Blog, genealogy

Excavating My Roots – Lost Genealogy

I have written about my genealogy research here many times before. It is an endless search for those who came before to help understand who we are today. There is an almost mystical connection to places that seem to be crafted in our DNA. Filling in the gaps is well suited for problem-solvers and it does not take much to reignite the flames if the search has stalled

Two weeks ago, Ancestry updated their ethnicity estimates. This is done as more and more people have their DNA tested and they can better correlate how our DNA compares to other people globally. It is a bit of hocus-pocus at best since there is, of course, no way to test the DNA of people long deceased.

The biggest change in this update for me was the more granular breakdown of England and Northwest Europe. My old results were:

Ethnicity estimates

My new results show the more definitive breakdown:

I am very aware of my English roots. They are very well documented on one side of the family. I am also somewhat aware of my Irish roots, but since it appears my Irish ancestors (two brothers) came to this country in 1774 and settled in York county, PA, there are no ship manifests from that time, so that is where my knowledge of my Irish heritage ends. I have no knowledge of Scottish or German or Swedish roots which I attribute to possibly fluid borders and migrations at the time.

Getting beyond these brick walls is necessary to go further back on your ancestral line. But, this little change was enough to inspire me to dig a little more into some of the brick walls. The big one for me is finding information on my paternal great-grandfather who I have written about on this blog before.

I decided to try an avenue I had never tried before. I contacted the church my paternal grandparents attended and eventually all of my nuclear family attended as well. Small churches’ documentation is not anything like what seems to be available to larger Catholic churches for example.

But, last night I received an email from the current pastor of the church. I received the membership records for my family back to my paternal grandparents. I now know when and where they were baptized and when memberships were transferred to other churches. I even know what minister baptized each of them. And that’s where I found my glimmer of hope.

My dad was baptized in the church by his uncle (my great-grandmother’s brother). He is also the same person that reported the death of my great-grandmother which means he may have had knowledge of what happened to my paternal great-grandfather who was run out of town on a rail according to family oral history.

The pastor is now seeking out conversations with a 90 year old person who was raised and lived in the community his whole life. It is a long shot, but I am hopeful one little scribble on a piece of paper may unlock a door that has been shut for over a century. Fingers crossed.

Blog, genealogy

Is Everyone Curious About Their Roots?

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

I have done a lot of research on my ancestral roots as well as my husband’s. We both try to figure out where we come from. That is a common curiosity among Americans I think because we always come from somewhere.

Unless you are indigenous to this country, even if you were born here, your ancestors are not from here. I know one branch of my family comes from England. We have traced that branch back to the 1100’s. Other branches have brick walls and came to this country at a time when there was poor documentation especially for those traveling from Ireland. My husband has a German branch but again poor documentation has left us with gaping holes in the family tree.

I have taken DNA tests which link me to three known distant cousins in the UK and one in Greece. I also have one in Tokyo and 2 in Guam which could mean more likely Americans possibly in the military. It is fascinating nonetheless.

DNA findings unleash hidden stories that can sometimes be difficult to process. For example, I have no DNA match to my third cousin (there should be some at that close relationship) so there is must some misappropriated parentage somewhere. Not sure if it is my line or her line. Or in the case of my sister who gave up a child for adoption, he possibly was never told he was adopted. Many adoption records are sealed.

During the early years in the U.S. it was also not unusual for children to be given to friends or neighbors if parents died. These relationships are often not annotated on early census records. Then there is the case of women relatives whose surnames were lost over the years and of course many children born out of wedlock which was definitely frowned upon and often the true parentage hidden.

I finally found my grandfather on a census record when he traveled for work with the railroad. Many times first names were not used and surnames were spelled incorrectly. He was in a boarding house with many other workers.

It made me wonder if this is more of an American obsession or if everyone in the world has the same curiosity about their roots.

How about it? Do you know where you come from?

Blog, genealogy

Ancestral Trails

Day 334

You know those hotel points you accrue when you make room reservations? We had a bunch of them due to expire, so we decided to make a one night hotel reservation to save the points. But where to go for a quick one-night mini vacation?

We decided to go north to try again to find the burial place of my great-grandfather. We drove up to West Jefferson, NC and traveled a short distance on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is so beautiful anytime, but especially lovely when the clouds are low.

In West Jefferson and Sparta we spent some time digging through old records. Not much luck, unfortunately. I was able to confirm a few things and managed to fill in a couple of gaps. But such is genealogy. You must be in it for the long haul.

We plugged in the GPS coordinates for the place where I believe my ancestor is buried. We got within a mile. Then this:

Some notes we found later on indicated the cemetery is buried until heavily overgrown brush covered in poison ivy. The notes said you would need a machete to cut through the trees and brush. There was a list of all those interred and my great-grandfather’s name was not listed. That does not mean he is not there, but there is only one way to know for sure.

There is something about this area where my ancestors settled that grabs me and makes me feel at home. It is almost like it is an integral part of my DNA. We even joked about buying some property there.

Who knows. The next trip we may be more successful.

Blog, genealogy

Out and About in North Carolina

Day 201

Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Saturday, hubby and I trekked up to Boone, NC, to the Daniel Boone Native Gardens. They were having a wildflower walk and native plant sale. We had to leave early because the event ended at noon. As we crossed over the mountains into Blowing Rock, the mountains were socked in by fog. It certainly would not be a day for enjoying the mountain vistas.

Unfortunately, the gardens were a bit disappointing as was the sale. It was rainy and cold which made for a muddy garden and nurseries anxious to shut down and go home. We bought two native azaleas and went on our way.

From there we decided to have lunch at The Dan’l Boone Inn, a restaurant serving family style meals since 1959. It is one of the oldest historic buildings in Boone and has served as a residence and doctor’s office, Boone’s first hospital, and a residence hall for students of Appalachian State Teachers College.

This restaurant serves country-style meals family style. It was always a favorite of my sisters’ but I had not eaten there in years. The food is typical country, heavy in fats and calories and not our normal fare. But you know the old saying, “When in Rome…” I thought a lot about my sisters and how much this place meant to them, especially when they could get their children together to tag along.

After lunch, we decided to drive into West Jefferson. I have been anxious to go there to do some genealogical research since one branch of my family started out in Ashe County. Unfortunately, the library was closed for Easter weekend, so we went to the local museum. I enjoyed the displays very much. Especially the information on the railroad. There was even information on the wall about how the railroad crew gave food and clothing to needy families along the railroad. One conductor started the tradition of passing out lollipops on Saturdays to the children along their route. I wrote an earlier post about how I was one of those children.

Ashe County History Museum

img_9609Since it was a rainy and dreary day, we decided to go a little further north to the area where my ancestors once lived. It’s funny. You imagine you will drive into an area that remains untouched by the passing of time, but you quickly realize time marches forward everywhere. I did find the street signs marking the creeks where I know they lived. I will do more research and go back armed with better information the next time.

On our way back home we passed many of the tourist attractions of my childhood. Tweetsie Railroad, just outside of Boone, was always a big mountain attraction and the first theme park in North Carolina. It was billed as a Wild West themed park, although I would imagine some of the shows on the train may have changed from their politically incorrect ‘cowboy and Indian’ interactions. The park has a great history if you care to read more. It is still a very popular attraction.

We also passed Mystery Hill, another local attraction I remember as a kid. Mystery Hill is billed as a natural gravitational anomaly — more frequently referred to as a gravity hill. Of course, there is a scientific explanation, but why ruin the fun. It’s a place where water flows up and balls roll uphill instead of down.


Lastly, we drove past The Blowing Rock, another location steeped in legend. The rock is a metamorphic rock known as a gneiss. The rocky walls of the gorge below form a flume and light objects that are thrown from the rock will be returned by the flume — thus the fodder for the legends. Fun to read about and beautiful to observe, just not on a cold, windy and foggy day.

All in all, it was a pretty good day roaming the hills of North Carolina.

Blog, genealogy

Genealogy Tools

Day 146

Ancestry recently released some new tools which I am having fun exploring tonight. I have not spent a lot of time on my family tree lately, so these new tools peaked my interest a little.

Genealogy Goals

I have a few things I am anxious to resolve in my family tree. One I wrote about recently — finding the final resting place of my paternal great-grandfather.

The second is to resolve the brick walls, or dead-ends, in my family tree to further my research. I have made some progress, but so many questions remain.

The third is to possibly find my nephew who my sister gave up for adoption. I wrote about this process in this post on my old blog: The Lies Women Tell. I am hopeful to at least make the connection, even if there is no relationship.

Ancestry DNA

I submitted my DNA in hopes of finding some relatives and connecting a few dots. Well, the DNA confused a few things, rather than resolve them. It appears my cousin and I are not biological cousins. That throws a wrench in what we both thought we knew.

ThruLines, just released by Ancestry, allows you to see your DNA matches and suggests which person or line on your tree the relationship might likely be made. Not 100% accurate, but every hint helps.

They have also added something called MyTreeTags you can add on the tree which will further define things you know (or don’t know) about the individual.

It also appears there is some color coding being added which helps you isolate the relationships of individuals who have tested through Ancestry. I do not think this will be of great use to me because most of my family has not tested.

So, that’s been the extent of my day. I will try to come back and update you once I have learned a little more.