Thursday, January 20, 2011

Unwritten stories

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.  ~Anaïs Nin
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.  ~Sharon O'Brien

I just finished a book, Homestead, by Jane Kirkpatrick who wrote about her and husband's adventures in building a ranch in a remote and rugged part of Oregon; the story also chronicles her journey into writing.  Jane writes about women who have made their mark in the Pacific Northwest but her books are written as novels.  These are real women and the stories are based on facts, but the author takes the accounts further into "what might have been."  The lives of these women may be fictionalized, but who knows, maybe it did happen that way.  At any rate I enjoy Ms. Kirkpatrick's books very much.

My grandmother sitting on left. 
I have made family trees for myself and my husband and I am intrigued by the lives of these people I never met but who passed their DNA on to me.  My paternal grandmother, Gertrude, was born in Winnipeg.  Her father, Reinhart, immigrated from Amsterdam and her mother, Elizabeth, from Scotland.  The 1910 census said that she spoke English and he spoke Dutch.  I wonder how they worked that out and how they met? Elizabeth traveled from Scotland with her sister Margaret and records showed that their father was a miner and later loom operator in a mill, harsh occupations in that era.  Elizabeth died  from a blood clot shortly after the birth of her sixth child. Reinhart later married a woman who mistreated her step children.  She refused to learn English and forbade it spoken in her home though the children all learned their mother's language, and even after the family moved to the US.  I wonder what kind of story Jane Kirkpatrick would write about them?

My Dad on his way to school in front of the farmhouse.
Gertrude married Hendrick who was born in Amsterdam where his father, Jurgen, operated a canal boat.  Henry's mother, Jantina, was one of two surviving children out of seven pregnancies.  The other 5 were stillborn.  The Dutch are generous people; they offer their genealogical records--birth, death, marriage, online for free.  They are also meticulous record keepers--the mother's maiden name and the grandparents names, and often the occupation, are on almost every record, making searches easy.  Henry traveled with his parents and siblings, at age 4, to Washington state in 1904. They sailed aboard the Majestic, which was piloted by Captain Edward John Smith who later commanded the Titanic.  The family settled on a farm on Whidbey Island amidst a large Dutch community.  My dad was born on that farm.

Family tradition states that the 17th century Dutch painter, Jan Steen is one of our ancestors.  I have not proved the connection but there is enough information to make it fun to think about.  Could it be where our family talent came from?

Another situation that set me awondering is that my husband's ancestors and the ones on my mother's side, who came to the New World about the same time in the early 1600's, lived near each other in Connecticut and on Long Island. I lay awake at night speculating that these men might have met and wondering what they thought of each other.  I found a document that states one of my ancestors was actually hired by the brother of one my husband's ancestors to construct a parsonage on Long Island. How exciting is that?

My mother's ancestor, Daniel Kellogg is one of the founder's of Norwalk CT.  It is said that he was a very tall man, but peaceable. One story relates that when a couple of drinkers were fighting, that he grab them by their collars and knocked their heads together, calming them down right quick!!

There are so many stories that stimulate my imagination, civil war soldiers --on both sides, journeys across the Atlantic, a witch trial, love stories, western adventurers... yes, I wonder...

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