Thursday, January 24, 2008

Is Floyd my Cousin?

So, who are the Landis researchers out there? This is not a line that I am actively pursuing simply because I connect to it so far back. But I do have a Felix Landis and his daughter, Barbara Landis, who were in Lancaster Co., Pa., in the 18th century. They were Mennonites. In January, 2007, I asked the 2006 Tour de France champion, Floyd Landis, if he knew his ancestry and he did not. While he feigned mild curiosity, his focus was and still is on clearing his name of steroid charges.

Lowmaster - Lawmaster - Loumaster - Laumaster


In 1972, my great-uncle, Vane Henry Lowmaster, funded the private printing of a research book, simply called Lowmaster. To my knowledge, he did not sell one copy but instead distributed them freely to relatives and interested parties. The book contained ___ names, including ___ names of people named Lowmaster. (Ok, I have yet to count but it wasn't all that many).

By genealogical standards, it was short on documentation but long on anecdotal information. Vane recalled meeting a person in Richmond named Lowmaster and wondering if they were related. I was still a child but yet interested in his book. By the end of the next decade I would become a family historian.

With the advent of the Internet, the art of combing through pages and books of historical documents in courthouses, churches, and the National Archives, is becoming lost. Indeed, it may be becoming unnecessary as volunteers and commercial printers alike transcribe the documents into digital form and one can research from the comforts of their living rooms.

Yet the advent of the Internet has given rise to scam artists. My uncle Lloyd spent $20 on a Lowmaster book which was nothing more than a public telephone listing, with addresses, of everyone named Lowmaster living in the U.S. There was a distribution chart, by state, and a Lowmaster joke book which was just a number of standard jokes, take out an ethnic group and insert it "Lowmaster." "How many Lowmasters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Ha ha ha.

But people shell out money for these in an effort to connect to their past and to their family. This researcher finds these attempts to profit disgusting. Vane wondered, but I do not know if he ever believed or tried to prove, whether everyone named Lowmaster was related. I set out to discover this. Of course, at least once a month a Lowmaster enters or leaves this earth which makes researching tough. We know, despite our best attempts, we will never capture everyone named Lowmaster.

In researching, we discovered that not only was Lowmaster perhaps the first English variant of the German Laumeister, but also Lawmaster and Loumaster as well. And thus the family grew even larger. Rather than attempt a book of descendants of our progenitor, we focused on A People Named Lowmaster, and whether everyone named Lowmaster was related.

In doing so, we collected a number of people who descended from the maternal lines and thus did not carry the name. But they have the same bloodline so we documented them as well. We just didn't make them our focus. We had to include the Lawmaster and Loumaster name and thus our working title became, A People Named Lowmaster, including Lawmaster and Loumaster. The names are presented in the order of total number of descendants with those names, Lowmaster being the largest and Loumaster the smallest.


A public source of information is the Social Security Death Index. I'm not even sure how many there were when we started. By 2001, there were 73 people named Lowmaster in the SSDI and I had identified all but four of them. That has since increased to 89. We theorize that if more than one family took this name that we would have groups of people we could not identify. That was not the case. Of the 89 people in the SSDI, we have identified every single person as a descendant of Wendel Laumeister.

Due diligence has to be paid to the Lawmaster and Loumaster names as well. As of this posting, we have connected 25 out of 42 listings. Not bad. Some left to be connected appear to be obvious; we just need a family member to confirm. There are only eight records of people named Loumaster and we have connected half of them. One problem is finding a willing family member to assist when there are so few.


Since the information changes daily, family historians have to be comfortable at deciding when they will publish. Every 10 years new data becomes available with the release of census data. We are four years from the release of the 1940 information. So it is becoming clearer. Once we can identify every Lowmaster, Lawmaster, and Loumaster in the SSDI, we can go to print.



My interest here is the States family in Pennsylvania in the 19th and 20th centuries. Am particularly interested in the descendants of Aaron States (1852) and Maria Ann Seger. Members of this family can contact me for a password to see and contribute to my complete listing, to present.