Tag Archives: origins

What Was In Her Mind?

Blogging is the best social environment available online. The positive give and take has been more than I could have ever dreamed.  The support I get for my writing from you has been like food that nourishes me. And the caring I’ve received about my father feels like sunlight streaming through the trees.

Sometimes blogging gives tangible information. I have received a surprising amount of information on my family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo. I don’t talk about it too much over here because I have a lot of other stuff to yap about, but that blog started as a way to share old photos, family stories, and genealogical research results with my family. I soon found a wonderful genealogy blogger community. Sometimes non-bloggers who have an interest in one of my tag words drop by and share knowledge that adds beautifully to my research. I mentioned before here about the antique scrapbook that fell into my lap this way.

Now something else happened that I think is so cool I want to share it with you. I haven’t been very active over there lately because, as you know, I’ve had a few other things on my plate lately (understatement!). So I’ve been posting antique photos from my family that are unidentified. Sometimes bloggers give me tips that help me narrow down to a time period or even a branch of the family.

Last Wednesday I posted this photo. It might be my favorite because of the unusual clothing of the woman that reminds me of Pilgrims or Puritans. And because of her sweet expression.

 

I didn’t have a time period or a family branch, other than that it had to be from my grandfather’s family. Notice that the photographer is based out of The Hague and Utrecht. My family didn’t live in those areas of the Netherlands, although one 2x great grandmother was born in an area south of Utrecht.

Imagine my surprise when I got this response from a new reader:

The photographer, Cornelis Johannes Lodewicus Vermeulen, was born in Utrecht 18.11.1861 and died in Hilversum 05.01.1936. Photographs from the period 1886-1915 can be found at https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/portraits#query=cjl+vermeulen&start=0&filters%5Bcollectienaam%5D%5B%5D=RKD%20%28Collectie%20Iconografisch%20Bureau%29

If you click on the link above and take a look at these cool old photos you will see that most of them are from a period later than my photograph–and the people look early 20th century. But there are a few that are 1890s and more traditional, like mine.

Then he wrote this:

In the Dutch province of Zeeland there is a society for the preservation of traditional costumes. The secretary of that society identified the traditional costume as the traditional costume of Cadzand, a small town in the Dutch province of Zeeland. In 2007 Cadzand had about 800 inhabitants. I believe this information may be useful to you.

I’m so excited to know that this lady who was somehow part of my family is from a small town that is distinguished by its own traditional costume. Who knew?!

So here is what I keep thinking about. The woman sitting there smiling for the photographer, probably excited that she will see a photograph of herself when all is said and done. She’s wearing clothing her family has worn for generations. And she’s holding . . .  what else, but a book?! What kind of book is it? It doesn’t look like a Bible to me. What could it be? What if she could have known that one day her photograph would be on something called the internet with the potential (OK, I’m being a “little” dramatic here) of being seen by millions of people? How would she have felt? Would it have boggled her mind? Would she have been thrilled to think of her image captured “forever”? Would she have wondered about her future descendents/relatives like me and what our lives are like?

I feel connected with her across the years. And I want to know what her life was like. Have you ever felt that way about someone from long ago?

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Filed under Blogging, Essay, History, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs

The Motif of Origins

I’ve always been fascinated by origins. In college, I double majored in marketing (to make a living) and history (motivated by that fascination).

When I was a kid, my own origins seemed clear enough on my mother’s side since I grew up in the same town her people had lived for a few generations. On my father’s side, “far away” in Chicago,  there were so many gaps and distortions and puzzle pieces that didn’t fit together.

As I finished my undergraduate degree and entered grad school, I realized that I didn’t really know nearly as much about even my mother’s family as I had thought. I focused my study on local Kalamazoo history and, ultimately, on my family’s history.

More recently, I’ve been writing my family history blog and trying to find answers to the many questions that arise.

  • What branch of the family was made homeless by the fire mentioned in a newspaper clipping I found in my grandmother’s papers? (Answer: the George Paake family–and I’ve made an acquaintance of a shirttail relation and been given copies of many family photographs and documents)
  • What happened to my great-great-grandfather’s sister Jennie when she left Kalamazoo? (Answer: she moved to Seattle with her two adult daughters. A kind stranger’s father found their scrapbook at the nursing home he worked at 20 years ago. After reading my blog, she has now passed that scrapbook on to me so I have beautiful photographs of these women in Seattle)
  • How many Van Liere siblings were there?  (Answer: 8–see photo below)
  • How many DeSmit siblings? (Answer: I don’t know yet!)
A photograph of Jennie with her daughters from the discovered scrapbook

A photograph of Jennie with her daughters from the discovered scrapbook

The VanLiere boys

Surprisingly, people who have found my genealogy blog have shared many photos and enthralling stories of my family.

My very first blog post on Writer Site, “The Study of Faces,” was about my feelings of connection to my ancestors.

While the search for origins in my book has nothing to do with the genealogy I focus on in The Family Kalamazoo, it is also motivated by a curious nature and a search for identity. Issues of inheritance, genetics, and rights to our own stories are part of the subject of origins.

How is it with you? Are you ambivalent or uninterested? Do you care about your origins? Are you obsessed with them?

 

 

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Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals