Did Some Dude on a Boat Decide Your Fate?

4067353996_4cea6642ee_zI had a dude on a boat. His name was Johann Jacob Scheiber.

Jacob and his family arrived in New York on 6 July 1847. On 22 August 1847, he was buying land in Washington County, Wisconsin (actually Wisconsin Territory; statehood came the following year). That’s a fairly short interval, which tells me that Jacob either knew where he wanted to go when he arrived in New York, or figured it out pretty quickly afterward.

He chose well, too. Washington County was a good place to raise a German family, and he and his wife ended up staying until they died in the 1880s. Apparently that one big move was enough for them.

Jacob’s three sons scattered. The youngest, Valentine, moved to Chicago. The middle son, Frederick, moved to Milwaukee. The oldest, Frank, moved all over the place. He’s the one I’m descended from, and I’ve moved all over the place too. Many of Frank’s descendants inherited his wanderlust. We call it itchy feet.

Many of the Wisconsin families I’ve researched, though, have no such gene. Their dudes on boats settled in Wisconsin about the same time Jacob did…but their descendents stayed. And stayed. And stayed. I don’t think this is unique to Wisconsin; I know New Englanders whose families have lived in the same area for 300 years.

This blows my mind. I can’t wrap my brain around it. I’m from a family of people who pick a place off the map and then move there, sight unseen. I’ve done that myself, repeatedly. In fact, I had no idea I had any roots in Wisconsin when I moved here. It was pure coincidence.

So I’m curious. Do you live in the same place your ancestors did? Is it because you think it’s the best place for you, or because you’re just blooming where you’re planted? Why do you live where you live?

Photo by Celso Flores

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