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Thursday, March 31, 2011

For My Hickey Research

I am making some quick notes here about Whitegate.  It is the location where my great-grandfather, Patrick Hickey, was baptized.  He is indicated as being from County Clare.  I don't doubt that nor that he was baptized in Whitegate.  This information is in his RC marriage record in Rye, New York at the Church of the Resurrection.

What I have found is that Whitegate, County Clare, and Whitegate, Galway get confused for each other.  Whitegate, County Clare is located 2 miles east by northeast of Mountshannon and about 7 miles east by northeast of Scarriff.   Whitegate, County Galway is located 1 mile from Killimor (bologue) and about 6 miles from Portumna.  The Whitegate in County Galway is about 20 miles from the Clare border.  Another thing to make note of here is that Whitegate, County Clare should be in the Clonrush civil parish. 

Because I have found information that my Patrick Hickey was from County Clare, baptized in Whitegate but have found other references to Galway and Tipperary on his supposed WWI and WWII draft registration cards, I can only imagine that either he was not sure of what county he was from, and/or moved around and lived in several, or the transcribers thought that they knew it all and wrote it down their way.  Patrick Hickey did have a thick Irish brogue so misinterpretation of what he said may have been likely.

At this point, as I find information that could help me in the future, I write it down.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shaffrey's On Family Search

Recently, I hoped on  I entered the last name of Shaffrey and came up with just over 7,000 "hits" in their search engine.  The Family Search site includes various records for census, birth, marriage, death, probate, military, and immigration that span worldwide but mostly in the USA, parts of Europe and Australia.

To find this limited number of results for the last name of Shaffrey indicates to me just how uncommon this surname really is.  When I narrowed my search to just birth, marriage, and death records, I ended up with just over 4100 "hits".  I clicked on just Ireland births and baptisms 1620-1881 and found 733 results.  With some luck, I was hoping that I was getting somewhere.  I know that my Shaffrey search needs to start/continue from starting mid 1700s until maybe 1854.  I've struggled with where to go with this search.

In the 1840s through 1855, I find virtually nothing online for Shaffrey's under births and baptisms for Ireland.  Under marriages, I find a Catherine Shaffrey (b. 1841) marrying John Farrelly on 22 Jan 1865 in Navan, Meath, Ireland.  Her father was William Shaffrey.  Her mother is not listed.  I also find a Ellen Shafray (b. 1845) marrying John Smith on 21 May 1864 in Navan, Meath, Ireland.  Her father was Thomas Shafray.

Since I know that my Shaffrey's are from in and around Moynalty, I know that I will be keeping my search to mostly County Meath at this point.   I did peek at the Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958 for the timeframe 1840-1855.  I find a few Shaffrey's living in the Kells area of Meath.  From 1800-1840, I only find a few people with the last name of Shaffrey in the Kells area under the Ireland Civil Registration.  If I try to go back further, I don't feel as confident about the location of my Shaffrey's.  Needless to say, I am feeling the "dead end" again on this front.

There is that LDS Film though which may be for my Maxwell's but may have more information on it for the Parish of Moynalty.  I may need to fetch that to push further back in time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shaffrey Shout Out

Recently, I received an email inquiring about my Shaffrey line.  It is a rather uncommon Irish surname.  The line that I come form originates in Parish of Moynalty, Meath, Ireland, at least in the early 1800s.  I have found it to be very likely that they originate in that location even in the late 1700s.  I find my relatives in this location and probably in Shancarnan and Dunshaughlin. 

As you've probably noticed, I use the words "very likely" and "probably".  How certain can I be when it comes to this Irish family line.  I "guesstimate" that I am 95% certain.  Those are generally considered pretty good statistics for Irish ancestry, especially when tracing them in the late 1700's and early 1800's.  Source records can be so hard to come by.

I have the following previous posts in my blog as my respository reference material.  I will share them again as a "shout out" for my Shaffrey's.  I continue, as always, to seek the family line.  I am still hopeful that maybe, just maybe, I can get back further in time and make a discovery of some family history.

My Shout Out to My Shaffrey's:

Shaffrey's - Meath - Judith Shaffrey Maxwell - Part 1
Shaffrey's - Meath - Judith Shaffrey Maxwell - Part 2
Shaffrey's - Meath - Judith Shaffrey Maxwell - Part 3

If anyone has an interest in this family line or is a Shaffrey, let me know!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Snapshot In Time - Genealogy Research

I am in the process of cleaning up my Family trees.  The original tree that I placed out there has incomplete information on several of my lines plus my Vienop/Borchers line appears to have several errors.  In my early "Spring Cleaning" on that tree, I found the following comment that I made on April 19, 2010.  It is a snapshot in time.  It summarizes to an extent what I knew of my family tree when I started this process. 

Rather than delete the comment, I thought I'd share it below.  I follow it with some additional comments.

Napa, CA Family - Flanagan, McLaughlin, Borchers, Vienop  - April 19, 2010 - zelsersk
My mother was born and raised in Napa, CA. My family roots there go back to the late 1800s. The Flanagan's arrived there in the 1870s and my grandfather carried on the family name there until he passed away in 2000. There's quite a bit of Flanagan history in Napa. What is also interesting is that they remained in contact with the Flanagans in Ireland. The Flanagans of Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, Ireland have a long history in that location going back to the late 1600s. The family continues in that location today.

I know very little about my McLaughlin side of the family. My grandfather's mother was born in Austin, Nevada and her family ended up in Napa around the turn of the century. It would be great to find out more information about the McLaughlin's and the Maxwell's too!

The Borchers headed west from Minnesota and North Dakota along the way in the late 1800s. They ended up living in Napa and Sonoma Counties. My uncle who is a Borchers has researched the Borchers back to Germany. My great-grandfather was Herbert Herman L. Borchers and he lived in Napa, CA. I knew him fairly well and visited him regularly when I was young.

The Vienops also made their way West from Missouri to Nebraska and onto Napa. John Henry Vienop came to the USA in and around the 1870s from Germany. He returned to Germany and made his way back to the USA with his family. My great-grandmother, Mary Vienop, was born in Missouri. They ended up in Napa around the turn of the century. There were quite a few Vienop's who made there way to Napa, CA and Northern CA. 

The comment that stands out big for me here is what little information I had about my McLaughlin's and Maxwell's.   I can only say that I have 1000% more information about them plus more lines that stem from them.  It amazes me how far that I've come on that line.   I did not do it alone either.  I have McLaughlin, Maxwell, Flanagan, Duffy and Malloy descendants and others to thank for that. did lead me to a few of them and my grandparents' "treasure box" helped me find some very key people.

I love the connections that I've found in living people on this side of the family.  They are my living relatives.  I also love the family history that I've discovered along the way.  I rather consider my McLaughlin/Maxwell Tree research a "fun online family reunion party" with some great people.  We have to keep this going and maybe someday we can all meet in person.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Surprises Never Cease - Maxwell's and Shaffrey's

Recently, my mom, a living Flanagan (descendant of the McLaughlin's, Maxwell's, Shaffrey's, Gartland's, Fox's and that is just on her father's mother's side of the family) asked me about our Maxwell's.  She was trying to get Katie Duffy's relationship straight with our family line along with the Duffy's grandchildren, the Malloy's of Napa, California.  As she always admits, our Maxwell line confuses her.  I need to print out an updated version of that line for her soon.  First, I need to make some updates to my family tree document entitled, "The Descendants of James Maxwell".

My mom asked about her Maxwell Line one day, and surprises never cease, the very next day I have someone emailing in response to my blog offering information about my Maxwell's and another person sending me a message on that they are a Maxwell/Shaffrey.  I must admit that I did blink and more connections rolled in.   Am I a genie or something?

I struggle so much finding my dad's family line, yet my mom's is almost crytal clear back to the late 1700s in Ireland (and Germany on another line).  How does that work?  My mother comes from a long line of individuals who obviously took pride in their family roots, religion, and passing along the family history inasmuch as it has survived. 

Most families would envy what I have found and have access to.  I have envy when I look at my own family lines.  I have so very much information about my Flanagan's of Napa and Termonfechin, and almost as much about my McLaughlin's and Maxwell's of Herkimer County, New York.  So, what is the deal on my McGuire/Hickey side of the family?  I vent some here but have found that it just takes time.  Patience is needed. 

I am excited to find more Maxwell's and desire to find more McGuire's (and I am looking for those Maguire's from Louth too, on my mom's side).  In the ever so wise words of my grandfather, Richard Joseph Flanagan, "wait a while".

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Family Tree Process

When I approach my family tree, I can do it from a number of angles.  I can pick one of my lines which I have divided up into four separate trees.  From there, the options seem endless at times.  Do I try and push futher back in time?  Do I complete the sourcing of existing people on the tree?  Or, do I add more cousins and head down the line from past to present looking for living relatives?

"Treeing" on, as I call it, means following a certain format for the dates and locations trying hard to be accurate and fix any errors that become obvious along the way.   Sometimes I do make mistakes on my tree on  I have become quite skilled at fixing these.  The technology on the site can seem like it is dismal to fix an error.  It does help that I've had to fix errors in computer databases that housed insurance records in my not so long gone "past life".  That is just one of the many things that I've learned along the way in life.  There's more and I find that those past skills carry over to my genealogy research.  What goes around, can come around in life, to your benefit.

Part of my process includes networking.  I've networked online with many people.  Some have turned out to be the "real deal".  The "real deal" being actual blood relatives who have a heck of a lot more information about our family tree than I could ever have imagined.  Even when the person is not a blood relative, you can still find comardery online. 

I have posted on's message board along with Genforum.  Message boards can be a way to find information about relatives but it is so hit or miss.  Also, I've found that most of the same people are on   If you have a family tree match with someone, you're probably going to find it on their site.  Those discoveries can be quite fun.

So....My ultimate goal along the way has been to have fun while finding my family roots.  Have I been having fun?  You bet.  Will I write a book about it someday?  Maybe. :-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

California History - The Donner Party - Part 2

In the 1800s, and sometimes even today, the most difficult part of the journey into Northern California was the last 100 miles across the Sierra Nevada.  With 500 peaks over 12,000 feet high and an extremely steep eastern side facing the State of Nevada, it is no wonder the trip was treacherous.  Because of the proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range receives more snow that many of the other mountain ranges in North America.  On a clear winter day in Sacramento, California, you can see the snow capped peaks in the distance beyond the foothills of the Valley.  The mountains appear closer than they really are on clear days like that.

Taken from the Valley Floor in Sacramento County

In order for pioneers to make it across the Sierra Nevada, timing their trip was absolutely critical.  Wagon trains would leave Missouri to cross the open wilderness to Oregon or California.  The Donner Party did not have the best timing as they were delayed by several mishaps along the way. 

One of their decisions was to try a new route west through Utah Wasatch Mountains.  They also had in fighting within the group.  They were travelling with others including the Reed Family.  They lost many cattle and wagons along the way.  The journey west from Missouri usually took between four and six months but the Donner Party's journey took longer.

At the beginning of November 1846, the party had reached the Sierra Nevada.  What I almost find shocking is that they had continued on up the mountian.  This was a very naive decision.   The Donner party was trapped by early snowfall in November 1846 near Truckee, California, and the now named location of Donner Lake, California.  This is high up in the mountains at well over 6,000 feet.

When their food ran low in mid-December, some of the group set out for help.  Rescuers from California did not make it to the party until the middle of February 1847.  Of the 87 members of the party, 48 survived to reach California.  For four months the Donner Party was snowbound at the now Donner Lake location.  During this time some of the party resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness.  This is usually the point at which I change the channel or turn the page.  The need for food is fairly well documented in a diary that was kept by a member of the party. Historians do refer to this event as one of the most tragic stories in California history and in western migrations.

There has been much debate about the cannibalism but forensics have proven that some of it is true.  The following links take you to the Donner Party Diary that someone has placed online and to a forensic analysis of the Donner Party.

Donner Party Diary

Donner Forensics

For anyone who is a history buff, particularly of California history, the story of the Donner Party is interesting and sometimes controversial.  Living so close to the Sierra Nevada, Donner Lake, and the party's final destination in Sacramento, California, at Sutter's Fort compelled me to write about them.  Additionally, I have considered how many of my own ancestors traversed the Sierra Nevada to find their way to Napa, California.  They too passed through Donner Summit and the also named "Immigrant Gap".

Today, Highway Interstate 80 (I-80) runs through the mountain pass.  At different points there can be 3 to 4 lanes of traffic in either direction including cars and big rig trucks.  At the summit of I-80, the road is steep, maintained, paved, and watched over carefully by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

There are plenty of ski resorts and activities at Lake Tahoe which is at 6,000 feet and dominates the area near Truckee in the north and South Lake Tahoe to the south.  You can even visit a casino or two on the Nevada side of Tahoe.  The Tahoe part of the Sierra Nevada's is truly one of the most gorgeous places in the world.  That said, mother nature still causes havoc in the winter.  Every once in a while the road is "snowbound" and closed for a day or so.  Naive winter travelers beware...history has spoken.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

California History - The Donner Party - Part 1

Recently, I turned on the TV and found that the PBS station was on.  It had a documentary on about the Donner Party.  I quickly changed the channel.  It is such a sad story of migration to California.  The next day someone mentioned the Donner Party.  It got me thinking.  I was so quick to change the channel yet their story does belong to someone's family tree and history.   Their history was not so quickly forgotten at the time, but is usually quickly remembered and then forgotten today.

I feel compelled to write about their story.  I hope to discover some information that I don't already know off the top of my head.   What I do know off the top of my head includes geography, family, the cold snow, and some rather gruesome details of their demise on the mountain.  It really is a compelling and sad part of California History, particularly Northern California.  There are lessons to be learned here even if just for knowing how to survive in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Throughout my education, I have received varying degrees of information about California History.  I think of the quote "I hear and I forget", "I see and I remember", "I do and I understand".   This quote rings true of many things.   When it comes to California history, I heard plenty of teachers discuss it in class and saw the history in writing.   What helped me understand the history was actually going to places like Sutter's Fort in Sacramento and to the Donner Museum at Donner Lake. 

Viewing some of the Donner Family possessions including the items that belonged to the children was quite moving for me.  I'm sure that it has been over 20 years since I visited either of the places mentioned above but some things are burned in my memory.

Who were the Donner's?  Off the top of my head, they were a family migrating west from somewhere.  They arrived in Nevada and attempted to beat the winter snow over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range by beginning their trek in October.   The winter weather at 6,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada's can be very unpredictable.  Even today, it is feast or famine sometimes with snow fall.  Early season blizzards are not unheard of and can make road travel over the summit rather difficult today.

The Donner's got mixed up in the early season blizzard and were stuck up on the mountain for quite a while.  The timeframe was long enough for several of them to starve to death.  Someone in the party wrote down what was happening to them as it happened.  This is one of the things that makes their story so compelling and rather haunting.

The northern summit above Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is named after the Donner Party.  It is, in fact, called Donner Summit.  There is also Donner Lake, Donner Pass, and the name is seen in that north area of Lake Tahoe in places like Truckee, California, as a reminder of a time and tragedy passed.

It amazes me sometimes how much information that I remember off the top of my head.  Next up are the other details that I found online........

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  What does St. Patrick's Day mean to most American's and to myself?  I think that is what I will write about today.

In the USA, no matter what your national origin is, most people celebrate in some way on St. Patrick's day.  In various places, you see it indicated as St. Paddy's Day.  We eat lots of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes on this day and drink green beer.  I'm sure the Irish in Ireland question where we got those ideas.  We also put beer in our Guinness and call it a black and tan.  St. Paddy's day is also filled with partying and overdoing it in that realm at times.  Even in the midst of Lent, the Catholic Church allows you to eat meat on a Friday when it happens to be March 17th, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.  Even the Catholic Church makes exceptions.

As a kid, corned beef and cabbage was very much on the menu at my house.  My mom would also make her Irish Soda bread.  I will have to ask her for the recipe and find out who she got it from.  It is not a Martha Stewart recipe.

My senior year of high school was spent at the newly combined St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in Vallejo, California.  What that meant was, we got St. Patrick's day off.  Never had I experienced that before or since.  In the USA, the day which honors the patron saint of Ireland, is important but not offered as a bank holiday.  At least not in the west.  The Catholic Schools can do their own thing though and so we had that day off to honor the patron saint of Ireland and our school's namesake.
So who was St. Patrick?  He was a Christain Missionary in Ireland.  I find it interesting that two letters from him survive.  He started out in Ireland as a slave who had been captured by Irish raiders in Briton in the 4th century.  Not much is truly known about him except what has been handed down in legend.  He did enter the church.  Volumes have been written about the man.  Some is fact based in research and some is folklore based in legend.  I do like the legend, myself.

St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland and brought Christianity to the masses.  According to Wikipedia, St. Patrick was never cannonized as a saint by the Pope.  What?  Really?  His name shows up all over the place for Catholic Churches.  I am not afraid to say this:  Maybe the Vatican needs to get their act together and venerate him after all of these years.  He is the partion saint of Ireland and let's just say that the American's really honor him too!

Anyway, back to modern day.  I recently went to my daughter's Sunday School class to teach them some songs.  I met a little boy named Patrick.  I asked him if he knew that St. Patrick saved Ireland.  He said cheerfully that he did.  He seemed to know a little bit about the origins of his first name.  That says a lot for a Kindergartener.  Locally, I rarely come across a child in recent generations with the name of Patrick.  Whenever I see him now, he says "hi" to me.  I am probably known to him as the parent who teaches the class songs as opposed to the parent who knows where his first name originates.

I find this name repeatedly in my own family tree.  Patrick is quite a fine name.

I could not let St. Patrick's Day go by without a post and a happy wish to all.   Remember, everyone is Irish on March 17th!

At the Guinness St. James Gate Brewery, Dublin, Ireland - c.2004

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bellew - An Irish Surname

Short of uncredited plagarism, I sometimes come across information that I just must "borrow" as written in context and provide credit to those who "own" the information.  Without the full context, I find that my research could be incomplete in many cases.  As a salute to, I thank you for the lending of information whether borrowed, "lifted", or as one of my former high school English teachers would say, volunteered the military way.

I must give credit to for the following.  Thank you and I have not made any money off my blog to date.



Though numerous in the seventeenth century to be listed in Petty's "census" of 1659 among the principal Irish (sic) names in the baronies of Dundalk and Ardee, Co. Louth, the name Bellew is now rare. It is still extant in Co. Louth, where it has been associated since the thirteenth century. There it has been occassionally changed to Bailey. The earliest references to it in Ireland render the name Beleawe, which is close to the original French Bel Eau. The family went to England from Normandy with William the Conqueror, and settled in Co. Louth and the adjoining part of Co. Meath soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion. Up to the middle of the sixteenth century they were less in evidence than the majority of the great Hiberno-Norman families, but from then on they are found , particularly the family of Bellewstown, as sheriffs, members of parliament and so forth. They were among the leading men on the Irish side in both the major wars of the next century: Sir John Bellew, was on the Supreme Council of the Confederate Catholics, and was specially exempted from pardon in 1652; three Bellew landowners were transplanted to Co. Galway under the Cromwellian regime; and four of the name served as officers in James 11's army, but for various reasons they managed to save a portion of their estates from the wholesale Wlliamite confiscations. Though they did not conform under the stress of the eighteenth century penal laws, they were in possession, when de Burgh published his Landowners of Ireland in 1878, of over 5,000 acres in Co. Louth while the Mountbellew (Co. Galway) family had some 23,000 acres. Capt Thomas Henry Grattan-Bellew, of Mountbeflew, who is a Knight of Malta, is uncle and heir presumptive of the late baronet, Sir Christopher Grattan-Bellew. Dr. Dominic Bellew was Bishop of Killala from 1791 to 1812, and Rev. Paul Bellew V.G. administered the diocese of Waterford, the bishop, Richard Piers, who held the see from 1701 to 1735, being an absentee.

Interesting information about the Bellew's.  They sound French and Norman in origin plus have a rather distinguished history of sorts in the County Louth area.  I seek Alice Bellew's history myself.  She is my 5th great grandmother on my Flanagan line.  She married Richard Flanagan of Termonfechin before 1766 in that same location.  Yes, Termonfechin is in County Louth.  I indicate Alice's birthdate as 1738 and she died on October 29, 1803, on the Flanagan Family Farm.  I have information that her parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Bellew.  I do not have Elizabeth's maiden name.  So is Alice of the line mentioned above.  I suppose that it is very possible.  I think that there is more to come on this line.  Erin Go Bragh!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Romaine's Revisited

Recently, I shared information with my family about our Romaine ancestors.  Given that it is so limited, it was a short email. 

The following is what I shared and I thought that I might as well post it here too:

I recently made some discoveries in the past months about our “Roman” side of the family. I continue to struggle with how the surname was spelled over the years. It would appear that the family probably spelled the name as Romaine but I have found it as Rohmann in source documents too.

I have obtained a transcribed copy of Francis Joseph McGuire’s and Mary Elizabeth Romaine’s marriage certificate. As you can imagine, this was a pretty great “find” if you will. From there I have located Mary Romaine’s family in census, NYC directories, and a few birth records for Manhattan. I am still digesting a lot of the information. It can be hard to work through at times.

The following are my discoveries of our Romaine’s:

-Mary Elizabeth Romaine was born on November 20, 1878, in New York City, specifically at 240 Delancy Street, in lower Manhattan. It would appear that she was born at home or at least 240 Delancy was where the family lived.

-Her father was Joseph Romaine and her mother was Frances Lakervine.

-Her siblings were Joseph (b. 1872), Rosa, and John (b. 1887).

-The Romaine name is reflected with various spellings in these records including Romaine, Roman, and Rohmann.

-On one census, Joseph and Frances are indicated as being Prussian.

-Frances Lakervine is indicated as Mary’s mother. Her last name is listed in various versions including Luchwurm, Lendervorson, and Lindeaurm. All I can say is that something must have gotten lost in the translation. While Mary was born in NYC and did not have accent, I am betting that her parents did.

-I have a copy of Granddad’s baptismal certificate for St. Louis Catholic Church in Brooklyn from 1908. A John Romaine was his sponsor.

This is all pretty sketchy at this point but in all seriousness, I can find Joseph Romaine in 5 different NYC directories over the span of about 10 years (1880-1890) on The family lived in two different locations including 240 Delancy Street and 126 Hester in Manhattan. I have him as a laborer but later as a carver. When I research the “carver” occupation for the census of the time, it comes up under the category of wood turner, carver, and woodenware makers.

If this rings a bell for anyone, let me know. I am completely lost on the Lakervine (?) name by the way.

Additional information not listed in my email:

I find that health conditions can also be a sign of relationships to others.  I know that this may in fact be a little awkward sounding but there seems to an instance of cancer that dominates in our Romaine Family line.  It may or may not originate as such but there is at least 1 individual, in 3 generations in a direct line who have suffered from and passed away from colon cancer.  They also had some form of stomach cancer it would appear too.  Also, Mary Elizabeth Romaine McGuire, herself, suffered from Parkinson's.  I do not know much about Parkinson's.

I mention health because that too can be telling of a family line.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Geography of Germany for Dummies - Part 2

Of course when you search online for information about Germany, you will find a plethora of information.  It really all depends on what you are looking for.  I am still trying to figure what aspects of German geography and history will help me on my quest to pinpoint the location of my ancestors. 

I found a great map online referencing the administrative divisions of Germany.  In other words, I found a map and list of all of the States of Germany.  I am putting the link right here to Wikipedia States of Germany and feel that it is important to list the states below too in case the link gets moved.

Lower Saxony
North Rhine-Westphalia

For my own research, I found that North Rhine-Westphalia was formed by two territories of the Free State of Prussia - The Rhine Province and the Province of Westphalia.  I find that Bavaria is the largest state and is found in the south of Germany.  Another southern state is Baden-Wurttemberg.  This is a location where one of my husband's German family lines originates. 

So now that I have some practical understanding of the states and area of Germany, what should I look at next?  I may, in fact, need that language lesson soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Geography of Germany for Dummies - Part 1

Germany at it's largest is slightly smaller than the state of Montana.  I must say that size is relative though.  It really only matters here on a grand scale if you're not going to delve further into the details of a location.  I plan to delve in and gain some knowledge about where to find people, places and things in Germany, or at least be able to identify where I am headed.  I guess I am looking for a bearing or compass of sorts that can guide me to success in finding my family roots in this country.

By looking at a map, I can tell that Germany is a country in Central Europe stretching from the Alps in the south to the North Sea in the northwestern area of Germany and the Baltic Sea in the northeastern part of Germany.  The population of Germany is the second largest of any European country.  Germany's terrain consists of forested uplands in the central area to the low lands of northern Germany.  The major rivers are the Rhine, Danube, and Elbe.

When you peek at a map, you'll notice that Germany shares borders with at least 9 other European countries.  They probably also share several traditions with each and everyone of these close neighbors.  Their neighbors are Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands (Holland).  I am betting this why German food, especially the sweets, is so darn good.  I love German food myself.

So the above information gets me through the physical geography of Germany.  What about the political, cultural, and sociological geography of Germany?  I will cover some of this in my next post.

To be continued........................

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Naming Patterns In Germany - Part 2

Naming Patterns of Schleswig

The northern area of Germany was part of Schleswig-Holstein, a possession shared by feudal lords, the King of Denmark, and the Prussian empire over time.  It was not until the 1920s that the area was divided with the lower part of Schleswig and Holstein becoming part of Germany.  Fixed surnames became common in the 16th century for this area.  A specific German dialect had influence over the names.  Some examples of these names include the following:  Peters, J├╝rgens, Johannsen, Ruetke, Scheel, Hopner, and Classen.

Well into the 18th century, patronymic names were used in this area as influenced by the Danish.  The letters "s-e-n" were commonly added to the end of the surname as each generation progressed.  A son would end up as a "Petersen" out of their father's surname of "Peter".  The closer to Denmark you got, the more likely that the daughters' names were also influenced by a more specific tradition to differentiate the genders.  The letters "d-a-t-t-e-r" were added to the surname of a daughter creating "Peterdatter", for example.

These naming patterns were with purpose and based in an 1771 law that really, in my opinion, confused people.  This area used patronymic names for probate and for relatives to establish heirs but used farm nicknames for every day use.  Sometimes people completely changed their last name.  Again, this is more of a Danish tradition influenced by the customs of Denmark since this area was closely connected to Denmark.  I feel sorry for those trying to find their ancestors in this area between 1770-1800.  It took these 30 years or so for people to establish their fixed surnames.  Do I have relatives who originate in this area?

I often wonder about the note that I found on a U.S. Census that indicated the "Romaine" name and stated that they were Hesse Danish.  It seemed rather obscure to me at the time but now I wonder if this is related in some way to the above history of surnames in the Danish/Prussian/German area of Europe.  Were my Romaine's from this area?  I do not know but hope to find them someday.  My notes here may help me.

Naming Patterns for Ostfriesland

The very notherwestern corner of Germany borrowed naming patterns from their Dutch neighbors to the west.  They did not use a complex naming suffix as in Denmark.  Instead an "s" would be added to the end of a surname to make it possessive as in "Peters" meaning Peter's son or daughter.

In 1808, Napolean required the people of this area to take a surname by law.  His way of having people pick their surname was to pick their oldest living direct ancestor, at the time, and use that surname for all of the direct descendants.  That's logical to me.  I'm not sure how smoothly it played out at the time.

Naming Patterns in Westfalen

The Westfalen area of Germany borders Hannover, Rheinland.  The naming patterns in this location go back to medieval times.  A family surname was called a Hofname (farm-name).  Each farm had a surname associated with it.  The farm name would determine what the family's surname was rather than the family surname determining what the farm name would be.  This did mean that some men changed their surnames to their wife's when they were married.

During the intial changing of a name to the new surname, a phrase such as genannt, vulgo, modo, sive, or alias would be listed between them meaning that he had one surname but was called by another.  Hofname's are still continue even today this region so that the farm name continues.  To me, that is pretty interesting and could actually make it easier in some cases for people to trace their family surname to this area of Germany.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Naming Patterns In Germany - Part 1

At this point in my genealogical search for my family, I must pause to find out more about Germany and German naming patterns.  From my standpoint, I definitely need a geography lesson for Germany and am working on that.  For, now I have some naming information to share. has been a reference for me on this one.

More than 200 years ago Germany was a rather "un"-united country.  Despite the fact that it only a slight size smaller than the state of Montana, the customs throughout the country varied depending on where you lived and when.

The central and south area of Germany used the name Johann before a second given name which was generally used as the name of the child.  Yes, I most certainly find this in my Vienop Family.  How about those Johann Heinrich's?  There are several.   The Johann naming method was popular during the 1700s.  I can attest to the fact that it continued in my family line well into the 1800s too.  The only exception to using the second name, or middle name, to address the child would be in the instance of Johannes.  If that was your first name, that's what you were called.

The daughters' names followed the same type of naming pattern in this part of Germany using Maria or Anna as the first name.  I too find this naming pattern in my Vienops.   The precursor to Johann for the males was Hans.  I do find it interesting though that my Vienops appear to be in the northwestern part of Germany by the mid-1800s.  This is where a geography and history lesson might be good for Germany.  Let me continue to remind myself that Germany is not very big relative to the USA.

In the north and north eastern part of Germany, which includes what was Prussia, parents gave their children 3-5 names that followed the nobility in the area.  This was a practice in the mid-1800s.  I do find this in my family but more so once they were stateside.  My great-grandma was Maria Luise Katharine Vienop.  She was born in the U.S.A.  Her sister was Anna Christina Minna Vienop.  I am assuming it might have become difficult to keep tract of the full names of each child going back in the family line. 

When I look at my family circa 1800s, I see some first and middle names but that's about it.  I must admit that as a child, I did not know that my great grandma's name was as such.  She was Mary Borchers for all that I knew.  I knew here maiden name was Vienop.  I must note here that the 3-5 names that were given to the children might be misordered on a birth certificate or marriage record.  The minister would underline the preferred name on the actual record or document.

Surnames in Germany did not take on their so called "permanent" names until around the 1500s but some were earlier than that.  It was not unheard of for Germans in Switzerland and southern Germany to change their surname over generations.  I must admit that this does not seem unusual to me but could make tracing your German Family back to the 1500s rather challenging.  In Ireland, surnames were anglicized to comply more with the British rule.  Stateside in the U.S., surnames were altered at the port of immigration because of language barriers and misinterpretations of the name.

There are three other German Territories with very different naming patterns.  These territories are Schleswig, Ostfriesland, and Westfalen.  I will discuss them in my next post.

To be continued...................

Monday, March 7, 2011

Vienop, or is it Vinup? - Part 2

In my Vienop family line, there appears to be more women than men.  This would probably explain why I don't see the Vienop name a whole lot.  I do see surnames like Borchers, Reidenbach, Ruffino, Stark, Mueller, Flanagan, and a few others.  With each passing generation, the females out count the males.  I have noticed that the Borchers name is disappearing too.

I can completely see the challenge that arises in searching your female family line, especially if you don't know where to look.  I actually do know where to look to find my Vinup origins.

Germany is slightly smaller in size than the state of Montana.  You'd think that would make it easier get a handle on the geography of the country.  I am going to attempt to do that.  A possible "roadblock" for me would be the language barrier.  I took Spanish in school and no German.  The names of the towns and cities, especially in rural locations, are sometimes found in the German language but also translated into an "English" version.  That can cause some confusion when you have documentation from the 19th Century about where your German Family lived.

Speaking of English.....There are a whole lot of Americans living in Germany.  I personally have known families in my past and present who have lived there or live there because of a U.S. Federal Government job or Military assignment in Germany.  Most American's that I know have loved it there aside from being a little homesick.  I know that I'd love to visit someday.

Trying to pinpoint Boeringhausen, Germany on a map does present some challenges online.  It takes a few Google Map searches and tweaks on the spelling to pinpoint this location.  It's definitely a German language "roadblock" for me on this one.

In one instance, I have "Borninghausen Nr 58, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany" and in another, I have "Boerninghausen, Germany" for my Vinup's (and actually Koch's) location.  I almost think that the first address is a specific location address.  It could be completely different these days.  I suppose a geography lesson in German might help.  I will call it "German Geography for Dummies".  When I work through it, I'll have to post it under one of my "language lessons".

In the meantime, know that my aunt has stepped foot in Boringhausen and found the cemetery with family graves.  Also, I know that the family occupation in Germany was as cigarmakers.  It sounds like from the youngest to the oldest, the family rolled cigars for a living.  It seems apparent to me that my German roots were not Roman Catholic but, in fact, Lutheran.  In addition to knowing the location of your relatives, occupation and religion can also lead you to success in finding one's ancestors.

For now, I have rather exhausted the knowledge of my Vienop's/Vinup's off the top of my head.  My next venture will be to really find them.   Let me do my geography lesson first!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vienop, or is it Vinup? - Part 1

As a child, my Vienop side of the family would get together for family reunions fairly regularly.  Sometimes the reunion would be just the Borchers and Reidenbach cousins but other times, there would be more Vienop's included.  The Vienop side of my family has longevity so I have to be careful here about who I mention in the my blog.  I have that rule of privacy for living individuals.  Since I still have quite a few living Vienop Family around, I will try hard to refrain from indicating their names here.

Many of my Vienop relatives don't have the Vienop last name because of marriages.  So has the Vienop name completely disappeared?  I'm not sure.  The people related to the line have not.  There are still plenty of us, let me tell you.  I will admit though that if there are researchers out there trying to locate us, it might be tough at times because of the seemingly disappearing Vienop surname.  I can assure you that name will never be forgotten in my family.  And so I "write it down" to make sure that we don't forget.

I have written a little about my Vienop Family including my great-grandma (Mary Vienop Borchers) who I knew very well.  I posted about her starting with this post in October 2010: Maria Luise Katharine Vienop - Mary Borchers.  I have since gathered little new information but have been thinking about all that I already know.

I do know that my great great grandfather, Henry Vienop, Sr. (a.k.a. John Henry Vienop or Johann Heinrich Vinup) came to the U.S. twice.  He visited here in the early 1870s as I recall.  He then returned to Germany and brought his family back to the U.S.  It seems apparent to me that during his immigration into the U.S. that the spelling of his surname was altered from Vinup to Vienop.  In Germany, it seems important to know and understand this as you probably won't find Vienop's there.  You will, however, find Vinup's.

I find it interesting that even after moving west across the U.S. from Missouri to Nebraska to Napa, California, that Henry Sr. made the trek back to Germany around 1925 for a visit.  He took his daughter, Minnie, with him for that trip.  Minnie Vienop wrote a short couple of pages of what they did on their trip.  It is more of an outline as I recall.

It seems apparent to me that the Vienop's stateside worked to keep in contact with the Vinup's in Germany.  I wonder if World War II changed that.   I also wonder now as I write this if any letters exist.  I am assuming that they would be in the German language if they do. 

To be continued............

Friday, March 4, 2011

My German Family Roots

It recently occurred to me that I should post a little something about my German Family Roots.  After all, I am a quarter German on my mother's side of the family.  Also, I spent my childhood and early adulthood with this side of my family.  Even now, I keep in touch with this side of family and see them a few times a year.  Many of them no longer live in Napa, California but a few do.

So where do my Vienop's and Borchers originate?  I have timelines below with dates, locations, and surnames.  This is pretty "make shift" if you will but does serve me in introducing myself to this side of the family line.

- 1901 to Present - Vienop Family Line - Napa, CA
- Mid 1890s to 1901 - Vienop Family - Daykin, Nebraska
- 1878/1880s to 1890s - Vienop Family - Audrain, Missouri
- 1840-60s - Vienop and Koch Families - Borninghausen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
- 1840s - Budde Family - Germany
- 1830s - Koch Family - Borninghausen/Boeringhausen, Westfalen, Germany
- 1820s - Gurges - Germany
- 1800 - Vinup - Masch, Neubauer, Germany
- 1700s - Vinup - Germany

- 1920/30s to Present - Borchers Family Line - Napa, CA
- 1910/20s - Borchers Family - Santa Rosa, CA
- 1870 to 1890s - Borchers Family - Aurora, Steele, Minnesota
- 1860s - Jackel (pronounced Yackel) Family - Baltimore, Maryland
- 1830s - Jackel - Hesse Darmstadt, Germany
- 1830s - Rausch - Bavaria, Germany
- 1800 to 1850s - Borchers Family - Hohnhorst, Hessen, Germany
- 1750 to late 1800s - Borchers Family - Nenndorf, Schaumburg, Germany

I must admit to not knowing the geography of Germany very well.  The names and locations of my ancestors in Germany are a little hard to digest.  I think that I need a naming lesson.   I noticed that for some generations, everyone's name in a given family starts with a Johann.  So you get Johann Ernest, Johann Heinrich, etc.   I even spotted a family with Anna Marie, Anna Katharina, etc.  I can certainly translate those names into English.  Let's just say that if everyone is "John" or "Anna", I may have some really interesting searching ahead of me.

Before I go researching these lines, I must learn a bit about Germany and the child naming tradition.  I also need to chat with my aunt and uncle who have done extensive research on these lines.  I can already tell that my tree on is a little "messed up".

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Game of "Telephone"

When I was a kid, we'd gather a group of people together at a kids party and play the game called "telephone".  The players sat in a circle and whispered a short, detailed story to their immediate neighbor and passed it on.  The short, detailed story would be passed along person by person in the circle until it got back around to the first person that started the story.  The success of this game was that the final message bear little to no resemblance to the original message.   There really was no particular "winner" of the game but the entertainment value was worth it.

The cumulative effect of mistakes and misunderstandings along the communication lines of person to person could completely change the story.  In some cases, the deliberate change of the story was part of the game although this would be considered cheating by most.

So why do I bring this up now?  Well many family stories, plus facts and information, are handed down by families through the years.  Imagine how they can be misconstrued along the way.  I will say that most of the time, families don't intentionally misconstrue information unless they are trying to paint a rosier picture than what really occurred.  

Then there's those "tall tales" as we know.  Not to get overly religious here but the Old Testament of the Bible is a good example of a great story book but, honestly (and I learned this at Catholic school), there are some definite "tall tales" in there.   The lesson learned is what is important in that great book.  For our own family history, we want the lesson to be a historical truth.

At this point, I will cut to the chase.  I have come across lots of historical truths in my quest for my family tree.   I have found a few "tall tales" but many appear to be historical truths once investigated.  That leads me to my latest find.  My Granddad, Francis "Frank" Robert McGuire (1908-1993), had always indicated that there was a Dutchman from New Orleans, Louisiana, somewhere back on the "Roman" side of our family.  He did not have specifics but this is what he remembered being told.  I will admit that his information has been "right on" in my recent discoveries.  Most of his information was just a shred of information but led me down the path of successful discovery.  My regret was that I did not ask him more when he was alive.

Now, I have spent time looking for my "Roman's" (could be Romaine, Rohmann, Rohman, Romain, etc.).  I've looked in New Orleans and New York City.  I think that I found them at 240 Delancy Street, NYC circa 1870-1880.  I also think that later they may have been in Brooklyn or just went to St. Louis Catholic Church there.   I'm not exactly sure.  My great grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Romaine McGuire.  Her married name was McGuire, of course.  Her parents were Joseph Romaine ("Roman") and Frances Lakervine (or was it Luchwurm, Lendevorson, or Lindeaurm).   Frances my have been Francesca too.  Your guess is as good as mine on her last name.  Was she Dutch?

I don't know if Joseph Romaine or Francis Lakervine were Dutch or related to a Dutchman from New Orleans.  What I am starting to discover though in my searches on is Deutschland.  That is Germany in the German language.  I have found it time and time again on U.S. Census.  Does this location really refer to those from Germany or were they Dutch from Holland.  I don't know but it certainly begs the questions that I have especially when it pops up on my potential ancestors' information.

So am I as lost as ever?  Were my relatives Dutch or from Deutschland?  Was it written down wrong on U.S. Census?  I seek the truth here and add one more thought.  

My thought is about prejudice and segregation in New York City when my grandparents were young and, I'm sure, before then.  My father grew up in Franklin Square, New York.  If you have ever been there, it's a small town/location just off the Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County, on Long Island.  Like the neighboring Levittown, NY, it is "wall-to-wall" houses.  Levittown was the "original" suburbia type community.  Franklin Square is not much different.

While you can say this is suburbia and a mixture of people who originated in "The City", there was still prejudice to an extent.  My grandparents would admittedly say that they were the only Irish family living on a street with a bunch of Germans.  They felt rather separate from their German neighbors and maybe that was because of their own prejudice.  That does sound bad as I write it down but was a sign of the times (1930-40s) and their upbringing.

Knowing that my Irish family differeniated themselves so strongly from the German families, makes me wonder if someone in the family was trying to cover up some true family roots.  I am just throwing this out here as a possibility and one of the "secrets" that my family took to their graves.  I really don't know the truth but so want to find out.

As you can imagine, this leads me to a comparison to the game "telephone".  How much was the information changed from person-to-person and was it deliberately "tweaked" to paint a rosier picture?  Today, I must admit that acceptance of diversity is important, commonplace in my life, and should be everywhere in the U.S. and the world.

Will I find the historical truths about my Romaine's?  I hope so but for now I've written down the "telephone" person by person version of my family history.