Tuesday, October 03, 2017

A Tale of Two Jacobs

There is difference in how one does genealogical research now versus thirty years ago. Tracy and I were trying in the 1980's to connect one of my ancestors, Jacob Whittemore, to a Jacob Whittemore in a published genealogy. They were both in about the right place, at the right time. Yet it wasn't certain.  There were other Jacob Whittemores in the region, and it took us months before we were finally able to find the cemetery in Litchfield and determine "Yes! This is our Jacob." Great rejoicing. My painstakingly-assembled research through grandfather and great-great grandfather now connected to a published record that went back to the immigrant ancestor.

Fast forward. Tracy has long tried to find out more about John Charles Henken, her grandfather who died (or perhaps ran off) in the 1920's. Because of her DNA sample, she communicated with a person who is descended from a Jacob Henken, slightly older than John, born in Holland but emigrated to America when young, also to NYC/NJ. I wondered, still thinking old style "Oh! I wonder if those Henkens are connected to ours?" 

Duh. We would not have learned of them if they weren't connected, and very closely. He could only be the older brother of John Charles. It's not like the old days.I think people don't always get this, which is why another contact, in another line, wrote back "No, sorry I can't help you. All our relatives were on the West coast at that time, so they couldn't have any connection to a baby born in Massachusetts."

Well, no one wants to find out that their aunt (or grandmother) had a baby out of wedlock in the 1960's, so I didn't want to press the issue.  We sign up for the full package for a few months once in a while, and we'll just look at that family tree and figure it out.


Boxty said...

Interesting. How did visiting the cemetery help you? If it was a grave stone, there are websites where they catalog photos of grave stones online. I found my great, great, grandfather's grave stone on one of those websites. Pretty neat.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

There was a middle initial on the tombstone, and the date of birth matched the Jacob we were hoping he was.

In the 1980's few cemeteries were catalogued.

Texan99 said...

I wouldn't at all mind finding out about a blood relative born out of wedlock.

RichardJohnson said...

Regarding online grave photos, I am reminded of the family history my grandmother put together in the 1950s. The family history mentioned a "monument" in Indiana of an ancestor for his having been an officer in the Revolutionary War. I located the "monument" online several years ago. I would have called it just a slightly larger than average grave- definitely not a "monument." And not in the town square.

My sister-in-law updated the family history with online resources. One interesting find was that while I had never thought that I had any New England ancestors- of interest because I was born and raised in New England of parents from "away" - my sister-in-law found some. They were in Massachusetts by the 1630s. They later converted to Quakerism, which didn't make for a comfortable life in 17th century Massachusetts. They left for Pennsylvania soon after Penn established the colony.

Instead of "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could," we have "I was born in Massachusetts but got out as soon as I could."

A friend and work colleague of my father did a lot of grave rubbings.

Donna B. said...

Texan99 -- nor would I... unless it was a half-sibling of mine. I already know I don't mind cousins out of wedlock, but I can't say I would not react the same way the half-siblings of that cousin did. I've got this image of my Mom and Dad that I hope to preserve. My image of aunts and uncles... well, I can let go of them much easier.

I have no problem with the fact that somewhere prior to 1850, there was an adoption, a non-paternal event or something else that DNA says happened. There's no emotion there because I didn't know these people even though I'm related to them.

Texan99 said...

I'm trying to imagine how I'd feel about a half-sister or -brother. In my mind's eye I'd want to know, but of course it might feel very different if I did know. My parents had many secrets; it wouldn't stagger my imagination to know this was one of them. I had two full uncles who existence I never dreamed of until I was 25, and they both grew up with my mother.

BB-Idaho said...

I've lived across from a cemetery for 40 years. One day, couple years ago I saw
a woman stooping over each grave one after the other. Walked over to see what she
was up to. Adding to the grave photo database of some website. I suspect in a few more years they will zip our DNA through some machine and our family trees will look
like a jungle, going back into the mists of history. Hope I'm not related to my
wife from back in 1000 BC!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ BB - you likely are, if you are both have ancestries that touch within a few hundred miles of each other. It's not that noticeable over the first 10 generations, of course - only a thousand people from 1670 or so. But then you go back another ten generations, then 1000 x 1000 is a million in 1370, a billion ancestors in 1070. There weren't a billion humans then.

It's called Pedigree Collapse. http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2005/12/pedigree-collapse.html

jaed said...

I have great-great grandparents whose first child (my great grandfather) was born about six months after they married.

This wouldn't be very noteworthy, except that 1) they got married in Missouri, 2) Missouri didn't permit interracial marriage at that time, and 3) my great-great grandmother was African American. Her census records before marriage show her as black; after marriage, she is listed as white. And I have some indications that she might have been disowned by her family after the marriage. (Her husband was the son of poor Irish immigrants, and I doubt would have been considered acceptable by a respectable mulatto family in Ohio at the time [my great-great-great grandfather was a minister], even without the interracial aspect.)

I've wondered what the story was there. I could write it in a few different ways.

RichardJohnson said...

@ BB - you likely are, if you are both have ancestries that touch within a few hundred miles of each other. It's not that noticeable over the first 10 generations, of course - only a thousand people from 1670 or so.

A prime example would be Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who were fifth cousins. President Theodore was Elanor's uncle.

My sister-in-law informed me that one pattern she saw was widowers or widows remarrying a sibling of their deceased spouse. A family friend, whose mother died when she was a little girl, had a stepmother who was also her aunt. They got along great- our friend escorted her aunt/stepmother on a trip back to Italy, where she was always labeled "la Americana" in spite of Italian being her first language, whereas her aunt was considered pure Italian.

I have great-great grandparents whose first child (my great grandfather) was born about six months after they married.

I had Quaker ancestors who used to own land that later became the campus of Swarthmore College- or part of the campus. My father wrote the Swarthmore College librarian to ask if there was any information on our ancestors in the college library. The librarian wrote back with a disclaimer that he wasn't supposed to reply to such information requests, but he did find something. An ancestor couple was called out in a Quaker meeting for "fornication." After they married, they were once more in good standing.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It was the midwife's joke that "the first one always comes early."

Common enough that even a small-scale counterexample is notable. In Albion's Seed, David Hackett Fischer records that in one Middlesex (not Salem, certainly. Dedham? I can't recall) town there were no children between 1660-1680 who were born in the first nine months after the wedding, and he regarded this as quite remarkable. I suppose it is.

Donna B. said...

My daughter's MIL and I share an interest in genealogy. We discovered our children probably share an ancestor 9 generations back. My son-in-law is descended from the child of the woman's first marriage and my daughter, from a child of the 3rd marriage. At least we think so... there are many places where either genealogy could be wrong, including this one.

She's the sort of character one wishes for in their genealogy.