Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Family Mysteries

I am such a dweeb, I am absolutely in love with the show "Who Do You Think You Are," on NBC Friday nights.

I DVR it, and then subject Matt to it after he's come home from the city. Lucky for me, he gets sucked into the storyline too, even though he whines about it!

I've always been interested in our family history and where we come from, and have casually been looking around on Ancestry.com since about 2000. It wasn't until the past week that I finally bit the bullet and decided to try the free 14 day trial, to see how far back I can trace my roots.

Due to good record keeping and an old document my dad gave me, I've been able to trace his family back all the way to 1550!

Through modern day technology, I've been able to view Census materials from the 1800s onward, with quite possibly, my own ancestor's handwriting (which is much better than any of ours these days). I learned that my Great Grandfather on my mom's side, Michael York, was not actually born Michael York. He was born Matej Janik in Austria, and moved to America in 1885. He then became a butcher (he was probably a butcher in Austria too), owned his own shop, and his sons worked in the shop with him. He changed his name to sound more "American," thus changing generations of names after him.

(Michael York/ Matej Yanik 1910 Census)

At this point, I realize how much easier it must have been back then to change your name. "Oh, I think I'll change my name today...." No paperwork, no documents required...you could change your name as often as you changed your mind, it seemed.

Meanwhile, I think I still have my maiden name for some things, because I can't be bothered to do all the paperwork and official-ness required to change it to my married name.

My dad's family seems to be very well documented, with photos, World War I draft cards, and tombstone etchings. Many of them were farmers or teachers, and some of them arrived in America before it was actually America. Their names tell stories of their own: Chauncy, Dolphus, Sophronia, Flora, Edway, Erastus, Alanson...the list could go on.

(John Cover Headstone, 1758-1832, my 5th generation Great Grandfather)

(Maurice Wilder WWI Draft Card, my Great Grandfather)

What really lit my fire though, was my brother's passion to find out more about our history, too. We discussed it at length when we went out to dinner on Saturday night (much to the delight of Matt and Kristin, who I think just ordered more cocktails when that conversation got going). Between the two of us, we just may be able to find some interesting pieces of history that our family happened to be a part of. It's exciting.

One day, we might be able to share the history we find with our own kids, so they know and understand just where they come from, and how far we've come.

1 comment:

lizzieblue said...

I did the 14 day trial last year... after season 1 :) I found some neat things too! Did you know you were Austrian, or did you think you were British on the York/Janik side?