Saturday, July 29, 2017

Genealogy Trails

Hello My Little Marshmallows,

As you know, I have been researching my ancestry lately,  I am looking into the origins of my father's paternal side, the origins of my surname. Growing up, I wasn't able to get much information about my great-grandparents who immigrated from Minsk Belarus (then Russia) to England and finally to the United States, but I have been able to get more information off of and such as:

1) Naturalization documents
2) Newspaper publishing addresses of businesses or gifting of property
3) Addresses of residences in the phone book and via the census
4) Registration cards for WW1.

It's fun to get information piece by piece and string it together, to get a clearer picture of their lives, and to match the information I find to the letters I have from my great-grandmother, and the stories I've heard here and there growing up.

It's interesting to see what life was like for immigrants back then, and I tend to believe the saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same". In my genealogy class, the biggest myth that got busted for me, was that our ancestors didn't face bureaucracy back then, like we do now. Until now, I really thought that my immigrant ancestors became US citizens almost immediately. I noticed that though they immigrated the the US in 1905, they didn't become citizens until 1921, and they didn't shorten their names immediately after arriving at the Port of New York, they changed it when they became naturalized citizens.

Yesterday I obtained a copy of my great-grandmother's death certificate. I was really looking forward to getting my hands on it, because I didn't even think the county would release that information to me.  I wasn't home to pick it up (UPS required a signature), so I had to drive to a real
run-down area (the filthy buttcrack of my county) in town and wait over an hour, and I wasn't even mad about it,  I really wanted the information on it.  I didn't think I would feel much emotion opening the envelope and reading the death certificate, but I did feel emotional. It was the end of her life, and it's always interesting to capture the last moments of someone's life up to the funeral. Because death usually catches you by surprise, you don't know when it's your time. When I worked in personal injury and someone passed away, I also got emotional dealing with their cases, and moreso in this case, because she is my ancestor, even though this happened over seventy years ago.

My great-grandmother started her life in another continent, and ended up somewhere completely different. Life wasn't easy for her, and she had a difficult life no doubt, but she and my great father did escape antisemitism and built a life and family in this country. She had a much better outcome than many people she started out with in her hometown, as well as many of her siblings and their descendants (I am friends on Facebook with some of them).

I ordered her death certificate to find out why she died (heart disease), where she died (hospital no longer around), who provided family information on the death certificate (her daughter), where she had her funeral (funeral home is still in business), and where she is buried (in a Jewish cemetery in East Los Angeles), and the names of her parents (so I can continue my genealogy adventures).

I enjoy genealogy because I tend to live in the past and connect it to the present. Also, I enjoy research.

I don't know what my ancestors would think if they knew I was looking for their information. Most of them were too busy trying to live their lives day to day raising their families, they probably didn't give much thought to their descendants. Will someone come and look me up long after I am gone? Who knows? I am doing all of this for my knowledge and benefit, and it may stay with me until I pass and go nowhere further. Honestly, other than a few conversations here and there, most family members aren't too interested. I don't have a romantic idea of my existence living on after death, it is quite possible my boxes of stuff may get dumped out.

Life is short, studying genealogy helps me realize that. But I am alive now, and I am happy to be alive and still be able to decide my fate.


Jimmy's Journal said...

Good for you. My natural curiosity was the determining factor in researching my roots. Over a period of years and many dead-end (no pun intended). I was able to trace my maternal side back to Paris France 1n the 1600's and my paternal side to North Carolina in the late 1600's, Basically I'm Irish-French, but noting all the different originating countries and surnames (via marriage) along the way, I've discovered i'm a mutt. This does not take in other sources such as the orvrbial woodpile.


Jimmy's Journal said...
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Senorita said...

Thank you for sharing, Jimmy! You put a lot of time into this, and I am glad you can relate.

Riot Kitty said...

That is fascinating. So much of my family history, my family hid because they wanted to assimilate and not be killed or discriminated against.

Senorita said...

Thank you Riot Kitty, this was the same for me too, I had to really dig for this information. Also, my mom came to this country 30 years ago, and never taught me German, she just wanted to assimilate. Luckily my aunt and grandma taught me.