Monday, April 16, 2012

Amazingly Small World


Last summer while looking into the genealogy of former neighbors to the family farm, I quickly realized that I was related to two thirds of them. I found that I was also related to my bus driver, nearly ten other kids in the same school I went to which only had 200 kids total, and others who were present in my childhood at some point or another.  Funny how growing up they were just farm folks like my parents who seem to know an awful lot about 'who' I was but back then, I guess I just pegged it as being neighborly. On all sides of the family farm, north, east, south and west, those people whom I remember as being neighbors (most are long since deceased) actually shared a common ancestor with me two or three generations back. Some of the relationships I kind of knew where there but not exactly how, others came as a complete surprise.

Flash forward to a couple weeks ago when the genealogy world became abuzz with the release of the 1940 U.S. Census. Due to privacy concerns, our government only releases the census records after 72 years. Eventually when it is all up an indexed, I hope to perhaps track down a few leads for some distance cousins in hopes of tracking down fellow family genealogists that might be out there. But until then, if you know where to look, you can still flip through pages covering areas where your ancestors were living and find them with a little more effort. While looking at my paternal branch, two more realizations that I should have figured out but never did hit me.

The first one was that my paternal branch and my adoptive paternal branch were practically neighbors. My great grandfather farmed just down the road to a fellow man whose not yet born grandson would eventually adopt me at the age of eight years old. Even my non-blood roots interweave into my biological roots. The second realization was reading through the lists of other neighbors and coming across many family names that are familiar to me in my current time frame and location. Though I work with some of them, I've always known they lived over in the area where my paternal branch took root nearly a hundred years ago but never suspected that their families are also long time area residents. I still don't know that for sure but since their last names aren't that common, it certainly would be a good bet that they are related. It would also be a good bet that some of their family tree branches intertwine with my own.

Before I began to research my ancestry, I always felt that I was just a nomad among nomads and that the fact that I grew up in southeast Iowa was just a random occurrence. But every step of my genealogy research has proven this wrong and has only bound me tighter to this land where I now live and raise a family of my own. Where once I wanted nothing better than to escape the confines of this part of the world to explore the rest, now I want nothing better than to spend the rest of my life here putting down even deeper roots. Where once I was just another person in a land populated with many, I am actually one among a tight tribe of people, our trees tightly woven and growing together, sharing branches and roots and far to complicated to ever separate. It is an amazingly small world but one that I now understand much better than I ever did and one that I have come to love so much more than I ever thought possible.

5 comments:

R. Sherman said...

A sense of place is important. I feel lucky that my original Alsatian ancestor set up camp not ten miles from where I sit. We don't move much. As for his English wives, one of whom was my great, great grandmother, I don't know much.

Cheers.

Vince said...

How large an area are we talking about btw. I know you've gone through six major recessions in agri each more or less doubling the size of the farms. Or to put it another way, halving the farming population. So it's a bit of an achievement if there are a goodly chunk of your relatives on the soil still.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - There is only one cure for not knowing much about your 2nd great grandmother but be forewarned, it is very addictive.

Vince - Two of my related neighbors lived about 1/4 mile from where I grew up, another neighbor farmed some land literally at the end of my parent's driveway and also another farm 1/4 mile to the west where they live now, which by the way is just shy of a mile from where I grew up. In town, four miles away, another handful and their offspring, mostly third cousins to me, still live.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I printed off this post for my wife (who is the real geneaologist of the family)I know that she will appreciate it.
Searching out your family is a little addictive. (We Mormons believe that it is a religious duty as well, but that's just one of those things that make more of us get addicted.)

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I printed off this post for my wife (who is the real geneaologist of the family)I know that she will appreciate it.
Searching out your family is a little addictive. (We Mormons believe that it is a religious duty as well, but that's just one of those things that make more of us get addicted.)