Monday, April 3, 2017

Nature or Nurture

 A ship like the Gellert with interiors showing 1st, 2nd, and steerage accommodations. The Gellert is the ship taken to America from Hamburg, Germany by the Timmerman family 30 Oct 1888.
(Photos courtesy of

I’ve been playing with the idea of blogging about what I remember and how I feel; or more specifically, moving beyond the cold facts to a blend of subjective and objective genealogy. It will be my memories of the family added to the more objective facts presented on This genealogy website gives us encouragement in offering a ‘Lifestory’ feature that gives a head-start in bringing our ancestors to life on the page. This Lifestory can be edited, rearranged, and enhanced by personal memories and I've mostly ignored it. Now I hope to put this wonderful feature to use. 
A caveat – my tree is far from perfect. It is a worksheet, a fluid work in progress. Where I’ve done the field work I’m pretty certain it is correct. I’m a big fan of and other genealogical websites and all the documentation they have available – but computerized mistakes have a way of spreading like weeds and becoming part of the genealogical landscape. I’m open to suggestions, corrections, and ideas and in the end I have to go where my gut leads. Will my ramblings be of interest to blog readers or genealogist? That remains . . . as they say.
Yesterday I started with a look at my ex-husband’s family. They are, obviously, not related to me but they are related to three of my children.  Since they are my ex’s family deep emotions are stirred while looking at their tree. It is a large eastern Nebraska family. My children’s great grandfather was an immigrant from Holstein, Germany. He arrived with his parents at age 10 in 1888. Their great grandmother was also from Germany and was born at sea – arriving with her family in 1882. Just think of her mother – leaving her home to travel to a foreign land at the end of her pregnancy and delivering that baby while on the ocean! These families didn’t stop on the east coast, they made their way to Nebraska where there were German speaking farming communities and social clubs that helped them feel at home. These families worked hard to learn English and fit into the American culture, but they were welcomed here in their native tongue. When I went to college in Nebraska I found there was still a fondness for polka – although two world wars had pretty much killed the German language in America.
But wait, my ex-husband’s maternal family is not only NOT related to me! They are genetically not related to him and therefore not related to my children. He was adopted. Do I spend time pursuing a step or adopted family? I knew these people, most not well, but others who have affected my ex, my self, and my children by their love and life experience. Their very existence and life stories were woven into the fabric of our lives. Blended families are a frequent fact these days and how much time you may wish to spend on researching their roots really depends on what significance they hold in your lives. 
As I come back to my genealogy and start with fresh eyes, I can see that my mother-in-law and her family touched my life beginning at age 18 and my life would never be the same. God’s little elves, weaving together the strands of my life at a mad speed, picked up those threads before I could take a breath and the Timmerman, Able, and Steinhauer families were a part of my life’s tapestry.
Tell me, please. Do you research step and adopted families as part of your line?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Graves in Ontario, Canada

Woodland Cemetery - Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
(photo courtesy of by Miriam McDonald)

2 April 2017
I’m home from a Florida vacation with fresh eyes, renewed ambition, and the genealogy bug is nibbling at me. The bug is easily fed by opening my large file to just about anywhere and I’ll find hints in the form of leaves flying in the virtual wind. This time I was given an email nudge from a fellow researcher. I don’t know her other than she is a kindred spirit who belongs, as do I, to and
In this case Rosemary was snapping photos of tombstones in cemeteries in Ontario. (When will I ever get to Ontario? Probably never. What a boon the Internet is to genealogists.) As well as adding her photos to the database at ‘Find a Grave’ she did a search for these particular ancestors on and notified me of the photos she’d posted. How wonderful that she went the extra mile.
The odd thing is that I couldn’t find those ancestors on my rather mammoth tree. As of this morning there are 44,228 entries. Subsequently, I wrote back to Rosemary to thank her for contacting me but that I couldn’t find those Canadians in my family. She wrote back immediately saying that these ancestors were on ‘Rachel’s Tree.’ Mystery solved. Over the years I’ve put together family trees for various friends and loved ones and there they sit on my account with little or no attention.
These Canadians of long ago on my friend Rachel’s tree are not my family. The question to myself is – do I spend my time on them or ignore the information and go directly to my tree?  What is the most productive and most satisfying use of my time? (As we get older that is a question we ponder more and more. I had, after all, just turned my Outlander calendar to April 2017 – what time I have left, whether it be less than 1 year or more than 25, is slipping quickly away.) I opted for Rachel’s tree which seems rich with Scottish Protestants who immigrated to Canada in the early part of the 19th century. How exciting. I can see those woolen garbed Scots with their heavy brogue immigrating to the cold north – a climate to which they were not unaccustomed. What adventurous souls. Were they excited? Scared? In awe of what they dared to do?
Rachel, whose tree I hadn’t looked at in eons, had lots of green leaves flying. I dwelt among them with the new information, mostly recent cemetery photos, for a couple of hours doing updates. Later that day as I was walking Beatrice, my Coton de Tulear whose dog ancestors hale from Madagascar, we stopped at Rachel’s for a chat. In her eighties, with no known living relatives, Rachel was delighted and most surprised to hear that a stranger had contacted me about her ancestors long buried in Canadian ground. Soon she’ll come over to take a look at her enriched tree. Was it a good use of my and Rosemary’s time. Absolutely.