Category Archives: Forensic Genealogy Investigations

No Bears are Out Tonight


Bear River Campground Me & Jill, the Mini Winnie & the Tiny Trailer

Last week, heading southeast to Wyoming to fish with my friend Jill, I started wondering about place names … it started when I noticed the next exit to Rattlesnake Pass. We’ve had a lot of rattlesnake sightings and funerals this summer up at the ranch and we are in hyper-watch mode. I imagined  homesteaders trailing into the desert sagebrush frightening and frightened by enough rattlesnakes that the place became a landmark. You know, turn right across Rattlesnake Pass.

If names reflect the landmarks then what do I think as I pull into the Bear River Campground, which is next to the East Bear River Campground, both of which are right on the Bear River? I’m thinking that I didn’t bring bear spray only my new little Kel Tec 22 pistol with snake shot … then to enhance my awareness of place names there were the bear warnings everywhere in the campground. Do NOT leave any food outside, nor in tents, nor in tent trailers that could attract bears. Do landmark names really reflect the truth? As I set up the Mini Winnie I wondered if it was bear proof?

Forgetting landmark names  and thinking FISH, the first morning out we headed up the Mirror Lake highway past all the private property & no trespassing signs to park in an off highway spot (remember to pick up your parking passes at the Ranger Station). Down to the river through willows and brush and trees. Jill went downstream and I went up.

Day one was eventful … I was sucked into a quicksand/mud bog hole crossing a side water stream to reach a rocky island where I went from mid-calf water to over my knee in a blink … luckily I fell into the bank, desperately holding my fly rod in one hand and some wee grasses with the other,  hoping I didn’t fall all the way in and wash downstream. Slowly I  pulled myself out of the water with a mucky sucking fuoosh as the black goop let go of my foot. All that and I didn’t catch one fish … notta … zippo.

Fire Scar Meadow …

Day two started with a beautiful hike to the East Fork Bear River through an old fire scared meadow down to the river … I caught a few fish, evaded some extremely large bovines and fell in the river (again). Yes, you heard me right … I fell in the river.

Wet wading in t-shirt, shorts, and my trusty old Asolo trekkers with my wading staff floating at my feet I caught a flash of fish out of the corner of my eye. I turned too quickly, not watching my feet placement on the slippery stones nor my wading staff floating between my feet. I turned, the staff didn’t and I went down on my butt, water to my chest and my backpack acting like a balloon on my back. Not good. After I righted myself and found my footing again I stood dripping in the still cold, winter run-off water, holding my legs still so my shorts wouldn’t touch them.

Then, planner that I am I remembered the change of clothes in my pack, just in case, because, let’s face it … I tend to slip on rocks in a rushing river. However, opening my pack it was obvious that it wasn’t waterproof. Everything was wet or wet enough that it wouldn’t have made a difference if I changed or not.

I just started fishing again (further up stream from my debacle) hoping the sun would peep between thunder storm clouds which didn’t happen, but I got a double soaking when the heavy clouds opened up  as we hiked the miles back up to the parking lot.

Evening found us up at Lily Lake, named for the thousands of lily pads that clog about 1/3 of it  and it was a beautiful spot (to lose a lot of flies) … I’ve not fished lakes with a fly rod much. Score: Lily Lake Trees about 10, Fish 1 and Me? Zero.

Bear River off the Mirror Lake Highway, Wyoming

Our last day I headed back up river while Jill packed up her tiny trailer. After catching a few fish and enjoying a sunny morning I headed back to the truck … when I arrived Jill was waiting and watching the river. She worried I had fallen in and drowned myself … she was checking the river to see if I floated passed. Day Three … I did NOT fall in the river. I count that a plus.

If you’re looking for a quiet night and pleasant camping, and aren’t pulling a gargantuan sized trailer the Wyoming side of the Mirror Lake Highway is a nice, peaceful place to stay and it’s away from the heavily packed campgrounds on the west side of the mountains … I highly recommend giving it a try.

Though the fishing could have been better the camping was great, we didn’t get many thunder storms and there was plenty of firewood to be picked up from old slash piles. But, we didn’t press our luck and play no bears are out tonight … we just watched the fire burn to coals and listened to the river’s song.

Next trip, Sweetie and I are heading to Washington state to fish near Mt. Rainier with his daughter & son-in-law where I’m hoping to catch a few more fish and NOT fall in the river.

Until next time friends, tight lines and blue skies.

2 Trillion = Me

Most of us ... missing ... Steve, Aarin & Bayla ... Pam & Jeff, Clayton, & Breena ... & Chris' wife Cindy

Most of us … missing … Steve, Aarin & Bayla … Pam & Jeff, Clayton, & Breena … & Chris’ wife Cindy

Kings, Princes, Paupers, Explorers, Indian fighters, Indians, Pilgrims, Pioneers, Plague Survivors, Artists, Authors, Mariners, Dreamers and Adventurers’ … through them I exist.  The number of our ancestors is mind boggling. Just back 40 generations = 2 Trillion, yes Trillion, ancestors to make me or you. Of course, that is not 2 Trillion unique individuals … the further back one goes, the more redundancy in family lines and people. If only 10% of Europe’s population survived the great plagues, well, you can see the further we go back in time the fewer unique ancestors we have and in the end … we are all family.

Out of the 2 Trillion ancestors I have (we have), I know few of them.  I’ve known those near me, generationally speaking, my parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. The connections to their parents and grandparents lost as they died and they left a few stories and fewer photographs. Their parents and generations back have for many years been forgotten and are generally only a name and a date in a book on a shelf.

However,  their stories are calling to me, find me, write them down.  Some five years ago I wanted to share with my family their ancestors. I spent six months and prepared for two family history weekends; one in which we told stories of our Utah Pioneer heritage and did a road trip throughout Utah and Wasatch Counties.  The second weekend we caravaned to Wyoming and spent three days reenacting a part of our family’s story, through a pioneer handcart trek in Martin’s Cove, WY.

As I started searching for stories of the people in our family who first came to America, and then found those that brought our family to Utah … (I started by taking the genealogy books off of the shelf) they came alive … they became real people who lived through turbulent times, loved, had families, gave up their lives, their homes, left family and friends to step onto a new land … to live something new. A new beginning, a fresh start.

Five years later, I am being prompted to find more  stories … and to share them. Those few stories I found for our My Heritage, My Legacy weekends have only whetted my desire to learn more about my ancestors and also to write my own story.  I’m an adrenaline junkie and when I read from a personal journal or recollection my heart starts thumping a bit harder, I hold my breath and sometimes the tears can’t be held back … it’s like finding buried treasure.  When I read or write about them, once again these ancestors live. At that moment, sometimes I think, someone hasn’t said that name out loud for years … and now they aren’t forgotten any longer.  Our stories may be only a short sentence in the scheme of history; but that sentence is everything … without our ancestors we wouldn’t be  where we are and without us our posterity can’t be all they are meant to be.

My question today is the same as it was five years ago … I have a wonderful heritage … What will be my legacy?



Forensic Genealogy Investigator (FGI) – Case Solved


Last Friday I was scouring an antique store for something my daughter was looking for … I didn’t find what she needed but I did find a small photo album sitting on a stool; it was filled with someone’s memories. Photographs of children and parents, confirmations and graduations and family parties …  postcards of someone’s loved ones for sale. You all know my family history addiction and it always breaks my heart when I see old photographs like that … lost, separated from someone who would treasure them and that may be the only clue to finding that one person whose very existence has been forgotten.

So I did what I always do in such a situation; I put on my Forensic Genealogy Investigator (FGI) hat.   I pulled the photos one at a time until I found a couple with names on the back and took an Evernote Scannable of them.   Later that night I logged into Family Trees and searched for the names of the children in the photographs.  Chills ran up my back when I found at least 20 trees with the same names.  I sent a note to the contacts of the largest trees and within 20 minutes I was receiving responses and requests for the photographs.   Almost as soon as I hit the send button there were return emails saying “yes”, this is one of our ancestors!, “yes”, this is our August Walczyk and his sister Matilda. Thank you! Do you have more?

August Walczyk  from Adms, WS

August Walczyuk from Adms, WS

How do we lose our family documents and photographs, the collective memory of our family stories? How do treasured heirlooms find their way onto antique shop shelves or into flea market baskets tossed in with pink flamingos and outdated electronics?  The Walczyk grandparents obviously treasured the photographs; keeping them for a long time …I think they were ties to their family back east. When they died maybe a son or daughter kept them in that same box on a shelf as a reminder of cousins and family times dimly remembered. Then they too passed on and if the family stories and connections weren’t kept intact the photographs had little or no meaning to that last generation who may have only see an interesting black & white or sepia toned photograph that they felt were of no use to them. That shoe box was placed at the estate sale, someone picked it up and the story continues … where do you think the Cracker Barrel Restaurant gets those old family portraits that hang as decor on their walls?

Matilda Walczyk

Matilda Walczyk

Have you ever thought about where all your family heirlooms might end up? Will they be lost, memories of a lifetime, a slice of history lived never to been seen again … we have experienced such loss in our family (more than once) .  My 4th great grandfather kept journals all of his life.  When he passed on the journal collection was broken apart and one book given to each of his children who lived all over the country.  The journals are lost; in a trunk, a garbage bin, an antique book store somewhere … or did you too have an Aunt Bessie, who ‘did’ the family genealogy and who held the collection of photographs, birth certificates, stories and heirlooms? What happened to them when she died?


Back of August Walczyk Photograph

I’ve been thinking about this ‘problem’ for a while … I’m thinking of gathering as much as I can of what is left of our family legacy and put them together in a collection to be donated to the LDS Family History Center or a university so that future family/historians will have access to them and where they will be at least in a protected environment rather than in a shoe box on a shelf in the back closet … I’m thinking … it’s an idea not fully formed yet.

In the meantime, I’ll be heading back to the antique shop to find the seller of the Walczyk family history and put them in touch with the descendants of the people in their photo album. Who knows they might be related.


Back of Matilda Walczyk Photograph

Back of Matilda Walczyk Photograph