Dec. 16, 2017


Tracing your roots can lead to surprising revelations

By Merv Unger

1129 - Decades ago there was a country song entitled “I’m My Own Grandpa.”

I have been pursuing my ancestry for a number of years and just got access to a great online genealogy database of Mennonite ancestry, tracing families back to the 1500s in the Dutch Empire.

I have only just begun but already I’m convinced you may come up with some suprises, more than you might want to know – like I'm my own grandpa.

Up to my generation, Mennonites pretty well stayed on their own, not engaging other races, cultures or nationalities, based on a maintaining strict religious standards. Inter-marriage with outsiders was not the norm, but that has gone by the wayside and our greater family now boasts Chinese, Latinos, Africans and others.

The database allows me to input any name and trace how I am related to that person. Is that a revelation!

For Instance, Homer Simpson (creator Matt Groening) is my fifth cousin. Matt’s father’s name was really Homer and his grandfather was Abe. He has sisters Lisa and Maggie, and his mother’s name was Marge. Those names have all be transposed in The Simpsons, except Matt substituted Bart for himself.

I found my fifth cousin Henry John Deutchendorf, better known as the late John Denver. Too bad he didn’t pass on the musical genes. He is also my wife Marge’s fifth cousin.

Then along came Shannon Tweed Simmons, wife of KISS lead singer Gene Simmons. Not only is she a cousin, but her lineage shows up in no less than four lines of our family. 

Marge and I have a similar lineage, going back multiple generations, which is not surprising considering how Mennonites stayed within their own culture over the generations.

Who knows what else is buried in those roots? I'm still digging.

Mennonite history goes from it birth in Holland to Prussia (now Poland), to Russia (now Ukraine), and finally to Manitoba in 1873 in areas labelled the East Reserve and the West Reserve on either side of the Red River.

So grounded in Manitoba were the earlier generations that there is now a website

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