Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

Category: McVay

National Date Book


Day 7: Select a family heirloom (watch, quilt, Bible, etc.) and write a narrative about it. Where has it been? How did your ancestor acquire it, and what would it have encountered throughout the years? What important family milestones might it have witnessed?

In terms of money, the family heirloom that I am writing about is not valuable at all. In terms of helping me with my research it is absolutely priceless.

Tucked away in a dusty box in my mom’s basement was a small green book. It is maybe 4×6 in size and has seen better days, there is some discoloration to the cover of what was once a dark green.  The words National Date Book are stamped on the cover and it is bound with thread.

Inside is a simple lined notebook with the month and day at the top of each page.  The notebook belonged to my paternal grandmother, Madeline McVay McGee  or Maime as she was known.  Maime was good at keeping track of her life’s events, there is another notebook in which she lists her classmates and information about her high school graduation.  The second half of that book lists every wedding gift and card that she received.  I have always felt like Maime  and I were kindred spirits and this is just another reason.  I have always been a list maker, it helps to ground me and organize my thoughts.  I have taken to Bullet Journaling and who knows – maybe someday my ancestor may come across it.  

Like most people of her generation the notebook was used for more than one purpose.  On the top of the page under the date there are names and years written in faded ink. The writing looks a little different than the rest of the book and I think it originally belonged someone else in the family. I don’t recognize most of the names the dates are from the 1870’s to early 1900’s.

Maime kept meticulous lists of every Christmas card that she sent and received beginning in 1936 and going until 1966 (Maime died in 1967).  She even listed cards specifically sent to my father.  It is a fascinating look into her world.  There are many familiar names in the book and many more mysteries. Some of the people have addresses carefully written next to their names.  Every single time I open this book I find something new.  There are a few McVay’s listed – usually as “The Dick McVay’s”  There are one of my brick walls. It was reassuring to see them listed, they did exist and one of these days I will track them down!  Last year I found out who the “Art Hau’s” were and they unlocked many more of the names for me!  Leo McGee is in the book – he was the author of a really informative family history that I use all the time.  I was especially happy to see the “Jack McGee’s” of 703 Starin Ave, Buffalo listed.  The Hau’s helped me to unlock this branch and amazingly – cousin John McGee is now on my Christmas card list…on Starin Ave in Buffalo!

The last part of notebook and by far my very favorite part is documentation of life events that happened each year starting in 1930.  She documented the move from Warsaw to Batavia for my grandfather’s job in March of 1932 Her mother had a stroke and was living with them when they moved.  She says:  “Mother was still an invalid – stayed upstairs most of the time. It was a bitter cold day”  By 1934 my great grandmother was recovered enough to move to New York City to live with her son, Madeline’s brother Wayne. Maime mentions going to visit them in NY and that my Grandfather tried to find work in a bank.  She also mentions a trip to Chicago for the World’s Fair in 1934.

She records heart breaking things very matter of factly.  Maime records the death of her sister in law Nora McGee Pierce in 1932. She wrote: Nora very sick all summer, died September 15, 1932. This had to be very hard on both of my grandparents.  Nora was Norm’s only surviving sibling and they were close. The saddest entry is from 1934: “Very sick all winter. Mother came home from New York February 22. I went right to bed for two weeks. Then went to the hospital. Our baby was born March 6.”  Her sweet son William was born and died on the same day.  

She talks about my dad a lot  – his various illnesses and how he missed quite a bit of school in his first year.  Maime proudly records various professional achievements of my Grandfather’s. It is in these little details where I feel connected. This tiny book has given me a vivid glimpse into her life, details that I would never have known without her words. Its pages span the majority of her adult life. It records her life as a young mother, a widow, and a grandmother. It is concise and factual. It lovely to watch through the years as my mother’s parents and siblings begin to show up in her Christmas card lists.

This small book isn’t valuable, it isn’t beautiful, it probably never travelled outside of Batavia, NY.  It pages though are incredible, they hold a family history of 34 years a few lines at a time. In the Christmas card lists you can follow couples having children and of those children growing up and starting families of their own. Wedding dates carefully recorded in the back section by year, addresses changing through the years. The book chronicles couples year after year until one year only one name is written.

I love my technology but there is something to be said for handwritten history.  Imagining my Grandmother sitting at her desk – a desk that I still use just makes me happy.  Some of the entries are written in pencil and are very faded, some are written in pen and are a little easier to read.  For me it is a wonderful piece of history and is something I am truly grateful for.

High Fashion

This week’s Picture Day is keeping with the theme of last weeks – pictures of family as children.  Madeline fur coat This picture always cracks me up, that pose, that coat…she must have been something else!  The photo is of my Grandmother, Madeline McVay McGee, she was born in 1894 and looks to be maybe 2-3 in this picture.  That puts the picutre date approx 1896-97. Madeline (Maime) was the oldest child and only daughter of John and Margaret Ryan McVay. They lived in Jamestown, NY and her father was a successful business owner, her aunt owned a dress shop.  So far as I have been able to find Maime was the only granddaughter.  Seems safe to assume that she was doted on as a little girl!  Unfortunately life was always so rosy.  By the time she was 6 she had lost one of her brothers and her father.  She moved to Warsaw, NY with her mother and surviving brother.

Picture Day

So I am super excited to be moving to a new site for my blog! is the new address.  This site will give me a little more flexibility over the site and now I have my own domain name – how fun is that?!

It takes me a little while to post biographys because things like kids, jobs, and life get in the way!  In an effort to put some new things on the blog in between biographys, I decided to post some of the pictures I have collected.  If anyone has pictures to share – let me know and I will post them!  So the plan is to post a picture or two  every week (or so). Here goes…


On my long list of relatives to research is my Great Uncle Wayne McVay.  He was my Dad’s uncle and the only person on that side that I ever met.  He lived in Los Angeles and came East to visit once a year.  We would always have him to dinner and he would talk and talk about family history.  I was little and bored out of my mind – what I wouldn’t give for one more of those evenings now!  He died in the late 1980’s and his landlady threw away almost all of his belongings.  He had years of research and photographs that were just tossed away.

Though ancient by my standards, Uncle Wayne lived a pretty interesting life.  He worked for Howard Hughes for a time!  This picture was taken on May 26, 1946 and is stamped on the back as being from Beech Aircraft Corporation’s public relations deptarment, located in Wichita Kansas.  Uncle Wayne wrote a note on the back to his sister Madeline (my grandmother)

“Dear Madeline: 

Here’s a picture we had taken the morning we flew to Texas.  The sun was rather strong so we all look pretty cross.



Left to Right: Harry Lyons, Oklahoma City, OK,  Wayne McVay, MDI, O.P. Chaffi, MDI, Walter H Beech (Yeah – the guy who started Beech Aircraft), E. Naugle,C. Williams, MDI


I can’t wait to do some more digging and see what else I can come up with!




Madeline McGee




Madeline “Mamie” McGee was my paternal Grandmother.  As with the rest of my grandparents, she passed away before I was born. For whatever reason I have always felt very connected to her.  The more I research, the more that is confirmed.  She loved lilacs, has a little girl I can remember going with my Dad to her grave site and leaving them for her.  To this day the smell of lilacs takes me back to that and is one of my favorite scents.  When I turned 13 a dear friend of my mother gave me a set of china that had once belonged to her.  The dishes are the most beautiful shade of light green, the teacups are the most delicate things small and almost impossibly thin. The outside that same beautiful shade of green and inside looks almost translucent.

Madeline Loretta McVay was born in the tiny Village of Lakewood, NY (Chautauqua County) on July 8, 1894 (122 yrs ago today!). Her parents were John and Margaret Ryan McVay.  John McVay had been named Postmaster of Lakewood in April of 1890. Her brother William Wayne McVay was born in 1898, Uncle Wayne was the only member of my Dad’s family that I ever knew.  Mamie and Wayne remained close throughout their lives.  There was another brother, Charles who died at the age of 3 from typhoid.  The McVay family, John and his brothers owned several businesses in Jamestown and the family lived in Lakewood, Busti, and Jamestown.   1899 was a particularly bad year for the family, Mamie’s brother Charles, her Grandmother, and her aunt all died. The Grandmother is still a bit of a mystery and while her gravestone says 1899 as her death year I have some conflicting information.  Maybe the most crushing loss however was the death of Mamie’s father, John McVay. He died of Typhoid fever in September of 1899 at the age of 36.  Her father and little brother are buried in Jamestown.

I had never known that I family in Jamestown, NY until I started researching.  It is especially interesting because my husband’s family is from the Jamestown/Dunkirk area. In all the years we have been visiting I never knew that I had roots there as well.  So I was blown away to learn that my Great-Grandfather and several members of his family are buried in a cemetery that we pass on every visit. The cemetery is close to our relatives home and their plots can be seen as we go by!  They are buried not to far from my husband’s Grandfather. I had always enjoyed visiting the city but even more so now!

By 1900 Margaret, Mamie and Wayne moved to Warsaw, NY be closer to her Margaret’s family, The Ryan’s.  Madeline and Wayne grew up and became a part of the Warsaw community.  Mamie graduated from Warsaw High School in 1914 and was the class Treasurer. Mamie was a great history keeper. There is a journal from her high school graduating year in which she lists all of her classmates.  Their class motto (Res non verba, things are not words) and poem are carefully written out by hand. She took 4 yrs of Latin and 3 of German.  In her journal she says that Latin was her favorite study, mathematics and English her least favorite. She definitely passed her dislike of math onto to her granddaughter! She wrote an essay titled “The Spirit of Patriotism” and read it at her Graduation. Her journal is sort of a handwritten yearbook.

After graduation Mamie went to work for the County Clerk where she remained for several years.  She and my grandfather knew each other in high school, he graduated the year before her.  Her journal lists gifts she received from his family for graduation.  My grandfather went to France during the First World War.  I am not sure what took them so long but Norm and Mamie finally were married on October 17, 1923.  I especially love this because my husband and I were married on October 7.  Mamie was 29 when she was married – somewhat unusual for the time.  They made their home with Mamie’s mother for a time in Warsaw.  There are references in a couple of letters that I found that suggest that they had some trouble starting a family.  My Dad was born in 1930 when Mamie was 36.  A second son, William Wayne was born and died in 1934, he died at birth. She would have been 40 at the time.

When my dad was young the family moved to nearby Batavia, NY.  My grandfather took a job at a bank there.  As their mother’s became older at some point they both lived with Mamie, Norm and my Dad.  My Grandmother was very social and she and my Grandpa had many friends in the community.  They were also very involved in their church.  My Grandfather died unexpectedly in 1952 at the age of 57 in their home. They had entertained friends to play cards earlier that night.

After his death she spent a lot of time with friends.  From what I have always heard , she absolutely loved to play Bridge. They had a bridge club and played often.  Even after her death they continued to get together.  I can remember the bridge club coming over to our house to play.  My parents would get out the card tables and set them with tablecloths and snacks.  I remember thinking it was all very fancy.   Mamie loved to read (she also passed this one down to me) and was absolutely terrified of bats and thunderstorms.  She lived in an apartment that often was plagued with bats, she would call my Dad to come over and take care of them.  My sister said she would hide on the attic stairs, reading waiting for my Dad.  One night there was a terrible thunderstorm and she went to wait it out in the closet, she went in with her book.  However she soon discovered she was not alone…there was a bat in the closet!  She called my Dad, covered her head and read her book until the cavalry arrived!  

She spent quite a bit of time with my siblings. My sister remembers spending time with her, she especially remembers Mamie making Peanut butter and butter sandwiches cut into 4’s.  It was funny because when she told me that it brought back memories of my Dad making me the same thing!  Peanut butter and butter sandwiches were one of my Dad’s favorite things.  Mamie was a determined, strong person. She owned a car and got around all by herself. Her driving skills were somewhat questionable…one day while taking a corner too fast her passenger door flew open and my oldest brother landed on the curb!  That was well before the days of seat belts!! My brothers were big baseball fans in the mid 1960’s she decided that they should see a proper game.  My brave Grandmother took the boys on the train to New York City and took them to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play. She took them by herself – and my brothers could be a bit of a handful…  I think it is safe to say that if she loved her son, she absolutely doted on his family.   She sounds like a pretty cool Grandma!

Madeline McGee died on August 17, 1967, she called my father and said she didn’t feel well and she died 2 hrs later at the hospital she was 73 yrs old. Her funeral was at St. Mary’s Church in Batavia and she was buried next to her husband and infant son at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Warsaw.  I will always wish that I had the opportunity to know her but even so I feel a connection with her.  She was a person who lived life no matter what it threw her way.  She didn’t live an entirely conventional life, but she certainly lived a full one.  Sounds to me like something we can all respect and aspire to do.

Maime Collage




(n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2016, from

My Dad

Dad collage



My Dad was kind, humble and patient. There are probably a hundred other adjectives that I could come up with to describe him – but I think these are most important.  This is the 24th Father’s Day since we lost him.   His death was sudden and unexpected, I was 18, a Freshman in college.  He had a heart attack on a Friday and  waited to all of us to get there and died peacefully surrounded by his wife and children on a windy, raw Sunday morning in March.  For many years I avoided Father’s Day, it made me too sad.  15 yrs ago when our first son was born I began to enjoy the day again as I watched my sweet husband being a Dad.

James Norman McGee (Jim) was born to J Norman and Madeline McVay McGee on April 3, 1930 in Warsaw, NY.  He was their only surviving child.  He was the only grandchild on his mom’s side and only 1 of 2 on his dad’s side. Growing up, both of his grandmother’s lived with him.  I think it is safe to say that he was doted on!  The family moved to nearby Batavia, NY where my grandfather worked and that is where my Dad grew up.  He graduated from Batavia High School in 1947 and went to Geneseo Teachers College to study Library Sciences. He left Geneseo and joined the Air Force and was sent to Chanute AFB in Illinois. He was Honorably discharged in 1949/50.

In 1950 my Dad was in a serious car accident in Hornell, NY. He was a passenger in a car that collided head on with another.  In total 7 people were injured, he was one of the more seriously injured with several broken bones.  He came back to Batavia for a long recovery. It sound like he did some soul searching after that and explored several different avenues.  There are several letters from his father to various colleges asking about requirements and advice  The most surprising to me was that he was looking into to going to college in Chicago to become a Chiropractor. I had never heard that.  Eventually he settled on Alfred College which was only a couple of hours from home and he studied photography.  He moved to Kentucky and worked as a studio photographer. He didn’t stay in Kentucky for very long, his father died very suddenly in March of 1952 and he came back to Batavia to care for his mother.

He met my Mom Kathleen Marshall (Kay) and after a few months of dating they were married on September 11, 1954.  They moved into an apartment down the street from my mom’s parents.  They quickly became parents (about nine months after they were married). My oldest brother John, was born in June of 1955, Mike followed shortly after in 1956, and my sister Eileen in 1959.  My Dad worked at Varden Studios in Buffalo as a photographer. They bought a house right across the street from their apartment and fixed it up.  It became our family home for the next several decades.  It was a great neighborhood – in a time when the kids were sent out the door in the morning and didn’t come back until dinner time. My siblings have some wild stories about happened in between breakfast and dinnertime!  My father was built to be a Dad. I came to them later in life, they were in their 40’s and my oldest brother was in college.  When he wasn’t working he was involved with his church and community.  He once ran for city council, he didn’t win and probably never thought he would.  My siblings have always said that he did it just to show them what the process was all about.  My brother’s were both stand out athletes and he took great pride in supporting them in football, baseball, basketball, and track.  The McGee girls however did not inherit the athletic gene!

Growing up I knew my family dynamic was different from the other kids I went to school with.  I missed my first week of Kindergarten to be the flower girl in my brother’s wedding, and I was an Aunt at 7.  One of my brother’s and I have never even lived in the same town.  The great part of growing up that way is that my parent’s had more time and money to spend with me, they also had a deeper appreciation of how fast kids grow up.  We took a lot of trips, out to dinner and went to plays, they took me everywhere they went. When I was young we used to camp a lot. I remember staying in my bunk in the mornings just listening to my parents talk to each other over their morning coffee.  It never mattered what they were saying, I just remember that feeling of all being right with the world. My dad was a very quiet disciplinarian.  My best friend and I got caught skipping church in high school once.  We came home and he was waiting for us, he gave us just enough rope to hang ourselves with and then he very calmly told us how disappointed he was in us.  To this day we still talk about what an impact that had on us.  We felt lower than low, it was worse that any yelling he could have done.

Two of my dad’s favorite things to talk about were politics and sports. Sunday’s in our house were strictly for football. My dad would sit in front of the tv and yell at it all afternoon – that is the only time he ever raised his voice. He and I shared a love of hockey and we went to many games and watched many, many more on tv.  He was a staunch Democrat and I’m sure thought himself a failure as a parent in raising 3 Republicans and an Independent!! Every evening we would watch the evening news together and talk about world events.  He was always so patient and took the time to explain them.  He would tell me what he thought but always present the other side.  I didn’t realize it at the time but he was teaching me to see both sides and make my own decisions.

My Dad raised me to learn to know and respect people based on who they were, not based on color, religion, or political affiliations. He was compassionate and always open to new people and ideas.  There were only a couple of traits that he absolutely didn’t like, he did not like if a person couldn’t show humility or be humble and he did not like excuses of any kind.  That drove me crazy as a teen but now is one of my biggest pet peeves as an adult.

My dad was pretty forward thinking and he was a sucker for gadgets!  We had one of the first computers in the neighborhood.  It was a Commodore 64 and was cumbersome to use, he loved that thing and would talk about how someday people would use computers for everything.  He built us a black and white darkroom in our basement.  He taught me how to develop film and make prints.  We spent a lot of time doing that together.  I still remember him telling that someday we wouldn’t use film for photography.  I thought he was nuts!

For a long time I was focused on all the things we missed out on with each other, but eventually I made the decision to be grateful for the 18 beautiful years we did have together. He was my most influential teacher and I am an infinitely better human for having him in my life.

When I was in High School he gave me newspaper clipping of the following poem.  I still keep a copy and try to live it.


The Station

by Robert J. Hastings
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.
However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.
“When we reach the station, that will be it !” we cry. Translated it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it ! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it ! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it ! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it ! When I win a promotion, that will be it ! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it ! I shall live happily ever after !”

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.
“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.
So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.


A Change in Focus




My sister and I had the opportunity to visit Germany last spring.  It was a life altering trip for me.  I learned a lot about myself, mostly that I am braver than I thought.  We stayed with a relative for several days but were on a own quite a bit too, we went from Germany to France and then to Great Britain on our own.  You know what? We did it, we navigated through foreign countries on our own and it was an amazing experience.  We stood in Medieval towns and were staggered by unbelievable age of things, built so long ago and yet still standing in front of us.

We had the good fortune to be in contact with a German relative who also had been doing genealogy for years.  She also is a tour guide – a pretty great combo!  We had met several times before our trip, she had even stayed with my mom for a few days. I am so thankful they had the opportunity to meet.

Going to Europe had been a lifelong dream for me.  When the chance came around, I grabbed it.  Sure it cost money I could have saved, and it was more difficult to plan for the kid’s schedules that it was to plan for 10 days in Europe… but it was also the trip of a lifetime and the fulfillment of a dream.  Simply put, I am so glad I did it.

We met some wonderful people while there. In Germany we were lucky enough to be introduced to several family members, most didn’t’ speak English and we only knew a tiny amount of German but somehow it worked and we really didn’t have any trouble communicating.  We were welcomed in many homes as strangers and left as family.  We even made a local newspaper, with an article and pictures!

While I fully expected to love our journey, I hadn’t fully understood  how strongly it would feel. When our cousin took us to the town that my  great grandfather came from, I was completely blown away. My great grandfather was born in the 1850’s and 1881 left for the United States by himself.  The house he was born in stood right next door to the church. Names of several young men from our family were carved into a WWI memorial at the church. The church stood nearly exactly as it had then.  As I stood in the church it all hit me, he existed, he stood in this place, he looked at the very things I was seeing.  It hit me so hard, I almost needed to sit down.  It was right in front of me, I could see my great-grandfather and his family walking next door to worship, being a part of this community in this tiny Bavarian town.  I couldn’t help but wonder what made him leave this beautiful place and how it must have felt to go from this place to New York City alone and make a completely new life for himself.  Bravery, perseverance, a bit of stubbornness? I will never know but I do know that I felt so strongly connected to him at that moment.  It was one of the most incredible, unforgettable experiences of my life.  When we went to the church and home of my great grandmother I was a little more prepared but still blown away.  Her family also lived next door to her church. The current owners of the house came out and spoke with us, amazingly they remembered the family!

So, all that being said, I am going to shift my focus to my Irish side of the family. I am by no means done with my German research but have to give some love to my Irish.  My Dad’s side of the family is Irish – McGee and McVay.  I only ever met 1 relative of my Dad’s, his uncle, my great uncle Wayne. He was ancient when I was little but very knowledgeable about our family history.  I was never very interested as a kid but man, what I would give to be able to talk to him today.  From what I have been able to find out so far the family history is rich and deep and sometimes very sad.  They took pictures and played, wrote poems, worked hard and lived with dignity sometimes in the face of tragedy.  Recently I had the great luck of finding McGee cousins.  Actual living relatives from my Dad’s side!!  They recently sent me pages and pages of handwritten family history – it was better than Christmas!!!

I am really looking forward to sharing the stories of this side of the family.  This is all leading up fulfilling another dream – to visit Ireland.  This trip is still a year off but the planning is fully underway.  My sister and I along with 2 funny, amazing women are planning, plotting and saving our pennies to make it happen.  There will be a lot of laughing on this trip!!!I don’t know that I will be able to match the personal connection of Germany but I do know that I can’t wait to see what we discover.

Luck of the Irish?



“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy”   -William Butler Yeats

I have taken this as my life’s quote… life is good, please don’t think I am complaining. I am very grateful for all that I have.  However – we have some stories to tell and usually when things go wrong they go big.

The month of March is particularly difficult on the whole family.  Both of my parents died at the end of Feb/beginning of March, my second son was born in March (which was awesome) and then he needed life saving open heart surgery 2 days later (which was beyond terrifying).

In a good March the worst thing that happens is that expensive things break, in a bad March well…  The first 2 weeks of this March have already been rough – even by our standards!  In my little family we have had 3 ER visits – all for different people, oral surgery and a whole lot of antibiotics! My brother and my niece have also been fighting health issues at their houses. My dear friend sent me flowers the other day and the card just read “you win”.

I have mostly been researching my German side and really for the most part things went along well for them.  I’m sure they had the same day-to-day frustrations that we all deal with, but overall things seemed to generally go their way.  Then there is the Irish side of the family… their stories read like a Greek tragedy and I haven’t even dug very deep.  I only knew one person on my Irish side, everyone had died before I was born.  For many of them death didn’t come easy.  There was typhoid, TB that took several of them very young, including children.  One relative was hit by a train just days after the birth of his first child. One was badly injured and died from an explosion in her own kitchen. I am almost afraid to keep looking!!

Even with all of the bad luck March seems to bring – we still love to celebrate on St. Paddy’s day and I have always wanted to meet the Irish relatives from my dad’s side. One of my main goals when I started researching was to connect with living relatives from my 4 main branches, Pfundstein, Marshall, McGee, McVay.  The Pfundstein’s and Marshall’s have been more than generous!! The Irish side not so much… until today.  I have connected with my first McGee relative and could not be more thrilled!! I think that is pretty cool that we got in contact around St. Patrick’s day.  Maybe that is our ancestors saying – persevere, keep digging. Maybe it is just coincidence  – either way I am pretty happy!  The coolest part is that the relative I connected with today is that he is the son of someone who has fascinated me for years.  She and I share the same name, first and last name as did her mother!  Not only that her daughter, and granddaughter also share the same first name. The crazy part is that I wasn’t named for anyone!  My first name is Mary Ellen – not all that that common.

So while March is still my least favorite month – I have brand new life in my search for Irish ancestors!!

Erin go Bragh! Happy St. Patrick’s day to all my Irish and non-Irish relatives!!












Happy Valentine's Day

Life is a funny twisty thing when you stop to really think about it. Some people believe everything is random, others believe in fate and soulmates. Since we are celebrating St. Valentine’s Day, I think we will go with fate and soulmates.  Every one of us is here because of the love that came before.  Let’s celebrate that today and be grateful for whatever brought them together.  I believe that when they look down at us, they are happy about it too.

Wedding Collage


I came up with this pretty last minute along with realizing that my preschooler needed 20 Valentines done right away.  The pictures are a random collection of what I already had and what I could beg and borrow quickly!  They are a combo of Pfundstein/Marshall and my Irish side McGee/McVay.  I would love to keep adding to this collage so send me wedding/couple pictures and I will add them in!!

What's in a Name…

Pfundstein family crestWhat’s in a name…turns out quite a bit actually.  Most surnames have their roots in Medieval times.  The simple ones still remain unchanged today – Baker, Miller, Weaver, Mason, etc.  It is pretty easy to know what kind of work your ancestors may have done many generations earlier. Over time many names have been shortened or lengthened, or changed by different spellings.  Even the most basic Smith has many variations Smyth, Smythe, Smithson, etc. If  a simple name could be so varied imagine when the name was a little more complicated.  On my Dad’s side which is Irish I have been researching his mother’s family.  My Grandmother’s maiden name was McVay.Seems easy enough but as the family came over at different times the name was also written as McVey or McVeigh.  There is a whole section of McVay’s buried together that I found and all 3 of those spellings are represented.  They are likely all from the same family but I am still working out how!

My mother’s maiden name was Marshall.   I have been able to trace that line back to 1600 Bavaria, the name evolution is: Marschalk to Marschaldt to Marschall and finally Marshall.

The census records are famously bad for mis-spellings, the census takers would write a name how they heard it.  Depending on the speaker’s accent or the writers spelling – you can really get thrown off track! You need to have an open mind reading those records!

I always wondered where the Pfundstein name came from. It didn’t really sound like an occupation.  It is just a little less self-explanatory than Baker…  Growing up we were always told it meant Pound Stone, which made sense but I really still couldn’t come up with an occupation to go along with that one!  Luckily some of the smarter Pfundstein’s had answers.  A Pfund is a unit of weight measurement that is still actually used in some parts of Germany (mostly Bavaria). A Pfund is equal to 500 grams or 1/2  kilo. In the world of languages and linguistics there is something called the Benrath Line.  This imaginary line runs through Germany  and accounts for differences in dialect and language.  North of the line P is used – so Pound would be common, south of the line PF is used, so Pfund. Ok so now we are getting somewhere.

In Medieval villages people traded for good and services before standard currencies were in widespread use.  In order to make sure that everyone was getting a fair deal, goods such as wool or wheat would need to be weighed.  The tradesman who did this job would have stones or steins in different weights and use some type of balance.  My Pfundstein ancestors would  use pfund steins to balance the goods they were measuring and is how the Pfundstein name came about. The name has stayed consistent throughout the generations.  I have also seen the surname “Pfund” which is probably a shortened version – crazy to see the evolution that the Marshall name went through, while Pfundstein has stayed the same!

I need to thank my cousin Jeanette and Rich Pfundstein for their help in getting this story told.  I also want to thank Rich for sharing the family crest.

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