January 16th, 2011


[ETA: I fixed a bunch of typos in May 2014.]

I've been a low-key genealogy buff since I was in my early teens. One of my sisters was the person to assemble all the old photos, scan them and distribute CDs. And I haven't engaged in the quiz-the-older-people game in about a decade. I had been disillusioned with the quiz-the-older-people game since I realized the paper genealogies the most dedicated of them produced were laden with really obvious errors. When I was young, the first errors I noticed were people I knew personally -- and I saw the information about them was wrong. But as I got older, I noticed a lot of other things that just didn't really make sense.

When I was living in Mayberry, NH [<-- not its real name] before my son was born, I volunteered at the local library and used to read the shelves. At one point, I was involved in the culling process, based in part on non-circulating items that did not form part of our core mission. I stumbled across a history of anabaptists and checked it out. It was an eye-opener. All the family mythology about our Mennonite heritage suddenly fit into a much bigger picture -- that someone else had documented. I've blogged before about discovering online copies of records (the ship Johan T. came over on as a baby) and GAMEO. I found a book and some family trees that let me pin down the village some of my ancestors lived in in Russia (and pictures from someone else's roots tour to that area). And GAMEO finally answered a longstanding question about the family name T.

Prior to all that, I went to the Netherlands and re-contacted my dad's cousins who his sister had found years before.

That left two grandparents: my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandmother. My maternal grandmother is going to be a tough one to make it even out of the 20th century on, but I had a paper genealogy for my paternal grandmother. I had just barely started the process via ancestry.com of tracking my dad's parents' activities in the US, much less his mother's family back to the Netherlands. Ancestry.com (which is where I was assembling the paternal tree) sent me a "you have hints" message and I figured I'd take another whack at it last night.

I knew my paternal grandfather was from the Netherlands: I'd seen the village he was born in. Family history said my paternal grandmother's parents were from the Netherlands, but I was a little suspicious of her father's last name (her maiden name; her mother's maiden name was a gimme: Poldervaart is Dutch), and, for that matter, his first name. Sure enough, it _wasn't_ originally Henry (but rather Hendrik -- you'd be amazed how many records in Ancestry.com's databases get this wrong in uncreative ways) and it wasn't Abbenhouse (Abbenhuis -- that was kind of easy, actually. I was expecting Abbenhuys, more about that later. Possibly).

With the paper genealogy, I blogged about googling someone else's stamboom with shared family heritage. But here's the real mother lode and probably what that man used to create his stamboom:


Have ancestry in the Netherlands? You might be able to find their birth, marriage, childbirth, kid's marriage and death records in here. It is fantastic. I wish ancestry.com had imported these records; in the meantime, it feels worth it to make a project of tracking down everyone on my dad's side (because now I _can_), up down and sideways. *evil grin*

[genlias was deprecated then taken off line. Try wiewaswie.nl instead.]

more roots

Well, that was a learning experience. I learned a phrase in Dutch that I sort of could have done without forever: levenloos geboren. As I was tracking up the tree, I was looking at the marriage record for a woman which included her parents names, but I was inexplicably unable to find the woman's birth record -- which was really, really unexpected. So I tried finding siblings, by searching for the birth records in which her parents were the parents. And I found a series of records with no name on them, which was really odd, until I looked down in the other information section and used google to translate levenloos geboren. Since this was all a hundred and fifty plus years ago, really not a big deal, but what a sad thing for that couple. I'm assuming the woman I was looking at was adopted, and her actual birth record is somewhere associated with a completely other set of parents -- possibly with a different name as well.

When I hit a bunch of walls in the Dutch database, I switched over to working on my mother's side, which is sort of a pain, and I really can't do a decent job without digging up a CD of genealogical information for the Mennonite side. The paper tree is terrible: full of errors and way out of date. It was good enough to hook up with other people in that clan, but their data isn't great, either.

On my maternal grandmother's side, I didn't even know her parents names. I did, however, get ridiculously lucky: I found the marriage record for my maternal grandparents and it had my maternal grandmother's parents filled in. That tied in with someone else's tree on ancestry.com, and while Irvine Douglas/Irwen didn't go anywhere at all, my maternal grandmother's mother is still going strong in the early 18th century. I now know of ancestors that were so thoroughly on the wrong side of the Civil War that they named a baby after Robert E. Lee. In 1867. I'm not sure what I think about this.

My mother got married at 19. _Her_ mother got married at 19. _Her_ mother got married at _12_ [ETA: Wow. Huge braino. 22, actually] to a 13 [23, ditto] year old and then they apparently moved from the middle of one nowhere to the middle of a different nowhere. No wonder there's no collective memory of our distant family for that quarter of the family. Worse, I just found out that one of my mother's uncles was living in Seattle until his death in 1981. I don't think I ever met him. I don't know whether my mother even knew he was there, but I doubt I care enough to try to find out.

Still on the list of walls to bash my head against: attempt to track down the children of my paternal grandfather's brother, who also came to the US. R. would also like me to track some of his tree.