A Parade of Names

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota 

I have been doing ancestor research on an on-line genealogical service preparatory to our May trip to Europe. We are travelling to Bremen, where my maternal grandparents were born, and then to Scotland, where husband’s mother’s family originated. I realize that the details of much of this research are purely conjectural , as following one thread may take you to Robert the Bruce, while another, equally possible thread just peters out into oblivion. You can never be sure if you have the right ancestor.

What has been most interesting is finding out where they generally were and  when they immigrated to the US, since that can fuel the imagination as to what their lives may have been like if you have some knowledge of the history of their times. Husband’s  family were solidly Scots-Irish Presbyterians, some of whom immigrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland in County Tryone and County Antrim very early, and then left there for the Colonies in 1690.  Others stayed in Northern Ireland as coal miners until 1870, when they went back to Scotland to work in the coal mines around Glasgow.  Husband’s great great grandfather Carson died in a mine cave-in in 1878. The Scottish Mine Disaster website was quite helpful identifying the very pit in which he died. We hope to visit the are on our trip. We don’t know if his body was ever recovered. His children immigrated to Ohio and West Virginia and worked in coal mines and steel mills. Some things don’t change that easily.

Family names have been fun to find. My father’s Friesland family has first names like Weert, Okke, and Freerk. The  Scots have names like Alexander, Robert, James, Margaret, Andrew, and Jennie. My mother’s Bremen family, all solidly Saxon, has common German names like Wilhelm, Herman, Christian, Metta, Greta, Johan, Anna, Sophie, and Otto.  My favorite family last name is Hellwinkel.

We aren’t travelling to Stuttgart to see where husband’s German family comes from (they raised sheep, so I guess you could call them German shepherds), but it was in that family tree I found another favorite name-that of poor Walburga Merkle. Oh, how fun it wold be to see her, to know if her name was considered beautiful or odd, to know what her life was like.

Husband said that, perhaps, in five hundred years people will be excited to find they are related to us. I don’t know about that, but doing this research really impressed me with the randomness of our very existence and how strange nature or chance or divine influence has led each of us to be who we are.

Your future relatives are listening, 500 years hence.  Why should they be excited to learn that they are linked to you?  

39 thoughts on “A Parade of Names”

  1. I think we live in a time when there are a lot of major problems impacting the future of us as a people. Would my relatives looking back 500 years at my life see me as a mislead alarmist, or would they see me as a person living through a time that was alarming? Would they be living in better times without many of the problems I think we are facing or would they still be living very much the way we are now living?

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  2. Nice job, Renee. I look forward to hearing about any discoveries you make or any new insights you get during your trip.

    Like most people, I’ve lived a very normal life, and have no extraordinary feats or accomplishments to point to. I have no children, so 500 years down the road, future relatives will be distant ones in more ways than one. To be real honest with you, at the rate we’re screwing up this planet, I’m not so certain that earth will be an ongoing enterprise 500 years from now.

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  3. Since my post is the last one in line, I’ll response to the day’s inquiry. I worry a lot that there won’t be a generation 500 years from now. Either Trump will cause WWlll or the environment will be completely destroyed by global warming. There’ve been many times I’ve thought “I’m glad I won’t be around for _______(fill in the blank)”. Perhaps one sign I was here that will inform them of my political position will be Obama’s letter to me, now proudly displayed in a hermetically-sealed frame.

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  4. Oh I am hopeful. Remember how gloomy people were during the Cold War? I think it is a quiet day on the Trail as Baboons are out doing things for posterity that will make them memorable

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    1. Yes, I remember it vividly. I was truly terrified and tried to get my parents to build a bomb shelter. When that didn’t work, I used kids I baby sat for by scaring them in the hopes they’d scare their parents into a bomb shelter. Needless to say, I lost all of my baby sitting jobs.

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  5. I’m a published author, which gives me perspective on today’s question. Sometimes you are humbled. You write something you thought had enduring value, only nobody acknowledges it in any way. And yet sometimes I’m startled to learn that something I wrote did connect with readers. It happened yesterday. Someone told me a book I wrote had helped him deal with the loss of the dog he loved.

    No matter who you are or what you do, people eventually forget. I used to find that tragic. Now it seems normal. When I edited a popular magazine, strangers often recognized me (or my dog). That could be fun, although there were times I would have preferred to be anonymous.

    Years after I left that editorship I was chatting with a nice guy I’d just met out on a lovely bit of prairie in South Dakota. He finally said, “Say, aren’t you Steve Grooms?” That made me smile. “I used to be,” I told him. “I used to be.”

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    1. How gratifying is that?! I’ve had the unfortunate experience a few times of running into former clients who remember me but I don’t remember them. Imagine how you’d feel if your own therapist didn’t remember you?

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      1. It is even worse when you saw them as children and then they grow and mature and look totally different than when they were 6.

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  6. Afternoon all – missed you the last few days – absolutely swamped with work. I kinda think we might make it 500 years from now, if we do then we will probably have solved some of our current issues. But it might not be the most fun. I’m absolutely sure that if I show up on anybody’s family tree in 500 years, they will pass right by me.

    Many many years ago my father sent off for some genealogical thing that came back 12 pages of typed information that connects me back to Eleanor of Acquitaine – I don’t remember if it was through Louis or Henry. Of course, as nice as it would be to think I have Eleanor in my family tree, I don’t really believe it. I’m pretty sure my father lost his money on that venture!

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    1. Somebody once phoned my dad with an offer. For something like fifty bucks he would research “the Grooms family crest.” Dad laughed at him. “My people weren’t the sort to have family crests. They held the reins of the horses owned by the people who had family crests.”

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      1. That’s funny and true in my family as well. A carter was someone who sold goods off a cart. I doubt any of those carts had family crests hanging of the sides!

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    2. I saw a show once that said if you have a dominant strain of English ancestry the chances you have a royal ancestor approach 90%. Think about how if you go back to the time of Elinor and her delightful husband, how huge is your family ancestry a that time.The think about how everyone English is in that mesh. My German family has a tenuous connection to Queen Victoria’s German ancestors. Remember, that the Windsor family is very very German.

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  7. There are some funny names in my family tree, too, Renee. One man was named Wilzue, which does not strike me as a name I would like to give to any of my children.

    I don’t expect to be remembered long after my children’s time…

    I wasn’t doing anything memorable this morning, just working on a school assignment, which I hope will be forgotten quickly. It’s not going to be very good.

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      1. United States. A lot of my ancestors came to the new world early on, like Mayflower early or shortly after. Maybe his ancestors came from England. Or Scotland. I dunno.

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  8. Well, if this form of electronics still exists in 500 years, even if we’ve migrated to some distant planet, a lot of us are immortalized in these posts. It would be a lot for someone to wade through, though.

    Thanks, Renee – fun to explore names. From what I know, we have Norwegian names on my dad’s side, like Lars, Helga, Harberg, Saniva, Marta, Ingeborg.
    On my mom’s side there are her mother’s Swedish: Per, Alfrida, Johan, Karl, Birger, Konstantia, Ivar, Charlotta; and her father’s English/Welsh, I’ll see if I can find something. I love to hear these names and try to imagine the people.

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  9. I used to feel dejected when there were group situations (led by pros) where we were asked to huddle and share our heritage with the other group members because, to my knowledge, I didn’t have one to share. I’d just say, “I’m homogenized”

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  10. Great great great great great grandfather Wes was a baboon?! How did evolution proceed thusly? I shall research the progressive and regressive aspects of evolutionary theory using my family tree as a model. My doctorate is assured.

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  11. Found the Sterling (Stirling originally, from Scotland not Wales, I guess) archives, my mom’s dad’s family – Hoyt, Nathaniel, Rhoda, Ellice, Hannah, Gilead, and lots of Williams.

    Speaking of Scotland, be sure to check out today’s Bing.com picture of Edinburgh…

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  12. At a meeting last night I was shown data on the recent big jump in warming of the arctic which may be close to causing a big increase in the release of methane from areas covered by muskeg. This would speed up global warming. The guy who had this data said we have very little time left to prevent global warming from becoming a much larger problem. I hope what he said is not what we are facing. I am still hopeful that that there are ways of deaing with problems like global warming and that we are capable of making the changes needed.

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  13. Like PJ, I don’t have kids, so it’s unlikely that anyone will show much interest in me 500 years from now. I suppose if I want future generations to be excited about me, I should make it a point to acquire some valuable artifact that could be spotlighted on Antiques Roadshow centuries from now. I can hear them telling the story of how it was found tucked away in my dusty attic.

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  14. My German family ancestry is connected to but not descended from Friedrich Adolf Riedesel, a Hessian general in the Revolutionary War. I have many many relatives named Riedesel. My German ancestry is traced back to the 1400’s.

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  15. I recently found out that my dad’s great uncle was recently canonized as a saint. I can only assume that their research did not extend very far down the family tree. They should be excited because my whole family is rife with innate artistic talents. Now, if we can just overcome the Great Depression mentality of economic non-viability…

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