Family History Through the Alphabet – P is for Perseverance, Progress, Proof, and Peto

P is for Perseverance:

One of the more interesting and inspirational aspects of genealogical research is uncovering the perseverance of our ancestors. It is from their persistence in spite of difficulties and hardships that our own lives are shaped.

In a nation of immigrants, many Americans wonder what it was like for our immigrant ancestors to leave their countries of origins, travel to a new country, and start all over. What hardships did they face? How did they pave the way for their future descendants? How did they persevere during all of these changes?

In my own research, I have come across many instances of perseverance. My Kernan branch, for example, traces back to Ireland, from which they immigrated to Canada (before coming to the United States) in the early 1830’s. During this time in Ireland, crop failures, famine, and a serious cholera outbreak was hitting the population hard. Being a farmer with a wife and young children, these hardships undoubtedly weighed heavily on the mind and heart of my 4th great grandfather, Felix Kiernan (ca. 1796-1882), who made the difficult decision to leave their native country for Canada.

The journey to Canada (or even the United States) at this time from Ireland often went in three stages: canal boat to a large port such as Dublin, steam vessel from there to Liverpool, and then from Liverpool to North America. Each of these stages not only increased in length, but also in difficulties and hardships. Irish immigrants were not typically welcomed in Liverpool; and when they were, it was typically by those that would take advantage of them. The conditions during the Trans-Atlantic crossing, moreover, were rather difficult and usually deserved the ominous nickname of “coffin ships” given by their immigrant passengers.

I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like for my 4th great grandparents, not only leaving the only country and home they have ever known and the hardships that brought that about, but to also enduring tremendous difficulties in doing so. I imagine that they persevered by faith, personal strength, and the hope of a better life. In the times that we live in now, thinking about what our ancestors went through for a better life is certainly inspiring to say the least.

P is for Progress:

P is also for progress. Everyone that researches their genealogy learns quickly that their endeavor will always be a work in progress. No matter how far back we trace, our progress will not only showcase our hard work in tracking down our ancestors and relatives, but will also highlight that there are still hundreds of people to discover. Although this can certainly give you the “genealogy blues,” it is also an exciting prospect, if you like research that is.

In my own research, I have a 100% completion rate for the first five generations of my ahnentafel. It is at the sixth generation (that of my 3 great grandparents) that this rate begins to decline, being only 81.3%. It drops to 51.6% completion by the seventh generation of my ahnentafel. Although I have made significant progress in researching my family history, I have a great deal more to do.

P is for Proof:

P is also for proof. One of the most important lessons anyone can ever learn in genealogical research is to rely on proof in compiling their family history. The thoughtful and experienced genealogist will always seek to prove their research, and attempt to resolve conflicting evidence. There are many ways to create guidelines for proof in genealogical research, but The Board for Certification of Genealogists provide a “genealogical proof standard” that establishes credibility.

In my own research, I have learned that proof should even be (or particularly) relied upon above family oral history. In a previous post, I discussed how family oral history made the claim that there was a family connection to Mary (Todd) Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln; but no such link has been discovered or proven. Additionally, oral family history in my Kernan branch made the claim that my 3rd great grandfather, Owen Francis Kiernan (1836-1901), was born in Ireland, but records do not support this; rather they prove he was born in Canada to parents that were Irish émigrés. Although family oral history often provides details and anecdotes that are lost among other sources, their relevance and our reliance upon it must be tempered by proof.

P is for Peto:

P is also for Peto, the maiden name of my 2nd great grandmother, Roza Mari (Peto) Sebok (1871-1937). According to the Dictionary of American Family Names, Peto has Hungarian as one of its possible origins. In Roza’s case, the name is from a village called Székelyzsombor, which is now called Jimbor and is in modern day Romania. The Peto surname is from a pet form of the personal name Péter.

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)

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