A few years back, I connected with a member of my Schumacher cousins, Tracey Schumacher Inglimo, in what would become a quest to get to know all of my Schumacher cousins, and like my Byer cousins, there were lots of them. The journey has been a wonderful trip, as my sisters and I have cultivated friendships with these precious cousins, some of whom we met on our 2014 trip back to our roots in Superior, Wisconsin. Now, four years later, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I have returned to Superior, Wisconsin for a family reunion. We have been so excited for this reunion to happen, and in fact, have looked forward to reuniting with all of our cousins since we first met or found each other on Ancestry and Facebook.
The reunion took place today at Pattison Park, and it definitely lived up to every hope we had for it. These precious cousins were friendly, hospitable, and informative, while also being curious about us too. We all shared tons of stories about our families, and of course, pictures of our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We hugged on the little ones, most of whom looked at us with a sense of wonder as to who we were, and maybe even wondering if we should be hugging them at all…at least until their parents said it was ok. We moved from group to group, and person to person trying to get to know everyone, all the while knowing that there just wasn’t enough time. We found out who the jokesters were too, because what family would be complete without those wonderful people who keep us laughing. We built bonds that will last a lifetime, and parted ways with expressions of sadness that the time had passed far to quickly. We tried to see how soon we could feasibly do this again, knowing that for most of us Facebook would have to suffice until the next reunion.
The time went by far too quickly indeed, and while we wish we could have had far more time to sit and talk, we all knew in our hearts that we had been given a precious gift…a gift of family, friendship, love, and a sense of belonging, because after all, that is what family reunions are all about. Families grow quickly, and the numbers can quickly grow to a point of losing sight of the ones who started the family in the beginning, but at reunions, those who have left us are remembered and discussed, because everyone is trying to put into context, just exactly where they fit in with all these people. We talked of those who weren’t with us with love and sadness, because they would have really loved that their families have made the effort to keep the closeness going. To all those who made this reunion so very special, we love you and thank you for making our family reunion amazing.
Whenever I read through my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal, I find something new. I may have read it before, but somehow, a new thought jumps out at me this time. Yesterday, as I was looking through it, I saw what a visionary she was. Many people kept clear family records, dating back for centuries, but the one thing that many of those records were void of was the stories that made up the lives of the people who were listed there. Aunt Bertha mentions that so much of how life was for our grandparents or great grandparents is being lost, because people only kept the birth, death, and marriage records, and never really told the future generation what their ancestors felt like. She was so right.
I often look for something more in the different sources that I use to build my family history, and even when there is a story, often it is simply and statement saying that the person died on a given day, and was buried in a certain place. While that can be good information, it doesn’t really tell anything about the person. I want to hear about their life. I want to know about some exciting things that they accomplished. Often, people don’t even post their obituary in it’s entirety. That is another sad thing, because it makes it hard to know for sure is this particular person is the ancestor you are looking for. The obituary would tell about their parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren. That information alone can fill in a history that has been missing a lot of really interesting and important information.
Birth and death certificates are another area that seems to be sorely missed in the actual media area of a persons information of Ancestry. Wehn you want to know about an epidemic that has hit, you have a real struggle on your hands. Much research is needed to find out what cause the deaths of people in the not so distant past, and it can be really frustrating. Marriage certificates are hard to find too sometimes. It really makes me sad that all of this documentation is missing from history, and all the stories about life are missing too. It really is up to us to make sure they get in there, just like my Aunt Bertha points out. Just knowing the dates does little to show who they really were.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. You get in a hurry, and forget to put in the personal information. I suppose it does help that I have written stories about these things, but I have not necessarily connected them with Ancestry, so that other people would be able to read some of it. I can see that I’m going to have to start doing a better job of putting in the stories that go with some of the people I am researching. People’s lives have so many interesting stories in them…so many twists and turns in their journeys, and I want to be like my Aunt Bertha, and pass that information along for posterity.
As I have been working through some of the hints on my Ancestry tree, I am amazed by the number of family members from varying sides of my family and my husbands family, who started their life in America, or moved early in their life in America, to the same places. I don’t know if they knew each other, or even if they were there at the same time, but the roots are there nevertheless. They may not have lived in the same town even, but sometimes it was close. One state that I just keep coming up with is Massachusetts. Who would have ever thought some of my roots would have come from Massachusetts?
Recently I started talking to a relative from my dad’s side of the family that was traced to me through DNA matching. We have been unable to connect our two trees yet, because of limited information back through the generations, but DNA doesn’t lie, and we both have Fuller relatives in our background…and both sides come from…you guessed it, Massachusetts. I have also been looking at the Shaw side of my mother’s family because of another recent connection in Ancestry, that I’m not yet sure is related or not. Nevertheless, once again, I have run into Massachusetts as their point of origin to the United States. In the Shaw family, we also find that we have a Mayflower connection, in the form of one Lieutenant John Shaw, who arrived in America on that ship.
Now, switch to my husband’s family, and you will find that the Noyes family, another connection I made recently, also hail from Massachusetts. I have known for some time now, that my husband, Bob Schulenberg, and I are cousins of varying degrees, depending on the side of the family you look at, and now I think I can understand how some of this might have come about. I think much of it can be traced back to Massachusetts. The connections don’t all trace there, but there are enough of them that it made me very curious about all those people who lived in Massachusetts way back then. Then I came across John Spencer, who is my 8th great grand uncle, and the Reverend James Noyes, who is Bob’s 7th great grandfather, both came over on a ship called the Mary and John, and were among the first settlers of Newberry, Massachusetts, so my suspicions are confirmed. That also brings in yet another side of my family…the Spencer side.
This will be a developing story, of course, because as I trace things further, and discuss more of the family history with these new found cousins, more information will come to light. Whenever I find these new connections, I get very excited, because you just never know where they are going to lead you. I had always through that most of my roots were in the Wisconsin/Minnesota area, but of course, that could not have been, because when our ancestors came to this country, they didn’t arrive in Wisconsin or Minnesota, but rather along the east coast, because that was the area of the nation that had been developed at that time. So in reality, I knew we came from the east coast, but Massachusetts…seriously!! I never would have guessed it.
After reconnecting with so many of my Schumacher cousins on Facebook, Ancestry, and now in person, I have begun to wonder more about the Schumacher ancestry even further back. For a number of years, I have been stuck in the 1800’s on the Schumacher side of the family, just hoping for a break, and I think I may now know why. In researching the name Schumacher, I find that Schumacher or Schuhmacher is an occupational surname. It is, of course, the German word for shoemaker. Both spellings can be used as surnames, with Schumacher being the more common one, however, only the variant with an “h” can also be used as a job description in modern German spelling. That fact is of vital importance to my family’s actual history, and it could be the reason I have hit a wall in my search.
According to my grandparent’s, Carl and Albertine (Henriette) Hensel Schumacher, marriage certificate, Carl’s last name was actually spelled Schuhmacher…the actual job description, as well as an occupational surname. I had long known of the difference in the spelling, because my Uncle Bill Spencer had sent me a copy of the marriage certificate years ago, but I didn’t know the distinction that one letter held. I didn’t know that it changed the name from just a name to an occupation. If, as I suspect, Carl was encouraged to Americanize the spelling when he came to America, then anyone searching for information on Carl Schuhmacher, would most likely hit a wall…just as I have done. Americanizing surnames was a very common practice in early American immigration history, and sometimes the name the person ended up with was nothing like their real name. It is a serious frustration for the family history researcher.
This now causes me to wonder if our family might be related to such notable people as Eugen Schuhmacher (1906–1973), German zoologist and pioneer of animal documentaries, Irma Heijting-Schuhmacher (born 1925), Dutch freestyle swimmer, or John Schuhmacher (born 1955), American football player. Perhaps our search for our roots should be heading in a completely different direction, because unfortunately, no one told the people in the nation these people immigrated from that they should change their name too, so the lineage would be preserved. Perhaps this spelling of the name will open the doors that have for so long been locked. Only time will tell on this matter, as I delve into the research to see where it will lead me. I hope that it will lead me to the next level…the one after Carl’s dad, my 2nd great grandfather, Johann Schuhmacher, and beyond.
It is so hard for me to hit a brick wall in the family history line, because I want so badly to be able to take each line way back. It has become an obsession I suppose, just like it was for Uncle Bill. Once you get started you don’t want to stop until you reach your goal. Ancestral lines can be hard enough to follow, as the records kept were not as good, or have been lost over the years, but when you add the fact that the names were most likely changed, you find yourself hitting the brick wall that I have hit. Just like the grade school child who spells a totally different word for the teacher, you find yourself realizing the importance of one letter.
As I was working on my family history this week, I find myself, once again, running into brick walls. These walls were not created by the normal lack of information in Ancestry or any other source that I use, but rather too much information. How could that be, you might ask. Well the problem is that in my family as in many families, there are certain names that were well liked and used often. I realize that handing down a name is usually a show of love and respect for the person from whom the name originated, but in the Spencer family they went a little overboard. There are so many people with the same names, that it becomes totally confusing.
In one family whose dad is named Thomas, and the family had ten children, there would usually be a Thomas among the children. Now that makes sense to me, but when those ten children had children, invariably there would be one Thomas from each child. So now, you have a total of twelve Thomases is the family. If each of those ten grandsons names Thomas had ten children and had a Thomas among them, you would now have one hundred and two Thomases. If the next generation continues the tradition…well, you get the picture. It is a family that is overrun by Thomases. Now, add to that the fact that names like John, Robert, William, Allen, Thomas, Michael, and Christopher, were also names that were prevalent, and remembering this family’s love for passing down names, and you can see how hard it would be to find the right one, when you are looking for a specific connection.
No wonder my parents chose to give their children names like Cheryl (the least unusual name among us), Caryn, Caryl, Alena, and Allyn. While I have come across other Karen Spencers and other Caryns in general, I have yet to find another Caryn Spencer or Caryn Schulenberg. Now, I don’t say that it is impossible, and I realize that down the road a ways, there could be another, but it is rather unlikely. When I had children, I followed the tradition of my parents on my oldest, child, Corrie, but not on my youngest child, Amy. Still, with their last name being Schulenberg, I never found another one. They have both long since married, and their last names are a bit more common, so it is possible for them to find another Corrie Petersen (although probably not spelled the same) or Amy Royce (which I have found).
Corrie broke from tradition, and named her sons common names, Christopher and Joshua, but the last name spelling could still make it easier from an genealogy perspective, but Amy stayed with the tradition by naming her children Shai and Caalab. While Shai has found another person with a similar name, the last name was spelled Royes. She has found other Shais in general, because it is a more common name in Hebrew, but in her realm of the genealogy world, I doubt she will find another one, unless she passes the name down. Caalab will be hard pressed to find another one too, unless he passes down his name as well…simply because of the unique spelling of his name. There may be other Caleb Royces in this world, but probably not another Caalab Royce, unless he is a son or grandson of this Caalab.
I think that most of us, who have unusual names, really like that fact, because it makes us unique. And from a genealogy standpoint, the future searchers for their family history will likely be grateful for those unusual names, because it is much harder to end up with the wrong one in your family tree. People don’t have to figure out which Thomas, Robert, or Christopher this one is. Periodically, I have wondered what it would be like to have a more common name like Karen Smith or something, but I have always decided that I really like my unusual name…both of them in fact. They are what makes me quite unique, and in the family tree, people know they have found me, because I am the only me that exists.
I have not seen my cousin Shirley for about 30 years, but recently we have reconnected due to my mother’s desire to give Shirley our grandma’s wedding gown. Shirley is the oldest granddaughter of my dad’s and her mom’s mother, and as such, the wedding gown should go to her. It had been left in my dad’s care. After Dad passed away, Mom decided to give the dress to Shirley, but we had no way to get a hold of her. God takes care of the things we aren’t able to, and almost immediately, Shirley’s son, Larry showed up in a family tree search I was doing in Ancestry.com. He was searching too, and we connected. He got me in touch with Shirley, and then we and several other family members connected on Facebook. It is amazing how one little step can change the lives of so many people.
Since reconnecting with Shirley I have learned several things about her. Shirley is a patriotic American, who believes in the Constitution and the freedoms and rights it gives to each of us. She believes in hard work and being able to keep what you earn. She believes in the right to keep and bear arms. As I said, the Constitution and all its rights and freedoms. She and I are very much alike that way. It makes me proud that my cousin and I share our conservative American beliefs.
I also know that Shirley loves living up in the mountains, away from the crowds in town. That is not so unusual in that her family lived outside Casper on a piece of land in the Dempsey Acres area when she was a little girl growing up. I guess you could say that country living was in her blood. After leaving Casper, and trying some big cities, the family would move to the mountains of Washington. Shirley is a hard working woman who likes the simple things like the birds and other mountain sounds of the summer morning.
Today is Shirley’s birthday. We are sending you birthday wishes across the miles. We are thankful that our families have reunited again, though we have not yet seen each other in person yet. We hope your day is filled with all of God’s greatest blessings. Happy birthday dear cousin!! We love you!!