Friday, December 7, 2007

Love, Loss & A Pink Flamingo

There has been a long gap in my writing about genealogy. What happened was that we began working with death records and I found it profoundly sad. It was frustrating to read that a relative had passed from some disease or injury, which today might easily be cured with an operation or medication. My vivid imagination led me to wonder about what might have been, for them, for their loved ones, for us. I was glad to have the information so as to fit more pieces into the giant puzzle. But it was difficult, especially the day we found that an elderly ancestor, despondent and in ill health, had committed suicide.

We moved on from the end of life’s journey to other voyages: namely, passenger lists. Within’s immigration sources, we found the record of when Leah and her boys sailed to America to join Jacob! The name of the ship was “The Flamingo”. Trust me, I had an almost uncontrollable urge to find one of those kitschy plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments and plant it proudly in our front yard!

Now, we have found another resource. has just added U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. For most of the branches of our family tree, once our folks managed to get safely to the U.S., they stayed put. Whether it was because they couldn’t afford to travel back home (or anywhere else) or because it simply wasn’t safe to return to their countries of birth. But we did find one relative who filled out a passport application in the late 1800s! The JPEG of the scanned record provided a wealth of information including their address, birthplace and birth dates, date they arrived in the U.S., from which port they had originally sailed and a written physical description.

According to, many of these passport records include photographs. We weren’t that lucky. And I admit, part of me wishes that more of our ancestors had been world travelers. But that would rewrite history and I’ve already learned clocks run only in one direction...

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