I would like to share some things I have found about my genealogy with family and friends and a blog seems the easiest way to do this.
The seed for looking into family history was planted when I was about 20. It’s just taken a long time to ripen. My father had been promoted to the position of Chief Woodland Conservationist with the Soil Conservation Service and we were living in Washington, D.C. His predecessor came by to visit us and showed us the book he had made for his grandchildren of their family story, complete with drawings.
I was intrigued by the idea that by studying the history of my family I could also trace the history of the country. Conveniently, my ancestors arrived fairly early on. My mother’s family came to Massachusetts and my father’s to Virginia. Last year I focused on the Massachusetts side and my cousin Kevin and I went back there and found some of the traces of our past. This year I am researching the Virginia contingent as preparation for a trip there.
I do have some experience in researching history. After I was married, my husband supported my return to college to get my Master’s degree in American History. It turns out that one can do graduate courses without having a background knowledge of the subject. I had taken courses in European history and political science, so I suppose that got me admitted. My high school US history class was just dates and facts and I had paid no attention.
In any event, I find my picture of our country’s past is sketchy and based on stereotypes: the Puritans and the Mayflower and Thanksgiving and George Washington as the Father of His Country and the covered wagons and World War II and saving the world for democracy. So trying to find the settings for my ancestors has led me to many discoveries.
The first thing I had to deal with was how many people went into producing me. Or, what a drop I am in the vast ocean of busy people. By the time I go back to 1600, I am dealing with my 10th great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, which is 2 to the tenth, or 1024 people. I have found that is sort of a Bell curve, where some people, like my father’s father, do not show up in records, and a few have made a mark on history and I can tell their stories, but most are just doing what many of their contemporaries did. This means I can ask, why did they move there then and find suggestive answers in general history.
I have done almost all my research on Ancestry.com, which is a truly amazing gathering place for the vast number of people interested in genealogy. I have been fortunate enough to link into many trees already completed by someone else who links into my “line” at some point. At this point, I have not taken the time to verify much of this information. I am interested in my family as a framework for hanging history on, after all.
I did find one line which has traced itself back to King Arthur, which I tend to doubt. I did have my DNA checked through Ancestry. This indicates that I come from Scandinavian roots. Since most of the people I have traced go back to Great Britain, this attests to the travels of the Vikings. And also previews the fact that one of the noticeable traits of my forebears in the tendency to move West as soon as possible. I myself was born in California. Someone else will have to take it from there.