Family Ties

When I found myself writing fiction that was based on what was known of my family in Switzerland (not much is known; the stories are 98% fiction), I examined my ancestry. I’m not into genealogy, but that was the source of the answers to my questions. Had Rudolf von Lunkhofen had children? Who were they? Where did they live? How about later, during the Reformation in the 16th century? Was the family still there? Who were they? How many? By any remote chance had they been involved in the terrifying events of the time? Were any of them Anabaptists? Then, later, knowing by virtue of my BEING on this continent, that some of them had had to have emigrated, I began looking for THEM.

They were pretty easy to find, even down to the ship on which they sailed — and more.

Luckily, one of my cousins married a Mormon woman, and my mom had been a passionate genealogical researcher in the 1960s, and they’d exchanged information, so the great data base of the Mormon Church had fed into the vast number of places into which one can look for their ancestry. The fantastic Swiss Lexicon told me about my family during the Reformation. I was stunned to learn that two of the Schneebeli brothers had fought in the Second War of Kappel and one of them, the pastor, was killed. As for the rest? I was on my own — within certain parameters — to determine what might have been their lives.

Then, as I cleaned out the boxes in my garage, boxes that I inherited from my mom, I started to photograph (with my phone) pictures I knew I was going to throw out but that I wanted to keep with the thought of uploading them to the pretty extensive family tree I had built on Ancestry.com. Why did I do that?

For posterity. I did it very consciously for the kids of my cousins and my own niece. The photos — some old photos — are cool and the stories of the people are interesting. I truly love the family I’ve known. I’m proud of them and they interest me. I suspected they might interest the future.

And then came the DNA tests. I did it for fun and learned NOTHING new, but unknown to me, some of my relatives were taking it to. The upshot of that was I was emailed by the daughter of one of my cousins with some sincere and serious questions. I wasn’t as helpful as she might have wished, but at least I showed up on the other end of her messages.

That’s what I wanted. I want them to know those people. So when I find photos, I put them up. Because I knew them (not the very old ones, of course) and have a really amazing memory I feel a kind of responsibility to those people who aren’t here any more to share a bit of them to any of the future who asks. I’m a story teller, after all. โค

24 thoughts on “Family Ties

    • You’re right. I do look like her and I have her hands, down to the lines on the palm. She was a wonderful woman and a precious friend, so I’m honored to have her face wandering around the world. โค And my maternal grandma's physique.

  1. this is all so fascinating! wow, what discoveries! by the way, my father was also a william kennedy. we might be related somewhere down the line. you do resemble helena amelia, even to the turn of your heads in your pictures. by the way, my mother’s name was amelia.

      • so funny, and i was born susan beth kennedy, but my parents couldn’t agree and reversed it to beth susan kennedy when i was 2. my brother later married a woman who was named susan beth and she became a kennedy when she married him. the world is so funny –

        • My grandmother’s name was Helen. She married William Matthew Kennedy and became Helen Kennedy. They had a daughter they named Helen, Helen Kennedy until she got married. Then my dad married my mom whose name was Helen. She became Helen Kennedy.

    • Satisfied and surprised. I knew generally where my ancestors came from, but the details about their lives that I found out while researching my novels were really surprising.

  2. Fascinating! Seeing their pictures on the tree makes it that much more amazing. I need to send this to one of my aunts~she is the genealogy genius in regards to my Momโ€™s side. You are a true story teller and this is โ€œheart workโ€ in which to be proud. ๐Ÿ’š

  3. The genealogists are going to love you!! My mother is all about genealogy and has traced relatives back to nobility… sadly some were on the losing side of the War of the Roses and several lost their heads! I named son#1 after my maternal grandfather and son#2 after Sparky’s fraternal grandfather. There will be no doubt about which family tree they belong to since their names are not very common!

    • I think as long as someone wants them, and I’m here to tell what I know, I’ll do it out of love for them. So far three of these children of cousins have contacted me. One to find out about her grandmother — the one aunt I didn’t know well, the next to learn about Aunt Martha, and now this young (58 year old!) woman to learn about her mom. My mom’s oldest sister was biologically capable of being my mom’s mother, so that my cousin has a daughter too young to be my daughter isn’t surprising. โค

  4. Wow! When you get inspired, you get Inspired :). Great post and the format for posting the photos of your ancestors is so nice and neat and organized. I may now be extra inspired for what to do with all my photos. I would have to choose just one per person for a chart like that. This would be a helpful reason not to keep everything. Are there links from the photos to include information and/or their stories? I am also the family story teller.
    I also did the DNA test and was contacted by cousins of cousins or some such thing. There was a flurry of communication and exchanging of photos and then they dropped out. I was disappointed to say the least, but I suppose it was not meant to be. On the other hand…my husband, after his DNA test, was connected with the son of the much older half sister he never met (or knew about until the 1990s).

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