Last summer my Amish friend Glenn asked me some questions about D-Day and World War II, knowing that my father was a front-line infantryman. I’m not sure what prompted that subject—perhaps something Glenn had read in the newspaper. I offered to bring along my father’s war mementos the next time I was in Indiana. Glenn told me that Daniel (not his real name), his minister and a distant cousin, was a real history buff—and we decided we’d include him in my show-and-tell.
So when I was back in the area a few months ago, I met Daniel and his wife and his delightful young children. We gathered around his kitchen table and I showed him the objects my father had brought back in his duffel bag, after being a part of the Army of Occupation in Germany in 1945. Daniel had a good knowledge of World War II and asked some very good questions. His oldest boy, perhaps 8 years old, stayed close and listened to everything—a good opportunity for a hands-on history lesson.
Daniel and my friend Glenn pored over the book about Hitler’s army which was written in German (my father pulled it out of a German home)—comparing the “Dutch” form of German they speak with the modern German in the book.
Since Daniel liked history so much, I offered to do his genealogy at no cost, and he was happy to accept the offer. (I have a genealogy research business called www.ancestrybinders.com.) He and his wife sketched out the first few generations for me and when I got home, I was off to the races. I have an ever-growing Amish genealogy database, and this was a chance to add some new branches.
I found lots of interesting stuff, and last week I returned to Daniel's lovely home to deliver the binder. As I gave him an orientation to the 350-400 page book, he and his wife were delighted with all the new knowledge about their roots. It will take them weeks to get through everything I found! They are related to “White Jonas,” an Amishman who can be found in the history books, and to the Hostetlers who were the victims of the famous “Hostetler Massacre” of 1757. (I should write about that!)
Once again, Daniel’s oldest son was right at my shoulder, soaking it all up. It seems like there is one person in every generation who’s interested in family history—and as I said to Daniel (and his son), perhaps this boy will be the next one.