Before I married the man of my dreams, my surname was Stricker. In those days, researching family history usually entailed wading through rolls of microfilm at the public library, a monotonous endeavor — like looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack” — that often produced disappointing results.
Thanks to the worldwide web and resources like ancestry.com today’s search for genealogical gems has been greatly simplified. We knew my dad’s forebears came from Germany but little else beyond some vital statistics. Vital stats are crucial, but what I’ve always treasured more are the stories, the flesh and bone details that suffuse life into nondescript names on a page.
Last fall, we were sitting around the dinner table when the lively talk turned to our name’s meaning: knitter or rope maker. That’s when my sister-in-law remembered a scholarly article she’d run across years before, an article written in German (thankfully, my brother and sister-in-law are fluent!) that referred to a 13th century German poet called der Stricker.
We learned der Stricker was a weaver/knitter of tales. Der Stricker‘s fables and poetry were didactic, occasionally bawdy, and used both satire and theological insight to critique feudal society. Hmmm … the medieval version of a blogger?
Some authorities suggest der Stricker may have been a pseudonym for multiple writers (as with the writers of The Federalist Papers — Madison, Hamilton and Jay — writing under one name: Publius). Wikipedia maintains Der Stricker‘s actual identity has been “lost to history.”
Perhaps. Those are questions for scholars to debate. But, based on the Strickers I’ve known, I’m convinced the blood of Der Stricker runs through their/our veins.
In my case, I am both knitter and weaver. At an early age, I mastered the clickity-click of transforming a ball of yarn into garments and stockings, scarves and gloves. I thoroughly enjoy the creative process of stitch upon stitch.
Likewise from an early age, when classic stories from childhood nurtured my imagination and embedded an exquisite hunger for story into my soul, I have always delighted in the sound, texture and riches of language. Word upon word: the essence of story.
I have no illusions to presume the mantle of der Stricker as if it rightfully belonged to me. Still, I’m fascinated that my drive (compulsion?) to write — to weave words into story — isn’t irrational. In fact, my love for faeries and magical swords and fairy-tale creatures has a legitimate 13th century root!
I’m reminded of a beautiful scene in the movie Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell, and his sister are trekking through the Scottish countryside when Eric tells her: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
As with Liddell, I believe God made me for a purpose. Unlike Liddell, God never made me fast.
But if I may turn Liddell’s statement ever so slightly: when I write, I feel His pleasure. I’ve always known to thank God for this gift of His grace. And now a tip of the hat to Der Stricker, my forebear (whether by blood, calling or both).
5 thoughts on “Needles and Pens”
Great story! Like you, I have done hours of genealogical research on my family, and I agree, ancestry.com is a huge help. Also, like you, I’m much more interested in constructing the stories of those names I find in my family tree. It’s often a time-consuming endeavor, but every time I uncover some nugget of new information, it makes all the hours of searching worth it. I’m finishing a memoir at the moment, and one of the things I chose to do was weave in stories of my ancestors and examine them within the frame of my own life, and the life of my closer relatives, looking for traits that pass themselves down through the generations – it’s fascinating to learn about ancestors. Congrats on your unique find!
Thanks for writing. It appears we are kindred spirits. Like you, I find all the research to be so-o-o-o rewarding when (at last) I unearth a special nugget to provide details about someone I’ve grown to love — yet have never met in the flesh! And often, I learn more about myself. Good luck on the completion of your memoir!
Very cool information you dug up. I am OBSESSED with ancestry.com. How excited are you that the 1940s census records are going to be available soon??