“Many Oaks From An Acorn Grew” is the partial title of an amazing gift I received in the mail recently — a family history book on my Kaiser and Zalud ancestors compiled by my first cousin twice-removed, Naomi Zalud, and sent to me by my second cousin, Shirley.
Zalud, it turns out, means “acorn” in Czech.
My father’s father’s mother was Frances “Fanny” Zalud. Her father was Joseph Zalud and her mother was Barbara Kaiser. Joseph and Barbara were both from small towns in Bohemia (near what is now Prague, Czechoslovakia) and married shortly after they both immigrated to the United States in 1877.
The genealogy book that Naomi so lovingly compiled in the 1970s and ’80s extends what I knew about my great-great-grandparents Joseph and Barbara back many, many generations, to my earliest known Zalud ancestor, Benes Zalud, born sometime before 1600, and his son, Jan Zalud, born in 1625. I spent much of yesterday entering names, dates and details of these Kaiser and Zalud ancestors into my Reunion genealogy software, but I can’t begin to re-create the thoroughness of Naomi’s work. And she did it all without the Internet! She tracked down information the old-fashioned way — with correspondence, interviews and several trips to Czechoslovakia. I am so grateful for her work, and the work of all the genealogists who came before me.
While entering data yesterday, I began to feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of ancestors I’ve become aware of. I now have 701 relatives entered in my software, including 95 direct ancestors. (Pretty amazing, considering when I started doing genealogy research in 1999, I only knew the names of about eight.) I’m not sure why this feels so overwhelming. Maybe it’s the crushing sense of how finite our lives are or the burden of trying to live a life that honors my ancestors. Maybe it’s just the tedium of getting all these names and dates and details organized and entered into the computer, then shared with others.
Anyway, what really interests me are the stories. Genealogy is just names, dates and places, but family history is the stories — the big events, like war or crossing an ocean, and the little ones, like the fact that my great-great-grandmother Barbara Kaiser Zalud grew her own poppy seed for baking breads and rolls.