Saturday, December 29, 2012

AncestryDNA part deux

So for Christmas I bought an AncestryDNA kit for my fiance - I think I was more excited about it than he was, so really, it was a present for me too, but with a daughter on the way, I see finding out a little more about his ethnic background as a gift for our growing family.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, Sam is Honduran, so I'm fully expecting to see some kind of Native American ancestry showing up, based on his known-Mayan heritage. But the rest of his family tree is such an eclectic mix - Jamaican, Scottish & Sicilian that we know of, who knows what else that we don't - I'm just so excited to see what shows up. Because, a la my results, there could be some real surprises. The more I think about it, the more my Scandinavian roots make sense (all the countries my family is from were plundered/settled by Vikings) but I am still flummoxed by my Eastern European roots. It must be somewhere in my German roots, that they had family that came from Eastern European countries, but I have yet to find it. A mystery for another day.

But another reason I'm excited about this DNA kit for my fiance is that his family comes from a part of the world where record keeping is spotty at best, as is the case in many of the Central/South American countries where whole populations were conquered and destroyed or records for certain populations were deemed not worth keeping. I'm lucky in that I have a lot of paper records available to me for my own family research, but what do you do when you don't have that? You can rely on whatever paper records ARE available, family records, oral tradition & now, DNA.

So, can't wait to get that done. But in the mean time, I'm still personally trying to wrap my head around some of the aspects of AncestryDNA, particularly the cousin connect feature. Maybe one of my readers can help me with this - when someone is listed as being connected to you, especially as a close connection (4th-6th cousin), how accurate is that? Is that person really related to you? Whenever I look at their trees, I don't recognize any of the names - there's no overlap. However, while I can list many of my 4th-6th cousins, thanks to my colonial family tree, there are quite a few I can't and may never find - thanks to my spotty Irish ancestry. So maybe these are cousins on those missing branches? Or is it just saying that because I have Scandinavian DNA & THEY have Scandinavian DNA, we MIGHT be related?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rudolph Stutzmann's home: 109-50 Park Lane South, Richmond Hill/Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

Now that you've read through that long-ass post title, hopefully you'll keep reading the actual post! :)

Rudolph Stutzmann is my great-great grandfather on my dad's side (his mother's grandfather). He's your typical child-of-an-immigrant-inherits-an-entrepreneurial-spirit American story. Because he was fairly well off and a prominent member of local society, he's probably the ancestor I know the most about, at least public-life-wise, since his comings and goings are well-chronicled in local newspapers. He's the rare family member that history in general helps us recall - for the majority of us, the majority of our ancestors are only noteworthy to our own families (which is all the more reason to make sure somebody writes and keeps the records!)

Anyway, Rudolph lived and worked in Brooklyn and Queens, not more than half an hour from where I live and for years I've been dying to visit the home he lived in during his later years in life - 109-50 Park Lane South (just from the name you can tell its an upscale neighborhood). It's sometimes listed as being in Richmond Hill, Queens and sometimes as Kew Gardens, Queens - its right on the border and I'm not sure which is actually right. But my fiance works in Kew Gardens, so when I went to meet him there last week, I brought my camera and made a quick stop at the Stutzmann homestead. If you Google the property, you can find out the house itself, a two-story brick building, is about 2700 square feet and worth (today) $660,000. I think it's very cool that the house is still standing - It's a beautiful, neat building, nice sized but not the home of a wealthy person by today's standards - by far not the most beautiful nor the biggest house in the neighborhood (in my dreams, I'll have a house one day like the ones in that neighborhood!) But the location itself is beautiful - located right across from Forest Park, established in the 1890s, the third-largest park in Queens and partially designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. It's not many places in Queens or the city that the view outside your windows is one of trees and nature!

The Stutzmann house was built in 1925 and Rudolph and his wife Augusta Lindemann Stutzmann were living there by 1930. Not too shabby of a home to live in during the Great Depression of all times. That's what I can't get over. How many people were hanging on by a thread, if at all, during that decade, and Rudolph, a banker and business owner, was doing well enough to purchase (he owned the house) a nice home in a nice neighborhood (he was very active in giving back to the community and helping those in need during those years, by the way, at least according to the newspapers, which makes me feel better).

109-50 Park Lane South was still his address when he died June 26, 1946.

Photo taken Dec. 14, 2012 by Mary Ellen Gorry.
View of Forest Park from the sidewalk in front of the Rudolph Stutzmann home at 109-50 Park Lane South, Queens, NY. Photo taken Dec. 14, 2012 by Mary Ellen Gorry.

Photo taken Dec. 14, 2012 by Mary Ellen Gorry.
The home of Rudolph Stutzmann & Augusta Lindemann Stutzmann from 1930-1946. 109-50 Park Lane South, Queens, NY. Photo taken Dec. 14, 2012 by Mary Ellen Gorry.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Remembering Pearl Harbor Day, 'a day which will live in infamy': Dec. 7, 1941

My fiance and I were watching "From Here to Eternity" recently - I had never seen it before, and didn't realize it followed characters in the months and days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which happened 71 years ago today. I mentioned to him how, up until that fateful and terrible morning, it must have seemed like a dream assignment.

As I began writing this entry, I didn't realize that its been more than 70 years since the attack that ushered in U.S. involvement in World War II. No wonder when I had the opportunity to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial four years ago did the teens I was chaperoning look at me as if I were a crazy person because I was in tears the entire time. 70 years is a lifetime ago, ancient history to not just teens but to a lot of people. But for someone like me, and I suspect most genealogists, people who actively try to keep history alive and in the present, being in that spot was an incredibly emotional and intense experience. And while it might seem forever ago, it has impacted our lives - most of us have parents or grandparents who fought in World War II, who might have been injured or killed in that war. Our mothers or grandmothers might have been the first in our trees to work outside the home or be the sole breadwinners for their families while their husbands were off fighting. And because it impacted their lives, it impacts our lives. That's the way life works - the ripple effect.

Anyway, not a genealogy blog per se, but its important to acknowledge the role that events or time periods play in shaping our family trees, and this one was a doozy. Every generation has something - 9/11, Kennedy being shot, Pearl Harbor, and especially now that we're in a year where it was someone's GREAT grandfather who fought in World War II, a relative far enough back that they've never met him and might not even care to know about him, it's important for those of us who do care to make sure these people and these moments are not forgotten.

Happy weekend, everyone! :)

Photos from visit to USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii July 2008

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why Don't Parents Name Their Daughters Mary Anymore? - The Atlantic

Thanks to Cousin April for forwarding me this article. Not genealogical in focus per se, but whether we realize it or not, names are at the forefront of all the genealogy research we do. Whenever we're looking for that next generation, what are we looking for? Names. Anyway, as someone very interested in naming traditions and someone who loves her own name (which just happens to be Mary!), this article was right up my alley. It is also timely, as I just recently wrote about how my fiance and I are in the process of deciding what to name our daughter and all the factors that come into play (at least for me) with that decision - family tradition, cultural and ethnic heritage, and individuality. 


Why Don't Parents Name Their Daughters Mary Anymore? - The Atlantic

Monday, December 3, 2012

Little green leaves: hints

I recently renewed my subscription, yet again. Now that I lost my job, I really can't afford it for any more than a month at a time, but now that you can buy more than one DNA test, the discount given to members is worth it. I hope. I really want to know my fiance's DNA results, especially now that we're expecting our daughter!

Anyway, every time I check in on my tree, I have, as I'm sure you do, those little green leaves suggesting hints. In a way, I love seeing those leaves - Ancestry is always adding more records and I always have the hope that some new record will either shed new light on my family history or validate information I'm pretty sure about but don't necessarily have proof for. Every now and then, Ancestry comes through but more often than not, that green leaf is a frustrating dead end. Not that it doesn't pertain to the person it's attached to. For the most part, Ancestry does a good job of matching up appropriate records with the appropriate person (although not always). Unfortunately, a lot of those hints are not for primary records. Primary records are SOOO vital to genealogy - actual firsthand records or at least images of those firsthand records. I even slack a little and accept secondary sources when I just can't find a primary source - such as German OFBs, family history books that are transcriptions of primary sources. Sometimes that's all you have and while you can assume its fairly reliable, you still have to take it with a grain of salt.

But a lot of Ancestry hints are for other members' family trees. This is both frustrating and exciting. It's exciting because it provides you with potential family connections and so so SO many times those newly discovered distant relatives, people I never knew about and have never met, have provided me with the primary and/or secondary sources vital to verifying or adding to my family tree. But too many of these Ancestry trees are people who have copied their info from other trees they found on the Internet and are unsourced, unsourced, unsourced! Or they are sourced, and their source is another unsourced family tree. It makes me want to knock my head against the wall.

Anyway, this is not new info - I'm sure this is a source of frustration but also connection for all of us. It's just been on my mind. I'm using this time as an Ancestry member to save as much of my sources to my hard drive as possible, since I can't view them when I let my membership expire. It's tedious work, especially trying to record all the citations as well, but it has to be done and I might as well do it while I have the time.