Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Had a Geraldo Rivera/Al Capone Moment

I feel like I've been invited to a party, and I'm the entertainment; however, nobody bothered to share that little tidbit of information!

The night of April 22, 1986 is etched on a lot of peoples' memories.

If you missed the 2 hour, live broadcast of the opening of Al Capone's Vault with Geraldo Rivera commentating, watch this 1 1/2 minute recap. before reading any further.

Priceless! They found a stop sign, an empty bottle, and some dust! "Nothing".

Last night, when my daughter discovered the mail my little boy had deposited on a side table in the kitchen earlier in the day, she started doling pieces out to everyone.

"England? Mommy, who do you know in England?"

For a moment I was Charlie in Roald Dahl's, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". My heart was exploding with anticipation, carrying me outside to our deck, two of my girls following me screaming, "What? What is it Mommy?"

I paced, fanning myself with the envelope, hearing them and my heart pounding, knowing that the moment of truth had arrived. Breaking the seal, I held my breath, noticing how the new imperfection bothered me.

I sat down with one child beside me, the other standing in front of me, neither really understanding the emotional charge that the information or lack thereof was on the document that my shaky hands held. My mother had ordered the document hoping to learn a little bit more about her maternal grandmother, Ottilie (Lowrie, Schweigl, or Denonville?)

I started reading and jumped up, running to the other side of the deck, utilizing the energy released from a copy of a birth registration dated June 9,1899, Cheetham, England in the registration district of Prestwich, county of Manchester. Gaston Victor Schweigl, born March 23, 1899. (And I thought I was a procrastinator!)

Up until this moment I had my great grandmother's married name and her supposed maiden name.

I knew she was Ottilie Schweigl on her 1901 marriage certificate to Frederick Lowrie. I assumed that Odilo Scweigl, one of the witnesses, was her father.

What I learned last night was that she had been married to Edward Schweigl when her first son Victor had been born!

Her father-in-law, Odilo Schweigl was a witness of her 2nd marriage!

But we're not done, yet...

I read the tiny scribbles in the section labeled "Name, surname and maiden name of mother". I threw my head back and screamed and laughed uproariously, scaring my children.

Ottilia Lewakowska

I had to call my mom! I couldn't stop giggling. Lewakowska, Lewakowska, Lewakowska. I couldn't get used to the name. 

"What?!!" my mom asked me after a pregnant pause, loaded with shock and disbelief. We chatted as I promised to scan and email her the document. We hung up because life in the present was calling again.

I have had private moments in the 12 hours since opening the envelope. On my return trip from Nashua, after dropping my children off at 6am, alone in the car again, I wiped away tears from  the most recent round of mental images that had me in stitches.

You should all be as lucky to have at least one line of your family that is so easily amused. I know that I was the butt of their joke. I can hear the guffaws as I saw the name. The high-fives followed by knee-slapping and moments taken to catch their breath waiting for the next round of giggles to overtake them at my expense was deafening!

"She thought she was getting answers! Let's see what she can do with THAT name!!"

This party is going to go on and on and on.

 And, yes, I'm their entertainment. 

Happy to be of service!

  • Have you ever had a moment like that?


  1. "Ottilia Lewakowska" sounds perfect for a steampunk romance set in an alternate 19th-century Poland.

  2. Well, maybe not like that but I do recall the reaction I had when I was able to take the leap past my gr grandfather and pick up 3 generations at once.

    So far, I've been sticking w/ the Dorman line but it has allowed me to meet some 'cousins' who are also doing research. It can be interesting indeed. I hope we are that interesting to someone 100+ years from now.

  3. Hey Bill! I can't express how elated and disappointed I was at the same time. Funny how finding people can be so thrilling! That's cool...3 generations at once!!

  4. Hi Betsy,

    Nothing like this, but I might have some knee slapping moments when if I start digging into my mother's side of the family. We have the McBreens and Walshes, both originating on the outskirts of Dublin, as far as I know.

    I'll need to start digging through your site, as I've always wanted to learn more about our family genealogy.

    Lewakowska is some kind of tongue twister though.

  5. Hey Craig! Let me know if you want some help getting started. Mcbreen! That would be fun!

  6. Happy to have found your blog.

    My "ah ha" moment was when I received my 3rd great grandmother's death certificate. I only had her married name (Steen), knew that she had immigrated from Europe and was very active in the Jewish community in Santa Cruz/San Francisco. Boy was I surprised to learn she'd come from Poland and her maiden name was PLOTZKY!

  7. So you get it, don't you Debi?!! The moment I got that document in my hand it felt like my great grandmother was in the room. I'd never met her, yet I was so excited. It was better than any surprise I've ever received (besides my babies!). Thank you so much for your comment. Do you have a blog? I'd love to visit it. Thanks!


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