While I would love to claim that I’ve traced my ancestry to a microbe of Pre-Adamite descent, it’s just not true, Gentle Reader. I can merely trace my family, father-to-son, to 1200 A. D. I would say for an American – or indeed, any non-nobleman whose genealogies are a matter of legislation – that’s pretty damned impressive.
But there’s a lot of time and distance between me and he, you know. How did I find him? Well, I set out to accomplish one of the tasks on The List.
Plot Out My Actual Family Tree
I’d had great luck with Ancestry.com years before, so I wasted no time and went there straightaway. I signed up for a two-week free trial, fully intending to cancel the service within a few days. I knew the names up through my great-grandparents, but I didn’t know anyone’s dates of birth or death – I only had some vague guesses.
I shouldn’t have worried; the service quickly found census records, and birth and death certificates, and obituaries, and corrected the hell out of the dates. It also swiftly offered suggestions for records to dig through, listing parents, siblings, other spouses! We were off!
I learned a lot from searching the past. For instance, I’m thoroughly convinced that the Yoder line came to America in the belly of a pregnant teenager – the father of the baby died in 1699, and never came to America, where his son was born in 1700. Hmmm.
After we arrived in America in 1700, the Yoders proceeded to have around twenty children each. We are *the* cornerstone of the Amish community, since there’s so damned many of us. But I’d already known that – what I didn’t think about were the implications of small towns full of cousins. Intermarriage is a thing, and not that uncommon, I guess. One woman, My sixth-great grandmother (twice over) Barbara, appears twice with different husbands in my family tree, presumably so that her grandchildren could marry and have beautifully inbred babies.
A word on the name Yost, or Jost – it’s a really common name in my direct family line. The last Yost – my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather (that is, my 4th-great-grandpa) was not quite crippled, and was known throughout town as “Lame Yost” – presumably to distinguish him from all the other Yosts in the vicinity. I should note that for several generations, Yost Yoder was considered a perfectly ordinary name to have, apparently.
Not that normal names were ever really our thing. As I mentioned over on Facebook, there’s a lot of Casper/Gaspar/Caspars going on in the far reaches of my family. Imagine my delight when I discovered a Melchior and a Balthazar – THOSE ARE THE THREE WISE MEN’S NAMES, YOU GUYS. You know, like in the Christmas song?
Actually, there are several other Melchiors, too. But only the one Balthasar.
I’m so glad that I traced my direct line – but after the confusing cousin/remarriage nonsense, I was ready to throttle those long-dead so-and-so’s – so I didn’t follow up on the other branches of the family. Another time, perhaps – but my free trial’s over and I’m not about to do all that work from scratch again.