Category Archives: Family Spotlight: Doerflinger

Happy Valentine’s Day: Grandma and Grandpa Doerflinger

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have decided to post about my adorable grandparents, Max Doerflinger and Margaret “Sis” Harney.

Margaret "Sis" Harney and Max Doerflinger were married 12 Jun 1934 in Seattle, King county, Washington. Based on how young they look, this photo was probably taken just before the couple was married or shortly after.


Aren't they just adorable?

N02/5348526348/” title=”Max and Margaret Doerflinger by GenealogistElyse, on Flickr”>Max and Margaret Doerflinger

Together, Max and Margaret "Sis" Doerflinger raised six children. Even after the devastating loss of their son, Eugene, in a car accident, Max and Margaret carried on. Margaret "Sis" met 4 of her 5 grandchildren (she passed away about 10 months before I was born) and Max met all of his grandchildren.

 Happy Valentine’s Day!


The Annual Miss Universe Party

Every year around Christmas time, the Doerflingers and friends attend the Miss Universe Party.  It has become a family tradition – and we always go all out.

The idea for the party started with my grandparents, Max and Margaret “Sis” (Harney) Doerflinger.  My grandparents were living in Santa Monica, California and would always throw parties for the friends, neighbors, and family in the area – since my grandparents were pretty well known, a lot of people would be attending.  It was soon decided that they needed a game – something that even the kids could play.  The results?  Miss Mud Pie.

The idea for the game came from the popularity of the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants that were started in 1952 in Long Beach, California.

The rules of the game were simple: Put the names of all attendees into a hat.  If your name is pulled out of the hat, you’re out of the game.  The last 5 names are to give speeches of what they would do if they were to win Miss Mud Pie.  The last name to be drawn will be crowned Miss Mud Pie.  My family even created a crown for the winner and a fake microphone to use during the speeches.

For reasons that no one seems to remember, in the 1960s, the name of the competition game was changed to Miss Universe.

In the early 1990s, our party was so big that we had to rent a small hall to fit everyone. I'm the little girl in the center with the golden crown on my head - it was my first Miss Universe title and I was only about 4 years old. And I plan on winning the title again in 2011.

Another game was added to the party: The Gag Gift Name.  It begins by everyone bringing a wrapped gag gift.  Then everyone draws a number from a hat.  Number 1 goes first and gets to choose a gift and unwrap it.  We move in numerical order until all the gifts are gone.  To make the game more interesting, instead of choosing an unopened gag gift, a player may also choose to “steal” a gift from someone else.  A gift may only be stolen twice (having been in the hands of a total of 3 people) before it becomes frozen and cannot be stolen again.  This game often gets really a little competitive – as someone always ends up bringing something absolutely ridiculous or something that people actually want.

Gag Gift Game - Circa 1994. That is my big blonde head in the bottom right hand corner.

Since I was little, we have changed a few things with the Miss Universe Game.  Now – everyone gets a paper sash with a name on it – the names vary based on the theme.  One year everyone was a different kind of flower.  One year we were cuts of meat.  One year we were natural disasters.  We also require that everyone brings a dollar and the crowned winner of the game gets all the money.

This is me... in my toothless wonder.

December 18th, 2011 (tomorrow), will be the next Miss Universe party – and I plan on regaining my title back… and getting the cash that goes along with it.

Happy Holidays!


Visiting Holy Cross Cemetery

A few weekends back I took a 20 minute drive north to visit Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.  This is the cemetery where my mom’s brother, Eugene, and my Grandma Doerflinger are buried.

For years I’ve known that my Grandma and Uncle Gene were buried in a cemetery near our house.  I knew it was somewhere in the Los Angeles area but I wasn’t sure where.

Then while scanning some old family documents, I came across the bill from the mortuary from when my Uncle Gene passed away in 1962.  That bill gave me the exact plot that he, and later my Grandma Doerflinger, are buried.

I knew that going to the cemetery would be an emotional experience for me – and it was.  When I got to the cemetery, I was a little anxious because I already didn’t know where I was going (had never been here before) and I didn’t exactly know where the grave was.  

As I wandered around the cemetery, it took me a while before I found the stone with Eugene Doerflinger’s name on it.

When I finally found the spot, I was a bit overwhelmed with emotion.  My Uncle Gene died when my mom was only 2 years old and I wondered what life would have been like for her if he had survived the fatal car crash.  I wondered if my grandparents would have been different people (from what I’ve heard from family members and friends, my grandparents were never the same after Gene’s death – but then again, how could they not be different after burying their first-born son?).  Would he have gotten married?  Would he have had kids?  Would my mom have been a different person if she had her oldest brother around?

Then I remember that I will never have the answers to any of these questions.

One thing that brought me comfort was knowing that my Grandma Doerflinger is buried there in the same plot with Gene.  I think it makes my Grandma happy knowing that she is with her son again.

I also liked how beautiful the cemetery was.  It was so peaceful and calm with the trees all around.

I sat there next to Uncle Gene’s grave for about a half hour.  As I sat there, I started thinking about my mom.  I cried a bit thinking about all of the questions that I should have asked or about how I can’t remember some of the questions that I did ask.  I wish that I would have memorized everything that she said.  I wish that I had asked more questions.  I wish that we had talked more.  Talked about what it was like growing up for her.  Her favorite things.  Her favorite memories.  What it was like to be a single mom.  Why she chose to be so adventurous with me.  Where she got that adventurous spirit.  And then I cried some more because I realized that I would never be able to ask her those questions.  I would never know the answers.

But in a weird way, sitting there and crying my eyes out was therapeutic.  It even felt good to take a moment and cry for the loss of my mom.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t take enough time to just sit in the silence, cry for her, cry for me.  I think it is because I am just so busy now.  My mom’s illness and eventual death in February has catapulted me into “growing up”.  I now know how to manage a household 100% on my own (not that I didn’t had help but I only had myself to depend on), and how to push through the pain even when you want nothing more to do than bury yourself in the blankets of your bed and never come out.  There are moments when I wish with all my might that I was that 5 year old kid again, sitting in my mom’s lap, with her reassuring me that everything was going to be alright while she rubs her finger nails up and down my back.  She always had the ability to calm me down and bring me back to center by simply rubbing her fingernails up and down my back.

But it isn’t that I don’t feel like being blasted into adulthood has been a bad thing.  In many ways, it is exactly what I needed.   needed to grow up, gain confidence in myself, and trust that I can survive any hell that life puts me through.


Think That Message Board Post Won’t Help? Think Again!

Last night, I realized that I hadn’t posted to a genealogy message board in a long while.  Message boards are valuable resources that should never be ignored.  So, I found my three most difficult ancestors and posted some information/queries about each ancestor on their respective surname board on

After posting my first message on the Doerflinger message board (a message board with very few queries posted), gave the suggestion that I post the information/query on the three different regional boards that are mentioned in my post.  This is a great idea and a way to up my chances that someone might be able to help.
Sure enough, I checked my email this morning, and a lovely man had responded to one of my posts on the Missouri board about my ancestor, Adolph Doerflinger.  While he was not related, he did a quick search for me and posted a couple of possible matches.  After looking at these possible matches and checking on Ancestry to make sure everything was correct, I found out that these records matched my needs.  He even got me proof of the names for the next generation.
Needless to say, I was THRILLED!  I did my little happy dance before entering the data into my database and citing all of my sources.  How kind of him to take time out of his day to help me when we weren’t even related.  There are many “regulars” on these boards who are willing to help.
Tips for Writing a Query
When posting a query to a message board it is important to include certain information to make it easier for others to help you.  Below are some tips to help you:
  • Post your query to the surname board that it fits with.  For example, my query dealt with an Adolph Doerflinger and so I posted the query to the Doerflinger board.
  • Also post your query to state or regional boards. For example, my Adolph Doerflinger lived in Missouri, Iowa, and California.  Therefore, I posted the query to each of those boards also.
  • When writing your query, be clear about the facts versus your theories.  It is good to post both what you know and what you think you know, but be sure to be very clear about it.
  • Include in your query the places you have already searched. This will keep responders from suggesting sources that you have already checked.
  • Be clear about what you are looking for. Never say that you “just want more information”.  Always be specific about the type of information.  Do you want to know when he got married?  Want to know if he had any siblings?  Want to know when he immigrated to the U.S.?  Whatever it is – be clear about what you are looking for.
  • Always use good grammar and writing skills. Make it easy for others to know what you are searching for.
  • Make your title specific.  Include the first and last name, date ranges, places, and maybe even what you want to know.  The goal here is to get the message noticed so that someone (hopefully a distant cousin) will read it.  If you just say “Looking for Doerflinger information”, someone else might not read it.  Having the title say “Adolph Doerflinger 1859 – 1937, MO, IA, CA”, then people are going to notice.  This is especially important for very active boards or boards for common surnames.
  • Be polite. Always remember that the people who are responding to you are doing so out of kindness.  So remember to say your pleases and thank yous.  You might be making someone’s day.

I also want to discuss the issue of responding to message board posts.  Lorine Massey of The Olive Tree Genealogy Blog recently wrote a great blog post about responding to message board posts – and it is such a great post that I just have to share it.  There are some great tips and suggestions for anyone responding to a message board post.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever had great success with a message board post?  Do you have a great tip for getting your query noticed?  This is the place to share them!

Suggested Reading:


A Love Story Told On Napkins

As I was going through my grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary Album the other night, my mom and I got to talking about them. She told me the stories she’s heard from when they first began dating.

My grandparents both lived in Seattle in the late 1920s and early 1930s. My grandparents met through the catholic church that they both attended.

Margaret Harney (my grandmother) was nearly ten years younger than Max Doerflinger (my grandfather), but that didn’t stop Max from trying to get her to go on a date with him. After a few months of resisting, Margaret finally agreed to one date. She was 16 and he was 24.

However, one date quickly turned into two, then three, and soon, Margaret found herself out with Max nearly every weekend. He would take her to underground clubs (which they called speak-easies) every weekend so that they could dance.

But the courtship turned to more intensity as Max began falling more in love with Margaret. He began writing her love poems on the napkins during dinner at the clubs. He began bringing her flowers and new ribbons for her “gorgious blonde curls”.

She saved every single napkin that he wrote on and saved every ribbon he ever bought her. She even pressed the flowers he gave her in a book and kept all of this stuff in a medium sized box with two bronze doves kissing eachother, which he made.

After my grandparents died, the box was given to my aunt, Diane. Unfortunately, no one knew that Diane would soon be diagnosed with schizophrenia…and now the napkins are gone.

So while I’ve never seen these napkins, I know about the love that my grandparents shared during their “honeymoon stage”.


Carnival Of Genealogy – 65th Edition: My Happy Dance

The topic for the 65th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is to describe your happy dance.

The last time I had my happy dance was last Thursday. A woman who descends from my Keppler line (which is a very difficult line for me) found my cousin Joan’s email address on the web. So, she emailed Joan, who tried to forward the email to me, but said my email address didn’t work. So she forwarded the email to my Uncle Larry, who then forwarded the email to me.

Once I finally read the email I was estatic. She described meeting “Uncle Max and Aunt Marie” (my great-grandparents) once as a child…my heart began racing. Then the email went on to describe the immigration record she found (which I’ve been desperately searching for but haven’t been able to find). Finally, I couldn’t contain myself and I bursted out in what I can only describe as a girl-ish squeel.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend was in the kitchen making breakfast. “You okay?”

But I didn’t have a chance to respond. The more I read the email the more excited I got. I continued my girl-ish squeel but added some quick arm movements in there too.

“Should I call an ambulance?” he finally yelled out.

I finally finished the email, jumped from my chair and began cheering happily. I had finally found a Keppler cousin – after years of hard work I had finally found someone who was also descended from the Kepplers AND to add the delicious cherry to the top of already enormous ice cream sundae: SHE HAD INFORMATION. And she was more than willing to share and had so many wonderful questions about the Doerflingers. Finally…I had been dreaming of this day for years.

So I ran into the kitchen screaming with joy and jumped right into my boyfriend’s arms. I was so happy and excited and squeeling for joy.

I can’t wait for my cousin to send me copies of the stuff she has. I’ve been waiting for ages to finally find someone who knew about and cared about the Kepplers. She has information on things that I didn’t even know about. And, she has lots of genealogists in the family: Herself (who is learning and the newbie), her daughter (waiting for an email response), and her cousin (who has the family bible I never knew about).

Personally, it doesn’t take much to make me do the genealogy happy dance. I love every detail in genealogy, no matter how small.


Wow – Grandma Doerflinger Was An Amazing Woman

Today, my mom and I were watching a show about the amazing heroic things that people have done.  My mom and I started discussing some of the heroic things we’ve seen and heard about.

“It is ordinary people that seem to do some of the most heroic things.  It is like how Grandma Doerflinger lifted a car because there was a man trapped underneath it,” she said.
“Excuse me?” I said in disbelief.
“You’ve never heard that story?” she asked.  Then she started telling me the story.
It was 1940 in Santa Monica, California.  My grandma was home alone with her three children, all under the age of five.  Her husband was working at McDouglas Airplane Factory.  A family friend as over, fixing the car.
My grandma had just gotten the twins (my uncles) down for a nap when she decided to offer some lemonade to the family friend who was working on the car.  When she approached him, he was adjusting the cinderblocks that was lifting the car from the ground.  After some small talk, he slipped himself underneath the car and continued his work.  She turned to return to the house when the cinderblocks slipped and the car came crashing back down on top of the man working on the car.
My grandmother screamed for him, but when he didn’t answer she began screaming wildly.  An older gentleman who was walking by the house ran over to my grandmother to aid her.  She then bent down and lifted the car while the older gentleman pulled the family friend out from under the car.
The story goes that for two weeks my grandmother had to stay in bed.  She couldn’t move and had severely pulled about every muscle in her body.
The family friend was lucky to survive and only suffered from some broken ribs and a concussion.
I honestly find this to be a rather heroic act and something that she certainly didn’t have to do.  It was such a selfless act and it gave me an insight into the grandma I never knew.

Can There Be Two Of The Same Census?

Why indeed – there can be two of the same census. The way this works is that the area was enumerated twice. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen and I have one such case in my family tree.

My great great grandfather Adolph Doerflinger and his wife, Augusta, lived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1880. Both had immigrated from Germany and they owned and operated a boarding house/bar. They lived there with thier only son, Max and multiple boarders.

Well, when I did the search for Adolph, I discovered two entries on Ancestry’s 1880 census database. So, I began looking at their index and sure enough – both entries listed a wife as “Augusta Doerflinger” and a son as “Max Doerflinger”. Adolph was listed in both entries as being born in 1851 in Germany (one actually said Baden). One said that he was a boardhouse keeper and another said a bar keeper.

So I looked at the dates of enumeration for both – and I found out that both were indeed the same person – with a lot of the same boarders listed. However – one enumeration was done in June of 1880 and the other in November of 1880.

I don’t expect it happens often, but it obviously happens enough where us genealogists need to keep our eyes out for it.


Teacher Of The Year

As I was packing all of the vast amounts of pictures, newspaper clippings, and old letters that I have recieved over the years from family member, I came across a newspaper clipping about my Uncle Dudley.

My Uncle Dudley was a teacher for many, many years. He taught in the U.S. as well as overseas in Spain, Morrocco, and Germany. He taught everything from kindergarten to high school, and even served as a high school counselor at one point. He had a Masters in Education from California State Los Angeles…his life and passion was with children.

He had a way of breaking the rules with teaching, and yet coming out on top. He went above and beyond the standards of being a teacher…

I remember being a kid and discovering a photo album full of pictures of children and a classroom. I started asking him questions and he was very enthusiastic as he answered my questions. This photo album in particular was of a kindergarten class he taught in Pasadena, California. He showed me a picture of the “reading corner” which included a Morroccan rug to sit on, pillows from spain, and hand carved bookshelves with a lion’s head carved into the corner. It was magnificent and beautiful how he incorporated his travels in with his classroom. He made learning a fun adventure – something to be embraced.

I then learned that this was a photo album of only one of his years of teaching. He had one album for each year and class. In the back of the albums he had letters and pictures that his former students had sent them as they got older.

That dedication and passion for children and teaching is what earned him the Teacher Of The Year Award in California. His write up in the paper is what I found:

It was probably him and the rest of the teachers in my family (another uncle, an aunt, my grandparents taught odd classes at a community college, and my cousin) who inspired me to become a teacher. Since I was in kindergarten, I’ve wanted to become a teacher. I guess it is in my blood to be one.

He touched so many people throughout his life as a teacher: I met my best friend because of him. I was in 7th grade and a girl next to me was talking to a small group of her friends about how her mom had had this teacher who had the weird last name of Doerflinger. All of the girls began laughing and I marched over there angry and told them that my last name was Doerflinger. They all looked at me with shock on their face, and made me pull out my school ID card to prove that I wasn’t just kidding. I then told her that I had lots of people in my family who were teachers and sure enough – my Uncle Dudley was her mom’s teacher. Ever since, we’ve been best friends.

At his Celebration Of Life, people came from all over the country to honor him. We had 6 tables of people who were only his students, and tables upon tables full of cards from those that couldn’t make it. So many of his former students stood up to speak and told the stories of how he had been such a wonderful teacher and mentor to them. One person spoke of how Dudley had saved his life when he was depressed in high school. Another person spoke of how Dudley had gotten him into a loving foster care because his home life was not good. Everyone had wonderful things to say about him.

As I go through college persuing my dream of becoming a teacher, I think of him and his passion for teaching. I know that if someday I am a fraction of how good he was – I will be proud. He is what I strive to someday be.


Hilarious Pictures Of My Family

While I was searching through the old photos today (getting sidetracked from packing), I discovered a hilarious picture of my grandpa and I when I was a baby. I then remembered that there was yet another Genea-Bloggers Carnival on funny images – and I knew I just had to share it.

Now, this picture was taken in 1989, when I was only a few months old. My mom took me to visit my grandpa in the hospital. He was sick and suffering from Alzhiemers, but seeing me seemed to brighten up his days since my grandma had passed away the year before. The family often gathered around his bedside, bringing him trinkets and asking him to tell stories from his childhood.

In the picture, you’ll see my aunt holding me as she sat on my grandpa’s bed. Look closely at what my grandpa is reading – it is pretty funny!

Did you see it?! When I first discovered this picture a few years back (I was about 11), I was all giggles. When she told me that she was the one who bought it for her, my expression turned to shock and suprise. (If you can’t tell what it is – he is reading a Playboy Magazine…Blogger seemed to make the picture blurry)

“Well, what else do you get an old man who is dying?!” she replied.

Alright – so there you have it. My submission for a funny picture.