Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Eat Turkey, Give GenThanks

This blog usually comes on on Thursdays. Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday. What is a blogger to do?

Get the blog out early so that the Fonkert and Tidball families can read it before traveling over the river and through the woods to wherever they might be headed.

What is a genealogist to do on Thanksgiving? Eat turkey. Maybe watch some football (although the game that really matters is Friday). Give GenThanks.

Genealogists are thankful for all the usual things -- family and friends, good crops, plenty of food on the table, a roof overhead, beautiful land, and  the luxury of living in a civil society, to name a few. But, this is a genealogy blog, and genealogists give GenThanks for all the things ancestors have passed forward across time to us. Things like:

  • Names -- what is your favorite ancestral name?
  • Memories -- what story do you like most to re-tell?
  • Traditions -- what is your favorite holiday meal?
  • Recipes - Which side of the family does the scalloped corn recipe come from?
And, then there are genes -- those wonderful, hard-to-imagine sequences of nucleotides that chromosomes pass forward across generations. Genealogist give GenThanks for genes. I'm not going to wax eloquent, or wax at all, about DNA. But, on this Thanksgiving, I want to give brief mention to the four sets of great-grandparents that helped make our two daughters who they are. They are the eight individuals in places 8-15 on our daughters' ahnentafel charts.

Jan (John) Fonkert (8) and Trijntje (Kate) Zorgdrager (9). This set of great-grandparents make our daughters one-quarter Dutch, but Jan and Kate were American-born. Jan Fonkert's parents came from Zuid Holland -- his mother in 1848, his father in 1870. Kate's parents were born on Terschelling, a barrier island in the North Sea off the coast of Friesland.

Johan Emmanuel Månsson (Hanson in America) (10) and Edith Romkee (11). A 19-year-old who had lost an eye in a farm accident, came from Hyssna, Sweden, to Tingley, Iowa, in 1908. (Previous blogposts tell some of his story). Edith, or Eda, was born in Tingley to German parents -- Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm Römbke and Cahta Gerloff. Yes, Römbke was Anglicized to Romkee or Romkey. The Römbkes came to southeast Iowa from Windheim on the Weser River. Cahta Gerloff, 17 and single, landed at New Orleans in 1846; her parents and birthplace are not known -- yet.

Aubrey Tidball (12) and Carrie Ehlenbach (13). Aubrey was born in Steele County, Minnesota, to John Tidball and Mary Ann Lee, who had emigrated from Bristol, England, just days after their marriage. Born at Arcola, Illinois, Carrie was a daughter of James Frank Ehlenbach and Elizabeth Ann Fawkner. Yes those Fawkners, the Fawkners I have spent much of the past six months blogging about. I'll be getting back to them soon.

Carl Ferdinand (Charles) Falk (14) and Barbra Kolberg (15). Swedish Charles Falk married Norwegian Barbra Kolberg in Two Harbors, Minnesota in 1919. Charles was one of 10 children born to a family that emigrated about 1890 from the parish of Drev in Småland. Barbra was born at Drøbak, south of Oslo. Barbra's mother, Anna Marie Morstad, brought five children to America in 1906 after her husband, Marthin Kolberg died. There are stories in the Morstad family to rival the Fawkners; perhaps I will eventually get around to telling some of them.

If my math is correct, this all adds up to my American daughters' heritage being one-fourth Dutch, one-fourth Swedish, one-fourth German (with a little Danish mixed in), one-eighth Norwegian, and one-eighth English (with some Irish and Welsh behind the scene). It's not the most exotic heritage, but it is what it is.

But, here's the thing with those genes: because father's and mother's DNA recombine every generation, not all ancestors' genes get passed down equally. Thus, these heritage fractions are not precise. The Swedish might have won out over the German. Let's just say this is a plain old Northern European heritage.

I leave you with one thought: Ancestors are not optional. We are here because they were. For better or worse.

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