The Family Tree Grows

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I’ve been working on my family tree since Christmas.  Here is a little update on what I’ve found.  I have found it to be fascinating (like seeing an actual copy of a great-grandfather’s 1917 draft registration card with his own signature on it) and frustrating (like painstaking time spent translating Dutch to English with Google Translate).  I can now recognize the Dutch words for birth, died, married, none, municipality (of), female, male, year(s), month(s), father, mother, bride, groom.  I can read most of a Dutch birth, marriage or death record and get the gist of it.  Deciphering the handwriting though — well, that’s something else completely. Totally random, but remember the Burgermeister Meisterburger from the 1960’s stop-motion movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town? He was the cranky fat man who outlawed all the toys.  Okay, so a Burgermeister (pronounced: bur-ger-mice-ter)  is a real person.  I mean, it’s a real thing.  He was basically the village clerk keeping the official records. 

~ I got a hit on my DNA with a possible distant relative.  It seems we share a common ancestor 5 generations back on my tree, or what would be one set of my great-great-great grandparents; 3rd or 3x great-grands.  This “match” appears to be closer to my parents age.  I’m guessing based on the number of branches that follow after him (3: kids, grands, great-grands) compared to my own (2: kids, grands).  I understand the website’s need for privacy for family members still living on the trees built on the site, but it would be nice to have some names and birthdates for what seems to be a 4th Cousin. All I can see is PRIVATE in box after box after box.

~ 4 new babies have been born and added in the last month from one First Cousin and then two Second Cousins. Thanks to Facebook I saw the announcements. People don’t mail birth announcements anymore, do they? One thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the tragedy of newborns who don’t survive. Medicine and NICU have come so far and despite all the interventions some babies just aren’t strong enough to overcome.

~ 1 mystery was solved regarding a Nellie, who wasn’t illegitimate after all (WHEW!) just in the wrong place.  When a repeated first name shows up and you don’t know if the last name given was her maiden or married name it can get confusing. The 1800s are rife with repeated and reused names.  It was not unusual after a child died to name the next one born the exact same as their dead sibling. And unlike George Foreman who did name all of his boys George I, II, III, IV and V these people didn’t specify which one came first or second.  I spent some time digging through Dutch records to find out who she was. This Nellie was wrongly placed on the tree under her married name.  Once her maiden name was figured out I just had to make sure her parents were correctly listed. If you don’t remove the wrong ones your relative would hang on two separate branches and then things get really messed up.

~ Four (so far that I know) have served in the US Armed Forces during WWII, Korea, and peacetime between and after that. My great uncle (grandfather’s brother) served as a clerk in the Marine Corps from his enlistment in April, 1943 until April, 1946 achieving the rank of Technical Sergeant. I didn’t know he was in the military until I was in my 20’s and I saw his USMC tattoo on his arm. My mother’s brother served in the Navy after Korea in peacetime. He spent time in Japan.   I wonder if my very straightlaced uncle has a Navy tattoo hiding up his sleeve.

~ A 3x great-grandfather (Albertus, b.1818) was married 4 times and had 11 children. Four of whom died between birth and age 6.  Sadly each of his wives saw one of her children die.  I’m thinking he must have been wealthy or how could he be in his mid-40s (somewhat old in that era) and marry a young woman.  The eldest child was born in 1844; the youngest in 1878. I have not found out if any of the later wives had been widowed, or had children from previous marriages.  Finding them would be a curiosity, more than a necessity.

~ My 2nd great-grandfather (Karst, b. 1844), the eldest son of the one I just mentioned, was married twice and had 10 children.  Likewise he and his first wife suffered the loss of two young children; a third died at age 30.

~ A 1st cousin 2x removed [my grandpa’s 1st (half) cousin — I’m 2 generations away so that make it 2x removed — or also: 2nd great-grandfather Karst’s grandson through his second wife — you know in case you weren’t confused enough already] was an international champion billiards player (who I knew about, just didn’t know what branch he hung on). He served in the Army during the Korean Conflict.  I don’t know if he saw combat.  He died at age 37 of cancer.

~ And to make this 2nd great-grandfather’s legacy even more interesting we have this: With Wife 1 he had a daughter called Nellie (her given name was Lummigje); Wife 2 had a son called John with her first husband.  John and Nellie, he was about 17 and she 13, became step-siblings in 1892 when their parents married.  They got married to each other in 1897. He was then about 22 and she was just shy of 19.

The biggest scandals would prob’ly be the folks who left the Dutch Reformed Church for the Christian Reformed Church (yes, that really was a big deal), and a couple of shotgun weddings in the 1800s.

Some thing I have come to realize was the importance and necessity of marriage for the females of the time.  Women couldn’t work enough to support themselves.  Men needed a wife to take care of house, home and children, and if she died there was no one to do that job. Men had to remarry in order to have someone help raise the children left behind. All this makes me wonder how ‘blended’ families from the 1800s got along. Think about it: eleven children with an age gap of 34 years from oldest to youngest.  Did the sons from Wife 1 feel more entitled than the ones who came later? Did the younger ones even feel a familial bond of any kind with the siblings who were old enough to be their own parent? Maybe the concept of family was different when second cousins and step-siblings married each other. Today is just seems kinda creepy.
The digging for more family roots continues.

Un-ordinary People

I went for a walk with Sugar Bug a couple of hours ago. We went up the main street past the city cemetery. After I told her I love cemeteries, she wanted to know why.

“There’s so much history buried in there. People who have lived their lives, gone places, done things. You know, just ordinary people who went about their business.”

“What kind of people?” she asked.
“Well, some were parents raising their families, dads who went to work. Some were in the military and fought in wars.”

“I don’t think they would be ordinary. I think that makes them un-ordinary”

“Which ones are ‘un-ordinary’?” (I knew she meant extra-ordinary, but I didn’t want to correct her; grammar lessons could wait. I wanted to hear what she said.)

“The ones in the military. That makes them special, because they were there ready to give up their life so someone else could be free. That makes them un-ordinary.”

“I suppose that does, then, doesn’t it. There are a lot of people who don’t think the same way today.”

“Why don’t they?” (She has no idea how loaded that question is in a post-modern 21st Century USA.)

“Well, back when those people were alive, they –and the culture and society — used to think it was a privilege and a duty to serve their country. It was an honor for them to be in the military. They did it out of respect and honor for their country.”

“O, that definitely makes them un-ordinary.”

[ I thought of telling her that back then they didn’t think about whether it was the nations business to be there, if the military action could be politically and socially justified, or if it was ‘the right thing to do’. They left that to politicians and government to sort through; they joined because they wanted to serve, not earn a free college education. That’s what I wanted to add, but I didn’t. I’ll let her 10 year old innocence stay intact for as long as it can. I’ll let her patriotism stay strong, so she can still think people today serve their country in the military because of love of country– nothing more, nothing less. ]

Un-ordinary indeed! To her, they are heroes, and that’s the kind we need to look up to more often.