Dear Ms. Smolenyak,
I just read the CNN article entitled, “Her name is on a pub, a boat and an AI platform. But what happened to the Irish teen who arrived at Ellis Island in 1892?” I found it quite interesting, particularly in regard to the work you did to answer that question. From there, I found your website, and am enjoying it quite a bit, too.
I was hoping you could give me some advice/perspective/insights regarding my unique situation.
My name is Barbara Abelhauser, and there’s a very good chance that by the end of this century, no more Abelhausers will exist. I should be put on some sort of an endangered families list. It makes me sad. And I am at a loss as to what to do to help preserve the legacy.
Currently, there are only 8 other Abelhausers left on the planet. Here is their status:
- I know my paternal aunt and uncle. They’re the only other American ones, and they both have dementia. They have never met any of the others.
- I have met one distant cousin briefly, but have since lost touch. He was very ill when last we spoke. I met his three children once when they were small, but I’m sure they don’t remember me. They are all in Canada.
- That cousin’s sister resides in Greece, and I’ve tried to get in touch with her but have had no luck.
- There’s another distant cousin in France who has authored a book or two (as I have), but I don’t speak French.
- And yet another distant cousin in France who came to the last name by marriage, and her husband recently died. (I wish I had had the time and resources to meet him. Now I deeply regret not having done so.) The two Abelhausers left in France don’t know each other. (I am Facebook friends with this one, but we’ve never met or spoken. She speaks French. Thank goodness for Google translate!)
- All of these Abelhausers are quite old. The only two who are younger than me, (and I am 58) are the two children I briefly met. They are now adults. I’ve tried to get in touch with the young man, as he is the only male Abelhauser of childbearing age, and I’m not sure he realizes that he’s the last Abelhauser hope. But I have not been successful in tracking him down. I have no idea if he intends to have children.
The family name came from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, which throughout history has sometimes been part of Germany. And I’ve found two other families with the last name Abelshauser and Abeltshauser (as if 10 letters weren’t enough!), in Germany. I corresponded with one of them briefly, decades ago, and was told their ancient ancestors were stone masons. Well, mine were bricklayers. That is quite a bit of coincidence. But I have been unable to genealogically link us in any way.
Have I tried hard enough? Probably not. I was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and that explains a lot about my lack of follow-through. I’m easily overwhelmed.
Please understand, I’m not concerned about bloodlines or anything like that. We’re all related within 100 generations, aren’t we? No, it’s more about the name. I would dearly love to give it some sort of immortality before our flame flickers out for good.
Not that I’m looking for fame, although I write a blog and have self-published a book. I just want people, someday a hundred years from now, to stumble across the name somewhere and think, “Huh, that’s an interesting last name. I wonder what they were like?”
I have done a few modest things toward that end.
- I paid to have The Abelhauser Family added to the wall on Ellis Island, as the American branch did arrive through there.
- I have my self-published book, which is a collection of my blog posts related to gratitude, but it’s not going to ever make a best seller list.
- I have put part of our family info on the Ancestry.com website. (My lack of follow through is my worst enemy, though. Even the book would never have come out without a lot of help.)
- I have blogged about the family name a time or two.
- When I married for the first time a few years ago, I kept my last name.
I realize that there’s no reason anyone else on earth should care about the extinction of the Abelhausers, and therein lies the heartbreak for me. I’m sure everyone wants to leave a mark on this world. For me it’s doubly important because I fear that 70 years from now, the name will disappear and no one will know that any of us were ever here. But we were here, once upon a time.
It’s all so impermanent, isn’t it? When I hear of some animal going extinct, I think about how lonely the last one must have been. What must it have felt like to have your mating call go unanswered? If other animals were capable of seeing the big picture, how sad the last of each species would be to know that once they are gone, that’s it.
I was hoping you might have some creative ideas for me in terms of getting the Abelhauser name out in the world for future generations to see in places other than cemeteries.
Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have. And have you ever come across any other endangered family names? How common is this?
One of a dying breed, desperate to keep the candle burning.
If Ms Smolenyak responds, I’ll update this post, dear reader!
I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5