Monday, January 9, 2012

January & Muz Love: Ancestry

In my attempt to bring a bit more personality to Limelight Musings, I decided to share with you all a few more loves in my life. While I have shared a few previously (mostly cooking, gardening & knitting), I figured I'd try to open up more outside of projects. So get ready for some Muz loves!

Ok, so let's be honest. Being a Caucasian girl growing up in a farm town as an only child in a small, spread out family was pretty bland. We don't have any time-honored family traditions and kept things pretty simple around the holidays. Plus my family is old. My grandfather Moses would of turned 100 in 2011. So all of my grandparents were far into their golden years by the time I came along. In fact, I missed out even meeting one grandmother.
I never met Grandma Moses, but I remember Grandpa Moses as a true gentleman.
 Looking back on my childhood, I think I knew I was missing something. I remember as a kid, I would dream of being Hispanic and have a huge family with a long list of fun traditions, art & culture. As a teen, I even considered converting to Judaism to become part of a tradition, community & family based religion. Obviously neither of those make sense now, but oh well. And while my mother reiterated a few family myths & lore she heard from her mother, we were far from remembering our ancestors in any special way.

Then, right before I graduated from college, I interned as a producer for a 9pm newscast that would have feature interviews I had to set up. I don't remember how I became in contact with Mike Wendel from Bishop Hill's Heritage Association, but together, we prepared a great interview. For the show, a history reenactor came to talk about Saint Lucia night & some of the special things the Bishop Hill's community does during the holiday season. She brought chocolates, wine, a wooden Lucia tree & even two kids dressed up as Lucia & a tomte. It was an amazing interview, looked great, and we all enjoyed the edible props afterwards.
Looking back on 2008
At the beginning of my ancestry journey, I knew my paternal grandfather was 100% Swedish. While his family did not go to Bishop Hill, the whole experience began this ancestry drive. While my father never expressed much about family traditions, this was a chance for me to look into my ancestors & possible traditions they followed.
So that's what started it all. At first, it was slow. Due to working so much in Central Illinois, I didn't get to far. That is until about a year an a half ago. First, I was contacted by one cousin, Annette. Here is the beginning of our conversation through email:

Annette: "My name is Annette... I am wondering how you are connected to this family."
Me: "... I'm the daughter of Bill & Barb..."
Annette: "Hi Amanda!!! I wondered if this was you...."

Turns out Annette was a cousin that was close to my grandparents & even visited my parents & me when I was a child. She was able to provide a lot of information about my Great Grandfather, who we are related through. She was also very helpful in my attempt to slowly put together a tree through I then spoke with my Mother's brother who shared all of his work through the same site. He even showed us my Grandfather Moses' military ID during WWII.

 Since we moved, I've had a bit more time. I've heard back from three distant cousins through various family branches. Through them,, and, I was able to extend new branches, and learn new stories. I do feel bad that I debunked two stories that my grandmother told my mother. But it's so fun & addictive.

I now have even more leads thanks to my parents. For Christmas, my mother bought me a year subscription for's international access. It's already helped tremendously. My mother's side has been in America for a very long time. Before Christmas, they were either from Ireland or in America. Mom insisted she heard her family was also from England.  Through the subscription, I finally found that possible English connection which continued all the way to the 1500's.

Also through out this process I've received more photos from father and mother. My Dad gave me my Grandpa Swanson's WWII book which has all the photos my grandfather took while serving his country.

There were so many other photos, including my grandparents as children, great grand parents, etc. I'm slowly in the process of making digital copies of everything. I hope one day to redo Grandpa Swanson's war book since the book itself is crumbling. And you know, I'll do that sometime in between work, cooking, knitting, blogging, gardening, and whatever other hobby I come up with in the meantime. No pressure. I'm on it.

Not only is this journey through my family tree enjoyable, but it's also important. While it can teach possible stories and traditions, it also helps my ancestors live throughout history. You could be the only person that connects the dots between your father and a Revolutionary War soldier. And decades from now, your great, great grandchild may try to learn about you.

On a lighter note, looking up your ancestry could help come up with funny baby names (like Truls Lawson Barger... it's funnier if you say it with a Swedish accent).

I hoped you enjoyed my little testimonial about my family tree. It's a fun, addictive way to remember and honor the thousands of people that met at some point of time for me to be born. I figure I owe it to them. Cause you know, I wouldn't exist otherwise.

1 comment:

  1. Now I want a subscription!! We don't know a whole lot about my dad's side of the family.