Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Family Tree

After much effort and gnashing of teeth, I have finished the Holsenbeck and Gillham family tree, and it is now available for viewing on the 992 website.  Actually, the process could have been much worse:  following one person's ancestry back 12 generations will net 8,182 ancestors.  Luckily for me and my need for sleep, I haven't found all 16,364 of Mother Cile's and Pop's ancestors yet.  However, I have stumbled upon 539 of them and some of the findings have been fascinating.

As most everyone in the family has heard for generations, the Holsenbecks can trace their lineage back to Scotland and Ireland, which, as it turns out, is entirely true.  Only now, though, can we say with certainty exactly in what counties and towns the various arms of the family began.  Not surprisingly, there are also several lines which can be traced back to England and Germany as well.

Although the name Holsenbeck is clearly Germanic in origin, I have not been able to trace the line back any further than Pop's grandfather, Marshall Holsenbeck, whose only definitive data we have is that he died in 1813 in Columbia County, Georgia, outside of Augusta.  The mystery of the Holsenbecks was one that was pursued vigorously by Bryant Holsenbeck Moore, who thoroughly researched the name.  The hang of it all is that we can trace the Holsenbecks from Germany through New York and down to South Carolina, but we can't find the missing link (which seems to be the matter of one single generation) between those Holsenbecks and our Marshall.  I will devote some of my energy to solving this mystery, which may ultimately be cracked with the aid of the scores of newly digitized census records.

The line that we can, in fact, trace back uninterrupted to Germany is the Kisers, who were Mother Cile's father's people.  We can go back as far as Peter Kiser, who was born in 1732 and, at the age of two in 1734, boarded a ship in the Netherlands and sailed for Philadelphia.  This ship voyage was part of the larger Palatinate migration that took place at this time from the Kurpfalz (or Palatine Electorate, now called Rheinland-Pfalz).  It was result of a religious persecution, and the sea voyages were anything but pleasure cruises, as usually a quarter or more passengers would die en route.  Some of these Germans would later become the Pennsylvania Dutch, but our Peter Kiser and his family ultimately settled in what is now an area just east of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Those of you who descend from Frances Holsenbeck may be interested to know that several lines of the Gillham family made this same voyage to Philadelphia and did, in fact, become Pennsylvania Dutch.  These are the Schmidt (Smith) and Odenwelder families.

Other interesting finds, which I will talk about at length in subsequent posts, are that the Holsenbecks can trace their roots back to the Stirlings, one of the premier families in the annals of Scottish history, and the Gillhams descend from some of the original settlers of the island of Bermuda.

After you peruse the ancestor charts on the website, please make sure to have a look at the descendants charts as well.  I think I have gotten everything right on Frances Holsenbeck's chart, but I am sure there are some mistakes and omissions on the other two.  If you find anything wrong with the charts, please let me know!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A new year, and a new attempt to gather memories

The new year is now upon us, and in the spirit of its promise of renewal and rebirth, I have set about again to get the Holsenbecks and Gillhams involved in the remembrances project I set up last month.  The holidays are hectic and it is admittedly not easy to find free time to sit down and reminisce.  It's rather ironic that at the very time that one is surrounded by family, it's not easy to actually write down what one remembers -- it is a time to be making family history, not recording it.

Hopefully, though, with the new year some of us can take the time in the dead of winter to extract some thoughts and put them on the computer.  Initially I had narrowed the field to just Mother Cile and Pop, to give everyone a specific topic to write about.  I have gotten several responses and I have duly gathered them into a growing file.  This January I will continue to collect things about the couple, so those of you with memories long enough to remember Mother Cile and Pop, please drop a line to the blog email or my email.

In December I was able to complete the Letters from Japan correspondence between William T. and Frances H. Gillham.  Every day a new letter will be posted on the website, so please take a look at it when you can, and, as always, everyone is welcome (nay, encouraged) to leave a comment.  If you run into trouble trying to leave a comment, don't despair:  you can always email me a comment.  Just be sure to reference the specific letter, and I will make sure it gets posted among the other comments on the blog.  The Letters to Japan should be fully posted by the end of January.

Since I started the Letters blog back in 2010, I have updated the blog software that Google offers, and I am now able to track the blog in ways I never thought possible.  I can now see exactly how many times a particular post was accessed and in which country the user was located, and which search source he used.  Not surprisingly, I found that the single most popular post was William T. Gillham's letter about his trip to Hiroshima.  That letter is quite historic in many ways, beyond even our family history.  In fact, as you will find out soon in the Letters, Frances Gillham typed up the letter and sent it to the Southern Bell Telephone Company (William Gillham's former employer), which in turn published it in one of their newsletters.  Of the over 3,300 hits on my blog, a full third were for this letter.  Here is a quick link to his Hiroshima letter

My other accomplishment in December was the research of the Gillham lineage and the updating of the Gillham family tree.  Here are some of the more interesting discoveries I have made:

1.   Although we normally think of William T. Gillham's lineage as being Irish (because of the Irish name Gillham), many of his lines actually lead back to Germany.  Thomas Newton Gillham, the son of the original Thomas Gillham from Ireland, moved to Illinois, which, like most states in the Midwest, had been settled by German immigrants.  Subsequent generations of Gillhams married Germans, including one of the so-called "Pennsylvania Dutch" that came over from the Palatinate region (near Heidelberg) in the early 1700s.

2.  I have determined where Thomas Gillham, the American primogenitor of the Gillham family, is buried.  With William T. Gillham, I visited the site of Thomas Gillham's son's burial, at the Wanda Cemetery near Edwardsville, Illinois, but my grandfather was never certain as to the burial place of Thomas himself.  Records show that Thomas Gillham was buried at the Bullock Creek Cemetery in York County, South Carolina, about halfway between Spartanburg and Rock Hill.

3.  The name Gillham is actually an early anglicized version of the Norman (i.e., early French) name Guillaume, which means William.  The name William is derived from the Germanic Wilhelm, so the name Gillham came to England via France and thus underwent the transmutation.  In short, Gillham means William, so my grandfather's name is actually William William, and Bill Middleton and his son Gillham in fact have the same name.

This month, January, I will be finishing up my research into the lineage of the Gillhams and the Holsenbecks and posting them on the website.  I will be using the new 2012 version of Family Tree Maker, which will allow me to create a family tree graphic that can be easily transferred to our site.  Since the tree will be way too large for a single page, I will make the tree interactive, with links to earlier family lines from the "root" tree of Mother Cile and Pop and their parents.  Eventually I hope to make most of the names clickable with links to biographical sketches and photos.

I will also update the form and style of the website itself, and you should notice the new changes by early next week.  As always, any feedback you have on the website is greatly appreciated.