About Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Opening Doors in Brick Walls is a part of a 30-year journey that has taken Cathy from the baby steps of gathering family history to building a network of collaborators and genealogists to diving into the world of blogging.

The journey began in 1992 when an aunt sent a package with information on their American families. Cathy’s interest in family history was sparked. She began visiting town halls in Luxembourg, gathering marriage records for her children’s Luxembourgish ancestors. Three-quarters of their ancestors are from Luxembourg and nearby regions of Belgium, France, and Germany. In 2000 the internet changed the focus of her research from Luxembourg to her American ancestors.

Our Meder-Dempsey Family, a GEDCOM file, was uploaded to RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project on 6 December 2002. It was renamed Opening Doors in Brick Walls in October 2011. The file was continuously updated until December 2017 when the site was taken down for security reasons by Ancestry®.
(RootsWeb’s WorldConnect was brought back online in April 2018. All links in posts on this blog are redirected to the new beta site. As of 9 August 2021, WorldConnect was set to read-only and no further GEDCOM uploads are possible.) 

On 2 December 2012, Opening Doors in Brick Walls joined Facebook! It was a new way to share the progress and breakthroughs being made in the family tree. The idea was to unlock the doors or give them a push when stuck!

The pictures of old doors taken while sightseeing gave her the idea of naming her GEDCOM and blog, Opening Doors in Brick Walls. Cathy has been blogging since January 2014, focusing on her families in Luxembourg and the USA. The blog has become a digital stepping stone for sharing and preserving family history research.

Cathy has written several posts about the genealogy excursions taken with Luxracines, the genealogy society she is treasurer and member of the board of.

She is especially proud of her three-part post on an ancestor’s slaves that prompted the creation of the Slave Name Roll Project. The project was well received by descendants of enslaved persons. It allows descendants of slaveholders to share, without shame or judgment, the documents they find with the names of slaves.

She learned about early photography while writing the series Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can from 2015 to 2017. Descendants of the persons featured have reached out to her after discovering the series.

Raised as a military brat, she’s lived in Georgia, France, Idaho, West Virginia, Spain, South Carolina, Texas, and Luxembourg. Nearly forty-five years ago, she married the father of their two grown children – her best friend, photographer, mechanic, and coach.

When not researching, she spends time with her husband riding their racing bikes through the wonderful countryside of Luxembourg and Germany.

Feel free to post comments here or on any post of interest, get in touch by email at openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu, or by message or post to Cathy’s Facebook page.

One last thing before you go… Please follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest by clicking on the buttons in the sidebar at the right.

Updated 14 December 2022.

© 2014-2022, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.



45 thoughts on “About Cathy Meder-Dempsey”

  1. Cathy – I stumbled into your blog this morning while running a google search once again for my Dains ancestors. Your RootsWeb page led me hear.

    I couldn’t be more appreciative of the name of your blog and I’m enjoying the posts as I read them.

    One brick wall for years has been Lydia Dains (Danes, Daines) born between 1790 and 1800 in Pennsylvania. She married Denton Adams and lived in Greene County and Washington County and Fayette County with two of her married daughters.

    Lydia was a white woman who married a man of color. She is always listed as white in the census and her children, while living in Pennsylvania are always listed as mulatto. The only reference of her maiden name is on her daughter’s death certificate found in Washington County PA. I believe Lydia was disowned by her family when she married Denton Adams. I find no reference to any connection to any Dains family. It is my understanding that there was one Dains family that lived in Washington and Greene Counties and that they were descended from an Ebenezer Dains that moved into Ohio. In 1820 the citizens of Greene County petitioned the state of Pennsylvania to outlaw interracial marriages. More than half of the mixed families in the 1820 census in Greene County carry my surnames. Denton Adams was in court along with other family members in 1821 charged with “a Riot”. No transcripts exist, only the docket for the court. I firmly believe the rioting was connected to the interracial marriages. Each of my ancestors charged had a white wife or a white mother.

    I was excited to read on your tree pages about Lewis Martin and Elizabeth Dains. My Adams family has a connection to the Roop family. Silas Roupe (Roop, Roup) b 1823 Greene County PA son of Michael Roup and Anna Mari Matter married Mariah Eleanor Adams daughter of Archibald H. Adams. The Adams men were Free Persons of Color and some married white women. Silas is one of two Caucasian men that I have found married into the Adams family prior to their crossing the color line.

    I’m off to my office for the day but will come back and read the rest of your wonderful blog.

    If you can point me in any direction about where to find the family of Lydia Dains I would be thrilled.
    Lydia died in 1891 in Greene County PA at the home of her son-in-law Elmer Grinage. The Grinage family is also a family of color. Her obit states that her family believed her to be between 90 and 100 years old at the time of her death but had lost track of her birth years.

    Thank you for a reply

    Jan Stevens Slater
    Vashon Island, Washington


    1. Hello Jan,
      WOW! Thank you! Love that you are enjoying my blog. This is a new adventure for me. Let me read through your message again and take a look at what I might have. I’ll get back to you.
      Best wishes,


      1. Hello Cathy,
        My name is Jeanette Steele, White Eyes. I stumbled across your blog looking for pictures of my one of my great grandfather’s home. His name was Felix Stambach. You had several pictures of posted!, He owned, and ran a small vineyard and winery on his farm. Several years ago I was able to see pictures of his grape press inside of one the barns……..My family were the Studili/Steele, Adam, Schweikhardt, Edelmeyer, Stambach, Rupp, Altman, Snyder……..to many to name. They lived in Rafz, Canton Zurich Switzerland, and then were run out of Switzerland by the Catholics, and fled to Germany, and Alsace France, then in 1730’s came to Lancaster PA during the call of William Penn. They were Reformed Lutherans, except the Rupp’s who were Anabaptist I believe. I wanted to say I was able to trace them back to their homeland, because a nice lady in Switzerland and Germany went and found all the Birth, and Marriage records for our family since she reads and writes in their language……. In Reading PA there is a Cemetery that belongs to one of my great grandfathers family. It is called the Johannes Nicolaus Adam Cemetery in Reading PA. It is located on his original land from the 1700’s. He married Juliana Bernadina Schweikhardt, and their youngest daughter Maria Sybilla Adam married my Johann Melchior Studili/Steheli/Steele of Lancaster Reading Cumru Township PA. I could go on and on here, because their are so many stories of these families, and some pictures to share!……..if anyone out there has these names in their family please email me at……. mineese40@hotmail.com My family and I are moving to a small town soon right outside of the Allegany State Park in Western NY, on the PA border. I plan on visiting the Adam Cemetery often!………Thank you, Jeanette White Eyes, California


      2. Jeanette, If you mean either the Stambach or Rupp family I would be interested in hearing how your “nice lady” made the connection back to Switzerland.

        In May/June 2013 I spent hours going through the church books of Steinseltz and was able to correct mistakes made earlier by a person who could not decipher the old handwriting or did not look at all the Rupp individuals. Although I have traced three generations back in Steinseltz (Alsace) I have not found earlier records pre-1685.

        I have NOT worked on the Stambach family but did locate the 1768 death record of Maria Barbara Stambach and the 1725 death record of her father Johann Jacob Stambach.


    2. Jan,

      I took at look at the Silas Roupe family to refresh my memory. I did that research about 2006 and did not have access to all census at the time or databases that are now online (re: WVCulture.org and others). You had me stumped for a while on Lewis Martin and Elizabeth Dains. I don’t have them listed as individuals in my database but did finally find the reference to them in Susannah Martin’s notes:

      While using google to search my own database for something on Lydia Dains, I found several of your postings on the Adams and Wilson families. I don’t envy you the convulted relationships that you found in your family tree.

      My connection to Silas Roupe is his great-grandfather Johann Jacob RUPP, my 6xgreat-grandfather and 1752 immigrant, and father of descendants with the name spelled RUPE, ROOP, ROUP, ROOPE, ROUPE, RUPPE.

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      Best wishes,


      1. Hello Cathy,
        UPDATE on my Dains connections. I came back to my original post here while Googling the Dains I now have many DNA connections to descendants of Andrew Amdrice Dains, son of Ebenezer Dains and Margaret Beard. The degree of relationship indicates that Lydia Dainns/Daines was most likely a daughter of Ebenezer and Margaret.

        Lydia Dains does not show up in any record that I can find that is connected to this Dains family. I now truly believe that she was disowned for marrying a man of color. The petition by the citizens of Greene County, PA to outlaw interracial marriages is dated 1820 according to Carter Woodson. By that time Ebenezer had moved on to Ohio.

        Lydia is just one of several people in my tree that lost their family because of the racial tensions of that time. Remember the petition to outlaw interracial marriages was 1820 and the Riot involving the Adams family including the husband of Lydia was in 1821 By DNA I have discovered that one of Lydia’s son’s left home at an early age and passed as white eventually landing in Iowa. He told nothing about his parents, mentioned a mean step-sister (no evidence so far of a step family in that line) and may have changed the place of his birth by one county to the east (Fayette County) when it appears that Adams/Dains family were all in Greene County.

        I’m happy to report that most, though not all, of the white descendants of this Adams family have accepted their African American roots.


        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Cathy, i was doing some research on my grandparents from Long Branch West Virginia. I think I found them, Burl Mullins and Matilda Tyree. I see you updated Burl’s page very recently. I was wondering if you are related or ???. My mother always said grandma was Irish, but I researched her last name and it turns out she was Scottish. Burl, if it is the right man, was Eastern Band Cherokee, or part. Anyways, great work and fun!


    1. Hi Jen,
      I’m not related to Burl Mullins, Matilda Tyree, or his 2nd wife Carolyn Symantha Manley. I often get queries from people who ask about this or that person in my database and I will look into them and end up adding information from census or vital records. In this case one of Carolyn’s brother’s wife’s lines goes back to my Ingram line and a Dempsey line that may be connected to mine. You can get in touch with me at meder-dempsey at pt.lu.


  3. Cathy – you’re blog is new to me and I’m happy to have found it. Well, you found me first, but I’m glad you did. What a great name for a blog.
    What a diverse life journey you have had so far.
    I am another door photo collector. I began when we took our first trip to Europe in 2000 and have continued. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to doors.
    Good for you that you stayed home and raised your children. That is a reward you will carry with you for life.
    I look forward to your future posts.
    Best regards,


    1. Diane, so kind of you to take the time to post to my About page. Another door photo collector – yes Europe can do that to you! I’ll have to take a look at your Pinterest board. Might be a good reason to sign up there. Thank you!
      Best wishes,


  4. Cathy, So happy I came across your blog, I am also a Air Force brat and completed 37 years as a full time Air Reservest. I am a desendant of Fleix Stambach, and had talk to Ray Grove a few times on the phone befor he had pass away . My GGG Grandmother was Anna Margretha Stumbaugh born 1787, daughter of Jacob Stumbaugh and Anna Gertraut Shoaf . She had married Jacob Stumbaugh born 1783 from Virginia in 1814 in Pennsylvania Franklin co. (no relation). They had 7 children. At the time I had not made the connection when I had talked to Ray. My family line is from both families’ Pennsylvania and Virginia. They moved to Greer Ohio in 1833 and live in the Mohican valley close to Loudonville Ohio. My Jacob (1) fathers name was Jacob(2) also, who had come from Germany to Virginia. I have no record of which Jacob (2) or who he is? Would like to ask you if I could use one or two of your pictures for find a grave? If you return to France would like to see the church of Felix and may be the tombstones? Many Thanks, Frank A. Stumbaugh


    1. Hello Frank! Thank you so much for getting in touch. I haven’t done much research on the Stumbach family since the line goes all the way back to when Johann Jacob Stambach’s (d. 1725) daughter Maria Barbara (b. 1705) married Johannes Nonnenmacher in 1721. I believe that I do have Ray Grove’s Stambaugh Tree of Life saved to my tree for reference.
      Let me know which photos you would like to use (meder-dempsey at pt dot lu) and I will add the copyright and send them to you.
      Best wishes,


  5. I have a question.. Not on the Rupe family this time. Yea!!. Researching John Gambs b. 1820-1898 on a record it has he was born in Rimling, France, another record had Hesse Garmstadt, Germany. The question are they close to each other so he could have just left from France?


    1. Cathy, I cannot find a place called Garmstadt. Most likely this is supposed to be Darmstadt which is 175km (2 hour drive) from Rimling, France, which is very close to the present-day German border.
      Mr. Adolphe Gambs b. 1920 is a member of the genealogy society of Lorraine. You may already know of him as he collaborated with Maxine Gambs McCaw on “The Ancestors and descendants of Nicholas Gambs, 1807-1886.”


  6. Cathy,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I have no problem with you sharing my blog and will be checking out your web site too. Not sure why it won’t let word press work but I will check into that. How are you related to Levina Doss is she a gggmother??? I come through her brother Phillip Valorius Doss who was my 3rd great-grandfather.

    Thanks for making contact.


    I Dig My Roots and Branches at http://myfamilyquestresearch.blogspot.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vickie, thank you so much for getting in touch this way. I was going to try to find you on FB if I couldn’t find another way. 🙂
      Levina DOSS was my 4th great-grandmother. I descend through her daughter Mary E. “Polly” DOSS who had a relationship with William CLONCH. They never married but had 8 children. I wrote posts on both of them this year.
      Thank you for allowing me to share your blog and blogpost.
      Best wishes,


  7. Hi Cathy!
    I found you off of several links from “roots web”, in particular when I was searching the PETERS line of Raleigh/Boone County, WV. Just wondering how you found all of your information, as before today I knew next to nothing of my extended family. You were able to trace back from my great grandfather (Elbert) to several fathers before him. It’s amazing how finding something of the past can open doors! Thank you so much for all you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Caitlin!
      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I did not trace “back” from your great-grandfather Elbert. I traced forward from Jordan N. PETERS, following up on his children, grandchildren, through each generation of descendants. I have 3 Elbert Peters so cannot tell which line you are from. I had a lot of help from several other PETERS researchers but most of the information came from census records, West Virginia vital records at http://www.wvculture.org and http://www.familysearch.org.
      You’re welcome and I really liked that you included part of the name of my blog in your comment! 😉
      If you have any questions or need help don’t hesitate to contact me at the email above or through a message on my Facebook page.


  8. Hello Cathy,
    I came across your Opening Doors in Brick Walls tree on Rootsweb and that lead me here. I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m researching the last name Goins (my Dad’s side) and i came across a possible connection to your tree. My 4xGreat Grandfather (Winston Goins) was married to a woman named Julia and they lived in Floyd County, Virginia. Their daughter Sarah E. passed away at the age of five in Floyd.

    GOING, Sarah E. 12-28 Tifoid fever 5 yrs. 3 mos. 27 days Winston W. & Julia R. Floyd Patrick H.

    I saw the Patrick H. and then the Loving Grandfather which didn’t make sense with all the entries. So I figured that was his last name. I googled the name and Floyd county and came across your tree. Just wanted to find out if you ever came across the name Goins/Goings/Goynes/Gaines (so many different spellings) in your research.

    Best regards,


    1. Hello Ron,
      You are right about there being so many different spellings for the Goins name. In fact I descend from 52 Ancestors: #40 Landon S. GOWING Discovered a Fountain of Youth
      My Gowing/Going line was in Amherst County, Virginia.
      Your finding the death record of Sarah E. Going, granddaughter of Patrick H. Loving (also seen as Loven) suggests Julia R. may be a daughter of Patrick. One of my Ingram cousins descends from the Loving line and will be so happy to hear about this possible new connection.
      I’ll be in touch per email.
      Best wishes,


  9. Hello!

    My father passed away recently and caused me to look into my family tree. I am continually referred to your website and it appears we are related but not sure how. My latest research on Nancy Ann Sims and Amy Nelson 1757 again directed me to your website and compelled me to write you a note to say hello. My name is Michael Godby son of Charles Anderson Godby Jr and Lillian Delores (Ingram) Godby. Hope all is well and I am amazed by all of your research.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mike, so sorry to hear of the recent death of your father Charles Anderson Godby, Jr.
      No surprise that you keep coming back to my blog. We are 4th cousins through Robert INGRAM and Huldah JOHNSON; 6th cousins through William JOHNSON Sr. and Amy NELSON and through James SIMS and Phebe [–?–] SIMS.
      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment. You’re welcome and I hope you enjoy all my research and writing.
      Best wishes,


  10. Hi I followed a link to your site. I was looking for Data Sergeant Thomas Edward Love At. I haven’t found him on your site yet. He posed for the doughboy statute that Sood at the Berlin brigade headquarters. Did you write about him? I have a little to add to his story.


  11. Hello Cathy,
    I´m a Brazilian doing a research about my ancestrals and I need a little help from you. I’m looking for the passport from those ancestralls but I don’t know where to find them. I´ve tried contacting the Luxembourg national archive but they only had passports from 1861 or older. We know that they came to Brazil in 1862. Do you have any idea where we could find them?

    thank you so much

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Patricia,
      I do not know if they issued passports for people emigrating in the 1860s. There is a collection of records which was kept by the commune with entries for when a person left or came to live in there. This is something which is still done today as people need to register with the commune they live in. I have not personally seen the older records, however, I know Rob Deltgen has used them for the town of Diekirch. I believe he consulted them at the town hall of Diekirch. I would have to ask him what they are called.
      The National Archives of Luxembourg are adding new digital collections online and hopefully, collections for people who emigrated will be available. This is an area I have not looked into as my maternal ancestors have all remained in Luxembourg.
      Best wishes,


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