Family History

I have been fascinated by my family history for, oh, decades now. And the Internet has made it so much easier – and harder – to do. Easier because there is SO much information out there — books and documents that have been digitized and posted for anyone to access. Harder because there is SO much information out there, and not all of it is reliable or accurate. Wading through it can be frustrating. And time consuming. It often feels like three steps forward, four steps back. It doesn’t help that some people (including some of my own family members) are apparently so desperate to link themselves to nobility that they will add people to their family trees without any regard for the facts.

I just realized I could have added my family history to yesterday’s post on the eclectic.

All of the below assumes that the information I have is correct.

My ancestry is rich and mixed and made up of a wide variety of people. On one line, I’m only 3rd generation American as my great-grandparents emigrated from Denmark. On another, it’s 4 generations since they moved to America. Yet other lines go back to the colonial days, before the American Revolution. They came from Germany, Denmark, Ireland, and England in the 1800s. During the 1700s, they came from Scotland and England, and maybe one from Germany. In the 1600s, it was also Scotland — not willingly if all the information is correct – and England.

Some of my ancestors, a very few that I’ve found so far, were well-off, landed, with manors, coats of arms, towns bearing their names, noted in history lessons, leaders in their communities. But most of them were ordinary people — farmers, fishers, tailors, carpenters, coal miners, merchants. One is specifically listed as a lace merchant. Another I suspect may have been spice merchant or trader as he named a couple of his children Spice and Mace. Some were tobacco planters and slave owners. A few fought in the American Revolution — some for and some against; one was arrested for aiding the British. Others fought in the Civil War, again on both sides although the Union is easier to trace. They fought American Indians, panned for gold, were pioneers always traveling westward, eventually reaching the Pacific coast. I’ve found ancestors in Delaware, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Montana, Oregon, Washington, California.

One line looks like I can trace back to Norman England, shortly after the conquest. Based on the names, they were Angles who then Normanized their names.

One ancestress, widowed with three small children, survived Indian attacks then with her brother and others headed west across what is now Tennessee to help found Nashville. Centennial Park there is on what was her land, granted by the Federal government for her deeds during the Revolutinary War — Ann Robertson Johnston Cockrill.

I used to think all the Scots were on my father’s side (Ross/Rose/Ros, MacBride, Cunningham, Cuming) but in the course of doing research, I discovered that there are a lot of Scots on my mother’s side as well (MacGillivray, McIntosh, Noble). Someday I will go there.

And of course there are plenty of Smiths, and Jones, and Hansens, and Johnsons, and other dreadfully common names that make sussing out the correct ancestor a real bitch.

So, if it can be so difficult and frustrating and confusing, why do I do it? Because it’s fascinating; a puzzle to put together; a connection to the past, to history, making it all very personal. And it’s all part of me, who I am, who my parents and siblings and children all are. It may be generations, even centuries in the past, but it all connects in me. And I am excited to discover it all.

 

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About Robin Michelle

I write, I take photos, I read... I like to do things that make me happy.

Posted on 7 April 2014, in A to Z Challenge, Family and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ya I am very interested in finding put my family’s history too. I would try ancestry.com for your best results! : )

    • Robin Michelle

      I do use Ancestry.com, but you have to be careful to make sure the information in the personal trees that have been created and uploaded is accurate and is backed up by contemporaneous sources — the actual documents such as birth records, marriage records, censuses, etc. Too many people in the same area at the same time had similar names, and a lot of people are determined to link their families to nobility.
      I do love how many documents Ancestry.com has scanned, uploaded and made searchable. It’s really quite amazing.
      Good luck with your search 🙂

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