Frequently, I need to take a break from “the paranormal.” I say that because I actually consider myself to be a full-time researcher. I spend more than the usual 40 hours a week writing about, experimenting with, and recording for EVP. It may not provide a health plan or disability insurance, and I can’t exactly claim unemployment when the spirits aren’t talkative, but there are other benefits, I think. One of those is the blessing of being able to take a vacation from “work” whenever I find it necessary. Imagine that! Someone who gets sick and tired of listening to disembodied voices wax poetic and commentate on life… “Whatever.”
So, for this brief vacation from craft, I decided to embark upon a journey I’ve been dying to begin for many years now – discovering my ancestry. I spent the first 3 days of this week tracking down the Keller portion of the family tree. I’d reached a dead-end for my mother’s side of things as well as for the families of both wives, but I was certain that exploring the Keller branch would be gratifying. As many of you know, I searched for my father through EVP for quite some time, so it only seems natural to continue the search within his background – that which made him who he was.
And what a background it is. I went all the way back to the first Keller to arrive in America – some time around 1735. I found several high profile Lutheran pastors, a Revolutionary War soldier, a Union soldier who died at Gettysburg, one of the founders of Muhlenberg College, a couple of professors, and an author. And those were just the famous people; there were a lot of seriously rich Keller’s in Pennsylvania as well.
But I made a mistake. I turned right at Andrew when I should have hung a Leroy at George. Somewhere along the way, I adopted Andrew Keller as my great grandfather. Poor fellow is still getting the raw end of things 140 years later. But this error was made all the more painful by discovering that Johann Keller arrived from Germany in 1735 – not Holland. I should have known better. Family talk has always been that we were Dutch. I was so unashamedly enthralled with Johann’s brood, that I just assumed the legend was wrong. I fell into a Keller-induced-funk. I wanted to just chuck the whole stupid venture. I even considered living in denial. Who would know, right? The line of Andrew Keller was so ample – no one would even notice I was crashing the party. But, I couldn’t sleep. I should have been recording for EVP, but noooo. I started over – this time with George – Andrew and all his relatives would be free from the pretender.
Now, I realize that these names have already sent you spinning for the back button, but stay with me just a little longer, because it’s not bad news. My real family may not have been wealthy and nationally famous, but it turns out they were just as wonderful. We still have a Revolutionary War soldier, except this one was given some land for being brave. Not too shabby. He served for the full duration of the War, so I guess he earned that land. And we still have a Union soldier who died at Gettysburg. Imagine the coincidence! One of my relatives was even named Ulysses Simpson Grant Keller – USG, for short. He turned out to be quite the teacher and commanded great respect in his community.
My branch of the family also has quite a few preachers, and except for their lack of national prominence, I am sure they were bastions of the community – Reformed Church variety. And then there is Jacob John, who came to America in 1753. From Holland, actually – who’d-a-thunk the legend was true. In fact, I can trace the Keller’s back to 1605, so far.
Still bored? Well, then I better tie this in to EVP somehow. Now wait! I’m not gonna claim that I’ve recorded the voices of Johann and Jacob John. Haven’t heard a word from USG or Albertus; Elizabeth Lizzie, Lucy Ann, or Katie McCoy. Yes, I said McCoy – the Irish branch of this menagerie. None of these ancestors have ever introduced themselves to my recorder, to my knowledge, but it could happen, right? What could possibly prevent my seventh great grandfather from popping in once in awhile to pontificate about the old days – the “really” old days? Not a thing. It could have already happened. Who am I to say it hasn’t?
I found a photo of an old painting of one of my ancient aunts – someone from 1791, posing in her bonnet and dire black, buttoned up dress. What a spectacular shock it was; one of those truly amazing moments that grab your ankles and consume your soul. It was something I cannot find words to express, because scowling back at me from that painting was the face of my dad. If he had worn bonnets, that is exactly as he would have appeared. She had the same nose and deep-set eyes; the same straight mouth and slightly square jaw; the same intelligence peeking out from within, and the same look of determination I esteemed all those years.
I finally found him! Right there in the face of Anna Cecilia!
I can’t wait to see him one day and let him know how cute he looks in a bonnet. Maybe I’ll get him and Anna Cecilia side-by-side for comparison, and laugh for a century or two. Of course, that doesn’t do me much good now, does it? Still, this is what vacations are for, I guess. We have to take a moment away from our quests in life and spend a little time with the old folks – even when they won’t talk back.