The Research

The Research

I began researching this family around 1982, convinced that there would be very few persons with the surname. All I knew to begin with was the name of my grandmother—Katherine Gertrude Settlemyer (or "Gert," as she was known). And I went about my research the wrong way, although it happened to work: after locating some information from censuses that took me back a few generations but then seeming to encounter a brick wall, I checked immigrant records and hoped that Jacob Zettelmeyer, who arrived in 1751, was my ancestor. In other words, I jumped across generations rather than working backwards one generation at the time.

During the process I examined secondary sources in the Genealogical Services Branch of the North Carolina State Library, I sifted through original records and microfilmed records in the North Carolina Archives, and I wrote to the Berks County PA Register of Wills for copies of Zettlemoyer wills on file there. Some of those wills required that I dust off my German dictionary from college and try to decipher the language.

As I worked I began to locate the names of other potential family members, so I wrote to them. Some did not respond, but many did, and they often put me onto new leads. Eventually I was in touch with relatives all across America. Whenever I traveled in North Carolina I made a point to search the records in courthouses; these efforts often paid dividends I did not expect. I have walked through numerous cemeteries, making notes as I went.

In March 1990 my family vacationed in Berks Co PA where we visited the courthouse, plus a number of church cemeteries. The crowning moment occurred just as I was about to admit defeat, when I happened across the tombstone of my immigrant ancestor in the St. Paul’s (Smoke) Church cemetery. I must admit it wasn’t what I had expected, but the elation I felt made up for the plainness of the stone.

The point of this dialogue is that, despite the remarkable resources that the Internet and email have made available to us, there is nothing that can take the place of good, hard work through examining the best records available to us for genealogical research. And even that may not be enough—frequently I discovered that the information produced left more questions than it answered. Then I was left to ponder, to compare, to analyze, and in the end to make the best judgment I could about where the person fit in the family. And I have found that much information over the Internet is flawed. I don’t pretend that my work is perfect, but I have seen several items that I know are not accurate.

Some people may not be as demanding as I have been; some may be more demanding. It is not enough to want to be related to someone; we must put together proof (even circumstantial evidence) before we can honestly claim kinship to persons long departed. In some cases I have decided that a relationship exists based upon information that some may not feel is sufficient, but in every case I have tried to gather all the facts and then apply logic to reach my conclusions.

In summary, good genealogy is hard work, but it is immensely rewarding work.