Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shaking the Family Tree.

My grandfather was the youngest of thirteen children. He was born in 1900.
(on a side note: aren't these men HOT?)

My father taught me the Family Litany when I was quite young. He'd repeat it at least once a year, near the time of the Plasterer Family Reunion, always the last Sunday in August. My mother made an everlasting impression on all of the aunts, when she urged Daddy to go to the reunion on the very day after their wedding in 1941.
Ahhh, those family reunions! My great-aunts (those ladies in the photo above, or those who were still living while I was growing up, and the uncles' wives) really knew how to cook. Oh, the pans of fried chicken they brought! That taste does not exist on the planet anymore, I'm sure. Probably because they used lard, and possibly even used their own, home-grown chickens. My mother used to urge us not to eat the potato salad--she was not sure how long, or even if, it had been refrigerated after the making. And my mother had a great fear of Bad Mayonnaise. She didn't want us to eat a lot of things on that table, because flies would land on things. I just snuck those things onto my plate when she wasn't looking.

The shorter woman in the back row of the photograph, with the large white bow, is Aunt Maud. She was one of the ancient great-aunts at the family reunions. She was four-foot something in her old age, and she was a Cheek Pincher. I think that breed is probably extinct by now. Every summer, she would say How Much We'd Grown, and then pinch our cheeks horribly. Mother said we had to put up with it, because she was our grandfather's older sister. My brother got the worst of it, because he shared a birthday with Aunt Maud.

But I digress. I was going to tell you about the Family Litany. It goes like this:

"Heinrich and Anna Maria Plasterer came from Holland to the Port of Philadelphia on the ship Friendship in 1739, and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The generations go like this: Heinrich, Conrad, Conrad, George, Henry Clay, Richard (my grandfather), Robert (my Dad), Barbara." I am an eighth-generation American. I have grandchildren, who are tenth-generation; my sister has great-granchildren, so the eleventh generation is alive on the planet. And since my grandfather was the youngest of his family, and his oldest sibling was about 25 when he was born, maybe even generation twelve is out there. An interesting historical side-note is that the Amish came from Holland to Philadelphia and settled in Lancaster County between 1730 and 1740, so who knows? We may come from Amish!

My daughter and I have the addiction, and she found something out the other day that shakes that old family litany down to its foundations. She was looking at the ship's manifest of the ship Friendship, that indeed docked in Philly in 1739. But while Heinrich and Anna Maria were on the ship, and the families settled in Lancaster County, Anna Zimmerman was TEN YEARS OLD when she came. She married Heinrich five years later, when she was fifteen, and he twenty-four.

I don't even know what to do with this information. That "litany" was so ingrained, this kinda rocks my place in the world. Only not really. I'll get over it. We'll just have to add the phrase, "and married five years later," to the litany.

Excuse me, I must close this out. is waiting...