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Posts Tagged ‘family tree’

I have a group of friends who do genealogy for their families: we refer to the activity, and one particular genealogy site, as “The Vortex”. Once you start, you are inexorably sucked into the web of surnames, birthdates, marriages, deaths, wars, deeds done, and – especially for those of us in the New World – the mystery of our mixed DNA.

I mean, is there really a Cherokee Princess hidden in the 1800’s marriage records? Perhaps we’re Jewish? Was a slave hidden somewhere in our checkered past? Maybe, like the famed Alex Haley, we just want to know how we got here: what slavers, what tribes, what horrors?

I inherited a lot of previously researched material, hand-written or typed and carbon copied (yes, with real carbon paper). Old correspondence. Pages of family history that reads a lot like the book of Genesis: “so-and-so begat and he begat and he married her and they begat…” Cousins. Direct lines. Dates. Some word-of-mouth stories. Legends.

I tried to do a family tree when I was in the 6th or 7th grade, possibly the 8th grade. We came on the Mayflower, there was Native American blood (possibly a Canadian tribe), we fought in the American Revolution, John Brown of Harper’s Ferry was a distant cousin (but close enough to be uncomfortable), we possibly helped on the Underground Railroad, and the Scots side of the family was a latecomer (18060’s)to the USA.

Going through family names and working my way back through the reams of documents and the leaves of hints on Ancestry.com (being careful to weed out those that don’t match – you do have to watch those hints like a hawk!), I could find no Native American. I found English, Dutch, Irish, Scots. Ysseltyns, Van Ysseltyns, Van Esseltyns, and Van der somebody all down one line. Only Melrose (Scots) and Cusick (Irish) for the two heritages I was told my DNA consisted the most of (the most vociferous and latest additions to the family tree). I learned bits of Irish Gaelic from my father, bastardized by his distance from those who actually spoke the tongue. My mother recalled nothing of the Scots, but carried the surname for which we are proud: Melrose.

I can’t even find a tartan for Melrose, which was apparently a lowland Scots name as the Melrose Abbey (wherein Robert the Bruce’s heart is entombed. Think Braveheart).

Truth be told, I haven’t tried to cross The Pond to trace the family line when so much of my heritage is here in the Continental USA. And before I go any further, I am not a Nationalist. My people came here as immigrants, escaping religious persecution, and they established colonies. They married, had children, fought in the American Revolution (on the winning side), pushed westward to Illinois, and fought on the Yankee side of the American Civil War. Only one ancestor – to my present knowledge – participated in any war against Native Americans, and he fought in the Black Hawk War of 1832. He received a land plot for which I hold the original deed, signed by President James Buchanan.

All that aside, I took a DNA test to see where I came from. There’s no Native American. That bit about some Canadian Indian beauty just slipped right through the cracks. No color of any, truth be told: I’m strictly Northern European, English, Irish, Scandinavian.

Specifically: 92% England, Wales, Northwestern Europe. Most of that DNA is Wales & England. 3% Ireland & Scotland. 3% Germanic Europe (probably all those Dutch surnames). 2% Norway.

England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland – those are all countries that were invaded by the Normans (France, more or less) and the Vikings (the Danish, although one could speculate Norwegians as well, since Viking was not a nationality). Just within England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, there was a lot of raiding, raping, pillaging, and – well, there you are.

I’m just freaking pasty white. My ancestry is as old as this country has been a nation, yet I am still a newcomer here. We pushed as far as the Midwest, not migrating any further until the early 1900’s. We arrived on the Mayflower (and before that infamous ship), settled across Connecticut, migrated into Illinois.

I am so sorry I started looking into this family tree stuff again, because I am suddenly finding more “leaves” sprouting on the limbs. The Vortex is sucking me in. I want to trace every family line back as far as I can get before I pay for the International version and start looking overseas. It’s addicting. A little research and you feel the blood of all those women who came before you flowing through your veins.

If you don’t, you’re not truly doing the research. Those women – and men – birthed who you are.

(Sorry, not editing, so this is probably a bit rambling. Sue me.)

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