Family Memory

Last night over at Geneamusings, Randy Seaver had for his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun a game of ancestor roulette. The ancestor he landed on was his great-grandmother about whom he had this to say:

I called her “Nana” – as did my mother. She was the earliest born person that I remember being with.

She was born in 1868, so I was impressed by that. The earliest born person I remember is my Great-Uncle Milt who was born in 1900. I had some great-uncles born in the 1890’s whom I probably met but don’t remember. My Uncle Milt had no other family living besides us. He never had children and his only brother, my grandfather, had only my mother. So, Uncle Milt would join us for Thanksgiving and other holidays. When he passed away, I went with my mom to his house and it was like stepping into another time. I came away with a penny from 1919, an old fountain pen and three old 78 records. None of those things have survived to present day, I am sad to report.

Compared to 1868, 1900 is not that long ago. My grandmothers were born in 1904 and 1905 and I knew them better than Uncle Milt. Through the stories of my grandmother Naomi Carman Garrison especially, the early twentieth century was not so far removed.

What about my grandmother? Who was the oldest person she knew? My mind went immediately to her grandmother Catherine Hornef Carman. This was not likely the oldest person in her family my grandmother ever met, but she is the only one my grandmother told me about. It is not much, but this may be all that is ever “remembered” about my 2nd great-grandmother. My grandmother told me she remembered her grandmother as a large, happy German woman and remembered her cooking in the kitchen. My grandmother was only seven years old when her grandmother passed away, so one can forgive the vagueness.

Some things I have learned about Catherine Hornef Carman since:

  • She was born 1 July 1845 in Otterberg, Germany to Jacob Hornef and Katharina Faber.
  • She was christened at the Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche in Otterberg shortly thereafter.
  • They immigrated to Philadelphia when she was a baby and they left Germany “secretly.”
  • She had two sisters Eva Amelia who married Andrew Mahla and settled in Marcus Hook and Mary who has proven elusive.
  • Her sisters were both born in Pennsylvania.
  • She was married in 1862 to Elon Carman at the First Independent Christian Church in Philadelphia.
  • She died 9 April 1913 and is buried in Mt. Moriah cemetery in Philadelphia1

Genealogy and Death

Genealogy is intimately tied to death. Most genealogy jokes revolve around the fact that we spend so much time with dead people, or with the records they left behind anyway. I even subtitled my blog “News about dead people.”

Sometimes these dead people are a lot closer to us however, and we cannot joke about their absence. Each record of theirs we hold in our hands brings back memories, a reminder that all of our ancestors were once living, breathing people, as dear to someone as our recently lost are to us.

I have always been careful not to include the living in research I have posted to the internet. I have often extended this to people who have recently passed away. In my mind they are still living, I suppose.  But, I have also had the desire to memorialize the dead, to extend their lives a bit by sharing what I knew of them with other people.

My parents passed away 13 years ago this summer. I have assiduously kept their information off of the internet. Partly out of privacy, partly out of grief, partly because they are just too young to be “dead ancestors.” But, the 1940 census was released this year and they are in it. And, I decided to begin work on the electronic family tree book I always had in mind, and I want to start with them, so I am finally adding their names to my public database.

Carol & Charles Conrad wedding
Carol & Charles Conrad, Wedding, 1959

Charles “Charlie” Conrad was born in 1937 in Philadelphia to Edward C. Conrad and Susan L. Todd. You can see him in the 1940 census in my Todds on Tioga and Conrads around the Corner post. Carol Garrison was born in 1938 in Philadelphia to Orville W. Garrison and Naomi E. Carman. Charlie and Carol were married in 1959 in Pitman, New Jersey. Charlie served in the Air Force in the 1950’s and later worked as an accountant and comptroller. Carol was a registered nurse. They had their own business in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s they moved to Florida where they both passed away in 1999.

They loved each other deeply and saw each other through sickness and health, good times and bad. This site and my research have always been secretly dedicated to them. Now you know.