So I was looking at this site, and I started to feel jealous. How come there’s no site dedicated to my people?
Then again, maybe there is. But who are my people?
My grandmother liked to tell me stories about Gideon Detweiler whom I’ve dubbed The Original Ancestor, because he’s the oldest character in any of her stories. Gideon was my grandmother’s father, the first of her family to come to America. Grams liked to tell me how his tools were confiscated at the border and he had to start again from nothing, but I preferred the story about how Gideon was kicked out of the Amish church for wearing orthopedic shoes. Resilient ancestor that he was, Gideon went on to marry a native American woman named Melissa, and helped found a whole new church. Presumably a more liberal church that tolerated the use of orthopedic shoes. Grams never mentioned where Gideon lived before coming to America, but at least I know he was Amish.. before he was not Amish.
I Googled the phrase “Amish Rock”, but all I got was this interview with three shunned Amish boys who formed a rock band, and a bunch of ads for this Amish Rock Shatter Candy.
I don’t know much about Melissa. Besides the frowning sepia toned pictures in the family photo album, I only have this one story about her.
When my grandmother was born, Melissa named the baby after her very best friend, Minnie. Sometime after little Minnie Detweiler was born and christened, Melissa discovered that her friend’s legal name was actually Mary, and that Minnie was only a nickname.
“Then SHE’S Mary too!” Melissa exclaimed. In the end, my grandmother’s legal name was Minnie, and her nickname, Mary. The reverse of her namesake.
That was the story my father told me in response to the question, “why do you call Grandma Forty Dollar Minnie?”
According to Dad, Grams’ real name was a great source of shame, which made it an excellent topic for his constant teasing. (The forty dollar part is a whole other story). I have never seen Grams’ birth certificate, and can not verify that her legal name was, in fact, Minnie. Although my dad is a famous tease and an occasional liar, several of his brothers also call their mother Forty Dollar Minnie (Forty for short), so I’m accepting it as fact.
There are lots of geneology buffs in the Detweiler clan. I’ve seen their charts at the family reunions, but they all begin with Gideon.
So I started thinking about Grandpa’s side. I’ve heard that the Aro name is very common in Finland, which is convenient for me, since I’m very pale, with blue eyes and blonde hair. I often tell people that my heritage is Finnish, and they never question it at all. Maybe it’s true!
There is controversy among the Aros on that point. Some say the Aros are from Finland. Others say the original Aros were French. They claim these French ancestors migrated to Finland where they took the name Aro before moving to America. Grams, who was a Detweiler by birth and an Aro by marriage, claimed that Aro was an Ellis Island edit of a name more like Hairo. Origin: Unknown.
There are no geneology people that I know of on the Aro side, so I can’t verify any of that.
My Grandfather’s family on Mom’s side had a very industrious geneology person who is now, apparently, dead. Mom once showed me a thick book with brittle paper as thin as bible pages. Each translucent sheet contained hundreds of names and birthdates of my family going back many generations. The book ended abruptly at my mother’s generation, so my name does not appear. Mom claims that there is German and Dutch in our family from her dad’s side, and some Irish on her mom’s. I’ve never really known how much of each or from how far back. The dense book of names did nothing to clear things up.
So, based on the evidence at hand, I might be a Faux Finnish French American with a blush of Native American and Irish. Or, something else entirely.
When I look in the mirror, I just see me.
Farm girl from Oregon who went to college, got a job, and moved to the big city.
A typical American story.