My Mom’s Kin

by Laura

As I continue to research family, I am ever so grateful for two things: that my Mom told a lot of family stories (which I pretty much remember) and that other family members have spent considerable time doing due diligence before me. I’ve spent a good deal of time, this past winter, working on my adopted family tree. It’s been quite the adventure!

We always thought my Grandfather, Robert Breese, was Welsh. But I’ve not found any evidence for that. Yet. So for now, I’m going with what I and my cousin Bob have researched: that the Breese clan seems to be from Norfolk, England, in and around Saxthorpe, Aylsham, and Brundall (also, Reepham and Coltishall). All these villages are within a few miles of each other and Norwich, England. The really frustrating part, for me, is that I lived but an hour’s drive away from these places when I lived in England 30 years ago. Had I only known…

I’ve been through Saxthorpe, Aylsham, and Coltishall on my way to other towns in the Norfolk countryside. In that strange facepalm moment that eventually overtakes everyone who does family research, you realise how close you’ve been to family before you knew who and what to look for. Those woulda, coulda, shoulda moments can be killers…and now cost an arm and a leg, even with the pound in our favour. Oh well. Trip to England added to the Bucket List!

My Mom’s Breese forebears are on her Father’s side. Her immigrant ancestor is Robert Bush Breese, who was born in Reepham in 1818 and came to America in 1837 by way of Canada. He was one of Chicago’s earliest settlers and was active in the city. My Mom’s Dad, my Grandfather, was named for him; my cousin, Bob, was named for our Grandfather, keeping the name in the family as a reminder of our history and the stories yet to be found and passed along. I have much more research to do.

On another twig, my Mom always told me I was named for her Great-Aunt Laura. I’ve been researching her as well. Laura E Breese was Robert Bush Breese’s Granddaughter. She was born in Chicago in 1871 and died in April 1957, just 2 weeks before my 2nd birthday. I’m still working through all the hints I have for her (13 more to go!), so I’ve only got the bare basics on her.

In some ways, my adopted tree has proven more difficult than my birth tree. I’m not sure if it’s because of the stories that are competing for attention (true? not true?) or because my adopted tree is just more complicated to start with. For one thing, my Mother’s Mother, Nonny, was first-generation American with parents that emigrated from Prussia. So, too, my Dad’s tree, his Grandfather being from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some of Nonny’s siblings were born in Prussia and so the records are hard to find and difficult to translate; too many wars, too many border changes, regime changes, language changes. The documentation doesn’t always add up, either, as the transcriptions don’t always line up with the actual geography. For example, I have as a location for one family member, “Rheinau, Mannheim, Baden-Wurttenberg, Germany”.  The problem with this, is that there is a Rheinau that is a part of Mannheim, a city in Germany, and there is a Rheinau that is a town in Bad-Wurttemberg, Germany, and they are about 72 miles apart. The latter town was created in 1975 during a district reform. Whereas, the place in Mannheim was more-or-less founded in 1750 when a road was built. :sigh: I’m thinking this can’t possibly be a single location (which I already knew from having been to Germany), so picking the correct one was fairly easy given the ancestor was born there in 1879.

But I digress…

At the end of the day, my Mom’s kin have been fun to research. Norfolk kept excellent records, all things considered, and they aren’t that difficult to find online. Their stories have been interesting to track down, as what I think I know hasn’t necessarily been so. I’ve had to remind myself that ancestry is like playing telephone: the guy at the end (me) may have gotten a very garbled message, and that without proper documentation (even with, sometimes), you are at the mercy of your own wits and WAGS.

But when you find something good…