Why Family History?

If the perusal of these pages proves of interest to the reader, then may I hope the story and other data have not been given in vain.

WM. H. SEYMOUR


The end of the second millennium approached with trepidation; stories of doomsday scenarios, machinery stopping, computer systems shutting down or behaving erratically, complete chaos. My two young sons urged me to prepare. I gave in and we went shopping to stock a Y2K supply box, enough to alleviate their fears. Y2K came and went. I was 42 years old and had slipped into the backside of my statistical life expectancy. I do not know why but I began to wonder a bit about my ancestors. I imagine most people do at some point in their life. All my grandparents had passed. I did not have any memory of my grandfathers, one died before my birth, the other when I was five. I asked my dad about his grandfather, and he struggled to recall his name. My father told me he thought his family had come to the United States from Switzerland. All the family we knew were located in the New Orleans, Louisiana area. Where did we come from? How did we get to New Orleans? What did my ancestors do in their lives? My interest was piqued.

A career move brought my family to Houston, Texas from our New Orleans hometown in 1989. The desire to learn more about my family history held tight and led me to the Houston Public Library’s Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in 2001. I decided a visit to Clayton was in order to learn about the resources available that might satisfy my questions. Ancestry Publishing launched Ancestry.com just four years earlier in 1996. Internet genealogy as we kno it today was in its infancy in the year 2000. Many records available online today had to be accessed in libraries and archives, courthouses, and churches or on CD ROMS. The Clayton Library offered resources that were able to get me started, census records on microfilm, New Orleans birth, marriage and death indices, New Orleans city directories on microfiche and Passenger Lists. I learned how to use a microfilm and microfiche reader and began to dig.

During one of my early visits to Clayton Library I overheard a conversation that has driven my genealogical research efforts since. An older gentleman was standing at the reference desk talking with the librarian. He was explaining to the librarian that he was only interested in his well-known ancestors, those who were important. We have all probably thought about having a famous, or perhaps infamous, person in our ancestry, but what about our not “well known” ancestors. I wondered how long being well known lasts, one generation or maybe two. Time not only heals but it forgets. How many people well known in their time still are today much less in the next century or millennium. As we scroll through birth, marriage, death and census records we see countless names of forgotten individuals and families. I realized that the problem for the genealogist was to make all our ancestors known, even if they were not well known in their own time. Piecing those long-forgotten families back together from old, faded records and linking them from one generation to the next; to give them life after death so to speak.  This develops an understanding of our family history and perhaps ourselves.

Quickly I realized that genealogy is not a project. A project has a distinct beginning and end. Genealogy, or more comprehensively family history, is an endeavor. An endeavor is trying hard to do or achieve something, an attempt to achieve a goal. In genealogy the goal is never reached. Just like history, genealogy has no beginning or end. Time is infinite. I hoped to make my effort a project, tracing only my direct lineage, but sidetracks are everywhere to divert your attention. At one point in my research, I had discovered a published painting of the Buhler Family immigrant ship. I became so engrossed in this discovery that I ended up researching the entire life of the ship Marcia Cleaves, from its construction and maiden voyage to its abandonment at sea and most all its voyages in between. I had written the biography of a mid-19th century sailing ship!

The Buhler Family@buhler-family.net went online in 2001 as a working repository for source records. It was from this beginning that I developed this family history from the genealogical evidence derived from these source records. The Buhler Family is a research effort to chronicle the ancestors and descendants of Peter Anton Buhler. In the year 1840 Peter Anton emigrated from the small town of Altkrautheim in the Kingdom of Württemberg (part of present-day Germany) to New Orleans, Louisiana. Anton accompanied his father, stepmother, and siblings in this journey marking the beginning of Buhler family history in the New World. Anton was chosen as the focal point for this work because he left behind the critical evidence that linked the immigrant family to the ancestral home in Württemberg. 

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