Tag Archives: geneaology

It’s a family thing…

My mother took over the mantle of family historian back in the early 1970s, and so began pulling together an updated genealogy of her mother’s family. That family had been the subject of a book written back in the 1920s, but hadn’t been updated since.

So, she started writing to relatives near and far, collecting information that she eventually self-published in time for our annual family reunion during the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976.

Her work got me interested in the subject, and since it was about that time I started writing a weekly column on local history, I decided to look into my dad’s family history, and my mom volunteered to help a bit with that.

And since then, the topic of family history has expanded in our household to both my mother’s parents’ families and both my dad’s parents, as well as my wife’s related families.

According to the National Geographic's analysis of my maternal lineage DNA, this was the route my family took out of Africa and into Eastern Europe.

According to the National Geographic’s Genographic Project analysis of my maternal lineage DNA, this was the route my family took out of Africa and into Eastern Europe.

Several years ago, my niece bought a National Geographic Genographic Project DNA test kit for me for Christmas, which I dutifully sent off, because I figured it would open a few more historical doors—which it did.

When the results came back, they showed that my roots are deep indeed, stretching back to some of the earliest folks who were folks some 150,000 years ago on my mom’s side and then to a group of people who lived in the Rift Valley of Africa somewhere around 79,000 years ago on my dad’s side of the ledger. It would be truly interesting if one or two of those sets of early remains the Leakey family discovered in the Rift might belong to one of my ancestors.

So anyway, about 50,000 years ago, the Ice Age then gripping the planet turned Africa’s arid plains into grasslands, at which time my dad’s ancestors followed the game they relied on for sustenance north through the Arabian Peninsula before turning farther east into Eurasia and then circling west. Eventually, they reached Lombardy in northern Italy, where my dad’s earliest recorded ancestors lived before they moved to Switzerland in the 1300s.

According to the National Geographic folks, my mom’s line begins with Mitochondrial Eve, the beginning of the matrilineal line for all modern humans. The family spent some tens of thousands of years moving around central Africa. My mom’s ancestors split off Eve’s line and then split again about 80,000 years ago. And those were the folks who moved out of Africa, spurred on by the same conditions that prompted my dad’s ancestors to leave. That group split yet again, with one wave heading east to settle Australia and Polynesia, and the other moving ever farther north into the Near East—and those were my mom’s ancestors. About 50,000 years ago my mom’s ancestors moved north across the Caucasus Mountains and into the lands around the Black Sea. And that’s where, apparently, we acquired the part of our family that is related to the Ashkenazi Jewish people.

In 1867 my dad's grandparents boarded the bark Harvest Home at Le Harve, France for the voyage to the United States. Harvest Home probably looked a lot like the Harriet McGreggor, above, in this painting done in 1870.

In 1867 my dad’s grandparents boarded the bark Harvest Home at Le Harve, France for the voyage to the United States. Harvest Home probably looked a lot like the bark-rigged Harriet McGreggor, above, in this painting done in 1870.

Finding out that my mom was genetically related to one half of the great Jewish ancestral heritage (the others are the Sephardim of Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Middle East) came as no real surprise. My cousin’s granddaughter (related to me through my mother’s line) had then recently died of Tay Sachs disease, which requires a genetic Jewish component from both the mother and the father’s side.

There are, however, no Jews in my family genealogy. That probably means those Ashkenazi ancestors survived the pogroms and other brutal anti-Semitic assaults common in Eastern Europe until relatively modern times by renouncing their heritage and being baptized as Christians.

So anyway, that got my family to Europe. My mom’s family pretty much came from Germany. My maternal grandmother’s family immigrated to Pennsylvania from the German Palatinate in 1750, becoming Pennsylvania Deutsch. My maternal grandfather’s family were relatively late arrivals, coming over from East Prussia in 1885. Thus Pennsylvania Deutsch joined with Deutsch to create…my mom.

My maternal grandfather's parents traveled to the U.S. aboard the German Lloyd Line steamer SS Eider in 1885. This photo of the Eider was taken a year earlier. The family had begun their journey 80,000 years earlier in Africa.

My maternal grandfather’s parents traveled to the U.S. aboard the German Lloyd Line steamer SS Eider in 1885. This photo of the Eider was taken a year earlier. The family had begun their journey 80,000 years earlier in Africa.

My paternal grandfather’s family came over from Switzerland in 1867, first setting in Erie, Pennsylvania where he worked as a—and I know this seems a bit hackneyed—Swiss watchmaker. Really. The family then moved to Kansas, for reasons not entirely clear. Although there was a French settlement there at Le Loupe. My paternal grandmother’s family apparently came from Ireland, but when and what those ancestors’ names were I haven’t been able to determine. That’s because their name was Mitchell and they settled in New York City where the name is a dime a dozen. I know they came before the Civil War, because my Great-grandfather Mitchell served in an Ohio 100-day regiment during the war.

During the last several years, both my wife and I became fascinated with TV shows based around genealogy. In particular, we have greatly enjoyed historian Henry Louis Gates’ programs on PBS. For Christmas a couple years ago, I got my wife one of Ancestry.com’s DNA tests, which she sent in for analysis. This past winter, I did the same, and so we now have a pretty good handle on our ancestry after Europe’s earliest history.

During one of Dr. Gates’ “Finding Your Roots” episodes, he analyzed the family history of some movie star or another, and determined the guy was “one of the whitest people” he’d ever met. The star’s DNA proved he had virtually pure white, European DNA. And both my wife and I found about the same results.

My wife, it turns out, is descended from ancestors from Great Britain. In fact, the percentage of British ancestry in her DNA is greater than that of the average resident of Great Britain. Her DNA is 79 percent from Great Britain; the average resident of Great Britain only has 60 percent British DNA.

My DNA on the other hand, showed I’m 63 percent Western European, a higher percentage than the average modern Western European, who has just 48 percent Western European DNA.

So no American Indians in our background, not much other than the barest traces of people who aren’t white, including that tiny bit of Ashkenazi from my distant cousins in Eastern Europe. Which is maybe why I’m so fond of kosher corned beef and bagels. Or maybe not.

Whatever, searching for our roots has provided some grounding, some satisfaction for both my wife as we’ve been able to go beyond family tradition and stories to find out where our ancestors really came from. It’s perhaps not all that exciting, but then again we’re not very exciting people. And apparently we come from a long, long line of non-exciting people.

 

 

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Filed under Nostalgia, People in History, Science stuff, Semi-Current Events, Technology, Transportation

Family history blogging…

Haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been working to complete my family history in time for our 86th annual reunion, set for Aug. 11. Got it all done, got copies printed out, and am all ready to go.

The history concerns my mother’s mother’s family, the Lantzes.

Family tradition has it that our branch’s first immigrant to North America was an irascible fellow—like many of my relatives—who got angry with his relatives in Germany, and walked away from his plow, leaving it and the oxen pulling it standing in the field.

He took passage aboard the good ship Phoenix from Rotterdam, Capt. John Spurrier in command. Sailing by way of Plymouth, England, he arrived in Philadelphia on Nov. 2, 1752.

What he did when he first arrived, no one seems to know. He next shows up a few years later in Maj. James Burd’s company of Pennsylvania foot during the French and Indian War. Baltzer was a mason as well as a farmer, and his skill with stonework probably came in handy as Maj. Burd’s company worked on fortifications to protect the Pennsylvania frontier, including Fort August as well as Fort Ligonier.

John and Anna Maria "Mary" Schutt Lantz and their son, John Peter Lantz (the author's great-grandfather, on the occasion of John Peter's 16th birthday. Mary, seven years her husband's senior, lost her teeth early, making her appear even older than she is.

John and Anna Maria “Mary” Schutt Lantz and their son, John Peter Lantz (the author’s great-grandfather, on the occasion of John Peter’s 16th birthday. Mary, seven years her husband’s senior, lost her teeth early, making her appear much older (she was in her 50s at the time)  than she was.

After the war, Baltzer settled in Lancaster County, where he became a well-known mason and a relatively prosperous property owner.

Fast forward nearly a century to 1850, when Baltzer’s great-grandson, John Lantz, and his wife, Anna Maria “Mary” Schutt, make the decision to up stakes and move west to the Illinois prairies. Joining John and Mary were John’s mother, Catharine Shelly Lantz; John’s brother, Daniel; and the brothers’ three sisters, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Susan.

The family settled in Wheatland Township, Will County near the borders with DuPage and Kendall counties.

There, the Lantzes prospered, buying prairie land at the government price of $1.25 (in gold) per acre, and farming it. But the lure of western migration was pretty strong, and after the Civil War most of John and Mary’s children and their spouses decided to move west to Kansas. Only two of their children stayed in Illinois, their daughter Susan, who married Civil War vet John Stoner; and my great-grandfather, John Peter “Pete” Lantz, who married Amelia Minnich.

The wedding photo, a carte de visite, of John Peter and Amelia Minnich Lantz, taken in 1869. The couple, the author's great-grandparents, lived to celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary.

The wedding photo, a carte de visite, of John Peter and Amelia Minnich Lantz, taken in 1869. The couple, the author’s great-grandparents, lived to celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary.

After John and Mary decided to move west to live with their children on the Kansas plains near Abilene, John Peter and Amelia worked the home farm until they decided to retire from farming. In 1908, they built a new home—now the Matile Manse—on a substantial parcel of land situated between Amelia’s parents’ house and that of one of her sisters. They moved in on Oct. 2.

By that time, they’d turned over much of the Lantz farmland to their sons. And soon after, their daughter, Mabel, my grandmother, married William Holzhueter, a city kid from Aurora who had a good job in the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad’s Aurora shops. But it was all good because my grandfather’s family spoke German at home—they’d only been in the U.S. since the 1880s—but so did my grandmother’s family, and they’d been in North America since before the French and Indian War. Germans don’t like change much.

John Peter and Amelia, in their 60s when they moved to their new house in town, probably figured they’d live another decade or so. As it turned out, they lived in their new home for some 45 years, celebrating their 73rd wedding anniversary right here in our house.

The author's grandmother, Mabel Lantz Holzhueter (right), her sister Edie, and her mother, Amelia Minnich Lantz in front of the home place farm on modern Ill. Route 59, Wheatland Township, Will County, Illinois.

The author’s grandmother, Mabel Lantz Holzhueter (right), her sister Edie, and her mother, Amelia Minnich Lantz in front of the home place farm on modern Ill. Route 59, Wheatland Township, Will County, Illinois.

There are a lot of descendants of the Lantzes who moved here to Illinois in 1850, and then on to Kansas a couple decades later. Our family puts me in mind of the Mcilaneys, boyhood friends of Elwood P. Doud, best friend of Harvey, a six-foot tall rabbit-shaped pooka. As Elwood noted of the Mcilaneys, “There were a lot of them; and they circulated!”

Every year somewhere between 50 and 100 of us from all points of the compass get together to eat fried chicken, and some of the best dishes to pass and desserts you’ve ever seen, on the second Sunday in August, just like we’ve been doing since the deision was made by majority vote in 1939.

If you happen to be related, be sure to stop by. We’re a fun group.

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Filed under Farming, Illinois History, Nostalgia, People in History