What I Would Ask My Civil War Era Ancestor

What I Would Ask My Civil War Era Ancestor

There is enough information about him that is worth writing about.

I was inspired to write this article based on the 58th idea that a fellow member wrote about in his article about coming up with new article ideas. I figured that this would be an interesting option for me to delve into my historical knowledge and synchronize myself within the Animus (if you will). I looked back on print-outs of my maternal family's genealogy from a CD-ROM program titled Family Archive #110: Social Security Death Index.

For the deceased family member I would choose to meet, I would very much like to meet my ancestor, who was a first-generation American around the time the Civil War happened. He was born to a father from a German town named Baden and a mother from Alsace-Lorraine. From what I can deduce, he was around 14-years-old when he would have served in the Civil War on behalf of the Union. So, since he was the teenaged son of an immigrant family, I highly doubt he had any choice in the matter.

I would like to ask whether he acclimated himself into the Union army as a liberator, or whether he did it because he never had any other choice. If he did any actual fighting, I would like to ask how he thought of his Confederate enemies. Did he revile them as traitors, or find commonality as men who were also conscripted to fight a war they themselves did not choose to fight in? I would find some interesting insights into my maternal ancestor, considering an important lesson learned in my Oral History class, which is that every person remembers a historical event differently from everyone else.

Upon my research, I also found that he had a brother named after George Washington, which I can imagine his parents did so in order to assimilate themselves faster into American society by naming their American-born son after one of the Founding Fathers. I would like to ask him if that was the case and what his own personal attachment was to America's history.

I would also like to ask him why he decided to stay here in the United States. It would be curious to ask what motivated him to settle down as a machinist in Newark instead of returning to Germany or Alsace. Did he consider America his birthplace and his home? I do not know if there was any anti-German sentiment prior to World War I, but I would ask him how much of it he dealt with, and if he did, then how it may have caused him to empathize on some level with the plight of black slaves fleeing the Confederacy. As a first-generation American, how did he get along with the immigrants from Ireland, Italy and all over Europe? Considering how his wife was an Irish immigrant, I would think that he developed a sense of community among her family members.

As an aspiring linguist, I would like to ask him how much of the German, as well as the Alsatian dialect, he knew, whether in phrases or songs. I would also like to learn how he picked up English from his American compatriots, whether in grammar school, in the barracks, or in the machine shop where he would later work. Also, whether it had to do with attempting to acclimate himself to American life or to prove his tormentors wrong about his being just an "ignorant hun." Since his wife was an Irish immigrant, I would like to ask if she knew any Irish Gaelic. Perhaps if they used German, Alsatian German, or Irish Gaelic as coded languages between themselves while speaking English outside of the house.

It may appear trivial, but since my maternal family surname, Stoeckel, is pronounced [stoh-kul], and that it is German in origin. I would like to ask how exactly it is pronounced. Is it sounded as [shter-kul], the same way that Goethe is [ger-tuh]? Another trivial question I would ask is that considering how his name, Joseph, is a common name in my maternal family, what would they call him in order to differentiate himself from the other "J" names.

I think the questions that I would conclude would be the ones that would reflect on his own descendant. I would ask him what advice he would give me to lead the productive life he did. It would definitely be an interesting way to connect with my ancestry by interviewing a distant ancestor and I think that his account would offer me in-sight into the process of becoming American.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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To My Little Brother

Six things I want you to know.

I am not your mother, but I am your big sister.

I cannot even apologize for it, I am always going to act like your second mom. I am going to keep yelling at you to (please) put down the toilet seat and to clean up the mess you made in the kitchen. It doesn't matter to me how often you say "I am not your mother," because you're my little brother and I'm always going to be the boss.

I never mean it when I tell you to grow up.

I hope that you have taken, and continue to take, full advantage of your childhood. As often as I complain about your maturity level, my wish for you is to put off growing up for as long as possible. The closer I get to real adult life, the more I miss home and all of the worries I didn't have. You shouldn't rush through the years you have left at home, you are doing just fine the way you are.

No, I didn't tell Mom.

All of our secrets will always stay secrets. I may have ratted you out to Mom about being the one to break her new vase, but I hope you know that our brother-sister bond protects all of the private things we share. Please, never forget that I'll always be here to listen to you.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry for giving you your first bloody nose, and for laughing at you afterward. I'm sorry for every time I have blown you off for plans with a guy, or to get an extra hour of sleep. I'm sorry for yelling at you to leave me alone and for slamming the door in your face. I'm sorry for all of the times you asked me to play outside that I didn't. I'm sorry for all of my broken promises.

I forgive you.

I forgive you for all of the “little brother" insults you have used. I forgive you for using all of my paints and letting them dry out. I forgive you for embarrassing me in front of every guy I ever brought home. I even forgive you for cutting off that piece of my hair in fourth grade.

I am so proud of you.

It isn't said nearly enough, but I am so proud of you, little brother. I am envious of the passions that you have and the way that you pursue them with no fear! I am excited to see where you go in life (but don't go anywhere too quickly). Keep working hard and doing what you love, no one can fault you for following your heart. I love you so much, and I will always be your biggest supporter and fan!

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Summer = Rest?

Sometimes it feels as if we need a vacation... from our vacation.


Ah summer: Popsicles and sun burns, mixed with fresh-squeezed lemonade that local kids are pandering to make enough money for Roman candles and Black Cats. The crack of the bat can be heard among the simmering charcoal grills and Troy-bilts humming through the ever-lasting sun. School is out and children are wild. It's a paradise.

Or is it?

But after countless sports camps and tournaments, other camps, vacations, school (?) events, traveling teams, VBS, summer seems to have been sucked fun-free.

Maybe it's Hollywood and Harper Lee's fault for giving us this utopian view of what summer should look and feel like (I'm looking at you Sandlot). But how can we really rest this summer? Because everyone needs some actual rest, even adults.

First thing is do NOT pack your summer full. Say no to some things. Coaches and Families can expect too much and it's okay to say no to them. You have to. There is no time for kids to be kids anymore.

Work can take a backseat. Vacations need to be taken. Families need to reconnect.

And for all my super-scheduled people out there, please PLEASE don't schedule out your vacation. Just enjoy it.

Another bit of advice would be to put away the technology and spend some time outside. When was the last time you tried to catch lightning bugs? Or went for a swim? Or listened to birds on your front porch?

I may sound like I have an old soul, but I really feel like we have lost this connection to the outside world. Summer is all about getting a farmer's tan and getting stung once or twice. I can guarantee you that's some of the best therapy in the world.

Maybe this sounds all over the place. Maybe this sounds like me ranting. And it probably is.

But I'm telling you that this stuff matters. Don't let summer whiz by and you arrive in August more drained that you were in May. Enjoy this time with family and friends.

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