Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What to do for England

When choosing the blocks for my ancestors, I was stumped by what to do for England. I thought English Patchwork, but no, that was the technique I used for Granny's block, and I wanted something different. I finally settled on a Tudor rose not because we have any major Tudor connections, but because its such a quintessentially English motif.

When I was searching out my English ancestors I was not surprised to find a healthy dose of them. I think they are neck and neck with the Dutch as far as how many there are, maybe they even out number the Nederlanders by a few. They are an interesting lot too. Among my English ancestors are Brewsters, and though they did not come over on the Mayflower, they most likely are related to those who did. There is also the interesting case of Nathaniel Ingersoll and Sarah Rice of Salem Massachusetts. They were not related to each other, but both are related to me. Nathaniel in his roll as town magistrate actually brought charges of witchcraft against Sarah for which she was jailed, but thankfully not executed...those wacky Puritans! Speaking of Purtians, you know the famous statue of the Purtian Deacon Samuel Chapin by Agustus St. Gauden, well, he's ours too!...Chapin, not St. Gauden that is. I wonder if my usual love of ancestral foods will make me crave black pudding...nope...aint gonna happen, not even on my birthday.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dutchman's Puzzle

The Dutchman's Puzzle was chosen for all my Dutch ancestors. In one of those funny little things God likes to do, he plopped me down in the middle of the Netherlands. That's where we were when our son Zach was born . In the very town of Amersfoort that almost 400 years earlier his own ancestors lived and died. Wolphert Gerrets Van Couevenhoven married his wife Neeletje in the church who's shadow we rested in on our trips into town, indeed I have the tower of that very Church worked in Cross stitch tucked away somewhere. We greeted Sinter Klaas at the Koppleport where the Couevenhovens owned a bleaching camp. I lived there for 3 and half years never realizing that I was about as Dutch as a person could get! I wish I had known then that I shared in the history of that amazing little country. We were quite at home there and as with Germany I felt an instant affinity to the people and the food. I also felt a strange connection with the place too. There were times, when I would be overcome with such a strange sense of de ja vu that I found it unsettling and inexplicable! Now I know that maybe it was the hum of genetic memory stirring within. While we have personal reasons for loving Amersfoort, we have links all over the Netherlands, in Utrecht, Gelderland, Friesland too. Our Dutch names are many...Banta, Terhune, Brickers, Fonda,De Ruine,Van Der Stratton,Van Arsdale, Van Houten,Van Der Beek, Van Nuyse,Voorheese, Hegeman and many more. I must not forget our Huegonot forebears who fled to The Netherlands from France, Denyce, Demarest and most notably Jan DeMandeville who was a Doctor in Seventeenth century Nijmegen who eventually succumbed to the plague he was battling. So beloved was he by the town that after he passed they payed to put two of his sons through college and they were named Town Physicians.

Our Dutch roots in America run long and deep, over 15 generations ago our ancestors came with Bedford Stuyvesant and helped him settle New Amsterdam. I like knowing that. I like knowing that my American heritage is my Dutch heritage and vice versa. I wish I had known it while I was living in The Netherlands!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Nod to Germany

Twice now I have lived in places to which I actually have ancestral ties. I don't mean I lived in the general vicinity, I mean I trod the very streets that my ancestors did over 300 years ago! This may not mean much to Europeans who do it all the time, but for an American, and a westerner and descendant of pioneers that is a rare occurance. Antiquity of that variety is a novelty to us. We either have the very ancient, or the brand new, those are usually our only choices.

Once such place was in Germany. I did not know it then, but I could have gone to the town hall in Kaiserslautern and looked up the records of my own family. We have a lot of German ancestry. Maybe that's why I fell instantly in love with the food, so I guess its fitting that I chose the Dresden Plate pattern for my German block. Growing up one of my favorite dishes was chicken fried steak. Who knew it was really a rahm schnitzel in disguise, or the Gesundheit we reflexivly muttered to one another at the sound of sneeze actually meant something.

One of our earliest German Ancestors in America was Johan Jakob Darner who emigrated from the Rhineland Pfalz in the early 1700s and settled near Fredrick Maryland on a tract of land he named after his home in Germany, "Landau". He is one among many though. We also can lay claim to belonging to the Beiser, Sturm, Pfuster,Sauer,Werneich,Gah, Gloss and Strihl,Specht, Yost, and Everhart families just to name a few. Many more go unidentified. But we carry within us evidence of their existance. Its in our blond hair, our celtic skins, our love of pork and beer and the instant familiarity I felt with Germany . I wonder if Jamie felt it too? So now when we say Gesundheit its more than just a vestige of our German ancestory, it really means something. So Gesundheit- Good health to you!