Monday, February 27, 2012

Genealogy Research

I felt the need to go spelunking into my family tree again.  I don't know why, but with my wife sick in bed all day it seemed like a good idea despite all the other work that calls to me.

The last time I did that I didn't find much.  Back in the 1990's my father hired someone to do some research.  So I was starting from that base.  This time I filled in quite a few holes.  The most important is the one for my great-great grandfather, Simon, born in Latvia in 1843.  I found a record of his death in 1879.  He was 36 so with a little math I now know that year of his birth.  This was huge because I've been trying to find a record of his immigration into the United States and was failing.  Now I know why.  His wife, Hanna arrived in 1891 and my great grandfather, Jacob, came a few years later.

And from these records I begin to see the stories of their lives.  Human stories like the ones we are familiar with from today:  A man dies from illness at a young age, leaving his wife and five young children.  They struggle to survive.  She must go to work or get help since someone must look after the children who range in age from 2 to 10.

This is a very human story the only difference is it is set in the late 19th century about the time of Tammany Hall and in the rural village of Jelvaga, Latvia.

I don't even begin to think I understand their lives.  They had no electricity, no computers, no cars.  They were far more religious than I, walked everywhere -- or rode in a wagon on a horse, and led much simpler lives.  I'm sure family was at the core.  Family and working to earn money to survive.  They were probably poor even by their standards.

But what I really marvel at is all the events that took place among my ancestors that led to my parents meeting.  Jacob lives in New Haven when he arrived in this country.  My grandfather, Sidney did too until a lack of jobs forced him north to Boston during the Great Depression.  That's where he was born.  And that's where his met my mother.  She lived just south of town in Quincy.

But if her grandfather, Lorenzo, had settled someplace else, I wouldn't be here.  Or if Sidney had decided to stick it out in Connecticut or go to New York (which was closer), my parents would never have met.  There are a thousand possible scenarios and as a writer and a weaver of plots, my mind boggles a little at the events that did play out.

For now my research is complete.  I doubt I will find any information on Simon's father who was born about 200 years ago.  I say this because I cannot find records from the 1810's or 1820's.  Perhaps they will surface some day.  In the meantime, I have other stories to write.

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