Do You Know Your Roots?
I have always been interested in my heritage. I have an Aunt who did an extremely detailed family tree for my Mother, Rita's side of the family. Her research took her on several trips to Ireland, where records for the 1800's and earlier are not that easy to come by. My maternal grandmother was born in Canada to an Irish mother and an English father. My aunt has traced the English vein to 1630 in Windsor CT. In fact there is a book about this forefather of our family as well as other writings. The time, money and perseverance that my aunt put into my maternal family tree was phenomenal, giving future generations a detailed look into the families history.
Since my father was an only child, and he and his parents were all deceased, I thought I would have a hard time gathering family links and the kind of family folk stories that my Aunt was so fortunate to compile for my Mother's side of the family.
My paternal grandfather was born in MA to immigrants from St Ours, a small town along the St Lawrence River, south of Montreal. I spent hundreds of hours on the Internet family message boards trying to get past my great grandparents, but with not much in the way of results until a priest at a seminary in Baltimore, who has the same last name, emailed me questioning some of my assumptions. It turns out he had been archiving marriage records of our last name for years. He knew more about my family than I could ever imagine. He was fluent in French, and in fact taught it! He grew up in the same town in MA that my grandfather had, and his family had stayed in this predominantly French neighborhood for generations.
He wrote letters for me in French requesting church baptismal, marriage and death records from the church in the small Canadian town. He gave me the translation, and told me how much money I should send to ensure the local priest would take the time to photocopy the entry pages from the church records.
Sure enough I got records going all the way back to the 1700s...all in French! Of course my priest friend (who turns out to be a distant cousin) translated them all for me. Another plus, was the good Father also sent me an email with the names and birth dates of my grandfather's eleven brothers and sisters.
The research, that was basically handed to me with a bit of divine intervention, brought me back far enough that I could rely on published documented family history all the way back to the 1500's in France.
The sweetest part was finding the very book with all this documentation on EBay. I spent several years searching for a copy, and finally found one. I waited to bid on it because there were others bidding, and I ended up paying over $150 for it. BUT, it has been a source of reference for many others who are researching their families.
I'm not surprised that my children think I'm nuts spending that on a book. I mean really can you imagine the books I would be buying if my last name was Pooh, or Seuss?
By searching EBay, I also found quite a few collectible items signed by artists with my sir name. For instance there are a zillion Hermes scarves with artwork signed with my sir name. I don't know what I'd do with a Hermes scarf for a couple hundred dollars, nope, not me.
But I did find a nice Hermes ashtray, brand new, and quite nice. click on image to enlarge to see details. Before I bought it I checked out retail prices for Hermes ashtrays the same size on the Hermes website. None were signed by the artist, and were several hundred dollars. I got mine for exactly $100. OK, so once again, my kids think I'm crazy, and my neighbor doesn't understand why I almost broke her arm when she picked it up to bring it out on the patio to use!
So now I'm satisfied with that branch of the family, and now I'm in the process of protecting all my documents in binders along with news articles and wanted posters.
Have you researched your ancestry?