Genealogical Research: Wisner Family

It all began with a cast of statement from my grandmother at my grandfather's funeral: "I guess the Wisner family history died with him." So little was known about the Wisner line that my first discovery was we were not German, but, in fact, Swiss! Since then I have uncovered a shamed revolutionary, a litigious salesman, and the answer to my grandmother's statement - a great-grandfather who led a double life! Flattering? No. Fascinating? Absolutely.

My passion for finding the narrative thread in a family's history drives my work. I've conducted contextually situated genealogy for nearly four years, and for scores of clients. 

Detail:    Guillaume de   L'Isle.   Louisiana, Mississippi River Valley, United States. 1718. Boston Public Library.

Detail: Guillaume de L'Isle. Louisiana, Mississippi River Valley, United States. 1718. Boston Public Library.

Johannes Weesner (c. 1676 - 1744)

The first Wisner to settle in the New World was Johannes Weesner, my eight times great-grandfather. He came here around 1714, after being awarded land in present day Orange County, NY for his role fighting Louis XIV as part of Queen Anne's Swiss Infantry. Our line of Wisners have deep roots in the Hudson Valley, a place that has always felt like home to me. So much so, that my family and I moved within an hour of that first settlement in 2017!

Surrogate's Court, Albany, New York. Probate Record for John Wisner. 15 Sep. 1778. New York State Archives.

John Wisner (1718 - 1778)

The most famous of the Wisners in my direct line, John Wisner, held the rank of Captain in the Colonial Army as early as 1756, during the French and Indian War. He also served during the American Revolution, where he was ultimately court-martialed for his cowardice during the Battle of Montresor. Although John was merely fined, George Washington himself argued for a much harsher sentence. His brother Henry enjoyed a more storied career, as one of the original drafters of the first New York Constitution. 

"Wisner Leaves for Germany." The Collegian. 11 January 1946. Pennsylvania State Archives.

Trusdell Wisner (1896 - 1973)

Family lore about my great-grandfather, Trusdell Wisner, is sparse, but the one thing my grandfather made a point of mentioning was a chance encounter with his father in Germany while serving during WWII - and how he crossed the street to avoid him! Having abandoned his young wife sometime in 1924, Trusdell was not well liked by his children. It turns out that Trusdell did indeed serve in Germany after leaving his post as Commander of Penn State's NROTC program in January of 1946. Family lore confirmed!