Friday, October 19, 2012

Generations and Generations

I’ve been researching the genealogy of my family for a number of years now and have quite a lot of information. I love puzzles and solving things, so hunting down ancestors fits right in with that. I know that many of my ancestors came from Germany so I was hoping to be able to do some further research while I am here. When I reviewed my data I was thrilled to see that one family came from Stuttgart, Germany, which is where I am living right now! Even better, I was able to attend a seminar here on how to search for your ancestors. We had a personal tour of the Landeskirchliches Archiv in Suttgart, where most of the “church books” are held that contain all the names and birthdates of people who lived in this area. A German genealogist helped explain how to go about our research and also helped to decipher the German script on the microfilms of those church books. We were a small group of five visitors at the archives but I was the lucky one who actually had ancestors from here and knew the town they were from, so the genealogists where able to help me with real research. You must know the name of the town when searching because there is no index of surnames to help you. Based on the town name (Fellbach), the German genealogists were quickly able to locate my ancestor’s name on the microfilm and confirm that he was born here and immigrated to America. He’d changed the first letter of his last name so I wasn’t confident of other research I’d found that linked him to a long family line here in Germany, but now I feel I can link to it. Assuming this other research is correct (I don’t have definitive sources), I can go back 14 generations:

father – Robert Olsen (1925 – 1998)
grandmother – Marguerite Coxey (1892 – 1978)
great grandfather – William C. Coxey (1866 – 1939)
2nd great grandmother – Elizabeth Edler (1829 – 1906)
3rd great grandfather – Jacob Lange Edler (1782 – 1852) <<<< he’s the one I researched
4th great grandfather – Johann Caspar Idler (1742 – 1815)
5th great grandmother – Anna Maria Schäfer (1709 – 1763)
6th great grandfather – Johann August T. Schäfer (1672 – ?)
7th great grandmother – Anna Fridle (1639 – 1693)
8th great grandfather – Martin Fridle (1607 – 1669)
9th great grandmother – Apollonia Rebmann (1586 – 1634)
10th great grandfather – Hans Jacob Rebmann (1557 – 1597)
11th great grandfather – Jakob Rebmann (1525 – 1575)
12th great grandfather – Hans Rebmann (1500-1565)

I can also go back 12-13 generations on many other paths, including the Idlers back to 1536. Pretty neat, but also amazing when you think about how if just one of those people had died as a child, like so many of them did, I wouldn’t be here. It’s also mind boggling when I start realizing how many ancestors I have. I decided to calculate the number of people in the early 16th century (around 14 generations ago for me) that were needed to pair up to create the offspring that eventually led to me.

Are you ready?

One generation is 21 = 2: mother and father
The next generation is 22 = 4: two sets of grandparents
Three generations back is 23 = 8: four sets of great grandparents
...and so on
So 14 generations is 214 = 16384 or 8192 sets of great-great-great-great-great…ok, 12 greats in there…grandparents.

Somewhere there has to be some duplication because if you keep going you’d need more people than were alive. I obviously don’t have all the names of my ancestors, but I do have quite a lot. I started seeing the same name in different generations that weren’t in the same line, so I’m sure that if I did have all the names, I’d see that I don’t actually have 8192 different sets of 12th great grandparents. Also, this number includes people in other parts of Germany and also Norway and England, where I know I have ancestors from as well.

And then there’s the other direction. How many people are the result of Hans Rebmann being alive from 1500 to 1565 and having children? A lot, and I’m sure he was just happy that his son, Jakob Rebmann, survived.

But back to the Idlers. They all lived in Fellbach, which is about 6 km from where I am. I am definitely going to make the short trip over there and walk around, take pictures, and imagine my relatives living and working there.

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