CacheCrazy.Com: My Other Passion

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Other Passion

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not out caching every waking hour of the day.  Yes, I go through periods where I probably would if I could get away with it, but in all reality, I do other things from time to time.  All of our great authors here at seem to have something, outside of geocaching, for which they have a similar passion.  For example, we've read several mouth-watering recipes from the kitchen of Bloodhounded.  Dodger Lizard Crew has shared tales from his hunting experiences at Francis Walter Dam.  Then there's Big Al, and the stories he's been grateful to share from trips, from all over God's Creation, that he's been fortunate enough to make.  Today I'd like to share my OTHER passion: genealogy.

For those who are unfamiliar, genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history.  To be honest, I can't pinpoint when, or how, I became interested in genealogy.  My best guess would be I learned about it in Boy Scouts.  I do, however, know my inspiration.  Before she passed away in 1996, my Aunt Helen once told me a story of her (and my mother's) Uncle Pat.  Both Aunt Helen and my mother would tell tales of Uncle Pat visiting them as children, living in Taylor.  Being older, Aunt Helen was able to give a better overall description of the guy.  In a nutshell, he was a short, stocky Irishman who brandished a shillelagh, and as such, was quite the intimidating character.  More importantly, Aunt Helen claimed through Uncle Pat we were related to a family of notoriety in the Scranton area, which includes a former mayor and famous philanthropist.  Unfortunately, none of this was documented, and Uncle Pat passed away in the 1950's, so asking him about it was out of the question.  Also, we didn't know who his children were or what happened to his widow.  Sounds like a bona fide mystery to me.  I was hooked!

I went to the local bookstore, and purchased a book on how to start your family research.  I did the interviews they suggested with family members.  I quickly filled in the first few generations on the family tree, filling in the blanks with what I knew from the oral history I was able to pen.  It was there I realized the inevitable stone wall I was going to hit:  I have a very common last name, and most of my father's family history had been destroyed years ago.  For the first few years, I concentrated on my mother's side.  As a novice, I'd have better luck weeding out an uncommon Irish name.  Also, I could walk to the library which housed many of the records I needed.  To date, I've traced most of my mother's lineage back to either Ireland or Germany, within the last 200 years.

Almost ten years after I started my family history research, I was able to break through the stone wall which was my father's side.  A chance e-mail from a lady claiming to have knowledge of the family I was researching helped me fill in crucial gaps, and the research of my father's side really took off.  Today I probably have about 2,000 names listed on my family tree, some with a closer relationship than others.

Here's a few cool things I've learned about myself, and my family:

  • My father always claimed he was Pennsylvania Dutch.  I've never found any evidence to support this.
  • My paternal great-great grandfather was in the Civil War, and injured in the Battle of Spotsylvania, 21 May, 1864.
  • My father's grandfather's sister had a grandson who married Aunt Helen's husband's grandmother's sister.  My parents are 12 years apart, and grew up in different areas of the state.  Small world, huh?
  • Said relative in the point above married into the Kresge family of Albrightsville, PA.  A well-known descendant of that clan is Sebastian S. Kresge, who earned his fame by opening a chain of 5 and 10 stores, the S.S. Kresge 5 and 10.  Today we know that chain by a different name- Kmart.
  • The same relative had a daughter who married into a family who also has a well-known descendant, William Jennings Bryant.

Obligatory geocaching tie-in:
My great-grandfather's grave.  GC2HE38, The Book's Secret, is 20' from the grave.

In 2007, I located Uncle Pat.  He's buried in Seattle, Washington.  Someday, I hope to visit his grave and pay my respects.



Oh man Dave, this is awesome! Dude, I never knew you were into this? It's a great way of finding your true roots and hunting down the information must be fun and interesting! I'm not sure I want to know mine? I know there are some criminals, multiple marriages and a lot of alcoholism. I vowed to break that trend with my family, so far, so good!

Kim@Snug Harbor said...

Really interesting post! My mom is the genealogy expert in our family. We have an uncle who was murdered in Chicago, a civil war vet, and one ancestor who lived just blocks away from where the Declaration of Independence was signed, when it was signed. The house is still there! Fun post!!

George said...

Pretty cool hobby! It's always interesting to see who did what from way back in your roots, who was famous and who was infamous :)

smithie23 said...

A short time ago we started research on Holly's family. We discovered she has a great-uncle who murdered a priest in Nanticoke. We found the story-on the front page of the Times Leader in 1938!

The story, passed down through the generations, is my great-great grandfather fled Ireland in the 1860's, that he was a fugitive and wanted for stealing a potato. Just imagine that! If he didn't want to feed his family that day, I probably wouldn't be here right now.

There are a lot more similarities between genealogy and geocaching than one would think. I've found myself in towns and places I never would have been, had it not been for either hobby. Not to mention the obvious tie in with cemeteries, as noted in the post.

Heather Cook (Lady-Magpie) said...

It must be something about geocachers, I have also traced my family back to 1789 on my Father's side. As a matter of interest my Father, who past away in 1998 age 91 was the last living survivor of the Great R101 airship that crashed in France in 1931. Only 6 out of 54 survived and he was an engineer in one of the engine pods on duty. Just think I wasn't even a twinkle in his eye at the time. Must write a blog on that. Great post again, thanks.

Dave DeBaeremaeker said...

My mom has a pretty extensive family tree. The most notable relation is that Woodrow Wilson is my great great uncle.

Ann said...

I am totally stuck with my mum's side of th family. No one to ask now and time to time i do go onto web sites, one day........ one day! You have given me the notion to get back onto the laptop and start searching again.


Well, this is all turning out to be very interesting indeed. Great post Dave!

Since everyone else is sharing, I will tell you what I can but, anymore and I would have to kill you, lol!

My great Grandfather was French Canadian and fled to the USA after embezzling a huge sum of money through his involvement in "The French Connection" 30 years before anyone knew what that was. He was somehow involved in the Canadian mafia, gambling and loans or so I'm told.

His three sons, one of which was my Grandfather, was "conveniently" trained as a locksmith and installed bank vaults. At the age of 23 he was investigated but never convicted by the FBI. After which he changed his last name legally but only slightly in spelling for some weird reason?

His other son's (my father's uncles who I called Uncle Forster and Uncle Teddy as a young boy)became partners in a "sporting arms" distribution business. They were also investigated and fined for several violations in arms dealing but were never incarcerated. I remember, they never worked, had young pretty wives and lived the good life (and they were always good to me too, so they were good guys in my young eyes).

One thing I can tell you is all of the men I mention above died as alcoholics and lost everything they had including their health and lives to the still.

My Father was embarrassed of his family and rarely talked about them. I found all this out from my Aunts who talked about them all the time.

BigAl said...

What a great post. I loved it. We in our house are big history buffs and love anything to do with genealogy or history. We have extensive papers, letters and just lots of stuff on my wife's relatives. I'll have to let her tell a little bit to all of you. My side of the family were all in the circus; yes the real circus. I had a grandfather who was the tattoo artist and there were always crazy snakes, alligators and monkeys in our family. Somewhere we have an old 8mm movie of me with one of the monkeys in the crib. My mom said that was where I got my climbing abilities from. Gotta love your family. Okay Honey, tell'em a little bit about your side of the family.

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