Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why the Kerkhoff side of my tree?

Why do I feel so emotionally connected to the Kerkhoffs "vs." other branches of my tree?  I've asked myself this many times, and I don't know the answer.  But I think I've narrowed it down.

Kerkhoff is my maiden name.  It's only logical that I connect with the name that I grew up with and am very proud of.  Well, at least I was proud until I found out what it means.  LOL!

And the old Kerkhoffs have cooperated a lot in my search.  And by the old ones, I mean Casper, Lisette, Anthony, Grandpa Joe, etc.  They filled out paperwork, they always spelled the name correctly (even going to the trouble to correct misspellings when they could), were included in the Cincinnati City Directory, took out ads for their businesses, etc.  But the biggest help they gave me was to pass down the name of the town they came from--Haselünne.

When I first asked Dad and Mom for information about their families and Dad told me about Haselünne, I remembered the name.  He must have told me many years ago that our Kerkhoffs came from there.  Then I found Casper and Lisette's Old St. Joe's cemetery records, and the town was listed as their place of birth (VERY unusual to list the exact small town).  So once I found out who to e-mail to find out about getting their Catholic church records, it was easy.  There was and is only one Catholic church in the town, so the archivist was able to easily find the information.

It's actually very emotional to read through these records.  To find out that Anthony wasn't the oldest Kerkhoff child.  He had a sister, and they shared a birthday (born 2 years apart).  She died at 3:30 one October morning when she was only 14 years old.  "Little" details like this started to paint a fuller picture for me.  Casper and Lisette started to become real people to me, not just names on a piece of paper.  You start to put yourself in their place at a specific moment in time.  How could they function after their daughter died?  How difficult would it have been to be only 2 or 3 years old and have one of your parents die (both Casper and Lisette were this age when one of their parents died)?  Why oh why did Casper marry the 40 year old stepmother of Lisette's???  I have my opinions about this, but I would love to know all the gossip and drama!

I had also found a website that listed the homes in Haselünne and who owned them during specific years.  I can't tell you how important this was to me, and it was one of the first huge pieces of information I found concerning my people.  When I visited the town, I met one of the men who compiled this list and put it online.  I will be forever grateful to him and his colleagues.

Dad showed me a copy of his Grandpa Anthony's naturalization papers (2nd copy of them--Anthony thought he lost the first set).  We always knew Grandpa became a citizen almost as soon as he could, March of 1871.  Just a couple of weeks after his 21st birthday.  According to a couple of US Census records, I knew that George and John were also naturalized citizens.  But I couldn't find their records anywhere!  And then one of my Facebook friends gave me a link to the Hamilton County Probate Court archived records.  And there it was--Casper's naturalization date.  The old man decided to become a US citizen.  Wow!  And I fell more in love with him (and with all of them).  He was 64 at the time, and Lisette and the minor boys all became citizens when he did (the law at the time).

Every bit of info I've been able to find puts another piece into the puzzle.  And I really like these people.  But I'm sure I'd really like the other branches of my tree.  Why am I not as obsessed about finding out about the Meyers, Brands, Schmitz and Purcells?  Well, I have to be truthful and admit that trying to track down records for these ridiculously common names kicks my butt.  Kerkhoff was easy to find in immigration records and city directories.  Meyer?  Yeah, right.  Schmidt?  Just try finding your specific person.  You feel like you're looking for a needle in a German haystack, and frankly, that's exactly what you're doing.  I guess I'm just an impatient American, but looking through pages and pages of Meyer, Keller, Brandt, etc. gives me a massive headache.

And there was no other branch where the name of the town survived through the generations.  I have found the specific names of 3 towns of other branches of my tree (Vodde, Keller and Pistner), but that wasn't because the family knew the name throughout the years.  What was it about Haselünne that was so special to the Kerkhoffs that explained why Anthony told Grandpa Joe about it?  And Grandpa Joe told Dad?  And Dad told me.

But I think the main reason why I focus on the Kerkhoffs is because of Grandpa Joe.  He never knew about  me.  Mom and Dad had just found out a few weeks before that she was pregnant, and then Grandpa went into surgery and died.  And I was always a tad envious of my brothers and sisters in this one area.  They knew him.  They heard him laugh.  Heard him talk.  And probably heard him yell.  They had a Grandpa, and I always wanted one.  I never felt this way about Mom's dad, and I think that's because none of my siblings knew him either.  But I grew up hearing stories about Joe Kerkhoff.  And looking at photos.  And I always wanted to know him.  I don't know what his voice sounded like.  Did his eyes sparkle like my dad's do?  And he never knew about me.  I know this all sounds really stupid.  Especially for a 45 year old woman to be going on and on about.  But I think that my ancestry search has, in large part, been a way to get to know Grandpa.  To establish some sort of relationship with him.  I know, not exactly logical thought.

Growing up, we had a framed photo of Grandpa that I remember very well.  Dad told me that it was the last photo that he ever took of him.  And that photo always represented to me everything that a grandpa was supposed to be.  I remember standing in front of it and just staring at it.  I always thought that it appeared as if he was looking right at me.

After I started my obsession, one of the first things that I discovered was that I was born on their wedding anniversary.  How bittersweet for my Grandma Ada.  Her first anniversary without her Joe, but a new grandbaby was born.  I hope it gave her a little comfort.  And I think that perhaps God allowed me to be born then so that I would have some "real" connection with Grandpa.  No, he never held me.  He never talked to me.  But he and I share a very important date.

Through this journey, I am so proud that I come from these Kerkhoffs.  And also from all the other branches of my tree--Vodde, Keller, Golz, Meyer, Heger, Kühr, Geisen, Pistner, Schmidt, Brandt, and Purcell.  We have reason to be very proud of our peeps. :)

1 comment:

  1. I don't think your reasoning sounds stupid or silly at all.

    And besides, feelings are what they are.