Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Family Crypt Opened

With this announcement, I have opened my family crypt! Who knows what horrors will be unleashed on the world as a result? Mayhap I will suffer the ghastly fate of Lord Carnarvon, who died of the mummy's curse after opening the tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amun. It is here that I will relate some of the tales of my own ancestors that I find most interesting. Although they are being posted chiefly for the enjoyment and edification of other family members, all are welcome to peruse these Tales From the Family Crypt.

Like any other journey, these travels into my family's past began with but a single step. In this case, the beginning seemed accidental. Back in 2007 some of the children at my daughter's school in Scottsdale, Arizona were overheard making unkind comments about the children of illegal aliens in her class. So her teacher did what good teachers always try to do in these situations: turn it into a learning opportunity. She assigned the class to research their immigrant ancestors, write a report tracing their ancestry back to the immigrant ancestor of each branch of their family (or their great-great-grandparents, if they immigrated more than four generations ago) telling how they arrived in America, and give an oral presentation on the immigrant ancestors whose story they found most interesting. For some, the assignment proved little more than "my parents snuck under the fence last year", but such was not the case for my daughter!

At first, we didn't expect any difficulty providing her with the material for the assignment. My own mother was an immigrant who married a World War II GI and came to the United States in 1946. So we thought, "One down; one to go!" But, on my father's side, it was considerably more difficult. Old family records provided the names of several of his ancestors, but there were also many gaps in those records and there was no information whatsoever about when the various branches of his family immigrated to the U.S. On my ex-wife's side, the family history was even more clouded due to a lack of available records. Had it not been for the Internet, she would have failed the assignment! Despite what we were able to learn from sources on the Web, there were still enough missing persons in my daughter's genealogy that she only got a "B" on the assignment.

The whole matter might have ended there, but our curiosity and stubbornness got the better of us and we were hooked! We were determined to find out when our various ancestors really did immigrate to the U.S., even if the assignment was already submitted and graded. Besides, I had already paid for a membership in in order to try to track down some of the missing ancestors and I wasn't about to let that money go to waste ... More about my Scottish heritage later!

And so the journey really began in earnest. For two years now we have been searching the Internet regularly for new clues, sifting through family Bibles, letters, and other documents, and skulking about in graveyards in search of tidbits of information. What follows in this blog will be periodic installments in that journey, detailing the trails, tribulations, disappointments, and discoveries of the quest. In the end, I fully expect this blog to bore most readers to tears, but I hope it will prove interesting to my descendents at the very least and provide them with a sense of connectedness to the history and heritage of our nation and the role their ancestors played, not just in the founding and development of this country, but in the world. For what I have begun unearthing in this "family crypt" is a legacy that can be traced back to the Middle Ages and, in a few cases, even earlier -- a legacy that has given me a whole new, and much richer, understanding of the world and my place in it.

No comments:

Post a Comment