For years I’ve been intrigued by family history. Was I descended from Queen Victoria? What if I was secretly related to Elvis? Maybe one of my great great great uncles was D.B. Cooper and if I could only find the money….
I pumped my Grandma for information – who was her grandma, and grandpa, and uncle and …. She told me tons of great stories, including the fact that her grandfather had a twin, and they had married twins themselves. Cool, I thought. I’d also found out that her name wasn’t really Eula – it was Julie. Her grandpa couldn’t say Julie, so they renamed her Eula. I was hooked.
When my grandmother passed away, I found she’d kept a bunch of obituaries, newspaper clippings and birth certificates. Fascinated, I glommed on to as many of them as I could. Sure enough, there was her birth certificate with her real name. Aunts and uncles who’d changed their names over the years as they moved from Germany to the United States. Graduation certificates, marriage certificates and an old family bible. They were mine! all mine!! mwahahahaa…
So, I tracked back my history. Ancestry.com makes it easy. They offer hints, send you information on people who might be related to you, and let you access a virtual TON of information.
Now frankly, if you don’t care what nuts are in your family tree, this will drive you to drink and drink heavily. For me, it was an eye popper. Wanna hear the dirt? Of course you do…
One family member, who lived in Canada at the time of the Great Depression was apparently so incensed at a woman who had the audacity to wear a fur coat that she attacked her with a knife on Main Street. She ended up in the hoosegow, and later in a sanitarium for ladies.
My great-great grandparents had fifteen children.
My fourth great uncle had five wives.
My second great grandfather had three last names.
My great-great aunt founded a library that is still standing. She petitioned Andrew Carnegie to help build a library in her hometown, and he obliged. This may sound quite philanthropic of her, right? Wrong. It appears that while she was quite wealthy, and never married, that if you borrowed money from her and didn’t pay it back on time? She’d move in with you until you did. =)
When you trace back …and I mean waaaaaaaaaay back, the names become unpronounceable. Ytje. Sjoerd. Maaike. I have a friend who is Swedish who helps with some of the pronunciations, otherwise I just make up my own. Yitgee. Sherd. Makee. Close?
And when you go even further back, they switched names. Your father’s last name became your first name. Your mother’s maiden name became your last name sometimes, your first name sometimes, your middle name sometimes. And sometimes not. Makes searching a little – challenging.
If you had three or four boys, you could name them all the same name. One of my relatives had four sons all named Johan. Makes calling them in for supper easier. “Johan! Get thy rear in the cabin – now!”
One of my relatives who sailed from the Netherlands to the USA died on board ship and was buried at sea.
One of my relatives, a captain, resettled an entire village about 200 miles away when he disagreed with the way things were being run by the current mayor of the town. That man can hold a grudge.
Reading the date of birth and death – you finally realize how many children were lost in those days at a horribly young age. Sometimes entire families would have the same death date.
I have MANY MANY sets of twins in the family tree.
Looking up my ancestors has given me hours of enjoyment. When you find someone else who has researched the same limb of the tree you’re looking up? It’s like riding in NASCAR – zoom zoom zoom. Names and dates fall into place and stories come to life.
Even if they are kinda – nuts.