Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tracing the Family Roots

I love the history of the West and to study the related family events and tragedy from the years around 1900. However, I am not much for documenting and tracing genealogy. We have been fortunate to have family members through the years that have taken up the cause and who possess the patience and eye for detail that such work requires...attributes that I generally lack.

Now our genealogy probably won’t be of any great interest to those outside the family as such documents rarely demand much popular appeal. But within individual family's, the process of tracing ones lines helps give a sense of who we are and from where we came. We have been fortunate on the Steunenberg/Keppel (and Beardsley too but that is another story) side of the family to have this information available. In contrast, over on my Ricciotti (Richards)/Costelloe father’s side we remain steeped in mystery regarding many of our Italian/Irish ancestors. No documents, no pictures, nothing beyond by grandparents. There is probably a lot that could be discovered but I have yet to muster up the time for the painstaking research that it would probably require. Genealogy has certainly become a very popular undertaking these days with the Internet providing ready and instant access to records. I cannot imagine how such research and documentation was ever done before the advent of the Internet and computer!

I was just looking over a couple of original, individually typed, family genealogies given to me by my mother. Imagine gathering information by snail mail, cranking out multiple originals on parchment paper using the old family Underwood (a typewriter for those that weren’t around) and then going back and starting anew each time a batch of information or round of new babies had to be added.

Of the two originals I have, one is “The Keppel Family History” by Grace Steunenberg Crookham and dated December 26th, 1945. A later version with additions was “Copied and added to by Brenda Steunenberg Richards” (my mother) and dated March 28th, 1960. The earlier 1945 version was not in the best of shape but I have rescued it from rusty staples and a few tears and tatters to where it now rests protected in archival pages and within an archival box. I do welcome and embrace today’s computer generated versions that allow for ease of transmission and the provision of so much more information. However, the historical and personal markings of time contained on these originals carries forth the love and the soul of the originators etched on every page. How fortunate we are for their efforts.

Although perhaps not containing the same historical character and romance of an old transcript that we historians prefer, today we are able to gather much greater detail about families through instant communication and the wide availability of records. It is what has made this blog and all my research possible. Hence, there has been a rapidly expanding interest in genealogy. We are indeed fortunate that Walter (with help from Bernard and Paul) Steunenberg has continued to carry forth the work of our ancestors and produce an extremely detailed and continually updated record of the family. It provides all of the information from the old versions, incorporates the new and Walter expands and updates it on a continuous basis. Hence, the process continues through the generations, honoring those that came before and waiting to honor those yet to be born. I refer to these genealogies often as I require constant reminders of whom and what name belongs where. Thank you Walter!

If you do not already have a copy but would like one of the latest version, starting with the first generation of Hendrik Peter Steunenberg and tracing all the U.S. based Steunenberg's, let me know and I will be happy to email or snail mail you one. I know Walter would be happy to do the same and to add anyone that is interested to his list for receiving future updates. He also welcomes additions and corrections.

Here is a sample of the first page.

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