The Seduction of Genealogy

I imagine that genealogy means something to the effect of "the science of origins". But it has some real hooks.

  1. It is the ultimate research subject. No one really cares if you do it; it is impossible to get financial support for it.
  2. It probably doesn't matter if you get it right or not.
  3. You are welcome to make up all sorts of stories to explain your data.
  4. You can meet all sorts of sixth cousins in the process.

So I am infected with a virus which allows, if not ancestor veneration, a sort of assignment of legitimacy to existence. In the West people have been doing this sort of legitimization since Genesis.

And I am the third generation in this family to be infected.

It started with Tom Sr., who worked back five generations to the 1760s in Delaware. He apparently started in 1945, and his sources were mostly family information and the Delaware archives. Tom Jr. expanded the Day genealogy, including information on his grandmother (Righter), and dabbled in both the Hummel (his mother) and Perrin (his wife) lines. It appears as though the greatest part of his effort was placed in trying to break through the wall and go back from 1760 with the Days. I look forward to when my brother John has the time to look at all the volumes of data he accumulated. I think I have bitten off enough with the Perrins.

My interest in genealogy initially was modest, and started when going through the old photographs John brought back from South Carolina. Particularly interesting were the childhood photos from Wanda Elsie Hummel in Philadelphia one hundred years ago. For purposes of identification of the people in these photographs I looked at Tom's Hummel information (this is where buying him a Macintosh in 1987 paid off; he summarized all his data in AppleWorks). He had a family tree going back to a Johann Frederick Hummel. The web told me that this man founded Hummelstown in 1762, and even had a website picture of one of the (probably hundreds) original deeds. (See the Leebrick web site.)

hummelstown deed, 1762

Hummelstown Deed, from the University of Pennsylvania archives

This finding was astounding. Not only did my grandmother come from an old family, it was a family which was highly prosperous (i.e., in the years the original John Day is buying 100 acres in Delaware, the original Hummel is selling 600 acres) and operating at essentially a modern level, with fill-in-the-blank deeds printed by a bunch of Germans in Ephrata. On top of that, Germans who spoke Latin and who knew geography. The print above the Gothic

This Indenture made


And now extend, Friendship! further more
Thine Sacred Wings till
Californy's shore:
Come and reside in ev'ry Savage Brest,
and doom the Swords to semiternal Rest

EPHRATAE Typis Societatis.]

Further investigation led to a complete list of the first four generations of Hummels on the web, included in a genealogy by the Leebrichs, who married Hummels (more of this later). Herr LeebricLeebrichh, upon my corresponding, was very helpful in encouraging further work, resulting in finding that great-grandfather Silas Early Hummel is probably the only person in our my mother's or father's collective families to ever become famous. But that story will have to wait for the Hummel genealogy.

Last winter (2006 - 2007) my breathing became more tortured, and upon the urging of my good wife I saw an otolaryngologist who discovered I was full of nasal polyps. Surgery was scheduled for late March, 2007, and I promised my wife that I would behave, and the doctor that I would not pursue any physical activities for a week. I proposed to myself that I would take narcotics and research the Perrin family. I purchased a monthly subscription to, a leviathan organization which I imagine is run out of old missile silos in Utah by the Mormons, who harbor the belief that if 1) you are Mormon and 2) know who your ancestors are, you can get them into heaven. So these guys are scanning and indexing every possible piece of the past they can get their hands on, and then sell access to it so they can scan and index even more.

I figured that with Tom's basic notes taken from one of Berta's aunts in 1971 concerning the Perrin family I could see what I could learn. What I learned is hooks #2 and #3 above. Also that post-operative nasal drainage and mustaches are incompatible.

What will follow is the Perrin research, which I will start as a blog in unreal time, but then pick up in real time around the 22nd of September when I hit the road for some field work.