Ancestry

“Grandfather Crook came from England,” Auntie Beth said. I don’t recall what we were talking about or why she told me. At 16, I wasn’t interested.

Seventeen years later, when I began searching for my ancestors, my father, Auntie Beth, and the other members of their generation were gone. “Grandfather Crook came from England” was all I knew about my father’s family. My search was motivated by the success of Alex Haley’s novel, Roots. In a previous post I wrote a detailed account of my family history research experience.

After 38 years, I’ve learned that family history research is like solving a puzzle. Thousands of individual pieces of information must be sorted, evaluated, and fit together to form a family picture in much the same was a jigsaw puzzle is completed. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, the family history puzzle has no box cover illustration to use as a guide. Completion of the puzzle is further frustrated by a sometimes large number of missing pieces.

The United States of America being a nation of immigrants, I was intrigued by the idea of tracing my roots to the immigrant ancestor in each family line to build what is called an “American Pedigree.” “Grandfather Crook” is the only immigrant ancestor I have verified.

My family’s history is a puzzle with many missing pieces. My paternal third great grandfather is lost in a haze of unlisted household members enumerated by age range in the censuses of 1790 through 1840. Though the family name can be traced from Thomas Hine of New Milford, Connecticut in 1640, I lack sufficient information to connect my grandmother, Hattie Mae Hine, to the Hine genealogy.

The earliest information about my maternal great grandmother, Minnie Havens, is found in a marriage record from 1896. I have been unable to trace her through census records.

The “secret” of my maternal grandfather’s identity went to the grave with my grandmother along with answers to questions about the Halderman family’s abrupt and mysterious move from Bisbee, Arizona to Tulare County, California in 1920 following my mother’s birth. A further mystery is Minnie’s decision to publish a notice of my great grandfather’s death while he was still living.

With less information about my family than Alex Haley had about his, I may never find my “roots.” I’ll have to call my book Missing Pieces.

4 thoughts on “Ancestry

  1. Mandy

    It’s a shame that when we’re finally ready to understand our roots, we’ve lost the only people who could have answered those questions. It’s good that you’re writing yours down. Your future generations won’t miss out the way you have.

    My grandma put together a binder for me of family history she’s researched with photos and stories and recipes. I’m grateful for it, and I know I’ll only come to appreciate it further as the years pass and I’m looking for that connection that makes me part of the whole.

    Reply
  2. Joan Raymond

    “Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, the family history puzzle has no box cover illustration to use as a guide. Completion of the puzzle is further frustrated by a sometimes large number of missing pieces.” I love that description of how exciting and frustrating genealogy research becomes.

    My husband, David, has spent many years researching his family. After submitting our DNA tests, he was contacted by distant relatives which sent him in new directions to find new veins of our family trees.

    Reply
  3. Annis Cassells

    Interesting how most of us aren’t interested in family history until we realize that we are making history ourselves. Maybe we want someone to recognize that. Maybe looking back will help us understand ourselves.

    This sentence: “A further mystery is Minnie’s decision to publish a notice of my great grandfather’s death while he was still living.” has the makings of a great plot line. Might there be a short story coming?

    Thanks, Dennis. xoA

    Reply
  4. Joan Lindsay Kerr

    Dennis, sorry I’m so late chiming in! We were traveling all last week.

    I have just started my own adventure into tracing my family history. It is well documented on my mom’s side, but I know very little about my dad’s ancestors. I love your description of this search as putting puzzle pieces together. I will look forward to discovering what you learned about your family!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *