More thoughts on ancestry research

My grandfather on right (Sigmund) with some family members

The title should really be “Help! I’m a prisoner!”

This is coming to you from the black hole of ancestor research! It’s a land of stagnant bladders (no time for potty runs) and cookie survival (you can eat that at the computer). Note to self: Buy a box of Depends and Pepperidge Farm cookies!

I’m in the early to mid-1800s now (great-great grandparents). Not easy. So many ways to spell the same name! Those old recording monks should have had spellcheck.

Many people from the old country (as my mom called it) settled in the same area in the US. The same surnames float around often. I recall them as classmates, neighbors and see them as cousins several generations back. Some of my classmates are gone. I found that too.

I’ve roughly pinpointed the origin of the immigrants. Food helps (no, not the cookies but the food of my childhood). Originally I thought we came from Germany but my mother never served traditional German food. Her parents came from Austria which has a Hungarian or Slovakian influence (along with some of the best pastries in the world!). I remember strudel and goulash as a child. Lots of cabbage dishes too. It was a blend of the entire area.

I feel a connection to something I didn’t know existed. During the Olympics I find myself rooting for Austrian athletes (woot woot!) and the US. (The beloved husband believes this is a little over the top but what can you expect of an ex-Brit!)

A DNA match has contacted me. Are we related? I looked at her tree. With the difference in spelling, it’s possible but I couldn’t find a confident connection. She is much farther along than I am. She’s in the late 1700s. I’m still trying to convert “nicknames” we used for my grandmother’s siblings into real names that may appear on documents. Who knew that Ham could be short for Emmerich which is spelled 87 different ways?

Speaking of names, I found some lovely ones. In this day of “made up baby names,” there is something elegant about the old ones. One great-grandfather was Matthias. His son was Sigmund (or Simon). Anna’s and Stephen’s were everywhere. All would be considered unusual today.

I owe Google a drink. I made some promises in the heat of the moment. (One gets desperate when you hit a wall.) Perhaps a toast in front of my screen will suffice. For now!

PS: Just this morning I heard back from my “ancestry friend.” She gave me a few tips and also my great-great grandparents names. I’m hanging on to my hat for the ride! (Better stock up with gifts for Google too!)

64 thoughts on “More thoughts on ancestry research

  1. I understand how addicting this research really is! I dip in for a week or two and then have to put it all down for a while because with this level of research there really is no end. I think the spelling issues are the most frustrating to me. I think you’re doing the right thing to make headway now…spring is hopefully just around the corner and you’ll want to get some fresh air. 🙂

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  2. Can you imagine if you find that you’re an heir to some royal family and should be living in a castle on a hill in Europe somewhere? Whatever would you do? You wouldn’t possibly give up blogging, would you?

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  3. We’re planning a Johnstone family weekend get-together in a beach home this July. The main purpose is to share family stories, facts, and photos. My sister is interested in genealogy, not I. I’m going along anyway. I hope I won’t be too bored. I’ll try to collect interesting stories. And … I’ll bring a book.

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  4. Hi, Kate – I totally appreciate the ‘black hole’ of ancestry research…as well as the drive to continue past lunch or dinner. The many names spelled differently, as well as the numerous people all having the same name can drive one to distraction. (There are several Castle Fieldings on Some are related to me while others strangely appear not that be. How can this be?) I took a break from my research a few years ago and have never restarted. I applaud you for continuing (with gusto) and for having a specific goal. Good luck!

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    • I’ve hit a wall. I may be researched as far as I can go. There aren’t many records in rural areas going back to the early 1800s. I’ve located where my maternal grandparents came from. I have to work on my father’s side. I can make up stories about my famous ancestors!


  5. I too am fascinated by ancestral history and am fortunate to know a lot about my family, having grown up in a tiny rural community where I’m fourth generation, and having distant relatives who’ve done the genealogical research back to the 1800s along one particular line. I’ve been able to follow that one back to the 1400s. Oh, so many people who had to live in order for each of us to be born! It’s incredible. It’s overwhelming. It’s an endless and interesting story, most of which we can never know.
    Once in a meditation I “met” a great-great-great grandmother and that was a brief but enlightening experience which felt real and true. To see how she was similar (stature, feistiness) and yet different from my grandmother, her own great-granddaughter, was the delightful surprise.

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    • I’m only at my great-grandparents but I’ve identified the regions of emigration (roughly) for both sides. It’s a lot of work and a lot of rural European countries don’t have on-line records. I have seen some homes though. I can’t imagine the lifestyle they had. No conveniences. They didn’t need gyms because life was a real work out! 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Oddly enough I’ve been going through boxes of documents that I inherited from, well– just about everyone. Buried in one of the boxes is a daguerreotype of a woman with a piece of paper telling me her name. She’s a great-great-[great?]-grandmother of mine. Now I’m curious. You and Margaret may yet me get me sucked into ancestry research with all of your posts about your familial discoveries.

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    • I have a goal, hazy as it may be. I would like to pinpoint the spot in Europe that my 4 grandparents emigrated from. Anything else is gravy. I have no illusions of being a descendent of Marie Antoinette (although that’s possible after all she was a Hapsburg!) I don’t have many pictures at all and the quality is poor. This posted photo is one of the best and one of the few I have of this grandfather. I have none of two grandparents.

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  7. Stories are cool – and ones about real people related to you are the best stories – and the mysteries!
    I wonder if you took multiple DNA analysis tests if the results would be the same. I know with dog dan tests, the results vary by company…of course it is dogs and you know how they are (Husband has looked into getting Molly’s DNA …like she really is concerned about parentage)

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    • It’s a weird story but I did take two from two different companies. I didn’t get the other back yet. There were discounted specials during the holidays. I’m very weak. I wouldn’t consider DNA for any of the cats (if there is such a thing). I don’t need to hear that they are descended from the royal cats of Egypt! There are demanding enough now.


  8. At least it’s a fun rabbit hole you fell into. I’ve been in a not-so-fun rabbit hole of info lately that no one would like to fall into. But, it’s where we find truth, something I’m passionate about. Good luck with the tunnels in that hole you’re in. Don’t forget to shower. 😉

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  9. I like the picture! Sounds like you are having a great time, just remember to stock up on the cookies and I hope your hubby is doing Starbucks runs for you. 🙂
    My MIL got sucked into that vacuum as well and it has been really cool to see some of the things that she has discovered.
    Keep at it and yes keep cheering for the Brit’s. 🙂 I cheer for the coolest looking colors, LOL! I do cheer for the US, but sometimes you just have to admit that the other competitors are better. Like with the figure skating! But I did love the brother and sister team from the US and am very glad that they got a medal.

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  10. I do like the old names. Matthias and Sigmund are pretty cool. On my mother’s side of the family, there are a lot of names from literature because of their love of reading, like Milton and Cora (Last of the Mohicans). On my dad’s side of the family, there are old and simple names that sound happy to me, like Stella, Fanny, and Betty. And no, not Francis and Beatrice, but Fanny and Betty. (Adorable!)

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