Just when I thought I had all my surprises behind me, and I more or less knew from where they were most likely to come, I discovered a biggie over the weekend. And I learnt a couple of valuable lessons:
- You are never, ever, ever done.
- Take nothing, absolutely nothing, for granted.
- Never shy away from exploring even well-trodden paths.
So, having said all of that… I’ve been working on my adopted Dad’s family tree. I’ve always vaguely known he had a biological Dad and his Dad was really his step-Dad (did you catch all that?!?). The interesting thing about his step-Dad, is that his interactions with my Dad and his sister, Ruth, was more along the lines of an adopted Dad…only without the hassle, the cost, and the inconvenience of hiring a lawyer and going to court. This isn’t that unusual. Back in the day, many parents, finding themselves bereft of a spouse, remarried, and whatever children came with them pretty soon meshed together into one more-or-less happy family. Today, we call it “blended family”. Over the last millenia, it was just “family”. In my own research, I’ve found lots and lots of this phenomena. Sometimes, the census records will clue you into the “original” spouse/parent. But, sometimes, not. Surnames got passed to the “new” kids as readily as dinner table space. This can become confusing when you’re looking for “your” line and the 1860 census has them listed as “Britt” when the 1870 census has them as “Kennedy” and it’s all the same names plus two new ones.
But I digress…
Back to my Dad. He was born to Charles Thomas Schwertfeger. But that marriage, for whatever reason (and I honestly don’t know) didn’t last. Dad’s sister was born in 1923, and it seems that around 1926, Dad said he remembered he was around five or six years old, Charles “took off” leaving him, his Mom, and his Sister. His Mom remarried in 1927 to someone, who in Dad’s estimation, was a great guy and took care of them. By the time Dad started school, his name had changed from Schwertfeger to Luner. He added his confirmation name (Catholic thing) around 1931, so that, by the time he was in high school, the name he had been born with, and the name he now was known as, bore almost no resemblance to each other. The upshot of all this being, if you’re looking to build a comprehensive family tree, you’ll actually find both names; but you won’t find the dotted lines that connects them, because there aren’t any. Well, nothing clearly documented since this is all lies within The Family Memory. Mine.
So I’m building out Dad’s trees, and decide to follow up on his biological Dad. Up pops a great family tree with lots of family names, lots of hints and dates, and…my Dad! Only it’s his original name. No other people are attached to him. It looks like a “brick wall”. I go ahead and contacted the owner of the tree this past Friday, casually asking what they know about this branch of their tree. I hear back on Sunday.
Turns out, that my Dad and she are first cousins, once removed. Her Grandfather and my Dad’s Father were brothers.
Again, I’ve stumbled on a motherlode of family I knew nothing about. This wasn’t a DNA match (because there isn’t any DNA to match). This is all research. We each have differing portions of “the rest of the story” on what happened after Dad’s father left and who, what, where, when, and how on the larger family. Apparently, they’re a pretty private bunch and there isn’t much to know…yet.
But my “new” cousin and I, and she is introducing me to others!, from a side of my Dad’s family that I never much knew existed, are chatting and sharing with each other. We’ve found each other on Facebook (the 21st century first step means of connection, it seems) and she is kind and gracious. We are hoping to meet each other in future.
More family. More cousins. This.is.so.cool. And, again, in these interesting small-world incidences, we all lived within a 25 mile radius of each other.
I am sooo blessed.