An Arborist on the Family Tree

Has it really been more than three months since we posted something here? I guess so. Well, we’ll change that…

Next week, I’m heading to Salt Lake City for a week of genealogical research at the LDS Family History Library. A decade or so ago, I put a lot of work into researching my ancestry, but since then I’ve only managed a few little spurts of work every now and then. A couple months ago, I started getting more serious again and it’s been quite an experience.

A decade ago, the Internet was a much much smaller place. There were a few good genealogy mailing lists, some resources on AOL and CompuServe (unavailable to non-subscribers), and a handful of websites. I can’t remember a single primary source that was available online back then. Genealogical research was all about long hours with a microfilm reader at the National Archives, Family History Library, or any number of other repositories. That’s still a part of the story, of course, and that’s why I’ll be in Salt Lake City next week, but vast amounts of data are now available on the Internet.

Today, companies like have all of the public US census images digitized and available online (along with much more); The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation has a searchable database of US immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, complete with digitized ship’s manifests; and sites like The Danish Emigration Archive and TRESOAR at the Frisian Historical and Literary Center make old-world records just as easily accessible as those here in the US.

So what has all of this meant to me? Without leaving home, I’ve discovered tons of information about my ancestry (and a little about Kathy’s). Some of it is unverified (thus the SLC trip), but nonetheless it’s pretty impressive. This picture shows an overview of Henry’s ancestry as I knew it a couple months ago and as I know it today. Henry is the box of the far left, with earlier generations trailing off to the right.

Cool. Assuming for the moment it’s all correct, that brings one branch of my family tree back to 1323 and quite a few back into the 15th Century. One of my 13th great uncles was Pier Gerlofs Donia, better known as Grutte Pier or Pierius Magnus, a Pirate (!) and Friesian folk hero. In another branch, my 10th Great Grandfather was Konrad Klinge, who was pastor at the reformed church in Thuine (now in Westphalia, Germany) before being forced out during the counter-reformation in 1606. Hmm, I have the sudden urge to learn about the 30 Years War.

So, anyway, I’ll be in Utah next week trying to break through a few dead ends and verify what I already have. It will be the first time I’ve been out-of-town without Henry and Kathy since Henry was born, which will be strange. They’ve been away without me, but not visa versa.