Now available: Gretchen Elsner-Sommer’s The Book of Hertha. To order click here

Emily Dickinson’s intriguing regard–“looking oppositely”–gives this website its title and its stance. Her lyricism encourages me as I turn around, searching behind me for imprints left by others.

Confident in my own suspicions, I focus the angle of my search differently than others have directed me. In looking past the insufficient genealogies and the misrouted family stories in which the lives of women have not been well remembered, or in some cases even remembered at all, I’ve come to find the deeply buried roots of the women who support my family’s tree.

Girls, sisters, cousins who bore no children, aunts who never married, mothers and grandmothers who over time have in my reckoning, all too quickly disappeared.

The following pages are an attempt to trace the lives of these women and to give them back their place. A place in which the greatest part is their own to play, and share or not with others.

Gretchen Elsner-Sommer, nee Gretsch

18 thoughts on “Home

  1. I was researching Walter Marion Tydings of Miami, OK, when I found him mentioned with wife, Nellie (Johnson), in Hattie’s Travel Diary 1904-1908. He was the son of Edward E. Tydings and Verinda E. Wharton of Middle Grove, MO. Thank you for sharing!

    • Walter and Nellie Tydings were mt maternal great-grandparents. Their daughter, Gladys, was my grandmother. What is your connection to them?

  2. Dear Gretchen,
    I believe that you and I are related.
    My grandfather was Louis Flammer Sommer. I saw mention in your online family history of Matheson Miller and his father Arthur who went to live with Arthur’s brother on Riverside Drive.. That brother was my grandfather. I knew Matheson and Augusta; would love to learn more about our family and share with you what I know.
    I live in Allendale, NJ, with my daughter Annabel age 11; she was born in China and became my daughter about 10 years ago.

    I work as librarian at Ridgewood Public Library. We have a fine new local history @ genealogy center that perhaps can help us learn more.

    Would you like to get in touch?

    My email is nancykgreene@gmail.com.

    I am of the past generation don’t much use Facebook.

    Hope that you are well, and to hear from you soon.

    Best, Nancy

  3. Hello Ms Elsen-Sommer/Gretsch,
    I am the only great grandchild of William and Ella Drawe, who are mentioned in your timeline. I recently moved to Missouri, and have located Williams grave at Mt. Hope. He died of a gunshot wound in Dec. 1931. Ella lived many years later, and died in Avenel, New Jersey. Seeing that William was a pallbearer at Chris. Aug. Dieter’s funeral, I wonder about the tie there. Also, my grandmother was named Helen. She had told me a story that sounded similar to the story of the DeLapre family. I remember it as something about french royalty, and having to flee France. Whether that was “shirttail” or blood. I do not know. I have inherited a huge collection of Joplin pictures and will also reference your photos when I go through them. Any input would be appreciated!
    Thank you,

  4. Hello,

    My name is William Gerichten and our family is part of the Von Gerichten’s. If you are interested in more information, please contact me.


  5. Gretchen – it was a pleasure meeting you today at PFCC. Your dedication in this site is incredible and we can all enriched by it – thank you for sharing !


  6. Gretchen, I echo Cathy Boblitt’s comments here. It was such a pleasure to meet you yesterday and this site is just wonderful for sure. Looking forward to getting to know you more and more with each committee meeting we encounter together.


  7. Gee-Gee, When I first met you, you were a toddler hiding behind the curtains in the house in Kew Gardens and I was a first grader and friend of your sister, Charlotte. It was such a long, long time ago but I have never forgotten any of you: Charlotte, Katie, Freddie, Gee Gee..your dachshund named “Pencil”…your wonderful mother, our “Aunt Sylvia”…your Uncle Fred and Aunt Helen and their daughter, Happy, whom I babysat after my Opferman family moved to Manhasset. And I even remember your Grandfather Gretsch who first introduced us all to cheesecake. Nice to renew acquaintance with you through your Blog and that of your brother.
    Hugs from Helen OPFERMAN Von Salzen.

  8. And now I have another contribution to make, Gee Gee, after staying up late into the night reading all of your biographical information on your mother, the “Aunt Sylvia”, whom I loved throughout my childhood…. from the time I met her through Charlotte when Charlotte and I were first graders at OLQM and riding the school bus home to our Kew Gardens houses…. until I last time I saw Aunt Sylvia only months before her death. I loved her then and I love her now, half a century later.

    I don’t recall if I ever knew that her actual name was Maxine but I see that your father called her “Sylvia” and I expect that he drew the name from the poem, WHO IS SYLVIA? by William Shakespeare. Here is the poem and it certainly is descriptive of your mother.
    With love from Helen OPFERMAN Von Salzen (hvonsalzen@aol.com) on January 4, 2015.

    Who is Sylvia?
    What is she, that all our swains commend her?
    Holy, fair, and wise is she; the heaven such grace did lend her,
    That she might admirèd be.

    Is she kind as she is fair? For beauty lives with kindness.
    Love doth to her eyes repair, to help him of his blindness,
    And, being helped, inhabits there.

    Then to Sylvia let us sing, that Sylvia is excelling;
    She excels each mortal thing upon the dull earth dwelling:
    To her let us garlands bring.

    William Shakespeare

    • Hello Helen,
      I am just getting back to myself again and really enjoyed readying your posting here. I have been thinking about you on and off for the last year since we first made contact.
      I hope we can now keep up our contact.
      In the year I have been away from my website, I have completely forgotten how to add to it— so I am trying to start over—- wish me luck—making contact with you is a great start!
      Hope you and your family are well.
      very best wishes, from Gretchen (AKA GEE GEE)

  9. Hello everyone, I would be glad to get in touch with any relatives of the Sommers or Flammer families.
    My grandfather was Louis Sommer and I believe that he was a son of Louis Sommer and Caroline Flammer. My grandfather lived in New York City, where apparently he was quite successful in real estate until the stock market crash in the 1930s, when all was lost. He was married to Marion Potts Jones and their daughter (my mother) Marion Elizabeth Sommer was born in 1917. Perhaps he also had a brother called Harvey?
    Anyway, I know a little more of their lives in NYC and welcome any more news.
    I live in New Jersey, near Ridgewood.
    Best wishes to all,

  10. My name is Leda. I am named after my great grandmother Leda Ingle (V0n Gerichten) daughter of Peter. I enjoyed reading your biography.

  11. Thanks for getting in touch!
    I agree, there must be pictures someplace. I don’t know of any but keep
    Have you looked through the Joplin newspapers of the time?
    As you know, they were a pretty prominent family…

    I do have a picture of all the members of the “Joplin Turner Liederkranz” club from 1908— William Meyer is the director and his picture is Prominent. Charles Schiffendecker is also in the picture ..
    Please email me at
    And I will sent a picture of the picture 🤗🤗🤗

  12. Dear Gretchen, I sent a letter to you – for your birthday – but somehow it happened that I didn’t put enough stamps on it! Hope it will reach you nevertheless.
    Best wishes & congratulations!

    • Wendelin,

      Hi my name is Heather Gretsch Roller. I am Gretchen’s niece. I wanted to let you know, Gretchen passed away this past August. It was her wish that I continue with the website. Please feel free to contact me. Take Care.

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