The search for family that grew into OUR TRACY TREE OF ANCESTRY was begun in 1925 by Claire Maxine Ohlheiser when she was fourteen years old, not long after the death of her father (William Joseph Ohlheiser). Shortly after his death, she and her sister, 16 year old Marjorie, had received a letter from an aunt that, up until then, they never knew they had. They were also quite shocked to hear that they had three older half-siblings (George, Paul and Marie) from an earlier marriage of their father's to Marie (Kieffe) Ohlheiser. They realized then that they knew very little about their father's early life or his family... or much about their mother's family either for that matter. The aunt who had written was the wife of their father's brother. That aunt and uncle, Flora Ruth (Russell) Ohlheiser and George Edward (Ed) Ohlheiser, lived "Back East," in western New York State and had four children, Robert, Harold, Carlton and Evelyn. Learning about them expanded Maxine's family beyond her own mother, sister and brothers, and she was especially excited to have found out she had cousins near her own age! She began corresponding with this new-found family, and that correspondence continued for the rest of her life. (The idea of having three half-siblings was also exciting but, due to the estrangement among the parents, she was never able to establish an acquaintance with any of them.)
In the beginning Maxine's intent was to find as many of her own living relatives as she could. Later, when she married, her quest for family expanded to include that of her husband's. As she met and talked and corresponded with more and more relatives she began picking up stories about their children, their parents and grandparents. In the excitement of gathering information about them little attention was paid to recording it beyond keeping track of who was who, and how/where they fit into her extended family. Making good notes regarding from whom or where she came upon the information was not given much thought. As her research turned to the parents' parents she began sketching out "family trees" in order to keep everybody straight in her mind. (The "trees" compiled by her cousin Harold became her model - her early notes include numerous hand-drawn lineage maps she received from Harold.)
Before long Maxine had become a denizen of her local library's genealogy section, ordering roll after roll of microfilmed census returns from the National Archives, then spending hours searching through the very difficult to decipher films of records that had been made with varying results. (Many of which records are, by the way, now readily available in an enhanced, mostly legible, indexed, digital, reproducible form on the Internet!) Next she was locating addresses of town halls and genealogical societies. She sent out numerous hand-written inquiries, with self-addressed, stamped, return envelopes, to a variety of potential sources of information - and received in return varying, but often disappointingly negative, results. She compared notes with the cousins "Back East," who had already done a great deal of research on the ancestors they had in common. Their work became the foundation for her own and each discovery any of them made was shared among all of the cousins. The more serious Maxine became in her research she could see she was going to want to know where a specific piece of information had been found in order to establish its relative (as it were) credibility. By the time she turned the project over her youngest son, the current researcher, she had accumulated binders full of hand-written data.
The primary objectives evolved while she and her son were preparing OUR TRACY TREE OF ANCESTRY... it became a wider quest:
to find as many “New World Immigrant Ancestors” as possible for the “3 Tracys Born c.1975,” who were three of Maxine's grandchildren;
then to show the Family Lines that connect these 3 Tracys through the generations back to those Immigrant Ancestors;
to record something of the stories of those ancestors as they participated in life through the generations; their life events are our history;
and finally to present a picture of that history, not as an academic treatise or genalogical journal article, nor as a simple "Family Tree," but in an interesting way (hopefully), and in a modern format (for now anyway) easily accessible to the members of our family;
As the project progressed it became obvious that some limits needed to be set in order to accomplish the objectives set for the project. From the perspective of the time available to work on the project it has been necessary to try to restrict research to our direct line of ancestry, i.e. Grandparents... but also to include their siblings and the children of their siblings (aunts, uncles and first cousins). That said, in order to determine a direct line it is often necessary to conduct research on divergent lines in hopes of finding a thread that will lead back to one of our direct family lines.
Once the direct line of a family has been established the next step is to go back and give context to the lives of the individuals involved, to record something of the lives and times of our direct ancestors. It will quickly become apparent that more of this step has been accomplished for some of the individuals than for others.
Information for the parents and the grandparents of the immigrants has been, and is, also sought to hopefully shed some light on the immigrant ancestor's life situation and to perhaps find their motivation for emigrating. (As might be expected the motivations were primarily religious, political and economic - in about that order and sometimes with more than one of those providing extra incentive - of course a certain sense of adventure was generally also involved.) Genealogical research in the “Old Country” can be somewhat problematic given the linguistic and geographic limitations of the researcher. Information for two generations back into the "Old Country" is generally found to be fairly reliable, when/if it can be found. That information was usually proudly passed down by way of oral family histories related by individuals who lived during the first one or two generations in the "New World;" people with a "living memory" of the people involved "back home" and who wanted their children's children to know about their heritage.
When information, regarding a direct line, that includes names and dates for many generations predating immigration to the "New World" has been readily available, it may have been included in our data. The more famous/infamous of our early ancestors quite often have had their own ancestry traced back for hundreds of years; sometimes that research has been very carefully documented and so their family trees are probably quite accurate, at least to a point - facts get a little hazy around medevial times, and only the most prominent (meaning royal) families had their family histories recorded. When these family lines have been included in this genealogy there won't be much detail and the accuracy of much of what is included may need serious scrutiny.
Occasionally a distant cousin from one of our families is able to provide information which breaks through a barrier that has stopped a family line short of the immigrant ancestor, or that can provide important additional information about a person who was a direct ancestor. Their information almost always includes some data that is peripheral to the direct line we are following but which certainly is worth incorporating, and so it is incorporated into our project.
So in spite of having established some workable parameters for researching our direct ancestral lines we have accumulated considerable numbers of more distant cousins and some in-laws along the way. But we have not been interested in numbers just for the sake of numbers and we have not followed too many tangents. And since we have wanted to follow the lines of our family to know our heritage, we have not merely attempted to "fill in the blanks" of our direct line with someone else's data simply because that was easier. Nor have we tried to connect to an irrelevant line because it was more interesting or because it would make a distant connection to someone whose name is well known.
As are most modern electronically maintained genealogies, which by their nature can be readily updated, this one is a work in progress. We have found a large number of our immigrant ancestors but the process of finding and adding more of our ancestors and adding more information about all of our ancestors continues... You should check back occasionally to see if there have been recent updates.