Ming the Mechanic:
Genealogy

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Genealogy2007-08-06 20:17
10 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

I somehow got hooked on online genealogy research.

My brother and I had talked for a while about researching our family tree, and he had gathered a bit of information from relatives, but it was only after somebody introduced me to geni.com that it really got anywhere. (Thanks, Thomas!)

There are many genealogy websites on the net, but Geni does it in a more accessible Web2.0 kind of way, mainly through a flow chart kind of display one can scroll around in continously. Article about geni in L.A. Times yesterday.

Now, I used to think that family history was an extremely stuffy thing to be into. My stepfather once got very interested in his family tree, filled up a wall with old photos of sour-looking ancestors, and bragged to no end about his 10th great grandfather being Christian IV, king of Denmark. I thought it was so not interesting. Who cares about boring long dead people.

Now my own immediate family ironically thinks I'm equally nutty, happily spending hours looking for ancient ancestors. For those who don't find genealogy interesting, it often seems like a particularly offensive waste of time.

But I'd say it ought to be of some kind of concern, where one comes from, genetically speaking. I wouldn't be here without my parents, and they of course wouldn't have been there if it weren't for their parents, etc.

I've learned a variety of interesting things from this new time-wasting hobby:

- There's an enormous amount of information available on the net. Lots of people have uploaded their family trees. Countries have scanned in and uploaded church records, census records, immigration records, etc. And the Mormons have created enormous online databases of just about anybody's ancestors they can get access to. The result is that I often can look up the name of some ancestor 5 or 10 generations ago, and he or she actually shows up in Google. Wheras my contemporary relatives mostly are invisible on the web, my older ancestors are not necessarily. There's something surreal to being able to track the lives of unknown nobodies of hundreds of years ago from my computer.

- Researching history is an interesting puzzle of trying to piece together what really happened based on a few sketchy visible traces in bad condition. The source materials are hard to find, and their information is often hard to decipher or erroneous. In this case, the gothic writing in church records from the 1700s is a bit of a challenge, and census records are sloppy with the spelling of people's names. Yet, if you find several pieces of information, you can triangulate approximately what happened.

- There are websites like ancestry.com that aim for gathering a database of everybody who ever lived that there's a record of, the One World Tree. How's that for a collaborative application of the Internet?

- This is essentially social networking for dead people, which is kind of weird. You track down people from many years ago, add stuff to their profiles, link them together, and make the whole thing public on the net.

- Imagine how over time more and and more historical information will be digitized, and better search mechanisms will be developed, including for fuzzy searches. In principle, if there's enough data, and the search algorithms were clever enough, a computer program would eventually be able to build your family tree for you, or do similar feats with other kinds of fuzzy historical information. That connects in with the inevitable capability to record and index everything about our own lives in the not too distant future, and the interesting part is that it also can include historical information, from before anybody thought of such things.

- Despite it being fascinating to find them, I must so far conclude that I have had a rather undistinguished family. All the way back to the early 1500s, I find almost nothing but plain people who've been poor, unskilled workers. A relatively few of them have had a profession, like blacksmith, and the most distinguished have made it to be land-owning farmers or civil servants. Nothing wrong with that, I'm quite proud of being working-class, but I'd have expected to have found some kind of nobility by now. Which in part would be fun because I right away would find a lot of ancestors there. But, no, we're mostly talking day laborers who all got 12 kids, half of which became servants for more well-off people. Many died young. If the husband died, the rest of them ended up in the poor house. Life back then seems somewhat depressing seen from here, although I don't know what people actually felt about it at the time.

Anyway, there's (only) around 350 people in my family tree so far, so a lot more to find. So far it has lead from Denmark to Norway, Sweden and Germany, and the earliest ancestor is so far a farmer named Eivind Stangaland from Norway, born 1505.


[< Back] [Ming the Mechanic]

Category:  

10 comments

6 Aug 2007 @ 23:00 by Merlin Silk @76.168.217.251 : germany, heh?
so, maybe - after all - you find that we are related.
But then again, you only have to go back far enough and we surely are - brother!  



7 Aug 2007 @ 02:24 by ming : Germans
If we go far enough back, there's no escaping it, if nothing else just by comparing the powers of two with the world population.

I seem to have a lot of ancestors named Baasch in Schleswig for one thing, but that was sort of Denmark half of the time. But also a bunch in Schwarzwald named Beha. Then again, the Funch'es might well come from there too, I haven't tracked them down yet.  



7 Aug 2007 @ 23:14 by Ed Dawson @76.168.215.49 : Funch's
The Funch's were probably Frisian islanders who got tired of fish and moved to the mainland... ;-)

I've got my ancestors back to 1500 also. Some guy named John Starr in a fishing village in Devonshire; the village is named "Beer", honest! I can actually claim to be descended from Beer...

;-)  



8 Aug 2007 @ 02:14 by ming : Fun'ch
I thought, if my family's from Germany, then maybe they were Germs. Well, that would be WAY back.

I'd like to descend from some alcoholic beverage too.  



12 Aug 2007 @ 15:21 by Lionel @193.253.141.80 : Living trees
Empassioning how, in our postmodern times, family roots (origin of lifes) are investigated by upper-class individuals and psychotherapists as well (Jodorowsky, Ancelin Sch├╝tzenberger). The next revolution (paradigm) might be familial.  


14 Aug 2007 @ 14:24 by Ton Zijlstra @83.160.170.75 : Boring family tree
Luckily for me my dad took out the time, years ago, to trace the family tree. Turns out my grandfather was the first to leave his region of birth. The rest of the paternal family tree lived in the same small poor Frisian village, as far as we can trace (1620). From before that the surviving records are in such bad shape they cannot be opened anymore. From my mother's side we know very little. As her family mostly came from Germany: my dad's lost the trace because most relevant records were destroyed in Cologne during WW2 bombing.  


14 Aug 2007 @ 22:11 by ming : Family movements
It is also interesting how the flavor of things change when people move to different cultures. Like, I was tracing my German ancestors with the name Baasch, for a couple of hundred years, and then several branches of them immigrated to the US. So, whereas before they had (to me) stuffy-sounding names like Josias Hinrich and Friederike Dorothea, same as all their ancestors, they suddenly become "Uncle John and Aunt Freda". Just within the last couple of days I made contact with some far off 4th cousins of mine in the U.S., descendents of my great-grandfather's brothers who emmigrated from Germany around 1900 or so. And their memories and different version of things suddenly brought things to life in a new way.  


18 Aug 2007 @ 14:46 by Gayland Baasch @66.163.153.251 : Baasch geneology
Another one of your distant cousins here. I assume the 4th cousin you're referring to is Cami, who is my 2nd cousin.

Anyway, it's exciting to find long lost relatives. You do know you were lost, don't you? For some reason it was thought your branch was in South America, don't ask me why. I'll also assume that Cami will fill you in on what you want to know, (not sure just how MUCH you want to know either,) but I probably have some pictures that she wouldn't have and maybe more info.

One question puzzles us. Why didn't John (that's what Johann translates to here,) know about his other siblings? They were all born well before he went to Denmark, any ideas? His brother, my Grandpa Dave (Detlef) was a stubborn ornery German who never seemed to want to talk about such things so maybe they all were like that! Fortunately my sister once did a genealogy thing for school and she got him to open up some and even produced the afore mentioned pictures. Another brother, Henry, lived in the next town. I never even knew what the relationship was till a few years ago.  



19 Aug 2007 @ 19:46 by ming : Baasch
Ha, that's great. Well, hello cousin!

I'm glad we found each other again, even though I didn't even know you existed. I only got into genealogy a month or two ago, and Johann Baasch's family was a bit of a mystery, and we only had his father's name, and a vague rumour about him looking different from his siblings, and maybe he was adopted. But we didn't even know the names of his siblings.

It was my impression that Johann talked very little about his family. At least there was nothing much that his kids passed on. So I'm not sure if he also just was a stubborn old German who didn't feel like talking, or if he really wasn't in touch with them.

Johann was a stern man, who beat his kids, like his dad beat him. I could well imagine there wasn't particularly good feelings between them. Johann was born several years before the others. Actually he was born 4 years before the parents were married, although the birth records indicate that they were indeed his parents. And the two sisters who were twins were born shortly after they were married. So, Johann was somewhat older than the rest, and maybe felt isolated, or was treated worse because he was born outside of marriage, I don't know.  



1 Sep 2010 @ 07:50 by schmuck @204.16.192.90 : liuyan
Everyone likes to travel, so when you need a break after your next real estate transaction in Newport Coast, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Corona Del Mar, Dana Point, Monarch Beach, and surrounding Orange County, California, be sure to reference this page to get some great information.  


Your Name:
Your URL: (or email)
Subject:       
Comment:
For verification, please type the word you see on the left:


Other stories in
2012-05-03 00:04: An evolving path
2012-01-02 13:52: 2011 Accomplishments and 2012 Aims
2011-11-17 02:20: Your inner piece
2011-02-01 00:05: Slow Mo Flow
2011-01-22 18:40: Recognition
2010-08-23 00:36: Where's Ming?
2010-07-20 14:24: Getting other people to do stuff
2010-06-22 00:27: Inventory
2010-06-19 23:10: Conversations
2009-10-28 12:31: Then a miracle occurs



[< Back] [Ming the Mechanic] [PermaLink]? 


Link to this article as: http://ming.tv/flemming2.php/__show_article/_a000010-001885.htm
Main Page: ming.tv