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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Game of "Telephone"

When I was a kid, we'd gather a group of people together at a kids party and play the game called "telephone".  The players sat in a circle and whispered a short, detailed story to their immediate neighbor and passed it on.  The short, detailed story would be passed along person by person in the circle until it got back around to the first person that started the story.  The success of this game was that the final message bear little to no resemblance to the original message.   There really was no particular "winner" of the game but the entertainment value was worth it.

The cumulative effect of mistakes and misunderstandings along the communication lines of person to person could completely change the story.  In some cases, the deliberate change of the story was part of the game although this would be considered cheating by most.

So why do I bring this up now?  Well many family stories, plus facts and information, are handed down by families through the years.  Imagine how they can be misconstrued along the way.  I will say that most of the time, families don't intentionally misconstrue information unless they are trying to paint a rosier picture than what really occurred.  

Then there's those "tall tales" as we know.  Not to get overly religious here but the Old Testament of the Bible is a good example of a great story book but, honestly (and I learned this at Catholic school), there are some definite "tall tales" in there.   The lesson learned is what is important in that great book.  For our own family history, we want the lesson to be a historical truth.

At this point, I will cut to the chase.  I have come across lots of historical truths in my quest for my family tree.   I have found a few "tall tales" but many appear to be historical truths once investigated.  That leads me to my latest find.  My Granddad, Francis "Frank" Robert McGuire (1908-1993), had always indicated that there was a Dutchman from New Orleans, Louisiana, somewhere back on the "Roman" side of our family.  He did not have specifics but this is what he remembered being told.  I will admit that his information has been "right on" in my recent discoveries.  Most of his information was just a shred of information but led me down the path of successful discovery.  My regret was that I did not ask him more when he was alive.

Now, I have spent time looking for my "Roman's" (could be Romaine, Rohmann, Rohman, Romain, etc.).  I've looked in New Orleans and New York City.  I think that I found them at 240 Delancy Street, NYC circa 1870-1880.  I also think that later they may have been in Brooklyn or just went to St. Louis Catholic Church there.   I'm not exactly sure.  My great grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Romaine McGuire.  Her married name was McGuire, of course.  Her parents were Joseph Romaine ("Roman") and Frances Lakervine (or was it Luchwurm, Lendevorson, or Lindeaurm).   Frances my have been Francesca too.  Your guess is as good as mine on her last name.  Was she Dutch?

I don't know if Joseph Romaine or Francis Lakervine were Dutch or related to a Dutchman from New Orleans.  What I am starting to discover though in my searches on Ancestry.com is Deutschland.  That is Germany in the German language.  I have found it time and time again on U.S. Census.  Does this location really refer to those from Germany or were they Dutch from Holland.  I don't know but it certainly begs the questions that I have especially when it pops up on my potential ancestors' information.

So am I as lost as ever?  Were my relatives Dutch or from Deutschland?  Was it written down wrong on U.S. Census?  I seek the truth here and add one more thought.  

My thought is about prejudice and segregation in New York City when my grandparents were young and, I'm sure, before then.  My father grew up in Franklin Square, New York.  If you have ever been there, it's a small town/location just off the Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County, on Long Island.  Like the neighboring Levittown, NY, it is "wall-to-wall" houses.  Levittown was the "original" suburbia type community.  Franklin Square is not much different.

While you can say this is suburbia and a mixture of people who originated in "The City", there was still prejudice to an extent.  My grandparents would admittedly say that they were the only Irish family living on a street with a bunch of Germans.  They felt rather separate from their German neighbors and maybe that was because of their own prejudice.  That does sound bad as I write it down but was a sign of the times (1930-40s) and their upbringing.

Knowing that my Irish family differeniated themselves so strongly from the German families, makes me wonder if someone in the family was trying to cover up some true family roots.  I am just throwing this out here as a possibility and one of the "secrets" that my family took to their graves.  I really don't know the truth but so want to find out.

As you can imagine, this leads me to a comparison to the game "telephone".  How much was the information changed from person-to-person and was it deliberately "tweaked" to paint a rosier picture?  Today, I must admit that acceptance of diversity is important, commonplace in my life, and should be everywhere in the U.S. and the world.

Will I find the historical truths about my Romaine's?  I hope so but for now I've written down the "telephone" person by person version of my family history.

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