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?