Tuesday, May 4, 2010

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
 http://www.kinsella.org/history/histira.htm )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.

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