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Friday, March 22, 2013

A Little Family History Highlight

This post relates to the Odell, Vandermark and Beismer families but also speaks to sloppy research and ways to do it a little better.  Information from this post will appear in the appropriate family pages.

Joe, Joseph, Odell, my great great grandfather, Dad's great grandfather, had a sister Rosa (Rose).  

Let's stop and digress right here.  

My great great grandfather's surname is recorded as Odell.  Our family line now uses O'Dell.

St. Patrick's Day just passed.  I thought, because of our current spelling of the surname, that the name is Irish and proudly displayed my "Irish-ness" when I was a kid.  There may be Irish families with the name but its origin is NOT Irish.

My research on the surname is cursory but I did find a few things.  Odell is most likely derived from Wodell which, in turn, is derived from Wodall, Woodhall and from Wood Hall Manor, Suffolk, England.

So, the surname is most likely British.

In addition, since we haven't traced the family past about 1830, Greene County, NY, it's very possible that was not the original surname.  If the Native ancestry stories are correct, it's very possible that the surname was adopted at some point in order to assimilate.

Also, just because a surname is traced to a particular nation or language, doesn't mean that is the origin of the family. Consider the possibility that an Wodell descendant went to Ireland and that family line stayed there for several generations. It's quite possible that an individual might have changed the name to O'Dell to blend in.  Most people like to conform to make their lives easier.

But, in our family's case, the name on the censuses was Odell.  My grandfather changed his name to O'Dell because he had a nephew with the same name and wanted to be distinguishable from him.  Many other family members use the apostrophe.  The names are not different because of the punctuation, in this case.

In my Beismer family, our immediate family uses that spelling.  I have approximately 2 dozen variant spellings. The family cemetery in Debruce, NY has headstones with 3 different spellings. The name is NOT derived from Bessemer.  It's not even pronounced the same.  Our surname is pronounced Beezmer.  Some individuals drop a soft i between the z and the m sounds; Beez i mer.  Bessemer, the steel maker's name, is pronounced Bess eh mer.  There's also another surname, Bazemore, pronounced Bayz more that's more likely related to the 'Beezmer' name.  I was once told by a professional genealogist that one surname is Dutch and one German (I can't remember which); one means Bee keeper (I assume Beesmer), one means broom maker.  There is also a Hungarian verb, beismer, meaning to admit, but it isn't pronounced the same.

In the case of names, the pronunciation of the name can be more important than the spelling.  

In looking at names, given names or surnames, spend some time thinking about them, how they're spelled, how they sound.

Back to the family:

She, Rosa Odell, married a Stoddard Vandermark.  Yep, a Vandermark.  Odell, Oliver, Crandell, Flower, etc. is my father's side.  Wormuth, Hulse, Beismer, Vandermark, etc., is my mother's side.  So, Rosa, from my father's family, married Stoddard, from my mother's side.  I imagine, it's not that unusual, but interesting.

Stoddard Vandermark is definitely related to Grandpa Beismer's mother, Eliza Vandermark Beismer.  Eliza's father was Simeon Vandermark, or in our family Vandemark.  Simeon and Stoddard might have been brother's, according to one researcher's records, or possibly nephew and uncle.  I have more research to do on that.  They were all in Livingston Manor.  

Let's stop again and look at something.

We have variant spellings of Odell, O'Dell - Beismer, Beesimer, Beesmer, etc. - and now, Vandermark.  Our immediate family spells it without the r, Vandemark, as often as with the r.  It can also be spelled Vander Mark, Van der Mark, etc.  How much does the spelling matter?  It depends on the family.  In many cases, the origin of the surname is the same.  In some cases, it can distinguish between branches of a family, making it easier to tell related but distinct family lines apart.  

It's important to be aware of both similarities and differences.

When doing the research, it's important to keep variant spellings in mind and keep your eyes open for more variations.  Sometimes they mean the difference between two, 2, different individuals with the same name, sometimes a variant spelling is just a variant spelling and the person is the same person.

Here's a list of some of the variables you have to consider in looking for individuals while doing familiy history research:

  • Surname variant spellings.
  • Initials.
  • Birthdate.
  • Age when first married:  what's usual in your family line? in mine it's between 15 and 25, usually.
  • Locations.  People didn't move so often or so far.  But, then there were those who did.
  • Middle names.  Some people preferred their middle name to their first name, as in my maternal great grandfather who was Thomas James but always called James.
  • There's almost always at least one other person with the same name, somewhere.  Don't jump to the conclusion that you've found the person you're looking for until you've found corroborating evidence.

I think my name is quite uncommon; it isn't.  I used to think the Odell surname was but I learned a long time ago, it isn't.  If you do an Internet search on your own name, you'll be surprised at how many individuals with the same name as yours there are, often with the same spelling - sometimes in the same state.

So, just because you see records of individuals with the same exact name, they aren't, necessarily, the same person.  You have to look at other factors - age, dates, locations, to decide if they are the same person.  The same is true if you're unable to follow a person through the census, he seems to just disappear for 20 years.  Where did he go?  Think.  What were his parents' names?  What was his wife's name?  What were his siblings' names?  What were his children's names?  It's disconcerting how much misspelling there is on the censuses.  Leave the last l off Odell, leave the r out of Vandermark.  If you search on Beismer but the name is spelled Beesimer on that census, you probably won't find it.

In addition, the indexing in the search databases isn't perfect.  I've searched and searched for an individual and not found them.  Then I search for their wife and find the entire family, with the spelling of the original individual exactly as I searched for it but didn't find it.  Why?  Because the electronic index missed him.

Don't give up.  Keep looking.  Think of all the different ways you can try to find someone, family members, relatives.

On one census, Rosa and Stoddard had a Herman Besimer living with them.  I have a Herman Beesimer in the family, a cousin of Grandpa.  Small world.   And, somewhere, I think I have a record of Charity Odell, Rose's sister, working for one of the Vandermarks or Beismers.  

Please try to be accurate and methodical in your research and don't post what you haven't verified in more than one document and cite your sources and note any questions or vagaries.  It makes a huge difference to others researching the same families and individuals.

I love doing family history research.  It's like being a detective or doing a large, complex jigsaw puzzle.  

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