25 March 2012

My Connection To WDYTYA and Helen Hunt

Actress Helen Hunt was the latest guest to discover some of her ancestry on Who Do You Think You Are. Lorine McGinnis Schultze over at the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog wrote about her thoughts on the show.  Over at Geneabloggers, several people left comments with their thoughts and Cyndi Beane Henry from Mountain Genealogists weighed in with her review.

In searching for her roots, Hunt discovered she was a descendant of William Scholle, a German Jew who came to San Francisco around the time of the Gold Rush and who became a successful insurance broker and investor.

I was pleasantly surprised when who of all people appeared on my TV screen - Frances Dinkelspiel, who revealed to Ms. Hunt that her 2nd great grandfather Isaias Hellman and Hunt's 2nd great grandfather William Scholle were running buddies  not only the in very elite San Francisco social circles but also conducted business together namely the Nevada  Bank in San Francisco.  Hellman had come from Los Angeles to San Francisco to rescue the failing bank and scores of millionaires lined up to buy in.
The Nevada Bank at the corner of Pine & Montgomery , San Francisco

Frances wrote a book called "Towers of Gold" which is a biography of her 2nd great grandfather Isaias Hellman based on years of research that included over 50,000 archival documents.  Frances is related to my SIL through marriage a couple of times removed.  I had the pleasure of meeting Frances when she spoke at the California Genealogical Society awhile back.

Now here is the very cool part.  As you may remember, I have done quite a bit of research on my sister-in-law's family.  They are Jews from Bavaria who came to San Francisco in the 1850's and to this day still live there.  My SIL's 2nd great grandfather, David Nathan Walter, became a director for the Nevada Bank when he purchased $100,000 worth of stock in the bank.   Today, that bank is Wells Fargo.  D. N. Walter was boyhood friends with Isaias Hellman.  They are both from the village of Reckendorf in Bavaria. 


  1. So I'm assuming you'll be flying to Europe soon to be granted exclusive access to many archives and experts...just like on the show?

  2. What a fun coincidence, Sheri! I bet you were having quite a déjà vu experience as the show unfolded.

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  4. Too cool! Definitely within six degrees of separation!

  5. I loved reading of this connection. I'm always more fascinated by connections than most people in my family....I sure appreciate how you explained this one, Sheri.

  6. Chris - But of Course!

    Jacqi - I did when I saw Frances.

    Judy - I was hoping I could claim the connection somehow and if you say it, then it must be so!

    Becky - I'm so glad you understood the connection and enjoyed the post!

  7. You are one smart lady! That is a very cool connection!

  8. Sheri,
    The day Frances spoke at the library was also the day we met at the Mini-Bloggers Summit at CGS. Can you believe it's been three years?

  9. That's so fun, Sheri! I was intrigued by the mention of Jews from Bavaria, and someone else - on Twitter, I think - also had wished they had spent a bit of time talking about that.

    I think most Americans hear "Baveria" and think of the typical German stereotypes - mountains, yodeling, or women in dirndls (for the uninitiated, that is the traditional "St. Pauli girl" or "Swiss Miss" type of dress that laces up in front.

    I am always fascinated when another group manages to build a life within a very different cultural group. I think about the challenges they face.

    I'll bet this topic deserves could an entire book or article all to itself!