Weekend Question Thread

Since I’ve had Kick, my parents have been regaling me with stories of what I was like as a baby, and what my younger siblings were like. No deep, dark family secrets really, just things I’d either never known or had known and forgotten: Who was whose godparent, who went to high school where, why my parents lost touch with old friends of theirs, etc.

The most remarkable story so far is that my grandfather’s brother, a very successful writer who lived in Washington DC, had apparently been blessed with a Dickensian benefactor who sent him to college when his family couldn’t afford to do so, and set him up in life. My grandparents never talked about their childhoods, so this was totally new to me.

Mr. A’s parents have been researching their own family’s history and finding out all kinds of fun stuff, including the names of just about every uncle and distant cousin who ever existed, leading me to have all kinds of ideas for names if Kick had been a boy, most of them straight out of a film about mobsters.

Do you know your family’s history? Have you done an Ancestry-type thing or has someone written it all down?


14 thoughts on “Weekend Question Thread

  1. Actually, yes, both sides of the family have relatives who’ve done the research. I’ll spare the details, but will note the following:
    Mom’s family was Spanish on one side, and rural French/Acadian exile on the other. Dad was mostly Irish. To note two things we can document — Dad’s grandfather was part of the construction firm that built this hotel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Baden_Springs_Hotel early in the 20th century. The same firm built some structures for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (which included the 1904 Olympics). Mom’s father — my grandfather — served in World War I. With French as his first language, he interpreted for English speakers. He also told me he’d volunteer for KP to stay away from the front trench, which was smart, if you ask me.

  2. Since Dad’s family is Mormon, that side is researched going way, way back. Eleanor of Aquitaine is my great great some ridiculous number of times grandmother thru my grandmothers side.
    Mr. l is adopted, but he’s reconnected with his birth mother and his grandfather was a renowned biologist.
    I haven’t dug into it, but there is a bunch written down for my family.

  3. Yes, but it’s all in the Family Tree Maker format and my mother refuses to transcribe or share it to something more accessible – if not readable. It’s not something that lends itself to actual narrative.

  4. My dad’s side of the family has done a bit of digging, and we know that one branch of the fam is Québecois. I think we’ve got more, but I haven’t read it. The recent history (what with Grandma apparently getting some ass on the side while Grandpa was off fighting the war, and then Grandpa threatening to take the kids and kick her out) is far more interesting.
    Five generations back on mother’s side of the family was the founder of Point Brewery, so there’s that.

  5. I’ve got a lot more info on Mom’s family, but in my free time, I’ve done a bit of research myself. There are Germans on both sides, but Dad’s side is three-quarters Danish. From what I’ve been able to find, my first ancestor to cross the Atlantic was my great-great-great-grandfather, Adalbert Steiner, sometime in the 1850s. The last to cross was my great-grandmother, who arrived from Denmark in 1908, at the age of 14.
    As far as interesting facts, we don’t really have a lot of interesting stuff. Just farmers until Mom and Dad’s generation. Family lore has it that my Danish-born great-grandfather, Berg Jensen, fought in World War I for the U.S., but I haven’t been able to confirm that.
    And I’ve seen a 1900 census form that I’m pretty sure lists my paternal great-grandfather and his parents, and their surname was listed as “Kühl”, which is how we still pronounce it. But sometime between then and the 1920 census, they dropped the umlaut. I can only speculate, but I think it might have something to do with anti-German sentiment during WWI.

  6. My mom was the family historian, and I sort of inherited the title upon her death. On her side of the family, my grandfather was German; his folks immigrated in 1885, and he was born here the next year. My grandmother’s family arrived from Germany in 1750 and emigrated to Illinois in 1850. Both sets of my great-grandparents still spoke German at home until their deaths in the 1940s.
    My great-grandfather on my dad’s side immigrated from French-speaking Neuchatel, Switzerland in 1867. My grandfather was born in Erie, Pa. and then moved to Kansas with the family about 1869. My grandmother’s parents on that side were Irish from New York with such common names they’re impossible to track until they made their way west to Illinois in the 1860s.
    Mormons are sort of odd, but their on-line genealogy rocks. Thanks to them, I’ve been able to find the names of the ships on which all three sets of the immigrating ancestors I’ve been able to identify arrived, which to me is fascinating.
    But I’m a newcomer; a lot of my wife’s family got here in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Some of them were Quakers, and if you’ve got Quaker ancestors, you’ve hit the genealogy jackpot. Quakers are record-keeping maniacs. So are the Swiss, and since they’ve apparently been scaring potential invaders shitless for centuries, they’ve still got all their records. So I’ve been able to trace that line back to a couple of mercenary brothers from Lombardy who hired out to the big cheese running Neuchatel in the 1300s. It’s all history and it’s all good.

  7. I’ve dipped my toes into the Ancestry.com waters with the help of notes begun by my maternal grandmother. I have several generations’ worth of names, but not much narrative yet. I did find out that one set of my 8th-great grandparents were married by Cotton Mather in Boston, 1693.
    A distant cousin has a family history web site that traces some lines back towards Kent in the 1500s.

  8. Don’t know much about my Mom’s side of the family. Norwegian, Lutheran, stolid solid citizens. That was a sentence fragment. Woe is me, bop.
    Know more about my Dad’s side but that’s a story for another time. They’re Greek obviously.

  9. My mother was the genealogist in the family, mostly because she was sure (and turned out almost certainly to be wrong) that her grandmother was directly related to Robert Burns. My father’s side of the family was much less well-delineated–there were portions of the family that simply weren’t spoken of, because of grudges or perceived scandals, and so that history was simply lost, some of the Irish, well, being that way.
    Making my father’s genealogy more complicated was emigration from Ireland, which occurred with very little documentation. And, as the story goes, in the 1840s, just before the first famine, the family had three brothers on the family farm, and only one stayed. One emigrated to America (and him, we know about), but the third was said to have climbed the hill to the fields one day and kept on walking and was never heard from again. He is simply a cipher.

  10. On the paternal side we can get back to 18th century Albemarle County in Virginia. My mother’s side is way harder, since her mother’s name was Johnson.

  11. I tried to get my brother to name his son Uriah, after a great-…-grandfather, but for some reason the name seems to have fallen out of favor since he was born in 1851.

  12. half german, half english, scot, scots-irish and/or irish as far back as great-grands on both sides. father’s side settled in and around fon du lac WI, mother’s side from danville IL and chicago’s wunnerful sout’ side.

  13. My paternal grandparents emigrated here from Italy, and lived in the East Orange, NJ area before making their way to north suburban Chicagoland. Whilst out East, my grandfather played cards with Enrico Caruso, who would stop by after his performances for a quick game or two. When they came to the midwest, my grandmother had a neighborhood grocery store. A lot of kids would come by her store after school to buy soda pop and hang out; one of them was a young Jean Harlow.

  14. I’ve always joked that I was 3/4 German and 1/4 mutt. My maternal grandma is 1/4 Irish, French, Belgian and Luxie–thus the mutt joke (my Grandma said it first, so I don’t feel bad joking about her heritage that way).
    Until recently, I thought everyone else was German, but in helping my nephew do some research for a family history project, I discovered that my paternal grandmother’s dad immigrated from the Netherlands, not from Germany. I still haven’t been able to confirm if her mom was Dutch also, or if she was German. I need to do some digging and reach out to some of the distant cousins on that side to see if any of them know more than my siblings and I do. I am very curious if I am 1/8 Dutch or 1/16 Dutch.

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