Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad's 60th birthday. When I was little, I thought 60 was old. Heck, I thought 40 was old. Now I'm engaged to a 41 year old man. So that can't be old. And when I look at my dad, I think 60 can't be old either. I didn't learn genealogy from my dad, but he caught the bug early on when we started researching his side of the family. He's the one who ordered our first death certificates and who went through my grandfather's papers for old photos and obits and funeral cards. Everybody's eyes glaze over whenever I try to tell them about some exciting new family history find - except my dad! He's always excited for me...or very good at pretending! Either way, I always know I can show him all the things I've learned or discovered - it's nice to have a family member to share this stuff with. So today I wish him a very happy birthday, and many more, and thank him for being the best dad a girl (and genealogist!) could ever ask for!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Family names...cuz you know I love 'em!

I talk about names quite a bit in this blog, just because it's such an important part of family history. Names can actually be quite useful hints when you're researching a tree or branch - it can tell you where a person came from, it can tell you what a parent or grandparent was named, if the child was named after a family member, the repetition of a name can tell you you're on the right track when you're trying to narrow down potential relatives.

So now that I'm expecting my first child, names are again foremost in my mind. My family, especially the Gorry side, is very into name traditions, and I am the prime example, as I cannot even tell you what # Mary Ellen Gorry I am in a long line of them. While in one regard my name lacks originality, I love that it makes me feel more connected to this line of women who came before me - I definitely feel like a part of an important chain, and it definitely makes them feel more real to me. But aside from the name Mary Ellen, Mary and Ellen/Helen are important names that crop up by themselves in every generation of my family - my Aunt Ellen, my grandmother Mary (Elizabeth Cronin Raynor), my grandmother Helen (Meta Stutzmann Gorry), my great-grandmothers Ellen (Marie Casey Cronin) and Helen (Meta Haase Stutzmann), and my great-great grandmothers Ellen (Prendergast Tormey) and Mary (Agnes Enright Casey). Even my mother's middle name was Mary. And not to mention my aunt, my great-grandmother, my great-great grandmother, and my 3rd great grandmother who are all named Mary Ellen Gorry.

So, naming traditions are important to me. But equally as important is the cultural and ethnic background that my fiance brings to the table - both his parents were born in Honduras, and they speak Spanish. I would love my daughter to be bilingual, and am encouraging that side of the family to speak Spanish to her. And so I would also like something about her name to reflect her Latina heritage - her father's last name, even though it comes from Honduras, is very Anglo sounding, since it actually comes down from his Scottish ancestor, so it will have to be reflected in her first/middle name. So the trick is to meld my family name traditions with his Latin roots, and so far I think we've done a good job mixing the two together...but for now how we've done it will remain a secret! :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. 2012 has been a year of big changes for me, not all of which have been good. I was laid off last month from the only real job I ever had, but even that I'm thankful for because now my future is open to new things, to new opportunities, to anything I want. I'm thankful for the man who asked me to marry him this year and for the little girl growing inside me who will become a part of our family in four months. I'm thankful that for the most part my family survived Hurricane Sandy unscathed and that my grandmother, even though she remains in the hospital, continues to persevere. I'm thankful for good friends, the genealogy resources available to me that were never available before, and for all my helpful contributing cousins!

We all have trials and tribulations we've gone through or might still be going through - our ancestors had theirs; we all know or can imagine their stories. But we are who we are because of everything they went through, good or bad, because of everything WE go through, good or bad, and so I'm thankful for that. There are people I miss - people like my mom and my grandparents who are no longer with us, but on this day, let us remember all the good that was, that is, and that will be, whether we're celebrating with the families we were born into or the families we chose to surround ourselves with.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Adding branches to the family tree

Parents have children who grow up to have children who grow up to have children. If they didn't, we wouldn't have anything to research as family historians! And while usually I talk about the branches I've discovered going back in time, today I'd just like to announce that I am officially physically contributing a new branch to the family tree - I am 21 weeks pregnant with my first child, a girl, who should be arriving somewhere around April 3, 2013.

I'm very excited for my daughter. Besides having two parents and countless aunts/uncles/grandparents/friends who love her very much already, she has such a diverse and eclectic ethnic background. She is going to be a prime example of where I see the human family tree heading, a more global, diverse and integrated family tree. I think of her as my little Viking-Mayan princess. Between me and her father, she has German, English, Irish, Danish, Scottish, Sicilian, Jamaican, Honduran, and Mayan roots, that we know of. If that's not a mutt, I don't know what is, but I think that's so cool! And I can't wait to teach her about where she comes from, and to be proud of her family on all sides. After all, every generation needs a family historian. Maybe this little one will be the one. Or maybe not. But she's going to learn about all this stuff anyway! ;)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Family history places: the Teufelsmoor

God bless the Germans and their meticulous record keeping! Unfortunately, you usually need a PLACE name and not a FAMILY name to find the right book, but if you know the place, German OFBs, or ortsfamilienbücher, or sippenbuch, or family book, can be an absolute GODSEND in breaking down brick walls. I recently came across one with possibly reliable info on my Tiedemann/Buckmann family lines - my 3rd great grandmother, Meta Tiedemann, who was married to John Ricklefs (whose whole family is still a massive brick wall!!!) was born in Mittelstenahe, Hanover, Germany to John Henry/ Johann Heinrich Tiedemann and Meta Buckmann. Meta or Mette Buckman was born in Lamstedt, Hanover, but her father, Johann Friedrich, was born near Osterholz, which is close to the city of Bremen. Anyway, a helpful distant cousin had provided me with some of Meta's heritage when he came across me online, but this OFB I came across traces her family back all the way to the 1600s, which is very exciting. But I have yet to verify it - my gut is telling me its reliable, but I only just discovered it this past week so I need to do more work on it.

But this post is not about the Buckmanns. This post is about where the Buckmanns lived and came from. So often we forget that our family members not only lived, they lived in a place and in a time, both things of which affected their lives - what they did, how they lived, how long they lived, why they moved there or from there, etc. etc. So I found info in this OFB for the Buckmanns - Johann Friedrich was born near Osterholz around 1790, as was his father 30 years before, and HIS parents as well. But this OFB I found was for the Teufelsmoor, a name I had never come across before but was obviously the area of Germany where the Buckmanns of the Osterholz region lived. So, according to Wikipedia, the Teufelsmoor is a region of bog and moorland north of Bremen, Germany, forming a large part of the district of Osterholz. It is 190 square miles in size - literally, "Teufelsmoor" means "devil's bog" or "devil's moor," but really the name means unfertile or dead bog or moor.

"The outer edges of the Teufelsmoor were first settled in the 17th and 18th centuries. Around 1750 the colonisation of the entire moor began ... The settlers were simple farmhands and maids from the surrounding area, who were attracted by the prospect of having their own property and being freed from taxes and military service. Until well into the 20th century the living conditions in these moor colonies were anything other than quaint or attractive. An impression of the very poor circumstances is given by the Low German saying "Den Eersten sien Dood, den Tweeten sien Noot, den Drüdden sien Broot" (translates as something like "The first gets death, the second gets misery, the third gets bread."). Life expectancy in the dark, damp bog dwellings was short and the moor's soils were unsuited to farming."

"An extensive network of drainage channels was created, the main drainage ditches being built to act simultaneously as canals for boats. At that time massive inroads were made into the environment and millions of cubic metres of peat were cut. The peat was sold for heating fuel and shipped to Bremen using peat barges. The embankments running alongside these canals were used by burlaks to haul the barges and also opened up the 'long-street villages' (Straßendorf) following the practice in the fen (Fehn) regions. From the embankments the narrow and very long strips of land (Hufen) that ran out into the moor were farmed. ... By harvesting the layers of peat and draining the land the climatic conditions of the entire area were changed considerably. By the end of the 19th century the keeping of dairy cattle had spread to the area."

So this was a time period when my Buckmanns (and related families) lived in that area, and if you look at how old they were when they died, they were in their 30s-50s. I am not well versed as to the political and military situation in that area of Germany at that time, so I don't know why they moved to that region, and I don't know what they did for a living, but I can guess...if they in fact cut and sold peat, it sounds like a hard life that was unfortunately also a short life, and definitely gives some insight into why Johann Friedrich Buckmann eventually left the Teufelsmoor to move north to Lamstedt.

Anyway, I found it interesting to read about this place. As much as I'm learning about my German heritage, there's so much I still don't know about not just my family but about German history itself. A research project for a rainy day, perhaps! :) 

The Teufelsmoor.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day thank yous and remembrances

A quick thank you to all the veterans in all our families over ALL the years who fought for our freedoms and way of life, for all the sacrifices they made, especially if it was the ultimate sacrifice of their lives...and thank you to their families, the brave women and children, who sacrificed, too, while their husbands/fathers were away.

Today might be a good day to go back into your records and find your veterans and focus on them and their families - what war did they fight in? Where did they go? What did they do? What were their families doing back home? How long were they away? Did it having a lasting affect on them as a person, as a husband, as a father? Has that trickled down to you today? Obviously, we can't answer all these questions, but we can think about them, and remember these people, who by their actions made us, in even a small way, the people we are today.

My veterans (that I know of):

Charles Haase (1838-1891), my 4th-great grandfather, who served in the U.S. Civil War in the 33rd New Jersey Infantry regiment, company H. He enlisted Sept. 22, 1864 in New Jersey and was discharged Jun. 1, 1865 in Bladensburg, Maryland. He was about 36 when he enlisted, and was married to Barbara Reinhardt and had a small daughter, Louisa. My 3rd great grandfather, Edward, was born a year after he came home.

Charles Haase's Civil War discharge papers.

My grandfather, Clifford Monroe "Dick" Raynor (1914-1991), served in World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Oct. 21, 1943 at the age of 29. He served in the Pacific and if we hadn't ended the war by dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, he would've been part of the invasion of Japan. He was released from the Navy Feb. 26, 1946 and 9 months later, he married my grandmother, Mary Cronin.

My grandfather, Clifford "Dick" Raynor.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Memory keepers; surviving Sandy

It's now been about three whole days since we lost power when Hurricane Sandy hit. I consider myself lucky. I live on Long Island and I have no lights, no hot water, no working stove or fridge, and no heat, but I have a roof over my head and a dry room/bed to sleep in. It's giving me a little taste of how people used to live before all these things became standard in the First World. I guess you can't miss what you never had, but when it's 8 p.m. and there's nothing to do except play shadow puppets with a flashlight and I'm not ready for bed yet and I haven't had a hot shower in two days, it definitely makes me appreciate the lives our ancestors led.

But many people in my vicinity didn't fare as well. My father and grandmother live in Freeport, on the South Shore of Long Island, the village my ancestors have lived in for 350 years. They're right on the water, and at the height of the storm, there was six feet of water in the street and more than two feet of water in my grandmother's apartment. She has been staying in a rehab facility following a hospitalization, so she was safe, but my grandmother is my family's genealogy matriarch - she is 97 years old and the keeper of our family's memories - our stories, our documents, our photos. My father is very family history minded as well, so as the water was rising, he and my siblings rescued my grandmother's hope chest and all her photo albums. My brother told me yesterday though that as they were tearing up her destroyed carpet, they found more photos, old photos, that had been submerged in the storm surge. I haven't seen them, but I assume they're probably destroyed. And while I'm grateful my grandmother is okay, and my father and siblings are okay, and most of my grandmother's photos *were* saved, while I know that these are the important things, I'm a little heartbroken over the loss of these other photos. All over Facebook there are similar stories, though, of people having to throw out all their precious memories - photo albums, furniture, other possessions that have been passed down or may have belonged to a dearly departed relative. People lost everything. Not just all their memories - but everything.

But that's the way the story goes. We can't save everything. Records are lost in flood or fire, things that are meaningful to one person are meaningless to another and are thrown away, things erode and fade with the passage of time - life happens. All we can do is hold on to our loved ones while we can. All we can do is pass on what we can, keep telling our family stories from one person to the next, one generation to the next, be memory keepers...all we can do is the best we can.

Thoughts and prayers with everyone else affected by Hurricane Sandy - hope your memories are safe, but more importantly, that your family and loved ones are safe!