52 Ancestors Week 46: Different Language

+18 votes

Time for the next 52 Ancestors challenge...

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Different Language

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)

36 Answers

+15 votes
My mum's maternal grandfather Erich Artur Otto von Hippel (von Hippel-5) was born in Germany and German would've been his first language.

He was against Hitler, had his German nationality annulled and moved to Uganda at the time of WWII when he became a crocodile farmer (vastly different to anything anyone else in the family had done). He learnt to speak English whilst in Uganda which would become his primary language and even after having his German nationality reinstated and being forced to return due to health problems he greatly preferred Africa and spoke in English where possible.

All ancestry on his side prior to him were German speaking only. Some of the cousins on another branch ended up in America during WWII and also speak English.
by Anonymous Dowding G2G6 Mach 3 (32.6k points)
Quite a stretch from Germany to Uganda!
+14 votes

My second great grandmother, Elizabeth Metzler Lovelace emigrated from Holland and spoke Dutch. She is my closest ancestor that spoke a different language than English.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (693k points)
Metzler certainly is NOT a Dutch name. Could this be one of the many 'Deutsch/Dutch'-mixups when she immigrated?

Chances are 98% that she was German, not Dutch!
Eric, thank you for your wonderful comment. I have wondered about her and the Metzler name. The only thing I have about her is the death certificate of my great grandfather. I certainly realize that death certificates can be wrong. I recently was the informant for a lady from my church, and I certainly could have easily written anything I wanted on her death certificate. I also have a death certificate for my great grandmother from another family that has the wrong name for her mother. When I asked my cousin about it, she said “That family never did get anything right.” I think you are probably right since there was a large German population in Pennsylvania.

I (Dutchman) agree Metzler is far more likely a German surname than a Dutch one.

Could this be her grave? Fitting name, place, and timeframe.

Jan, you are an amazing! I have never seen this before, and yes, it all fits together. I am so excited about your discovery!

Alexis, I just had luck it came up on the first page of the resultset in this Familysearch query.

I am so thrilled! I have been updating Ancestry, Family Search, Find A Grave and her profile!
+19 votes
My grandfather, Jack (Battiscombe Gunn Gunn-1707) was an Egyptologist, in particular an Egyptian philologist, meaning that he studied the grammar of Heiroglyphs and Hieratic texts.  (There is even a grammar rule called "Gunn's rule").

He could read a number of other ancient languages - Sanskrit, ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, Ancient Greek, etc.  He could read,write and speak a number of modern languages - German, French, Italian, etc.

As he got older he suffered from lumbago (fancy word for back pain), and spent several weeks in bed each year.  He would get a missionary bible for some language he did not know, and use it to teach himself how to read that language.

My father once asked him how many languages he knew.  First they had to agree on what it meant to "know" a language.  They decided "read, write, and speak where spoken."  The last proviso is because some of the ancient languages are not spoken.

The answer was that he knew 22 languages.

That did not include the "missionary bible languages", which he could read, but not write or speak.  It also didn't include Spanish - he would read Cervantes in the original, and he could write a business letter in Spanish, but he did not speak it fluently
by Janet Gunn G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
edited by Janet Gunn
What a mind your grandfather had, Janet! Astounding.

He went to (English) "Public School", but he never went to University.

When Oxford University made him their Professor of Egyptology, they had to give him an honorary MA first.
+12 votes
My great grandmother theresa Miko arrived in new york after world war one. She never really learned to speak english and spoke slovak at home. My grampa was fluent in slovak and did not learn english until he started attending school.
by Jennifer Robins G2G6 Pilot (168k points)
+11 votes

My most recently-born ancestor whose mother tongue was probably not English of whom I am aware is Susanna Putman, who was born in 1761 (the surname was originally Boudemont; her great-grandparents were Huguenot refugees who fled France for the Rhineland Palatinate c. 1685).

by C Handy G2G6 Pilot (190k points)
+14 votes

2G Aunt Catherine (Walsh) Jacot was born in Ireland, and emigrated to the United States around 1880.  In Boston, Ma in 1884, she married Swiss Immigrant and restauranteur Paul Jacot,  whose first language was French.  It must have been a real challenge for them to communicate sometimes, but they stayed together and raised 3 kids to adulthood.

by Dorothy O'Hare G2G6 Mach 7 (77.0k points)
+15 votes

My 8th-great grandfather, Jan Gerritsen Decker (1640 - 1717) was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to Ulster County in New Netherland (now New York).

I was surprised to learn sometime back that the most common language heard in New Netherland was probably not Dutch, but a Different LanguageFrench!  From what I've read, French was more or less the universal language of that day. With people from many countries filtering into North America, it was more common for people to converse in a more universal language. Modern English has also incorporated many French words and expressions over the years, which be in some part due to it's former universality. So while my Jan may have read and/or written in Dutch, there's a good chance that he often spoke in French. 

by Bill Vincent G2G6 Pilot (157k points)
Multiple sources of Latin-based words contributed vocabulary to English. One was from the Roman conquest circa 400 C.E. Another was French words brought to England by my Norman ancestors in 1066 C.E. Both English and French are among the higher-status official procedural languages of the EU.
Merci beaucoup, Bill !
+13 votes
Everyone in my family has been english speaking for as long as we have been living in New Zealand and the UK for at least the last 400 years.

The only foreign language speaker in my family is my French Canadian spouse. He grew up speaking french as a child, in his home and community. He learnt english at school.

But by the time he got to high school, there were no french language high schools where he was living so he had to go to english language high school and so he has slowly lost his french because his siblings all speak english and his parents have both passed.

However, when I was working on the Lozier Family tree, most of the records that are online, are in french!!!  So I did have to learn some of the BDM words.
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+15 votes

When I was about 5, we went to visit my mother's great-uncle Henry, who teased me by speaking French. Until then, I had thought that everyone only spoke English, and since nobody answered him, I still did not realize that French was a language that people could converse in. I thought it was some sort of nonsense.

This summer, I had a visit from my mother's 90-year-old cousin, the last of the old-timers. I got out my notebook, all set to write down everything he could tell me about the family.

Me: what do you know about your father's cousins?

Him:  I don't know anything

Me: wasn't there a Cousin Ed?

Him: I don't know. I remember Uncle Henry. We used to go visit him in Cohoes. He and my dad used to go down the street to the bar and have a beer.

Me: He and my dad used to do that, too.

Him: He was in the Alaska gold rush.

Me: I knew that. He told my father "I won and lost two fortunes."

Him: I remember he used to drink his coffee out of his saucer, the way they did it in the old country.

It's a good thing I had my notebook. I wrote "Uncle Henry, coffee in saucer."


by Joyce Vander Bogart G2G6 Pilot (185k points)
My ancestors drank their coffee from the saucer. but their old country was called Vermont.  My grandfather was a conductor on the Rutland RR, and the punchline of one of his stories was "its already been saucered and blowed!"
Joyce, I love the way you describe what it's like for a 5-year-old to hear a strange language for the first time.
C. Ryder- this is probably an old-timey thing. Children nowadays watch Sesame Street and know about Spanish.
+10 votes

I found out from a book that a distant cousin wrote about my "Fregin" family, that my 2nd Great Grand Aunt, Amelia Bonewald (nee Fregin), had a Forget-Me-Not Booklet written in German. He called it a "Vergissmeinnicht Gedenkbuchlein".

by Chandra Garrow G2G6 Mach 6 (62.7k points)
+12 votes

My 5th great-grandfather, Johannes Wagenseil (or John Wagenseller) was born in Pennsylvania in 1739. His parents were part of the Palatine Migration of German-speaking people and arrived some years previously. They lived in a German Lutheran community and spoke German in the home. John would have been able to speak English when necessary, as when he served in the Revolutionary War, but when he and his wife died, their tombstones were in German. I am descended from his youngest child, Jacob. Within two generations from John, the family seemed to be completely integrated with American culture.

When I first started on WikiTree, as I connected this line I had as source only my great-uncle's genealogy book with its sub-chapter on the Wagenseller family. When I eventually connected to other Wagensellers, I realized there was another source, The History of the Wagenseller Family in America, by George Washington Wagenseller, 1898. It is a very carefully written genealogy book, and finding it coincided with the time when I finally felt more comfortable creating, formatting and sourcing profiles on WikiTree. I ended up spending several months on this rabbit trail, entering all the Wagensellers I could from the book, not just the ones in my direct line. It was a privilege to document these distant cousins who share this common ancestor with me. 

by Katherine Chapman G2G6 Mach 4 (48.5k points)
+11 votes
Week 46 - Different Language. I am unaware of any family speaking a language other than English, other than my one branch from Norway, and so I have to highlight this one branch of my family. Oller Olsen-6251, and his wife Ingabor Errickdatter-1, I suspect spoke Norweigen, because that is where they lived. I don't know anything about them unfortunately, I would really love to have someone find them for me.
by Ben Molesworth G2G6 Pilot (147k points)
+12 votes
One of the 8 sisters of my wife's maternal grandmother, Frieda Kruse, born in 1906 in a small village in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1928. Until then she had only spoken German.

Thor Folke Swan, born in 1903 near Stockholm, Sweden, immigrated to the United States in the mid 1920s.

The only German speaking woman and the only Swedish speaking man met in New York and got married 1932 in Manhattan. From then on both had to learn English.

The son Thor Olof Swan, who grew up speaking English and just before the USA entered World War II he visited his grandparents in Schleswig-Holstein. He stayed on his grandparents' farm throughout the war and learned his mother's language - German.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (2.6m points)
+13 votes

In 2001 I had the opportunity to go to China.  My brother-in-law, Francis Kifun Chang (1946-....) is Chinese.  However, his father put him on a boat to go to America.  So, he left China as a young boy of 14.

He invited me to join him on a journey to visit his family there.  This was the first time he had gone back to China after leaving almost 55 years earlier.

Most of his family lived in small villages on mainland China.  The visit provided a prospective that few people get to see about the country and its people.  It was definitely not on the list of tourist destinations.

The language was sometimes a problem ... but Chang remember some ... and there was one nephew who actually taught English in a University there.  So, when he was with us, he could interpret.

During meals sometimes I was really glad I didn't know the language.  I didn't want to know the English word for what was on my plate.  For example, we had deep-fried bees, snakes, rabbit, pig brains, fish eye soup and more. 

I had told myself that I would eat what they ate.  It was a part of the adventure.  The only thing I refused to eat was a dog!

After returning I actually wrote a book about the venture.  The front book cover :

The back book cover:

by Bill Sims G2G6 Pilot (120k points)
"His father put him on a boat to go to America." There's a story right there. Maybe even a movie.
Yes, I understand from Chang that the Chinese government was taking boys for 14-16 away from their family and sending them to military training schools.  Chang's father was a DR so had the resources to get his son out of the country ... thought USA would be the best for him!

Then what? He was 14 years old. Did relatives meet him? A few weeks back, I posted a story about a 17-year-old who traveled by herself from Latvia to Kansas. (It was a "best answer." Here's that link.) And now parents wait at the school bus stop to drive their children the three blocks home.

he had an Aunt here who he had never met .... but she didn't know he was coming ... so didn't meet him in California ... some social service type people found him and finally united Chang with his Aunt in NM ... but then he went to a boarding school for immigrants who could not speak English ... he later became a citizen ... and got a Masters degree in Biology from Eastern Tennessee and an MBA from another school in NM ... a great guy
+11 votes

Thinking about all the family and ancestors that spoke different languages, makes me wish I had the "nack" for learning a language.  

My family tree is full of many languages.  Closest to me would be my grandparents.  My grandmother speaks Polish, English, and Italian.  She was born in a Polish speaking house, but lived in New Jersey, so naturally, she was exposed to both Polish and English.  When she married my grandfather, she learned Italian to be able to communicate with his family.

My husbands family are known as the "Germans from Russia."  So, their first language was German, then Russian, then English.  I'm told that his great-grandmother would ONLY speak German.

by Caroline Verworn G2G6 Mach 6 (65.8k points)
+7 votes

Well my family is Scottish on both sides and while they may have spoken a little Gaelic I’m going over to my husband’s Norwegian side. 

My father law [https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Hanson-5212 Lyle Hanson] was born in Wisconsin but had an accent like he just got off the boat. And spoke Norwegian fluently. 

by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Pilot (133k points)
Joelle, thank you for sharing handsome Lyle Hanson. A little off the subject, I also want to thank you for your great backgrounds. I often use two of them on profiles.
+8 votes
I honestly think that we need to give today's immigrants a bit of slack when it comes to learning English. After all, our ancestors had a hard time, too: https://allroadhaverhill.blogspot.com/2020/11/52-ancestors-week-46-different-laguage.html
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (611k points)
+9 votes

William Jean Raymond was French, it's a language I've always wanted to learn. Unfortunately I'm not good at languages indecision

by Elizabeth W G2G6 Mach 2 (21.5k points)
+8 votes
My grandfather, Nels August Wahlquist, emigrated from Sweden about 1880.  My grandmother, Ella Barbara Corneiliussen Wahlquist, was first-generation American, daughter of Norwegian ancestors,
by Charnee Smit G2G2 (2.8k points)
+10 votes
My 10th great grandfather, Chrétien DuBois,


was a Walloon who spoke Picard, a language with a grammar and root words similar to French, but with a different vocabulary, especially of mining and farming terms.

by Marion Ceruti G2G6 Pilot (241k points)
edited by Marion Ceruti

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