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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Yes, Religion and Genealogy

In my life, I have been confronted at different times by beliefs, standpoints, and "Bible quoters" that present a differing view than my own.  I consider myself an educated person.  Additionally, I have bit of an education in theology and world religions that, to be quite frank, the everyday person probably does not have or even choose to have.  I generally do not talk much about my religion as I do consider it a private matter and would not want to impose my beliefs on someone who thinks differently.  

As I seek my ancestors, I cannot help but delve into their religious beliefs.  From my Roman Catholic ancestors of Ireland to my Evangelical Lutheran's from Germany, the basic belief system of my family lives on in me as a Christian.  However, I am not just a Christian, I am Catholic.  What that means is something others, especially modern day Protestants, other Christians, and non-Christians may not understand....and actually misunderstand.

The choice of my German Lutheran family and their ancestors was to leave behind the Catholic religion that was riddled with indulgences and the sale of forgiveness by God's representatives with gold.  I can't even imagine the initial disbelief of those Catholics faced with the knowledge that people were buying forgiveness for a fee and actually thinking that would absolve them of their wrongdoings.

So, Martin Luther lived during the 16th Century and "protested" against the Catholic Church's selling of indulgences.  I do believe that he was not wrong.  In his quest, he actually got the Catholic Church to reform what they were doing but not before he formed his own church.  That would be the church that my German ancestors belonged to even years later to present day.  I have the utmost respect for the Lutheran Church and think of them as kin within my own Catholic religion.  They are most definitely welcome and, yet, they probably don't want much to do with the Catholic Church.  We are so alike and yet different.

Maybe my great grandparents realized the "alike" part when my own grandparents married.  My Roman Catholic grandfather married my Missouri Synod Lutheran grandmother in 1940.  They had actually eloped to Reno, Nevada, from Napa.  And no, they were not married at a casino or strip mall chapel.  They were married in a Catholic Church in Reno.  I must note here that the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church is much more conservative than the Catholic Church in this day and age but maybe not before Vatican II.

At any rate, my grandmother's Missouri Synod Lutheran parents accepted their Roman Catholic son-in-law without much discord.  Most of the disappointment at the time was because they had eloped.

Religion can be such a sticking point with family and friends, alike.  I must keep that in mind as I seek my ancestors and discover that they were of more than one Christian Faith.  It brings to light another way of looking at information gathered to create my family tree.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Stanly Ranch

El Rancho Rincon De Los Carneros - Probably Stanly Ranch, Circa 1880 - Photography by M.Flanagan

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Warning! Controversial Post - Family

At times, I am a slow learner, cruising through life thinking everyone is happy and everything turns up roses.  While I may have my own disagreements with people here and there, I sometimes forget that others have those same types of interactions with others that don't include or involve me.  This can especially apply to family.

Family matters take these "disagreements" up a notch.  While I can't imagine that my great aunt on my dad's side would have a conflict with my grandmother, her very own sister, it could have existed.  Heck, it could have divided the family fairly easily and quickly because of the words people say, their actions, and the assumptions they make.  Even a minor "slight" can send some families running in the opposite direction to never meet again, except at a funeral.  Mind you, I am pulling from about a dozen different situations on either side of my family tree - Father or Mother, Irish or German (you can take your pick). 

In completing my family tree research, I have often been asked by others why the families went their separate ways.  Why did the Flanagan's stop getting together?  What was the rift between those Hickey's?  Why did my grandfather not fully realize who his own cousins were on his Maxwell side of the family in the same town (Napa), at the same time?

Well, my answer is complicated.  To my dismay, the simplified version is that it is just too hard.  It's too hard, for example, to drive from Sacramento to the Bay Area.  There's so much traffic on the freeway.  There's no good date and time where everyone can make it.  It takes so much planning.  Then, there is the food and where to actually accommodate each and everyone.  Oh, and the final nail, we don't necessarily have an ongoing relationship with those family members. 

My own rosy philosophy is that if you want something, you can make it happen.  I guess my slow learning curve on this is the daunting resistance of it all.  I am open but find that my immediate family members, sans my husband, are not.  "Oh sweetie, we are just too busy, busy, busy."

I must admit to the frustration.  Maybe my own ulterior motive to get together is to find out more about my ancestors.  That would actually mean that I'd like to know more about my family.  Can you blame me?  While I do know a lot, I love hearing about the past including anecdotal stories.  I like to meet and see who I am related to.  I enjoy a connection to those that I am biologically related to even if we don't see each other very often or maintain a full true relationship.  There is value in knowing where you came from and who you are related to even if you don't have much in common.  Some of us might have more in common than you think.

So, without letting any cats out of the bag on why families went their separate ways, I'd like to express myself here.  My own family basically finds inconvenience in getting together.  It's stressful to plan a flawless visit.  That is the goal, after all, to make it flawless, right?  

I am clearly related to several perfectionists who want an event to be pulled off and perceived as flawless.  As with any event, you want the location to be nice and at its best.  You want delicious food to impress and heaven forbid, you would ever run out of food or drink during the event.  Additionally, convenience is paramount.  You don't want people to hit standstill traffic on Interstate 80 through Northern California.  Okay, that last one is completely beyond anyone's control.

During my life experience with food and drink, I have had the most elaborate, exquisite, exotic, mouthwatering, fancy, expensive food and then there is pizza.  Ironically, pizza and salad can be the most pleasing meal ever.  Accompanied by beer or wine, the crowd overall is generally happy.  Why can't a family reunion have pizza and salad.  It's quick and easy.

I have to add another point here.  I do understand where others are coming from.  Until I was married, I did not quite understand how people could choose to spend the holidays away from their family and basically not really see them any longer.  Well, there's always those people who you are related to by marriage that make you turn and go the other way.  Then, there is the inconvenience of hosting and planning an event.  Even still, it does not have to be an absolute situation.  You can get together with family even if you don't have a true relationship with them but are related to them.  Sometimes the benefit is not to yourself but to your spouse or your own children.

Summing up this post is challenging.  I would love to see all of my relatives from my various lines.  I have a great desire to go back East to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.   My husband and I would like to visit all of our family members on both sides sans the relative that unfriended me on Facebook.  Okay, that's just petty and silly, I know.  That's how it starts though.

Our family in Ireland is also on our list.  Cost and time are our big hurdles right now and that is just being honest.

While others are focusing on the inconvenience of a family reunion, at least I've planted a seed.  The thought of trying to plan a reunion in the coming year is daunting even for me.  I can offer up my home.  It's not anything wonderful but we have had 40 people here all at once with plenty of seating including the outside patio.  We did not run out food either.  And.....The roses were blooming in the garden at time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Flanagan Genealogy - To Send A Letter - Part 2

Richard J. Flanagan and Dorothy Borchers married in November of 1940.  This was well before Richard signed up for the U.S. Army.  By the time he volunteered for WWII, he and Dorothy had a son who was born at the end of 1941 but passed away in February 1943, during the war.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Richard J. Flanagan enlisted in the army on 15 Sep 1942.  He was 31 years old at the time.

The following are quick summaries of the 4 letters and 1 other postcard that Richard sent to his friends and former employer during WWII.

10-26-1942 - U.S. Army, Camp Perry, Ohio
----He talks about the harsh climate and was missing the California weather.  Ducks and geese are around everywhere but there was no time to hunt.

11-21-1942 - Camp Chaffee, Arkansas
----The weather is a topic and is indicated as being much better in Arkansas than Ohio.  He thanked his friends for sending cigarettes.  Near the end of the letter, he states that the Army forgot to pay him that month.  He's having to pinch pennies.

12-20-1942 - The Armed Forces, Camp Chaffee, Arkansas
-----He said that he was supposed to be home for Christmas but that changed.....Now set to be home in January.  He misses Napa.  There's not much to do in AR.

3-29-1943 - Camp Chaffee, AR
-----He talks about being on the firing range.  They go out for 2 to 3 days with tents in the fields.  Airplanes bombed them with bags of flour.  He was promoted to T-3 - same as staff sergeant.  A great quote from Richard, "It's a dairy life except you have tanks instead of cows."  This is in reference to the long work hours.

1-27-1945 - A.P.O Address
The final letter dated January 27, 1945, is from an APO military address indicating that the soldier is overseas.  The letter initially states that it is cold and there is snow but they are inside buildings.  The roofs of the buildings keep the snow out but when it rains they appear to leak.  The roof is missing in some places from bombings and artillery.  He does reference the shaking from the artillery.

Richard further indicates that he's seen a lot of France and some of Germany.  In this letter, he indicates that they are in Alsace near the border of Germany as part of the 7th Army.


We are so fortunate to have been given these letters.  I don't remember really having seen my grandfather's handwriting much.  By the time he was elderly, he did not write much.  He did not have much of a grip left and the pads of his fingers were smooth.

Also, I must include here that my grandfather did not speak of the war much.  He would indicate that he was stationed in Nice, France for a time.  He also indicated that he attended mass at a church in the military where they said the Mass in several languages for all of the soldiers to understand.

Someday, I will go through all of my grandfather's things that my mother has held onto.  For now, the most recent findings in these letters from WWII are my latest "discovery".

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Flanagan Genealogy - To Send A Letter - Part 1

Letters written by your relatives can be an amazing way to connect to the past, your roots, and family.   The written word can truly capture moments in time.  One can really delve into the personality, culture, and interests of a person by what they wrote in correspondence to others.

My mother is very close to her living aunts in Napa, California.  They are descendants of my Borchers' line.   While I say descendants, I do mean my direct line.  Not only are they my family but they are a bridge to my past.  They are Borchers/Vienop family, both.  They are my grandma's sisters.  They also knew some of the Flanagan's.  Napa was a small place way back when.  In fact, they knew lots of old time Napa families just as my mother does.  That's what happens when you are from a small town.  Everyone knows everyone.

With that in mind, a few months ago my aunt told my mom of a "discovery".  It might as well have been gold.  That's how I see letters and other historical documents about my relatives when they first come to light and then I hold onto them as prize possessions.

My aunt's neighbor is also from a long time line of Napa families.  While she lives in town, her cousins still live out on their ranch just a few short miles away on Old Sonoma Road.  Her parents, aunt and uncle, ran a dairy farm on their land for many years in the 1900s.  Recently, they were apparently cleaning out the buildings and houses on the property in order to complete renovations.  They came across two postcards and four letters from their former employee who had gone off to WWII.

Imagine that, a Flanagan worked on a diary farm in Napa.   For my family, the fact that any Flanagan worked on a dairy farm should probably come as no surprise to the family.  Dairy farming is a bit of a tradition for the Flanagan's.  That's quite literally what they still do in Ireland today.

These letters were found on that ranch, brought to my aunt (not a Flanagan), and handed over to my mom (who is a Flanagan).  In fact, these letters were written by her father, my grandfather, Richard Joseph Flanagan.  How often does that happen?  Well, it seems to be the luck of the Irish in the case of my Flanagan's, in more that one case. 

While my grandfather was an employee, he was also great friends of this family.  When Richard volunteered for WWII, he wrote a few letters to this family.....letters that until this past summer, my mother didn't even know existed.  What an amazing find!  Also, what an amazing gift.

The above is the first piece of correspondence that Richard sent to his friends in September 1942.  It was a postcard that reflects a sign of the times.  The printed quote on this postcard on the back states,  "To look at this young lady you'd never think that "TATTOO" in the Army means it's time to get ready for bed!"

So, my first reaction to this card was that it is "interesting", in a rather sarcastic sense.  I suppose the joke about the tattoo says it all.   Ironically, the message on the back of the postcard talks about the fact that the U.S. Army doesn't give Richard (my grandfather) time to duck hunt along Lake Erie.

I am still in shock that these correspondence exist.  I need to finish reading the other letters and will write about them in my second post.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. - Phyllis Theroux

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? - First TLC Season

I planned to write a review about "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC.  While I enjoyed the current season, it was much more focused on one ancestor story for the individual celebrity.  I found it to be entertaining but at times the episodes were slow.  I am assuming that the production budget for the show is much smaller now that it is on TLC instead of NBC.

I still look forward to future episodes.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Borchers' Diary

In my attempt to find out more about my great great grandfather, Henry Borchers, I resulted in my finding out more about my great grandfather, his son, Herbert Herman Leonhardt Borchers, Sr.   I recently read through his diary that started on December 23, 1916 and went through December 18, 1918.  He was 19 years old when the first entry was written.  Everyday, he wrote a few lines to describe the basic events of the day.

While most of the notes were about the daily weather, there were other notes about his job, friends, and other activities.  My copy of the diary is typed and I am wondering if it was transcribed and by whom. Maybe my aunt typed it up or maybe my great grandfather typed it himself.  I will have to find out someday.

While this diary does include rather mundane entries about his daily life, there are some more interesting comments along the way that are true "discoveries".  It is clear that letters were written to family back in North Dakota.  Above, he writes a letter to H.L.B.  That would be Henry Ludwig Christian Borchers, one of his older brothers.

A few entries really struck me.  Herb mentions taking his violin to be tuned and taking lessons.  He also indicates playing the piano and buying an organ.  These entries surprised me.  I did not know he could play piano.  Generally, only good pianist who have mastered piano playing even try to play an organ.  Other entries demonstrate his inclination toward music.  He was in the choir for his church.  I wonder if he was the accompanist for the choir.  Interestingly enough, his own daughter plays piano, organ, taught piano, and accompanied many a choir, wedding, and bell ringers.

Herb Borchers, Sr. circa 1918

I knew that my great grandfather was a jeweler, watchmaker and repaired clocks for a living.  He was working for Noack's in Santa Rosa during the time of this diary.  By the beginning of 1917, he had been there for two years.

The diary mentions the war.  WWI begain in 1914 and ran through 1918.  The U.S. joined the war in 1917.  An entry on April 6, 1917 is written as follows:

"Very beautiful day.  Went to church.  Card from Emil G.  War declared.  Was all at J. Wurts in the evening.  Clara was at our house in the P.M." 

The war is mentioned here and there throughout the diary.  Mainly, he mentions when people are drafted, troops from the area left for war, and he even mentions troops leaving from the Presidio in San Francisco.  One entry indicates his brother, Albert Borchers, being drafted into the military.  Herb never did get called up for duty.  He registered for the draft in WWI.  My mom has always indicated that they probably did not want him in the military because he was flat footed.

During 1917, Herb was seeing a lady named Anna.  At one point, he indicates seeing Anna in the evening and the next line states "romance over".  Months later, he is corresponding with Mary, his future wife.  She would write him a letter and he would return correspondence with two letters.

This diary is amazing while it is actually brief in comments and information.  I will read it again in the future.  Who knows what I might discover on a second pass.