Being from the United States with Dutch ancestry, I was delighted to find a blogger from the Netherlands (Peter's Blog) via Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog a while back. It reminded me of the time I had a project that went global in the early days of computer-assisted genealogy research.
I had been working on my family line of Kiel and gotten back to Harm Hendrik Kiel (1808-1891) and his wife Hendericka J. Siegers. I did this the “old-fashioned” way by requesting copies of death certificates and researching cemetery records on-site. (See my post here about my cemetery research on the Kiel family).
In 1997, I got in touch with a gentleman via an internet posting on rootsweb.com. I lived in Florida at the time and he lived in California, clear on the other side of the coast. We corresponded several times by email as he was also descended from a Kiel family of Grand Rapids, MI. Although I felt it was very possible that we had the same family, we couldn’t quite make a connection with the information on hand. He descended from a Lammert Kiel who was born in 1821. He could also go back several more generations from there, but Harm was my earliest known Kiel ancestor. I made it a research goal to see if I could find records that connected my Harm Kiel with his Kiel ancestor.
First I had to locate records from the Netherlands. Luckily, I was able to go through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and obtain microfilmed copies of records from the Netherlands that would assist me. These records were in Dutch, so I got online and posted a note on a newsgroup board that was dedicated to genealogy in the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg area. I asked for help in translating the records I had. I received an offer from a transplanted Dutchwoman in South Africa. She graciously translated the records I needed regarding Harm and noted that it was pretty brave of him to start a new life in a foreign country at the age of 60 during a time when one didn’t know much about the rest of the world since there was no television, radio or internet. I had not thought about it much, but her experience of living in a foreign country provided her with a different outlook on it.
And what would this Grandfather Kiel have thought about the way I took only a few weeks to traverse the globe via technology to discover that he and Lammert Kiel were brothers and were grandsons of Steffan Jans Kijl and Renske Harms Clasens who were married 24 April 1750 in Wedde, Groningen, Netherlands. He might have thought it magical for me to have transcended both time and space to gain this knowledge.