Saturday, January 31, 2009

Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #4: Castroville, Texas

“Take a genealogy day trip and blog about it. Discover the local history and genealogy in your area. Take a trip to a cemetery or other historic location. Describe the day, what you learned, where you went, how it looked, how it sounded. Armchair genealogists will love the mini travelogue.”
I am going to have to fudge a bit on the challenge this week, since I do my genealogy research trips on holidays or between semesters. I have already blogged about a wonderful genealogy road trip in October 2008, that I took with a dear friend and it was on that trip that I got to do my first research in a county courthouse (cool!), small town library (very helpful), and also the historical society of Steuben County New York (fabulous folks). As much fun and educational as that trip was, it had nothing to do with my family or my husband's family history, but it sure made me reinvigorated to get back at it!

My most recent genealogy road trip was on Christmas 2008 and it was spent in my hometown of Castroville, Medina County, Texas. It has been many years since we last visited over Christmas as my husband and I now live in Maryland. In addition to being with my 3 brothers, their families and my parents, I also had in mind to make it to the church cemetery and take head stone photos as well as meet with a local historian, family friend and distant relative, Frances (related five different ways!).

My husand and I departed from Baltimore to take the Southwest Airlines' nonstop flight to San Antonio, Texas. I lugged my laptop, scanner and luggage through the Baltimore airport and was happy to learn that our beautiful hotel, The Hotel Alsace Spa and Resort (sitting high on a hill overlooking my little hometown) had free wireless access. The hotel also had a spa, but alas, this was not the trip to take advantage of that luxory! My parent's home was filled with my brother's family who flew in from Denver, Colorado and some other grandkids who did not want to be separated from their 1st cousins! My two other brothers live in nearby San Antonio.

The meeting with my mother's cousin, Frances, was entertaining and very educational, as it always is! Frances and another woman in Castroville, Connie, have become the de facto caretakers of the records of St. Louis Catholic Church. They also extensively researched their own families as well as other people in Castroville. Since I am related to both women, they are able to answer a lot of questions that I come up against! The visit with Frances was bittersweet because I had already met with her 2 years ago and scanned every photo that she had of our common ancestors (a lot!) but when my laptop was stolen from my home last fall, those photos went with the laptop. Thank you for people like Thomas MacEntee who encourage and educate people on backing up their data! I know better (I am a high school media specialist and give these "lessons" every day), but for goodness sake, I can't seem to follow all of my own good advice! So needless to say, I will be at the next Data Backup Day on Feb. 1st!

As much as I did not want to be recanning photos that I already scanned previously, visiting with Frances for an afternoon is always a fruitful event and it was a chance for my mother, Frances and me to reconnect and get relationships and marriages straight in our records.

I was excited to again view the photo (and then scan) of an early immigrant to Castroville, Carolina Wussler Echtle. While she did not emmigrate when Texas was still a Republic, her story is fascinating and I find myself in awe of her and people like her who made the same sacrifices.

Carolina Wussler Echtle & 9 Surviving Children

Carolina emmigrated from Gengenbach, Baden, Germany in the latter part of June in 1883, to the United States with eight children . Seven more children were born to her and Martin Echtle, but they died in Germany before the family emmigrated. Carolina and her children embarked at Antwerp, Belgium for New York on the ship Silasia, and it took 14 days at that time to make the trip.


After arriving at New York, they at once left for San Antonio, Texas, where she met her husband, Martin, and oldest son, Joseph. Martin and Joseph came down from Iowa to meet the rest of the family, as they had left Germany a year or so earlier. I can't imagine traveling anywhere with 8 children, much less on a ship across an ocean to an unknown place!

Here is the ship's passenger list for Carolina and her eight children:

Upon her arrival in Texas, Carolina found her husband, Martin ill and died shortly after their arrival. The family settled in Boerne where they stayed for two years. They then moved to Bulverde until 1887 when they moved to Geronimo, Rio Medina. They stayed until 1902, then moved to a farm near La Coste where family members still reside. The family was very poor. They had no stove, but Joseph (oldest son) built one with rocks outside the house. They often wondered where their next meal was coming from. Most of the meals were made from flour, such as "noodles," "dunes," "pluda," "Knepfla" and "phana-kucha" as well as "kartofel soup." They seldom had meat, as they had only one of two hogs to kill in the winter time. The older girls worked as maids for families in San Antonio.

While visiting with Frances, I found that she had researched the early newspapers and found Carolina's obituary. The local library in my hometown does not have a microfilm printer, so Frances transcribed the obituary:

My mother has written down the recipe for homemade noodles just like the way the early immigrants used to make it (read obituary above). It is still served with beans on Fridays at the local diner! It is a meatless meal and cheap too! This is from my mother:

"This next recipe is for "Knapfla" (The K is silent when pronouncing the word. I got the verbal instructions on how to make Knapfla one day at the grocery store from Florence Tschirhart (90 years of age). She is a good noodle maker and gave me tips on how important kneading is when making noodles. Until then I did not have much success with noodles until she told me how to knead the dough. " ~Roselyn Keller Kempf

Mrs. Tschirhart's Knapfla

2 Eggs
1 cup water

2 Cups flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
Add more or less flour to make a spongy dough

Mix in a shallow bowl and then with a spoon or knife, cut off pieces from teh dough while in the bowl, straight into the boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes and drain.

Note from Andrea--this is suspiciously like German spaetzle that I learned to make when my husband and I lived there 1995-1998!

Well, I didn't even go on to talk about my cemetery excursion, but that has to wait for another day! This trip "home" gave me the impetus to begin blogging to keep me on track with my research and to share, as well learn from others. I scanned a lot a photos from my parents and I have uploaded those to Flickr. I find that the "Add a Note" feature is useful when you do not have the luxory of sitting down next to someone to get their assistance in identifying people. My parents can log into Flickr and make comments on the photos or add a note so that I can properly record names and places! Yea! I also joined find-a-grave online and began uploading my gravestone photos from the St. Louis Catholic Cemetery. Lastly, this trip gave me the inspiration to begin grouping my records into some sort of story. When I acquired the photos of Carolina Wussler Echtle from Frances, I logged into to find the family on the ship's manifest and when I did that, I also found the photo of the ship! Most of the Alsatian settlers came into Galveston and I have not been able to find those records on I was unable to visit the cemetery where Carolina was buried, but hey, I have to have another reason to return to my roots to continue on with my story!

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my genealogy trip home and finding out all that was produced out of a simple desire to scan photos and gravestones from one cemetery!


  1. It sounds like a wonderful trip!

    Great tip about Flickr, I hadn't thought about others being able to add information there.

  2. Thanks Apple! I had the devil of a time trying to get my images so that they could be read on the blog and I just now had to hyperlink them to Flickr so that when you clicked on them, it takes you there! I don't know what happened! I just LOVE Flickr!