Of Cats and Cousins

Besides the obvious enjoyment I get from piecing together clues to discover my family history, one of the other benefits over publishing my genealogy online is “meeting” distant relatives.

Way back when I first started working on my genealogy, I came across a bit of a riddle. Fleser is a pretty uncommon last name and so anywhere I found them, be it in old Census forms, newspaper articles, and even Google searches, I knew there was a really good chance we were related. We (Flesers) are really concentrated in the Grand Rapids / Kalamazoo area of the United States. But there was this other little group clustered in the Montana / Oregon area, and for the longest time I could not figure out how we might be related.

Eventually I discovered my relation to, what I’ll call the Northwest Flesers. Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up. My great-great grandfather, Adam Fleser, had a bit of an, um, adventurous streak it seems. He and his family left Michigan and traveled along the Bozeman Trail to Montana in 1864 after word of the gold strikes in Virginia City made its way east. He not only didn’t strike it rich, his wife left him, taking his four children with her and marrying William Bowe founder of Melrose, Montana. Bowe named Melrose after his step-daughter Melrose (Rose) Fleser. I’m not sure who named Fleecer Mountain after my great-great grandfather, but they spelled the name wrong. On the bright side, the pronunciation is correct. Adam returned to Michigan sometime after 1870. There he remarried and had six more children, the last being my great grandfather Adam G. Fleser.

A few years ago I was contacted by Chelsia Rice, who had stumbled across my site looking for an email address of a family member. It turned out Chelsia and I are related. She’s my 3rd cousin once removed, and ol’ Adam is our common ancestor. She was nice enough to fill large gaps in my knowledge about the Northwest Flesers, and it was through Chelsia that I came to know another cousin: Deirdre.

Cooper's First Photo
Cooper’s First Photo: Michael and Deirdre

Which brings me to Cooper. Deirdre and her husband Michael have a cat and his name is Cooper. Cooper is becoming something of a celebrity it seems. You see, Deirdre and Michael decided at some point that it would be cool to affix a tiny little camera to Cooper’s collar which takes a photo every two minutes. At the end of the day they download all these photos from the camera and have been doing this for a year. What they’ve ended up with is a year of images in the life of Cooper from his point of view. Images that are interesting and in many cases beautiful. And now Cooper has his very own photo exhibit at Urban Light Studios in Seattle through March the 13th. News of Cooper’s exhibit has spread from nationally from Seattle with appearances on Animal Planet and most recently Good Morning America.

Michael and Deirdre also have a filmmaking company called Cross Films and they’ve created a special page to track all of Cooper’s news appearances. Cooper also has his own blog: Cooper – Cat Photographer. He’s an extremely talented cat.

Now normally the story of a cat photographer would be pretty interesting, but because of the connections I’ve made through genealogy, Cooper’s story has a little extra significance, seeing as we’re family and all.