One of these days, I will be back on track. Here are three weeks of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.
So Far Away
I have written before about my mother’s side of the family. They come from Thailand. They are my ancestors who are so far away in so many ways.
The most obvious is the distance, clear on the other side of the world. To travel to Thailand by air would take 15 to 20 hours, longer depending on the number of layovers and time between layovers. Technology has made keeping in touch as convenient as if we lived next door with video chatting, social media updates, etc. Translation software makes it easy to communicate also. Digital images uploaded to the Internet help us see what other countries look like and show the incredible sites each location has to share.
Next is culture. We live in a shrinking world, and many times we assume people in other countries live and think like us. Despite the ease in which we can communicate today, the peoples of the world have retained many cultural differences. Idioms are different, which can impact language. Cuisine, fashion, traditions, and tolerance levels are all different. Perceptions are culture-driven; my mother thinks differently than my father. They approach problem-solving very differently. My father took the authoritative approach in parenting, letting us make mistakes, and helping us to learn from them. My mother was more authoritarian in her parenting, establishing rules, and an expectation to “respect our elders without question.” The American culture also teaches us to respect our elders, minus the “without questions.” We American’s are encouraged to seek out wisdom separate from our parents. There are other examples, but we only have so much space.
Finally, there is the language barrier. Thanks to translation software, this is more of a written problem than a spoken problem and really only impacts records research in genealogy. Thai does not use Latin or Roman script, like English. It uses a syllabic alphabet, so it has quite a few more characters to learn than English.
I have several family lines that recycled names throughout history. The family that did this more often are our Gage ancestors. This may be more of a cultural phenomenon. You see, our Gage’s were of old English descent and used the traditional, “name your oldest son after his father” rule of thumb. Other branches were Germanic in origin, and their naming convention was quite elaborate, resulting in some recycled names, but not as much as the Gage’s. Our Irish Cobe’s followed the same pattern as their English cousins. A few examples:
In the Gage family, they used the following given names frequently; Abigail, Daniel, Isaac, John, Mary, Mehitable, Moses, Richard, Sarah, Thomas, William. Now, it’s not surprising that these names were so often used. I mean, look at them! They were probably not only family names, but some of the most popular names of the time.
The Cobe’s weren’t as bad. They recycled Richard only three times in my research. Immigrant Richard named his son Richard, and Richard’s oldest son named his first son Richard (that would be old Uncle Dick to some of us).
Charles Kerchner, Jr. explained German naming customs in his 1995 online publication. He identified several naming patterns, the simplest example being the first child was named after their paternal grandfather/mother, the second after their maternal grandfather/mother, and the third after the parent. To keep the generations from being confused with one another, they went by their baptized middle names. So, a man named John Henry Roth may have been named John after his paternal grandfather but was known in public as Henry, which may have been the name of his baptismal sponsor. This was great for their day but can be hell on the genealogist.
The Rhoades family has an affinity for Henry’s and Catherine’s. By the time of my great-grandfather’s birth, the Rhoades family had become very American and had lost much of their Germanic heritage. In fact, they became convinced they were of English origin. The last known recycling of names in consecutive generations is my great-grandfather, grandfather, and father. I asked my dad once if my sister (his firstborn) had been a boy, would he have named her after him? It was a resounding, “No.” Instead, my parents chose to recycle their initials. So my sister shares my father’s initials, and I share my mother’s.
The only Germanic family in our line who appears to buck the system was the Kucks’. Ollerrich named his oldest son Ohlrich. Ohlrich put a stop to that and named his son John Henry (after his brother, John Henry). But, maybe Ollerrich was the third son of a man with the same name? I haven’t gotten that far yet.
Oh, my…favorite discovery. Yeah, I can’t say. Any time I make a discovery it dwarfs the last one. I’ll try to remember in what order I made the following discoveries.
I technically started genealogy in my twenties. It was pretty basic; I had one of those books grandparents give their grandkids and used it as my starting point. Grandma provided three generations’ worth of information. My Great-Aunt Eileen had done extensive research on her Aleck line, so there was nothing new there. But the stories were captivating. Through Eileen and Grandma, I heard about Xaver’s arrival in America and his lynchpin story. I heard about Ohlrich’s desertion from the Army and subsequent use of an alias, the mysterious Kahler sisters who also kept in touch with the Kucks, and various tailors, farmers, engineers, and school teachers.
I think my first discovery was Rosetta’s correct maiden name. She had been married several times before her last marriage to my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Rhoads. Her name was Rosetta Johnson. It was exciting to find, but disappointing to learn it wasn’t Woodfin.
My next discovery was tracking our Cobe’s to Richard and Eliza from Ireland and finding their landing point in America in Napoleon, Ohio. This was an easy find though since great-grandmother Eleanor believed she was born in Napoleon. But it was fun to find her father, then her grandparents, and finally Richard and Eliza. I was very excited to discover a couple matching their description in Barrie, Canada, though I still cannot prove it is the same couple.
In researching John Rhoads (father of Daniel), I tenuously connected him to the Westmoreland Rhoads/Roth’s. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how I made this connection, except it may have been by tracing their presence in the census through Ohio and into Pennsylvania. A descendant of Joseph Rhoads (John’s brother) shared her Westmoreland lead (Joseph’s son’s military pension). I have more recently found DNA connections to the same Rhoads family in Westmoreland, and I have found the obituary of Joseph, which identifies Westmoreland as a point of origin. By connecting Daniel and his father, John, through these pieces of evidence, I can trace our Rhoades’ to German immigrants who were present in Bucks County (Pennsylvania) around the time of the American Revolution.
While trying to find evidence of Ohlrick’s desertion and alias story, I did confirm his desertion. However, my discovery disproved that it was during the American Civil War as his date of immigration was also found and was in 1870. He did serve in the Union Army during the time of the Indian conflicts. This was also an abysmal time for the military lifestyle. I never confirmed his use of an alias; however, I did find other researchers who claimed he lived as Henry Brandt, and I did find a Kucks connection to a Brandt family.
During research into Ohlrick’s wife, Margaretha Hinkle, I found the connection to the mysterious Kahler sisters. They were Margaretha’s cousins, daughter’s of her mother’s sister.
I then met some DeJean cousins who provided me with photo’s of old portraits of Stephen DeJean and Cornelia Rouse. These paintings are believed to be their engagement or wedding portraits. When I asked about provenance, this cousin was able to trace the ownership of the paintings through a direct descent of DeJeans. At the time the photos were taken, the owning family (DeJean descendants) was confident of their origins. The photos are all that are available for circulation. The paintings are presumed to have remained in that family’s possession. This same cousin also tracked down a crazy quilt done by Stephen’s daughter, Harriet, and letters between Harriet and her daughters discussing Stephen’s arrival in America. These were not the oldest publication of his story but were stories in the hands of Stephen’s grand-daughters as told to them by his daughter.
I have made other discoveries, though they don’t seem so exciting when I try to write about them, they were no less thrilling to me.