more like a whole bottle of Bombay Sapphire. Pat and I became obsessed, spending every minute we could searching for clues.
After practically no sleep during the entire month of December, we discovered that Nathaniel’s mother Sarah was both a “Green”, and a “van Buren”, and we ended up with a family tree that, at least according to the LDS website, takes us back to the year 800. Yes, that’s 800, with no “1” in front of it. Oh, and let’s not leave out the discovery of the “Mayflower” ancestor in our tree, Degory Priest.
Some lines we can legitimately trace back pretty far, but not all. While I have been able to establish a direct connection to Marcus Moseman, I have not been able to prove any links to Nathaniel Greene or Martin van Buren. It’s maddening – the links are so close – same towns and villages, same time frames, but no discovery yet of any direct ties. I console myself with the fact that even if I can’t figure out the connections to the more famous historical figures, I know that at least four of my direct ancestors were militia members during the American Revolution.
I really don’t know if I will ever figure out all of the facts. One thing I know for sure; I have no more choice in the matter than the person who looks both ways, then scoops up the gin and tonic and downs it in one gulp. I’ll keep looking.
Postscript: My ties to Marcus Moseman earned me a membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. It doesn’t get much better than that, for a history buff. The funny thing is, after five years of research, when I was finally able to access the DAR’s genealogy database, I learned that two other family members had become DAR members through Marcus, back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. So I guess you could say that all of the work that Pat and I had done was unnecessary. But we didn’t know about them at the time, and it really was a fun process, so I don’t resent the time that we spent on the search. It was a labor of love.
Name: Augusta Wilhemenia Moseman (1909 – 1998)
Parents: Nathaniel Green van Buren Moseman and Maria Theresa Kloepfel
Spouse: John Patrick Woznick
Surnames: Moseman, Kloepfel, et. al.
Relationship to SK Roots: Grandmother