It’s time for a Heritage Project check in! (if you want to know more about my Heritage Project, see this post) February flew by and since I wasn’t doing a page a day anymore, I’ve been making memories and hunting down heritage stories. I thought I’d round up what I’ve learned this month and share what I did scrap.
Start with one person and one branch of your family tree:
I’ve been on the trail of my Caulfield family history. Sometimes it’s Caufield, Corfield, Canfield or some other variation of the name, but it’s been a lot of detective work. I found a lot of info from the good people at the Orange County, NY Genaology Facebook group and by connecting with another Ancestry member (and also 3rd or so cousin). The good news is that the family moved from Ireland and settled in Port Jervis, NY where they stayed for many generations, which makes sleuthing a little easier. The bad news is the illusive patriarch, Patrick Owen, still remains a myster. I don’t know what’s up with him… except he’s my 3rd great grandfather on my dad’s side… and he’s sometimes around, sometimes not. Through trying to find him, I actually learned a lot about his branch.
My dad calls this branch of the family “backwoods,” but I don’t think they were during their time. Their names showed up in the society pages of the local paper regularly. They traveled, were involved with the Catholic Church, hosted community events and were proudly from the Irish “Free State”… there’s a real disconnect between my father’s memories of the family and the information I’ve gathered. What I do know for sure is by the time my dad was a toddler, his father moved my dad and grandmother to upstate New York and left the Irish heritage behind. Mysteries make great stories.
Don’t wait until you have all the answers to document your heritage. You will never have all the answers, but the questions are just as interesting, if not more:
Just Jaimee’s new Storyteller, Bryce had the perfect elements to tell a story about my mysterious Irish heritage:
Document the questions you have:
For this page, I knew I wanted to record the story of my Irish heritage, but more specifically, how I didn’t know I had such a direct link to Ireland until I started putting together this branch of the family tree. I also wanted to share the questions I had because if I never find the answers, perhaps someone else will. The page connects to another mystery in my DNA, which is where the link to European Jewish comes in… and there’s a question as to what heritage my 2nd great grandmother has… her parents were listed from Portugal in the first census after immigration, but after that, German. And I know my great grandmother had to convert to the Roman Catholic faith to marry my great grandfather, but no one mentions from what faith…
Think about what was happening in the world when your ancestors were alive:
My grandfather was starting his family at the time when Irish “need not apply” for jobs… the Irish faced overt discrimination. They were considered a problem in America, ideas like forced sterilization were being debated as a solution, and Eugenics was used to show just how inferior the Irish brain, along with other populations, really was… this was in right before WWII… being Irish and starting a family must have been hard. I can understand why my grandfather never discussed his ancestors or heritage.
Be curious and be nosy: Lastly, think about how to answer these questions. Can you visit your ancestors graves? Their church? The local historical society where they once lived?
Are there cousins or people still living who might be able to fill in the blanks? And sometimes, it’s helps to ask the same question in different ways at different times. My dad and uncle need some time to remember these things and sometimes just rephrasing \questions jogs their memory. When I ask someone who has my ancestor on their family tree, they have offered up stories I couldn’t have even imagined; Like how my great grandparents loved to pick wild blueberries.
Know that you won’t be able to record every little detail. And you won’t be interested in everything or everyone. Document what you find interesting, what connects you to the past. Have fun being a family historian. Then stay tuned because we’re talking about this topic in next week’s show!