The Other I

August 28, 2011

If your mother were here…

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:48 pm

It seemed such a simple request.  Such an innocent inquiry.

I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.

One of my brothers has for years been working on a family genealogy.  It’s been interesting to hear about various discoveries, and some time ago I helped him organize a family tree.

But I was caught completely unawares by the gravity of his inquiry last week asking if I might be able to find any of the passenger lists of ships that carried our relatives from Germany to America’s shores in 1846.

I won’t provide all the tortuous details.  I won’t list just how many Johann Matthias Jansen’s and family came to the United States in 1846.  I won’t even suggest all the various routes and circumlocutions one may explore in immigration records, passenger lists, family IDs, or birth, marriage and death certificates to find out who exactly was on which ship with whom.

I will tell you, though, that for somebody like me, it’s addictive.  It’s like eating candy.  “Just one more bit…”,  “Well, I’ll just check…”, “Well, one more won’t matter if I just look to see if…”

The problem that’s just dawning on me is that there is no end to this genealogy business.

Not just no end in sight.  No end.  Unless by some hallucinatory conviction I convince myself I have finally trekked back to the Garden of Eden.  Or the primates as they climbed out of the trees in Africa.

Posts on this blog have been stuttering for some time as I am ferreting my way through this labyrinth.  My grace period with expires next month and I’m hoping to avoid a the renewal fee.  So I fear the stuttering may go on at least into next month.

By which time I hope I shall have arrived at the Garden gates.

Or not.




  1. How interesting. For all I “don’t watch TV” – I was watching a back episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” last night. It is always compelling – and makes history so real.
    I hope you keep on researching those genes as far back as the paperwork will take you. I am back to nine “greats” and a guy called Noah…!


    Comment by sanstorm — August 28, 2011 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  2. I’m so glad to make the acquaintance of a fellow searcher. Okay, I have a question: as part of the research, are you satisfied with getting a good fix on dates of birth and death, the spouse and the relevant (ie: a direct ancestor in question) offspring? Or do you want to know everything about them – their roles and status in society, education, achievements, etc? For me, it’s hardly worth knowing the dates without the larger picture. My brother considers it “fluff.” (Guess who’s filling in the tree faster-)

    It’s Noah, is it? Ah -no wonder you landed in Scotland.


    Comment by theotheri — August 28, 2011 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

    • I think dates are kind of sufficient, but history snippets are great. Our best one is that if it hadn’t been for a death at the battle if bunker hill, our line wouldnt have started, as a bunker hill widow married my ancestor.


      Comment by sanstorm — August 29, 2011 @ 11:11 am | Reply

      • The Bunker Hill story is a great one. Was the first husband of the Bunker hill widow fighting with the *British* Garrison? If he’s been one of the “rebels”, my guess is that his widow would have been in America already and you wouldn’t be living on that side of the pond. Or is the story even more convoluted than that? Yes, it’s these kind of historical details that I find so fascinating, and can sometimes even give you insight into your own self. At least I find it so.


        Comment by Terry Sissons — August 29, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

      • Yes – fighting with the Brits…


        Comment by sanstorm — August 29, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

      • And now here I am living over here. And loving it.


        Comment by Terry Sissons — August 29, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  3. I think finding a personal connection to times in history makes it ultimately much more interesting. Sometimes there is such a wall between what happened and what we think/or wanted to happen. Bringing it around to the present and connecting events to family just makes the past seem that much more real. Good luck on your search and I hope you find what you are looking for. I’ll miss your posts until you join us again here in the present.



    Comment by Leanna — August 29, 2011 @ 12:13 am | Reply

    • Thank you for the good luck wishes. My leanings are exactly the same as yours. Not only does connecting events to family make the past more real. I think it often casts a light on who we ourselves are today as well. Speaking of the unending search for identity…


      Comment by theotheri — August 29, 2011 @ 1:38 pm | Reply

  4. It seems very interesting, working on your family genealogy.


    Comment by Robert — September 28, 2011 @ 5:25 pm | Reply

    • I find genealogy research just tantalizingly interesting enough to keep me motivated through a fair amount of frustration and confusion. For me, one of the most surprising things is to discover just how fast memories fade. If one can get back as far as two hundred years, it’s a great achievement. Partly that’s because records that have been kept in the first place have often been destroyed by war or accident. Partly it’s because of initial errors. And in the United States at least, there seems to have been an exceptional number of name changes . They have often been imposed by immigration authorities who have misunderstood the original name. Sometimes it is due to the fact that spelling was simply not nearly as rigid as it is now. I have a great great grandmother who in various places seems to have gone by the names of Anna, Mechtildis, Mathilda, Matilde, Magdalen, and Magdalina. And sometimes the immigrants, either officially or unofficially, simply simplified their names to sound more “American.”

      So, yes, it’s very interesting. Have you tried it at all?


      Comment by theotheri — September 28, 2011 @ 7:41 pm | Reply

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