Monday, December 12, 2011

Genealogy

I come from immigrant stock.  When I was growing up in North Dakota, I was a rarity in my 6th grade class, when we talked about our ethnicity and I was not 100% anything, like most of my classmates.  I felt like a disfavored mutt since I was 50% Norwegian, 25% Swedish and 25% German.  The earliest of my ancestors arrived in the United States before 1870, the latest (my paternal grandfather) in the 1920s.  Naive me?  I thought all midwesterners were likely to have similar backgrounds...

Last Christmas, my inlaws were visiting and I asked some questions of them about their ancestry.  The vague and unclear answers set my head spinning - how can someone not know?  It inspired me to join an internet genealogy site (am I allowed to identify the popular site? not sure of the rules on that so will let it be), and in my arrogance, I assumed I'd have my husband's lineage figured out in no time. 

Imagine my surprise when I traced that lineage, from both his mother's and father's side, back and back and back.  Finding veterans from all the 20th century wars, then the Civil War, then the War of 1812, and then the Revolutionary War!  There are ancestors who fought on both sides of Civil War and probably the Revolutionary War too - as there were many British immigrants back there with military titles.  There were Quakers and I think Pennsylvania Dutch folk from Lancaster PA.  I suspect there are connections to the original Mayflower settlers but I haven't gotten there yet.  Clearly, now a year later, I am still chasing some loose ends - it's a quest now! 

Of interest:
  • Where I am entirely Northern European, it really appears that Sean is mostly of Great Britain heritage (including all four countries - England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland) with a dose of German thrown in. 
  • By the time my ancestors started arriving in the U.S. (earliest in 1870 or 1871), Sean's entire ancestry was in the U.S. (latest immigrant came in 1871).  
These discoveries have been amazing to me.  I have been trying to figure out why it has been quite so amazing to me, and I think it is just the concept of really being attached (through my husband and children) to American history that didn't really ever touch my family before since we weren't here to be part of that history.  It's like a shift to what I always attached my personal concept of "family history" that takes a little getting used to.  Thomas Edison is in my husband's family tree (not direct lineage) for pete's sake - how do you just hear that without having a moment to say "wha???"  It is fascinating, nonetheless, and I'm so glad to have done what I've done so far!

4 comments:

  1. I agree that it is a connection with history that goes beyond the family. How amazing to have had relatives in such historic events! Your girls are part of this lineage...what a gift. I have tried to trace my family and Pete's but had had little success. For some reason lineage from Spain thru Cuba is very hard to track. Wouldn't it be fabulous to track Pete's family back in Spain to some spectacular event?
    Do you find that being a member of the website gives you better access? How about searching records not from the US but from Europe?
    I did trace the history of our lake property back to the 1850s. Interesting to see logs of ownership of property, animals and slaves.

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  2. I am fascinated by this subject as well, but have only handed-down family information to go on--haven't yet had the time, energy, funding to work my way back with the information I do know. The percentage thing is interesting to me because my kids had to do something called a Heritage Pie Chart for a middle school social studies class which was then displayed over their lockers. They were told not to "guess" or put "I don't know" on any part of their charts and to break it down as specifically as possible. Based on the information we had, things were broken down to parts as small as 6.25%.

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  3. Oh Lord - my kids would have things in the less than 1% category (Dutch)! I wonder how they figured parents and kids could figure it out so completely...

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  4. Yoli - you do have better access to info as a member of ancestry.com. it costs more to have access to records from europe, and I haven't done that (yet)...it would be fascinating! at least for u.s. information, www.familysearch.org covers a lot and it's free (it's the Latter Day Saints geneaology site).

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