Thursday, March 11, 2021

Celebrating Good Health: My Recent Diagnosis and Life Changing Surgery

 It is with great happiness that I announce my health has improved considerably since my last post. This is the result of finally receiving an accurate diagnosis, surgery, and treatment for my ailments.

I was diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS), a genetic condition whose name encapsulates the large group of as of yet undiscovered connective tissue disorders that fall outside of the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) definitions.

Connective tissue disorders cause problems in collagen, which is present in most of (if not all) the organs in the human body. This, as you can imagine, causes a fairly wide array of problems.

For me this disorder manifests itself as a tall, narrow stature, long fingers that effortlessly twist themselves into unnaturally acrobatic positions, a shoulder that partially slips out from it's socket at inconvenient times, dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system, and velvety-soft abnormally-stretchy skin. The most disabling and dangerous of it's effects on me, however, were those associated with the increased laxity of the ligaments holding my spine together.

The structural integrity of most people's spines will never be compromised unless they are in a traumatic car accident or similar event. In those cases whiplash stretches the ligaments in the spine past what is natural and as a result the spine becomes dangerously loose. For myself, however, no precipitating event was necessary for my spine to start falling apart. Without my knowledge, my imperfect genes had inserted a glitch into the fabric of my body that made my eventual disability a foregone conclusion.

I'll spare my readers most of the details of my diagnosis process and instead provide a brief summary. I started seriously looking for answers at the age of 18 after I had just started college. The long process included the consultation of tens of doctors who practiced within the obscurity of hard-to-pronounce disciplines.

As my disease progressed there were glimmers of false hope in the form of incidental findings, like the discovery that I was in the early stages of venous thoracic outlet syndrome. There were also crushing blows delivered through the accusations of my supposed untruthfulness and exaggeration of my illness. I was even at one point diagnosed with a psychiatric condition known as conversion disorder.

Many of you who have combed through the troves of genealogical information available in ancestral medical records may recognize this disorder by another name. Many of our female predecessors were diagnosed with this same condition which before 1980 was called "hysteria". Given that the disorder's name was derived from the Greek root word "hystera", meaning uterus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that even in the modern age the disorder is diagnosed at a rate 2-5x higher in women than it is in men. It also shouldn't come as a surprise that it is often used as a way to dismiss mysterious neurological disorders in women.

Of course the accusation that I was suffering from conversion disorder was without merit. In reality it was found that rotation of my spine caused a visible, abnormal, horizontal deviation of my facet joints from one another. Basically my spine was partially dislocating every time I turned my head.

3d ct scan showing atlantoaxial instability
3d CT Scan showing my unstable spine

My Grandpa Tim Wesselowski Died From COVID-19

 I am sorry to announce the death of my legendary Grandpa Tim. I am preparing a video presentation that I will post in the future to fully immortalize who my grandpa really was. Below is his obituary my family wrote for him. Please keep your loved ones safe and wear masks during these unprecedented times.

Tim Wesselowski holding a football posing in football uniform
Tim Wesselowski

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Opening Up About My Health

Hello Everyone,
This post will be different from all the other posts on my blog in that it is not about Genealogy so much as it is about me.

You may notice that as time has gone on the frequency of my posts has decreased and several series posts never got follow ups. The reason is that for the past 2 years or so I have become increasingly disabled with a mystery ailment. The condition I find myself in is very complex, but to sum it up when my head is turned laterally I experience varying degrees of syncope (also known as passing out). It can be as minor as losing vision in one of my eyes for 20 seconds or as severe as a syncope-induced seizure.

Over these past two years I have experienced 3 concussions, gotten a minor nose fracture (which healed on it's own), crushed a number of cardboard boxes, broken a ceramic part of a shower, dented my rooms drywall, and more. As you can imagine this is not particularly pleasant for me. I have had to quit college and my job until everything is figured out. My cognitive functioning is not great as a side effect of the neurological effects constant lapses in consciousness have.

It looks like the end of my nightmare is finally drawing near. We discovered that I have mild to moderate bilateral venous thoracic outlet syndrome, a rare condition with my subtype being extremely rare. Unfortunately because of this crazy Covid-19 epidemic I won't begin treatment (which would include either physical therapy, surgery, or both) until at least May. vTOS doesn't explain all my symptoms, so I may need to continue searching for answers later.

This has been an update on my life, and I look forward to continuing my blog after it is all solved. Until then posts will probably be infrequent. Once this is all over I will definitely make a celebratory post letting you all know how I turned out.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Schmidt, Burnes, Dwyer Family Photo Trove

A couple years ago I opened an old, moldy box in my Grandpa Schmidt's basement and found hundreds of old unidentified photos. I have finally uploaded all of these to a single post for other family members to look through. As I do more research I will undoubtedly make better estimations of dates and locations as well as identify more people within the photos. As I do I will update this page with my findings. If you recognize someone in any of the photos after the "Photos of Immediate Family" section, I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know.

All information on photo studios originally from Specifically, I combined information from the photographer and studio directories. On some I also referred to newspapers during the time period to ensure they were actually operational. These directories are not 100% accurate in the years work, but should serve as a solid guideline.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Isaac Van Wart: Shoemaker, Father of 11, and Patriot

Today's post will tell the story of my 7th great grandfather, Isaac Van Wart. Before I begin I would like to preface that this is not the Isaac Van Wart who captured Major John Andre during the Revolutionary War (although they are related). This Isaac, like many others, was one of the revolutionary war veterans who weren't honored with a section in the history books, but whose sacrifices should not be forgotten.

Throughout records he is most commonly known as Isaac Van Wart (1) and is sometimes also referred to as Isaac Van Waert (2). Isaac was born in about 1750 (3) to his parents Abraham Van Wart (2)(11) and Anna Maria May (12). On the 13th of April, 1751, he was baptized in the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow in North Tarrytown, New York (2).

The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. (source)
Upon reaching adulthood Isaac began working in the cordwainer trade (8), crafting shoes out of leather (8).

In the year 1777 Isaac, unmarried and just 27 years old, was commissioned as a 1st Lieut. in Capt. Jacob Wright, Company in the late Philip V Cortland Regiment, on the continental Establishment in which company and regiment he served as Lieut. from that time until the spring of the year 1780, when he retired from the service of the revolutionary war (5). During his service he was engaged in the battles of St. John's, Quebec, White Plains, Hackensack Bridge, Saratoga, Monmouth, and Stony Point (18).

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Postcards from the past: the Gustafson-Van Wert Family pt. 1

 There is something truly special about reading the handwriting of your ancestors. 100 years ago they carefully inked a name or a word, and now you are once again reading that same word in the same writing. Even more spectacular is reading postcards from your ancestors. Each one is a memento of a story, a voice from the past. I was lucky enough to receive a box of postcards from my Great Uncle Everette Van Wert a year or so ago. Below is the first installment of some of the specimens from the box collection.

Postcard to Frances from her Father (Date Unknown)

Relations to me:
Frances Gustafson: Great Grandma
Papa/ F. O. W. Gustafson: 2nd great grandpa

The text of the postcard is in half English half Swedish and reads the following:
Dear Frances, How are you? 
We will stay in Pueblo till Thursday morning. Brandelle(?) kommer icke hit. Hälsa allesammans. Har din mormor kommit till dig? (illegible sentence) 
Pueblo Colo. 
August 21st 9:15 am 
din papa
The fully translated  version looks something like this:
Dear Frances, How are you? 
We will stay in Pueblo till Thursday morning. Brandelle(?) will not come here. Greet everyone for me. Has your grandmother come to you? (illegible sentence) 
Pueblo Colo. 
August 21st 9:15 am 
your papa

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A look in Grandma Joan's Baby Book

Over the past few years, it has become my job and passion to preserve and find all the fascinating history, stories, and photographs from my family's past. A few months ago I was ecstatic to receive a box of memories from my grandma Joan Van Wert, within which I was happy to find a collection of photographs bound lovingly in a book by my grandma's mother, Frances Gustafson-Van Wert. This post contains all of these photos as well as descriptions and some labels of who appears inside them.

People featured and their relationship to me, as well as a numerical identifier which is used to identify them alongside their name in the photograph descriptions:

  • Allen, Carolyn, (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P1)
  • Allen, Marion Blanch (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P2)
  • Anderson, Evert (Unknown Relation) (P3)
  • Anderson, Maria (Unknown Relation) (P4)
  • Arnette, Judy (No Relation) (P5)
  • Arnette, Mrs. (No Relation) (P6)
  • Bengtson, Don (Nephew of Husband of 2nd Great Aunt) (P7)
  • Bengtson, Gilbert Eddie (Husband of Sister-in-law of 2nd Great Aunt) (P8)
  • Bengtson, John (Nephew of Husband of 2nd Great Aunt) (P9)
  • Boddie, Laura Linda John (Wife of Great Uncle) (P10)
  • Burbank, Judy (No Relation) (P11)
  • Case, Lainey Virginia (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P12)
  • Collins, Barry (No Relation) (P13)
  • Ekeberg, Blanche Aurora (2nd Great Grandma) (P14)
  • Falagrady, Nancy (Wife of Great Uncle) (P15)
  • Folansbee, Sharon (No Relation) (P16)
  • Folansbee, Mrs. (No Relation) (P17)
  • Gardner, Janet (No Relation) (P18)
  • Gardner, Mrs. (No Relation) (P19)
  • Goedert, Marcia (No Relation) (P20)
  • Goldberg, Carole (No Relation) (P21)
  • Gustafson, Alva Ruth Elizabeth (2nd Great Aunt) (P22)
  • Gustafson, Ann Ester Dorothea (2nd Great Aunt) (P23)
  • Gustafson, Faith Elaine (2nd Great Aunt) (P24)
  • Gustafson, Florence Evangeline (2nd Great Aunt) (P25)
  • Gustafson, Frances Elsie Caroline (Great Grandma) (P26)
  • Gustafson, Frans Oscar Wilhelm (2nd Great Grandpa) (P27)
  • Gustafson, Frans Von (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P28)
  • Gustafson, Gretchen (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P29)
  • Gustafson, Ingrid L. (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P30)
  • Gustafson, Paul Oscar Emanuel (2nd Great Uncle) (P31)
  • Gustafson, Thure (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P32)
  • Johnson, Peggy (No Relation) (P33)
  • K., Clair (No Relation) (P34)
  • Larsdotter, Malena Wilhelmina (3rd Great Grandma) (P35)
  • Leaf, Kitty Belle (No Relation) (P36)
  • Lipnick, Michael (No Relation) (P37)
  • Magners, Melvin (Husband of 1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P38)
  • Male, Marie (P39)
  • Male, Susan Huskin (3rd Great Grandma) (P40)
  • Neff, ? (No Relation) (P41)
  • Neff, Mrs. (No Relation) (P42)
  • O., Donna (No Relation) (P43)
  • Osborne, Jessica (Wife of 2nd Great Uncle) (P44)
  • Rudd, John (Husband of 1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P45)
  • Segerhammar, Carl William (Husband of 2nd Great Aunt) (P46)
  • Segerhammar, Karen Elizabeth Segerhammer (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P47)
  • Segerhammar, Kathleen (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P48)
  • Segerhammar, Kathryn (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P49)
  • Segerhammar, Margaret Irene (Sister-In-Law of 2nd Great Aunt) (P50)
  • Segerhammar, Paul Kempton (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P51)
  • Shue, Glen M. (2nd Cousin 3x Removed) (P52)
  • Smith, Carrie Blanch (2nd Great Grandma) (P53)
  • Stafford, Susan (No Relation) (P54)
  • Tilton, Roberta (No Relation) (P55)
  • Van Wert, Barry (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P56)
  • Van Wert, Beverly Ann (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P57)
  • Van Wert, Everette Clayton (Great Uncle) (P58)
  • Van Wert, Forrest Richard (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P59)
  • Van Wert, Harold Benson (3rd Great Uncle) (P60)
  • Van Wert, James Cordell (Great Uncle) (P61)
  • Van Wert, Joan Elaine (Grandma) (P62)
  • Van Wert, Reuben Everette (Great Grandpa) (P63)
  • Van Wert, Ruth (2nd Great Aunt) (P64)
  • W., Jimmie (No Relation) (P65)
  • Waldmann, Eric Eugene (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P66)
  • Waldmann, Eugene John (Husband of 2nd Great Aunt) (P67)
  • Waldmann, Sonja C. (1st Cousin 2x Removed) (P68)
  • Wikgren, John Arthur (Husband of 2nd Great Aunt) (P69)
  • ?, Jackie (P70)
  • ?, Kay (P71)
  • ?, Penny (P72)

 Pictured above are the identical Segerhammar twins in 2nd grade at the age of 7 yrs in Longmont, Colorado with their mother Ruth. From left to right those shown in the image are Kathleen Segerhammar (P48), Alva Ruth Elizabeth Gustafson-Segerhammar (P22), and Kathryn Segerhammar (P49).