I alluded in a recent post that I had become interested in researching my family tree. I didn’t know then that I would become obsessed with Ancestry.com like some Facebook Farmville addict. I’m too embarrassed to admit how many hours I’ve spent querying census records and immigration manifests each night over the last 2 weeks. But I like it. BTW, the picture in the upper left is of my family when I was maybe 3 years old. You should be able to recognize me from my older brother given I sport the same haircut today. And before you make any comments about so many kids, yes my father was Irish Catholic.
I feel compelled to share some of my experiences and the cool things about this exercise on Ancestry.com. From my first 12 hours in 3 evenings on the site, I identified over 300 family members in my tree, dating back to the 1500s and about 10 countries. Although I found it even more interesting to discover the family strains that lived within the U.S. before the American Revolution. Discovering trends in names are another, perhaps esoteric, thrill that only I find interesting. As I drilled into the 1800s and 1700s, names with obscure biblical references became common. I have an ancestor named Ransom Byrn, as in “Jesus was ransom for our sins.” The Byrns it turns out are traced back to Wicklow, Ireland and changed their name upon landing in America from O’Byrne. Charles O’Byrne settled in North Carolina, leaving a sizeable will; and his offspring went on to found Byrnville, Indiana. Pervasive biblical names perhaps aren’t too surprising and indeed are not as strange as some real-life American names I recently heard. ABCDE pronounced Obesity. And Ladasha spelled La-a. Not making that up.
Fun with names continues as I struggle to interpret the handwriting of some 19th century temp worker who completed the census record. That said, there’s a wealth of information in those records. There’s a strong trend, probably still pervasive today, for teenage girls to switch the order of their first and middle names. There’s a correlation to this for girls named after their mothers or grandmothers. Both my Grandmother and Great Grandmother did this. This 1900 census record upper left captures my Great Grandmother Carrie Edith’s name as a 7 year old. The 1910 census record of her at 17 shows the same name. Then the 1920 census record of her at 27, to the right and still living with her mother whose middle name is Edith, shows that she switched the order of her names. Gets better though. Not sure if your computer screen has the resolution, but note in the 1920 record where the census taker, enumerator, temp worker, records that these kids are illegitimate. Click on the image to see it close up. That should be shocking and bad enough. But it gets better. So better that I won’t even share it with you. This is some cool shit. Start mapping out your own family tree.
What could be better? My maternal Grandmother didn’t attend my parent’s wedding because my mom married an Irishman. NINA! Remember that? No Irish need apply. My staunch German Grandma had issues with Irish, although she later learned to adore my Irish father. My research reveals that although her last name is German (Shaffer) and she marries a German recently off the boat (Freitag); she is in fact at least half Irish. A little Scottish in fact. But it gets better. Research your own family if you want to know what I’m talking about.