Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who Knute?

Interest is peaking in family history. Surveys of people in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere show about 75-80% of everyone surveyed is interested in their genealogies. This is not particularly surprising in one way, because, of course, most of us are interested in our families and how they live, but the interest in our histories in unprecedented. So genealogy, the study of one's family in the past, is interesting. But is it fun? Why would a normally sane person want to pay money to subscribe to a family history website, or even take the time to sift and pore through hundreds and thousands of records, just to find an ancestor whose name is common, may be misspelled, or simply did not appear much in polite society?

I think part of the fun is summed up in the old network command, and question, “whoami”. Who you or I are is dictated by the choices we make, but also by the reactions we have had to the choices our parents, siblings, and other determining people in our lives have made, positive and negative. Whoami is a network command that tells a computer network user who they are on a network, and what parts of the network they can access. When you begin to look at what and why your grandparents and other family members did, and when, then you understand a bit how they understood themselves, and you begin to understand yourself, and even if you don't understand or sympathize, empathize with them and why they did what they did.

Part of it is that many of us have a hunting instinct, whether we actually enjoy hunting, shopping, or looking for hard-to-find objects, or just like the challenge of finding something that has been lost. The challenges of putting facts together like you would a jigsaw puzzle, organizing data so it makes sense, or just arranging information so it is complete can be very gratifying.

One example of this is when I found a great-grandmother's maiden name on a death certificate. It was Scandinavian in origin, Lundene, but did not make sense when used as a surname, especially in a Norwegian context. There are Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish people with the surname Lund, and some Swedes have the last name of Lundin, or similarly spelled versions of Lundin, but not “Lundene.” Lundene means “The groves.” So there are many people with the name of Lund, but not the Lunds.

By twisting and tweaking my searches, I was able to find family members in the U.S. 1880 Census with that surname living next door to other family members with an even more unusual name, Jeglum, so they were fairly easy to find. All I had to do was look next door. I then compared both families to an 1870 document. The Jeglums were there...but the Lundenes were listed under the surname Lund, with the same first names as the Lundenes in 1880. That was my clue that the family had undergone a number of name changes. When I searched back ten years before, I found the family under the surname Knutson, on par with how they would be named in Norway, using the father's patronymic as Andrew, or Anders, the son of Knut.

This then gave me further clues about where and when the father, and the mother, Olea were from. It even lead to other relatives’ family trees, where a wonderful picture of their beautiful family, all ten family members. It’s fun having lots of relatives, isn’t it?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How humor is used in families
On my father’s side of the family, we are related to Cyril Call, one of the original LDS pioneers that first came to Utah, and, it seems one of the few people that is related to about half the people descended from the original Mormon pioneers. His son Homer, a twin to Omer, shared a rather unusual sense of humor that seems to run through parts of the family. Some of the jokes the brothers shared remind me a bit of J.K. Rowling’s Weasley twins. Homer and Omer were identical twins and were therefore difficult to tell apart. When they went on dates, each twin would dress the same, then identify themselves uniquely by wearing different flowers, so their dates could tell them apart. Halfway through the dances, if they fancied, they would switch flowers, and then go home with different dates, without their dates knowing their partners had switched.

Both eventually married, Homer at the respectable age of 22, having apparently made up their minds about who was best, and Homer had 12 children by his wife Nancy Merrell, whose earlier relatives fought in the Revolutionary War. One of their children married into the Grover family, and my talented, piano-playing grandmother, Welda Grover, married my grandfather, Earnest W. Dutson. Grandma always claimed the W. stood for “work.” We were never able to ask Grandpa in order to verify if this was true. The Dutsons were, and are very straight-faced, not what would normally be considered humorous people. When my grandmother died in 2001, my youngest brother and I went to her funeral. There, after the ceremony at the funeral luncheon, we watched how the family sense of humor came into play. Welda’s siblings, not professional comics, I might add, began teasing their Dutson relatives, relentlessly poking fun at them. The at-the-Dutsons-expense humor was hilarious, and the Dutson brothers had no defences against this form of attack, although they tried their best to stave off looking silly. It was the funniest funeral, and one of the funnier moments in my life. After watching this for 45 minutes, my brother and I, ribs smarting from having laughed so hard for so long, had to go home. Some people have a party at funerals…my family members shared an irresistible sense of humor. I think that was a fitting tribute to a deceased family member, don’t you?

What kinds of humorous traditions do you family members have? Do you have branches of the family that are less funny than others? How did they relate to you, and to life?

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Does Your Family Mean to You?

A family, by definition, begins because a man or woman is attracted to someone of the opposite gender, and cares about the fruits of the relationship on an ongoing basis. Think about how much you care about your family, and how much your parents, or grandparents cared about you and their families. The degree to which you show your love and concern determines what happens, within the limits of individual choices, to your children and grandchildren, and beyond. Here’s an outstanding example how both parents in early American Colonial times (about the time of the French and Indian War) cared for their family members, and each other.
Denys (or Denice, Dennis, Dennisje), 1658-1713 is an 8th great-grandfather on my mother’s side of my family. His parents came from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and settled in New Jersey, then a part of New Netherlands. They moved to New York, which, at that time, included all of New England and Maine. He was born there, grew up, then moved up to what is now the state of Maine, and married. It was after he began his family that the hardships began. Denys moved to Jamestown, which was renamed Pemaquid, and is now Bristol, Maine, where he married Grace Dollen, in about 1680.
They had 4 children, Dollen, born 1681, Adriaen, born about 1683, Catharina, born 1688, and Jane, born about 1687.
In 1689, a small, French-led army, consisting of Abenaki natives, led by Jean-Vincent d'Abbadie de Saint-Castin, Father Louis-Pierre Thury, and Chief Moxus, attacked the fort at Pemaquid, successfully subduing it and the farms around it, killing and capturing many English subjects. One of them was Denys’ wife Grace. Denys was apparently able to hide himself, and his 3 older children. Little 2-year old Jane, the fourth and youngest, however, couldn’t flee, and had to stay with her mother, and was captured. No information exists about how long Jane survived. What she and her mother suffered was also never put into writing. Telling the authorities was probably too painful. It is possible Jane was taken away to be raised by the Abenaki, or other tribes. Considering the difficulties Grace and her captors would have had nourishing a two-year old girl, she probably died soon after her capture.
The next few years were nightmarish for Grace, for Denys and their older children. Denys, wracked with sorrow and loneliness, wondering where his wife was, and whether she remained alive, pleaded with Governmor Slaughter, the newly-appointed governor of New York responsible for Pemaquid, and was finally granted permission to sail north in the Spring of 1691. There he was to be dropped off, so he could search for his missing wife and daughter.
Saint-Castin, the interim military administrator, however, immediately imprisoned Denys as a war combatant, notwithstanding his being “…a lame man having but one arme & not Capable to gett his living by any servile labour.” The commander’s administrative excuse was “Who is this governor (Slaughter) and how long has he been there?' Denys replied: 'A month or six weeks.' St. Castyn then said: “Why has Monsieur Frederick Phillips, or his son Philip, whose hand-writing and name I know, not written me a letter of recommendation? Therefore, I cannot consider you as anything but traitors and I am forced, according to orders from Governor de La Conte, to send you to Quebec.”
So Denys, courageous, and crippled, was taken prisoner by the French, and sent to Quebec. In the meantime, his wife Grace had survived her experiences among the natives, and was sold to the French, then brought to Quebec, where she was reunited with her husband. I would have liked to see the reunion. On March 4, 1693, their son Joseph, my 7th great-grandfather, was born.
The Hegemans’ story resonates in this day and age of electronic distraction and familial disconnection to me. How much would I care, and what would I have done, were I in a similar situation? How prepared am I for these, or similar kinds of contingencies?

Friday, October 24, 2014

My Mother, a Genealogist's Inspiration

Nan Yvonne Pinkston, 1964

My family, about 1965

I recently awoke, feeling sluggish from too much to do the previous day. You know, the kind of day where you find yourself almost literally spinning in circles, as you try to balance the needs of spouse, children, health, and feeding finances, mind, and body.

As I sat on my couch, trying to get going, and heat-release my glued-shut eyes, a song from "The Sound of Music" came into my head: "I have confidence." When the song played to the refrain "Wake up!” I was able to wake up enough to get myself to work, and be on time.

My mother loved "The Sound of Music" so much, and watched it so frequently, that I avoided viewing the movie for literally decades after I grew up enough to move away. I recently saw this classic show with my children, and we all enjoyed it.

Now the genealogical question: What does this have to do with Matt's family history?
Like Maria, my mother was orphaned, first by her father who became an alcoholic, and then by her mother, who lived a fast and furiously addicted lifestyle in order to relieve the pain caused by her health problems, not having the strength of heart, mind or spirit to stand up for herself. Mom’s divorced LDS grandmother, a strict, lonely woman of principle, showed my mother a lifestyle with morals, light and integrity, and gave her the opportunity to live that way.

But it was my mother who chose to live the more positive lifestyle, dealing with the severity along with the good, over the carousing and casual marriages of her mother.
As a result, my mother raised 4 children in 2 marriages, with at least a good idea of what was right, and what wasn't. She, too, was horribly lonely, and suffered because she was not raised in an environment where she could rely on much of a support system for good, and so didn’t understand well how to reach out to people she could trust. But she made the most necessary sacrifices for her 4 children to get them to adulthood, 2 from each husband, and now has 15 grandchildren, and is getting great-grandchildren. She did live long enough to see her firstborn son Matt marry, the last of her children to do so, and then passed at the rather young age of 56.

She has made a huge difference to me, and I'm very grateful.
What do your parents and grandparents mean to you? That’s the kind of question I like to answer.