It all started with a glance at an old map of Rhode Island from 1870.
I saw something on Reddit about an old map of Rhode Island from that year. I looked at it, at first, mostly just amused about how different the map looks in some ways but yet not at the same time. Narragansett was a part of South Kingstown, Warwick and Smithfield were both in one piece, and Lincoln and Central Falls were a year away from being incorporated as their own towns/cities.
While looking through this, I suddenly found myself becoming curious about my ancestors. I knew a little bit about them, mostly from things that my parents told me or what I may have randomly looked up one night and forgot about. So I decided, for curiosity sake, to look up my maternal grandmother. And thus set off a huge expedition of family research.
As I began to research, my parents gave me a hand by giving me bits of information that were given to them. Those piece of information were in the form of four Bibles (one entirely in Swedish!), A few written down or typed up documents of my dad's side of the family, and something two of my cousins worked on about one part of my mom's side of the family. With those pieces of information given to me, I went to work.
I've only been going at it for about a week and a half and I've already learned so much about my family roots. More than I thought I would. While I'm not entirely sure if it's completely accurate, I'm at least confident in most of my discoveries, thanks to the process of elimination and the documents that I have.
I have to say that there's something that is so humbling about learning your roots. Even though I'm not 100% finished yet, it's still very humbling. You learn about how lucky you are to live in this time period. I may be an old soul in some respects, I don't think I'd want to live in any other time period. I mean seeing the US Census entries for my grandmother's family in 1915 compared to 1930 really speaks volumes. A 10-person family dwindled down to 4 in that span of time. Kind of mindblowing to say the least.
So what have I learned that I feel like I can share about (there's a few things I'm still not super comfortable with sharing due to sensitive subject matter)?
* My last name was originally spelled Törnqvist and means "Thorn Twig" in Swedish. It's not a super common last name despite the fact that there's another Turnquist family up in Burrillville that had/has a lumber company (no relation, just a coincidence). It was also a fairly popular name with carpenters.
* I had a great uncle who played baseball at URI in the early 1920s. His name was Harry Coleman. He had a baseball scholarship and was supposedly very good. I found an old URI (or as it was known back then "Rhode Island State College") Grist Athletics Guide from 1922 which had his name on both the baseball and the football team. He was good enough to make the varsity squad out of his freshman year, but he wasn't at star level just yet. He probably would've made it to star level by 1923 if tuberculosis hadn't taken his life. My mom insists that he probably would've made it to the big leagues.
* Of my eight great grandparents – two hailed from the US (I believe both were from Rhode Island), 2 from Sweden, 1 from England, 1 from Quebec, and 1 from Ireland. I have to admit, I always thought it was my great-grandparents (save for the one from England) were from the US. I didn't have any idea that my ancestry is a lot closer generationally than I originally thought.
* My maternal grandmother had a really tough upbringing. She was the youngest of 8 children. Between the years of 1918-1933, she lost her parents and five of her siblings. One died during childbirth, three to tuberculosis, and one to a freak accident. As for her parents, I think it was a mixture of grief and old age that did them in. Though I'm not entirely sure. I always thought my grandmother, before she started falling victim to Alzheimer's, was kind of cranky and mean-spirited. Now I at least have an understanding of why she may have felt that way.
* While I didn't learn this recently, it still is an amusing story. I'm third cousins with my one of my third grade teacher (Mrs. Rawlings, in case you're wondering) while she wasn't my main teacher (That was Mrs. Westcott), it still was kind of awkward, especially after my brother blabbed to his Little League team about how we were related to her. I got so much crap about it by my brother's teammates who were in my class. I tried to deny it but then my teacher told them the truth. So much for not wanting to be labeled a teacher's pet...
* FamilySearch.org is an amazing database to research all of this. You can't get every single record but you can at least get the most basic of information. Just use a little logic and process of elimination and you have your answer. Or at least some logical answer.
There is still so much more I have yet to learn about my family. And hopefully I'll be able to learn about most of it in due time. But I'm doing what I can. I hope that when the time comes, I'll be able to finally make that family tree that I've always wanted to make but felt like I didn't have enough information to. The only thing that I hope for is that I dont' cause any anger over doing this. I'd really hate to piss someone off just because of my own curiosity.
It makes me thankful for the sacrifices that were made in the generations before to bring creedence to my existence. America was known as the land of opportunity and they took it upon themselves to take that chance. And I'm glad they did. Who knows what would've happened if they didn't.
I could probably go on forever about this and even go more in depth, but I feel like I'd be borderline boring. Geneaology is one of those things that fascinates me which means I can get super extra geeky about it which isn't much fun to listen to. And while this is more off topic than usual, I did at least want to write about this latest endeavor of mine. Sure beats writing an angry missive about Subway, which I'm sure will end up happening in a couple weeks.
I just hope I'll be able to complete this family tree by Spring.
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