Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Genealogy

This article on the distant relations of the presidential candidates makes me laugh. Especially when it includes such things as tenth cousins, twice removed. My oldest brother is the one in our family who has put the most work into tracing genealogies, but I'm fascinated with them as well. Our approaches are quite different, though. What he's generally done is take a particular ancestor of ours and then trace that line forward to all the descendants alive today. I'm more interested in tracing the lines upward, finding how far back I can get on any given line (and then imagining what life must have been like for those people). Both approaches, of course, are essential for any complete genealogical survey, and for the information in this article, both were certainly used.

I don't know of any famous people I'd be related to, even distantly. Most of my ancestors came over on da boat from the Netherlands anywhere from 1890-ish through 1912. (My maternal grandfather recalled leaving port the day after they received the news that the Titanic had sunk.) My brother has traced descendants of most of these families pretty extensively, and I don't remember any famous types from there.

Because my paternal grandmother was adopted, though (by a paternal aunt and uncle who were Dutch immigrants, so we knew that side), there was one line that was a mystery until I discovered online genealogy sites back in 2000 or so. Then I was able to trace that line back to pre-Revolutionary colonies. (Pennsylvania, I think, though I'd have to double-check that to be sure--I wonder if they were Quakers? that hadn't occurred to me at the time, but they seem to have been from Shropshire, England. Anyone know enough about Quaker history to know if that makes it any more or less likely? And their descendants sided with the North in the Civil War strongly enough to name my great-great grandfather, born during the war, Joseph Union, despite living right on the line between north and south, which would fit with Quaker anti-slavery movements...) Anyway, that would seem to have more potential for getting me (distantly) related to people who have been famous in the US.

2 comments:

TK42ONE said...

Famous relatives? Not really. I have a few Revolutionary War, Civil War, and WWII vets in the tree but not really anyone famous enough to be known outside of the family.

I wouldn't think Quakers would fight in the war. They'd take the anti-slavery side of course, but they were pacifists. My grandmother was a Hollingsworth, direct descendant of Valentine Hollingsworth. Valentine came to the US from England and was good buddies with William Penn. Both were Quakers. One of his descendants was Abram, owner of Abram's Delight in Winchester, VA. It was used as a way station on the Underground Railroad.

If you (or your brother) find anything that mentions "MM" or "Friends" it is likely a Quaker reference (MM stands for Monthly Meeting).

Me, I'm searching my father's side of the tree. Hard as heck when you can only go a few generations back and loose them on the trip over (from Norway for me). Doubly difficult when you can't read the language. My Mom's side is fleshed out quite nicely thanks to many over-eager historians. At last count I was nearing 30,000 people in the family tree. Try keeping track of that without going crazy.

Daniel Ausema said...

I didn't say they fought on the side of the Union, just that they supported its cause. But you're probably right that since they opposed war in general they probably wouldn't have been so passionate about one side of the war.

Actually, if I remember right from my free trial period of one of those ancestry websites, there were no military records for any of the Mintons in my direct line, which had me leaning that way when I remembered it just now...but thinking about it more, I think there were records for several uncles of those in my line in both the Revolutionary War and 1812, so that makes it less likely (unless they went against family beliefs), plus the maternal grandfather of Joseph Union was an officer of some rank, if I remember right.

Yeah, the language barrier makes it tough--my brother was able to track down some little genealogy magazines of some sort in Netherlands, one issue of which specifically tracks various Ausema, Ausma, Oudsema and similar families, some related and some not. Fortunately the Dutch community in the US still has a fair number of people who speak the language, so he could get help reading them (plus he speaks German, which helps with Dutch). So we've traced that particular line back to late 1600s or so with an earlier, probably unrelated, Ausema family back in the 1300s-1400s. My mom's maiden name is so common in Netherlands that my brother never tried to trace it, though he did trace her mother's line a ways back. Supposedly there's a very detailed book of that family's history that I'd love to see, but we've never gotten our hands on it.