Friday, April 9, 2010

Ancestor Approved - Humbled, Intrigued, Surprised, Enlightened

Thanks to Lisa, who bestowed the Ancestor Approved award on me, I'm going to list the 10 things I learned about my family that surprised, intrigued, enlightened, and humbled me. 2022 Update: Lisa is not blogging regularly any more, sorry to say.

Look for my list of 10 Ancestor Approved blogs at the end of this post! (2022 update at end)

1. I am humbled by the way my maternal grandfather teamed up with his brother, both recent immigrants from Hungary and still scratching to make a living, and paid for their baby sister to come from the old country and make a new life here. It must have been quite a hardship and yet they did it, changing her life forever. 2022 update: I found out years ago that these Schwartz siblings who came to America left behind parents, who they never saw again, and siblings as well.

2. I am intrigued by my husband's McClure ancestors in Wabash. Are Benjamin M. McClure and his wife Sarah, parents of William Madison McClure and Train C. McClure (among many others), related to the famous Samuel McClure, one of the early settlers? I think not, but it's intriguing to wonder how distantly or closely they're related. 2022 update: Seems no direct connection.

3. I am enlightened regarding the history of Bridgeport, CT. Turns out my great-uncle Sam Schwartz and his bride Anna lived very close to where P.T. Barnum wintered his circus. Certainly they would have seen the occasional runaway animal. Who knew Connecticut could be that wild? 

4. I am humbled that so many people are so willing to help. Queries posted on Rootsweb and other surname message boards have led to incredible breakthroughs because people took the time to answer me and put me in touch with relatives or people who knew relatives. I found several second cousins in this way. Thank you! You made a real difference. UPDATE: Message boards aren't used as often in 2022 as FB pages! 

5. I am surprised that some distant relatives never answered or acknowledged my letters. I wrote to two of my husband's distant cousins, enclosing family documents and even photos, but never heard back. It's possible they weren't actually related to him, of course. However, I'm very certain of the connection in one case. Maybe the letters didn't reach the intended recipients? Or maybe these folks didn't want to be found, for some reason? Or could it be that they were suspicious of getting a letter from people they never heard of, claiming to be long-lost relatives? I would have invested a stamp or a phone call, if a genealogy researcher had contacted me, to at least pursue the inquiry. 

6. I am humbled that some distant relatives are willing to trust me with information, photos, and confidences. Personal lives are very complex and every family has all kinds of undocumented "secrets." Now I know some (and no, I won't blab them here). Some of these "secrets" weren't actually volunteered without prompting; at least one appeared in the news section of a major metropolitan newspaper! But it was "news" to my part of the family. You should hear the explanation my distant relative gave me when I asked about that story. Quite a doozy. 

7. I am enlightened by the geography lesson I get whenever I try to figure out where my maternal and paternal grandparents came from. Ungvar, home of Theodore Schwartz and his brother Sam, used to be in Hungary. Then it was part of Czechoslovakia, back to Hungary, taken over by the Germans in WWII, and finally part of Ukraine. No wonder Grandpa kept changing his answer when official documents asked "country of origin." 

8. I am surprised by the twists and turns I found in my brother-in-law's family. His ancestors were early settlers in the area of Stockton, CA, having come across the country in wagon trains. In fact, one of his ancestors led wagon trains, bringing settlers into the area. The obituary read like a Western adventure story. One time the wagon train was surrounded by a tribe in full war paint. The leader stood up on top of a wagon (according to the obit) and spoke, in Native tongue, eloquently arguing for peace. And got it! The train continued to California without further incident. How many of us will be remembered for heroism like that? 

9. I am surprised at how well some branches of the family tree are documented and how rarely others appear in official and unofficial records. My wonderful cousin Betty recently located a distant relative in Europe who has his father's correspondence from before WWII! And, wonder of wonders, a few letters mention my uncle and other relatives. I've been transcribing letters written to my mother during the late 1930s and mid-1940s. If only I knew all the players (2022 update: I know more of the names/relationships now). But at least she kept them, for decades, and they came to me intact. They form a record of my parents' courtship, from the viewpoint of my mother's friends writing to her in answer to her letters to them. 

10. I am humbled by the amount of work it takes to document families and get the info right. It's a lifetime of work to explain the lifetimes of my ancestors. I'm impressed by my cousin Betty, who has done a great job tracing the family, and my unofficial cousin Art, who in the course of writing up his family's info has helped me learn more about my great-uncle Sam. 

And now, for the 10 bloggers I think deserve the Ancestor Approved Award (originated by "Ancestors Live Here" by Leslie Ann Ballou). Update in 2022: Only TwigTalk and TransylvanianDutch blogs are current. The others haven't been updated in months or years.

John of the Wandering Genealogist 
Jen of ShawGenealogy 
Sherida of TwigTalk 
Sandy and Linda of Cemetery Divas 
Granny Pam of Granny's Genealogy 

Thanks for all the ideas and inspiration!


  1. Thank you so much for choosing my blog, Wild Rhododendrons. I am honored.

  2. my dad was guilty of not answering my cousins letters while she was doing genealogy. Possibly he did not know the exact date, or didn't take the time. I am sure he was pleased and interested. He just didn't get it done.

    I found it. amongst my stuff[ another story] It is possible as a pack rat family that it was lost somehow and mom cleared the table, or a drawer it was shoved here and there.
    Just so you know.