Travel Tuesday: Chasing LeRoy in Nebraska

Like many genealogists, I have a deep desire to see where my ancestors lived. The streets they walked. The buildings they saw. The places they lived. In May 2017, I decided to go for a week to Lincoln, Nebraska to see where LeRoy lived. My main reason for going was to find a book – the transcript of LeRoy’s WWI journal which is in the library of Beatrice, Nebraska and is owned by the Nebraska Genealogical Society. My first day in Lincoln I travel to Beatrice (which I quickly learned is pronounced Bee-AT-tris). After thoroughly searching the reference section, I finally find the spiral bound copy of the transcript of his WWI journal. Thrilled, I scan every page. But in the back of my mind I wonder where his original journal could be. Historical society? Archives? Distant cousin? Someone must have it! My few days in Lincoln pass quickly. I meet several people. Enjoy my visit at the History Museum and the archives. Love walking around the beautiful cemetery where my ancestors are buried. Still…where is that journal?

The day before I am to fly back home, I decide on a whim to visit the place where LeRoy was born, Plattsmouth, Nebraska. Driving the straight roads to Plattsmouth, I have little hope of finding anything. However, I am excited to see the cute, little museum I found on the Cass County Historical Society Museum’s website. A nice way to spend my last day in Nebraska. I park right in front of the small brick building. A friendly volunteer greets me as I open the door and tells me if I have any questions to let her know. I wander around the exhibits and am very impressed by the variety and number of items on display. I notice my ancestor’s last name, Meisinger, on cards indicating who donated items to the museum. Literally, a good sign! After milling around for a while, I finally ask if they have any information on the Meisigner family.

“Which Meisinger are you looking for?”

“Well, John Meisinger, I guess, but LeRoy Meisinger is who I am really interested in finding.”

“LeRoy? Didn’t he die in a balloon accident? Let me show you what we have,” she replies as she walks through the door to the back room. Soon she reappears with several file folders. One contains the entire Meisinger family genealogy. A gold mine…but not the gold I want. She has a small file on LeRoy. Again, another wonderful find, but it contains nothing that I do not already know.

“This is great, but I was hoping you had something more. See…I went to the Beatrice Library, and I found the transcript of LeRoy’s WWI journal. But that is the only thing—”

“His journal? Oh, we have that. Let me go get it.” Within minutes she places LeRoy’s original journal down on the table in front of me. I stare at it. I cannot believe it. As tears swell in my eyes, I slowly open the book. First thing I read is his handwritten inscription to his parents:

To Mama and Dad, with love and happiest Christmas wishes. Dec. 25, 1920 from LeRoy

It is amazing! But wait…the story gets better.

“About a year ago,” the volunteer continues, “we had a man walk into the museum with this book. He said he found it at an estate sale. Because he thought it looked important, he wanted to donate it to the museum.”

My ancestor’s journal was saved by a stranger just because he thought it looked important. I do not know who he is, but I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart. And I want to thank the Cass County Historical Society for safe guarding my family treasure.

Cass County Historical Society Museum in Plattsmouth, Nebraska

Cass County Historical Society Museum in Plattsmouth, Nebraska