It’s all Greek, et cetera, to Me#52 Ancestors — Another Language May 14-20, 2018
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ® 2018
Little did I know when I began this journey — digging in the past to learn more about my ancestors — that I would have to deal with several languages and plenty of jargon. But, that’s really been part of the fun of genealogy — exploring history, languages, and technology — plus dealing with my own preconceived notions about my family’s place in the big picture.
In my ignorance and naiveté, I had no idea what “family” really meant and how many ancestors I had that I might actually find historical evidence about, or how many surnames would be involved, and what my ancestors’ roles, especially in American history, were. I was fortunate. I started out knowing the names of seven of my eight greats. Plus my Dad passed along the family legend that our Vanderpools went back to the early Dutch in New Netherland. At the time, I didn’t realize how much of a head-start I had compared to some.
The up-close personal look at history and my ancestors’ part in it also has been fun. It started that day long ago when dad took me to the scene of a lesser-known Civil War battle, usually referred to as an “engagement” in official annals, the one at Honey Springs which took place on 17 July 1863 near what’s Checotah, Oklahoma today (then Indian Territory) and just a few miles from where my dad grew up. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I think pre-school. Of course, the early memory is imperfect, but the importance of history was etched into my heart. My father never saw a “historical monument” sign that he ignored, and I suspect that is one of the reasons all four of his children became “history buffs.”
It would be years later when I discovered that my family had fought on both sides of the Civil war — despite family legends to the contrary — and to the consternation of a few relatives who clung to their Confederate myths. History began to come alive for me as read about my ancestors’ participation in this war, and the more I read, the more I wanted to learn, and the more I dug into the records.
Along the way, I learned to decipher chicken-scratch type penmanship, jargon used by genealogists, medical, legal and military fields, plus the geeks. I’ve struggled with long-forgotten Latin and math and pondered over old English, German, Dutch, French and Swedish at times.
Who would have thought that I’d ever use or have to figure out Roman numerals again or that something as ordinary as a calendar date could turn out to be complicated, what with the Julian (Old Style), Gregorian (New Style) and Quaker calendars (the latter did not write the name of a month until 1752, but chose to use numbers with March as the first month.) I certainly did not know that when I started my family tree research.
My vocabulary has been enriched with such additions as Ahnentafel, pedigree, FGS (Family Group
Sheet), GEDCOM, html, PDF, ultimo, consanguinity, La Grippe, King’s Evil, in room of (meaning in the place of) executor, administrator, dowry and dower, entail, primogeniture, download, upload, codicil, et. ux, intestate, DNA, metes, bounds, grantor, and grantee. I’ve also learned that a mistress was not what we think of today, and I’ve learned never to call a consort a relict and vice versa.
Plus, I’ve learned that there were no rules about spelling — especially when it comes to names.