By Peter Biggins
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I have become a genealogyaholic. I spend 20 plus hours a week on it. PetersPioneers contains 36 family histories and 25 stories focusing on various aspects of these histories and genealogical research. There is no end in sight.
After 40 years as a workaholic, I had no idea what to expect. I was not concerned. I thought I would just pretend it was a weekend. And after that I would pretend I was on vacation. That was the extent of my planning when I retired from my job as a retirement and health benefit consultant at Hewitt Associates in September 2002.
Fortunately, after a few days, I got the idea that one thing I could do was look into my genealogy. My uncle Bill Drueke had already provided us with a family tree on my mother's side, so I began looking at my Biggins ancestors. All I had to go on were some vague memories and a brief family tree in our 1950s Bible.
Being familiar with computers and the Internet from the job I had just left, I rapidly learned that all sorts of information was available free on the Internet from home or at public libraries: census pages, city directories, obituaries, ship manifests, family trees, etc. (See Links for resources available on the Internet.) I talked to my brothers and sisters and called my Biggins cousins, most of whom I had not talked to in 30 years.
I remembered my father talking about Kanes and Minogues and thought they might be related. After a cold call to a survivor listed in a Minogue obituary I found online, I discovered that they were my third cousins. The timing was good. In July 2004, Marilyn and I attended the first reunion of the Kane and Minogue families in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Realizing that the 50-page report I did in 2003 was already out of date and wanting to extend my research to my Drueke ancestors and to my wife Marilyn's Carroll and Kenny ancestors, I decided a Web site was the only way to go. In Fall 2004, I took a course in Web site development at nearby Norwalk Community College. PetersPioneers started with that course. In February 2005, the site was made available on a CD. In August 2005, it was made available on the Internet with advertising at http://peterspioneers.tripod.com. In January 2006, advertising was eliminated, and the address was changed to http://www.peterspioneers.com. I subsequently became Webmaster for other sites: my brother-in-law Johnny Varro in December 2005, St. Thomas More Church in 2007, and the Middlesex Genealogical Society in 2009.
The name PetersPioneers was adopted because of something my father used to say when we were growing up in Wilmette and had something arduous to do. He would say "remember the pioneers." (Then he would remind us that as a boy he sold newspapers on the corner in the rain.)
Our son told me I needed pictures. I agreed but was not hopeful of coming up with much. One of the biggest surprises was that there were actually a lot of pictures available out there. You just had to ask. I now have several hundred pictures.
In Spring 2006, I added a page to PetersPioneers on Biggins/Beggan Irish Roots, designed to help myself and others find Biggins ancestors in Ireland. When Marilyn went to Napa Valley with her friends Nancy Kurfess Abrams and Gail Chelius, I took my first trip to Ireland--a one-week Trip to Ballinrobe in County Mayo. I made my initial contact with my Foy relatives from Derreennascooba.
In Summer 2006, Marilyn and I visited my Drueke cousins in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had a mini-reunion. We then took the ferry across Lake Michigan to look for Marilyn's Flannery cousins in southwest Wisconsin. We asked the first farmer we saw if he knew any Flannerys. He said "I'm a Flannery." We also attended the third annual Kane/Minogue reunion in Arlington Heights, Illinois, including a mini-reunion with Biggins cousins. Near the end of our trip, my wife Marilyn discovered the Foy mural "Advent of the Pioneers, 1851" while browsing at a gift shop in the Chicago Cultural Center in the old Chicago Public Library on Michigan Avenue.
The year 2007 was a banner year. I made two once-in-a-lifetime discoveries in Europe. In Spring 2007, Marilyn and I took a trip to Germany. As part of that trip, we visited many small towns where my ancestors were from. Included was a trip to Schönholthausen and Ostentrop, where we met with Pastor Franz Rinschen of Maria Himmelfahrt Church, who had written a history of a house in Ostentrop where my great great great grandparents, Johann and Elisabeth Bitter Drüecke, lived.
In March 2008, I mentioned to a friend who teaches economics at Fordham University, Fred Campano, that I had a third cousin, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, who was also a director of the Center on Religion and Culture there. She and her cousins had found me by Googling their name on the Internet. A week later, Fred invited me to a Fordham function where Peggy was speaking, and I was able to meet her in person.
In July 2008, my genealogical research started to go off in a new direction. I had my DNA tested through Family Tree DNA. They test DNA from Y chromosomes, which only males have. For me, this means tracking my Biggins ancestry. In my case, results far exceeded expectations. I found myself fairly closely related with others named Biggins, Beggan, and Beaghen from County Monaghan. But I also found myself pretty closely related to people named Maguire, McMahon, McKenna, McDonald, and Carroll who are descended from three brothers who lived in 4th century Ireland. See DNA of the Three Collas.
In June 2010, we went to Chicago and visited with my godson, Stephen Scallan and his family. We also went to my 50th college reunion at Loyola and visited Marilyn's cousin Carroll in St. Charles. We attended a reunion in Argyle, Wisconsin, of Marilyn's distant Flannery cousins, whom she had contacted for the first time four years earlier.
In October 2010, I made a presentation at a meeting of the Middlesex Genealogical Society on "How to Test Your DNA and Why."
In February 2011, Marilyn's second cousin Michael Patrick Carroll had his DNA tested, showing that Marilyn's Carrolls are descended from the Carroll's of Ossory rather than the the Ely Carrolls from whom Charles Carroll of Carrollton is descended (see Breasssal Breac DNA).
In November 2011, I made a presentation at a meeting of the Family Tree DNA Genetic Genealogy Conference in Houston on the "Clan Colla 425 Null Project."
In February 2012, Peter's cousin Paul Drueke had his DNA tested, showing that their Drueke ancestors, who come from a part of Old Saxony called Westphalia, match up with people with Saxon roots from England (see CTS10893 Saxon DNA).
Supporters. One of the best things about genealogy is the opportunity to reconnect with cousins and meet distant cousins. Valuable input for PetersPioneers has been provided by many family members, including Brendan Peter Biggins, Cathi Biggins, Daniel Philip Biggins, Edward Peter Biggins, James Alfred Biggins, Lawrence Biggins, Rosemary Biggins, Marilyn Carroll Biggins, Sean Biggins, William Alfred Biggins, Mary Lou Kritter Bohen, Kathleen Biggins Brady, Norah Kerrigan Brady, Joan Carlin, Virginia Biggins Carlin, Maureen Lyons Carroll, Mark Conerty, Edna Hermansen Coverdale, John Coverdale, Catherine "Nan" Holland Crowther, Margaret McCarthy Czervienke, Lars Dalstrom, Mary Jo Dammen, Barbara Schaefer Dhein, William Donahue, Elizabeth Drueke, Paul Drueke, Richard Drueke, William F. Drueke III, Brandon Flannery, Marilyn Flannery, Carroll Witherell Fultz, Lynn Carroll Funk, James Griffin, Mary Kay Drueke Parks Groening, John Hernandez, Mary Biggins Hurley, Gail Kniewel Johnson, Julianne Pierce Joyce, James Kane, John Kane, Sarah Biggins Kelzenberg, Charles Kerrigan, Margaret Kelly Kerrigan, Sheila Carroll Kippner, Judy Knape, Mariana Kopacz, Gerry Lee, Margaret Minogue McCarthy, Daniel Minogue, Patricia Rinker Minogue, Julie O'Brien, Margaret O'Brien, Leslie A. Pahl, Jeff Qualmann, Marge Fallon Qualmann, Lawrence Robinson, Ellen O'Brien Ronan, Shane Logie Rood, Elizabeth Biggins Schaab, Nancy Biggins Schleser, David Schmidt, Patricia Donahue Schwake, Brother Thomas Smith, O.F.M., Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Lesley Biggins Uhnavy, Toni Wurzburg Viertel, Frederick Vogt, Sister Patricia Warbritton, Beth Watson, Judy Watson, Audrey Flannery Wilhelmson, Emily Biggins Williams, John David Williams.
Valuable input also has been received from people who are unrelated--just plain nice: Mary Alexander, Geralyn Wood Barry, Allen Beagan, Gerhard and Betty Becker, Gerard Beggan, Brian Biggins, John Biggins, John Patrick Biggins, Kathleen Biggins, Michael Biggins, Thomas J. Biggins, Patrick Biggins, Martha Bowes, Coni Calligaro, Peter Carroll, Don Cavett, Pat Deese, Anne Biggins Duffy, Father Frank Fahy, Colleen D. Flannery, Marilyn Hamill, Patrick Hogan, Kathy Biggins Keane, Aidan Kelly, Kathy Kendrick, John Patrick Little, Thomas Maguire, Ann Mahon, Eamon Martin, John McCabe, Claire McConville, Concepta McGovern, Josiah McGuire, Patrick McMahon, Daniela Moneta, Father Dennis Morrow, Maureen Netherland, Hugh and Loretta O'Malley, Marie Whitla O'Reilly, Helen Sullivan Peters, Pastor Franz Rinschen, Martin Ryan, Monsignor Thomas Shannon, Jonathan Smyth, Otto Spengler, Ellen Biggins Sullivan.
Human beings . . . look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then, we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well: and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would not look like a lot of separate things dotted about. It would look like one single growing thing--rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear connected with every other. And not only that. Individuals are not really separate from God any more than from one another. Every man, woman, and child all over the world is feeling and breathing at this moment only because God, so to speak, is 'keeping him going'. - C.S. Lewis 1898-1963, Mere Christianity, Chapter 27
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