Thursday, April 20, 2017

About My Genealogy Research & Why I Am Behind with My Posts

It all started because of aunt Lula's old photo album which my husband inherited a long time ago. One day he showed it to me - it was full of old photos (taken possibly at the end of 19th/the beginning of the 20th century). Each photo had a description - the information written at the back by aunt Lula.

In some cases, besides the name of a person portrayed in a photo, the info included also his/her date of birth or the date of their marriage.

Except it all, aunt Lula listed all the names of her closest relatives - with dates of birth/ death as well. It seemed she did not want it all to be forgotten. Still, I loved the old photographs. I asked my husband whether he knew something about all those people - who they were and how they were related to the family. Since he could not answer most of my questions, I decided I would try to find out the answers.

Unfortunately, aunt Lula and all the other older relatives had passed away many years ago, they could not tell me more about the people in the photos.

Soon, I looked for a family tree type software and started my research. To my surprise, finding the information I sought was easier than I had thought it would be. Thanks to all the data available on the Internet, including the family search websites. I gradually was able to learn more and more about the relatives 'from the photo album'.

However, since those persons bore different surnames (not the same as ours), it was a bit more difficult to establish the family lines between them and us. Step by step, I was discovering not only who they were, but also the names of their parents, siblings and other relations too.

I found the research so very fascinating and extremely involving. Learning more about the family members, who lived a long time ago, in a way was like meeting them all personally. The more information I could find, the more interesting it became. In some cases, it was possible to get to know what a person's occupation was, when they arrived in America, how old they were when they got married, how many children they had or how they died.

Most often it happened that looking for some info on a certain person, I came across the details on another family line or some incredible connections regarding other family members.

Why incredible?

What I learned during the research - through generations, family members intermarried within certain families who lived in the same area. They all seemed to know each other and stuck together. Of course, there were also other, more accidental marriages considering the surnames. However, it was not uncommon that certain surnames appeared in various family lines and generations again and again. Sometimes it happened that a man who married a lady of a certain family, when the first wife died, he married her sister or cousin and the opposite. If a husband died, the new husband was sometimes a next of kin of the previous one.

When the same surnames show up within generations on various sides of the family, it makes my genealogy project a continuing puzzle waiting to be solved. How were they all related? It can be confusing indeed. Anyway, If I happen to find a connection between certain persons who seemed to be unrelated or 'lost in space', I find it quite a rewarding discovery.

The roots of my husband's family tree lead mostly to England and Ireland. From time to time I manage to find such a European connection which is an ancestor who was born in Europe. Some side family lines originate in Germany/ Prussia as well. It is quite fascinating to learn it all.

In the past, each couple tended to have many children, even more than ten. Then each child had about ten or more children of their own (+ a spouse of course) and so on. Therefore, the research seems to have no end. 'Going' from one chain link/person, I find many others. Nevertheless, the new discovered data / 'new' person needs to be checked carefully, not to include in the tree a person who was actually not a family member.

Needless to say, the project makes me spend too much time at the computer screen (which I am aware of) so I try to be reasonable and limit it or/and make breaks - with different results, though.
I try to stick to the main family line, to find more about my husband's direct relatives. Yet, it is not always possible due to many branches of the family tree and all the facts about various individuals which I often discover quite accidentally.

What else I have found interesting

In the old times, a boy's middle name was often his mother's surname. The same case was with other ancestors' surnames in general. They survived through generations in their descendants' middle names.

First names were often 'Biblical' names — 'taken' from the Bible. My favorite ones (considering the family) are Keziah (who in the Bible was one of the Job's daughters) and Hezekiah. Then there are others - no Biblical ones, though - such as Temperance for example.

The ancestors were followers of various Christian religions and the Puritans as well. It makes me think how relative and subjective the matter of beliefs is. I have always thought, it is not important what church a person goes to, the much more important is what kind of man/woman someone is.

The names listed in the records, in many cases, have been misspelled by the state and church clerks, which makes the research more difficult and sometines confusing.

The names recorded in the Census/church notes are often not the official names of the individuals they refer to. Unofficial names used by family members to address those certain someones were given to a clerk instead e.g. Jeff instead of Robert Jefferson, Della instead of Ideller, William instead of George William, Gennie instead of Virginia and so on. The spelling again varied depending on a person who made a record (and their spelling abilities).

During my genealogy research, I have got in touch with a few far relatives whom we did not know about at all.

All in all, so far I have found around two thousand persons who are in my husband's family tree - with many still unanswered questions, though. Unfortunately, I cannot find out anything on my parents' family lines as it is not possible to discover any such information online. I almost know nothing about the relatives from their sides. The grandparents passed away before I was born/ when I was a baby and there is nobody I could ask about family matters (regarding ancestors) either. The DNA matches which I have been sent (by the research company who tested our DNA samples), tell me the names of my far relations but I have not the faintest idea which family branches we share as those relatives' surnames say nothing to me at all.

 I would love to learn something about my direct ancestors or - at least - find out anything on my great-grandparents. I wish I knew where and when my great grandpa died. The only thing I know is that he was drafted and killed somewhere on a WWI front. Well, maybe some day I will learn more about him and/or other relatives as well...

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