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?

ancestry, Blog, Family, 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.

ancestry, Blog, Family, genealogy, Home, Journey

The Long and Winding Road

Day Three

I once read that our roots are firmly entwined in our DNA. The places where our ancestors settled, worked the ground and made a home is very much a part of who we are. Maybe this is why I feel so at home here in these mountains. It doesn’t matter  how stressed I am, once I see these mountains looming in the distance, I am able to release it and breathe again.

One of my favorite television shows is ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. I love watching these well-known people discover their ancestry. Some come from humble or dire circumstances and others from royalty. People in these shows often remark how much they were drawn to a place for years prior to knowing anything about their lineage.

phillipine funeral
My Grandparents Attending a Funeral in the Philippines

The search, for me, is cathartic. My sister, Rosie, tried to get me interested in her family research years ago and I just was not interested. I had struggles in my personal life at the time and learning about my ancestors was the furtherest thing from my mind. When she passed away years later, I was distraught because all her research was lost. My niece gave me access to her Ancestry account and there was nothing there. So, I started from scratch.

Questions Along the Way

My own family discoveries have been pretty remarkable. I now have a copy of a handwritten letter from my three times great-grandmother written in 1847. Her letters paint a remarkable picture of how difficult life was at that time. It has given me a greater appreciation about the struggles to make a path in preparation for my life, my home.

I have also taken a DNA test. I have discovered some unknown cousins and also discovered some misappropriated parentage somewhere in my Dad’s line. People I thought I was related to do not seem to be relatives at all. So, this mystery is yet to be unraveled.

As children, we always heard my paternal grandmother talk about her mother but rarely about her father. He disappeared – there were rumors he was ‘run out of town on a rail’. We might never know the back story, but what I have finally discovered is what I believe to be his final resting place. I have been working for a year to gain access to the site and I believe I will get there eventually. To ‘connect’ with some part of my great-grandfather holds great importance to me.

The Journey is Not Over

This long and winding road has definitely taken some twists and turns along the way. I know more about my family history than I ever thought I would. Some roads are dead ends – or brick walls as they are called in genealogy circles – and some go back as far as the 1100’s. I also know more about the tribulations of my ancestors and much more about the sorrows imposed by government institutions on the general population. I now commonly search ‘Bastardy Bonds’ when 10 years ago I did not even know those records existed.

This journey is not over – and will most likely not be over in my lifetime. I have managed to peak some interest in my children about their history, and I hope at some point they will take up where I left off.

For now, I am on solid ground. I know where I come from and how I got here. The people who came before me live on because I dug their history out of old crumbling pages in basements of libraries and court houses. My cousin shared a quote a few years ago and it has always resonated with me:

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
Bansky

I understand now more than ever why I feel so drawn to this place. It really is home.

img_2203“Over the course of the millennia, all these multitudes of ancestors, generation upon generation, have come down to this moment in time—to give birth to you. There has never been, nor will ever be, another like you. You have been given a tremendous responsibility. You carry the hopes and dreams of all those who have gone before. Hopes and dreams for a better world. What will you do with your time on this Earth? How will you contribute to the ongoing story of humankind?”
Laurence Overmire