Newsletter~ Genealogy~Segue to History & Geography

I have discovered that the study of Genealogy is a great segue into, history, geography, research, and writing. What is Genealogy? It comes from two Greek words, one meaning generations and the other meaning knowledge. As we study and research our ancestors we can often discover where they lived, conditions that caused them to move, routes traveled, occupations, and more. There stories can inform and strengthen us.

The best place to start is with you and your immediate family and where you live. As families do this together they begin to see and understand that they are a part of history.

When I was a child, I lived in Hawaii, thousands of miles away from my relatives. All my friends could rattle off that they were 1/4 Hawaiian, 1/4 German, 1/2 Chinese, or other combinations. I knew nothing of my heritage and I began to ask questions with few answers. When we visited the Mainland USA, my father and mother would take me back to visit their aunts and uncles. I asked questions and began to get answers. When I was in college, my Aunt Grace was going to Germany with her daughter to meet the family my cousin had lived with as an exchange student. My aunt knew I had talked with her uncle in Indiana and that he had taken me to the little German Lutheran Church her great-grandparents had attended and that I knew where they came from. I gave her the town they were from. When she got to Germany, she hired a genealogist to assist her. Genealogy had been easy for her Quaker husband. They lived in a stone home that had been in their family for 200 years, a block from the church his family attended and the cemetery his family was buried in for the last 200 years. He just walked over to the church and was able to get the signatures of his family members for 200 years. Easy peasy! So, my aunt wanted to know her roots. Several years later she wanted to belong to the Daughters of the American Revolution and she contacted me for help.

We discovered through our research that our except for two great great-grand parents of mine, who came to America from Germany as children, all of my ancestral lines go back before the Revolutionary War. We have since discovered pioneers, pilgrims, patriots, benevolent monarchs, terrible tyrants, farmers, sheriffs, blacksmiths, ministers, and more. We researched, followed their journeys across continents, learned of history of their time, and wrote about it.

On 17 September, this year, we celebrated Shiffbruchs Gottesdeinst (Shipwreck Thanksgiving Feast). In May 1831, a group of my ancestors and their friends left Darmstadt and traveled over 400 miles to board a ship for Baltimore, Maryland. They left because their sons would be conscripted into the military at 16 and they also found that they could buy land in Ohio for $2 an acre. My 23 month old great-great grandmother, Elisabeta, was on board, her parents, her mother’s three sisters, and their parents, as well as many cousins and some neighbors. The ship they traveled on was brand new. After 65 days on the Atlantic they hit a hurricane and were tossed for two days. They lost their mast, their rudder, and were taking on water. The crew almost mutinied. However, they were prevented from doing so, by relatives with guns.

Soon, a brave 14 year old cousin, Margarethe Arras, suggested that Jesus calmed the seas and saved his disciples and maybe he would save them. It was near midnight and the ship was taken on water fast. A crew suggested someone slap her and that they were all going to drown. She stood and began singing the Lutheran hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

The passengers and many of the crew joined in. Shortly, the seas calmed and the ship rested on a sandbar, of the coast just south of Cape Henry, Virginia. At dawn, they discovered they were about 100 yards off shore. This was just three weeks after the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion in Virginia. The slaves along the coast came to the rescue of the passengers. The passengers vowed to celebrate that day as a holy day unto the third and fourth generation. I am the fourth generation. All of the passengers and crew survived, except for a child and an infant who died crossing the Atlantic. It took about five years for these immigrants to work their way to Maryland, then to Pennsylvania, then to Ohio. My direct ancestors moved on to Indiana, where my German great-great grandmother, Elisabeta, met my German great-great grandfather, Jakob, (who came to America in 1836 as a child) and married.

When I was a child the only vestige of this story that was passed to me was that I had a group of ancestors who got permission from the Duke to come to the United States, to avoid military conscription. The above story is the rest of the story, or at least a lot more of it. In the process of finding out more, we engaged in research, writing, history, geography, even some math, and more. This is just one incident in the lives of two great-great grandparents. Add Genealogy to your home education studies, it makes for a great unit study or project based study, and the children do not even need to know it is school!

Enjoy the Journey!

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