Note: For privacy reasons, living people are not identified in this blog without permission.


If you would like to be contacted about a comment, you must leave me a way to reach you. Please include your email address. Thank you!

Follow This Blog!

Friday, October 27, 2017

California Fires 2017

I have lived in California the majority of my life except for the four years we spent living in Ohio for my dad to get his MBA.  I was born in California and raised here.  I’ve seen fires burning up in the hills in the distance from my childhood home in Fairfield many times as a kid and never thought much of it.  It was always the norm each Summer/Fall.  Mother nature would come through and do a “little clean up”.  Before we knew it, the fires were out.  It would be a distant memory after just a few days. 

If the fire was near Lake Berryessa, we’d all wonder if my aunt’s and uncle’s place at “Bourbon Point” (Wragg Canyon/South Shore Resort, now Pleasure Cove) would still be there the following season for water-skiing, boating and family fun with cousins and relatives.  It always survived unscathed.  I personally spent many a day there from the early 1970s to my last visit in 1998.  The Bureau of Reclamation reclaimed the land around the lake telling people to pretty much "get out", except for day use.  Now, there’s not much to burn in the way of structures around that lake.  There could be a revival of resorts someday. 

Now, my first involvement in seeing the results of a destructive firestorm was when I started working for a large national insurance company.  They’d always say that California had its challenges with fire for sure.  This was absolutely evidenced as each year passed.  Some years had few fires and other years had destructive firestorms that would wipe out whole communities and also all of that collected surplus insurance premium from years gone by.  For that company, yes, the premium mattered but so did their customers and, really, more so on the customer side.  I will never forget the customer service philosophy as a good corporate citizen and still carry the imprint of that with me.  It is people that matter and you need to have insurance.  That does happen to involve money which is not everyone’s favorite topic.           

With each firestorm, came hundreds of homes lost by customers, real people who lost everything in most cases.  I can recall reviewing photos for hundreds of homes.  It really hits home when you can see the before (when the house was first purchased or re-reviewed, and lovingly furnished with people’s belongings that show life is there) and the after.  The aftermath of a fire is a gutting feeling.  You see debris on a slab or concrete walled perimeter that’s about 2 feet high if you are lucky (that’s the foundation by the way) and a fireplace chimney sticking up solo in the air with no building for it to hug. 

Most people don’t have basements in California but homes built into a hillside slope are not uncommon.  Unique, one of a kind homes, crop up in there, too.  A house called “The Wing” comes to mind.  It no longer exists and was never rebuilt.  It burned down and the owners walked away (with their lives) and never attempted to put it back.  They couldn’t bring themselves to rebuild.  It was lost in a firestorm and exists in memory.  Don’t worry, they have a home elsewhere now and were good with the decision to not rebuild in the “middle of nowhere California on a hill with a view.”
Watching the fires these past weeks made me want to turn away from social media and the television.  When I heard the fire had entered the urban area of Santa Rosa causing total losses of homes to an entire neighborhood, I took notice.  Everything I’ve ever learned about brush fire hazard went out the door.  A fire had burned into an urban area that I would not consider the “Wildland Urban Interface” or WUI.  The WUI, to me, was always those housing developments on hillside slopes with native vegetation (or not so native Eucalyptus trees) and other flammable underbrush encroaching on open space.  I never dreamed of it burning over a highway and into urban, flat, concrete, asphalt, and with urban landscaped neighborhoods who have .15 acre, if lucky, as their property.  It’s surreal. 

But, my memory bank is full of information and I could recall the “wind driven fire”, “embers in the wind”, and wind gusts that drove a fire in a place like San Bernardino County years ago.  It was a memory that I’d almost forgotten about.  This time in Santa Rosa, it all seems worse, much worse.  The Tubbs Fire (Santa Rosa/Sonoma County) seems to have topped all fires in ferociousness.  The Atlas fire complex was not much better.

I could not turn away from watching the fires (on the news and online) as I found out about people I knew impacted and some close calls.  My mom was one of them.  A close call in an urban grid of streets, houses, asphalt, concrete, and flat as a pancake neighborhood in Fairfield.  That describes how her house is situated pretty well.  There’s sidewalks, a fire hydrant on the corner and it comes with the paid fire department’s station about a mile way.  It is urban suburbia in California that’s been there for over 30 years.  The other side of Fairfield where I grew up has been there much longer. A week and half ago, I could hardly believe it.  My mom’s home was under advisory level to evacuate.  In other words, get packing a bag and be ready to leave.  What?! It all seemed ridiculous to think about.

Now that the fires are very much under control, I’ve relaxed some and so has my mom.  While material items should not be the most important thing in your life, a home is a bit different.  Where you lay your head at night matters.  People need consistency and comfort.  Fire completely takes people out of being comfortable and, in some cases, takes it all away.  It is stressful for sure.
As the years pass, I can’t help but wonder if it will just get worse.  My husband said that one fire was burning toward Middletown, California.  My rather callus response to that was that it had already burned last year.  How would it burn there again?  It could.
At this point, I don’t have anything magnanimous or benevolent to say.  The firefighters and first responders are real people who definitely deserve our gratitude.  There have been many acts of kindness.  I don’t want to be the naysayer in all of this calling out that I told you so or this is going to happen again.  By the way, it will happen again but I don’t have a crystal ball to tell me where and when. 

There were a few shocking revelations (and not so shocking) for me this go around as I was just watching it unfold online.  Global warming – yes.  People encroaching on the wildlands – yes.  Lack of good communication – yes.  Lack of defensible space – probably.  That list can go on and on.  This type of situation can change the world or we can go back to complacency.   I just don’t know but I do know that I’ll be staying put in California for now. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Lately" - My Family Tree Research

Lately,  I've been jumping on for about 45 minutes, 4 days a week.  It's not much time to do research but it is enough time to refamiliarize myself with people on my family tree, remind myself of where I left off on my research, reply to any emails and messages, and review new DNA matches (close matches, that least 4th cousin or less).

What does this do for me?   It keeps me connected to my family history.  Along the way, I get a chance to add, edit, and correct anything that is not quite right.

I hope to embark on a larger photo scanning project soon.  I have hundreds of photos and about 80% of them are labeled.  That is an amazing gift in and of itself.  The labeling is key in the process of reviewing photos and matching pictures to the names on my family tree.

I can't wait to carve out a little more time to work on this.  Maybe that will happen once my children head back to school in August.  Until then, a quick 45 minute review most days, will suffice.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Herb Borchers, Sr. - Letter to Mr. Novak

This letter is how my great grandfather, Herb Borchers, Sr. got his first job. The letter worked. He learned the jewelry/watchmaking trade and that was his career. Years later, Mr. Novak, returned the letter to him. Very special!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Heritage - Free Ethnicity

Last week, I came across a link to My Heritage with an offer for a "Free Ethnicity Estimate".  I popped on over the website.  Sure enough, you can upload your GEDCom file (mine was downloaded from the Ancestry DNA results) and receive My Heritage's ethnicity estimate based on your DNA.

Below is My Heritage's interpretation of my DNA ethnicity estimate.  In some ways, it answers some questions.  The main one is that I'm not English.  If I was it would be indicated separately from the category of Irish/Scottish/Welsh.   Ancestry's breakdown left me wondering.  Irish is broken out on Ancestry's DNA ethnicity but British is lumped together seemingly including Scottish, Welsh and maybe even Northern Ireland to an extent.  Since all of this is an estimate, you need to take it with a grain of salt.

The broader results of the DNA are much more telling and confirming of why we look like we do and where our family roots originate.  Let's just put it this way, my husband's results are much more interesting.  He has roots in places like Pakistan, Iberian Peninsula, and European Jewish, if even a smidgen of each.  He is mostly European with a whole lot of British Isles but the others, while anecdotal at best now, sound exotically interesting.      

North and West Europe
Irish, Scottish, and Welsh
East Europe

Sunday, April 9, 2017

More Fett, Pesch, Jackel Photos

Photos galore of family members, cousins, and family friends.  These families (Fett, Pesch, Jackel) were part of a community in Minnesota and remained close.  These photos were given to my family by Mary Butler.

Back of photo labeled Fett Unkown
I think this is Conrad Fett Jr. 

Back of photo says, "Sitting - Conrad Fett, Jr., Standing - Fred Pesch.
I actually think the boy standing is Peter Fett based on my research 
and another photo I have.

Back of photo - "Uncle Pete Fett"

Fred Pesch.
Fred's mother was Elizabeth (Jackel) Pesch 
sister to Grandma Borchers
(Anna Jackel Borchers).
Note:  Anna was adopted and the oldest child.

Sitting - Conrad Fett, Jr.
Standing - Fred Pesch, Son of Elizabeth Jackel Pesch

Friday, April 7, 2017

Blogging Again - My Family Tree, My Roots, My Genealogy Pastime

Recently, I have been getting more connections to my DNA matches on  It is interesting for sure.  I Found a first cousin, once removed tonight.  That is pretty cool.  We connected briefly in messages over  That might be it for a while though.  I'm good with that.

Now is my time to get reconnected with my blog.  I need to get back on track.  My goal has always been to post information online rather than keep it hidden away in a drawer.  My online blog is a great reference when I'm out and about.  In fact, sometimes it has been a better reference than  When I need to know more about specifics about a family line, I can look it up here.  I hope that is the case in the future for my family members.

I have suspended my Flanagan posts for privacy reasons.  I'm just not sure what to do going forward.  I have had a lot of people pulling in information to their family tree on Ancestry simply because the surname matches.  Flanagan is a somewhat common Irish surname.  I am a bit perplexed as to why they would just borrow information from my family tree that makes no sense in their line.  In other words, dates and locations don't match.  Plus, the Michael Flanagan they love to make their great great grandfather never had a wife or children.  In fact, he left Ireland and came back.  So, he even had break in living there during which time, he did not have a wife and children living in Ireland.

As I blog, I work some things out.  Additionally, I have photos galore right now.   Photos of my German ancestors.  I plan to post them here.

I can't wait to moving on this again.  I will call my blog re-emergence of Mine, Yours, and the Other Guy's Genealogy.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Photos - Borchers, Jackel, Fett and More

I recently inherited seven binders and many photos (most are labeled) of my Borchers, Jackel, Fett, and a few more lines.  This is my mom's German ancestry line.  She is half German and many of her ancestor line ended up in Missouri, Minnesota, onto Dakyin, NE and North Dakota, and finally to Napa, CA.  Many of our immigrant ancestors arrived in Baltimore, MD.

As for photos, I have many now.  I love photos.  They are so telling and truly worth a thousand words.

Frederick Jackel circa 1890

Fred Jackel, Henrietta Fett Jackel, and Augusta Jackel 

Frederick Jackel (pronounced Yak-el) was my great great grandmothers adoptive father.  Anna Maria Jackel (Borchers married name, biological surname was Kern) was adopted by Fred Jackel and his wife, Barbara Rausch, sometime in the 1860s.  We do not know what happened to Anna's biological parents but she indicated her birth surname was Kern.  All of her own children knew she was adopted.  This is a good thing since her son William Borchers married Augusta Jackel.

In the second photo, you see Fred, Henrietta and Augusta Jackel.  Fred married Henrietta Fett after his wife, Barbara, passed away and after Henrietta's first husband, Conrad Fett, passed away.  They each had older children by this time in their lives.  Their union produced a child together, Augusta Jackel.  She is pictured with her parents.  It is not known at this time what Henrietta Fett Jackel's maiden name actually was.  I've tried to find that but it is not to be located in records that I have access too.

Photos are pretty amazing.  Putting the name and their story to a face makes working on your family tree that much more interesting.  These people were a huge part in the lives of my great grandfather and his parents plus Augusta moved to California and was the aunt of my grandma.  They were not strangers but part of a community and one that moved west, at that!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ancestry DNA

Back in November 2015, I had my DNA test done.  I found it very interesting for about 5 minutes.  At the time, there weren't many matches.  Now, I am overwhelmed with 134 pages (about 50 people per page) of DNA matches with many distant 5th cousins or more.  The results are a mixed bag for sure.

First and foremost my ethnicity estimate is interesting and yet rather mundane at the same time.  I can't say that I did not know what to expect since we'd had my husband's completed the prior year.  His was enlightening in that it eliminated the family lore that they were Native American in there somewhere.  My husband is not.  Nor is he related to Betsy Ross.  Lots of made up family lore passed down on his line.  But, there is still a potential that some proof could be out there to show different.  Even his line could have surprises to the contrary but someone would need to pay for the research at this point and hunt down the truth to prove it!

My ethnicity estimate is as follows:

58% Ireland
28% Great Britain
5% Scandinavia
4% Europe West
4% Europe East
1% Finland/East Russia
100% - European

Being only 58% ethnically Irish was a little surprising.  I would have thought it would have been closer to 70%.  DNA ethnicity is not an exact science nor do the genes pass down the line in exact proportions.

What I do glean from this breakdown is that 28% of my ethnicity is Great Britain.  Does this confirm that my Maxwell's were from Scotland?  It might.  Does this confirm that my Irish ancestors living in the "Pale" married those from Britain?  There again, it might.

The 28% Great Britain is a bit of a mystery to me.  Does that include my McGuire's who were from County Fermanagh which is part of Northern Ireland and is considered Great Britain?  Well, I would hope McGuire's of Ireland would not be considered in that British ethnicity but who can really tell here.

Overall, I consider the ethnicity estimate nice to know.  In some cases, it is anecdotal at best but certainly tells you where not to look for your ancestors.

As for DNA matches, that is pretty distant.  I have three people who are 2nd-3rd cousins, only one was a surprise.  Once we figured it out, we pretty much have noted it and moved on.  I have four people in the 3rd-4th cousin range.  Again, no real surprises but there is one person who has not responded to me.  I guess that's the way it goes.

I have had contact from one match who was adopted so is searching for his real parents.  That's interesting.  I come up as a 4th to 6th cousin.  We seem to be distant relations.  The person has figured out what line he is related too though.  I wish him luck in discovering is biological parents.

Many people don't have their family tree connected to their DNA.  Without that information, who knows how we might be related.  Also, those people who choose to just put initials like "J.R." truly aren't looking for their ancestors if you ask me.  That person has no tree attached to their DNA.

The DNA section also has a Beta out there called DNA Circles.  Again, this is kind of nice to know but in some cases in duplicates information even within the DNA Circles.  It also does not really tell me anything that I didn't already know about my ancestors from the Irish Settlement in upstate New York.

Ancestry DNA is interesting.  I do think people should participate in this database.  Until the database has a good collection of people's DNA, it will continue to have "emerging" results.  I'm waiting for more.


Monday, March 27, 2017

MYOG Blog Post

Over a year ago, I decided to suspend and save, for private viewing only, all of my blog posts pertaining to my direct line ancestors.  I was tired of spam comments to the posts while receiving only a few comments at a time where there was a real connection to my family tree.  Now, after a year or so, I have re-posted all my blog posts, except Flanagan posts, with the original post dates.

The index is mostly updated too with the exception of some broken links and posts that were never indexed.  I will be working to get broken hyperlinks fixed and complete the index in the near future.  In the meantime, I hope that readers find some of my posts interesting and that relatives near and distant find what they might be looking for.  Give me a shout out in comments if you enjoyed any posts or found a connection.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Some Posts Back Up!

Today I worked a bit on getting some of my blog posts back up.  I have more to go but a lot of posts up to March 2011 are now back online.  The following will be again soon: