One of my good friends is writing a book about a prominent family in Maryland. He recently commented about discovering various members of that family with notable accomplishments whose last names are not the same. He remarked that many people conducting ancestry research identify with their father’s last name and don’t spend as much time researching their mother’s side of the family.
I thought about my friend’s comments in context with the recent article that I wrote regarding the descendants of my maternal grandparents. With 12 children, 32 grandchildren, and 53 great grandchildren, the numbers of Lloyd’s and Christena’s descendants are not trivial nor are their last names the same.
Years ago, I started building a family tree on Ancestry.com. While I included my parents’ siblings and tried to list my first cousins from both sides of my family, I lost interest in building each of the family trees for my grandparents’ siblings (my mother’s parents were each from a family of nine children; my father’s parents were from families of six (father’s) and three (mother’s; although her father had five children from an earlier marriage, so she had five half siblings too).
The surname discussion with my friend continued to stir up memories and thoughts about the various surnames that I knew about in my family tree. I decided to create a list beginning with my parents’ surnames and going as far back as I could. Here are the surnames for five generations.
|(S) Unk||(S) Unk||Lydick||Alexander|
|(L) Unk||(L) Unk||Rowe||Stumpf|
|(K) Unk||(K) Unk||Helmlinger||Munch|
|(P) Unk||(P) Unk||Wiltermuth||Kleiss|
|(B) Unk||(B) Unk||Harmon||Snyder|
I made a few observations from the list of names that I created from my ancestry chart. First, the spelling of last names is not always the same, particularly if the person recently immigrated. Second, the spelling of first names may not be the same (Johannes on a christening certificate may become Johann or John on a census report).
I personally remember family members with all four surnames from my grandparents’ generation. Because I never knew my great grandparents (they were deceased when I was born), I don’t know any relatives with the other four surnames from that generation of Laird, Parks, Rowe, and Wildermuth. The same applies with the next generation (great great grands). I know the primary four (Boston, Walston, Widdowson, and Metz) but not Stevens, Laird, Dougherty, Kent, Parks, Blake, Lydick, Rowe, Bence, Helmlinger, Wildermuth, and Harmon (12 in all).
The following generation (great great great grands) should have 32 surnames of which I would know the original four. On my father’s side, the county courthouse burned with many of the records from that era destroyed which is why several of the surnames have Unk (for unknown) next to them. Notably, they’re none of the original four, so I suspect I haven’t worked hard enough to see if I can find the names through another source.
My friend was right. I think we usually don’t know much about the generations before us, particularly if the surname isn’t the same. I’ve known for a while that my fifth great-grandfather, John Lydick, fought in the American Revolution. John and his wife, Mary, had 13 children. I have a feeling that there are thousands of Lydick descendants (including several with the last name of Boston) who can claim their ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War. By the way, John Lydick was born in the colonies sometime between 1739 and 1748 (several conflicting sources). His father, Johann Leydig or Leidig, was born in 1715 in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.
Creating a family genealogy is tough. At some point, because of the sheer numbers, you establish boundaries for how much you intend to include. Because of issues related to written records storage (like fires, wartime looting, etc.), most confirming birth or census records only go back so far.
I am glad that my friend’s comments led me to find all these additional surnames in my family tree. I think I will take my time in building the additions to the family tree created by the other descendants of my ancestors. After all, I have no plans on writing a family history, and I have a tough enough problem staying in touch with my generation.