Sunday, June 28, 2015

Let’s Talk About It

 Does clinical depression have a genetic cause? There’s no answer yet, but geneticists are studying it. My personal experience makes me think that it does. No one expects to find a specific gene related to depression; but there may be some combinations of genetic traits that makes a person predisposed to this problem.

The general reluctance to talk about any kind of mental disorder has kept it out of more than one family tree and published family history.  In my family, I think I can trace it back 3 generations.

I was diagnosed in the mid 1970s. My internist referred me to a wonderful psychiatrist who did a battery of tests. The terminology was different in those days and the diagnosis for me was “manic depressive depressive” meaning that my highs were not very high but my lows were very low. Medication helped and the Doctor taught me to cope with the up and down swings.  I will always be on medication.

My mother suffered with depression but she would not seek treatment.  Without going into details, I’ll just say that there were some difficult times when she was at her lowest. And her up times were not really “up”.

Nature or nurture?  Is my depression inherited or is it the result of living with my mother?

When I began genealogy research, I discovered that one of my mother’s maternal great uncles was committed to an insane asylum in 1895. I know only what I’ve read in his probate record, but he apparently knew he was not well. Years later his son was declared incompetent.

Is genetics at play here?

I suspect that my mother was not the only one of her generation to cope with depression nor am I the only one in my generation.  Too bad that I’m the only one willing to be open about it. I think we could learn from one another.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Schipp Surname Issue

Since I began family history research in 1999 there has always been an issue with the surname Schipp. It was very frustrating for several years. My mother’s maternal grandfather – my great grandfather - was Michael Schipp.

My research began at the NARA (National Archives) branch in Denver; then moved to The Minnesota Historical Society and to St. Adalbert Roman Catholic church in St. Paul, MN.

At NARA I pored over microfilms finding federal census records for my ancestors on both sides.  I traveled to Minnesota and found a wealth of information in state census records, city directories and newspapers. All of this data corroborated and hugely expanded information I had from my parents.

Then I went to the church.  Both my paternal and maternal families attended St. Adalbert which was one of two parishes serving the Polish community in St. Paul, Minnesota.  That’s where the Schipp surname became an issue.

Michael Schipp and his family emigrated from Poland in the 1880s. Schipp is not really a Polish name.  The priests at St. Adalbert who recorded baptisms, marriages and deaths apparently decided to “correct” the spelling to what they thought it would be in Poland. Variations include Szyp, Szypinski, and Sipinski. Szyp was the most common.

Civil records at the same time, all read: Schipp.  So when the priests were presented with birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, etc. in the name Schipp, they chose to apply their own ethnic bias and record it as they thought it should be.

Over time, as more and more data collections became available online, I searched for Schipp. I found the passenger list that showed Michael’s arrival; and also the passenger manifest listing the later arrival of his wife, Elizabeth, and their children.  These confirmed, in my mind, the accuracy of the surname.

Unfortunately, when I searched records from Poland, I found a very few instances of the name, but none that I could connect with my ancestors. But more Polish records continue to come online; and I’ve become more adept at using the Polish web sites.

Thanks to the flexibility of The Poznan Project web site, I finally found people and dates that matched my family.  But the surname was Sip. On that site I found Michael’s marriage and also that of his brother Stanislaus.

After reviewing many LDS microfilms of church records from Poland, I was able to determine where they lived: Grabow nad Prosna. On these films I found Baptism records for Michael and Elizabeth’s children born in Poland.

How did Sip become Schipp?  Here’s my theory.

In the 19th century, the Province of Poznan was in the Prussian partition of Poland. There was a concerted effort to erase Polish culture and impose German language and culture. Civil authority was German and all civil records were in German. Schools taught only the German language and classes were in German.

In Polish the name Sip would be pronounced: ship or szip. 

My current thinking is that the German civil authorities wrote the name as it was pronounced.  The family were farmers in the boondocks of a relatively small city. I have no idea whether they were at all literate at the time.  Did they not understand that the spelling had changed?  Did they simply submit to the authorities rather than make a fuss?  I’ll never know.

I do hope to eventually find civil records for this family to prove or disprove my assumption.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Long Time No See

WOW!  I didn’t realize it has been so long since my last post.  It’s been 2 months! I’m not sure why, but I guess I just got saturated.  My research activity always has it peaks and valley and I’ve been in a wiiiiide valley.

By early March, I had 7 LDS microfilms at my local library, and I was diligently going through all of them. My March 13 post was about my success in finding my Ganas ancestors in Poland. What a rush that was!  Then I set about trying to understand and organize what I’d found.

I’d also just discovered as a means of publishing my stories. It was great fun creating my first story.  You can find it here.  Another one is a work in progress.

Then, I guess I just ran out of steam for a while.  So after an unplanned break, I’m finally back at it concentrating on organization for now as well as producing my next Storypress project.