Looking Through Grandma’s Window!

Researching history is all well and good… but it makes it a lot more interesting when you know how you, personally, fit into that story.

You’ve probably seen all those ads for Ancestry.ca, which costs about $30 a month. As a Mennonite, you can save a LOT of money in ancestry research. Grandma’s Window stands for Genealogical Registry And Database of Mennonite Ancestry… and it costs just $20 for two years! How Menno!

So naturally, Andrew and I have subscribed. It’s a very helpful site if you want to have any hope at all of winning the Mennonite Game. You know, tracing your family history back to a shared ancestor with whomever you’re talking with. Now all you have to do is plug a few names in, and away you go. The website literally has a feature that lets you take any two people and it shows you how closely you’re related. Great for dating couples!

Like most other Mennonites here on the East Reserve, I’m descended from one of the original settlers: Johann Koop, who came here from Molotschna, South Russia. According to Grandma’s Window, there were 5 Johann Koops before there was my great-grandfather John Koop. Honestly, it’s no wonder I’ve been so confused in the past trying to figure out which Koops were which. And at some point I think we all just gave up or something because if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “Oh, those aren’t our Koops”, I’d be a wealthy woman by now! I find myself repeating those words without really knowing if they’re true. Every time I plug any Manitoba Mennonite’s name into Grandma’s Window, it reveals that we’re related anywhere from 4 to 8 different ways. I’ve only tried a handful of names thus far, but by now I have the impression that we’re all just really super-related. (Isn’t there a joke about that?)

The records often don’t go back much further than 1700’s in Prussia… but one ancestor of mine can be traced back to Ghent, Belgium: Francis Thijssen, born 1550. He’s my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. His daughter-in-law was Apollonia Ridley. She’s my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother… and I think her name is quite kick-ass. It doesn’t sound Menno at all. I don’t know anything about these people. I hope to learn though.