Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy 2016!

We have friends visiting from Arkansas, so we went to Niagara Falls to watch the fireworks for New Year's Eve.  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Genealogy puzzle

I'm figuring out my family tree the hard way, by not using Ancestry or other for pay genealogy search companies.  I'm having great success with my mother's side of the family tree.  Riding high on the success of that, I decided to try figuring out my father's side of the tree.  I had delayed doing his side for two reasons:  1. I had the tree back to 1904 when my father's grandparents came here from Sweden, and anything further would either require using a paid service, or reading comrehension of Swedish; and 2. For some unknown reason, all my father's family emigrated here with the name of Olsson, but by the 1910 U.S. census, they all had taken the last name of Silverstrim.

Now the family story of this was that my great-grandfather, Magnus Olsson was coming to join his brother, Nils (later changed to Nels, then Nelson).  Magnus brought his wife and about six of their kids with them.  That checks out on the Ellis Island immigration forms, because Magnus clearly states that he is coming to join his brother, N. Silverstrim.  This is the first instance I've found of anyone in my family using the name Silverstrim.

So then I ask family members where Silverstrim came from.  The family members say that Nils was serving in the Swedish Navy and jumped ship when they got close to America.  Somehow he either got on board or was picked up by another ship carrying Jewish immigrants, and Nils changed his last name to Silverstein or Silverstrim to blend in with the Jewish immigrants and to hide from the authorities of the Swedish Navy who were looking for him.  This occurred in 1889.

Okay, all this is sorta plausible, initially, but where I question all this is, after he gets into the U.S., why did he continue using the false name?  Swedish officials didn't have authority to search for him  on U.S.soil.  Then, when his brother, Magnus and family come to join him in 1904, Magnus says he's coming to join his brother, and gives his name and address.  Surely if he were worried about being discovered, he wouldn't have wanted Magnus to put his information on the immgration paperwork.  Maybe since it was 15 years later the Swedish authorities weren't looking for him anymore?  So why not go back to his name of Olsson?

Then the story gets stranger.  In 1904 Magnus and family come into the U.S. with the name of Olsson, but by the 1910 U.S. Census, they have all changed their names to Silverstrim.  Why would they do that?  Family members say older family members told them they changed their names to blend in, in the U.S.  Olsson is a much simpler and more common name than Silverstrim, so that story doesn't sound plausible to me.  I know from a Swedish genealogist that the first Silverstrim in Sweden was a Polish Jew.

So now I'm trying to work my way back further, which might require a paid service, and trying to figure out this whole name change business.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

I'm not quite sure how Blogger did this, but this is a photo of my dog, Lambeau, from last year in Maryland when we had snow, and Blogger has made it into a snowy GIF. Cool. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Latest Distraction

In between working on my on-line class, applying for jobs, wasting too much time on Facebook, crawling slowly through the writing of my book, and writing short stories for a magazine, I have been building my family tree.

I've had a number of surprises.  I come from a very poor, and poorly educated family.  As far back as anyone can remember, our family have been poor farmers and factory workers.  I fully expected to discover we all came here as endentured servants, and to be fair, one did.  What I didn't expect to find was any kind of wealth, education or power in my family tree.

I began tracing my mother's side of the family, because I already knew my father's family came over from Sweden in 1904.  I had avoided tracing my mother's side because I knew it would be difficult.  Nobody saved anything, knew anything, or ever asked about their family history.  When I was about ten years old, I asked my great-grandmother on my mother's side about our family history.  She said she thought we were English and Pennsylvania Dutch, but other than her parents' names, she couldn't recall much about her great grandparents.  The one time I looked at my great-grandmother's tree, I discovered her maiden name, Tyrrell, was the same as an English family of some prominence and infamy, but I didn't know if there was any connection or not.  The other side of the family tree also presented me with an immediate dead end, and I didn't want to invest hundreds of dollars subscribing to or any other registry to track down information.

Well, through diligent, and sometimes stubborn pursuit, I have traced my mother's parents' ancestors back in all directions.  My mother's father was a Lurcock, and his entire family line is Dutch, upon Dutch, upon Dutch, upon Dutch.  Not Pennsylvania Dutch as I was told, because that is German, but true Netherlands' Dutch.

 I discovered one of my earliest ancestors up the Lurcock line was a Director in the Dutch East India Company and he along with other family ancestors came to the Americas very early in the 1600s and settled New Amsterdam, before losing it to the British, who changed it to New York.  A number of my Dutch ancestors were part of the Dutch Reform Church in America. In addition to settling Manhattan, they also settled parts of New Jersey.

Looking up the Tyrrell line of my family has brought me to the Tyrrells of Connecticut, who are part of the English Tyrrell family.  I'm just trying to find which son's line to follow back.  The Tyrrells from my research were Barons in England before that title was done away with, and they were Counts in northern France.  Their biggest infamy (that I've found so far) was one Walter Tirel III who was responsible for the death of King William II of England.

Continuing up the family lines I came to discover I have no fewer than 8 direct ancestors (more if you count aunts, uncles, and cousins) who came over on the Mayflower:   The Fullers - Mr. & Mrs. Edward Fuller and their son, Samuel Fuller; our endentured ancestor - John Howland; The Tilleys - John Tilley, Joan Tilley, and daughter Elizabeth Tilley (who would go on to marry John Howland); and Richard Warren.  What I've learned about these first band of rag-tag ancestors is that they were religious nutters, but some of them, survivors.  A number of my older Mayflower ancestors died during the first winter from cold, hunger and disease, but their kids survived and procreated like rabbits.  Recently PBS did a program on the pilgrims and they featured a story on my ancestor, John Howland, who apparently fell overboard, but was miraculously rescued from fairly certain death when he grabbed onto one of the lines on the ship.  So thankful that dude was determined to survive.

Another surprising find for me concerns slavery.  Since I knew my father's family came over from Sweden in 1904, I knew none of them were here for the Civil War or held slaves.  Thinking as I did about my mom's side of the family that we were poor nobodies, farmers, and lived up North, I never thought one of my ancestors would be a slave owner, however, much to my surprise, one of my ancestors was reported to have gone to fight in the Revolutionary War "with six of his sons and two of his slaves."  Oh, and I have numerous ancestors who fought in the following wars:  The First Pequot Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the U.S. Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and I think that's enough wars for any family.

I did discover numerous "cousins" in my family tree, such as the Roosevelts, the Bushs (hanging my head in shame), the Baldwin actors, George Washington, and possibly all the way back to Charlemagne.  This family search for ancestors has become my latest hobby.  When friends invite me to come play Bejeweled or Words with Friends, I tell them I can't, I'm playing, Find my Ancestors.  ;-)  I have promised M that as soon as I tie up this Tyrrell line, I will give it a rest for a while and get back to work on my book.