This is my attempt to justify the hours of research into genealogy. I have been on an interesting path, at first I was just collecting names, dates, and places. I would quickly gather then move on for more. It was a little bit like “notches on a gun”, or maybe less dramatically, “nice pieces of Depression Glass”. I had wished that there was more, but the data didn’t provide stories. They were for the most part farmers. Kind of ordinary farmers.
Then I underwent a change. Using the data, I tried to piece together the reason for moving. Using historical events to explain why the dramatic shift. I found that a lot of moves came right after a significant death in the family, most times it was children. Sometimes it was the death of an older family member that had been cared for. Without being able to find diaries or letters, I can’t prove the reasons, but there had to be reasons.
Sometimes I found newspaper articles or obituaries that gave more clues. Collecting data morphed into collecting stories, or conditional stories. I found a distant cousin in Germany that told me the story of over 100 families that wanted to migrate to the USA in order to avoid the constant threat of war. They were right on the French/German border. The Siegfried Line ran right through their village. They had to apply to the emperor for permission. Apparently they had heard about the Hessians going to Pennsylvania.
The emperor said no, but he promised some wonderful newly opened land on the other side of the country, on the border with Poland. It was free, newly drained swampland, lots of water, they spoke German, and he said he would not draft their sons for war. The 100+ families packed up and founded the city of Gros Fahlenwerder, Kreis Soldin, Newmark. Still barely in Prussia. This was around 1800. Apparently the Mayor’s house had a name carved into the lintel, “Diestler”.
Part barn, part house, part official residence.
Well, this was very interesting stuff, and I thank Manfred for his hard work, travel to Poland to dig out the information. Oh yeah, they left one border on one side of the country to go to another border with the same problems. During WWII the place was overrun, many were killed, the rest were driven out. The entire county was given to Poland after the war. Fortunately for my family, they saw the writing on the wall, and had made plans to individually go to the US about 100 years earlier.
Like I said, there are reasons for things, some can be found out by other data, some by reason, and some by a good hunch.
Well, I was pretty happy with my research. I had small, very small, victories, the further back in time, the less data is found. Unless of course you get lucky and have someone famous pop up. No such luck, just farmers, no horse thieves, no bank robbers, no movie stars. And gosh, the holy grail would be to tap into some royalty.
The big reason this would be cool is because so many people have worked to tighten the accuracy of the data. They spend years of the hobby in finding the missing lineage. In the US we have the Daughters of the American Revolution, in Europe there are hundreds of official, and thousands of unofficial data compilers. And it is mostly on the Internet.
Well, I had a bunch of Norwegian farmers on my mother’s side, and German farmers on my fathers side. No gold mine of data to be found.
I was plugging away, going back to the 1600 and 1500s where the data tapers to zero. To add to mix I was using Google to search a few names in addition to the usual family history sites. Then I found a “countess”. A young woman that had married a well-to-do farmer. Bringing her lineage in exchange for a nice house. Suddenly I had a royal connection! I began to search the other families around the same time, and found two or three other connections to the same royal line. It appears times were tough even for blue bloods.
In short order I was connected to most of the royal houses in Northern Europe, particularly of the Scandinavian countries. Royals marry other royals, so the line goes on. There was almost to much data, so I found that I was focusing on direct lineage. Grandparents! I was looking for direct ancestors, not removed cousins or uncles. How many grandparents could I find? On one royal line I went back to 60th great grandparents. Not all were kings and queens. Sometimes the house fell on hard times, wars, revolutions… But the data was there, and some interesting stories to be documented.
I am borrowing heavily from Wikipedia because is it so easy. My hope is to get an interesting list of characters, then find out more from additional sources. So this part of my blog is dedicated to great grandparents..