Friday, July 28, 2017

Not all who wander are lost: The Value of Genealogy

Ethnography meets Autoethnography
Met two women for coffee this morning. Having traveled from diverse parts of California, and here to conduct genealogical research, they are part of an old El Paso family. They will visit the main public library downtown, UTEP special collections, and their family's graves at Mt Sinai Cemetery, which is adjacent to Concordia. I believe it is the only cemetery I've not visited or captured headstone images. So, I've posted a couple of images from my local cemetery flickr album
Concordia and the L&J
Percy Frank Thomas, Concordia Cemetery
and the L&J Cafe in the background.
Before my dad died, I researched their family as dad had been a childhood friend of their relative, the youngest son of a large and vibrant family. To help answer my dad's questions, I created a public Ancestry tree containing his friend's parents, siblings aunts and uncles data, then triangulated information using newspapers dot com, city directories, and US census data. It is the only public tree i have let loose. I did this for dad (and me, too) because of dad's funny stories about their brief friendship and how he wondered what had happened to his younger friend. I think they were about 2-3 years apart in age. Dad always marveled at how smart his friend was. Evidently, he had skipped two grades, and I found he attended University of Colorado and majored in engineering. I found pages of his college yearbook and learned what fraternity he joined. Eventually, Dad's friend worked as a satellite engineer in Arizona, and was a university professor. Newspapers dot com helped me view and save newspaper articles about his projects.
After dad and his friend moved apart from their houses on North Florence near El Paso High School, his friend's father died, and this part becomes more interesting from a feminist standpoint. Although the family was involved in retailing, his mother became an immigration counselor for people seeking asylum here before the US entered WWII. She set up an immigration information center on Olive street where a housing development now stands.

It is interesting because the family originally fled the pogroms in eastern Europe and somehow landed here by way of Mexico, as have many other families who settled here. 
I found articles in the El Paso Herald-Post about his mother, who spoke to women's groups about her work and how those seeking asylum were needing assistance.
She was very instrumental in helping people enter the states because of Hitler's rise.

As the children grew, his sisters remained here, became teachers, and his brothers served in the military. And now, they are almost all gone from El Paso. It is amazing to me how many different souls from various parts of the world have passed this way, stayed a while, and then moved to other parts of this country.
"Immigrants, we get the job done."

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