My Family History

I’ve already written about a couple of branches of my family tree, the Schulers, Wagners, and McCoys, but I’ve never posted a quick summary of my family history. Like most people in the world (not all—think Chinatown) I have eight great-great-grandfathers. My dad’s great-grandfathers (my great-great-grandfathers) were named Schuler, Fischer, Wagner, and Bader. If that sounds like the role call at a bund meeting, you’re not far off—my dad’s ancestry was a sort of German combination plate. It’s a little more complicated than that. The Schulers were Swiss, acccording to my dad the Fischers were Bohemian (he sometimes said Swabian), and both the Wagners and Baders were from the Rheinland Pfalz, the Rhineland Palatinate. We have reason to believe that the Schulers and Wagners were originally French, but that was far, far in the distant past, possibly as long as 1,200 years ago.

My mom’s great-grandfathers were named Blanchard, McCoy, Schneider, and Flanagan. Despite its French sound the Blanchards apparently thought of themselves as Irish. The McCoys and Flanagans were, of course, Irish from Ulster and West Meath, respectively. We have reason to believe that my great-great-grandfather William Schneider was French-speaking, possibly Alsatian. His wife, Celestine Didier, certainly was. My mom met her great-grandmother when her great-grandmother was a very old woman and at that point she spoke nothing but French (although she had been born in this country).

With the exceptions of my great-great-grandfather Blanchard and my great-great-grandfather Wagner, none of my great-great-grandfathers were born in this country. All were new immigrants at that point, between 150 and 170 years ago.

My great-great-grandfather Wagner and my great-great-grandfather Flanagan both fought for the Union in the American Civil War. Charles Wagner was a captain (I’ve posted his picture in his officer’s uniform previously). Edward Flanagan’s story is much more complicated. For a while he was listed as a deserter but the War Department exonerated him of that charge.

Although he fought in the Civil War for almost five years, participating in the siege of Vicksburg and other actions of the Army of the West, he was never technically mustered in. The paperwork never got filed.

My great-great-grandfather McCoy and two of his sons served in the militia affiliated with the Union Army but never saw active duty. I haven’t been able to determine whether any of my Blanchard ancestors were in the Civil War. It’s possible they didn’t—they were the wrong age. If they had they almost certainly would have fought for the Union since my great-great-grandfather was born in upstate New York. My great-great-grandfather Schuler arrived in this country just as the war was ending and my great-great-grandfathers Fischer and Bader slightly after that.

Larger than life characters are the rule rather than the exception in my family. I’ve shared some of the their stories here with you and I hope to continue to do so.

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