Sunday, September 16, 2012
The People I Met in My Genealogy Research, Part 3
My grandfather’s story is probably all too common in genealogy research. Grandpa was born Leighton Clay Conrad, but he always told us that the name Conrad was an Americanization of what he understood to be a German name, Koonradt. That’s the spelling I remember him telling me, anyway. The way I remember it, he told us that the Koonradts had come to the Midwest through Pennsylvania, which might suggest that they were Pennsylvania Dutch. In any case, Grandpa didn’t know how far back the name had changed. When he helped me fill out my first family tree, he could remember back only two generations, through his father Leo and grandfather Harry. I still hope to one day research the Conrads further back from Harry, but I know it will be difficult since they lived in the rural Midwest, whereas I live in California. Some day… (see below for update!)
Grandpa’s other side is even more interesting and even more clouded with mystery. Apparently, Grandpa’s mother Daisy Murray had kept a secret throughout her entire life – she was half Indian. Grandpa’s twin brother Harlan discovered this fact only after Daisy had died. From there, the story gets muddled and garbled by distance and poor communication. As you might remember me mentioning earlier, Grandpa didn’t get along too well with his twin brother, at least by the time I came along. And whatever information Harlan had only came to me secondhand through Grandpa, so there isn’t much there and I’m not real sure of any of it.
Grandpa was sure of one thing, his Indian ancestry had been from what he called the Iroquois tribe. According to Grandpa, his grandmother, Louisa, whose maiden name I do not know (see update below), was a full Indian and her ancestors had come across North America through Canada past the Great Lakes and then down into Iowa. Which of the five tribes of the Iroquois did we come from? I don’t know. Where did they live? What were their Indian names? Don’t know, don’t know. My mom suspects that her Uncle Harlan probably had quite a bit more information, but he’s long since died and she hasn’t had any contact with his family since she was a kid. Such is genealogy research. I hope to find Harlan’s progeny one day and compare notes.
Unlike his mother, Grandpa was extremely proud of his Indian heritage once he was aware of it. He often sent part of his small Social Security income to Indian charities back in the Midwest. I have often wondered if his remembrance of the information on his Indian heritage was a colorful exaggeration, as many of his stories seemed to be over the years. But I’ve got little else to go on for his family tree, so I hope his stories are at least partly true. I know that finding a trace of Louisa will be a difficult task. It’s probably a job for more of a professional historian, but if I get the chance I’ll do the best I can.
If nothing else, I’m glad to be aware of my own Indian heritage, as small a percentage of my makeup as it may be. Now I find that my own daughter has what some call the mark of the Indians – two blue spots on her bottom (also known as “Mongolian Spots”). Of course, these spots originate on her mother’s side but I still look at them with pride, our shared Indian background.
Update, as of 2009: I have made some great headway on this part of the family tree. I found the Koonradts that Grandpa had told me about, but it was actually spelled "Coonradt". The change came when young father Daniel Coonradt was killed in the Civil War, leaving behind three sons. Two of those sons came west to Iowa, taking on different names along the way - Hendrick Coonradt (pictured above) became Harry Conrad and Edgar Coonradt became Charles Edgar Conrad. The pictures I have online of Daniel Coonradt and Harry Conrad both come from Charles' descendant Dick Conrad, another great friend that I've met over the internet through genealogy. In fact, I haven't updated my Rootsweb family tree with this information, only my Ancestry one. I'll try to do that before too long to make sure everyone has access to this information.
I also have new information on the Murray side of the family, where I have filled in one additional generation of Murrays and a couple more generations of Louisa's family, who turned out to be named Thoroman (or Thoroughman). I have yet to locate the Indian background however, nor have I made contact with any of Harlan's descendants. I am fairly certain that the Indian background is not on the Thoroman side since this family is well documented. It would be more consistent for it to be the Murrays, who came to America from the Montreal area. Intriguingly Montreal is part of Iroquois country, and Joseph Murray, Daisy's grandfather is listed at times as fur trader. Though my cousin Scott Conrad and I have both researched these families, so far neither of us has found convincing evidence of the Indian story. Something for later, I hope.
Ancestry.com if you have an account there: family tree starting place
If that doesn't work for you, start at Rootsweb here: Starting place #2. For more detail, click on "Display pedigree in text format".