This post first appeared in the Spanish MyHeritage blog and has been translated into English for all to enjoy.
It was written by MyHeritage community member Kenneth Arthur Marlow Araujo and his wife Betty Edith Dons-Blædel
An interest in genealogy - researching who our elderly have been and what they have done, the problems they faced and how they resolved them - is common to most who dare to publish a tree, starting with their parents and grandparents, and continuing as far back as they can.
This search probably involves a desire for identity, of belonging, that today is exacerbated by the speed at which changes take place, cosmopolitanism prevails in society in general. The mass of human beings.
In his Politics, Aristotle said that humans are social animals. In fact, today we live in cities, like cattle or flocks, without identity. Whoever we are, we have the feeling that there are thousands like us, and we have the feeling of fading into a gray background. Grayed by the speed with which our lives run.
Just a couple of centuries ago, people moved very little, families knew each other, and were united by family bonds, religious beliefs and shared lands. This provided them with identity, a sense of "being in the world" that has now, for many, disappeared.
This has nothing to do with the sense of the traditional family tree, where the ancestors were understood as being "somebody's child ". This notion is the origination of the Spanish word “hidalgo” (gentleman), where past glories (real or invented) lent the necessary patina of being "socially acceptable."
The nowadays boom observed in the creation of family trees was made possible by the Internet, added to the personal computer. These two units now allow a large number of people to research, find family members, and share documents and images all throughout the world. These are the tools which have democratized genealogy and become a favourite amusement for many older people, who do not want to disappear without a trace of their presence, and placing on their tree, all the family memories, as a legacy to the future.
A very strong impulse to preserve the memory of their elders is quite common in families that for one reason or one other, had to leave the ancestral homeland and move to other places, other habitats, other faiths.
Betty and I believe that the increased rate of family tree creation occurs mainly in countries that received strong immigration; mainly the Americas and Oceania. They had left the climate, the landscape, the mode of being. They must acquire the new customs very quickly, yet without time enough to assimilating them entirely. This creates a kind of "homesick" or "Morrinha”, sadness or melancholy for the life left behind.
The creation of a tree, in a somewhat strange but effective way, brings back to life that atmosphere, that the descendants did not know directly, but absorbed it during childhood, from parents and grandparents.
In our case, these are mainly the reasons for our work.
Betty´s father was born in the village of Ferreyra, Córdoba, Argentina, but her father and mother were born in Denmark, and emigrated to Argentina when they were adults. He came first, and once he was established, they married by proxy in Denmark, and then she travelled abroad to join her husband. It was a time now lost, when Argentina was one of the most prosperous and progressive countries in the world, and welcomed with interest the contribution of people from all of Europe.
Betty's mother came at the age of 3, from Switzerland, with her parents. Her father was a native of Colmar, Alsace, where he happened to be born as a German, served his military conscription in the Germany army and then had to become a French citizen, according to the new border treaties. He went to Switzerland and in Basel met his bride, whose parents were from Swiss.
In my case, my father emigrated from Australia in 1909 in the arms of his mother, with two slightly older brothers, along with my grandfather, to establish a field establishment (“Estancia”) in Argentina. They were cheated by the nephew of a prominent family of Marine Brokers of British origin, practically as they got off the boat. This man sold them a quiet extended field, in Pigüé, in the province of Buenos Aires, and disappeared before it was discovered that he had forged all the papers and it was not his field. Having lost all their capital my grandfather and my grandmother had to restart his life more painfully than they had imagined. My grandfather got a job in a British company that manufactured farm machines due to his native language and knowledge of farm machinery. These were beginning to be a boom in the country and thanks to it, he was able to give his family the education needed to recuperate, as adults, the economic level they had lost.
Through my mother, I belong to families whose heads came to the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, to occupy seats in the colonial government, and in the country, married creole descendants in some cases, the first settlers of the second foundation Buenos Aires, by Juan de Garay in 1580.
I am a passionate about history and old books, so in my youth I collected some data and stories from my mother's family, whose ancestors were witnesses and in some cases actors, of the creation of this new country, Argentina, Therefore I felt very romantic and heroic about it. I had also felt a strong curiosity about my father's family in Australia, whose ties were cut due to distance and communication difficulties during the last century with a country from the antipodes.
A month ago I received a Smart Match from MyHeritage and I couldn’t believe what happened. At last! the lack of communication was over and I was put in touch with the wife, of a second nephew of mine, from four generations away, on my father's side, in Australia. Currently, we are updating our respective trees with family members that we were missing.
Another Smart Match came through not long after and connected me with Manuel Augusto Araujo, with whom I have not exchanged letters yet, but who I am guessing is a descendant of one of the three brothers Araujo (or Araújo, a in Galician way) who reached the Rio de la Plata during the reign of Spanish King Charles III.
These brothers arrived due to the creation of the viceroyalty between 1776 and 1782, to hold public office in the Municipalities, created by Charles III, in order to provide more effective state oversight and lessen the importance of the councils.
Two of the brothers went to Buenos Aires and the third went to Corrientes and Brazil.
Our work in the family tree began, at first, to fulfil a wish from Betty's paternal grandmother and grandfather, who had strong family ties with his brothers and brothers in law who had remained in Denmark. He had received a lot of his information from his family a book, titled "Slægten Blædel 1954- Den Bog" originally published in 1908 and kept updated until 1954, He died at 98 years old on the 14th December, 1955, a year after the last update.
The first member of the Dons Blædel family who immigrated to Argentina was not him, but his brother Paul who, after a dangerous experience in Patagonia, alone with his young wife and first child, returned to Buenos Aires where they took up residence. This Paul "translated" his surname into Spanish, eliminating the original “æ”, transforming it into the sound in Spanish more similar, an "e". He also left the compound surname Dons-Blædel - changing it to Bledel. So this generated in Argentina a large and prominent family Bledel, of the same origin.
As years passed, we lost contact with Denmark and our lives took different channels. Newlyweds, Betty and I tried our luck in Mexico City, where our first two daughters were born. The death of our first girl at the aged of 20 months, caused by a malpractice, rushed us back to Argentina, trying to find comfort with our families. In Argentina we both worked, Betty in her career as a teacher, and I in an industrial company, in the engineering department the first ten years and administrative positions the rest of the 36 years I spent there.
When both Betty and I retired in 1995, I started writing, and in 1998, fulfilling a desire of Betty, we began to pass her family tree to a family genealogy site. This Site was sold in February 2010 to our current provider: My Heritage.com.
Simultaneously I had begun to pass the book into Internet compatible formats such as .PDF and .txt finally completing this task in December 2008. Currently, for concerned family members, there are ways to download a free "Blædel Slægten 1954 - Den Bog", in .PDF Adobe.
Once we finished the copying of the data of the "Slægten Blædel" into the tree, we added our children and continued with my parents, and so on....now up to more than 1700 people. At the time I am writing these lines, our tree has much more than 1800 people, thanks to the inputs from our relatives in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. We have not yet contacted and updated families residing in Denmark, Norway and USA. who will surely add new branches to the original tree.
Several relatives have only fractions of the tree, (their close ancestors plus children and grandchildren). I have struggled (and it still causes me great deal of argument) to convince the more reluctant to understand that a family is a great social web, and its beauty and practicality is not in following only one branch until we find a predecessor of historical significance to be proud of, (vain glory), but in finding and representing all the members related to a genetic line, and its ramifications. In other words, multiple trees in only one big family.
I think the philosophical and anthropological value of this is really important.
As we want the tree set up in this way, to succeed and to remain in time and not break up again into saplings of 15 people, it was necessary to appoint several Administrators from the different families belonging to different branches, which assist in keeping the tree updated. Eventually these roles will be delegated to our successors. I explained to the support staff from My Heritage, the importance of allowing several administrators in a tree, because if you duplicate the original tree in as many trees as managers are, their task is not reflected automatically in the others. On the contrary, they become large trees, but private, and for our purpose, as detailed above, that would be catastrophic.
Ultimately, this way of creating and maintaining a family tree as a collective work, fulfils a sense of social and historical democracy. Formerly, a family tree had a strong element of elitism, and a sense of social superiority. Today, thanks to the Web and technology tools that My Heritage.com and similar organizations offer to ordinary people, we firmly believe that along generations, different factors such as geography, personal fate, and many other exogenous events in the life of the people, by modifying the different sections and temporary layers of this web, it would show extremely varied and interesting aspects in time and space.
Our hope is that works like this will be useful in the future, to specialists in social science, anthropology and history, throwing new light and setting new parameters on the phenomenon of humanity. We hope this can help to finally achieve peace between all people.
Furthermore, and this is very important, a tree big enough, no doubt will cover a broad variety of genetic backgrounds, and if we could see it clearly in our tree, that we have worldwide ancestors or descendants, Asian, African, Middle Eastern or other origins, then it could put an end to the concept of "racial purity" that did so much damage in the thirties of last century
Finally, we want to thank My Heritage.com for the opportunity of using your organization to find and establish contact with relatives from family areas that otherwise would have remained unknown.
Our Thanks go out to Kenneth for sharing his incredible story.
We also invite you all to share you stories and experiences with us.