Last night, Henry Louis Gates, the host of “Finding Your Roots” on PBS, spoke to the final dinner at the 2017 International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies conference. His love for genealogy started with finding out his own roots, before slavery. He loves, as all genealogists do, to see people’s eyes light up when they learn where they came from. It was the first time he had ever been asked to speak to a room full of fellow genealogists, and you could just tell that he loved talking about all of the amazing changes he has made in people’s lives with his research.
Personally, I am always inspired by the courage of my own ancestors, who gave up everything to come to America. Mine included (among others):
- Jonathan Landers, an Englishman who came to find his fortune in the early 1600’s.
- Simon Goldman and Mamie Blum, Jews who escaped the Russian pogroms of the late 1800’s in what is now Lithuania, to come to Indianapolis and start their family.
- Aron and Yocha-Chana Gravitzky (later Aaron and Anna Horowitz), who left their business behind in Byten (now Bycien, Belarus) after their oldest son, Wulf, was drafted into the Russian army. Being drafted meant 25 years in the army there!. They left before my grandfather, David, could also be conscripted, and arrived in Detroit around 1915. A few years later, the remaining Jews in their village were mostly wiped out by the German army, and later in World War II, the Nazis finished off whoever was left.
- Alexander Montgomery, a Presbyterian who left Scotland for Ireland in the late 1500’s to escape religious persecution and then fled again to America in the early 1700’s to settle in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Carl Louis Hagedorn and Johanna Volke, Lutherans who left Northern Germany in the 1840’s, met and married in New Orleans, and then moved north on the Mississippi River to Madison, Indiana.
- Michael Cain, an Irishman who came to Madison, Indiana, as a young boy with his parents during the Irish famines of the 1840’s and then met and married a young first-generation American named Mina Caroline Hagedorn (daughter of Carl Louis and Johanna).
ALL of my ancestors were immigrants to this land, and I feel somehow compelled to learn their stories and tell them so these people won’t be forgotten and so I will learn from the courage it took for them to leave everything they knew to find a place where they could be free. I was reminded of all this while listening last night to Henry Louis Gates tell us his own stories. I’m re-inspired and wanting to spend more time on this.
Therefore, I begin this blog, where I intend to record my journey to learn more about all of my own ancestors. I will also include stories about others I research for my friends and family members (with their permission, of course).