Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dead End Roads

(Post Number 3)

Dead end roads are hard to swallow when you're driving, how about when you are searching for that elusive family member or MEMBERS? Now I know I had to come from someone, I am here aren't I? I can't locate information on a lot of my family members, it's like they were just dropped here from outer space or something! No files online of this person ever existing, excepting when I come across a query on an internet site that I posted!

I am reaching dead ends online all over the place. So much for having alcoholic ancestors who just left their sperm all over the place, without a trace of them. Talk about footprints you leave on the earth!

So, now I start to beg family members to do searches at the genealogical societies around them to find our "phantom ancestors". Maybe they should start an internet site for "children of aliens from outer space".

Can you tell I am a BIT disillusioned?  Well you get the prize, I am indeed. Someone, somewhere HAS to be looking for these people! Come out, come out wherever you are!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

 (Post Number 2) [Please start with post number 1]

Ok, so you ask, "your first post was about your starting to work on your genealogy, that was in 2000. It's 2010, that's ten years, what have you been doing, what have you done lately?" Ok, ten years is a lot to cover and most of it wasn't spent on researching my ancestors. I won't bore you with everything in my personal life, I'll just keep it ancestral.

In 2000, I started with what I knew. Mom, dad, sister, brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. I started with names, dates, who married whom, which cousin belonged to which family group. Then I branched out to what my mother knew and believe me, she knew A LOT! She said she wished she had done this, but was really glad that I was doing it. She said her Uncle Cy told her one time after asking questions about a death in the family, "Patty, you ask too many questions. Some day you are going to hear something you wished you hadn't." He never did give her the information she was looking for, too bad because I have the same question now, and there's no one to answer it. sigh.

Ok, so I got the information that my mother knew. Then I started looking online. I was foolish enough to join a site that required me to pay for information that I felt was legally mine since it had to do with my ancestors, but I got some good information from them. Then I set out to post questions on that site having to do with specific people who I may have had a name for, but nothing else. Here is where it gets interesting,

I was looking for information about my grandfather (paternal). I only knew his name Caleb Stinsman, NOTHING else. There is no marriage license  (My paternal grandparents were never married. hmmm, imagine that. my grandmother allegedly was married to a man when she was 15 years old but didn't want children with him and she wouldn't divorce him either. So my grandparents never married, but get this...they had 11 children together.) no pictures, nothing of this guy, it's like he didn't exist! But I do remember my father going to his father's deathbed when I was about 9 or so. I had no clue as to the importance of this or even was able to place the guy in the family in my head, but I wish I had. This grandfather was an alcoholic and a "deadbeat". He was the kind of alcoholic that would disappear for days, weeks, months on binges. He was what was then called a "hucster" (pronounced huxter) by trade. A hucster was a person who drove around neighborhoods and sold fresh fruit and vegetables. I guess that's how he got his alcohol money because my mother said that he did nothing for his family.

Back to the original story...So, I posted a question about the guy (my grandfather) on this site and seconds later I saw a question posted by someone else about an uncle of mine and I had the information they were looking for. They were looking for their father. It seemed that my uncle and a woman had three children together (not married) and he was listed on the birth certificate as the father. If my memory serves me, they waited until after their mother died to research this.Through my research and talking with my mother, the information I had was able to assist them in untangling a knot they had had in their stomachs their entire lifetimes. Since my mother lives several states away from me and is still in the area where we all grew up, she had access to family that I did not.  Since the father they were looking for was unfortunately deceased, as was my father, we were able to set up a meeting with my mother and another of my my father's brothers. They were able to meet the family they didn't know, get some questions answered and begin the healing process. What a terrific sense of elation that was to be part of that. wow. I know, it's not something to do with questions I have about a family who was really Irish but pretended to be German/Jewish, but it was a piece to the puzzle that I didn't know was missing in the first place. It is really amazing how things work in the universe, isn't it?

In the meantime, I was able to find a person who carries the Stinsman name, "cousin Bruce" but we still haven't found out how our families fit together in this web. He sends newsletters out every few months connecting us all to what he has found and informs everyone of the information we all have discovered. It is a big help on one hand, but also confusing since we don't know how it fits. Enter my mother again who remembered my paternal grandfather's parent's names...Edith Flanagan and John Stinsman, great lead! thanks mom!

We also have a "There were three brothers and there was a falling out. One brother left and changed his name and the others went on with the name as it is" story that baffles us. Do you have a "Three brothers story" in your family? Several people I know have a similar story and we just roll our eyes and laugh. What's your story?

The Nightmare Begins

 (Post Number 1)

In 2000, I took on the most challenging journey of my life, untangling the genealogical mess called "my family" or "mi familia". I am sure that a lot of family historians have felt this, so I don't fear that I am alone in this however, I do feel alone in my research.

I have discovered that my family, though meaning well, has harbored many a secret about the origins of their ancestors. All of my life I was told that we were of German/Jewish decent, that my family fled Germany for an unknown reason. Well in my genealogical search and discussions with family members whom I didn't know existed until 2000, I was told that our surname "Stinsman" wasn't German/Jewish but Irish. Now, don't misinterpret this...I love being Irish, I am from a long line of Irish men and women on my mother's side. But with this information I felt like a ton of bricks had just hit me. I took as much pride in being German/Jewish as I did being Irish, maybe more-so. I viewed the German/Jews as heros, as survivors, as the glue that held my fragile self-esteem together. My family had taken great pride in coming from a culture that was practically wiped out, and yet still survived to this day thanks to the strong, brave people who didn't give up. But, I felt like I had been living a lie and that I had been deceived for a lifetime. I really had a difficult time with this as my identity as I knew it had been stolen. Now some of you may be thinking that it is a good thing that this was discovered, that it should be viewed as a piece of information and nothing more.  Well, yes and no. You have to understand that this to me, felt much like being told that you are adopted. The questions, the lack of answers, the lack of identity, the lies upon lies that have to be untold, there is a myriad of feelings, questions, a whirlwind that doesn't feel like it's going to stop. But it did, eventually.

So, in lieu of all of that, I moved on. I wondered, well who are these people and why did they feel that they had to lie about ancestry. This is the bane of the American society. (Please read this article )At the time of the Irish immigrating to America, the Irish were seen as the lowest of the low, dirty, poor, criminals they were viewed much like African Americans have been viewed all of their existence in this country. I suppose in order to avoid all of this, they felt they had to lie about their name in order to gain respect and not have to deal with the prejudices of the day. I wish it had been different; I wish I knew how far back that lie goes. I don't know if I will ever uncover it.

But a good thing has come of this. I have found that I am still from a long line of people who had to endure horrible circumstances to survive both in the homeland and in this country. They are heros, as survivors, as the glue that holds my ever increasing self-esteem together. My family has taken great pride in coming from a culture that was practically wiped out, and yet still survived to this day thanks to the strong, brave people who didn't give up. Sound familiar? It was the same way I have felt about another culture.

Genealogy is a tricky undertaking. Stay with me as I maneuver the minefields and uncover the people who reside in my blood.