The Family Tree Grows


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.


Love in the Fast Lane

Not long ago, a teenage MySpace friend –he was the lead in a play my kids were in (I did his make-up) so let’s not even head to the gutter–  posted something onto the Bulletin board and asked this question:

How soon is too soon to tell someone you love them?

After some careful thought, and since Sonny Boy has a girlfriend now too, this was my reply:

You should only say that when you are ready to take care of that person for the rest of their life and put all of their needs ahead of your own, and give up your right to hold a grudge when they screw up.  Before that, it’s not really TRUE love, it’s hormones on infatuation crack.

I had to choose my words very carefully.  If you’ve been reading here, you already know I can get a bit long winded.  This young man is devilishly handsome, a rebel on the outside, but not to his core, and very bright, but also 16.  My words could have been taken as very preachy, pathetic, overly protective, out-of-touch.  Love is a very delicate thing for any of us–but at 16?! It’s the be-all and end-all, over-the-moon crazy fantastic, but very rarely the real true genuine thing. How many high school sweet hearts do you know who are still together, and still in love? I know three couples.

I wanted to add to what I told him, but brevity was necessary, again the “preachy” factor.  This is what I have told my own kids about “wuv..twue wuv” (sorry I love the Bishop from Princess Bride).  Falling is easy, staying takes a lot of hard work and commitment.  Staying in love is a CHOICE, not a feeling. Telling someone you love them should wait.  If it’s really real then you may have the rest of you lives to tell them just how amazingly profoundly they turn your insides to jelly.

This is something else a young man should know about his young lady:  she is a fragile and delicate thing.  Now don’t go sending hate mail about being equal to men. This isn’t about equality in the workplace or society.  This is how we are created, emotionally.  We girls may be tough as nails on the basketball court, or court room, or the assembly line, but when the man we love best of all does something to wound our soul, it’s like putting palm trees on the north pole.  It will kill it faster than you can say POOF!  Knowing this, a young man needs to be very careful.

The other thing he needs know about the heart of the female persuasion: it was designed to be given away– once.  Females were created with a need to be loved. Males were created to be protector and provider of that love.  When a guy tells his girlfriend he loves her, she is inclined to think “he’s the one” and it will last forever.  He more often than not says this to get some quick action, and will move on when he’s tired, bored or finds someone else who catches his eye. That leaves a young lady’s heart bruised, jaded, broken; and she’s less willing to trust the next guy who says “I love you”.  Eventually she may stop altogether, but gets into relationships just so she won’t feel the lonely ache in the pit of her heart.

I LOVE YOU are three of the most powerful words on the planet.  I wish more people treated them that way.  And my mySpace friend sent a reply.  He said it was the best advice he’d gotten back, and then reposted my answer for all his world to see.

Ain’t I a Woman?

In honor of women, and Women’s History Month; it’s well worth re(print)posting.



Ain’t I A Woman?by Sojourner Truth

Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio
Delivered 1851

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

Society, Solidarity and of all Things… Hair

“Iyam what Iyam” was Robin Williams’ signature phrase when he played “Popeye” in the live action film back in the 80’s. Popeye, Olive Oyle, Sweet Pea, Brutus and assorted characters came to life and it helped launch Williams’ career in film. But, think back to the cartoon: would Popeye be ‘Popeye’ without his anchor tattoo, can of spinach and cap? Would Olive be the same timid girl if she had hips and a double-D cup? If she had looked like Barbie, she wouldn’t have needed Brutus’ attention. Shoot, she wouldn’t need any one; Barbie can do anything. And what about him anyway? He wouldn’t have been the least bit intimidating if he had been drawn like Popeye– there’s not much threat to a skinny Anglo sailor boy– but a hulking Mediterranean brute? Now we have some level of fear. Or do we, or rather, should we?

I’ve spent some time in the last few weeks thinking about identity and what it means to so many people and in society. Are we who we are based solely on how we look? The quick answer is NO, because we aren’t that shallow, you say. Think again, and think about Hollywood celebrity types, A-lister’s and potential has-beens. Let’s examine some, shall we?

Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie– Paris was the sexy one when they started their “Simple Life” show, and Nicole was “the funny one”. Why? Both had expensive trendy wardrobes; neither had worked a real job a day in their lives, they appeared equal–on paper. In physique, though, Paris was and still is a very tiny size –I don’t know, negative 3? And Nicole looked *chubby* in comparison, but was all of one or two sizes away in reality. Nicole soon ended up as tabloid fodder because she was now *anorexic* and too thin. Why? she was the *chubby* one and felt compelled to lose drastic amounts of weight; now she was skinny and the funny one.
Nick Nolte has had his moments, too. His mugshot with a crazed, drunk/drugged look on his face, with the crazy hair that made Albert Einstein’s coif look chic. Does that image diminish his acting abilities? Doubtful, but it changes whether or not we’d decided to pay to see him in a movie or not, based on the image we now have. It still gets pulled out for late night laughs.

Is Britney Spears any less talented with out her own hair? Is she any less attractive? Does it really matter? Why do we care? I could go on about Brit and Hollywood, but that’s for another day. Today the focus is our own personal IDENTITY and how we average people are accepted, not the ills of celebrity living.

I’ve been thinking about this because on 14 November 2007 I underwent a drastic change in my own personal “look”, and shaved off my 19 inch long hair, a la Britney style, but I didn’t do it myself, and paid someone to do it. I was not under duress, drunk or high, or forced. I’m not expecting to end up on the cover of “Life & Style” or the local paper for that matter. I did it because I love my Mum and she’s going to lose her hair to chemotherapy in the next little bit and I didn’t want her to go through the holidays being the only bald female in the family. It’s that simple. Or so I thought.

Turns out shaving ones head is not so simple. To me it was just hair, and it would grow back. Mine grows at an alarming rate, at least compared to when I was wee tot, and knew in a matter of months I’d be looking somewhat girl-ish again. The stylist, Sue, who is a friend of mine, asked me three times if I was sure I was ready and wanted to go through with it. My Mum said more than once: you don’t have to do this you know. It was far more emotional for my family and friends than it was for me, maybe because my hair was so long, and I’d been growing it for nearly three years. It started as a challenge to be grown for and then donated to Locks of Love from my younger sister. She cut hers sometime last year, and at that time said I could cut mine guilt free whenever I was ready. Well, now I was ready, so why all the fuss?

Am I any less *me* having a head that looks, feels and acts like velcro? Am I any less beautiful? If someone was to think I was less attractive than 10 days ago, then why is my appearance so much a part of my identity to you? Why, no, let me ask When did my hair become such an integral part of my whole being. I am not the sum of my hair; I am the sum of my parts: physique, appearance, intelligence, talents, emotions. I don’t ask that to be sarcastic, but it’s a a real and genuine query. When and why is my hair so important TO YOU in how you receive me as a peer. If my hair is that important to you, then maybe you don’t know me very well, and should try to change that. Are you embarrassed for me, of me, to be seen with me– because I don’t fit in with “normal” healthy people? If my appearance effects how you feel you’d be treated, received and perceived in society, perhaps we need to take a closer look at the issues packed in the baggage called LIFE you carry with you.

I’m content to have a velcro head. I can handle the looks from strangers, and I’m at a point in my life where I have little concern for any condemning attitudes. Some of the looks are curious peeks, other are outright stares and when I glance their way, they divert their eyes. A handful have had concerns for my own health, thinking I was receiving treatment. What started as a gesture of support for my mother is, and quite by accident, going to end up as an interesting social experiment.

Locks of Love got my hair and a pair of clippers and the floor got my Mum’s before cancer could steal it away. For now, I’m quite happy being me– a shaved bald me.

O, one last thing: I could take about anything, just don’t call me Britney.

First vs. Only

I was sitting in a Beaner’s coffee shop yesterday happily eating all the *extra whip* I ordered with my straw when I heard someone say something that disturbed me a little bit.

As these young ladies waited in line for their coffee’s, they were talking , as people tend to do to pass the time. I am also not in the habit of listening in on other people’s conversations, because that’s just rude. What this young lady said before and after the few words that pricked my ears up, I can not say. What I did catch was this:

“When my first husband and I….” (more banter) “We started dating in college…” (more banter), and they left soon after that. After I heard the first line, I tried to see if she was wearing some sort of wedding band; there did not seem to be one, so I will presume she is currently single/divorced.

These things caught me by surprise:

1) How young she was. I would guess late 20’s. If she were in her 30’s I’d have been surprised. A little math lesson with me if you will. If the *happy couple* started dating in college, got married soon after graduation (at 23-ish) and were divorced by 30, they must have been married only a couple of years, six on the long side.

2) She said “first husband”. To me, that implies there will be at least a second somewhere in her future. It seems that being married the *first* time is the trial, and then you can divorce, and get it right the second time, or third, like Donald Trump has tried to do, or the seventh like Elizabeth Taylor. No one ever says to their intended: “You know darling, you will be my first spouse, and when life gets difficult, and you are hard to live with, I think we’ll get divorced. You can be my “trial run”. Will you marry me?” No one in their right mind would accept that sort of marriage proposal, or would they. More accurate still is: don’t they already?

Tomorrow is my 18th Anniversary. Arnold is my *only* husband, and I don’t think I’d remarry if I were widowed. We have had our share of down’s, and farther down’s and up’s and farther up’s. There was a time when we wanted to call it quits, but we stuck it out, worked it out and worked at being married. That’s what being married is about–loving someone enough to say “You may be hard to live with, but it’s not worth leaving over.”

Now I know there are valid exceptions to her story: he could have been abusive, he could have died, he could have cheated and walked out. There are many possibilities as to why she has had a first husband at such a young age, but for so many, they just find it is a hard thing to be a *husband* or a *wife*. We teach our kids how to do laundry and cook. We need to teach them how to be *husband* or *wife*, too.