Family History Research

Sentimental Sunday – A Saturday Morning with my Son

In an effort to spend more one on one time with my son and expose him more to the family history and the thrill of the discovery, we went cemetery hopping again yesterday morning. The day began with the usual nine year old, “I don’t want to go…….” routine. I insisted he go anyway and that it would be fun. Once on the road for our roughly 20 minute drive to Mt. Carmel and Queen of Heaven in Hillside, the conversation turned to music then to what we would do on our outing. My son quickly forgot he didn’t want to go.

We arrived at Queen of Heaven and used the kiosk to look up some names. My son loves using the kiosk. Then we spoke to a man working in the office and were given section maps! I wish all the Catholic cemeteries in Chicago gave you section maps. He marked the map with a nice red X where our grave should be for the sections with which we needed assistance. This made looking for the graves so much easier. Next time we go to St. Adalbert’s, I will make the suggestion they give out section maps.

In addition to the new graves I wanted to visit, I took him by a few family graves he had only seen in photos. His interest intensified as he learned more about the people in our family.

My son was in charge of the camera again because I want him to learn to take good photos of the graves. Complete photos of the graves, not cutting parts off. Overall he did fairly well yesterday with the stones in the ground. The directions, “I want to see grass on all sides so I can crop the photo later,” seemed to help. He still needs to work on his monument photos because his skill at fitting the entire monument in needs additional practice.

After our visit to both cemeteries we stopped at Panera for a snack and to talk about who we found, what he thought was interesting, and what we could do for the next trip up there.  It was a great morning spent together and I think we are both learning a lot. He is learning more about research and photography and I’m learning to be a better teacher. I treasure these moments we have together because it seems like just “yesterday” he was born and “tomorrow” he will be going off to college.

These photos are of a Mary Fratto who died as a child. I am not sure if she belongs in my family but I wrote her information down and we photographed her grave just in case. I cropped her photo from a larger grave photo but my son took the other photos. He is getting better!

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Follow Friday – Consider this and that

I read a very thought provoking post this week on Personal Past Meditations called Geneanthropology. The post discusses the need to be an anthropologist when doing genealogy and looking into the culture of the people at which we are looking. He describes a painting that contains ghost children. For that time period, it was common to paint deceased children into family portraits as a way to remember them.

If you examine some of our cultural beliefs today, do you see any comparisons? I can say from personal experience going through IVF and miscarrying twins and a singleton early on, therefore not having a body to bury, I needed a way to remember them. I have a Willow Tree Angel called the Angel of Remembrance. She holds three green thin fern-like branches in her hands. She sits in my living room as a reminder to me about the difficult time we endured, the babies we lost, and the goodness that came after that time.

What ways have you seen your cultural group handle death?

Next on my list, if you have not seen it is over at Geneabloggers. Posted yesterday for Open Thread Thursday is Tweeting and Blogging at Genealogy Conferences. Thomas MacEntee posts some great questions to consider. Have you given your two cents yet? Stop over there and speak up if you have time today. There are already lots of great responses to read and consider.

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Wisdom Wednesday – Check the siblings

Working on some research I was reminded that we should always check the siblings of our main lines when researching. Not to only focus on our main line because we can get stuck and have no other options to move the research along.

By tracking the siblings of our main line folks, we can see where the families moved when they grew up and married. We can follow a widowed parent at times, moving with one of the children. Knowing where each child was, at least for every Census year, we can sometimes narrow down where someone might have been born, married or died.

Don’t neglect the lines of the siblings. You never know what treasures you will discover.


Assimilation of Immigrants

America was once described as a melting pot where people of all ethnicities gathered to escape various types of persecution or to improve their life. A great metamorphosis occurred in the melting pot as these ethnic peoples altered their language, dress, religion, and customs and became Americans.

Historians use a model to describe the stages an immigrant’s family went through when they reached America. The first stage describes the immigrant family clinging tightly to their culture and reluctantly learning English to adapt to American society. The second describes the first generation born in America which constantly strove to break away from that culture. The final stage describes the third or later generations, seeking to recover the culture in order to discover who they are and where they came form.

Using this model to analyze the stages families went through can answer many questions researchers might have. For example, why did the children of immigrants not learn the language of their parents? Why did so many of the children of immigrants live in the parents home well into their 20’s?  Why did great grandpa have the same occupation as his father? How did the second generation live as compared to their parents? Why did the cultural aspect of the family resurface after three generations? Asking these types of questions may trigger new questions which will lead to new research avenues.  Comparing the lives of our immigrant ancestors and their children to our lives can raise interesting parallels and new questions. All of these questions and answers will contribute to the rich story we tell about our families.  We must remember though, in comparing and contrasting, to keep in mind the historical time period in which they lived. The time period may also contribute to their assimilation process and roles.

To give an example, I did an assimilation study on the paternal side of my family. The factors studied were transference of language, culture, occupation and women’s roles. The results of the study showed these lines did not exactly follow the model. I found that the parent immigrants did teach their American born children some of their language but the children were not fluent in the parent’s language.  The culture, for some of my families, remained important, but for others, it seemed to be lost until future generations. Where occupations were concerned, the second and third generations seemed to take on new jobs and did not follow in the father’s footsteps. The women in these lines seemed to follow in their mother’s footsteps and become home makers until the third generation when the women began working outside the home in addition to raising their families.

As I look at my life, my roles as mother, wife, housekeeper, cook, volunteer, career woman, friend, etc., I wonder what my immigrant great grandmothers would think of me. Did they have some hidden aspirations to be more than just a mother, wife, housekeeper, cook? Were they active in their communities or were their lives all consumed in the home? Were they allowed to express themselves and be more than the roles determined by the time period? I do not live in the same house as my parents, in fact, I live a state away from them. My children are not being raised to “run across the alley to grandma’s house to visit.”  I worked outside the home and raised children. What would my immigrant great grandmothers think of that? What similarities do I see between those women and myself? I see that as they were, I am a teacher for my children, housekeeper, and cook.

As I look at my brother’s life as career man, bachelor, friend, etc., I wonder what my immigrant great grandfathers would think of him. He did not follow the same career path as his father. He chose to proceed farther in his education. He does not live in the same house or “across the alley” from his parents. What would immigrant great grandfathers think of that?  Compared to those men, I think my brother’s life is vastly different.

I encourage you to look at the lives of your immigrant ancestors and their children, and compare their lives to your own. What similarities do you find? What differences? Are there any parallels between the historical time period in which they lived compared to the current events in your life today? After examining the assimilation patterns of your families, you should have a better understanding of what your ancestors went through to become Americans, and what a great story that will make.

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