Friday, May 28, 2010

Webex, Thomas, and Finding Hans ~

I want to share a very unique and wonderful genealogy research session that Thomas MacEntee over at High-Definition Genealogy, helped mom and I with by way of Webex and Skype.

As you know, my grandmother, Liselotte Haf (1913 ~ 2010) of 96 years passed away on the 5th of April 2010. She never knew who her father was. The story is that my great grandmother, Margarete Kaiser (1888 ~ 1972), met a man in Zurich while working there. Margarete Kaiser dated this man for a bit and then became pregnant. When Margarete told him (Hans) that she was pregnant with his child, he disappeared.

No one in our family knew his name or whereabouts (so we thought). When I started my genealogy journey, I pretty much figured I would never know that part of my family and everything would stop with my Oma!

When mom flew back to Germany to handle the funeral and cremation arrangements for my Oma, she found a genealogy goldmine amongst Oma’s belongings . . . lucky for me! Some of the documents are incredible but you can imagine my excitement, surprise, and joy when mom and I came across a document that held my Oma’s natural father’s name: Hans Bacher!!! I was doing the genealogy happy dance all over the place. This particular document is a court child support order. Our Margarete, my great grandmother was attempting to hold Hans responsible. When officials attempted to serve him, Hans was nowhere to be found.

I immediately started to do a search on I did find a few hits but was unable to access them due to the fact that I only have the U.S. subscription with Ancestry, not the World Deluxe membership. Mom wanted to get me a months worth…I said, “no, let me see what I can do on the Internet and will ask a few genealogy friends". I emailed Thomas asking for suggestions. Right away, Thomas, as Thomas always is, was right there to help and I cannot thank him enough. Thomas suggested hosting a “virtual genealogy research session.” Here’s what we did:

  • Thomas used Webex to host a virtual genealogy research session, where he could pull up Ancestry and other resources on his computer and have mom and I follow along! It was amazing. Webex not only allowed Thomas do a presentation, but also allowed us to see each other on web cams. 

  • Rather than use Webex’s audio which can be expensive depending upon the type of subscription, we used Skype so we could both talk about what we were seeing on screen.

  • One of the benefits of this technology, since Thomas and I are not native German speakers, is that Mom was able to translate the text as we searched. Had we done this alone, we wouldn’t know if we were finding the correct records. Mom and I would ask Thomas to enlarge records and determine if they were valuable in trying to find the parents of Hans Bacher, my Oma’s father.

  • Not only did Thomas capture each of the records as an image, but he also maintained a research log during the two-hour period so we could build proper source citations later. We also saved links to our finds in case we ever had to revisit them for more information. I knew and understood the value and how important it is to cite and source, and it is something I truly struggle with but I was amazed at how much I learned from Thomas and doing this as we went. I was able to get a better sense of “how to” and even more so, how very critical it is to cite and source your research always. A spreadsheet of this sort was an incredible way to stay organized and cite each and every detail needed to properly source your research. 

While we can’t be certain, it appears that the Hans Bacher listed on the child support document could be the same Hans Bucher who lived in the Chicago, Illinois area and died in 1967. In order to prove this conclusively, we have decided to order Hans’ death certificate from Cook County hoping it could give us more clues as to his life in Germany and also where he may have disappeared.
What I will never know is: did my Oma know this and not tell us? Well Oma…I am going to find your father, my great grandfather!

Mom and I want to send a huge thanks to Thomas. What I learned in that two-hour session will never be forgotten . . . it was fun and exciting. He tells me that these are the types of services he is developing at his new company High-Definition Genealogy - and I can see how this type of “genealogical training” with the latest technology would be valuable to the community. Thomas is an amazing genealogist, always there to help and guide all of us…thank you Thomas for all you do for us.



Felicia R Mathis said...

What a great find Gini!! I feel like we should all be learning the technology. So glad you are able to add to you're tree and give you're Oma some peace!!

Greta Koehl said...

This is fabulous news! I love the image of you all skyping, with your mother translating.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful news! You can just download that certificate of death for $15 from Cook County, right through Looks like he was in Chicago for some time as well. At least 3 different census records for him in Chicago!

How great that Thomas was able to help you and you to be able to see everything. Modern technology is awesome!

Happy Dance! Looking forward to reading more.

Lisa Swanson Ellam said...

Oh my gosh, Gini! How exciting!! How incredibly wonderful of Thomas and how amazing to find the name of your great grandfather! There is a lady in my church genealogy group who is a pro at research in the Cook county, Chicago area. Let me know if you need her help and I'll ask her to get in touch with you!

Mavis said...

Great find Gini!What a wonderful session that must have been.

nicolajr said...

This story just highlights the vast changes there have been in doing family history now, and when I first started 30 years ago. There is a whole world of information out there, along with helpful people to guide you.
So pleased you finally found the link, I'm sure your Oma would be proud.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

I remember when a bunch of us GeneaBloggers would "chat" with Thomas after viewing each episode of "Faces of America" and I was amazed at the technology. This sounds even better, and I will definitely be looking into Webex. I want to do something similar when I get to Hawaii this summer, and your blog post has given me a myriad of ideas. Thanks so much for posting all of this!

Mary said...

Talk about team work, that is amazing and using modern tech to the max!

TK said...

Great story, Gini, in so many ways, from your exciting discovery of Liselotte's documents right on through the amazing technology that enabled you and your mom to work together with Thomas online. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...


Saw your story on Hans Bucher Chicago.

I believe he was a friend of my Great Aunt who managed his bural.

See Findagrave below:

Bucher, Hans 112166885

After my Aunt's death I inherited her things and included was Hans' Passport. His wife was Rosita Hassel and they went by he stage name Claire in various circus troupes in the 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's.

I have entered what I know about his birth but have not found his or Rosta's death loction.


Gregg K. Schrader

If you have questions just Google my complete name above including initial and you will find my homepage and email address.

Gini said...

Gregg, I have contacted you via email . . . thank you for leaving a comment . . . we are off to find Hans!