‘Pfalz’ start | Family tree, formerly known as ‘Ehrenhardt,’ explored by Dale Jr.
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s interest in racing history is well-documented, as anyone who ever watched his old “Back in the Day” TV show can attest.
His interest in Earnhardt family history is just coming to light. It came out last week, during Earnhardt’s session with the media at Kansas Speedway, when he was asked about the visit to the White House by last year’s Chase participants.
“I’d been there before, and it was pretty much the same tour, but every time you go through it I think you find something interesting that you missed the time before,” he said. “I didn’t really appreciate how old some of the artwork and stuff is in that house until I did some work on my family tree these last six months.
“I’ve started to understand what 200 years really means or what 150 years truly means in the grand scope of things.”
He said he’s spent a good bit of time lately researching his family tree and truly enjoyed it.
“We don’t have time today to talk about how much fun I’ve had with working on my family tree,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to find someone in the field of genealogy that helped me out, and I’m trying to put together some kind of a well-organized document to sort of be able to show to family members and what have you, and just keep so Kelley’s [Earnhardt’s sister] kids, and if I have any one day, they won’t have to do the work.”
He said that before, he never thought about his ancestors who came before his grandfather, the legendary short-track and NASCAR racer Ralph Earnhardt.
“Ralph’s father, I didn’t know who he was and never really cared who he was, never thought about who he was, or what his family would be like,” Earnhardt said. “Never thought past Ralph all these years, and I started getting into his father and Ralph’s grandfather and I found their burial plots, and so me and my grandmother Martha and my sister and my mom Brenda and my girlfriend rode up there one day, just in Kannapolis or Concord, and visited their burial plots and a lot of relatives that were born in like 1809 and 1822 and stuff like that.”
He said his cemetery trip was a moving experience.
“It’s really cool to stand there over somebody that is responsible for you being there. That was pretty neat.”
A check of the common genealogy sites on the Internet indicates that the Earnhardt family has been in North Carolina since before 1800. Census records indicate they were mostly farmers and cotton mill workers. They appear to have come to North Carolina from Pennsylvania and were originally from the old German region of Pfalz, where the name was spelled “Ehrenhardt.”
“I had people tell me to work on my family tree before, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Earnhardt said. “Once I got into it and started realizing the importance of it, it’s been a lot of fun.”