Genealogy Reflections

What’s in a Name?

My string of names through birth and marriage are “Flath Fliss Fors.” I know, how likely is that?

  • Flath, my surname at birth, is Northern German. In Low German it means flowing water in a bog. In Middle/High German it means cleanliness, neatness and beauty.
  • Fliss, my first married name, is Polish-Jewish (Ashkenazic Jew) and means raftsman.
  • Fors is Swedish and means waterfall.

So, who am I and where did I come from (creatively speaking of course)?

“I came from the flowing waters in a northern bog that was known for its cleanliness and beauty. From there, a raftsman led me downstream to where there were turbulent waters. As time went on, I came upon a beautiful waterfall, and that is where I shall stay.”

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A Great Read: Eighty Acres – Elegy for a Family Farm

Eighty Acres: Elegy for a Family Farm. By Ronald Jager.  Boston, MA: Beacon Press 1990.

What is the fate of the family farm?  Is this Little House on the Prairie/Great Depression way of life a thing of the past?

This richly detailed memoir by Ronald Jager walks us through his childhood on a rural Michigan farm during the mid-20th century.  While it details the often heartwarming, heart-wrenching, funny and ironic details of growing up on a family farm, it also chronicles the demise of a way of life that has almost completely vanished from this country.

Through his expressive storytelling, we hear about everything from outhouses and chicken coops, horses and cows, cutting wood and stacking wood, plowing and planting, gardening and canning, to the naming of dogs and cats (and yes, even the chickens), and the spooning of black coffee into the newborn baby’s mouth to be used as a heart stimulant. We come to understand the work ethic created in this rural America. It is life – family life – farming life at its best.

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Researching Tidbit: What is the Reason for Conflicting Data?

How often have you seen a variety of dates, names and places for an ancestor while researching? For this, there can be many reasons.

Dates for example: In some religions, it was more important to record a baptism date than a birth date and often those two dates were used interchangeably. Which calendar was being used at the time of the event for your ancestor? Julian or Gregorian? Who recorded the date? Someone once said “the further away from yesterday and the closer to today, the more likely that date may not be the correct one.”

And while collecting family history is so very important, use that information as a starting point for your research and accept the fact the it is not fact! Document, document, document . . .

If a primary source is not available, gather as many secondary sources to come up with the best possible date. (Remember, while a death certificate is a primary source for a death, a death certificate is a secondary source for a birth date.)

Coming up – conflicting information on geographic locations and family names.

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Citizenship Day

Today marks the anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution, a day that finds many of us looking back at who we are and where we came from.  Did you know that until 2004 this day was known as “Citizenship Day”? It was, and continues to be a day that we recognize “all who are born in the U.S. or, by naturalization, have become citizens.”

Many of us don’t have to go too far back in our ancestry to find our first naturalized grandparent.  On one side of my family, I am a third-generation born U.S. citizen. That’s pretty recent. How new is your U.S. family?

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October is here – Celebrate National Family History Month

How often have we heard the term “leave a legacy”? We are not talking about gifting to your favorite charity here, we are talking about you, your family, your family history – your legacy.  Below are just a few ideas for you to think about that might help to ensure that your family history lives on.

  • Share your growing-up stories with your children (and write them down).
  • Collect your family recipes and then cook them up!
  • Take photos of all of your family heirlooms. They can be anything from your great grandmother’s thimble for sewing to your great grandfather’s old foot treadle knife and ax sharpener.
  • Write the story of your family heirlooms and who they originally belonged to.
  • Label all of your family photos.
  • Copy your family photos to share electronically with your family.
  • Write a biographical sketch of your parents, your grandparents, or other family member you find interesting.
  • Create an heirloom in your favorite needlework medium.
  • Interview and create an oral history with your oldest living relative.
  • Make a list of all the new technology since you can remember.
  • Create a list of all of your family traditions.
  • Live life to the fullest and create your own family memories!
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Scandinavian Immigration and Genealogy

37741P.pdf

Why did our ancestors leave their homelands?  Why did they come to the Midwest.  Did you know that Minnesota has the greatest number of Scandinavian-Americans in the United States?

Please join me as we discuss these historical trends that brought our Scandinavian ancestors to Minnesota, how I researched and traced my grandfather’s family, and how we reunited the current day families of all seven siblings – some in the United States and some in Norway.

This May presentation has been rescheduled and will take place at 2:45 p.m. on moved to Friday, June 14 at Vine’s Heritage Center in Mankato.

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A Great Read

Eighty Acres: Elegy for a Family Farm. By Ronald Jager.  Boston, MA: Beacon Press 1990.

What is the fate of the family farm?  Is this Little House on the Prairie/Great Depression way of life a thing of the past?

This richly detailed memoir by Ronald Jager walks us through his childhood on a rural Michigan farm during the mid-20th century.  While it details the often heartwarming, heart-wrenching, funny and ironic details of growing up on a family farm, it also chronicles the demise of a way of life that has almost completely vanished from this country.

Through his expressive storytelling, we hear about everything from outhouses and chicken coops, horses and cows, cutting wood and stacking wood, plowing and planting, gardening and canning, to the naming of dogs and cats (and yes, even the chickens), and the spooning of black coffee into the newborn baby’s mouth to be used as a heart stimulant. We come to understand the work ethic created in this rural America. It is life – family life – farming life at its best.

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Family Legends: Fact or Fiction?

Stories and information are often passed down from one generation to the next; mostly oral but sometime written as family history.  But how often do we question these “facts”, this information given to us by our own parents?

Your mother told you she was 18 years old when she got married, the fall after she finished high school.  The story is very vivid. You were told that she waited until she was of legal age because her father opposed the marriage and would not sign for her to get married earlier. But, as a genealogist, you need to find the documents to prove this bit of family history.

The three most important documents we want to find and analyze for our ancestors are the 1) birth certificate, 2) marriage certificate and the 3) death certificate.

So now you set out to find the marriage certificate for 1938.  But, to your surprise, you find it recorded in 1937, signed not only by the bride and groom; but your mother’s father as well!  A county marriage record should be credible, right? It states that the bride was 17 years of age and the groom 26. This shows us that the timing was fairly close to what we were told. Not a big deal. She was in her senior year of high school.  But you continue your search. You finally find a birth record for grandma – it says that grandma was born 4 June 1922. Wait! What? That makes her – 15? How can that be? That’s three years younger than your mother told you. Her own father signed the marriage license. Was her age a simple mistake? Did he not know how old his daughter was? Could there be any other reason he might give a false age?  After further searching, you find a death record and the social security death index for grandma that both confirm her birth year of 1922.

Now let’s go back to Grandma and Grandpa’s marriage.  You found Grandpa’s birth record and see that his age was not correct either. Probably not a mistake when both ages were incorrect.  He was actually 28 years old. So instead of a bride being 17 and the groom 26, we have a 15-year-old bride and a 28-year-old groom.  So why falsify the records? Age difference? Pregnancy? We may never know but here is an example of errors even in primary documents.

What we want to remember is, just because we’re given information by a reliable family member, we still need to check our facts.  Collect as many primary and secondary documents as possible and then analyze the information to come up with the best possible answer.

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A Valentine’s Day Tribute

A Valentine’s Day tribute and a Family History tidbit with great value! This is a poem my Great-grandfather wrote to his future wife, my great-grandmother, before they were married in 1891.

Long may you live and happy may you be
Climbing over wood piles coming to see me
May you always be the same,
but except the changing of your name
May all your years in joy be past
and each proved happier then the last
Ed

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Genealogy, Ancestors and Family History – What are they?

Someone recently asked me the difference between genealogy and family history. Genealogy is the actual study of your lineage, the direct line from which you descend.  And as you collect information, it is critical that you document and “prove” as you go along. Just because your grandmother told you she was 19 when married and that their first child was born 12 months later does not make it a fact. A birth certificate, marriage license and death certificate are the common documents to collect for “proving” your family information. Your ancestors are your direct descendants – grandparents, great grandparents, etc. And family history is often thought of as the stories that make your ancestors come alive.

So for a quick reference, genealogy is the study and proving facts; ancestors are the people and family history are the stories. Also, it may sound odd, but a “collateral” ancestor, sometimes referred to as an indirect ancestor, is one not in a direct line of ascent – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

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