a post in which we meet…

12Aug09

I used to blog.  Used to love it.  But there was always a purpose.  While I learned to sew not from a family member, but in high school, I only took up the past time as a way to connect with my roots and my great-grandmother.  When that hobby took off as a business, the ol’ blog became a way to attract customers, keep people and friends up to date, blah blah blah.  But as I let that business die, in favor of working instead for a non-profit, the blog died too.  I’ve missed it but what I established and maintained for so long with that blog centered around something I was no longer doing so to change it around and make it something new seemed pointless.  Plus, it’s nice to have something there that I can point to, examine whenever I like, and remember that part of my life.

Genealogy, particularly my own, is something that I only became interested in a few short years back.  Actually, it feels like it was many many years ago but whatevs.  What I’ve found since I started doing this more than five years ago now is that one, my family is mysterious and seemingly lived their lives in a way that would make it hard for obsessive complusive future generations to locate (hell, even NAME) them, and two, I’m the youngest person I know or have ever encountered that is interested in their personal heritage.  The latter is not something I ever notice but it certainly makes having conversations with my friends about this hobby of mine that takes up such a large chunk of my free time, well…weird.  There’s a glaze in their gaze when I go on and on about towns in Germany that no longer exist or ancestors that founded hot springs.

Over the past five or so years I’ve kept a log, a sort of genealogy journal, detailing things I find and want to write down for posterity so that one day when that old connection I no longer remember might solve a mystery.  This here blog is my attempt at putting that out in the world, not only to connect with others so interested in heritage, but that hopefully one day, some distant relation will send me a thank you note for clearing up our ancestry and doing all the work for them.  I wish someone had done that for me…

As I mentioned, my family is mysterious.  On my mother’s side I am lucky enough to have the journals of my great-grandmother and her father.  My Granny Dorothy, as she was always known to us, was alive until just a few short years ago and I was lucky enough to learn most of what I know about her family directly from the horse’s mouth.  That woman was a wealth of knowledge when it came to not just our own family, but the families of so many that live in the town in which I reside and in which she grew up and never left.  Her and my great-great-grandfather’s journals are an amazing repository of birthdates, historical happenings, weather news, and personal anecdotes about trips and the history of our region.  It’s a truly amazing thing to have and it got me far when delving into that side of the family.

My father’s side…sweet Jesus, my dad’s side of the family.  My dad’s dad was quiet I suppose.  He was a career military man (who, by the way, never spoke of his war service) who moved around a lot in the service and didn’t keep close contact with his immediate family.  Add to that that his parents and older brother immigrated to Chicago in 1912 from Germany, a country which I initially knew NOTHING about, and that adds up to a brick wall that would rival the shit they have in China.  My dad’s father died during my dad’s senior year, long before I was born, and my dad never thought to ask questions.  It took me 3 and a half years to finally get his service records (which I still suffer figuring out and translating).  It took me four years to find his mother’s maiden name.  It took me five years to discover how and when she died and finally, where she was buried.  My father mentioned once that his dad made note of another son he’d had long before my dad was born…but never gave a name and never spoke of it again.  I just found that half-brother a few months ago.  And just a few days back, with the help of a lovely man who is translating the parish records of a church in the town in which my great-grandfather was born, I found a further generation to my dad’s family.  A Kramer, born in 1856 in Ostfriesland Germany.  It took me 4 years to find my dad’s two uncles, both deceased, and the closest thing he has to a cousin, who I was lucky enough to speak to on the phone.

Every once in a while I take a break from the German mysteries and delve into my mother’s side but the farther back I get I encounter brick after brick there as well.  It’s been a journey…and one I feel I should write at the very least a little something about.  I’m saving and planning for a trip to small towns in Germany, where my family came from.  And little by little I’m learning German (Guten Abend!).

This consumes a large part of my time.  My mother is interested in what I find occasionally and my father mostly looks at me with blank stares.  Granted, he’s listened to me ramble since I was a wee lass and people, I ramble A LOT, so I don’t blame him.  I get on kicks.  I’ll get frustrated and give up for a month or so but more often that not, you can find me scouring any and all records I can in search of my ancestors, my kin as we’d call it where I’m from.

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