finding your roots

American Family

William March 28, 2012

So it’s a story heard before. Loss of a father to a young family. Mother takes care of kids by herself. So we never knew much of my father other than he married late in life and to a young woman 30 years his junior. My older sister knew some stories that she remember as we got older. But by that time they became urban legend more than truth. Some stories that he was a hobo in The Depression. Traveled the country and then came back to New Jersey to settled down. And also a story that he was married before and had some kids.

So years later as a married man myself with kids I happen across Facebook sign up. Months pass. One day I come across a group of people with similar spelled names Van Etten Van Atta etc. So I put out a posting looking for long lost missing half-sister’s one of the stories we also heard. Within a month a response from across the country from what turns out to be my half-nephew who lives in Washington state. Much to my surprise his father, my half-brother, is still alive. He having served in WWII later married and started his own family and migrated to the west coast for a job opportunity.

American Family

Two Brothers From Different Mothers

So as it turns out my father had three kids with his first wife. Irene William and James. I traveled and met William in August of 2010. It was quite the event for me him and his family out there. He had just seen two of his grandchildren get married the weeks before I arrived and as his son James said I was the icing on the cake.

Only two months later he had passed away. So you would think this is where the story ends, but no there’s more. Because not only did I find out about my father and his other family, but I soon find out about the history of the Van Natta family in this country. The name has its roots in the early Dutch settlers. The original name being that of Van Etten. And how the named changed on different lines of the family tree. And then to find that there’s prominent family members that were politicians in the state of New Jersey. Like a Jacob Van Atta who was the state Attorney General back the mid 1800′s and his nephew who was the Governor of the state as well. So there’s more stories like this as well as the spooky finds along the way as I find out about my father and the long family tree.

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  • Eleanor Van Natta

    March 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    I am the widow of James Buchanan Van Natta, mother of Vivian, Virginia, Frank and Elle. I know Jim would have enjoyed meeting you, Bill and I’m sorry that didn’t happen. We can all thank Jon for his genealogy work which he has been so kind to share.

  • William Van Natta

    March 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Yes Jon’s mother was the first to investigate the Van Natta family tree years before the fad that it is now!

  • Renee D

    March 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Wow! Awesome story. I have recently found a similar story with my grandfather. His father was much older than his mother and he had a first wife and children (he was widowed). We never knew about this first family. All of my grandfathers brothers and sisters from both marriages are now deceased (including my grandfather) but I was recently able to find grandchildren of one of my grandfathers half brothers. They had never met anyone from their grandfathers side of the family so this will be the first time for them.

  • April 5, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Been working on my Family for 20 some years.

  • William Van Natta

    April 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    The odd thing is that my half brothers kids are the same ages as the second family my father had.

  • May 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Over 20 years of research and enjoying all the time spent in documenting the family tree.

    Walter Marquart of Sarasota, Florida

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About the Series

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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