Genealogy: the long road home

One never knows where the genealogical “journey” may take you.

That is one reason I like the graphic that tops our “Home” page on this blog. It appeals to me for several reasons.

The row of trees suggests “the long road home.”

Genealogy is a journey – one of discovery about your origins. Ultimately, though, it is a journey of self-discovery – because the more you know about where you came from, the more you learn about yourself.

I also like this image because the road takes some twists and turns at the end of those rows of trees. It reminds me that anyone embarking on a genealogical journey must be prepared to accept whatever they may find along the way.

Some people have a hard time with that.

Don’t be surprised if, when you start asking questions about your family, you are met with some resistance or even downright hostility.


Genealogists uncover truths that some family members may prefer to leave buried and/or forgotten. It wasn’t an accident that I selected a quote from George Bernard Shaw as the tagline for this blog: “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”

You will find out some things you (or someone else) may find unsettling. Or at the very least, surprising. You just never know where the genealogy road will take you.

One example from my own family: through the course of my research about my father’s side of the family, I learned that some of my ancestors were slave-owners. Although I knew they had originated in the South, I never suspected they had owned slaves.

When I found a copy of a will that listed several slaves as part of an ancestor’s estate, I was pretty, well…shocked.

It was just so unexpected. Did it make me feel rather strange? Yes, it did. It was an ugly truth and one which I wish wasn’t true. But it is a part of our history, albeit one I am not proud of, obviously.

But I don’t regret uncovering the truth – even if it isn’t pretty to look at.

And the unexpected “finds” aren’t always shocking or negative. Sometimes you are downright amazed, amused or even delighted. That’s part of the fun – you just never know what you’ll find.

It’s those interesting little “tidbits” of historical significance that I find fascinating. One such “tidbit” I gleaned from a Wise cousin’s website.

Our immigrant ancestor, Franz Adam KNAPP, and his wife, Eva Elizabeth JOST, had a son named John Adam KNAPP.

Yes, there are a LOT of John Knapps in this family. Enough to make a genealogist pull their hair out…

Anyway, this John Adam KNAPP was born 24 Oct 1815 in Wald-Erlenbach, Hesse, Germany. He married Agnes TRARES, daughter of Matthias TRARES and Elizabeth HELMLING sometime before 1842. The couple had eight children.

Their daughter, Elizabeth KNAPP, born 27 Oct 1859 in Randolph Twp., Portage County, Ohio, married a man named Otto HUNDT on 29 Feb 1876 in Randolph, Ohio.

Otto was a cobbler (shoemaker) by trade. Lots of cobblers in this family, too. In fact, Elizabeth’s brother, Peter, apprenticed with Otto and learned the trade from his brother-in-law. But that’s another story…

Otto HUNDT was born 9 Sep 1851 in Grafenhausen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. His parents were Anton HUND and Monika RUSKA. Notice that in America, HUND became HUNDT.

It is through Otto’s mother’s side of the family that I learned about an interesting historical tidbit.

First, let me add a disclaimer: I have not confirmed the following information through my own independent research, so that being said, if anyone else wants to tackle that job, go for it! I would be happy to publish the results of your research here.

But, according to a Wise cousin’s website:

“The name was originally Hund meaning ‘dog.’ Otto immigrated to America in 1870 and landed in Baltimore. His mother’s family, the Ruska’s have an interesting history.

Otto’s second cousin, Julius RUSKA, was a prominent professor and Director of the Institutes of Medicine and Science in Berlin and Heidelberg. He had two sons, Ernst and Helmut who were also prominent German physicists.

Ernst was the inventor of the electron microscope and won the Nobel Prize in Physics for West Germany in 1986. Their father, Julius, had commissioned a thorough research of the Ruska family which is contained in a 16-page report in German and was sent to me (David W. Rhodes) from the genealogical archives in Grafenhausen.

The first recorded Ruska, Nicholas, was born out of wedlock, the son of a prominent Italian Swiss portrait painter of the 18th century, Francesco Carlo Rusca, and a woman of noble birth, Maria Theresia Agatha SCHMIDT.

Her father, Josef Ignaz SCHMIDT was a prominent official in the area and her grandfather had been inducted into the nobility by the Hapsburg Emperor in Vienna. The matter was hushed up so no mention of the child’s parents is given in the baptismal or official records. The story had to be pieced together from other sources.”

Now, I bet none of you ever suspected that the Knapps had a connection to the inventor of the electron microscope, now did you? Not to mention connections to an Italian/Swiss artist and a Hapsburg Emperor in Vienna…

Isn’t genealogy great?


You can check out the Wise cousin’s website yourself by clicking this link. You can also see a photo of and read more about Ernst Ruska, the invention of the electron microscope and his winning the Nobel Prize for Physics.

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